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West Coast priorities

I’m in Los Angeles this week, so maybe I’ll set aside some time to broaden my perspective of early American history by visiting a few Spanish colonial sites.

Or maybe not.

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Chance to do your good deed for today

This is off-topic but well worth your attention; I ran across this information on one of the religion blogs I read.

Sean Lewis, who’s a professor at a Catholic college in Wyoming, and his wife Becca lost two of their young daughters in a car accident yesterday.  A friend of theirs has set up an online fund to help cover funeral and medical expenses.

Pitch in if you can; the girls were flown to Utah before they passed away, and the cost of that level of emergency care is apparently really high.

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Congresswoman apparently thinks the Constitution is 400 years old

It’s good to see such high standards of historical literacy maintained in our nation’s capital.

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, speaking on the House floor: “Maybe I should offer a good thanks to the distinguished members of the majority, the Republicans, my chairman and others, for giving us an opportunity to have a deliberative constitutional discussion that reinforces the sanctity of this nation and how well it is that we have lasted some 400 years, operating under a Constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what is not.”

The charitable thing to do would be to chalk this up to a verbal slip and assume she had the founding of Jamestown somewhere in the back of her mind.  But since this is the same person who thought Vietnam was still divided in 2010, and who once asked someone from NASA if the Mars Rover had taken a picture of Neil Armstrong’s flag, I’m not optimistic.

quotespictures.net

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Arguing over Benedict Arnold

The U.S. ambassador to Britain, puzzled by a plaque marking Benedict Arnold’s last residence in London, wondered why it refers to Arnold as an “AMERICAN PATRIOT.”

NBC News has found the guy who got it put there: a distant relative named Peter Arnold.

“I think he was a good guy, you see. I don’t see him in the same light as so many Americans do,” Arnold told NBC News, explaining that he didn’t mean to upset anyone with his plaque — or create a diplomatic incident.

Arnold said he has received telephone death threats — gruff American voices telling him he’s a traitor just like his ancestors. But he’s amused by them and used to other interpretations of Benedict Arnold and his deeds.

“His heart was in America and he felt that what he was doing was in the interest of America as a country and the people who lived there. And at the end of the day he didn’t think we should be divorced from England and the king,” he said. “So somebody loved us!”

I’m not sure I share Peter Arnold’s appraisal of his distant kinsman. Benedict Arnold was an extraordinarily brave man, one of the most enterprising and gifted officers in the Continental Army. If we’re going to remember Benedict Arnold as an “American Patriot,” we should do so for his exploits from 1775 through 1777.  His eventual decision to offer his services to the British wasn’t exactly an act of pure principle, as Peter Arnold seems to indicate.

Having said that, I find it downright bizarre that Americans are apparently taking the trouble to contact Peter Arnold by phone and threaten him over something that happened more than two centuries ago. I’m more interested in the Rev War than most people, but there is such a thing as being a bit too emotionally invested in a subject.

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Remember that Civil War exhibit in Washington, D.C.

…that I talked about working on back in January?  Well, here’s an interview with my old pal and former boss Steven Wilson, the guy in charge of putting it together.

I got to see some pics of the finished installation, and it turned out really well.  The folks in our campus broadcasting department did one heck of a job on the video, too.  In addition to the stuff from LMU’s museum, they’ve borrowed some pretty cool artifacts from other institutions.  If you’re going to be in Washington between now and June, swing by Ford’s Theatre and give it a look.

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Harold Ramis, 1944-2014

One of my best friends summed it up with this text message: “It’s a little less cool in the world today.”

Groundhog Day has a permanent place on my list of all-time favorite films.  It’s notable that folks of every religious persuasion, from Catholics to Buddhists, have embraced that movie; I think it’s because it taps into some  elemental truths about the human condition.  Not many movies can do that while being so darn funny.

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Der Führer’s derrière

One of my students collects WWII memorabilia.  His most recent acquisition is this Hitler pin cushion, which he was kind enough to bring to class and show me.  These things were apparently pretty popular in the 1940s; even FDR had one.

Pin cushion 1

Pin cushion 2

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