Shakespeare and Company is a legendary bookstore located in the heart of Paris. It was founded by Sylvia Beach in 1919 and during the 1920s and 1930s, was the hub of a generation of legendary “expatriate” writers in Paris, known as “The Lost Generation”. This generation was depicted in the fictional Woody Allen movie “Midnight In Paris”. Shakespeare and Company came to prominence for this set of writers because she published James Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1922.
Through a large-scale digitization project of the Sylvia Beach papers at Princeton, the Shakespeare and Company Project will “recreate the world of the Lost Generation. The Project details what members of the lending library read and where they lived, and how expatriate life changed between the end of World War I and the German Occupation of France.” During the thirties, Beach began to cater more to French-speaking intellectuals. Among later logbooks we’ll find the names Aimé Césaire, Jacques Lacan, and Simone de Beauvoir. Beach closed the store for good in 1941, the story goes, rather than sell a Nazi officer a copy of Finnegans Wake.
Princeton’s “trove of materials reveals, among other things,” writes Lithub, “the reading preferences of some of the 20th century’s most famous writers,” it’s true. But not only are there many famous names; the library logs also record “less famous but no less interesting figures, too, from a respected French physicist to the woman who started the musicology program at the University of California.” Shakespeare and Company became the place to go for thousands of French and expat patrons in Paris during some of the city’s most legendarily literary years.
Josh Jones, Open Culture
This is such a unique window into the minds of some of the most influential people of that era (and history) and the types of literary work that influenced them. It is as well a view into a diverse cross section of individuals from around the world who were members of the Shakespeare Lending Library, many whom were not as famous. Not only can you see what books and literature they checked out of Shakespeare, but it also details where the thousands of members lived over the years that they were part of the Lending Library membership rolls.
For example, the Ernest Hemingway profile page details where he lived in Paris (three places including 6 rue Férou, 113 rue Notre Dame de Champs, and 69 rue Froidevaux) as well where he lived as Spain, Switzerland and Cuba. It details when he was a member (off and on between 1921 and 1938). Then, we get to the good stuff, as it also details what books Hemingway checked out, and we have to assume, he read. They include works by William Butler Yeats, Gertrude Stein, Upton Sinclair, George Orwell, and Eugene O’Neill to name a few. He even bought some of his own work from Shakespeare, which somehow seems ‘on brand’.
I would highly recommend subscribing to the Letters From An American newsletter published by Boston College History Professor Heather Cox Richardson. She publishes the newsletter on pretty much a daily basis and it provides a fantastically logical, fact based synopsis of the previous day’s events, drawing in both recent and long past history for context and comparison. The emails can be long – and admittedly I may skip one occasionally – however they are so well informed and so, perish the thought, based on fact.
So with that context, I found today’s email so troubling with the synopsis that she brought to bear. As we all know, the major issue that the USA has been grappling with has been the amount of resources and medical supplies that our healthcare system so critically needs to fight COVID-19. To that end:
A report from Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) has documented that as late as March 2, the administration was urging American businesses to take advantage of the booming market to export such supplies to other countries. If Trump had invoked the Defense Production Act, he could have kept masks, ventilators, and PPEs at home. Porter’s office examined export records to show that in February 2020, “the value of U.S. mask exports to China was 1094% higher than the 2019 monthly average.”
Even more disturbing are investigations into what is happening to the supplies hospitals and states are ordering. In the absence of federal masks, PPEs, ventilators, and so on, the president urged states to get what they needed themselves. They have bought supplies on the open market, only to have the federal government confiscate them.
Just so we’re clear here, the Federal Government of the United States has been confiscating desperately needed medical supplies that the states, which make up our country, need in order to fight and manage this virus. Let that sink in for a second. Sounds like something out of a Russian novel to me. She continues (emphasis mine):
While state and hospital officials from New Jersey, Colorado, Kentucky, and Massachusetts have all gone on record accusing federal authorities of confiscating supplies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denies it is taking shipments. Vice President Mike Pence told governors on Monday that the administration is simply redirecting supplies to areas that need them most. “We have the visibility on medical supplies that are moving into this country and available to vendors in this country,” he said.
But, as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, who is on this story, reports, officials will not share the formula by which they are making those decisions. More and more stories are emerging that allege that the supplies are being redistributed by Jared Kushner or Trump based on political partisanship. Trump friends get supplies; others don’t.It seems likely that at least some of the confusion is simply poor management and people see a conspiracy in the chaos. But the suggestion that leading administration officials are trying to create political capital out of this crisis seems in keeping with their usual patterns.
It would also explain that bizarre exchange between Jared Kushner and a reporter, when Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile is that it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be the states’ stockpiles that they then use.” When CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang later asked Trump what Kushner meant by “our stockpile,” Trump said it was a “gotcha” question. “You know what ‘our’ means? United States of America,” he said. “We take that – ‘our’ – and we distribute it to the states.” “[W]e need it for the federal government,” Trump said. “To keep for our country because the federal government needs it too, not just the states.” “It’s such a basic and simple question and you try and make it sound so bad,” he added. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
What exactly did Super Jared mean by “our stockpile”? That is such a revealing and insanely damaging statement. Clearly this statement exposes that Super Jared, and by default the whole of 45’s administration, appears to be operating with the per-view that they are a dictatorship (People have said for so long that 45 thinks he’s a king instead of an elected official) right out of the monarchies of the middle ages, where only those who were in ‘the King’s’ favor would receive benefits. 45 even admitted as much when he chastised the Governor of Michigan for not ‘showing appreciation’ for him and ‘the work’ the Federal Government was doing for them (which is utterly laughable, but that’s a whole other rant). The Federal Government works for the people of the country and the states. The states are semi-autonomous yet they collectively make up our whole country. So if ‘our stockpile’ is not allocated to be used by ‘our’ states, who exactly are they earmarked for?
To this administration, the number of deaths are just that…numbers. There is zero empathy coming out of the White House these days, and that is why it is so great to see true leaders like Gavin Newsom (D-CA), Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Mike DeWine (R- Ohio) stand up for the good of their citizens and for the good of the country.
“If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I’m not gonna let it stop me from partying”
NOTE: To the kid’s credit, he did apologize for the tone deaf comment, however the damage was done.
To further illustrate how important it is to practice ‘social distancing’ during this time to prevent the acceleration of COVID-19, a data tracking service called Tectonix GEO (a little self-serving but that’s another story) demonstrated how one specific cluster of ‘spring breakers’ on a beach in Fort Lauderdale – where if even one of them had the virus – could/would/did exponentially spread it throughout the country.
Each little dot on this screen grab above represents a mobile device. So first thing they did was highlight a fairly small but specific set of devices located on the beach in Fort Lauderdale a couple of weeks ago. From there, using what they called a ‘spider query’, they then tracked the movement of those specific devices over the next few weeks to demonstrate how this one isolated beach gathering could rapidly and exponentially spread the virus.
That is pretty much the clearest demonstration of how important ‘social distancing’ is in combating the spread of this virus. I mean, seriously look at that map. That small cluster of phones on the beach in Florida essentially distributed out to every state east of the Mississippi and few west of there.
Now, to really make you shudder, think of this same scenario playing out repeatedly in NY or Chicago or San Francisco. In fact, we saw it play out in real time with the first really publicized case out of New Rochelle, NY. That one lawyer who had the virus, went into and out of NYC without knowing he had it, and through community spread, easily exposed upwards of 1,000 people to the virus before anyone knew.
You can watch the full demo below (only a minute long):
Great visualization and fact based article detailing some of Earth’s most significant pandemics, going all the way back to Justinian in the 5th Century. While we are in the early stages of the CoronaVirus (COVID-19) and we have yet to determine the long term human impact of this outbreak, this visual does put it in perspective compared to the Black Death/Bubonic Plague of the 1300’s and the Spanish Flu of the early 20th Century.
What is interesting as noted in the article is how the rise of urbanization, globalization, and the ease in which society can now travel around the world has been a key driver of the spread of pandemic incidents:
We arrive at where we began, with rising global connections and interactions as a driving force behind pandemics. From small hunting and gathering tribes to the metropolis, humanity’s reliance on one another has also sparked opportunities for disease to spread.
Urbanization in the developing world is bringing more and more rural residents into denser neighborhoods, while population increases are putting greater pressure on the environment. At the same time, passenger air traffic nearly doubled in the past decade. These macro trends are having a profound impact on the spread of infectious disease.
As organizations and governments around the world ask for citizens to practice social distancing to help reduce the rate of infection, the digital world is allowing people to maintain connections and commerce like never before.
Quick PSA regarding a couple of article references about the warming of the planet, from the Exponential View newsletter. This week the CO2 levels as measured by the Keeling Curve measured 414.08ppm, which is up from January, 2017: 406.13ppm and 25 years ago when it was around 360ppm and from 250 years ago, where it was estimated to be at around 250ppm.
You can see the effect of carbon emissions in more stark relief by looking at the Keeling Curve over the past few hundred years, and how there is a noticeable hockey stick growth from roughly the mid 1970s through to today.
Paris: On the first Sunday of each month, the heart of Paris—the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements—shuts down to most traffic, turning streets over from cars to pedestrians and cyclists. (A few vehicles, including cars owned by local residents and delivery vehicles, are allowed to enter at access points and drive slowly.)
Helsinki: In a new development in Helsinki’s Kalasatama neighborhood, none of the new apartments come with parking. It’s one of several ways that the Finnish city is nudging people to drive less; by 2025, Helsinki wants to make alternatives to driving appealing enough that people no longer feel it’s necessary to own a car. “It is important that more and more trips are made by using walking, cycling, and by public transport,” says Anna Pätynen, the city’s traffic and transit engineer.
Birmingham (UK) once called itself the U.K.’s “motorway city.” Now, after joining dozens of other global cities in declaring a climate emergency in 2019, the city is working on plans to limit access to cars in its city center, creating a new network of pedestrian streets, and turning space over to bikes and public transit. One part of the strategy involves giving businesses incentives to get rid of their parking lots; the city plans to build thousands of homes on them instead. Other neighborhoods will also restrict traffic, particularly around schools. By 2030, Birmingham plans to be carbon neutral, and reducing car use will be one part of hitting that goal.
Adele Peters, Fast Company
The climate is changing rapidly right before our eyes. I live in the Northeast of the United States and it is clear that the ‘traditional’ winter months are noticeably warmer. As the United States Government so aptly proved this week, we can not rely on them to do what is in the best interest of the public and the country. People, cities, and towns need to drive change on their own.
An article in The New Yorker caught my eye, describing how US universities have seen a noticeable decline in History majors over the past decade or so, give or take. The primary research supporting the article is from the American Historical Association and Professor Ben Schmidt of Northwestern, who found that comparing the class from 2008 and the dawn of the “Great Recession” to 2017 graduating class, the number of students across US universities declaring a History major has fallen by 33%. The impact of the economic downturn on families across the country made college aged students reassess their academic choices since they were living directly with the impacts of the brutal 2008-09 economic downturn. They essentially felt that pursuing more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) related pursuits would provide them more opportunity in the future.
And taking a longer view of the trend, the decline is even more pronounced as you can see in the graph below, also from Professor Schmidt. The graph may be skewed slightly because the amount of people getting college degrees has expanded a lot over the past 30 years, as has the percentage of international students who generally are more likely to pursuing STEM related pursuits. Even with that to consider, the decline is substantial.
Interestingly, a significant driver of this long term trend is the rapid growth over the same period of women on college campuses, where they now represent around 57% of all college students. Women have never had a huge percentage of History majors and that presence has declined consistently over the past 30 or so years as they too have pursued majors outside of the humanities.
The irony and interesting implied side effect of this trend is its impact on the broader population and their ability to consider what we are experiencing in our broader societal and political discourse compared to what has happened in years past.
“Yes, we have a responsibility to train for the world of employment, but are we educating for life, and without historical knowledge you are not ready for life,” [Yale Professor David] Blight told me. As our political discourse is increasingly dominated by sources who care nothing for truth or credibility, we come closer and closer to the situation that Walter Lippmann warned about a century ago, in his seminal “Liberty and the News.” “Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo . . . can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information,” he wrote. A nation whose citizens have no knowledge of history is asking to be led by quacks, charlatans, and jingos. As he has proved ever since he rode to political prominence on the lie of Barack Obama’s birthplace, Trump is all three. And, without more history majors, we are doomed to repeat him.
The New Yorker
I was/am a History major as an undergraduate at Syracuse University many moons ago. I am proud that my daughter will be starting college next year and she will be pursuing a degree in History. History has, and will continue to be, a very important element of my family’s experience and discourse. And as we continue to experience the rapidly escalating challenge on what is the truth in our society, the lack of understanding by the proletariat population on what has caused us to get to this point in our nation’s collective History will only accelerate the constant death spiral we seem to be riding.
There are people and talking heads that seem to claim we are in a “new normal” with new technology and new methods of communication that should not be compared to experiences of the past. I call ‘bs’ on that. Society in the US and the world has had to deal with disruptive innovation and technology for as long as we have been a going concern as a country, and even before that. Radio changed the game in the 1930s, television changed the game even more in the 1950s and really hit its stride disrupting the ‘world order’ in the 1970s during the Vietnam War and, wait for it, Watergate.
Studying History and appreciating the path that people and society have led to get to where they are today is something that all people should study at one point in their life. Looking back at certain periods of time (e.g. the 1960s), at certain circumstances (e.g. How George Washington’s decision to cross the Delaware when he did changed the fate of the United States), or at unanticipated situations (e.g. how the country’s path changed with Kennedy’s assassination in 1963) and how they impacted life and society will provide everyone with a sense of perspective that is immensely valuable during times like we are in today.
Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
As we celebrate the American pastime of Super Bowl Sunday, a public reckoning continues to eat away at the edges of the sport of football. More than enough studies have been published stating the real, long term issues from the physical nature of the sport – blows to the head, concussions, injury, and on and on. It has gotten to the point where school systems are discontinuing football programs and parents are refusing to let their sons play the game.
Research suggests that tackle football can cause long-term brain injury, and as a result, many parents are telling their kids they can’t play. In the 2017-18 school year, 6.6 percent fewer high-school athletes participated in 11-player tackle football than in the 2008-9 school year, “according to” the National Federation of State High School Associations.
ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC
What is more interesting is how decisions by school systems and parents against participating in the sport differs depending on the socio-economic profile of those stakeholders, as Alana Samuels profiled in a recent article in The Atlantic.
Yet not all parents are holding back their kids from tackle football at equal rates, which is creating a troubling racial divide. Kids in mostly white upper-income communities in the Northeast, Midwest, and West are leaving football for other sports such as lacrosse or baseball. But black kids in lower-income communities without a lot of other sports available are still flocking to football. In keeping with Americaâ€™s general racial demographics, white boys continue to make up the majority of youth-tackle-football players, according to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. But proportionally, the scales appear to be shifting. A recent survey of 50,000 eighth-, tenth-, and 12th-grade students found that about 44 percent of black boys play tackle football, compared with 29 percent of white boys, as analyzed by the University of Michigan sociologist Philip Veliz. Football at the high-school level is growing in popularity in states with the highest shares of black people, while it’s declining in majority-white states.
ALANA SAMUELS, THE ATLANTIC
In essence, the children that live in areas of the country that don’t have as many economic opportunities are looking to sports like football as a vehicle out of their situation, the very real and risky long term physical and health issues be damned. This sort of storyline is nothing radically new, as you will hear more than a few famous athletes that fit this profile talk about how their sport was a vehicle and an opportunity for a better life. The issue is that the chances of making it to the professional level are so small, and the risks of playing a sport like football are so so high. The effect that this sort of scenario has on the broader socio-economic dynamics is one that likely will not close the already growing differences. Now I’m not saying that football is the root cause of the economic disparity in this country. What I am saying is that in lower income areas of the country, where there is little to no opportunity for upward mobility, the already existing economic and social headwinds are accelerated further when such a high proportion of the youth in these areas have no other options other than to ignore the real, physical risks.
The New Yorker has a really cool interactive visual showing movements of folks using Citibikes through the months of June/July. It is a really interesting view into how people are using these much talked about additions to the NYC landscape. From the New Yorker’s quick analysis of the data:
A commuting pattern first emerged in our data on Tuesday, June 11th, when bikers travelled to a central corridor, which begins in midtown Manhattan and moves south, through the Flatiron District and down to the Financial District…Temperatures and precipitation also influence bike use, so the map displays weather information alongside bike movement…On weekends, the commutes are replaced by patternless, recreational movement, in which bikers meander around the city.
Before the DNA findings came in, Mr. Taylor and other team members said, the university team had assembled a mounting catalog of evidence that pointed conclusively at the remains being those of the king. These included confirmation that the body was that of a man in his late 20s or early 30s, and that his high-protein diet had been rich in meat and fish, characteristic of a privileged life in the 15th century.
Still more indicative, they said radiocarbon dating of two rib bones had indicated that they were those of somebody who died between the years 1455 and 1540. Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth Field, 20 miles from Leicester, in August 1485.
Equally conclusive was the evidence available at the time the bones were unearthed, that they were found exactly where a 16th-century Tudor historian, John Rouse, had identified as the burial place, in a corner of the chapel in the Greyfriars priory, and with a distinctive spinal curvature that pointed to the remains being that of a sufferer from scoliosis, a disease that causes the hunchback appearance that has come down through history as Richard III’s most pronounced physical feature.
Of course, Richard III was the subject of a Shakespeare play of the same name. While the play did not paint Richard III in anything close to a favorable light, it did grace us with the memorable line: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”
Here is a pretty fantastic article about the social centerpiece of growing up in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – the video game arcade. From the evolution of the arcade from pinball machines to Pac Man and Frogger, it has been a part of American youth for many many years, although it it could be argued that it did not hit it’s heyday until the 70’s and 80’s. Today, they are another casualty of the digital revolution with gaming consoles migrating to living rooms and basements around the world.
Whenever I visited an arcade, I usually found myself cursing at Galaxian, Galaga and every racing game within the joint. Today, I get my fix by heading out to the Pinball Wizards event, held every year at the Allentown Fair Grounds. And there is always the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park, NJ.
The National Rifle Association has been largely silent since the shootings on Friday morning. On Monday, the home page of its Web site contained a blog post from Nov. 27, titled “More Guns, Less Crime in Virginia” and the association’s Twitter account, which is normally active, has not sent a message since Friday.
Boston is well known for it’s distinctive neighborhood residents and the sheer insanity in which the streets in that city are laid out. And with this combination comes the question of what are the streets that define the “boundaries” each neighborhood?
Folks who live along the border (I mean, literally ON the border) of North Carolina and South Carolina are running into some issues because the states are re-calibrating the exact location of their shared border. One morning, these folks are paying South Carolina taxes and the next, they are citizens of North Carolina. At first, this may seem trivial, however for one guy who owns a gas station on land that he thought was in South Carolina, this border war is a major issue:
For example, one man owns land where he built a gas station in what he thought was South Carolina, but is now revealed to be North Carolina. He says his station will be worthless due to higher gas taxes in North Carolina, and that the business-boosting sales of fireworks is now illegal.
The governments of each of the states are assuring all people impacted (roughly 90) by the shift of the border will “be taken care of”, whatever that means. At least those folks who are unexpectedly becoming citizens of North Carolina can now support a basketball program (UNC – Chapel Hill) that has had decidedly more success than the program at the University of South Carolina.