In Our Times

Since about 1750 (after the Reformation, the Civil War, Cromwell, and battles over the succession to the throne), other than during WWII, Great Britain has generally been a pretty safe place. It had some “highwaymen” and street thuggery, but even that was patchy. (In 1800, it also had several dozen offenses for which hanging was still commonly applied.) And there has been the occasional, isolated “political riot” – such as the “Gordon Riots” in London in 1780.

Because of the patterns of life, centuries of rural habit, and the static world most were born into, lived in, and died in, there was little public violence. Great Britain has not suffered from extended periods of political instability and the terrorism that usually stems from that – save for that which emerged from Ireland in the 1960s, and which had a clear political goal. What happened yesterday on Westminster Bridge is a relatively recent phenomenon – but one we are now seeing all too regularly in various places.

For us as Americans, in 1777 Morocco was – informally – the first country to recognize the newly independent U.S. A friendship treaty was officially signed in 1786, and that treaty remains in place even today. The first foreign property the U.S. Government owned would not be in London, Paris or Amsterdam, but was the U.S. Consulate in Tangier, which is now on a register of U.S. historic places.

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“De Certains Droits Inaliénables”

As you may know yesterday was International Women’s Day. Being a man, I thought I should best be “quiet.” My piling on with my male opinion was hardly necessary.

From the International Women’s Day web site.

Now that we are here the day after, I thought I would offer simply this:

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Inauguration Day (30 April 1789)

Recently elected President George Washington – the first president under the then just ratified Constitution (under which the U.S. government still operates) – delivered his inaugural address in New York City on April 30, 1789. The text is eight – that’s right, only eight – pages long and is in his handwriting. Held at the National Archives, these are its first and last pages:

gwinaug1

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History: Unfollowed

Ah, Monday morning:

And less than two weeks before the inauguration of a new U.S. president who has not exactly charmed half the people in the country, we need this?

Yesterday, History on Instagram shared some “history” with us.

Good grief.

First, nothing in that History Insta-caption above is outright false. However, it is an inch deep and far from the whole truth. For that shallowness in the current climate, and what it unleashed in the post’s comments, I unfollowed.

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New Friends From “The East,” c. 1994

The other day we watched Steven Spielberg’s 2015 film, Bridge of Spies. You may know it stars Tom Hanks, playing the idealistic American he can portray so well. The film also well-conveys the tenor of its times – the espionage, mistrust, and especially pain, suffering, and even brutality, in a Germany divided between non-communist West and communist East as the Berlin Wall is erected in 1960-61, leading to the separations of friends and loved ones that would last often for nearly thirty years after.

Flag of the Soviet Union, 1922-1991.
Flag of the Soviet Union, 1922-1991.

Much of the film is historically reasonable. Yes, some minor plot points drift a bit from the historical record. For example, the episode involving the American graduate student arrested in East Berlin by the communist East German authorities deviates somewhat from the experience of the actual student.

But inaccuracies like that do not diminish the film’s contribution. With action taking place on screen as we watch and that reality making it difficult to show concurrent plotlines, and jammed into two hours viewing time or less, nearly any film that attempts to be 100 percent “history book” precise will probably be unwatchable. The key to a good historical film is it must capture the essence of the characters of the day and the spirit and general flow of events being dramatized.

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“Some of the martyrs to this cause…”

After several days of rest, I got back to work yesterday. At one point, I found myself writing more about someone named Thomas Jefferson:

Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. [Photo by me, 2011.]
Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson, outside Charlottesville, Virginia. [Photo by me, 2011.]

I did so within a web of happenings that are impacted to some degrees by his views. Writing is such freedom – and such a challenge. It’s a remarkable exercise as a writer to create a fictional environment in which you have to attack a historical figure you “generally” admire.

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The Woman Whose Name Is On New York Bridges

I open this morning by restating once again – to reassure you – that this is NOT a politics blog. But there are times I feel I have to swerve briefly into that (unseemly) arena. After all, we have heard so much about the U.S. presidential election that it was impossible here to ignore it entirely.

Street in La Clusaz, Haute Savoie, France. It's almost ski season again! [Photo by me, 2015]
Street in La Clusaz, Haute Savoie, France. It’s almost ski season again! [Photo by me, 2015]

If you’re exhausted by the U.S. one, well, France – which is of some interest here, as you know – is going to have a presidential election of its own in April (1st round) and May (2nd round) 2017. The Socialist candidate may be the incumbent president, François Hollande. However it seems highly unlikely he will win a second five-year term.

And why? Recently, it was reported President Hollande has a 4 percent job approval rating. No, that is not a typo. I wrote *FOUR* percent:

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Weekend In Belfast

My wife and I ventured to Belfast for Saturday and Sunday. It was our first time there. It was also an eye-opening experience:

“Welcome To Belfast” over the terminal at Belfast International Airport. [Photo by me, 2016.]
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If You Are Age “20”…

As you may know by now, America had a big day on Tuesday. The result was not to everyone’s liking, of course. We have by now seen a great deal of this sort of reaction, this one described by Chy, at The Lost Mango:

Donald Trump is United State’s newest president. A lot of my friends cried because of sadness and fear regarding the future of our country. As you can see in the photos below, a lot of students in my university protested.

As many of you know by now, this is not a politics site. You don’t care about my personal opinions anyway. Nor really should you.

But before I go back to talking travel, fiction books, history and romance as I do usually, let me say this much…

I have a new blazer. Selfie. [2016.]
I have a new blazer. Selfie. [2016.]

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Thank You, Mr. President

There would be no U.S. presidential election today had it not been for him: George Washington, 1732-1799:

View of George Washington's Mount Vernon, his home for most of his life, and where he died. Virginia, U.S.A. [Photo by me, 2011.]
View of George Washington’s Mount Vernon, his home for most of his life, and where he died. Virginia, U.S.A. [Photo by me, 2011.]
Mount Vernon's kitchen. [Photo by me, 2011.]
Mount Vernon’s kitchen. [Photo by me, 2011.]

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