Why don’t we remember Pearl Harbor

In St. Louis Today, Harry Levins writes:

As a general rule, newspapers stop running anniversary stories after 50 years.

The thinking holds that past 50 years, few readers even remember the event, much less took part in it. Past a half-century, journalists cede the field to historians.

World War II was an exception. Because that war dragged on for so long (45 months) and because it put so many Americans in uniform (16 million, or more than 10 percent of the population), it imprinted itself in the American soul, as only the Civil War had before it.

Both WWII and the Civil War involved the entire nation over a long stretch of time. And although nobody alive in America today remembers Shiloh or Gettysburg, enough Americans remember WWII to nudge newspapers away from the 50-year rule.

Thanks in part to the emotions stirred by Tom Brokaw’s “The Greatest Generation” and to the movie “Saving Pvt. Ryan,” newspapers in the 1990s ran 60th-anniversary stories on the big WWII battles.

But that attention to WWII is fading fast, as is the generation that fought the war.

Come next June 6, some elderly reader will call the paper to grouse that his paper makes absolutely no mention of the fact that it’s the 63rd anniversary of the day in 1944 that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower led the D-Day landings in Normandy.

Chances are that the grumpy reader will be making his complaint to an editor who was born after President Dwight D. Eisenhower left the White House in 1961.


Here’s one for the history buffs

I find the more I study the world today, the more I like history.

Here’s one that has me stumped, though. There is another famous Poe other than Edgar Allan, and his name was Aaron Poe. He was known as a ‘famous’ indian fighter in the midwest in the 1800’s, but he seems to be virtually unknown now. I’ve been trying to track him without any success.

Does anyone have any background on Aaron Poe, the ‘famous Indian fighter’?


Missouri: A land of firsts

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I love history. Not necessarily the big stories: the world wars, and tales of kings and queens and daring do. No, I like the stories of people who do acts of normalcy that end up creating waves that ripple from small to large to larger until an ocean of change sweeps across the age and the land; leaving the debris of old ways, fractured customs tumbled about like the broken pieces of concrete that are left when the Mississippi swells its banks.

Did you know that the first formalized woman’s suffrage movement in the US originated in Missouri? That Missouri was the last state to be admitted to the Union as a slave state, but the first state to free slaves, even before the 13th Amendment was passed? That the first woman lawyer practiced law in this state? Her name was M. Lemma Barkeloo. She was also the first woman lawyer to participate on a case in Federal court.

The James gang plied its nefarious trade in Missouri; the Pony Express started here, as did most treks west. The first steel bridge was created here, the first steamboat race ended here.

The worst earthquake in history, in terms of strength and potential damage, as well as sheer impact on the geology of the area happened here. Luckily it was before all these red brick buildings were built.

The first woman to sue to be allowed to vote was Virginia Minor here in 1872.

On October 15, 1872, Virginia Minor tried to register to vote in the upcoming election, but was refused by St. Louis’ sixth district registrar, Reese Happersett. Happersett refused to register Minor because she was female, thus provoking a civil suit brought by Virginia and her lawyer husband, Francis Minor. Minor’s action was part of a nationwide pattern of civil disobedience, in which hundreds of women across the country attempted to vote. Susan B. Anthony led a small delegation of women to the polls in Rochester, New York, and was successful in casting her vote for Ulysses S. Grant. Three weeks later, however, on Thanksgiving Day, Anthony was arrested on the charge of voting fraud. Anthony was a celebrity who was used by the judicial system as an example and a warning to all women in the United States. When Anthony’s case came to trial early in 1873, the judge had written his opinion before the trial started, and directed the jury to find a guilty verdict. Anthony was ordered to pay a fine of $100, which she refused to do.

The list goes on an on. In terms of sheer social upheaval, Missouri is literally the epicenter of change in our history.

It’s the little facts I like. The ones that make great stories. The best possible event that can happen to a history buff like me is discovering a historical fact that has the potential to be a great story, and to realize that no one has told it yet. No, not even Wikipedia.

Diversity History

What a wonderful treat

Monthly I get a fresh batch of downloads at eMusic. I don’t have the largest plan–the most I can download is 20 at a time. Usually this is enough for an album with maybe a few experimental downloads from unfamiliar groups. I think it will be years before I manage all the jazz downloads I want.

Last weekend when I went looking, I found an incredible collection: the complete works for Ella Fitzgerald when she was recording with the Decca label. The British label JSP is re-releasing a mix, and it includes probably some of her finest singing.

I’m not sure which is my favorite; probably “Baby, it’s Cold Outside”, with Louie Jordan. No, perhaps it’s “Black Coffee”. I can’t tell — it’s one good song after another. And quality, too. No scratches, good faithful reproductions.

I listened to it last weekend while I walked, and lost myself in another era–my favorite era. I softshoed past the cardinal, the titmouse, and the robins, while they looked on in seeming interest. No one else was about, of course. I’m only insane when I’m alone.

I would give anything to have been born in the 1920’s. Yes, there was the Depression, but whether it was because of the Depression or despite it, this was a time rich with exploration and strength–even for women. Especially for women.

Back in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, a strong woman was someone to be looked up to and admired. Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Taylor, Eleanor Roosevelt. You could be a feminist without having to carefully explain to the guys around you that it really didn’t mean you wanted to emasculate them. These women were honorary man feminists according to Lenore Levine. I don’t particularly agree with this designation, but I do like her description of today’s Nicey-Poo feminism:

Nicey-Poo Feminists have taken the sensible idea that women should be supportive of other women, and distorted it almost out of recognition. That is, Nicey-Poo Feminists believe that feminism means never saying anything controversial (at least in their own circles), and never saying anything about another woman that isn’t nice.

Nicey-Poo Feminism has been promoted by the new new Ms. (post-1990). This magazine is afraid to print anything which any segment of their audience might find offensive. After all, if they actually said anything mischievous or funny, their circulation might increase. (A fate they seem determined to avoid at all costs.)

The clothing of that long ago time reflected the personalities of the women. Many of the suits were tailored, severe, with padded shoulders and angular lines. The women who wore them seemed unbending in their resolve–determined and capable. Yet the gowns were fragile and light, and flowed behind the woman as she glided with exquisite grace and femininity across the dance floor. And the hats–I can only wish for a hat with a net dropping down to teasingly cover half my face; me peeping out through the netting in a move both coy and bold–we just can’t do this today. Butt cracks peeking out from pants too low is not the same.

During this time, women fought for and won the vote, admission to college, and demanded entry in fields normally restricted to the men. These were not quiet women, willing to demurely wait for someone else to pave the way. But they weren’t all of a kind–they couldn’t be classified as ‘feminist’ and ‘mother’, because many were both. And more. What extraordinary set of events happened to make women into what we were during this time? And what can we do now, to re-capture it?

If I was born in the 1920’s, I would have been in my late teens and early 20’s during World War II. I would like to think I would have volunteered to serve–as a pilot, surveyor, or radio person. Who knows? Maybe I would have been Rosie the Riveter.

Anyway, these were my thoughts while listening to Ella. It’s a rare collection of songs that can completely repaint your world.


My Dad did not make history

My Dad served during World War II. He was in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper, and was injured twice while on duty. Through merit and field promotions, he achieved the rank of Captain by war’s end.

During the war, he took flying lessons in Seattle. While he was out on a solo flight, he strayed too close to another plane and almost crashed both of them. He was ordered to land immediately. When he did so, he was informed that he almost ran his plane into the aircraft carrying Eleanor Roosevelt. Needless to say, his flying lessons were cut short.

My Dad did not make history. He is not mentioned in a history of World War II. If he had crashed Roosevelt, he would have made history; luckily he didn’t.

Now, if there was a time when a person was writing an anecdotal history of WWII, then my Dad might make history–his story would add color and nuance to the events of life that surround this war. But his role in the war, and his efforts, important as they were, cannot be seen as a pivotal events. He didn’t, in his individual actions, make history.

That’s how we need to view ‘history’ in Wikipedia–not as an opportunity to be all inclusive; but as an opportunity to be accurate. With this attempt to ‘rewrite’ the history of podcasting, I’m not attempting to be exhaustive in who gets covered; I’m trying to be accurate about what’s covered.

What are the key elements in podcasting without which it would not be as we know it today? Who are the key players who helped create, control, and define it? What are the key events that brought us to this point in time, even if said events weren’t directly related to podcasting? Every entry should be part of an answer to one of these questions. In the end, we should have an entry that everyone can agree is ‘accurate’, and, hopefully, neutral.

Then we can leave the anecdotal information–the fun stories, the chest thumping, the memories, and the expressions of gratitude and admiration–to our own weblogs, articles, books, and podcasts, whichever you prefer.

Or we can tell our daughters over tea one day, about the time when…