Great books – Wikipedia

Great books are written publications that have been accepted by modern day scholars as the essential foundation of literature in Western culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them as certain classics of literature, philosophy, history, and science that are believed to contain the basic ideas of western culture. Over the years it has become customary for institutes of higher education to incorporate these readings into their curriculum.“The reason for the study of these classical texts is to both allow and encourage students to become familiar with some of the most revered  authors throughout history. This helps to ensure that students and newly found scholars are equipped with a plethora of resources to utilize throughout their studies.

The great books are used in conjunction with literary classes in higher education courses, but are often taught in separate subcategories designed for the tone of the intended learning environment. Mortimer Adler used 500 books, out of the list of 517 books within the conglomeration of mixed titles, to teach his pupils expanded literary knowledge past that of their current generation. While Adler stuck to the original list, with a few differences to some novels, many chose to omit many of these titles in order to suit an undergraduate class semester by allowing for only 130 books, such as Torrey Honors Institute.[1] For more thorough literary criticisms, people such as Harold Bloom have comprised lists of volumes including up to 2400 books of differing natures.(2,400 books, Harold Bloom)[2]

Source: Great books – Wikipedia

A Presidential Historian Makes a Rare Appearance in Today’s Political Arena – By Alexandra Alter – The New York Times

“Last month, the historian and biographer Jon Meacham got an unusual request from Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign. The campaign wanted him to speak at the Democratic National Convention — not to endorse Mr. Biden, but to put the stakes of this election in historical context.

“The request was, define the soul of America, and do it quick,” Mr. Meacham said.

Mr. Meacham is not a Democrat. He has voted for candidates of both parties, and his work has focused his attention on studying past presidents rather than endorsing modern-day ones. When he gave his four-minute address Thursday evening from his home in Nashville, he sat in his library with two portraits mounted behind him: one of Representative John Lewis and one of former President George Bush, painted by his son former President George W. Bush.

It was a rare, high-profile appearance in the political arena for a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Mr. Meacham has spent much of his career steeped in the country’s past, studying the lives of presidents such as Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

His speech also marked a public moment in a long-running friendship with Mr. Biden, with whom he has had periodic, spirited conversations about American history and how the country’s sometimes-troubled past shapes the present and future.”

The Decline of Historical Thinking – By Eric Alterman | The New Yorker

” “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,” 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.”

Source: The Decline of Historical Thinking | The New Yorker

Opinion | How Will the Coronavirus Affect Workers? Look At Past Plagues For a Hint – By Walter Scheidel – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Scheidel is a professor of classics and history at Stanford University.

Credit…Bridgeman Images

This article is part of “The America We Need,” a Times Opinion series exploring how the nation can emerge from this crisis stronger, fairer and more free. Read the introductory editorial and the editor’s letter.

“In the fall of 1347, rat fleas carrying bubonic plague entered Italy on a few ships from the Black Sea. Over the next four years, a pandemic tore through Europe and the Middle East. Panic spread, as the lymph nodes in victims’ armpits and groins swelled into buboes, black blisters covered their bodies, fevers soared and organs failed. Perhaps a third of Europe’s people perished.

Giovanni Boccaccio’s “Decameron” offers an eyewitness account: “When all the graves were full, huge trenches were excavated in the churchyards, into which new arrivals were placed in their hundreds, stowed tier upon tier like ships’ cargo.” According to Agnolo di Tura of Siena, “so many died that all believed it was the end of the world.”

And yet this was only the beginning. The plague returned a mere decade later and periodic flare-ups continued for a century and a half, thinning out several generations in a row. Because of this “destructive plague which devastated nations and caused populations to vanish,” the Arab historian Ibn Khaldun wrote, “the entire inhabited world changed.”

The wealthy found some of these changes alarming. In the words of an anonymous English chronicler, “Such a shortage of laborers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages.” Influential employers, such as large landowners, lobbied the English crown to pass the Ordinance of Laborers, which informed workers that they were “obliged to accept the employment offered” for the same measly wages as before.”

Harriet movie historical accuracy: What’s fact and what’s fiction in the Harriet Tubman biopic.

What caused Harriet Tubman’s “spells”? Were there really black slave-catchers? We break down the new biopic.

Diptych of Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman, in a still from the movie, and Harriet Tubman in a historical photo.
Cynthia Erivo and Harriet Tubman.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Focus Features and Horatio Seymour Squyer/Wikipedia.

“The fact that Harriet is the first feature-length film to tell the story of one of the most famous women in American history may sound improbable, but it’s no less improbable than many of the facts of her life. The new biopic is mostly true to what we know of the real Harriet Tubman, though writer-director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) and co-writer Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the TitansAli) take some considerable liberties with both the timeline of events and the creation of several characters. We consulted biographies, articles, primary sources, and a few contemporary historians so we could break down what’s historical record and what’s artistic license.

Tubman’s Early Life as Araminta “Minty” Ross

Just as in the movie, Tubman (played here by Cynthia Erivo) grew up on a farm in Dorchester County, Maryland, where she was born Araminta “Minty” Ross. Though the movie may leave the impression that she only took on the name Harriet Tubman when she reached freedom, she seems to have taken it when she was married, taking Harriet from her mother, Harriet Ross, and Tubman from her husband, a free black man named John Tubman. Despite that, her owners still called her by the name they gave her, as evidenced by the Oct. 3, 1849, advertisement for the return of “Minty” taken out by Tubman’s mistress Eliza Brodess when she eventually escaped.”

Source: Harriet movie historical accuracy: What’s fact and what’s fiction in the Harriet Tubman biopic.

Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy – Vincent Bugliosi – Books – The New York Times

“LOS ANGELES, May 13 — The prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars now wants to solve another crime — a really simple one, he insists. So simple that it takes only 1,612 pages to prove his case.

Vincent Bugliosi, whose prosecution of Charles Manson in 1970 led him to write one of the best-selling true-crime books of all time, “Helter Skelter,” has now turned his attention to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

And that is his full attention: 20 years of research, more than one million words, hundreds of interviews, thousands of documents and more than 10,000 citations. The result, “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy” (W. W. Norton), is due out tomorrow. His conclusion: Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, and acted alone.

Why would such a simple conclusion require so much argument?

“Because of the unceasing and fanatical obsession of thousands of researchers over the last 43 years, from around the world but mostly in the United States,” Mr. Bugliosi said in an interview at the cafe of the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel in Studio City, Calif. “Examining under a high-powered microscope every comma, every period, every detail on every conceivable issue, and making hundreds and hundreds of allegations, they have transformed this simple case into its present form.”

Mr. Bugliosi likes to tell a story illustrating why he believes this book is necessary. In 1992, less than a year after the debut of Oliver Stone’s conspiracy-minded film “J.F.K.,” Mr. Bugliosi was addressing a group of trial lawyers when a member of the audience asked him about the assassination.”

David Lindsay:  Today, I attended the Yale SEA brown bag lecture by Michele Thompson on Tue Tinh of 14th century Vietnam. At the lunch after, I talked with two of her graduate students from Southern CT State U., one of whom named Matt, mentioned this book above, which he used in his master’s paper on Richard Nixon and the history of the Republican Party through Nixon’s presidency. Matt insisted that it was impossible to read this book and not agree that Oswald did, in fact, like the Warren Commission found, acted alone. I should not be surprised that the Warren Commission did a good job, since  my uncle, John Lindsay, the mayor of NYC, and my father, David Lindsay, thought highly of it. From Wikipedia I found:

Committee

Opinion | The Global War on Books, Redux – By Duncan White – The New York Times

By 

Mr. White teaches history and literature at Harvard.

CreditCreditIllustration by Delcan & Company; Photographs by Steven Errico/Getty Images, and CUTWORLD

“Around the world, many authoritarian regimes — having largely corralled the internet — now have declared war on the written world, their oldest enemy. The received wisdom after the close of the Cold War was that physical books were outdated, soon to be swept aside in the digital age; and that the internet was instead the real threat to governments seeking to repress provocative thinking. A generation later, the opposite may be true.

The People’s Republic of China has been the most successful in curbing the internet. But their stranglehold on society is also the result of their largely successful push in the past decade to ban nearly all bookstores, books, authors and academics that do not adhere to the Communist Party’s line. Even before the current Hong Kong protests, there was a crackdown on Hong Kong publishers. In the fall of 2015, associates of the Causeway Bay Books store disappeared, later discovered to have been detained on the mainland, accused of trafficking in “illegal” books critiquing leading members of the Communist Party. In 2017, the Communist Party formally took control of all print media, including books.”

Babette’s Feast — The General’s Toast — Mercy and truth have met together – YouTube

Last night we watched the movie Babette”s Feast, based on a short story by Isak Dinesen. Extraordinary Movie. Very spiritual, but not necessarily a realistic story. A beautiful thought piece. Now I really want to know which part Elly Lindsay had in the theatrical version recently played in Dallas, The soldier, who becomes the heart broken suitor, becomes a successful general, and gives this toast at the end of the feast, while the woman who refused him 40 or so years earlier looks on:

“Mercy and truth have met together.

Righteousness and bliss shall kiss one another.
Man, in his weakness and shortsightedness…
believes he must make choices in this life.
He trembles at the risks he takes.
We do know fear.
But no.
Our choice is of no importance.
There comes a time when your eyes are opened.
And we come to realize…
that mercy is infinite.
We need only await it with confidence…
and receive it with gratitude.
Mercy imposes no conditions.
And, lo!
Everything we have chosen…
has been granted to us.
And everything…
we rejected…
has also been granted.
Yes, we even get back what we rejected.
For mercy and truth are met together.
And righteousness and bliss…
shall kiss one another.”

++++++++++
Babette’s Feast (1987)
“Babettes gæstebud” (original title)
Director: Gabriel Axel
General Lorens Löwenhielm: Jarl Kulle
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“Perhaps it is a desecration to take this scene out of context, but it is so wonderful in context that it shall be risked. The General has just enjoyed the rarest of meals in the most unlikely of places. He makes an after dinner speech that is more of a sermon and prayer.” – Youtube blogger named Straussian.

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Fourth of July Quiz: Can You Answer the Hardest Citizenship Test Questions? – The New York Times

A naturalization ceremony in Los Angeles last year. Mario Tama/Getty Images

With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question? Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

You need to get 6 out of 10 questions to become an American citizen. Here are some of the very hardest. I got 7, Kathleen got a 8. Warning, It is hard. Take away, researchers find that testers can make any random set of questions ridiculously hard for an immigrant.

Opinion | My Father- Out to Sea – By Jaed Coffin – The New York Times

By Jaed Coffin

Mr. Coffin is a writer.

CreditIleana Soon

“For as long as I can remember, my father’s favorite expression has always been “out to sea.” As in, “Well, I used to see that guy around, but then he got divorced, quit his job, and he just went out to sea.” Like many of my father’s expressions, “out to sea” is based on a vague and maybe misunderstood historical allusion; in this case, to the original men of Nantucket, who, my father claims, are my direct male ancestors. These brave souls would regularly leave their families for years on end, to slaughter sperm whales in distant oceans thousands of miles from home. “That’s just how it was back then,” my father often told me, in a whimsical tone laced with longing and nostalgia. “The men in our family, they just went out to sea.”

I’ve never been to Nantucket, and, raised by my single Thai mother, have never had much interest in my father’s heritage. But as a boy, something about my father’s use of the expression “out to sea” always intrigued me. For my father, going “out to sea” carried a mystical connotation, charged with rebellion and renunciation. Men (always men) seemed to reach a point in their lives when the burdens of domestic life — spouse, kids, job, community, whatever — grew too heavy, and the only path to spiritual freedom required that we drift into the mists of existence, never to be seen again.

We make strange heroes out of those who go “out to sea”: Don Draper is one of the newest members of the club. Jack Nicholson’s character in “Five Easy Pieces” (one of my father’s favorite movies), who abandons his girlfriend at a gas station by hitching a ride to Alaska in a logging truck, definitely belongs, too. Even Siddhartha Gautama, auspicious figure of my faith, who left behind his newborn son “Rahula” (Pali for “shackle”) for a life of meditation in the forest, might be the most famous man to ever go “out to sea.” How can I argue with the Buddha?

But my affection for men who go “out to sea” gets complicated when I locate it within the context of my relationship with my father, who met my mother on a military base during the Vietnam War. After the war, my parents came back to the United States, to New England, to start a family. Shortly after I was born, my father got involved with another woman, an American woman, wandered around for a few years, then moved in with her and her five children in Vermont. This left my mother, who worked the night shift as a psychiatric nurse at the local hospital, to raise my older sister and me on her own back in Maine. Throughout my boyhood, it never occurred to me how carefully my mother — who’d been raised in a stilt house, in a dusty village in Central Thailand — had to both scrutinize and adopt the strange customs of New England culture, how learning to navigate these foreign waters became, by necessity, the great project of her adult life.”