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.”

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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.”

The Man Who Told America the Truth About D-Day – The New York Times

By David Chrisinger

“Most of the men in the first wave never stood a chance. In the predawn darkness of June 6, 1944, thousands of American soldiers crawled down swaying cargo nets and thudded into steel landing craft bound for the Normandy coast. Their senses were soon choked with the smells of wet canvas gear, seawater and acrid clouds of powder from the huge naval guns firing just over their heads. As the landing craft drew close to shore, the deafening roar stopped, quickly replaced by German artillery rounds crashing into the water all around them. The flesh under the men’s sea-soaked uniforms prickled. They waited, like trapped mice, barely daring to breathe.

A blanket of smoke hid the heavily defended bluffs above the strip of sand code-named Omaha Beach. Concentrated in concrete pill boxes, nearly 2,000 German defenders lay in wait. The landing ramps slapped down into the surf, and a catastrophic hail of gunfire erupted from the bluffs. The ensuing slaughter was merciless.

But Allied troops kept landing, wave after wave, and by midday they had crossed the 300 yards of sandy killing ground, scaled the bluffs and overpowered the German defenses. By the end of the day, the beaches had been secured and the heaviest fighting had moved at least a mile inland. In the biggest and most complicated amphibious operation in military history, it wasn’t bombs, artillery or tanks that overwhelmed the Germans; it was men — many of them boys, really — slogging up the beaches and crawling over the corpses of their friends that won the Allies a toehold at the western edge of Europe.

Pyle was beloved by readers and service members alike for his coverage of the war through the eyes of the regular infantrymen on the front lines.”
CreditBettmann Archive/Getty Images
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comments
Thank you David Chrisinger. I loved this piece. I must find a book by Ernie Pyle. My favorite story about the invasion of Normandy is the story of Hobart’s Funnies. This Englishman saw the slaughter which occurred attacking entrenched Germans, and invented weird tanks and vehicles, to save the lives of the attackers on the beach. The vehicles looked like they were from a cartoon, and the Americans laughed at their looks and the novelty of their idea. They worked. The British causalties using these bizarre vehicals was a small fraction of the Americans.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net and sings about Climate Change and the Sixth Extinction.

Opinion | The Comeback of the Century – The New York Times

“In the digital age, the printed book has experienced more than its share of obituaries. Among the most dismissive was one from Steve Jobs, who said in 2008, “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore.”

True, nearly one in four adults in this country has not read a book in the last year. But the book — with a spine, a unique scent, crisp pages and a typeface that may date to Shakespeare’s day — is back. Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining.

Nearly three times as many Americans read a book of history in 2017 as watched the first episode of the final season of “Game of Thrones.” The share of young adults who read poetry in that year more than doubled from five years earlier. A typical rage tweet by President Trump, misspelled and grammatically sad, may get him 100,000 “likes.” Compare that with the 28 million Americans who read a book of verse in the first year of Trump’s presidency, the highest share of the population in 15 years.”

Opinion | The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight – By David Brooks – The New York Times

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By David Brooks,  Nov. 12, 2018     446
I watched Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “Paths of Glory” last weekend, prompted by all the World War I centenary tributes. Set in the trenches near the end of the war, it’s a movie about a man who tries to maintain his integrity and his faith in humanity amid the stupidity, futility, cruelty and cynicism of war. It’s weirdly relevant today.

Kirk Douglas plays a French colonel named Dax who lives in the trenches and leads his men in battle. Far away in the palaces, pampered French generals order his exhausted men to take a nearly impregnable German position. One general hopes the assault will help him score political points. Another is promised a promotion. Something like 4,000 men are expected to die or be wounded for these objectives.

When the assault catastrophically fails, the generals look for scapegoats and decide to execute three enlisted men, more or less chosen at random, for alleged cowardice.

Colonel Dax is finally overcome with disgust and explodes at one of the generals: “You’re a degenerate, sadistic old man. You can go to hell!”

The general — cynical, crafty, bureaucratic, incapable of emotion — replies: “You’ve spoiled the keenness of your mind by wallowing in sentimentality. … You are an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot. We are fighting a war, Dax, a war that we’ve got to win.”

It’s the eternal argument. When you are fighting a repulsive foe, the ends justify any means and serve as rationale for any selfishness.

Dax’s struggle is not to change the war or to save lives. That’s impossible. The war has won. The struggle is simply to remain a human being, to maintain some contact with goodness in circumstances that are inhumane.

via Opinion | The Struggle to Stay Human Amid the Fight – The New York Times