The history lesson the Oregon “militia” needs; a day in the life of a WWII vet; Who is Hugh Glass & why do we retell his story?; Tarantino’s latest; restoring a piano Lincoln heard


In the wake of events out in Oregon, I’ve seen a lot of articles claiming to offer some sort of history of armed insurrections in the US, and yet few of them go back beyond the 1970s. This is frustrating, because those idiots out there claim to be harkening to the Revolution and to be champions of constitutional rights, which shows that they need a history lesson on one of the major events that led to the Constitution in the first place. So I was glad to see this piece today from Esquire, arguing that those dudes need a dose of the history of Shay’s Rebellion (I would have thrown in the Whiskey Rebellion too, but this is a good start).

This is my favorite piece today. We all know that we are quickly losing the WWII generation, as thousands of them leave us every day. For years I have used my classes to try and connect students to the members of their families from the so-called “Greatest Generation,” and have gotten some remarkable papers as a result. Here, Smithsonian does something similar with a touching essay and collection of photos from the typical day of just one WWII vet, a 92 year old man living out his final days in humble simplicity. This is truly a beautiful piece.

Well, the History Channel is set to launch a couple of new scripted TV shows, one of which will be about the Knights Templar. Given that they can’t even get the Sons of Liberty correct, I’m sure this thing will be a mess. Sorry, History Channel, I’ll be watching Mercy Street on PBS! Who else can’t wait for its premiere on January 17?

And while we are talking about dramatized depictions of historical events: I am looking forward to seeing the new movie, The Revenant, even though the reviews indicate it is a brutal film to watch. But who was Hugh Glass? Here’s an interesting piece from Rebecca Onion, Slate’s history writer, on what we know about the man, how he has been depicted in the past, and why each generation tends to revisit and reshape his story.


And while we are on movies, Christian McWhirter has a new piece on the latest Tarantino film, The Hateful Eight. He was kind enough to give us a spoiler alert, so I’ve not read the essay yet, but fully intend to see the movie soon. Count me as a Tarantino fan, although I am sure that might taint me in some of your eyes. (McWhirter and I tend to see eye-to-eye on him, however.) But his recent foray into historical-based revenge fantasy films has been a good ride so far, as long as you see them for what they are.

And while we are on McWhirter, here’s a nice short essay out today that he co-authored with a curator at the Springfield (Illinois) Art Association. It is about a piano that is being restored which Abe Lincoln definitely heard played. How cool will it be to hear the same music he heard on the same piano he heard it on? Along the way, Christian provides a nice little history of the importance of pianos to the “parlor culture” of Antebellum America. This is a charming little piece.

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