A good mix of stuff again today!
Get this, researchers have created a computer program that analyzes a person’s writings to find proof of mental illness. They have used it on the writings of King George III, the so-called “Mad King” that we all know went insane later in life. The analysis confirmed it, but the researchers reject the long-held belief that his condition was a product of porphyria, an hereditary condition (which has long been a source of humor in regards to the British monarchy). Instead, they diagnose him with “acute mania.” Interesting. Someone upload Trump’s tweets into this thing.
Looks like the History channel is still developing shows to try and be taken seriously again. They have productions in the works that will examine our presidential history, describing it as their “most ambitious” scripted project ever. They have gotten the rights to several major biographies upon which the shows will be based. Shows on Reagan and Clinton will get things rolling, but projects on T.R. and Jefferson, among others, are already planned. Perhaps this will be good stuff, but History’s recent track record is dubious, and given recent shows like Sons of Liberty and the Roots remake, I have to wonder if they are going to turn these presidents into comic-book style action heroes. We’ll see.
And speaking of action heroes: I have to admit that the new season of Underground has thus far been a disappointment. Perhaps it is because I am still stuck on how great season two of Mercy Street was, but the show is just not working for me after three episodes. It has had its moments, and I am really intrigued by the story they are presenting in the opening scenes of each episode that feature an enslaved man that has taught himself to read. In episode three, we see him reading to his daughter the words of Sojourner Truth from an old abolitionist newspaper that has somehow made it into his hands. It is an interesting scene, and I assume that his slow enlightenment via his education (very Frederick Douglass-like) will lead him to make an escape attempt, aided by our show’s heroes. But at the moment, I wish we could see more of his storyline than the couple of minutes dedicated to it each week. The ordeal that Rosalee went through in episode three was also intense and worth watching, and I hope that Ernestine’s failed suicide attempt will now lead her into rediscovering her strength. But the pacing of the series, and the disjointed nature of how it tells its stories, is more of an annoyance at the moment than it was last season. Judging by the responses the show gets on Twitter, however, I might be in the minority on this one, as it seems to continue to provoke a lot of emotional responses from people that are getting a different depiction of slavery than they typically see. That can’t be a bad thing.
And speaking of Twitter, I saw a lot of praise on it last night for Arkansas’s decision to stop celebrating a day that combines Martin Luther King Day with commemoration of Robert E. Lee. Hey, it is a step in the right direction, and leaves only Mississippi and Alabama as the only two states that still insist on the combo. But I am not ready to give them too much credit when they are still setting aside a day to honor Lee (it will be in October). Stop the glorification of the Confederacy with these state holidays, and then I’ll give you credit. I’m guessing that won’t be anytime soon.
So as we know, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre has been undergoing a massive restoration project for months now. But today National Geographic is reporting that the project has determined that the shrine of the supposed tomb in which Jesus was buried is in danger of “catastrophic” collapse. Yikes. To save it is going to cost around 6.5 million. Double yikes.
The Gorsuch confirmation hearings has led to a lot of talk about “originalism,” and over on the History News Network they have a good essay by Professor Andrew Shankman in which he nicely untangles the problems with trying to discern original intent out of the Constitution. As I always tell my classes each semester, one major problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes that the Founders all agreed about what our government and its powers should be, when clearly they didn’t. Shankman nicely focuses on their disagreement over what the word “necessary” meant in the Necessary and Proper Clause. Yet in the end, he argues that one thing Hamilton and Madison would agree upon is that we should not be bound by their conceptions of what our government should be (discussing the ability to amend, I think, would have helped strengthen his point). “In framing a system which we wish to last for the ages,” Madison insisted, “we should not lose sight of the changes which ages will produce.” Indeed. But don’t tell that to Rush, or Hannity, or O’Reilly, or Huckbee, or Cruz, or . . . . , well, you get the point.