Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Austria Moves Right-wing – Unphotogenic: The ‘Not-Kate’ Effect)

Austria’s Far-right Party Loses Election, But Wins As A Movement

While Americans continue to be entranced by the ongoing boxing match between U.S. Presidential candidates, another election has just thrown a spotlight on political conditions across the Atlantic. Austria, which for many people is associated more with Edelweiss and Von Trapps than political innovation, has just given the rest of the world a rare opportunity to see a political future in advance.

Ironically, Austria has, in many ways, been right at the heart-beat of European politics, from the Holy Roman Empire on to the time of the First World War, and most definitely during the Second World War and the short-lived Nazi supremacy, it has often shared the fate of its neighbor, Germany.

In this case, jubilation has broken out across most of the European Union after Alexander Van der Bellen, a leftist and academic took the election for the Austrian Presidency. Interestingly, he won by a miniscule (only 31,000 votes) majority following the counting of absentee votes, a unique and curious circumstance that is likely only to feed the fires of the political opposition that barely lost (Bernd Riegert, “Opinion: Black Eye for Austria as Van der Bellen Wins Presidency,” Deutsche Welle at DW.com, May 23, 2016).

The opposition candidate, Norbert Hofer, is a right-wing politician who supports a nationalist, EU-skeptic state and opposes whole-sale entry of refugees from the Middle East. And while he may not be seated in government, the real news is that a right-wing party has gained enough momentum in Europe to take and nearly win a presidential election. And where Austria goes, Germany may follow, a well acknowledged relationship governs these two language-sharing states. The centrist Social Democrats of Austria lost the election in a big way (the same party with which German leader Angela Merkel, a Christian Democrat [which is a political party, not just a statement of faith], has a ruling coalition), indicating Austria may have just become a harbinger of the political winds that are about to change in Germany.

The refugee crisis has served on the one hand, to highlight the precarious nature of the European Union and it’s fragile infrastructure of allied nations. On the other hand, it has shown that when large numbers of people (in the millions) begin to shift around the globe there will be wars. This has happened from the very ancient past onward. If a million people move from one place to another, and there is not enough room where they are going, they will bump others to the side and be perceived as a threat. That threat has been perceived in Europe, and the beginnings of a militant reaction are evident, even in this latest Austrian election.

It is well to remember the purported Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times.” I think it’s safe to say that interesting times have arrived!

The Awkward Ones: Being Unphotogenic In The Age Of Digital Cameras

And now, let’s go lighthearted for a change.

I recently read an amusing article by British journalist Sarah Vine. She commented on the unfortunate fashion choices of the Princesses of York, Beatrice and Eugenie, that clashed with the willowy grace of the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton) at a recent garden party held at Buckingham Palace. Kate, in a beautiful cream suit flowed gracefully in the direction of adoring party-goers, whilst trailing behind were the York sisters, who with less statuesque height chose frocks that were somewhat unusual in shape (read: ill-fitting), and bold in print and color. In the framed image, they follow behind the Duchess looking as though they are glaring daggers at the back of her head. Sigh, such is life for the imperfectly photogenic.

In reality, in the image, the sisters were undoubtedly looking elsewhere (and do in fact possess their own brand of beauty), but in the “click-click” nature of digital photography that one frame caught what looked like both a fashion and a deportment faux-pas. The author of the article goes on to discuss the challenges of those who don’t look good on camera, or who always look slightly goofy, while others always seem to be perfectly composed. I can relate to the former! (Sarah Vine, “I Know Exactly How Beatrice and Eugenie Feel When They’re Photographed Next To Kate: I’ve Been There Too, Says Sarah Vine,” The Daily Mail at DailyMail.co.uk, May 25, 2016.)

But it brings up an interesting historical question (one the author also posits): What must it have been like before cameras were around? Back when the best you could hope for to perpetuate your physical appearance was a painting or sculpture? It’s a thought, isn’t it.

Imagine a time when animation of features, expression, and voice were valued over the angles of cheekbones and thinness of limbs. Imagine that strength of arm, determination of mind, aptitude of intellect, ability to cultivate and grow plants and animals, keep a clean, healthy, productive home, cook nutritious, delicious meals, and raise healthy, balanced children was the stuff of which virtue was made, and didn’t take a back-seat to some rarefied, hormone-driven vision of what feminine “beauty” is. Difficult isn’t it?

Let Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice fame help us, when the subject of his contemplations are demanded of him by the hovering Miss Bingley, he replies, “…My mind was more agreeably engaged. I have been meditating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow.”

Fine eyes, no less! When was the last time I heard that?!

Difficult as it may be, I think we need to spend time in that past world, imagining it more often. I have nothing against the photogenic, beauty adds to our world, but we need to find a better balance! Beauty of virtue is a thing, too (for more info, please read the book of Proverbs, chapter 31 in the Bible). If we let it, history can remind us that there is more to this life than just surface value.

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

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Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Radio Drama – Faith and Health – History Gateways)

Theater of the Mind: Adventures in Classic Radio

Can you see it? The detective walks cautiously through the streets of 1950’s Cairo. An American he, owner of the Cafe Tambourine and subject to all manner of trouble, from old friends, shady ladies, and local desperates. Luckily, he is aided in his sometimes inadvertent quest for justice by the stalwart Lt. Sam Sabaya of the Cairo Police.

Sound intriguing? Imagine the possible sets, camera angles, visual effects and action sequences! So when is this series going to premiere? Which channel? Or is it on one of the digital media powerhouses, Netflix or Amazon Video?

Would you believe……radio? No visual effects, no screens, no adventure sequences filmed with the help of talented stunt teams, just……voices, music, sound effects, and some incredibly talented writers. The show?

The Adventures of Rocky Jordan, starring Jack Moyles and Jay Novello. It was on air from 1948 to 1951 and was one of many in the genre of post-World War Two radio detective-adventurers. But the era called “the golden age of radio” wasn’t just about detectives, it included all manner of entertainment, humor, music, drama, news, matching and often surpassing the content of today’s video media.

The common element was that it was all audio and though it allowed for amazingly low budgets it did require three vital elements. First, actors with tremendous voicing skills, a finely tuned ability to express all emotions, states of mind, and motivations with voice alone. Next, writers of unsurpassed ability who could develop a script that accounted for descriptions that would normally be explained by visuals, as a result many shows were narrated by the main character to allow for this device. Finally, a sound engineer with imagination, timing, and endless energy to produce all the sound effects that filled in the final details of the audio action.

If you want to learn more…start with a simple online search for “old time radio shows”. Since the copyright on this type of entertainment has mostly run out, there are many shows in the public domain and posted by various organizations and individuals. If you use internet radio look for WMKV – wmkv.org (FM 89.3, Reading, Ohio), Conyers Old Time Radio – conyersradio.net (FM 89.9, Conyers, Georgia) and others, or search for an “old time radio” app on your smart phone. Finally, to hear a sample of Rocky Jordan use this link to the comprehensive Archive.org (a site with many episodes of many series available): https://archive.org/details/RockyJordan

Have a listen! It’s one of the places where history and entertainment meet!

Faith and Health: What’s the Connection?

According to the findings from the Nurses Health Study, which tracked 75,000 female nurses from 1992 to 2012, the women who attended church most often (Protestant and Catholic were the most common denominations among the nurses studied) had a lower risk of dying. Those who attended church (or church activities) twice a week had the lowest risk of dying, while those who attended once a week or slightly less also had a significant, though slightly less-lower risk of dying. Churchgoers were also found to be more optimistic.

Experts have endeavored to determine why this is. Some have posited that it is the social support that improves longevity. Others believe it is the framework of a belief system that provides improved life stability (Corina Storrs, “Going to Church Could Help You Live Longer, Study Says,” CBS Philly at Philadelphia.CBSlocal.com, May 16, 2016).

An interesting statistic. Many will find a way to discount it, but it gives food for thought. How does what we believe actually affect us? Do we stand for something? Or not? To go beyond and connect to the study of history: does the historical tradition and impact of ancient documents, such as the Bible, bear more respect as sources of verified history with the ability to create positive change in the life of adherents?

Finding Your Gateway into History

Many times I’ve heard people say that studying history in school was their most dreaded class. And almost instantly, and somewhat sheepishly, comes the follow up that they actually liked some of the stories and they find it fascinating now, but history class was so hard to get interested in then.

There are many explanations, often it has to do with the teacher. Some history teachers are jewels, and imparting the fabric of the past is their highest goal. However, others taught history because it allowed them to do other things, like coach, or sometimes they had to double up and teach history and literature and they simply didn’t have time to dedicate to creating that gateway between the student and the continuum of history.

The gateway is the thing. Think of it as a doorway or passage of curiosity that allows you to enter into the study of history. Not necessarily academic study, but a gradual building of knowledge on a particular part of history or on many parts of history that helps you understand the meaning of it all.

There are many gateways. Sometimes a good film about a historical topic makes us want to know more. At other times a biography makes us curious to know more about the people surrounding the main subject. A living history museum might be it, or a piece of art work that begs the question, what was going on then that made the painter create this image, this way? Even religious belief can be a gateway to history, for instance wanting to know more about the lands in which the biblical record took place.

Whatever the gateway you find, take it! The value of historical knowledge in the quest for truth cannot be overrated.

Keep thinking history!

– Amanda Stiver

Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Mt. St. Helens – “Tough Times, Strong Women” – Price of “Choice”)

Mt. St. Helens Recharging – Ring of Fire Active

In the news lately has been a flurry of news items relating to the increased earthquake activity around the Ring of Fire, the Pacific rim volcano and earthquake zones. Among these, Mt. St. Helens has begun to quake again, and scientists believe that the magma cavity is refilling. Incidentally, this is not news…it has been filling for some time. The latest swarm of tremors, however, make good news, and no doubt, are indicative of the overall activity in the Ring of Fire.

Some important things to remember when considering reports of “predicted” earthquake activity. Earthquakes are not predictable, per se. For instance, recent news items have indicated that an earthquake along the San Andreas fault line is imminent, as are earthquakes on the New Madrid fault line in the center of the U.S. Earthquakes are always imminent along fault lines because that’s where earthquakes take place. Even the Yellowstone basin is reported to be seismically active…it is always seismically active and volcanologically active, since it is a giant volcanic hotspot!

The take away from all this is that yes, indeed, the Ring of Fire is more than usually active, there are many fault lines and many possible locations for earthquakes. Most earthquake preparation is done ahead of time, building codes, tsunami warning programs, etc. Be aware of the risks in your area, know what to do, and pray. Same goes for volcanoes, although they have a better rate of prediction. Above all, don’t panic without good reason!

Tough Times, Strong Women – Worth a Read

I just finished a unique history book a few days ago. Titled “Tough Times, Strong Women” and published by nostalgia publication “Reminisce” magazine, this compilation of first hand, personal stories and memories of women in the 20th century, particularly during the Great Depression and World War II, is rare among history works.

Most history books are theoretical, sometimes annotated with quotes from primary sources, but by and large are an abstract overview. This book is different. It’s like listening to your elderly aunts talk all about the “old days”. All the wisdom and appreciation that the generation who lived through the Great Depression learned. Most of these accounts are short, just a memory or a summation of a life, but they are very powerful because of the world that they record.

Right now we live in a vapid age, full of short attention spans and technological and moral quandaries. Those who came before us were not perplexed by such things, they knew if they were men or women, that marriage was designed to produce children, that food grew out of the ground, often from their own garden, and that drug (recreational or pharmacological) and alcohol abuse destroyed lives. Most had a firm belief in God, and a sense of moral rectitude, knowing what was right and wrong.

We no longer have a society with moral rectitude. The painful reality is, however, that “freedom” from essential truths that have been understood for centuries is not necessarily going to bring happiness. Belief in a Divine Creator, whose design for the natural world and the moral world was created to help humans flourish, begs that we put aside our secular constructions and consider the fact that the Divine design is better than the designs and experiments of the created.

A good book can spur many contemplations!

The Cost of Abortion as a Societal Norm

The decision to legalize abortion in 1973 was, and still is, seen as a triumph of women’s rights. In order to accomplish this feat of mental gymnastics, one must accept the fact that the rights of the born outweigh the rights of the unborn, that life does not start at conception (which has recently been refuted by a stunning discovery and recording of the flash that occurs at the moment of conception), that we are better off with fewer people on the earth (a form of population control, which is a foundational principle of abortion theory), and, ultimately, that human life is not sacred, that future generations are not a blessing, and that women are capable of giving birth at any age thanks to advances in science (by no means universally true).

After that exhausting series of leaps and bounds, ignoring the emotional, physical, and mental cost of terminating a pregnancy, some still insist that there is no price to be paid for accepting abortion. Even the 58 million lives lost since 1973 (far more than the Nazis managed to kill during WW2) aren’t enough to move the minds and hearts of many.

However, simple economics may make that irrelevant. 58 million fewer Americans means increased taxes for the surviving younger generations, since somebody has to pay. Fewer people in the workforce. Fewer productive individuals to support industry, agriculture, and business. It means America (to say nothing of Europe) does not have enough births to replace those who die each year, and this nation will gradually, or catastrophically (if we have too few people to defend our borders), disappear in the course of time. Quite a cost (Michael Swartz, “The Long-Term Effects of ‘Choice’ Come Home to Roost,” The Patriot Post at PatriotPost.us, May 13, 2016).

The lesson: Every choice in history has a cost and, ultimately, that price will be paid. No man or woman is an island, one choice becomes many and affects everyone.

Tomorrow’s History: Weekly Roundup (Trump – Holocaust – Year Without Summer)

“Today’s news is tomorrow’s history,” is a quote attributed to Judy Croome, a South African writer. However, the jist has long been known to historians, is ignored by politicians and celebrities, and has become the fight song of History teachers throughout the world…if only students would listen!

So follow along as we look at some current events, possible implications, and a few random pieces of history that should interest and amuse:

THE GOP PICKS A FINALIST:

DONALD TRUMP APPEARS TO BE THE GOP NOMINEE FOR THE 2016 U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

It seems the era of American oligarchies may have begun (though it has surfaced now and again for decades). Mr. Trump has the luck of FDR with him at the moment…a promise of better things, regardless of the existence of a down payment. Mrs. Clinton is a known quantity with a great deal of baggage and bad health. Mr. Sanders plays well before but one audience, the young, starry-eyed Millennial population that has been taught to idolize the socialist ideal, but has never lived in its dangerous and constrictive borders.

Above all, Mr. Trump is shiner, wealthier, and exudes more power, and those three things play well in American elections, especially in an era of underlying financial recession (where the economy looks good-ish on the outside, but beneath it is in peril). The outcome remains to be seen.

Whatever the choice, it is clear the U.S. is barrelling rapidly away from the foundations of the Union, the Constitution. We are drifting perilously close to the shores of a confederacy, rather than a union of states. Love them or hate them, the Judeo-Christian principles upon which the nation was founded gave us greater purpose, cause, and humanity. Without that we tread toward a dark age (incidentally, those are never pleasant to live through, and most die in them).

TO REMEMBER THE HOLOCAUST

An interesting news story re-surfaced this week thanks to the algorithmic aggregators of news that feed us our daily thoughts on Facebook as it followed on the May 4th and 5th occasion of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), commemorating the Jewish lives lost in the slaughter by the Nazis. Featured on the “House Beautiful” magazine website, it related the discovery last year by renovators in Holland of an inscription on a door. Written in 1942, it appears to be the last written testament of a Jewish couple in hiding during WW2 (Nikki Erlick, “A House Reno Reveals A Heartbreaking Message Etched Into A Door,” House Beautiful at HouseBeautiful.com, July 17, 2015).

A short, simple inscription in Dutch which said, “Look on the roof and find my last personal things and try after the war to find family of ours. Give them my things and you will become something. Oh God of Israel, have mercy on your humiliated brothers. Signed, Levie Sajet born at 1-8-1881 born in Nijmegen and his housewife Ester Zilberstein born at Stettin on the 28-7-1899.”

Tragic events in history can become so big and anonymous that we sometimes fail to relate on an individual level to those who have suffered. But such a short, sad witness to two lives must affect us. It must bring us back to the understanding that people just like us died then, and die now, and that murder is evil.

This tragic replay of history was cited in a quote by Mordechai Palzur, a Holocaust survivor and former diplomat, “I’m not sure that there is any improvement because we see that hundreds of thousands of people are being murdered and they are showing how they cut off the heads and so on and nothing happens [referring to the current conflict across the Middle East]. I would not generalize and say that there has been a change, but altogether from what we see today the people who were cruel then they are cruel today,” (Sam Sokol, “Against Orders, Some Diplomats Saved Jews During Holocaust,” The Media Line for The Jerusalem Post at JPost.com, May 5, 2016).

1816, THE YEAR WITHOUT SUMMER

Let’s take a step back, say, two-hundred years to 1816. It was, in many ways, a frightening year. The sun stopped shining brightly, crops failed (accounts speak of frosts in mid-June), and the warm, sunny productive season of Summer was nowhere to be found. Don’t worry, in case you are, it wasn’t man-made global warming, but rather…just plain old global cooling courtesy of the planet itself.

The reason, fully understood much later, was a volcanic eruption in the Indian Ocean. Mt. Tambora, erupting in April 1815, had sent ash high into the atmosphere, which manually blocked the sunlight from filtering down to the surface of the earth, where it was needed. Overall the year wasn’t an overly cold one, it just happened to get very cold right during growing season leading to crop failure and food shortages. Even Thomas Jefferson noted the phenomenon in his copious records keeping at Monticello. (Robert McNamara, “The Year Without A Summer Was A Bizarre Weather Disaster in 1816,” About: Education at History1800s.About.Com, November 27, 2014.)

Some historians even suggest that this dismal year for crops pushed restless souls west to seek better land, becoming therefore an impetus for the vast westward migration and settlement in American history. My own family, one of them at least, had just survived a stint in Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in the disastrous invasion of Russia of 1812. He picked up his family a few years later in the 1820’s and departed the Swiss-German borderlands for Pennsylvania, a generation later his children would push west with the rest of the migration and settle in Nebraska.

The lesson, watch out for earthquakes and volcanic explosions that have far reaching consequences (I say this as we experience an increased amount of seismic activity in the Ring of Fire). Also, remember, an event here, a consequence there, and we, too, can feel the very pulse of history, if we are not careful. Events trigger other events, so keep your eyes open and stay the course!

I’ll be back next week to bring you another weekly roundup of tomorrow’s history!

Keeping thinking history in the meantime!

– Amanda Stiver