History & Geography

Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning

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11/1/15: I did not finish this book and right now I have no intention of picking it back up. It’s not a bad book, per se, but it’s not what I enjoy in a history book. I like social history, which to me means lots and lots of personal anecdotes that help describe why things happened the way that they did. I’ve never cared much for political history, which is (again to me) all the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind closed doors within governments that make for the “big” changes like war. Political histories tend to be full of analysis because I’m supposed to walk away with the same conclusions that the author did. This is a political history with, as far as I can tell, not very much social history included. It’s an interesting book, don’t get me wrong, but there are simply too many names to remember and places to keep straight to make it a “fun read” and since I’m no longer in school, I can afford to focus on the fun reads instead of trudging through books that don’t maintain their hold on my interest.

If you like dense political analysis, then you’ll like this book. If you like books that focus on regular people, like I do, you probably won’t make it very far in this book. My conclusion is that you’ll either like it or you won’t. There’s nothing wrong with the research or even the style–it’s just not my cup of tea.

10/10/15: I’ve been slow reading this one. It’s a fascinating book and what I consider to be my first real delve into the history of the Holocaust, but it’s dense. Like, really dense. So much information and detail. I guess I was hoping for something with more first hand accounts and less political discussion. I honestly find treaties to be dull reading, but leading up to WWII, that’s what it was. Still, there is a lot of really fascinating instances here, like how Britain and France handed Hitler Czechoslovakia and how Germany blamed the Kristallnaught on a displaced German (Polish? Russian?) Jew who killed a German minister in France.

Granted, this time was all about political intrigue and shifting border lines and it was complex and we have to really look it instead of making broad blanket statements like “Nazi gun control caused the Holocaust” (–Ben Carson), but what I want to know about the Holocaust is how could non-Jews have let it happen. And that, my friends, has been summed up on page 88: “Of course, it was possible for Germans not to wish to see violence inflicted upon Jews while at the same time not wishing to see Jews at all.” The one common thread between EVERY nation involved in this atrocity (to which I include every country that didn’t open their arms to the Jewish people) is that they didn’t want to have a Jewish population. There was the “Madagascar Plan”, which was the generic name for moving the Jewish people out of what they were currently calling “home” be it in Poland, Russia, or Germany and putting them either on the Island of Madagascar or in Palestine (the two leading destinations though the actual destination didn’t particularly matter). Britain considered going along with this plan (as the owners of Palestine), but decided that it’d be worse to anger the Arabs already living there than the Jews who would be moving there.

This whole mentality of “out of sight, out of my way” disgusts me and as someone who has never been the biggest fan or Israel today, I’m starting to have even less respect for the way they constantly defy current boundaries in their own ambition to have “manifest destiny”. The idea that that is their “homeland” is a crock when in 1938 Jews were being forced out of the HOMES they’d established in Europe–HOMES that they’d hoped to live in for generations! Don’t get me wrong, first and foremost, I believe that EVERYONE has the right to live where ever they damn well please so long as the property is bought legally and doesn’t harm anyone else in the process. That is NOT what’s going on in Palestine where the land in question is under investigation to determine ownership. It’s like a Zombie House (one that the owner has left because they expected a foreclosure, but then the bank decides not to foreclose). It would not be legal to sell the house to a new owner without finalizing the paperwork to establish who the owner really is. Some may argue that the land in Palestine is unoccupied and therefore up for grabs, but when there’s global interest in establishing real boundaries, no one should live in the area until the paperwork is finalized. Otherwise, we should just say “screw it–if one side gets to live there then both sides do” and open the area to ALL migrants (much like the homesteads of the US). Be like, “you’re all one country now, congratulations”. You’d think that the Jews who were forced out of Europe would have more of a claim to those former homes and businesses that they’re family used to own instead of claiming “historic ownership” to land they personally have no tie to.

Anyway, I’m writing the above as I take a break on page 100. I’m hoping that once all the background information is done (and the war finally begins) this book will move faster. But we’ll see…

Heh. I just read a truly interesting view of the alliance between Germany and the Soviet Union. Apparently Evangelical Americans saw it as “the realization of a biblical prophecy (Ezekiel 38) of an alliance between Gog and Gomer that would attack the Land of Israel and thus fulfill on of the preconditions for the return of the messiah.” This is what I meant above about claiming Palestine as “the Land of Israel”–these Americans and probably most Jews as well didn’t view that land as their homeland then, why should they view it as such now?

Also along Biblical lines, aren’t there a couple of passages about how God mandates (or at least doesn’t frown upon) “his people” invading nearby towns and destroying them? That sounds a lot like the way Hitler believed it was his right to completely annihilate the countries around Germany because they weren’t German.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

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Sigh. This is one of those wonderfully depressing stories that leaves you crying at 3 am because you can’t put it down. I read it purely on a whim because it was advertised as a “Big Library Read Book” this month on my library’s ebook site (a book which isn’t limited in checkouts by the number of copies the library owns). It’s one I highly recommend.

It’s set in 1918, during the last months of WWI and the Spanish Influenza pandemic. Lot’s of death, lots of sorrow. And yet, finishing it has left me hopeful rather than depressed, which is how the best books are (in my opinion).

The last book I read on Spiritualism was set in WWII Britain (The Strange Case of Hellish Nell) so we know that this phenomenon (I mean the act of believing in spirits) lasted a long time. This book paints a very realistic view of life during this period–no white washing.

WWI Propaganda
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Are you 100% American? Buy Bonds
Are you 100% American? Buy Bonds by parrow1978
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Beat Back the Hun
Beat Back the Hun by Dividenda
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The Cincinnati Red Stalkings by Troy Soos

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My dad was the one to first read the Mickey Rawlings Series many many moons ago. He read them out of order depending on what was on the shelf at the library and I kind of read them behind him, but realized that I hated the parts that were missing. I only recently began re-reading this series starting from the beginning and I must say that it’s a better experience.

These books stand alone just fine, but you’ll miss out on the character interactions if you go out of order.

Oddly enough, even though I probably read all of the first 5 books in this series before (this being #5), this is the one that I definitely remembered reading. It didn’t mean I could remember the ending, but I definitely remembered it.

I also remember not particularly caring for it at the time. I still can’t place my finger on why this is my least favorite book in the series, but I suspect it has something to do with Prohibition and gambling/Mob….maybe just the gambling/Mob connections since Prohibition isn’t a new item for this series. Or maybe it is since this one introduces Prohibition (maybe I have read the next book in the series without remembering so). Maybe it’s because the historical connection, since it is Prohibition and the gambling scandals, isn’t as compelling at the earlier dealings with race, unions, etc. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s simply because I read them out of order and couldn’t figure out the characters very well!

I do know that I enjoyed this book this time a lot more than I did the previous time. It you like baseball and don’t mind a murder mystery, this is a great series for you. Soos does a heck of a job researching the games and the real life events! He even responded to a complaint I made about Murder at Wrigley Field, which should have been called Murder at Weeghman Park because that’s what it’s name was during the time that the book was set and that’s the name the park went by throughout the book (Wrigley wouldn’t buy the park until after the end of the book). It turned out that his publishers had insisted on calling it Wrigley on the cover to help it sell better since they were still insisting on the “Murder at…” format. He gave in to the publishers, but had wanted the more accurate title. There’s nothing that annoys me more than facts being made up rather than doing the research.

Baseball Poster Memorabilia
Baseball Poster Memorabilia by cardland
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Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

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!!!! I got an award!    ?    Cool. Hahaha.

Thank you Tea and a Good Read for nominating me! I too didn’t know that anyone read my blog :-).

Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer the ten questions sent to you.
  • Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
  • Nominate ten blogs.

Questions:

1.) What is your favourite book of 2015 so far

Probably The Strange Case of Hellish Nell because it’s a supposedly true story that is beyond belief. It’s about Helen Duncan, the last person imprisoned under the Witchcraft Act of 1735 for being a thorn in the British Government’s side during WWII because she kept predicting strategic war events before they were revealed to the public. Whether or not this book has any truth to it, it was still a really fun read.

2.) If you could be any literary character, who would you be?

Hmm….well, I wrote one of my essays to get into college about Peter Pan and never wanting to grow up. ‘Course, my take on it was about embracing adulthood while still taking regular flights of fancy back into childhood–to enjoy playing with blocks and doing puzzles with the Kindergartners :-). Or just reading those books that take you back to the land of fairies where you don’t have to worry about bills and family feuds

3.) E-books or hard copies? And why?

Hard copies for 2 reasons. I love the feel of a real book in my hands. And since I only have a laptop for a “digital device” if I’m going to read an e-book, it’d be on this. On my computer, I have a habit of forgetting about my book in favor of researching whatever happens to pop into my head. Plus, hard copies of books don’t have batteries that go dead while you’re stuck on the side of the road.

4.) Do you have a literary crush/love and if so, who?

Lots of them, haha. I liked the idea of Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility but he felt like an addendum. Huh…I’m sitting here wondering why I haven’t read many “May/December” romances sense obviously I’ve got a thing for older men and then I’m like “Durr–most of my literary crushes are hundreds or thousands of years older than their love interest”. My first crush was probably Beast from Beauty and the Beast.

5.) How do you take your coffee/tea? Cream, milk, sweetener or black?

I don’t drink coffee or tea. I’ll drink Southern Iced Tea (which is rather sweet) if I’m desperate, but usually I drink water, milk, or orange juice.

6.) If you could visit any place in the world (that you haven’t been yet), where would it be?

I’ve always wanted to go to Germany to visit my paternal familial stomping grounds. Attendorn, to be precise. I would want to go to Italy to see where my mom’s family came from, but I don’t know where that is, yet. I got pretty excited when I found a record for a great-grandmother on her side that her parents were born in “Algeria”, but given that the 2 or 3 other census records said her parents were born in “America”, I don’t know what to think.

7.) If you were stuck on a deserted island and could only have one book, what would it be?

Heidi, because then maybe I could actually finish it, haha. I guess for practicalities sake I’d want an environmental textbook on the flora and fauna of the island I was on or a book on survival on a desert island. Before I started dating my boyfriend, Night Play was the book I re-read to make me feel better about being single, haha.

8.) Do you ever read in the dark? And if so, how?

With my eyes closed. Have you ever fallen asleep while reading and swear that you’re reading the actual book? I got into a bit of trouble in high school because we were reading Heart of Darkness and I swore that something had happened, but it turned out that I’d imagined it because I’d been sleeping instead of reading and didn’t know the difference (I was reading it at home the night before and it affected my quiz grade). Of course, what I’d imagined wasn’t much different from the reality which is apparently someone trying to put out a fire with a holey bucket…I think–I never really understood most of Heart of Darkness.

9.) Have you ever been nominated for a blog award (other than this one)?

NOPE!

10.) What is your favourite book-turned movie?

This is a tough question: do you mean the movie that was totally better than the book? Hands down The Notebook. One where the book was so much better than the movie? Water for Elephants. A good movie from a wonderful book: Most of the Harry Potters. And a movie that can take the place of the book(s) (and vice versa) is The Hunger Games series.

My Questions:

  1. What made you start your blog?
  2. What is the book you recommend most often?
  3. What is something you need to do every day?
  4. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
  5. What is something you want to change in your life?
  6. What is your dream job?
  7. Describe your ideal date.
  8. What is your favorite season? Why?
  9. What’s your favorite memory?
  10. Where is Waldo?

Nominees:

Epbot

Treestand Book Reviews

angelica.mercedez.anderson

Breakneck Hobbiest

Little Owl Notes

Bookish Things and Tea

There’s no place like homemade

Carter Library

Family, Life, and Books

These Glittery Hands

Norfolk: A People’s History

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I ordered Norfolk: A People’s History specificially for the 2015 Reading Challenge as my book that is set in my hometown. Yeah….I realize that I could have searched for a fiction book set in Norfolk, but I didn’t have much patience for it. I’m also not a fan of “manly man military fiction books” which, if it involves the Navy, will at least mention Norfolk, VA.

Speaking of which, BF’s been binge watching NCIS and we are amazed by how they’re able to get from DC to Hampton Roads in 15 minutes or less! There was also an early episode that mentions I-264 (or I-64, I can’t remember which) when they’re clearly on I-564 (564 being the direct route to the base). Anyway, I digress.

But…maybe I’m not digressing too much. I mean, that’s a main theme of this short history: how Norfolk is both defined by the Navy and yet refuses to be defined as anything but “Anytown, USA”. We’re often mentioned whenever the Navy is, but at the same time, it’s an anonymous place. The media can’t even be bothered to get the basic facts right when it comes to portraying this town. Huh, while double checking whether Kevin Bacon’s The Following is set in Norfolk (as I remember hearing shortly before it premiered) I learned that Wikipedia has a page for “Books set in Norfolk”, but the 4 that I checked are all set in Norfolk, England, which is why I gave up (even Mr American). Anyway, back to The Following–I think there was an article in The Virginian Pilot about the show which said that even though it’s supposed to be set in Norfolk, locals would recognize nothing.

This history is short and to the point, which has it’s benefits and it’s downfalls. It’s like reading an article on Wikipedia: you’ll get the gist of the story, but depth and nuances are lost.

For instance, one point I thought was lacking was on how Norfolkians responded to Union occupation during the Civil War. Ms. Rose claims that there was a lot of dislike of the Union Occupiers because Norfolk was Pro-Confederacy. This is inaccurate–the towns of Norfolk and Portsmouth were actually Pro-Union for the most part. Now, the rest of Hampton Roads was mostly Pro-Confederacy and I’ve read the diary of one woman from Chesapeake who hated Benjamin Butler and accused him of all sorts of inhumanities even as he treated her husband fairly enough. But my absolute favorite story of the Civil War in Portsmouth (which was essentially an extension of Norfolk) was of the ladies fainting in the streets as it was announced that Virginia had seceded the Union. They were certain that Lincoln was going to turn the guns of Fort Monroe upon them and blow them to kingdom come. In fact, this idea never crossed any official desk.

A few years ago I was appalled to learn that in Virginia it is perfectly legal to not educate your children (2 or 3 years ago there was a census of like 2000 kids who were not participating in any structured education). While I can support homeschooling and believe that a parent who can educate their children should be able to do so, I do think that it’s society’s obligation to ensure that those children are at least taught the basics and that the Standards of Learning (SOLs–VA’s state tests) should be required of all students to check that they are getting taught something useful! I’d like to think that even without state tests, these children are learning to read and do basic math and are getting an appreciation for science and history, but then I’ve been reading Homeschoolers Anonymous and hearing the personal accounts of what some children went through. There are a few topics where I feel that one person is too many and this is one of those–one child being denied a good education while the government lets it happen is too many.

This history of Norfolk explains that this lack of educating in Virginia stems from not only the lack of importance placed on education prior to the 1950’s, but also was the result of opposition towards desegregation. In fact, in the 1950s, the VA Assembly abolished the law that made school attendance compulsory, which is why it’s legal in VA to not educate your children. Grr.

But it wasn’t until the 1990’s that education became important in Norfolk and I was one beneficiary of the push for pre-school education for poor children. When I got into Pre-K, even though it was taught at what was going to be my elementary school, admittance was limited to poor children who needed extra help. There was a test of basic knowledge that I had to take and according to my dad, the person giving the test had to lie about the fact that I could identify my stomach to get me in so that we could get that little bit of free child care so my mom could work a little more (it was only a half day back then). Even though my parents did a lot to prepare me for school and I didn’t really need the Pre-K classes for education’s sake, besides the child care, Pre-K also got me started in a school environment a year earlier than Kindergarten would have which actually made me about the same age as a Kindergartner. You see, my birthday is in late October, but the cut off for Kindergarten was being 5 on September 30th. I wouldn’t have started school until I was nearly 6 without Pre-K!

I did learn one thing about myself while reading this history: everyone looks Italian too me (my mom’s family is Italian)! I did NOT know that the Deckers and the Doumars are Lebanese–I thought they were Italian! And I thought I was multi-cultured! I was surprised that that infamous Greek Festival wasn’t mentioned even though a basic history of the Greeks in Norfolk was covered. I’ve never been.

Anyway, this is a good overview of the city and I’m intrigued to read more of these snapshots of American life.

Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA
Duck Invasion, Norfolk, VA by Snowpeaceful
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Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science– and the World

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I picked this book mostly on a gut instinct based on the title and the cover while looking for my next book to blog for. I didn’t think twice about getting this one and ordered it immediately. When I received it in the mail, I was kind of astonished to realize that I’d already put it on my mental to-read list, though it hadn’t actually made it to my physical one on Goodreads. I’d stumbled upon the blurb originally during one of my monthly forays into the physical newspaper at work (I only browse it whilst waiting for my food to reheat in the microwave and usually don’t make it past the front page).

I can only say that I’m thrilled that this book reappeared in my life :-).

loved that the first mini-biography (or rather micro-biographies) was about Mary Putnam Jacobi (1842-1906) who put a lot of effort into writing a well researched paper on exactly why it was utter bullshit that educating women caused their ovaries to shrivel up and die (as was the leading argument by a male who didn’t like the idea of educating women). I though this the perfect place to start this amazing list of women.

However, if you were expecting to find a blurb on Marie Curie in this book, you’ll be sadly disappointed. I don’t really agree with the reasoning behind this omission (it’s discussed in the introduction)–that she’s simply too famous to be included. The methodology for choosing these 52 women (which does include Iréne Joliot-Curie, one of Marie’s daughters) doesn’t say that they must be women who were overlooked during their day. Unwittingly when I was ordering my books from the library for this month(s), I grabbed Almost Famous Women  where I do expect to find a lack of the usual favorites. The women in this book run the gambit of those who were ignored, stolen from, and those who were actually given a lot of praise sooner or later in their career (the category to which Curie belongs).

I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the limited scope of these micro-biographies. Generally, except for when a bit of author’s bias creeps in, these are cut and dry descriptions of where these ladies came from, what their passion was, and how they went about making their discoveries. There is just a bare hint that one of the reasons Jacobi was so pissed off by Clarke’s book (Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for Girls) was because she was a mother as well as a scientist, so obviously her ovaries hadn’t shriveled up beyond use. While I too find it appalling that the obituary that gave rise to this book listed Yvonne Brill’s “mean stroganoff” well before mentioning that she was a brilliant rocket scientist, I think it harmful to disregard how these women themselves felt about their circumstances.

I consider myself a “practical libertarian communist” with the communist aspect being relevant here: at work, I feel proud when we as a team succeed. I don’t need the personal accolades or recognition to feel like I’ve done a good job. I don’t even mind when someone else takes credit for something that I’ve done a lot of work on, namely because of the smug satisfaction I have knowing that without me they’d fall flat on their face. So long as I make a fair wage for the work that I’ve done, anyone and their brother can step in and claim all the glory. Of course, if they were able to reap the benefits of this glory without me benefiting as well (not foreseeable where I work), then I’d happily step aside and let the glory-takers prove their worth. Currently for me this “glory” is the responsibility of talking to customers and solving the problems that I try my damnest to prevent before they happen even though this is NOT my responsibility, which is why I can’t stop a good half of them.

Anyway, I just dislike when people decide that folks who are seemingly “oppressed” should feel outrage over their situation. Different strokes for different folks, as I say, so while it’s nice to see a generally cut and dry account of these women’s scientific achievements, I think it’s unfair to not list her children if at the end of the day she felt that that was her biggest achievement.

While these micro-biographies are informative, I think they should just be the jumping off point for further research. I know I plan to look into at least a few of these ladies more in depth. I may even finish Madame Curie which I set aside immediately after reading the part about her husband’s death. Otherwise it was a really good book!

I received this book for free from Blogging For Books in exchange for this honest review.

Awesome Ladies of Science
Awesome Ladies of Science by Tc43Industries
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Ah! The element of surprise!
Ah! The element of surprise! by Squidyes
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General Sherman’s Christmas: Savannah 1864

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“The quiet grace at tea with Mrs. Cornwell; the “cordial” overnight invitation to Howard; the “kindly” offer of a guard, while nearby residences reportedly burned wholesale; the Cornwell plantation itself confiscated of everything edible and on the hoof, and then ruined; the family left nearly without food for days; and the house threatened with burning, yet protected; the return of household goods–all these juxtapose contradictions not easily reconciled, yet integral to the surreality of the march to the sea.”

A really good read on Sherman’s march. I’m still desperate to read one of the many books written by southerner’s shortly after the war which claimed to tell “the real story”. I ran across a bunch of these as I played around with what my college thesis would be on.

In terms of the depravity that happened in GA during the march, this book seems to make the most sense from what I’ve read. I think that what happened in Baltimore a few weeks ago is a good place to start in deciding where the truth was in the past, if that makes any sense.

Remember the ladies fainting in Portsmouth!

General Sherman and His Staff -- Border Poster
General Sherman and His Staff — Border Poster by parrow1978
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Gen Sherman 'Heat a Peach' Tour 1864 Mug
Gen Sherman ‘Heat a Peach’ Tour 1864 Mug by ThenWear
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