Wednesday, May 25, 2016

History and the Hip

Must have been a generational mismatch or something, but I never was too close a follower of the Tragically Hip. Never saw them play, which seems to have been the key. Confession: I have tended to associate them with the Superman Song of the Crash Test Dummies, and somehow never really associated them with "Ahead by a Century.") If you were more connected that I was, I'm sorry for your (impending) loss

True thing: the Canadian historical content in their lyrics is remarkable; move over Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin' Tom. Millhaven, Milgaard, Bobcaygeon (even I know that lyric), Bill Barilko, the '72 Series, the Horseshoe Tavern, and no end of small town placename-checking.  Here's one list of "most Canadian" lyrics, and an essentials playlist from CBC Music.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Visual history of Toronto

Pretty amazing, this City of Toronto time-lapse of the expansion of Toronto 1902-2002.  Time and the city sure speed up after about 1950.  

H/t: Historian Daniel Ross's twitter @dgrthist

Monday, May 23, 2016

Giro report 3

And suddenly that was it.  On stage 14, the "queen stage" with the most challenging climbs of the whole tour, and the non-climbing racers dropping back precipitously, it looked like a Ryder Hesjedal hill and a Ryder Hesjedal day. Particularly when favourites like Nibali and Valverde were having less than stellar days.

Instead Hesjedal withdrew, plagued with illness.  If you have watched grand tour cyclists go downhill, you will know why dizziness and balance problems would be disqualifying.

The race is just starting to get interesting, but who to cheer for.  Maybe Darwin Atapuma, latest prodigy Colombian?

History of boomers in American politics

Donald Trump was born in 1946, Hillary Clinton in 1947, Bernie Sanders in 1941. This is not the beginning of the end of the US democracy. It is the last hurrah of the post-World War II baby boom.
With Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, instead of Barack Obama (born 1961), claiming to represent the next generation, there may be a problem here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Giro '16 Report 2: the stealth campaign

The Giro d'Italia is mostly invisible on Canadian television, and Ryder Hesjedal has been nearly invisible in the race: no stage wins, no breakaways, no drama.  Clive Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist continues to be pretty much the only Canadian sports journalist to take an interest.

But just as you can work around the non-coverage with online sources, Ryder's running a pretty solid stealth campaign if you know where to look.  No stunting, no fireworks, not much in the TV coverage, but a very solid steady performance with no mistakes or mishaps. Now, halfway through, he stands 13th overall as of yesterday's 12th stage (of 21), well positioned for the big-finish final days.

He's almost four minutes behind the current leader and the likely winner is probably in the top 5 already. But several of the 12 riders ahead of Hesjedal are not expected to hold up in the big mountain stages to come, so he's distinctly among the contenders. He was something like 26th in the first days, and has steadily improved his standing each day.

Canadians Hugo Houle and Svein Tuft? Farther down, let us say.

Image:  @ryderhesjedal

Update: .... and having that written, I see today was not so good.  Hesjedal holding 14th, but losing another minute to Nibali, Valverde, and other race favourites.  Holding 14th indeed, only because the non-climbers are being winnowed out.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Doors Open Toronto - and Aristophanes

Is Doors Open a thing where you are?  It's pretty widespread in Ontario now, the weekend in which historic, or unique, or usually inaccessible buildings are open to the public to tour and explore.

It's this weekend in Toronto.  In one of my neighbourhoods, the local Business Improvement Association has partnered with the local historical society to offer walking tours of "The Junction's Revitalized Main Street":
Participate in an introduction to the history and character of West Toronto's hidden gem, the former City of West Toronto. Start at the site of the old business district, then be guided west to explore the local history of whiskey, wine, women and vaudeville. Learn more about the Junction by visiting the original locations of the homesteads of the area's founding fathers, several former town halls, Toronto's first mosque and the four theatres that once made up one of the city's first theatre districts.
Led by my friend Neil Ross, author, comedian, historian, also recently the author of Comedy Can Be Murder, which is somehow about Aristophanes and Groucho Marx at the same time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CHA's Macdonald prize short list

We missed the announcement of the shortlist for the Canadian Historical Association's Macdonald Prize for most significant nonfiction contribution to understanding Canada's past. The Macdonald was won in recent years by Jean Barman, James Dashuk, and William Wicken.
Durand, Caroline. Nourrir la machine humaine. Nutrition et alimentation au Qu├ębec, 1860-1945. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.
Heron, Craig. Lunch-Bucket Lives: Remaking the Workers’ City. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2015.
Hogue, Michel. Metis and the Medicine Line: Creating a Border and Dividing a People. Regina: University of Regina Press, 2015.
McCalla, Douglas. Consumers in the Bush: Shopping in Rural Upper Canada. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.

Sweeny, Robert C.H. Why Did We Choose to Industrialize? Montreal, 1819-1849. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015. 
Winner of this and the CHA's other awards to be announced at the CHA annual prize-giving in conjunction with the Annual Meeting at the end of May, this year in Calgary,

Monday, May 16, 2016

Is your work just grist for fictioneering?

The terrific Toronto cultural journalist Kate Taylor last weekend covered the troubling court case involving the documentarian Judy Maltz. Maltz had researched and produced a film, No.4 Street of Our Lady, about the experience of her Jewish family and how it was protected and ultimately saved, by a Ukrainian Catholic woman, Franciszca Halamajowa, during the Holocaust

A would be novelist in Toronto saw the film and wrote a children's novel, using Maltz's research and information and giving the characters their original names, but changing and re-inventing their stories at will. She then published the book without any credit or notice to her source.

Recently the Federal Court of Canada ruled that Maltz had no right of action here, and that not even her moral rights, let along her copyright, had been violated.

I suspect this decision is debatable in law. I'm even more inclined to think it violates the ethical standards of writing and publishing. I was pleased to read historian Jack Granatstein testifying on behalf of the dignity of authorship:
In court, historian Jack Granatstein had argued for Maltz’s side that it was inappropriate for the book not to credit the documentary for detailed pieces of original research, such as information drawn from a soldier’s diary entry, but it wasn’t an argument that carried the day.
In academia, it is considered crucial to acknowledge the source of any ideas or original facts, but copyright is a much narrower beast.
I suspect, however, that many academically-based historians would not be inclined to defend their work in this way. Academic publishing and academic culture strongly encourage authors to surrender their rights and interests and accept anything that is said to disseminate historical work. Too many academics are far too deferential with regard to their rights of authorship, even when they are able to forgo their financial interests in their work.

CAUT, the professors' union, is so deeply invested in the right of universities and education ministers to pirate even copyrighted work in order to ease institutional budgeting, that is hard to imagine it supporting the lonely stand that Jack Granatstein took.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New searchable Hansard launches

From, an announcement about LiPaD, the Linked Parliamentary Data Project: an initiative to annotate and make searchable the complete Hansard of the Canadian Parliament from 1901.

Parliamentary debates have been available here for some time. But it's true that on that site you will find the text you want only if you already know where to look, more or less. A simple Control-F kind of search will not sweep through whole volumes of text for you.

LiPad's "search" box, on the other hand, covers the whole collection. That has its own issues, obviously. Enter a prime minister's name, say, and you get much more than you can use. But there are advanced searching and filtering tools of the usual kind, which should with a little work take you where you want to go.  And if you are doing your own big-data projects, it's fully downloadable in a UTF-8 CSV format.

But what about the pre-1901 Hansards? (History and Hansard didn't start with the twentieth century, hey?)

Regina tonight: History goes to the theatre

Tonight, at Neutral Ground Gallery Regina's Spring Festival presents a reading of Anne McDonald's new play Lullabies and Cautions, which is apparently both autobiographical and about the Charlottetown Conference, 1864
In Lullabies and Cautions, the character of ME, her family, and her history interconnect with John A. Macdonald, the Fathers of Confederation, and Mercy Coles, the daughter of the Prince Edward Island delegate during the 1864 Confederation conferences, Expo ’67, and 1974 during the Inquest into ME’s father’s death. Love, loss, and the responsibilities we have to each other on both a personal and public or political level are the themes explored in this play. Throughout there is song, music, adapted lullabies and nursery rhymes, dance and poetry with lots of chorus work making the whole a playful experience of a serious subject. We don't promise tap dancing, but there may be a little soft shoe ...
Deets here.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

SF as history, history as SF

Ada Palmer, historian  and
D'jever think that writing history has some affinities with writing science fiction? All that effort to construct from scraps the credible image of a society in which they do things differently -- while also maintaining enough narrative (or something) to hold the thing together.

Ada Palmer goes there. Historian and classicist at the University of Chicago, author of things like Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, she is also an SF novelist of whose new book, Too Like the Lightning, a critic writes:
It does something that I think is genuinely new (or at least, if other people have pulled it off, I haven’t read them). Palmer is a historian (here’s an interview I did with her on her book about Lucretius’ reception in the Renaissance) and approaches science fiction in a novel way. Her 25th century draws on the ideas of Enlightenment humanism, but in the same ways that, say, America draws on the writers of the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers. Which is to say that it takes the bits that seem useful, reinterpret them or misinterpret them as new circumstances dictate, and graft them onto what is already there, throwing away the rest. Palmer does this quite thoroughly and comprehensively – her imagined society is both thrown together in the way that real societies are, and clinker-built (in the sense that she has evidently really thought through how this would be related to that and what it might mean).
I'm not sure it's new to build SF from historical analogies. Almost the norm, in fact.  But if you are intrigued by how a working historian would go about it, you might look for her novel.  Or, maybe you'd prefer the Lucretius book, which also sounds like no small feat of imagination.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How real parliaments work

"The prime minister will leave the chamber....  He is to be treated no differently from any other member."

The speaker of the New Zealand parliament ejects prime minister John Key for repeatedly abusing the rules of the legislature.  (The action is at the end of the clip, around 5.30)

New Zealand has a long tradition of caucus control over leaders and hence -- the one leads to the other -- parliamentary control over the executive branch. That has been eroded by proportional representation, since list MPs are encouraged to see themselves as agents of their party.  But the tradition endures.

Rise of the podcast. Twilight of the blog?

Liz Covart, historian
History News Network links to an American Historical Association item on the notable success of Liz Covart's interview-based history podcast Ben Franklin's World. Covart's description of how she built her podcast and the audience for it in the last couple of years suggests how the podcast has become the dominant internet media medium  (outside of social media, at least), leaving blogs very much in some second rank.  Now it's happening with history too.

Covart is a Ph.D historian of early America who, without being explicit about it, seems to be mostly making her way outside the university milieu.  She's thoughtful about what drives historical culture these days:
I viewed the “David McCullough phenomenon” from a front-row seat. I worked for the Boston National Historical Park as a seasonal interpretive ranger. At the start of summer 2001, visitors came to the park wanting to know how to climb the Bunker Hill monument, tour the USS Constitution, and where they could find Cheers. By the end of summer 2001, and throughout 2003, visitors started asking really detailed questions about the American Revolution and they wanted in-depth answers. Many would preface or end our conversation with something to the effect of “You know, I really hated history, but then I read McCullough’s John Adams because everyone else was reading it.”
I have a long way to go, but Ben Franklin’s World has allowed me to create a smaller version of the “McCullough phenomenon” for scholarly history. 41 percent of my audience has read a book or visited a historic site because they heard a site director or a historian speak about their work on the show. Emails, tweets, and interaction in a Facebook group for listeners, reveal that Ben Franklin’s World is inspiring conversations like those I witnessed between 2001 and 2003. Moreover, the show is providing listeners with a better idea of the important work historians do.
Myself, I'm not much in the earbud habit or generation, and I mostly find audio too slow. But I recognize that podcasts are where the impact is being made now, while lively history blogs are becoming thin on the ground.

You can listen to Ben Franklin's World here  Covart: "People are tuning into scholarly history and they think it is interesting and cool"

Full interview at AHA site
Follow @CmedMoore