An Honest and Upfront History Syllabus

Actually By Jonathan Zimmerman

Posted at the Chronicle of Higher Education

My Syllabus, With Trigger Warnings

Introduction to United States History
Tu-Th, 2:15-3:45 pm
J. Zimmerman

This course will explore the main themes, trends, and dilemmas in the history of the United States. In accord with our college’s new policy on trigger warnings, I have affixed a cautionary note to each week’s topic. If the topic threatens to provoke feelings of trauma or panic in you, please inform me beforehand and I will excuse you from class. I’m looking forward to learning together in a safe environment!

I. Puritan New En…

History of the Drunk Dial

It’s way older than cell phones.

Mona Lisa, or An Ode To the Once & Future Museum Thief

 Actually By John Kendrick Bangs

Curator’s Comment: This Thursday, August 21st, will be the 103rd anniversary of the Mona Lisa’s theft from the Louvre (she went missing for over two years). This poem was written in honor of her disappearance sometime between 1911 and 1918 when it was published in an anthology, although it was likely written sometime after 1911 when she was taken and before 1913 when she was returned.

     Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa!
Have you gone? Great Julius Caesar!
Who’s the Chap so bold and pinchey
Thus to swipe the great da Vinci,
Taking France’s first Chef d’oeuvre
Squarely from old Mr. Louvre,
Easy as some pocket-picker
Would remove our handkerchicker
As we ride in careless folly
On some gaily bounding trolley?

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa,
Who’s your Captor? Doubtless he’s a
Crafty sort of treasure-seeker,
Ne’er a Turpin e’er was sleeker,
But, alas, if he can win you
Easily as I could chin you,
What is safe in all the nations
From his dreadful depredations?
He’s the style of Chap, I’m thinkin’,
Who will drive us all to drinkin’!

Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa,
Next he’ll swipe the Tower of Pisa,
Pulling it from out its socket
For to hide it in his pocket;
Or perhaps he’ll up and steal, O,
Madame Venus, late of Milo;
Or maybe while on the grab he
Will annex Westminster Abbey,
And elope with that distinguished
Heap of Ashes long extinguished.

Maybe too, O Mona Lisa,
He will come across the seas a,
Searching for the style of treasure
That we have in richest measure.
Sunset Cox’s brazen statue,
Have a care lest he shall catch you!
Or maybe he’ll set his eye on
Hammerstein’s, or the Flatiron,
Or some bit of White Wash done
By those lads at Washington,

Truly he’s a crafty geezer,
Is your Captor, Mona Lisa!

This Week In History: The Beatles Play Shea Stadium In Huge Gig Opening For The Mamas And The Papas

National Parks Closed For Annual Remajestification

Actually By The Onion

ISSUE 46•21 • May 24, 2010

Each bald eagle receives an annual head-rewhitening.

WASHINGTON—With their current condition “marginally breathtaking at best,” America’s national parks will be closed this week for their exhaustive annual cleaning and remajestification, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Monday.

“It’s that time of year again when we roll up our sleeves and begin the painstaking task of resplendoring our parks,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. “After a long off-season, the foliage has grown lackluster, our mountain streams have lost their crystal clarity, and even the sparrows’ songs are flat and desultory. So please excuse the noise and dust as we prepare our country’s scenic wonders for their grand reopening on Memorial Day.”

Each year, all 84.4 million acres of land overseen by the National Park Service are thoroughly scrubbed, tidied, and restored to a maximally picturesque summertime state. According to officials, the weeklong process includes extensive brook re-babbling, the application of new bark to some 37,000 giant redwood trees, litter removal, and the sharpening and re-snowcapping of every peak in the Rockies.

In addition, some 4.7 billion stones will be polished to their original sheen, and more than 23 million species of indigenous wildlife will be washed and primped by hand.

Bark-washing crews work round-the-clock so that, come reopening, the giant redwoods will really pop.

Bark-washing crews work round-the-clock so that, come reopening, the giant redwoods will really pop.

At Yosemite, officials have been dispatched to reposition the necks of swans for optimal poise and grace, while rangers at the park have been instructed to “get out there and comb those bears.”

“People don’t realize how quickly the beauty and enchantment of these places gets depleted,” Walter McCoy, a ranger at Maine’s Acadia National Park, said as he pulled up last year’s carpet of pine needles and laid down a fresh one. “Tourists come here, they ooh and they aah, and before you know it, all the majesty gets used up.”

McCoy added that by August his crew is usually forced to discharge canisters of scented evergreen into the breeze to induce an adequate sense of calm and wonderment.

The annual program began in 1947, when Congress established a $400 million fund “for restoring the majesty of America’s natural heritage so often as it becomes necessary.” Initially, expenditures were limited to sky-bluification and the regoldenizing of sunsets, but today the budget cover dozens of projects: specialized tools to sharpen moose antlers, spray tanks to enhance the mists surrounding waterfalls and the beads of moisture that appear on spiderwebs, and miniature loofahs for buffing blades of grass.

Sources confirmed the U.S. government makes $30 million each year licensing its proprietary morning-dew recipe to other nations, earnings it then devotes toward modernizing the infrastructure of America’s natural beauty.

“These meadows aren’t going to sun-dapple themselves,” Sequoia National Park superintendent Karen Taylor-Goodrich told reporters Monday. “Just today, I was on Moro Rock looking at the Western Divide and the resplendence factor was maybe three out of 10—hardly jaw-dropping awe.”

“Keep scrubbing, and get between those crags!” Taylor-Goodrich then shouted through a megaphone at a team of rangers washing the face of Mount Whitney while suspended from helicopters. “I want it to look like the postcard.”

Regular patrons of the nation’s parks said they were looking forward to the reopening, complaining that by late spring, the deteriorated grandeur makes it impossible to experience any kind of tranquility in nature.

“The grizzlies reek of hibernation, there’s no fog left in the gorges, and the buffalo only roam when they absolutely need to be somewhere,” said Ken Brunswick of Jackson, WY, a restaurateur and outdoorsman. “I sure wouldn’t want to be the one to drain Old Faithful and clean the trap, but I’m glad someone is doing it.”

But many citizens interviewed for this story argued that remajestification is a waste of federal tax dollars, saying they resented being “shaken down by the IRS to polish some eagle’s beak” and that wolves should “just pick the brambles out of their own goddamn fur.”

National Park Service director Jonathan Jarvis said many Americans take their country’s natural beauty for granted and imagine that it is somehow self-maintaining.

“Do you have any idea how hard it is to preserve a forest canopy?” Jarvis said. “To hang that many pinecones and dig all those holes where the roots go? Even getting the leaves to stay on is something we struggle with nearly every year.”

Added Jarvis, “The kinds of resources we need to make that happen don’t just grow on trees.”

In a 22nd-Century Museum

Did You Do Any Research At All, or I’m Not Going To Let Any of My Children See It When They Ask About History


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