Archive for December, 2017

Christmas Postcards

From the New York Public Library’s extensive collection of postcards, here is a subset depicting Christmas from the early 20th century; here is a sub-section with Santa as the main theme.

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Thomas Nast’s “Christmas Drawings for the Human Race”

Nast was a political cartoonist whose work helped expose the corruption of New York City government as typified by Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall; he was also a prolific chronicler of the Civil War for Harper’s Weekly. In addition, he is credited with the creation of our modern depiction of Santa Claus. His Christmas Drawings for the Human Race collect his many seasonal sketches; you can see in these pages the Santa Claus we now know appear.

Additional work by Nast can be found at: The Thomas Nast Collection (Princeton); and Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (Ohio State).

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Christmas Through the Centuries

“I hope the next Christmas will prove happier than the present to you…”. So wrote George Washington to Robert Morris on December 25, 1776. To view examples of Christmas writings contained in diaries over a span of hundreds of years, please visit Diary Days from Christmas Past.

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How Santa Claus Has Been Depicted Over the Years

For a pictorial journey over the years, please come here.

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Christmas Menus

The following sites feature menus both past and present, from onboard ships to railroad cars: Holiday Menus: Christmas (Culinary Institute of America) featuring a menu from the 1928 Atlantic Coast Line; Menus: The Art of Dining (University of Nevada at Las Vegas) containing dozens of 19th century menus from such famous dining locations as The Plaza in New York City and the Café Restaurant de Paris; and What’s on the menu? (New York Public Library) holds almost 200 Christmas menus spanning over a century. People then, like now, really overate at this time of the year!

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Science Fiction Christmas Stories

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Christmas Treasures at the Library of Congress

There are literally thousands of Christmas-related items available for perusal at the nation’s de facto national library. They range from a 1917 short film featuring Teddy Roosevelt visiting neighbors to a 1912 Christmas song recorded in Camden, New Jersey. Other formats include annotated sheet music, interviews, legislation, and books. An amazing treasure trove.

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President Trump’s National Security Strategy

Here is the full-text of that document. Please compare it to previous strategies. Some analyses can be found at: Council on Foreign Relations; CATO Institute; NPR; CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies); Heritage Foundation; and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

What is disheartening to me is the absence of climate change as a threat to security. Peruse the 2015 strategy that devotes an entire section to this challenge.

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Christmas With Samuel Pepys

He can be called by many names and guises: one of the great diarists whose eyewitness accounts of the Great Plague and the London Fire of 1666 are still gripping today; the father of the modern British navy; avid collector of books and manuscripts, among his other accomplishments. Dip into his diary to see how he celebrated/observed Christmas.

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Early Film Adaptations of “A Christmas Carol”

Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost is a five-minute film produced in 1901; it s considered the first filmed version of Dickens’ tale. It features Scrooge confronting Marley as well as the visions of Christmas past, present, and future.  Additional information is provided by the British Film Institute.

Another early representation is a 1910 production for the Edison studios. See how much more sophisticated the “effects” are in this feature.

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Christmas With Lewis and Clark

From the journals (these are excerpts, so just go to the linked date for the full entry) kept on the expedition:

December 25, 1803

“Christmas 25th Decr: : I was wakened by a Christmas discharge 〈of〉 found that Some of the party had got Drunk 〈2 fought,〉  the men frolicked and hunted all day, Snow this morning, Ice run all day, Several Turkey Killed Shields returned with a cheese & 4 lb butter, Three Indians Come to day to take Christmas with us….” (Journal of William Clark)

December 25, 1804

“I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended &c. ” (Journal of William Clark)

Tuesday 25th Decr. 1804.    cloudy.    we fired the Swivels at day break & each man fired one round.    our officers Gave the party a drink of Taffee.    we had the Best to eat that could be had, & continued firing dancing & frolicking dureing the whole day.” (Journal of John Ordway)

“Tuesday 25th.    The morning was ushered in by two discharges of a swivel, and a round of small arms by the whole corps. Captain Clarke then presented to each man a glass of brandy, and we hoisted the American flag in the garrison, and its first waving in fort Mandan was celebrated with another glass.— The men then cleared out one of the rooms and commenced dancing.” (Journal of Patrick Gass)

“Tuesday 25th Decr. 1804.  we ushred in the morning with a discharge of the Swivvel, and one round of Small arms of all the party.    then another from the Swivel.    then Capt. Clark presented a glass of brandy to each man of the party.    we hoisted the american flag and each man had another Glass of brandy” (Journal of Joseph Whitehouse)

December 25, 1805

“Our Diner to day Consisted of pore Elk boiled, Spilt [spoiled] fish & Some roots, a bad Christmass diner   worm Day” (Journal of William Clark)

“they divided out the last of their tobacco among the men that used and the rest they gave each a Silk hankerchief, as a Christmast gift, to keep us in remembrence of it as we have no ardent Spirits, but are all in good health which we esteem more than all the ardent Spirits in the world.” (Journal of  John Ordway)

” Our living is not very good; meat is in plenty, but of an ordinary quality, as the elk are poor in this part of the country. We have no kind of provisions but meat, and we are without salt to season that.” (John of Patrick Gass)

“We saluted our officers, by each of our party firing off his gun at day break in honor to the day (Christmass[)]” (Journal of Joseph Whitehouse)

As can be seen from the above, Lewis and Clark were not the only diarists on this expedition; you can read biographies of the other writers here.

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The 2017 “Word of the Year” Is…

Dependent upon whom you consult: it is Feminism from Merriam-Webster; Youthquake from Oxford Dictionaries; Complicit from Dictionary.com; or Fake News from Collins Dictionary. So take your pick, although I must confess that I am gobsmacked by “youthquake”, having neither read nor heard of this term before.

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Top 100 Academic Articles for 2017

Fully half of these writings can be read freely online. You can sort by broad subject category, journal title, organization, country, or access options. Here are some takeaways on these articles.

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NJCU Library Hours for 2017/18 Winter Intersession

The Guarini Library will have reduced hours from December 20 through January 15. We will be open Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm; we will be closed on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition we will be closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day as well as Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 15, 2018; we will start the Spring semester on Tuesday, January 16.

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Presidential Use of Nuclear Force

With increased tensions on the Korean peninsula that are coupled with the bombastic utterances emanating from Washington, there is a renewed interest in the question as to whether the president has unilateral authority to launch nuclear weapons. Such is the concern that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on this topic – Nuclear Weapons Authority. Other recent reports include these from the Congressional Research Service: Can Congress Limit the President’s Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons?,  “Legislation Limiting the President’s Power to Use Nuclear Weapons: Separation of Powers Implications.”,  Defense Primer: President’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces.

That this is an area fraught with danger can be readily seen in this document-laden briefing book from the National Security Archive – U.S. Presidents and the Nuclear Taboo.

Does he have the power? It depends on whom you listen to. But be assured that this is one of the thorniest areas of contention between the executive and legislative branches of our government. It has yet to be fully resolved and maybe never will.

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Organization of American Historians. Distinguished Lectures Series

This series, representing the best of the American historical profession, now has sixty-six (as of this writing) talks running the gamut from the Civil War in American memory to how alike are Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. These lectures are well worth a listen.

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Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year Is “The Silence Breakers”

Those who have spoken out, with great cost to themselves, about incidents of sexual harassment.

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Top Tweets/Retweets of 2017

The lists with analyses and additional links are here.

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National Security Reports – November 2017 Update

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Statistics on International Students in the U.S. and American Students Abroad

This annual report from the IIE details the number of international students studying here as well as American students studying abroad. For international students, accompanying data focuses on country of origin, the top universities hosting these students, their field of endeavor, their academic level, and their primary source of funding. Similar figures are given for American students abroad with some additional tables of interest; i.e., duration of study, students with disabilities. An executive summary is a useful adjunct to these presentation; it shows that once again the New York metropolitan area is the top destination for international students.

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