November 28, 2013

Don't Shop on Thanksgiving or Black Friday

There's a joke going around that "only Americans would trample on top of each other to buy new stuff the day after they give thanks for the things that they already have." Unfortunately I agree with it.

 The holidays are increasingly not about spending time with your family but about shopping, materialism and presents. We are more focused on giving our friends and family members the tangible, material goods that they desire but we don't give them our time, which is infinitely more valuable and wanted.

Shopping on Thanksgiving and "Black Friday" further put an emphasis on things instead of family. It doesn't matter how much money you save on something. It is not worth missing a day that could be spent with your family or perpetuating a culture of materialism. 

I understand that for some people, shopping on Black Friday and recounting their experiences is a family tradition. There are better traditions to be had. You could shop for presents as a family on a day where people won't be disregarding human life to save a few dollars.

Stores now stay open on Thanksgiving and other holidays to meet the demand of people wanting to do last minute shopping. It might be convenient but many people do not get to spend the holidays with their families because they have to work. In the past, people planned ahead and made sure all shopping was done ahead of time because they knew no stores would be open.

If you are with your family this holiday be thankful for being able to be. Keep in mind that many people can't be.   

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you are with your families, enjoying freshly baked Turkey and enjoying each others company.

If you would like to read about Thanksgiving in the past:

-The First Thanksgiving Celebration

-Thanksgiving Letter from an African American Civil War Soldier

November 19, 2013

10 Fun History Podcasts to Listen to this Winter

wikigallery.org
 The holidays are coming up which means I'm going to be spending more time than usual cleaning the house. I don't mind cleaning as I always accompany cleaning with an audio book or podcast.

The podcasts below are fun or informative or both. I love podcasts because they are a relaxing way to learn more about things you have heard of but might not know about or understand them in a way that you would like. 









-Stuff You Missed in History Class: This podcast is fun and a good way to fill in some gaps in your history knowledge. Most of the topics are familiar but are a nice refresher.  

-In Our Time: This podcast is by BBC and is broken down into the categories of history, culture and philosophy. The next episode of this podcast will be about the life of Pocahontas. 

-Past & Present: This is Colonial Williamsburg's podcast and focuses on the Colonial period. 

- Backstory Radio: This podcast focuses on current events placed in their historical context.

-Journal of American History Podcast: Interviews with the authors in the publication.

-History According to Bob: History according to a history teacher of 29 years.

-European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present: A course from Berkley, You can also follow along with the readings. Not so much a podcast but still an interesting set of lectures.

-The China history Podcast: 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

-Military History Podcast: "Bringing you the strangest anecdotes, innovative technology, and most significant events of Military History." 

-The Egyptian History Podcast: Only published once a month, this podcast focuses on ancient Egypt.

Are there any good ones I missed? I know I'm missing a few popular ones. What podcasts do you listen to?

November 13, 2013

November Sketchbook Challenge

For the November Sketchbook Challenge, I decided to do a little night camping watercolor sketch. The theme this month is "Moon and Stars." I love how the canvass tents light up orange at night when the inhabitants have candles lit inside.


I might try to make another sketch for this theme. Hopefully, I can take a bit longer next time. I've only had time for tiny sketches recently, but it's a start!

November 11, 2013

Myths in History: Why Do Myths Prevail?

Last week, I wrote a post entitled "Legends Never Die," which discussed the various lies or myths that I hear on a regular basis at the Colonial era site I work at. If you didn't read that one head on over to that post.






As someone who spends most of her time researching and reading the latest research in my field, I thought that visitors would be happy to be receiving the most up-to-date research. I was very wrong.

I've spent a lot of time wondering why history myths prevail. There are many myths in history that captivate the minds of many and they are terribly hard to kill. We typically learn these myths as children: "George Washington had wooden teeth."

 In music, they call a song that prevails, regardless of it's quality, an "earworm." Some common earworms include the I Dream of Jeanie theme song or anything by pop sensation, Ke$ha. Likewise history's "yesteryear worms" are wriggly, little buggers that stick in minds and are  a terrible thing to try and get rid of.

Reasons Myths Prevail:

- Habit: Some of these things are told just as a force of habit and we all know how hard it is to change habits. Also many of these myths are passed around from person to person.

- Good Stories: Myths typically make interesting stories or answer the pesky question "why" when it would otherwise go unanswered. People love a good story and myths give it to them.

- Confirmation: People like to hear reaffirmation for their beliefs about a time period and many myths cater to this. People like to hear just how horrible it was in the past because it fits with their view of the past. There are many myths that center around poor living conditions in the past.

- Superiority: Some myths make the teller feel more intelligent. Many myths make the teller feel intelligent because they know something clever that their peers don't know. Likewise, people also like to hear about how "backwards" people were in the past.

As history lovers, it's our job to dispel these false impressions of the past.  When confronted with a person asking about or telling a myth, the best course of action is typically to correct them in a polite manner such as "Some people theorize that this is true, but here is a reason it is probably not true," or " Historians believed that previously but new research has suggested that 'X' is not the case."

What myths have you been hearing lately in history?

November 4, 2013

Legends Never Die: Myths in History

I told a lie at work.  A big, big lie and I am ashamed.

Revolutionary War Reenactor

A few weeks ago I was at work when I had a group of school students who had been on a lot of field trips to historical sites. The students were very knowledgeable and the teachers had been coming to our site for a long time.

I was giving a shortened version of the tour I had learned when I first started working there. Our house tour had been removed from the programs for some updating but this group was getting a shortened tour with the questionable material removed. I finished up the first room of the tour of the house, the young, pretty blonde teacher looked at me with excitement in her eyes and raised her hand.

 "Aren't you going to show them the bed?" she asked, "You know, sleep tight?"

There it was. It was one of those lies I found out I had been telling. It was told to me when I first started working and it was something I had heard and still hear at multiple historical sites.  You know the lie: The phrase "Sleep tight and don't let the bedbugs bite" came from the colonial period where bedbugs were prevalent and people slept on beds held together with ropes.

Caught in an awkward place, between admitting the previous tours she had experienced at the farm had been very outdated and telling 25 children a lie, I really wanted to tell the lie. So I did, with the cop out of "some people think" said so extremely fast that I doubt anyone could discern it from the rest of the sentence.

I feel bad but it could have been worse. What is one lie?

I  went to lunch in the kitchen and drank out of a glass bottomed pewter tankard (designed to prevent conniving navy recruiters from slipping me the king's shilling and insist I joined up) and I toasted my bread over the fire in my toaster, (so called because the apparatus is designed to be stirred with your toe once one side is done cooking) while making sure I didn't get too close to the fire because the leading cause of death for women in colonial times was catching on fire or dying from burns.

I told about how ingenious colonialists were: Did you know the fashionable tri-cornered hats  were regular hats but the soldiers folded the sides up to prevent them from knocking them off their heads with their rifles? And that tavern pipes were made with long handles so that after each use men could break off the tip, preventing the spread of bacteria?

But then again, the colonists were also so backwards they thought tomatoes were poisonous, water would kill them, and they put wax makeup on their faces so thick they had to use screens to protect their makeup from melting. Additionally, people were shorter back then which is why their beds and doorways are so small.

They were also frugal which is why they had men pose with one hand in their coats when posing for portraits because hands are difficult to paint so artists charged more to paint them and people didn't build closets into their house to avoid the closet tax which stated that closets were considered rooms and would be taxed accordingly.     

And I'd only be lying if I said that visitors didn't say these things and enthusiastically encourage me to say these things on my tours.