Sesquicentennial: a story in markers

From Georgia:
Perdue also eliminated funds for the Civil War Commission, the Civil War Trails and the Veterans' Wall of Honor, and set a $140,000 cut from the Georgia Humanities Council, $60,000 from the Georgia Historical Society and $30,000 from the society's historical-marker revitalization program.
The Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission says there were more than 770 military actions in the state during the war — but it only has money for 33 markers.
Mississippi: The Sesquicentennial Committee has met only once since its founding, has no funding, and can't get a quorum at meetings.

Virginia: SCV and NAACP tangle over proposed marker in park.

In Macon, Georgia, fundraisers seeking to make and place 14 historical markers around the town told potential donors
That hub could turn up an $11.7 million economic impact from tourists and create an estimated 130 new jobs in the tourism industry based on the success of trails in Virginia.
They're still selling that stuff but who's buying?

Petersburg land bill introduced

A federal bill to authorize the National Park Service to purchase of 7,200 acres around Petersburg is in the mill. Did you know "Petersburg is the site of the longest battle [sic] in U.S. history"? We were always taught Yorktown was that "battle."


A tale of two museums

Hattiesburg has an African American Military History Museum and that place is showing Louisiana Native Guard photos from private collections. Best use of a museum I can think of. (A catalog would be nice, too.)

Meanwhile, the African American Civil War Memorial in DC, seems to be the smallest museum in the world, at 700 sq ft. Some $5 million in tax funding has been found but will yield another measley 1400 additional sq ft under current plans.

The interesting thing about this museum (and its curator) is that while we in the general reading public suffer the terrible backwash from Ken Burns, Killer Angels, and the Centennial, the African American Civil War historian fights a daily struggle against the nonsense that was Glory. Have a look.


Bill Moyers: "I never thought of Lincoln as a 24-year-old man in the prime of his youth until I watched this. There he was, a very young man, swaying like a willow in the wind."

"This" is a modern dance piece about Lincoln.

If we wanted your opinion...

A family shares its trove of Civil War letters with the press.

The soldier was a member of the 53rd Pennsylvania and (as in almost all such collections) there comes that point where we read, "If people had of left McClellan alone last spring, we would have been in Richmond."

Historians: continue file under yada-yada.


New from Howard Jones

Howard Jones has a new work out, again on diplomacy, the specific appeal of which is described by the author:
Although there have been studies on the topic before, Jones said he is the first to cover it in one book, which was published this month by the University of North Carolina Press.
UNC Press's ACW titles are acquired by Gary "Stop the Madness" Gallagher. I understand "first to cover it in one book" as a marketing proposition, but not as a mark of value to the experienced history reader.

Looks like publishing "madness" to me.

Re-enactors are choosing events

Re-enactors are voting on which battles to stage during the Sesquicentennial.

"Sex Lives of Civil War Soldiers"

Sometimes an author needs to wait 16 years for his book to get a review that runs more than a paragraph or two.


Heritage tourism takes a hit

The Virginia state tourism office has made decisions that may be trend-setting. The CEO of state-owned Virginia Tourism Corp., Alisa Bailey, says
"We have always focused on women baby boomers" ... because they primarily made vacation decisions. But Bailey is shifting Virginia Tourism's sights to a new target: Generation X families.

What Virginia Tourism found is that Gen Xers, people ages 25 to 45, spend 13 percent more on travel than the baby-boom generation, they want to do things with their family and their confidence in the economy is rising faster than the rest of the population's.

"We're changing strategy in 2010," Bailey said. "We want to give a new meaning to 'Virginia is for Lovers.'
This is a clear departure from the emphasis on heritage tourism - at best heritage (history) stays in the mix. At worst, it becomes associated with the failed boomer strategy.

And this on the approach of the Sesquicentennial...


Bookstore sitcoms: Black Books

The only sitcom about a bookstore that you don't have to enact live with the staff while shopping is one called Black Books. The series was set in a small bookstore owned by a frustrated author. A couple of synopses a propos of recent posts here:

On clerking:
"Bernard [Black, the owner] wakes up from a night on the booze to discover he's accidentally given Manny a job at the bookshop, and spends the day trying to get rid of him. Manny assists in this by proving to be a charming, sociable and extremely competent employee, apparently unaware that it's 'not that kind of operation'."

On big boxes
"Manny is working next door at the extremely glossy Goliath Books, where he is decidedly out of place amongst creepy manager Evan and his army of hyper-efficient pastel-shirted followers..."

On authorship
"Bernard and Manny, inspired by their latest children's books event, decide to write and illustrate a book for children. Bernard's first effort comes to over 1,000 pages, covers Stalin, a lens grinder, a broken marriage and a journalist in search of the truth and is possibly a little complex for kids. The subsequent [collaborative] masterpiece The Elephant and the Balloon could however lead them to international fame — and all the problems that come with it."

On literary celebrities and small business woes
"Manny organises a book launch party at the shop with charismatic-but-smug travel writer Jason, and everyone starts falling for him and his stories of far-away adventure. Bernard, however, has other problems — following the death of his landlord, his building is now owned by a small cat to whom he must pay rent ... he attempts to persuade an animal-loving pest exterminator to turn kitty hitman. His attempts fail and cause the exterminator to commit suicide."

The series has inspired a lot of people, like this blogger:
I just finished up the entire Black Books series and would like to dedicate this post to Bernard Ludwig Black. He is my everything. I would love nothing more than to spend the rest of my life guzzling bottles of cheap red wine, smoking multiple packs of cigarettes per day and being misanthropic with this beautiful man. I refuse to settle for anything less.
Misanthropy and bookselling: perfect together!

As the title suggests, the humor is as black as farce will permit. Worth watching if only for the amount of smoking, drinking and books packed into each episode.

Synopses courtesy of Wiki.

p.s. I often forget there is such a thing as YouTube. Here's a scene where Bernard Black, as author, plays out a scenario so often described by Ted Savas.


The sound of one clerk clerking

The zen of book shopping. Clerk quotes from the mailbag:

It used to be in this shelf right here until the bookstore reorganized last month.

I believe I've heard of that author.

You know, I've been asked for that before.

Is that a good book?

It's in the X section. There is no such section. Oh there is, but it's just an unlabled shelf in the Y area.

It helps to think of the bookstore staff as improvising a Samuel Beckett play, waiting to deliver existential zingers every chance you give them. If you're a Beckett fan, or a Zen Buddhist, book shopping can be fun.

Piling on: Now, Gallagher on Keegan

Kind of surprising to find the Centennial's stubborn rearguard fighter, Gary Gallagher, demean John Keegan's Centennialism. However this review is at least consistent with Gallagher's "stop the madness" publishing philosophy.

These statements could apply as much to James McPherson as John Keegan: the book "fails to provide anything particularly new." "The main interpretive themes will be familiar to readers even marginally aware of older works." "Assessments of the leading generals also fit into well-worn interpretive grooves."
The list could go on without encountering a single interpretive surprise or scrap of fresh testimony. Part of the problem lies in Keegan's heavy reliance on older literature. With a handful of exceptions, the most recent books cited in his notes are from the 1980s.
Is Gallgher gearing up for a break with McPherson?

And how about you? Are you one who relies on older secondary literature for your views?

(p.s. Here's someone who clearly does.)


It's hard to get good help these days

Recalling my last few interactions with big box book sales clerks:

Sharing a sense of urgency: I earn a concerned glance over the shoulder for not maintaining her own high speed pace as she leads me to where my book might be.

Multitasking to minimize my interruption: He barks questions and instructions to every employee that we pass en route to the bookshelf he wants to show me.

Bearing the cross of service: I interrupt his stacking with a question, so he carries the stack he was holding across the store while leading me to where I need to be.

Idle pleasantries: She asks "Did you find what you were looking for" at the register and I say, "No and it's too late to ask that now."

Someone please tell the clerks it's better to keep quiet than to say:

"I can't tell from this computer if it's in the store or in the warehouse."

"I could swear I saw it in the store last week."

"I know that this is a book we would normally stock."

"It's probably on order."

"Would you like us to order it for you? You can pick it up in a couple of weeks."

Will Rogers said:

Someday, they'll make a milk carton that's as easy to open as a liquor bottle.

I say:

Someday, bookstore clerks will be as helpful and knowledgeable as liquor store clerks.

The big box sales clerk

Ted Savas has a post about falling book sales at B&N. He says, "If I ran the store, sales would explode. I guarantee it."

This moved me to check out the sales clerk's job description. Lest you think Ted's boast is idle, look at this B&N recruitment page. Are you motivated yet? Can you imagine if they recruited motivated book lovers instead of these types?

Notice the clerk we're interested in talking to when we visit the store comes in two flavors. First, there is the "bookseller" who does not even merit his own job description but shares three sentences with two other workers. "They create a friendly, casual, helpful experience for customers. They know what’s in their departments, and keep them inviting, organized and well stocked." Focus on ambience, focus on your little warehouse duties. Customers will take care of themselves, it seems.

The second kind of sales clerk is "the lead." "Leads are the experts in their assigned sections, and are a key resource to booksellers and customers alike. Leads monitor in-store inventories and manage work assignments." That's the whole description.

What would you want in a book clerk? Book evangelists? Or ambience generators? Expertise in books or in inventory management?

The big box stores are book automats. Remember Horn & Hardart? They figured out how to remove the human touch from restaurant operations. They're everywhere now, aren't they?


CWPT gives year in review

"Rescued 2,777 Acres..." Good. But land in Wood Lake, MN? That's casting a wide net.

It's like a Victoria's Secret modeling show

But with 50 pounds of clothing per model.

Keegan roundup (cont.)

This latest installment of rounded up Keegan reviews (of The American Civil War) is as much about Keegan as the reviewers, who have themselves become entertainment.

Bloomberg: If The American Civil War has a defect, it is the book’s less-than-chronological, sometimes jumbled narrative style.

Slate: Some of Keegan's puzzling judgments may reflect his very limited range of sources. [...] Some chapters cite no sources at all, and many rely heavily on James McPherson's modern narrative history, Battle Cry of Freedom.

London Times Online: Readers already expert in the subject will find much to debate in Keegan’s pages; those in search of an overview may well emerge more bewildered than enlightened.

Plain Dealer: ... it is obvious from the text and notes that Keegan has not really consulted the voluminous relevant secondary sources, much less done any original research... The book has a slapped-together feel...

Spectator [London]: Footnotes are so spasmodic that the criteria for citing sources are impossible to discern. Keegan has to be taken, for the most part, on trust. But his command of the war’s geography, his thorough understanding of military organisation and his deep humanity, all nourished by a lifetime’s immersion in military history, imbue his account with the authority that we have come to expect from him.

HNN: ...replete with a shocking number of seemingly inexplicable errors...major errors of fact which would embarrass an undergraduate.

Whoops - that last link is for a book Keegan published in 2003, containing one of his first forays into the ACW and containing howlers such as
The only check to the Union's steamroller advance into what had formed so much of the Old Northwest had been imposed in early April at a tiny place called Shiloh, far down the Tennessee River....
Seek out the general reader of military books my friends - clearly, you can bluff him for the rest of your writing life.

The Atlantic reaches a verdict

"Even if the preservationists prevail [against WalMart], the future of the Wilderness will still be in doubt. The land is zoned for commercial development." I call that matter settled, not "in doubt.".

"A Tale of Two Revolts"

Mahatma Ghandi's grandson writes about the connections between India's 1857 revolt and the American Civil War: A Tale of Two Revolts.

State preservation of ACW flags

There is a strange little article being circulated by the Associate Press. Here's one iteration: "Civil War battle flags at risk as preservation efforts are hindered by states' budget woes."

The piece takes a budget measure proposed by New York's governor and generalizes it into a national movement to cut flag maintenance outlays ... without giving a single example beyond New York.

Channel 7 News in South Carolina responds to the generalized accusation: "S.C. Flags Still Being Preserved Despite Budget Cuts."


Don't get an advanced history degree

... if you think you'll get a job with it, says the Chronicle of Higher Education.

How oblivious is today's youth?
Most undergraduates don't realize that there is a shrinking percentage of positions in the humanities that offer job security, benefits, and a livable salary (though it is generally much lower than salaries in other fields requiring as many years of training). They don't know that you probably will have to accept living almost anywhere, and that you must also go through a six-year probationary period at the end of which you may be fired for any number of reasons and find yourself exiled from the profession. They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect — a more responsible and secure choice than, say, attempting to make it as a freelance writer, or an actor, or a professional athlete — and, as a result, they don't make any fallback plans until it is too late.
He's got to be exaggerating about undergrad naivete but he keeps pouring it on: "I have found that most prospective graduate students have given little thought to what will happen to them after they complete their doctorates."

You may not beleieve your eyes, but go see.