Category Archives: Brush off the Dust Best of the Web

Historic Election Results (and other related resources)

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Click on this link and watch the country change colors: Historic Election Results!  Of course, what is missing are the changes in party platforms to accompany the color-shifting map.  For comparison of those, follow this link to The American Presidency Project.  The same site also has the nomination acceptance speeches–some linked to YouTube–available going back to Lincoln for the Republican Party and to Wilson for the Democratic Party.

It is a piece of cake to tap into the history of electing our POTUS and to make comparisons from year-to-year, especially from the 20th century to the present.  This is potentially useful tool for specific historically-focused units or more general election-focused civics and government classes.  Or, it is of simple interest to those of us who like to be informed when it comes to the election of the POTUS and who are conscientious of the historical background surrounding the elections.

I would love to hear peoples’ comments, below!

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Happy National Comic Book Day!

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Happy National Comic Book Day!  I follow the National Archives on Facebook and in honor of  this auspicious day they shared some great treasures from their holdings.  To see them click on this link: National Comic Book Day to see some of the comic books and related artifacts that they acquired due to a Senate subcommittee’s investigation into the posited connection between comic books and juvenile delinquency.

Comic books are a fascinating time capsule of American life.  For a time, as the National Archives describes in its Facebook album, the comic book industry self-regulated itself to try to avoid running afoul of potential Congressional sanctions.  This concern added to the comic book’s popularity and its simplicity in communicating messages is likely what contributed to the medium’s adoption of educating the populace.  (Note, that this is my speculation.)  Comics with Problems is a website that has gathered digital examples of comic books addressing social issues, health concerns, and child education from throughout the industry’s history.

Yahoo! News has these facts to share about comic books:

  • The real success of comic books for the mass market didn’t begin until 1937 with the publication of detective comics.
  • In 1946, comic book sales in the U.S. outsold traditional books.
  • On July 20, 2006, the United States Postal Service released DC Comics Super Heroes. It was the first commemorative stamp pane honoring America’s legendary comic book Super Heroes.
  • The world’s largest comic book collection belongs to the Library of Congress in Washington. It contains more than 6,000 titles, 100,000 issues, and grows by about 200 issues each month.

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If you find you’ve lost those Calvin & Hobbes books you used to have or can’t seem to locate a newspaper and you want to participate in this great day, I might recommend a great comic book online compendium:  But, that assumes you don’t have time to go to a comic book shop.  After all, there are few things as wonderful or as American as a comic book shop.  Full of bright-colored treasures and bursting with artwork and story lines, you will meet the widest array of people amongst the fellow customers and shop owners perusing the vast depths of American culture (and sub-cultures).

I, myself, far more enamored with the stories than the responsibility of taking care of the media, long ago gave up the regular subscription or collection of specific comic book series in favor of the collected book editions that I could purchase at my leisure.  I occasionally regret this decision, because there is a unique sensation in holding the light-weight, brightly paneled, floppy comic book, accompanied with a multi-sensory experience… the smell of the ink, the visual fireworks, the sleek, smooth cover.  Fortunately, I have a handful of older mini-series I have collected.  From these I can still extract a comic book from its transparent, plastic envelope, held flat by the special white boards that protect the comic.

Be sure to enjoy National Comic Book Day–I know I will spend some time at the local shop in Federal Hill (Baltimore)!  Comics are an important part of American culture.  First snow day we get this year, I plan to take a break with my kid, drink hot cocoa, and read comics a la Calvin and Hobbes!

Heading to Alliance Comics in Federal Hill (Baltimore) for National Comic Book Day!

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(Oh, to have “old” history…) Archaeologists may have found last “medieval” king

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Archaeologists believe they have found skeleton of King Richard III – Telegraph.

Click on the above link to see The Telegraph’s coverage of the archaeological discovery that could be the last Plantagenet king of England, vanquished by the future Henry Tudor VII, Richard III.  Shakespeare paints an ugly picture of him–literally deformed and evil–but Shakespeare also wrote in the Reformation-Tudor era of Elizabethan England.  (It’s a good article with a video, too, so really go read it!)

Little is known about the man who was the last English king to die in battle (at the Battle of Bosworth) especially in the last two years of his life.  Public opinion has largely been fashioned by the victorious new dynasty, the Tudors, and literature.  Now, the English are asking themselves–assuming it is more conclusively demonstrated that the body found is indeed King Richard III, of course–about whether he should be given a state burial.

Wouldn’t it be nice to ask such questions about American history? We have a great deal of difficulty there.  Anything “American” is most definitely well after the medieval era, of which many scholars define as ending in England with Richard III’s death.  Given that the English are our progenitors, beginning in the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, we must acknowledge that there is no archaeology of western civilization to be found in our soil before the early modern era.

It kinda makes me jealous.

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History and the Case of Joe Paterno

The Historical Society: Rewriting History? The Case of Joe Paterno

While I am swamped, I came upon this blog post about Joe Paterno and the NCAA punishments leveled at his legacy. Has history been rewritten now that the NCAA retroactively rewrote their record books? Well, the historical record certainly can’t be rewritten! (Seriously, go to the Sports Illustrated online archive, none of the articles about Penn State’s victories have been redacted.)

Alan Bliss points out the dichotomy between the past (what happened) and history (how we interpret the past).  It is an important distinction.  Revisionist history is the constant state of the field.  New data, information, and interpretations are always coming to the fore.  Bliss makes an interesting comparison with Ballard’s discovery of the HMS Titanic.

Click the link above and read the brief, well-written post on history and its relationship with the past via the Joe Paterno scandal.

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Brush off the Dust’s Best of the Web, 11/7 – 11/10/11

1. It Started Digital Wheels Turning

A mathematician may have conceived of the computer in the 1830s!  Scientists intend to build his conception and give it a run!  If you like the history of technology, this is a must-read!  Click on the heading above to read this NY Times article.

2. Giotto Devil: Found in the Detail of Renaissance Fresco

Giotto Devil

Art history fans should take a peek at this article from the International Business Times: mostly of photographs taken of the now-renovated frescoes by Giotto in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.  After restoring the work–you may recall a recent earthquake damaged the basilica–a new figure emerged in the clouds of one of Assisi’s and Giotto’s most famous frescoes.  To see the image more clearly, click on title above the picture.

3. Birth of Edmond Halley

Portrait by Thomas Murray, c. 1687

On November 8, 1656, the man who discovered and predicted a comet that returned every 75 years was born.  Edmond Halley was part of a rich scientific community in Enlightened Europe.  Read about his other contributions and his times in this short article from History Today by clicking on the headline above.

4.  He found history, and N.H. wants it back

Here’s an interesting case!  At an estate sale in Minnesota, a man purchased the find of a lifetime: copper, pre-Revolutionary War currency plates from the colony of New Hampshire.  N.H. would, however, like to contest the claim of ownership.  It will be interesting to see where this goes!  In the meantime, read more by clicking the heading above.

5. I was a plagiarist

The author of this post, albeit at a Canadian university, writes about an experience of unintended plagiarism.  She raises some truly valid points.  Her actions did not include cutting and pasting reviews from the publisher’s site, copying a Wikipedia entry or paying someone to write her paper, rather she used an expression she thought was scholarly jargon, but actually unique to the author.  How should we respond to plagiarism and how well is it taught?  To read it click on the title above.

6. The Berlin Wall Came Down

In honor of that day here is some historical perspective:

7. History Heroes: Marc Bloch

Marc Bloch was a historian whose own history is as interesting as any of the compelling works he wrote.  His life was ended by the Nazis.  Read a story of true heroism (as opposed to all the recent scandals of enabling) by clicking on the link above from Smithsonian’s “Past Imperfect” blog.

8. Visualizations and Historical Arguments

Carte Figurative

Regarding the issue of writing history in the digital age, John Thiebault writes about visualizations in historical arguments.  He argues that the ability to turn statistics into visualizations, cartograms, that communicate historical evidence has greatly improved with computer technologies.  Read this important analysis of visual communication in argumentation.

9. DocsTeach: Veterans’ Day

From the National Archives’ DocsTeach Website you can search “veterans” and narrow further by era to look at documentary evidence of veterans.  Check it out and browse around by clicking the heading above.

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Brush off the Dust Best of the Web, 10/31/11-11/3/11

1. Victorian Faux Snow Pictures

From How to Be a Retronaut,  we get Victorian portraiture–sort of!  These are contrived images created in Victorian photography studios.  They’re great shots!  Check them out by clicking here!

2. How the Potato Changed the World

International Potato Center

That’s right, folks, the humble spud changed the world according to this piece from  Thinking about how ubiquitous it became in European cuisine (and alcohol) it isn’t hard to imagine its radical impact–the article explains the phenomenon.  Read it by clicking here.

3. A Natural History of Vampires

"Nosferatu" by Nathaniel Gold

This is a fascinating blog post about the introduction of vampires to the European psyche through the Austrio-Hungarian acquisition of Slavic peoples.  It begins with an early doctor’s account of a village’s plague of vampires and continues through Bram Stoker and Count Dracula.  Read it by clicking here!

4. Calling all booklovers: A mysterious binding

Chaucer tp spread

The National Museum of American History blog takes a look at a treasure from the Smithsonian vaults, a 19th century edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.  All book lovers need to check this out!!  See the book and read the blog by clicking here!

5. Spectacular Timelapse Video of Historic Dam Removal


This is really impressive!  A dam was removed to allow the upstream travel of salmon in Washington State–very important!–and this video was put together, posted by National Geographic.  Very cool!  Check it out by clicking here.

6. Original Letter from W. E. B. Du Bois gaining religious support for the niagara movement

This is a nifty primary document from W. E. B. Du Bois from UMASS’s digital library.  This was tweeted by @AFBurialGrndNPS.  Check it out by clicking here.

7. The secret of ancient Viking navigation was transparent crystals

The secret of ancient Viking navigation was transparent crystals

Have you ever wondered what it took for ancient and medieval mariners to sail the seven seas?  This article from takes a look at how they did it by looking at the Vikings.  Read it by clicking here!

8. Lost Roman camp found in Germany

I love Roman ruins in what was once Gaul and Germania.  They had more success in settling Gaul than the rugged wildness of Germania and its peoples.  But, everything they built left an impression on the land and those peoples.  A Blog About History found this article regarding a recent discovery of a Roman camp, read it by following the link clicking here.

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Brush off the Dust Best of the Web, 9/26-9/30/11

Ready for some great reading, video, even an online game?  Good check out this week’s Best of the Web.  There is a pretty heavy book theme this week, so enjoy that!

1. Historic fountains rot away in a local national park


Give us back our fountain

In the end, these two posts became a joint-operation.  The first is from the DC blog GREATER Greater Washington and the second from the Blog of the Courtier, who writes in Georgetown–once its own independent city of the District of Columbia, and now just the oldest neighborhood in the district.  There is some detective work here and plea to do better!  This is a nifty story about an old part of the country–also a great candidate for my new favorite site (which I apparently cannot shut up about!), Historypin, if some original pictures could be found.  Click on the titles above to read the original posts.

2. Drama of Game 162 never seen before and likely never will again

I’ve been hearing how this week was a) evidence that baseball is the best game on earth (I’ll let that go) and b) the last night in the baseball season this year was the best/most astonishing/meaningful in baseball’s LOOONG history.  This read is from Sport Illustrated’s Tom Verducci–a great sports writer.  To read about sports history being made before our eyes, click on the title above.

3. Rare Books

Any book lovers?  Then you need to check out the Rare Books department of the online bookseller, AbeBooks.Com.  They have highlighted features in this section for specific types of rare books–such as embroidered covers–and often have short and quick articles about the style and history, followed by gads of beautiful pictures of books.  Of course, one can also purchase First Editions and rare works of book art, but even if you aren’t in the market there is a lot one can learn by browsing through what they have to offer.  To drool–er–I mean, view and read click on the title above.

4.  SFSignal Presents a Guide to NPR’s Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy

If you aren’t into this branch of literature, then this may not interest you much–although the flow chart is set with some fine wit.  If you are interested, or dabble occasionally, then this is a fantastic and entertaining flow chart that is sure to provoke some debate but also inspire further reading… and isn’t that really what is most important!  To go with the science fiction and fantasy flow (chart), click on the title above!

5. Staying awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading


The Book Bench: Changing reading forever, again

Another twofer.  From Haprer’s Magazine and The New Yorker’s Book Bench.  The first is a piece by Ursula K. Le Guin in Harper’s from February 2008 questioning how important reading really is.  The second piece was published September 23 of this year:  Good news!  Reading is up!  Is that really important?  This is an interesting discussion and deserves some time and consideration as the world of books and technology is changing.  (Let me make a note that the assertion attributed to Ursula K. Le Guin, that books were never read for pleasure until the 19th century is completely false, but consider what she says about reading and power in this conversation.)  I choose not to evaluate these arguments, but hope people will take the time to think them over–and their implications for society.  To read the discussion, click on the titles above.

6.  When ideas have sex

7.  400 Years Old and Ageless

So, I confess to not being a huge fan of the translation, but appreciate the heritage and the art of the King James’s Bible. The exhibit is reviewed by the NY Times Arts section.

8.  Find The Future at NYPL (New York Public Library)

The New York Public Library has unleashed an interactive online game enlisting some if its treasured artifacts… and you!  It is really an exciting way to inspire creative writing.  Participating in it will make the Library a must-see in New York City.  See the trailer below:


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