Found in the LOC: “Thanksgiving Maskers”

Here’s a fun Thanksgiving fact: American kids used to celebrate the holiday by dressing as bums and other vagrants and went around the neighborhood asking for pennies, candy, and other treats. But it wasn’t as sweet as it sounds.

Check out some images from “Thanksgiving Masking” days past, AFTER THE JUMP.

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Damn The Man/You’re The Man

The dual identity of “the man” in American slang perplexes me. We say “Damn the man” or “Don’t let the man get you down” to sneer at establishment figures, from the police to nameless powers-that-be. Yet at the same time, perhaps even in the same conversation, we praise peers’ success by declaring “You’re the man!” or “You the man!” (“You’re the woman/You the woman” is basically nonexistent, replaced instead with the cheer “You go girl!”)

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Found in the LOC: Cândido Portinari

For this week’s Found in the LOC, here are four neo-realism murals Brazilian painter Cândido Portinari completed for the Library of Congress’ Hispanic Reading Rooms in 1942. The LOC has way more detailed information than I can provide, and I encourage you to check out their essay.

“Discovery of the Land”

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Vicious.

“Vicious” is being used voraciously this week. Donald Trump and his allies are using the word to describe the investigation into Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, while Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyer Michael R. Bromrich and others are describing Trump’s attacks on Ford in the same way.

Though we most often associate “vicious” with wild animals, it comes from the Latin lexeme “vitiosus”, meaning “depraved” or “wicked.” In essence, both Trump and his nemeses are calling the other wicked, a reality that cuts to the wick of the problem of bitter, seemingly intractable partisanship that’s blanketed America: it’s a fight for the very soul of Americas, a fight for the very definition of  right and wrong in America. It really should be no contest, but, alas, too many people have been beguiled by the Trumpeteer.

Brett Kavanaugh’s Drinking Problem

Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony last week made me want to wretch. And it wasn’t just for his grotesque display of white male rage at — the gall! — having to explain himself. Nor was it Kavanaugh’s “One of my closest friends to this day is a woman who was sexually abused” remark, though that was something truly repulsive. What really irked me, as a recovering alcoholic, was Kavanaugh’s repeated implications that his successes preclude a potential drinking problem. In the Supreme Court nominee’s mind, someone like him — a Yale graduate, a golden man-child, a former football player — could never have a drinking problem. Kavanaugh never said this outright, but this odious misconception wafted through the subtext like a stale beer.

I caught the first real whiff during Kavanaugh’s tense exchange with Senator Mazie Hirono, after the Democrat from Hawaii asked Kavanaugh if he’d been a heavy drinker in college. Kavanaugh, floundering and seething at this suggestion, deflected: “I got into Yale Law School. That’s the number one law school in the country. I had no connections there. I got there by busting my tail in college.” While Kavanaugh’s entire defense that day was built around his triumphs, here he was using his CV more pointedly: to nullify any implication of a drinking problem. In Kavanaugh’s eyes, academic and professional success not only negate any responsibility for alleged alcohol abuse — he made up for it in gold stars —, but the very possibility of alcohol abuse in the first place.

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HBD: Yosemite National Park

“Yosemite Valley, California, 1865,” Library of Congress

Happy Birthday, Yosemite! It was on 128 years ago today that the California Valley was designated a national park, a development spurred in large part thanks to Carleton Watkins’ incredible snapshots of the park, like the circa 1865 images above and below.* He was kind of like the John James Audubon of landscape.

Reprinted from coast to coast, Watkins’ exposed  increasingly industrialized, urbanized Americans to nature’s bounty, convincing them and political leaders alike that our land deserves protection from ravenous, capitalistic development. If only contemporary politicians saw things the same way.

You can read all about Watkins’ impact on saving Yosemite  in Tyler Green’s upcoming book, Watkins: Making the American West.

(*This development also helped precipitate the collapse of the racist, socialist Kaweah Colony.)

“Yosemite’s Domes, 1865,” Library of Congress

 

“Cathedral Rock, 1865,” Library of Congress