U.S. Has Known About Climate Change For 200 Years

Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl-era “Migrant Mother” was another warning Americans ignored.

Rising sea levels threaten to drown over 13,000 American historical sites up and down the east coast over the next century. That’s according to a new study from the Panel on Climate Change, which found that in addition to displacing millions of people, engorged oceans may soon swallow the Kennedy Space Center, an historic North Carolina light house and, perhaps most ironically, Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in the New World. Why is this ironic? Because the destruction of Europeans’ first permanent home here would be the culmination of America’s long and very willful ignorance on climate change.

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Was ‘Pocahontas’ Her Real Name?

Tuesdays are traditionally wordplay days over here, and my original intent was to do a short post on Dictionary.com’s word of the year, “complicit.” Then President Trump went and again referred to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas” and, as he does, changed the game.

So, real quick, here’s something I learned today, while researching the real-life woman we call Pocahontas: Pocahontas wasn’t her real name. Not really, at least.

Like many Powhatan Indians, “P” was given a series of names throughout the course of her life: her birth name was Matoaka, meaning “bright stream between the hills;” she was later given the name Amonute, which doesn’t translate from Powhatan to English; and later in life, after marrying John Rolfe and converting to Christianity, she changed her name to Rebecca.

According to Jamestown Secretary William Strachey, Pocahontas was a childhood nickname given to her by her father; translated to “little wanton,” it captured her adventurous independence. But according to William Stith, a 19th century historian who devoted his life to studying the Virginia colony, Pocahontas was something of a codename to ward of white curses. From his 1865 The History of the First Settlement of Virginia:

“The Indians carefully concealed [her real name] from the English and changed it to Pocahontas, out of a superstitious fear, lest they, by the knowledge of her true name, should be enabled to do her some hurt.”

As someone who just completed a book all about American myths, I understand this could be apocryphal; and it’s just as possible the name Pocahontas was both a childhood nickname and a curse deterrent. But if Stith’s correct and “Pocahontas” was something of a shield against vexation, then there’s a certain irony to Trump and his supporters using the sham sobriquet to slur Elizabeth Warren. The Powhatan prophecy came true, only for a woman by another name.

(For more Fun with Words, click HERE.)

 

Knock-Knock, 1936-Infinity

These trying times require a little levity, so how about a knock-knock joke?

Knock-knock.

Who’s there?

Cows go.

Cows go who.

No, silly; cows go ‘moo.’

I understand if this punchline elicits an eye roll. That’s perfectly natural. Very few knock-knock jokes go beyond the hackneyed and/or juvenile. Yet the format endures. And that speaks volumes about the nation itself.

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Kochs Buying ‘Time,’ Threatening Free Speech

It’s official: after months of speculation and two failed attempts, Meredith is buying Time Inc, with ample help from the reliably right-wing Koch brothers.

This is just the latest story about conservative figures snapping up or consolidating struggling media outlets: American Media bought Us Weekly earlier this year from Wenner Media, basically securing their hold on supermarket tabloids — they also publish the National Enquirer, the National Examiner and Star, reaching and shaping millions of voters in the process — and Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner of 193 television stations in 100 markets that reach 40% of the market, is hoping to merge with Tribune Media, a deal that would extend their reach into New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

While FCC rules prohibit such massive, monopolistic media solidifications Donald Trump’s pick over there, Ajit Pai, is helping clear the opposition so that the pro-Trump company can have its way. Pai’s also helping the Trump administration eliminate Net Neutrality, effectively allowing telecommunications companies to restrict access and content they deem unacceptable. This is all extremely frightening — and not simply because the interests here are all conservative.

The consolidation of so much media by any political group or interest poses a grave threat to free speech, free speech that’s already being assaulted by none-other than the President of the United States. If we want our democracy to be the best it can be, we need opposing views to inform the public; control of the media by one political party or another just takes the nation one step closer to dictatorial territory. Sure, freedom of speech may exist in such a climate, but does it matter if its drowned out by bigger, more powerful and more omnipresent outlets?

14 Things You Don’t Know About Log Cabins

The log cabin is more complicated than you may think. In fact, I wrote a whole book about it, one beginning with the question, “Why is the log cabin a BFD in the USA?”

You can learn the fully labyrinthine and altogether fascinating answer in said book, The Log Cabin: An Illustrated History. But as you wait for your copy to arrive, here are 14 things you never knew about log cabins, plus two tangentially related factoids, too.

1. No Log Cabins in Plymouth:

We’ve all seen school books and Thanksgiving cards depicting cheery Pilgrims building log cabins, images that cast the structure as the invention of English settlers, as America’s first true home. But that’s all bunk.

The truth of the matter is that English colonists didn’t live in log cabins. They didn’t even know how to make  log cabins. Accustomed to fine brick and frame homes back home, that’s what they built when they got here. Well, not immediately.

First, they slummed it in subterranean dugouts, waiting in the mud until planks could be cut and bricks kiln-fired. It was not a good look… Luckily these ugly bits would be edited out in the centuries ahead.

2. The Swedes and Finns Did It:

So, if the English didn’t bring log cabins to American shores, then who? I guess the sub-header here sort of spoils the beans, but, yes, it was the Swedes and Finns of New Sweden who erected America’s first log cabins. They and their ancestors had been building them for generations, so whipping them together here was simple as pie. But they didn’t make a lasting impression.

New Sweden was so small in population and so short-lived — it fell to the Dutch in 1655 and the land was brought under British rule in 1664 — that it had very little pull in colonial culture at large. Their English and Dutch neighbors weren’t about to copy their homes; Swedish and Finnish log cabins were therefore anomalies in this era, and the structure probably would have faded into oblivion had it not been for the thousands of immigrants who started arriving in the 1700s.

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The Original Definition of “Harass” Is Most Apt

1. Harassment. We all know the word. Or, I hope we all know the word — just as I hope we all have a general sense of its meaning, something along the lines of Merriam-Webster’s definition of the verb “harass,” “to create an unpleasant or hostile situation…especially by uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical conduct.” But this common conception is in fact the second, newer interpretation of the word; it’s original definition is both more and less specific and altogether appropriate in today’s context.

Briefly used in the 1610s as “to lay waste,” mainstream usage of “harass” shifted in the 1620s, veering toward “to vex by repeated attacks,” a definition derived from the 16th century French verb harasser, or “to tire out.” Though the specific origin of the French harasser remains hazy, the Online Etymology Dictionary suggests it comes from a mélange of harer, an Old French term for “to provoke or set a dog on,” and the equally Old French harier, as in “to draw [out] or drag [on].” In this light, “harassment” is tenacious and corrosive, pernicious and erosive. Defined by MW as “exhaust or fatigue,” harassment in this light is by definition perpetual and ongoing, a fact to which many women can attest.

Though the term “sexual harassment” didn’t arise until the early 1970s, the pairing of those two words couldn’t be more fitting. Women since time immemorial have been cat called and harangued, pinched and poked, raped and molested, and generally treated like objects by predatory men.* They have been tormented by repeated, caustic incidents like those we’re reading about on the daily. Thankfully, we’re seeing a backlash against such virulent behavior. All the repetitive and successive intrusions meant to erode women’s wherewithal have prepared them for this watershed moment we’re experiencing today. Now it’s time for men like Harvey Weinstein, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Donald Trump, Louis C.K., Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose et al. to be vexed themselves.

(*I know it’s not only women who face harassment — Terry Crews and Tony Goldwyn have come forward with their own stories of being manhandled and verbally harassed, and half-a-dozen men have already accused Kevin Spacey of harassing and/or assaulting them — but women are harassed more often and openly than men.)

(For more Fun with Words, click HERE.)