An Introduction to Dr. Lucy Worsley

One of the enjoyable discoveries we’ve made on Youtube of late is stumbling across the productions featuring the English historian and Curator of the Royal Palaces, Lucy Worsley. Dr. Worsley’s approach in her presentations is to spiff up the history with some humor, some role playing and ultimately to make the information more palatable through putting these twists to the time period and emphasizing the personal more than the context and analysis~she is very much a central figure in her storytelling. Yet, the history is well-covered, the cinematography well-done and the understanding of the individuals in history enhanced. What she does best is in her attempts to humanize her subjects, as biographies are her strength. But, when she develops a theme, for instance the history of romance in Britain, she chooses to distill the literature, class structure and available source material and make it both entertaining and informative for the present generation’s sensibilities, with the inherent issues for any historian trying to tell it like it was to those who are alive now in the present with the telling entering into its own time frame of history. How these episodes will be viewed in 20 years will be another discussion.

Now that you’ve received a little background on her approach, I would recommend you sample her work initially by her most recent posting, The biography of Jane Austen as told through the geographical chronology of where she lived during her lifetime and what of significance occurred while at each location and how all of this influenced her novels’ storylines. Here is that link….  Plus a Telegraph article mentioning Lucy Worsley’s comment about Jane’s sex life here…    jane austen

In this episode, you are immediately introduced to Lucy with all her best features and you will either be instantly engaged or satisfied that you need not venture with her further.

If you elect for further adventures in British history, in no particular order, here are other episodes told with her particular aplomb. It is a list that you could invest time over weeks or months to complete the viewing, as time permits.   British Romance   The Art of Horse Dancing  Britain’s Tudor Treasure: A Night at Hampton Court  The History of the Home: Dwellings from the Late Medieval Era Forward in Britain  Empire of the Tsars: Reinventing Russia  Fit to Rule: A History of English Monarchs from the Tudor Period Forward  Young Victoria  Tales from the Royal Bedchamber  History’s Biggest Fibs  A Very British Murder: Crime Solving from the Victorian Era  Peter the Wild Boy


Thoughts about Memorial Day Weekend for 2017

As we reflect, yet again, on how many US citizens have fallen in wars overseas and within our borders, I thought it would be interesting to take a historical view of the decisions our leaders made to take us into those wars where many service men paid the ultimate price for that decision. Some of these thoughts may be too provocative..I even held the thought and action of posting a day to reflect on whether to post. Obviously you see the result of that thought.

From the Civil War, which was prosecuted so forcefully and with complete commitment by President Lincoln and which cost him his own life, there could be an interesting thought surrounding that decision and considering the alternative option of not hoping for those shots to be fired by the Confederates at Fort Sumter and that letting those disaffected Southern states go their own way would have been less costly in men and cultural currency, and economies shattered. Then, the issue of race, which was so central to the war, was not solved. Simply freeing slaves did not end it. Freeing them without compensation or a financial foundation did them a disservice and led to a destruction of the very fiber of their society that led to many migrations throughout the next hundred and fifty years. My most provocative thought is considering whether a divided nation would have resolved that issue more satisfactorily and with the participation of blacks in their own freeing. MLK may have occurred in Southern history as a result of international sanctions, collective shame as the issue became untenable and that today’s Confederacy would have a new flag that was completely different that the one that insidiously impacts the rest of the US in such negative ways, in my opinion. That so many lives were lost, racism was not legislated away and that the “Southern Issue” is still very much a part of our national fabric and that it is a barrier to many productive solutions so badly needed right up until today. It is a great society for its literature, its food, its particular humor in many ways, and we have so many dear friends who would have been part of the fabric of change in these past many decades and we would have benefited from all of these in our lives.

Then, in the late 19th century under the leadership of President McKinley, we forayed into imperialism and fought a war that we were told was for sound moral convictions and we gained the territories of Cuba, Puerto Rica, Guam and the Philippines for our efforts. The Filipinos saw us as occupiers, the Cuban adventure is still being played out, we are mishandling Puerto Rico as a US territory and the GOP is trying to punish the island’s leaders for its handling of a bad economic situation. How can one imagine writing a letter to a fallen service man in any part of the conflict of the Spanish-American War? What would be justification for those lives lost. We now know the Yellow Press of the Alternative Facts and the Hearst propaganda machine misled us into that war. We have been misled by other leaders.

Some fault the naiveté of Woodrow Wilson for getting involved in Europe in 1917 and taking us into a quagmire that was only recently redefined by Angela Merkel, not because she was complaining about the interference of America, but because Trump was judged incapable, incompetent, unreliable and seemingly uninterested in that commitment. Surely Wilson has been judged as wanting by so many, many historians for his handling of the Versailles Treaty, not for his desired goals, but, again, for his naiveté related to the hatred in Europe, the fragmentation of the peoples and lands involved, the historical context of any decision-making and his hope for a collective body to police the world’s problems when every nation was always going to look to its own borders and citizens before considering anything else. Trump has reaffirmed this in every fiber of his being and rhetoric and his supporters seem happy to let the rest of the world shrivel as long as America is made great again. Are our schools failing to teach us the correct or important lesson of our place in the world? What is the UN, what is globalism, what is our part in these?

A misspoken or sloppily professed foreign policy statement by the US in 1950 was read by the North Koreans as diminished support by the US for the South, which led to an invasion. A hastily patched up response, handed to Douglas McArthur, whose arrogance and hubris will cause further international strife, more deaths and lead to his being fired by Truman, will take us into a prolonged war called the Forgotten War that few wanted, less understood and not many recall or devote time to visiting its monument when heading for The Wall in D.C. It was an international police action by the UN run by the US, but it ended up costing us in prestige and lives lost, and in our standing in Asia and elsewhere. It is still unsettled to this day and shows signs of being a major issue for this administration and the leadership does not show promise in resolving it through diplomacy.

The leadership of President Johnson, whose ego and fear of domestic politics and elections contributed to a faulty decision based on fallacious information that the leadership knew to be false to expand the conflict in Vietnam after the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. The pain of my own generation of veterans still visiting the Wall in Washington, D.C. is a continuing wound in this nation’s pride, honesty and commitment to the values it touts on the international stage. If one goes back to 1919, during the Peace Conference at Versailles to settle the conflict in World War One (of course called the Great War at the time because it was going to be the war to end all wars) when a young Ho Chi Minh petitioned the leaders to meet with him to discuss nationhood for the people of Southeast Asia. He felt the imperial control of France was wrong and that Wilson’s words denigrating imperialism should be taken to heart. He did not get an audience, but we know he did not give up. After WW II, he briefly took control of Vietnam and set up a socialist-style government with a constitution mirroring our own. We gave him some support against the era of Japanese control of Vietnam, but Truman, for domestic political reasons based on fear of communism and a potential backlash from the Republicans in Congress, chose DeGaulle over Ho Chi Minh in late 1945. Succeeding presidents will step further into the tangle of Vietnam, making poor decisions, ones that whittled away our values, lost lives unnecessarily and suffered outcomes that still influence lives and diplomatic decisions to this day. What do you tell the surviving spouses of the more than 50,000 servicemen about the decision to go to Southeast Asia? You can buy a big Mac in Hanoi today. The current Vietnamese citizen, the vast majority who were not alive for any of the war, welcome Americans warmly today and offer great hospitality to foreigners. As usual for most of their history, their suspicions are towards their Chinese neighbors.

In the Middle East, we have been heavily involved since the end of WW II. We did not draw up the boundaries, that is the fault of Britain and France, but we chose or influenced the leadership and political directions of nearly every country there, spanning all the way across the Maghreb through Pakistan. They have always been suspicious of our motives, disappointed in our actions and view us as occupiers or uneasy and undependable allies. We have the unenviable position of having the supreme power to make grotesque changes in the landscape, population configuration, political leadership and economic well-being of most of this area, yet we do not possess a smidgeon of power or authority to solve its problems. What do you tell the soldiers, marines, airmen and women, and sailors who fought and continue to fight there why you are there. We have shifted from going into Iraq in the era of early cable tv with 24 hour coverage and embedded reporting and watching much of it playing out in real time where we simply punished Saddam for his taking over Kuwait. In the early 90s we asserted our power with the goal of destabilizing our control and by doing this with an effective UN coalition. Then, we started to lose sight of our mission. We mishandled the Al Qaida attacks on our military and home soil by claiming weapons of mass destruction were threatening us in Iraq, where Saddam hated Al Qaida, to an argument that a Taliban-backed Al Qaida meant we needed to invade an entire country to get at the several hundred Al Qaida individuals living in Afghanistan. If you have seen the disturbing new film on Netflix, The War Machine, it is a condemnation of nearly all our approaches attempted in this theater and does not paint a picture that is hopeful, nor just, nor consistent with values we should emulate. Whatever currency we gained, whatever sympathy and support that poured out to us after 9/11 has been squandered. It was at this time that NATO first invoked Article 5, without hesitation.

Now we have an unfit president, one whose proven deficient in so many ways with the decisions he’s made up to this point but one who is singularly unfit for the honor of honoring, laying the wreath at the tomb of Unknown Soldier in Arlington. This is perhaps the biggest farce in our history of mishandling the valor and sacrifice of the military individuals who have sacrificed, either through destroyed lives, disfigured bodies or paying the ultimate sacrifice. I truly found this disgraceful.

On this Memorial Day, I don’t and never could profess “America, Right or Wrong”, but, though I am shy of waving a flag normally, today I flew ours from our home. My father as well as Mary’s fought in the Pacific in World War II and there are so many stories of valor, honor, sacrifice and courage that come from all of the wars mentioned above that we must keep our vigil when electing these leaders, when learning about the conflicts, discerning the goals and desires of all involved, and must understand that ultimately a group of individuals will be sent to solve the conflicts when diplomacy fails and that we must have unimpeachable evidence, will and design for entering into warfare as a means of foreign policy. We owe it to every single individual wearing a uniform representing us as a nation. It is surely the most profound obligation leaders and citizens have to their nation. Those service men and women will always find community, family and life-long friendship with the person on their left and right in combat. They understand the nature of warfare all too well. It is their honor we respect on this day.

1905 and a lot of Vienna at the time

vienna coffee house painting

In a recent wander through the Internet links, I landed on an article about early 20th century Vienna, one of my favorite history times (and time-traveling places I’d like to visit). In further wandering, based on newly viewed comments and ideas surfacing, I was struck by how significant Vienna’s impact has been on the rest of us and how the rest of the 20th century pushed her into a more obscure standing until recently. Though it is really 1905 in general that will be explored in this posting, here are my musings for the city and year.

To be considered: Though the political leadership in Europe was dominated by monarchies, the growing resentment in countries’ populations, from the educated elite, to the burgeoning middle classes, to the teaming lower class workers, all generated various opposing political models and that each of these groups wanted change of a different kind. Yet, that change was not going to accommodate the continued control of a monarch. Vienna was perhaps the least prepared to take on these forces, though that is arguable when compared to the other monarchies at the time: Russia and the Romanovs, the House of Savoy in Italy, the mostly German DNA English Victoria, the Hohenzollern of Germany.

Isn’t it interesting that the elite minds in Vienna at the time were among the world’s leaders in discussions of economic models, aesthetics, psychology, philosophy, music, literature, film and politics. Vienna was perhaps the fifth or sixth largest city in the world at the time and the melting pot capital of an empire, not a country. There were more than a dozen languages used in the Austrian military, though commands were made in German. Ideas brought up among the intellectuals in Vienna were germinated in Berlin, or London, or Paris and visa versa. The world was burgeoning with the fruits of the late 19th century, with the appeal for historicism, looking backwards and fostering a sentimentality held by the ruling class, while the new technology was pressuring the individuals in the upper class and society as a whole to take on a new personae. Note that electricity, petroleum and the use of steel frames in buildings are factors for change that the 1890s is not at all fully aware of or of how much change will occur in short order.

In the decade leading up to 1900, the battery, roll film and the accompanying motion picture projector, the radio, submarine, X-rays and the fountain pen, to name a few, were invented and pushing their users into thoughts, actions and places they could barely understand at the time. By 1914, all of these will be used, plus the improvement upon the airplane and other weapons of mass destruction, in the Great War. The world will be altered irrevocably to foster new thoughts, new politics. new boundaries, new inventions and new problems.

While one of the most disconcerting international incidents of 1905 was the war between

RussJapWar Russia and Japan (a war the czar was prodded into by his advisors as they felt it would dampen workers’ demands at home and foster nationalism-and what an easy enemy to take on…those little yellow monkeys, the Japs). If the leaders and their citizens of the European countries had been doing some history reading, they would have known that Japan was a fully-fledged member of their modern world, even though they had been held back forcefully for over 250 years by their own monarchical system and had only ‘come out’ in the last three decades. What a startling change and startling realization to the Russians that the help given the Japanese in this short time by the Germans and English, and most recently by McKinley, the American president, had brought them technology and knowledge they were learning to handle well and that their world, too, was about to change in ways that would take them in competing directions in their own society in the early 20th century. It’s interesting, too, to note that Teddy Roosevelt, who will take over from the assassinated McKinley, will broker the peace deal between Japan and Russia in Portsmouth, and that he will bring America into the world of imperialism that it is still trying to address to this day.Roosevelt_World_Constable_Judge_Jan141905_locDB_975w

Just before the year 1905, Russia’s leaders were attacking their Jews in horrendous pogroms that forced millions to immigrate to many countries to the west, including to the 2nd Bezirk of Wien. The half-hearted attempt at reform for the serfs in mid-century Russia had actually worsened their lot (though at least freeing some to leave the country for a factory job where they were treated as ‘rent workers’ and simply a tool of the owner to be discarded when ineffective) and the politics, art, literature and economics of Russia was trying to make sense of these changes throughout the latter half of the century.

In 1904 the newly born son and fifth child of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov is gloriously welcomed into the world to join his four beautiful sisters, making all things hopeful for the Romanovs. The truth is, Alexi, the baby crown prince, had hemophilia and this will allow Rasputin in the royal door. The Japanese will crush the meager Russian efforts on the Korean peninsula, setting up a conflict with which Kim Jong-Un is still connected today. It will also send the Russian society into a spiral that will force action upon the czar he despises, but to which he grudgingly acquiesces. He will grant some limited democracy because his country is coming apart by the end of 1905, but he abhors democratic principles as do all royalists throughout Europe, and he undercuts it and fights with it for years until the Duma (the Russian Parliament) installs a republic in 1917 during the Great War. This fledgling republic will fall to Lenin and his politics and propaganda, much of which will be disseminated by Eisenstein and his fabulous films.

By 1905, Franz Josef in Vienna had been ruling for fifty-seven years, all of which were used to strengthen archaic practices, to look backwards and to resist the inevitable. He, too, had been forced into some meager political concessions, had been forced to accept the weakening of his power through the K und K arrangement with Hungary, had been forced to accept some interference from a parliament, had witnessed the suicide of his only son, Rudolph, who was the true modernizing force for Austria and its place in a viable future, and had only recently suffered through the death of Sissy, his beautiful, estranged Kaiserin, who had been assassinated by a radical just a few years before.

In 1905, Franz Josef continued living a life looking backwards, while Adolf Loos was building one of the first modern architectural wonders just across the street from his bedroom in the Hofburg on the Michaelerplatz. Its construction will foster the use of those steel beams in the building of skyscrapers in Chicago and Manhattan that continue to this day. adolf loos haus

It’s a fascinating side note to think about the coffee culture in 1905 and to ponder what it would have been like to venture into the many kaffeehäuser, each with their own ambience and clientele, the likes of which will shortly see Hitler, Lenin, Redl, Klimt, Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler and many others frequenting their smokey rooms and eating their wonderful pastries. Alfred Redl is an individual worth pondering at this time, as he was a lowly military leader who was brilliant, facile with languages and indispensable to the military brass. He made a name for himself and became the head of the counter-intelligence for Austria just after 1905. Yet, he was gay and the Russians knew this. He was blackmailed by them and for years gave intelligence to the Russians about all manner of plans and infrastructure within Austria’s military, receiving ample monetary rewards that were delivered to a hotel in Vienna. He was only found out in 1913, when the Austrian military leadership and nobility, to save its own face and to follow military protocol, allowed Redl to shoot himself. They neglected to ask him what he hold told the Russians, though, and it is still undetermined how much he factored in losing the First World War for Austria. It’s a great story, read and film, though. Hungarian director, Szabo (part of his wonderful trilogy) and Klaus Maria Brandauer as Colonel Redl.

My favorite thoughts of 1905, though, center of the art world in Vienna at this time. It is the world of secession for the avant garde artists in this city. The germination going on in Europe among perhaps a few hundred artists will impact the rest of the world of the 20th century. The Viennese group were so frustrated with the staid and outdated thoughts of the established academy on the Schillerplatz (the very same one Hitler will soon visit and will suffer frustration, too, but not of the same kind as the Secessionists) that they build a competing school and statement to modernity just across the road on the newly constructed and covered Vienna River area, called the Haus der Wiener Sezession. The great artistic minds of the time in Vienna brought their work there and synthesized their ideas. It was this building that Lauder renovated when he was Ambassador to Vienna in 1986. It was also in Vienna, a city Lauder had visited as a child, in which he would make one of his most important personal connections. He, too, fell in love with its art. Imagine that in 1905 Klimt was deep into the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer. As was Klimt’s want, he was probably also into a relationship with Adele. adele

Link to Vienna Secession

During Lauder’s time in Vienna he collected art and brought it out of the country through the diplomatic pouch, much to the chagrin of the Austrian authorities. He will eventually purchase the portrait of Ms. Bloch-Bauer some hundred years after it was painted and use it as the central feature in this Neue Gallerie in Manhattan.

Imagining the conversations these artists had in the Sezession or in a nearby coffee house is intriguing. They surely were buzzing about what was going on in Berlin and Paris, especially the work that was happening between Picasso and Braque, though that discussion would have to wait until 1907 when Cubism shook their world (though it really on hit the general public in 1916 at its exhibition at which many viewers thought it obscene). While 1905 saw the young Picasso in his Rose Period, it was the painting in 1905 by Cezanne that shook Picasso and Braque’s worlds, though Picasso’s envy of Matisse was also influential. It was the seed the would germinate into Cubism, leading to what some art historians consider the most influential painting of the 20th century, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon Picasso with use the title name Avignon, not as a tip to the beautiful southern French city, but to his own youthful transgression of a street by the same name in Barcelona where a brothel was prominent.

I think that is enough diversion for today. I also think that I will have to return to 1905 again, as its germs are still growing…

May 21st Teen Vogue and Politics

Teen Femielaine_welteroth_ad2305e150a345c7a3432a125558569d.nbcnews-ux-600-480nism

I had been working on a few ideas along our morning and evening walks, but was distracted from them (they will appear later) this morning watching a segment of Willie Geist’s NBC program about Teen Vogue….not my usual wheelhouse. So, for now, I composed some morning thoughts that deal with young women’s attitudes towards politics and feminism based on what that segment provoked. It’s fascinating to me that Teen Vogue has stepped up to accept that role and to take on some big issues.

The genesis of NBC looking at Teen Vogue came up a few months ago when Lauren Duca made a splash with an op/ed piece she wrote that got the ire of Right Wing media. More on that later.  First, read this article…. by Ms. Duca.

The Sunday program    highlighted the three forces/individuals at the magazine, digital director Phillip Picardi, creative director Marie Suter and editor Elaine Welteroth (pictured above). Welteroth is the youngest editor and second African-American in such a position at Conde Nast, the parent company.

They are responsible for the direction Teen Vogue is taking, which includes feminism and civil rights of all kinds. (Therefore, the ire of the Right) Lauren Duca’s article landed her on Tucker Carlson of Fox where he was going to put her in her place. Carlson obviously felt she was now in his wheelhouse and where he certainly felt her most unqualified trying to box at his weight category. That exchange exhibited Carlson, the new wunderkind hopeful of Fox as it goes through its transformation, as the new misogynist of FOX. He moved from a peripheral presenter to more mainstream when Megyn Kelly bolted to NBC and he took her spot, then to the channel’s ‘star’ when they dumped O”Reilly because of his misogyny. I think this all has Carlson intimidated. Carlson is trying to earn his misogynistic chops while demonstrating he has Peter Principled to the max. He found a worthy adversary when taking on Ms. Duca.   I have not watched it all the way through, as his arrogance and attacks on decency are difficult to withstand, but, Lauren’s ability to take him on is worth the effort. If you only look at the last comment Carlson makes before he signs off, it will give you a clear perspective on the kind of person Carlson is.

There are also other media outlets jumping into the discussion..   The exchange with Carlson received notice also from the Guardian   There are dozens of wonderful links within this article that highlight what Teen Vogue is up to. Again, highly recommended.

Finally, the Facebook link for Lauren Duca     Carlson’s attack of Duca has led her to start this FB page based on his ‘thigh high’ comment. I suggest you like the page and follow what she has to say.

More later…sunny and beautiful in Camden

May 16

Open with these thoughts: Gender issues of the normal kinds or even extending to homosexuality’s position in society, speaking truth to power in a democracy as carried out by the Fourth Estate, double entendre writing, international incidents that have devious motives and secret missions associated with them and a discussion of who in society gets to make decisions within its class structure. Sound like 2017? Actually, in our continuing revisiting of earlier BBC offerings, this one from 2011 (seems so, so long ago, doesn’t it), we found all of these issues in the series, The Hour, starring Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai and Dominic West. It is set in the year 1956, with the Tories in charge, Anthony Eden carrying out British policies in his own way, the Suez Crisis and Hungarian Uprisings occurring simultaneously (some historians note that this was not an accident) and the BBC flexing its muscle to do its job to keep the populace informed and the towers of power quaking through the Fourth Estates’ rattling of its pen (or television broadcast in this series).

What is intriguing Mary and me is that the BBC series touts the beginning of female producing at BBC (though British acceptance of females in the work place seems to have outpaced the US overall in the 20th century), is written by, directed by and produced by women and they utilize the series to explore feminine issues in both an era-focused perspective and universal way. The series only lasted two seasons, though, like Aaron Sorkin, it was rich in literary references, carries several storylines at once and respects while at the same time challenges its viewers intellect. An intriguing aspect of the program was the BBC exploring the strengths and failings of the BBC historically while apparently getting the green light to expose the shortcomings of the network, as well as the issues facing the government and society that each either mishandled or chose to subvert the democratic will of the populace. In doing a little research on the BBC in the early fifties, several interesting points were uncovered; the career of a most interesting female in the 1950s and the other productions with which the present female crew of The Hour have been involved.   and

Shortly after finishing the first of two discs covering Season One, Mary and I then went to Rockland, the town to our south, where the refurbished 1930s theater hosted a simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera with Renee Fleming singing her farewell role in Der Rosenkavalier, by Richard Strauss. Though it was meant to be more of a comedic opera with a buffoon role for the adversarial role of Ochs, this production played him with a darker strain. In the Trump era, the unhinged, bullying character sung by Gunther Groissbock  seems very relevant, though the production’s planning surely preceded the election results. The aria sung by Fleming about the passage of time was haunting, if not something on which to focus…

Also, If you have a half hour in your day where you can listen to a podcast, either preparing a snack or meal and can listen along, or perhaps even to sit still and enjoy a focused listen, then as an historian, a supporter of the importance of immigrants and protecting humanity when needed, and loving the wonder of personalizing the stories from the past, this is most worthwhile  It is a story about a remarkable British woman who worked to get the European intellectual elites out of harm’s and Hitler’s way in the 30s and 40s, and even into the 50s and 60s. The list of her “children” who were saved is one of the most impressive and important of the 20th century.   Jessica Chastain on what 21st century Western society expects of its females

Then, there are two photos from this past few weeks to compare #45’s attitude towards gender simply through his interactions with the figures presented in each photograph.

May 15th musing

Welcome to Camden, Maine, where our life’s collection of books, music, DVDs and future aspirations all finally reside in one place. In the coming months and years, I will collect a thought here and there when the wonder so inspires. It happens often in this part of the world. It is a great place to visit, both hopefully from the blogworld and the physical world. Come visit.

First blog post

Welcome to Maine Musings. This will allow me to communicate with my friends and others regarding ideas, issues, loves and other subjects that pop into mind. I hope these allow us to grow, expand the “US” and understand the myriad contributions of history and culture to our world.