Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Out of the Shadows

From the Washington Post, “For decades they hid Jefferson’s relationship with her. Now Monticello is making room for Sally Hemings“:

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The room where historians believe Sally Hemings slept was just steps away from Thomas Jefferson’s bedroom. But in 1941, the caretakers of Monticello turned it into a restroom.

The floor tiles and bathroom stalls covered over the story of the enslaved woman, who was owned by Jefferson and had a long-term relationship with him. Their involvement was a scandal during his life and was denied for decades by his descendants. But many historians now believe the third president of the United States was the father of her six children.

Time, and perhaps shame, erased all physical evidence of her presence at Jefferson’s home here, a building so famous that it is depicted on the back of the nickel.

Now the floor tiles have been pulled up and the room is under restoration — and Hemings’s life is poised to become a larger part of the story told at Monticello.

When the long-hidden space opens to the public next year, it will mark a dramatic shift in the way one of the nation’s most revered Founding Fathers is portrayed to the more than 440,000 visitors who tour this landmark annually.

It’s part of a $35 million restoration project that will bolster Monticello’s infrastructure but also reconstruct and showcase buildings where enslaved people lived and worked. The man who wrote the words “all men are created equal” in 1776 was master of a 5,000-acre working plantation who over the course of his life owned 607 slaves.

“Visitors will come up here and understand that there was no place on this mountaintop that slavery wasn’t,” said Christa Dierksheide, a Monticello historian. “Thomas Jefferson was surrounded by people, and the vast majority of those people were enslaved.”…

To pinpoint that room, historians relied on a description provided long ago by a Jefferson grandson, who placed it in the home’s south wing. Archaeologists are now peeling back layers in the 14 foot, 8 inch-by-13 foot, 2 inch room to reveal its original brick floor and plaster walls.

We don’t know how Hemings regarded her involvement with her owner. Historians do not know exactly how old she was when she lived there; and no portraits or photographs of her exist. But step into the brick room, the floor still covered in red dirt, and it is not hard to imagine her sitting in a chair, warming herself in front of the fireplace…

Monticello historians hope the restored room will humanize the image of Hemings, beyond the gossipy old accounts of Jefferson’s so-called “concubine.”

“Sally Hemings was better traveled than most Americans, so we want to tell a story about her that doesn’t limit her to Jefferson’s property,” said Gary Sandling, a vice president of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and runs Monticello as a museum…

Much more at the link. Whatever the hard truths of Sally’s relationship with Mr. Jefferson, it’s good to know that she did have the minor luxury of a room of her own.
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What’s on the agenda for the new day?



Long Read: “4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump”

Well, it’s a useful explainer piece, although I think the author may overstate the self-awareness of his beloved /channers. At Medium, Dale Beran claims “Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him“:

Around 2005 or so a strange link started showing up in my old webcomic’s referral logs. This new site I didn’t understand. It was a bulletin board, but its system of navigation was opaque. Counter intuitively, you had to hit “reply” to read a thread. Moreover, the content was bizarre nonsense.

The site, if you hadn’t guessed, was 4chan.org. It was an offshoot of a different message board which I also knew from my referral logs, “Something Awful”, at the time, an online community of a few hundred nerds who liked comics, video games, and well, nerds things. But unlike boards with similar content, Something Awful skewed toward dark jokes. I had an account at Something Awful, which I used sometimes to post in threads about my comic…

These days, 4chan appears in the news almost weekly. This past week, there were riots at Berkeley in the wake of the scheduled lecture by their most prominent supporter, Milo Yiannopoulos. The week before that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer pointed to his 4chan inspired Pepe the Frog pin, about to explain the significance when an anti-fascist protester punched him in the face. The week before that, 4chan claimed (falsely) it had fabricated the so called Trump “Kompromat”. And the week before that, in the wake of the fire at Ghost Ship, 4chan decided to make war on “liberal safe spaces” and DIY venues across the country.

How did we get here? What is 4chan exactly? And how did a website about anime become the avant garde of the far right? Mixed up with fascist movements, international intrigue, and Trump iconography? How do we interpret it all?

At the very beginning, 4chan met once a year in only one place in the world: Baltimore, Maryland at the anime convention, Otakon. As a nerdy teen growing up in Baltimore in the 90s, I had wandered into Otakon much like I had later wandered into 4chan, just when it was starting. I also attended Otakon in the mid-aughts when 4chan met there, likewise to promote my webcomic.
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Early Morning Cabin Fever Cranky Open Thread: Tell It!

Infinite thanks to commentor Rikyrah for highlighting Awesome Luvvie’s latest extremely righteous twitter rant. Excerpts:

(And yes, I was reminded that I’ve been meaning to order a copy of Ms. Ajayi’s book I’m Judging You… )



#ThrowBackThursday: “Who Goes Nazi?”

“The past is never dead; it’s not even past.” Via Tom Scocca’s twitter feed, a Dorothy Thompson Harper’s article from 1941:

It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis…

Mr. B has risen beyond his real abilities by virtue of health, good looks, and being a good mixer. He married for money and he has done lots of other things for money. His code is not his own; it is that of his class—no worse, no better, He fits easily into whatever pattern is successful. That is his sole measure of value—success. Nazism as a minority movement would not attract him. As a movement likely to attain power, it would.

The saturnine man over there talking with a lovely French emigree is already a Nazi. Mr. C is a brilliant and embittered intellectual. He was a poor white-trash Southern boy, a scholarship student at two universities where he took all the scholastic honors but was never invited to join a fraternity. His brilliant gifts won for him successively government positions, partnership in a prominent law firm, and eventually a highly paid job as a Wall Street adviser. He has always moved among important people and always been socially on the periphery. His colleagues have admired his brains and exploited them, but they have seldom invited him—or his wife—to dinner.

He is a snob, loathing his own snobbery. He despises the men about him—he despises, for instance, Mr. B—because he knows that what he has had to achieve by relentless work men like B have won by knowing the right people. But his contempt is inextricably mingled with envy. Even more than he hates the class into which he has insecurely risen, does he hate the people from whom he came. He hates his mother and his father for being his parents. He loathes everything that reminds him of his origins and his humiliations. He is bitterly anti-Semitic because the social insecurity of the Jews reminds him of his own psychological insecurity.

Pity he has utterly erased from his nature, and joy he has never known. He has an ambition, bitter and burning. It is to rise to such an eminence that no one can ever again humiliate him. Not to rule but to be the secret ruler, pulling the strings of puppets created by his brains. Already some of them are talking his language—though they have never met him…

I think young D over there is the only born Nazi in the room. Young D is the spoiled only son of a doting mother. He has never been crossed in his life. He spends his time at the game of seeing what he can get away with. He is constantly arrested for speeding and his mother pays the fines. He has been ruthless toward two wives and his mother pays the alimony. His life is spent in sensation-seeking and theatricality. He is utterly inconsiderate of everybody. He is very good-looking, in a vacuous, cavalier way, and inordinately vain. He would certainly fancy himself in a uniform that gave him a chance to swagger and lord it over others…

Mr. G is a very intellectual young man who was an infant prodigy. He has been concerned with general ideas since the age of ten and has one of those minds that can scintillatingly rationalize everything. I have known him for ten years and in that time have heard him enthusiastically explain Marx, social credit, technocracy, Keynesian economics, Chestertonian distributism, and everything else one can imagine. Mr. G will never be a Nazi, because he will never be anything. His brain operates quite apart from the rest of his apparatus. He will certainly be able, however, fully to explain and apologize for Nazism if it ever comes along. But Mr. G is always a “deviationist.” When he played with communism he was a Trotskyist; when he talked of Keynes it was to suggest improvement; Chesterton’s economic ideas were all right but he was too bound to Catholic philosophy. So we may be sure that Mr. G would be a Nazi with purse-lipped qualifications. He would certainly be purged…



R.I.P.: Go Gently, At Last, John Hurt

John Hurt was an actor of such versatility — not to mention his indefatigable work ethic — that most of us must have a favorite Hurt cameo (even if it’s not among his ‘best’ performances).

A lovely memoir from Buzzfeed‘s Patrick Strudwick, “John Hurt Saved My Life”:

Dusk, in a sparse restaurant in Haraar, eastern Ethiopia. John Hurt is sitting across the table performing lines to me from The Naked Civil Servant.

His voice – that brandy and gravel baritone, the same one that in 1987 boomed out on AIDS public information adverts on TV warning people not to die from ignorance – reverberates around the restaurant…

… As the words slip from his mouth, now cradled by wrinkles, he conjures the defiance and vulnerability of Crisp so beautifully that my eyes fill. Hurt keeps going. He can see what this means to me. He has seen it a thousand times. Gay men would often approach him in the street to tell him how transformative it was for them to watch Crisp alive in Technicolor, in full, brazen mauve, sashaying down the street, all scarves and rouge, waving at sailors and giving bigots the middle finger.

The fact that most gay men are not fabulously camp was not the point. Hurt brought to life a template for defiance that saved people, including me…

To convey both the courage and vulnerabilities of outcasts takes an extraordinary person. During the week I spent with Hurt in Ethiopia I saw the extraordinary in him all day, every day. We were there because he was patron of a charity called Project Haraar, which sends doctors and surgeons to Ethiopia to perform surgery on children with severe facial disfigurements.

The head of the charity, who never forgot Hurt in The Elephant Man, approached him to become a patron, not thinking for a moment he would accept. Hurt agreed immediately.

I was sent by a newspaper to shadow Hurt and report on what we saw at the charity’s hospital in Addis Ababa, as well as at the convalescence clinic in the nearby countryside… What neither of us were expecting was what the true horror would be. Hurt, his beloved wife Anwen, and I were taken round the hospital to meet the children. Some had holes in their cheeks, destroyed by a flesh-eating infection called noma, through which they had to push their food in order to eat. Some were simply tiny, growth stunted by malnutrition not because they did not have access to food but because their disfigurements were so extreme that they physically could not eat properly. The smell from facial infections, in some of the cubicles, was almost overwhelming.

But it wasn’t any of this that hit John, Anwen, and me like a boxer’s punch. Watching Hurt meet those children, and how he interacted with them, revealed precisely what it was that knocked him back: their loneliness.

To see Hurt reach out and clasp their hands, to see their faces react with caution, bafflement, and then deep relief – the medicine of human touch – was to know that he was a great actor because his empathy ran so deep.

He did not talk much. In the entire week he did not show any signs of ego, narcissism, or histrionics – precisely what one might expect of a movie star – because he was too busy connecting with others. He watched those children with kindness. He sat and played with them. He laughed with them.
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Saturday Morning Open Thread: Happy Year of the Fire Rooster

It’s already well underway in much of the world, but traditionally celebrations continue for a full two weeks, so…

The Telegraph [warning: autoplay] has a list of appropriate greetings:

1. 新年好 / 新年好 (Xīnnián hǎo) ‘New Year goodness!’

In Mandarin: /sshin-nyen haoww/

In Cantonese: /sen-nin haow/

2. 恭喜发财 / 恭喜發財 (Gōngxǐ fācái) ‘Happiness and prosperity!’

In Mandarin: /gong-sshee faa-tseye/

In Cantonese: Kunghei fatchoy /gong-hey faa-chwhy/

3. 步步高升 / 步步高陞 (Bùbù gāoshēng) A steady rise to high places! — “on the up and up”

In Mandarin: /boo-boo gaoww-shnng /

In Cantonese: /boh-boh goh-sshin /

Kat Chow, at NPR, has a wonderful essay on “My Menu For Lunar New Year: Guilt, Confusion, With A Side Of Angst“. It’s Saturday, you can spare the five minutes to read the whole thing.

Despite the obvious jokes, Donald Trump is not a Fire Rooster, but a Fire Dog. CNN checked in with “feted Hong Kong fortune teller Priscilla Lam”:

The characteristic of a fire dog is over confidence and a tendency to act quickly without thinking things through. The astrological sign on the day of President Trump’s birth is earth. The element of metal in the latter half of the year will destabilize the earth.

Since he was born in the year of fire, the spring and summer — when the weather is hot — will be good for Trump. It’s also his honeymoon period as US President. But the cooler months of autumn and winter will see him run into difficulties. There will be protests…

(She predicts Putin’s gonna have a great year, though!)



Open Thread: On “Voter Fraud”

The President-Asterisk certainly comes across here as a well-informed and not at all obsessed-with-internet-rumors individual, does he not? (Spoiler: He does not.)

Excellent ProPublica thread, if you need a summary to forward to naive family & acquaintances:

(Jack Ohman via GoComics.com)
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