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After a nice Thanksgiving weekend, I am greeting you this Cyber Monday with a continuance of the For Aslan Christmas Gift Guides. Below you will find a series of gifts, arranged according to price, that are sure to please your favorite History Buff. While a nice trip to a Civil War battle site or a museum would be great gifts for history buffs, you can’t give those gifts from a laptop while sitting on your couch in your underwear. Everything on this list, you can.
GIFTS FOR HISTORY BUFFS – $0-$25
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque – $10.20
This is one of the best war novels of all time. This book captures the horrors of trench warfare, and it accurately represents the German sentiments during World War I. You could also get them the film, which is a classic.
Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion by Edward Larsen – $11.53
This book concerns the Scopes Trial in Dayton, TN. This trial captured the cultural shift of the United States as Christian fundamentalism retreated from the public square. This book is fair and balanced.
Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic 1789-1815 by Gordon Wood – $13.37
Gordon Wood is one of the premier American historians. This book covers a fascinating era of American history, and every American needs to know more about the War of 1812.
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond – $17.82
Guns, Germs, and Steel is required reading for many college history classes. It is a general world history book concerning the three main downfalls of society: guns, germs, and steel.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown – $18.45
A helpful balance to the white-man’s version of American history so many of us received growing up. This book details the horrid things done to the Native Americans in the name of Manifest Destiny.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer – $19.79
William Shirer was a reporter in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. He provides excellent firsthand accounts of the rise and fall of the Nazi regime.
GIFTS FOR HISTORY BUFFS – $25-50
The Civil War: A Narrative (3 Vol. Set) by Shelby Foote - $47.33
Shelby Foote is just great. He is a fantastic storyteller. If you (or your favorite history buff) are interested in the Civil War, these are the books to read. They are entertaining and informative.
Various Historic Memorabilia from Ebay
There are tons of interesting things online from all periods of history. Just be careful not to buy a reproduction, unless that’s what you’re shopping for.
GIFTS FOR HISTORY BUFFS – $50+
The Second World War (6 Vol. Set) by Winston Churchill – $74.55
Winston Churchill was one of the great heroes of World War II. In this 6 volume set, he recounts the history of the second world war as only Winston Churchill could.
Netflix (1 Year Subscription) – $84
Netflix? Really? Oh yeah. If your history buff does not have Netflix, give them a subscription. There are tons of documentaries. Ken Burns’ Baseball, The Civil War, The War, and Jazz make it worth the price alone. Plus, there are many other great non-Ken Burns documentaries.
Until later friends…
Cornwallis, ashamed to have gotten whipped by those upstart Americans, sent a subordinate to surrender rather than face Washington himself.
Yorktown was the crowning achievement of George Washington, and we can look back on it today with pride. In times when everyone on social media is so concerned with this contentious election, I think it is helpful to look back at things that unite us. Like George Washington kicking the Brits’ butts.
Until later friends…
I recently showed this speech to a US History class that I was subbing for. None of these students were even alive for this speech, but they were immediately affected by its gravity. Reagan was a tough, tough man. As someone who loves the US and Germany, this speech holds a special interest for me.
Here is a clip of the most famous section of the speech:
Here is the full speech:
It is perfectly appropriate to respond out loud to this speech with phrases like “Come on!,” “Get ‘em Ronald!,” etc.
Until later friends…
This is a repost of a blog I wrote last year in honor of The Day the Music Died.
Since childhood, Don McLean‘s “American Pie” has been one of my favorite songs. My parents raised me with good music, not that 80s crap that a lot of my friends grew up with. I grew up listening to my parents’ Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Temptations, and Elvis records, along with a host of other great records from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. “American Pie” is one of the finer songs of the 70s.
“American Pie” is a little piece of cultural history. You might not know it by its title, but I’m sure you know the chorus:
Bye Bye Ms. American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry
And good ‘ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singing, “this’ll be the day that I die”
“This’ll be the day that I die”
(These lyrics are the sole property of the composer. I quote them here to give honor to the song. No lawsuits please.)
Ever since its release in 1972, “American Pie” has intrigued listeners with its veiled references to major cultural events. Many people have posted their interpretations, like this one:
You might ask, “Aslan, why all the Don McLean talk today?” Well, today is the 52nd anniversary of The Day the Music Died. On this day in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.
Thankfully, I don’t think music really died that day as is evidenced by the lives of some of the artists I mentioned earlier, as well as Johnny Cash, the Avett Brothers, and Danny Elfman to name a few. So, give “American Pie” a listen today. Go listen to a song or two from Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. Then, go celebrate all the great music that came after those guys. Until later friends…
PS: “American Pie” the song has no relation to that piece of junk movie series bearing the same name. For Aslan and the Volunteer State in no way supports or promotes smut like that.
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Holocaust was one of the most terrible atrocities ever committed in human history. It also the most documented atrocity. The Nazis were great record-keepers, and their organization contributed greatly to their everlasting guilt. I will not post pictures from concentration camps today, but I will talk a bit about Holocaust remembrance. The picture above is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is a collection of photos from a Jewish town in which every single inhabitant was murdered. These pictures are all that is left.
These shoes are from victims of Auschwitz. This is not my picture, but I have seen these shoes in person. There is a terrible sadness and silence in this room. Each pair of shoes testifies to a man, woman, boy, or girl that was murdered for their heritage. The inscription on the wall reads:
We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.
We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers,
From Prague, Paris, and Amsterdam,
And because we are only made of fabric and leather
And not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.
- Moses Schulstein (1911-1961), Yiddish Poet
I studied the Holocaust in a course entitled “Christianity and the Holocaust” under David Gushee at Union University. In that class we examined the roles of various people in the Holocaust. People during this time fell into one of four roles: Victim, Perpetrator Bystander, or Rescuer.
Victims – The victims were 6 million Jews, 2 million Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), and thousands of other “undesirables” (as the Nazis termed political rivals, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.). Concerning the victims, we read Elie Wiesel‘s Night.
Perpetrators – The Nazis were the guilty party, but many people in countries taken over by Nazi Germany joined the Nazis in their “Final Solution.” Christopher Browning wrote an excellent book entitled Ordinary Men about the process of common soldiers becoming mass-murderers. Ordinary Men is one of the most emotionally difficult books I have ever read in my life, so I recommend it cautiously.
Bystanders – Bystanders were everywhere the Holocaust was. For every person murdered in the Holocaust, there were neighbors that said and did nothing. Martin Niemoeller summarized the collective guilt of bystanders:
When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.
When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.
Rescuers – The rescuers are the one bright spot in this history. People like Corrie Ten Boom and Oskar Schindler are well-known. There were many rescuers, but still far too few. Concerning rescuers, we read two books, which I recommend. First, we read Corrie Ten Boom‘s The Hiding Place.
Corrie Ten Boom is a hero to me. She and her family were responsible for the rescue of many Jews from the Holocaust. As a result, her family fell victim to the Nazi regime as well and was sent to a concentration camp. Many in her family died, but her faith in Christ remained strong.
In the class, we also read Dr. Gushee’s book Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust. It tells the story of many who stood up for the sanctity of human life.
Every human life is valuable. Today is a day to remember the millions that lost their lives. Let us also remember those that risked their lives to save others. Let us all commit to be rescuers. The world is full of bystanders, and perpetrators will remain until Christ returns. Let us stand in the gap and rescue the oppressed.
Until later friends…
If you are interested in reading the Theses, you can find the whole text here.
Here are two videos in honor of this day:
Martin Luther – “Here I Stand” (A Reenactment of Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms)
The Reformation Polka
Until later friends…
ARRR!!!! It is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! This is one of my favorite days in the office every year.
Being an office that consists mostly of 20-something guys, Talk Like a Pirate Day is a fun day. There are a lot of “Arrrr”s, several “Avasts!”, and a handful of “scurvy dogs” throughout the day. In case you are wanting to join in the Talk Like a Pirate festivities, here are some pointers on how to talk like a pirate.
If you find the link above too difficult to master, here are some examples you might be more familiar with.
Dread Pirate Roberts
The Dread Pirate Roberts is suave. He has a sweet mustache, and he wields a sword well. In order to talk like this pirate, you need to say such things as:
- “To the pain!”
- “Until then, rest well and dream of large women“
Captain James T. Hook
Everyone knows Captain Hook. After all, “what would the world be like without Captain James T. Hook?” In order to be an effective Hook, you must have a hook for a hand, a sweet mustache, and talk about “form” a lot. In order to talk like Captain Hook you need to:
- Say “Bad form!”
- Chant Rufio before you kill anyone
- Use big words that your pirate underlings don’t understand
Captain Jack Sparrow
This unhygienic pirate has dominated pirate-lore of late. Jack Sparrow is simultaneously suave and gross, seemingly drunk and brilliant. In order to talk like him:
- Say “Savvy” a lot
- Always bring up rum. It is always the best topic of conversation
- Talk with your hands twirling about.
Now, you might have an aversion to talking like a pirate, because after all pirates are pirates. They are terrible excuses for human beings that rob, kill, destroy, and don’t get enough vitamin C. If you are looking for a more honorable pirate to emulate, I suggest Roberto Clemente.
Roberto Clemente was a great guy that died helping people. Based on this picture, I think he could take on any of the other pirates in hand-to-hand combat as well. If you want to be like Roberto Clemente today, do something charitable.
Until later me maties!
April 20th. It is one of those days in history that you have to acknowledge. I’m sure there are going to be several blogposts around the world today talking about the fact that this day is the anniversary of Hitler‘s birthday and the Columbine shooting. I don’t really want to blog about Hitler other than to say that he was absolutely evil. I think it is interesting that in our culture where so many people poo-poo on the idea of applying labels of “evil” and “sin” to people, we can all still agree that Hitler (and Nazism) was evil. No one can deny that a
man brute responsible for the creation of a political system that oversaw the murder of over 6 million people is evil.
In regards to Columbine, I think all of us that witnessed the news coverage that day were changed. In some way, I know that my worldview changed just a little bit on April 20, 1999. Five Iron Frenzy (Denver natives) wrote a song about Columbine entitled “A New Hope” that I think characterizes the shock well:
A darker world lies behind this one
Cryptic it hides beneath perception
We all saw it on that day
Stunned we stood stuttering
What did the news say
April 20th is also a day when potheads celebrate their complete apathy towards life, but this is barely worth mentioning.
All of these dark events could lead you to ask, “Does April 20th ever produce anything good?” In fact, it does. I have decided to give you a short list of some of the blessings April 20th has bestowed upon the world over the years.
- 1718 – David Brainerd was born (one of the most influential missionaries ever).
- 1976 – Joey Lawrence was born, and if he had not been born, we never would have had one of the best catchphrases of the 90s:
- 1916 – Wrigley Field hosted its first Chicago Cubs game.
- 1972 – Apollo 16 lands on the moon
- It is also the birthday of two of my friends Lindsay and Jande, to whom I give a shout out.
So, go make this April 20th a good one! Until later friends…
Patrick was not Irish. Just so you know. Patrick was a Briton. He was born into a Christian Briton family, but was kidnapped by Irish slave-traders when he was 15-16 years old. He was sold to an Irish chieftain named Miliucc, and he worked as a shepherd. Like David, Patrick used these times in the pasture for prayer and meditation. Eventually at the age of 21 Patrick ran away and found a ship that took him to the continent. Eventually he made it home to his mom and dad that had not seen him for six years. Soon after that, he left to become a priest.
After becoming a priest, Patrick felt called to return to Ireland and share the gospel of Jesus Christ with his former captors. Patrick used his knowledge of the Irish language and culture as a bridge to communicating the truths of the gospel. Patrick used the fires of the Irish Feast of Tara to describe how Jesus was the true light of the world. He used a shamrock to communicate the doctrine of the Trinity (that God exists in one substance, but three persons). And, Patrick used Christ’s death on a tree as a polemic against the sacred oak worship of the druids.
Legend says that St. Patrick cast out all the snakes of Ireland. I have no idea where this came from. From a cursory internet search, it seems that there never really were snakes in Ireland, and the idea that Patrick cast out snakes was a metaphor for Patrick casting out the paganism of the druids with the light of the gospel. Although he may not have been a snake exterminator, Patrick did some great things. Patrick was the most influential missionary to Ireland, and he planted many churches. He also brought the Latin language and scholarship to the new Christians in Ireland. The impact of this has been grossly exaggerated in Thomas Cahill‘s How the Irish Saved Civilization, but it was an important step nonetheless.
Things to Learn from St. Patrick
- Forgiveness — Patrick returned to the people that had enslaved him to tell them the gospel of Jesus Christ. He loved a people that had shown him nothing but enslavement and forced labor.
- Courage — Patrick’s life was threatened many times by the druids and other tribal leaders. Yet, he persisted in sharing the gospel with them.
- Contextualization — Patrick used the Irish cultural beliefs as a means of communicated the gospel, without compromising the gospel.
So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Go wear some green and pretend to be Irish. I am of Scotch/Irish/Welsh descent, but today I celebrate my Irish heritage. So, blessings to you. Top of the morning to you and all that.
Until later friends…