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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘alternate history

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith updates his readers about the progress of his various writing projects.
  • The Big Picture shares photos from the Battle of Mosul waged against ISIS.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of rogue binary planet 2MASS J11193254–1137466, two super-Jupiters by themselves.
  • Dangerous Minds notes the raw photography of early 20th century New York City’s Weegee.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is rightly unimpressed by the reflexive Russophilia of The Nation. Imperialism is still imperialism …
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen strongly recommends Dali, in the Chinese province of Yunnan, for tourists.
  • The NYR Daily features Masha Gessen, looking at the truth underneath the lies of Trump.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer makes a case that Macron’s use of “civilizational” to describe Africa’s issues might be the subject of over-quick outrage.
  • Peter Rukavina describes his two weeks with a Nokia N95, without a modern smartphone. There was good and bad to this.
  • Speed River Journal’s Van Waffle explains, with photos, what hoverflies are and why they are so important.
  • Understanding Society considers a fraught question: what paths to modernization were open for China in the 1930s, before the People’s Republic?
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that, in 30 years, Moscow will be a megacity with a large population of (substantially immigrant) Muslim origin.

[AH] WI Walter Jenkins not arrested in 1964?

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It’s Toronto Fringe Festival time, and I’ve been spending much of the past week attending high-quality indie theatre. Last night, I went with a friend to catch a new show that deserves the high ratings it has gotten from critics and audiences, The Seat Next To The King by local playwright Steven Elliott Jackson. The Seat Next To The King imagines an encounter, initially sexual but later more complex, in a Washington D.C. restroom in 1963 between African-American civil rights activist Bayard Rustin and long-time LBJ advisor Walter Jenkins.

In coming years, the two men’s lives would take rather different trajectories, Rustin becoming one of the first out national political figures, and Jenkins’ political career being destroyed in October 1964 when he was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge in a Washington D.C. washroom. Jenkins later returned to Texas and relative anonymity as a chartered accountant.

The arrest of a high-ranking advisor to LBJ for alleged homosexual behaviour could have had national political import. Indeed, some Republicans seem to have tried to publicize this arrest as much as possible, in the hope that the scandal would have an effect on that year’s election. Somewhat to the surprise of many observers at the time, the Jenkins arrest did not have a significant effect on the election, LBJ’s lead over Goldwater and Goldwater’s reluctance to make the arrest a campaign issue. That said, the disappearance of Jenkins from LBJ’s administration might well have had subtler longer-run consequences on American policy, some people suggesting that American policy in Vietnam might have been different (or not) had Jenkins been present to give advice.

Let’s say that Jenkins does not get arrested, not in October of 1964 and not later. What happens next? How is the United States changed with Jenkins still providing advice to LBJ?

(Crossposted to alternatehistory.com.)

Written by Randy McDonald

July 11, 2017 at 11:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • James Bow shares his story of how he met famed Canadian kid’s author Gordon Korman.
  • Paul Drye has sales on this month for his two books, space race WI book False Steps and his first, Passing Strangeness.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel notes two overlooked episodes of migration in Canada, of Hawaiians in British Columbia and Canadian exiles in Australia.
  • The Great Grey Bridge’s Philip Turner shared, again, his personal photo essay about his links to and love of Canada.
  • Language Hat looks at the potentially Australian slang phrase “good on you” (pronounced “good onya”, apparently).
  • Language Hat looks at claims that translation and grammar complicate the meaning of the text authorizing the handover of Hong Kong to China.
  • The LRB Blog announces that their #readeverywhere photo contest is up and running for July!
  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands shares a gorgeous photo essay of her trip to Chania, on Crete.
  • Unicorn Booty has an interesting essay looking at the barriers to membership imposed by gay culture on newly-out members of the community.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at the cost of the Russian war in Ukraine and argues that the consequences of a crash now would be worse than in 1998.

[NEWS] Five Fourth of July links, from holiday fireworks mayhem to alternate history to Trump

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  • Strange Company shares some vintage stories of mayhem, mostly fireworks-related, from 4th of July celebrations a century ago.
  • In The Atlantic, Uri Friedman interviews Harry Turtledove about alternate history, starting with the possibility of a failed War of American Independence.
  • Tristin Hopper of the National Post shares a decidedly contrarian–Loyalist, even–take on the War of American Independence.
  • Jeff Stein of Vox argues that American liberals should not reject American independence, with its real radicalism and egalitarianism.
  • At VICE, Harry Cheadle interviews Mike Jakeman about the implications of the Trump disinterest in global leadership.

[AH] WI more widely spoken Canadian Gaelic?

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This afternoon, I dropped by the Toronto Reference Library to browse its shelves. As one would expect, Toronto’s central library has a very large collection of materials in languages other than English, ready for lenders to pick up. Out of curiosity, I stopped by to see what the Scots Gaelic collection looked like.

The Scots Gaelic shelf at the Toronto Reference Library

There were two shelves of Frisian-language materials above the shelf of Gaelic books, and the Frisian shelves were packed.

This is a sort of afterthought to the death of Gaelic as a living language in Canada. I grew up in the Maritimes, in the province of Prince Edward Island. In that province, now overwhelmingly populated by speakers of English, Canadian Gaelic was once very widely spoken. It was even the main language of, among others, my maternal grandmother’s family. She did not speak the language, though, her parents choosing not to teach it to her. They said that they did not want their many children to learn their neighbourhood gossip.

(The Matheson family lived in the east of what this map calls Eilean Eòin.)

Canadian Gaelic did not persist, not even in the Atlantic Canadian territories where it had been most successfully transplanted, even though it was a (distant) third among European languages spoken in Canada. My feeling is that the speakers of the language did not value it. Part of this may have had to do with the very different statuses of the French and Gaelic languages internationally. French was a high-status language that was a prestigious and credible rival to English, while Gaelic was a much more obscure language looked down upon by almost everyone–including many speakers of Gaelic–with at most hundreds of thousands of speakers. Canada’s Francophone minorities did face oppression, but their language and their community’s existence was something their Anglophone neighbours could more easily accept as legitimate, and that Francophones themselves accepted as legitimate.

This leads to the tendency of speakers of Canadian Gaelic were not committed to the survival of their language. I mentioned above that my maternal grandmother’s parents decided not to transmit the language to their children. In this, occurring soon after the turn of the 20th century, they were far from alone. Speakers of Canadian Gaelic were generally quick to discard this language for an English that was seen as more useful. The survival of the language was not seen as especially important: For a Gaelic-speaking Protestant, for instance, the bond of Protestantism that united them with an Anglophone Protestant was more important than the bond of language that united them with a Gaelic-speaking Catholic. In Gaelic Canada, there was just nothing at all like the push for survivance across the spectrum in French Canada that helped Canadian Francophones survive in a wider country that was–at best–disinterested in the survival of its largest minority.

Fragmented, without any elite interested in preserving the language and its associated culture or a general population likely to support such an elite, the Canadian Gaelic community was bound to go under. And so, in the course of the 20th century, it did, the smaller and more isolated communities going before the larger ones. There are still, I am told, native speakers of Gaelic in Cape Breton, long the heartland of Gaelic Canada, and there is a substantial push to revive the language’s teaching and use in public life in Nova Scotia. I fear this is too little, too late. The time for that was a century ago, likely earlier. If that incentive to give Gaelic official status and a role in public life had been active in the mid-19th century, who knows what might have come of this?

(For further reading on the history of Gaelic in Prince Edward Island, I strongly recommend Dr. Michael Kennedy’s preface (PDF format) to John Shaw’s 1987 recordings of the last creators of Gaelic on Prince Edward Island.)

Was the death of Gaelic as a widely-spoken language in Canada inevitable? Or, was there any possibility of a revival movement, of a renewed valorization of Scots Gaelic? I have wondered in the past if having Cape Breton remain a province separate from Nova Scotia, thus creating a polity populated mainly by Gaelic speakers, might create some kind of incentive for Gaelic to be politically useful.

Thoughts?

(Crossposted to alternatehistory.com.)

Written by Randy McDonald

June 27, 2017 at 11:59 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait notes that the Curiosity rover is detectable from Mars orbit.
  • blogTO shares some of the vintage 1980s photos of gritty Toronto in a new book by Avard Woolaver.
  • The Big Picture shares photos of tea from its homeland in China.
  • Imageo shares stunning photos of Jupiter originally taken by the Juno probe.
  • Language Hat links to the new online version of the Australian National Dictionary.
  • The LRB Blog shares an appalling story of a British university that wants to hire an academic to develop a course for 10 pounds an hour.
  • The NYR Daily looks at the films of Romanian director Cristian Mungiu.
  • Starts with a Bang’s Ethan Siegel examines the Pillars of Creation of the Eagle Nebula. How long will they last?
  • Torontoist shares photos from the Toronto Pride parade.
  • John Scalzi at Whatever talks about being a late convert to the joys of Harry Potter.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on Stalin’s desire to drain the Caspian Sea, the better to exploit offshore oil and irrigate Kazakhstan.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • D-Brief considers if gas giant exoplanet Kelt-9b is actually evaporating.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that considers where to find signs of prior indigenous civilizations in our solar system. (The Moon, Mars, and outer solar system look good.)
  • Joe. My. God. reveals the Israeli nuclear option in the 1967 war.
  • Language Log shares a clip of a Nova Scotia Gaelic folktale about a man named Donald.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the ongoing deportations of Hispanic undocumented migrants from the United States.
  • The LRB Blog notes the brittle rhetoric of May and the Conservatives.
  • The NYRB Daily mourns the Trump Administration’s plans for American education.
  • Savage Minds considers the world now in the context of the reign of the dangerous nonsense of Neil Postman.
  • Strange Maps shares a map documenting the spread of chess from India to Ireland in a millennium.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian government needs to do more to protect minority languages.