Who made that hat?

Taking a new interest in knitting, I noticed the home-made hat worn by Mick Aston on Time Team, a British archaeology show.

An elderly man with a white beard wears a knitted blue & striped hat while gesturing vigorously

Mick Aston of the Time Team in knitted hat

Sadly, Mick Aston is no longer with us.

The dearth of women in the secular movement

A woman with long blonde hair looks at the camera, smiling faintly

Susan Jacoby

Susan Jacoby has a very interesting article, “A Woman’s Place?” She recounts some of the famous founders and forgotten original thinkers in the secular movement who were women and considers why women are so outnumbered in contemporary groups.

Ms. Jacoby is the author of several books on history.

“Time Team” is history

The British archaeological show, Time Team, is being cancelled.

Mick Aston left the show a few years ago, stating that it had been dumbed down with less archaeological content. Tony Robinson remained as the main archaeologist.

At least there are almost 20 years to re-run.

Cofounder of Bick’s Pickles dies

two farmers, one male, one female, standing together

Walter and Jeanny Bick

Story here: Walter Bick was a Jewish coat-maker at a time when Canada wanted Christian farmers. Sadly, there was once a time when, even with Hitler rattling sabres and spewing anti-Semitism, Canada could get away with denying entrance to Jews because of their religion.

Walter Bick’s only ticket into Canada was as a Christian farmer.

A lifelong pragmatist, he didn’t let the minor details — his Jewish faith, his occupation in the woman’s coat industry — get him down.

So in 1939, the Bick family — Walter, Thomas and their parents — left an increasingly hostile Europe behind, posing as a family of farmers who believed in the New Testament.

Before they left Amsterdam, they purchased the farm. While other faux-farming Jewish families sold the farms upon arrival, the Bicks made good on the lie, learning to farm and eventually creating a pickle empire.

They ended up farming in Scarborough, Ontario, which I guess is why the Bick’s Pickle factory is still there on Progress Road.

He also helped found the Jewish Vocational Services, an organization that helped Jewish people find jobs, which, he later remarked, was a lot harder than selling pickles.

Memoirs of John Wilkes Booth

As I was researching the literary output of Eleanor Farjeon, I came across this unusual item: The locked book: the memoirs of John Wilkes Booth, by Asia Booth Clarke and Eleanor Farjeon. According to Kirkus Reviews:

John Wilkes Booth and his sister were very close, and this is his sister’s story. Anecdotes of their childhood, of his successes in the theatre, of his passionate defence of the South when the Civil War broke out, his machinations as spy and blockade runner, his hatred of Lincoln. Her marriage had separated then by this time, so the assassination of Lincoln came as a shock and surprise to the family, but she continued to believe he did what he thought right. Cuttings from contemporary journals, family letters, reminiscent extracts. Nothing of the doubt thrown upon his fate. This memoir was handed down to Eleanor Farjeon, and is now released for the first time.

As a child, I found history lessons boring and pointless, until some teachers and my reading made me realize that history is about people and why they do things. But for the most part, history lessons completely miss the point. In the year that we studied U.S. history, the assassin of President Lincoln was always described as “an unemployed actor,” as if that somehow motivated him or perhaps simply to add human interest. That was all.

Nowhere did my lessons mention that Booth was a member of a conspiracy of hard-core Southern secessionists. They didn’t say that the secessionist groups were bitterly irreconcilable over their side losing. They didn’t say that the plan of the secessionists was to treasonously undermine the U.S. victory. They didn’t say that the motivation of the secessionists was wildly exaggerated horror stories about what the U.S. government had in store for them. That would have made that bit of history understandable, instead of random, and even more despicable than a violent act by an unstable individual.

It all sounds frighteningly familiar these days. What was that proverb? “Those who forget the past are compelled to repeat it”? It’s time to squash the incipient Southern & right-wing violence, treason, and terrorism in the bud, if we are not to have losers snatching the prize of enlightenment and reason once again.

I’m Henery the Eighth, I am!

2008-as-henryviii

Jane Austen’s blighted romance

jane-austenNew evidence suggests that Jane Austen’s sister, Cassandra, interfered with Jane’s chances for a happy marriage.