By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

When I can’t read books, I enjoy listening to them.   I am teaching this quarter at three different campuses, and hence, I am forced to be in the car quite a bit, driving the wonderful expressways of Chicago-land, and/or sitting in the seemingly endless, ubiquitous metro road work. Books on CD are my savior; they are my sanity. Instead of just sitting there swearing at other drivers, I can listen to a good book. 

During the last seven weeks of the second summer quarter, I have gone through a number of books on CD. I started the quarter listening to Dan Ariely’s Upside of Irrationality.  I must admit, I only got about half-way through when I just couldn’t take the recounting of behavioral experiments any longer.  I then moved on to Mary Roach’s Gulp: Adventures on themedium Alimentary Canal.  Roach’s popular science book is filled with fascinating, sometimes disturbing, sometimes hilarious anecdotes about saliva, mastication, the stomach, digestion and much more.  I didn’t finish this one either, since there is only so much heavy description I could take. I then moved on to Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare.  Greenblatt is one of the world’s preeminent Shakespeare scholars, and this book illustrated why.  It is a biographical and social historical literary critique of the bard and his times. Strangely, I attempted to read this book a couple years ago, but just couldn’t get into it.  Listening to it was much more enjoyable.

The quarter is now winding down. For my last 4 weeks of travel, I decided to go for something a bit different.  Browsing RMU library’s selection of audiobooks, I came upon Markus Zusak’s 2006 best-selling novel The Book Thief, a fictional account of a young German girl struggling to survive during the Nazi dictatorship. I picked it up, and checked it out.

I was not ignorant of this novel. In fact, I actually own a paperback copy of the work, and I have thought many times about reading it. But, I have never gotten around to picking the book up. Honestly, I figured listening to the book may be the best thing to do, since there is no guarantee I would ever actually read the book. You see, novels are usually not at the top of my reading list. I’m a non-fiction reader first and foremost.  I would say for every 20 books I read, 1 is a work of fiction.  I read a hand-full of novels a year. Would Zusak’s work ever make the list? There were a couple reasons to be dubious.

71h2sjik5al-_sl1380_First, Zusak’s novel is not located with my other books. Most of my books are around me at all times.  They are in my living room, in my dining room and at my desk at work. I am constantly looking them over. Often I will base my reading decision upon what book catches my eye.  The Book Thief has never caught my eye. It is not in my living room; or my kitchen; or at my desk. It is in my 7 year old daughter’s room.

If you did not know already, The Book Thief is considered, and labelled, as a ‘Children’s book.’  It is ‘adolescent literature.’  And this is the second reason I probably would not be reading the book any time soon. I am not a kid (surprise!).  I honestly don’t really want to read a ‘children’s book’ on my free-time, as I read kid’s books all the time with my daughters.  I need something more serious; more grown up; more….adult.

 However, I had always heard that The Book Thief was wonderful. I had read reviews that it was a powerful, serious novel. The back cover of the book described a plot that did not sound very childish. So, I figured, if I am not ever going to read it, I might as well give it a listen.

A  reminder: Don’t judge a book by it’s cover….or it’s genre.

The verdict? 4 CDs through, 9 more to go (please no spoilers) and I am hooked.  It is a wonderful novel. Extremely well-written and psychologically complex. The book rings true, both historically and emotionally. I highly recommend it.

But, I am left with one question: Why is this considered a ‘children’s book’? 

The book is not light or pleasant.  Zusak doesn’t whitewash disturbing facts; he does a wonderful job portraying human behavior during the darkest of times.  It is readable, but the prose is by no means childish or simplistic. Why is this ‘for kids’?

 Is it simply because the main character is a 9 year old girl, and that we, as readers, are expected to enter her mental world? Do publishers believe that adults don’t remember what it is like to be a child, with all the fun and terror that goes along with it? Do publishers assume that children will only want to read about children, and adults only want to read about adults?  

Since I am not a publisher of books, I can’t say.  But, as a reader of books, I can say that The Book Thief should be on your, or your children’s, bookshelf.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

washmapI spent my last day of my trip to the Pacific Northwest on the water. While the sun shines too brightly for my sensitive eyes, sunlight on the water is perfectly soothing. Whether swimming or boating, I relish every opportunity to enjoy water. Family lore suggests that my great-great grandfather worked his way over to the United States from Germany as a cabin boy on a ship bound for New Orleans. I expect that tale is only slightly true, but as far as adventure goes, even in the 21st century, being aboard a ship in a wide expanse of blue overflows with primal joy.

I booked a trip on the Victoria Clipper III, which sailed from Seattle to the San Juan Islands followed by a wildlife viewing excursion, with the intention of seeing orcas in the wild. Happily, I did just that. I left Seattle harbor at 7:45 am on July 28th, and spent a full twelve hours travelling northwest in the Puget Sound, through Deception Pass to the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington, and then further north to international waters near Vancouver.

I followed the recommendation of a friend and I did not attempt to take breathtaking pictures; instead, I watched. This watching was rewarded with the initial orca spotting. Four family members of K pod were having lunch in the waters near a lighthouse. After a few minutes of joy (and relief that the trip was already a success), the captain headed to another location frequented by orcas. Here we found five members of J pod frolicking in the water. This group included an astonishing 103-year old matriarch named “Granny” who apparently has some energetic grandsons. Her offspring delighted us all with playful jumps and stunts: spy-hopping, cartwheels, tail flapping, and breaching. A thrill in every way.

The search for orcas successful, our boat headed back toward Friday Harbor for a lunch break, stopping along the way to observe the utterly adorable wiggling and graceful swimming of sea otter moms and pups that populated rocky outcroppings in the water. Thanks to the on-board nature guide, we also spotted bald eagles! Mountains in the distance framed each exciting discovery.

At Friday Harbor, we all dashed for lunch. The tourist trap restaurants filled up quickly, so I went a bit further up the main road to the quaint Herb’s Tavern (the oldest tavern in town) where I had a beer from Alaskan brewing and the rightfully recommended fish and chips. The day was entirely too beautiful to remain indoors, so I walked to an ice cream shop, aptly named The Sweet Retreat, for a generous scoop of salted caramel. Back at the pier, I looked out at the boats and the water to drink in the joy of feeling so wonderfully far from home.Fridayharbor2

How beautiful to have enjoyed such a tremendously full day in a region of spectacular beauty; how marvelous that the natural world is a treasure we all can share.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

I took the Amtrak Cascades service from Portland to Seattle, a lovely trip. The scenery grew increasingly beautiful as the train traveled north, eventually hugging the shore of Puget Sound for forty miles until pulling in at the station in Seattle.tracks

Train travel was central to the development and expansion of the west, and I was pleased to travel in the same way visitors to the Pacific Northwest have done since the late 19th century. I boarded the train at Portland’s Union station, which looks much like it did when it opened in 1896.

Upon arriving in Seattle, I had to hustle to drop my bags and change for the Sea Fair Torchlight parade, a yearly spectacle celebrating the cultures of the Pacific Northwest, sponsored by Alaskan Airlines. The sponsorship results in a terrific group of dancing flight attendants sashaying down Fourth Avenue, pulling their ubiquitous roll-aboard luggage behind them. flightattendAdditional featured performers included countless marching bands, a considerable military presence (thanks to local bases) and two bands of bagpipes. A wide variety of ethnicities was represented with flags and traditional costumes, Chinese, Tibetan, and Philippine being among the most memorable. Since the parade takes place at night, many of the floats are gaudily illuminated, a rainbow of wackiness that included a float sponsored by the local utility company sporting an enormous faucet and a giant mock toilet strung with twinkle lights.

After the family-friendly fun of the parade, I woke the next morning with the sun, eager to visit Pike Place market. market2Urged to go early to avoid the crowds, I may have arrived prematurely, at 8:00am on Sunday morning, as half of the stalls were not yet open, and even the famous fish mongers were still in the process of stocking the displays with crushed ice and the daily catch. Undeterred, I sought out the Three Girls Bakery, and wisely asked for a recommendation. I trusted the man behind the counter, and his suggestion, pistachio cranberry shortbread cookie, far surpassed the pain au chocolat I had selected. The rest of my purchases included remarkably fresh fruit.

From the market, I meandered to the Olympic Sculpture garden, a positively beautiful garden overlooking extraordinary views of the water, with Mount Rainer visible in the distance. The garden features striking sculptures along a sloping gravel path. “Mary’s Invitation—A Place to Regard Beauty” seeks to reinforce the connection between the art and the audience. The whole space resonates with this intention: chairs are available throughout, inviting even the most hurried sightseer to stay a while. I found a chair near Alexander Calder’s “Eagle” and sat, looking out into the endless blue.eagleseattle

My Seattle sightseeing thus accomplished, I returned to the apartment where I was staying in the trendy Capitol Hill area. Here, I had plans to spend the afternoon with former students, two young men who relocated to Seattle after graduating from Columbia College Chicago just a few years ago. The day was an absolutely beauty, so the three of us and their significant others spent the afternoon drinking Rainier beer on a back patio of a bar aptly named The Lookout; the Space Needle, Lake Union, and Puget Sound were visible through the surrounding trees.

One of the truly fantastic aspects of my life is the quality of people whom I am fortunate enough to call my friends. Chas and Chris are bright young men, driven and creative, loving and good. They are doing so well! Chris’ first feature-length film, In Bloom garnered excellent reviews; Chas is also busy working artist, currently designing for Sur la Table. Spending a few hours in their good company made my trip immeasurably more worthwhile.

The next day concluded my trip, details forthcoming in Boho Hobo part 3

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

When we hear about violence between the Israelis and Palestinians marring the Middle East, it is common to view the situation as ahistorical, or even timeless.  The news media sometimes plays this game by painting the troubles of the Holy Land as having ancient roots, as though this fight has been going on for 3000 years.  Though this may seem to be the case to outside observers, Umujyi-wa-Gaza-uri-kuraswa-nindege-za-Israel1this is most definitely a false belief.  The seemingly unending disputes in the region stem from the very recent past (relative to the history of the land where the fighting is taking place.)  To understand the crisis, we need to cover a century’s time; a drop in the chronological bucket for the ancient world of Palestine.

To grasp the complex situation, we could investigate many formative years of the crisis: 1936-1939, 1948, 1967, 1973, etc.  But, to get to the heart of the matter, we must look at the year 1917, and the war that was changing the world at that time.

In 1917, the First World War was entering it’s 4th year.  Millions had already died on battlefronts all over the globe, and the carnage did not seem to be abating.  In February of that year, Revolution struck Russia, the Czar fell, and a provisional reform government gained power, vowing to continue the fight against Germany.  France still had German troops on her soil, and fr-trenchwas facing mutiny from disaffected frontline troops who had been sent into the meat-grinder one too many times.  Britain was feeling the strain of the Kaiser’s U-Boat attacks, and was concerned that their new ally America would not get troops over to Europe quick enough to help in the war effort. 

Nonetheless, these struggles did not stop British and French policymakers from planning a new postwar order. In 1916, the two nations agreed upon dividing Mideast Ottoman holdings between themselves, with, of course, the assumption that the war was to be won.  Such plans would be moot if Germany won the war.

Victory was precarious, but oh so colonially valuable; the beginning of 1917 was the ‘now or never’ moment for the Brits. As the French were slowly crumbling, the little Island nation needed to assure themselves of allies. 

Ironically, it would be an anti-Semitic stereotype that would influence British policymakers in their quest for war assistance. Many within the halls of power in London held old, quite often offensive, and generally apocryphal notions that the Jewish communities of Russia and the United States had disproportionate power and influence. Hence, London was looking for a way to please these mythical Jews in the hope that their supposed power would ensure Russian continuation in the war, and absolute American military and financial involvement. 

Thus, with their plan of controlling Palestine after the war, the British government decided to make a promise to the Jewish people, and the Zionist movement in particular.  If Britain won the war, and gained Palestine as a holding, the Jews would be given a home land in the Holy Land.  This was the so-called ‘Balfour Declaration’, named after Arthur Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary. The declaration, which was in the form of a letter, read:

November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

Of course, for the Zionist movement, this letter embodied opportunity and hope.  The letter seemed to grant 220px-Balfour_Declaration_in_the_Times_9_November_1917the future promise of a national state. However, for the Arabs already living in Palestine, who the British understood as being a backward, controllable people, this letter would quickly be interpreted as a imperialistic tragedy.

According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, the Balfour Declaration, and future statements of the British government in the years immediately following WWI illustrated that Palestinians ‘were seen as insignificant “natives” and usurpers, whereas the incoming Jews were viewed both as Europeans and as the rightful owners of Palestine.”

‘The rightful owners of Palestine':  Can any words be more loaded? 

One hundred years on, the decisions made for the sake of ending the “War to End All Wars”  continues to spark bloody conflicts.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

I’m back from my week of adventures in the Pacific Northwest, eager to reflect upon the many joys of an incredible vacation.

Portland, Oregon was the first stop on my journey. More than a town than a city, Portland is incredibly walkable (aside from the steep hills on the west side of the Willamette River), and the bus system offered service everywhere I wished to visit, including the charming home in Buckman where I stayed with locals as part of Air B & B, a home sharing system that benefits homeowners and travelers alike.

I chose to start my vacation in Portland largely to attend the Oregon Brewers Fest, specifically to take part in the opening day parade across the Hawthorne Bridge to the festival grounds in Tom McCall Park. The day of the parade was soggy and cold, a phenomenon described locally as “Portland gray,” which offered an important insight to Portland’s weather the remaining nine months of the year.

Despite the weather, the Brew Fest parade and festival did not disappoint. rainI’m easily pleased by a brass band and a good walk, which was how this great day began. I was joined by my friend, Sarah, a Portland transplant since 2010. With 188 beers to choose from, the $1.00 per 3-ounce taste was a perfect way to try as many as possible; I believe we sampled sixteen beers between the two of us (the remarks added to the “notes” section of my festival guide are strangely unclear). Sarah and I spent the day happily under tents and umbrellas, relishing a “to do” list that listed only one item: drink beer.

Before my vacation, I read about the area, finding the extraordinarily insightful The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest by Timothy Egan. And, while visiting Powell’s “city of books,” a local mecca for devoted readers, I bought another Egan, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, an amazing book I’d highly recommend.

rosesThe International Rose Test garden shines as a stunning part of the expansive Washington Park perched above the city. My early morning visit resulted in a fantastic mixture of growing sunlight and roses in every hue. The terraced layout makes the most of the effusion of blossoms, resulting in roses blooming in every direction.

For the remainder of my stay in Portland, I explored the surrounding countryside, the true draw of the region. I went on an excursion to The Columbia River Gorge, with stops at the lovely Latourell and majestic Multnomah Falls, culminating in a stop at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.

gorgeThere was also a stop in the orchard region, known affectionately as “fruit loop” at Packer Orchards, where I eagerly devoured Rainer cherries and indulged in an ice cream cone at the urging of a remarkable man I met on the tour. A retired Army officer (and 1960 West Point graduate), John assured me and his grandson, Jessie, that it would be a mistake to pass up the opportunity to try fresh huckleberry ice cream.

wineriesThe next excursion to the countryside was a day exploring Willamette Valley wineries with my extraordinarily generous Portland insider, Sarah. The first vineyard we visited might best be desired as paradise, with an infinity pool. Please go to Blakeslee winery (during the week) and experience what we did—the whole place to ourselves with the tasting room attendant inviting us to dip our feet in the pool, while drinking in the view and a glass of Pinot Noir. blakesleeAdelsheim winery was the next stop, which boasted superior wine and a tasting room suffused with the scent of flowers. At Adelsheim, we walked out to see new grapes on the vines and admire the surrounding hazelnut trees. The third vineyard was a mistake; take my advice and skip Arborbrook. The last stop in the country was Four Graces, another fabulous tasting, where Sarah scored a good deal on two very good bottles. Back in Portland, we stopped at Enso Urban Winery for a cheese board and one last glass of Pinot. If anyone discovers a way to ensure each and every Friday of my life is one tenth as delightful, I’d love to know.

From Portland, I boarded an Amtrak train to a Seattle. . .part 2 of Boho Hobo.


By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

Most Americans don’t give much thought to the First World War.  Much like the Korean War, WWI may be considered a ‘forgotten’ conflict.  Of course, both of these conflicts have one other thing in common; they have been overshadowed by the Second World War.  WWII is the struggle Americans are most usually obsessed with; from  movies and television shows, to our dubiously titled ‘History Channel’, to national best-seller monographs, WWII gets most of the coverage.  And why not?  The war radically altered the world, and America’s place in it.

But, to understand our wider world, with it’s complexities and it’s many tragedies, we need to look back even further than 1945. After all, to understand the world created by WWII, we must investigate the World War that preceded it.
Ukraine Plane What Happened

We live in a violent, confusing world. The last couple weeks have proven this to any Pollyannas who may have forgotten such a hard ap_israel_hamastruth. For many Americans, the events unfolding in Ukraine, Iraq and Israel/Palestine are difficult to comprehend. As outside observers, we often simply throw our hands up in dumbfounded frustration. I fear such frustration leads many people simply to label the people and politics of these regions as ‘crazy’.

Of course, such an ‘explanation’ explains nothing.

True explanations are difficult. True explanations are complex. True explanations are unsettling.
But, true explanations are desperately needed.  If we are to understand what is happening in Iraq, or grasp why the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is so persistent, or why such bad blood exists between the Ukraine and Russia, we must go to the history books. Specifically, we must investigate the First World War.

Let us begin with Iraq.

As we all know, the American intervention in Iraq beginning in the Spring of 2003 did not go as planned. Though the United States quickly won a technical victory on the field of battle, the ‘rebuilding’, or ‘occupation’ of the nation was marred by, for Americans, seemingly inexplicable violence, sectarian strife, and near civil war.  The reasons for such violence are many and complex. One unarguably important cause was American policymakers’ ignorance regarding the complexity of the Iraqi past. Such ignorance, willful or innocent, is even more shocking when it is understood that the Americans had a predecessor they could have learned from. In 1918, at the end of WWI, the British made many of the same mistakes Americans made in 2003.


The Camel Corp, 1915

During the First World War, the British were not just fighting the Germans in the fields of France. They also were at war with the ‘Sick Man of Europe’, the Ottoman Turkish Empire. In this Middle Eastern war, the British looked to rile up the Arab peoples of the area, hoping the Arabs would be interested in throwing off the yoke of their Turkish overlords. The British promised the Arabs of the region national autonomy. According to Scott Anderson however, the British did this without understanding the complexities of the area.’For nearly 400 years prior to World War I, the lands of Iraq existed as three distinct semi-autonomous provinces, or vilayets, within the Ottoman Empire. In each of these vilayets, one of the three religious or ethnic groups that predominated in the region – Shiite, Sunni and Kurd – held sway, with the veneer of Ottoman rule resting atop a complex network of local clan and tribal alliances. ‘

iraq-ethnic-mapThe British did not concern themselves with this ethnoreligious system, seeing instead one, indivisible, homogeneous Arab people.

After defeating the Turks, the British, and the French made two troubling decisions. First, they reneged on their deal with the Arab populations of the Middle East, basically replacing Ottoman rule with European Imperialism. Second, much like in Europe in 1918, the victors of the war redrew maps, and went about ‘state building’. Out of this came the imperial holdings of Palestine, Syria, Trans-Jordan and Iraq.
This situation was not only tragic, it was absurd. Last year, The Daily Show wonderfully captured the absurdity of the situation:

As John Oliver hilariously illustrates, the mapmakers took no account of the ethnic, tribal and ds_18146_02religious disparities of the region. Iraq was transformed into a simmering land of tension controlled by a crumbling British Empire.  Scott Anderson points out that this was a disaster waiting to happen, and the British did not have long to wait: Iraq’s history of the 1920’s-1950’s ‘would be marked by a series of violent coups and rebellions, with its political domination by the Sunni minority simply deepening its sectarian fault lines. After repeatedly intervening to defend their fragile creation, the British were finally cast out of Iraq in the late 1950s, their local allies murdered by vengeful mobs.’

British decisions from 1918 seem to have never-ending repercussions in Iraq. With this in mind, it seems ISIS is simply another chicken coming home to roost. 

(My next blog post will deal with Israel/Palestine and the First World War. After that, Ukraine and The First World War)

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

I have always been intrigued by the First World War.

On second thought, perhaps ‘intrigued’ is not quite the right word. It doesn’t seem strong or descriptive enough.

Captivated? Yes…..

Mesmerized? That seems more like it.

But, why?

Maybe it is because the First World War seems strangely distant and foreign. You may be saying, ‘well sure, we are now a century removed from the war, so it should seem distant.’ But, wars further afield in historical memory seem more familiar, more understandable than WWI. Why is this so? Why does World War One seem so mysteriously exotic?

For me personally, I believe the distant aura of the war must be related to the conflict’s paradoxical uncanniness and absurdity. Though the most modern of industrial slaughters, the war was and is surrounded and shrouded in myths, legends and the supernatural. Myths of the strange and magical were created in the first days of the war, and they endured long after the Armistice was signed. These tales were created by the soldiers who fought, the people on the homefront, the government propagandists and the memory makers in the years following the catastrophe. Everyone seemed to have a hand it producing this aura of unreality.

Painting of the Myth of Langemarck

Painting of the Myth of Langemarck

Some myths were straightforward nationalistic yarns. For example, in the early months of 1914, as battle causalities consistently climbed to unexpected heights, people throughout Europe desperately tried to find a meaning behind the sacrifice of sons, fathers, friends and neighbors. Many people felt the sacrifice needed to be for something larger than individual interests. If such mass death would have any meaning, it would need to be for the protection, or perhaps, perfection of the nation. The Germans in particular told tales that pushed this nationlistic agenda. So, in late 1914, no story held so much power for citizens of the Reich than the idealistic university students marching into the face of industrial battle at Langemarck. Legend had it that twenty-thousand well-educated young Germans not only bravely attacked the enemy at Langemarck, they did so singing rousing nationalistic tunes. This legend of Langemarck became proof for Germans that Teutonic spirit would always, if only eventually, defeat Anglo-French material might. Machine guns could destroy the body, but the German soul would eventually prevail.

However, the Germans were by no means the only ones to look to spirituality to understand this war. The Kaiser’s soldiers may have had song on their side, but the

The Angel of Mons

The Angel of Mons

English were sure they had both history, and heaven, on theirs’. In the early months of 1914, the British public began to whisper to each other that their soldiers were protected from German machine guns not by national spirit, but by national spirits. The Brits relayed fanciful tales that their soldiers on the front were being assisted by the long dead bowman of The Battle of Agincourt. The ghostly bowman came to be known as the Angels of Mons. Obviously, their supposed existence were meant to prove that England could not help by be victorious in this struggle. After all, God was on the English side.

These were national legends that sold better at the homefront than on the frontlines. Individual soldiers often viewed such tales as disgusting propaganda; lies to make the comfy shirkers on the homefront fell better about supporting the war. However, that does not mean the hardened men of the trenches disbelieved in the otherworldly or

Robert Graves

Robert Graves

unexplainable. Over and over, soldiers recorded tales of their run-ins with the supernatural at the front. According to Canadian historian Tim Cook, soldiers’ diaries commonly relay stories of ghostly, uncanny and explainable events. One of the most famous such events was retold by the brother of Wilfred Owen, the great English poet who died
Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

at the front a week before the war ended. Owen’s sibling claimed Wilfred’s spirit appeared to him on a ship at sea the night Wilfred was killed in France. True or not, such stories continued, and often became more powerful, long after the war had ended. In his famous war memoir, Goodbye to All That, Robert Graves told numerous tales of ghosts and phantoms haunting the trenches and homefront.
It seems likely that as the front became more psychologically destructive, such stories became more common.

Now, living one hundred years on, stories of the spooky and supernatural inevitably mark The First World War. It is part of a collective memory of the war. And yet, such legends and myths seem almost unique to the industrial killing of WWI. No other war, in my opinion, has such a feeling of the uncanny or the mythic. In fact, as we drift away from 1914, the wars that scar the world seem less and less mysterious. To look for angels and spirits during World War 2 is laughably strange. To create myths and legends surrounding Vietnam, Algeria, Afghanistan, Iraq or the Balkans seems disgustingly absurd.

World War One really did make us say ‘Goodbye to all that.’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves. ~Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

As a young student in art and art history classes, I was initially perplexed and unimpressed by the artistic tradition of the still life. Tables overflowing with fruits and vegetables seemed strangely lifeless, the “still” in still life feeding my early misunderstanding. Ultimately, I learned to appreciate and revere not only the art form, but the notions that inform it.

Produce stalls at Cleveland’s West Side Market

The West Side Market in Cleveland introduced me to produce stalls stacked high with fruits and vegetables. A field trip in sixth grade remains vivid in my memory because I experienced my first taste of fresh pineapple; the moment revealed canned fruit to be a syrupy sham.

When I worked as a grocery store cashier after college, my awareness of the beauty and complexity of produce deepened and developed; I began to recognize the loveliness of fruits and vegetables: glorious colors, wonderful shapes, infinite textures and sizes.


On the west coast of Ireland in 2002, I rose early and went for a walk to the sea. When I returned the proprietor of the B & B, The Churchfield, brought my breakfast. The sweet Irishwoman created a fruit plate for me, one that miraculously contained only my favorites: grapes, berries, kiwi, and bananas all arranged like a rainbow.

My mother’s traditional “fruit boat” carved from a watermelon filled with diced fruits emerges each Fourth of July. I push past the filler of cantaloupe and honeydew to find the best items. Preferences span the spectrum of red: pink watermelon, red strawberries, and crimson cherries.

The abundance of a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the many things we all relish during the summer months. Biting into a tomato as though it were an apple seems perfectly reasonable. Simple salads seem unspeakably delicious. Farmers’ Markets are a spectacle of the marvels of fresh and local everything.

still-life-1918Diego Rivera

Still Life, 1918 by Diego Rivera

How obvious now to see a still life pulsates as a celebration of plenty—an astonishing abundance—a study in perspective, an understanding of depth, and an initiation into the nature of the relationship of things.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty.

June 28th.  A prominent date in the history of the world. To be more precise, June 28th, 1914.  100 years ago almost to the day.

If you don’t recognize this date, and if it doesn’t ring bells like December 7th, July 4th, or September 11th, let me explain. On June 28th, 1914, a young Serbian terrorist by the name of Gavrilo Princip shot and killed the

Artist's drawing of the assassination.

Artist’s drawing of the assassination.

Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  This assassination set into motion the foreign policy decisions of Austria-Hungary, Russia, Germany, France and England that led to the outbreak of the Great War during the summer of 1914.

The Great War was in no way a ‘good war’.  Greatness signified scale, not quality.  The horror of the war made people hope that it would be the ‘war to end all war.’  In fact, the opposite was the case. The Great War would in actuality be overshadowed 20 years later by an even more extreme conflict in the Second World War.   But to understand the Second, we must investigate the First, because without it, the Second would not have taken place.

With the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the The First World War approaching, I think it only right to put together a series of blogs devoted to this catastrophe of  human folly.


There are only handful of people living today who were alive during the First World War, and most were tiny children at the time. All those who fought in the war, and lived to tell the tale, have long since passed on.  For the vast majority of us today, the war lives on only in written memory and cultural imagination.  Ironically though, the war can seem completely unimaginable.   The sheer scale of the war for anyone under 80 years old (who can remember the even more massive Second World War) is beyond  reckoning.  Since 1960, the Western way of war has become localized and specialized; like much else, war has become professionalized, mechanized, and corporatized. For my generation of Americans who have not been a part of the military (the vast majority of us), war can seem remotely distant; both geographically, and emotionally.

Statistics can paint the picture. Numbers will provide us perspective.


American soldiers fighting in Fallujah

In the Second Iraq War, the ‘Second Battle of Fallujah” was the largest battle fought.  In this battle American, British and Iraqi forces attacked insurgents in the Iraqi city of Fallajuh. The coalition forces fought with 13,000 men. They outnumbered the 5,000 insurgents within the city.  The battle lasted a little over a month. It was deadlier than most engagements.  Coalition forces lost over a hundred killed in action, and 600 wounded, and the insurgents lost about 1500 dead.

These numbers should not be belittled. But, when put into relation to the First World War, Fallujah illustrates the extreme horror of 1914-1918.

Let’s compare Fallujah to the worst of The First World War; The Battle of Verdun.  The Battle of Verdun took place from February 1916, until December 1916.  The

French soldiers at Verdun

French soldiers at Verdun

battle began when German forces attacked French positions east of the ancient fortress city of Verdun.  On the morning of February 21st, the Germans inundated the French lines with over 150,000 men.  In the lead up to the attack, the Germans rained down 2.5 million shells on the French forces.  For 10 months, the two armies slugged it out over terrain that slowly became more and more nightmarishly pock-mocked.  With the dead everywhere, constantly being violently disinterred by artillery, Verdun was often described as a giant charnel house. Being sent into the battle’s front line was understood to be close to a death sentence.  Here is how two different French soldiers described the experience:

You eat beside the dead; you drink beside the dead, you relieve yourself beside the dead and you sleep beside the dead.

People will read that the front line was Hell. How can people begin to know what that one word – Hell – means.

After almost a year of incessant fighting, both the French and Germans lost roughly 350,000 men each.  In this one battle alone, 700,000 men died.  To put that into perspective,

Aerial photo of Verdun fort before and after battle.

Aerial photo of Verdun fort before and after battle.

that is about the number of Americans killed in The American Revolution, The War of 1812, The Mexican-American War, The First World War, The Second World War, The Korean War, The Vietnam War and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….COMBINED.

One battle, Ten months, 700,000 dead.  The First World War would have a thousand more battles, and would rage for over 40 months more.  Those men who died at Verdun would be joined by 9 MILLION others.

It is difficult to wrap your mind around such suffering.

This war’s blood-letting would form our world. In the coming weeks, we will see how.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty

The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time. ~Bill Bryson

Very soon, I will be enjoying the one preposterously pleasant perk I receive for my pains as a teacher: two months off. I’m anxiously awaiting my travels this year, which include a trip back home to Ohio and my first trip to the Pacific Northwest with stays in Portland and Seattle.

Travel brings out the best in me, which is true of everyone else, too.


Traveling renews our sense of our selves. The essential core of people—their inclinations, habits, and predilections—will emerge in full force once entirely engaged in vacation mode. Travel results in self-augmentation in every possible way. A “putzer” will be content to laze around a hotel room until 2:00pm. A shopper will battle the crowds and bazaars with zealous abandon. A night owl will be escorted from bars at 4:00am.

Many people erroneously suppose that they will encounter a life-altering experience whileHawaiitravel on vacation, but this is seldom true. While being on holiday may encourage each of us to let go of our daily routine, expecting a dramatic transformation will only result in disappointment. On your flight to Hawaii, you will not meet a handsome stranger.

I think too often vacations are sold (and bought) as “getaways” and “escapes” from everyday life. No matter how surroundings change, the traveler remains the center of the experience. Although people may leave some reservations behind when they go on a journey, the activities pursued arise from interest and desire, not a lapse of reason. Despite the brilliant marketing campaign, whatever happened in Vegas was intentional. I do not like Vegas (and will never go back) primarily because it is the antithesis of my life, to which I say, “No, thank you.” I do not understand the appeal of Las Vegas since in addition to being completely artificial it is also fundamentally depressing: the luxurious hotels and opulent casinos built on the foundation of lost money. Moreover, gambling with a group is unwise; a lesson learned when sitting at a roulette wheel with my oldest friend’s husband. Every time I won, he lost, and vice versa, which does not make for a pleasant evening among friends.

Holidays are trancroissant-d-or-seatingsformative when we allow ourselves to do and be what we want, thereby illuminating ourselves from within. I’m an early riser. After fifteen years of impatiently waiting in hotel lobbies for friends and fellow travelers, I recently started going to breakfast on my own and returning to collect my group. I fulfill my wish to explore the city and my friends get to take their time. In this way I have discovered remarkable spots, including the terrifically charming Le Croissant D’Or in the French Quarter, to which I will return if I pass that way again.

Ultimately, the genuine, open, engaged selves we display on vacation while exploring happily, accepting heartily, and indulging eagerly simply reveals the phenomenal people we already are.