More Songs About Buildings And Nice Things
'Lizzie,' high on the 'nip, by Wonkette Operative Sarah Smith

Everything continues to be nuts, but we keep being reminded that in addition to all the anxiety and toilet paper hoarders, there are also the online performances by Yo Yo Ma and the kids playing music for their neighbor. Life goes on, and we're going to get through this with each other's help. So let's do some nice things!

Want To Help Do Some History?

A couple weeks back, we featured one of our favorite current podcasts, Talia Lavin's "Moby Dick Energy," which gives Herman Melville's great big sprawling fishgut-scented epic a close reading, one or two chapters per outing. For the most recent episode, Lavin looked at Chapter 14, "Nantucket," with Sara David, the digitization archivist for the Nantucket Historical Association. Since the chapter is all of four paragraphs, the discussion of the book itself was relatively brief, but there was plenty to say about Nantucket's history, whaling, and, especially, a cool project being run by the Historical Association. The museum has a great big collection of over 400 ships' logs, and has launched an online crowdsourcing project to transcribe as much of the logs' contents as possible, so researchers and casual history fans will have remote access.

Like lots of other crowdsourced archival projects, it's pretty simple: You can see a digital image of a page of a logbook, and then you transcribe it as best you can (the project offers guidelines for format and such). It's not always easy, given the spidery handwriting of 19th Century mariners, but the goal is to make a start, and if possible, have multiple transcribers fill in each others's blanks.

Especially cool: the project includes 11 journals kept by women who accompanied their husbands on whaling voyages; one that Lavin had been reading is mostly pretty routine wind, weather, and ship's routine observations on weekdays, but every Sunday, the diarist let her mind wander a bit more, noting at one point that while at sea, she misses God, who she knows is everywhere, but who felt most real to her in a church back at home.

I didn't have time to complete a page, because I do everything at the last minute, but just looking at a single page from the log of the ship Susan, I ran across a fairly astonishing phrase in this entry for January 22, 1841:

At the end of the discussion of all hands working on the ship's rigging comes this description of the weather: "Sun scalding hot enough to burn young negroes."

Holy shit. How's that for your "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there"?

If whaling journals (or 19th Century handwriting) isn't your cup of chowder, there are a million other online archival projects you can participate in with just a bit of searching. Here's one roundup, and here's a bunch of current projects at the National Archives. FDR speeches. Index cards for military awards and medals. And an "867--page court case involving Charlie Chaplin." And yes, these things do get finished -- the University of Iowa Library's "DIY History" project now has 9154 pages of Civil War diaries and letters completed, but there are plenty of other projects you could hop in and join -- like this month's featured project, a trove of early science fiction fanzines from the 1930s to the '50s. We think we've found a fine way to stay busy this afternoon.

Whether you're getting cabin fever from sheltering in place, or just a big ol' nerd who wants to make the internet bigger, this is neat stuff. Let us know what crowdsourced history projects you find!

Look For The Helpers. Be one If You Can.

During the coronavirus outbreak, both the New York Times and Washington Post are dropping their paywalls for stories on the outbreak and the response. WaPo has a whole section of stories on coping with sheltering in place, like tips for getting access to digital books while libraries are closed, even if you don't have a library card. There's also this handy guide to how you can help others get through all this, from donations to nonprofits, to tips for helping vulnerable seniors.

NPR's "Planet Money" ran a good story last week on how to help out your favorite restaurants, which may only doing takeout or be closed altogether: Gift cards. Economists usually consider 'em a bit of a scam, since many recipients never use the things. But now, they're serving as small, no-interest loans from customers to the small businesses that need help -- and when, let's hope, the restaurants reopen, you can collect your loan in the form of a meal. Have a listen:

Again, if you know ways to help that you want to pass along, let us know in the comments, which we suppose we might allow for the duration.

And Now, It's Twitter Cuteness Time!

ProPublica reporter Jessica Huseman's little dog Walter (named for Cronkite, yes) is a regular star here. Yesterday, Huseman offered a special thread: Walter likes napping on other dogs' butts and he cannot lie. Except he can, on other dogs' butts:

A lot more Walter and dog butts right here on the Twitter Machine.

Steve Martin was right about banjos in 1977:

Steve Martin - Cant be sad while playing the

You just can't play a depressing song when you're playing the banjo. You just can't go "oh death, and grief, and sorrow, and murder." When you're playing the banjo, everything's OK.

He's still right in 2020.

Historian Kevin Gannon's dogs Yoshi (large main dog) and Lulu (auxiliary backup dog, and yes, I stoled those terms from Dave Barry) are also a mood.

Many good dogs lazin' around in sun pics in that thread, including this'n from Carleton U physics prof Andrew Robinson, whom we have now followed because look at #MontyThe Doodle!

Dr. Robinson also gave us permission to include another of Monty's adventures on the sunny floor. Foofy puppy!

Your cat may not appreciate your homebound techno performance

Animal Crossing Metal:

Need a collective movie experience? Historians at the Movies is watching The Natural at 8:30 Eastern on Netflix, and chatting about it on Twitter with the hashtag #HATM. And for the next few however-long-weeks-this-takes, HATM founder Jason Herbert (who you should follow what is wrong with you, follow almost everyone on this page!) is also doing movies on Saturday nights, also at 8:30 Eastern.

We've looked forever for the network news clip (ABC, we think, but we could be wrong) that mashed up the closing scene of The Natural with Kirk Gibson's incredible home run in the 1988 World Series. It aired the weekend after the game. We have a feeling that both of the ones we found on the Youtubes are imitations, but we aren't sure. This is the shorter one, but at 3 minutes, we suspect it may still be too long. (Here's the other one)

Kirk Gibson: The Natural (1988 World Series Home Run)

Robyn brought you the Penguin Tourists yesterday, so here, have a whistlin' walrus.

Remember Normal Cat Pictures, from a few weeks back? They're still having fun with cat pics created by neural networks. Warning: Some look like hideous transporter malfunctions on the starship Enterprise.

I always thought Deb FAObe's second album deserved more love. Stupid corporate radio.

Sherrod Brown's dogs love him, love him, love him:

The transition to teaching online is going just fine.

We still need a teaching moment equal to this 2017 BBC interview.

Children interrupt BBC News interview - BBC

OK, that's all the stuff I have for now. Stay comfy, alla youse!

And now, your open thread!

[Nantucket Historical Association / Moby Dick Energy / National Archives / Medium / DIY History / WaPo / WaPo / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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