Yr Wonkette Has The Complete Unredacted NICE THINGS Report!
It's Sunday, and that means it's time to take a break from the workaday stream of awfulness and enjoy something different for a while. Of course, Yr Dok Zoom also had a great big cold most of the week, and my Personal Nice Thing is now being able to breathe through BOTH nostrils. As usual, we have silliness, a few things to read, and of course kittycat and dogger pics. Prepare to be niced!
Fox News Vs. ALL The Countries Of Mexico
This isn't exactly "nice," but it made us larf. Fox News, home of chyrons that misidentify scandalous Republicans as "Democrats," pie charts that add up to 163 percent, and maps that don't work, Behold: An actual longstanding Wonkette joke about racists who assume all immigrants are Mexicans has become a real live Fox News screencap, courtesy of the invaluable Twitter feed @BadFoxGraphics:
And no, that's not 'shooped, as CNN's Andrew Kaczynski confirms. Fox ran an embarrassed correction shortly afterward.
Those responsible for sacking the chyron writers have been sacked. But don't count on Pete Hegseth being replaced by Ralph the Wonder Llama.
Russia's Heroic WW II 'Night Witches'
Here's a Russian Witch Hunt that doesn't involve the Trump administration, or any actual witches. Instead, it's a cool bit of not-well-known World War II history from the Washington Post's "Retropolis" feature, about a Soviet air force scheme that enlisted women to harass German targets from the air. "Night Witches" was
the name the Germans came up with for their nightly terror — 80 or so female aviators from Russia dropping bombs from rickety wooden planes that sounded like brooms sweeping the sky.
These pilots, who flew more than 30,000 sorties, were among the bravest fighters in that terrible, long war.
"One girl managed to fly seven times to the front line and back in her plane," Irina Rakobolskaya, chief of staff for the Night Witches, said in a short documentary for the NBC News education division. "She would return, shaking, and they would hang new bombs, refuel her plane, and she'd go off to bomb the target again. This is how we worked, can you imagine?"
It's a hell of a cool story about bravery and camaraderie in the only nation that officially sent women into combat during WW II. Their planes were mostly obsolete open-cockpit trainers and cropdusters rigged to drop bombs, the women had to wear castoff, re-tailored men's uniforms (and sometimes underwear), and at least one crew member recalled, casually, that if a bomb didn't release properly from the rack, "you just climb out on the wing at a thousand meters and, you know, you just lay flat and you give it a push." (We won't discount the possibility a postwar interviewer's leg may have been pulled there, of course. But it sounds plausible!)
Also, too, check out this obituary for one of the USSR's first female bomber pilots, Nadezhda Popova, who died in 2013 at the age of 91. She was a squadron commander who flew 852 combat sorties -- 18 of them in a single night. The obit includes a little detail the Retropolis story doesn't, about the origins of the German nickname for the aviatrixes:
The pilots achieved a degree of surprise by shutting down their engines in the last stages of their bomb runs; the Germans heard only the hiss of the air flowing across their wings and, likening the sound to that of a broomstick in flight, referred to the women as Night Witches.
"The Germans spread stories that we were given special injections and pills which gave us a feline's perfect vision at night," Ms. Popova told Albert Axell, a historian, in an interview for his book Greatest Russian War Stories, 1941-1945. "This was nonsense, of course," she continued. "What we did have were clever, educated, very talented girls."
A good place to add, "Or so the Germans would have us believe."
History? Did You Say History? Hey, We Have A Book Club Doing History!
We're reading another history book for April, remember? This time, it's UC Davis historian Eric Rauchway's Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, a fascinating look at how Hoover tried to "protect" America from the New Deal, which like every Republican since, he insisted would DESTROY the American way of life. And while the New Deal became reality, Hoover DID manage to make perpetual opposition to social programs a core tenet of Republican ideology, with effects we're still contending with today. And even if you don't read the whole thing, do join us for our two book club meetings right here; we'll fill you in. On top of that, professor Rauchway has generously offered to be involved in the discussion, though we're still figuring out how that'll work. (If you aren't following him on Twitter, correct that immediately -- historian Twitter is BEST Twitter!)
Here is our reading and discussion schedule; we start NEXT SUNDAY!!
April 7: Intro through Chapter 4
April 21: All the rest!
So go get you a copy of Winter War with a nice Amazon kickback to Yr Wonkette! Also available wherever fine books are sold or loaned to readers who don't have excessive library fines!
I'm about halfway through the book, and it's awfully good -- I don't think I ever realized just what an asshole Herbert Hoover was. Like, not just in terms of character -- I can't find the exact tweet, but I think Rauchway says he's never seen any documentation of Hoover ever telling a joke -- but in terms of what he did to try to sabotage Roosevelt. He was not a nice man, as Winter War amply demonstrates.
History? How About History COMICS?
Go read this cool essay by historian Trevor Gertz about using comics to teach history, and about creating history comics. Gertz knows a fair bit about the subject, having collaborated with artist Liz Clarke on a book I need to buy right away, Abina and the Important Men, a graphic history about a young woman, Abina Mansah, who was held as a slave in Ghana -- in 1876, long after Britain had banned slavery. She successfully sued for her freedom in the colonial courts. Gertz had found her testimony in the National Archives of Ghana, used it with great success in a class, and decided the story needed wider exposure.
I wanted to find a way to produce and publish a democratic work that would reach an audience beyond the few academics who would read a peer-reviewed journal article. I needed to build my readers' sense of identification with Abina, and also to force them to do some intellectual work themselves to hear the messages she communicated in her testimony. I also wanted readers to understand that my analysis was just an interpretation of a very real experience, an attempt to get at a deeper truth creatively, but – because of the very nature of the sources – it was not an authoritative history.
Boom: comics. Gertz discusses what kinds of history work well with comics, and some challenges writers/artists face in adapting history for comics (one adaptor of an American Civil War diary solves the problem of not having a photo of the diarist by making all the characters broadly generic comics faces, for instance). Honestly, our only quibble with Gertz's essay is that we wish it were about twice as long!
Like a lot of people in the 80s and 90s, Art Spiegelman's comics memoir Maus turned me into a great big comics nerd, and using it as the focus of a writing class was a fantastic experience, too. Hell, maybe we should make Maus one of our future book club choices! Or perhaps Rep. John Lewis's own three-volume comics memoir March (with former campaign aide Andrew Aydin, and art by Nate Powell), which we have Wonketted about previously. Twice, in fact! Here is Lewis at ComicCon in 2015, cosplaying as "John Lewis in Selma in 1965":
Happily, no one showed up to cosplay as "Alabama State Troopers."
Fine, One More History Thing: Historians At The Movies!
Every Sunday night at 8 Eastern Time, a bunch of people watch the same movie on Netflix and yack about it on Twitter. The weekly shindig is called "Historians At The Movies," but no, you don't need a history credential to watch and gab. For that matter, you don't absolutely need Netflix if you have the DVD or VHS or LaserDisc. Just start that week's chosen movie around the right time, search the hashtag #HATM (I set my browser to show "latest"), and update from time to time. Be prepared for neat insights, like in this discussion of Jaws a few weeks back:
Each week's #HATM flick is announced in advance by U of Minnesota PhD candidate Jason Herbert (another follow for ya!), and you can also find it with that #HATM hashtag. This week's movie is An American Tail, so get ready for a whole lot of sharp immigration commentary!
That's "tonight, Sunday the 31st, y'all.
And after that, if you want, you can always watch Robyn's favorite historical cartoon movie, "The Legend of the Titanic," (which also involves traveling mice) on YouTube.
(Sadly, both movies are blocked in three Mexican countries.)
UPDATE: Next week's Historians at the Movies will actually be SATURDAY at 9 EDT. Movie TBA; check Jason Herbert's Twitter. Din't I already tell yez to follow him?
MORE STUFF YOU SHOULD READ TODAY!
We've only skimmed these, but wow to the wow:
Numero Uno: This Daily Beast thing may not be "nice," but it's pretty darn astonishing. Really, the title alone will tell you whether you want to read further: "Scientology Has a Long, Weird History With Sword Deaths." Here, enjoy the lede:
Before L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology, he wrote what he considered his masterpiece. Hubbard claimed the novella, titled Excalibur or sometimes Dark Sword, was so good that its early readers went insane or killed themselves.
In actuality, little evidence of the sword-titled book exists, leading commentators to speculate that Hubbard (famous for his tall tales) never wrote it.
Numero Two-O: Also too, thanks to a comment by Alert Wonkette Operative "Doug Langley" in yesterday's Weekly Top Ten, check out this neat story about the first paleontological dig to find a pile of fossilized critters that probably died within moments of the meteor strike that killed the dinosaurs -- and 75 percent of life on Earth. Doug linked to this Daily Kos roundup, which recommends this longer read from UC Berkeley.
Because our publishing platform requires us to crop photos to a 3X2 aspect ratio, we feel compelled to share Wonkette Operative "LionGirl92's" complete unredacted photo, because looka that kitty's WITTLE PAW:
It really makes all the difference.
Willamette University history prof Seth Cotlar (you should follow him, too!) has to put a dollar in the Dad Joke jar for this one:
Elsewhere on the Twitters, Nicole Cliffe had to go and ask "What is the funniest thing a pet of yours has ever done?" The replies were, of course, amazeballs.
(Pierogi is the cat's name. No foodstuffs in this vid.)
I like the little flesh-tone bandaid from a grey cat on Pierogi's forehead.
See also this Toilet Dog thread, also in response to Cliffe:
Also worth noting this important clarification:
The whole thread will make you grin, but we want to go to brunch, so here's the last one we'll include:
I just hope Mojo remembered to thank Barack Obama for making it possible for Americans to say "Merry Christmas" again. You know, that phrase is banned in three Mexican countries.
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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.