Friday, August 10, 2018

Thoughts on Recent Conference

As promised, I have returned to offer some brief thoughts on the conference I attended with two colleagues two weeks ago. "Confederate Icons: History, Memory, and the Future of Our Past" was held at James Madison University and sponsored by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. First, let me say that the facilities at JMU were top notch in every way, and that everyone we encountered was friendly and helpful. Having attended all seven Virginia Sesquicentennial conferences, I believe this was on par with those larger events, and I made sure to tell the organizers that. I am going to post links to each of the presentations so you can watch them yourself if you choose, but here's a brief synopsis.

James I. "Bud" Robertson, Jr. was first up and I hate to say it, but I was terribly disappointed. While his presentation started out moderately enough, he quickly went off the rails and stayed there. His talk lost all professionalism in my mind when he used the oft-heard conservative jab at young liberals, "snowflakes." And that was only the beginning. One colleague pointed out that he cited no historiography past the 1950s, though he certainly knows better. His worship (and there's no other way to say it) of Robert E. Lee and attack on the Episcopal Church was over the top. Basically, he came off sounding like an angry old white guy. There is so much to break down about his presentation, but I'll spare it and you can watch it yourself if you choose. Link

Caroline Janney gave what maybe should have been the first lecture of the day, which put every other presentation into historical context. Her presentation outlined the activities of both Union and Confederate veterans in the years following the war, up to about World War I. This offered a gentle corrective to some of Robertson's thoughts by taking the issue further back in time than he bothered to do. Link

Christy Coleman was nearly the polar opposite of Robertson in her presentation, though she didn't go spinning wildly off into left field. She did have a few miscues/stumbles, but offered the real counterpoint to Robertson. She proved elusive during Q&A, not really answering the one question that was posed, to which everyone wanted to know the answer (regarding the committee recommendations on what to do with Richmond's Monument Avenue). She also invited some pointed criticism during Q&A that the moderators fairly quickly shut down. Link

John Coski came in right where I thought he would - straight down the middle. He was easily the most moderate of the speakers, though not conciliatory in any way. He laid out the facts in a straightforward and honest way, and his conclusions fell squarely where they should have. He was pushed a bit during Q&A, but not to the extent that Coleman had been. Link

Keven Walker wrapped up the day by giving the SVBF official position on the matter. Link

Overall, it was a very balanced conference, with all sides represented in some way. Unfortunately, the audience for this was probably not the audience that needs to hear such reasoned debate. The demographic was about what one would expect for such a conference, 99% white and over the age of 50. Those of us in our 40s felt like the young ones in the room, save for a few grad students. One colleague mentioned on numerous occasions that he was surprised to see armed law enforcement presence at the conference and wondered what message that sent. The officers were JMU campus police and there were two of them in the facility throughout the day. I didn't find this too unusual, surmising that the campus probably requires law enforcement to be present at most events held on campus. Maybe it was their appearance that he noticed. They didn't look like contract security guards (mall cops/rent-a-cops), but were regular, uniformed police, one of whom was wearing a vest. I chalked it up to campus policy, but maybe they were hedging against any kind of unrest. Suffice it to say, it was a very low-key and respectful crowd.

I will definitely keep up with the program offerings from SVBF in the future, as I was very impressed with this event. If they do something that interests you, I would highly recommend attending. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Reimagining the Blog

So its been almost another two years of not checking in here, but I still can't pull the trigger on killing the blog. I have updated all of the administrative stuff and cleaned a few things up, as I move forward with re-imagining the blog. Over the very infrequent postings of the past few years, topics aside from history and the public history field have crept onto the page. I'm fine with that, but I don't want to go on an all-out redesign and start blogging about disc golf and stuff. Any of you who follow me on social media are well-aware of my concert going, craft beer chasing, and disc golfing adventures. So I do want to keep this mainly about history and I will strive to get better about posting occasional thoughts here again. I have updated the "What I'm Reading" section so that's the latest news. In the coming days, I hope to post a synopsis of a conference I recently attended, parts of which have already been well-chronicled by Kevin Levin over at Civil War Memory. Until then....

Friday, October 28, 2016

Long Time, No Post

Well I'll be damned! It's been over three years since I posted on this blog. I remember after the first year of inactivity thinking what I should do about it, and here I am two years later having done nothing. I was prompted to take a look as I was cleaning out bookmarks on my computer. I had a whole folder full of links to blogs, many of which have completely disappeared or, like this one, have been dormant for a year or longer. I deleted three-fourths of the links in that folder and it got me to thinking about this blog and the state of blogging in general. I think the rapid rise of social media has stifled some bloggers (I know it has for me). It seems so much easier to post things on Facebook than to write about them on a blog. There is an element of blogging that I miss, so I'm still not completely sure what I'm going to do with this page just yet. A few notes:

1. I have updated much of the basic info on the blog, including my blog roll, web links, What I'm Currently Reading, etc. So all of the basics are up-to-date.

2. I thought about all that's happened in my life since I last posted on the blog, and the two biggest changes are that I got married in December 2015 to a wonderful woman who is a high school art teacher, and I've become much more involved in the disc golf community. In fact, disc golf has taken over primacy in my list of hobbies, supplanting living history/reenacting as the top hobby on my list. A former boss of mine told me that one day I would burn out on living history considering it is such a large part of my job, and by golly it took quite awhile, but she has been proven correct. I'm not totally burned out on it, but I'm certainly much more selective about which/how many events I do each year. Lots of times I'd rather be at a disc golf tournament or concert than at a reenactment, and that's OK.

So here I am, wondering what to do with this long-neglected blog. I'll think it over for awhile. It may go dormant for another three years (let's hope not) and in the end, I may decide to shut it down after all. In the meantime, I have lots of mid-term exams to grade before heading out for four days for our Division's historic weapons training and certification class, which of course I am in charge of. After that, who knows?

Thanks for reading this long overdue check in! Cheers!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Weekend in WNC - the second highlight of my summer

Two blog posts in one day; crazy, I know. But it's pretty eventful around here lately. July 5-9 was spent in Mills River with my old buddy Glenn Bailey and his family. I had not seen Glenn or anyone else in his family in at least eight years. We had planned a weekend of hiking and visiting as many of western North Carolina's craft breweries as possible. We hiked to waterfalls in South Mountains State Park near Morganton and Dupont State Forest near Brevard. We also took a drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

The more impressive part of our weekend was the fact that we managed to visit 15 breweries in 4 days time, including seven on Saturday and five on Monday. What follows is a brief review of each brewery.

1. Catawba Valley Brewing (Morganton) - Our first brewery was a good one. Though the folks were having some technical difficulties with their cash register system and didn't seem to have their mess together, they had plenty of good beer. I sampled their Mother Trucker Pale Ale and their Scottish ale, both of which were very good. The pale ale was actually excellent. Glenn really enjoyed their red ale. The place seemed to be a local gathering place, with many people coming in and bringing pizzas for dinner. The pool tables were a nice touch. Like many of the breweries we visited, this place was set up in an old warehouse type building, but it was cool.

2. Lookout Brewing (Black Mountain) - One of the newest places we went to, it was located in a nondescript office plaza behind an Asian restaurant. The place was very small, but had a cool vibe going on with some art on the walls and Grateful Dead playing on the stereo. There was also a small outdoor seating area. All of the beers on tap were good, but nothing stood out to me as particularly outstanding. The people were super friendly and it was a nice, laid back place to hang out. Glenn really enjoyed their smoked ale.

3. Pisgah Brewing (Black Mountain) - Another warehouse location with a large outdoor seating area, this is a well established brewery. Cool music helped make the atmosphere. The Toubab International Pale Ale was excellent. I had previously tried their signature Pisgah Pale, which is a very good beer, but the Toubab was even better.

4. Lexington Avenue Brewery, aka Lab (Asheville) - Though they make their own beer, this place was much more of a restaurant in my opinion. I did not try any of their beers (trying to pace myself) but the food was excellent. I had the Cuban pulled pork nachos, which turned out to be a whole lot more food than I had planned on and it was really good. The atmosphere was much different than the other places we visited and I have to say that this is one of those places that just didn't make much of an impression on me (other than the great food).

5. Highland Brewing (Asheville) - Probably the best established of all the breweries on our tour, this was my Mecca prior to arriving. I have loved Highland's beers for a long time and was stoked to finally visit the home of those wonderful brews. Rather than trying one or two beers, I decided to get a flight of six tasters. It was nice just to have a little bit of everything. Unfortunately our visit was cut short as they were preparing for a concert and cleared everyone out. As an aside, we were able to take a tour next door at Asheville Distilling, where Troy & Sons Whiskey is produced. That was pretty cool.

6. Burial Beer (Asheville) - I think this was the newest place we went. It is a small brewery in an old industrial building. The ambiance was much different hear with hard rock/heavy metal music playing, lots of old tools displayed on the walls, and even the tap handles were made out of old tools like a pitchfork, hammer, scythe, etc. The owners were super nice and eager to talk with the customers; they were certainly enthusiastic. All of their beers are high gravity varieties, with nothing coming in under 7% ABV and most above 8.5%. I tried their farmhouse ale, which was nice.

7. Green Man Brewery (Asheville) - After leaving Burial, we walked right around the corner to the well-established Green Man. I had previously tried their pale ale and their ESB, both of which are very good. Green Man featured one of the more unique environments we visited with all kinds of random stuff hanging in the rafters and a ton of interesting stickers on the tap wall. There were also lots of choices, most with unique names. I tried the Ironic Mustache Red IPA, which was excellent. Glenn had the Hops for Teacher IPA and said it was very, very good. One of their specials was an imperial IPA called Imperial Stormtrooper (10.5% ABV). As I heard one customer exclaim, "I can't drink that; I'm a mere mortal!" Our friendly bartender at this location also gave us a few suggestions for other places we might want to try.

8. Wicked Weed Brewing (Asheville) - We wrapped up Saturday at Wicked Weed, which has a great restaurant (the food was really good) as well as a nice tap room and outdoor seating area downstairs. The beer selection here was huge and it would take many trips to try them all. I only had one, but it was a great choice. While I normally don't drink fruity beers I tried their watermelon saison and it was wonderful. A wedge of watermelon was placed on the rim of the glass and the aroma of watermelon was apparent from start to finish. The flavor of watermelon came through better the warmer the beer got. An excellent summer brew!

9. Brevard Brewing (Brevard) - This is a small brewery in downtown Brevard. The bartender was very friendly and most of their beers are of the lighter variety. I tried a flight so I could get a good sample of their beers. Glenn had looked all day Saturday for a lager with no luck, so he jumped all over the lager at Brevard Brewing and he was not disappointed. The pilsner was also very good, possibly the best I had on the entire trip.

10. Oskar Blues (Brevard) - A large warehouse operation, with a tap room named The Tasty Weasel upstairs and ample outdoor seating, this was one of the largest places we visited. My only previous experience with this brewery was Dale's Pale Ale, which I'm not a huge fan of. However, I had two of the best beers I tasted all weekend at this place. Their pilsner, Mama's Little Yella Pils, is really good. However, what may be the best beer I had all weekend was their imperial red ale named G'Knight. I can't even begin to describe how good this beer is and I ended up bringing some of them home with me.

11. Wedge Brewing (Asheville) - Located in the River Arts district of Asheville, I can only describe the atmosphere of this place as "junkyard." It is in a huge old warehouse/industrial building near the railroad tracks, river, and highway. It looks like an abandoned industrial site, but the beer is great. I tried their pale ale and their pilsner (noticing a trend here?) both of which were very good. Glenn had been itching to try their Belgian double, called Golem. It's a big beer at 10.5% ABV, but very smooth - a dangerous combination. It lived up to all the hype and Glenn was very happy it did.

12. Altamont Brewing (Asheville) - This place was recommended by our bartender at Green Man and when we arrived she was actually there, having drinks with friends. Located in West Asheville, this is sort of out of the way, but in an area that is probably about ready to take off growth-wise. The beer selection was extensive, but we wanted to try Altamont's own brews. Glenn got the ESB and said it was very good. I don't even remember what I had, but it was OK. Altamont seemed to cater to a crowd of mostly regulars, but certainly is a brewery worth checking out.

13. Oyster House Brewing (Asheville) - Located inside a pricey downtown restaurant, which I'm sure is very good just by the looks of the food I saw, their beer did not particularly impress. We can say we went there, but I doubt I'll ever go back. Nothing against the place, but I had better beer almost everywhere else.

14. Hi-Wire Brewing (Asheville) - I again tried a flight in order to get a broad perspective on their beers. The Acrobat Spring Ale was excellent and the Prime Time Pale Ale and Hi-Wire Lager were both very good too. I think the spring ale was on par with Highland's famous Little Hump. Everything here was good, but these three really stood out.

15. Asheville Brewing (Asheville) - The tour ended here with dinner. At this point I could only really have one beer and I chose their Rocket Girl Lager. This beer was good enough that I brought a six pack home with me. The food at this place was excellent too.

All of these places had their own unique niche. I have to say I didn't have a bad beer the whole time, but there were a few that stood out as being better than the rest. I'd love to return in the fall when all these places have their fall seasonals on tap. It really would be Oktoberfest!

ALHFAM - The first highlight of my summer

In mid-June I embarked on my first major road trip in my new car. I dropped my mother off in western PA to spend time with her family and I continued on to Akron, Ohio to attend the first three days of the ALHFAM annual meeting. For those of you who are uninitiated, ALHFAM is the Association of Living History, Farm, and Agricultural Museums. It is a national organization with regional subsets and the annual meeting moves around to diverse locations in the US and Canada every year. Each region also holds smaller regional conferences throughout the year as well. The last time I had attended an annual meeting was in 2009 when the organization convened in Winston-Salem, so I was very excited to return.

ALHFAM annual meetings consist of not only conference sessions, but also field trips, hands-on workshops, and all kinds of unique activities that you just have to present to witness yourself to understand. Generally, I think ALHFAM conferences are the best I've ever attended and certainly the most fun. The atmosphere is always super friendly, laid back and relaxed, but professional. For field trip day I signed up for a trip to Cleveland where our group got to tour the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Cuyahoga Valley Soldier's and Sailor's Monument, with a stop for lunch at Great Lakes Brewing. Most of the conference sessions I attended dealt with interpretation, particularly first-person interpretation and the role of historic sites in the ever changing field of 21st century learning. The entire group also took a field trip to two Mormon history sites and a working living history farm. All in all, it's hard to beat the experiences you have at an ALHFAM conference.

But it's not just the quality of the conferences and the excellent learning experiences that make ALHFAM a great organization. What is really special about ALHFAM is the relationships that are created and nurtured through the organization. It really is like a big family (hence the organizational moniker ALHFAMily). Though I hadn't been to an annual meeting in four years, it was as if I had never left. I saw plenty of familiar faces, many of whom I've stayed in touch with through the wonders of Facebook and Linked-In, and it was like we'd only just seen each other last week. I also met lots of new folks who I will look forward to seeing at future conferences. The people of ALHFAM are what makes ALHFAM special. It is a truly warm, caring, friendly, and professional group of folks. When someone asks me what an ALHFAM conference is like, I often say it's like summer camp for adults. The feeling I get at ALHFAM conferences is much the same as when I was attending youth conferences at Montreat Conference Center in the North Carolina mountains as a teenager. By the end of the week you feel like you want to stay forever and never let the moment end. But in the end you know that the feeling can't possibly last forever. The real world awaits, just beyond the conference reach, and you must return to that world with all it's responsibilities. You will take things that you learned and apply them in that real world. And you will eagerly anticipate the next time you are able to be with this special group of people, even if it's four years away. And when you return, you know that you will find the friendship, acceptance, and fun that always attends a gathering of the ALHFAMily. So to all of my friends in ALHFAM, I miss you and I can't wait to see you somewhere/sometime down the road!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Blog Updates

Realizing that it's been three months since my last post, I have decided it's time to stop making promises about how often I want/intend to post on the blog. I've found that most things I might have previously posted here end up on Facebook or don't get posted at all. That being said, I intend to keep the blog up, and will post things as I feel led to do so. I obviously can't promise any sort of regular posting these days so this blog will become more of an occasional thing than a regular one.

So just what the hell have I been up to lately? Lots of stuff. I have started referring to last month as "Around the State in the Month of May" due to all the traveling I was doing. There was a ten-day stretch that saw me on the road for seven of the ten. That trip took me from Kinston to Raleigh-Greensboro-Asheville-Concord-Spencer-back to Kinston-Alamance-Kinston-Southport, before finally coming home for good. Most of my travel for the past four months has been work related. I've conducted seven workshops statewide since mid-February and have assisted numerous sites with events. Of course, I have also found time to work in a couple of concerts along the way (information which has certainly been posted on Facebook).

I'll be on the road in June and July as well, so stay tuned both to this venue and Facebook if you want to know where I'm going to be and why. Thanks for continuing to check in, even if I don't!

Monday, February 11, 2013

What I'm Currently Reading

I came across a review on another blog today of the book I'm currently reading. I'm stepping out of my usual area of interest to read Eric Hobsbawm's Age of Revolution. I purchased all four books in Hobsbawm's series (Revolution, Capital, Empire, and Extremes) while I was in college and grad school, back when I was seriously thinking about focusing on 20th century European history (a very fleeting moment, for sure). However, I've always thought that one day I'd return to the series and read all four books. I started reading Age of Revolution last month and have been reading a chapter here, a chapter there as time allows. Seeing this review this morning was very interesting and sort of spurs me to speed things up a bit and get moving on this book and the series.

If you haven't checked out the blog, The Junto, you really should do so, especially if you are interested in early American history. It is most definitely an academic blog, but there's a whole lot to like about the stuff they are posting. It's well worth monitoring for little nuggets like today's book review.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review - 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism

I can't believe it has been two months since my last blog post. However, considering how busy the last two months have been, I shouldn't be so surprised. My apologies for the long absence. So to start off the new year, I'd like to offer a book review.

I just finished reading Nicole Eustace's 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism. This book offers a fresh take on the War of 1812 and approaches the war from a number of perspectives. This is not a military history; far from it, this book explores early 19th century American ideas about patriotism, duty, and love (love of family, country, etc.). Eustace points out how romantic and familial love were equated with patriotism and love of country. Prowar forces within the United States attempted in various ways to juxtapose their righteous view of America's war aims with the less-than-virtuous British and their Native American (and in some cases, black) allies.

In the end, Americans had to face many contradictions, such as how a nation that espoused liberty still endorsed the institution of slavery, and how their claims to defending their rights to life, liberty, and property rang hollow against their real war aims of territorial expansion and denying the Native American population those same rights. While this book is not necessarily pro-British, it certainly points out weaknesses in American arguments and claims as to what their war aims really were. In the end, Eustace sums up the importance, usually forgotten or swept aside, of this war in real terms. She points out that the legacy of this war is one of vast territorial expansion and Indian removal that persisted until well after the next three American Wars (the Mexican War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War).

If you want to read a solid social and intellectual history of the War of 1812 without getting bogged down in the military intricacies of the conflict this is the book for you. It is very well written and well argued, and will make you think of the War of 1812 in a different light

Friday, October 26, 2012

These Monthly Posts Are Becoming Habit

It seems that I've gotten into a groove of posting about once a month here lately. Much of this is the result of just being extremely busy, all the time. I have already started planning to write one of those "year in review" type letters that some folks write during the holidays and send out to all their friends and relatives. However, I won't be sending it out with my Christmas cards or anything like that. I'm still on the fence about whether or not to put it here on the blog because some of it is going to be very personal in nature. I may post it as a "Note" on Facebook (if that function still in fact exists on Facebook). At any rate, I just think it will help me to clear my head of everything that has happened this year, which has been quite a lot.

For the short term, please take a look at the blog page. I have updated my profile a wee bit and changed the "What I'm Currently Reading" so it is now accurate and up to date. I will be conducting a historic weapons certification class Monday-Wednesday and will try to post some photos and commentary at some point. Of course, immediately after the class I will be heading to Fort Macon for our War of 1812 garrison weekend, followed by moving! Yes, it should be an exciting two weeks around here. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'm Still Here, Part Deux

Once again, I come to you after a month of not posting. Let's just say that September has pretty well kicked my butt and leave it at that. October looks to be even crazier, but hopefully in a better, more positive way. Here's the wrap up:

Good - got a promotion on August 15 (same job, plus added duties for a 10% raise)

Neutral - lots of projects coming due at the same time equals very busy me

Not so good - maternal grandmother and father passed away within four days of one another, leading to multiple funerals and all the stuff that goes along with those kinds of life altering events.

Also lost in all this were two trips to Pennsylvania (one for obvious reasons). I know most of you were already aware of all the things listed above and I hope you'll forgive the redundancy.

Alas, I have not forgotten the blog, but have not had time to really write much at all that isn't required by work. There will be plenty of material to blog about in October and I hope to be able to keep up with all of it.

Finally, for anyone who might be interested, I am now on Twitter (@ADuppstadt). Not sure how much of the blog I'll be posting there as it is already posted to Facebook whenever Networked Blogs is working properly. And, for what its worth, I'm also on LinkedIn. You can find me in any of those locales even when I'm not blogging about something!