Thursday, June 9, 2011 51 Comments

Slow history extravaganza

(I apologize for the hiatus. As usual, I've been way too busy with the engineering track. The rotary jumbulator now rotates fully, but small sparks keep appearing in the charged ion duct - which of course precludes any activation outside the facility.)
So why not grapple with some slow history? Slow history, which is a lot like slow food but cheaper, is no more than the habit of reading old books, whole and unframed. By "old" we generally mean pre-WWII, or better yet pre-1923 (the copyright cutoff date). By "unframed" we mean: take the work seriously, without "deconstructing" or patronizing.
Frankly: slow history is cool. Isn't Mark Zuckerberg cool? Mr. Zuckerberg is taking slow food seriously. This year, the only meat he'll eat is meat he's killed himself. While morally admirable in every way, this may conflict with your renter's agreement. So why not take slow history seriously instead - and kill your own past?
Indeed the past is quite literally dead. But might it not be listening? You can say one of two things to the past. You can read about the past, or you can read the past. You don't think it sees you, but maybe it does. Do you want to piss it off?
When you read about the past, you say to the past: Past, I despise you. I want to read about you - to remind me how much better my world is without you. And of course, you make a nice undergraduate exercise for training future lawyers and MBAs.
When you read the writers of the past, you tell them: Past, I admire and cherish you. I want to meet you, answer your questions, fill you in on the whole wild world of 2011. I can't do that. But I can read you - and I promise to treat you with the same respect I expect from my peers.
Describing practitioners of both these arts as "historians" is like classifying muggers and policemen as "crime professionals." Indeed if you have a decent 21st-century education, you've spent time enough in the tutelage of these muggers of the past, for there are more history professionals than ever before. (In fact our own era has its policemen as well - few and far between. You won't run into them by accident.)
You think of a hamburger as something you get at McDonald's. Your Big Mac is made of actual beef, no doubt, from actual cows. There is nothing really wrong with it, besides the fact that it's been industrially processed into culinary oblivion.
Chez Panisse will also serve you a hamburger. The difference between fast history and slow history is the difference between a Big Mac, and a grass-fed Niman Ranch with a hand-cut square of aged raw-milk white cheddar. The former is certainly more efficient. You can learn all the beefy and factual facts you care to absorb from textbooks, Wikipedia, and even academic sources. Fast history, like McDonald's, is a magnificent production. All we're saying is that McDonald's is not, and will never be, Chez Panisse.
Is UR Chez Panisse? Chez Panisse is pretty expensive. UR is free, if only because we can just link straight to our beef. And in concert (but not collaboration) with the admirable, if perhaps misguided, humanity-lovers who scanned these works in bulk, we are proud to present our first three Limited Edition Slow History Action Paks, for your summer beach enjoyment - each available exclusively to UR readers at no cost whatsoever.
Our first Action Pak is the only one we've presented so far. This one-step, high-power Pak, ideal for the younger and more flexible mind, delivers a huge triple dose of hardcore 19th-century reaction directly to the upper brainstem. Users, who should not be over the age of 45, are warned to allow two or three days for a complete recovery.
Naturally, we've dubbed this Action Pak, our original and still most popular, the Imperial Reaction Instant Red-Pill Super Victorian Headcharge. The Super Victorian Headcharge contains (in this order):
Sir Henry Maine, Popular Government (1886)
James Anthony Froude, The Bow of Ulysses (1888)
Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets (1850)
Warning! The Headcharge contains the maximum legal dose of undiluted High Victorian reactionary thought. If your usual fare is, say, Instapundit, sip slowly and with caution. If you are still, God help us, a "progressive," God may be able to help you - I'm not sure I can. Try the medicine anyway, if only because you have so little to lose. Even for the prepared, these are difficult works - especially the last.
(Completion of all three works in the Super Victorian Headcharge qualifies you automatically for membership in the exclusive Froude Society - pronounced "Frood." Contrary to some reports, the FS is not a "paramilitary cult," nor do its small decorative armbands constitute any kind of "uniform." It's true that we'd prefer a dictatorship - but who wouldn't these days?)
If you're not ready for a Super Victorian Headcharge - or if you loved it, and wouldn't mind a little top-off - we've expanded our programming to create, for the first time ever, two new Extended Play Slow History Supplemental Action Paks. Despite the name, there is no prerequisite for these experiences, each of which is complete and satisfying in and of itself.
We call our first Extended Pak the Old America Quantum Tourist Psycho Railroad. Profoundly steampunk in every way, the Psycho Railroad slams you into Victorian America with three hardened European travelers, two British and one French. Ride the Psycho Railroad! Oysters served at every hour! You've never taken a trip like this before:
Charles Mackay, Life and Liberty in America (1859) [skip Canada, it's boring]
George Steevens, Land of the Dollar (1898)
Paul Bourget, Outre-Mer (1895)
Don't be afraid to visit Old America - but note that slow history is not always "safe for work." There's a big difference between a period book club and a reactionary sabotage squad. Make sure you and your friends stay on the right side of that line.
Finally, we fear some UR readers have a rebellious bent. Just for them, we've created the Varina's Revenge Sith Civil War Confederate Mindbomb - our first tentative step into this most divisive of American conflicts.
Deo vindice! Now you too, regardless of the premasticated opinions with which McDonald's once supplied you, can grow and learn and change, and become a 21st-century post-Confederate (what separates a post-Confederate from a neo-Confederate? That he gets his Confederacy from Google Books, not the Dukes of Hazzard) in the privacy of your own home.
And private is exactly the way to keep it! The Confederate Mindbomb, like all our products, ships in an unmarked package for absolute discretion. (Again, for advertised results, always read our carefully engineered selections in the order specified - this is especially important with the Mindbomb.)
Charles Francis Adams Jr., Shall Cromwell Have a Statue? (1902)
Adm. Raphael Semmes, Memoirs of Service Afloat (1869)
James Redpath, The Roving Editor (1859)
Being Extended, each of UR's new Action Paks ships with a special Extra Credit Prix-Fixe Dessert, which will add additional flavor but can be skipped by readers on the go. Dessert for the Old America Quantum Tourist Psycho Railroad is Moisei Ostrogorskiy, Democracy and the Party System in the United States (1910). Dessert for the Varina's Revenge Sith Civil War Confederate Mindbomb is Nehemiah Adams, A South-Side View of Slavery (1860).
Readers should use the space below to discuss these fine works - or even suggest their own alternatives. Stick to the format, please.