Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Stephen Foster Remembered

I'd like to talk a little bit about a favorite CD that I purchased earlier this year, Amy Miller and Carl Hudson's "Hard Times: Stephen Foster Remembered."

This is the review I wrote for it on the CD Baby site (

My New Favorite Period Music CD
It is 1864 and, after a busy work-week running the gristmill, a few of us are relaxing on a Saturday evening. A piano and a pump organ are there, awaiting to be played. One of my friends brings his banjo, another has bones. And still, another brought the most special of instruments, her sweet voice. It helps that she can also play said keyboard instruments as well. That's where this CD takes me when I listen to it. I came across it on a fluke and ordered it after only listening to a few samples. The kind folks at CD Baby ensured my copy was in my hands inside of three days and, as God is my witness, I have played this almost daily since. As a citizen/civilian Civil War re-enactor, as well as an amateur social historian of the 19th century, I simply cannot get enough of this disc. This is highly recommended for any lover of authentic sounding parlor music of the middle class.

And, the CD Baby folks said of this CD:
Amy Miller and Carson Hudson have also tried to replicate the way that Americans would have actually heard these works in the 1840s, 50s and 60s, hoping that you enjoy their attempt at a musical time machine to mid-19th century America.

Amy's voice is not of the Linda Ronstadt caliber, which is not a bad thing here (though it is a beautiful voice). And it does fit this music perfectly, as described above, and can make one feel as if they were in a parlor, enjoying a family and friends get together. It definitely adds to the authenticity of our weekly time-travel experiences (yes, yes, I know it's recorded music on a compact disc - we're talking effect here, a mind-travel through time).
I think my particular favorites are when she sings with the pump organ - a true time-travel experience.
And a finer version of "Some Folks" you will never hear!
So, I just thought I'd pass along a bit of info of some very authentic-sounding period music. You would do yourself well to get it.

I will try and review other period music available in future blogs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

One More Political Blog Before the Election

(I will resume my history blogs very soon - just a few more political things I need to get off my chest.)

Don't you love it when you have a political conversation with someone and when you bring up something like the Constitution Party they tell you to get into reality - that a third party can never win. This has been said to me a few times lately. I tell folks that I am not very fond either of the two major political parties - that neither is representing me and my values. Of course, I am told, my values are antiquated. My morals no longer fit in today's society. That I am taking my Civil War reenacting too far and am living in the past.
No kidding - I have been told this! Recently! Just because of my traditional values.
The funny thing is, I have found most people I know outside of reenacting share my values and morals as well. Hmmm! One wouldn't know this by what's printed in the media, now would they?
Anyhow, because I will not vote for either of the two major parties, I am told that I am throwing my vote away.
So, please - - - -
Tell me how voting on my principles is throwing my vote away.
Tell me how voting for the "lesser of two evils" rather than voting for what I do believe in is throwing my vote away.
And speaking of the lesser of two evils, most folks tell me that I am voting for the greater of two evils if I do not choose their party! This comes from both camps, by the way (although, I must admit, the McCain camp is a bit more open to my choice of the Constitution Party over Lord Obama's followers).
Now, even if you actually feel you are voting for the lesser of two evils by picking McCain or Obama, you are still voting evil, are you not? Just one is...ahem...lesser.
Let me make this perfectly clear: I cannot - and will not - vote against my beliefs. Not just religious but moral - from the Constitution Party's web page (
In the first place, a wasted vote is a vote for someone you know does not represent your own beliefs and principles. A wasted vote is a vote for someone you know will not lead the country in the way it should go. A wasted vote is a vote for the "lesser of two evils." Or, in the case of John McCain and Barack Obama, what we have is a choice between the "evil of two lessers."

America has not elected a third party candidate since 1860. Do you know who won the presidential election in 1860? Abraham Lincoln, on the third party Republican ticket! So please don't say voting for a third party is throwing your vote away. Or that, because I brought up an example from the past that it's a bad thing. It's not. We here in the 21st century can learn from the past.
A third party has been elected before - once the word can get out, it can happen again.

Now, am I living in the past for the way I am voting? Am I throwing away my vote?
Maybe in some minds I am, but I will not vote evil. And that gives me a clear conscience.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Still Worshiping Obama?

This whole Joe (Wurzelbacher) the Plumber thing really has me bothered. Just in case you've been living in a cave these last few weeks, here's an explaination:

In Toledo on Sunday, Wurzelbacher told Obama that he was preparing the company, which earns more than $250,000 a year, and said: "Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?"

Obama said that under his proposal taxes on any revenue from $250,000 on down would stay the same, but that amounts above that level would be subject to a 39 percent tax, instead of the current 36 percent rate.

"And the reason why we're doing that is because 95 percent of small businesses make less than 250 (thousand). So what I want to do is give them a tax cut. I want to give all these folks who are bus drivers, teachers, auto workers who make less, I want to give them a tax cut," he said.

Wurzelbacher protested, saying he's been a hardworking plumber for 15 years and why should he be taxed more.

"It's not that I want to punish your success," Obama said. "I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they've got a chance at success, too."

At a later point in the discussion, Obama said: "I think when you spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody."

Scary stuff, don't you agree? I mean, this is blatant socialism.

And it gets even better! Check out what this letter writer had to say in the October 20th edition of the Detroit Free Press:
What do the media do? They go after Joe the Plumber, investigating his personal information regarding income, tax status, and whether he has a plumber's license.

This sends a pretty scary message to those of us who want answers from our politicians: Ask the wrong question and you may become a target of the media.

And another wrote:

As soon as Joe the Plumber (Samuel Wurzelbacher) disagreed with the policies of the media's anointed president (Barack Obama), the witch hunt began. Editors across the nation sent out their minions to dig up any dirt they could find out about Joe. It didn't take long.

Some may disagree with my opinion that the vetting process by the media has been somewhat harsher on Sarah Palin than of Sen. Obama. However, when did the media start vetting American citizens because of their opinions? To publicly embarrass Wurzelbacher and his family is far beyond disgraceful.

And this from Rush Limbaugh: So, the Obama campaign hasn't found anything substantive on Joe the Plumber. The fact that they are looking is an outrage. He's a private citizen. Folks, I advise this once. I want you to do this in the next week. Rent the movie "The Lives of Others" about East Germany in the eighties. Rent the movie "The Lives of Others" to find out what happens, what it's like when a government (or a campaign) keeps track of and investigates private citizens.

By the way, the Free Press announced this past Sunday (Oct. 19) that it endorses Obama for president. Anyone surprised? They based their decision on, ahem, "sound judgment." Oh, I'm sure they put a lot of thought into it. Endorsing someone who has pretty much done nothing. Really. What has he done? Oh, that's right, he speaks for (socialist) "change."
(here's a great article about newspaper endorsements

And here is one of the scariest editorials I've ever seen - look at the flippant way this so-called columnist calls those who disagree with her and Obama racists:

What a sad state in which we live.
I fear for the future of this country should Obama make it to the presidency.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

On the 11th of October, I took my two youngest children (ages 12 and 7) to the Hallowe'en event at Greenfield Village. They both wanted to dress in colonial costumes - Rosalia as the American Girl doll Felicity, and Miles as a colonial boy (not authentically dressed, mind you, but good enough where everyone knew what they were).
Wow! Did the Village do a spectacular (or is it "spook" tacular?) job! Walking around the Village at night is in itself kind of creepy, but add to that the Hallowe'en touch and it becomes scary fun.

No, you don't enter the houses but throughout the Village they have different scenarios taking place. For instance, over at the Edison Machine Shop, a mad scientist scene unfolds as colonial dressed characters shout to the crowd of the missing monster who went "toward the covered bridge!" as they attempt to capture the mad scientist.

You may catch a glimpse of his monsterous creation peeking through the windows of the shop - keep your eyes peeled.
As for the covered bridge, it was misty and very dark on the inside - my daughter loved it (as long as dad was around!). In another scene, a mournful bride sat atop a balcony at one of the houses, moaning in her hideously scary voice for her missing beau;

the headless horseman rode around on his horse, looking for his head; the Grim Reaper sharpened his blade, pointing to his next victim;

a graveyard with a freshly dug grave and its caretaker;

"ghosts" of Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers...and then there were the goody stops along the pumpkin carved pathway where one can meet a knight in shining armor, the Spider Queen, and even Little Bo Peep (the little girls loved this one!), handing out treats to the little ones.
I have barely touched upon all of the goings on. There was much more.
It was scary in a totally fun way - enough for the younger ones to wonder, but "just enough."
If I had one complaint it would be that it was very crowded. It was packed! But, it is a very popular event, and seeing all the little ones dressed up (and even some of their parents dressed in costume) was quite a sight to see.
I would love it if the Village would have an adult-themed event scarier than the children's - maybe taking place later in the evening, say, 10:00, and really give us older folks a good fright. Wouldn't that be cool?
Another very fine holiday event done in a traditional way by Greenfield Village.
Great job!


Stanley Cup - Detroit Red Wings

History in the making - - - - -
A couple weeks ago my son, Rob, and I were very lucky that we were able to have our picture taken with the Stanley Cup at Christ Community Church in Detroit. With the Detroit Red Wings being the 2007/08 Stanley Cup champs, getting our photo with this trophy - and we actually got to touch it! - is a true honor for us, especially for Rob (who, in all his excitement - forgot to wear his Red Wings jersey!).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Call the Farb Police!!

A post on re-enacting etiquette:
If you are "visiting" at another's camp at a re-enactment, whether for the day or if only for a short while, please be courteous and ask, before you plop yourself down, if the owner of the camp minds if you have plastic water bottles, vinyl diaper bag spilling over with modern sippy cups and toys, and non-reenacting friends dressed modern helping you "watch the kids" for the duration.
I have witnessed this re-enacting actrocity many times and it gets me steaming every time I see it. Ha! I've even seen a playpen set up under a fly - a Disney Characters playpen.
As a re-enactor, doesn't that anger you?
As a visitor to a re-enactment, doesn't that anger you as well?
It does me.
For those of us who get ticked at this blatant disrespect, I have a suggestion. At your next group/unit meeting, announce to one and all that your campsite is now "farb-free." No re-enactor is allowed within your "yard" if there is anything farby showing on their person.
I did this at our year end meeting last November and it has, so far, worked. My campsite has been virtually farb-less all season. In fact, in the same way that I have been called a stitch nazi (Stitch Counters Ain't So Bad), I have also been called the Farb Police.
I'll wear these badges proudly, if it improves our hobby!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

And How Long Have YOU Been Into History?

Conversations around the supper table - - - - - - -
Recently I asked my mom, who lives with us, how long have I been into history. She replied that she thinks I came out of the womb into history.
I believe she's right. I cannot remember a time when history wasn't on my mind. Thinking back to the late 1960's (which, I guess, is now ancient history in itself for many!) when I was learning to read, I asked for (and received) a couple of books from the school book fair. One was called "If You Lived In Colonial Times," and the other book was about Christopher Columbus. And I read - as best I could - those two books over and over from cover to cover. Every year from then on, I would purchase more books with a historical theme: "The Cabin Faced West," "The Ghost of Dibble Hollow," "Father's Big Improvements," and others I can't remember at this time, as well as the yearly "Guinness Book of World Records" with lots of historical facts and figures.

Then, in the early 1970's ('73, I believe), the Detroit News celebrated its 100th anniversary and put out a series of replica front pages of the newspaper covering the great events of the previous century. Of course, I collected every one - still got 'em.
And Life Magazine printed a book in the '70's called "The Best of Life," covering the era of the late 1930's through the early 1970's - not exactly my favorite era in history, but it was cool nonetheless.

As silly as it may sound now, I also ate up every TV show that had a historical theme. I say silly because, well, do you remember when Samantha and Darin on "Bewitched" went back in time to the Plymouth Colony? I loved it. How about when Aunt Clara brought George Washington and Ben Franklin to the present? Great stuff! Or when they found themselves in the time of King Henry the Eighth? Not American history, but still history.
If history was involved, I was glued to the set.
Of course, "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" were watched weekly, although I would never admit it to my friends. Even the dumb nostalgia shows like "Happy Days" - not really history - was fun to watch, at least for the first two seasons. And, "Bonanza" was a family favorite, as were any of the John Wayne westerns that were shown. My father and I together would sit and watch every one of them whenever they were shown in this age before VHS and DVD.

Aside from the TV and books, I, without realizing it, sort of practiced an early form of living history. You see, the house I grew up in had two fireplaces and, after reading about how Abraham Lincoln would study by the light of his cabin's fireplace, I tried to do the same. I would turn off all the lights and sit at the hearth with a book and make the attempt to read. It was tough but, I figured if Abe could do it, so could I!
No other of my friends willingly went to this extent to get a feel of what it was like to live in the past. I was the sole nut.
It also helped quite a bit that my mother would burn candles from September through around Easter time. They were normal everyday candles, not the perfumed fancy garbage that are 'in' today. It seemed like we had light flickering from the fire in the fireplace and from candlelight lit our rooms nearly as often as the electric lights. Well, maybe not that much, but it was quite often.
And when I found out that the home we were living, built in 1941, was actually built using bricks from a 19th century building, I was elated! That was close to living in a Victorian home, I felt!

It was during this time (the early '70's) that, while playing outside, I would also pretend to be living in the colonial and pioneer days, as I'm sure other kids did. If it was a good day, I could get a friend or two to play along with me. Our own early form of reenacting, so to speak. And this sort of pretending was especially fun if we were up at the cottage in Lexington where woods and trails abounded. Now that made for great "living history!"
(I would also pretend to be one of The Beatles during this time, but that's another story!)

With me begging and pleading, my parents finally took me, at about age 10 or 11, to Greenfield Village. You would have thought it was Christmas, that's how excited I was. Walking along the cobblestoned and bricked streets of the Village, horses and carriages clip-clopping by, Model T's chugging past, the steamboat's paddle wheel splashing, and the locomotive train ride that bordered the entire Village - I was in heaven. To top it off, visiting inside the old homes and seeing period dressed docents milling about, and also watching the blacksmith - "ol' smithy" - pound the glowing metal into a horseshoe, made for a fine day in the past. I even got a souvenir, of which I still have - a set of picture cards showing some of the houses, cars, and other Village scenes.

Then came the bicentennial year of 1976. What a great time to be a history buff! The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press had weekly articles and specials about America's (and Detroit's) colonial period, as did the TV with the movies and documentaries. Colonial themed festivals and parades also took place that year. Even a replica of an old sailing vessel blew through the Great Lakes.
And I was loving it.

But, like most teens boys, driving and girls took precedence and I left history for a number of years to pursue, well, driving and girls. And Punk and New Wave music, too.

Let's jump ahead a few years to 1982 when I met the girl I would one day marry. Our first date consisted of going to see "E.T." at the drive in movie theater and out to eat at the local Big Boys. Our conversation? Believe it or not, much of it was spent on the topic of music. Then, as the night wore on, we - well, I - turned the conversation to the subject of history. It was more like history lite - I didn't want to scare her off. But, guess what? I discovered she had a passion for traditional crafts and revered the past as well. We both even had the same dreams and hopes of one day owning a real Victorian home and living a traditional lifestyle. No kidding.
The year we were married, we bought our first antique - a mantel clock from the 1880's, and have continued to feed our thirst for antiquing and period living ever since. We, too, burn an awful lot of candles, although we have no real fireplace (yet!).

Of course, we now reenact the era of the Civil War and are able to live in that period - one weekend at a time - much to our pleasure. And, yes, our pseudo Victorian, as I call our 1944 bungalow) is heavily decorated in the mid-19th century style with (mostly) original antiques from that period.

(click the link)

To folks who participate in Living History...

I still collect books of a historical nature. It's funny, however, that the stodgy old history books from school never interested me. They spoke of names and dates, but that always bored me. I always wanted to know about how people lived - how they lived their daily lives from sun up to sun know, social history. That's where most of my historical interests lie. Believe it or not, I didn't do very well in history class in school because of the names and dates, and now, history teachers call on me for information! I love it!

To repeat (for the 2nd time) my favorite quote (from Henry Ford):
"History as it is taught in the schools deals largely with...wars, major political controversies, territorial extensions and the like. When I went to our American history books to learn how our forefathers harrowed the land, I discovered that the historians knew nothing about harrows. Yet our country depended more on harrows than on guns or great speeches. I thought a history which excluded harrows and all the rest of daily life is bunk and I think so yet."
That's exactly the way I feel.


Friday, October 3, 2008


Is anyone else afraid at how the Obama followers worship the man like he's the 2nd coming of Christ? I mean, literally worship. Have you ever read anything the man has done wrong? Has he done anything wrong?
What scares me is when (yes, I say when because McCain doesn't have a chance due to media/Hollywood - Hollywood/media) Obama becomes our president, these worshipers will love everything he does, no matter how socialist it may be, because to them he is all-knowing...god-like.
Now, I am not saying I'm supporting McCain - he is, to me (for the most part), a Republican in Democrat clothing (or vice versa).
But, the accolades for Obama are sickening, and I'm not falling for his "change." He's no different than any other politician in either of the two major parties.
There's no one there speaking to me.
By the way, just this morning I was asked by an Obama supporter if I am better off today than I was 8 years ago. I replied in the affirmative that not only am I doing better, but so is my wife. And my oldest son also goes to college full time AND holds down a full-time job! Wow! Go figure!
Guess what? This person still refused to believe that I was doing better than I was 8 years ago. He actually said he didn't believe me!
But, that's the way liberals work - you must "feel their pain" (to quote their other god, William Jefferson Clinton). They want me to be out of work, broke, lose my house, etc. so I can feel their pain. They would love nothing more.
No, sorry folks, I won't be voting for Obama this November. Nor will I be voting for McCain. But, if you are interested, I plan to click the name of Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party. He will most likely be my candidate of choice.
I won't fall for the Hollywood/media hype of Obama.
And McCain is not the right man, either.
Both are so far off base of what our country stands for that it isn't funny.
If you want to vote true American, go to the U.S. Constitution Party's site - that's where you'll see their platform.
The Constitution Party vote, although small in comparison (but growing) will be my own right to choose who I feel can lead our country down the right path.