Fort McHenry 2 and Walters Art Museum

It has been a long six years since I wrote Fort McHenry I, and now I’m back for seconds. That’s not really quite how it happened. I didn’t even remember I had written an article already about Fort McHenry and I had to google my own site. So there you go. A lot has changed since that first blog post. I joined the Peace Corps. I went to grad school. And most importantly, I got myself a super amazing girlfriend who had never been to Fort McHenry and likes history and stuff. So off we went!

Not a lot has changed since that fateful day six years ago. There is still a very nice video, still a dramatic reveal of the fort at the end, still the dredged-up cannonballs. So that all is very cool. I included the above picture because I noticed there is a dearth of centuries-old hardtack or bread, which I now know, with my age and wisdom, are essential parts of history museums. I also took a picture of the funniest line in the museum, which was (after the War of 1812) “The United States never again attempted to conquer Canada.” That could change, Canada! Watch your back.

The biggest weakness I noticed about the museum this time around however was its pretty uncritical stance on Francis Scott Key. He is still firmly in the Good Guy category by almost all counts. Back during my Plebe Summer at the Naval Academy, we took a YP up to Baltimore for a training event. On the way into Baltimore harbor there is a star-studded buoy to mark the spot where Francis wrote the “Star-Spangled Banner.” As we passed the buoy, we all manned the rails and saluted and stuff to honor such a literary triumph (to get even more side-tracked in my complaint here, they also laud Key for being like, a fantastic poet. The original title of the poem called it “Fort M’Henry.” He couldn’t even figure out a way to rhyme properly the thing he was talking about! Anyways).

But man was Key not an all-around good guy. This Washington Post article outlines all the ways both the anthem and Key were fairly racist. The Land of the Free firmly did not include Black people. The best the museum musters, however, are a few paragraphs off to one side where it notes “Francis Scott Key was a man of contradictions,” saying such deep things like he was against bloodshed but also wanted to defend his country, and as a lawyer he represented both slaveholders and free African Americans. The “man of contradictions” argument I think is a pretty lazy way of avoiding having to take a firm stance on whether slavery was okay or not even if it was 1814. They can do better.

But after the museum we went out to explore the fort. Once again of course we went o’er the ramparts (such a great poet) and enjoyed what was just an absolutely gorgeous day. My super amazing girlfriend had never been to Baltimore before and this was a great way to see how and why Baltimore is still such an important port, and get some sun, and admire some cannons. Although there is an admission fee for the museum and the fort, the grounds are open to the public, and people were using it to walk their dog and read books while eating lunch and lounge in the shade and it was just such a fantastic public space.

Fort M’Henry though was just the first stop in a whole Baltimore adventure. From there we got some lunch and checked out a used bookstore, and then went up to Federal Hill to admire the city and nearly get the car stuck on a dead-end street. After a stop by the wonderful Neighborhood Fiber Co., we finally made our way to the Walters Art Museum.

Baltimore actually has a stunning bevy of art museums, and most at an extremely convenient price of free. The Walters started off as the private collection of um the Walters, and so much of it has a rich person with a hobby vibe, but they have since branched out and the collection is impressive, overwhelmingly so if you have already had a full day of adventures. One of my personal favorite parts of the Walters is the wunderkammer room, pictured above, which is where I draw most of my decorating inspiration from. As you can clearly see from the photo my super amazing girlfriend agrees and we will start doing our own apartment up that way as soon as possible.

Another huge and excellent part of the museum is their collection of Asian art, which is really what the hobby of the Walters was. They were big into southeast Asian art and man it must be wild to be rich, and just let a lot of people know you are willing to buy some Buddha statues, and next thing you know you have hundreds and hundreds of Buddha statues. Now that I think about it though my mom decided one day that she was into otters (this was to fend off her mother’s previous notion that she was into teddy bears), and now she has quite an extensive collection of otters (like, pictures and statues and stuff, not real otters), so maybe we can all glimpse that lifestyle if we really try. Anyways this whole paragraph was just to have an excuse to display the above picture, “Lovers near a Duck Pond,” which, you know, speaking of decorating, I always wanted to have a duck pond.

Anyways I should note that when we were there their big temporary exhibit was the wonderfully named “Majolica Mania.” Majolica is a type of pottery and they really went wild back in the day with the designs and it was extremely impressive what they could do with it. The really exciting part was the extremely colorful lead glaze. My personal favorite pieces was the above set of tea wares because they look like they are tiki and I do love me a tiki aesthetic until I think way too hard about colonialism.

After that we packed up and went home, having had a wonderful day in the wonderful city of Baltimore. It won’t be our last day there, since there is still an aquarium to go to and several boats to visit, but until then, it was a pretty excellent day!

London Missionary Bibliography

The missionaries of the London Missionary Society were a prolific bunch of writers. This post is my effort to put into one place a bibliography of writings by LMS missionaries. Unfortunately I have not gathered the gumption to annotate it.

I have not meant this post to be a list of writings about the LMS, nor is it a list of the numerous other publications that concern my area of expertise (that area is specifically a very small region southeast of Lake Tanganyika), but some closely related writings have crept in. Hopefully I will update this post in the future, but this current list features heavily the easily googleable works of missionaries that have appeared so far in my transcriptions of The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society (1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895, 1896-1900). It does not include articles from the Chronicle (you’ll have to reference my transcriptions yourself), and I am unfortunately sure that it also excludes many ephemera that these missionaries published back in their day. I have marked which ones are available to read online, which is a healthy number actually.

The most glaring gap in this post is the largest collected body of writings on the LMS, ie the London Missionary Society Archives at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I live every day in hope that someone will provide an all expenses paid opportunity for me to hang out at the University of London for a few months scanning those archives so I can upload them to the internet. Anyways please enjoy.

Multiple contributors:

Arthur W. Dodgshun

Edward C. Hore

Annie B. Hore

Walter Hutley

Rev. Harry Johnson

Rev. David Picton Jones

Rev. Cecil H. Nutter

Made a number of bible translations into Bemba.

Rev. William Govan Robertson

Mabel Shaw

I was unfamiliar with Mabel Shaw as I haven’t read that far in the Chronicle yet, and found her while looking for T.F. Shaw. For her works please see this article.

Rev. Alfred J. Swann

Rev. James Baird (J.B.) Thomson

Tall Ship Providence

In all her glory.

Reading this week:

  • Night and Morning in Dark Africa by Harry Johnson

My super amazing girlfriend knows me well, and so for my birthday got us a daytrip on the Tall Ship Providence (she pointed out that even if she didn’t know me well our home d├ęcor, or my half of it anyways, would be a constant reminder of the fact that I like boats). It was slated for, you know, my birthday, but on my birthday there was severe flooding in Alexandria and they had to cancel for that day. Ignore the fact that a boat seems like the absolute best place to be during a flood. Anyways that was the last sailing day of the season, so flash forward until now, when it is no longer my birthday, and we got to go on our boat ride!

Riding around on the Providence was an absolute hoot. We had been worried about thunderstorms and were thinking our trip was going to get cancelled again, but when our 4:30 departure rolled around it was a perfectly nice day. Sure there were a few sprinkles, and the severe lack of wind made it not much of a sailing trip, but the seas (my super amazing girlfriend: “we’re not at sea”) were calm and the views gorgeous.

I spent most of my trip explaining to (explaining at) my super amazing girlfriend what the various parts of the boat were called. This like the bow and stern and gunwhales. I also referred to the rear deck as the “poop” and the crew referred to it as the “quarterdeck,” but she was nice enough to let that slide unmentioned.

The biggest thing I learned on our boat ride is that while it is obvious that this Providence is supposed to be a recreation of an older boat named the Providence, I hadn’t realized the Providence to which they were referring had at one point been commanded by the late, great John Paul Jones! I know I am supposed to have known that already, but I was in many ways a terrible Midshipman. So that was a hoot. This led me to doing more mansplaining at my super amazing girlfriend, relating my favorite motivational story for why people should learn navigation. That story is that our buddy Jones (just John Paul at the time) was on a ship as like cabin boy or something. In those times usually only the captain and the first mate knew how to navigate. This was an anti-mutiny measure. I will not accept any fact-checking on this story. Anyways unusually John Paul knew how to navigate, which came in handy when the captain and first mate promptly died of yellow fever. He got the ship safely back to port, and the shipowners were so grateful they made him captain and he lived happily ever after (until he had to kill a guy and flee to America and hid his identity by craftily tacking “Jones” onto his name). Know how to navigate!

Upon learning this I sort of hoped we would find ourselves in a similar scenario. Specifically I was thinking that maybe those thunderstorms would hit and then I would have to come to the rescue. To prepare, I spent the rest of the voyage doing my best John Paul Jones poses, as you can clearly see above.

But back to boating. We launched from the DC Wharf and motored slowly down the Potomac. The crew did their jolly best to give us a great sailing experience, letting the passengers even handle some lines. They kept referring to them as “ropes,” but again in my magnanimity I let that slide. Those lines that were handled in turn handled the mainsails and jib which were raised for the benefit of our pictures, mostly. One of the crew explained that the Coast Guard only allowed them to raise certain combinations of sails lest the ship become too overpowered and capsized. I am sure this explains the reef in the mainsail given that I think at one point we experienced something in the range of 3 knots of wind. Breezy! They also opened a bar which definitely did a lot to contribute to the jolly atmosphere of the boat ride, and I recommend all boats come with bars. My super amazing girlfriend was kind enough to buy me a beer and we really got to pretend like it was 1776.

During the course of the cruise they also took us into the captain’s cabin and down below in the hold to check out those spaces. A fake rat added ambiance and we spent our time marveling at how they fit 70 dudes on a 110′ boat. Doing some back of the envelope calculations, if the submariner happiness factor (trust me here) is calculated by # of dudes / amount of space, they were much happier on this boat than I was on the submarine. All in all a wonderful trip. Eventually however we turned around, and sailed back up the Potomac, where we were treated to a beautiful view of wonderful clouds settling in over um, monumental monuments before docking at the conclusion of our three hour tour, accompanied by exactly zero Gilligan jokes (unfortunately). My super amazing girlfriend is super amazing and it was a great boat ride and you all should do it too.

White House

I had the opportunity, late last year, to visit the White House, and I avoided it because it seemed like a hassle. But just yesterday (as of writing, weeks ago as of posting) on a not so bright Friday morning I visited the White House! I didn’t see Biden, or more importantly Willow.

Entering the White House was a bit nerve-wracking. It was all very straightforward, less security than I thought there would be quite frankly, and the Secret Service guys were great, but I was flanked by off-duty cops sporting Blue Lives Matter gear and that made me uncomfortable as heck. There was a much bigger crowd than I had been expecting given the fact that you have to ask your Congressperson to be able to go on a tour, and I was the only one to dress up. I was going to the White House! So I wore a jacket and tie. The rest of the crowd was much more a t-shirt and shorts vibe, however.

Anyways upon entry you walk past some pictures, in my case of the Bidens’ dogs and again Willow, and you turn the corner after peering out into the Kennedy Garden and then find a gift shop. More like a gift stand, but I picked up a lapel pin for myself and a bookmark for my super amazing girlfriend. I only mention this because I like the thought of the President popping down to pick up something real quick if he needed an easy birthday present or something. Most of the tour would be a lot funnier if the president popped by real quick.

I almost never read ahead, so I wasn’t expecting anything, but the tour is actually very short. In my case it was self-guided, though there was a dude in the ballroom saying stuff about it (it would be weird if he was talking about something else). The big thing in that room was that the chandeliers took a full day each to clean and it required a crane. The public areas of the house are pretty limited. There is a ground floor with a variety of rooms you can peer into, like the China room (which makes me think of that scene where he calls it the dish room in The American President) and the library pictured up top. When was the last time you think anyone read a book from there? Actually my big thing with all the rooms is I wonder if the look will ever get updated. Like it seems Teddy Roosevelt managed to do a major remodel, but when Truman did his remodel he made sure to keep everything as close to the same as possible. But now that it’s like, the way it is, there is no way that President Ocasio-Cortez in 10 (or 2?) years could go in and give the place a minimalist vibe, you know? Can you imagine? This is probably a deeper problem with American institutions but all I’m trying to say here specifically is when my super amazing girlfriend becomes President she is stuck with the wallpaper.

Anyways you eventually proceed upstairs where the rooms go from being functionally-named to color-named. I’m trying to remember if I had any deep thoughts about these rooms. These rooms felt a lot more functional, in that they seem to often have functions in them. The carpets in all the rooms were partially rolled up to prevent us plebeians from walking on them, but it was clear they could be unrolled and then people could stroll about having state functions or whatever. The artwork was mostly focused on portraits of presidents and their families. There were a lot of portraits. In the ballroom was that portrait of Washington Dolley Madison saved, Kennedy looked sadly at some flowers, and Carter and Johnson are next to each other in the main hallway there. There was some other artwork however that was much more my vibe (though I will note again here besides the portraits there was nothing that looked more recent than like 1900 that I remember; when my super amazing girlfriend is President I am going to put up something scandalous) (and maybe even more pictures of boats also):

Anyways after looking at a few more rooms you are almost done. There is what seems to be the designated selfie spot (not pictured) where you can get your picture taken by the friendly guard between two flags, and then you turn around and more or less head out the door. The below photo with the piano is from just inside the door. You can tell the piano came from Roosevelt’s remodel because he really liked eagles and everything he had added came with gigantic eagles (he also had buffalos put into one of the fireplaces). I am supportive of this aesthetic but when I am in charge of decorating I will try to round out the animals included.

But yeah anyways the tour was neat I suppose. I guess things happened in these rooms, but going on the tour didn’t really make me feel any closer to like, the seat of power or anything. Maybe it is because you enter in the side, scurry through the basement, and then hop out what I think is technically the back door to the place. Still, nice they let us American citizens come and check the place out, though an invite to an actual party would be nice sometime, Joe. Anyways I want to end on the note that as I was exciting I spotted mushrooms growing out of the lawn. My only thought there was that if my dad was President, he would still probably spend 10 minutes every time he got out of the Beast picking weeds.