Conspiracy Theories: For Better or For Worse

Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. People love to debate and give reasons as to why a certain event couldn’t have gone down in history the way textbooks, or the government, want us to believe. There’s an element of pride in being able to see through the apparent lies we’ve been told and a feeling of success in having “cracked the case,” even if it’s not on the official record. I also believe that people has an inherent desire to impart meaning to random circumstances, making superficial connections between unrelated events. I really believe it’s in the human nature to attach such meaning in order to rationalize and categorize events that occurred that often lack a clear or definitive result. Continue reading

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The Legacy of a Jerk

I listened to an interesting Freakonomics podcast on my drive home today. It was called The Legacy of a Jerk and featured several stories related to people who were, or were made out to be, jerks and how their jerkiness was treated after their deaths.

As historians, it is important to be as truthful and accurate as possible when recounting past events and delving into the lives of people who have passed on. But it’s human nature, and perhaps more of a social more, to not speak ill of the dead. How can we reconcile these two very different approaches to remembering the past? Continue reading

Film Review: The Queen of Versailles

No, not the queen of Versailles, Marie Antoinette (more on her later), but Jackie Siegel, wife of self-made timeshare billionaire David Siegel. The Queen of Versailles follows this extremely wealthy couple as they build the biggest home in America, one that is inspired by the famous Chateau Versailles.

This couple is the ultimate power couple. Photographs of them with famous friends who include everyone from George W. Bush to Donatella Versace to Samuel L. Jackson accent their home and timeshare hotels, showing the audience how influential and wealthy they really are. With seven children, two nannies, a two-story closet and breast implants that are impossible to ignore, Jackie is a woman who lives an extravagant lifestyle that her decades-older husband happily provides her with. David is a man who claims to be personally responsible for George W. Bush taking office and who relishes in the company of beautiful women, especially Miss America contestants. Continue reading

“Good Business is the Best Art” – Some Thoughts on Pop Life

On 11 June 2010, Ottawa’s National Gallery opened their new special exhibit called Pop Life. The exhibit originally came from the Tate Modern and before it opened at the National Gallery, a lot of people said that parts of the exhibit were quite controversial. I had heard before going that certain galleries would be for guests “18 and over” because of some sexual themes, but really just assumed that the so-called controversial aspects of the exhibit were exaggerated, as many things these days tend to be. In the weeks leading up to the opening of Pop Life, the Ottawa Citizen published a series of articles on the exhibit, including one about whether the exhibit was appropriate for children. Well, this just made me even more curious about the exhibit, as I’m certain it did many other potential museum-goers, which may have been the goal. Continue reading