Friday, September 29, 2017

The Glory of Old IU

I am a three time graduate of Indiana University. Two of those degrees are from Indiana University, Bloomington's Department of History. If I arrived in Bloomington with an affinity for History, it was during my time there that I learned what it meant to be an historian and that I wanted to be one. So, it is with a great deal of alumni pride that I get to say that one week from today, on October 6, I'll be spending the day back at my alma mater, talking about my journey from Bloomington to Butler (to current graduate students) and a book talk about Dis-History, my work on Disney and its uses of history. I cannot wait!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

From the Butler Newsroom

Last week I sat down for an interview about Dis-History with the Butler University newsroom.  Here is final result:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Introducing Dis-History!

In 2012, we took our children to Walt Disney World for an entire week.  I didn't know it at the time, but it was the start of a book.  We went back in January 2013 and again in November 2013.  By the dawn of 2014, I was at work.  There were more trips to "the World" ahead for us, as well as several trips to Disneyland, and even to Disneyland Paris.....and even time spent at the Walt Disney Studio.  On one of our final trips, I turned to my wife, got a little choked up, and told her that no matter what else I did, no project would ever be like this one: It truly was something that brought our family together.  It was special.  In that way, it was living up to Walt's dream for Disneyland:  A place where families could have fun together, to forget about the outside world for awhile, and enjoy what truly is real and important.

And so, it is with a great deal of happiness that I announce Dis-History has been released by Theme Park Press:

More on this soon!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Fresh Start

It has been awhile.  Something like two years have gone by since my last post.  It isn't because I've not had things to say or report, rather, it has more to do with being busy at work and home (including running a blog for work).  There is only so much time in the day, and I found writing this blog (though not writing, more on that in a moment) to be something I could sacrifice.  But as 2017 starts to come to a close, I'm ready to begin again.

So, what have I been working on?  If you were reading this blog regularly, you know that I was working on a book that looked at Butler University (in particular, one family) and the Civil War.  I am pleased to report that I have seen the galley proofs for that book (Rebel Bulldog) and that it will be out in the coming months!

But that is not all!  After submitting the manuscript to a press, I started working on a new project--again, one that readers of this blog might have gotten a hint of.  This time, I researched how Walt Disney (and the company that still has his name) uses history in its park system.  Hands down, this was the most enjoyable experience of my professional life in terms of research---I mean, who wouldn't enjoy family vacations that centered around Disney?!?  Plus, I got the opportunity to actually do work in the Walt Disney Corporate Archives!  Spending the day at the studio was awesome.  I am pleased to report that I have seen galley proofs for this book (Dis-History) and that it will be out in the coming months as well!

I might write more about it at some point, but let me say now that the process of working on these two books (2012-2017) couldn't have been more different in so many ways, as well as so educational to me, as an author and historian.  I learned the value of patience.  I learned to stick to my vision of a book (nothing like an editor saying how much they loved the manuscript, only to have internal reviewers withhold support because a book isn't as they'd have written it).  I learned that colleagues who are impressed with one project can be almost equally dismissive of another (I'll let you, dear readers, guess which is which).

With these two projects finished, this summer I've started a new project: Researching how encountering the Holocaust impacted Dwight Eisenhower, both as a general but also later as president.  In so many ways, this project is as emotionally draining (if also rewarding) as the Disney project was uplifting.  There have been days already where I've been overtly thrilled when a student (a scarce event during the summer months) has stopped by the office, or where I've purposefully gotten on Disney blogs just to escape reading about the greatest crime of the 20th century.  But, I'm committed to this project, just like I was the other two, because I think it is a story that needs to be told (and one that really hasn't....yet).

So, I'm happy to be back!  And you can expect more in the weeks and months to come!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

I Grieve

This week, a friend from church's mother died.  Though I never met her, I grieve for him and for his family.  It made me think of my own family, and loved ones we have lost in the past few years.  And so, I grieved anew for the loss of my loved ones, and for those who were even closer to those who have died than I, and the continual ache that such loss of a spouse or child creates.

But this week brought a new reason to grieve as well.  This week Indiana passed its version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, sparking protest and commentary--most blasting my home state for doing so.  As an historian who studies religion, politics, and law in American culture, as well as a Christian, the passage of the act, the reaction to it, demands of me some reaction.  And yet, I always try and be measured and let things digest before I write something (a trait I picked up early in my professional career, which more people on this and other issues should adopt, but that seems unsuited for the world we live in).  While I contemplated, a pall was cast over the place I am (still) proud to call home.

I grieve for the fact that Religious Liberty, a fundamental right and freedom, has become for Americans in the twenty-first century, a political football, to be used and abused by both the Right and Left in our politics.

I grieve for those who feel that this new law will unleash hate and persecution.

I grieve for those who feel that without this new law they will face persecution.

I grieve for those caught in between these positions--good people unfairly tarred as bigots.

I grieve for the increasing litigious nature of American society.

I grieve for those who protested against and for those who defend the new law, blindly--without actually reading it.  Such willful ignorance, and it can be found on both sides, saddens the part of me that still cares for politics.

I grieve for those--including friends and businesses--who have called for a boycott of Indiana because of this law.  Not because of the economic impact such threats carry, nor for the political implications, but because they are targeting Indiana for having passed a law that over 30 other states have versions of, and that originated at the federal level.  While there are differences and equivocations that can be made about these versions of RRFAs, the fact remains that if Indiana's law is bad, so are these.  If there are to be boycotts, then be consistent and work to change the law.

I grieve for decline in journalism I have witnessed in the past few days.  In particular, one newspaper's decision to use quotation marks around "religious freedom"--as if that is something that is not real or a term to be used sarcastically.

I grieve for a culture where celebrity opinions are given equal, if not exalted, weight to elected officials.

I grieve that the very topic of religious freedom has divided Christians, rather than bringing us together with other people of various faiths.

And so, I grieve.  But as this Holy Week begins, with a glorious sunrise on this Palm Sunday, I know that grief is but momentary and temporary.  And so, I have hope.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Part of the Public Discourse

The month of January has been full.  Full of getting back in the swing of a new semester.  Full of getting my children back to school after a fun filled vacation.  And still quite full from all the eating that was done in December!  But it has also been full of public speaking events.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak about the 1920s in Indiana, detailing to a local group the rise and fall of the second Ku Klux Klan.  This week, I talked to another local group about Prohibition in the 1920s, and got to be part of a panel at the Indiana State Museum to discuss Indiana's "blue laws," pertaining especially liquor laws that grew out of Prohibition around Sunday liquor sales.  Next week, there will be another talk to another local group about the second Klan in Indiana.

Why all the sudden interest again in the 1920s? Of course, I'd like to think it has to do with the new literature on the topics (including my own work on the Reverend Edward S. Shumaker--published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2009, and my more recent work on how museums have interpreted the dry years--which was published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2014), Ken Burn's miniseries, and the recent exhibits at places like the Indiana Historical Society and at the National Constitution Center.  There is also the analogies between alcohol prohibition and drug legalization efforts.

But there is more to it than that.  Prohibition forces us to talk about religion, politics, immigration, urbanization, industrialization, the nature of business, race, law, rural life, international relations, the Constitution....the list goes on and on and on! It remains timely, topical, interesting, and very much part of the public discourse.

There are few issues that cut across issues in American History like Prohibition.  That is probably why people come out to hear about over 80 years after it was repealed.  And that  is probably why, even though my interests take me in other directions, I will come back to it again at some point.