Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ice Skating

I am not a sports writer. I do like to watch sports, but really only understand football fully. I’ve had many embarrassing interactions with friend about sports that I know nothing about. But what I lack in sports knowledge, I think I make up for with my knowledge of history and the arts. I figure when you’re a writer you have to focus on what you know.

However, when one of my friends got the opportunity to work on a one day internship with Smuckers Stars on Ice, I decided a little variety in a portfolio never hurt anyone. So, for one day I placed myself out of my element, history and the performing arts, and focused on my Achilles heel: sports.

And it was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve had so far. Because it was only a one-day internship, I had the freedom to do whatever really. I learned basics about audio interviews in a class last year, and haven’t had a chance to utilize my skills since. My teacher said I was one of the best in the class, so I decided that would be what I would focus on from the experience. The tough part for me has been how to incorporate sports into my blog.

The initial idea was to do the history of ice-skating, but I’ve done something similar several times before. I’m trying to keep things fresh, and writing another history on how a sport has come to be just doesn’t seem appealing to me. Plus, it’s not exactly timely at the moment.

So I searched around a bit before I found an appealing topic.

Jackson Haines is the man credited with bringing figure skating to America. From what I could find on Haines, he was a dancer and combined these skills with his skating. He was revolutionary because he broke away from the rigid style of the time.

In 1863 Haines proclaimed himself the figure skating champion in America (which in retrospect didn’t mean much since many athletes gave themselves the title). However, the unenthusiastic attitude of Americans caused Haines to leave for Europe where he was warmly received. It was here the international style of figure skating was born, and the style eventually came back to America.

Haines was a revolutionary skater. I wish I could find more on him, but there was very little information I considered reliable. He seemed like a charismatic person and skater.

I did find some other historic figure skating moments at In 1948 Dick Burton won the gold medal. He was the first American to win the gold. In 1998 Tara Lipinski became the youngest Olympic gold medal skater. She was 15.

With this being said, I hope you can walk away knowing a bit more about some of the colorful skaters in the skating history. That being said, I’m going to attach my finished audio files for the skaters I interviewed at the Stars on Ice. Feel free to give them a listen. I’m pretty proud of them, and audio is definitely something I’d like to incorporate into my blog on a more regular basis.

As always, leave comments, and happy history!

Jeremy Abbott Interview

Meryl Davis and Charlie White Interview

Ben Agosto Interview

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elizabeth I v. Mary Queen of Scotts

I’m really sorry I once again missed a week. Last week was finals week, and I feel that does grant me some leeway for neglecting my blog. However, we’ll tack it on as something I should make up, and make it up I will… I’m plotting readers, and it’s going to be well worth the wait.

Enough of that, on to my blog for this week.

Elizabeth I is one of my favorite monarchs, probably because she was the first strong Queen of England, and was able to make England one of the world powers without a man reigning over or with her. Through all of this, one of the things most known about her was her feud with her cousin Queen Mary of Scotland, and the next in line for the thrown of England. For this reason, the two were rivals for years.

For Christmas my friend got me the coolest book ever, and it definitely comes in handy for this post. It is called “Great Rivals in History: When Politics gets Personal.” This book is very valuable for this topic, and actually lays out the complexities of the issue.

The feud was laid by King Henry VIII. After King James V of Scotland died, Henry sought to bring the country under English control, something tired previously by England for hundreds of years. However, there were a couple of problems with this. First, Mary, James’ daughter, was related to Henry. Her grandmother was Henry VII sister, Margaret, thus making her a Tudor. Mary’s mother (also a Mary) was a Guise, one of Frances noble families. Complicating the situation further was the fact that Scotland was a Catholic country, and England at this point was no longer Catholic (Henry brake with the church to marry his second wife Anne).

Henry demanded that Scotland accept him as King and discard all French ties, something Mary Guise refused to do. Mary was crowned Queen of the Scotts when she was nine months old, and moved to France with her mother at the age of five for her safety.

After Mary’s husband (The Dauphin of France) died Queen Catherine de Medici of France wanted to limit the powers of the Guise family and pushed for Mary to return back to Scotland. In the summer of 1561 Mary prepared to return home. She was 19 years old, and almost six feet tall, something unheard of at that age. Before Mary left she sought Elizabeth’s promise of a safe passage through English waters, but Elizabeth would only agree if Mary ratified the Treaty of Edinburgh in which Mary would renounce her claim to the thrown of England. Mary refused to sign the treaty, and sailed anyway.

Elizabeth did not want to name Mary as next heir in case there would be an uprising in England winning her the thrown. When Elizabeth contracted Small Pox she had a change of heart; if Mary would agree to marry Robert Dudley she would agree to name Mary as her heir. Mary dismissed the offer, and instead married Henry Stuart her first cousin and a pretender to the English throne. Henry was a terrible husband; he demanded more power than Mary was able to give him and attacked her when she was pregnant hoping she would miscarry. He also killed one of Mary’s trusted aids in front of her. Henry later died after an explosion in his home went off, although he did not die from that but from suffocation.

Blame for Henry’s death fell on Mary, and she later married her third husband James Hepburn the Earl of Bothwell. This was the final straw for the Scottish people and they rose against her and Bothwell. They captured Mary in June 1567 and forced her to abdicate the thrown to her ten-month old son James. She was held prisoner in Edinburgh and then Lock Leven.

This was not the end for Mary; she escaped and raised an army against the Scottish lords who had imprisoned her. She was defeated and fled to England. Mary was hoping to get help from Elizabeth, but Elizabeth did not want to aid her. The Protestant Lords in Scotland did not want Mary returned and Elizabeth wanted these men on her side if conflict with France escalated.

Elizabeth did not see Mary, and instead imprisoned her in Sheffield Castle, and although Mary was tried for her husband’s death she was never convicted. Mary’s imprisonment stretched on for 19 years, during which Mary was sending letters to King Phillip II of Spain with the intensions of becoming Queen of England and returning the country to a Catholic country.

Ultimately Mary was out of touch with reality; Elizabeth was immensely popular in the country. However Mary did become focus of plots against Elizabeth’s life. As the attempts became more serious, Mary lost the little freedom she had. When Anthony Babington, a Catholic gentlemen, wrote of his plot to kill Elizabeth, and when Mary returned his letter Mary was put on trial for treason. In October 1586 Mary was found guilty, and the punishment was death. On February 8, 1587 Mary was killed. The first stroke missed her neck and struck her skull instead. The second swing severed her neck.

When Elizabeth died at the age of seventy in 1603 she named James Stuart, Mary’s son as her heir.

Why is all this significant? Ultimately it is what happened after Mary’s death which shaped the future: King Phillip II of Spain sending his infamous Spanish Armada to England to teach them a lesson and to overthrow Elizabeth and restore England as a Catholic country. Elizabeth and England defeated his Armada, and Spain’s international prominence began to decline as England’s power increased.

I figure everyone is familiar with Elizabeth I, but I couldn't think of a good painting I had seen of Mary. So I'm including both to be unbiased. Happy history all!

Mary Queen of Scotts

Queen Elizabeth I

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"The Children's Miracle"

I just recently had to write a research paper for my New South class. We were allowed to pick our own topic, something within the scope of the class. This doesn’t really narrow down the possibilities; the class time period is from 1865 to present. It also doesn’t help how difficult it is for me to make decisions regarding topics for papers.

With that, I went in to see my teacher, and he suggested I focus on something with the media to satisfy my second major. Thus, I settled on the media coverage of the Birmingham Campaign of 1963.

May 2 marks the anniversary of the Children’s Crusade, the portion of the campaign when school children began marching and filling the jails in Birmingham. This step became a necessity because of the low adult turn out for the earlier portion of the movement. In order to be effective the Civil Rights leaders realized they needed to effectively flood the system; have so many jailed no one else could be arrested because of the space issue.

In addition to the different phases of the campaign, I learned a lot about the media coverage of the movement. Initially the media coverage (and when I say this I mean the northern perspective) was against the Civil Rights movement. At the time the Cold War was in full swing, and journalists thought the movement leaders were working with the Communists.

The New York Times and Washington Post exert internal influence within the media world. If these papers cover an event, local papers will be more inclined to cover the same story because of it’s importance. Life Magazine also covered the movement with three startling pictures taken by photographer Charles Moore. Thus, my ultimate thesis was the coverage, whether negative or positive, was good because more Americans became exposed to the story and pictures photographers saw.

It was the images from the movement which probably struck the reader more than the articles. After the Birmingham Campaign President Kennedy decided to push Civil Rights legislation to end Jim Crow laws in the South and similar practices occurring in other parts of the country.

These three images I've included were three pictures from the May 17, 1963 edition of "Life Magazine." They are also three of the most famous images from the movement. One thing that bothers me is all the pictures featured older students or adults, which ignored the younger children participating in the movement. While it is an ethical decision many journalists make to exclude children under the age of 18, it is my opinion that the publications excluded a large part of the story by not picturing the younger movement participants.

This is just a summary of what I discussed in my paper, but again I found it fitting that I could summarize a bit of it for my blog this week. I did enjoy writing the paper; it fused my two majors and I enjoyed reading historical sources on the movement and journalism sources reflecting on the coverage of the movement.

This is my last week of class! I’m excited, but a bit sad too. I really did enjoy my classes. I’ve also realized I still haven’t posted anything from my Ancient Israel class, so I may need to tie in that topic for next week. Hope everyone has a great week!