quiltedThis was originally written as a paper for an art history class in curation.

Last year, my birthday fell shortly before David Bowie Is, the “first retrospective of the extraordinary career of David Bowie,” closed its run at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. My wife surprised me with tickets to the long-sold-out show. We packed for a crash road trip, hopped into the car, and drove from Minneapolis to Chicago, listening our way with mounting excitement through the entire Bowie oeuvre during the 10-hour trip.

Viewing the exhibit was an overwhelming rush; the line to enter the museum had stretched around the block. The show was designed to hit attendees through multiple senses – as one walked through the space looking at objects, a location-sensitive headset would blast music or interview clips related to the object under view. The crowd itself – packed into the galleries as tightly as the fire marshals would allow – provided a constant buzz of energy as several rooms full of Bowie superfans communed with artifacts connected with the great man.

We left the exhibit exhausted and happily dazed. But on the drive back to Minneapolis, questions started to bubble up as we talked it over. What had we learned in that exhibit? It didn’t really seem like we’d gotten much in the way of new information. The experience had been intense and fun, but had there been an intellectual point? Had the whole thing really been an enjoyable but ultimately empty wallow in pop idolatry? As months passed and the undigested bolus of David Bowie Is lingered in my head, a slow, slinking surety settled in that it had all been a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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mVOSgUNITED FEDERATION OF PLANETS

 

FORM TST-6- TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT IMPACT ASSESSMENT (PAST)

for temporal displacements to the future, file form TST-7a

 

Filing officer information

Name:

Rank:

Starfleet ID:

Duty vessel:

Stardate of initial temporal displacement:

Stardate temporally displaced to:

Stardate returned to, if applicable:

Displacement involved (circle appropriate): ship / crew / both

Displacement was (circle appropriate): accidental / intentional

Number of Starfleet personnel displaced:

Number deceased while displaced:

Number of non-Starfleet individuals displaced:

Number deceased while displaced:

Answer these questions as completely as possible:

1. List all past-resident individuals encountered during displacement (using red pen, circle names of all past-resident individuals killed during displacement):

 

2. Using a 1-6 scale (1 unimportant, 6 critical), rank all individuals listed in question 1 in terms of their importance to known history:

 

3. Describe, in as much detail as possible, all interactions with past-resident individuals during displacement (attach additional sheets if needed):

 

4. Was any knowledge of future events or technology imparted to past-resident individuals during displacement?

If yes, list future events or technology discussed:

 

5. Were any present-resident individuals left behind in the past?

If yes, list their names and (if relevant) Starfleet IDs:

 

6. Were any past-resident individuals brought forward to the present?

If yes, provide as much identification data as possible:

 

7. Were any physical technological artifacts from the present left behind in the past?

If yes, list:

 

8. In your professional opinion, is it likely that a branching timeline was created by this displacement?

If yes, is it likely that this timeline is dystopian?

 

9. Rank, on a scale of 0-6 (0 is minimal, 6 is severe), your impact on the course of known history during the displacement:

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPLIANCE WITH STARFLEET TEMPORAL DISPLACEMENT REGULATIONS. YOU WILL BE CONTACTED FOR FURTHER DEBRIEFING WITHIN 10 BUSINESS DAYS OF SUBMISSION OF THIS FORM.

goebenI’m about halfway through Barbara Tuchman’s exceedingly excellent The Guns of August; World War I had always been a gap in my 20th century history, and I’ve always heard good things about the book. I’m really happy to say that it justifies the hype. It’s fascinating and – weirdly – hilarious. The more I read, the stronger my impression that Europe in 1914 was under the collective rule of one of the biggest gang of boobs in history, and that if World War I didn’t have such a horrible body count associated with it, it would rank as one of the great comedic acts of mankind.

Consider the case of the German battleship Goeben and her companion, the cruiser Breslau.

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, Goeben and Breslau were stationed in the Mediterranean. Shit hits the fan. War breaks out. Because of a network of pacts, you abruptly have a situation where noted world powerhouse Serbia is allied with Russia who’s allied with France who’s allied with England, opposing Austria-Hungary and their allies the Germans. The Ottoman Empire is neutral as things start out. They don’t like the Russians much, but they have a longstanding relationship with England, and there are a lot of German sympathizers in the Turkish military. They could go either way. And they’re strategically important, since all of the good warm-water ports supplying Russia depend on shipping traffic through the Dardanelles.

So. The Ottomans, a crucial swing state that could go either way. What do the British do to win them over? They seize a couple of completed battleships that they’d been building for the Ottomans. Ace diplomacy there.
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