D.G. Martin

European history lessons for North Carolinians

What does a new 800-page history of 20th Century Europe have to do with North Carolina politics of the 21st Century? First, a few words about the book itself, “Out of Ashes: A New History of Europe in the Twentieth Century,” by UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Konrad Jarausch. The book describes what happened in Europe during the 100 years beginning in 1900, when France and England controlled much of the non-European world, and the empires of Germany, Russia, and Austria-Hungary ruled much of the European continent. It then takes its readers through two brutal and disastrous world wars. What followed...

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New Bookwatch season—off to a great start

One thing about the New Year is for sure, and I am celebrating it. A new season of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch begins January 10. The first six programs of the new season include three that feature North Carolina writers who were honored recently in Raleigh at the Bouchercon 2015 World Mystery Convention: Kathy Reichs, Sarah Shaber, and Margaret Maron. Also featured are the writer of another mystery, Ron Rash, and two authors of important non-fiction works, William Leuchtenburg and Damon Tweedy. Charlotte author Kathy Reichs, whom Bouchercon recognized at its “American Guest of Honor,” may have been the...

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Remembering our own Christmas ghosts

I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past. And they are good ghosts. Mostly. These ghosts are memories that come back each season. Some are wrapped around Santa Claus. Others are centered on the baby Jesus and the miracle of his birth. Some blend the two traditions. One of my favorites is about a basketball I wanted from Santa when I was a little boy. I also wanted him to bring a Charlie McCarthy-type ventriloquist dummy, but my mom said I could only ask for one of them. I still believed in Santa and chose the basketball. Then...

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This Season: How Do We Bring it all Together?

How do we put it all together at this time every year? Christmas. That is what I am thinking about. We are used to it of course. It almost seems natural. But it is not. We have just done it this way forever. We are on auto-pilot—usually not stopping to think about whether the things we do are “natural” or not. How would we respond if someone stopped us and asked us this question? “How is it that you treat this season so inconsistently that is seems almost schizophrenic?” We wouldn’t deny it, would we? We would have to...

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Remembering the Pro and Anti Santa Church Factions

It is hard to make sense of Christmas if you try to explain it in one dimension. It is so many things these days. It is a religious holy day, of course–but so much more. Or so much less, depending on how you look at it. A time of magic and dreams come true for children. An orgy of shopping and spending. Festive parties, crowds of people from office or work–seeing each other in different ways. Or jammed into other people’s houses seeing if you can find a few of your friends among their friends. Standing. Eating Drinking. Talking....

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Making friends with our presidents

The president of the United States today sends troops to fight in distant lands for long periods, enters into binding agreements with foreign powers, and takes other extraordinary actions, all without prior approval from Congress. Presidential candidates promise to reverse their predecessors’ agreements on the first day they take office. And they confidently promise to take other dramatic and costly actions unilaterally on that same first day. We have come to expect, even demand, such power plays from our presidents. So it is fair to ask what explains the enormous growth of presidential power from its lowly state in...

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What book for the perfect gift this season?

Have you seen the TV ad with George Foreman? “People ask me all the time, George, how do I get my idea in front of companies?” Well, this time of year people ask me all the time, “DG, what is a good book for me to give this Christmas?” I don’t have one perfect answer. But I can suggest some recent North Carolina related books to consider. Memoirs: Three prominent North Carolina writers shared their life stories in recent books. In “Half of What I Say Is Meaningless,” former state poet laureate Joseph Bathanti tells how a working class...

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Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Chapel Hill in the Bush 41 Biography

“Were you surprised that so much of the public attention to your book has been focused on President George H.W. Bush’s unflattering comments about the roles of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney in the administration of his son, President George W. Bush?” I asked this question to Jon Meacham, author of The New York Times bestseller, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.” Then, I added, “Especially since you did not report Bush’s comments about Rumsfeld and Cheney until the last 15 pages of your 600-page book.” Meacham responded quickly....

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Our holiday longing for home

“There is something about the holidays,” says Chapel Hill minister Bob Dunham, “that stirs memories and longing for home. “Even if they are better in memory than they were in reality.” He explained that student homesickness is not just about freshmen. Longing for home affects everybody. There is an aching for family now separated and for particular places. Dunham told how minister and author Frederick Buechner remembered when another minister asked in a sermon, “Are you going home for Christmas?” The question brought tears to Buechner’s eyes. Such memories more often than not take me back to family meals...

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Thanksgiving and Happiness

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Why? One reason is that it is one of the very few days we have saved just for families and friends. We have done a better job of keeping the Thanksgiving holiday from getting away from us. It has not yet taken charge of our lives. No dressing up with new clothes, no cards to mail, no gifts to buy and wrap, no parties, no alcohol, no high expectations to be crushed, no embarrassing failures to do the right thing. Somehow we have mostly kept it centered around our family dining table. I like...

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