Archive for 2009

December 31st 2009

Posted under fluff & happy endings

Happy new year, one and all.  Here’s hoping that 2010 dawns bright and clear.


I’ll see you all in the morning–I’ve got a date tonight so I’ve got to run!

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December 31st 2009
“A Girl’s Life”

Posted under American history & art & childhood & class & Gender & race & students & the body & women's history

smashpatriarchyI watched Rachel Simmons’ A Girl’s Life last night on PBS.  It offered four in-depth profiles of girls from different class and ethnic backgrounds facing four different major challenges in adolescence today:  body image, cyber bullying, violence among girls, and academic achievement.  Interestingly, there was no discussion of sexuality whatsoever–neither homosexuality nor heterosexuality.

My one word review?  Meh.  Longer version:  the show’s four main subjects and interviews with other groups of girls were interesting and their stories poignant, but I didn’t think that their stories were framed in terribly interesting or useful ways.  This is clearly a matter of taste and disciplinary training, but I thought that framing the stories around a theraputic model–using sociology and psychology, primarily–made the show rather limp.  (Then again, PBS’s marketing of the show is aimed at parents of girls, and suggests a somewhat more serious and specific self-help-program-for-your-daughter-and-you than Dr. Wayne Dyer or Suze Orman offer during those endless pledge week marathons.) Continue Reading »


December 30th 2009
Worst. Decade. Ever.

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

Don’t listen to me.  Listen to those crazy anarcho-stoner Libertarians over at Reason!  (Nick Gillespie qualifies his “Worst. Decade. Ever” claim by calling it “the absolute worst decade at least since the 1990s.”  Full disclosure:  I knew Nick in the 1990s, and I’m taking that remark personally.  Back at you, Nick!)

I think the best line in there was Continue Reading »


December 29th 2009
Lessons for Girls #16: Romance is for your pleasure and enjoyment

Posted under Gender & happy endings & women's history

Professor Zero has posted an excellent addition to our occasional series, Lessons for Girls, which I have entitled “Romance is for your pleasure and enjoyment.”  Go read the whole thing–it’s not long, but it’s a great reminder for us girls that our romantic and sexual relationships are for us to enjoy, too.  Here are a few of her words of wisdom:

Since my mid thirties. . . I’ve had recurrent trouble with men who (a) think one should have sex to serve and please them; (b) are not sure one should have it to please oneself, unless that can benefit them with some kind of visual show; (c) are convinced women want them and that they can therefore get away with various types of poor behavior and not be frozen out.

Eventually this shook my sense of reality that I went to see a therapist, who reminded me of ideas (A) and (B) (in the second paragraph). Even though these ideas had once seemed obvious to me, it was amazing to me by that point to have someone confirm that they really weren’t “too selfish.”

.       .       .       .       .       .

So, girls: dates, and “relationships,” should be more relaxed/pleasant than ordeal-like, and it’s OK to be in them for you (as opposed to in service to the other person).

Corollary: beware of advice about how you should “work on” relationships and how they are “work.” Also beware of advice about how you need to compromise more, and how the burden of “communication” is on you.

My friendships don’t seem like work and struggle, they seem like pleasure and growth; my better relationships with men have felt like that too; I would really beware of all the warnings about the “work” of a relationship just because romance is involved; I think these are a trap.

I never had the “pleasure” of dating in my 30s, as I’ve been extremely well acquainted with Dr. Mister since I was 23 years old–but most of my female friends who dated men in their 30s have gone through this–sitting through one bad date after another–and they made the same realization that Zero reports.  Continue Reading »


December 27th 2009
One man’s trash is another woman’s treasure

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & happy endings & race & unhappy endings

leopardsspotsI’ve been looking for this for the past decade–a copy of Thomas Dixon, Jr.’s The Leopard’s Spots:  A Romance of the White Man’s Burden, 1865-1900 (New York:  Doubleday, Page & Co., 1902).  As many of you probably know, it was the first in Dixon’s “Ku Klux Klan” trilogy, an awesomely racist masterwork that was enormously popular with white Americans.  The second novel in the trilogy, The Clansmen (1905) became the basis for D. W. Griffith’s movie, The Birth of a Nation (1915).  The Leopard’s Spots is Dixon’s retort, fifty years after the fact, to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), only this time Tom isn’t a slave but rather a poor white Southern man whose family is victimized by black men, and Simon Legree isn’t a wicked Southern overseer, but instead is a white liberal who abets the political ambitions of black men during Reconstruction.  (The source for the above information, as well as a detailed plot summary, is available at Documenting the American South.)  Continue Reading »


December 26th 2009
Christmas wrap-up and orange alert, 2009

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Dolls & fluff & wankers

Well, it’s been quite a holiday here in the ancestral homeland–everyone got here safely for the holiday celebrations, but it looks like our ride home next week will be a little more complicated, thanks to the latest wannbe-Jihadi’s attempt on an American airliner.  Thanks a lot, a$$hole!  We still have to take our frakkin’ shoes off every time we go through airport security eight years after “shoe bomber” a$$hole Richard Reid tried to set his chucks alight.  I wonder what new meaningless ritual inconvenience awaits us now?  Let me guess:  no more pixie sticks and juice boxes allowed in our carry-on bags, because this a$$hole tried to mix a powder with a liquid.  (Does Homeland Security know about the explosive properties of Pop Rocks?  Because I don’t want to fly if anyone is carrying Pop Rocks.) 

On a happier note:  here are a few images from our Christmas here in the Northwest Territory: Continue Reading »


December 24th 2009
“On Being a Bad Mother,” by Sandra Tsing Loh

Posted under American history & art & childhood & class & Gender & unhappy endings

annetaintoryouropinionFor those of you who will be doing battle at an airport, train, or bus station near you for your holiday travels, pick up a copy of The Atlantic (December 2009) and read Sandra Tsing Loh’s “On Being a Bad Mother.”  (Some of you may have read her article in The Atlantic last summer, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” in which she used the occasion of leaving her own marriage to ask some provocative questions about the usefulness of marriage as an institution for the rest of us.)  Interestingly, the nominal hook for her “Bad Mother” essay is a review of Ayelet Waldman’s recent book, Bad Mother, and Germaine Greer’s not-at-all recent The Female Eunuch (1970). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tsing Loh finds the whole fashion of modern self-proclaimed “bad mothers” to be more than a little twee.  As she explains,

[t]hen again, my view is biased, as I myself am not just an imperfect mother, I am a badmother. I am bad not in that fluttery, anxious, 21st-century way educated middle-class mothers consider themselves “failures” because they snap when they are tired, because they occasionally feed their kids McNuggets, because as they journal they soulfully question whether they’re mindfully attaining a proper daily work/life balance. No, I am bad because after a domestic partnership of 20 years, when my kids were still elementary-school-age, I fell in love, had an affair, admitted it, and quite deservedly got tossed out of the house on my ass. Currently between homes (my earthly belongings reside in a 10-by-10-foot windowless U-Haul storage unit whilst I alternately house-sit, pool-sit, and cat-sit), I furtively park at the curb of my former home for an extra few minutes after dropping my kids off and, with my laptop, I steal wireless. Approaching 50, I am living a life that is less sunlit [Ayelet] Waldman/[Michael] Chabon than tattered Charles Bukowski.

In short, I am truly bad, in a 1970s way—that decade when women really were bad! Continue Reading »


December 22nd 2009
A family history

Posted under American history & unhappy endings


A history of a family, written in stone.  Photographed at Sanford Cemetery, Lenawee County, Michigan, December 22, 2009.  In case you can’t read it clearly, Continue Reading »


December 20th 2009
Dear Former Students,

Posted under students & unhappy endings


Mr. Peabody, Sherman, and the Wayback Machine

Thanks for writing–I always enjoy getting e-mails from my students.  However, when you write to me after your final grades have been posted asking “if there’s something [you] can do” to improve your grade, I have to wonder.  Are you offering me a bribe?  (What do you have that you think I would possibly want?  Actually, I’m kind of curious about that–but believe me, you don’t have anything that I want.)  Or, are you simply unclear on the concept of final grades?

The only thing you could possibly do at this point is to invent a time machine to take yourself back to August or September, and then come to class every day and do all of the assigned reading and writing assignments.  Continue Reading »


December 19th 2009
Saturday round-up: happy holidays & happy trails! edition

Posted under American history & jobs & race & unhappy endings

elvgrenxmasHistoriann et famille are off to celebrate the holidays in our special, special way:  with too much sugar, fat, a Jell-o salad or two, and “the airing of the grievances,” Festivus-style.  And lots and lots of bourbon–you know, for the children.  I hope all of you are somewhere you want to be this year, with people you want to be with.  (And if you’re not, then I hope your travels will be short!)

What’s in this box?  Salted caramels?  An I-Pod?  A NEW CAR??

While our wagon makes it way East, here are a few tidbits out there on the world-wide non peer-reviewed internets that just might keep you clicking back for more:


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