Archive for August, 2009

August 25th 2009
Historiann presents an After-School Special: Young Goodman Wood

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & weirdness

wingedskullgraveyardVery scary stuff, kids–don’t let it happen to you!  Seriously, go read Timothy L. Wood’s dark tale about someone assigning him the authorship of a fairly stupid-sounding essay about Barack Obama that goes straight from zero to Godwin’s Law.  There was our innocent young Assistant Professor and expert in puritan studies last winter, thinking about anything but net-famousness as he plodded his way through marking final exams:

One deleted e-mail marked the beginning of my ordeal. It was finals week, just before Christmas break, when I received a strange message asking me to comment on some kind of online political essay that I had supposedly written. Since I’m not a blogger and make it a point to avoid the many rancorous political forums on the Internet, I immediately dismissed it as spam and hit delete.

But the notes kept coming, increasing in their fervor and frequency, until I could no longer deny it: I was receiving “fan mail.” Some writers called me courageous. Others hailed me as a visionary. A few suggested that I was predestined to play a pivotal role in the apocalyptic events foretold in the Book of Revelation. (Seriously.) Now, over the past 12 years I have published a scholarly book and eight journal articles on various historical topics, but I have to admit that through it all I never even attracted one groupie. So with my curiosity very much piqued, I began an online quest in search of the mysterious article.

I suppose it was inevitable that I was not going to like what I found. There, prominently displayed on a rather extreme Web site, was an essay (information about it can be found here) that likened President Obama to … Adolf Hitler. Underneath the title was the inscription “by Tim Wood.”

Awesome!  Imagine that our Professor Wood is both the duplicitous, Satanic husband and the innocent bride in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.”  His own secret identity was so devious and so secret that even he didn’t even know about it!  Continue Reading »


August 24th 2009
One big happy “Community?”

Posted under American history & art & jobs

communityAs many of you have heard, NBC has produced a comedy series called “Community” that will premiere next month.  It looks to me to do for colleges what “The Office” has done for office culture.  (New Kid on the Hallway has a clip here, which I actually thought looked pretty promising.  It shows a Spanish professor warning his students in no uncertain terms about deploying racial stereotypes about him–not exactly standard fare on broadcast TV, or really, anywhere on TV.  Just click and watch people–it’s a free laugh!)  Inside Higher Ed has a roundup today of (mixed) reviews from community college administrators, faculty, and students.

I’ve long observed that in spite of what I see as the near-limitless comic potential of academia, our workplace is rarely the setting for TV shows or movies.  Our profession is never examined, romanticized, or glamorized the way that law enforcement, medicine, or even high school education are.  (This is not necessarily a complaint, just an observation.)  Maybe we should be happy, because when a college professor is a major character, ze is often unattractive and/or revealed to be a corrupt or devious person.  Continue Reading »


August 22nd 2009
Scenes from a more dangerous childhood

Posted under American history & childhood & fluff

kidsmokingI’ve had a lot of conversations this summer with friends around my age that are saturated in nostalgia for our lost childhoods in the 1960s and 1970s.  We survivors of this era of no seatbelt laws (and in some cars, no seatbelts at all!), no carseats, no helmets, knee-pads, or elbow-pads, of forts and long summer afternoons in the woods, and of all of the soda we could drink (plus as many cigarettes we could steal out of our mothers’ purses) had childhoods that must look like science fiction to the children of the 1990s and 2000s.  Whereas most reminicences about childhood rely on the trope that the past was a more innocent time, this childhood looks downright dangerous by comparison to that of the children I know today. 

I came across this blog, Found $hit, when googling images with which to illustrate a post this week, and thought you might enjoy some of the ephemera of childhoods-gone-by.  These images appear to me to date from 1946-1955ish or so–maybe some more expert in midcentury ephemera will correct my guess here.  Warning:  some of these images are NSFMPWTTTS (Not Safe For Modern Parents Who Take Themselves Too Seriously), so can the sanctimony and enjoy the laffs, m’kay? Continue Reading »


August 21st 2009
Tales of money, gender, and the ruling class: Nantucket, 1994

Posted under American history & class & Gender & jobs

nantucketShortly after Dr. Mister Historiann graduated from medical school, we moved from Baltimore to Somerville, Massachusetts so that he could start his residency.  We had that golden month of June, 1994 before he needed to go back to work, and back in the day when we had more time than money, we decided to hop a ferry over to Nantucket with a couple of bikes and a reservation at the Youth Hostel there.  We enjoyed a couple of days hiking, biking, and lazing around on the beach.

For both of us, I think, the most memorable thing about that trip was talking to our fellow youth-hostellers, most of whom were young Irish men and women who had come to Massachusetts on a special visa that permitted them to work for a summer and then return to Ireland.  The trick for most of these kids was to move to a resort area and to find a day job there, so that the beach was right there on their days off.  Most of the young men sought construction work–which as I recall offered decent (although illegal, under-the-table) wages of $15-$20 an hour.  Most of the young women interviewed for restaurant jobs and summer nanny jobs, and the money people were offering for the latter was truly appalling.  Families who were spending $2,000 to $4,000 a week (or more, perhaps much more) to rent a summer house on Nantucket were offering these young women $150 a week to stay with their children 24/7, because of the supposedly fabulous “perk” of having room and board with the family.  (As if having a live-in nanny were more of a favor to the nanny than to the parents, who also had on-call 24-hr. child care.)  I was appalled–talk about your patriarchal equilibrium.  There was no question that the women working as summer nannies, even without the room and board, would never earn them $15-$20 an hour.

Isn’t it fascinating to see what people are willing to spend their money on, and what they’re not willing to pay for?  Continue Reading »


August 20th 2009
We can haz pony now?

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

clauderainsThe Nation is shocked–shocked!–to find that gambling is going on here, with the chief croupier “America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” 

After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. [Ed. notedon't you read your own magazine, dude?  "Suddenly," my a$$.]  That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president’s abrupt retreat on substantive heathcare reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a “public option” health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he’s okay with that.

The White House quickly added confusion to the outrage by insisting the president didn’t really say anything new. He’s just being flexible. He still wants what most Democrats want–a government plan that gives people a real escape from the profit-driven clutches of the insurance companies. But serious power players will not be fooled by the nimble spinners. Obama choked. He raised the white flag, even before the fight got underway in Congress.

(Via the awesome vastness and leftyness of vastleft at Corrente.)  In the past few days since this article was published, the confusion has only grown about where the White House is.  (One thing is for sure:  they thought they put a stake through Howard Dean’s heart, but he lives!  He lives!)  Well, suxxorz:  I love to say I told you so, don’t I?  Continue Reading »


« Prev - Next »