Archive for September, 2009

September 30th 2009
In other diversity news: The New Yorker still safe for pale males

Posted under American history & art & Gender & publication & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

newyorkercoverNancy Franklin, in her review of Jay Leno’s new TV show in the current issue of The New Yorker, writes:

In other diversity news, Leno’s and the rest of the nighttime comedy shows are bizarrely lacking in women writers.  Did a bomb go off and kill all the women comedy writers and leave the men standing?  The other night on the Emmy Awards broadcast, the names of the nominees for best writing on a comedy or variety series were read, and, out of eighty-one people, only seven were women.  Leno has no women writers on his show.  Neither does David Letterman, and neither does Conan O’Brien.  Come on.

Come on yourself, girl:  of all of the other prose writers in the October 5 New Yorker, you’re the only woman yourself!  Continue Reading »


September 30th 2009
Taylor Branch, “The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President”

Posted under American history

clintontapesWow–there’s a lot about Bill Clinton’s presidency that I have forgotten.  Fortunately, President Clinton threw caution to the wind and recorded a series of clandestine interviews with Taylor Branch over the eight years of his presidency.  He approached Branch to ask about his future place in history while still President-Elect, given the state of historical documentation of modern presidencies, and then asked Branch to cooperate in secret meetings to create an oral history of his presidency in the moment.  Branch has just published the resulting book, The Clinton Tapes:  Wrestling History with the President.

The Daily Beast has an article that purports to be a “speed read” of the Clinton tapes with the gossipy parts highlighted, but this roundup looks pretty slipshod to me.  Here are my selection of some of the highlights from Branch’s interview on Fresh Air on Monday:

  1. Bill Clinton reads the footnotes of books.  (I’m not surprised, but I’m still impressed.)
  2. His biggest mistake?   Continue Reading »


September 29th 2009
‘Good people skills’ probably means not telling your supervisors to ‘kiss my a$$,’ unfortunately!

Posted under Gender & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Susan O’Doherty at Mama Ph.D. has some interesting thoughts about the gendered expectations of women in professional leadership positions.  She writes,

A few years ago, one of my clients, “Ellen,” a brilliant and forceful young woman, informed me that she had received a negative work evaluation. I was surprised to hear this, since her reports of her achievements reflected one success after another. “It’s not my work per se,” she clarified. “My actual work is fine. They told me I don’t have good ‘people skills,’ that I’m too abrasive and impatient. They suggested that I go to a coach, to learn how to communicate in a more tactful way. “We agreed that their stated objections were code for “not ladylike enough.”

This client’s job entailed coordinating the work of a diverse and independent staff, some members of which were oppositional and even hostile. It was hard to imagine the Buddha performing her duties without occasional abrasiveness. It was even harder to imagine Donna Reed, or Betty from “Mad Men,” commanding any respect from this crew. Yet Ellen was expected to be both soft/feminine and effective. “Do any of the men get this kind of feedback?” I asked, but we both knew the answer.

What was the more personal answer, though? We talked a great deal about what it would mean to change her “style” — how, on the one hand, it might be a valuable experience to learn other ways of relating; but on the other, she felt she was being told that her personality was unacceptable, and that it was necessary to paint a new, “feminine” face over her real one.

Make no mistake, when they spend this much time worrying you about your “personality” or your “style,” it’s bullying.  The reason they’re attacking the so-called problems with Ellen’s “communications style” is that they can’t find a way to attack her actual work record.  Continue Reading »


September 28th 2009
The word “rape” has been disappeared from the English language

Posted under American history & European history & Gender & local news & unhappy endings & women's history


At least in the coverage of Roman Polanski’s arrest it has!  I keep hearing about how he was arrested in Switzerland this weekend on a 32-year old charge of “having sex with” a then-13 year old girl.  (This New York Times story will stand as representative of the chicken$hit coverage.)  Funny–he was actually charged with rape in 1977 (aggravated with the use of drugs and alcohol to incapacitate the girl), but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of statutory rape.

Here’s something even more inexcusable:  the Denver Post ran a Los Angeles Times story that featured a photo with a caption of the victim in which she is described as the girl who “accused Polanski when she was 13.”  (The Denver Post’s headline in their print and online editions this morning is “Polanski held in 1977 rape case,” however, so “rape” is OK in a headline presumably because it’s shorter than saying “sex case” or “having sex with 13-year old accuser.”) 

Thank you, Kobe Bryant, and your very capable but total dirtbag of an attorney, Pamela Mackey!   Continue Reading »


September 27th 2009
Great art and great ideas, rediscovered

Posted under American history & art

wpahawaiiSpeaking of finding stuff in attics and digging up hoards of Anglo-Saxon treasure, Volunteer Park Ranger Doug Leen (day job, dentist) has worked for decades to track down vintage posters of U.S. National Parks and to recreate them.  Here’s how he got started:

During the fall of 1972 or 1973 in the Tetons, which was my second or third season there. Every year we’d have a cleanup day and every ranger would work on cleaning up after the summer season. My boss called and we commenced to clear out the old horse stalls at Beaver Creek, which were full of stuff laced with cobwebs. 

We were working in the barn when I noticed an old poster destined for the burn pile. It was hanging by a nail up on a crossbeam. I thought it was unique and asked my boss if I could have it for my Jenny Lake park cabin; it later ended up in my house in Seattle when I began studying dentistry. At the time of its “discovery,” there was no huge artistic attraction as only 30 years had elapsed since its publication at the Western Museum Laboratories in Berkeley, California.

wparmnpWith that find, an obsession was born.  You really should check out the hoard of artistic treasures he’s rediscovered and recreated.  (Here’s a tip:  try opening this link in Firefox–when I used IE, I couldn’t see the images on the first page.)  Many thanks to Historiann’s blog administrator, DMM, who sent me these stories–and who’s spent some good times with Famille Historiann up in our local national park, Rocky Mountain N.P.  (By the way, the Boulderfield Shelter Cabin–not an option any longer when you’re climbing Long’s Peak, friends.  That sure looks a lot more cheerful than a lonely tent on the mountainside!)  Continue Reading »


September 25th 2009
Saddled up & ridin’ out today, yee-haw!

Posted under American history & conferences & happy endings

cowgirlhitchsaddleboulderI’m off to the FREAC again–the Front Range Early American Consortium.  It’s local this year, so I’m riding my horse Seminar up to the Flatirons for our meeting in Boulder.  Have a great weekend, friends, and be good to your horses.

In the meantime:  did you see the story about the man on the dole who stumbled upon “one of the most important [discoveries] in British archaeological history” in Staffordshire?  Awesome!  What will his friends in the Bloxwich Research and Metal Detecting Club have to say about this?  What do you dream of unearthing from a field, or stumbling upon in an old farmhouse attic?


September 24th 2009
Food, identity, and personal virtue

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & childhood & class & Gender & Intersectionality & race & the body & women's history

vanillaicecreamI have colleagues who have written articles and books on food history.  I don’t consider food history one of my main subfields, but I’ve learned a lot from food historians, and their work has been incredibly useful to me as a historian who works on the intersections of ethnicity, religion, gender, and identity.  I’ve learned a lot recently, for example, on the consumption of dog meat by Native peoples in the Americas, and how Wabanaki people might have survived on gathered foods in the Maine woods, winter and summer.  (If you find yourself in need of a North woods cure for scurvy, I’m your gal.)  The pretext for all of this Survivor Woman:  colonial edition research is that I’m writing some book chapters about a little girl right now, and I’m interested in her food ecologies because I think food would probably have been something of urgent and pressing interest to her, especially because I’m coming to the conclusion that she was probably hungry more often than she wasn’t.   

All of this seems connected to Anglachel’s “A Taste of Things to Come,” a personal essay about food, social staus, and identity.  Here are a few excerpts, but you should just read the whole thing:

I think a lot about food.

I think about what it was like to grow up not being able to afford the kind of food “normal” people ate.I think about cans from charity. I think about having to shop at cut-rate food stores, buy day-old (“used” in my family’s lexicon) bread, have only non-fat dry milk on the shelf, cheap off-brand margarines on sandwiches, big cans of peanut butter we had to stir to keep the oil from separating, and lunch boxes that had books in them because sometimes there wasn’t lunch. I think about a mother too far gone in depression to care what she served her family. I think proudly about eating Hamburger Helper because I could make it myself and have it ready when Dad got home. I think about the way our meals improved as Dad finally got seniority at his job and his pay inched up. I look at the pantry shelf and wonder if I’m hoarding again.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the varying quality of produce between the IGA, the Trader Joe’s the Ralph’s and the Henry’s Market where I live. I remember, living in New York as a grad student, walking around Balducci’s, eyeing the perfect red bell peppers, then sighing and going to D’Agostino’s or the A&P.
.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      

I think about the way in which grocery stores and shopping lists become political markers of having “made it.”

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      Continue Reading »


September 23rd 2009

Posted under childhood & fluff & weirdness

Here in Colorado, September is supposed to be a golden month:  warm sunny days, and cool nights with great “sleeping weather.”  And, truth be told, we’re pretty spoiled for sunshine all year ’round.  This week has been cool–or rather, cold and rainy (or even snowy!)  I even turned the heat on yesterday because the sun refused to heat my house for free, like it usually does, and everyone was walking around in their winter coats indoors.  (On principle, I have refused to fire up the furnace until Halloween.  Cold temperatures are good for the character and constitution, I think.)

So, this is how we sunlight deprived Coloradoans feel right about now–our bones are feeling soft and ricketty from the Vitamin-D deprivation: 

Thanks to LD for sending this on!

Thanks to LD for sending this on!


September 23rd 2009
Why volunteer labor is too expensive for American universities

Posted under American history & jobs & students & wankers


Tune in, turn on, teach in!

The University of North Carolina to its emeriti faculty who have volunteered to return to the classroom for no pay:  Drop Dead!  (Via The University Diaries–the blue bracketed editorial comments are UD proprietor Margaret Soltan’s.)

In February, an association of retired UNC-Chapel Hill professors sought to help ease daunting budget cuts by offering to jump back into teaching, free of charge.

The response from the university, they say, has been underwhelming.

“It was more than a gesture; it was a well-thought-out offer to the university,” said Andrew Dobelstein, a retired professor of social welfare policy and the group’s president. “I’m quite frankly surprised we haven’t gotten much response.” [Top-heavy with overpaid administrators, Chapel Hill responds to this offer with paralysis. Mouth hangs open. Doesn't know what to do. In its world, people don't behave this way. Doesn't understand what has happened. It doesn't compute.]

This year, UNC has had to pare its operating budget by more than $60 million, a 10 percent cut. While most of the reductions have to come in nonacademic areas, students are seeing the effects in classrooms, which have become more crowded this fall.

Whatwhatwhat!?!?  A university administration adverse to faculty performing uncompensated labor?  Oh–that’s right.  Retired faculty really aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer now, are they? 

But for university officials, the offer isn’t quite that simple. Continue Reading »


September 22nd 2009
Call the whaaaaaaaaaambulance–the drunks need a ride to the drunk tank.

Posted under American history & class & unhappy endings & wankers

mojitoLuxury seats at brand-new multimillion dollar college football stadiums aren’t selling out!  (Via Inside Higher Ed.)  But that’s not the only misplaced priority among the Gopher faithful–here’s an interesting tidbit about the University of Minnesota’s new boondoggle:

The poor economy, however, may not be the only reason for the slow sales of premium seats at Minnesota’s new stadium. One culprit, another athletic official suggests, may be the lack of alcohol at the stadium.

“We had a plan in place to sell alcohol in these premium areas but not in the general areas,” said Garry Bowman, a spokesman for Minnesota athletics. “However, the governor said we either had to sell it everywhere or not sell it at all. So, our regents decided not to sell alcohol, given that 20 percent of our crowds are students, most of which are underage. Still, this reversal did have an effect. Some people who were on the fence about getting a suite considered this a tipping point and decided, ‘Maybe we don’t need that suite after all.’ You can’t look at the selling numbers and say it was all the economy.”

Two season ticket buyers who had signed contracts pulled out because of the change in alcohol policy, Crumb said, adding that a third buyer who was close to signing a contract also cited the policy change for not closing the deal.

Awesome!  The rich folk just can’t get drunk enough in their comfy seats.  Super, super, super-duper classy with a cherry and an orange slice skewered by a tiny plastic sword on top!  Continue Reading »


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