Archive for October, 2009

October 18th 2009
It’s not called “Mad Women” now, is it?

Posted under American history & art & childhood & Gender & women's history

madmen_8I’ve decided to give Mad Men another try–I really can’t stomach the reality TV shows that have dominated this decade, and I like to reward people who are trying to produce quality dramas for television.  But, since so many of you whose opinions I respect took me to task for my skeptical post on this last year, I thought I’d take another look.  I’m just about halfway through season I, and I have to say that I’m pretty much sticking with my original verdict:  it’s OK for a diversion when I’m stuck in the rec room rotating loads and folding laundry (which is exactly what happened here at el rancho Historiann last night), but I’m a little tired of all of the “hey, in 1960, they did all kinds of stupid and dangerous things, didn’t they?” heavy-handed little in-jokes.  (Like the hugely pregnant women constantly smoking and drinking, lots of drunk driving, and even an aside about feeding peanut-butter sandwiches to children while encouraging them to handle BB guns.  Get it?  Nowadays, we know that both peanut butter and BB guns are equally dangerous!)  OK–we get it!  We’re so much more virtuous and careful now, aren’t we?

One thing I appreciate about the show is its relentless exposure of suburban married misery, although it’s so unstinting that it seems over the top.  Unfortunately, the show is guilty of one of the most irritating things about TV and movies today, which is the relentless focus on men’s lives and men’s stories.  Continue Reading »


October 16th 2009

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & local news & weirdness

Most days, I’m perfectly happy that we keep our TV in the basement out of the way, and that it only gets the bare minimum of cable channels (local broadcast stations plus, for some odd reason, MTV 2, CMT, and Oxygen. As if!) Yesterday and today, I’m really, super-especially happy not to have a TV with the complete cable package.

(I considered posting the video clip here, but I thought that would be abetting the exploitation of the child-named-after-a-raptor who made national news yesterday. If you’re curious, you can see the video at The Daily Beast.)

I don’t care if the “balloon boy” was a hoax or not–how can anyone not see that doing interview after interview with CNN, Larry King, and the Today show (to name just a few examples!) is maybe not what children are all about? Continue Reading »


October 15th 2009
The academic life: movin’ on.

Posted under jobs & local news

forsaleI had an e-mail exchange yesterday with a good friend of mine from when I lived in–let’s call it Winesburg*–Ohio.  He left Winesburg a few years after I moved out to Baa Ram U.  He told me today that the junior scholar who replaced him there really likes her job.  He writes,

Apparently, this new assistant prof loves it and has a bunch of friends also hired at the same time. And my response was, just wait until the friends start moving away. And then I remembered how I really liked [Winesburg] for a couple of years — then [good friends] moved away and then you, and so on.

I’ve been thinking about the transience of academic careers and lives a lot lately–Flavia commented briefly on this in her most recent post, and then I got this e-mail from my old friend yesterday.  Continue Reading »


October 14th 2009
“Get Yourself a College Girl,” 1964

Posted under American history & art & fluff & students

Who knew that “The Girl from Ipanema” was on the soundtrack of the 1964 movie, “Get Yourself a College Girl?”  I sure didn’t–it was wayyyyyyy before my time, but check out this selection from the movie, which features a load of mid-century modern details:

Get_Yourself_A_College_Girl_(1964)(H/t to Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft for putting me in mind of this song.)  The singer is Astrud Gilberto, and I never would have guessed she was such a sweet, young thing. Continue Reading »


October 13th 2009
Pennies from Heaven…

Posted under happy endings & jobs

penniesfromheavenBelieve it or not, there is good news this year for new humanities Ph.D.’s and those in the “‘humanistic social sciences,’ defined as including history, anthropology and such areas as political theory, historical sociology and economic history.”  (I thought history was already included the humanities, and utterly reject the notion that we’re some erstwhile “social science,” but wev.)  Check this out (from Inside Higher Ed:

The American Council of Learned Societies is creating 50 fellowships for new Ph.D.’s in the humanities, who will be eligible for two years of work at top colleges and universities. At a time when many of those on the job market in the humanities are scrambling to piece together adjunct slots with minimal pay and benefits, these fellows will receive $50,000 plus a $5,000 research or travel allowance annually, health insurance, and a one-time $1,500 moving allowance. And their teaching load can’t exceed three semester-long courses per year.

Who gets a shot at these positions? All 60 U.S. members of the Association of American Universities have been invited to nominate candidates who do not have a tenure-track position and who will have received a Ph.D. between January 2008 and December of 2009. 

Continue Reading »


October 12th 2009
Bro-lliant, but a bit brong

Posted under American history & art & Gender



Check out “The Brocyclopedia,” by Matt Young.  (H/t to Michael Moore, also known as Monocle Man.)  Funny and clever–but a bit slipshod on the historical facts.  To wit:

The bro is a category of male most commonly found on the campuses of North American universities and colleges. Bros display the most extreme form of homo-social behavior. They are most typically found in groups of other bros who refer to one another as “bro,” “bra,” “broseph,” or some other term of endearment using the prefix “bro-”. The categorizing of bros is a fairly modern development, but bros as a social entity are believed by many to have existed in some form for centuries.

The earliest known recording of an exchange between two bros was during the 1804 expedition of the Northwest Territory by explorers [Meriwether] Lewis and [William] Clark. The exchange took place when Clark reportedly asked Lewis to, “Be a bro, and fill up [his] Nalgene” with water from the newly discovered Mississippi River.  Continue Reading »


October 11th 2009
Feminism, “Post-feminism,” and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & women's history


It's just too bad we'll still need your help, kid.

Michelle Goldberg’s article about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “Feminism’s Last Line of Defense,” makes the point that she’s the last (and sadly, probably will remain the only) Supreme Court justice who was famous for her feminist work and who was present at the creation of Second-Wave feminism’s important revisions of American law.  (For more on Ginsburg, see this terrific interview with her in the New York Times last July.  What a savvy politician, too–do you see how she makes the points she wants to make, no matter what questions she was actually asked?)  Goldberg writes:

As co-director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project in the 1970s, Ginsburg was a central figure in a string of cases in which various kinds of sex discrimination were ruled unconstitutional. She was famously clever in choosing cases in which discriminatory laws hurt men—one of her cases involved a widower father who couldn’t collect social security benefits available to widowed mothers, another challenged an Oklahoma law that let women buy low-alcohol beer at age 18, while men had to be 21. Presented with victimized men, justices had a way of suddenly comprehending the perniciousness of sexism. Her work resulted in many of the protections later generations of women would take for granted.

Indeed, that’s one reason we’re unlikely to see someone like her again. Ginsburg was seared by personal experiences of sexism, while her work has helped insure that later generations of women would be spared similar injustices. As one of nine women in her Harvard Law School class, she was asked by the dean how she could justify taking a place that would have gone to a man. Justice Felix Frankfurter refused to hire her as a clerk because of her gender. As a law professor in the early 60s, she hid her second pregnancy because she was afraid it might endanger her job.

Goldberg’s point about Ginsburg’s generational perspective is an important one, but I think she is a bit too much of a whig historian here when it comes to the slings and arrows of outrageous sex discrimination being a thing of the past.  Continue Reading »


October 10th 2009
Who ever could have predicted?

Posted under American history & European history & weirdness

Well, I did.  Will the Nobel be Obama’s “Commander Codpiece” moment?

Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize furnishes yet more proof of the enduring fatuity of our times.  Most Americans–and many Europeans, apparently–who really should know better make political decisions based entirely on their feelings, not on objective reality.  Just as many Americans voted for George W. Bush in 2004 because they “felt” he would make them “safer,” so the Nobel for Obama has also been awarded not for concrete achievement but on the basis of the emotions he stirs in some:  “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”  (Emphasis mine.)  Good Lord.

Can we eat Hope?  Will Hope cover your hospital bills?  Will Hope shut down Guantanamo Bay and end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Will some magical Hopey goodness halt the melting of the polar ice caps?  Huh?  How’s that working out for us so far?


October 9th 2009
Friday Roundup: “I could teach you, but I have to charge” edition

Posted under American history & art & childhood & class & conferences & fluff & Gender & Intersectionality & local news

mymarxistfemdialecticI’m off to the Western Historical Association annual meeting in Denver today–while I’m out here are some interesting items to keep you thinking:

  • First up, listen to this interesting interview with Michael Chabon, who compares family life to fandom:  parents are the “main texts,” and their children are creators of fan fiction.  (Go to about 7:30 in the interview).  He also sees fandom as something essential to the human condition (25:00).
  • The C-Rox are heading home for game 3 of the playoffs this weekend with a victory under their belts.  I hope the Phillies bring their long underwear and their footie pajamas, ‘cos it’s butt-cold at 5,280 feet elevation this weekend! Continue Reading »


October 8th 2009
A Woman’s Place Is. . .

Posted under American history & childhood & wankers & women's history

(H/t The Daily Beast.) Thirty years ago, in the spring of 1979, my family drove from Sylvania, Ohio to Washington, D.C. for a vacation during my brother’s and my spring break week from school. I was 10 and my brother was 8, and it turned out to be a civics lesson that was disguised as a family vacation. (My parents were big on the National Parks and monuments as vacation destinations.)

We arrived just as the cherry blossoms were opening, although the weather was cool and cloudy enough that we shivered inside our windbreakers most of the time. I fell in love with the Smithsonian Instituion museums–of course, American History was my favorite. We toured the White House, and also went to the U.S. Capitol to see Congress in action–I met Senator John Glenn, the former astronaut and our then-U.S. Senator in Ohio. I remember watching a debate in the Senate from the visitor’s gallery, and seeing Senator Edward M. Kennedy make an impassioned argument about noise restrictions to protect people who lived near Logan airport in Boston. Continue Reading »


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