Archive for October, 2009

October 8th 2009
Women’s bodies in the crosshairs of “health care reform”

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & Gender & Intersectionality & the body & wankers & women's history

Female_MannequinIt’s interesting (and sadly unsurprising) to me that two of the most powerful and emotional arguments the right-wing is mounting against health care reform have women’s bodies–or, more specifically, their uteri–at the center of them.  First of all, of course, the faithful are being scared to death that increasing government involvement in and funding for health care will mean that Godly taxpayers will be forced to underwrite abortions.  Secondly, we’re told that health care reform will force all American taxpayers to pay for the health care of illeeeeegal alieeeeunnnns and their hoards of anchor babies!  (And characteristically, it looks like most Dems are happy to pander to these boogeymen, rather than defending privacy rights.) 

On the one hand, right-wing opponents of health care reform claim that they shouldn’t have to pay for anyone else’s abortion, even indirectly.  On the other hand, they complain that health care reform will force them to pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants.  In both cases, some people, somewhere are having sex and making decisions about their own bodies and families of which others disapprove and don’t want to underwrite with their tax dollars.

I agree!  I don’t want to have to pay for any medications or procedures of which I disapprove on religious grounds, either.  So, here’s what we’ll ban next:  Continue Reading »


October 7th 2009
Electronic textbooks: mole dishes insider intel

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism


Mr. Mole

I had lunch on Monday with a mole deep inside the world of for-profit academic publishing.  We discussed his industry’s current fascination with e-textbooks:  everyone is developing them and spending gobs of money on them, but no one has figured out how to profit from them.  (Like everything else on the internets, except for Pr()n and gambling!)  Apparently, Texas–one of two states (California is the other) that pretty much dictate what K-12 textbook companies publish–demands now that all textbooks considered for statewide adoption have e-text versions as the price of admission.  That is, having the e-text is a precondition for being considered at all, but they still have to print up the hard copies of the books, too.

The advantages to e-texts without hard copies are obvious to publishers:  no paper, printing, or warehouse storage costs, and absolutely no competition with the used textbook market.  (Used textbooks are Kryptonite to the textbook publishing industry:  they have to make all their money in one year on a new edition–after that, there are so many used copies in circulation that they can no longer compete.)  Mr. Mole said that given the minimal focus most college instructors put on textbooks, e-texts make a lot of sense, since in most disciplines they serve for the most part as expensive reference tools that aren’t read cover-to-cover but rather are consulted episodically on an as-needed basis.  In those cases, e-text versions should be welcome substitutions for the 15-pound doorstopper.

But, would e-texts work in history or literature classes?  I wondered if book-intensive (rather than article-intensive) disciplines in which reading is–or should be, anyway–not just a central methodology but also a pleasureable experience would be so eager to jump on the e-bandwagon?  Mr. Mole and I both agreed that on-line was fine for short pieces (as on blogs) and perhaps magazine-length articles, but not for books that were meant to be read cover-to-cover.  And, I would add, not even on a Kindle or other such gadget.  (After all:  who wants to spend even more time in front of a darn computer screen?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Bueller?)  Interestingly, Mr. Mole was one step ahead of me, and said that he had conducted a focus group with 10 undergraduates at his alma mater recently about e-texts.  Here’s what he found out:  Continue Reading »


October 6th 2009
Big Berks 2011: hip, happening, and now. Dig?

Posted under Berkshire Conference & conferences & women's history


You’ve been waiting for it all year long–and it’s here!  The next Berkshire Conference on the History of Women will be at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst June 9-12, 2011.  The call for papers and all of the details can be found here, and the deadline for proposals is March 1, 2010.  (That’s less than five months from now, girls and boys, so put your thinking caps on!  Tip of the thinking cap to Tenured Radical, who alerted me to this announcement.)

The conference theme for 2011 is “Generations:  Exploring Race, Sexuality, and Labor Across Time and Space.”  From the CFP:  Continue Reading »


October 6th 2009
Autumn comfort foods roundup: come and get it, yee-haw!

Posted under American history & fluff

cowgirlsuppertimeIt’s been really cold (and even rather gloomy and rainy!) here the past few weeks.  Aside from a few golden afternoons of sunshine in late September, this early fall has felt rather wintry.  The mountains are now covered in fresh snow and it’s dusk at 6:30 p.m., so it looks like winter is descending on the front range.

Last week Dr. Mister whipped up a fabulous batch of Best Beef Burgundy Ever, following my recipe quite faithfully, and it was (of course!) the Best Ever.  And for the past few weeks we’ve had a surfeit of milk–some members of the family (who shall remain nameless) are failing to drink up the 2-1/2 gallons of milk we have delivered to the house weekly, so I’ve been forced to go beyond yogurt to find ways of using this nutritious and useful food.  My latest scheme?  Rice pudding!  Bake it first thing in the morning or after supper, and the oven will warm your kitchen and house for you without turning on the furnace.  (Fuel conservation is perhaps my one hangover from my 1970s Energy Crisis childhood and my graduate student days.  Why heat the house when you can always put on another sweater or blanket?)

There are two schools of thought on rice pudding–the egg custard and cooked rice school, or the baked pottage school.  Continue Reading »


October 4th 2009
In the words of Homer J. Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true!”

Posted under American history & art & fluff

In the words of lazy bloggers everywhere: heh. And, may I add: lolsob? In the October 22, 2009 New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew writes:

It’s apparent that Obama is still learning the differences between campaigning and governing. And sometimes his inexperience shows. His speeches on health care on Labor Day and before Congress a few days later drew on his old rhetorical skills and finally showed some passion, and the one before Congress was his most effective so far in combining both rhetoric and explanation. But it was of interest that Chuck Todd of NBC reported that before he gave those speeches Obama’s staff had had to get him “fired up” to take on his critics. Obama, whose high self-esteem is well known among close observers, had previously assumed that a “following,” a “movement,” would be there without his having to do much to stimulate it.

Awesome! I disagree with one of Drew’s major premises in this article, which is that Obama faces a uniquely adversarial political environment. For example, she writes, “If Obama does get a bill that contains significant health insurance reforms and substantially expands coverage, he will have achieved more than any other president has, and under far more difficult circumstances.” Whaaaaa? Continue Reading »


October 3rd 2009
Tenured Radical on norming, not-normals, and justice

Posted under American history & GLBTQ & jobs & nepotism

Tenured Radical has a boffo deuce of posts this week:  First, in “More Annals of the Great Depression:  What Divides Us, and Why,” she writes about the fact that the budget-crisis hill some of her colleagues want to die on is the (astonishingly generous!) tuition benefit at her university, although it is only for children of faculty members.  She writes,

I would like to point out that the loose coalition of the willing that does not consider this cut unthinkable is made up of gay people and straight people; the coupled and the uncoupled; the married and the unmarried; those who have dependent (or formerly dependent) children and those who do not. I mention this because one of the first things people make sure to tell me in particular is that they are not homophobic (you know what? If you feel you have to say this, you are homophobic. I didn’t bring it up, you did.) Several of the kinder scolds suggested that we who were not with the program would understand this issue better if we actually had children and better understood the sacred bond between parent and child. The most ignorant argued that the childless were not excluded from this benefit, and could access it any time we liked by having, adopting or inheriting children. Of all the unspoken assumptions, perhaps the one best masking itself as intellectual common sense was that we who are childless at Zenith do have a moral and ethical commitment to our colleagues’ children, because it is these children who, as adult workers, will earn the professional wages to pay for our government benefits in retirement.

In other words, because I haven’t had children, regardless of how much I have paid into Social Security over the years, I will become a welfare queen in old age. And as I sign my government checks over to the BMW dealership and the grog shop, it will not be just any children who support me in the style to which I am now accustomed, but the children of my Zenith colleagues. . . .

No, they respond: nothing will do but an unlimited benefit reserved exclusively for the children of Zenith.  Continue Reading »


October 2nd 2009
Dreams: reflections in the looking glass

Posted under art & book reviews & childhood & European history & fluff

alicewhiterabbitMost teachers and professors I know have had the same dream, or a close variation on it:  you are late to teach your first class of the new semester, and you’re very anxious because for some reason it’s a calculus class and you’re a historian and you’re not good at all with calculus, so you don’t know why someone thought that was an appropriate assignment for you and you don’t have a syllabus yet, or notes, or any idea what you’re going to teach in a calculus class, and you’re naked, besides, but you’re late and you know it’s very, very bad to be late even if it’s to a class you’re totally unprepared to teach!  And you’re naked!  And you can’t find the room, and you keep walking into the wrong classes!  Naked, and very, very late.  (We discussed dreams similar to this one last fall–remember?)

whiterabbitclockIt occurred to me the other day, as I was re-reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that its author Charles Dodgson (pseudonym Lewis Carroll), a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College, Oxford, must have suffered terribly from these sorts of professional anxiety dreams.  The whole story is literally a dream, and one characterized by a high degree of anxiety on the part of its heroine, Alice, who knows that she must find the white rabbit (although she doesn’t know why).  The white rabbit himself is terribly anxious too, because he’s late!  He’s late!

Continue Reading »


October 1st 2009
Gore Vidal: 75% cynical visionary + 25% conspiracy nut =100% entertaining!

Posted under American history & art & GLBTQ

vidalyoungA number of liberal blogs are writing about the Times Online interview with Gore Vidal, focusing on Vidal’s disappointment with Barack Obama, and his claim now that Hillary Clinton would have made a better U.S. President.  (I’m sure that’s what he thinks now, but there’s no question but that he would have said the same thing about Obama if Clinton were President now.  Vidal is and always has been gimlet-eyed (to say the least!) about political power and the National Security State.)  I found other remarks of his much more interesting.  (Hint:  here’s one for the Big Book of Transhistorical Gayness!)

Vidal became a supportive correspondent of Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 killing 168 people. The huge loss of life, indeed McVeigh’s act of mass murder, goes unmentioned by Vidal. “He was a true patriot, a Constitution man,” Vidal claims. “And I was torn, my grandfather [the Democrat Senator Thomas Gore] had bought Oklahoma into the Union.” McVeigh claimed he had done it as a protest against tyrannical government. The writer Edmund White took the correspondence as the basis for a play, Terre Haute (the jail McVeigh was incarcerated in before he was executed in 2001), imagining an encounter between the bomber and Vidal charged with desire.

“He’s a filthy, low writer,” Vidal says of White. “He likes to attack his betters, which means he has a big field to go after.” Had he wanted to meet McVeigh? “I am not in the business of meeting people,” Vidal says. “That play implies I am madly in love with McVeigh. I looked at his [White’s] writing and all he writes about is being a fag and how it’s the greatest thing on Earth. He thinks I’m another queen and I’m not. I’m more interested in the Constitution and McVeigh than the loving tryst he saw. It was vulgar fag-ism.”

Vidal, like Roy Cohn (imagine if Vidal ever saw that phrase!), is a man who has sex with men, but isn’t gay (or a “fag.”)  Continue Reading »


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