Archive for November, 2009

November 30th 2009
To blog, or not to blog? That’s the question.

Posted under jobs & publication

hamletskullTenured Radical had a provocative post last week about blogging before tenure.  (I suppose we could extend this to include before employment, for all of you graduate student and adjunct bloggers out there.)  She writes:

3. Do you think that blogs should be considered, in any respect, when a professor has yet to attain tenure?

Since the discipline in which I hold tenure (history) has barely dealt with electronic publishing at all as part of the promotion process, and also has a mixed record on how it regards pre-tenure scholarship published to a trade audience, I would hope that we would not start having a conversation about blogs that was not preceded by one that addressed these other critical issues. But I should think that participation in group blogs that serve a field or a discipline should be taken into account as much as book reviews or encyclopedia entries, which everyone lists in endless, boring detail on their vitae as if they took more than a day to write.

Good point.  A former colleague of mine once called those things–book reviews and encyclopedia entries–”salad,” as in, you won’t get much credit for doing them, but you should do them to contribute to the profession and, in years in which you don’t publish a prizewinning article or book, to show that you’re doing something.  Here’s where the whole question of peer review comes up, though–it strikes me that a group blog that focuses fundamentally on scholarship (like our pals at Religion in American History) could make a more than reasonable case for including their blogging in their scholarship.  This blog, on the other hand, isn’t going on my annual evaluation, although I publish from my position as “Historiann” and not (for example) as a parent (if I am one), pet owner, running enthusiast, NASCAR fan, or whatever.  (The reasons for this are explained in more detail here and here, with help from my old friend GayProf–it’s a personal preference, but realistically, blogging ain’t going to get me my final promotion, so why bother?) 

Here’s where la Radical gets more spicy: Continue Reading »

36 Comments »

November 29th 2009
“Flesh” trade

Posted under American history & bad language & race & the body & women's history

APTOPIX Obama US India

Photo by the Associated Press

Via CorrenteSociological Images notes the use of the word “flesh” to describe the color of the dress Michelle Obama wore to the State Dinner at the White House last week (at right.)  I guess someone didn’t get the memo that that old Crayola color was changed a long time ago to the less racist (but no more accurate) word “peach.”  (I personally would never eat a peach the color of that particular crayon.)  Sociological Images notes that “[t]his is what happens when white people are considered people and black people are considered a special kind of people, black people.  ‘Flesh-colored’ becomes the skin color associated with whites and darker-skinned peoples are left out of the picture altogether.  We see this all the time.  Bandaids, for example, are typically light beige (though they rarely call them ‘flesh-colored’ anymore), as are things like ace bandages.”

By the way:  that’s an awesome dress worn beautifully, and it’s more accurately described as “champagne,” not (pasty) “flesh.”  Aside from the racial implications, “flesh” is just an unlovely and unflattering word.  Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

November 28th 2009
Hard, yet fruity, times

Posted under American history & art & class & unhappy endings & women's history

jellocover1930Hello, all–as a follow up to my review of How to Cook a Wolf as a guide to managing a home kitchen in hard times, I thought you’d all enjoy James Lileks’s “Jell-o Confronts the Depression.”  It’s mocking in tone, as is the rest of his “Gallery of Regrettable Food,” and book by the same name, but he makes serious points along the way about the inexpensive “glamour” that Jell-o tried to sell home cooks during the depression, and the impossible thinness and somber expressions of the people used to illustrate these Jell-o cookbooks.  Don’t miss the boast in the 1932 cookbook that the “new” Jell-o doesn’t require boiling water–another sad reminder that the scarcity of cooking fuel was a real issue for home cooks in the 1930s and 1940s.

Lileks seriously appreciates the work of the artists who illustrated these books–I’m not all that bowled over by some of the images of Jell-o molds he highlights, but I appreciate his appreciation for their work.  Continue Reading »

5 Comments »

November 26th 2009
Privatization: what could possibly go wrong?

Posted under American history & jobs & unhappy endings

Gee–let me guess:  unscrupulous people will be more interested in profits than in serving the public?  And, the jobs that private corporations create will be vastly inferior to their government job counterparts?  Here’s what happens at a lot of private, for-profit universities (via Susie at Suburban Guerrilla), which amazingly enough are much more interested in talking the students into huge loans than they are in actually educating them:

In the end, [Martine ] Leveque decided to enroll. The day she came in to fill out her paperwork, she says, the recruiters rushed her through the process and discouraged her from taking the forms home to look over. They told her that she would be taking out private loans in addition to federal loans that are traditionally used to pay educational expenses, but did not explain what the terms of those [$29,000 worth of] loans would be. “They just kept telling me that ‘we’re with you,’ and that they would try to get me the maximum amount of federal loans allowed,” she says. Only later did she learn that those private loans—which made up two-thirds of her “financial aid” package—carried double-digit interest rates and other onerous terms.

To make matters worse, the program did not come close to delivering on the promises that had been made. The instructors had little recent medical experience. Instead of really teaching, she says, they usually just read textbooks aloud in class and sometimes offered students the answers on tests ahead of time. On the rare occasions when Leveque and her class were given time in the lab, she found that the equipment was broken down and shoddy—except for the expensive new mannequin, which no one knew how to use. Instead of the promised rotations at UCLA Medical Center, her clinical training consisted of helping pass out pills at a nursing home. . . . Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

November 24th 2009
Up from Jacksonianism?

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & race

Jackson 1857

Portrait of Andrew Jackson by Thomas Sully (1857)

Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Michael Lind is one of the most interesting political writers around.  Of course, this may be my opinion because he has a good command of the last 200 years of American history and he isn’t afraid to use it in making his political arguments.  I’ve been a fan of his work ever since Up From Conservativism (1996), in which he argued that the Republican party’s marriage of convenience between Wall Street bankers and right-wing cultural warriors would guarantee its marginalization and its ultimate defeat. 

This is why Dems would do well to listen to what Lind has to say in “Can Populism Be Liberal?” in which he wonders, “[i]s a Jackson revival under way? . . Jacksonian populism spells producerism. For generations, Jacksonian populists have believed that the hardworking majority of small producers is threatened from above and below by two classes of drones: unproductive capitalists and unproductive paupers.”  He notes further that “[r]eform movements have succeeded in the United States only when their programs resonated with populist and producerist values. Lincoln’s antislavery Republicans succeeded where the earlier Whigs had failed because the Republicans persuaded Jacksonian farmers that snobbish, parasitic Southern Democratic slave owners were a greater threat to white farmers and white workers in the Midwest than rich Republican bankers and industrialists in the Northeast.”  Are any Democrats paying attention, in these years of economic uncertainty, rising populist anger, and anti-incumbency in the electorate?

Here, one might think, would be an opening for the center-left. And yet the Obama Democrats, unlike the Roosevelt Democrats, cannot take advantage of the popular backlash against Wall Street. Why?

One reason is that the attempt of the “New Democrats” like Clinton, Al Gore and Obama to win Wall Street campaign donations has been all too successful. As Clinton’s Treasury secretary, Robert Rubin helped complete the conversion of the Democrats from a party of unions and populists into a party of financial elites and college-educated professionals. Subsequently Obama raised more money from Wall Street than his Democratic primary rivals and John McCain. On becoming president, he turned over economic policymaking to Rubin’s protégé Larry Summers and others like Timothy Geithner from the Wall Street Democratic network.

The financial industry is now to the Obama Democrats what the AFL-CIO was to the Roosevelt-to-Johnson Democrats. Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

November 23rd 2009
Thanksgiving blogging, redux: How Not to Cook a Wolf

Posted under American history & book reviews & weirdness & women's history

plimouthplantationdinnerIt’s Thanksgiving week, so I thought I would reprise my Thanksgiving foods posts from last year.  Just in case you haven’t finalized your menu, here’s a retrospective of Thanksgivings past (and in the far distant past):

howtocookawolfAll this semester, I’ve been meaning to do some food blogging based on my re-reading of M.F.K. Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf (1942), as a response to our current Great Depression, but frankly, I’ve been a little flummoxed.  (How to Cook a Wolf was written as a guide to surviving rationing and fuel shortages in the U.S. during World War II, but I thought it might contain some useful tips for economizing more generally.)  I must report reluctantly Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

November 22nd 2009
Sunday moo-orning run

Posted under fluff & local news

cattlerunAs I was running this morning, I thought to myself:  how strange and unlikely that I now live and work in a location where I am in proximity to more large animals than to small animals.  (I have two small animals myself, but cattle really are a big part of my life these days.  This seems strange, since I work in a Liberal Arts college and not Animal Sciences–strange but not unwelcome.  The big animals I run into (and next to) are penned or fenced, and well under control.  The animals I encounter aren’t part of big agribusiness, but are clearly free-range herds under the care of a small farm.

cattlerun2(Sorry for the craptastic photos–they were taken literally on the run with a cell-phone camera.  I wanted to get one that showed the mountains in the background, but the light and the cattle weren’t cooperating.  Besides the fact of my craptastic cell-phone camera!  But those of you who know me probably know me well enough to know that a new phone or digital camera is not going to be a priority on my Christmas list.) Continue Reading »

15 Comments »

November 21st 2009
“Vogue” profile of Hillary Clinton

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

HRCSoSVia RealClearPolitics, check out “Her Brilliant Career,” a flattering profile of Hillary Clinton, by Vogue writer Jonathan Van Meter, who accompanied the Secretary of State on her trip to Africa this past summer and met with her several times over the past few months.  (The on-line version is apparently shorter than the one that appears in the December 2009 issue of the magazine.)  It’s a little breathless and celebrity-lite, like most Vogue profiles, but it contains some interesting news.  For example:

  • Hillary Clinton watches Mad Men, and says, “That’s how it was! . . . [t]hat’s why the women’s-liberation movement was so shocking. It was like news from outer space.”
  • The Secretary of State comes to The Building without makeup, and then puts on her own face. Continue Reading »

32 Comments »

November 20th 2009
Excellence without Money!, part III: Knowledge without Books!

Posted under American history & jobs & students

knowledgewithoutbooksAnother in our occasional series on the Great Recession and the crisis in funding public institutions of higher education, with thanks to Moose at Roxie’s World for coining the phrase “Excellence without Money!”

Johann Neem, an Associate Professor of History at Western Washington University, has an article over at Inside Higher Ed called “Reviving the Academic Library.”  In his brief comments, he defends the traditional library, something that many librarians are reluctant to do these days.  Just read some of the angry comments–most of them from librarians, and some of them well-earned, by the way.  Neem writes rather condescendingly about librarians, who are at most universities tenure-track and tenured scholars themselves, and he claims that education can only take place inside university classrooms.  That was unfortunate hyperbole, in my view, because in the main I agree with Neem.  (Can’t we all just get along?)

In case we’ve forgotten, amidst all those i-Pod downloads and football games and keg parties, Neem explains that “[t]he core purposes of the academy are to teach and to produce new knowledge. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

November 19th 2009
Guerrilla theater: talk to the hand, Romeo

Posted under art & captivity & students & weirdness

gorillatheaterCheck this out, from Flavia at Ferule and FescueOur intrepid young Shakespearean was teaching Trolius and Cressida one day last week, when

I heard the door open, slightly behind me, I didn’t look over. I was mid-sentence, and figured it was a student slipping in late.

Instead, a young man and young woman walked right into the center of the room and started performing part of the banquet scene from Romeo and Juliet.

We stopped abruptly. F()cking theatre kids, I thought. They must be advertising a production. A$$holes. But since I knew the scene, and they’d already started, I figured I’d let them finish–surely they were just going to do the shared sonnet, and would be done in another dozen lines.

But they got to the end, kissed, and kept going.  Continue Reading »

25 Comments »

Next »