Archive for 2009

November 15th 2009
“Jackal” lifestyle very aging

Posted under American history & captivity & fluff & the body & unhappy endings

ksmI was lounging in bed drinking coffee and reading the paper this morning about Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent announcement that several of the 9/11 masterminds would be put on trial in New York, and learned a startling new fact, courtesy of a New York Timesstory by Mark Mazzetti that was excerpted in The Denver Post:  Khalid Sheik Muhammed (“KSM” in National Security shorthand) is only 44 years old!  Yegads.  He’s younger than the President, but looks about half a generation older.  (This photo helps underscore the reasons why so many men shave their beards off when they start turning gray.)  I’m sure his attorney will want him to have a makeover before the trial and to dress him in a western-style suit–but my guess is that he’s going to stick with the full-on jihadi look.

I guess living in caves on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and/or in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is a very aging lifestyle.  Continue Reading »


November 14th 2009
The bookless library

Posted under book reviews & jobs & students



It’s probably already happened at your institution–university libraries are built at a certain moment in time with certain assumptions about the kinds of growth and collections storage they’ll need in the future.  Given the expanded role they’ve been expected to play in the past twenty years as sites that offer PCs, web access, and access to digital collections and databases, on top of the books and journals they continue to purchase and store, more and more libraries are moving to off-site storage for their older and/or less frequently used volumes.  (Baa Ram U. has off-site storage books that are usually delivered in a day or two.  It’s understandable–we’ve been here since 1870, so you have to have priorities.)

Syracuse University library had a plan to move half of their collection to a storage facility 250 miles away–and the faculty and students revolted Wednesday night (h/t Inside Higher Ed):

[M]ore than 200 faculty and students flocked to first public airing of the issue, a University Senate meeting. Some held signs protesting the proposal (one read “FREE BIRD”). Some spoke against the move on the grounds that library space had been misallocated while others questioned the need to ship the books so far away from campus. Faculty members delivered a petition against the plan signed by more than 100 humanities scholars, whose fields would be hurt more than others by the book relocation.

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


November 13th 2009
Friday round-up: heads up and screens down, boys! edition

Posted under American history & class & conferences & fluff & Gender & GLBTQ & students & wankers


It’s been an awful long time since we’ve had an old-fashioned round-up–I’ve been so busy with this, that, and the other thing that I haven’t been a good blog citoyenne lately now, have I?  Well, here’s a few things you can use to warm yourself up and keep your power dry:


November 12th 2009
Maj. Nidal Hasan, MD: just an all-American guy

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings & women's history

The bloviating in the conservative media about the Muslim identity of the Fort Hood murderer is predictable, but so, so very stupid.  It’s clear to me that he’s just another mass-murderer in our all-American tradition in which socially maladjusted men, who in spite of also being religiously insane and/or suffering from acute misogyny, are permitted to arm up and mow down their fellow citizens at work, school, church, or in other public spaces.  Daniel Zwerdling at NPR has done some solid reporting on what he can find out from little birds hanging around Walter Reed who worked with Hasan when he was training there. 

But it’s only the occasional story in the print media or on the radio that will note how very much like other American mass-murderers Hasan truly is:  Continue Reading »


November 11th 2009
Must be swell being a steer

Posted under jobs & local news

stockjudging1Here you see the building that’s just across the parking lots where the Liberal Arts college (including the History department) is located at Baa Ram U.  How many of you can boast a stock judging pavillion in your immediate environs?  It’s just another charming detail of life on this High Plains Desert–like two feet of snow before Halloween, and then temperatures in November in the 70s.  Go figure!  (If only there were a rodeo ring there, too–now that would be fun.  They do occasionally park some bulls at the Stock Judging Pavillion, usually towards the end of the spring semester.)

stockjudging2Take a look at the boys over here on the right:  as Bill says to Jake in The Sun Also Rises“Must be swell being a steer.”  Consider that your eye candy (of a rusticated sort) for the day.  Sorry for the poor quality of the photos–I shot these with my trusty 3-year old mobile phone on the fly as I rushed to my veal-fattening pen office Monday morning.  Continue Reading »


November 10th 2009
HCR, the Stupak amendment, and the complex reality of abortion

Posted under American history & Gender & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Eucharius Roesslin 1545Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft has done some exemplary analysis of Health Care Reform and the Stupak amendment added this weekend to the  health insurance reform bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives Saturday night.  Examples:  see here, here, and then she asks, “How About Pre-Natal and Birth Care for Pregnant Undocumented Women” in the U.S. who will necessarily give birth to U.S. citizens?  She links to a Mother Jones story that explains exactly how odious this particular poison pill is in “Stupak is a Radical Change:”

Mother Jones: Why Stupak is more radical than you think.

The two parts to the Stupak amendment:

The Stupak amendment mandates that no federal funds can be used to pay for an abortion or “cover any part of any health plan” that includes coverage of an abortion, except in cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the pregnancy was the result of rape or incest.

Part 1 is just the Hyde Amendment. But, part 2?

Where pro-lifers won big was on the second part, which could significantly limit the availability of private insurance plans that cover the procedure. That’s because Stupak’s amendment doesn’t just apply to the public option—the lower-cost plan to be offered by the government.

The House health care bill will also provide subsidies to help people and small businesses purchase plans on an exchange. This represents a lucrative new market for insurers: anyone earning less than $88,000 for a family of four qualifies for assistance, as well as certain small companies. But to gain access to these new customers, insurers will have to drop abortion coverage from their plans.

That’s A-OK with the forced pregnancy crowd, who are apparently unfamiliar with how private health insurance works now:  we all pay into a big pot, and then we make claims–and yes, those claims are sometimes to cover abortions and all sorts of other medical procedures of which you may or may not approve.  There’s lots of money from premiums paid by people of all political persuasions–pro-choice, pro-life, anti-immigrant, pro-immigrant, etc.–and it all goes to cover services provided to everyone.  It’s stupid for people get all excited when it comes to their pooled tax dollars, as opposed to their pooled private insurance dollars.  What’s next?  So-called “pro-lifers” will demand that their municipal and state taxes not pay for roads driven on or library books checked out by citizens who differ in their political views? 

Oh, and the Stupak amendment contains one of those “life, rape, or incest” qualifiers, which is the biggest load of hot, steaming B.S. ever.  Continue Reading »


November 9th 2009
The Berlin Wall, 1961-1989

Posted under European history & happy endings & unhappy endings

The Berlin Wall started to crumble 20 years ago today, November 9, 1989.  What a weird beginning of the end of the Cold War:  in the early and mid-1980s, Americans had worked themselves up into a frenzy of “Evil Empire” fear–any of you old-timers like me remember Red Dawn and The Day After, and Testament?  (The video below, Nena’s “99 Balloons,” English version, is a little treat for all of you.  That’s what the MTV generation was grooving on in the early and mid-80s, while Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were summiting at Reykjavik:  big hair and nuclear war!  The original German version, “99 Luftbalons” is here.)  And President Reagan had big hair too, remember?

But with the fall of the wall, decades of fear in the U.S. were over, or so we thought hopefully.  I remember listening to the news on my radio in my dorm room, looking out over the darkening college green on that late afternoon, Continue Reading »


November 8th 2009
Pirates and Emperors: from the Schoolhouse Rock cutting room floor

Posted under American history & art & childhood & race & unhappy endings

You must check this out, or the terrorists have already won:

Clearly, this is a really well done parody of the genre–perhaps unsurprisingly, I was always a fan of the four “Schoolhouse Rock” cartoons that referred to early American history–No More Kings, The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, The Preamble, and Elbow Room.  Of course, I’m appalled by the incredible whiteness of their points of view, but I admire them still today for their engaging animation and their wonderful songs, which integrate storytelling with traditional American musical forms and references.  Continue Reading »


November 7th 2009
Sex and the Single (or Married) “Mad” Man

Posted under American history & art & Gender & unhappy endings

washingmachineWell, friends, I’m more than halfway through Season 2 of Mad Men.  It is a very absorbing show, probably the most interesting TV show I’ve seen in years (since Sex and the City ended, perhaps?), and the ideal diversion while I’m letting my brand-new high efficiency front-loading washer do most of my laundry chores for me!  (Too bad it doesn’t dry and fold my clothes, too, eh?  Except, with the retro-look of these front loaders, it makes me feel a bit too much like Betty Draper and her “desperate housewife” friends.)

In response to your clamorous queries for yet more, more, MORE of my opinions about this particular expression of the zeitgeist, I have some more thoughts to share today.  Specifically, I’d like to talk about the representation and function of sex in Mad Men.  For the most part, we’ll be talking about heterosexuality because that’s what’s on the Mad Men menu, with few exceptions.  (For the record, I’m exactly half-way through Season 2.)  Spoiler alert–if you haven’t yet watched the show mid-way through Season 2 and don’t want to know what happens, don’t read any further!

It’s striking that in this supposedly pre-AIDS, proto-sexual revolution era of 1960-62 (from what I’ve seen so far, anyway), sex is never represented as an affirming, positive, or even a very enjoyable activity.  This is the era of Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl (1962)but where’s the fun?  Where’s the adventure?  Continue Reading »


November 6th 2009
More guns make us safer! Not.

Posted under American history & unhappy endings


Fort Hood, Texas, November 5, 2009. Photo from the New York Times

Yesterday’s terrible news of mass murder at Fort Hood, Texas is interesting because of its location at a military base.  We’re told over and over again by the gun lobby that if only we would buy more guns and armed ourselves at church, in school, and in shopping malls, we’d be safe from these terrible rampages.  The mass murders at Fort Hood strongly suggest that this is not the case.  Civil society still depends on a great degree of trust in each other–we have to think that we’ll be safe from most kinds of harm in order for us to go to work, to school, the supermarket, restaurants, and churches.  As it turns out, life on military bases is not so different from civilian life, and crazed gunmen can exact a terrible toll in human life even in an environment where most people have access to guns and walk around with firearms.

How many guns will it take for us to be safe?  Continue Reading »


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