Archive for January, 2010

January 9th 2010
Historiann EXCLUSIVE: Classy Claude at the AHA in San Diego

Posted under American history & Berkshire Conference & conferences & GLBTQ & jobs & women's history

Once again, Historiann’s better-traveled and more in-the-loop friend Classy Claude is at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting, and has volunteered to report back what he’s seen and heard.  Here, he updates us on the Doug Manchester/Hyatt boycott, a prominent American women’s history panel, and who puts on the best free reception.  Try not to hate him because he’s in San Diego–hate him because he’s beautiful, and employed!  

Greetings from sunny San Diego!  My view of San Diego Bay from the 17th floor of the Hilton gives some idea of just how lovely and temperate it is here right now (see the photo on the right, by Claude himself.)  And the Hilton conveniently provides running maps to cover various distances along the promenade.  Historiann, you would love it!  

 I have no actual idea of the numbers at this year’s AHA, but I can’t help but think that it’s down from recent years.  Not one of the panels I have attended so far, for instance, has had its full component of scheduled speakers. Reasons for these absences are manifold. First, the abysmal job market: if there are fewer interviewers and interviewees (the main purpose here for most), then fewer attendees.  Second, getting to San Diego is expensive for most North Americans.  Combine that with the fact that many colleges and universities have slashed travel budgets and it becomes prohibitively expensive for many.  Third, there are the Midwestern storms that certainly have delayed some people’s arrival and may well have stranded them altogether.  And fourth, the gay and labor boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt (led by UNITE HERE and Equality California, but with many other organizational supporters) seems to have led some gay would-be attendees to cancel as well.  

As many of Historiann’s readers know, before the 2009 meeting it came to the attention of some AHA members that the owner of the Hyatt, Doug Manchester, had given about 100K to the successful Proposition 8 campaign (to ban same-sex marriage in California).  Continue Reading »


January 9th 2010
AHA report: Put on a giant smiley-face mask, if you have to

Posted under conferences & fluff & happy endings & jobs

While I’m waiting for the exclusive report from Classy Claude to be filed from this year’s meeting of the American Historical Association, I thought I’d draw your attention to a comment from The History Enthusiast, who said that everyone in the pit on Thursday was a real Debbie Downer:

As a first-timer at the AHA Job Center I can report that it was much quieter than I expected (everyone was so tense!) and there were very few people milling around. That shouldn’t really be a surprise.

What struck me, though, is that when I smiled at people no one would smile back. I understand that the market is stressful (hello, I’m on it too) but some of the people I saw looked like they were going to cry. And there haven’t even been interviews yet! We were just dropping off CVs at the collection booth. I made small talk with one of the volunteers and he looked at me as if I had three heads. My guess is that none of the other applicants had spoken to him without having a look of sheer panic cross their face. Yes, I’m nervous too. Yes, this is a big frickin’ deal. But good God, it is not healthy to be so freaked out that you won’t even look other people in the eye. I find that very disturbing.

Those are all things I’d expect on Saturday when the interviews are in full swing, but today? Seriously. I feel like I was the only sane person in the room.

That sounds about right for the pit most years, right friends?  My bet is that The History Enthusiast will compare favorably to the Debbie Downers, especially since the departments hiring this year must be cheered by all of the top-notch candidates they’ll be able to lure.  Continue Reading »


January 8th 2010
The D-word

Posted under bad language & Gender & women's history

Charles Estienne, 1545

Douche!  (Variants:  douchebag, douchenozzle).

It’s funny, right?  Calling someone–usually a man–a douche is funny, because it associates him with an unpleasant process, and it implies a weakness and/or stupidity that d!ck doesn’t.  (D!ck is still an insult, but because of its association with male genitalia, there’s a recognition of power in calling someone a d!ck that the other d-word doesn’t have.)  This is an insult that appears to have gained popularity in the past five or ten years, with people who are younger than me (20s and 30s, from what I can tell).

I don’t like it and I don’t use the word because it appears to me to get its insulting kick from its association with ladyparts, which we all know are nasty, smelly, leaky, and disgusting.  That’s what douching is for, right?  To attempt to manage or correct all of that nasty, smelly, leaking, disgusting mess.  Continue Reading »


January 7th 2010
Checking in on the AHA-hahahahaha? (Lolsob.)

Posted under conferences & Gender & jobs & unhappy endings

From a distance, of course–Potterville is about 1,137 miles away, 4,659 feet higher, and 70 degrees colder than San Diego this morning.  Damn! but I wish I were waking up in the Hotel del Coronado today.  It’s -11 here now–but it will be sunny, at least!  The sun is about the only thing San Diego will have in common today with the High Plains Sub-Zero Freezer we’re locked in until the weekend.  Classy Claude will be filing a first-person report later this weekend, if he can peel himself off the beach, shake the sand out of his drawers, and find a wifi hotspot. 

First, the good news:  the 2010 annual meeting of the American Historical Association is in San Diego!  That’s it for the good news I’ve heard.  If you’re there and not interviewing for jobs, interviewing for jobs you’re unlikely to get, or interviewing dozens of candidates for a job at your institution, at least you can do it without wearing boots and lugging a giant coat around a big hotel because you’re stuck yet again in Chicago or Boston.  (Who’s with me on pushing the AHA to south and west, friends?  We’ll throw Denver in there too, for you winter sports enthusiasts.  How about instead of Chicago, Boston, Chicago, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Atlanta, and Chicago, we have Dallas, Phoenix, San Diego/L.A., Denver, and San Francisco?)

Inside Higher Ed reports that attendance is down at the AHA this year, because of the economy and the related dearth of open positions in history.  (There are also fewer drop-ins than there would be in major Eastern cities because of the West Coast location, too, and the additional travel expense for people in the Eastern and Central time zones especially.)  And, the AHA itself reported that it’s “A Grim Year on the Academic Job Market for Historians,” because “[d]uring 2008–09 job advertisements fell by 23.8 percent—from a record high of 1,053 openings in 2007–08 to 806 openings in the past year. This was the smallest number of positions advertised with the AHA in a decade.  To make matters worse, a subsequent survey of advertisers indicates that about 15 percent of the openings were cancelled after the positions were advertised.”  Marc Bousquet at How the University Works takes issue with the AHA report’s conclusion that the problem is an oversupply of history Ph.D.s, and says that it’s not an oversupply of qualified job candidates, but that it’s an undersupply of tenure-track jobs because of university administrators’ decisions over the past 25 years to hire more contingent faculty than tenured or tenure-track faculty proportionally. Continue Reading »


January 6th 2010
Why blogs suck

Posted under American history & class & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history


The always-controversial feminist theologian Mary Daly died a few days ago.  Word spread through the feminist blogosphere, and eventually obits ran in major media outlets.  Melissa McEwan’s Shakesville, a vital feminist blog I read and link to (and which occasionally links to me) ran a brief obit and appreciation of her career.  In the fourth comment, someone wrote, “Honestly I am somewhat happy [to hear of her death] considering the transphobic bigotry of hers that I have read.”  Four comments after that, McEwan said she wasn’t aware of Daly’s transphobic bigotry, and said that it was totally OK to discuss it in the thread but please refrain from dancing on her grave.  McEwan then added an “update” to her post that “Daly’s work was unfortunately marred by a streak of transphobia. Wikipedia summarizes its emergence in her work, including her assertion in Gyn/Ecologythat transgender people are “Frankensteinian.” While we want to honor her contributions to feminist thought, we also want to note the limitations of her brand of feminism, which deemed some women monstrous, a view that Shakesville endeavors quite fervently to counter. Cait and Shaker just_some_trans_guy also note she was challenged on her racism as well.” 

Well, of course that lengthy apologia for someone else’s opinions wasn’t enough.  Did any of the very opinionated commenters who were so very concerned about Daly’s transphobia offer quotations, or, you know, any actual evidence of her grave sins against humanity?  (I mean, aside from citing Wikipedia?)  Did anyone do what Mary Daly herself did her whole life–commit scholarship by citing evidence, chapter and verseContinue Reading »


January 5th 2010
“Party U.” and the impoverished undergraduate vision of adulthood

Posted under American history & childhood & class & students & unhappy endings

This American Life recently had an episode recorded in State College, Pennsylvania–the home of Penn State University–on drinking, sports, and undergraduate culture (h/t to reader and commenter Fratguy.)  It’s worth a listen, especially for those of you (like me) who teach at big aggies or state unis and sometimes wonder what percentage of our students’ brains are occupied by academics.  Warning:  don’t listen if you’re looking for good news!

I was particularly interested in the opening story, in which Ira Glass stays up late to see what happens in perfectly nice neighborhoods in college towns because of pathological student drinking.  In my former Ohio small town, which hosted a prestigious public university, I lived in a neighborhood in which we might find beer bottles smashed into the sidewalk, piles of puke in our gardens, and/or have our front porch furniture stolen.  I really identified with Glass’s producer, who was running around trying to get the drunken students’ attention, and reminding them that “people live here!”  Of course, she was ignored (and even threatened).

But if sober undergraduate students are given to solipsism and narcissism, drunken undergraduates behave as if they’re truly the only people in the world, and as if their “right” to public inebriation, vandalism, and violence supersedes all other rights.  Unless you’ve tried living in a college town as an adult, it’s sometimes difficult to grasp the self-centeredness of these students, drunk or sober.  Continue Reading »


January 3rd 2010

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

Today Katie Roiphe tells us she desperately wants to be slapped around and ravished by Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, and John Updike and asks why the rest of us are so uptight about their portrayal of sex, and Mary Daly dropped dead

Yes, that’s the same Katie Roiphe who told us back in the 1990s that rape statistics on college campuses were the invention of Women’s Studies departments and their fixation on technicalities like “consent.”  Hey, Katie–I really don’t want to know why you need so desperately to reassure men and lecture other women that rape is a figment of their imaginations, but please:  it’s “The Morning After” already.  Get over it–and find some new material. Continue Reading »


January 3rd 2010
Assemble your own Frankenstein President!

Posted under American history & fluff

frankensteinLately, I’ve noticed a slew of articles in magazines, newspapers, and on the non-peer reviewed internets that make arguments as to how Obama fits into the American Pantheon of former Presidents.  Some (usually progressives drunk on hopium or fearful conservatives) argue that he is the next Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  (Interestingly, most of those stories date to last fall and winter–few are making the argument that his performance in 2009 is worthy of FDR now.)  Others (usually fearful progressives or gleeful conservatives) argue that he is the premature reincarnation of Jimmy Carter.  In the recent battle over how precisely the U.S. government will demand that citizens subsidize the private, for-profit health insurance industry and to what extent the U.S. will continue its occupation of Afghanistan, we’ve seen a lot of comparisons to Lyndon Johnson–again, depending on your political perspective, conservatives warn darkly that Obama must not be permitted to be as effective as LBJ, whereas progressives and liberals are begging please! please! Mr. President, be just like LBJ on domestic issues, but please avoid him on foreign policy! 

For a more exotic argument, see Tim Murphy’s argument for Obama to be more like “the Napoleon of the West,” James K. Polk (srsly?  In a so-called “progressive” monthly?  Since when is throwing Indians and Latinos under the bus a “progressive” value?  I get that it’s a Democratic value, of course, at least since the days of Thomas Jefferson and Andy Jackson!)  I wrote last summer about Kevin Baker’s comparison of Obama to Herbert Hoover, and recently, it’s become fashionable to proclaim that Obama is George W. Bush’s third term on left blogs that are critical of Obama’s performance so far.  As I delight in reminding you, it’s been clear to me since the 2008 primaries that Obama would govern much like Bill Clinton–although why he does so with substantial Democratic congressional majorities (instead of the Republican congresses that Clinton faced for 6 of his 8 years) is something that even I didn’t see coming. 

So let’s play a game:  assemble your own President Frankenstein Monster, and make hir as evil as you want, or as ineffective as you want, or as great as you can imagine, based on the performances of the previous 43 U.S. Presidents.  Continue Reading »


January 1st 2010
New Year’s round-up: lit & critters edition, yee-haw!

Posted under conferences & fluff & unhappy endings & weirdness

elvgrenlibraryHappy New Year, friends, cowgirls, and countrymen.  In a few hours, Historiann et famille are off on another jaunt to a nearby ski town–as you may remember, I don’t ski, so it’s a reading weekend for me.  I’m going to nix the digital communication and go all codex for the remainder of the weekend.  I’m deep into some good books (thanks, Homostorian Americanist and Monocle Man!) and want to enjoy some fiction before going back to my usual diet of extremely serious and self-important non-fiction.  So, I’ll direct you to some interesting bons mots and bibelots I found on the world-wide non peer-reviewed internets:

  • 2009 ended with some sad news in Roxie’s World:  Roxie, the world’s longest-lived terminal veternary patient, died on Wednesday, December 30.  Fortunately, Mark Twain showed up for the wake to give her a proper sendoff–go read, if your computer keyboard is tearproof.  We are glad her final days were so prolonged and that her final exit was mercifully quick.  Much love as always to Moose and Goose, Roxie’s human companions and typists.  We’ll have a cup of kindness tonight in honor of Roxie’s happy life and good death thanks to their loving care (and that of their good friend, Geoffrey.)
  • Tom at Romantoes was at the Modern Language Association’s annual meeting in Philadelphia this week, and he tells a story about his encounter with the real Philadelphia, Continue Reading »


« Prev