February
9th 2010
Tuesday Round-up: Fallen American Idols edition

Posted under: American history, art, book reviews, Dolls, European history, Gender, jobs, local news, unhappy endings, weirdness, women's history

Can I choose "none of the above?"

Howdy!  Hellsapoppin’ here.  While some of you in the East may be shoveling yet more snow today, we in the West have got more than a few stalls to muck out today, and a lot of fences to mend.  Here are some items for your delectation and consideration:

12 Comments »

12 Responses to “Tuesday Round-up: Fallen American Idols edition”

  1. Profane on 09 Feb 2010 at 2:28 pm #

    Your governor’ss race dilemna reminds me of my choice in the 2006 Illinois governor’s race. The major party choices were Rod Blagojevich (nuff said), and Judy Potinka, a cog in the Republican machine. Lacking a Libertarian option, I ended up voting for Rich Whitney, the Green Party candidate.

  2. koshem Bos on 09 Feb 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    First, never vote Republican; it’s a biblical and Koranic command. Never.

    The denial is boundless, Hillary people, devil Rahm, stupid Chicago quartet, and it takes time. The door is widely open and more skewed and violated ideas will pop up soon.

    Clinton didn’t succeed in everything in his first year, but didn’t lose balance and didn’t lose his wisdom. He made mistakes, he lusted too much, but was focused and had more than a decent presidency.

    Obama isn’t wise. Obama doesn’t get it. Obama is said to be smart. As they say – a smart person can get out of problems a wise person doesn’t get into.

    In French, we are fucked.

  3. Historiann on 09 Feb 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    Profane–I think you mean senator, not governor’s race. I’ll vote for Hickenlooper for guv, although I wish I could vote for Diana DeGette.

    If there’s a Green or Constitutional Party candidate, I’ll certainly consider going that way. But, why shouldn’t a feminist want to put another woman in the U.S. Senate? Norton strikes me as something of a dim bulb, by-the-book conservative. But, here’s one thing we can say about Republican women in the Senate: they don’t sell out women the way men do, both Dem and Republican. They’ve never been anti-abortion nuts like Tom Coburn, Bob Casey Jr., or Rick Santorum (or in the House, Bart Stupak.) So it may well be that Jane Norton is the lesser of two evils, if my only other choice is a squish on abortion rights (or someone like Obama, who will sell out fast on them for nothing.)

  4. Indyanna on 09 Feb 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    I voted Republican once, many years back, for Arlen Specter, regretted it, swore off from the practice, reconsidered, still swore off, never did again, and might be doing it again in November, for Arlen Specter. Life’s a koan. Do what’cha hafta do, Historiann.

    Ouch. Can almost see my place, just off to the right of that picture. Not shoveling yet, but it’s coming down again, and the predictions are fairly dire…

  5. John S. on 09 Feb 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    Re literacy celebrity and historical idols: I don’t know if I would say that I have ever been disillusioned in the way that Squadratomagico describes (based on Historiann’s capsule summary), but I will say that my appreciation for the work of different scholars has waxed and waned over the years, especially as I finished the long slog of getting a book done. Getting my own publication done made me more conscious of history as an interpretive craft, which in turn made me more critical of scholars whose interpretations seem somewhat…convenient. I am more sensitive, I think, to authors that work too hard to bend the evidence to suit their book’s thesis, or who rely too much on narrative sleights of hand. (There are a couple I could name, but won’t.)

    At the same time, I think I am more appreciative of scholars who show range over the course of their careers. The extent to which some scholars, if you look closely, seem to be doing variations of the same project several times, really astonishes me. There are a couple of scholars who have risen greatly in my estimation as I’ve realized just how difficult it is to retool oneself from book to book. I think that Kathy Brown’s book is a good example of this–similar thematically in many ways to the first book, with with a far greater chronological, geographic, and even conceptual scope. But then–there were 13 years between the first and second books. In many departments (including mine), there’s pressure to turn around fresh scholarship more quickly, which makes it harder to start from scratch, so to speak.

  6. squadratomagico on 09 Feb 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    Thanks for the link, Historiann!

    I think John raises an interesting point about how writing a book alters one’s evaluations of other books; maybe I’ll post (more openly) about this question soon. I found that writing a book was way more intellectually stimulating than simply writing the equivalent number of pages in article format. For me, my book taught me much more than, say, writing 7 articles would have (instead of 7 chapters). More apropos, however, is the way it altered my outlook on others’ books. As John suggests, once you have been through the process, you sometimes feel less indulgent towards certain short cuts or facile moments: having seen the temptation to such things, and not given in, one can detect such stratagems more readily in others’ work. On the other hand, it also can make one more forgiving of certain kinds of sins — little inconsistencies in complex thought, momentary lapses — because one knows, now, how hard it can be to keep control over all the pages and references and ideas one is handling. I think writing a book increases one’s respect for really great books and arguments, even if they have a few flaws; and decreases one’s respect for books that really are just inflated articles or full of tendentious shortcuts.

    In my case, I genuinely respect the author I wrote about, and learned a great deal from hir at one stage of my career. It’s just that I lost my youthful admiration for hir, and like all youthful passions, this one must be mourned even as it is acknowledged as behind me.

  7. Historiann on 09 Feb 2010 at 8:41 pm #

    Squadrato–I’m just glad to see you back online! (Although your radio silence makes me think I’d better stay in the meat world and get some writing done this semester.)

    I have to say that the process of writing my book made me much, much humbler. As a friend of mine likes to say, there’s only two kinds of books in the world: those that are published, and those that are still in a drawer or hard drive. I came to really appreciate books I had blithely dismissed as a much more “sophisticated” graduate student. Writing my book gave me an appreciation of how difficult it is to write any book, let alone a good one. (As you say–it’s harder to write 7 consecutive chapters in a coherent monograph than to write 7 articles.)

    John S.: I think most historians–if we’re lucky–get one big idea in our lifetimes. Most of us write the same book in different versions for the rest of our careers. So, I agree with you on range being impressive. Kathy’s new book is really great, and she pushed far beyond her original area of expertise. I’m not sure that she “proves” every aspect of her larger argument, but it seems like a great achievement to me to make so many suggestive connections across 400 years, as well as to have chronicled for the first time a number of details about intimate care of the body that will fascinate most social and cultural historians.

  8. squadratomagico on 09 Feb 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Yeh, I’m working towards a deadline; Blogging will be sporadic until spring. I do get more research-writing done in the “meat world,” as you put it, if I cut down on blogging (and circussing, and socializing, and everything else).

  9. Indyanna on 10 Feb 2010 at 6:55 am #

    Second Historiann’s point on book-writing and humbler. I learned this from my advisor–in an advisory sort of way–but you don’t really learn it until you stumble across the finish line with seven whatever-they-are, chapters, articles, fragments, and say to an editor, here, please weld these things together around an ISBN. I’m trying to do that stagger a second time this semester and I don’t even want to think about the “one big idea” question, except to say that I think I gravitate to the array of (much?) smaller ideas model. If I do ever raise a brood of them, they’ll be as alike as second cousins– several times removed.

    In fact, I sometimes feel sorry for some really major names in this or that subfield who reach the point where they can’t take this or that idiosyncratic thing from way back that they might really enjoy doing now out of the “drawer or hard drive,” precisely because it would fall outside the “brand” niche that everybody has come to expect them to work in. I’ll never have to worry about that, though, I must say.

    That storm sort of played cat-and-mouse last evening, but we’re getting hammered pretty good now that it’s daylight. I don’t mind, just so’s I can travel on Friday.

  10. perpetua on 10 Feb 2010 at 8:09 am #

    I third Indyanna and Historiann’s remarks about book writing creating humility. I just finished my book ms and I feel *much* more generous towards all my colleagues with finished books than I did as an unrelentingly critical grad student. I remember one particular delusional phase while I was writing my dissertation when I thought it might be “important.” By the time I was finished with, I settled for “complete.” So it was (sans hubris) with the book ms. It’s done. I’m likewise impressed by range – by scholars who aren’t afraid to step outside a narrow band and try something more ambitious, more synthetic, or even more “popular” (because I think that very well done AND very accessible history is hugely challenging).

  11. “Let’s Move” and the civilized American body of 2010 : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 10 Feb 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    [...] “Let’s Move” initiative to end obesity in children.  And, as I mentioned in my previous post, I just finished reading Kathleen Brown’s Foul Bodies:  Cleanliness in Early America (2009), [...]

  12. Comrade PhysioProf on 10 Feb 2010 at 7:19 pm #

    That post by Squadratomagico is password protected.