Archive for 2010

December 6th 2010
Tonight we’re going to party like it’s 1995!

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & GLBTQ & the body & unhappy endings & wankers

Did anyone else flash back to the last time Republicans won big in the midterms under a Democratic president last week?  I sure did when I heard the news that the Republicans once again were targeting a Smithsonian museum exhibition for being offensive to right-wing Republicans.  This article at Inside Higher Ed suggests parallels to the big Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition crisis of 1989, but I was thinking about the manufactured controversy of the planned Enola Gay exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of 1994-95.  We were just talking about the Enola Gay controversy in my graduate seminar.  Our current graduate students know about this because it’s an important case study in public history, not because they remember it.  After all, most of them were in grade school in 1994-95.  Continue Reading »


December 3rd 2010
Eminently sensible

Posted under American history & jobs & race

I’ve steered away from writing about the job market in my field (what job market is that, you might ask!), so I don’t have much to offer this year, I’m afraid.  But, Inside Higher Ed offers us a thorough and eminently sensible explanation for why a dual-career academic heterosexual couple decided to hang it up shortly after the husband started his first academic job.  “John” sums up all of the problems of his particular position:

Individually speaking, I left the academy because the job was not worth all the sacrifices, which included: relatively low-pay; a heavy 3/4 workload — with five of the seven classes outside of my field; living apart from our family/friend network in an ethnically homogeneous and Bible-belt conservative city; and working in an unsupportive department in a college that was not interested in dealing with diversity/inclusion at the administrative level. Over the course of the year, I eventually arrived at a place where I thought to myself, for low-pay and an O.K. job, I should live somewhere enjoyable and/or near family.

I know what you’re thinking:  with so many strikes against it, it’s kind of amazing that he took the job in the first place!  But, as he writes in the next paragraph, “Yes, the myths about the professoriate being a vocation or calling did implicitly influence my decision. The whole discourse about having a passion for teaching and fighting the good fight proved illusory. I was doing the grunt work for the department. And though I was once enamored with the status of being a professor, I concluded that I was paying a high price for that status.”  Go read the whole thing–both John and his wife have a lot of thoughtful comments about being some of the only brown faces in an overwhelmingly white small town. Continue Reading »


December 2nd 2010
Denver: zero tolerance for misfit toys

Posted under childhood & Dolls & fluff & local news & wankers & weirdness

"They blew him up???"

It’s rough out there for a robot.  Check out this story from the Denver Post this morning:

A robot met its end near Coors Field on Wednesday night when the Denver Police Department Bomb Squad detonated the “suspicious object,” bringing to an end the hours-long standoff between police and the approximately 8-inch-tall figurine.

Denver police spokesman Matt Murray said a citizen called police at 3:27 p.m. to report the presence of the plastic, white, toy robot, cemented to the base of a pillar supporting a footbridge near 20th and Wazee streets. Police closed 20th Street between Blake Street and Chestnut Place but did let a few people past the police tape to retrieve cars parked in nearby lots.

Nobody was allowed within about 100 yards of the robot.

Thank goodness state and local governments got all of that federal grant money after 9/11 to purchase anti-terrorist equipment and beef up their bomb squads!  Continue Reading »


November 30th 2010
The beatings actually *will* continue until morale improves!

Posted under American history & unhappy endings & wankers

I always thought that was a rather overused cliché.  Until yesterday, that is.

Way to halt the deflationary drain-circling whirlpool that we’re drowning in!  This is a measure uniquely Democratic (as in, the product of the Democratic Party) in that it’s completely superficial and won’t address the real problem, but is guaranteed to pi$$ off yet another important Democratic constituency!

Awesome!  (Are you clapping louder?  Tinkerbell will die if you all don’t clap louder!)


November 30th 2010
What does the War on Teachers have in common with the Iraq War?

Posted under American history & childhood & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings

Yesterday, the Denver Post ran a story that dared to suggest that someone other than teachers are responsible for students’ educations.  Apparently, one Denver high school is doing the obvious–engaging parents in their childrens’ educations.  (Good for them!)  But how did this Thought Crime get into a major media outlet, especially one that has so vigorously promoted school “reform” schemes premised on the precarization of teachers’ professional lives? 

Much of the talk around educational reform has focused on the role teachers play in students lives, all but ignoring another big player: parents.

One Denver high school is changing that narrative, creating a multi-school system that empowers parents with the goal of getting more students into college.

Antonio Esquibel, principal of Abraham Lincoln High School, is using money from a three-year federal school-improvement grant to build a collaboration with its feeder schools — CMS Community School, Godsman Elementary and Kepner Middle School.

How does this amazing new theory of education work?  Continue Reading »


November 29th 2010
Salary negotiations redux: ALWAYS negotiate for more. Always.

Posted under Gender & happy endings & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Catalina reconsiders

This Monday morning, I thought I’d draw your attention to a new blog run by some librarians and archivists who write about workplace issues and are standing up for professional standards and against the casualization of academic labor.  And, it’s got a great name:  You Ought to Be Ashamed (or Eating Our Young.)  Check out “Why You Should Always Ask for More Money” by Catalina, who tells a sad tale of her first job offer and her attempts to negotiate a better salary:

Shortly after finishing library school, I interviewed for a great position with an archive associated with a religious organization.  The interview went really well, I liked the supervisor, and everyone was cool with me not going to church.  Just an hour after the interview, as I was boarding my plane, I got a call offering me the job.  Sweet, my first job offer!  All is flowers and sunshine until they mention the starting salary is $32,000.  Even right out of school that number was way too low for me to move across the country for, but on the call they mention the details can be negotiated.  I get on the plane, go home, and after much debate decide I really liked the position and if I can get them up to $36k I’ll take it.  It’s not like I became an archivist to get rich.

Despite this being my first salaried job offer ever, I was ready to negotiate and get the money.  My school had an active career services department and a few months ago I had attended a salary negotiation workshop.  I knew how to tell a potential employer I was worth more, how to ask firmly but nicely, and that if they couldn’t raise the salary to ask about relocation or conferences.  I call the supervisor back, tell her I’m really excited but the salary is on the low side.  Immediately, before I can talk about how much I want or why I deserve it, the supervisor offers me $35,000.  Looking back, it’s obvious that was how much she was authorized to give me, at the time I was completely thrown as the script I rehearsed in my head didn’t have a scenario for “they offered me money before I say anything.”

In a far less articulate way than planned, I manage to convey I was actually hoping for more, which is inline with the market, my skills, blah, blah.  Supervisor says she needs to check and will get back to me.  She calls me back, can’t do it, $35k’s the max.  I think about it, decide it’s close enough to what I wanted and that I’ll accept, but that I am going to use the tip from that workshop to see if I can get that extra $1,000 in relocation or a trip to SAA.  I ask for that, supervisor tells me she has to check and will call me back.  Finally, she calls back and let’s me know that based on my high concern for salary I’m probably not the candidate they wanted and that they are rescinding the job offer.  Bam, ask for a trip to SAA and lose a job. Continue Reading »


November 28th 2010
Professor Palin’s history of feminism

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

Sarah Palin

Don’t miss Michelle Goldberg’s analysis of the feminist history in Sarah Palin’s new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag.  Apparently, it gets worse after the diabetes-inducing title.  I agree with Goldberg that “[i]n some ways, it’s a good thing that Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist. It means that, even among conservatives, women’s equality has become a normative position, the starting point for debate. It means that feminism has gone from something that the right wants to destroy to something it wants to appropriate. That’s progress, of a sort.”  This is indeed a new development–Phyllis Schlafly’s days are over, for now, and it would be even too intellectually dishonest for Palin to pretend that feminism had nothing to do with shaping the possibilities of her political career.

However, Palin is all wet when it comes to American history in general, and as Goldberg explains, feminist history in particular:  she claims Elizabeth Cady Stanton as a devout Christian–a woman who once said that “[y]ou may go over the world and you will find that every form of religion which has breathed upon this earth has degraded women,” and who wrote her own version of the Bible.  (Truly, this is more laughable than the people who try to re-claim Thomas Jefferson as a godbag.)  Palin repeats the flimsy lie that Susan B. Anthony was anti-abortion, and she repeats the distortions of Margaret Sanger’s work and career by claiming that she advocated “Nazi-style eugenics.”  (She cites the esteemed historian Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism on Sanger.)

Of course this is idiotic, but no one who buys or reads Palin’s book really cares about actual, factual feminist history.  However, I don’t think it’s impossible to write an intellectually honest history of feminism from a libertarian or conservative point of view.  Continue Reading »


November 27th 2010
“Science Cheerleaders”: feminist FAIL

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & childhood & class & Dolls & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & the body & weirdness & women's history

When I read Zuska’s comments about Science Cheerleader, I thought Science Cheerleader had to be a parody.  Apparently it’s not–but it is in fact a total joke, because (for example) it suggests that “What Everyone Needs To Know To Be A (sic) Science Literate” is the cheerleaders from the Philadelphia 76ers in spangly bras and short-shorts reading the words of an actual physicist.  The actual physicist does not don a bra-top and short-shorts and read the science concepts himself.  I wonder why not?  Maybe because he understands that it’s never a mark of status to appear publicly in a state of undress?  (In my period and field, for example, the only people portrayed as unclothed are enslaved people–and they’re almost never represented as wearing clothing at all, whereas 17th and 18th century portraits of white people are more portraits of clothing than of individuals.  Clothes make the man, indeed!)

Anyway, back to science.  Zuska writes:

Okay, let’s play what if. What if the Science Cheerleaders are responsible for making just one girl stick with her science & math classes – isn’t it all worthwhile then?

Let’s say the Science Cheerleaders do keep one girl in advanced science or math classes, but make three other girls feel like they have to pornulate themselves in order to be 21st Century Fembot Compliant While Doing Science, and make five d00ds feel like it is perfectly okay to hang up soft porn pictures of sexay hawt babes in the lab and harass some colleague because hawt science women WANT to be appreciated for being sexay and smart! – is it still worth it?

She then goes on to describe an effective outreach program she worked with to get more girls, especially girls who would be first-generation college students, into STEM fields.   Continue Reading »


November 26th 2010
Thanksgiving throwdown: smoke vs. grill

Posted under American history & childhood & happy endings & local news

Grill and smoke setup

UPDATED BELOW, with “turkey pr0n!”

Thanksgiving day 2010 was clear and very cold–and the sun at this time of the year never reaches into our North-facing backyard.  But Fratguy and Geoff were undeterred–they(respectively) smoked and grilled two 12 or 13-pound turkeys yesterday, and both were delicious.  On my morning run, I saw another family deep-frying a turkey in their driveway.  Parts of our town smelled smoky, although I don’t know if that was due to other grilling or smoking turkeys, or just fireplaces.  It was difficult to sort out the smoke scents.

The grilled turkey was done a lot faster than the smoked turkey, which turned out to be a big plus at 2:45 in the afternoon, when the gang was hungry and all of the sides were ready.  (Smoking stuff when it’s only 27 degrees outside makes it difficult to keep the temperature up.  One can understand why it was the southeastern United States that invented barbecue culture, and not the northern woodlands.)  I was glad to learn of the American turkey’s origins–and, finally, what a “guinea fowl” was, via this informative article by John Bemelmens Marciano!  And if you’re wondering as I did,  yes–he’s the grandson of Ludwig Bemelmens, the creator of the Madeline books. Continue Reading »


November 24th 2010
Tribalism, violence, and fasting and feasting in early New England

Posted under American history & unhappy endings

Detail with woodcut from "The Rebels Reward," (Boston, 1724)

The distinguished historian of early New England David D. Hall has an op-ed in the New York Times today, “Peace, Love, and Puritanism,” that is another rehabilitationist view of the English puritans who founded Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colonies in the seventeenth century.  I don’t argue with anything he says, as he’s mostly arguing against the joyless, censorious stereotype of puritans most Americans carry around in their heads, thanks to Nathaniel Hawthorne and H. L. Mencken–but I find his discussion of the “first thanksgiving” a little incomplete. 

Hall asks, “Are our present-day values and practices aligned with the historical record, or have they been remade by our consumer culture? Is anything authentic in our own celebrations of Thanksgiving?”  There’s a lot of American history he skips over in the nearly 400 years between 1621 and 2010.  English New Englanders observed both “solemn day[s] of fasting and humiliation” as well as feast days irregularly, not just upon the harvest.  Fasts were usually called for by local clergy to atone for the community’s sins that (according to their communitarian logic) may have resulted in a military loss, and feasts were called to celebrate a military victory over the Indians, or later, the French.  Both fasts and feasts were opportunities to reaffirm tribalism, of a world view of us versus them.  The history of fasting and feasting in the English communities of New England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries should be written in blood–both blood in the sense of kinship ties, and in the sense of the shedding of outsiders’ blood in war. Continue Reading »


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