Archive for 2010

November 23rd 2010
Thanksgiving! Gimme a break! It’s making me completely mental.

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff & happy endings

Here’s a flashback from the 1980s of that upbeat young fella Ed Grimley, a character played by Martin Short on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live.  This excerpt is not just a Thanksgiving skit, but also a takeoff of Rear Window, starring Ed Asner as the murderous neighbor.  (“You’re a dead man,Grimley!”  Oh, Mr. Grant!)

“That’s a pain that’s gonna linger, there’s no question about that!”  Ed Grimley has a lot to teach us about being thankful:  Continue Reading »

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November 22nd 2010
Thanksgiving roundup: greatest hits edition

Posted under American history & childhood & fluff & happy endings & the body

I’ve had some private requests for more food blogging, now that Thanksgiving is nigh upon us and those of you who haven’t ordered or purchased a turkey yet may be S.O.L. if you don’t get to it soon.  But, quite frankly, I’m a little frazzled this year.  I’m laboring away on an essay that’s (at this point) a week overdue, and will need the rest of this week to make it shine. So this is what would probably be on the Thanksgiving menu at Chez Historiann this year, if I could get ‘em.  (There’s probably a mouldy old box down in some forgotten fallout shelter, don’t’cha’think?  It seems like the kind of fake food that would be as good today as it was on the day it was manufactured.)

Did Don sign off on this?  (H/t to Assistant Professor Andy for the funny link, and to Fratguy for the funny line.)  Isn’t it interesting to see what became a children’s novelty processed food marketed to mothers as though it were a perfectly nutritious thing?  (Actually, when you look at the box, it’s not far from the way that energy bars are marketed today.)  Back in the day, mothers used to tell their children what they’d eat, not the other way around, which is why advertising aimed at children now emphasizes the pleasure, the coolness, and even the rebellion of consuming a particular food item. 

As for Thanksgiving:  Continue Reading »


November 21st 2010
Warnings from the Dead!

Posted under American history & jobs & students

Roxie, an unusually prolific dead wire-haired fox terrier, has some great advice for those of us who labor under the burden of administrative “efficiency.”  She suggests that efficiency is a two-way street, and has some great advice for tenured faculty who are seeing their departments adjunctified as well as for adjuncts and junior faculty.  We must, as the Canadians say, work to rule.  Ignore that urge to volunteer for more uncompensated work, and resist pointless service bull$hit.  Here are her “Faculty Tips for Surviving in the Age of Excellence Without Money:”

Refuse to take on independent studies. That won’t really hurt students, who tend to take independent studies as much for the sake of scheduling convenience as to satisfy a burning desire to conduct research that couldn’t be undertaken within the context of a regular course. Special note to the untenured: You should say no to independent studies under any and all circumstances. They are major time sinks. You get no credit for them, and they take away from the already limited time and energy you have available for the work that will matter come tenure time. The clock is ticking! Say NO!

Refuse to take on service roles that feel pointless and don’t advance the cause of shared governance. Example: Conducting merit reviews in years when there is no merit money. The argument has always been that you do the reviews anyway so that the money can be awarded retrospectively on that magical day when the bronze turtle out in front of the library turns into a pot of gold. Bull$hit. Conduct the review if and when the funds materialize. Stop wasting our under-compensated time in the meantime. Continue Reading »


November 20th 2010
Hello, I’m Johnny Trash

Posted under American history & art & childhood & fluff & happy endings

More Sesame Street nostaligia from the 1970s:

Hope you’re all having a great weekend!


November 19th 2010
The origins of the casualization of academic labor

Posted under American history & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers

Jonathan Rees draws our attention to comments by Thomas Frank in a recent issue of Harper’s (sorry–no link) about why he left academia to pursue a career as an independent writer and journalist:

“Although it scarcely seems believable today, I originally came to journalism as a practical, responsible career move. It was the mid-1990s, I had just finished a Ph.D. in history, and I was toiling away as a lecturer at a college in Chicago. Thanks to an overproduction of historians and the increasing use of adjunct labor by universities, the market had become hopelessly glutted. Friends of mine all told the same stories of low-wage toil, of lecturing and handing out A’s while going themselves without health insurance or enough money for necessities. Our tenured elders, meanwhile, could only rarely be moved to care. What was a predicament to us was a liberation to them-a glorious lifting of their burden to teach. For the university, which was then just then discovering the wonders of profit-making, it was something even more fabulous: a way to keep labor costs down.”

I argued over there that his “tenured elders” weren’t the authors of this system–at least, not unless they were the Deans and Provosts who decided to use adjuncts instead of permitting departments to run tenure-track searches.  No tenured faculty in any department I’ve ever been a member of has cackled with glee at the prospect of seeing our ranks depleted and populated instead with adjuncts.  In fact, the faculty I’m on is always up in arms about the erosion in our ranks.  The chairs of my department, and the chairs of all other departments I know of in my college, have made the hiring of tenure-track colleagues their number-one request for the last several years. Continue Reading »


November 18th 2010
Thursday round-up: beating dead horses edition

Posted under fluff & jobs & students & wankers & weirdness

Let's give it a whirl!

Some random thoughts inspired by yesterday’s conversation about Cheatergate at UCF yesterday and other trivial events:

  • Liberal Arts majors are frequently subjected to the “but what will you DO with THAT degree?” question from parents, friends, and random busybodies.  (History majors often get the derisive punchline of “Teach??from the parents and busybodies, as though teaching were an undignified and completely unthinkable career.)  But do parents and the general public understand that business majors at some universities are offered “senior-level” classes with 600 students in them?  Speaking for my department only, our 100-level classes (still far too large IMHO) are capped at 123.  We have no 200-level classes, nearly all of our upper-division (300-400 level) courses are capped at 44, and usually end up with fewer than 35 students if they require even a modest level of work on the students’ part.  Our senior seminars are built around writing research papers and are capped 15.  I’m not saying that any of these numbers is optimal–but my bet is that my department’s classes are classes in which faculty know students’ names and have time to talk to them (in class discussions and outside of class), design creative syllabi not focused around a damn textbook, give them constructive advice on their reading and writing, and focus on their development as students.  In the end, which do you think offers the better education? 
  • I did a little research on the internets:  my uni offers eight sections of “Strategic Management” (BUS 479) next semester that are capped at 50.  However, there appear to be some senior-level topics courses (BUS 405A and 405B) that are capped at 90 and 100.  And “Legal and Ethical Issues in Business” (BUS 205) is capped at 130! Continue Reading »


November 17th 2010
A wicked cheat

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings

Is there something I’m missing here in this outrage over widespread cheating in a business class at the University of Central Florida?  Here’s the issue, according to a story at Inside Higher Ed: 

The revelation that hundreds of University of Central Florida students in a senior-level business class received an advance version of a mid-term exam has exposed the widening chasm in what different generations expect of each other — and what they perceive cheating to be.

“To say I’m disappointed is beyond comprehension,” Richard Quinn, instructor in the management department at UCF, told his students last week as he announced that all 600 of them would have to retake their midterm exam in his strategic management course. The discovery that at least 200 of his students received a version of the test prior to the exam shook Quinn deeply, leaving him “physically ill, absolutely disgusted, completely disillusioned, trying to figure out what was the last 20 years for,” he said in a widely distributed Web broadcast of his lecture, which a student posted on YouTube, after appending his or her own captioned commentary (a more complete version of Quinn’s remarks is here).

The “perception” problem alluded to in the intro graph above is this:

What is clear is that some students gained access to a bank of tests that was maintained by the publisher of the textbook that Quinn used. They distributed the test to hundreds of their fellow students, some of whom say they thought they were receiving a study guide like any other — not a copy of the actual test. Continue Reading »


November 16th 2010
Tuesday morning fairy tales: Mr. Tod’s Big Scheme for the Non-Profit Forest

Posted under art & fluff & unhappy endings & weirdness

Once upon a time, there was a non-profit forest of happy animals.  The deer ran the Deer Department, the squirrels, mice, and chipmunks cooperated in the Rodent Department, and the bunnies administered the Department of Lapinography.  Each department was sovereign, but they cooperated in self-governance to ensure that the forest remained a safe and productive forest for them all.

Unfortunately, drought struck the forest, and a great famine ensued.  The famine went on for a few years, and the head of the forest animals, one Mr. Tod, a Vulpinologist, told all of the animals they needed to sacrifice for the good of the forest.  The animals were alarmed, but they made their reduced rations go around for a few years while they tried to wait out the drought and famine.  Although the numbers of their young continued to grow, they were given no more food.

One day, Mr. Tod told the animals that they could have some extra food from him, on one condition:  they needed to demonstrate that by taking the extra food, they’d be able to generate a profitContinue Reading »


November 15th 2010
Peggy Pascoe, 1954-2010

Posted under American history & Gender & Intersectionality & race & women's history

Peggy Pascoe, one of the most important feminist historians of the American West, died July 23.  Estelle Friedman has a lovely obituary in this month’s AHA Perspectives describing her career and the importance of her intellectual work and feminist teaching and service to the profession:

Born in Butte, Montana, in 1954, Peggy Pascoe received a BA in history from Montana State University (1977), which later named her one of the school’s 100 most outstanding graduates. She entered the women’s history program at Sarah Lawrence College, studying with Gerda Lerner, and earned her MA degree in 1980. That year she began the doctoral program in U.S. history at Stanford, where I had the great fortune to serve as her advisor and then to become her colleague and friend. Her cohort—which included David Gutierrez, Valerie Matsumoto, and Vicki Ruiz—pioneered a multicultural and gendered history of the West. Pascoe’s revised dissertation, Relations of Rescue: The Search for Female Moral Authority in the American West, 1874–1939 (Oxford University Press, 1993), set a high standard for these fields. Through careful case studies of female missionary campaigns throughout the West, she explored the ways that white Protestant women attempted to uplift Native American, Asian American, working class, and Mormon women. Her balanced and subtle interpretation both credited the opportunities to challenge patriarchy and exposed the ways these efforts reinforced racial hierarchies.

Pascoe’s last book, What Comes Naturally: Miscegenation Law and the Making of Race in America (Oxford, 2009), was completed while she was enduring treatment for ovarian cancer and was awarded many prestigious prizes:

Pascoe was part way through the manuscript for her book on miscegenation law when she learned in 2005 that she had ovarian cancer. Initially she did not think that she would be able to complete the study. In 2007, at a panel held in her honor at the annual meeting of the Organization of American Historians, several colleagues commented on her draft chapters, which helped inspire her to go back to work on the book even as she endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Continue Reading »


November 13th 2010

Posted under American history & happy endings & jobs & local news & publication

Yeah, babies–I got my first royalty check from my publisher for Abraham in Arms.  (For a while there, I was just getting statements because of the advance on royalties I got years ago when I signed the contract.)   When Fratguy opened the mail and said I got a royalty check, I thought he was joking, because the last statement I remember suggested that I would get royalties in the year 20-notinmylifetime. 

This royalty check won’t change my life–it won’t make up for two years of no raises and no merit pay–but it’s a non-trivial amount of money.  it could buy me a very nice pair of shoes (that is, much more expensive than I ordinarily buy), or it could cover dinner for two, including wine and the works.  (It won’t cover the a$$-kicking cowgirl boots I bought last week, however. . . )

So now I have just one question: 

Continue Reading »


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