Archive for March, 2011

March 22nd 2011
Tuesday tunes: cute nonthreatening boys edition

Posted under art & childhood & European history & fluff

Oh, yeah: Haircut 100 from 1982. Very cute, and totally nonthreatening. (Most of the bandmates look like your friends’ dads–at least, the way they might have looked in 1982.) They have to have been the most American top-40 radio friendly “ska” band of the 1980s.

What was it with all the saxophones in the 1980s? Continue Reading »


March 21st 2011
Groundhog Day at M.I.T., and everywhere

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & students & women's history

UPDATED, later this morning

The New York Times reports on M.I.T.’s efforts to recruit, retain, and promote women faculty in the Schools of Science and Engineering into leadership positions in the wake of its landmark study in 1999 revealing pervasive sex discrimination.  It’s good news–but M.I.T. is about where most American unis were about 20 years ago in their conclusions about the progress of women and the “new” issues that their success so far.  From the Times summary of the 2011 report:

In what the new study calls “stunning” progress, the number of female faculty members has nearly doubled in the School of Science since 1999 and in the School of Engineering since its original study was completed in 2002. More women are in critical decision-making positions at M.I.T. — there is a female president, and women who are deans and department heads. Inequities in salaries, resources, lab space and teaching loads have largely been eliminated.

“I thought things might get better, I thought people had good will, but I never dreamed we’d make this much progress in 10 years,” said Lorna J. Gibson, who led the Engineering School study.

Some of the problems noted in the report are brought on by progress: the university now struggles to accommodate two-career couples; a decade ago, women with tenure tended to be married only to their careers.

But the primary issue in the report is the perception that correcting bias means lowering standards for women. In fact, administrators say they have increased the number of women by broadening their searches. No one is hired without what Marc A. Kastner, the dean of the School of Science, called “off-scale” recommendations from at least 15 scholars outside M.I.T.

Among women on the science and engineering faculties, there are more than two dozen members of the National Academy of Sciences; four winners of the National Medal of Science; the recipient of the top international award in computer science; and the winners of a host of other fellowships and prizes.

“No one is getting tenure for diversity reasons, because the women themselves feel so strongly that the standards have to be maintained,” Professor Kastner said.

For many students and faculty–women included!–the mere presence of women and/or nonwhite scholars on a faculty in any meager number is prima facie evidence that “standards” are slipping.  Continue Reading »


March 20th 2011
Rodeo Queen of Heaven, hear my prayer

Posted under American history & art & Dolls & European history & fluff & local news & women's history

This is Arthur Lopez’s “Robert Reina del Cielo,” or “Rodeo Queen of Heaven,” a clever little santo, or devotional sculpture of the Holy Family that I saw today at the Denver Art Museum (more info here, although as you’ll see they misspell cielo.)  Ain’t it swell?  Dig baby Jesus’s hand raised in the preaching (and/or bronco busting and bull-riding) position, just as in the European tradition. 

At least it’s the most important parts of the Holy Family–the Madonna and Child, natch.  Joseph:  he’s always seemed like the Ken of the Holy Family to me.  Barbie and Skipper seem to do just fine without him.

Continue Reading »


March 18th 2011
Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & publication & race & students & women's history

Telling Histories:  Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower, edited by Deborah Gray White, features autobiographical essays from prominent African American women historians that reflect on their careers, their tenure battles, and their struggles to invent the field of African American women’s history at the same time as they were forced to fight to make and preserve spaces for themselves within the historical profession.  I blogged about this book briefly two years ago, but just this week finally sat down to read it.  (Consider this my slight contribution to Women’s History Month blogging.)

It is good to be reminded of how new the field of African American women’s history is–the contributors to this volume were born in the 1940s-1960s.  They are people we know and work with, and they are truly a pioneer generation.  White’s introductory essay does a brilliant job of highlighting the awesome challenges of professing black women’s history from inside a black woman’s body: 

Educated African American women believed they had to overcome their history before they could do their history.  Yet the nature of the history they sought to overcome was so embarassing and demeaning [of racial, class, and sexual exploitation and abuse] that it kept them from engaging that history in all but the most indirect manner.  It was not by choice, therefore, but by necessity that we came late to the historical profession.

White and her contributors explain the many struggles that black women faced as they began to enter the profession in the 1960s and 1970s– Continue Reading »


March 16th 2011
History and humor

Posted under American history & art & captivity & childhood & Gender & Intersectionality & publication & unhappy endings & women's history

Sit down and let me pour you a cup!

As you may have noticed if you are a regular reader of this blog, I like teh funny, and even if my sense of humor ain’t exactly your cuppa joe, I like to write to amuse myself, at least.  My problem now is that I can’t find a lot of humor in the book I’m writing.  I wrote a book about guys and guns and warfare in the Northeastern borderlands of what’s now the U.S. and Canada, so although that wasn’t a happy story for most of the people I wrote about, there were a lot of really fatuous English men and women I could mock in that book.  I realize it’s a low trick, but having a mockable bad guy or set of bad guys in your book is one way to leaven the story and add a little humor.  After writing about warfare for the better part of a decade, I looked forward to what I imagined to be a retreat into the relative safety and comfort of the cloister in order to write about a little English girl (Esther Wheelwright, 1696-1780) who was taken captive by the Indians at 7 and wound up in the Ursuline convent in Quebec at the age of 12, where she remained for the rest of her life.  

But, the problem for me right now is that there just isn’t a lot of humor in the story of a little girl whose life was filled with warfare and trauma for her English family, and the starvation, disease, and eventual destrution of her Indian family.  She arrived safely at the monastery and lived to the age of 84, but early modern nuns are just so earnest with their apostolic missions, such do-gooders that I haven’t found a lot of humor or texture in that part of the story, either.  They were not late medieval mystics who wrote long, fantastic narratives or offered descriptions of the various ways in which they mortified their bodies.  They were not aristocratic European nuns who flaunted their wealth and had men jumping in and out of their cells in between secret plots to make another Borgia prince the Pope.  They were teachers!  I’m a teacher, and many of you reading this are teachers–you know how boring and earnest we all are!  Who wants to read about about a bunch of teachers?   

In short, I have a humor problem with this book, and no really obvious bad guys to target for the cheap yuks.  (At least I’m having a hard time making scurvy and smallpox variola take the fall for everything.) Continue Reading »


March 14th 2011
Wyoming: a Not-So-Happy Meal but a cowgirl’s dream

Posted under American history & fluff & happy endings

Wyoming is a big, freaking, windy state.  490 miles in 8 hours and 10 minutes:  how’s that for a cattle drive?  Yee-haw!  Man, am I saddle sore!  Since I don’t have any relations in nearby states, I’m no longer accustomed to long car trips or crossing state lines in anything smaller than a DC-9.  Now that we have friends back in Salt Lake City, I imagine I’ll be saddling up and riding out to visit the Double G Ranch again before too long.  (Thanks, friends!)

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as you might imagine, there are not a lot of culinary options while traveling I-80.  I bought a McDonald’s “Happy Meal,” because I figured that less bad food was better than an adult-sized portion of bad food.  My traveling companion. who also had a Happy Meal, wanly regarded a Chicken McNugget and announced, “I’m not loving this food.”  We agreed that they should be called “Miserable Meals,” although the Littlest Pet Shop toy inside provided some entertainment.

Fratguy and I joke about having four children and naming them after the major towns of Wyoming.  Can’t you just picture it?  “Cody, Casper, Cheyenne, Jackson–get in the truck!”  Continue Reading »


March 11th 2011
Where in the world is Historiann?

Posted under American history & Gender

Famille Historiann is on a little road trip this weekend for a mini-spring break.  Here’s a little something I saw while we were making a pit stop Thursday night–I couldn’t resist sharing this with fellow academic blogger Undine at Not of General Interest, who is always delightfully cranky about the shocking amount of teh stoopid that infects our national and local conversations about higher education and education policy.  (For example, see her latest post on college students “Actually Going to Class?”  Surely not!)  I have no idea why this park is called Undine–perhaps it’s named after Undine Spragg?  (Perhaps Undine the blogger is too?)

So where am I?  I suppose all that I can say is, where the hell are all my brother husbands? Continue Reading »


March 9th 2011
“A lot of money would make things better.”

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & jobs & students & women's history

Finally, a high-profile review of these “crisis in higher education” books that calls them for what they are:  bull$hitte.  (H/t to my colleague and occasional blog contributorNathan Citino for the link.  He reads the New York Review of Books  so I don’t have to!)  Go read the whole thing by Peter Brooks–but here are some parts I thought particularly choice:

On the one hand, all the critics of the American university claim to be partisans of the liberal arts, to want students to study philosophy and literature, even the arts, and to learn “critical thinking” (the currently accepted mantra—not a bad one). On the other hand, the tests proposed always seem to have to do with job preparation—even as the critics in the same breath deplore “vocationalism” and point to the impoverished education that many majors in business or accounting receive. And one would like to know whether the level of higher education attainment measured by the OECD is in fact liberal education or simply technocratic training at a high level (a point raised by Martha Nussbaum in Not for Profit, the welcome outlier among the books under review).

[Claudia] Hacker and [Andrew] Dreifus, in their self-consciously iconoclastic (and sometimes cranky) book, identify a “Golden Dozen” colleges considered the most desirable: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, Stanford, Duke, Amherst, Williams. They find it hard to obtain “solid information” to gauge the success of Golden Dozen graduates. So they turn to Who’s Who in America, to track one class (‘73) from Princeton—to find that national eminence has been achieved by a disappointing percentage of them. From this and some other equally shaky research, they conclude: “We found that most Dozen graduates do not create distinctive lives and careers—at least not to the extent one would expect from colleges that claim to find and nurture unusual talent.” The exercise is trivial—to judge the successful life requires far greater depth of knowledge—and its conclusions lightweight.

Terminal Preppies

Hey, social scientists:  how ’bout that methodology?  I’m sure they have some super-scientific formula for determining “national eminence.”  And who cares about the Class of 1973 from Princeton–did Hacker and Dreifus consider that the uni was still being churned by co-education for undergraduates, which had only begun in 1969?  Princeton’s largely male class of 1973 likely still was reflective more of ancestral privilege and old-boy networks rather than a more meritocratic admissions system.  Gee–no wonder so few (by their measure) are “nationally eminent!” Continue Reading »


March 8th 2011
Using Facebook to stalk former professors

Posted under bad language & Gender & students & wankers & women's history

Have any of you faculty-types received hate mail from former students via your Facebook account?  Here’s a little something that landed in the Facebook “message” account of a friend of mine.  (She has since moved on to another professional calling.)  
Hello, i had you as a professor for Greek Philosophy at the University of D*****.  I mean no disrespect here but you actually kicked me out of a class for calling some girl a name (that i never called her and would ever call her or anyone) simply because she told you i did. To this day me and my best friend Jay are still bothered by the fact you did that. You made my college experience way more difficult than it had to be. You are one of the most difficult people i have ever dealt with and am so glad to see you are a “former” philosophy professor mainly because no other student will have to deal with your bullshit again. Didn’t surprise me you would take a woman’s word over mine. You pushed your hardcore feminist BS on everyone. The thing was i tried so hard to be accepted by you in college i guess it took years of realization that you are in fact a horrible professor and probably not that much better of a person.

Well, then:  I’m glad he meant “no disrespect!”  Continue Reading »


March 8th 2011
Horrific high-speed, car-flipping crashes

Posted under unhappy endings & weirdness

I am not using “car crash” as a metaphor like “train wreck,”–this is a post about the fact that I have been driving the first car behind two different cars that crashed horrifically in the past six months.  Both accidents were on the U.S. Interstate or state highway I travel every day to and from work.

In late September as I returned from an evening lecture on campus after nightfall, I was in the travel lane and was passed by an older car (like a 1970s sled of a sedan) in the left-hand lane heading southbound on I-25.  The sled veered in front of me into the travel lane, so I kept my distance.  It then careened off to the right, past the shoulder (to the point beyond which I could still see its taillights), and I saw sparks.  Then the car reappeared, flying to the left back onto the highway and into the stream of traffic, when it then went flying into the median which (fortunately) was a steep uphill, where it then rolled a few times, stopped upside down, and the engine burst into flames.  I pulled over to call 911, and other motorists got out of their cars, ran across 75-MPH traffic, and pulled bodies from the flaming vehicle. 

The accident I saw yesterday morning was almost identical, although the car was a late model and there was no indication of mechanical problems.  Continue Reading »


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