Archive for October, 2011

October 11th 2011
20th anniversary of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the Clarence Thomas SCOTUS nomination

Posted under American history & bad language & Gender & Intersectionality & jobs & race & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

Nina Totenberg, who broke the story of Anita Hill’s allegations about Thomas, has an interesting retrospective of the Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings.  I was just starting my second year in graduate school in 1991.  Sexual trauma was big in the news of 1991:  that summer had already featured the ugly smearing of a high-profile rape victim in the trial (and acquittal) of William Kennedy Smith.  The Thomas hearings had us all riveted–on the one hand, it was remarkable to see a young, black woman’s testimony about sexual harassment entered into the public record.  On the other, the all-too-predictable reactions of the U.S. Senators who treated Anita Hill with such smarmy condescention or prurient personal attacks (Snarlin’ Arlen Specter and Orrin Hatch in particular) were almost too much to bear. 

Senator Ted Kennedy was of course notably silent through these hearings, because he had been a witness called at his nephew’s rape trial the previous summer. (That’s what Snarlin’ Arlen meant to imply when he said towards the end of the clip above, “Mr. Chairman I object to that. I object to that vociferously. . . If Senator Kennedy has anything to say, let him participate in this hearing.”)

Anita Hill looks so young and without defenses or allies in these old clips. She was unimaginably brave to endure this in public. Deborah Gray White suggests the powerful historical currents that Hill swam against 20 years ago in Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (2008):
Continue Reading »


October 10th 2011
Moving beyond the grad committee

Posted under jobs & students

Those of you on the job market for either a first or a second tenure-track job may be interested in the following question:

For how long might a job applicant include letters in a credentials file from a graduate advisor, committee member, or other professor from one’s graduate institution?  I thought that once I found my first tenure-track, post-grad job, that it was up to me to cultivate senior scholars as mentors and allies on whom I could call for letters of recommendation.  (Besides, the direction of my intellectual interests and the fact that I didn’t end up publishing my dissertation as a book meant that people at my graduate institution wouldn’t have been very good interpreters of my new work, in any case.) Continue Reading »


October 8th 2011
11-dimensional chessmasters checkmated by “reality”

Posted under American history & bad language & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Scott Wilson has an interesting article in the Washington Post today about President Barack Obama’s political troubles and how they may be connected to his dislike for retail politics at any level–he never stays on a rope line for more than 15 minutes, big donors are shocked by how little face time they get, and he delegates the management of Congress to Vice President Joe Biden.  Members of Congress are getting a lot more sleep than back in Lyndon Johnson’s day–there are no more “Senator So-and-So, this is your President” calls at 2 a.m. 

But then, they’re apparently not the only ones getting plenty of rest.  Obama’s schedule shows striking deference to his children’s schedule and needs–but remember how we all laughed and laughed at President Ronald Reagan and “Mommie” being in their jammies by 7 p.m. to watch re-runs of Little House on the Prairie?  I’m not convinced that Obama’s days are significantly longer: Continue Reading »


October 7th 2011
American ingenuity: Steve Jobbed?

Posted under American history & captivity & class & technoskepticism

Has the over-the-top coverage of the sadly premature death of Steve Jobs (1955-2011) struck anyone as perhaps a telling sign of anxiety over the prospect of American decline?  Specifically, I’m writing about the decline in technological innovation, but I think it speaks to anxities about the future of the United States in all kinds of global leadership questions as well as the current state of the U.S. economy.

From my perspective, Jobs is an odd person to lionize.  Don’t get me wrong–he helped develop and sell a number of remarkably nifty gadgets, but he wasn’t the inventor.  He was the CEO of Apple–a company that moved most of its manufacturing to China.  Continue Reading »


October 6th 2011
No sex or bad language please: We’re historians

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs

Michael O’Brien, in “Of Cats, Historians, and Gardeners,” part of a roundtable discussion on “Self and Subject” in the June, 2002 Journal of American History, writes of the congenital bourgeois politesse of the historical profession in our era:

Historians seem to bungle the self-reflective moment and, on the whole, live dull, inconspicuous lives.  Compared to novelists and poets, they tend to be genteel, unwilling to narrate their own jagged hatreds, betrayals, sexual passions, and ugly experience, though happy enough to narrate those of others.  Rather, historians like to show themselves as virtuous and competent, the prudent guardians of reform and hope, the users of inoffensive language.  (The skeptical historian, contemplating the matter of Sally Hemings, may venture of Thomas Jefferson that he might have been a hypocrite, not that he was a fucking son-of-a-bitch.)  This primness offers thin encouragement that the cultivation of self will yield much of literary range, comparable to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl or Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, though we might hope for a peer of Vladmir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory.

I have to say that his description of the historian’s personality and temperament cuts pretty darned close to the bone.  Dull and inconspicuous?  Check.  Genteel and unwilling to reveal much of the self but willing to dish about others?  Check check.  Pretends to be virtuous, competent, and the prudent guardian of reform, and a user of inoffensive language (online anyway)?  Checkitycheckcheck and check.   Continue Reading »


October 5th 2011
Men-ups, plus why do I say that Rick Perry is handsome and has great hair?

Posted under American history & Gender & women's history

Photo by clickandclash

UPDATED BELOW later this morning, with a link to my New Fave Blog. 

Reader & commenter Digger sent this link to Men-Ups, which is clearly a feminst commentary on the work of midcentury pin-up artists  like Gil Elvgren, whose cowgirls and other cuties I use here ironically to illustrate this blog.  I like the way artist clickandclash made the photos look creased and well-worn.  However, the comparison is pretty tame by my lights–for example, these d00ds are showing too little skin and are wearing way too many clothes.  I also think that the artist could have done better with the hair–for example, not covering it up with caps and hats, and also depilating her models in the way that the idealized Elvgren models are depilated.  These guys look far too natural, when of course the point of the pin-up is the commodification of denatured women.  Maybe the artist thought that more skin and depilation would make her photos look like gay pin-ups?  (And the weightlifting guy with the sideshow performer beard?  Please, boys:  there is nothing flattering whatsoever about those unkempt crazy Amish chin slinkies that are so fashionable these days.  WTF?)

I’ve been thinking about the subject of male beauty lately ever since Spanish Prof said in a recent comment, “[T]he biggest mystery to me is why American women would consider [Mitt Romney] or [Rick] Perry handsome. Seriously, I don’t get it. John Hunstman is OK (among Republicans), but Romney and Perry?”

First of all, girlfriend:  John Huntsman?  Srsly?  Do you still harbor that crush on someone’s dad when you were in junior high school?

I thought about Spanish Prof’s question for a little while, and while I do think that Rick Perry in particular is almost too handsome for politics, I also thought that her question and my harping on Perry’s looks exposes a real divide in the way that beauty works for male pols versus women pols.  (I know:  big surprise!Continue Reading »


October 4th 2011
Can a textbook change your intellectual life?

Posted under American history & book reviews & publication & students

Ben Hufbauer, an art historian at the University of Louisville,  has a really nice essay about his encounter with Richard Hofstadter’s The American Republic, which was co-authored by Daniel Aaron and William Miller (1959; rev. 1970).  It turned out to be Hofstadter’s final book, as he died just weeks after the publication of the revised edition in 1970.  Go read–Hufbauer makes a compelling case for the clarity and freshness of the approach by Hofstadter et. al. to narrative history, especially as he encounters it in the mid-1990s in an unlighted Nigerian university library:

I came across The American Republic almost by chance 24 years later, in the library of the Enugu campus of the University of Nigeria. I was in Nigeria for five months with my wife as her research assistant as she studied Igbo masquerades for her doctorate. We lived in a small apartment a short distance from campus in a city that was at times hot almost beyond belief. We often only had power for a few hours a day, and in that un-air-conditioned state — when we weren’t doing ethnographic research — we read a lot to each other, often by candlelight.

Given the poverty and corruption of the country, and the fact that Nigeria suffered a military coup while we were there, it is perhaps not surprising that most of our reading was comfort fare — Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens. But one day as I was wandering the quiet stacks of the library with no lights and no air conditioning, I dimly saw on a bottom shelf two volumes by a historian I remembered liking for The American Political Tradition, which I’d read as an undergraduate. Continue Reading »


October 2nd 2011
Sunday Round-Up: Endless Summer edition

Posted under American history & book reviews & jobs & students & the body & wankers

Where there's smoke. . .

Howdy, friends.  It’s just another gorgeous, clear, warm, sunny, dry, earthquake-free, hurricane-free, and (of course) tsunami-free autumn day here on the High Plains Desert.  The crickets are chirping happily, and there are a few lawnmowers humming in the distance.  I’ve got a stack of student essays to mark while I sit outside trying to extend the tan on my gams, but here’s some fun links to keep you amused if the weather (or something else) is keeping you indoors.  To wit:


October 1st 2011
Shaque d’Amour

Posted under American history & art & fluff & happy endings

Glitter on the highway! Hope your weekend travels are safe, fun, and loving!


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