Archive for 2013

December 19th 2013
Feeling grinchy, and you?

Posted under jobs & unhappy endings

Maureen DowdI just paid $215 to register for the American Historical Association 2014 conference as a non-member, which strikes me as a confiscatory rate. Why am I not a member? I already get too many journals every quarter that I can’t keep up with and which just take up space on a bookshelf. I’m not on the job market. And at my incredibly low salary, it would still cost me $118 per year to join.  I figure I can use that toward another plane ticket to Quebec or somewhere else I can get some real work done.

I admit that when I was a grad student on the market, I rarely (if ever!) paid to register for this conference. Quite honestly, I wasn’t using any conference services or going to the receptions (and I only sneaked into the book exhibit once with a borrowed badge). I just showed up for my interviews and then made myself scarce until I had to face the next one. However, I consider it my duty now to pay full freight on the rare occasion that I go to this conference. I don’t have much travel money, so I’m not sure Baa Ram U. will even cover this much of the conference expenses (although it did buy my plane ticket. We only get $1,200 of travel money, so most of us end up footing at least half of the bills–or much more–for our ongoing professional development and research trips.) Continue Reading »

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December 17th 2013
Way-out gear for mod maidens

Posted under European history & fluff & the body

I like these styles, although catsuits are very impractical when nature calls. (I remember these from the early 1990s–did anyone else have a velvet catsuit back then?) Continue Reading »

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December 13th 2013
Family responsibility, fantasy life, and American gun culture

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & race & unhappy endings

I don’t want to spend the day crying, but here are two interesting articles on gun culture and family responsibility that you might find interesting.  First, sociologist Randall Collins says in Lessons from Newtown for Gun-Owning Parents what I was trying to say in this post, only with actual knowledge and a sociological perspective.  He writes about the murderer and his mother:

How could she be so blind? Everything her son did, she interpreted as a manifestation of his illness. The windows taped shut with black plastic were to her just a sign of sensitiveness to light—even though he could go outdoors when he wanted to. The possibility that he was hiding something in the rooms she was forbidden to enter was masked in her own mind by the feeling that she must do everything possible for her son. He had drawn her into his mental illness, building up a family system where he was in complete control. She may have felt something was wrong, wronger even than having a mentally ill son she loved. Though it seems unlikely that they quarreled in an overt way, some signs of tension came through. According to the report, “a person who knew the shooter in 2011 and 2012 said the shooter described his relationship with his mother as strained” and said that “her behavior was not rational.” He told another that he would not care if his mother died. As usual, when one person loves the other much more than is reciprocated, the power is all on the side of the less loving.

The mother entered into and supported his obsession with weapons, while carefully staying out of his clandestine world. In this, as in the rest of their arrangements, they tacitly cooperated. The mother lost her capacity to make independent judgments. This is very close to the classic model of the mental illness shared among intimates, the folie à deux.

Next, Joan Wickersham buys three gun enthusiast magazines and analyzes what they’re selling their readers–mostly fantasies that combine total powerlessness (due to end times, the collapse of civilization, or maybe Barack Obama’s evil stormtroopers) with the belief that a lone gunowner can offer heroic resistance: Continue Reading »

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December 11th 2013
Philanthropy: nostalgia, disgust, and objective value

Posted under childhood & jobs & local news & students & unhappy endings & weirdness

cowgirlgunsign1For the past twenty years or so, I’ve been a semi-regular donor to my private undergraduate college.*  I write some pretty big checks in reunion years, and while I sometimes miss a year or two, I’ve given that institution between $1000-1,500 in the past four years.  On the other hand, the pleas from my graduate institution go right into the recycling bin, as does their monthly alumni magazine.  (Honestly:  what a waste of paper and fuel!)  When I get mail from this university, I am disgusted that this large, private research university (which benefits from all kinds of government contracts, including morally objectionable work for the Pentagon, etc.) dares to ask me (me!)for a share of my modest income.

But let’s think about which institution has done the most to help me earn that modest income:  clearly, it’s my graduate institution, which granted me the Ph.D. that made me eligible to work as a tenure-track historian in the first place.  Besides:  my undergraduate college charged me and my parents thousands of dollars a year for the honor of matriculating, whereas I went to grad school for free!  It’s true:  I had a T.A.ship and two years of dissertation support, so I not only didn’t have to pay or even borrow a dime, they paid me!  So why do I react with such disgust and resentment when my graduate institution asks me for money?  That seems pretty unfair, doesn’t it?  But the fact of the matter is that I was happy in college, and I was (mostly) unhappy in graduate school, at least in my first year there. Continue Reading »

52 Comments »

December 10th 2013
A case for the Oxford comma (as if it needs to be made in the first place.)

Posted under bad language & fluff & GLBTQ & weirdness

Love at first sight! Now that would be a big news day.

I had never heard of “the Oxford comma,” but apparently it’s just a serial comma, the use of which many find duplicative. However, it can clarify the meaning of a sentence: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, boys, and girls,” versus “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, boys and girls.” To me, NOT using the serial comma makes sentences look like a spreadsheet formula with a missing parenthesis, but to each his own however stupid or illiterate it looks I guess. Continue Reading »

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