Archive for 2014

October 20th 2014
Free joke of the day

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

Hi-larious Benjamin Hart mansplains why mansplaining must be retired as a word in the English language. Apparently, some people misunderstand or misuse the term, so none of us can use it ever again. The evidence he furnishes for these crimes against language are the eminent, peer-reviewed scholars known as “some random a-holes on Twitter.”

If only this were true of other words people misuse all of the time! Like, for example, “irony.” Or my pet peeve, the nearly universal misuse of “flaunt” when “flout” is usually the appropriate word. Or people who say “based off” rather than “based on,” because they misunderstand the function of a base. You can think of others, I am sure. Yet I hear no choruses for striking irony, flaunt, flout, or off. Continue Reading »

23 Comments »

October 18th 2014
“Christmas won’t be Christmas if there isn’t any Orchard House,” grumbled Historiann: forget the sausages–send cabbage now!

Posted under American history & art & bad language & book reviews & childhood & Gender & happy endings & women's history

ANOTHER ANOTHER UPDATE, Wednesday October 22, 2014: YAY! They–and you–did it; the goal was met yesterday afternoon, and the project has collected another $5,670 on top of the goal of $150,000 as of 9:47 a.m. PDT. So, the movie will be funded!

ANOTHER UPDATE, Tuesday October 21, 2014: Friends, with 35 hours to go we still need $3,801 to make the movie, or they get zero, zilch, nada bucks. Make it happen by the end of the day today!

UPDATE, Monday October 20, 2014: With just 54 hours to go, the Orchard House movie needs only $6,057!!! Yes, that’s just over six thousand bucks. Can you help make it happen? Friends, I’m going to have to throw away all of my pickled limes if this effort falls short after getting so close.

Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House is raising funds via Kickstarter to make a movie documenting the history of the house itself, because “many who wish to experience Orchard House may never be able to visit in person, and there are millions more that do not realize the house exists.”  For more than a century, Orchard House has been preserved with little more than spit, Kleenex, and volunteer labor.  They’re trying to make a documentary film about the house itself and the story of its preservation as a means to publicize its needs and gain more support, but at this point–4 days short of their October 22 goal–they’re still nearly $30,000 shy of their $150,000 goal.


Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

October 16th 2014
Death threats plus liberal gun laws = no feminist speech allowed

Posted under American history & Gender & jobs & race & students & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

kevlar vestMany of you are probably following this story, an offshoot of the insane outpouring of misogyny known as GamerGate.  The latest news is that Anita Sarkeesian decided to cancel her speech at Utah State University yesterday.  A news article from the Salt Lake Tribune explains:

A nationally known feminist media critic said Wednesday that “it would be irresponsible” to give a lecture amidst mass shooting threats at Utah State University, knowing that police would not screen for weapons at the door.

In a phone interview from San Francisco, Anita Sarkeesian said she canceled Wednesday’s lecture not because of three death threats — one of which promised “the deadliest school shooting in American history” — but because firearms would be allowed in spite of the threats.

“That was it for me,” said Sarkeesian, who has kept multiple speaking engagements in the face of death threats, including one last week at Geek Girl Con in Seattle. “If they allowed weapons into the auditorium, that was too big a risk.”

She also pledged never to speak at a Utah school until firearms are prohibited on Utah’s campuses and called for other lecturers to join her in boycotting the state.

Wait–why would any sane polity or university let guns into a university lecture hall?   Continue Reading »

7 Comments »

October 15th 2014
Mothers’ compulsory little helpers

Posted under American history & captivity & childhood & Gender & unhappy endings & wankers & women's history

wehelpmommyI have a new intellectual crush on LA Times TV critic Mary McNamara. She’s a feminist who’s not afraid to bring the sass and the cheek like a blogger.  Check out the analysis she published today, inspired by her irritation at two television shows, Homeland and Jane the Virgin, headlined “The Tyranny of Maternity on TV.”  

Although two very different shows with different audiences, “they share a troubling and unexpected theme: Socially Enforced Motherhood.”  In other words, “despite their contrasting tone, form and intent, both shows insist that, deep down, every woman wants a child no matter the conditions, even when the woman in question has made it very clear that she does not feel this way at all.”

First, we have Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes,

For months, she denied the existence of the pregnancy, and then did not abort due mostly to psychological inertia and the writers’ need for her to have something nice to tell Brody just before his death. But Carrie never wanted the baby and, in fact, planned to put him or her up for adoption, a decision that shocked her sister, who then convinced her not to do this.

The same sister who, at the opening of Season 4, expressed intense frustration over the fact that Carrie still doesn’t want to be a mother. “You bring a child into this world, you take responsibility,” she says in the premiere, referring to the child Carrie, you know, wanted to put up for adoption. “There isn’t even a diagnosis for what’s wrong with you,” she adds, when Carrie fails to bond with baby Franny.

Yes, there is, it’s called Not Wanting to Have a Child. Something that might have been synonymous with insanity during the Inquisition but should not be so now.

Not that anyone told the writers, who could not resist throwing in a tempest-provoking scene in which Carrie contemplated drowning the baby. See? Insane.

Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

October 14th 2014
#Historiannchallenge update, with loads of linky goodness!

Posted under American history & book reviews & European history & happy endings

cowgirlgunsign1Thanks to everyone who has returned once more to the barricades to respond to the #Historiannchallenge, both on your own blogs, on Twitter, and in the comments to the previous post.  To recap:  the weekend before last, the New York Times published an interview with eminent Civil War historian James McPherson about his lists of “bests” and “favorites,” which struck me and many other historians as rather limited in its vision of current scholarship by American historians.  I picked up the other end of the rope and published my own interview of myself listing my own “bests” and “favorites,” which was deliberately aimed to broaden our understanding of what history is, what it does, and who writes it, and issued the #Historiannchallenge on Twitter to invite other bloggers to make their own contributions.

I had a whirlwind of a trip to Boston and back for family matters last weekend, and am finally back at my desk this morning (Pacific Daylight morning, anyway!)  I thought I’d commemorate all of the contributions on blogs and Twitter to the #Historiannchallenge by pulling together all of your Tweets and links–I’ve tried to acknowledge each one as they were posted, and I also tried to leave comments on your own self-interviews on your blogs, but please let me know if I’ve inadvertently missed anyone’s contributions by dropping a link in the comments below, and I will update this post to make it the official historical record. Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

October 8th 2014
Historiann: The New York Times Book Review Interview

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & Gender & happy endings & Intersectionality & jobs & race & students & the body & women's history

cowgirl3a

Giddyup!

Today’s post is was inspired by the interview with James McPherson in the New York Times book review last weekend.  I reviewed that interview in yesterday’s post.  Today, I’ve interviewed myself, and I encourage you to interview yourself too, either in the comments below, on your own blog, and/or on Twitter.  (Be sure to tag me @Historiann and #historiannchallenge.)

What books are currently on your night stand?

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, and some travel guides for southern California.

What was the last truly great book you read?

If you mean a work of history, I’d say Foul Bodies:  Cleanliness in Early America by Kathleen Brown. That’s a book that makes a powerful argument about status and cleanliness, and how women became responsible for both of these things in their families and in the wider world. It’s a book that has tremendous implications about the ways in which body care became intensely gendered over the longue durée, which is something I think about whenever I see a housekeeper, a janitor, an employee of a nursing home or rehab facility, or a home health aide.

Who are the best historians writing today?

In no particular order: Lynn Hunt, Jill Lepore, Annette Gordon-Reed, Natalie Zemon Davis, and Judith Bennett. I could go on, but just reading those authors will keep anyone busy for a few years.

What’s the best book ever written about American history?

That’s a ridiculous question. What the hell is a “best book ever?” What do you think I’m going to say–France and England in North America by Francis Parkman?  Best book in the last century? Best book since 1776? Doesn’t the answer vary according to the fashion of the times and our own tastes? History is constantly being revised and updated by each succeeding generation of historians, so no book can ever be a “best book ever” for more than a few years. Continue Reading »

26 Comments »

October 7th 2014
Where’d ya go, Chip Hilton? Our historical imagination turns its lonely eyes to you.

Posted under American history & childhood & class & Gender & GLBTQ & jobs & race

chiphiltonMy sabbatical is mellowing me out and I’m definitely enjoying the relaxed, non-wired vibe at the Huntington.  The Huntington is wired, but what I mean by un-wired is that people here appear to be living their professional and personal lives in meatspace, face-to-face, rather than online.  They’re reading historical manuscripts and valuable rare books, they’re having coffee with each other, they’re meeting for lunch in the garden cafe.  In other words, not everyone in the world is on Twitter or blogs or Instagram all of the time!  It’s like it’s the War of 1812 or something:  before telegraphy even.

So, inevitably, I’m going to miss a lot of what’s happening now.  (I do believe my knowledge of both British and North American history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries will be nonpareil in Colorado upon my return, however.)  Clearly, I missed a fascinating little interview with James McPherson of Princeton University in the New York Timeswhich is purely coincidental to the publication of his new biography of Jefferson Davis, I am sure.  McPherson is probably the most famous American military historian, and among the most famous historians of the Civil War era.

Some friends of mine alerted me to this interview, because something about it just didn’t seem right.  Let me quote an extensive passage from it now:

What books are currently on your night stand?

Ron Chernow, “Washington: A Life,” and Daniel James Brown, “The Boys in the Boat.” In very different ways, these books chronicle unlikely triumphs over seemingly insuperable odds to found a nation from 1775 to 1797 and to win an Olympic gold medal in 1936.

What was the last truly great book you read?

James Oakes, “Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865.” A powerful analytical narrative of the confluence of politics and war that ended America’s shame and trauma.

Who are the best historians writing today?

Bernard Bailyn, David Brion Davis, Gordon Wood, Eric Foner, David McCullough, David Hackett Fischer. In elegant prose, based on impeccable research, they have covered the broad sweep of American history from the early colonial settlements through Harry Truman’s administration.

What’s the best book ever written about the Civil War?

The best book is actually an eight-volume series published from 1947 to 1971, by Allan Nevins: “Ordeal of the Union,” “The Emergence of Lincoln” and “The War for the Union.” It is all there — the political, economic, social, diplomatic and military history of the causes, course and consequences of the war, written in the magisterial style for which Nevins was famous.

Do you have a favorite biography of a Civil War-era figure?

Jean Edward Smith, “Grant.” A lucid and empathetic account of the victorious general and underrated president that helped usher in the current revival of Grant’s reputation.

Continue Reading »

20 Comments »

October 2nd 2014
Thursday’s lesson: how progressive historical change happens, plus Lena Dunham.

Posted under American history & Gender & the body & women's history

elvgrenlibraryFirst, Lena Dunham!  As usual, Rebecca Traister explains it all:

There are American presidents who have come in for less scrutiny than Lena Dunham. There are heads of major banks whose work to erode the possibility of middle and working class stability in the United States has drawn less criticism thanGirls. There are sitting Supreme Court justices, men who have recently disemboweled the Voting Rights Act, whose intelligence has been insulted less sharply than that of a 28-year-old woman who created and stars in a show on HBO.

This degree of pressure is unsustainable. Not just for Dunham, whose thick skin—and willingness to engage the valid critiques—does earn her my full-throated, unequivocal admiration. But also for all the exceptions to male rules—from Beyoncé to Hillary, Shonda to Sheryl—who get pulled and pushed and combed and raked over with equivalent ardor. This craziness is depleting and, I worry, ultimately defeating for all the other women out there with big ambitions: ambitions to write or sing or pass legislation, to lead or create, and to make money, win elections, earn recognition for their work.

Cherchez les femmes, mes amis!  Cherchez les femmes.  How messed up is it that Traister doesn’t even have to use last names when she writes the first names “Beyoncé to Hillary, Shonda to Sheryl.”  We can fill in the blanks because tragically, there’s only one of each, right?  If you missed it, Terri Gross did a fantastic interview with Lena Dunham this week.  It’s a model for how feminists of very different generations can communicate and learn from one another, a subject relevant to my next item.  (This will take a while, so get comfortable.) Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

October 1st 2014
Randomly generated spam comment, or Camille Paglia?

Posted under art & bad language & captivity & class & nepotism & race & technoskepticism & the body & Uncategorized & wankers

 

Random spam generator?

Random spam generator?

It’s increasingly difficult to tell them apart:

Sex crime springs from fantasy, hallucination, delusion, and obsession. A random young woman becomes the scapegoat for a regressive rage against female sexual power: “You made me do this.” Academic clichés about the “commodification” of women under capitalism make little sense here: It is women’s superior biological status as magical life-creator that is profaned and annihilated by the barbarism of sex crime.

Continue Reading »

13 Comments »

September 29th 2014
That didn’t turn out the way I thought it would: on the power of walking away

Posted under American history & happy endings & jobs & weirdness

cowgirlrarintogohalfsize

These boots were made for walking, dig?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I was just talking with friends in person and over email about the job market this year, but you know what they say:  when the student is ready, the teacher will appear, right?  So just now I read Scott Rasmussen’s article called “The Ability to Walk Away is the Key to Empowerment:”

Politicians like to talk about empowering the middle class or other segments of the voting population, but they’re typically a little fuzzy on what empowerment really means. That makes sense when you consider that elections are essentially about politicians asking to get power rather than share it.

The truth is that we all have more power as consumers, volunteers, supporters and members than we do as voters. That’s because the key to empowerment is the ability to walk away.

Right on! Rock and roll!  Any specific examples come to mind?

That’s a lesson learned over the past half century by Major League Baseball. Up until the 1960s, baseball players were restricted by something known as the “reserve clause.” It was a contract provision that restricted a player to one team for life.

In those days, the minimum pay for a ballplayer was $6,000 a year. The average salary was under $20,000 a year.

Then, in the 1970s, a Supreme Court ruling gave players the chance to become free agents when their contract expired.

Today, the minimum salary is $490,000 a year with an average pay topping $3.2 million.

That change, from an average salary of under $20,000 a year to over $3.2 million, didn’t come about because the owners suddenly became generous and decided to share more revenue with the players. It came about because players won the right to walk away and force the owners to compete for their services.

Continue Reading »

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