Archive for 2014

September 24th 2014
Stop telling Notorious R.B.G. to step away from the bench.

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

ruthginsburg

The one & only Notorious R.B.G.

This Sunday morning, I snapped open my copy of the Los Angeles Times to see yet another “everyone says [U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice] Ruth Bader Ginsburg should retire ZOMG now now NOW!!!!” story. (The online version of the story’s headline today says “she has no plans to retire soon,” but the headline of the paper edition gave voice to her critics who are trying to shoo her off the bench.)  If she retired today or in December, do any of these so-called liberals or leftists seriously think President Obama would get any judge remotely similar to her through the U.S. Senate’s “advise and consent” process?

Here’s what R.B.G. has to say about that:

Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have? If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided. As long as I can do the job full steam…. I think I’ll recognize when the time comes that I can’t any longer. But now I can.

In the unedited interview transcript, she said “But now I can, motherf^(kers, so step off.Continue Reading »

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September 22nd 2014
The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485

Posted under art & bad language & book reviews & class & European history & fluff & jobs & publication

Writing a book by day at an august institution like The Huntington, and re-reading Lucky Jim (1954) by night, it’s hard to be seduced by self-importance.  Here, our lucky Jim Dixon considers the article he’s desperately trying to get published in the hopes of being renewed as a lecturer at a red-brick university:

It was a perfect title, in that it crystallized the article’s niggling mindlessness, its funereal parade of yawn-enforcing facts, the pseudo-light it threw upon non-problems. Dixon had read, or begun to read, dozens like it, but his own seemed worse than most in its air of being convinced of its own usefulness and significance. ‘In considering this strangely neglected topic,’ it began. This what neglected topic? This strangely what topic? This strangely neglected what? His thinking all this without having defiled and set fire to the typescript only made him appear to himself as more of a hypocrite and fool.  “Let’s see,’” he echoed Welch in a pretended effort of memory: “oh yes; The Economic Influence of the Developments in Shipbuilding Techniques, 1450 to 1485.

There’s another great line in which his fellow-boarder at his rooming house asks him what got him interested in medieval history in the first place, and Dixon responds to the effect of, “I’m not interested in this.  I hate it!  Don’t we all do what we hate?”  But I don’t have my copy of the book with me now, and I couldn’t find the quotation on the internets.   Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

September 18th 2014
Aye!

Posted under American history & European history & fluff & local news & O Canada

scotsflagAre any of you following the Scottish independence referendum?  It’s a surprisingly big deal around the Huntington, which being a kind of monument to the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain in terms of its art, manuscript, and bibliographic collections, is loaded with British people and British scholars, always.  Opinions here vary as to how it will go, and how it should go.  I expect that the results will be some time in coming–it’s early evening in Britain now, but the polls don’t close until 10 p.m. there, so even with an immediate overnight count we may not know until late tonight or early tomorrow morning Pacific Daylight Time.

I was agnostic on the question, being neither Scots nor British nor a British studies scholar, until I saw that Niall Ferguson has been urging a “nae” vote.  Today, he claims that “Alone, Scotland Will Be a Failed State.”  Right.  Just like Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia!  Failed states, all of them, even the U.S. with its tragic adoption of Euro-style socialised medicine and Afro-style Kenyan anticolonial presidents.  Wait–did you see that?  Even the spelling around here is getting socialised–I mean, socialized!  Good God.  But knowing where Ferguson stands is really clarifying:  as a reflexively Tory doomsayer he’s so spectacularly wrong about everything all of the time, it made it easy to root for an “aye!”   Continue Reading »

14 Comments »

September 17th 2014
The Union Army’s false Afro-Canadians

Posted under American history & O Canada & race

Via my Twitter feed, I see that my host for the Past Present talk last week has an interesting article in the New York Times‘s blog on the Civil War, Disunion.  Adam Arenson, who is headed to Manhattan College later this year, has discovered a number of false Canadian volunteers for the Union Army.  After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, it was no longer sufficient merely for runaway slaves to cross into a free U.S. state, as Eliza did in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in her desperate bid to cross the semi-frozen Ohio River with her little boy from Kentucky to Ohio.  The Fugitive Slave Act effectively denied that there was any such thing as a free state, so escape to Canada was the only sure means to escape the grasp of the U.S. slaveocracy.  The result, according to Arenson?  Fake Canadian volunteers!

As for those men who enlisted in St. Louis in August 1864, the man listed on the rolls as Jerry Watson explained to pension officers: “I did not tell them I was born in Canada and I was not asked where I was born.” Another, John Adams, said he had been enslaved in his home state of Kentucky, and that “I ran way from there and came to St. Louis and enlisted.” So why was he listed as a foreigner? “They had me say I was from Canada,” Adams replied. They — white substitute recruiters, paid a portion of the bounty, or perhaps even the enlistment officers themselves — seem to have coached these black men to claim foreign birth, and the advantages of a new identity for joining the Army. That could explain the strange phrase on Adams’s enlistment record: “born Canada British Prov.” — a description that doth protest too much.

With the flick of a pen, fugitive slaves could gain a connection to British North America, and lose some of the clues that would allow angry slaveholders or worried family members to track them down. Some of the African-Americans who had escaped to Canada considered the Great Lakes crossing as a new baptism, or coming under the protection of the British Lion’s paw. The experience of these soldiers as fake Canadians demonstrates how the talismanic power of Canada could extend far south of the border, to dwell in the minds of Union citizens and soldiers alike during the Civil War.

Continue Reading »

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September 12th 2014
Memento Mori, babies.

Posted under American history & art & childhood & Dolls & European history & fluff & O Canada & the body & weirdness

Happy Friday!  Go pour yourself a cool draught of something and check this out:babyskeletons Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

September 9th 2014
A modest proposal

Posted under bad language & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers

wtfHow about humanities faculty and donors start crawling up the a$$es of engineering and business schools all over the United States and Canada about their recent hires? Let’s scrutinize their presence on social media–that’s easier than attempting to master whole fields we know nothing about.  We can just assert that we have all relevant knowledge about university policies and state and federal laws concerning employment, as well as a perfect knowledge of the state of engineering and business scholarship and public engagement?

Who wants to try to get a bunch of business and engineering faculty we don’t even know de-hired? Who’s with me? Wolverines!!!!

No? Well at least we can try to win the internets!  #whoaretheselosers #srsly

7 Comments »

September 8th 2014
Kristopher Kennedy: now that’s Klassy with a Kapital “K”!

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & nepotism & unhappy endings & wankers

This is hilarious. Check out Tenured Radical today.  And you thought that not-so-concealed, not really carrying idiot in Idaho last week was going to be the dip$hit of the month!  To wit:

Preeminent Native American historian Jeani O’Brien wrote to UI Board of Trustees Chair Christopher Kennedy to ask him to reverse UI’s decision to un-hire Steven Salaita, and to say that considering the climate of intellectual liberty at UI, she’s super-duper glad that she turned down the university’s offer to become Director of Native American Studies a few years back.  She prefaced her two-paragraph letter with the words “I’ll be brief.”  Kennedy’s entire response:  “You were not brief enough.”

OK, that was intemperate and clearly demonstrates that the public pressure is getting to him.  His email to O’Brien was an unforced error, but here’s the really boneheaded move:  he left his personal contact information in his email to her, including an office and cell phone number, which Tenured Radical in her blog post today omitted out of an abundance of civility.  It’s like he’s just now learning about this new technology “electronic mail,” or “email” for short, that (a la Stephen Greenblatt 20+ years ago) is all about the “infinite mimesis.”  Yes!  One assy email can richochet around the nation and the world for others to behold and wonder at your assholery, on blogs and Twitter and Instagram and Pinterest and you name it.  Nothing ever goes away on the internet. Continue Reading »

11 Comments »

September 5th 2014
Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & jobs & the body & women's history

JOAN RIVERS, from her TV show, The Joan Rivers Show, 1969.As most of you have heard, Joan Rivers died yesterday at 81.  The LA Times featured a really warm, funny, and feminist take on her career by fellow comedian Kathy Griffin, who considered Rivers a friend and mentor:

Stand-up is not a gig in which you say, “It isn’t rocket science.” It’s harder than rocket science. And like rocket science probably was for ages, comedy was not woman’s work when Joan was coming up in the 1960s. A woman could know she was funny, but to make a living out of it? At that time, there was Phyllis Diller, Moms Mabley, Totie Fields, and that was about it.

Right on, because if you want to become a rocket scientist, there’s an established way to do this:  college, graduate school, and a system of professional mentors.  It’s not easy, but there is a pretty clear path.  If you want to be a comedian, especially a female comedian, there’s not an established path, and there were and still are very few mentors.  

It makes sense that Griffin was drawn to Rivers as a mentor, because they both mock beauty standards for women in show business by meeting them but also revealing and deconstructing them at the same time:  the jokes about all of the work and time it took, about age, and about plastic surgery, and the obsession with body fat–their own and other people’s.  Griffin does a tremendous job of capturing Rivers’s ambition and generosity in just a few paragraphs: Continue Reading »

3 Comments »

September 4th 2014
Steady. Aim. Fire. Everyone’s SAFE!

Posted under American history & bad language & jobs & students & unhappy endings & wankers

cowgirlgunsign1Only in America, friends! Or as I said last week:  “Jesus Mary and Joseph.”  (Actually, for several days the intro to that post read “Jesus Mary and Jospeh,” but I don’t have readers who love to copyedit my blog posts of the sort that Tenured Radical gets. Praise be!) For those of you too lazy to click, I’ll enable you:

A professor at Idaho State University was wounded in the foot on Tuesday when his concealed handgun accidentally discharged in a classroom where students were present, the Idaho State Journal reported.

The police responded to a report of a university employee who had accidentally shot himself in a classroom of the university’s physical-science building. They discovered the wounded instructor, who had an enhanced concealed-carry permit. The weapon was in his pants pocket.

The newspaper identified the instructor as Byron L. Bennett, an assistant professor of chemistry. The police said no other injuries had been reported and no criminal charges had yet been filed.

In March, Gov. C.L. (Butch) Otter signed legislation allowing concealed guns to be carried on the state’s public-college campuses. The law took effect in July.

Arthur C. Vailas, Idaho State’s president, joined with the presidents of the state’s other public colleges in opposing the legislation. “When they passed this law it was bound to happen,” he told the newspaper of gun-related accidents on the campus.

I would say that this is like shooting fish in a barrel, but that’s probably making it seem too challenging. Several people notified me about this via email and Twitter, knowing that I’m 3 hours behind most of you these days. As commenter Indyanna’s subject line put it: “Well, that didn’t take long.” Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

September 3rd 2014
It’s so easy to be a 46 year-old old runner near sea level

Posted under fluff & local news & the body

After 13 years living at 4,659 feet, I’ve forgotten how easy it is to be a runner at sea level! Wow. You old-timers like me who live below 1,000 feet elevation have NO EXCUSES. Working out here feels like nothing, even though I left behind the High Plains Desert three weeks ago.

This used to be my birthday run, at nearly 12,000 feet. Now this is my run at about 920 feet above sea level: Continue Reading »

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