Archive for the 'art' Category

May 1st 2014
Junot Diaz on MFA vs. POC

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & race & students & unhappy endings

Junot Diaz, an alum of the Cornell University MFA program, on MFA vs. POC:  “Lately I’ve been reading about MFA vs NYC. But for many of us it’s MFA vs POC.”  He continues,

I didn’t have a great workshop experience. Not at all. In fact by the start of my second year I was like: get me the fuck out of here.

So what was the problem?

Oh just the standard problem of MFA programs.

That shit was too white.

3

Some of you understand completely. And some of you ask: Too white … how?

Too white as in Cornell had almost no POC—no people of color—in it. Too white as in the MFA had no faculty of color in the fiction program—like none—and neither the faculty nor the administration saw that lack of color as a big problem. (At least the students are diverse, they told us.) Too white as in my workshop reproduced exactly the dominant culture’s blind spots and assumptions around race and racism (and sexism and heteronormativity, etc). In my workshop there was an almost lunatical belief that race was no longer a major social force (it’s class!). In my workshop we never explored our racial identities or how they impacted our writing—at all. Never got any kind of instruction in that area—at all. Shit, in my workshop we never talked about race except on the rare occasion someone wanted to argue that “race discussions” were exactly the discussion a serious writer should not be having.

.       .       .       .       .

In my workshop what was defended was not the writing of people of color but the right of the white writer to write about people of color without considering the critiques of people of color.

Oh, yes: too white indeed. I could write pages on the unbearable too-whiteness of my workshop—I could write folio, octavo and duodecimo on its terrible whiteness—but you get the idea.

Continue Reading »

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April 21st 2014
Josephine Baker’s postwar/Cold War “rainbow tribe”

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & childhood & European history & Intersectionality & race

The book that kept Matthew Pratt Guterl indoors all last summer was published last month by Harvard University’s Belknap Press.  Rebecca Onion gives it a nice rundown here at Slate:

Baker was born in St. Louis but moved to France in 1925. Her danse sauvage, famously performed in a banana skirt, brought her international fame. During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross and gathered intelligence for the French Resistance. After the war, married to her fourth husband, Jo Bouillon, she struggled to conceive a child. Meanwhile, her career waned. Guterl’s book is about this period of Baker’s life, as she built her large adopted family, became ever more active on behalf of the nascent civil rights movement in the United States, and re-emerged into fame.

Baker purchased her estate, known as Les Milandes, after marrying Bouillon in 1947. In addition to the chateau, the property boasted a motel, a bakery, cafés, a jazz club, a miniature golf course, and a wax museum telling the story of Baker’s life. As Guterl makes clear, the place was over-the-top, but its ostentation was a political statement. Les Milandes, with its fairy-tale setting, announced to the world that African-American girls born poor could transcend nation and race and find wealth and happiness.

Guterl makes it sound like Baker’s family was kind of a multicultural Trapp Family Singers or a Partridge Family, crossed with the Dionne QuintupletsContinue Reading »

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March 30th 2014
Shorter Margaret Wente: porn fine by me, just leave it unexamined.

Posted under American history & art & bad language & Bodily modification & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & O Canada & students & the body & wankers & women's history

craftmasterHere’s my brief summary of Margaret Wente’s predictable, by-the-numbers shot at the academic study of pornography:

Provocative lede!  Bad puns.  Academics write only jargon-filled articles that no one will ever read.  Also:  the stupid feminists used to be against porn, but now they’re pro-porn, but they’re still stupid (duh).  Irrelevant academics can’t even make porn interesting.  But you should be very alarmed by this trend!  Academic research on porn will take over our universities!  This research is trivial and therefore all higher education is unworthy of public support.  All college students should watch porn, just not for college credit.

I don’t carry any water for porn studies here, but I also don’t think it’s the most irrelevant thing ever studied in an academic setting.  (Because the internetContinue Reading »

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March 3rd 2014
Stop making sense! Or, our common Jonathan talks about MOOCs.

Posted under American history & art & class & students & technoskepticism

Well done! You can discuss Jonathan’s comments here or over at his place, which is where I found the video. Continue Reading »

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March 2nd 2014
Sunday morning sacrilege: Pussy Riot’s “Punk Prayer”

Posted under art & European history & Gender

Is there enough Pussy Riot in your life? I know–me, neither!

Per the conversation in the previous post, do yourself a favor: don’t bother looking at the comments on this video at YouTube.

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February 25th 2014
MOOCs vs. House of Cards smackdown

Posted under American history & art & happy endings & jobs & students & technoskepticism

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

Robin Wright as Claire Underwood

The usually techno-utopian Joshua Kim is channeling our pal, MOOC skeptic Jonathan Rees!  It’s almost unbloglich!  (I’ve jumped on Kim before and was kind of a jerk, but he was a thoroughly decent guy about it all, contacting me in a personal email.)  In a post published yesterday at Inside Higher Ed, Kim reports that he was doing so well watching recorded lectures in three different MOOCs when Netflix released the entire new season of House of Cards recently, enabling Kim’s penchant for immersive binge-watching.  In “How House of Cards killed my MOOCing,” Kim writes:

Access to media, from games to videos, is now as close as our smartphones.

The quality of compelling content available on our phones is only increasing.

House of Cards comes from Netflix.  Amazon is releasing original programming. Some folks are lucky enough to have passwords to HBO Go accounts.

And this is only video. The real action is probably in mobile games and mobile social media platforms.

As higher education content migrates to our smartphones, as it surely will, this educational material will be competing with entertainment available on the very same platform.

The answer, of course, is that I was not really missing out on an education by missing out on my MOOCs.  

An open online course is a wonderful thing for many many reasons, but participating in a MOOC is not the same thing as investing in an education.   Continue Reading »

8 Comments »

February 14th 2014
MSNBC makes a Valentine’s Day funny

Posted under art & fluff & unhappy endings

I watched Hardball last night, and as usual those folks at MSNBC are on Chris Christie and his traffic-on-the-bridge scandal like a dog on a bone.  I noticed that the squib for the first segment, “More subpoenas, more questions,” was “Tainted Gov.”  Tainted gov?  I didn’t get it.  Is that a food poisoning joke or something?  Then I figured it out–I think it’s a reference to Soft Cell’s 1981 new wave remake of the classic:

HA-ha! Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy weekend!

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February 13th 2014
Free speech and bad art at Wellesley

Posted under American history & art & Gender & students & the body & weirdness & women's history

Wake up!!!

Wake up!!!

Have any of you been following the fracas over the temporary installation of Tony Matelli’s “Sleepwalker” statue on the Wellesley College campus?  Lenore Skenazy published a faux-outraged commentary in the Wall Street Journal that summarizes the controversy and predictably makes fun of the campus feminists who object to the statue, rather than questioning the aesthetic judgment of the art museum director who decided to put up this crummy piece of art in the first place:

“Wellesley should be a safe place for their students, not a triggering one,” wrote one petition-signer, as if the statue actually made the campus dangerous. That’s a brand-new way of looking at—and trying to legislate—the world. So I checked in with Robert Shibley, senior vice president at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, about the Wellesley panic. “It’s the idea that any kind of discomfort is a form of assault,” he noted.

Once we equate making people feel bad with actually attacking them, free expression is basically obsolete, since anything a person does, makes or says could be interpreted as abuse.

Lisa Fischman, director of the art museum on campus, wrote an open letter to students explaining that, to her, the Matelli statue depicts a vulnerable, pathetic stranger. (He’s sleepwalking in his skivvies in the snow, after all.) But to the petition-signers, her point of view is apparently not worthy. One wrote that Ms. Fischman’s letter, like the sculpture itself, “should occupy a less intrusive place.”

Yet another wrote: “A school endorsing the decision to expose its female students to this . . . violates civil rights laws.” I’ll stop quoting these petition-signers now—their words are triggering some of my own fears.

Since when is it a “civil right” not to feel disturbed by a piece of art? And who gets to decide which art we chuck? You don’t like the “Sleepwalker,” but I don’t like “Winged Victory.” It stirs scary thoughts of decapitation. Dear Louvre, please stash that headless gal in the attic.

Yes, it’s over-the-top to describe an inanimate piece of sculpture as an assault.  But it’s also ridiculous to say that questioning Fischman’s judgment assaults liberty of speech as well.  (They submitted a petition; they didn’t occupy the museum and hold her at gunpoint in her office until she had the sculpture removed.  What the hell–it was a good effort to try to sell more copies of Skenazy’s four-year old book!) Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

February 8th 2014
Sochi 2014 opening ceremonies: the fashion beatdown

Posted under American history & art & fluff & O Canada

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY

Lifties, terrorists, or Team Ireland?

You have to feel some sympathy for the designers of the team uniforms for the opening ceremonies for the winter Olympics.  After all, it’s an all cold weather sports event held at midwinter in the Northern hemisphere, so the team look has to be built around parkas, and perhaps accessorized with touqes and mufflers.  Aside from that, you need to find a look that’s flattering (or at least not deeply un-flattering) to people whose body types range in both sexes from tiny figure skaters to thick-thighed speed skaters and to ginormous hockey players and curlers.

But, honestly friends:  can’t we do any better than to make most of the international teams look like lifties or Teletubbies (see Argentina for the former, and Germany for the latter)?  And Ireland:  did you want to make your team look like IRA terrorists?

sochimexico

Team Mexico: kind of awesome

Mexico is getting slammed by some, but I thought their getups were pretty stylin’.  I like team uniforms that try to connect to the national identity of the country represented, and it’s quite a challenge when you have a tropical or subtropical country.  Cross your eyes a little bit and they look like matadors in traditional costume.  The U.S. uniforms probably seemed like a good idea when viewed in isolation, but having 200+ people in a great mass wearing that getup was just ugly and confusing. Continue Reading »

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December 7th 2013
It’s that time of the year, plus cold, the Louds, and the Mumps

Posted under American history & art & Gender & GLBTQ & Intersectionality & jobs & local news & students

emptyskullI am sorry for the absence of activity at Historiann lately–I’d like to say that it’s because I’m writing 3,500 words a day, but alas!  I have fallen woefully behind in my scheme to finish one draft chapter of my book per month this autumn.  The year isn’t over yet, so I’ll wait to report on the final results, but let’s just say that mid-semester business plus a few trips out of town got me out of the habit of rising at 4 a.m. to write.

It’s cold here, as it is pretty much everywhere in North America, but we don’t have the disabling ice and snow that afflicts the middle of the U.S. now.  I actually took a (short) run yesterday.  I think it was probably my coldest run in 23-1/2 years, as for the first time ever I thought a balaclava would be nice.  My face was cold–no broken blood vessels, so we’ll call it good.

In the History of Sexuality class I’m teaching again with my colleague Ruth Alexander, we’re reading Heather Murray’s Not in This Family:  Gays and the Meaning of Kinship in Postwar North America, which is a really interesting attempt to historicize the “coming out” process that characterizes the post-Gay Liberation era and injects a great deal of nuance into our understanding of how heterosexual parents dealt with gay and lesbian children from 1945 to 1990.  In trying to find some video primary sources, I came across this interview with Lance Loud of the Loud family from An American Family. (Tenured Radical explains it all here.)

Our students didn’t seem to know quite what to do with Lance, which surprised me.  Continue Reading »

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