Archive for the 'European history' Category

June 26th 2012
Wildfires, cities, rural landscapes, and the wildland-urban interface

Posted under American history & childhood & European history & local news & technoskepticism & unhappy endings

Stay out of the woods, my pretties!

In a very smart and measured editorial last Sunday in the Denver Post, Professor Lloyd Burton of the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver, pointed out how language shapes our views of wildfires and forest management:

We have three problems with our narrative: First, it is an urban narrative applied to a mostly rural landscape; that is, it reports on [wildland-urban interface] wildfires as if they were urban fires. The initial focus is always on proximate causes (what ignited the fire), followed by a quest for fault-finding, usually around the issues of why the fire wasn’t immediately eradicated or why everyone may not have been moved out of harm’s way.

Applying the urban narrative to the WUI also stresses the necessity for the immediate and total suppression of all fires, whenever and wherever they arise. In the urban context, this is absolutely understandable. To do anything other than that would invite catastrophe in our densely populated cities. But applying this urban expectation to WUI wildfires is both futile and inappropriate.

A second problem is that the news media mindset and resulting language of its discourse is saturated in metaphors of war. We are treated daily to visuals of ex-military aircraft bombing fires and structures with toxic fire-retardant. We have strong, courageous, well-trained and well-disciplined “fighters” in the field being coordinated by a top-down incident command system; and we use many of the same communications technologies and terms to implement tactical field maneuvers. Continue Reading »

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May 5th 2012
Saturday round-up: lazy blogger edition

Posted under American history & European history & jobs & students

Well, friends, it’s the Saturday in-between the end of classes and the beginning of finals week, so I’ll be out in the garden weedin’ and grillin’ up a storm  instead of in front of this computer screen for most of the day. I’m turning this blog over to smarter writers and bloggers than I, for your degustation:

  • Tony Grafton reviewsAndrew Delbanco’s College:  What it Was, Is, and Should Be.  Of all of the recent books on what’s wrong with higher education, this one seemed to me to be among the most worthy.  I’ve had Delbanco’s scholarship on my shelves since undergraduate days, and as he is a Columbia University faculty member he’s doesn’t blame the faculty for all of our current woes.  Grafton finds Delbanco’s contribution stronger on the Was and Is parts than the Should Bes–in other words, a better history of higher ed and diagnosis of its current ills and perhaps weaker on prescriptive solutions, but it seems like getting the Was and Is parts right is a good enough reason to read it. 
  • Echidne reflects on the end of the Cold War, and concludes that without the atheistic communist foe, capitalism “has gone wild:”  “It is ironic that communism was what kept the American type capitalism decent. Without that public enemy the nazguls are free to rob and ravage.”  That’s the thing about the ultra-rich and their lapdog politician-servants:  they’re not just greedy, they’re sore winners.
  • Finally, the Big Dog takes on the Dog-EaredContinue Reading »

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May 2nd 2012
Don’t be that guy

Posted under art & European history & fluff & Gender

Busy day–we’re still teaching classes here, with our dogforsaken 16-week semesters. But then, as Dr. Crazy noted yesterday, they end. (Finally!) And then, we begin all over again.

Don’t miss Dr. Crazy’s thoughts about teaching, and the myth that college professing is all about b!tching about teaching and cutting corners: Continue Reading »

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April 10th 2012
Torpedoing Titanic-mania

Posted under American history & European history & unhappy endings & weirdness

Does anyone else find the obsession with the sinking of the Titanic disturbing and distasteful?  Continue Reading »

29 Comments »

February 24th 2012
An artist, a neuroscientist, and a historian walk into a bar. . .

Posted under European history & the body

Or rather, they walk into a BBC interview studio–and they discuss the night from their different disciplinary perspectives.   Here are the results!

Do we manipulate the darkness, or does it manipulate us?

Oxford Professor of Circadian Neuroscience, Russell Foster, explains his research which shows how the blue-tinged sky of dusk is a trigger that tells our bodies it’s time to prepare for bed[, a]nd why it would be good for us to go back to rising with the dawn and going to bed at sundown.

Rut Blees Luxemburg finds surprising richness of night-time colours in her photographs, and historian Craig Koslofsky shows how early modern Europeans first colonised the night by introducing street lighting.

And most interstingly of all, Craig Koslofsky of the University of Illinois talks about his research for Evening’s Empire:  A History of the Night in Early Modern Europe.  If you just want to hear about the book, scroll ahead to about 32:15 in the podcast.  Continue Reading »

7 Comments »

February 23rd 2012
In which I explain my hairstyle to others on the basis of my submission to authority, or, let’s talk about hair and history.

Posted under American history & Bodily modification & European history & Gender & women's history

My hairstyle as worn by Jean Seberg

I’ve been thinking a lot about hair lately.  First, there was this comment from LouMac yesterday, in which she wrote (sarcastically, in a rant about “choice” feminism and the narrowness of straight women’s performance of gender) “Young white hetero women all have identical long straight hair because they choose it!”  Since most of you readers are affiliated with college and university campuses, you probably recognize this as the dominant hair aesthetic, too. 

I think there was a greater diversity of women’s hairstyles in Maoist China than there is among white college women today, but I have to admit that I went through my long-straight-hair phase too, in the early 1990s when I was poor and didn’t have money for luxuries like haircuts.  (The long-straight style has the virtue of being inexpensive to maintain if one has “good” hair.  African American women, some Jewish women, and others with curly or ”bad” hair need at least regular blowouts, if not messy and dangerous hair-straightening perms too to achieve this look, so for some women it’s a very costly and time-consuming investment.)

Then back at Echidne, I found this link to something that she called Michelle Duggar’s ”wifely tips for a happy marriage.”  Follow the links back that she provides, and eventually you’ll get to this PDF, “Seven Basic Needs of a Husband,” which includes a lengthy (and on the surface, strangely detailed) discussion of a wife’s hair and how it plays a primary role in a wife’s dutiful submission that is the foundation of all happy marriages, according to this document.  I’ve copied the document–with its strange quiz-like format as well as its odd typefaces, bolds, and use of ALL CAPS–as best I can here: Continue Reading »

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February 21st 2012
Great one-liners you’ll never see outside of the feminist blogosphere

Posted under American history & European history & Gender & wankers & weirdness

Echidne:  “Rick Santorum has the most open mind of the late twelfth century.”  Feel the Santormentum! 

I wish I were teaching the history of sexuality course this semester that I co-taught last semester.  I would really love to hear about my students’ reactions to fact that birth control has suddenly become a major campaign issue both in the Republican nomination fight and perhaps even in Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.

I think it might underscore the argument I made to them towards the end of the class last term that my college years in the late 1980s and early 1990s were in fact a freer time sexually from a feminist standpoint than many young women today enjoy.  Continue Reading »

24 Comments »

January 13th 2012
The Tragical History Tour

Posted under art & European history & fluff

“It was not the strongest idea for a Rutles film: four Oxford History professors on a tour of tea shops in the Rutland area, and it was slammed mercilessly by the press.”


Source.

2 Comments »

December 16th 2011
It’s a Cold (War) Christmas

Posted under American history & art & European history & fluff

 

It’s a space race Cold War holiday season!  In Russian and English. Continue Reading »

21 Comments »

November 17th 2011
Francis Fukyuama: learns nothing, forgets nothing

Posted under American history & book reviews & European history & wankers & weirdness

Hey, kids:  don’t be Whig historians!  And especially avoid being Francis ”The End of History” Fukuyama. 

Via RealClearBooks, we learned recently that he’s got a new book called The Origins of Political Order, and unsurprisingly, he is completely wrong again.  But you have to admit that it’s pretty cute that he has more in common with Karl Marx and with the first generation of Soviet historians than his modern peers because of his unshaken, dumba$$ theory of history’s inevitable destination.  Reviewer John Gray asks,

[H]ow could laws of history underpin human progress when views about what constitutes progress are so ephemeral and so divergent? Some human values are universal and enduring, but ideas of progress come and go like fashions in hats. Theories of convergence reflect disparate and incompatible ideals of human betterment. What all such theories have in common is that they have come to nothing. None of the regimes that was believed to be the near-inevitable end point of modern development has emerged anywhere in the world. 

Fukuyama shows no sign of being discouraged by this record of failure. Continue Reading »

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