Archive for the 'unhappy endings' Category

December 26th 2013
Who pays the price for a weaponized nation?

Posted under American history & childhood & Gender & local news & unhappy endings

Anyone who lives in a home with a gun is at risk to kill or be killed:

A man who told police he shot and killed his 14-year-old stepdaughter after mistaking her for a burglar is a 29-year-old Fort Carson officer with multiple deployments behind him and a Bronze Star for service.

Sources on Wednesday confirmed that 2nd Lt. Daniel R. Meade is at the center of the tragedy that has drawn headlines across the world.

A dispatch recording suggests that Meade opened fire on the girl about 6 a.m. Monday as she was crawling through a window of a home in the 4000 block of Ascendant Drive, off North Carefree Circle and Peterson Road.

She died of her wounds at a Colorado Springs hospital later that day. Continue Reading »

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December 21st 2013
The anti-Santas: on the plausibility of belief.

Posted under bad language & childhood & fluff & unhappy endings & wankers

Here’s a story about Christians who were raised without Santa ClausContinue Reading »

29 Comments »

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 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 »

November 29th 2013
Troubled son or abusive partner? Or, when does caring for become enabling?

Posted under American history & Gender & unhappy endings

Ruth Marcus writes about the Connecticut state’s attorney’s report on the Sandy Hook murderer, and in particular Nancy Lanza’s home life with her son:

“The mother did the shooter’s laundry on a daily basis as the shooter often changed clothing during the day.”

That matter-of-fact recitation, from the just-released official report on the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, encapsulates the enduring contradiction of Nancy Lanza, shot four times in her bed with her .22-caliber Savage Mark II rifle.

.        .       .       .        .        .        .

The state’s attorney’s report documents this dogged maternal determination: “The mother took care of all of the shooter’s needs. The mother indicated that she did not work because of her son’s condition. She worried about what would happen to the shooter if anything happened to her.”

Nancy Lanza structured her life around her son’s peculiarities. Workers at the house “were instructed never to ring the doorbell and to make prior arrangements before using power equipment as her son had issues with loud noises.”

Adam Lanza “was particular about the food that he ate and its arrangement on a plate in relation to other foods on the plate. Certain types of dishware could not be used for particular foods. The mother would shop for him and cook to the shooter’s specifications.” When Nancy Lanza considered moving to Washington state so that Adam could attend a special school, she planned to buy a recreational vehicle “as he would not sleep in a hotel.”

Birthdays, Christmas and holidays were not to be celebrated. “He would not allow his mother to put up a Christmas tree.The mother explained it by saying that [the] shooter had no emotions or feelings. The mother also got rid of a cat because the shooter did not want it in the house.” Continue Reading »

35 Comments »

November 23rd 2013
JFK puts the zap on Peggy Noonan’s brain

Posted under American history & class & Gender & the body & unhappy endings & weirdness & women's history

Peggy Noonan desperately tries to find something nice to say about John F. Kennedy, because he was assassinated and because he was the only Roman Catholic U.S. President:

Two small points. It is interesting that JFK was celebrated as the first modern president, the first truly hip president, and yet the parts of him we celebrate most are actually the old virtues. He lied to get into the military, not to get out of it. He was sick, claimed to be well, and served as a naval officer in the war. In the postwar years he was in fairly constant physical pain, but he got up every day and did his demanding jobs. He played hurt. He was from a big, seemingly close family and seemed very much the family man himself. What we liked most about him wasn’t hip.

And he was contained. He operated within his own physical space and was not florid or mawkish or creepily domineering in his physical aspect. Continue Reading »

10 Comments »

November 20th 2013
An update on the “death of an adjunct” story at Duquesne, and a jeremiad against self-sacrifice.

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

L.V. Anderson has done some new reporting on the death of adjunct French instructor Margaret Mary Vojtko in Pittsburgh this summer.  The real story turns out to be more complicated than just “adjunct work killed Professor Vojtko.”  She earned a nursing degree but preferred medieval studies.  However, she never finished her Ph.D., apparently had signs of mental illness for years, and individual members of the Duquesne University community (NOT the institution itself) had repeatedly reached out to offer her help, appropriate housing, and similar assistance.  (It’s interesting that Vojtko once wanted to be a nun; she remained a devout Catholic, and to the end of her life lived like one–but more on the self-sacrifice later in this essay.)  UPDATE. 11/22/2013:  Last night, to my chagrin and embarrassment, I discovered that Flavia at Ferule & Fescue had already commented on this story in a post earlier this week, after having written about the story when it first broke this summer.  She offers some interesting thoughts about the Catholic perspective, hers and Duquesne’s.

This reminds me of the simplistic moralizing that flowed from the suicide of Aaron Swartz, the illegal downloader targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice.  The larger story, as Larissa McFarquar reported in The New Yorker earlier this year, also included a history of mental illness and quite possibly chronic malnutrition, neither of which help people make informed decisions about their futures.

In addition to her reporting on the Vojtko story, Anderson published an essay explaining “Why Adjunct Professors Don’t Just Find Other Jobs” that I found pretty nutty.  She explains that adjuncts must teach such a heavy load that they don’t have much time left over for writing, publishing, and applying for jobs–all true.  But then she also explains–through the help of some adjunct faculty correspondents–that the academic calendar somehow prevents them from looking for work: Continue Reading »

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November 7th 2013
Competitve motherhood and envy meet the oppression olympics.

Posted under art & bad language & book reviews & class & Gender & publication & unhappy endings & weirdness & women's history

Just go read Cristina Nehring’s review of Rachel Adams’s Raising Henry: A Memoir of Motherhood, Disability, and Discovery (Yale University Press, 2013). I don’t want to exerpt any of it, it’s just so unbelieveably mean. So go ahead–I’ll wait.

I haven’t read the book, but it strikes me as completely appropriate (insofar as I can tell through this rather nasty review) that Adams writes about her own experiences of parenting a child with Down syndrome, as the subtitle suggests. As one commenter at the Chronicle notes: “I admire Adams’s restraint in focusing on herself. I am alarmed when parents seem to think that all aspects of a child’s growing up are theirs to tell. Adams has told a story about herself and is clearly careful to draw boundaries between her story and her son’s story, as any thoughtful writer would do.”

Word. Too many parents rush in to tell their children’s stories, making them props in their books or characters in blog posts.

I also think it’s an interesting and rather brave choice for a woman memoirist not to make herself the virtuous heroine of her own story. (I’ll tell you right now: I don’t think I could do it.) Continue Reading »

25 Comments »

November 3rd 2013
Denver, you have a drinking problem.

Posted under class & local news & unhappy endings & weirdness

bovinemetropolisI’ve just returned from another weekend getaway to Denver, and once again I’m completely appalled by the use of alcohol there by putative adults. I’ve written about this here before, and last night’s exposure to pathological drinking was pretty epic.  To wit:

  • Waiting to check into our swank “boutique hotel,” Magnolia Hotel, the guest ahead of us commented that “I’m not drunk!. . . at least not yet.
  • We had a terrific supper at Euclid Hall, where we sat at the bar right in front of the kitchen and where one of the fun, young chefs slipped us a sample of the Pad Thai Pig Ears while we were waiting for our orders.  After supper I went to the bathroom where at 8:20 p.m. I was treated to the sounds of someone puking up her beer.  I repeat:  it was 8:20 p.m.
  • At 9:20 a.m., I got into an elevator in which I could smell that someone was still metabolizing alcohol from last night.  Eeewww.  Seriously?  Can you just stay in your room until you sleep it off? Continue Reading »

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