Archive for the 'weirdness' Category

December 10th 2013
A case for the Oxford comma (as if it needs to be made in the first place.)

Posted under bad language & fluff & GLBTQ & weirdness

Love at first sight! Now that would be a big news day.

I had never heard of “the Oxford comma,” but apparently it’s just a serial comma, the use of which many find duplicative. However, it can clarify the meaning of a sentence: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, boys, and girls,” versus “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs, boys and girls.” To me, NOT using the serial comma makes sentences look like a spreadsheet formula with a missing parenthesis, but to each his own however stupid or illiterate it looks I guess. Continue Reading »

7 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 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 5th 2013
Election Day 2013: secesh fever!

Posted under American history & local news & weirdness

seceshIt’s election day again here in the U.S. of A.! And in northern Colorado, we also have the opportunity to vote on secession from Colorado. Crazy? We haz it! It’s probably best that we remain attached to Colorado so that it can help us dilute the crazy. (The pro-secesh campaign signs say something like, “vote yes–send a message.” I considered voting yes, because the message would be, “we’re idiots up here!” but I thought the better of it in the end.)

Long story short: the more conservative and agricultural parts of Colorado feel like they’re a “disenfranchised minority” because Colorado is an urban state and more people live in Front Range cities and towns in or proximate to Denver than live in small-town northern and eastern Colorado, and because sophisticated urbanites tend to favor things like civil unions and responsible gun safety legislation. So the secessionists are half-right: they’re a “minority” of voters, but they’re certainly not “disenfranchised.” Here in Colorado, where we don’t labor under that bull$hit Connecticut Compromise, it’s people and not acres of land that get to vote, and they’re sore about that. Continue Reading »

15 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 »

32 Comments »

October 23rd 2013
Citations, the Chicago way.

Posted under American history & art & bad language & students & unhappy endings & weirdness

Why, oh why is it so difficult (if not impossible) to get students to use Chicago-style citations properly in history essays?  In evidence-intensive disciplines like mine, footnotes or endnotes (and no “works cited” page!) are the only kind of citations that make sense.  And yet, every semester, more than 60% of my students ignore the posted requirement that they use Chicago-style citations.

I assume this is because APA/MLA-style citations (parentheses with page number/s and a “works cited” page) are required in more disciplines.  And believe me, I’m grateful that my students (however mistakenly) use some kind of evidence and reasonably consistent citations in their papers.  But for historians, who (pardon my disciplinary pride here) should use more than one f^(king text or source per citation, it’s completely idiotic, not to mention disruptive of the flow of the paper and just goddamned ugly.  Continue Reading »

46 Comments »

September 20th 2013
An almost unbloglich level of Franzenfreude

Posted under American history & art & book reviews & European history & Gender & race & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness & women's history

Check it out:  Amanda Hess’s analysis of Jonathan Franzen’s recent essay in which he screams at the children to get off his lawn, and to take their Twitter-machines with them:

Franzen blames the Internet for eradicating “the quiet and permanence of the printed word,” which “assured some kind of quality control,” in favor of an apocalyptic hellscape punctuated by “bogus” Amazon reviews and “Jennifer-Weinerish self-promotion.” Back in Franzen’s day, “TV was something you watched only during prime time, and people wrote letters and put them in the mail, and every magazine and newspaper had a robust books section, and venerable publishers made long-term investments in young writers, and New Criticism reigned in English departments.” He goes on: “It wasn’t necessarily a better world (we had bomb shelters and segregated swimming pools), but it was the only world I knew to try to find my place in as a writer.”

Wow.  Not too many white people can openly express their nostalgia for segregation or apartheid and get their 6,500 word essays published in The Guardian!  But that’s not all:  apparently, guys like Franzen really are victims!  Of something.  The important thing to know is that Jonathan Franzen can no longer “find his place. . . as a writer” in our modern dystopia.  But the pre-internet world doesn’t seem all that awesome in his telling:

And then there is the tale of the German chick, told to pinpoint exactly the moment Franzen became an angry person. Continue Reading »

42 Comments »

August 20th 2013
David McCullough beats the dead like they owe him money.

Posted under American history & captivity & class & publication & race & Uncategorized & weirdness

I don’t know why I find this Onion article so funny and yet feel so awkward laughing at it at the same time (h/t anonymous, who put this link in my comments yesterday.)  Historians and other humanists:  how do you feel about it, and why?

I think it has something to do with shame about exploiting the dead, plus slavery, neither of which is very funny.  (But of course, my opportunities for exploitation are much more limited than McCullough’s.)

This, on the other hand, is just shamelessly funny. Continue Reading »

17 Comments »

July 29th 2013
Identity politics + aggressive ignorance = teh stupid

Posted under bad language & jobs & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Reza Aslan defends himself against charges of “bias” in his new book on Fox News by pointing out that he is a prominent scholar who writes about many religions.  Slate says that “this may just be the single most cringe-worthy, embarrassing interview on Fox News:”

Fox News anchor Lauren Green had religious scholar Reza Aslan on her FoxNews.com show Friday to talk about Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, his book that has been stirring up some online controversy recently. And right off the bat, Green gets to what is important: “You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?” Aslan seemed a little flabbergasted: “Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim.”*

But Green just wouldn’t let it go: “It still begs the question though, why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?” Aslan then starts talking to Green slowly, as if she were a child: “Because it’s my job as an academic. I am a professor of religion, including the New Testament. That’s what I do for a living, actually.” But Green insisted, accusing him of failing to “disclose” that he’s a Muslim and at one point asking him about a stupefying claim on whether a Muslim writing a book on Jesus isn’t sort of like a Democrat writing a book on former president Ronald Reagan. Continue Reading »

33 Comments »

July 8th 2013
What is the function of “flat?”

Posted under American history & weirdness

Nebraska

I’ve just driven 2,615 miles over eight days, from Potterville to Minnesota and Wisconsin and back, and I have been wondering about the function of the insult “flat” that’s leveled against much, if not most, of the interior of the United States.  After having driven across the prairie states of Nebraska (two different ways), Iowa, Minnesota (two different ways), Wisconsin (two different ways), South Dakota, and tagging Wyoming on the way back home, very little of the land we traversed could accurately be described as “flat.”

I once had a roommate in college who referred to me as a “flatlander” because I was a native of Ohio, one state west of us in Pennsylvania.  Most of Ohio is, however, luxuriously green, lush, and hilly, sited as it is on the Ohio River and neighbor to the Appalachian Mountains.  I started to wonder more about this descriptor “flat” as I drove from Ohio to Colorado on I-70 nearly a dozen years ago.  I had dreaded the drive across Kansas especially because everyone in Ohio had sympathized with me about enduring “flat” Kansas.  “It’s so flat,” they all said. But I-70 across Kansas in August, I found, was mostly lovely rolling green hills dotted with round hay bales and sunflower fields worthy of a Vincent VanGogh painting. Continue Reading »

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