Archive for the 'weirdness' Category

May 16th 2012
Foily thought of the day

Posted under jobs & students & unhappy endings & weirdness

Online teaching is a money-making scheme, but it’s not the successful, credit-earning students who make the money for the institution.  What makes unis money are the online students who drop out after three, six, or seven weeks of frustration, inattention to the work, and/or a failing grade on a paper or major assignment.  If you know that (for example) 15 or 20 students out of a class capped at 40 will drop out, then you don’t have to actually staff classes as though they’re going to have 40 real students.  Every student who drops our or walks away from a course leaving money on the table is pure profit.

Maybe uni faculty have missed this point because we actually think that education should be about, you know, educating people, not rooting for them to drop out. Continue Reading »


May 3rd 2012
I am Black Robe

Posted under American history & O Canada & students & weirdness

Black Robes

For the past several years in my colonial North America class, we’ve read several different books that deal with Jesuits as a part of the French colonial strategy. I’ve also had my students read selections from The Jesuit Relations and write essays using them as primary sources, and I usually also show the relentlessly depressing Black Robe (Bruce Beresford, 1991) in class, too. (Fratguy once offered the best review of this movie ever: “It’s Apocalypse Now, only with Jesuits and Indians!”) Every time, I find myself in an awkward position of defending the Jesuit perspective against my students’ reflexive secular and/or evangelical protestant anti-Catholic views about Jesuit missionary work.

It’s a very strange position to be in, as a non-Catholic Marxist feminist scholar. Continue Reading »


April 20th 2012
4-20 and loaded .44s: guess which one isn’t welcome on campus?

Posted under American history & Gender & GLBTQ & local news & students & wankers & weirdness

One of these things is not like the other!

Want to smoke pot in public at the University of Colorado today?  Move along, and never mind the fish fertilizer, especially if you don’t have a CU i.d. to prove that you’re a member of the campus community.  But of course, if you’re armed to the teeth with handguns and shotguns of your choosing, campus denizens and members of the public alike are always welcome on our state university campuses!  (And for now anyway, students at CU can even keep their guns in their dorm roomsAwesome!!!)

Think about this for a moment:  a district court judge has ruled that a public university may ban all non-students and non-employees from a public university campus today, just because the admin says so, whereas other courts have ruled that public universities have no right to forbid anyone–students, faculty, staff, and the general public–from campus with a gun, so long as it’s permitted. Continue Reading »


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 »


April 3rd 2012
No American history at Cal universities?

Posted under American history & wankers & weirdness

Hilarious! “Seven or eight out of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught!,” says Rick Santorum. I wonder what all of those friends of mine are doing out there, if they’re not teaching American history?

How about all of you readers and commenters at Davis, Merced, Irvine, San Diego, and Berkeley? Care to weigh in on this one? (Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?)

I am not a Rachel Maddow fan–I think her style is often childish and her “news” program is really just light entertainment for people who already agree with her point of view. (Then again, I suppose that’s a reasonable description of most of what I see of cable TV news.) However, this analysis of the Rick Santorum campaign seems shrewd to me. She says that “Rick Santorum is hard to report on. . . . but the way that he campaigns frankly repels top-tier style [media] coverage, as in coverage that takes him seriously.” Continue Reading »


March 30th 2012
Extra Credit: Sonic Youth Friday

Posted under art & fluff & students & weirdness

Why is extra credit so motivating for my students? I wonder if there’s any educational psychology literature on this? Readers who are in the know, please let me know. My students, whose class attendance and record of written assignments is mixed overall at best, will do just about anything so long as I call it extra credit! (Is it like getting a “free” appetizer or dessert with your dinner, or a dollar off your coffee after you have your loyalty card stamped ten times?)

Does this happen to any of you faculty and teacher-types out there? Continue Reading »


March 23rd 2012
Apparently, I’m ready for my closeup.

Posted under fluff & happy endings & students & weirdness & women's history

Student government elections are upon us on my campus, so for the last week this warm, early spring several of the student candidates and their friends have been electioneering on the main plaza outside of the student center.  In walking to and fro for cups of coffee, various meetings, and trips to the library, I have been stopped by a student who’s asked me if I “plan on voting in the election this year,” not once but twice.  When I finally understood they were talking about a Baa Ram U. student election and not local or national politics, I said in complete disbelief, “No, I’m a professor.” 

We have a large number of returning students, but most of them are in their mid- to late 20s or early 30s.  Nevertheless, back when I was 28, I would have been put out by being mistaken for a student.  Continue Reading »


March 19th 2012
Mike Daisey and the Truth

Posted under American history & art & jobs & technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Locked and loaded!

Public Radio International’s This American Life last week was forced to retract a story they ran last January that drew heavily on a performance piece by Mike Daisey currently playing off-Broadway in New York.  Ira Glass writes on the website:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey [and] the Apple Factory.”

Daisey lied to me and to This American Lifeproducer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors – our friends and colleagues – have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It’s trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.

Glass and TAL did the right thing to retract this story and to devote last weekend’s entire show to correcting the record and to conducting a kind of on-air autopsy of what went wrong with TAL’s Daisey’s reporting and TAL’s fact checking.  Continue Reading »


March 13th 2012
Lysol: America’s most destructive and least effective form of contraception

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

Let’s take a trip into history, to a world that time and systemic hormone disruptors have forgotten–the world after the Comstock Act and before the legalization of diaphragms and cervical caps and the invention of the Pill.  I will share with you the most interesting thing I learned in co-teaching a course on the History of Sexuality in America last term:  American women were encouraged by the marketing geniuses at Lysol in the middle third of the twentieth century to use Lysol douches for both contraception and personal hygiene. 

I had heard about the Lysol contraceptive douche, but until my colleague lectured on the subject, I had no clue that it was actively promoted for decades in degrading and fearmongering advertisements by the manufacturer.  It was an enlightening moment for me and for the students when my co-teacher explained in her lecture that Lysol was very popular during the Depression, because it was 1) inexpensive, 2) probably something you had already lying around the house, and 3) didn’t require a physician’s assistance (unless it caused internal injuries!)

(Remember:  I am not a modern U.S. historian.  The only thing recommending contraception in my period of expertise, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, is perhaps the fact that most were non-toxic, if also as ineffective as Lysol.  The most dangerous “menstrual regulator” available was jumping off of fences or carrying heavy loads of wood, or eating too many juniper berries or drinking too much pennyroyal or squaw mint tea.)   

Nicole Pasulka at Mother Jones, riffing on Andrea Tone’s Devices and Desires,  has assembled a brief history of Lysol’s contraceptive application as well as a slideshow of the advertisements promoting the Lysol douche.  Warning:  this may be offensive and/or induce involuntary buttcheek clenching in women especially.  Clicquez a vos risques!  Continue Reading »


February 29th 2012
Mormon secrets revealed!

Posted under American history & the body & weirdness

Thinking about that thread on LDS post-mortem baptism of people of other faiths left me wondering:  did some of the angry commenters actually know what Morman post-mortem baptism entails?  I knew all along that there is no use of human remains, no disinterrment, no visitation of graves, and no involvement at all of the baptisees and their families.  If this kind of thing were central to the ritual, then I would share the outrage that some expressed at the practice.  Perhaps people really thought there was some kind of involuntary conscription involved that went beyond uttering someone’s name while a live Mormon undergoes a symbolic baptism on behalf of the baptisee?

Well, don’t take my word for it–take the word of Elna Baker, probably one of America’s most famous Jack Mormons.  She describes the Morman post-mortem baptism ritual, and why someone’s body must actually be immersed in a “water vault,” in a podcast from last September 26 on Marc Maron’s WTF.  Continue Reading »


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