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 »

10 Comments »

March 21st 2014
Back to the future: $1.6 million Mellon grant for “broader career paths”

Posted under: American history, jobs

backtothefuture

1989 or 2014? I can’t tell the difference.

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The American Historical Association and four universities will split a $1.6-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation aimed at broadening the career paths of history Ph.D.’s, officials announced on Thursday.

.       .       .       .       .

The university recipients of the grant—Columbia University and the Universities of California at Los Angeles, of Chicago, and of New Mexico—will each receive about $300,000, Mr. Grossman said. The history association will receive the rest. The institutions will begin different pilot projects, including creating mentor databases, increasing internship opportunities, and crafting curricula designed to give students better real-world skills, such as how nonprofit organizations work.

(Emphasis mine.)  I get it that the Mellon Foundation (and the AHA, which also gets a share of the dough) wants the prestige of these programs in taking the lead in a project like this.  But are Columbia, UCLA, and Chicago Ph.D.s really the ones having trouble finding jobs, provided that they expand their job searches beyond major metro areas in the U.S. and internationally?  I doubt that they’re truly disadvantaged. Continue Reading »

37 Comments »

March 19th 2014
Memo to Dems and CSU-P faculty: you need a little F.U.

Posted under: American history, captivity, childhood, Gender, jobs, local news, race, women's history

Much prettier than Kevin Spacey

Much prettier than Kevin Spacey.

Hilarious headline at The Daily Beast by Dean Obeidallah:  “Dems Need to Channel ‘House of Cards’ Frank Underwood” in order to try to avoid electoral disaster this fall.  Actually, the headline was the only amusing part of that article; if only we had Democrats as tough as Frank!  The rest of the article is full of predictable and sensible advice like “turn out your base!” and “crank up the fear factor” about the Republicans!  Well, duh.  That might work, but it sure is a lot less fun to watch than House of Cards.

I was hoping that the article was itself a brilliant, murderous plot full of twists, turns, and of course SPOILER ALERT Continue Reading »

2 Comments »

March 12th 2014
Spring Break!

Posted under: fluff, happy endings, local news

cowgirlbikiniFor the first time in my life, I’m actually going to spend part of my spring break in Florida.  Honestly; the farthest south in college or grad school I ever went was Baltimore.  (I know!  I was a total grind.)

See you on the flip side of the continent.

9 Comments »

March 7th 2014
How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail? The “big questions” and women’s history.

Posted under: American history, Gender, jobs, students, the body, women's history

alicecrocodile“How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail, and pour the waters of the Nile on every golden scale?” It’s that time of the year, friends. Why does every spring semester feel so damn busy? Is it the graduate exams, the lectures and colloquia, or the inviting, deep, deep snow in the mountains? All of the above? Other concatenations of obligations, pleasures, and near-disasters?

I was chairing a Master’s exam committee yesterday, and my student (who did brilliantly, natch) made a comment about the ways in which women’s history was always viewed as narrow or of limited relevance to the rest of the profession, when traditional topics in men’s history (the new imperial history, for example, which seems almost exactly like the old imperial history) are viewed as “big” topics of universal importance. Size matters, right? So why do male topics always seem bigger than women’s histories, even when they’re based on a much narrower source base written only by a tiny sliver of elites? (Bonnie Smith’s arguments in The Gender of History seem inescapable.) Continue Reading »

22 Comments »

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 »

1 Comment »

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.

2 Comments »

February 28th 2014
What I learned from the comments thread at Tenured Radical

Posted under: American history, bad language, Bodily modification, class, Dolls, Gender, GLBTQ, jobs, the body, unhappy endings, wankers, weirdness, women's history

barbies31508

Why weren’t we on the cover?

Did any of you see Tenured Radical’s post yesterday about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue 2014, “Happiness is a Cold, Plastic Doll?”  This year it features Barbie on the cover, but the same old soft-core porn inside.

The point of TR’s post was to comment on the cultural significance of SI’s annual swimsuit issue.  She noted her confusion when she first saw it in the 1970s, a decade in which porn was pushing into the mainstream, and Playboy had come to her campus to take some photos for “Girls of the Ivy League.”  (This was 1978; recall that most Ivies hadn’t admitted women until the early 1970s.  Welcome to campus, ladies!)  TR writes that the swimsuit issue wasn’t porn, but yet it “wasn’t not porn, because everything was exposed except, as Monty Python would say, the ‘naughty bits.’”  And yet–

The women were definitely chosen for their porny qualities. No model was included who didn’t have (as they used to say back in the 1970s) a “great rack,”  or was not able to spread her legs, tip her butt up alluringly for potential rear entry, or cock her head back in that time-honored fashion that says, “Come and get it, Buster Brown.”

But like those who reject changing the name of the Washington Football Team, the swimsuit issue is spoken of as a tradition. Hence it is harmless, right? Wrong. The swimsuit issue is the porn that gets circulated in public, as if it were not really porn, which to me – makes it more sexist than the tabletop magazines that just say brightly: “we’re all about porn!” It’s the porn that gets delivered at the office, and it’s the porn that people think it’s ok for little boys to have, like the Charlie’s Angels and Farrah Fawcett posters that were so popular back in the day, because it helps them not grow up to be fags.

This is not what all but four or five of us commenting on the post learned.  Instead, several porndogs wanted to turn the comments thread on this post into a strange personal porny fantasy involving fetishizing women’s bodies and insulting feminists and feminism at the same time.  This is a fair summary of their threadjack: Continue Reading »

31 Comments »

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 22nd 2014
Jeffrey Toobin: Clarence Thomas’s silence is contemptuous

Posted under: American history, unhappy endings, wankers

Toobin writes that Clarence Thomas is the most petulant colleague in the world:

Thomas. . . is physically transformed from his infamous confirmation hearings, in 1991—a great deal grayer and heavier today, at the age of sixty-five. He also projects a different kind of silence than he did earlier in his tenure. In his first years on the Court, Thomas would rock forward, whisper comments about the lawyers to his neighbors Breyer and Kennedy, and generally look like he was acknowledging where he was. These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called “not paying attention.”

.       .       .       .       .       .

By refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, Thomas treats them all with disrespect. It would be one thing if Thomas’s petulance reflected badly only on himself, which it did for the first few years of his ludicrous behavior. But at this point, eight years on, Thomas is demeaning the Court. Imagine, for a moment, if all nine Justices behaved as Thomas does on the bench. The public would rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court. Instead, the public has lost, and should lose, any confidence it might have in Clarence Thomas.

Why doesn’t the big baby just resign and have done with it if he’s so miserably bored?  OTOH, he could try coffee after lunch and attempt to wake up and act like he has a job.  (Let’s face it:  appearing at oral arguments is the only part of his job he can’t hand off to clerks.)  Continue Reading »

16 Comments »

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