Scenes from a more dangerous childhood

kidsmokingI’ve had a lot of conversations this summer with friends around my age that are saturated in nostalgia for our lost childhoods in the 1960s and 1970s.  We survivors of this era of no seatbelt laws (and in some cars, no seatbelts at all!), no carseats, no helmets, knee-pads, or elbow-pads, of forts and long summer afternoons in the woods, and of all of the soda we could drink (plus as many cigarettes we could steal out of our mothers’ purses) had childhoods that must look like science fiction to the children of the 1990s and 2000s.  Whereas most reminicences about childhood rely on the trope that the past was a more innocent time, this childhood looks downright dangerous by comparison to that of the children I know today. 

I came across this blog, Found $hit, when googling images with which to illustrate a post this week, and thought you might enjoy some of the ephemera of childhoods-gone-by.  These images appear to me to date from 1946-1955ish or so–maybe some more expert in midcentury ephemera will correct my guess here.  Warning:  some of these images are NSFMPWTTTS (Not Safe For Modern Parents Who Take Themselves Too Seriously), so can the sanctimony and enjoy the laffs, m’kay? Continue reading

Tales of money, gender, and the ruling class: Nantucket, 1994

nantucketShortly after Dr. Mister Historiann graduated from medical school, we moved from Baltimore to Somerville, Massachusetts so that he could start his residency.  We had that golden month of June, 1994 before he needed to go back to work, and back in the day when we had more time than money, we decided to hop a ferry over to Nantucket with a couple of bikes and a reservation at the Youth Hostel there.  We enjoyed a couple of days hiking, biking, and lazing around on the beach.

For both of us, I think, the most memorable thing about that trip was talking to our fellow youth-hostellers, most of whom were young Irish men and women who had come to Massachusetts on a special visa that permitted them to work for a summer and then return to Ireland.  The trick for most of these kids was to move to a resort area and to find a day job there, so that the beach was right there on their days off.  Most of the young men sought construction work–which as I recall offered decent (although illegal, under-the-table) wages of $15-$20 an hour.  Most of the young women interviewed for restaurant jobs and summer nanny jobs, and the money people were offering for the latter was truly appalling.  Families who were spending $2,000 to $4,000 a week (or more, perhaps much more) to rent a summer house on Nantucket were offering these young women $150 a week to stay with their children 24/7, because of the supposedly fabulous “perk” of having room and board with the family.  (As if having a live-in nanny were more of a favor to the nanny than to the parents, who also had on-call 24-hr. child care.)  I was appalled–talk about your patriarchal equilibrium.  There was no question that the women working as summer nannies, even without the room and board, would never earn them $15-$20 an hour.

Isn’t it fascinating to see what people are willing to spend their money on, and what they’re not willing to pay for?  Continue reading

We can haz pony now?

clauderainsThe Nation is shocked–shocked!–to find that gambling is going on here, with the chief croupier “America’s most progressive President in more than half a century!” 

After his brilliant beginning, the president suddenly looks weak and unreliable. [Ed. notedon’t you read your own magazine, dude?  “Suddenly,” my a$$.]  That will be the common interpretation around Washington of the president’s abrupt retreat on substantive heathcare reform. Give Barack Obama a hard shove, they will say, rough him up a bit and he folds. A few weeks back, the president was touting a “public option” health plan as an essential element in reform. Now he says, take it or leave it. Whatever Congress does, he’s okay with that.

The White House quickly added confusion to the outrage by insisting the president didn’t really say anything new. He’s just being flexible. He still wants what most Democrats want–a government plan that gives people a real escape from the profit-driven clutches of the insurance companies. But serious power players will not be fooled by the nimble spinners. Obama choked. He raised the white flag, even before the fight got underway in Congress.

(Via the awesome vastness and leftyness of vastleft at Corrente.)  In the past few days since this article was published, the confusion has only grown about where the White House is.  (One thing is for sure:  they thought they put a stake through Howard Dean’s heart, but he lives!  He lives!)  Well, suxxorz:  I love to say I told you so, don’t I?  Continue reading

Wait a minute, Mr. Postman, look and see–is there a nightmare in your bag for me?

postmanInside Higher Ed has an article this morning, “Getting the Letters Right,” with advice for people asking for letters of recommendation, and nudging grad students and junior scholars to mentor your mentors into providing quality letters of recommendation on time.  It’s good advice, and it all boils down to providing your letter-writers lots of details about you and about the job/s or fellowship/s to which you’re applying, and giving them plenty of notice before the letters are due.  In my experience as a junior job- and fellowship-seeker, nothing was more anxiety-producing than wondering whether or not those letters of recommendation were sent on time.  Now, with digital systems, letter-writers are prompted to submit letters on time by the institutions to which their students or colleagues are applying–at least, that’s been my experience with some recent letters I’ve written on behalf of professional colleagues.  But–what they say remains (or should remain, I suppose) a mystery to the applicants.

In my experience as a faculty member and as a veteran of several search committees, I’m happy to report that the vast, vast, vast majority of letters of recommendation arrive punctually and they do their job of fluffing the job candidate thoroughly and fulsomely, if not also extravagantly.  People who have the honor of training Ph.D. students recognize that the successes of their students will reflect on them, so that’s usually sufficient motivation for most grad advisors and committee members to do their duty.  However, the occasional loser of a letter comes across the transom– Continue reading

It's Back-to-Girl School time, kids!

The Bittersweet Girl has a fun post up about what she never learned in “Girl School.”  She writes,

For years, Golden Boy and I have had a bit that we do, in which we joke about what we did or did not learn in “girl school” or “boy school.”

For example, if I were to do something particularly girly like sew a button on his shirt or arrange a vase of flowers just so, GB will say, “Is that something you learned in girl school?”

However, the joke is more common in the negative. Neither GB nor I particularly conform to gender norms — he’s the bookish, sensitive type, while I like to repair things with large tools — so usually we use this concept in moments when we’re not able to perform as our genders dictate. For example, if GB declines to kill a particularly large, scary bug, I would say, “But, isn’t that a skill you learned in boy school?”

cowgirlchapsThis is apropos of the Lessons for Girls series that Historiann initiated and is archiving. I’ve enjoyed this series immensely and have wanted to participate but whenever I sit down to compose a lesson for girls, I get stuck on the feeling that there are so many lessons I haven’t learned or have yet to learn, who am I to give anyone else advice?

Hey, BSG–that lack of self-confidence is extremely “girly,” don’tcha think?  Otherwise, it’s true:  she doesn’t sound like a very good “girl,” to me.  She doesn’t know how to put on makeup or do her hair, she can’t cook to entertain, and she is chronically “sweaty, flustered, wrinkled, and cranky,” among other non-“girl”-like attributes, but then, I bet we can all think of ways in which we’re not sex/gender normative!  I never learned to shut up when people told me to, like a good “girl.”  (Shocking, I know!)  Continue reading

What to do about colleagues who shirk work for family responsibilities?

It’s that time of year again, folks–at least for those of us on semesters with absurdly long semesters.  (15 weeks!  FIFTEEN WEEKS–say it like Cruella DeVille’s “FIF-TEEN PUPPIES!”, plus a week of exams!  How did I ever get into grad school or get a job with a B.A. earned in slight 12-week increments?)  Mid-August is a funny time of year, because classes haven’t yet started, but most of us have been fielding requests to meet with advisees, and most of us have a faculty retreat, or a first-of-the-new-academic year departmental meeting, and maybe a meet-and-greet the new grad students get-together.  These meetings are a part of the obligation of faculty life–and attendance at these events seems to me a small thing to expect, especially considering the favor of the previously unscheduled 12 or 13 weeks of the summer that many of us enjoy.  But–and you all know who they are, because there’s at least one in every department–there are some of our colleagues who treat these August meetings and obligations as though they’re merely optional.

cryingbabiesThus, the question from the mailbag at Historiann HQ:

Dear Historiann,

My question for you and your readers is a faculty-with-children thing.  I am in a tiny department, which is even smaller now because one colleague is on leave in the fall.  This week is opening week, and we’re all supposed to be on campus.

A female colleague with children lives 75 minutes out of town, so she normally only comes in three days a week. This week, there is a day that we really must have someone available for advising duty, according to our Dean.  I would normally do the job, but am in meetings for most of the day — meetings that in part have to do with me already taking on a duty no one else in the department could bother doing.  I’ve informed my colleagues of this, and another (male) colleague with children has not responded, and the female said she couldn’t do it and couldn’t our other colleague?  Continue reading

Whig of Illusory Progress awarded to the New York Times!


The Whig of Illusory Progress!

Good morning, folks!  Autumn is here on the high plains desert.  The light even in late afternoon is looking paler and whiter, and a cold front blew in last night that demanded window-shutting and sweater-putting-on.  Amazing!  Well, at least some members of famille Historiann get some use out of winter through skiing.  We still have a lot of warm, sunny afternoons to look forward to in September and October (and sometimes into November!)

The seasons change, but some things don’t apparently, so today I award a Whig of Illusory Progress to the New York Times for its proclamation that because of the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, “G.I. Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier as War Evolves!”  It’s a decent article, summarizing what people who study women in the military have been saying for at least the past thirty years:  warfare has changed, and military technology demands a wider skill set than pure brawn, with evidence and interviews with people who have served in our current wars for the empire.  Since the majority of today’s military is no longer a majority of infantry or combat positions, women are everywhere:

From Necessity, Opportunity [ed. note:  this sub-head is worth a Whiggy of its own!  Where have we heard this before?]

No one envisioned that Afghanistan and Iraq would elevate the status of women in the armed forces.  Continue reading