Election Day 2013: secesh fever!

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

Denver, you have a drinking problem.

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

That’s Professor Fail to you

Remember my high dudgeon over my students’ failure to appreciate the convenience and effectiveness of Chicago-style citations?  I had my panties in a wad over a stack of papers I collected a few weeks ago, in which about half of the students used (or attempted to use) Chicago-style citations, which I thought I had made a requirement of the essay assignment.

Looking over the essay assignment once again as I sat down to record the grades last night, I noticed this instruction on my essay assignment:

As always, your essay must have a clear argument and use proper citations (either Chicago- or MLA-style is fine, so long as you cite both your primary and your secondary sources faithfully.)

The professor who wrote that essay assignment seems perfectly reasonable!  The professor who marked the essays, however, is kind of an idiot.  Continue reading

Pauline Maier, 1938-2013

paulinemaierPauline Maier, the William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of History at MIT, died August 12 this year at age 75, a fact that this blog failed to note at the time.  (I can’t remember why, except to note that an extended family member of mine like Maier also died of a recently diagnosed lung cancer a few days earlier, so I suppose his death was on my mind instead.)  Mary Beth Norton writes to inform us that she will be speaking at a memorial service for Maier at MIT on Tuesday, October 29 in the Kresge Auditorium at MIT at 4 p.m.

You have to love the fact that in her obituary the Grey Lady 1) helpfully provides the pronunciation of Maier’s surname “(pronounced MAY-er)” and 2) called Maier the “Historian Who Described Jefferson As ‘Overrated'” right in the headline!  Awesome!  All historians should aspire to this irreverence, in my opinion.

The Jefferson-is-overrated comment is a reference to Maier’s brilliant history of the Declaration of Independence called American Scripture (1997).  Many readers and reviewers have failed to note that the title is ironic, given that the goal of Maier’s book was to illuminate the role of the hundreds of state and local declarations of independence that were issued before the Continental Congress got around to writing theirs in the spring and early summer of 1776.  It was a terrific book Continue reading

Really creepy costumes of the past

babyjaneI saw this Buzzfeed collection of 19 Deeply Horrifying Vintage Halloween Costumes at some link farm somewhere on the internets–my apologies to you if it was on your blog, as I can’t remember exactly where & therefore can’t credit you with it.  It’s hard to choose my favorite, but I think mine is the one on the left.  (I guess we know now what happened to Baby Jane.)

I was struck by the racist costumes and the degree to which many disguises in this collection of photos bear more than a passing resemblance to Ku Klux Klan masks and hoods.  This is in part due to the fact that the Klan started dressing up in the ways that people would have fashioned costumes in the late nineteenth century, I’m sure–it’s not like they could go to the Five and Dime or Target to purchase ready-made costumes with plastic masks, so yards of muslin or burlap with eye-holes and topknots were in order. Continue reading

Citations, the Chicago way.

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

Smell you later

In a daring experiment, Slate’s brilliant legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick spent a week wearing Axe body wash, shampoo, and spray:

My own boys, at 8 and 10, are too young for Axe. . . or so I shall insist to myself until they are about 40. But after a single day at the beach this past August, when they shared a bathroom with their big hockey-playing Axe-scented cousin-slash-hero, even the 8-year-old was smearing his small hairless self with the body wash, the deodorant, and, in case he still couldn’t be smelled from the next pier over, the spray cologne. I decided to handle this olfactory terrorism like a mature adult: several days of merciless teasing. Dinners quickly became unbearable, with three Axe-drenched young people fogging up all tastes and smells until your pasta simply tasted like the painful ache at the back of your tongue that occurs when every boy in the house sees a daily Axe dip as part of his grooming. On it went, until the final weekend at the beach, when I found myself trapped in the shower with only a bottle of three-in-one Axe ™ product (shampoo, body-wash, and conditioner). So I broke down and used it.

Sunshine. Harps. It was the most sublimely powerful fragrance experience of my adult life. Truly. After decades of smelling like a flower or a fruit, for the first time ever, I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him, possibly by girls in angel wings. I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more. Continue reading