No sabbaticals in "I-O-WAAAAY?"

He's a fake and he doesn't know the territory!

We’ve got trouble, friends–right here!  Republican legistlators in the Hawkeye State are ginning up the kulkurkampfen again by targeting professors’ sabbaticals at public universities.  They think that Iowans are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated by the presence of sabbaticals in public university budgets!  Unsurprisingly, incoming House speaker Kraig Paulsen doesn’t remember that there are all kinds of biomedical faculty, business professors, and engineering proffies in Iowa.  He targets Medieval Studies and Music!

It’s awful hard to look a taxpayer in the eye and say, “You need to pay higher property taxes so that a professor can take a year off from teaching to go research superstitions on the Middle Ages or write a musical.”

I wonder how sabbaticals would fare if faculty proposed instead to remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock, and the Golden Rule? Continue reading

My own Christmas special–gone commercial!

Thursday, December 9 was the 45th anniversary of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.  The Washington Postpublished a fascinating interview with Emmy-winning producer Lee Mendelson in which he details the making of the special with Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz and composer Vince Guaraldi.  In the course of the story, I learned this fascinating detail:

Mendelson also credits part of the power of the scene to child voice actor Christopher Shea, whose tone of wise innocence, the producer says, fits the moment perfectly.

Several years earlier, young voice actors were cast as “Peanuts” characters for a Ford commercial — this at a time when adult actors were typically cast to voice animated children. “They were 6 or 7 years old when they made the commercial,” Mendelson says of the “Peanuts” actors, “and now they were 10 or 11. But they were still the best voices.” (Melendez, meantime, was drafted to voice the sounds of Snoopy, which were speeded up by 10 times the rate at which they were recorded.)

I agree that Shea’s voice was perfect for Linus, who embodies the adult sensibilities of the Peanuts gang as well as ambivalence about joining the world of the grownups:  he alternately counsels Charlie Brown and quotes the Gospel of Luke from memory, then clutches his blue blanket and sucks his thumb.  (Sadly, IMDB reports that Shea died this summer at the rather young age of 52.)  Every time I see the Charlie Brown Christmas special, I marvel at Schulz’s courage in portraying children as troubled or even depressed at all, let alone suffering from a Christmas-induced depression.

Anyhoo–I did a little research on the world wide non-peer reviewed YouTubes into those old Peanuts kids commercials for Ford, and here’s what I came up with.  There are several advertisements for the Ford Falcon made in the early 1960s–here’s one from 1961 which sounds a lot like a younger version of the Linus and Pigpen voice actors in the Christmas special:  Continue reading

Shockholm Syndrome

Robert Kuttner writes at The American Prospect:

It was nothing short of astonishing to see Obama, at his surprise press conference Tuesday, with harsher words for members of his own party than for Republicans. It is the Republicans, after all, who have been blocking his efforts, wall-to-wall, while liberal Democrats have been his staunchest if often exasperated supporters.

Also rather surprising was Obama’s misreading of his own incrementalist beliefs into the history of Social Security and Medicare. It’s factually incorrect, contrary to the president’s assertions, that Social Security began as help for “widows and orphans.” The basic provisions of Social Security, as a retirement benefit for workers, was right in the original 1935 legislation. The first retiree began collecting benefits in 1939, a necessary delay while the program accumulated funds. And Medicare, despite Obama’s misunderstanding of its history, was legislated as a full-blown program of health insurance for the elderly in 1964.

Seriously?  Which sentient adults are really shocked, shocked” that Barack Obama has more contempt for the Left than the Right?  Surely not anyone who paid attention to his 2007-08 campaign or anyone who’s picked up a newspaper pretty much any day since his inauguration.  Praising Ronald Reagan as “transformative” during the 2008 primaries?  Check.  Winning all of the Red State caucuses while losing every closed primary in Rust Belt/Big Labor/Big Dem states, even after “the math” said Hillary Clinton couldn’t win the nomination?  Check.  Larry Summers and Timmy Geithner still have jobs in the Obama administration*, and tens of millions of worthy Americans don’t have jobs at all?  Checkaroonie!  Continuations of George W. Bush’s wars in Afghanistan, on “terror,” and on the Fourth Amendment?  Check, check, and check.  Continuations of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, the 2001 Bush tax cuts for bazillionaires, and the for-profit health “insurance” industry?  Checkcheckcheck.  Continue reading

Eggnogurate the season!

Of Syllabubs, Creams, and Flummery, p. 143

An absurd number of people are finding their way to this blog after googling the words “egg nog” or “eggnog.”  This is strange, especially because the only thing I’ve ever had to say on the subject of eggnog was this flippant post from nearly two years ago–whose major point was that people shouldn’t pronounce the word “inaugurate” as “inNOGGERate.”

But, since it is in fact eggnog season, I thought I’d do a little research into my trusty digital copy of Susannah Carter’s The Frugal Housewife, or Complete Woman Cook(1772 edition) to see if we can find any colonial antecedents to our holiday beverage.  There’s nothing called an eggnog in the book, but here are two recipes for syllabub and one for a “fine cream” that would seem to be rich and festive enough to serve in the place of eggnog.  First, she provides instructions “To make a fine Syllabub from the Cow.”  To wit:

Sweeten a quart of cyder, with double refined sugar, and grate a nutmeg into it; then milk the cow into your liquor.  When you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint, or more (in proportion of the quantity of syllabub you make) of the sweetest cream you can get, all over it.

That sounds a little weird, although I admit it might be a fun activity for the kids on Christmas morning to milk a cow directly into a pan of sweetened cider.  (If that’s your style.)  Her next recipe sounds even noggier with the froth of some egg whites included in “A Whipt Syllabub:” Continue reading

The War on Teachers: What has Michelle Rhee learned about education politics?

How to cash in on her educrat celebrity!  From a lengthy, self-serving analysis of her time as Washington, D.C. school chancellor:

There are enough people out there who understand and believe that kids deserve better, but until now, there has been no organization for them. We’ll ask people across the country to join StudentsFirst—we’re hoping to sign up 1 million members and raise $1 billion in our first year.

.       .       .       .       .       .      

Though we’ll be nonpartisan, we can’t pretend that education reform isn’t political. So we’ll put pressure on elected officials and press for changes in legislation to make things better for kids. And we’ll support and endorse school-board candidates and politicians—in city halls, statehouses, and the U.S. Congress—who want to enact policies around our legislative agenda. We’ll support any candidate who’s reform-minded, regardless of political party, so reform won’t just be a few courageous politicians experimenting in isolated locations; it’ll be a powerful, nationwide movement.

Great!  Just what Washington needs:  another billion-dollar “nonprofit” lobbying firm!  Yeah, I bet that will change everything–for the children, of course.  (It will change everything for Michelle Rhee, anyway–I’m sure she’s looking at a major salary bump!)

Rhee can cry publicly about those meanie teachers in Washington, but she should be sending them a big thank-you note.  In defeating Mayor Adrian Fenty’s bid for re-election and ousting Rhee, the biggest winner in all of this is Rhee herself.  See, the number one lesson of being an educrat is that you never stay in one job long enough for the conclusive test results to come in assessing your tenure.  It’s much better to be driven out after just a few years and complain that you didn’t have time to implement your brilliant ideas.  That way, there’s never accountability for educrats, who can continue to claim to be working on behalf of the children, but who are never asked to show any proof that what they’ve done is working.  Certainly they’d never subject themselves to the same pay-for-performance that they claim is the only way to go with teachers earning $40,000 a year!  After three or four years, they’re off to superintend or chancellorize yet another big city school system, or (better yet!) to enter the super-lucrative revolving door of lobbying and “public service” in the nation’s capital. Continue reading

Tonight we're going to party like it's 1995!

Did anyone else flash back to the last time Republicans won big in the midterms under a Democratic president last week?  I sure did when I heard the news that the Republicans once again were targeting a Smithsonian museum exhibition for being offensive to right-wing Republicans.  This article at Inside Higher Ed suggests parallels to the big Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition crisis of 1989, but I was thinking about the manufactured controversy of the planned Enola Gay exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum of 1994-95.  We were just talking about the Enola Gay controversy in my graduate seminar.  Our current graduate students know about this because it’s an important case study in public history, not because they remember it.  After all, most of them were in grade school in 1994-95.  Continue reading