Holiday round-up: Happy Cranksgiving!

So. Over. Cooking.

I hope you have a great holiday.  I’m kind of burned out on cooking on Thanksgiving, so I’m outta here.  We’re heading for the hills to some hot springs for the next few days.  I don’t even really give a dadgummit if Thursday’s dinner is steam tray turkey and Stove Top stuffing–so long as I don’t have to cook it, it’s all good.  That’s something I can be very thankful for.  (H/t to Notorious Ph.D. for the awesome visual aid at left!!!)

And since you’ve asked:  yes, indeed, our mountains look just like that.

Those of you who are cooking (poor dears!) may need a little inspiration, so here’s a roundup of my impressive Thanksgiving-themed blogging from the previous three years.  Continue reading

Brenda in Birmingham is riding a bummer of a semester

From The Way We Work by David Macaulay

 Dear Historiann,

Have you or the readers of your blog ever had a “cursed” semester?  What can I do about it in the short-term when my department has no resources to help me recover from it?  If  I were a student in my classes this semester, I would have withdrawn.

Let me explain:  I am an adjuct at a large urban university.  I got sick and was hospitalized for an entire week, then taught one class, then I had to take another week off to actually recover or else risk another stroke. Then my husband’s spine ruptured, requiring emergency surgery and another week’s hospitalization for him. I could not get a substitute for any of this, since my department is severely understaffed. THEN, my hard drive melted a day after having recorded and turned back graded papers, which meant that I’ve had to ask for all of those back. For half of these absences, I have posted alternative online sessions, but I understand that students still perceive those as absences. Continue reading

“We love you, Mr. Gingrich!” (It’s the hard knock life.)

I haven’t commented much on the Republican debates or their primary shennanigans (mostly because I think they’re both absurd and tiresome) but sometimes the crazzy just demands mockery.

Via The Daily Beast we learn that Newt Gingrich has called for the repeal of child labor laws and for children to perform the janitorial work in their schools.  At Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government!  I’m not kidding–there’s a video at the bottom of the linked story.  This makes his 1994 proposal to bring back orphanages look almost responsible and moderate. (Gingrich’s recent thoughts on child labor makes Michele Bachmann’s comments from an earlier debate this summer look positively prescient!)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but by my lights that’s really slapdash janitorial work. Continue reading

11/22/63, the Warren Commission, and the “torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas,” 1963

Via RealClearPolitics, Frank Rich has some interesting comparisons of the political climate of our time and the political climate of 1963 in his review of a recent spate of books on President John F. Kennedy and his assassination 48 years ago tomorrow:  “Caroline Kennedy’s belated release of her mother’s taped 1964 reminiscences with an obsequious Arthur Schlesinger Jr., of course, but also Chris Matthews’s man-crush of a biography, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, and Stephen King’s Moby-Dick-size novel 11/22/63,” and a preview of Alan Brinkley’s ” John F. Kennedy, his contribution to the American Presidents Series, due next spring.”

Rich appropriately spends most of his time on King’s novel, and specifically on the fact that King spends a great deal of time detailing the “torrid atmosphere of political rage in Dallas, where both Lady Bird Johnson and Adlai Stevenson had been spat upon by mobs of demonstrators in notorious incidents before Kennedy’s fateful 1963 trip.”  He continues:

As the time-traveling [protagonist of King’s novel Jake] Epping gets settled in that past, he describes an inferno of seething citizens, anti-Semitic graffiti on Jewish storefronts, and angry billboards demanding the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and equating racial integration with communism. That last one, King’s protagonist observes, “had been paid for by something called The Tea Party Society.”

That “Tea Party Society” is the novelist’s own mischievous invention, but the rest of his description is accurate. King’s touchstone is The Death of a President, by William Manchester, a meticulous biographer and historian who was chosen by Jacqueline Kennedy to write the authorized account of the assassination. Continue reading

The Ron Swanson Scholarship in Women’s Studies

The serious conversation about campus “police” brutality will continue below, but for those of you looking for a little Sunday morning light entertainment, see Amanda Krauss, the Worst Professor Ever, on the feminism of Parks and Recreation and the overall awesomeness of Ron Effing Swanson, man’s man and feminist icon.

I wish I could watch Parks and Recreation more often, but out here in the Mountain Time Zone it’s on at 7 p.m., and I’m ususally still feeding watering the horses.  Continue reading

Campus “police:” opportunistic thugs

Check it out:  UC Davis campus “police” pepper spray a cowering line of about a dozen students and drag them away.  Check out their SWAT-team gear.  I bet they’ve been waiting all year to play dressup and have some fun.

This video only confirms my already very low opinion of college and university campus “police.”  My personal experience on two different campuses is that they are thugs who hassle only people who are sure to pose no threat to them whatsoever, and that they leave the real miscreants alone.  I was working alone in my campus office one late Sunday afternoon at a former university when an amped up campus police officer with a billy club burst into my office without knocking and threatened me.  (He assumed that only a thief would have the light on on a Sunday night.  I assured him it was my own office and that I was working there legally, showing him my keys.)  At another former university, I was pulled over and ordered out of my car for mistakenly driving the wrong way an exit-only parking lot egress.  (There was no danger to anyone else–there were no other cars trolling around that parking lot anyway.)

But these are far from the worst stories I’ve heard.  Continue reading

Francis Fukyuama: learns nothing, forgets nothing

Hey, kids:  don’t be Whig historians!  And especially avoid being Francis “The End of History” Fukuyama. 

Via RealClearBooks, we learned recently that he’s got a new book called The Origins of Political Order, and unsurprisingly, he is completely wrong again.  But you have to admit that it’s pretty cute that he has more in common with Karl Marx and with the first generation of Soviet historians than his modern peers because of his unshaken, dumba$$ theory of history’s inevitable destination.  Reviewer John Gray asks,

[H]ow could laws of history underpin human progress when views about what constitutes progress are so ephemeral and so divergent? Some human values are universal and enduring, but ideas of progress come and go like fashions in hats. Theories of convergence reflect disparate and incompatible ideals of human betterment. What all such theories have in common is that they have come to nothing. None of the regimes that was believed to be the near-inevitable end point of modern development has emerged anywhere in the world. 

Fukuyama shows no sign of being discouraged by this record of failure. Continue reading