New Year’s Resolution: Hundreds of pounds gone, overnight! And a promise to keep them off.

Thanks for the memories!

Book weight, that is, not body weight.  Our recent discussion of clutter, inspired by the super-detailed and super-creepy installation “Barbie Trashes her Dream House“, has inspired me to donate the shelves full of books I no longer read or use.  I’ve just removed four boxes and large bags of books off of my shelves, and I’m just getting started.  Whichever organization calls me first to ask if I have any good, re-useable household goods, books, or clothing, and offers to pick my donation up from my front door, will be the beneficiary.

I’ve lived in this house for ten years–by far, the longest place I’ve ever lived in my adult life.  And I’ve bought or been given a lot of books over the past thirty years.  I was wondering, aside from the household clutter angle, why now?  Why get rid of the excess books now, instead of sometime during the 1990s, when I moved ten times in as many years and was always packing and moving and unpacking those damn boxes of books.  It’s perverse, no? 

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The limited (and queer?) vision of American historical reenacting

Fort Number Four, Charlestown, NH

Nick Kowalczk offers us a detailed look at historical re-enacting in “Embedded with the Reenactors,”  in which he ponders the fascination that some Americans have with reliving the bloody, imperialistic wars of the past.  I thought this article was noteworthy too because 1) they’re not Civil War reenactors, they’re  reenactors of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), and 2) the Seven Years’ War guys (and yes, they’re mostly middle-aged guys, according to Kowalczk’s reporting and my own observations of all kinds of reenactors over the years) have been enjoying their 250th anniversary moment in the spotlight for the past few years. 

I found Kowalczk’s article fascinating, although it’s written in a more “new journalism” style that includes him as both participant and observer, and I kept wishing he would go deeper into some of the questions he raises about reenactors based on his participation in a battle of the Siege of Fort Niagara:

It’s not every 4th of July you get to be around nearly 3,000 people inhabiting an amalgam of time, and especially in a place as lovely as Fort Niagara State Park. The water in Lake Ontario actually was blue. And the fortification, now known as Old Fort Niagara, has been well-preserved even though it was built by the French in 1726 and took a 19-day pummeling in July 1759, when a few thousand British and Indians out-maneuvered 600 Frenchman sitting pretty in a big castle protected by cannons and stone walls.

But being on the battlefield exactly 250 years later, I couldn’t help but imagine the 348 people who died and the many others who were injured or suffered. When they trembled for their lives could they ever have imagined that a bloodless, G-rated recreation of their deaths eventually would become someone’s hobby?   Continue reading

Hoarder Barbie, plus some other updates

detail from Carrie M. Becker's "Barbie Trashes Her Dreamhouse"

Via Susie at Suburban Guerilla, we learn of “Barbie Trashes Her Dream House” by artist Carrie M. Becker.  Be sure to click the previous link and marvel at the level of detail and layers of junk that Becker meticulously crafted, including an extremely disgusting toilet in the Dream House bathroom.  (I’m only slightly ashamed that my office looks a bit like this detail, at right, only with many more books and many fewer cardboard file boxes.)  If you live in or near Witchita, you can go see the installation yourself in September 2012, when Becker takes hoarder Barbie to the Riney Fine Arts Center Gallery at Friends University.

Speaking of real life in miniature:  remember that miniseries about the Kennedys that was protested by Kennedy loyalists and then dropped by the History Channel?  I’ve watched 6 episodes so far, and it’s really quite entertaining.  Continue reading

Feel the Santormentum! Know your Romney: A Janus-face for January

Oops! (Miss me yet, America?)

A few thousand Iowans participated in their ritual charade last night.  True to the end in their disgust and distrust for Mitt Romney, 75% of them chose “someone else,” and 25% of them even voted for Rick Santorum, mostly because they’d already crushed on every other Republican candidate in the race and he was the last one on their dance cards.  (Tim Pawlenty was crying into his Postum last night, I’m sure.)

I haven’t written about the Republican primary much because I’m really not all that interested in this beauty contest for who can be the ugliest and most outrageous.  The one thing I am slightly interested in is the fact that Romney excites precisely no one, and most Republicans kind of hate him.  Most Republicans were sick of George W. Bush after eight years, but I guess they’re not so sick of Bush that they can’t also be turned off by his polar opposite, Romney.  (If anyone might like Romney you’d think it would be George Will, but even Will has compared Romney unfavorably to Tom Dewey, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry.) 

Via RealClearPolitics, I found this interesting excerpt from The Real Romney, forthcoming by Boston Globe reporters Michael Kranish and Scott Helman, that strikes me as a very fair and well-researched look at Romney’s religious leadership and professional career over the past 40 years.  (They also explain pretty clearly how Romney made his money, which is a pretty complicated thing to understand for most people who are not in management consulting and/or who had little experience with LBOs and junk bonds in the 1980s and corporate raiders in the 1990s.)

The quick and dirty:  Romney is brainy, driven, and utterly devoted to his family, formal in his manners and cautious to a fault.  People who were put off by George W. Bush’s seat-of-the-pants, aggressively uninformed management style will be glad to know that Romney’s style is the complete opposite.  Continue reading

Hey, philosophers: buy your own damn keg

Fat, drunk, and stupid is apparently no barrier to a career in philosophy!

Via Inside Higher Ed, I learned today of the tradition of the “smoker” at the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting:

Over the years, the reception at the APA eastern conference has functioned as a job fair of sorts, where, over free-flowing booze, candidates talk to potential employers.

For weeks, philosophy blogs had been alive with discussions about how women job candidates feel vulnerable at the reception, how some of them had been hit on as they talked to recruiters, and the sheer awkwardness of trying to navigate job interviews with a beer bottle in hand. While many disciplinary meetings feature departmental receptions, they tend to be for alumni gatherings and outreach as much as anything; the philosophy reception is one event where candidates say they are urged to schmooze simultaneously with hiring committees, random others, and competitors for the jobs they want.

Ugh–for all of the reasons that the women philosophers note in the linked blog posts above, of course.  But this is also clearly the bright idea of a profession in which the job market is almost entirely a buyers’ market rather than a sellers’ market.  As a tenured professor, I must admit that it would be a lot more fun for me to conduct quasi-interviews over cocktails instead of meeting in the pit in a drafty hotel basement with a sad water cooler the only refreshment.  It would also be a lot of fun for me to ask job candidates to wear silly hats, sing show tunes, and pass trays of hot appetizers of their own devise.  But then, the job interview process isn’t about me, is it?  Continue reading