Somerby: incomparable! Ehrenreich: now comparable to Dowd.

Very foolishly, I posted today before reading Bob Somerby’s The Daily Howler.  Go read now.  Money quote:  “Eight years ago, [Barbara] Ehrenreich was getting good solid laughs with her comments about how wooden Gore was. Today, Gore holds the Nobel Peace Prize, and the dead of Iraq stare up from the ground. And Ehrenreich has moved on-to talk about Clinton’s vile haircuts.”

What a disappointment that Ehrenreich, a feminist who has written some very intelligent and important books, has typed up a screed so full of cliches about Hillary Clinton that I would have deemed it worthy only of Maureen Dowd.  Despite the troubling prayer meetings and hairdos (both of which were no doubt carefully designed to conceal her sprouting devil horns), Clinton appears to be up 1215 points in Pennsylvania, and a whopping 28 points in West Virginia.  It must be witchcraft, or something.  Poor deluded fools–I guess they don’t spend enough time reading the prestigious, peer-reviewed internets, otherwise they would know that “that stupid bitch” doesn’t have a chance!  She should quit now, before Pennsylvania, West Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Oregon, and Montana hold their primaries.

Democracy is so divisive!  We should just all unite now behind St. John McCain, because the Republicans are threatening to vote for him instead of the Democratic nominee.

Ben Stein? Anyone?. . . Anyone?

matthew-broderick.jpgben-stein.jpgThis article at Inside Higher Ed does a good job of summarizing the new “Intelligent” Design movie, Expelled:  No Intelligence Allowed.  Is it just me, but does anyone really think that chronic D-list Republican celeb Ben Stein is really a “powerful new weapon” in the war to admit pseudo-science into public school classrooms?  He had an amusing cameo in a movie that came out when Historiann was in High School, twenty-two years ago, which was itself amusingly parodied by “Ferris Bueller” himself in Election (1999).  But, who really cares what Ben Stein thinks about anything?  He’s not that smart, and not that popular with High School kids, or anyone else, these days.

But then if what you’re selling is “Intelligent” Design, then maybe Ben Stein is “powerful,” in the way that ID is “intelligent.” 

UPDATE:  It’s a regular John Hughes revival today:  tonight, All Things Considered did a story about the character “Long Duk Dong” from Hughes’ 1984 movie, Sixteen Candles, and the controversy over the racist stereotype of Asian men he (at the instigation of writer/director Hughes) revived and embodied.   (Don’t miss the link to Adrian Tomine’s 2001 graphic story, “The Donger and Me”–it illustrates the burden that Long Duk Dong was for Asian American boys in the 1980s.)  And here’s something from the department of “you’re getting old, dude”:  the actor who played Long Duk Dong, Gedde Watanabe, is fifty-two!  Check it out–after all, how many times have you had the opportunity to hear an NPR reporter use the expression “butt-cut” on the air?

Can you play short, ugly, and second-worst?

giamatti-adams.jpgIf your name is Paul Giamatti, the answer is yes!  Giamatti is starring in HBO’s docudrama on the life of John Adamsofficially the second-worst President in American history.  Ari over at Edge of the American West finds the casting unconvincing, mostly because he doesn’t think Giamatti’s John Adams captures Adams’ truly monumental asshattery.  According to Ari, Giamatti’s portrayal “extends from neurotic to nerdy, with occasional detours into petulant,” and he concludes that Giamatti “seemingly has no clue how to embody a man like Adams.”  (Yes, Ari finds that even this portrayal is too flattering to Adams!) 

Jill Lepore expresses frustrations similar to Ari’s in her review of the HBO movie, which appears in The New Yorker this week.  Entitling her review “The Divider,” she writes that minor quibbles about the movie aside, “the bigger problem is how far the writing has to go to make Adams both more important and more virtuous than everyone around him except his wife, as if to justify his prodigious self-regard and disdain for his contemporaries. Adams didn’t ‘unite the states of America,’ but he accomplished a hell of a lot. He was bold. He was brilliant. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t also a heel.”  She rightly reminds us of his outsized outrage after reading Mercy Otis Warren’s history of the American Revolution.  “Adams wrote Warren ten letters-some more than twenty pages long-of petty, rambling vituperation,” protesting her portrayal of him in her book.  “But his reading of Warren’s ‘History’ was paranoid and hysterical,” Lepore aptly observes, “and his letters to her are the rantings of a bully:  she is unladylike; there are things he could say about her if he weren’t such a gentleman.”  This was certainly a side of Adams that was ignored or downplayed in David McCullough’s John Adams, which was the inspiration for the HBO movie.

Historiann is just relieved that HBO didn’t cast George Clooney or Colin Firth in the service of flattering Adams even further.  Unattractive actors still get work in Hollywood–some of the most unattractive (Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, for example, and they’re dumpy too!) are offered really interesting roles that win them big awards and fabulous reviews.  (By the way:  in real life, alcoholic junior high school teachers who are also failed writers and look like Giamatti don’t get to run away with Virginia Madsen!  Interestingly, Laura Linney has been cast with both Giamatti and Hoffman recently–John Adams, 2008, and The Savages, 2007, perhaps because she’s about as average-looking as any successful actress is allowed to be these days, and she’s of course gorgeous compared to actual humans.)  When directors need to cast an unattractive woman, they pop an ugly prosthetic nose on Nicole Kidman, or they make Charlize Theron wear weird dentures and a fat suit, or Renee Zellweger gains twenty whole pounds, because there are apparently no plain or even average-looking good actresses.  (Or actresses who have eaten a cheeseburger since the 1990s).  Full employment is only for sylph-like goddesses between the ages of 24 and 39–remember, makeup artists can do amazing things putting wrinkles on gorgeous young things, instead of having to employ a has-been like that old bag Julia Roberts.  (Happy 40th, Julia!  Love ya!)

 UPDATE:  See also Marc Bousquet’s review of the movie at How the University Works, where he constructs John Adams as an exemplar of the revolt of the “professional-managerial class.”  Bousquet writes, “Giamatti’s performance as Adams didn’t quite do it for me. His note for Adams seems to be ‘every revolution needs good management.’  Still I found many moments to like. Gruesomely cool was the inoculation of  the Adams family against smallpox.”  (Alert for PalMD!)

 UPDATE II, 3/19/08:  A clever and funny local yokel columnist for the Denver Post, Ed Quillen, published a column this morning called “Adams Deserves Obscurity.”  Like Historiann, he wonders why Adams gets the fawning treatment by HBO.  The money quote:  “John Adams had many virtues. But he also gave America the Sedition Act of 1798, which made it a crime to criticize the federal government or its officers. A revolutionary who betrays his ideals has little right to complain about his treatment by history.”

Wanted: a non-U.S. American for President

martin-van-buren.JPGGo read this commentary by William K. Wolfrum over at Shakesville, a smart and spanky group blog.  He makes the fascinating point, long-overlooked by professional killjoys historians, that American-born presidents have been real losers compared to the British born ones.  “You need to go all the way to the eighth President – Martin Van Buren – to have a U.S. president that was born a bona fide American. And what is Van Buren best known for? The Panic of 1837 . . . . If Van Buren showed us anything, it was that true Americans were inept when it came to leading the country.”  (Kind of weird that his nickname was “The Little Magician,” no?  Compare that to “Old Hickory” or “Old Rough and Ready”–it just doesn’t inspire.)  Wolfrum makes exceptions for Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the other New York Democrat after Van Buren to be elected President.  As a professional killjoy historian, I’ve got a few quibbles with Wolfrum, natch:  The “no person except a natural born citizen” rule kept us from what would have been the early national nightmare of a President Alexander Hamilton, but we’ve amended the constitution considerably in the intervening 200 years since that would have been an issue.  And, you have to admit that this guy is definitely the second-worst President in American history despite being born in Massachusetts, which contrary to recent rumors, is not and never was a French colony.

When you think about it, considering only U.S.-born Americans for the job limits our options considerably.  We could have a President Jennifer Granholm (born in Canada) one of these days if we did away with that rule, or a President Mary Robinson.  (We also could have a President Kindergarten Cop, though–something to consider, my fellow Americans!) 

On a related note:  HNN is once again asking us professionals to rate and rank George W. Bush’s presidency.  (Guess who beats out that guy in Historiann’s book?  One guess only!)  Anyway, if you want to submit your own answers, have at it.  I think we almost need to adjust the rankings for the newest soon-to-be ex-president to create five or six spaces in between him and the next-worst.  It almost makes me feel a little sorry for this guy–but not really all that sorry.  After all, until January 20, 2009, he’s Number One!

p.s.  Please keep sending me nominations for quality women’s history blogs–read the post below!  And as long as I’m sending hugs and kisses out to Shakesville, read this excellent post by Jeff Fecke on Geraldine Ferraro’s egregious comment that Barack Obama is somehow benefiting (unfairly!) from being a black man.  It’s embarassing, and just dumber than a sack of hammers.  Don’t go all Ralph Nader, Gerry, saying and doing dumb things that undermine your historic achievements and make us hate you in spite of them!  Apologize now!  UPDATE 3/12/08:  Ferraro bows out of the Clinton campaign.  Kind of a whiny letter, but brief!

Why no women's history? Blame the Patriarchive! (An International Women's Day omnibus spectacular and bee-yatchfest.)

someone was going to have to set a bad exampleWell, we’re a full week into Women’s History Month, but Historiann has been so immersed in one woman’s fate that she hasn’t had time to come up for air–until today.  Apologies, sisters and brothers!  Consider this an “open thread” for any and all random thoughts on Women’s History Month–but just for kicks, here are a few l’il tidbits for your brain to nosh on:

1.  Check out The Patriarchive, which I’ve blogrolled under “History Geek Squad” at left.  Aside from having a most excellent name, this blog is about “gender, libraries, archives, technology, outreach, teaching, the digital divide, and blaming the patriarchy.”  Whew!  And what will she blog about after breakfast?  Who is this young mystery Marxist feminist librarian, and can I read what she’s reading?  We know only one thing about her–that like this dangerous woman she attended a subversive undergraduate college–but I hope we’ll learn more. 

2.  Anxious Black Woman is following up her excellent Black Herstory Month series with Women’s History Month blogging.  Go check it out, especially because today is International Women’s Day.  (Ortho at Baudrillard’s Bastard might be especially interested in her most recent post on Global Lockdown, an edited collection on women in the prison industrial complex.)

3.  Women in medicine:  part of an occasional series on the lives of women professionals around the world.  This is a true story, although some of the details have been altered:  one of Historiann’s college roommates is in academic critical care.  (I know!  Thank goodness no one’s life depends on me!)  She writes:  I’m a meeting for [The Very Important Research Physicians in Intensive Care Conference].  I am approached by an ICU Professor at the University of [Ben & Jerry’s] who introduces himself and then asks, “So what do you do?”  I respond, “I’m here in [Whoville], and I work with [this Division Chief]”.  He looks very puzzled.  “But what do you do??” he repeats.  “I mean, are you a resident or a nurse?”  Uhmmm, no Jerky McJerkface, she’s just like you, an actual professor of this bullcrap, although she apparently has lady parts!  This is just one in a series of insults that she has been offered in partial recompense for her lifelong dedication to her field.  Is it better to get angry every time this happens, so that one doesn’t get become blase about these things, or is it better to take happy pills and say, “whatevs, Last Century Dude.”  (Or, in l’esprit de l’escalier, should she have said, “I’m an attending physician dumbass, are you looking for the Senile Dementia conference?”  What say you, PalMD?)

4.  Do any of you have recommendations for a good picture book (ages 3-8-ish) that would serve as a good introduction to women’s history for the preschool/kingergarten set?  Perhaps a moving story about a little girl in history?  (Example of something like what I’m looking for:  there’s a very good book for preschoolers that introduces the concept of slavery and emancipation called Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, about Henry “Box” Brown.)

 5.  Et vous, mes amis?  What’s happening around your council fire?

What we talk about when we talk about misogyny, religion, racism, and teh funny

While we wait to see the results of today’s primary that will surely force the end of Hillary Clinton’s campaign even if she wins, let’s tour the non-peer reviewed internets, shall we?by Anne Taintor

  • Bob Somerby has a really interesting ethnographic analysis today at The Daily Howler, arguing that the press corps’ dominant Hillary hatred can be traced to middle-aged “East Coast Irish Catholics” prominent at NBC and the New York Times, and the particular stew of “psychosexual lunacies” that their mid-twentieth century upbringing has wrought.  Check it out:  he writes that “[Maureen] Dowd and [Chris] Matthews are the press corps’ leading psychosexual nut-cases.”  Somerby (an East Coast Irish Catholic himself) also enlists the assitance of Gene Lyons, another East Coast Irish Catholic who affirms that it’s all part of the culture:  “Having basically grown up in a Maureen Dowd column, albeit with less wit and more profanity, I’ve known this variety of Irish Catholic misogyny forever. My sainted mother warned me against the cunning and duplicity of women almost to her dying breath. It’s a sorrowful remnant of sexual Puritanism.”  (We’ll just let that adjective “puritanism” used to describe Catholicism go this time, m’kay?  No one likes a pedant…)  Is the press corps–and possibly the nation–being driven by Irish Catholic psychosexual anxieties?  (Or does that question creep you out too much to consider writing a comment?)
  • In any case, you’d think the Irish Catholic luminaries listed above might have a few questions for John McCain and his endorsement by Pastor Hagee, who is just as insanely anti-Catholic as Cotton Mather, instead of pestering Barack Obama about his pastor, who might once have said something nice about Louis Farakkhan.  (Do you really think a white congregant from that church would have to answer those questions?  Think, people!)
  • I posted this in a comments thread below, but it deserves a promotion:  a clear-eyed analysis of the nefarious, dirty-trickster Hillary Clinton and her plan to win the White House by winning the Democratic Primary!  Who does she think she is?  It’s not like she’s also rebounding in the national pollsOh noooooo!  Quick!  Everyone, STOP VOTING NOW!  Your voting is disruptive of party unity and the democratic process!  (H/t to Correntewire, which also has a good roundup of people hating’ on the Hillary.)

UPDATE, March 5:  Dowd’s latest hairball is mind-alteringly stupid.  She writes that in the Democratic primary, “All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts. People will have to choose which of America’s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny?”  That’s right–I guess if you’re a rich, white New York Times columnist, you can pick either/or on this question!  (Intersectionality, much?)  And the winner of the Democratic primary means that his or her single “oppression” will be erased for all Americans, as though with a StainStick!  Does anyone else find it, um, interesting, that the fifty-six year old Dowd sniffs at the support HRC has from older women, and tries to align herself with the views of a “post-feminist” nineteen-year old college student?  As patronizing as her comments are about African Americans (“vicim lock”, anyone?  What does that even mean?), she outdoes herself by furnishing further evidence of what Somerby (above) called “psychosexual lunacies.”  In her parting shot she ventriloquizes a putative college student, who shouts at President Clinton, “‘We love you, Bill!’ yelled one boy. ‘You did a good job, except for Monica.'”  Historiann votes for Professorblackwoman to get the big bucks at the grey lady to brain the place up.

Who's better for the gays? (Plus a long-deserved swipe at Andrew Sullivan.)

gay-pride.jpgAndrew Sullivan announced his support for Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton (surprise!) because 1) Obama is younger than Clinton, and 2) Obama is a Christian.  Seriously.  He forgot to remind us that 3) Andrew Sullivan would rather stab his own eyeballs out with a dull pencil than endorse Hillary Clinton for anything!  (Sorry, Sully–I just can’t forget or forgive your scurrilous accusation that after 9/11 was the real enemy as a “decadent leftist” “fifth columnist” humanities prof, and so I suspect your problem with Clinton is just as fear-driven and irrational.)  Although he is a plagiarist-enabling and fantasist-enabling turd, even Sullivan can’t convince himself that Obama is substantively better on the issues than Clinton because they’re so darn similar.  Thus, he offers us the youth and Christianity argument–by that logic, then l’il Ralphie Reed should be his man. 

Meanwhile, back in my world where people know facts ‘n’ stuff, and would lose their jobs if they worked only up to Sully’s shockingly low standards, Professorblackwoman has a nice post up at WOC Ph.D. comparing the two candidates’ records on GLBTQ issues, and it looks like a wash to me in terms of their policy positions.  (IMHO, neither is particularly courageous in affirming that true equality means equal civil rights too.)  Obama does not support gay marriage, while Clinton thinks its legality should be up to the states.  Obama says he supports a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” while Clinton has suggested only modifying these (Bill Clinton-era) relics.  Obama has a cute rainbow version of his very cool logo, but he also issued that unfortunate invitation to Donnie McClurkin, an anti-gay ex-gay gospel singer.  (Pandagon notes though Obama addressed black homophobia with an African American majority audience last week, and was able to bring them along with him after some initial resistance.)  My guess is that they’d probably appoint similar kinds of people to the federal bench and the Supreme Court. 

Sully aside, Clinton seems to be winning more gay votes by a hefty margin–63% of the gay vote in California, and she’s working hard on reeling them in in Ohio, according to Professorblackwoman’s analysis.  That also tracks with my informal observations–my gay friends support HRC much more faithfully than my breeder friends, which leads me to suspect that queers aren’t as threatened by Hillary’s pantsuits and unapologetic toughness the way straights are (men and women alike).  Ambitious broads just push some people’s buttons, don’t they?  Shout out to Roxie’s World and GayProf to weigh in on this one!  Do you think HRC (this HRC, not that HRC) has more GLBTQ support, and if so, is it justified?  Who do you think is the better candidate for GLBTQ issues?