Friday, December 26, 2008

Hue and Cry

Via the Pooflinger, I tried out the FM 100 Hue Test, which scores your ability to distinguish color shades across fairly narrow spectra.

I scored 23 which doesn't seem good....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Best Of 2008?

Jon Swift asked his blogroll inhabitants to cite their best post for the year. Here are my candidates:
I'll make my pick later

Monday, December 08, 2008

Comment Elsewhere: Grading Season

In a PH Open Thread I wrote:
It's the calm before the storm. For the next three days, my students will be working furiously while I knock about answering emails and contemplating my career. Then, for the next week, I will be grading vociferously while they study frantically; then, for a half-week or so, I will be grinding through the grading while they toddle off home, free from academic labor until mid-January. I am scheduled to leave for home mere hours after my final grades are due, so I don't even get the privilege of collapse, nor even my traditional post-grading beer (until all the driving's done, anyway). Then I get to spend the break, when not making merry with family, prepping for class, catching up on reading and -- gasp! -- writing, and figuring out how to cast my academic adventures this year in my Annual Report. The start of next semester will be something of a relief....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Legacies: Recycling and Six Word Memoir Meme

How much of your body could be recycled?

1. Write your own six word memoir

2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like

3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere

4. Tag five more blogs with links [I don't tag. But I will note that SMITH Magazine is collecting submissions.]

5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!

Well, here goes nothing:

My history in history isn't history.

Well, OK. It's cute, but it's not quite me. I'll think some more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

56% of a hundred foods

I did the Australia-themed 50 Foods before. Here's a broader 100-food test, via archy:

Foods I've eaten in bold. Foods I'd like to try in italics.

1. Venison (deer and elk)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores

62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers (Nastutiums, roses, artichokes, lavender)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Comment Elsewhere: Absurdity in motion

In response to goofy comments on an otherwise sober and informative discussion of New Deal economics, I wrote:
Both of you are ignoring the evidence: time-traveling islamofascists replaced the Founding Fathers with body doubles and revised the Declaration of Independence and Constitution — abandoning the Articles of Confederation for ideological reasons — creating a quantum causality wave that made the otherwise erudite and wise George W. Bush stupid just in time for the 9/11 attacks, which were coordinated through suicide wormhole technology. This is why we can’t find Osama bin Laden: he’s actually hiding in a parallel existence, playing pinochle with his parallel self and waiting for the final victory to come. Barack Obama is another time-traveller, from a future of racial harmony and socialized medicine, who is working against bin Laden, but who nonetheless is also working against the interests of the real Founders who wrote the Articles of Confederation and then time travelled foward to lead the Confederacy.

I'm pretty sure that I'm kidding. But someone objected, and I had to go on:
I’m sorry you feel that way, but the chauvinistic tunnel vision of single-timeline American specialists just doesn’t encompass the reality of the multiverse the way we World Historians understand it. Like Hitler, we have a vision of a world unified under a healthy, vigorous, expansive Historical hegemony, and like Hitler, we will keep invading your blogs until you appease us with internationalism, then we will invade your other blogs, conferences, textbooks and seminars, anyway.
To which the blog host responded, quite appropriately, "It’s funny because it’s true."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Comments Elsewhere

In response to Daniel Larison's comment: "In the event that the officials responsible for these decisions were arrested or found guilty of crimes, that would not be a dark day, but rather the day when the sun has finally started to peak through the clouds of arbitrary and illegal government actions."

I wrote:

My fear at the moment is the blanket pardon, though it would have the advantage (long-term) of eliminating the fifth amendment dodge.

Most of my more substantive comments lately have been at Edge of the American West. In a discussion of the Vietnam War Memorial, I wrote:
My only complaint about the Vietnam Memorial is that it spawned so many imitators: listing names — or exact enumerations of victims (those stars on the WWII memorial?) — is now the de facto standard for memorials, more or less obliterating any chance at abstraction, inspiration or processing beyond simple grief.
Others have pointed out that name lists were common memorials before, which is true but not entirely the point.

In an earlier discussion about engagement between liberals and conservatives, I wrote:
Going back, if I may, to one of the original questions, not only are there substantial portions of this country where Republicans — often extreme ideologues — rule and reign, but there is a substantial network of institutions developed in the 70s and honed in the 90s which are devoted to the maintenance and development of right-wing intellectual and political figures. Scaife, Murdoch, Gingrich and others have created a way to ensure that the issues will not go away, that the ideas will find outlets and new expressions, and that we will have to contend with all this over again.

The real question, by the way, isn’t “what conservatives are worth listening to and engaging with?” but “what conservatives are speaking reasonable truths to their conservative audiences and whose ideas are going to be influential enough to be worth taking into consideration?”
(and if you're wondering why I repost these, part of the answer is that I only got one response in that 200+ comment thread)

Finally, for now, in response to a fascinating history of a landmark work of modern art, I wrote:
One of the most wonderful things about the 20th century is that it became possible for obsession, intensity, creativity and temporary insanity to be expressed outside of the realm of religion.

I'm going back to my pre-election status: some quotations, some quizzes, ocassional pictures, and reposts of comments made elsewhere. Thanks very much for reading along, though!

Friday, November 07, 2008

Four Years, 1167 posts later....

To mark the fourth anniversary of the humble beginnings of this blog (Seriously humble, friends), I will note other blogs -- many of them blogs of considerably energy and high quality -- which have added me to their blogrolls, in spite of my attempts to take a hiatus and generally focus my energies elsewhere. These are roughly in the order that I noticed them. If you like what I do here, check them out; apparently they do to, and you might find them worthwhile. I do.

That's about it for new linkfriends. Not bad for someone who's mostly coasting, with the increasingly frequent, ill-tempered rant.

I'd also like to thank, with a link, the hardcore sources I've been reading on politics that I don't normally, and am going to go back to mostly ignoring:
It's been a good ride!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Time to settle up!

The long-running parlor debate is over. For years, political junkies both professional and amateur have amused themselves by arguing whether the US would first elect an African American, woman or Jew to the White House. It's over: an African American was first, and there's little doubt that a woman is much more likely than a Jew at this point. Jews now fall into the "miscellaneous Caucasian ethnic" category, probably less likely than Hispanics.

Anyone who had outstanding wagers on the subject is now required to hand over the money, booze, embarassing photographs, personal services or to undergo the appropriately noteworthy hair styling to which they committed themselves. I'm not much of a gambler myself, so I'm pretty sure I don't owe anyone anything.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Update (11:10 pm, EST): Wow.
Update (11:21 pm, EST): Right in the middle of McCain's concession speech, my local Fox affiliate cut away to a "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercial. This is not satire: it really happened, and it was grossly inconsiderate, surreal.

I had to switch channels to see him say "Let there be no reason for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on earth."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Why do they call it Indian Summer?

This is the mildest autumn in an age, and the flowers are still blooming, the bugs are going nuts. There's still a world out there, when we get up from the desk....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Lyrics: Summer, Highland Falls

At random, ended up watching a National Press Club appearance by Billy Joel in which he talked about music and politics. We watched the question session, which was all music, and he ended up by singing one of my favorite Joel songs of all time. If you don't have any interest in the whole video, you can hear just the song.

Summer, Highland Falls
by Billy Joel

They say that these are not the best of times,
But they're the only times I've ever known,
And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own.
Now I have seen that sad surrender in my lover's eyes,
And I can only stand apart and sympathize.

For we are always what our situations hand us...
It's either sadness or euphoria.
And so we argue and we compromise,
and realize that nothing's ever changed,
For all our mutual experience, our seperate conclusions are the same.

Now we are forced to recognize our inhumanity,
Our reason co-exists with our insanity.
And though we choose between reality and madness...
It's either sadness or euphoria.

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don't fulfill each other's fantasies.
And so we'll stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities...
It's either sadness or euphoria.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Echoes of Fascist Rhetoric

In response to a funny post at Terry's blog, I got serious
Stalin was a low-key, low-charisma party functionary who parlayed administrative responsibility into strategic superiority; he wasn’t as much an ideologue as he was a power-hungry S.O.B. (he ended up adopting large portions of Trotsky’s program after hounding Trotsky out of the country for programatic heresy!)

Palin, on the other hand, reminds me more of a non-military version of Juan Peron or Francisco Franco: someone who plays the demogogue in democratic terms until the game isn’t working for them, then they bring the hammer down, having laid the groundwork for accusing their opponents of subversion, treason, etc.
In response to a Sam Crane comment on Maoist guerrilla tactics as a metaphor for McCain's rural strategy (which has intensified, since), I said
More to the point, it resemble's Mao's use of rural peasants as "authentic" and politically pure, whereas urbanites and educated citizens were suspect and required retraining. This woman really does worry me.
I still wasn't going to make a big deal of it, but this attempt to claim that the recession is just "some regions of the country not doing as well as others" has a direct parallel in the Maoist obfustication of the Great Leap Forward Famine. At that time, official reports claimed that the Great Leap Forward was going very well, producing record amounts in both agriculture and industry, while the reality was that both agricultural and industrial production were dramatically undercut by the Maoist program. Famine across most of China resulted in roughly thirty million deaths, but the vast majority of the Chinese people believed -- and many still believe -- that the Great Leap Forward was generally successful except in their districts. This propoganda sleight of hand effectively shifted the blame for the famine away from central planners (or planner) to local officials and a "failure of revolutionary zeal" among the population. That gave the regime cover for the Cultural Revolution, a political purge and self-destructive "renewal" that killed millions more and set Chinese intellectual and cultural life back decades.

Blame shifting is a natural human act, not a particularly fascistic or Republican one. But the cumulative effect of the specific tactics is suggesting to me an affinity with extremist politics which is deeply unsettling:
  • shifting blame away from the center
  • blaming minorities (especially for the mortgage crisis; also immigration issues and Islamophobia)
  • calling for a renewal of lost "authenticity"
  • excluding large segments of the population from membership in the "the nation"
It never ceases to amaze me that right-wing radicals can get away with much more than left-wing ones, but there has to be a line somewhere....

Welcome, Avedon readers! Also Open Left folks!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Free History!

Via Ralph Luker, I note a new effort to clarify the liberating role of history, and the importance, conversely, of liberating history from legislated truths. The new appeal says, in part [emphasis added]:
History must not be a slave to contemporary politics nor can it be written on the command of competing memories. In a free state, no political authority has the right to define historical truth and to restrain the freedom of the historian with the threat of penal sanctions.
We ask government authorities to recognize that, while they are responsible for the maintenance of the collective memory, they must not establish, by law and for the past, an official truth whose legal application can carry serious consequences for the profession of history and for intellectual liberty in general.
In a democracy, liberty for history is liberty for all.

I would add, in the list of dangers to history from state attention, the creation of national curriculums of such detail and narrow conception as to force primary and secondary school history into memorization exercises, stripping them of the inquisitive and argumentative joy that real history offers.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hoist that Petard!

All the pundits tonight after the debate were picking McCain's line, "I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago." as the "take-away line" the best shot of the debate.

Really? Obama's response was about as good as you're going to get on the fly: "the fact of the matter is that if I occasionally have mistaken your policies for George Bush's policies, it's because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people, on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities, you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush."

There was an amateur ad put together a couple of months back, contrasting Bush's declining public approval with McCain's rising rate of voting with him. All the Obama campaign needs to do is put a little tag on it, with the clips of McCain and Obama quoted above:

p.s. One thought on "Joe the Plumber." It's true that the original exchange and the post-debate interviews have clearly shown that Mr. Joe Wurzelbacher was and remains very skeptical of Obama's positions and character -- in a post-debate interview he said that Obama did a "tap dance ... almost as good as Sammy Davis, Jr." [corrected] -- but let me ask you this: how many skeptical or critical voters has McCain talked to recently? How often do Democrats get into his Town Hall meetings? Has Palin tried to talk policy with someone who's wavering or leaning the other way?

Also, you can seem more of my post-debate comments here and here.

UPDATE: Joe the Plumber? Possibly Not related to Charles Keating's son-in-law. McCain can't catch a break.

Another update: Obama's ad is very like the one I suggested. That was too easy.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Censored/Underreported Stories of 2008

As is tradition here, I give you the Project Censored "Top 25 Censored Stories" and the WorldNetDaily "Most Ignored Stories" lists. Unfortunately, they're on somewhat different cycles, with WND working from calendar years and PC working on more of an academic year. As usual, I will bold the ones I've heard of.
Project Censored
# 1 Over One Million Iraqi Deaths Caused by US Occupation
# 2 Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA
# 3 InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business
# 4 ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?
# 5 Seizing War Protesters’ Assets
# 6 The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act
# 7 Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking
# 8 Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly
# 9 Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify
# 10 APA Complicit in CIA Torture
# 11 El Salvador’s Water Privatization and the Global War on Terror
# 12 Bush Profiteers Collect Billions From No Child Left Behind
# 13 Tracking Billions of Dollars Lost in Iraq
# 14 Mainstreaming Nuclear Waste
# 15 Worldwide Slavery
# 16 Annual Survey on Trade Union Rights
# 17 UN’s Empty Declaration of Indigenous Rights
# 18 Cruelty and Death in Juvenile Detention Centers
# 19 Indigenous Herders and Small Farmers Fight Livestock Extinction
# 20 Marijuana Arrests Set New Record
# 21 NATO Considers “First Strike” Nuclear Option
# 22 CARE Rejects US Food Aid
# 23 FDA Complicit in Pushing Pharmaceutical Drugs
# 24 Japan Questions 9/11 and the Global War on Terror
# 25 Bush’s Real Problem with Eliot Spitzer
WorldNetDaily, January 05, 2008
1. moving closer to a North American Union
2. Bush's refusal to pardon Border Patrol agents convicted of unlawful killing
3. Research refuting man-made global warming

4. Lack of action on border fence mandated by Congress
5. California bill introducing homosexuality to young children
6. Hillary and her felonious fundraising
7. Illegal aliens who rape, murder, kill driving drunk, commit voter fraud, welfare fraud and burden the system

8. Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein's resignation from the Senate Military Construction Appropriations subcommittee, which she chaired, amid a conflict of interest due to her husband's ownership of two major defense contractors
9. Progress of Law of the Sea Treaty
10. Syria's alleged WMDs and Israel's attack

I've heard of seven WND stories, 70%, and nine of the PC stories, 36%, suggesting that the WND stories really aren't as underreported as all that. As in the past, the WND list comprises stories that have been pretty heavily flogged in right-leaning media (or outright fringe sources like WND) but which haven't gotten enough traction in mainstream consciousness for something to be done about them. I heard most of the PC stories through liberal/left sources (not the mainstream media, which is centrist) or through specialist blogs.

It is interesting, though, that the first item on the WND list is the second item on the PC list....

Theodore Roosevelt was shot

but he went on with the speech anyway (emphasis added)
Friends, I will disown and repudiate any man of my party who attacks with such foul slander and abuse any opponent of any other party; and now I wish to say seriously to all the daily newspapers, to the Republicans, the Democrat, and Socialist parties, that they cannot, month in month out and year in and year out, make the kind of untruthful, of bitter assault that they have made and not expect that brutal, violent natures, or brutal and violent characters, especially when the brutality is accompanied by a not very strong mind; they cannot expect that such natures will be unaffected by it.

Don’t you pity me. I am all right. I am all right, and you cannot escape listening to my speech either….
I ask that in our civic life that we in the same way pay heed only to the man’s quality of citizenship—to repudiate as the worst enemy that we can have whoever tries to get us to discriminate for or against any man because of his creed or his birthplace…. in the same way I want our people to stand by one another without regard to differences of class or occupation.
I ask you to look at our declaration and hear and read our platform about social and industrial justice and then, friends, vote for the Progressive ticket without regard to me, without regard to my personality, for only by voting for that platform can you be true to the cause of progress throughout this Union.
There's a more complete version of the speech; the excerpts are great, but don't really do it justice.

Friday, October 10, 2008

"soundbite citizens"

These are the soundbite citizens. They take in most of their opinions from the thirty-second news coverage on the 6:00 evening news (and god help us all if they are FOX viewers) or the headlines and first paragraphs of the daily paper (they always mean to read the articles more closely later, but there's never time) and they build these snippets into a world view.
Anne Zook nails it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Comment elsewhere: Current Events Sonnet

The first quatrain just popped out; the rest took a little longer, but it was shockingly easy. I blame Rich Puchalsky for reminding me how much fun it is to dash off a piece, and inspiring me to attempt sonnets. here it is:
The Dow Jones is collapsing
Midterm grades are due
Yom Kippur was relaxing
And slightly slimming, too.

McCain is on the road to hell
And Palin's going with him
Obama's doing oddly well
and planning his transition

Almost up to 1789
World history has this rhythm
Great depression's on my mind
Also early fascism

And while the world goes bad to worse
I calm myself by writing verse.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Echo Chamber Delusions

I was quite struck, watching the debate last night, at how much of McCain's time was taken up presenting attacks which had been delivered before in a variety of forums, and which have mostly been pretty effectively debunked. The fact-checking organizations could have taken the night off, turning the job over to interns who just had to pull the right files from the archive. It was heightened by McCain's delivery: he sounds like an old man who's delivered the same joke thousands of times before, who expects his audience to chuckle tolerantly even when he doesn't set it up well,* deliver the punch-line or pick appropriate moments.**

The repetition and negative tone didn't make sense to me. Reading conservative reactions to the debate, though, it's become clear to me that there is a significant segment of the population, one with considerable influence over McCain and Palin and which is grossly overrepresented in their audiences, which considers these points relevant, true and effective attacks, despite all evidence to the contrary.***

Worse, perhaps, many of these attacks fall into the "I'm rubber, you're glue; what bounces off me sticks to you" category: more applicable to McCain and Palin than to Obama and Biden. I'm actually willing to concede some level of truth and relevance to a variety of critiques of Obama and Biden -- they're not my dream candidates -- but I can't abide hypocrisy.

* "that one" wasn't really as disrespectful or racist as it sounded; it was jarring because it's part of a patter which he couldn't pull off in that setting.

** Obama was repeating himself, too, I fully admit, but at least he sounded reasonably coherent and present.

*** it's possible that they only consider them to be two out of the three, but I'm trying to be nice and assume good intentions....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Shocking? S.S.D.D.

There's a lot of discussion of the increasingly divisive rhetoric from the McCain-Palin campaign -- verbal attacks, violent images, racist tropes and demonization. There have been several cases of vandalism directed at Obama-Biden campaign offices, frequent reports of yard sign theft, and racist language targeted at Obama-Biden volunteers, as well as overtly racist signage from McCain-Palin supporters.

There is nothing whatsoever about this that surprises me. Except, perhaps, that it took until October before it started to be obvious. The various wings of "right" in this nation have been pushing violent and eliminationist rhetoric for years now, operating in a simplistic binary mode which forecloses the possibility of growth, change, compromise or realism.

Rage is the last refuge of the desperate, the flood of adrenaline in a crisis that clouds the mind the burst of vicious energy from a cornered, wounded beast, the violence of incompetence and the substitute for impotence. It is pitiable, perhaps, but it is also very, very dangerous.

We must be firm, we must be fair, we must prevail or see these most damaging habits rewarded and entrenched.

* "S.S.D.D." = "Same Shit, Different Day"

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Palin v. Biden

I've been following the liveblogging along with the debate: Andrew Sullivan, Daniel Larison, Steve Benen, Think Progress.

My call? Palin is good at talking points. No matter what the question, she tried to bring it back to talking points. If she couldn't, she spewed some of the most incomprehensible jargon ever to come out of a politician's mouth. She's quite the tap-dancer, stonewaller, and, when necessary, blatant liar. Biden and Ifill have been handcuffed dealing with Palin directly, but Biden has been hitting McCain very effectively, whereas Palin has mostly been landing shots at Biden.

Did she "exceed expectations?" She lied more than I expected, and she'd memorized more lines than I thought possible. She said a few things that were absurd, had a few incoherent lines, but fundamentally this wasn't a high-pressure situation with follow-ups. The post-debate commenters on CBS are talking about how Palin didn't have any major blunders or gaffes -- though they are noting her tendency to avoid questions -- ignoring several incoherent and previously debunked lines.

Did Biden "win"? My spouse said that he did great; I thought he did quite well on substance, and had some stylistic successes. I'd not call it a win, but he did a good job rebutting some of her ridiculous charges, and making it clear that the Obama-Biden ticket has plans as opposed to "themes" and wishful thinking.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thinking ahead: After Palin, who?

A few people have posited that Sarah Palin may be too great a liability for the McCain presidential campaign to sustain; even some strong conservative loyalists are suggesting that she step down for the good of the party/country/etc. While the McCain campaign is not, at the moment, noted for its flexibility or listening skills, it is within the realm of possibility that Palin could withdraw (for personal or professional reasons) or that McCain could dump her (to demonstrate his willingness to learn or general command of news cycles or just to be different, whatever). I don't know how I feel about the odds -- I would have dumped her by now, but then I wouldn't have picked her in the first place -- especially since she goes into the Thursday debate with such low expectations that she could be declared the winner if she manages to avoid frothing or drooling.

Still, it raises the question: who'd be her replacement? I'm assuming, at this point, that the former shortlist is out, having been passed over publicly and embarassingly once, and most of the leading primary challengers are probably not viable: Huckabee, Romney, Jindal, etc., are all out of the running, I think. Would McCain feel obligated to continue to pander to the evangelical fundamentalist religious wing? Would he shift gears and go for moderate, reassuring competence? Would he stick to female candidates? Or would he do another full-bore "shake-up" and go another direction entirely?

I still don't understand why Jeb Bush wasn't mentioned. Sure, he's a Bush, but he's got loads of experience and credentials which his barely tolerated brother lacked, while still attracting much the same broad Republican respect -- religious, business, neo-con. He puts Florida pretty solidly in McCain's column, which makes the electoral math competitive again.

Anyway, I think we should be thinking about who the potential picks are, because we're not going to have a lot of time to parse the selection and integrate the new biographical and political landscape. That's what makes me worried.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Lyric: Going, Going, Gone

John McCutcheon's live version of this is infectiously joyous, not bitter.

Going, Going, Gone
by Si Kahn (1986)

Oh, the scene was so familiar with farmers all around
The auctioneer was standing there, he brought his hammer down
But when they started bidding the crowd let out a roar
For they heard something on that day they'd never heard before
What am I bid for the White House? Come on, boys, don't be slow
They've overspent their credit so they'll just have to go
If they can't learn to manage it's time they're moving on
The leaders of this country are going, going gone!
Come on, let's start the bidding with that Congress on the hill
They're awful fond of spending, they just don't pay the bills
But with a little honest work we'll make them good as new
I hear they're handy on the farm if you show 'em what to do
Then the crowd grew silent you could hear a needle drop
They motioned up the White House and put it on the block
But no one bid a nickel, they just stared so hard and cold
'Cause you can't bid on something that's already bought and sold
And when the sale was over I sure did thank my luck
I paid for both my senators and loaded 'em on the truck
Now one has gone to milking and the other's gone to seed
By wintertime they'll understand just what the farmers need
Sold American!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Comments elsewhere: WTF?

I've been posting variations on this all over:
We’ve had presidential campaigns in wartime before (Civil, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam), in the midst of the original Great Depression (wasn’t there a wave of bank failures in ‘32?), but we can’t have a campaign when Wall Street sneezes?

I realize the financial meltdown is serious — we’ve been living in a house of cards for at least a decade — but so’s the election.
As so often happens, Eric Rauchway had a similar thought at about the same time.

addendum: The Dow Ate My Homework.

Also, I wrote here
Oh, come on: you've had complicated financial issues before. Are you going to tell me you never said to yourself "All I need is two more senators, and I'll have it licked!"?

For a brief, dark moment I was afraid McCain had really pulled a sweet move, forcing Obama to be reactive and reinforcing his maverick-non-partisan-country-first narrative. Then he asked to move the debate so as to preempt the VP debate, and it turned into a whimper.
Then I had an idea
I was watching the Letterman bit posted over at Eschaton and a bright idea just popped into my 'ead: Obama should counter McCain's suggestion to move the first presidential debate to the date of the VP debate by suggesting that the VP debate should take place on Friday. Just switch 'em and let the VP candidates do what VP's should do: stand in for their bosses.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

An email to my Congressional Representative

Dear Rep. -----,

I am not shocked that the Bush administration has proposed a policy (I won't say "solution") to the financial services crisis which involves a huge amount of money, no clear plan and no oversight: that's exactly in line with Bush Administration policy in every other area.

What I am shocked and dismayed about is that anyone in Congress is taking this proposal seriously. It deserves no better than amused rejection -- "There you go again," in Reagan's words -- and a serious discussion with real economists, financial experts, lawyers, and people with some sense of history and decency. That might result in a Resolution Trust-style solution, or a Japanese-style attempt to bolster bank's capital lines, but it won't result in a blank check and a hope that Republican loyalists won't use that money against Democrats and the rest of America.

Please refuse to consider the administration's proposal, because it is unworthy of consideration. There are dozens of better ideas out there that don't involve imbalancing the Constitution, wasting a trillion dollars and bolstering a failed party.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Privilege Test: 20/34

From What Privileges Do You Have?, based on an exercise about class and privilege developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. If you participate in this blog game, they ask that you PLEASE acknowledge their copyright.

1. Father went to college
2. Father finished college
3. Mother went to college
4. Mother finished college
5. Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
6. Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers.
7. Had more than 50 books in your childhood home.
8. Had more than 500 books in your childhood home.
9. Were read children's books by a parent.
10. Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18 (swim)
11. Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
12. The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively.
13. Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18.
14. Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs.
15. Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
16. Went to a private high school
17. Went to summer camp (once)
18. Had a private tutor before you turned 18
19. Family vacations involved staying at hotels (rarely)
20. Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18

21. Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
22. There was original art in your house when you were a child
23. You and your family lived in a single-family house
24. Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home,
25. You had your own room as a child
26. You had a phone in your room before you turned 18
27. Participated in a SAT/ACT prep course
28. Had your own TV in your room in high school
29. Owned a mutual fund or IRA in high school or college
30. Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16 (But I was 2)
31. Went on a cruise with your family.
32. Went on more than one cruise with your family
33. Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up.
34. You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family.

Exploding Head Alert

I will admit: I have long considered the POW/MIA Flag a somewhat morbid and borderline pathological symbol, evidence of our inability to accept any loss or ambiguity, and odd desire to redeem an extremely unpleasant national historical episode by shifting the focus to a narrative of personal honor and sacrifice bereft of strategic or ethical implications. I have sneered privately (I don't sneer publicly, if I can help it) at the repeated cinematic recapitulation of this theme as bad history, misplaced patriotism and hyperviolent wish-fullfilment.

Now, though, comes the reporting of Sydney H. Schanberg which marshals considerable evidence that
  • a substantial number of POWs -- hundreds -- were not returned by the Vietnamese and their allies after the signing of the 1973 Paris Accords
  • Nixon's administration, and subsequent ones, were aware that these soldiers, sailors and airmen were in Vietnamese hands, but felt they lacked the leverage to get them free
  • Every administration since Nixon has hewed to the line that no US POWs existed, suppressing and distorting evidence, or simply refusing to look for it
  • John McCain was an active participant in the process of marginalizing those families and investigators who believed in the existence of these abandoned POWs
OK, I admit, I love the fact that McCain is implicated: his hypocrisy on this issue goes to the core of his personal narrative. But the article also implicates Sen. John Kerry and other Democratic figures, and twelve of the last thirty-five years have been under Democratic presidents who seem to have willingly participated in this historical deception.

I'm disgusted. In order to appear strong, the US abandoned its own code of military honor, the willingness to search for truth, democratic process. In order to gain some financial leverage, the Vietnamese government held -- and ultimately executed, most likely -- hundreds of men who had every right to be returned to their homeland. It's a violation of international law, and I know that holds little water for some, but I take it seriously: it's the bare minimum code of ethics which is supposed to keep atrocities like this at bay.

So, I'm officially revising my view of the world: the POW/MIA Flag is a memorial to a real, legitimate atrocity, an international shame.

But my worldview revision is relatively minor compared to the stripped mental gears which are going to come from those who consider McCain a "hero" for his time served and believe that he has the best interests of Americans -- civilians or military -- at heart.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday Lyrics: I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler

I know it's not quite Thursday yet, but I've been having flashbacks to this all week. Can't imagine why....

I've just reproduced the last verse and chorus here, but you can read the whole thing here and hear Arlo Guthrie's version:

I'm Changing My Name to Chrysler
by Tom Paxton
©1980 Accabonac Music (ASCAP)

Since the first amphibians crawled out of the slime
We've been struggling in an unrelenting clime
We were hardly up and walking before money started talking
And it said that failure is an awful crime
Well it's been that way for a millenium or two
But now it seems that there's a different point of view
If you're a corporate titanic and your failure is gigantic
Down in Congress there's a safety net for you

I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am going down to Washington D.C.
I will tell some power broker
What they did for Iacocca
Will be perfectly acceptable to me
I am changing my name to Chrysler
I am headed for that great receiving line
So when they hand a million grand out
I'll be standing with my hand out
Yes sir, I'll get mine

Quotations: FDR's Economic Bill of Rights

I can't believe I'd never heard of this before, but there it is. This is from January, 1944, the State of the Union address in the heart of WWII.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Palin can't even tell the truth about her own faith

Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin interviewed by Charles Gibson (11 Sep 08):

"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words."
Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, on the birth of her youngest son (22 Apr 08):

In a letter she e-mailed to relatives and close friends Friday after giving birth, Palin wrote, "Many people will express sympathy, but you don't want or need that, because Trig will be a joy. You will have to trust me on this." She wrote it in the voice of and signed it as "Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father."

"Children are the most precious and promising ingredient in this mixed-up world you live in down there on Earth. Trig is no different, except he has one extra chromosome," Palin wrote.

Update: Welcome, Avedon readers!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #13: Arthur Marwick

"History is the study of the human past, through the systematic analysis of the primary sources, and the bodies of knowledge arising from that study, and, therefore, is the human past as it is known from the work of historians. The human past enfolds so many periods and cultures that history can no more form one unified body of knowledge than can the natural sciences. The search for universal meaning or universal explanations is, therefore, a futile one. History is about finding things out, and solving problems, rather than about spinning narratives or telling stories." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 300.

"The insistence that language determines ideas, and is itself a system arising from the existing power structure in society, is as grandiose a piece of speculative thought as ever dreamed up by Hegel or Nietzche." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 301.

"Primary sources did not come into existence to satisfy the curiosity of historians. They derive 'natural', 'organically', as it were, or, more straightforwardly, 'in the ordinary course of events', from human beings and groups of human beings, in the past society being studied, living their lives, worshipping, decision-making, adjudicating, fornicating, going about their business or fulfilling their vocations, recording, noting, communicating, as they go, very occasionally, perhaps, with an eye on the future, but generally in accordance with immediate needs and purposes. The technical skills of the historian lie in sorting these matters out, in understanding how and why a particular source came into existence, how relevant it is to the topic under investigation and, obviously, the particular codes or language in accordance with which the particular source comes into being as a concrete artefact." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 302.

"If the historian finds himself resorting to metaphor or cliché, that may well be a warning that things have not been sufficiently worked out, and substantiated, to be conveyed in plain simple prose." -- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 303.

"Society has a right to demand from historians accounts which can, if so desired, be used in trying to understand the evolution of political ideas or institutions, or the origins of the many conflicts throughout the world, or to gain the necessary contextual information for enjoying more fully a painting or a poem or some favourite tourist attraction. Those seeking such understandings will not be helped by some speculative theory about the need to replace humanism with radical ideology, or of the inescapability of their situation within language, but will want to feel that the explanations, interpretations, and information they are provided with are based on serious study of the evidence; and it will do them no harm at all if they are also made aware that all sources are fallible, that all study of them must be carried out in accordance with the strictest principles, and that there are always things which we do not know with any certainty."-- Arthur Marwick, "Two Approaches to Historical Study: the Metaphysical (including 'Postmodernism') and the Historical" (1995), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 304-5.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unread books

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. (via)

Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you own and haven't read or started but didn't finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

There's an awful lot of Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson on this list. The latter I understand: his work is a lot easier to start than to finish. The former, though, I don't get.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #12: Postmodernism

"Historians, ancient and modern, have always known what postmodernism professes to have just discovered - that any work of history is vulnerable on three counts: the fallibility and deficiency of the historical record on which it is based; the fallibility and selectivity inherent in the writing of history; and the fallibility and subjectivity of the historian." -- Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Postmodernist History and the Flight from Fact" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 291.

"History will not stay written. Every age demands a history written from its own standpoint - with reference to its own social conditions, its thought, its beliefs and its acquisitions - and thus comprehensible to the men who live in it." -- William Sloane, AHR 1:1, cited by Gertrude Himmelfarb in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 291-292.

"In the common cause of radicalism, structuralists and poststructuralists, new historicists and deconstructionists, have been able to overlook whatever logical incompatibilities there may be between their theories. (This presents no great problem for deconstructionists, who have an infinite tolerance for contradiction and no regard for 'linear' logic.) Like the communists and socialists of an earlier generation, they have formed a 'popular front', marching separately to a common goal." -- Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Postmodernist History and the Flight from Fact" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 295.

"Under the impact of postmodernist literary approaches, historians are now becoming more aware that their supposedly matter-of-fact choices of narrative techniques and analytical forms also have implications with social and political ramifications. Essays on the state of the discipline often have a canonical form all their own: first a narrative of the rise of new kinds of history, then a long moment for exploring the problems posted by new kinds of history, followed by either a jeremiad on the evils of new practices or a celebration of the potential overcoming of all obstacles. The literary form that the argument takes has a very strong influence on the way that evidence and arguments are presented." -- Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 311.

"Our choices are political, social, and epistemological. They are political and social because they reflect beliefs in a certain kind of community of historians and society of Americans. They are epistemological because they reflect positions on what can be known and how it can be logically known. With diligence and good faith they may also be at moments reasonably, if partially, true accounts of the distant and recent past." -- Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 312.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cult Classics: 14 out of 50

The list is from here, via. Books I've read in bold. Books I started or want to read in italics. Books I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole in strikeout.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
2. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
3. A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
4. Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
5. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
8. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
9. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
10. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
11. Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968)
12. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
13. Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
14. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
15. Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950)
16. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954)
17. Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
18. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
19. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)
20. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
21. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
22. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
23. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
24. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
35. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
26. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
27. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
28. Iron John: a Book About Men by Robert Bly (1990)
29. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
30. The Magus by John Fowles (1966)
31. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
32. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
33. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
34. No Logo by Naomi Klein (2000)
35. On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
36. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
37. The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1956)
38. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
39. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914)
40. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám tr by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
41. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
42. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
43. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
44. Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
45. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
46. The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1968)
47. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
48. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1883-85)
49. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
50. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig (1974)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #11: Disciplines

"The monograph has been unsatisfactory, most commonly as literature but often even in the very analytical functions it was designed to perform." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 218

"The more the historian learns from the social sciences, the more variables he is likely to take account of, the more complex his task becomes. The result may be that his conclusions become more tenuous and tentative, but this is a result to be welcomed. The closer the historian comes, with whatever aids, to the full texture of historical reality, the more deeply is he engulfed in a complex web of relationships which he can hope to understand only in a limited and partial way. While he may acquire some usable methods from the social sciences, I doubt that the new techniques that he may acquire will outweigh the new problems that he will take on. His task has not been simplified; it has been enlarged. His work has not greater certainty, but greater range and depth." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 220

"Formidable criticisms have been written of the familiar distinction between the nomothetic sciences (which can make general laws about repeatable events) and the ideographic (which seek to understand unique and non-recurrent events)." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 222-3.

"Unlike the philosopher of history or the philosopher of science; the working historian is not nearly so much interested in whether history can, after all, be logically classed with the natural sciences as he is in how far his mode of procedure is in fact a scientific one or could be changed to resemble it. Certainly, in the broad sense that he operates from a basis in fact, aspires to make warrantable assertions, and works in a self-critical discipline, the historian can see that he has something in common with science. But if the term science has any special meaning, he sees equally important differences. Since in his work quantification plays so limited a role, and since he cannot conduct experiments, or, strictly speaking, make predictions, he naturally feels that the difference between his methods and results and those prevailing in most branches of the natural sciences are of central importance." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 223.

"Much of the claimed difference between the disciplines is hardly more than a series of attempts by the authors concerned to appropriate the work they happen to do for the discipline they happen to profess." -- Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology (1982), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 226.

"The problem of agency is the problem finding a way of accounting for human experience which recognises simultaneously and in equal measure that history and society are made by constant and more or less purposeful individual action and that individual action, however purposeful, is made by history and society. How do we as active subjects make a world of objects which then, as it were, become subjects making us their objects?" -- Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology (1982), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 227.

"But in the long run, even in the more esoteric branches of history, it must surely be the case that there will always come a moment when the historian, having worked out a solid conceptual basis, will need to start counting: to record frequencies, significant repetitions, or percentages." -- Emmanuele Le Roy Ladurie, The Territory of the Historian (1979), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 238.

"Economic and demographic determinsm has not only been undermined by a recognition of ideas, culture and even individual will as independent variables. It has also been sapped by a revived recognition that political and military power, the use of brute force, has very frequently dictated the structure of society, the distribution of wealth, the agrarian system, and even the culture of the élite." -- Lawrence Stone "The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old History" (1979), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 257.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shockingly Apt

Given how odd the questions are, the results are astounding.... [via]

Better than curling....

You Are Badminton
You are quite talented but not very appreciated.
You are detail oriented, very focused, and agile.
You are happy to forsake glory for success in something you truly love.

Apparently, I'm the maven of obscure team sports

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Be it resolved....

Be it resolved
  • The size and type of screws, nuts, and other miscellaneous hardware which come with do-it-yourself kits will be clearly indicated so that replacements can be procured.
  • Any and all baking recipes will clearly indicate a means of testing "done." Poking, toothpicks, jiggling, color, texture, etc., are all acceptable.
  • Farmers markets are wonderful. It's not the farmer's fault if you go home and try to eat a honeydew melon and a dozen ears of corn.
  • Stores which stock modular storage units are required to order more for you if your modular design exceeds the four units on the shelf, so you don't have to keep coming back weekly until you have the dozen you need. Alternately, stocking more than five of each color at a time would be acceptable.
  • Any box which you've moved more than twice without opening is either priceless or garbage, and you'll never know which until you open it.
  • Any room without a built-in light fixture must have a switched outlet


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Comments Elsewhere: Parties and Dreams

Prompted by Jeremy's criticism of dKos's founder, I noted:
I'm not a Kos fan, as you're well aware. I'm actually struck by the fundamentally party-conservative -- not really liberal or progressive, but deeply, Big-D Democratic -- nature of Markos's project and his consistent unwillingness to actually address the coalition nature of the Democratic party. (also by the contrary consistent tendency of Republicans and 'mainstream' news sources to view Markos and the dKos crew as some kind of ultra-liberal, hard-left cadre) He clearly sees constituencies like progressives and women as subgroups within and subordinate to the Party rather than seeing the Party as an alliance of something like equals.
On a lighter note, Terry asked for "not-quite-coherent thoughts" and I offered this
I had a dream just last night in which I saw a short movie in which M*A*S*H* character Margaret Houlihan originally signed up to go to war in WWI, then spent the rest of the dream explaining to someone the historical trajectory of her career. Upon awakening I realized that my dream self neglected to notice that it would make her a lot older than she was, as WWII was actually her first war and the TV show takes place during the Korean conflict.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #10: Utility

"For both nations and inviduals have sometimes made a virtue of neglecting history; and history has taken its revenge on them." -- H. R. Trevor-Roper "The Past and the Present: History and Sociology" (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 197.

"In the next century the nations revolted; and their revolt was nourished, everywhere, by history. It was the 'historic nations', the nations which were conscious of their history -- the Poles, Italians German -- which led the revolt; and all the nations in revolt began by discovering, or inventing, their history. No doubt the history which they discovered was not very good: the cosmopolitan historians of the eighteenth century were probably better as historians; but there was a large area of history which those historians had dangerously ignored and which now took its revenge." -- H. R. Trevor-Roper "The Past and the Present: History and Sociology" (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 197-198.

"It is right, I believe, to look for lessons in the past, to see its relevance to our own time, to observe the signs of continuity, connection and process. The past is not to be studied for its own sake. That is mere antiquarianism. But it is anachronistic, distorting, to judge the past as if it were subject to the present, as if the men of the eighteenth or the sixteenth or the tenth century had no right to be independent of the twentieth. We exist in and for our own time: why should we judge our predecessors as if they were less self-sufficient: as they existed for us and should be judged by us?" -- H. R. Trevor-Roper "The Past and the Present: History and Sociology" (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 200-1.

"The historian is amphibious: he must live some part of his life below the surface in order that, on emerging, he can usefully survey it from above. The historian who has specialized all his life may end as an antiquarian. The historian who has never specialized will end as a mere blower of froth. The antiquarian at least is useful to others." -- H. R. Trevor-Roper "The Past and the Present: History and Sociology" (1969), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 201.

"If the future is not to be discovered but created, we need to recognize the power of such historical myths in helping to project a picture of the future which will rouse the enthusiasm or anger of the masses and sustain the faith or fanaticism of the elite." -- Alan Bullock, "Has History Ceased to be Relevant?" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 207.

"If one wants to know what is to be the future of history, one may well begin by studying the history of past futures." -- Alan Bullock, "Has History Ceased to be Relevant?" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 208.

"Of course, values based upon past experience have to be tested against and modified in the light of the new experience of each generation. But to ignore or throw them overboard, so that each generation starts again from scratch in the belief that no other has ever faced similar questions, and that nothing is to be learned from them, appears not only a form of arrogance but a wilful act of self mutilation." -- Alan Bullock, "Has History Ceased to be Relevant?" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 209.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #9: Michael Howard

"'Socially useful' or 'relevant' history, whether consciously or unconsciously selected or tailored to meet contemporary social or political needs has no place in a university or anywhere else. But there is a danger that this is the kind of history that almost automatically would get taught, or at least learned, if the historical profession did not exist to prevent it." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), p. 12, cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 180.

"Far more than poets can historians claim to be the unacknowledged legislators of mankind; for all we believe about the present depends on what we believe about the past." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), p. 12, cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 180.

"And this perhaps indicates that the value of history as a training of the judgment and of the imagination is very limited if it is exercised only in recreating our own past, with little reference to the total context within which our society developed and, more particularly, the often very divergent structures of other societies whose development may have been of yet greater importance to the making of the world in which we live today. If it is, indeed, one of the major functions of the historian to explain the present by deepening our understanding of the past, then a study simply of our own society will not get us very far. Our awareness of the world and our capacity to deal intelligently with its problems are shaped not only by the history we know but by what we do not know. Ignorance, especially the ignorance of educated men, can be a more powerful force than knowledge. Ethnocentrism in historical studies, whatever its advantages in scholarly training, is likely to feed parochialism in the societies which those historians serve; and such parochialism can have pretty disastrous results." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), p. 12, cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 183.

"The past is a vast chain, every link of which must be kept in good repair." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 184.

"We have seen so much of this since the Second World War: people often of masterful intelligence, trained usually in law or economics or perhaps in political science, who have led their governments into disastrous decisions, and miscalculations because they have no awareness whatever of the historical background, the cultural universe, of the foreign societies with which they have to deal. It is an awareness for which no amount of strategic or economic analysis, no techniques of crisis-management or conflict-resolution and certainly no professed understanding of the 'objective historical process of the international class struggle' can provide a substitute. Such miscalculations are always dangerous. In our own day they may be lethal on a very large scale indeed." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 186.

"And this is a matter of which no historian can afford to be simply a dispassionate chronicler and analyst. However great his intellectual and moral detachment, in the last resort he is committed to the values, and to the society, that enables him to remain so detached. He is a member of the polis and cannot watch its destruction without himself being destroyed." -- Michael Howard, The Lessons of History (1989), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 187.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Rockets Red Glare, etc.

I'm not a fan of incendiary and explosive devices in the hands of amateurs, but it it's going to happen in my vicinity, I'm going to take pictures. Have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #8: Mental Landscapes

"For blacks must read history with Indian eyes as well, and cannot fail to note that many of the New England 'fathers' participated not only in the forced migration and decimation of the original inhabitants but gave full strength to that trade in men which brought other dark men to these shores." -- Vincent Harding "Beyond Chaos: Black history and the search for the New Land" (1970) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 156.

"Our studies can turn into bomb factories. ... We have a responsibility to historical facts in general, and for criticising the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular." Eric Hobsbawm, "The New Threat to History" (1993), cited by Catherine Hall in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 160.

"Fanon has been crucial to our understanding of the internal traumas of identity which are associated with colonisation and enslavement. For colonisation is never only about the external processes and pressures of exploitation. It is always also about the ways in which colonised subjects internally collude with the objectification of the self produced by the coloniser." Catherine Hall, "Histories, Empires and the Post-Colonial Moment" (1996) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 163.

"Man spends his time devising techniques of which he afterwards remains a more or less willing prisoner." Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (1944) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 172.

"There must be a permanent foundation in human nature and in human society, or the very names of man and society become meaningless." Marc Bloch, The Historian's Craft (1944) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 174.

"Perhaps none of those who write so urgently about these problems have a very clear notion of the situation which they are trying to restore. But few of them can have realized how inappropriate it is to think of restoration at all, in the sense of returning to the historical past." -- Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost (1965), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 177.

"History is not inevitably useful. It can bind us or free us. It can destroy compassion by showing us the world through the eyes of the comfortable ('the slaves are happy, just listen to them' - leading to 'the poor are content, just look at them'). It can oppress any resolve to act by mountains of trivia, by diverting us.into intellectual games, by pretentious 'interpretations' which spur contemplation rather than action, by limiting our vision to an endless story of disaster and thus promoting cynical withdrawal, by befogging us with the encyclopedic eclecticism of the standard textbook." -- Howard Zinn, The Politics of History (1970), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 193.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Comment Elsewhere: Ballot-rigging warning shot

In response to “McCain Predicts ‘Underdog’ Win in Final 48 Hours” (warning: Fox News. via) I wrote:
So, he's basically saying that the election will be stolen: there'll be no polls showing him in the lead, because he'll be losing by all accounts, and the vote-rigging operation will do the rest. There's no other reason I can think of to start pushing this kind of narrative now, instead of actually campaigning on issues like a real leader.

Paper ballots, please!
Oddly, however, my comment doesn't seem to be actually going through..... (it could have something to do with currently being on dial-up, or with Firefox.... or it might not.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #7: People in History

"The right-wing version of people's history is characteristically a history with the politics left out -- as in Trevelyan's English Social History -- a history devoid of struggle, devoid of ideas, but with a very strong sense of religion and of values. It is apt to idealise the family -- 'a circle of loved, familiar faces' -- and to interpret social relationships as reciprocal rather than exploitative. Class antagonisms may be admitted, but they are contained within a larger whole, and softened by cross-cutting ties. The characteristic location of right-wing people's history is in the 'organic' community of the past .... The ideology is determinedly anti-modern, with urban life and capitalism seen as alien intrusions on the body politic, splintering the age-old solidarities of 'traditional' life." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 112.

"The attempt to recover the texture of everyday life may be associated with a 'neo-Romantic intellectual enterprise' -- one of the charges levelled against it; but it is perfectly compatible -- if that is to be the test of scientificity -- with elaborate day-charts and passionless prose." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 115.

"Indeed it is unlikely that we shall ever be able effectively to combat bourgeois ideology until we can see how it arises in ourselves, until we explore the needs and desires it satisfies, and the whole substratum of fears on which it draws. Our understanding of socialism too might be less abstract, if we were to explore it historically 'from the bottom up', looking at its secret languages, its unarticulated passions, its cognitive unconscious and dissonances. Above all, the questions posed by feminism leave no category of Marxist historical analysis unscathed, and it is one of the strengths of people's history that it is proving a far more hospitable terrain for asking them than more abstract analytic planes. People's history also has the merit of raising a crucial question for both theoretical and political work - that of the production of knowledge, both the sources on which it draws and its ultimate point of address. It questions the existing intellectual division of labour and implicitly challenges the professionalised monopolies of knowledge. It makes democratic practice one of the yardsticks by which socialist thought is judged, and thus might encourage us not only to interpret the world, but to see how our work could change it." -- Raphael Samuel "People's History" (1981), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 116.

"Second, the discrepancy between the high quality of recent work in women's history and its continuing marginal status in the field as a whole (as measured by textbooks, syllabi, and monographic work) points up the limits of descriptive approaches that do not address dominant disciplinary concepts, or at least that do not address these concepts in terms that can shake their power and perhaps transform them." -- Joan Scott, "Gender: a useful category of historical analysis," (1988) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 137.

"We must ask more often how things happened in order to find out why they happened; in anthropologist Michelle Rosaldo's formulation, we must pursue not universal, general causality but meaningful explanation." -- Joan Scott, "Gender: a useful category of historical analysis," (1988) cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 139.

"It is not sexuality which haunts society, but society which haunts the body's sexuality. Sex-related differences between bodies are continually summoned as testimony to social relations and phenomena that have nothing to do with sexuality. Not only as testimony to, but also testimony for -- in other words, as legitimation." -- Maurice Godelier, "The Origins of Male Domination" (1981) cited by Joan Scott in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 141.