The first rule of improv comedy is, “don’t deny.”1 If your partner says something about you, it’s true; if you don’t like it, work around it. If you stop and say, “No, I’m not a beet farmer, I’m a rocket scientist,” then the scene loses all interest for the audience and becomes two annoying actors squabbling.
I hereby arbitrarily assert by the authority vested in me as a guy with a blog, this rule applies equally to introductions to academic talks. If someone mispronounces your name, let it go. If they get the title of your book wrong, you can if you really must find a way to mention it properly yourself, without explicitly correcting your host. If they say you’re an expert in x and that’s why you’re giving this talk, and it turns out your talk isn’t really about x, you can probably find a way to say, “Yes, I have interests in x, and those led me naturally to the material in this…
Imagine, if you will, a football field of standard dimensions. The faculty in Computer Science and Engineering, Mathematics and Statistics, along with a smattering of faculty from other sciences and a few in the Humanities, are sitting in the stands, spectating. The rest of the faculty are crowded together down on the field, wearing football helmets and running into each other at random, over and over and over again. There are no referees.
Such is the electronic behavior of the LSU faculty this afternoon, after geniuses in the registrar’s office decided that all 5000 faculty at LSU needed to be added to an unmoderated listserv. Yes, you read that correctly: an unmoderated listserv. We may never understand how the office arrived at this decision, especially in consideration of the fact (announced proudly on the listserv when it sent its first broadcast this morning) that the…
Scott McLemee has a great interview with Jeet Heer, on the original Little Orphan Annie:
In 1931, Daddy Warbucks loses his fortune to unscrupulous Wall Street speculators, is blinded, and lives for a time as a street beggar. But after hitting bottom he regains his fighting spirit and outwits the Wall Street sharks who brought him and America low. By 1932, the villains in the strip are increasingly identified with the political left: snide bohemian intellectuals who mock traditional values, upper-crust class traitors who give money to communists, officious bureaucrats who hamper big business, corrupt labour union leaders who sabotage industry, demagogic politicians who stir up class envy in order to win elections, and busybody social workers who won’t let a poor orphan girl work for a living because of their silly child labor laws. Gray started to identify liberalism with elitism, a…
The valor that garners a Medal of Honor has changed since the Civil War, when the award was first created. In fact, many of the ways that the Medal was previously given no longer hold. Perhaps the most obvious of these is that it is now extremely difficult–if not impossible–to get a Medal of Honor while surviving the acts of bravery. The military denies that this is an official requirement, though there is skepticism:
The U.S. military appears to have toughened its standards for bestowing the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in battle, to exclude troops who survive their heroic acts, a California lawmaker charged Thursday.
Either troops are “not as brave as they used to be, which I don’t believe is true,” or the criteria for the award have been amended “so that you have to die” to receive it, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-Calif., told the…
1. Denmark is expensive. Holy smokes, I thought England was pricey, but Denmark leaves poor Blighty stumbling at the starting gate in the purchasing-power-parity stakes.
2. During one of many stints on planes-trains-and-automobiles, I watched the Channel Four/NOVA documentary on the Irving trial. It’s an interesting lesson, worth a post perhaps, on the dynamics of denialism and the obligations of historians to know when to quit in demanding proof of a case.
The Dowd plagiarism thing is just too delicious. The cut-and-paste from Josh Marshall is eye-popping by itself, of course. JMM:
More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.
More and more the timeline is raising the question of why, if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when the Bush crowd was looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq.
I love that it’s Josh in particular, because TPM is serious business and because Josh has (rightly) busted on newspaper reporters for lifting from blogs without attribution. But Dowd’s excuse takes it to the next level: …
The CIA has a kid’s page. So does the CIA, for that matter, but I find the former much more disturbing. The kids’ page of the Central Intelligence Agency includes a “Bird’s Eye View of CIA History,” narrated by “Aerial, the ace photography pigeon.” There are links to the CIA “Hall of Fame,” which–disappointingly–includes only non-classified information (I know about Harry Truman and George H.W. Bush! Tell me cool secret things).
“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. [Harold] Jackson [the Inquirer's editorial page editor] said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”
Asked if the release of the memos affected his view of hiring Mr. Yoo, Mr. Jackson said: “From a personal perspective, yes. We certainly know more now than we did [in 2008], but we didn’t go into that contract blindly. I’m not going to say the same decision wouldn’t have been made.”
But Mr. Tierney said the memos did not alter his opinion.
“What I liked about John Yoo is he’s a Philadelphian,” [the paper's publisher, Brian] Tierney said. “He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He’s a very, very bright guy. He’s on the faculty at Berkeley, one …
One may question the pedagogical value of final exams, especially when one is in the midst of grading them, but the plain truth is that in-class exams afford a somewhat unique opportunity for feverishly scrawled… artwork (reproduced via Paint here):
It’s 90 years since the phantom airship wave of 1909, when mysterious aerial visitors appeared in the night skies over Britain. Or at least, stories about mysterious aerial visitors filled the newspapers of Britain. It’s hard to tell from this distance: the only evidence we have about the scareships are the press reports, which could be a problem if you are interested in a possible underlying reality. But then again, since the number of (alleged) phantom airship witnesses is relatively small, the press was the only way most people would have learned that their sky was being invaded by Zeppelins every night. So for them as for us, the stories are the event itself.
That being what Bones would’ve said had he taken a look at the “red matter” in Spock’s ship. Which is fine because, as Russell Arben Fox notes, the new Star Trek film manifestly works. I don’t share the qualms Timothy Burke and his commenters are expressing over the continuity issues raised by the film, because I care more about quality than continuity. Moreover, I think what Abrams did there was damn clever.
(If you ain’t yet seen the film but plan to this is where you should stop reading.)
Did NPR ever not suck? That’s a serious question, by the way, as I’ve begun to doubt my memories of public radio’s glorious past. Anyway, I was trapped in my car yesterday and had no choice but to tune in to “Talk of the Nation”. Lucky me, I got to hear Neal Conan’s inane effort to be fair and balanced about torture (listen here — if you dare). I almost drove into incoming traffic to end the pain. I really miss Ray Suarez. (And yes, before you ask, I do still love “This American Life”.)
A seemingly slow month in China, at least as the New York Times reported it. Events from China were less compelling to the paper than events at which people spoke about China. The Boxers were still active, attacking Chinese Catholics southwest of Tianjin, and mounting an attack on both British and Russian units during the period. But the Times wasn’t really interested. The first news it related in a brief 71 word story on 23 April, only to retract it on 26 April as “quite erroneous.” Instead, the paper reported “Some Boxers attacked a village occupied bv a number of Catholics, but were driven off.” The lack of interest of “some boxers” is palpable.  The attack on the Russians and British were not seen as part of a larger uprising, but official conniving. “The disturbances are due to Chinese officials working on the credulity of the natives.”  The Times was curiously…
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This blog is a blog about history, Yiddishkeit, and the Muppets, neither exclusively nor necessarily in that order. And as William Gibson said about this very blog (no, really), “History can save your ass.” Yiddishkeit and the Muppets are just extras.
is the associate director of the Cornell in Washington program and a senior lecturer at Cornell University. He teaches courses on European history, modern military history, guerrilla war, and the role of popular will in waging war.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. He is the author of A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans, which won the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2004, and his new book, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek, will be published by Harvard University Press in fall 2012.
is a professor of history at UC Davis. She is the author of Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996).