Author Archives: Ari Kelman

January 19, 2012, 12:23 pm

It is a noteworthy specimen of pundit lit.

David Greenberg’s review of Chris Matthew’s new Kennedy biography is, like everything Greenberg writes, worth reading. It’s a wonderful takedown, I think, because it’s not entirely captivated by the search for the perfect snark (they’re wily, snarks are, and should be hunted at dawn and dusk, when they typically rest).

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January 18, 2012, 11:03 am

Mark Wahlberg counterfactualizes the shit out of some history. Because he’s just that ripped.

If Mark Wahlberg had been seated in first class on that fateful day, there would have been no 9/11. Yes, seriously. I dare you to challenge his logic.

January 2, 2012, 9:57 am

Finishing. And starting, too.

Over the past month, I’ve been finishing — as in, putting the final, no really, the final! — touches on my book. It’s been a huge pain because of the narrative structure I’ve adopted this go round. Lots of flashbacks means lots of moving parts. Change one thing, you have to change many things. Very annoying.

Anyway, because of my present circumstances (to recap: annoyed), I’ve been paying more attention even than usual to storytelling and editing. Which prompts two observations: first, J.K. Rowling should have edited her books. If another one of her characters “pants”, I’m going to assume Hermione or Gilderoy is trapped in a low-budget pr0n film (ick). And second, the opening twenty or so minutes of the Star Trek reboot is a model of narrative economy. Like the much-praised, and deservedly so, montage in Up (No, I’m not crying. But hang on a sec, okay? I have something…

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December 4, 2011, 8:04 pm

Civics.

Overheard at the swim meet today.

Kid 1: “When Matt Damon is elected president, the country’s going communist. Seriously, wait and see.”

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December 1, 2011, 7:25 pm

A Global Great Society.

[Editor's Note: Bob Reinhardt, a PhD candidate in our department, submitted this TDIH before the late unpleasantness on our campus. He then asked if I would hold off on posting for a bit. Well, a bit has passed, and it's time to talk about smallpox. Really, though, when isn't it the right time to talk about smallpox? Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose. Anyway, thanks, Bob, for doing this.]

23 November

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson declared all-out war on a universally despised enemy. The announcement didn’t concern Vietnam — Johnson had escalated that police action months before — nor poverty, against which the US had allegedly been fighting an “unconditional war.” This particular declaration targeted a different enemy, older and perhaps more loathsome than any ideological or socioeconomic affliction: smallpox. As the White House Press Release explained, the US…

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November 28, 2011, 8:48 pm

Details.

Not to pat myself on the back, but I’ve become a somewhat better lecturer in the past couple of years. The improvement is mostly an outgrowth of comfort. I know the material well enough now that I can focus more on performance: projecting my voice with emotion, hitting the laugh lines, etc. At the same time, I’m able to build narrative arc in most of my lectures while maintaining analytical continuity.

This is all to the good, of course, but there is a problem: I fear that my course management may be slipping a bit. In short, as I’ve grown more confident about giving my lectures, I’ve become a bit less careful about making sure that my instructions for papers and other assignments are crystal clear; about clarifying for my readers and TAs, before they begin their grading, what I think constitutes an outstanding essay; and about making sure that classes begin precisely on time. …

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November 23, 2011, 1:39 pm

Yudof appoints Bratton to investigate police brutality on UC campuses. Irony, asked for comment, too embarrassed by riches to reply.

November 22, 2011, 11:36 am

Cognitive dissonance.

This was the chancellor’s address yesterday on the Quad. It may be that I’m being uncharitable, but I hear her invoking her experiences in Greece in 1973 as a way of claiming solidarity with the pepper-sprayed UC Davis students while expressing ostensibly genuine contrition over what happened to them. But then I juxtapose those sentiments, shared as they were through tears, with Eric’s post, which seems to indicate that Chancellor Katehi was one of the architects of a policy allowing the police back onto Greek campuses for the first time since the 1973 uprising.

November 21, 2011, 8:15 pm

“This is our movement.”

Nick Perrone is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at UC Davis. This is the speech that he gave on the Quad earlier today.

My name is Nick Perrone and I am a graduate student in the history department here at UC Davis. I am also the recording secretary for the UAW Local 2865, the union that represents the majority of graduate student employees across the UC system. So I am a student here, I am a worker here, and I am a union representative for my colleagues across campus, and I want to make a couple quick points.

First of all, the movement to occupy the Quad here at UC Davis is not an attempt to replicate Occupy Wall Street or any other movement. Students here at UC Davis and at universities across the country have been occupying administrative buildings and open spaces in response to injustices both on and off university…

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November 20, 2011, 6:50 pm

Cooler heads.

This is a better video of Chancellor Katehi exiting a campus building after her impromptu press conference yesterday. I post this not only to highlight, once again, the extraordinary discipline of the students, but also to share this letter, “Why I walked Chancellor Katehi out of Surge II tonight”. The letter was written and posted to Facebook by Reverend Kristin Stoneking, the director of CA House. Kristin is the woman you see walking with the chancellor in the video above.

At 5pm, as my family and I left Davis so that I could attend the American Academy of Religion annual meetings in San Francisco, I received a call from Assistant Vice Chancellor Griselda Castro informing me that she, Chancellor Katehi and others were trapped inside Surge II. She asked if I could mediate between students and administration. I…

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November 19, 2011, 10:42 am

Shame.

The apostropher brings this video to our attention and remarks, “This…might be the most powerful and effective shaming I have ever witnessed”. Indeed.

November 18, 2011, 9:56 pm

Sickening.

November 14, 2011, 6:10 pm

Introducing, “Shunblog”.

I’m annoyed enough lately with the state of the world that I’ve decided it’s time to embrace shunning as an appropriate form of social sanction. Joe Paterno? Shun him. Peter Orszag? Shun him. I could go on.

With that in mind, today we’re going to shun Whitney Blodgett, a student at Princeton who decided that nothing could be funnier than yelling at a bunch of Occupy protestors that, speaking of his buddies, “We’re the 1 percent!” His ever-so-clever buddies followed up with, “Get a job!”

Oh, the revelry! The hijinks! As a friend points out:

You really need to click the article to get a picture of this kid. He’s a freshman, by the way. Nothing like an 18-year-old Ivy League kid, who with a name like “Whitney Blodgett III” is almost certainly a legacy admit, lecturing people on the meritocracy.

Seriously, shun him. And shun his buddies, too.

November 12, 2011, 3:34 pm

This is obnoxious, I know…

…but it’s spelled Douglas, with one “s”. Which is to say, this is filled with wrong:

Gingrich has been selling GOP primary voters on the value of Lincon-Douglass style debates for a long while now. On Saturday as other days he also promised to pick up Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 tactic of following Stephen Douglass around and speaking the day after him until, Gingrich explained, Douglass agreed to debate him. (Lincoln went on to lose the Senate election against Douglass, but it’s assumed Gingrich expects a different outcome if he’s the GOP nominee and chases Obama across the country.)

Frederick Douglass had the spare “s”. Senator Stephen Douglas, the guy who debated America’s greatest president, had only the one. Anyway, like I said, I know I’m being obnoxious. But in a case like this, I really can’t help myself. Sorry.

Also, probably nobody cares, but Stephen Douglas…

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November 12, 2011, 1:19 pm

10 votes short.

This does a fine job pointing out the absurdity of a system that everyone knows is anti-democratic and broken but probably won’t be fixed any time soon. Regardless, WY, MT, RI, etc.? I want my ten votes (and my two dollars) back.

Also, here’s Hendrik Hertzberg on the remedy for this mess.