Commuting has been part of the human experience since the Industrial Revolution. Ever since the workplace and the home got firmly disentangled, people have been waking up and resignedly making their way to their place of employment. The amount of culture that has developed about the idea of commuting is enormous, including the “knocker-up” of 19th and early 20th century Britain who served, before the advent of universal alarm clocks, as a wake-up call for workers by tapping on their windows in the morning with a long pole.
It is probably safe to say that few have ever really enjoyed their commute , a feeling best exemplified by the opening scene of the movie Office Space, from which this excerpt comes (warning, very bad language):
Commuting has had a fair amount of academic analysis applied to it. The…
Not to pile on, but there’s also this, in the new Democracy. Unlike the aforementioned TLS essay, the whole thing is online; here’s a short excerpt:
The single moment that made postwar liberalism feel most like a cause worth fighting for came in the darkness of April 4, 1968, when an Indianapolis crowd, assembled to hear Robert F. Kennedy campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, instead met a man obliged to tell them that Martin Luther King Jr. had been murdered. When Kennedy broke the news, a desperate wail burst from the throats of those gathered, a sound unlike any other, bespeaking the tide of anguish and anger about to rush over the republic, sweeping reason before it—but not yet, or not here, not if Kennedy had his way.
Speaking off the cuff, he claimed a shared sorrow—his own brother had been killed in the line of political duty, at a time when he had begun…
It’s going to be very hard to tell my older boy that Maurice Sendak has died. I suppose I’ll sit down with the boy, watch the Colbert interview (here and here), and then break the bad news to him. Also, I still get a kick out of this (warning: self-referential).
Late edit: this, today’s Fresh Air, is quite moving, though I find that Terry Gross interviewing Maurice Sendak is a serious confluence of Jews. A conjewence?
I was looking for a personal assistant and baggage handler on rentboy.com recently, and while chatting up the young men I heard many reasons why Gordon Brown is headed for a bad election result– reasons that aren’t prominent in recent conversations between Yglesias, DeLong, and Krugman. Seven rock-hard reasons had my hustlers:
(a) incumbency fatigue — Labour have been in since 1997;
(b) scandal — the Labour MPs were revealed to have been cashing in on expenses for items that really, they shouldn’t have been charging to expenses;
(c) populist rage — bank bailouts to a much greater degree than here (purchase of Northern Rock) accompanied by big fat bonuses to banking executives;
(d) the Iraq war — the British think it’s much more obviously illegal than we do;
(e) the encroachment of surveillance culture under New Labour onto the life of the average Briton to an unprecedented degree;
The Smiths’ second album released 25 years ago on Valentine’s Day. Some reflections from younger musicians here. And here’s Rusholme Ruffians.
I think the album holds up pretty well. There’s lots of good playing and the lyrics are twee but funny enough to age all right. “Scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen– this means you really love me.” Verdict: nothing to be ashamed of!
In the 12/18/2009 NB column in the TLS, we find the following presumably real-live riff on “Humiliation”:
In 2003, Sebastian D. G. Knowles looked at himself in the mirror: he was the author of a study of James Joyce; he was Professor of English at Ohio State University (specializing in Joyce). He had attended dozens of Joyce conferences. But he had never read Finnegans Wake. “Worse, I had never even tried to”, Professor Knowles writes in the current James Joyce Quarterly. Guilt-ridden, he decided to confess his failing in a song to be sung at the after-dinner entertainment at a Joyce conference in Miami: (more…)
Kevin Drum says he’s adopting Sir Rex Richard Mottram’s extended conjugation as his personal mantra:
We’re all f*cked. I’m f*cked. You’re f*cked. The whole department is f*cked. It’s the biggest cock-up ever. We’re all completely f*cked.
Which reminds me of what I believe Walter LaFeber said was Brooks Adams’s shaving song: the phrase “God-damn” repeated to the melody of the Westminster chimes. I mean, it probably is too much to ask that one’s fatalism be cheerful, but musical seems a reasonable request.
One of the best New York things I ever did, during the time I lived there, was to go see Bobby Short one cold night at the Café Carlyle. It was impressive how Bobby Short could make you love a nothing song like this one. Or maybe Cole Porter could write a nothing song that was somehow easy to love.
Anyway for some reason I like to hear that kind of music this time of year. Since we previously featured a Cole Porter tune roundly denounced as derivative, here’s the Muppets performing the tune from which, we are told, that one is derived.
Back when I was in grad school, lots of people were buzzing about Foucault.* But the really hip kids were deep into Walter Benjamin. And being hip**, I hopped on the bandwagon and never jumped off. Benjamin’s work has become especially important for me recently, as I’ve tried to finish my book on the politics of memory surrounding the Sand Creek massacre. Which is all just a long way of pointing out that Terry Eagleton’s study of Benjamin has been re-released (though maybe not in the States). Regardless, it’s worth a read. And now, having said all of that, I find myself wondering: which theorists are the kewl kidz*** reading these days?
* Yes, I’m that old. And also washed-up, but that’s a story for another day.
** Well, not really. But some of my best friends were Europeanists.
*** I know, I know, historians can never really be kewl kidz. Except for Marc Bloch, bitchez…
Of other people’s career arcs, you mean? Well, yes, occasionally I am. Look, I’m not proud of my covetous nature, particularly not with the Day of Atonement fast approaching (note to self: get right with God). But there it is. And this interview with Jill Lepore didn’t exactly make me feel better. An endowed chair at Harvard, a published novelist, a staff writer for the New Yorker, sigh, it is to want.
Anyway, the interview is interesting. And you should read it. But the part that caught my eye was where Lepore talks about why she became a historian. Oddly enough, someone asked me that question over the weekend. Usually the issue doesn’t come up, because when people ask me what I do for a living, I say that I’m a teacher. Or a shepherd*. Anyway, before my older boy’s soccer game on Saturday, one of the other parents wanted to know why I became a historian. And I totally…
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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 an associate 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).