Two Weeks on the Internet (6/14-6/27); or, What Happened While I Was in France

My resolution to do “This Week on the Internet” posts stopped rather abruptly after the first one, when I took off for France on June 19. Now that I’m back, here’s two weeks’ worth of catch-up, and I’ll continue with this week’s news on Sunday as planned.

Required Reading
Dahlia Lithwick on Maher Arar and the responsibility of the U.S. government to right its wrongs is so, so important.

In other news, Alice drew my attention to an old PAW article from January about race at Princeton, which is required reading for all Princeton folks.

Somewhat more lightheartedly, Sesame Street has a Twitter account, and it’s the best thing.

Below the fold: American and world politics, queer/LGBT issues, academia, books, history and literary criticism, culture, and observations of a more personal nature.

American Politics
Still running on the results of the midterm primaries, the NYT ran a piece on the political importance of the west coast, and one on California’s “jungle primary” referendum; while, in policy-that-is-actually-relevant-to-people’s-lives news, my CP colleague Paul had a useful piece about health care reform and young people. Adam Serwer astutely observed that not only is there no ideological diversity on the Sunday talk shows, there’s no gender diversity either. Via Jesse, we were saddened to learn that the SCOTUS will not hear Canadian-detained-by-the-U.S.-in-Syria Maher Arar’s case; more good commentary on this story came from Georgetown law prof David Cole at the NYRB blog and from the always astute and empathetic Dahlia Lithwick. On similar lines, Benen highlighted the story of a U.S. citizen who has been prevented from coming home because of terrorism-related hysteria.

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico continued (and still continues) to go from bad to worse, with reports of the first dead whale. The political ramifications featured perspectives on Obama’s Oval Office address on the subject of the disaster, and Bobby Jindal being ridiculous, but what is perhaps more important is how to move forward outside of the political sphere: for direction on this, my friend Erin’s take is sobering and beautifully written.

Al Franken continues to acquit himself well as a Senator; Peter Orzag has, relatively unsurprisingly, stepped down. The NYT wonders—cogently, I think—about the ongoing culture war between the military and civilians. And, of course, the Republicans are ridiculous, and about this too. I tried to stay out of the D.C. claustrophobia that was the Dave Weigel/JournoList scandal, but I’d recommend my friend Alyssa’s take all the same. As we closed this fortnight, the Kagan hearings got underway—more on that next week.

World Politics
The fortnight in world politics began with the results of the Belgian elections, to supplement which we recommend Belgian blogger Cairnarvon’s report. Kenya has, after years of delay, passed legislation about GM crops that could change the landscape of science and agriculture in the country. France celebrated the anniversary of de Gaulle’s BBC-broadcast call to the French people, with Sarkozy traveling to the UK to mark the anniversary and much de Gaulle mania evident in Paris while I was there. Debates about whether the new British coalition budget is a good thing raged hard in the Facebook comments, while out in the Commonwealth Canada is going to have a new Governor-General soon, and Australia has just got a new PM. A Time blog post reminded us that Haiti is still not doing well and needs our attention.

Finally, Yglesias won Best Headline of the Fortnight with “Angela Merkel Lucky the Bar for “Worst German Leader” is Very High.”

Queer/LGBT Issues
Though I didn’t notice it until June 14, Frank Rich’s June 11 column about the normalcy of LGBT people and their relationships in our culture is worth a read, though his forward-looking analysis was tempered somewhat by the disturbingly anachronistic news of a Denver case in which an HIV-positive man was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for spitting on someone. My Princeton colleague Ryan, now interning/blogging for Yglesias, had a great post about AIDS in D.C. New York magazine posited that media characters like Kurt from Glee make it easier for young boys to be gay, but I criticized the article for confusing a very specific “sissy boy” stereotype with widespread acceptance of gay people, and wondered where gay women/girls fit in. This led to a protracted discussion in the comments about Glee and gender.

Gay hate crimes are on the rise in Canada, though I wondered whether that statistic was rather to do with increased reporting of or changing methods of tabulating hate crimes, since I’m sure that’s changed quite a bit over the years. The NYT had an article about college admissions outreach to LGBT students, something we’ve talked about before and which could have interesting Princeton-related implications. A study found that Prop. 8 campaign spending was basically pointless, which I blogged about at CP. The Guardian has been running a great series the past few weeks about a transwoman’s journey through transition, which is absolutely worth a read. In California, closing arguments finished in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, with a verdict imminent, though I confessed to marriage fatigue about the whole thing. Relatedly, there was an interesting ruling from the European Court of Human Rights about same-sex marriage and civil partnerships, to which our resident comments legal correspondent J.J. added some ECHR context.

Much discussion these past couple weeks about gay blood donation policies: Canada is considering relaxing its; I was optimistic at CP about the future of the U.S.’s, but a HHS hearing decided not to repeal the American ban—though in more favorable Executive Branch news, the White House is helping homeless queer youth. I was reminded, however, that we have it so easy, with the news last Tuesday of the increasing danger that Iraqi gays face in their home country, and increasing difficulties attaining asylum in Europe.

June was, as it is every year, Pride Month, and we devoted some attention to Pride-themed and LGBT history-themed content: a review of a new film about Stonewall, an entertaining video from the New York Neo-Futurists theater troupe, and Hillary Clinton’s State Department Pride proclamation, a Pride speech surpassed this month only by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s bit at Paris Pride. A Salon article about gay teen fiction led us to consider how important Pride visibility is for the next generation of queerfolk. Also, Satan was a lesbian, and my favorite Pride quote, from Gawker, via Katie R.: “Every other day of the year is Straight Pride Day, and today, you play by our rules.” June 26 was my actual Pride experience, in Paris, and an article on that is forthcoming at Campus Progress, possibly next week. Until then, as I said on Saturday night on Facebook, I am proud of my community and its history on both sides of the Atlantic; I am grateful beyond measure for the ability to march and to celebrate it; I am mindful as always that we who make a point of attending these celebrations annually do so in the name of those who cannot and of those who are no longer with us. Liberté, egalité, fierté!

Finally, a post on PrincetonFML about LGBT community generated a lot of very productive discussion in the comments about how to build community that doesn’t rely on institutions like the LGBT Center in which some folks might not want to take part. This conversation is one we’ve been having for over a year now in Worthless Drivel-land, and I hope it’s one we can continue. Relatedly, Orangina is totally gay, but us Princeton folks already knew that.

Academia and Higher Education
The Chronicle made a good case for the writers of popularly accessible history and literary criticism; in an article on a different kind of criticism, a humanities dean made a case for frankness when grading or reviewing with which I had a certain amount of sympathy. From the LA Times, we learned that University of California tuition is getting high enough that the system may actually start calling it “tuition,” admitting its failure to deliver a free education. And, for something completely different, it is apparently increasingly difficult to get anyone to pose for college sex magazines, because Google. An investigation is finally underway into police-instigated violence at the UC Berkeley protests last fall. A Swarthmore history professor has an oldie but goodie about the merits of grad school and whether you should go that generated a lot of discussion in the comments about people’s reasons for going or not going. An interesting article in Inside Higher Ed talked about investment in sustainable companies as opposed to divestment in harmful ones (though, as comments environmental correspondent Derek asked, “why not both?”).

Books, History, and Literary Criticism
The editor of a collection of vampire stories wrote in the Chronicle about their history. The New York Public Library system is fighting for dear life in the face of budget cuts. Eric Rauchway, who blogs at Edge of the American West, got an interview in the Chronicle about his new novel, a Great Gatsby “sequel.” José Saramago died, sadly, while the Oxford Professor of Poetry situation was finally settled with Geoffrey Hill’s appointment. James Longenbach has a great review about Emily Dickinson in The Nation, and Ulrike Zitzlsperger one about prostitutes in early-20th-century Germany in the THE. In the Guardian, Peter Geoghegan mourned the demise of letter-writing.

Historical context on the news is always good, and my (now former) CP colleague Jake Blumgart offered some about Americans’ propensity for blaming the poor. Tony Judt’s most recent memoir essay in the NYRB is a must-read; so, according to Robert Pinsky in Slate, are Abraham Lincoln’s poems. A great little item in the New Yorker remembered a little-known but important civil rights lawyer.

In actual-printed-book news, I noted this plus-ça-change moment in a biography of Thomas Eakins: “A general belief also held sway [in the 1860s] among many Philadelphians, indeed in the country at large, that the United States had no intrinsic need for art or artists as the nation did for physicians and engineers. Paradoxically, in an age that fueled independent thinking in science, business, and industry, the country had no use for the sparks of innovation in the fine arts.”

Finally I continue to gleefully devour the New Yorker books blog’s idiosyncratic coverage of the NYC magazine/publishing summer softball league, though the Paris Review‘s reports aren’t bad either. The New Yorker also acquitted itself well this fortnight with its all-Canadian ads issue because of the G20.

Culture and Cultural Studies
Although usually not a sports person, I devoted some attention over the past two weeks to coverage of the World Cup, including a Guardian discussion of vuvuzelas and (via Paige) a hilarious article from the Onion about soccer’s true sexual orientation. Along not dissimilar lines, Brad passed on an NPR story about “why the far right hates soccer.” And, since I was in France, I felt obliged to note the shitshow that was the French team’s defeat.

In women’s/feminism news, my friend Alice had a fantastic post at Equal Writes about working women who must also manage a household. Given the Facebook comment community’s proclivity for Gaga studies, I posted a NYT op-ed about the pop star and feminism, though criticized it for its overgeneralization about Young Women Today. KinkForAll, a conference series about sexuality freedom and education whose first iteration I attended a little over a year ago, is taking off enough to get a piece in the Washington City Paper—you should definitely think about attending if there’s one in your area.

And perhaps not so unrelatedly to everything else, the Guardian had an absolutely hilarious article about Ascot, to which MichaelBoyce kindly directed my attention.

Finally, courtesy of my dear editor Kay, someone put Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” together with some Star Trek clips and it’s hilarious.

Personal Life/Work
I had a proud moment when promoted to dramaturge of the excellent local southern Rhode Island Contemporary Theater Company, whose production of Waiting for Godot you should see this month if you’re in the area. Through a detour through Wilde’s life and work, I continued to make inroads on defining my project’s research question, relating transatlantic intellectual currents to the expansive work that’s already been done on American gay social history. Also, this NYT item about dealing with insomnia struck a chord with me.

Pride Month 2010 at Worthless Drivel was Oscar Wilde-themed, with posts on the Ellman biography, Wilde’s grave, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Also, there was this June 23 Facebook status update: “Amidst all this Paris-ness: stayed up late, sitting on the kitchen floor in our tiny sublet, to finish a 2,850-word essay I’ve been writing about Wilde and Queers Today and gay identity and things. Felt at ease for the first time in a bit, and am proud to do the work that I do telling gay (hi)stories. I already suspect that I won’t stay in queer studies forever, but even so: now, in June 2010, HAPPY PRIDE!”

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