I certainly haven’t been doing a good job of keeping up with the Internet, have I? What follows is a report of the web since my last installment, and after this I will try to stay more on top of things until the end of the month, when I’m taking off to foreign parts again.
The UK Home Office evinced disastrous hypocrisy last week, running a float in the London Pride parade but not caring enough about real human rights to heed asylum requests from gay people being persecuted in the Middle East. A Stonewall (UK LGBT rights) report tallied the homophobia in asylum decisions; it’s clear that both the UK and the US have been less than dedicated to the cause of LGBT human rights in foreign countries, as I blogged at Campus Progress. Last week, happily, the UK Supreme Court ruled in favor of two gay men previously denied asylum, but Alicia, Dave, and others suggested that it is very much worth calling your member of Congress or MP about these critical human rights issues, and I strongly recommend that you do so.
A.O. Scott’s Twilight: Eclipse review is my favorite thing of Scott’s I’ve ever read, and the headline of the fortnight is, from the Globe and Mail, “Sir John A. Macdonald, Duke of Wellington dragged into a street fight.”
Below the fold: American and world politics, LGBT issues, academia, books and literary criticism, history, culture and cultural criticism, Emily’s world and research.
Happy July Fourth! In honor of the holiday, I posted the video of Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing “This Land Is Your Land”—all the verses!—at Obama’s inauguration, and found in me a patriotic blog post. Other July Fourth reactions include Stan Katz’s and Sean Wilentz’s, the lions of the Princeton History Department out in full force.
BP continues to fail at life and to hasten the destruction of our natural environment, but there may be reasons to be optimistic about the latest efforts to contain the spill. The NYT, depressingly, noted Transocean’s history as a rules-flouting operation.
Georgetown law professor David Cole had a good NYRB piece about the Roberts Court, and Adam Liptak had a piece in a similar vein. Elena Kagan’s nomination hearings continued with Republicans being stupid. The NYT is not sufficiently critical, I think, of Chris Christie’s desecration of public services.
Paul Krugman’s critique of economic austerity measures is a good reminder of why caution is necessary with regard to things like “spending freezes.” I’m concerned about the degree to which Obama is alienating teachers’ unions. The NYT Magazine profile of Lindsey Graham is a very good read. Pelosi, like all sane people, wants to end the filibuster “stranglehold”. Sullivan had a depressing chart showing deportation rates under the Bush and Obama administrations. The NYT accorded Tea Party activists more legitimacy than they deserve, but they’re not the main reason the mainstream media are going to hell in a handbasket. The NYT warns that the poorest are hardest-hit by cuts to social services—such as funding for HIV drugs, and a Politico article (of all things) reminds me that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is my hero.
Finally, in comity and bipartisanship news, Aretha Franklin and Condoleezza Rice are performing duets.
Happy Canada Day! My Campus Progress colleague Christopher suggests that Canada could teach the U.S. a few things about economic regulation. I did, however, feel grumpily anti-monarchist about the Queen’s Canada Day visit. She’s just so ridiculous. And Canada also has a new Governor-General, who is an academic.
The NYT reports on the monumental task of rebuilding Haiti. In Africa, scientists and doctors are calling for a month of abstinence in the hopes of reducing the spread of HIV. Workers in China are starting to use industrial action for the first time in the allegedly communist state. And from Britain, the disappointing environmental news that over 25% of flower species face extinction.
An electoral reform referendum looks possible in the UK. After a third round of voting, Germany elected the presidential candidate Merkel supported. Le Monde is on the verge of bankruptcy, requiring rich benefactors to come to the rescue. Also from France, interesting news about diversification in the secondary educational system, with important implications for how French culture confronts race.
Last fortnight began with the anniversary of the Stonewall riots on June 28, which we in the comments celebrated with a discussion of Judith Butler’s refusal of an award at Berlin Pride. The NYT had a great item about a Stonewall veteran, while the WaPo made its own contribution to gay history coverage with a sweet romantic story to beat even the most hardened cynic’s marriage fatigue. In a similar vein, and very much in the spirit of Pride Month, Clio Bluestocking posted a slice of Philadelphia gay-rights history, while Kameny Papers archivist Charles Francis objected in HuffPo to the Smithsonian’s disinclination to display of artifacts of LGBT history. My good friend Elizabeth had a fantastic Equal Writes post about the NYC Dyke March, to which I responded here. The Guardian reviewed London’s Pride, as did Towleroad. According to conservatives, though, Pride parades are dangerous places, featuring everything from “sex in the streets to topless women.”
I devoted a lot of discussion this week to the new Scissor Sisters album, Night Work. I expressed concern about the morality of its faux-historicization, which culminated in considerable outrage, though many disagreed with me in the comments.
In political news, the Supreme Court found that Christian student groups must still act in accordance with university non-discrimination policies—which First Amendment claims do not trump (there could be interesting ramifications). A federal judge was the first such arbiter to rule part of DOMA unconstitutional, but disappointingly, Hawaii’s governor vetoed civil unions. At the weekend, Steve Benen summarized the week’s marriage news, though I wondered (contra Scott Lemieux) if it is possible that the state (or the states) could get out of the marriage business altogether (maybe in favor of civil partnerships, maybe in favor of something else) without “return[ing] us to an 18th-century night-watchman federal state.”
I disagreed with Peter Tatchell, positing that we don’t necessarily want a world where a gay/queer cultural movement doesn’t exist, even if civil equality is attained. Amtrak is doing an LGBT-centric ad campaign, and an Advocate post wondering whether Rep. Aaron Shock is a gay icon generated much discussion on the subject in the comments. I do not, however, think that the Advocate really understood the point of the World Cup final.
Finally, if you live in the eastern half of the U.S., you have a chance to protest the National Organization for Marriage this summer!
Feminism and Gender Issues
Alicia passed on an irritating Camille Paglia article from the NYT, in which Paglia hates on androgynous people and Lady Gaga, which generated a flurry of Paglia-bashing in the comments. Over at Equal Writes, Princeton colleague Nick Cox had an interesting reading of Ke$ha’s feminism, which generated a spirited debate in the comments in which Nick kindly participated.
Universities are going to crazy lengths to prevent cheating, but Swarthmore history professor Timothy Burke wisely observed that problems with cheating are exacerbated by huge university systems with low levels of personal contact which allow cheating students to just slip through the cracks. The Chronicle also had two good pieces on the future of ethnic studies, and a brief blog post about grade deflation is followed by a lot of comments which are worth a read. A new job satisfaction study shockingly reported that “The country’s most satisfied academics were professors over the age of 40, while the least satisfied were the over-40s who were not professors.” And I’m concerned about the future of tenure, but what else is new?
Inside Higher Ed had a small item about ongoing town-gown quarrels in Princeton. UC San Diego seems to be recovering from last year’s racist scandal. The University of Washington police reprehensibly spied on a student group. The news that a University of Illinois adjunct professor was fired over homophobic comments generated a lot of discussion in the comments about whether what he said constituted hate speech and whether a tenure-track faculty member would have been similarly disciplined.
Matt Yglesias wrote a post arguing, contra an economist critical of his lack of economic expertise, that he has interesting things to say about economics. I posited that academia, which does not always make an extra effort to engage with laypeople, may need middlemen like Yglesias; if we in the ivory tower aren’t satisfied with his analysis we should be blogging daily too.
Sam posted an item on Facebook that led me to a Princetoniana story with tantalizing homoerotic implications. If anyone knows anything to validate or dispel the double entendre of “long, close friendship,” send it my way!
Finally, I was very excited to discover that Firestone Library has a blog about its ongoing renovations.
Books and Literary Criticism
Big literary news this week was W.S. Merwin’s ascension to Poet Laureate. The New Yorker had a nice blog post. And of course, Princeton couldn’t resist noting Merwin’s alumnus status (’48!) and the title of his thesis, “John Donne and the Metaphysical Tradition.”
Critic Lee Siegel “pronounces the American novel dead.” The NYT had a review of a really cool book about William Golding. A review of some music criticism in the TLS raised interesting questions for me about the relationship of artists’ sexual lives to their work. Mark Twain’s unabridged biography has been discovered and is being published.
I continued to avidly follow New York magazine-and-publishing softball.
History and Historians
Tenured Radical had a great “fun with American studies” post, analyzing a song from There’s No Business Like Show Business. A Lapham’s Quarterly post about football/soccer piqued my interest in the history of Christian morality’s anxieties about masculinity. Definitely worth a read. The NYRB ran a review of a book about the death penalty with some fascinating historical tidbits. And another book review—this time in the Guardian—brought new work on the Dreyfus affair to my attention. The Smithsonian magazine ran a piece about the identity of a man in a famous Earth Day photo.
A piece from Commonplace really made me want to be an archivist, while in other methodological news the Chronicle wondered about the role of bibliographic research in academic history and literary study.
Finally, I was reminded once again why I can’t stand Niall Ferguson.
Culture and Cultural Criticism
Alyssa Rosenberg, who watches TV so I don’t have to, has a must-read post about the morality of HIV’s role in TV plotlines. Peter Singer’s ruminations on cheating in soccer and in the World Cup in particular are worth a read. A random THE article taught me about Butler’s theory of the lesbian phallus, which a very theoretical Gaga studies article further explicated.
Keith Haring artwork made a cameo appearance on the NYT City Room blog. Apparently the recession means that lots of orchestras have vacancies. The Chronicle ran a very stupid article attacking vegans for being sanctimonious, but didn’t make clear why they are apparently so much more sanctimonious than vegetarians. And you’ll be pleased to know that even conservative Christians are condemning everyone’s favorite pro-abstinence vampires, now—which makes me think that social conservatives are really just against whatever most people are for.
Finally, a hilarious website called “Everyday Gaga” probably does a better job of mocking the idea of celebrity than does Gaga herself.
I got a UCSD library card, checked out 12 books, and started thesis research for real. (Seven hours of reading and notetaking on Saturday was helped by great methodology posts by a medieval historian.) Working slowly towards a long-term academic goal has really changed my life in the past fortnight in more ways than I could discuss here, but it’s been surprising and refreshing, albeit at times frustrating. I alluded to some of this in a blog post last week, but hope to write more about it in the weeks to come. In any case, a post at Savage Minds posited that ”Every spare ounce of your life can be configured to have some relationship to your intellectual life — the more tightly the two are connected, the more rewarding the life of the mind is.” I feel as if that’s what’s happening to me.
And finally, research quotes of the fortnight: from Jonathan Katz’s Love Stories, “A man’s kissing a man for thirty seconds was evidently unusual in Civil War hospitals”; from Charles Stoddard, “In a Transport,” 1870: on a voyage to Tahiti, “something unmanned us; so we rushed to our own little cabin and hugged one another, lest we should forget how when we were restored to our sisters and our sweethearts, and everything was forgiven… in one intense moment of French remorse…. [W]e kept doing that sort of thing until I got very used to it. By the time we sighted… Tahiti, my range of experience was so great that nothing could touch me further.”
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