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Updated: 2018-04-03T11:51:50.974-04:00


The Revolution Will Not Be _____Splained


This primary season has inspired many accusations of various forms of _____-splaining. We've had call-outs of  “Bernie-Bros”  for the original tactic of  "mansplaining”; responses to those call-outs as white feminist “Old-Splaining” or “Boomer-splaining” and most recently, a reference to white "Bernie-Splaining" to Black voters.I won't get into the origin-story of the term, which you can read here. What interests me is that on all sides, it seems that political arguments go wrong when they are  perceived to be patronizing attempts to tell other people what their real interests are.That is, if I'm being Boomer-splained, as a woman, I am supposed to know that my REAL interest, my most important interest is to preserve Roe v. Wade, in internet parlance "because, the Supreme Court" and that the only way to do that is to vote for a viable Democrat. Thus, the only reason to explain why I would not vote for Hillary Clinton would be that having grown up after Roe, I must take this right for granted.   For these particular splainers, I am both ignorant and a traitor to womankind if I don't reach the same conclusions they do about my interests in this political campaign season. My political behavior can only be explained by "not knowing my real interests". My interpretation of my experience is wrong; theirs is right. Another popular argument that "Boomer" voters make to younger leftists (regardless of what election season it is) is that they are too young to have learned the vital lesson from the election of 1972, that ANY left candidate, would, like George McGovern  inevitably lose in the general election. Thus, any vote for a leftist candidate in the Democratic primaries is a vote for the Republican party. This lesson has fueled a great deal of the strategy of the contemporary Democratic leadership as well as its rank and file since 1976. That there might be another interpretation of the 1972 election is not considered. To suggest that electing a conservative Democrat might be as bad as electing an actual Republican provokes exasperated exclamation.  That the person who fails to learn this “McGovern lesson” is not ignorant, but has a different interpretation of recent history along with a different experience of the last several democratic administrations is not considered. Only one interpretation of the past can be right.  A final patronizing "splaining" politics that I have encountered in my voting life, which began when I voted for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 primaries, is the argument to people who don't vote at all that they are failing to recognize their real interests and are letting the country go to the dogs because of their stupidity and apathy.  These non-voters are the most 'Splained" of all during election seasons. “Just get out and vote,” the mantra goes.  Therefore, I find it somewhat ironic to hear the supporters of the Democratic Party's center-right wing accusing those on the left, who have been "splained" and "splained" to for their entire voting and non-voting lives, of being the new Splainers-in-Chief.  No one is up in arms about "splaining" to non-voters about how much difference a vote makes. There is plenty of evidence that it barely matters who you vote for, and that you can make change more effectively by joining social movements regardless of the year or season, than you can by throwing your energy into a political campaign. However, to argue for the rationality of non-voters instead of denouncing them is to evoke hyperventilation among believers in the electoral process. I am not spitting on voters who see it in their interest to do so. However...let the splainin begin.My focus on boomers and democrats above, is not meant to imply that the Left has not often done a great deal of patronizing "splaining” of their own.  The most odious form of splaining I’ve encountered comes from those who deny the significance of race relative to class or deride what they call "cultural polit[...]

The Left Wing of the Possible, Hope vs. Fear, and what Happens in Jan 2017


Today is the day of the Iowa primaries of 2016, and everyone is watching to see what will happen. To me, this is one of the most significant primary elections of my lifetime because I see the Sanders' candidacy as doing something that no other Democrat has successfully done. He appears to have built a pretty broad-based electoral coalition by suggesting real economic reforms, thus repudiating the Reagan Revolution that many of us lived through and which we are still living with. The New Democrats strategy was to "steal the issues" of the Reaganite Republicans, aka Neoliberals. They reduced taxes, they cut welfare, they talked about personal responsibility and threw more people in jail.   Sanders is running against this version of the Democratic party has been against the odds, polling close to an opponent who once appeared unbeatable, and on an issues that people have described as "impossible": Single-Payer healthcare, free College tuition, A total ban on fracking, and of course, a serious attempt to regulate Wall St.. Hell, it's a small point, but I thought of him when I paid a $3 ATM fee today. To top it off,  Sanders has built his numbers while relying primarily on individual contributions and bucking "Super-pacs." He is not running as a symbol, he is running to win. As many have said, he is polling well against Republicans, and it doesn't seem impossible anymore. He is doing it.My post the other day, which was not as forthright as the above in my support for Sanders' candidacy led some of my readers to conclude that I am primarily seeing Sanders from the perspective of a glass half empty. I posted this update there to clarify. Because of a few people who have communicated questions to me about this in other venues I want to be clear. The point of this post is not to attack Sanders, whose candidacy I see as important and valuable because he is bringing meaningful proposals for economic justice into mainstream electoral politics for the first time in my lifetime. That said, I think it is wrong to characterize the current primary contest as a referendum on class vs. 'identity politics" as the way forward politically, as some Sanders supporters have done.  So, I admit it, I am "Feelin' the Bern." I was invigorated by hearing Sanders use the word "socialism" and attack big money in the first debate, and I have been increasingly optimistic as I have seen momentum grow behind Sanders' advocacy for Single-Payer insurance which I've supported since I first heard a speech about it in the mid-1990s. That Sanders has made this alternative to our absurd healthcare bureaucracy into a viable policy is a huge deal. He's beating Republicans in national polls even though he explicitly says he will raise taxes. He is making what seemed like political "third rail" positions into stuff people talk about on the corner. In this moment, his campaign to me represents what some call the left wing of the possible. It is a shame that the main argument against him is that he is "unelectable." In an excellent piece over at Huffington Post, Anthony Conwright says: When people say Bernie Sanders' ideas are not politically viable, what they are really saying is:Satisfying the needs of the people his policies would support is not politically viable, therefore, we should not vote for him. Not only does this language illegitimize the needs of those people, but the language implies there is something unviable about those people--at least politically. Sanders' proposals of providing health care to all Americans, making public colleges tuition free, and decriminalizing marijuana are all initiatives that would positively impact black Americans, and help close the equality gap in America. In 2013, 42 percent of African Americans ages 25 to 55 had student loan debt, compared to 28 percent of white Americans. In Iowa, an African American was 8.34 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana position than white Americans, according to a 2013 study by the AC[...]

What's the Matter With Kansas, Neoliberal Multiculturalism and what's left of an American Left


  In the past few days, I've become increasingly interested in what seems to be an internal discussion among Democratic Party supporters, and those further to the left who are energized by the seeming viability of the Bernie Sanders campaign and may wind up voting for Democrats for the first time in several years.Late Update: Because of a few people who have communicated questions to me about this in other venues I want to be clear. The point of this post is not to attack Sanders, whose candidacy I see as important and valuable because he is bringing meaningful proposals for economic justice into mainstream electoral politics for the first time in recent memory. That said, I think it is wrong to characterize the current primary contest as a referendum on class vs. 'identity politics" as the way forward politically, as some Sanders supporters have done.   I will say more about this in a subsequent post on the meaning of what it means to build an electoral coalition on broadly unifying demands as opposed to what the priorities within the left are when we talk about movement building and organizing outside the electoral process, which I believe must remain central regardless of who is elected. Here's what I'm seeing. Sanders has been running his campaign with the strategy that Tom Frank advocated in his book What's the Matter with Kansas. In it, Frank argues that the far right has captured white working class men, winning elections by playing culture war issues (guns, gays and abortion) and targeting class antagonism at "entitled" racial minorities. There are problems with Frank's book, and Frank's politics, in that they play to that "class first" argument that downgrades racism, sexism and homophobia into "cultural" issues that have divided an otherwise grand coalition The argument's flaw is that it is not race or gender neutral  It sets up a class coalition dominated by the interests of white working class men and then invites everyone else in the working class to get behind their banner as if all people in the working class had identical interests. I've noticed that some white socialist organizations who make these class-first arguments tend to be slightly better on gender and sexuality in this regard than they are on race, which most likely has to do with the fact that these socialist organizations include white women who have forced them to consider the seriousness of their positions, but very, very few Black people who have been able to do the same.    To me, this not an economic prioritizing, but a way of thinking about class issues that is based on white working-class male experience. It misses the fact that white working class people have received privileges and "psychological wages" that W.E.B Du Bois explained many years ago and which many subsequent historians have drawn upon and explained some more.   In terms of agenda-setting, this way of understanding economic populism ignores the fact that for Black working class people, police violence and incarceration may be more immediately pressing working-class issues even than access to decent health care. The same was true for anti-lynching politics which were wrongly interpreted as "merely symbolic" by white leftists and labor activists until they themselves started getting mobbed by vigilantes during WWI. The point is, you can't protest if you can be killed on the street without a trial. It's a basic issue of democracy. While we would like to have better access to health care, the criminal justice system has targeted enough Black people that incarceration could be considered a genuine state of emergency for working class Blacks. That is, even if you are broke, sick, and can't afford health care, you might be more worried about prison than healthcare if you know someone in prison, especially if that person is a member of your family.    Ta-Nehisi Coates was naming this white economic populist blindspot as it is m[...]

New Year's Academic Reading Challenge 2015


The first challenge I organized went well.  Some day I'll write a blog post about it, but most of the people who participated did all their reporting on Facebook.  Now I've learned this reading challenge idea is a "thing." I found another one at Book Riot That I like. However, if I keep doing so many reading challenges to keep myself limber and not over-specialized, I may wind up not actually doing all that reading for work that I have to do. With that, here's my......Winter-Spring Reading Challenge 2015 Challenge Categories Author,  Title,  date published;  pp. # Date read Points   any book for teaching/research 200 pp. 5 book written by someone you saw give a lecture or present at a conference 10  book by a current colleague, coworker, or friend 10  Academic book someone else recommended to you 10  Book from a “Best of 2014” list 15  book about the history or culture of a city, town or neighborhood in the United States 15  academic book that’s considered a classic in your field (that you’ve never read) OR  Book that you always see cited but haven’t read. 15  Book with a color in the title 20 Journalistic or popular book about any place outside the United States 20  Special Issue of any academic journal 25 National Book Award Winner from before 1980 20 3 books related to science 35  Science fiction book  Non-fiction book about science written for general readers Academic book about science or science fiction. (history or philosophy of science, lit crit of science fiction/utopia, cultural studies of science, or actual science for audience of scientists) EXTRA CREDIT – Book in a genre you hate /or Double up in any category except the first “free” one. 10 Rules: The academic books must be at least 175 pages longNovels must be at least 200 pages longBooks of poetry or special issues of journals must be at least 100 pp. longAny book on the list, except where specified by category, can be a novelBooks can only count for one category, but you can switch them from one category to the other before you’re done if you like. Only one book can be a re-readAudiobooks are fine as long as they are unabridged and the print edition at least 200 pages long.Books must be started no earlier than midnight Jan 1and finished no later than May 31, midnight.[...]

Reading Challenge Update


So, my first ever reading challenge for academics has now begun. Post below to share with the group...what book are you starting with? I believe I'll be starting with the June 2014 issue of American Quarterly....

Reading Challenge for Academics


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so with a doff of the professor's  tam and my apologies to Megan C. Troup, I am stealing her reading challenge idea to start one of my own. Troup runs book challenges over at her blog Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I like the way she does her challenges because they're not just a number, but not so prescriptive as to require everyone to read and discuss the same book. Instead, she creates a set of categories designed to get readers to try new things.  I did her summer reading challenge this year, and I may also try her winter challenge. However, since we academics read for a living, I thought we could use our own challenge that included space for more specialized literature, flexed our reading muscles with some interdisciplinary categories, and allowed some breaks for serious but “fun” reads.....all the while, structuring in a bit of promotional support for our friends and colleagues.This one goes for the length of the fall semester and winter break and includes 14 books total.   Extra instructions for people who like to read academic books, but aren’t professors appear in italicsRules: The academic books must be at least 175 pages longNovels must be at least 200 pages longAny book on the list, except where specified by category, can be a novelBooks can only count for one category, but you can switch them from one category to the other before you’re done if you like. Only one book can be a re-readAudiobooks are fine as long as they are unabridged and the print editions are at least 200 pages long. To fit the framework of the challenge, books must be started no earlier than midnight on Tuesday 9/2 and finished no later than Dec. 31 midnight. Note for non-professional academics: In any place where it says “academic book” look for any book published by a scholar with a university press.  Look for the publisher info and the “scholarly apparatus”: footnotes /or endnotes, appendices, acknowledgments mentioning colleagues, graduate students, dissertation committees, etc.5 points: Read any book related to your research or teaching (at least 200 pages long) (Non-professors, read any academic book)10 points: Read a book written by a friend, acquaintance or colleague 10 points: Read a book by a former student or former teacher 10 points: Read an entire academic journal issue including book reviews 15 points: Read a book reviewed in the journal issue above15 points: Read an academic book about a country or region that isn’t part of your research or your current teaching.  (Non-academics, read an academic book about a country or region that you don’t usually read about)15 points:  Read a book that you always meant to read but never got to or never finished  (Non-professors, read a book assigned for a course that you never read or never finished when you were a student)20 points:  Read a novel that was nominated for the National Book Award in 2014. The long list will be published in September and the finalists will be announced Oct. 15th.20 points: Read a book about current events written by a journalist25 points: Read a Pulitzer Prize winning book from before 1970 (any category). Find a list here: points: Read a book with “house”, “apartment” or “room” in the title. 35 points: Read three academic books on the same general subject, one from each category: history, literary criticism, ethnography. *** As you make your preliminary lists, post them in the comments on this post. I'll do check-ins periodically. id="iagdtd_frame" src="" style="height: 1px; left: -9999px; position: absolute; width: 1px;"> id="iagdtd_frame" src="" style="height: 1px; left: -9999px; position:[...]

Scholarly Panic: Thoughts about Teaching and the notion of "Originality"


One of the hardest things that scholarly writers face is the pressure to be original.  For graduate students, who may be making their first attempts at original work, this demand for original ideas, interpretations or discoveries can be especially anxiety producing. I’ve heard stories of graduate students hiding certain library books in the fear that others will stumble upon the same ideas. I’ve speculated about and heard others speculate about plagiarism when publications come out that seem to replicate conclusions and sources that were in unpublished manuscripts that had been sent out for review. Even for more seasoned scholars, the fear is there that we don’t know what we’re doing and that our work will be replicating something else.  Given the amount of scholarly production, it seems almost impossible to imagine that we can do original work unless it’s on a subject that’s so obscure no one else knows (or cares) about it. I’m writing this little reflective story as a way to think about how to teach students what we mean by originality and how to reduce the anxiety associated with a seemingly impossible goal.This morning I was reading news on Facebook and followed a link to this article by Kristoffer Smemo, a  graduate student at UC Santa Barbara who’s writing his dissertation on liberal Republicans:  I was thrilled by his analysis of the band Black Flag’s conservative ideology, because he had so clearly articulated and formulated thoughts about the U.S. hardcore punk scene, about which I had been reading as part of my research for a chapter of my book on anti-fascism.  After my initial thrilled and excited reaction to reading this sharp analysis, I had the panicked reaction of “oh no, he figured it out first!  And now… all my work on this subject up to now is just superfluous. ” My “oh no!” reaction while understandable given the competitive aspects of academic culture is also kind of ridiculous for a number of reasons.The reason for this reaction is based in an understanding of scholarship as a competitive endeavor in which only one person can be “the smartest” or “the first” to the finish line.  Given the fact that it’s hard to be original perceiving scholarship this way can make the experience of research anxiety producing, miserable and alienating.  If we instead think of scholarship as a collaborative human enterprise in which people working in the same area can be helpfully viewed as friends or comrades, what originality means, and how we get there becomes much less lonely and other people’s work becomes less threatening. Here is a set of things I might say to students in order to reduce the anxiety about what it means to be original and to take some of the competitive energy out of the research and writing process.1) Someone else will almost always have already had the same idea as you, or an even better one that you haven’t thought of yet, but that when you read it, will cause you to think:  “yes, that’s exactly right.” And, then perhaps, “Damn it, why didn’t’ I think of that?”  It’s almost impossible to have an idea that no one else has. We’re all living in the same historical moment, and many of us are trying to figure out answers to the same problems, reading many of the same books, and swimming in the same cultural soup. So, of course we’re going to think similar things.  It would be more shocking if no one had the same idea you did than if they didn’t. It’s often the case that someone else has come to a particular question before you did. To look at this from another perspective, isn’t it nice to know that there is someone else who has thought this thing or thought it better than you? Isn’t it in fact nice that someone is interested in the same subject as you?  You are not alone and you are n[...]

Usable Pasts and Historians' Fights


  I just finished reading the edited collection, Forever in the Shadow of Hitler: Original Documents of the Historikerstreit and, with some irony, my friend J and I spent part of the morning commute comparing the conservative German historians' similarity to other conservative nationalists seeking to retain national pride in the face of horrific national histories in Japan and the United States.    If you're not familiar with the Historikerstreit, it erupted over two significant events in the mid-1980s:  one the visit of Ronald Reagan to the Bitburg cemetery and two, the publication of an article by Ernst Nolte which said, among other things, that Chaim Weitzman's declaration in 1939 that the Jews of Palestine would fight on the side of England in a war against Hitler meant that Hitler was rational in targeting Jews as political enemies and putting them in camps. Jurgen Habermas made the bold move of connecting the Nolte article to several other recent publications by conservative Germans and all of these to the rightward shift in German politics, known as the Wende, and the indignant responses came next. Richard J. Evans, (who was more recently an expert witness against David Irving at his libel trial), wrote an excellent brief summary of the arguments that places them in the context of German post-war politics and the historiography of fascism. Particularly in reading Evans' summary of the work of Andreas Hillgruber on the German army on the Eastern front, my mind again ran to comparison.    Evans points out the problems with Hillgruber's representation of the German army on the Eastern front, drawing on the work of Omer Bartov on the German invasion of Russia, which indicates that rather than behaving as simple patriots defending their country from fearsome Russian hordes, or acting with "realistic moral responsibility"(with greater realism than the members of the military who attempted to assassinate Hitler in the July Plot of 1944) as Hillgruber argued, that the German army in the East behaved "with extreme brutality and barbarism to the Red Army...also laid waste whole areas of territory...and massacred or otherwise caused the deaths of millions of civilians as a matter of policy." (Evans, 60)   It was hard to read the conservative historians dubbing Hitler's aggressive war as a "preemptive attack" on Russia, without thinking of the rationalizations presented for the U.S.'s 2003 invasion of Iraq, in the name of preemption, complete with its own fascist terminology of "shock and awe." Reading about Germany's efforts to come to terms with its past, I began to wonder how history a hundred years from now will judge America and how my generation will fair, as we forwarded emails and updated our statuses on Facebook, but easily returned the focus to our personal lives or careers while our country went on committing horrors in in our names. Will the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan become, like the war in Vietnam, remembered as strategic blunders with American victims, rather than as shocking, horrific examples of military aggression and war crimes? Will any criticism of the war be diverted by a mythology of the anti-war movement's betrayal of the troops? Today, our award-winning films concentrate on the experiences of American troops, and try to show gritty realism, but often wind up justifying aggression and even war crimes, and fail, as Nick Turse points out, to show the other side of the U.S. war machine - the point of view of people whose countries are under attack. He writes,Few Americans born after the Civil War know much about war.  Real war.  War that seeks you out.  War that arrives on your doorstep -- not once in a blue moon, but once a month or a week or a day.  The ever-present[...]

Our Times and Contemporary Literature


   Being an academic has made me less inclined to read serious literary fiction. After hours of poring through microfilm reels in search of the occasional relevant fact, stumbling through a work of difficult theory with pen in hand, or doing a mandatory 6 hour stint in a library with two recent books in my field fact-checking over and over again, it's hard to want to come home, as I tried to do my first year in graduate school to Fielding's Tom Jones. In the age of VHS, I followed the advice of one dear friend and finished off each day of prelim-exam reading by watching a movie and drinking a glass of wine.  I did something similar when revising my book on a tight deadline one summer, knocking off at the end of the day with DVDs of Homicide.   Before that, I was what was recently called a book girl. I always read promiscuously:  conspicuously carrying Kafka's essays with me to punk rock shows at fifteen but delighting equally in Agatha Christie mysteries read one after another during winter and summer vacations. I also recall the greatly satisfying experiences of reading what I knew was serious literature:  Pride and Prejudice and Catcher in the Rye both read during the summer in Texas; one summer in college, working in a university library and dragging home piles of things from the PQ section...Latin American and French literature in translation by the backpack load.  One year in college, when the wealthier students took off from the private New England school I went to for their expensive spring-break holidays, I decided to stay on campus reading novels (A Hundred Years of Solitude at the time)  rather than going home or to New York to visit family. "Novels?" an ex-boyfriend said, "YOU read novels?" Not a pleasure-reader, he thought I meant Jackie Collins, which is what his mother and her friends read. (No, I have never enjoyed that particular swath of bad books)    Now, I feel very nostalgic about my pre-professional days, in high school, before graduate school, and some points in my adjunct days of riding trains between Brighton Beach and NYU, before I was working on a book and could read without being strategic about the use of my time. I often think back fondly to that 6 month period when I worked in the Hamptons, made regular trips to Canio's bookstore and read Toni Morrison, Phillip Roth, Herman Melville, and Umberto Eco either before or after going off to work in a restaurant, and those months after finishing my dissertation involving weeks spent with Heinrich Boll, Katherine Anne Porter,  Robert Graves, and William Faulkner. If I were to read this way today, however, I would need an excuse of "reading it for my book" or I would always feel like I should be using that valuable time to read some half-baked Deluezian meditation or a highly specialized book about this topic of mine. My anxiety mounts with each inch added to the "to-read" pile. By contrast, there is always time to read a detective novel, especially if it's an audiobook that can be listened to on an elliptical trainer, while driving, or doing chores around the house. These novels are absorbing and can be settled into, some deliberately cozy, but all like a familiar favorite meal, and they are not without insight into human character or social problems, and are not always so inattentive to language as you might expect.     I'm thinking about this now having just finished reading Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch and then reading some of the good and bad reviews. I could not deny that I liked it. I read it quickly and enjoyed it, but it didn't seem to me as weighty or deeply insightful or as linguistically delightful as what I think of when I say something is "great literature."  But what is that quality?  Is it just about the use[...]

Heroes of Psychoanalysis


While reading Daniel Pick's The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind I was amazed to read about the experience of psychoanalyst, Walter Langer, who was a patient of Anna Freud in Vienna in 1938 and helped the Freud family escape the city following Hitler's annexation of Austria.
  "On one occasion," Pick writes, "the Freud family's maid Paula, told him that his analyst had been taken by the Gestapo for questioning, but the analysis resumed the next day, 'as if nothing had happened.' " (Gifford interview with Langer, cited in Pick, Pursuit, p. 40).  You can read the relevant section of Peter Gay's Freud biography describing how she managed to get released and the impact of this event on her father  here

 To me, it's a heroic example of dedication to one's work and a testament to the significance of strong relationships between analysts and patients. One could certainly understand if Dr. Freud had decided to cancel or perhaps reschedule, after departing from town.  I wonder what the impact was on Langer that he had this sense of priority in his analyst's life. Or perhaps I am being overly dramatic, ahistorically imagining a consciousness of Nazi brutality in 1938 Vienna, reflected by present-day knowledge of the Holocaust. After all, her father, Sigmund Freud did not want to leave his home at all - until this incident finally convinced him that it was time to go. Gay's bio does say that Anna Freud suspected that she might be "casually deported or shot" simply if she was waiting in the hallway at the end of the day instead of being interrogated.

This story, showing the seriousness with which good therapists take their work and how committed someone can be to a patient, is a good corrective to stereotypes of therapists we often see in popular culture. 

Anxiety Index: New Edition


Thanks to a colleague at the City University Of New York for letting me know about the  chemical plant fire in Marietta which she read about yesterday in The Guardian.

Yesterday's Atlanta Journal Constitution notes that this was not the first fire in this particular warehouse
According to the local police an EPA investigation found that the smoke from the fire was not toxic.....but there may be some concern about run-off from the water hosed all over the place while it burned for ten hours, as reported by WSB:
Water was pumped on the building for 18 hours, which could have environmental implications. Because of that, the EPA arrived on scene Saturday to investigate.
“There's been a substantial amount of runoff. All the chemicals have run off into sewer rivers and lakes monitoring that as we speak," Ingram said.

On that note, here's a link to Tom Lehrer singing for the anxiety index way back in the day.

Reading Challenged


It's summer, so why not start blogging again? Like most other academics, I've made a somewhat ambitious summer plan. I'm reading for my book-in-progress the cultural history of anti-fascism (on left and right). I'm also updating the syllabus for my fall class on American Studies theory which I'll be co-teaching with a newly minted English PhD, who's awesome and much hipper to current theory than I am. I'm doing an 8 minute talk on representations of prison in pop-culture, which will involve a lot of TV watching with a note-pad. For fun, I've decided to participate in this book challenge set up by blogger, Megan Troup.  So here's the start of my summer reading list for research, teaching and play.Book project related : Ian Kershaw, Hitler: Hubris & Nemesis; Bob Altemeyer, Enemies of Freedom, Eric Fromm,Escape from Freedom; Daniel Pick, Pursuit of the Nazi Mind,  Ron Hansen, Hitler's Niece, and other stuff too, including whatever's related to my drafted chapter on the New Left and 1970s-1990s anti-fascism, which brings us to things like Mark Rudd, Underground, stuff about Wilhelm Reich, and even punk rock; as well as some pieces about right-wing anti-fascism including perhaps by and about the dreaded Ayn Rand whose Social Darwinism, romantic ideology, and love for monumental architecture leads to some interesting parallels with you-know-who. But there's only so much one can read in one three month period.Teaching related:  Brian Massumi, Parables for the Virtual; Anne Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings; Sharon Holland, The Erotic Life of Racism, Kelly Oliver, Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human; Jodi Byrd, The Transit of Empire; Sarah Ahmed, The Promise of Happiness; Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics; Sender, The Makeover, HoSang et al, Racial Formation in the 21st Centuryand then there's list for the Semi-Charmed Kind of Life Summer Book Challenge (which is at least backdated to May 1, so I can count stuff I already read).  I am drawing from my existing work-related lists as much as possible while trying to include some fun reading in there.5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.Louise Penny, A Fatal Grace (Armand Gamache #2) (just finished)10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.Fromm, Escape from Freedom 10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around. (You must have at least 150 pages left in the book to use it for this category.)Blush, American Hardcore (just finished) 10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore.Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times' Best Sellers List when you begin reading it.Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.Susan Choi, American Woman15 points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge. (Yes, you will have to wait until the first check-in to choose this book! So no one will be able to finish this challenge in only one month; sorry!)20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title. No other words will count—including kids, offspring, etc.—so please don’t ask. :) I could read Becker's Hitler's Children which I will need to read eventually, but I don't know if this summer is the time for it.20 points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014. (Here are 16 ideas to get you started, but I know there are plenty more options.) Ron Rash, Serena (for fun) or in keeping with last chapter of the book, Veronica Roth, Diverge[...]

Live, Park, Drive - Or Why ATL Redevelopment Plans Still Don't Work


     Recently, various sections of Atlanta have been threatened with massive Walmarts.. Buckhead just fought off a proposed store at Lindbergh/Piedmont. Decatur is still in a fight with developers over a proposed super-store, and now Glenwood Park, a very expensive new-urbanist planned community is threatened with a Walmart based shopping center at its backdoor.   Good news: the same developer was recently defeated in Denver. Since I live in Reynoldstown now and was thinking about moving to the area near Glenwood Park, the possibility of that Walmart has become a burning issue to me. Currently, Glenwood Avenue, where the Walmart proposed, is a two-lane road with ample sidewalks and bike paths in both directions. It connects the funky East Atlanta Village to Grant Park, so it's a useful pedestrian or bike pathway. The major shopping center being proposed there would likely turn it into a choked and noisy thoroughfare. While I would oppose Walmart in any situation because of its labor policies, I also am opposed to the overall plan of development for this neighborhood - no matter what thing they put in that space. I'm not alone. When one commenter on Creative Loafing's recent discussion of the plan suggested a Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Publix, or a movie theater instead of Walmart, I initially thought "yes, a grocery store! Perfect."      Then, another person pointed out that anything on that scale would bring more traffic to the neighborhood. One of the major features of the proposed development is 75,000 square feet of surface parking. The plan could be tweaked by creating a storied parking garage instead, but still....there would have to be more cars coming into the neighborhood to make that work - and where would they come in and go out? The Beltline is supposed to come into the neighborhood via an expanded Bill Kennedy Way and extended Chester Ave, but even if the Beltline proposal were to happen and some kind of bike lane appeared, without public transit, the whole thing is still a bust.    Look at Glenwood Park. it's a beautiful area with great housing and retail, including some less expensive rental housing. But - it looks a bit like ghost town. I read somewhere on the web people comparing it to a movie set - right, because the streets are empty. In the meantime, some neighbors in Inman Park are exorcised about a development plan for Elizabeth Street near N. Highland that would add rental housing & retail space to the already bustling and walkable three-block area.  That particular region of in-town Atlanta is one that I like, because it is walkable. Still, you have to drive to get there, and park when you do. This is what the neighbors don't like; urban density in this area has increased the traffic.     All this hubbub points to the major problem that is holding Atlanta back. Despite the claims to the contrary as far as I can tell Atlanta's new urbanists, including the Beltline Inc and its supporters are focused on two things - bike trails/green spaces and retail/ upscale housing development. The Glenwood Park area, Inman Park and Atlantic Station to a lesser extent, all suffer from the same problem. All these places are islands that people have to drive to. For people living in these areas, new urbanism = more traffic, not less.       When Jane Jacobs was writing about the West Village, she wasn't just advocating bike paths and parks; she was fighting freeways and living in a city that had a long history of major mass transit. While it's a lovely idea that people will bike to work, it's extremely unlikely that they will bike to a grocery store. I did that in Minneapol[...]

Would You Buy a Used Essay From?....


Every time I promise to start writing regularly again, I always fail. So this time, I'm not starting with a promise. Here, though, is something amusing. Today I got this spam comment on an old blog entry:
At 5:01 PM, XXXX said... In inflict to support you with the highest stage of delivery in essay activity, employs only skilful pedantic writers to business on your distribution. narrative essay writing help
Inflict is right! Are these pendantic writers skillful parodists seeking to capture lazy students in the act? essay-writing bots? Please inflict your comments now.

Fact of the Day, File Under Punk Rockers


A 1991 study by Christine Hansen and Ranald Hansen found that "fans of punk rock ...were more likely to reject authority than were those of heavy metal."

cited in Lauraine LeBlanc's Pretty in Punk: Girls' Gender Resistance in a Boys' Subculture (Rutgers University Press, 2005)

Politics and Friendship and Using the Telephone


I haven't thought about blogging in years but the other day, for reasons I'll explain in a minute, I was re-reading old emails from an old friend and he mentioned reading my blog (and even commented on it once in a very funny way). I have been thinking a lot about politics lately, and about this particular friend. Since I moved to ATL I've had a hard time getting reconnected to politics, despite a few lame attempts. I'd say the main obstacles have been 1) my failure to learn to drive in city lacking not only adequate public transportation, but sidewalks, 2) being exhausted by work 3) not knowing people in the ATL political scene and 4) wanting to enjoy lazy weekends at home with my husband, who works out of town during the week. Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally got past the second hurdle. I finished some writing projects and the pressure in the administrative side of my new job has gone down as I've learned how to do it better. That's given me a sense of freedom about trying again to get re-involved in political activism. It also gave me the head space to start reconnecting with my old friend, who had asked me to read a draft of some of his new manuscript about 8 months ago when I was still overwhelmed and freaked out by work, and who I'd communicated with in February about something I was writing that involved a political theorist I thought he might know something about. This friend was someone who I'd just missed seeing because of both of our busy schedules and complicated lives several times since 2008 when I last saw him at an American Studies conference. Now, unfortunately, and for reasons that make no sense, it's just too late and there is no "later" when we'll catch up. He's someone who I knew through politics when I "used to be an anarchist" (that's the expression he teased me about above). He stayed true to that tradition, and was active in anarchist politics and political theory. Of the people in Love & Rage, he was the person with whom I most often agreed politically; actually, in an email exchange we talked about having put edits in that afore-linked L&R Wikipedia page. In the 1990s, we talked and talked about debates that were going on in the organization, both on the phone and in person. I feel like we wrote things together, at least when we were on the coordinating committee of LnR together in MPLS. Years later, he wrote the most hilarious comments in the organization's Discussion Bulletin when he edited it in Phoenix. I hope someone has collected those. It included our intense position papers and proposals about our org's relation to the "race traitor" strategy, how to organize locals, cadre etc., interspersed with Joel's top ten lists of heavy metal songs for the Revolution, and how to keep cool in the Arizona heat. I learned so much from him, and he always talked to me as if he really appreciated my ideas. He also was a true friend; I used to go the movies with him and his wife, and they always supported me as I dealt with the fallout of a number of terrible decisions in my efforts at romantic relationships. He once took me out for a pitcher of malt liquor in our neighborhood bar and offered his shoulder to cry on after I was rejected by one of his own best friends. The malt liquor turned out to be a bad idea, but the shoulder to cry on was kind and the support was always there. When I told him I was getting married he said in an email, "That is wonderful! Do I know the lucky guy?" And I heard from another friend that he and his wife had toasted my happiness along with some other folks from L&R when he was visiting NYC after I had moved to Georgia. In that later that's now not coming, we[...]

Tribeca Film Festival - Moloch Tropical


So, I didn't really redeem myself as a blogger with this year's festival by keeping a daily blog of what I saw. It all started - or didn't start - because I was undecided about what to say with the very first movie on my list, Raoul Peck's film Moloch Tropical. I went to see it because I liked Peck's films Lumumba and Sometimes in April. He has also made the documentary, Profit and Nothing But! and is currently making a film titled Karl Marx. In other words, he is a left film-maker and he makes beautiful films.
Moloch Tropical was without a doubt, beautifully made - full of pathos, horror, and even humor. However, it justifies the overthrow of Aristide in 2004, and to use his story to portray the nature of the "universal dictator." At the Q&A, Peck discussed it as not specifically about one person, but about the nature of power and the meaning of democracy. However, this is a cop-out. It is obviously about Aristide - references to him as a former priest loved by the poor are made throughout the film, and the necklacing of a former friend and ally, of which Aristide was accused in 2004, is central to the narrative. What I find particulary problematic in this merging of the "universal" and the historically specific examination of a dictatorship is the portrayal of this Aristide-like dictator as a repulsive sexual predator.
I hadn't realized before I'd seen this, but during the U.S. coup, Peck wrote an anti-Aristide editorial in Newsday, and has been one of the Haitian intellectuals who are most disenchanted with his presidency.
In contrast, the film Aristide and the Endless Revolution shows multiple views on the 2004 coup, but is sympathetic to Aristide. The left in the U.S. is divided on the issue.
Having received most of my information about the events of 2004 as they were occurring through the coverage of it on the very pro-Aristide Democracy Now, I was shocked by this film and thought, if this is an accurate representation of Aristide in Haiti, it's devastating. To figure out what the deal is, I now plan to read Alex Dupuy's The Prophet and Power.
Ultimately, my critique of the film is that in merging "Moloch" story with a perhaps justifiable critique of Aristide, Peck has created an excuse for doing what one blogger describes as turning priest into a cannibal.

Back to the Tribeca Film Fest


I really started this blog in earnest back in the Spring of 2005 when I first went to the Tribeca Film Fest. Five years later, I've had very little time or energy for such focused procrastination, but perhaps this year I will blog about every movie I see at TFF and thus redeem myself. Today, I'm seeing Raul Peck's new film Moloch Tropical and later on, My Queen Karo.

Back-To-School Politics - the Politics of Composition


One of my friends posted Stanley Fish's NYT article on college composition courses on facebook today. There are lots of well-informed comments from different perspectives on the NYT page. Since I taught writing in the kind of composition department that Fish decribes,I feel qualified to school the bemused Professor Fish. Part of Fish's assessment of trends in the teaching of college composition courses fits my experience. I taught college-level composition for six years - first as a graduate student at the University of Minnesota and then during my first two years working as an adjunct at CUNY, where I also read and evaluated ACT exams. I share some of Fish's frustration with college comp classes; I often felt I was doing something more "old-fashioned" than what others did because I did teach grammar and sentence structure, and because I insisted that the course material could not consist of watching movies, but had to engage the written word. I was, as Fish is, appalled to find that some of my colleagues did not give their student any reading assignments at all. The reason that people did this wasn't really political; it was a strategy for dealing with the existing skills of the students they met in their classrooms. The majority of people teaching college writing courses today are graduate students who do not want to alienate their students, and want them to enjoy their classes. Confronting students with difficult reading assignments and practice with grammar is not an obvious route to teacher-popularity. Some of these courses my colleagues taught involved lots of direct instruction in writing; one model course that was very popular with teachers involved students critiquing each others' writing as a group while the instructor marked up essays on an overhead projector. Those teachers couldn't be faulted for not teaching writing; there was no content in those courses at all. However, I never used this approach because I thought that exposing students to really good writing was key to improving students' work. If the students aren't that familiar with written language, they aren't equipped to teach each other how to write. Their criticisms of their peers might not be anymore valid than their criticism of Joan Didion; (my advanced journalism major students claimed that her book Miami was full of "run-on sentences" because she wrote in long -grammatically correct- sentences. In his article, Fish blames bad composition teaching for the tragically bad writing of American university students. However, the real problem is that as television has replaced print as the medium of news and entertainment, the majority of our students are not literate in "print culture." It is more common now to encounter college students who simply do not read - not newspapers, not magazines, not books. Those who do read don't often read models of what college classes ask them to produce. At the beginning of the semester in my history class, I ask students what the most difficult book they read recently was. Almost all of them listed works of Shakespeare which they had read (and had not understood) in their English classes, and a few named Harry Potter books. Very few of them read anything for pleasure - unless they were reading internet news or sports articles. The problem that writing instructors face is not the result of bad schooling. If people do not read, they will not be good writers. If they are not familiar with written language, which is not like spoken language, they will not be able to produce elegant prose. Why don't people try to familia[...]

What to Do, What to DO?


A number of third-party enthusiasts are gleefully pointing out all the ways that Obama has failed to live up to people's expectations of him. For an example, note the comments after Dave Lindorff's recent piece exhorting people on the left to get active for Single-Payer at the Town Halls. I don't think that this "I told you so" glee directed at Obama voters is any better than the "I told you so" finger-shaking I got from Dems following the election of George Bush in 2000 (I had voted for Nader.) The answer is still to put pressure on whoever is in power through grass-roots action for single payer all the while knowing that in the end, we will probably not get it. I agree with Lindorff in general about the need for the left to out-organize the right at the health-care reform town-halls. In fact,I have read that single-payer advocates have been visible at every town-hall meeting so far, but the media is rarely reporting the story (note the previous blog entry). However I'm a bit puzzled by his recent comment on counterpunch that "obstruction" is the only viable option at the town-hall meetings. He goes on to say, Instead of opposing the right-wing hecklers at these events, progressives should be making common cause with them. Instead of calling them fascists, we should be working to turn them, by showing them that the enemy is not the left; it is the corporations that own both Democrats and Republicans alike.The only proper approach to the wretched health care legislation currently working its way through Congress at this point is to kill it and start over. At these "town meeting" staged events, Obama and the Democrats need to hear, in no uncertain terms, that we don't want no stinkin' ObamaCare. We want Medicare for all. Given that one of the biggest fears of this group is that "Obamacare" is actually a "Trojan Horse" for single-payer (which is how Dems have tried to sell the plan to the left) this strategy seems unrealistic to me. Just as the media won't report the single-payer advocates already questioning the corporate Dem plan, the wisdom on the street (and on the Hill) if Obama's plan is defeated (or further watered down) is that America is not ready for a public-option, let alone single-payer. My sense, based on what I've seen and read about right-wing protesters (beyond the anti-choicers and other religious fear mongerers) is that- They don't want "illegal aliens" to be insured and they believe that these illegal aliens will be covered by "Obamacare".-They fear that if medicare is extended "for all" that it will go bankrupt or the U.S. as a whole will go bankrupt - and their coverage will be reduced - this is why seniors are prominent protesters at the Town Halls. This is not then, an irrational "keep your government hands off my medicare," it is a rational (but misinformed) argument: "I can't afford to share my medicare" (probably with them illegal aliens). Glenn Beck has recently been stoking these fears by suggesting that the health care plan, added to the bank bailout will send the US into an inflationary spin that will lead the government to the solutions offered by Nazi Germany, including euthanasia. One of pieces of meat he tossed out to the far-right base was the notion that the Federal Reserve will just "print money" in order to pay for the health care plan. and that brings me to the third group:- They are tea-partying libertarians who think that EVERYTHING is done better in the private sector (note: Ron Paul) and want to eliminate public schools, etc. The powers behind this movement a[...]

Town Halls - Angry Mobs? Astro-Turfers? and What About Single-Payer?


If you look at most media coverage of this month's health-reform town hall meetings you would think that crowds are divided between people who support Obama's plan and the conservative opposition. This presentation, which Democrats also encourage, lends credibility to the notion that Obama is proposing the only universal-health coverage plan on the table. What that doesn't tell you, is that the most organized presence at the Town-Hall meeting are real grass-roots single-payer advocates, who don't support Obama's plan because it subsidizes private insurance companies. Now that Pelosi has finally agreed to actually let the house debate and vote on single-payer plan, it seems even more reasonable that the discussion of Single-Payer at Town Hall meetings should be heard, or at least reported. Despite the tea-partyish, anti-tax radicals' complaints, it does seem that people other than vetted plants are able to speak at these events (unlike the Bush meetings where people were kept out/expelled for wearing t-shirts or having a bumper-sticker on their car) but it's a shame that a bunch of wing-nuts are dominating the media coverage. The Republicans and Democrats are both confusing the issue. On the hand, Republicans are arguing that the Obama health plan is a "trojan horse" for single-payer, which, according to most opinion polls, is actually what most people want. On the other hand, Democrats argue that single-payer is politically impossible because of American public opinion, while simultaneously arguing that the "angry mobs" currently disrupting health-care town-halls are a bunch of corporate interests in disguise. The sad fact is that the health-care corporations are likely to win either way. IF ONLY "Obamacare" were the Trojan Horse that the Republicans fear.Once again, Democrats are in a bind because their corporate ties leave them incapable of defending themselves against right-wing "populists" or supporting the truly populist movement for meaningful U.S. health care reform. *** For those who are uninformed, "single payer" means replacing private insurance companies with national insurance that would cover everyone. It is not the same thing as "socialized medicine" because doctors and hospitals are still private businesses, not publicly owned in this model. It is what they have in Canada and France. "Socialized medicine," where doctors are paid by the state is what they sort of have in England. (privatization has been slowly destroying the NHS)** Just added: Paul Krugman's column has a good analysis of both the mobs and the anti-mob commentary here.[...]

Hollyhocks - Planted Two Years Ago and Worth the Wait


best street art project this year!


If only you could smell it


The gardenia has burst into bloom this week.

Fanciful Plant


I think of this flower as a "Dr. Seuss Plant." Does anyone know what it's really called?