Wednesday, March 31, 2010


This week's topic: Women's History.

Please see below a potential example of "herstory".

Equal rights: A victim of pen fail.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


If Meta-Wednesday has taught us anything, it is that things need definitions, that those definitions are fluid, and that definitions will likely be the end of us. To try and prevent this, I have turned to one of the supreme authorities around to try to find a suitable definition of history. So begins the Epic Battle of Urban Dictionary Versus Sonic.

Let the games begin!

1) The tale of how many different nations, from all across the world, gained their independence from Great Britain.

Sonic Says: Close. No cigar.

2) A helpful course, usually taught in school, where students learn that Hitler was bad and jackshit else.

Sonic Says: Partial credit for being partially true.

3) Events that occured in the past.

Sonic Says: OR DID THEY??? See number 4.

4) What repeats itself over and over and over again.

Sonic Says: OH REALLY? See number 5.

5) Postmodernists say we don't really know what happened in the past, therefore we can't know if a) it really occurred in the past or b) if it is repeating itself over and over.

Sonic Says: This is why we can't wait for post-postmodernism. And post-post-postmodernism.

6) A pretty decent class where you can learn about anything ranging from the Egyptians to the Rennaissance to World War II, and much more.

Sonic Says: The "much more" really saved this one from the intellectual latrine.

7) Something the British created.

Sonic Says: What's with the freaking British???

8) A tale made up to explain to the wife why you came home drunk.

Sonic Says: No.

9) The way the dead torture the living.

Sonic Says: Yes.

10) [a list with examples!]
1 everything that happened in the past, more specially since humans learned to write.
2 everything that got written down and was accepted as "the history" by some elite or another.
3 the field of study of 1 and 2. Discusses all kinds of explanations of what happened.
4 a school subject devoted almost exclusively to 2.
1 Johnny Cash is history.
2 The history of the colonization of America has little to do with what actually happened.
3 An interesting question in history is whether guns, diseases or beliefs were more important factors in eliminating the Native Americans.
4 History is quite boring, especially if it's about your own country.

Sonic Says: This was looking good until the examples. Show me the historian that thinks beliefs 'eliminated' the Native Americans. Also, if the author things that question 3 is interesting, I really hope that they are not from America, as opposed to believing that Native American history is not, in fact, American history. Please also note Johnny Cash's appearance as an example of history.

11) What most people have a toally distorted view of due to being brainwashed by the government and indoctrinated in the government ran public school system.

Sonic Says: Caused by the British, no doubt.

12) A series of lies agreed upon by people who call them selves "historians".

Sonic Says: Oh dear.

Monday, March 22, 2010

To Preserve or Not to Preserve?

Historians like to ask this question, I think, because the answer is what distinguishes historians from antiquarians. People might describe the difference in many ways, but historians usually demand an objective compelling reason for preserving something, save for the few on the fringe (like me) who say, "save it all now and let someone else figure out the reasons why later".

And believe me, someone will be trying to figure out why a bobblehead of Justice Scalia is hanging out with medieval tomes on law.

Justice Scalia-head isn't alone in the Yale rare book room. Let's go to the closeup on Rehnquist-head.

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

It is pretty adorable, yes. But what are these things? Why are they being stocked in Yale's rare book room? What are future historians and lawyers going to do with these?

To deal with the future implications of these Supreme Court dollies' inclusion in the rare book room, I've solicited the opinion of a Brave Historical Preservation Grad Student Correspondent. She gave a few suggestions of questions preservationists will surely ask upon discovering these little gems decades down the line. I attempted to answer them.

-My first reaction would be that I didn't know bobblehead dolls were an old enough art form to be historical. [Mine, too.]
-Then I would want to know what material they are made of, or what they are likely to be made of. [Looks like plastic, putting them in the Barbie section of the archives.]
- Are there any labels or notes with the items? [They all come with a book and a copy of the Constitution, but those are also plastic, and thus unreadable.]
- Does the box smell funky? This would indicate potential mold issues. [insert Clarence Thomas joke here]
- What kind of environment are they being repackaged in? If there are no mold problems then just an archival box would be fine. [So many justices, so little room in the box! Clearly there need to be two boxes, because the strict constructionists don't get along with the judicial activists.

The good news is, there's a dissertation in here somewhere for whoever wants to bridge legal and art history. The bad news is, now I kind of want a set of these. If they were widely available, I'll bet they'd sell better than the Hillary Clinton nutcracker.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break's Last Hurrah

Time to reflect on all the times you've felt like this:

(Really, we're all getting degrees in wine. Or at least certificates.)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Grad Student Fashion Crisis: The Recruitment Visit

I am on "spring break", but there's been such a hullabaloo over what to wear to these visit weekends that I figured I'd come out of hiding to give my two cents.

You need two types of outfits: the business casual, and the casual. The exception is if someone states that the event is either formal or totally casual. Business casual means button-down shirt or sweater, belt, nice pants and non-sneaker shoes for men, and slacks or skirt, nice shirt or sweater, and dressier shoes for women. Everyone I've ever seen at a recruitment weekend was wearing some combination of these items. The casual is in case they have a party or a dinner with students, or if you decide to go out with some prospective cohort members.

The ideal situation is to bring mix-and-match items. One visit I went on had the meetings with professors and the student party on the same day, so I just wore my sweater all day and put on jeans in the evening. You pick up on these sorts of things after the fifth visit. To save you from some trouble, I've compiled a short list of the biggies.

Some specific advice:

1) BRING A BACKUP: I once went on a visit where the weather was so humid, my linen pants re-wrinkled and, since I was staying in a dorm room, I had no way to iron them. So I wore my backup skirt instead. I have also seen people spill wine on their pants at the opening reception and then have to wear the winey pants the next day to the general meeting. You don't have to be that person.

2) LAYER: Schools in cold climates tend to be uncomfortably warm inside. You wouldn't think it, but schools in warm climates are also freakishly warm inside, because everyone there still thinks it is freezing. Bring a cardigan, sport coat, pashmina, whatever you've got so you aren't shivering through the meet and greet, and for goodness sake don't wear a huge sweater with nothing underneath.

3) BRING SENSIBLE SHOES: Planned or unplanned, there is always a campus tour, so this isn't the weekend to break out the new, unworn shoes or the stilettos. Also, whenever things run late you'll be expected to book it to the next event. Nursing a blister is not an option. I once ran full-speed through a building to arrive on-time to a meeting with a Big Wig, and I was never so appreciative of ballet flats.

4) DON'T GUESS: If you're still unconvinced, don't be afraid to ask the graduate coordinator. They have answered far stranger questions than "What is the dress code?".

Friday, March 12, 2010

Cohort Corner

A member of my cohort wishes to share this. Fortunately it works if your break begins this weekend, or ends this weekend.

It is either seventy, or however many midterms you have to grade -- whichever is higher.

Happy Break!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Here's a little something on historical approach, courtesy of The Onion.

Civil War Historians Posit 'You Had To Be There' Theory

October 23, 2002 | Issue 38•39

ATLANTA—After years of conflicting approaches to interpreting the Civil War, a coalition of historians on Tuesday posited the non-specific theory that "you had to be there" to fully understand the complexities of the war. "It's not just a matter of 'Were the Southern forces as confident and dedicated as their Northern counterparts?' or 'Was Gettysburg the turning point?'" said conference chairman Shelby Foote. "The whole gist of the war is just hard to really get unless, you know, you were there and saw it happen." The coalition also advanced a theory that the Great Migration, wherein one million African-Americans moved to northern cities between 1915 and 1920, was "a black thing."

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grad Students in the Mist

Med student correspondent Laura provides "the Mid-Term Self-Portrait".

Midterm apes, hang in there. Just because you are locked in an unnatural habitat (the library), forgetting how to really use tools (like Word 2007), and feeling like you're on the brink of extinction, doesn't mean it is impossible to come out on the other side of this. Devolution takes longer than mid-term. Just back away from the nuts and berries.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mid-term Check In

Which are you currently experiencing?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This One's For Fall 2010 Applicants

I'm linking a little blast from my past as a show of solidarity. Good luck to all of you, and may you all be Accepted Tangs soon! Also, get off the GradCafe Results page for at least one hour a day, from now until Ding-Dong Day.

A Tang Thang

Tang it out!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Let The Students Out?

I'm a little concerned about this: The Case Against College Education

First, let me explain. I don't think college is appropriate for everyone. I also don't think a college degree should be required for every job; why a local ice cream shoppe is screening for college degrees, I do not know. I also fully support technical and vocational training, both as an alternative to and in addition to so-called "traditional" college.

Still, I have to question the author's choice of approach. Not only does he challenge the notion that people don't need four expensive years of college to be well-rounded (likely true, at least in theory), he claims that socially-mandated college is "tell[ing] millions of kids that their future depends on performing a task that only a minority of them can actually accomplish". Not that the kids shouldn't have to go, or don't want to go, but that they actually are unable to obtain a college degree.

Why, exactly, can "only a minority" obtain a degree? Do they lack the critical reading and writing skills to do well? If so, they certainly won't fare well in many professions, including the author's suggestion of journalism. Do they lack the direction and drive necessary for college? That could also be a serious impediment to success in "the real world".

I don't know about you all, but I had some bad teachers. I had a few bad professors too, but none of them were as educationally devastating as bad teachers. (The one coming to mind actually refused to learn our names, and instead addressed us by assigned number. She also had a penchant for ripping up homework assignments and then marking them incomplete. Talk about a wasted year.) I also had some amazing teachers, but they were bound by a lot of school district bunk. It basically meant that instead of learning to write effectively, we had to wait around until we'd learned everything that was going to be on the Prairie State Achievement Exam. Another wasted year, though less filled with fear. But when I graduated, I knew a lot about similes, metaphors, and quadratic equations and not a lot about artful communication, practical skills, or how to formulate and achieve long-term goals.

A lot of my best education, inside and out of the curriculum, came in college. I left college feeling like I had options. No matter if I decided to be a doctor or a puppeteer, I hadn't gone wrong. If I'd had to make my career choice when I was 17, I think I'd be in real deep doo-doo right now.

Fortunately for me and the future students I need to fill up my classes so I remain employed, some people aren't accepting this author's take on kids' inability to finish college, and are actually trying to do something about dismal graduation rates. I like to call it the Academic Bailout. The article makes it sound like they're throwing money at the problem, but at least they're looking for underlying reasons for why people aren't finishing their degrees. I'd always rather have answers than assertions.


Here's your midweek justice.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Happy Monday!

This is my mantra this week.