"So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information." --George Orwell
"Anbody can make history. Only a great man can write it."--Oscar Wilde
Wednesday, February 11, 2004
On second thought, I've decided that I'll do essentially all of my blogging at Gnostical Turpitude for the foreseeable future. I can imagine updating this site with more personal entries from time to time; I may revive it when I spend a year in Russia, writing travel log entries describing my experiences in Moscow and the provinces. I've decided, however, that I prefer blogging at GT (with Movable Type) than blogging here. The format works much better and more smoothly, and I prefer writing short essay-style entries (which is easier outside of blogger). I've also found that I'm less likely to kill time looking for links when I only post an entry filled with links every day or two. (My usual modus operandi here was to sit at a computer, with some work to do, doing the work and occasionally browsing the web for interesting sites; I've been more effective at compartmentalizing my time since the switch to Gnostical Turpitude, since before the move I'd occasionally get stuck in a rut of looking for good links and not finding them.)
My plan at Gnostical Turpitude is to write an essay-style entry or two a day, with another entry (consisting of a set of links with very little commentary) every couple days. So if you come to my blog to look for links, that will continue. Should you not like my current plan, feel free to email me and say so--I don't think I'll change my mind, but I'll be interested in hearing.
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published a useful run-down of the debate over a review board for government-funded area studies centers.
Monday, February 02, 2004
And now, at long last, the unveiling of the mysterious "project" I've mentioned: I've joined a new group blog of University of Chicago students called Gnostical Turpitude. The blog will focus on academia and things academic; its three co-bloggers are a high-energy physicist, a cancer biologist, and a Soviet history specialist (me). Most of my entries, not surprisingly, will deal with things like history, historiography, academia, books, and politics. Check it out!
I'm currently debating exactly how I'll be blogging in the future. One likely possibility is that I'll continue to maintain this site (with short entries providing links and commentary), with longer, essay-style entries at Gnostical Turpitude. It's also possible that I'll retire this site. Who knows? For the next couple weeks, I expect that I'll focus more on Gnostical Turpitude (in part to ensure that it gets off to a smooth start, and in part because it may take less time to work on the other blog while I'm finishing my dissertation proposal.) Do continue to visit this site, however: I'll definitely continue updating this site (though perhaps to a lesser extent.)
In case you're curious about the name of the new blog, we decided to pick a name from Nabokov. A friend of ours suggested that "Fire of My Loins" would be a good Nabokovian name, but somehow I couldn't convince Susan and Matt to agree with this suggestion!
How good is DNA evidence?
The Guardian discusses the "hypnotic" way that Charles Dickens performed at public readings--and asks whether these performances shortened his life. (via ArtsJournal)
Sunday, February 01, 2004
An interesting Chicago Tribune article discusses a controversy here at the University of Chicago that I wasn't aware of: the university's Muslim students consider the swimming pool at the new athletic center unusable, since it's visible from outside (and therefore violates the Muslim religious tenet of modesty.)
A. O. Scott has written a fun retrospective on the history of New Testament cinema, beginning with Mel Gibson's Passion and going backwards in time.
The Economist discusses the only bookshop in the southern Sudan--and the circumstances under which an obscure Victorian comic novel became a bestseller there. (via ArtsJournal)
Sorry for the brevity of today's posts. As I mentioned earlier, blogging will be light until early this week, when another project of mine gets under way. (More details coming soon...) And then, of course, there's the pesky matter of my dissertation proposal!
How hard is it to fake your way into a mental institution? The Guardian reports. (Via Crooked Timber)
Sir Walter Raleigh was an interesting guy.
Rick Perlstein reviews Alonzo Hamby's new book on FDR.
The New York Times looks at the economics of the Superbowl. The Boston Globe looks at the statistics of the big game.
Also in The New York Times, Jeffrey Rosen looks at social bonding between presidents and Supreme Court justices.
Russell Baker looks at the career of Warren Harding in this New York Review essay on John Dean's new harding biography. (It's a decent overview of Harding's life and career, though I'd have liked more on the biography itself.)
From The Guardian:
Michael Dirda discusses Sheridan Le Fanu's classic 1864 "romance of terror," Uncle Silas.
Massachusetts: the Stigma State?
Something I didn't know: the sociologist Robert Merton was responsible for the terms "self-fulfilling prophect," "role model," and "focus group." Now his book The Travels and Adventures of Serendipity is being published posthumously. (He's also the author of a really charming book called On The Shoulders of Giants, which is only noted in passing in the Boston Globe ideas article I've linked to.)
Also in the ideas section: this book on pseudonyms sounds cool.
Friday, January 30, 2004
Can we learn more about the bird flu by digging up a 1918 flu victim?
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Slate discusses how the chicken sandwich came to Kyrgyzstan.
The Washington Post has published an appreciation of Eddie Clontz:
For those of you too lazy to read the article, Clontz was the editor of The Weekly World News. In this appreciation, Gene Weingarten tells a great story:
May he rest in peace!
A bunch of famous writers came to this year's Davos economics forum:
Does anyone really care what happens at Davos? Why did the writers bother going, anyway, given that they weren't paid? Why is The New York Times even reporting on this? Aren't there more important things going on in the world.
I did, however, enjoy this paragraph:
Theroux also said that "Writers don't get out a lot. This is a total novelty, spending whole days talking with other people" and pointed out that Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain was set at Davos. I didn't know that.
Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Eddie Clontz, who deserved to be one of the most legendary journalists of the twentieth century, has died at 56.
Common-Place, an online magazine on early American history, describes the case of the Springfield somnambulist (as well as mesmerism and "the end of the Enlightenment in America") and looks at the provincial cartography of James Wilson (who was probably the brother of an ancestor of mine.) Fun stuff!
Posting will be lighter than usual for the next week or so. I need to finish a partial draft of my dissertation proposal, and I have another project that will divert some of my energy from this blog.
The Melbourne Age discusses long books and pithy sayings.
Two political analysts from Boston, Dan Kennedy and Jon Keller, are debating the Kerry candidacy at The New Republic Online. Kennedy's a very good writer, and I enjoyed this comment he made about Kerry's inconsistent tone:
A lot of people respect John Kerry (including me), but most people have trouble warming up to him or really liking him. (Again, this includes me.) Part of me thinks that this is connected to something admirable--there's something, well, grown-up about a candidate who refuses to play along with the idea that the president should be the candidate we'd all be chummiest with. Then again, Kerry sometimes tries to be likeable and fails--and there's a fine line between a grown-up attitude that you don't need to be the most warm-and-fuzzy candidate in the field and an arrogant attitude that you're above the normal tasks associated with running for president.
Kerry's biggest weakness, I think, is a failure to articulate an overall vision for the future. He strikes me as an excellent example of a candidate whose successes are due to his resume--he doesn't win points for charisma or for vision, but his views are in line with most primary voters and his resume makes him seem like he'd be a capable (and imaginable) president. This is why analyses of Kerry's win that focus on his "electability" seem simplistic and unconvincing. There's a reason that people think he's more electable than the other candidates: he's more experienced than Edwards, more reliable (and sensible) than Clark, and more presidential than Dean. (The last point, I'll admit, isn't very specific. Dean looks more like a political activist or a union organizer than like an executive office-holder; Dean was a successful governor and is a skillful politician, but it's hard to emphasize those strengths--which are crucial to a would-be president--without changing his image and risking the loss of his base support.) People can imagine Kerry as president more easily than they can imagine any of his rivals in the White House, given his experience, his competence, and his record, but it will be harder for him to make the case to swing voters in November than to undecided Democrats in the primaries.
I'm glad that Kerry won, and disappointed that Edwards didn't do better. My hope is that, in the days ahead, Kerry will succeed in articulating a more compelling overall justification for his candidacy--and that Edwards, instead of merely telling voters that his campaign is optimistic and positive, will focus on the more substantive parts of his message. I worry that it's too late for a campaign that will force both these candidates to improve their message, but there's always hope, I guess!
Today's New York Times also discusses the wonderful world of poor spelling on ebay. It's a charming article:
As someone who likes to think that his spelling is good (but who's undoubtedly provided plenty of evidence to the contrary on this blog), I love to see that good spelling can be profitable and that people too lazy to check their spelling can lose out!
The Russian government is trying to convince thousands of people to leave Siberia, including the descendants of people forced to move there in the 1930s. Plenty of Siberians, however, aren't very enthusiastic about the government's plans.
The Guardian searches for the story behind a photo found in Holocaust archives and museums all over the world.
Did bombers from Britain's Royal Air Force ignore Auschwitz and other concentration camps? That's what Bild, Germany's best-selling tabloid, is alleging now that British reconaissance photos are being made available for the first time. (via HNN)