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Sorry about the multiple copies of that last blog entry: I don't know why the plug-in does that sometimes.

Sorry about almost no posting of any other kind: if only I could blame that on the plug-in!
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Tags: “I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”

He's the Jedi, I'm the Wookiee.

Today, or this week at least, Star Wars turns 30: it’s the anniversary of the opening of the movie we’ve been retroactively instructed to call Episode IV: A New Hope. Word has gone out on the global sub-neural geek-net that we are to blog about Star Wars today. Indeed, The Constructivist cajoled me for a guest post on the subject at Mostly Harmless. While T.C.’s a fine fellow who somehow manages to maintain half a dozen worthwhile blogs, I’m not feeling the Lucas today. For one thing, this week is also the 2nd anniversary of Revenge of the Sith, the 5th anniversary of Attack of the Clones, and the 8th anniversary of The Phantom Menace, considerably more dubious occasions. And for another, isn’t every day kind of “blog about Star Wars” day?

But I’m not above recycling some old SW-content from my archives. There is, of course, the classic Alec Guinness story, from which the tag at the top of this entry comes:

The bad penny dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. … Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode. [read more]

And, in a similar vein, Matthew Baldwin’s Darth Vader Made Me Cry:

As we walked away I was filled with combination of terror, relief, and exhilaration. … I immediately began to proactively gloat, thinking about how jealous my friends would be when I showed them Darth Vader’s autograph. But then, just before I closed the cover, I noticed something else… [read more] [expanded special edition]

And my buddy Chris has made great pseudo-historical stew out of the Steampunk Star Wars meme:

When the French Revolution began in 1789, the Jedi were slow to respond. … While the Order bickered and debated how to respond, Napoleon Bonaparte quickly rose to power by manipulating a dispute with the British over a trade embargo on the French colony of Naboo on Ganymede. When he unveilled his “Armée grande de la République,” which was composed of soldiers made from re-animated corpses, there was great concern within the Jedi Council over the properness of backing such a method. But unbeknownst to the rest of the Council, the Grand Master of the Jedi Order was squarely in Napoleon’s pocket and he compelled the Order to support the Solar Republic in their gruesome war against the British Empire and their Automaton armies.

I still think it ought to have been (p)remade as a singing cowboy serial with Gene Autry.

Edit: That’s no moon! Check out the giant collection of links at Edward Copeland’s fully operational Star Wars blog-a-thon. Also, the T-Critic (yes, I read blogs about t-shirts, doesn’t everybody?) lists his Top Ten Star Wars T-shirts (and then some).

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: I picked up a box, I lifted some rocks, while I stood on my head…

As a historian, I have a complicated relationship with the History Channel. As a Gen-Xer, I have a complicated relationship with Star Wars. But after a lifetime of doodling Tie Fighters and Death Stars on notepaper how can I not respond to these ads for the History Channel’s special, Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed?

Yoda as Buddha

Now, where’s the one that shows the evolution from Stepin Fetchit to Jar Jar Binks?

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.

Top Gear

May. 15th, 2007 08:57 am
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The History News Network, purveyor of quality online history and history-related accessories, has a bi-weekly feature called Top Young Historians, which profiles “interesting scholars who are making their mark on the profession.” I cannot tell a lie: years ago, in my own callow youth, I sometimes raised an eyebrow at HNN’s definition of “young.” Today, however, it is their definition of “top” that seems all too generous: they’ve picked me as their latest “top” “young” historian. Thank you, HNN. I’m pleased, flattered, and not at all sure I belong in such company.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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I see I’m getting some traffic from people Googling the history of Mothers’ Day, so here’s a link to the post I wrote last year about Anna Jarvis and the tragic story of the Mothers’ Day apostrophe: (Cliopatria readers, note the amusing exchange between Ralph Luker and my Mom, in comments.)

Jarvis and Howe organized Mothers’ Days, in the plural, as vehicles for organized social and political activity by mothers, not the private celebration of a mother’s services within the home. In the migration of the apostrophe one letter to the left–from Mothers’ Day to Mother’s Day–Coontz sees a declension both grammatical and political. After Anna Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter, also named Anna Jarvis, began lobbying for a special day for mothers. The idea caught on, but not in the way Jarvis had hoped… [read more]

Word seems to be getting out. My wife, daughter, and I just got back from the park, where we saw a Mothers’ Day rally for peace. A quartet of slightly dotty-looking ladies were leading the crowd in a little ditty to the tune of “Frère Jacques”:

What has happened, what has happened
To Mothers’ Day, to Mothers’ Day?
It used to be a protest, it used to be a protest
Change it back, change it back

“We Shall Overcome” it ain’t, but I went to college in the 1990s, so I’m just happy to hear any protest “song” that is more than another variation on, “Hey hey, ho ho, [eight syllable thing we’re opposed to] has got to go.”

Happy Mothers’ Day.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
robotnik2004: (The Professor)

Tags: IM IN UR COLONY GOIN 2 CR0T04N, the Midge of colonial U.S. history, Great Dismal Glister Societies, Lord Fernando Strange.

Cliopatria is hosting a symposium tomorrow on the 400th Anniversary of Jamestown, and the question “Why has the American national narrative characteristically taken New England / Puritans rather than Jamestown / Virginia / Anglicans as its foundation touchstone?” I’ll link to the symposium after it’s up, and this post should be there, bringing down the general level of discussion. But as I may not be around the internets tomorrow I’m jumping the gun and giving you my entry now. [Edit: The symposium is now up. I’m afraid my entry is at the top, but it’s well worth scrolling on down to see the contributions of my colleagues–who actually address the question asked.]

Can you hear the drums, Lord Fernando?

Plymouth or Jamestown! They’re the Betty and Veronica of colonial U.S. history: where does America’s “national narrative” begin? Frankly, I’m not sure we have to choose. If the Pilgrims and Puritans were a pious clutch of religious zealots, Jamestown was a kind of get-rich-slow scheme, a dot-com start-up where half the techies starved before hitting on the colony’s (cough cough) killer app. Surely American history displays a family resemblance to both forebears?

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: Days of Future Past, ketchup reigns supreme, bonk!

Pie chart showing percentage of pie chart that resembles Pac-Man.

A few odds and ends related to my recent “History and Appliances” posts:

  1. Don’t overlook Matt Norwood’s astute comments.
  2. I got some traffic over the weekend from a nice link to this discussion in Angela Gunn’s Tech_Space blog for USA Today. Thanks, Angela. Which was swell of her, considering my Days of Future Past-esque reverie took a cheap shot at that beloved McNewspaper. Tech_Space looks pretty good, I must admit. There are a lot of neat links there and not one goofy graph or pie chart of the “ketchup reigns supreme“/ “what we do with our cereal milk” variety.
  3. Bonk! Turns out everything I said in those two posts that wasn’t taken from Digital History Hacks, I said more concisely three and a half years ago.
  4. The latest History Carnival is up at Jeremy Bogg’s ClioWeb.
Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: The best disinfectant, Kremlinology, Sour Grapes 2.0, ignoring Ralph’s pleas.

Hello, world. I’m still in the thick of grading, and so I’ve been studiously ignoring Ralph’s pleas to post to a certain “group blog,” on which I am ostensibly a “contributor.” Even more studiously than usual, I mean.

But this just came across the transom, and it seems like the sort of thing that everybody is about to know about very soon (where “everybody” means “that weird and tiny subset of people who knows and cares about the academic job market”) . Or maybe those of you on the job market know about it already, but it was news to me: the Academic Careers Wiki. Who is interviewing, who is hiring, who has sent out rejection letters, who got rejected by their candidates, and who got the job you didn’t get. This is not H-Net. This is not where you go to find out what jobs you ought to apply for. It is where you go after you’ve applied, in order to vent, fret, dig up dirt, preen, spill beans, share gossip, and find out why oh why they didn’t choose you.

This strikes me as possibly frightening to some and addictive to others. You might have to dig around the wiki a bit to get a feel for why. Here’s the list of current U.S. History searches. Scroll down to the University of Chicago’s 19th Century search to see how much detail some of these entries go into. Here’s a page linking to all the current History searches. All in the fluid, caveat lector, “nobody’s in charge here” state that is essential to the Wiki format.

What happens when you harness the collective gossip power / angst / desperation of thousands of job-hungry PhDs? When you take the kind of post-rejection Kremlinology and sour grapes that we all engage(d) in during our job hunts and wiki-fy it? It is, potentially, a lot more powerful than wistful First Person columns in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. There’s room for all sorts of hurt feelings here, not to mention breaches of confidentiality and professional conduct. But there’s also potential to shine some badly-needed light on a process often conducted in conditions of extreme ignorance and fear. “Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Louis Brandeis. Let the sun shine in.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Calvert 'Larry 'Bud' Melman' DeForest, RIP

I need to play with the template of this blog so I can elegantly post quick little one-line links to things that amuse me, a la the New New sidebar on the old Old is the New New. Then I can resume linking to things like these:

  • I have to admit I thought Twitter was a pretty stupid idea until I saw this, which almost makes living in the future worthwhile.
  • Edit: Taxipunk is the new Clockpunk is the new steampunk. (“You can now create new subgenres of speculative fiction by simply putting “punk” after anything… Taxipunk delves into the sociopolitical ramifications of taxicabs existing in places and times that, in actual history, did not benefit from taxicabs.)
  • Calvert “Larry “Bud” Melman” DeForest is dead, alas.
  • But did you ever think to ask why Fonzie jumped that shark?
  • Confidential to Planetary readers: a mathematician in Maryland appears to have mapped the Snowflake.

Oh, right: those papers I was grading.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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From the February 2007 issue of The Believer:

Vietnam War Movies in Which the Lieutenant Does Not Die:

  • Hamburger Hill, 1987 (Lt. loses one arm)
  • Forrest Gump, 1994 (Lt. loses both legs)

–Anonymous Lieutenant stationed in Iraq, sent via email

The war in Iraq enters its fifth year today.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Big Stack of Papers (not to scale)

It’s paper grading season! Forecast calls for lighter posting here and across the academic blogosphere with a 60% chance of griping. If you’re in the thick of it right now, feel free to plagiarize my own deathless wisdom on responding to student writing, posted last year.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
robotnik2004: (Default)

Jen Wang's Dance of the Flight Attendants

This has gotten around a bit, but it is cute and even a little mesmerizing: illustrator Jen Wang’s Pre-Flight Safety Dance. I can’t draw like Ms. Wang, but this makes me want to do one for the ritualized dance steps in my own life, like changing a diaper or gesticulating wildly to illuminate some aspect of American history. What other found choreography could we illustrate in this way?

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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One of several “forgotten” communication and entertainment media lovingly “restored” to working order (there’s even a bunch of movies) at the Museum of Lost Interactions in Dundee:

The Richaphone, ca 1900

The Richophone was a multi-player based game found in prestigious hotels and cafes in and around London in 1900. The game was played from special Richophone booths, where players connected to the game through a system of telephones. The prizes to be won were very generous.

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
robotnik2004: (Default)

Trick-or-treater in awesome robot costume, ca. 1971

Totally awesome kid trick-or-treating in totally awesome robox costume, ca. 1971. From Bill Owens, Suburbia. (Bill Owens’ site)

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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It’s not too late to check out the Cliopatria symposium discussing Sam Tanenhaus’ tribute to Arthur Schlesinger. [Edit: And Tanenhaus has just posted a thoughtful reply.] With Schlesinger’s death, Tanenhaus laments, “America lost its last great public historian.” “Why,” he asks, “do current historians seem unable to engage the world as confidently as Mr. Schlesinger did?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: Metadata, show your work, sausages being made.

The Annotated Gipper

One of the most common comments I get when people discover this weblog–after “How do you have the time to do this?” which is a tough question to answer, since patently, I don’t–is some variation on, “I don’t get it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Tags: Koschei the Deathless; Dudley Manlove; the Gipper; eat your heart out, Edmund Morris.

We talked about the Reagan years in one of my classes this week. That’s all the excuse I need, really, to recycle this post of mine from the week Reagan died (and I got my PhD): the Ronald Reagan alternate history film festival. (Oh, and speaking of deceased American icons: did you hear about Captain America?)

Ooga Booga!

The Ronald Reagan Alternate History Film Festival

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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Lincoln Vs. Robot HitlerShown here is a scene (via Chris Sims’ Invincible Super-Blog) from a fine historical adventure comic called Tales From the Bully Pulpit: Abe Lincoln wallops Robot Hitler as Teddy Roosevelt and the ghost of Thomas Edison look on.

But wait, you say! Yes, I know what you’re thinking: As Doris Kearns Goodwin’s uncredited research assistants have clearly undocumented, the ghost of Thomas Edison was not in fact present on this occasion. Which is why this slightly inaccurate picture is a perfect lead in to the 750th 13th Carnival of Bad History!

Read the rest of this entry »

Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.
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My whole life has led to acquiring this book:

Robots and Donuts: The Art of Eric Joyner

Originally posted at (the all new) Old is the New New. Leave a comment there and make me look popular.
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Jill Lepore, “The Sharpened Quill,” in the New Yorker last October:

Thomas Paine is, at best, a lesser Founder. In the comic-book version of history that serves as our national heritage, where the Founding Fathers are like the Hanna-Barbera Super Friends, Paine is Aquaman to Washington’s Superman and Jefferson’s Batman; we never find out how he got his superpowers, and he only shows up when they need someone who can swim.

Originally posted at (the all new) Old is the New New. Leave a comment there and make me look popular.

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