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I'm sorry I'm too busy to give this historic anniversary the long and loving treatment it deserves, but:

It isn't often that the world changes, in a way that's so big and dramatic and unmistakable that everybody in the world sits up and takes notice, that everybody everywhere is conscious they are experiencing History with a big History Channel capital-H. The world itself seems smaller at these moments, as we sense our connection to each other and to history and to all time. And when one of those real, history-pivoting moments happens, 9 times out of 10 the event is something bad--an assassination or a disaster or a sneak attack. How many times in an average life does the whole world change for the better, overnight? Those moments are worth remembering.

I met Lisa ([livejournal.com profile] papersource) ten years ago today. Happy anniversary, baby.

What did you think I was talking about?

(Further reading.)
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Last night in my Media History seminar, I started to make a rhetorical point about how we (think we) know who invented the telegraph, the telephone, and so on, but nobody can really name the inventor of television. The point of the story was going to be that the invention of all those devices is much murkier than we believe, that the lone inventor is often a fiction of patent law and corporate PR. But as soon as I said, “But nobody can really name the inventor of television,” the class shouted in unison: “Philo!”

Read the rest of this entry »

[Cross-posted from Old is the New New. Comments welcome.]
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Early this morning, a pack of clean-cut kids swarmed through our neighborhood and put up big American flags in front of every house on the street. I guess it's a Labor Day thing? I've got no problem with the flag but you don't need a PhD in U.S. history to know that the relationship between the U.S. flag and the international labor movement has had its ups and downs.

What's the collective noun for these roving bands of clean-cut youngsters, anyway? An emigration of Mormons? Whatever you call them, they're a regular feature of our new neighborhood. It actually reminds me of my childhood a little: kids playing up and down the street from dawn to dusk, knocking on the door after dinner to ask if the Ukelele can come out to play. We have lots of kids in our neighborhood at home, but you book your playdates three weeks in advance, and nobody goes nowhere without a car seat, helmet, and three chaperones. Don't these Utah kids know the wild spaces of childhood have been paved over, we're all paranoid helicopter parents now? Maybe they don't read the New York Review of Books. Or maybe it's just that they have such a surplus here, it's not so crucial to look after them.

More Hilarious Observational Comedy, Utah Style )
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I think the Ukelele is adjusting to our move pretty well. I hope she is. We've thrown a lot at her this summer. First, of course, the arrival of her brother, ejecting her from the absolute center of our solar system into some kind of shared binary star formation (which, unless Star Trek has lied to me, are always at risk of collapsing or flying apart). Then the move to Utah, and with it a new house, new neighborhood, new preschool, new routines.

Her brother* is adjusting just fine. I know I haven't posted much at all about him yet. I will--love, after all, warrants yadda yadda--but as long as he remains a jovial bundle of smiles, chins, and drool, the imperious diva that is his sister is inevitably going to commandeer more than her share of our psychic resources. I'm sorry, little buddy: you seem to have inherited my big ears, my placid temperament, and my propensity to sit in a bouncy chair and be overlooked for hours.

Damn the Norwegians! )
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"This is the place," said Brigham Young, feverish and pockmarked by a painful arachnid-borne infestation known as the black measles, as his emigrating Mormons passed out of the Wasatch Mountains and caught their first glimpse of the Salt Lake Valley below. Which is to say, we're here, and Our Excellent Utah Adventure has begun.
 
I want to say something about the drive (spectacular and rejuvenating, must be all the lunar-ka soaked up along Eisenhower's ley lines, plus it's a mighty pretty country you've got here) and the summer that preceded it (which obliged the rejuvenation) and about Salt Lake City and Utah and our careful prep course of sensitive cultural immersion (Dogs in the Vineyard, Under the Banner of Heaven, and one season of Big Love), and the job and the house and all that, but if I wait to write it all up properly and in order, before I turn around it will be December and it will never get done.
 
So remembering Charles Fort's dictum about measuring a circle, I'll begin anywhere, with my first day at work, and the first two conversations I had with the department chair. I know these were both obligatory legal formalities but the juxtaposition did paint a picture: The first was about accommodating students who find their assigned readings offensive on religious or cultural grounds. Because you know there's loads of raunchy stuff in my history of communication syllabus.* The second was about students who bring concealed firearms to class. Because apparently they can.
 
Filed under "not in Canada anymore, or Massachusetts, for that matter."

*I guess the first reading does feature prostitutes and venereal disease.

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