Sunday, March 30, 2008

my new discovery

Just a quick note on how fabulous YouTube is: some of the talks, sessions, and this keynote address (by President Nell Irvine Painter) at last week's OAH are on the Tube. (For my pocketbook, this is the next best thing to being there.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


In my museum days, I got to work with lots of cool, old stuff. Like Pacific Northwest baskets:
I developed an appreciation for this art - plant fibers, natural dyes, and an impressive amount of skill, memorization, and practice to pull one off. Some were paper thin. Others were woven so tight, they could hold water!

Over the past week (or more) as I've been tapping away at my computer, I've been thinking about weaving - stories rather than baskets. But the analogy is spot on. Actually, I've been agonizing about stories, their meanings, their narration, and how to weave them together. This dissertation-writing thing is a daunting process. (I have a better understanding of why so many people stop at this point.) Nevertheless, I'm still very happy with my topic; in fact, it gets better the more I work on it. Sometimes I marvel that I have stumbled upon such fascinating (and poignant) stories. This quickly leads me to feeling completely unequal to the task of writing them. I often wonder if these events, these people, and their stories are too important to be left in my inexperienced hands. Such thoughts dissipate with the arrival of my tuition bill, and I return to the complicated process of weaving. I would say that what I have created (up to now) has the shape and substance that this type of weaving project should. The shape is recognizable; the weave is BIG, as are some of the gaps. My weaving is coming together even if it can't yet hold water and even if it doesn't yet have any attractive patters like these*:

Unlike the Quinault (woman) who wove this basket from the bottom up, I can go back and rework any section I want. This is a consoling reminder as I struggle through the delights and disappointments of weaving.

*(I can't help but point out that, if you look at the top picture, you'll see that the pattern on the outside is invisible inside the basket!)

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I may be suffering from over-fatigue, but I'm inclined to think that my inability to wrap my mind around recent developments is not a problem on my part. I'm having trouble understanding:
  • why a NY governor, with aspirations to be US attn gen., would spend $80,000 to purchase sex and think that this would have no bearing on his political career. And, then, why he would come out and say "I'm really bummed I got caught" and "I really wish that I hadn't gotten caught; getting caught messes up all my grand plans." (At least, that's all I heard.)
  • why the Wife of the cowed and disgraced stands silently "by his side" during the I-wish-I-hadn't-gotten-caught speech. This must be performative, but I just can't understand the larger value. (We should organize a press conference just for her.)
  • why a presidential candidate (who presents herself as the "anti-Republican") goes along with the fantasy of "reverse racism" and allows her supporter to present an opponent as a token candidate. (Under this logic aren't she and her supporter also merely tokens?)
  • why the same candidate would label as "fair" a primary election where her opponent did not appear on the ballot. Such an assessment diminishes the credibility of said candidate as an international leader who will purportedly "protect" democratic rights (until, apparently, the abrogation of such rights works in her political favor. Huh?)
  • why this same presidential candidate has decided to squander all the good will I harbored for her through the two preceding developments (something that has tipped my scales from "slightly-more support" for the opponent to "full and unwavering").
  • why reporters insist on pecking at the same candidate's qualifications in foreign policy. My favorite are the questions about peace in Northern Ireland which go something like this: "Let me get this right: you were part of the peace process as a Wife?" "Wives of presidents don't really have any political viability - especially in the important work of international peace. [and then to make it a question:] Isn't that diplomats' [men's] work?" "You really didn't matter in the peace talks because you were a women-, I mean, a Wife, did you?" And if they really pushy, they ask "you're just a Wife, who the hell do you think you are?"
The fact that I'm mulling these things over is definitely a sign of fatigue and the mind-wandering that comes with it.

So here's something that I do understand. I've had enough of the music I listen to over and over while I work. I need some new tunes. I listen to music without words or with words that I cannot understand (this helps stave off the mind-wandering). For example, I've been listening to movie soundtracks, classical, 'new age,' Brazilian, and Cuban. They're wonderful but they're also getting tired out and I need to add something new to the mix. So, what have you got for me?*

*(I'm willing to take samples over e-mail.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

on academica & mendicancy

"Please, sir, my I have some funding?"

That 'bout sums it up.

Best of luck to my fellow mendicants.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

law of belligerent occupation

In general, I avoid gut-wrenching posts. But this document I ran across begged me to be released from its binding and set out into the world (again). I offer it to Mukasey for (further) consideration and to you as evidence of a dishearteningly long trend in U.S. history. (In fairness, I should note that descriptions like this soured Americans on war in Southeast Asia - a least for a few decades.)

What follows is a description of the "water cure" for Philippine independence (a "malady" that had produced a Philippine Constitution and a Republic that lived for two short years):

“the water cure is plain hell. The native is thrown upon the ground, and, while his legs and arms are pinioned, his head is raised partially so as to make pouring in the water an easier matter. An attempt to keep the mouth closed is of no avail; a bamboo stick or a pinching of the nose will produce the desired effect. And now the water is poured in, and swallow the poor wretch must or strangle. A gallon of water is much, but it is followed by a second and a third. By this time the victim is certain his body is about to burst. But he is mistaken, for a fourth or even a fifth gallon are poured in. By this time the body becomes an object frightful to contemplate: and the pain agony.[*] While in this condition, speech is impossible; and so the water must be squeezed out of him. This is sometimes allowed to occur naturally but is sometimes hastened by pressure, and ‘sometimes we jump on them to get it out quick,’ said a young solider to me with a smile…. Does it seem possible that cruelty could further go? And what must we think of the fortitude of the native when we learn that many times the ‘cure’ is twice given ere the native yields? I heard of one who took it three times, and died.”
*generally the stomachs of victims became grossly distended by these gallons of water.

From Recto, The Law of Belligerent Occupation (1946), 344-5.