Thursday, June 29, 2006

Urban Absurdity: If it were this cold outside, we'd turn on the heat

For the past couple of weeks, I've been suffering from the weather..the weather inside the New York Public Library, which is probably somewhere in the fifties. Even a pretty thick hoodie isn't enough to keep me warm. After three hours of sitting and reading, my fingers and lips are faintly blue, and I have to leave. No matter how much anyone complains, there's nothing to be done.
So, when I saw this headline at Alternet, I was really happy. It provides this fascinating fact:
The electricity used annually to air-condition America's homes, stores, offices, factories, schools, churches, libraries, domed stadiums, hospitals, warehouses, prisons and other buildings (not including what's used to cool manufacturing processes and military facilities) exceeds the entire electricity consumption of the world's second and fourth most populous nations -- India and Indonesia -- combined.

Monday, June 26, 2006

"I Went Crazy at the End!" Or, A Kindred Spirit from Another Era

This morning I got an emailed link to Christopher Phelps' article on the "new" edition of the Jungle put out by See Sharp Press in 2003. This edition has been sold as the "unexpurgated," origial, uncensored version of the book. Phelps, who's been doing work on Upton Sinclair (which means reading some unbearably long-winded socialist potboilers), has definitively debunked this new publisher's rather sensational story of censorship.
In the process, he includes a quote from Sinclair to which I can - well - "relate" as the kids say.
After turning out hundreds of pages of fiction week after week in 1904 and 1905, Sinclair was exhausted. He disliked the end result, a work he considered long-winded and rambling. “I went crazy at the end,” he wrote in a personal letter in 1930 to a reader curious as to why many passages had been excised, “... and tried to put in everything I knew about the Socialist movement. I remember that Warren came to see me at my farm near Princeton, and I read him the concluding chapters, and he went to sleep. So I guess that is why I left them out of the book!"

I haven't turned out pages and pages of fiction (if only!), but certainly, pages and pages of history and commentary, particularly between 1998 and 2000, when I was writing my dissertation. I feel for Sinclair. To have one's "rough draft" published after all that painstaking work to revise it had been done would just hurt too much. Let's hope the socialists are right and that there is no after-life from which the authors can look down and pass judgement on their dear readers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

I B'lieve I'll go wid de ol man

That's what Shields Green said when he decided to go to Harper's Ferry. Today's website is about my first chapter's focus, Old John Brown. Mouldering in the grave, but his truth goes marching on. Better's the biggest treasure trove of John Brown related stuff you're likely to find: Boyd Stutler's collection.

If you want to know what kinds of ideas Brown and his friends had and don't have much time, you could do worse than redaing Frederick Douglas's The Heroic Slave.

The Summer Begins

This summer's garden is turning out to look pretty good and it's not yet turned into the chaos that it has become in previous years. I am most proud, so far, of the hollyhock, the first picture you see here. Apparently, it's a feature of the traditional English Garden. It has an unusual growing pattern. I planted it from seed last Spring and it grew into a smallish bush. This year its sprouts came up fast, then it shot up to six feet tall pretty quickly, and started blooming a few days ago. After that, the blooms will fall, and I think the plant won't return again. Gardening guides that I read on in the internet suggest that the ideal time to plant them is really in the Fall. I love the way it looks against the wall, and want to do another one next year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sit down at my virtual knee and I'll tell you a tale....

Today's historywebsite concerns William Parker and the Christiana Resistance, also known as the Christiana Riot. The story is briefly that a group of Blacks ed by William Parker resisted an attempt by a slave-holder to redeem his fugitive slaves by shooting him. You will probably find more about the story in this book, Bound for Canaan, a recent popular history of the Underground Railroad.
What I find most notable about this story is that the defendants were found "not-guilty," perhaps because of the venue of the trial and perhaps because the defense attorney was none other than Thaddeus Stevens. It's also interesting that, as Edward Steers, Lincoln assasination expert has noted, that John Wilkes Booth was influenced by the story of these events.

Monday, June 19, 2006

History Websites that Make Me Smile

I haven't been blogging lately, because I haven't been interested in current events too much, since I'm thinking A LOT about a)approaching deadline and b)old stuff. So, in honor of both, I'm posting favorite history websites until I can think of something else. Today's favorite website is the digitized version of Jacob Shipherd's history of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue.
This particular story plays a role in the first chapter of my book, which is about John Brown and abolitionist notions of heroism as told through his defense/memorial. The Oberlin-Wellington rescue is also particularly related to Brown because he recruited members of his Harper's Ferry raid in Oberlin around the time of the rescue, and while the famous Langston brothers declined to participate, he did get John Copeland to come along, through their recommendations.
Here's what happened: in 1850, the US Congress passed the infamous infamous fugitive slave law that made it illegal to interfere with the arrest and capture of a fugitive slave. Fugitives, once brought into court and identified by slave-catchers as fugitives from slavery were not allowed to have any legal defense in court. As you can imagine, this meant that all white men from the South had to do was point "d'ar he!' and a Black person could be dragged into slavery with the assistance of federal marshalls. In Massachusetts and Ohio, free Blacks and abolitionists reacted with outrage, and several began suggesting emigration to other countries, whether Sierra Leone, Canada, or Venezuela. During the 1850s there were several notable fugitive slave rescues, including a mostly Black abolitionist rescue of the fugitive Jerry in New York and the Anthony Burns rescue attemptin Boston. In 1859, in Oberlin there was an exceptional rescue of a man named John Price. Price had been living in Oberlin, a center of abolitionist activity for some years when he was captured by Kentucky slave catchers, who took him to Wellington, Ohio, and planned to take him to his "owner."
Upon hearing of the capture, hundreds of citizens of Oberlin jumped in buggies and went to Wellington; several of them were armed. They surrounded the hotel where Price was being held and demanded his release. One of the most active participants was Charles Mercer Langston, free Black and political activist. After some shouting and document displays, the Oberlin group managed to get Price away from the slave catchers. Ultimately, he managed to get to Canada, probably taken there by one of John Brown's group. Eventually, over thirty people were indicted for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and there was a major political trial.
On one side, lawyers talked of "law and order" and maintaining a peaceful society. On the other side, the lawyers talked of "higher law" and the Declaration of Independence. It's all in the link provided above.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Get Ready for War Crimes

I opened my email to see an alert about a planned "crackdown" in Baghdad. Just as I was weirdly reminded of US prisoner control techniques when I first read about Abu Ghraib, I'm now weirdly reminded of street sweep operations in America's "unmanageable" cities.
Am I wrong to think that in Baghdad that this strategy will meet with armed resistance? It just seems like a bad idea, so Cowboy.
Meanwhile, Juan Cole has a good analysis on the current "summit" on how to "win" in Iraq.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Who went to Yearly KOS?

I know at least one of you was there, and someone already linked to Nathan Newman's Dkos diary about it. So, what happened, how was it? Reports please.

It's Monday Again

It's officially the beginning of my last three months 'till the book is due at the publishers, and I find myself weirdly uninterested in reading about current events. However, I do like this Patrick Cockburn article aboutZarquawi on Counterpunch. Cockburn, who's spent a lot of time in Iraq, has more to say about Zarquawi and the resistance in general than most.
According to the Boston Globe, some are expecting major US troop withdrawals from Iraq in the next few months. I am not so optimistic, given Bush's speeches answers to questions on this subject.
Finally, one of my all-time heroes, Daniel Ellsberg, had a good op-ed in the LA Times from yesterday about "Iraq's Pentagon papers."
And now, the tenure process is calling.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

It's a Wonderful Time for Impeachment

This morning, I got some great fliers about impeaching the presidentin my email. I'm sure they'll put them up on their website imminently. That website, by the way, is excellent, don't you think?
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School is finally over at the City University, and big news now is that the PSC first re-elected the "New Caucus" by a hair, and then voted "yes" on the new contract by 85%. It would have taken unwarranted optimism to vote "no" given the climate in New York City and the US in general right now
Here's how I see it:
The Good: The City and State are going to put more money into our benefit fund, which will restore the dental coverage we lost five years ago. Since I have false teeth (go here to get an idea of how this happened) and a long history of complicated orthodontia, I think this is great. The other great aspect of the contract is the 100 conversion lines for adjuncts, which is something quite unusual.
The Bad: the University got the union to agree to add two more years to the "time to tenure" clock. The administrations at other universities have spun this as an attempt to be "family friendly," because it gives people with families more time to finish books and articles before they're tenured. And,according to the CUNY's admin, this makes us more like Columbia and Harvard. However, they're not trying to emulate those institutions in other ways, which is too bad. For example, because they're hired with the expectation that they'll produce significant scholarship, the average teaching load at Columbia and Harvard for assistant professors is two or three courses per year, in comparison with the seven to nine courses taught by CUNY faculty per year. At CUNY, we have time to write blogs, not books.
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Speaking of labor unions, Chris Kutalik at Labor Notes wrote an article last month about what he sees as a little strike wave, partly born of desperation. It's a fairly accurate assessment of conditions in the labor movement at large.
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and with that. It's time to work.