Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The kiddies

June 21, 2015

It’s not often you get them together these days, but here they were quite cozy together watching Over The Hedge.


Author Photos

April 19, 2015

Taken by the fabulous Cathy Weeks.

Stop saying we ought to let Texas secede

September 19, 2014

OK, so Scottish voters have spoken, and they’re going to stay part of the UK, hassles and all. And I think they made the right decision. But I notice the whole episode brought out a trope that really annoys me: my liberal friends from the Northeast saying things like, “we should let Texas secede, then we can run the country the way we want.” There are many variations — one facebook friend posted that we should allow Texas and Alabama to form Texabama (I don’t see how you could leave out Louisiana and Mississippi in that case, but whatever). Sometimes it’s expressed as, “we should have just let the South go in 1860” (and let slavery continue there too, presumably).

This sentiment peeks through every time a Rick Perry or some other conservative Southern blowhard flirts with the ol’ secession talk. But it came up in conjunction with the Scotland thing for a different reason: a ¬†big reason many progressive Scots voted “yes” was the thought that they could escape political domination by Anglo-Conservatives, that they could make a break with Cameronism and have a nice Social democratic, Labourite state in Scotland (and finance it all with those North Sea oil revenues). And that’s the thought in the minds of many Northeastern liberals: if we could only part ways with the Republican Bible Belt, the most populated and prosperous part of the country could have a nice forward-thinking Democratic Elizabeth Warren regime and never again have to listen to the Tea Party bullshit.

It’s a nice thought, and these are people that I generally agree with, about principles. But it’s wrong.

For one thing, I’ve lived here three years, and there are a lot of intelligent, progressive Southerners who want nothing to do with living in the sort of corporatist theocracy that Texas might become if left to its own devices.

Southern progressives may not have the upper hand right now, but these things have a way of always changing. At the turn of the 20th c. the South was a hotbed of radical Populism. In the 1930s the South was (pretty) solid for FDR’s New Deal (while “liberal” New York was opposed). Louisiana felt the New Deal didn’t go far enough and elected Huey Long, who made Elizabeth Warren look like a corporate shill. LBJ, who gave us Vietnam, yes, but also gave us Civil Rights ’64, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and the NEA (has there ever been more progressive legislation in such a short time?) came not from the liberal Northeast but from the farm-coop culture of rural West Texas.

Of course, since Nixon’s Southern strategy and the rise of the Moral Majority, the South has been going in a very Republican direction, with exceptions in the cities (like New Orleans, and much of Florida). But the point is, this can change. And we should be trying to encourage that change — not trying to kiss the whole region goodbye out of what is, I hate to say this, nothing more than narrow-minded regional prejudice.

The South has problems, yes. A history of slavery and segregation, and a very unequal distribution of wealth. There’s more poverty, more murder, more ignorance here, per capita, than most of the rest of the USA. But these are problems to be solved, not shoved away with a contemptuous feeling of superiority.

And more importantly, in the bigger picture: Union is good. Our nation is big and strong and that works out well for all of us. We might like to believe we’ve entered some postmodern age where national power does not matter, where all nations big or small cooperate equally to solve the world’s problems. But we know that day is a long way off. The world is still a hostile and dangerous place. National power matters. We have it; much of the rest of the world would kill (and sometimes they do) to try to take it away from us. This is what the Scottish yes voters didn’t take into consideration.

Union is good. abraham-lincolnWe figured this out in 1861-1865. After 1865 even most Southerners admitted it. Our union is a good¬†thing, our democracy, though it is fucked up in any number of ways, is still a good thing. Abraham Lincoln and the 365,000 Union troops who died to preserve the Union (and end slavery) were not wrong. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people is a special thing worth fighting for. The architects of the European Union — an idea that also seems to be sliding into disrepair — understood the value of a large union. So did the citizens of the former USSR, who let their federation fall apart in a careless moment in 1991 they’ve regretted ever since. We are so lucky to have what we have.

I know the Rick Perrys of the world are a drag to share this country with. But don’t give up on Texas, Louisiana, the South. Work with us on making them what they can and should be. Separatism in either direction is not a progressive value.

UPDATE: New poll says 23.9% of Americans want their state to secede. It goes up to 34% in Texas, down to 18% in Maine, Massachusetts, etc. But basically the usual maniacs. Scattered through the comments, however, are periodic iterations of the “please, go ahead, let them secede” meme.

The Boy, again

August 25, 2014

The boy is starting school again, at a new (public) school, new year, new teachers, new friends. Fingers crossed …

Fat Tuesday

March 4, 2014

It’s a cold, rainy, raw Mardi Gras and I’m watching the Zulu parade come down Jackson Ave. I’m by myself on my bike, the rest of the family is still warm in bed, already paraded out from this weekend, and not up for this kind of weather. Happy Mardi Gras everyone!Zulu 2014

Back in form, Oct 2011

October 7, 2011

Gee, eight months since my last post here. In this period I’ve gotten a journal article accepted, written encyclopedia entries, completed three-plus dissertation chapters, presented two conference papers, and am now teaching, doing job and postdoc applications, and getting ready to finish my last two chapters. In addition to actual writing I’ve developed the analytical side of my project considerably since February, reading a lot of secondary literature and sharpening my thinking and my arguments quite a bit. All that is not yet reflected in the actual prose top the degree it ought to be; and making that happen is one of the main goals for this final phase of the writing process that is coming up.

I do miss posting here and plan to get back to it. I think the daily posts on CCC made a good progress monitoring system. My work habits since Feb. have still been productive but more irregular and haphazard. Of course I’ve been balancing dissertation work with other writing projects and other academic activities–which is much more the shape of a typical academic career and what I have to look forward to continuing to do if land a job. So my main goal for the next eleven weeks (until the end of the calendar year) is to work on balancing steady dissertation writing with all the other activities and commitments in my life and career.

In the next couple days I will dedicate posts to the general state of the dissertation with regard to narrative shape and arguments, and maybe also add posts about related things like teaching and job applications.

Various Chores

February 10, 2011

Still unable to get started on Chapter 4, because I have to finish my paper — really a condensation of Chapters 2 and 3 — for the Louisiana Historical Association, and then review American Uprising, the rather problematic book about the 1811 German Coast slave uprising. I expect to be done both of these things by the end of next week, and to have made some necessary notes in the meantime, so on Monday the 21st I should be ready to start on Chapter 4. Hopefully this will mean I can finish all or most of it before I head down to New Orleans on 3/13 for ten days of research and visits.

Back on Track

September 27, 2010

Two days spent reading and making notes, followed by a weekend, amounts to a mini-hiccup in the writing routine. It was slow going to get back in the groove today but I did manage 650 words on New Orleans’ 1803 population and demography. It shows that it is good to write every single day even if it’s just a little bit, because it keeps your head involved with the work and helps keep your author voice consistent.

This afternoon I have a lot of adminstrivia and other stuff to handle, then I will finish compiling my Chapter 2 notes, and hopefully I will pick up the pace and finish my social geography of 1803 New Orleans by this Thursday as scheduled (we are moving into our new house on Friday!)

First Writing

September 9, 2010

Okay, it’s only 250 words, but I did get off a paragraph this morning. I’m starting the narration on French Louisiana and the founding of New Orleans. It will take a few pages and it will give the reader necessary context to understand everything after. Not terribly exciting to write, but not too hard either. The main thing is not to get too sucked into reading about the details of 18th century Louisiana! More tomorrow.

By the way, this project began, appropriately enough, on September 9th — the 293rd anniversary of the Company of the Indies directive that a new town called New Orleans should be founded, between the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain.

Getting Things Rolling

September 8, 2010

Back in Princeton. Kids started school yesterday. And I’m getting back into the swing of things. I have done some actual work today and yesterday. Don’t think I’ll be doing full days until next week, but I’ve made a good start on remembering what this is all about. Worked on some outlining this morning, and I have a pretty good outline for an introductory 5-10 pages about the history of New Orleans up to 1800–which is a good easy to place to start with writing, I think.