Archive for January, 2009


Apologies to all three of you who read this blog for not posting much the past several days, but I have a good reason.

I managed to finish drafting Chapter 8 last night, then wrote the Epilogue (by which I mean I mostly copied the introduction to an article I published last month that served the purpose) tonight, which means I’ve completed a full draft of the entire dissertation!


It’s still a rough draft. I’ll probably have to revisit the last couple of chapters or so and beef them up a little so that I hammer home one of my big arguments all the way to the end. And I haven’t even reread Chapter 8 or the Epilogue, so there are probably typos and other random errors, along with prose that doesn’t make sense. I also think I might need to add a bit of a summary or recap to the end of Chapter 8 or somewhere in the Epilogue, because I don’t think I sum up the dissertation well enough as it currently stands. And even more importantly, I still need to give the lion’s share of the dissertation to my committee, since two of my committee members have only seen the first three chapters, and the third (I did secure a third member this week) has seen none of it. So I can expect to need to make plenty of changes and revisions once they’ve gone through it.

Still, I am rather pleased with myself for managing to draft an entire 343-page dissertation — a prologue, eight chapters and an epilogue — in seven months, even if close to half of it was cribbed almost wholesale from papers I’ve written previously. I suppose if you take those parts into account, it’s taken me, well, close to five years to write it, since there are very small portions that have their origins in a couple of papers I wrote my very first quarter in graduate school oh so long ago.

At this point it’s a very long shot for me to end up with a job starting in the fall, which means, almost certainly, that I’ll be sticking around another year. That’s fine on one level, since it means I have plenty of time to really polish my dissertation, to get it in lean, mean, fighting shape. But it also means another year of life on hold, another year of spinning my wheels, another year of being some place I no longer want to be.

Still, tonight’s not a time for gloom and doom. There’s all of next year for that.

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Killing some time waiting for a meeting this afternoon, I was perusing a newsletter from the area studies program from which I’ve periodically received funding, and came across an article by my adviser reporting on a talk Czech President Václav Klaus gave during a visit in the fall.

Klaus, for those not in the know, is a self-styled Thatcherite conservative, a noted Euroskeptic (making him a great person to hold the rotating EU presidency for the current six-month term) and, most recently, a prominent global warming denier. Klaus recently published an anti-environmentalism screed, Blue Planet in Green Shackles, which basically denounces environmentalists and disputes the claim that global warming is really such a big deal.

At his talk here, Klaus mentioned how Americans, like Czechs, seem to be fighting outdated battles with Russia when they ought to be fighting environmental regulation. He had a humorous if daffy quip on the subject, noting “Our enemy today is not Brezhnev, it is Al Gore.”

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ESPN columnist LZ Granderson has a great piece about the overreaction of various corporate suits to Super Bowl halftime programming after the Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson “Nipplegate” controversy five years ago.

Here’s the best paragraph, with the money line bolded:

This is really why I find the reaction to Jackson’s 2004 performance, and the continual effects of it, so mind-numbingly hypocritical. Jackson’s been branded as an immoral vixen and her star has dramatically dimmed since the incident, while her co-wardrobe malfunctioner was awarded an Emmy for a skit called “Dick in a Box.” Women can sing the national anthem and be sideline reporters, but only Puritans like Keith Richards can do the halftime show, and studio talent evaluation should be left to proven men like Matt Millen.

Granderson makes a good point about the total lack of diversity among featured Super Bowl performers since the famous “wardrobe malfunction”: they’ve been, without exception, graying male rockers, many of whom arguably have more business attending an AARP forum than performing live at the Super Bowl. (Did anyone see Paul McCartney on the “Colbert Report” this week? He really looked like an old man whose mind is starting to go.)

That said, aesthetically I have few qualms about the recent choices of halftime entertainment, since I’m a big fan of folks like Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, and much prefer them to both Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson, as well as most of the non-rock acts Granderson would like to see get another shot. But that’s just a matter of personal preference, and there are still plenty of non-white, non-male, non-retirement-age, non-rock acts out there capable of putting on an entertaining halftime show.

Plus, this all presumes I actually watch the Super Bowl this year, instead of tuning in for the Puppy Bowl, or finding another, better way to spend my Sunday afternoon.

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Sme wrapped up its coverage of the presidential campaign via the NYT today with a compendium of cartoons about the American campaign from around the world. (As an aside: how did I not see this on the NYT’s own web page?!)

It is well worth examining, not only to relive the highlights of the campaign season or to enjoy some of the quite humorous cartoons, but also to get a sense of how people from around the world viewed the campaign and the dawn of the Obama administration.

The Dutch cartoon is particularly revealing, I think, and the Australian cartoon depicts a sentiment that has to make all but the most bigoted smile.

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It seems like plenty of humorists and cartoonists around the EU have something of a sense of humor when it comes to Entropa. The Czech daily Dnes has a story about the cartoons and other images produced in response to David Černý’s, ahem, attention-grabbing art installation. Some of these are quite funny.


Czechs through the ages

Czechs through the ages


It's a good thing there's so much booze here in Prague. You have to be drunk to appreciate Czech art.

It's a good thing there's so much booze here in Prague. You have to be drunk to appreciate Czech art.


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I was reading this story by the NYT’s Monica Davey about embattled Illinois Gov. Rod “$!#$@&#!” Blagojevich trying to mount a defense in the court of public opinion as his impeachment trial begins, but only really perked up when I saw this final paragraph.

For years, Mr. Blagojevich had national political aspirations, perhaps even as a presidential contender, those who have worked with him say. Some here doubted his chances at that level; he is all Chicago — the nasal accent, the hard-to-pronounce name from the Chicago neighborhoods where he grew up the son of immigrant, working-class parents, the Chicago alderman father-in-law with powerful political connections. But on Monday, Mr. Blagojevich (whose name everyone at last seems to know how to pronounce) was expected to get his chance on a national stage, albeit not for what he might once have hoped would put him there.

Getting beyond the laughable notion that Blagojevich could have been a viable presidential contender at any point, isn’t it offensive to suggest his “nasal” accent (like JFK’s Massachusetts brogue or Dubya’s incessant mangling of the English language barred them from Oval Office) and “hard-to-pronounce name” are real obstacles to the presidency.

Is “Blagojevich” really that difficult to pronounce? I don’t think so, unless you find the thought of pronouncing the letter “j” like the English letter “y” that you deem it offputting. Millions of Illinoisans who’ve had to live with the guy for several years seem to have no trouble pronouncing it. I realize some Slavic names look like unpronounceable consonant clusters, since there are few letters an English speaker would recognize as a vowel. But “Blagojevich” is chock-a-block full of vowels and has no confluence of consonants longer than two letters.

Then again, should I really be surprised at this attempt to score a cheap rhetorical point by noting how “ethnic” Blagojevich’s name looks? I mean, sure, we did just elect an African American president who often remarked how he had a “funny name.”

But would you believe that outside of Obama, every U.S. president in history has come almost exclusively from Anglo-Saxon stock, with a smattering of Irish or German ancestry here or there? It’s an angle that has been overlooked in light of the much more significant ethnic barrier Obama smashed, but until last week, this country had never had a president from non-Western European stock. Not a single Southern or Eastern European prez among the first forty-three.

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I really want to get cracking today on Chapter 8 in the hopes of finishing the first full draft in the next couple of weeks or so.

My motivation has been lacking, or distracted, as I’ve been spending a lot more time of late preparing for the classes I’m teaching, whether it’s been reading ahead for this quarter’s seminar or doing some of the reading for next quarter’s lecture and trying to figure out how I’m teaching a European survey this summer.

It’d be good to be in position to throw myself into course planning full tilt, but that requires me to have the dissertation at a point where I can safely set it aside indefinitely.

To my credit, I have spent a little time thinking about Chapter 8 this past week, roughing out the component sections and organizing my sources accordingly. If I really push myself, I can get the rest of the prewriting out of the way and start writing today.

Assuming, that is, I don’t follow the path of least resistance as I’ve been wont to do lately, which means watching lots of TV when I should be working.

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