29 October 2005

First Snow of the Season!

A little early, and rather wet and sticky, and for sure it won't stay, but exciting nonetheless!

LibraryThing on a Saturday Afternoon

It’s raw and grey outside, but inside it’s warm and snuggly with the molasses-tinged scent of baking beans wafting through the apartment. I’ve just finished cataloguing my books on LibraryThing. I clock in at 620 books. It’s hard to believe I once had all these books stuffed onto three six-shelf bookcases in a studio apartment. No wonder I could barely move in there; I had books stacked two deep on the shelves and situated in small piles all over the rest of the apartment. Now I have a one-bedroom apartment with the three bookcases, one big built-in bookcase, and one smaller bookcase that doubles as a telephone stand. All are, unfortunately, full or near full. Bad news if I continue to acquire books at the rate I’m accustomed to! I’ve reset the blog widget to randomly display three books from my library instead of recently added books. As I was writing this, the widget was displaying The Golden Compass, The Slave Power, and one of my editions of Utopia.

I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s books. Examining someone’s bookcase can give a great deal of insight into his life and interests. I’m known for scouting friends’ bookshelves when I’m at their houses, checking out what they’ve got. Of course, most of my friends have history books—fine collections of Renaissance Italian materials or medieval European history for example. One friend even has a stellar collection of romance novels (which she lends out to interested parties, with tea and cookies). What intrigues me most about LibraryThing is the ability to check out other people’s bookshelves virtually. If you look at mine, you’ll see that about a third of my books are early American history. If you add in my other history books, modern America, European history, and Latin American history, and a view stray Asian and African history books, you’ll see that over half my books are history books. Pretty geeky, I guess. I have some fiction here, but most of my fiction and other history (mostly Latin American history, European history, and biography) are still at my parents’ house.

I like the community of LibraryThing too. How else would I know that a librarian in Dublin, Ireland owns 48 of the same books I own? Or how else would I know that the three users who own Phyllis Richman’s The Butter Did It also all own Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop? I like the Zeitgeist feature too...it bears little resemblance to the New York Times bestseller list. Among the most frequently owned: the Harry Potter books and The DaVinci Code, but also Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Guns, Germs, and Steel. Among the most reviewed: The DaVinci Code, recent Harry Potter, but also Freakonomics, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and Memoirs of a Geisha. It seems America’s reading tastes go beyond cheesy novels Renaissance artists and secret societies...who knew?

25 October 2005

Friends, Bloggers, Lend me your Posts!

History Carnival Button

I will be hosting the next History Carnival on 1 November, right here at (a)musings of a grad student.

Please, email me your nominations for recently-published posts about historical topics, researching or teaching history, etc, at: rgoetz[at]fas[dot]harvard[dot]edu.

The History Carnival is not just for academics and specialists and entries don’t have to be heavyweight scholarship! But they do have to uphold certain standards of factual accuracy and integrity in the use of sources. If you have any further questions about the criteria for inclusion, check out the Carnival homepage.

You should include in your email: the title and permalink URL of the blog post you wish to nominate and the author’s name and the title of the blog. Please put “History Carnival” in the title of the email, so it will pass through my junk mail filters. You can submit multiple suggestions, both your own writing and that of others, but please try not to submit more than one post by any individual author for each Carnival (with the exception of multi-part posts on the same topic).

21 October 2005

The Sci-Fi Movie Canon

I complained below, bitterly, about Time Magazine's deficient literary canon. John Scalzi, author of the Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, proposes his own canon of sci-fi movies. I've bolded the ones I've seen. I have to say, generally I'd rather read sci-fi than watch it (Joss Whedon's excellent new film Serenity being one of the exceptions). I'm an agnostic on most of his choices and I haven't seen very many of them.

Here's the list:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension!
Back to the Future
Blade Runner
Bride of Frankenstein
Brother From Another Planet
A Clockwork Orange
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The Damned
Destination Moon
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Escape From New York
ET: The Extraterrestrial
Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers (serial)
The Fly (1985 version)
Forbidden Planet
Ghost in the Shell
The Incredibles

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 version)
Jurassic Park
Mad Max 2/The Road Warrior
The Matrix
On the Beach
Planet of the Apes (1968 version)

Solaris (1972 version)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Stepford Wives
Terminator 2: Judgement Day

The Thing From Another World
Things to Come
12 Monkeys
28 Days Later
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
2001: A Space Odyssey
La Voyage Dans la Lune
War of the Worlds (1953 version)

How much is (a)musings of a grad student worth?

My blog is worth $24,275.22.
How much is your blog worth?

I'm impressed...that's more than I've ever made in one year.

18 October 2005

Another Best Book List

Critics for Time Magazine have picked what they call the 100 Best Novels in English since 1923. It's a puzzling list in many ways. Judy Blume's Are You There God? It's me, Margaret is on the list. Why? If you're going to pick a children's book for such a list, why not anything by Madeleine L'Engle or Susan Cooper? The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe made the list, but not Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or any of the other Narnia tales. Moving beyond children's literature, why The Grapes of Wrath and not East of Eden? Why The Sun also Rises but not For Whom the Bell Tolls? Why Beloved but not Song of Solomon? There are only two Faulkner novels on the list; arguably every Faulkner novel should be on it. Where are winners of the Premio Quinto Sol, Bless Me, Ultima for example?

I suppose this is why I had Top 100 or even Top 1000 lists for literature. How can you say that these are the top books? You can't really.

I've read exactly 25% of this list (see below) but I wonder, does that make me deficient?

1. Animal Farm By George Orwell
2. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
3. Beloved by Toni Morrison
4. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
5. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
6. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
7. A Death in the Family by James Agee
8. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
9. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
11. Light in August by William Faulkner
12. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
13. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
14. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
15. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
16. 1985 by George Orwell
17. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
18. Possession by A.S. Byatt
19. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
20. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
21. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
22. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston
24. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
25. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

17 October 2005

More Library Thing Fun

I have finished cataloguing what I would call "academic books." That is, all my history books, plus reference materials, dictionaries and grammars (English,Spanish,and German), and textbooks. I am now at the 400-book mark, although I have more than that. Library Thing counts boxed sets as one book, so I actually have more like 415. This count does not include, of course, the European and Latin American history and biography remaining at my parents' house.

So, the next Library Thing project: commence putting all my fiction (serious and fun) and my non-history non-fiction in.

I suspect that once I'm done I'll have over 600 books in my apartment. That isn't so bad now that I have a one-bedroom apartment. But just think: at this time last year all those books were stuffed into a studio apartment. Yikes.

14 October 2005

Friday Cat Blogging

Unfortunately, I don't have a cat to call my own so I cannot participate in that favorite of the blogosphere, Friday cat blogging.

I can, however, offer a cute link to other people's cats:
Kitten War!

10 October 2005

Fun with Library Thing

Via the Little Professor I've been led to a life of organized books. Library Thing allows users to build an online card catalogue of their holdings. I'm in the process of doing just that; it makes a good dissertation diversion and I feel like I'm accomplishing something. The "cards" Library Thing generates have room for comments and reviews. Except for not having a bibliographic export feature, it does most of the work that Endnote once did for me (you can export some data to Excel or Word but not in, say, the Chicago Manual of Style form). I can see future generations of grad students keeping track of their reading and their notes with Library Thing. Another friend of mine noted that having your own online card catalogue was also great for insurance purposes. If your library burns or is flooded, you automatically have a list of what you have to begin replacements.

Users can use the Library of Congress, Amazon.com, or a number of other catalogues to organize their books. The LOC is curiously opaque sometimes, offering only one edition of works that have multiple editions. And of course, Amazon does not have the rare stuff (I do own some things that are hard to find). Often I find myself annotating a LOC or Amazon card with things like "first edition" or "volume one only" or "reprint edition." That can be a little frustrating. For some reason both the LOC and Amazon cards for edited books are listed in my catalog as not having an author, which is also frustrating, since I place them on the shelf alphabetically as if the lead editor is the author. I would also like a place to file dissertations; I have quite a few of those and no where to list them. Maybe Library Thing could link into UMI?

What's most fun about Library Thing, though, is the community. Users can view other users' libraries and compare holdings automatically. An icon shows if your book is unique or if it is shared with another user (I now know that the Little Professor and I share seven books so far).

Here's my library, so far. I'm trying to enter a shelf a day...

09 October 2005

The Ancient/Medieval Carnivalesque is here!

And it's scary!

Carnivalesque Button

Chapter Four is Officially Underway

Chapter Four is what I call the fun chapter--it deals with fornication (among other things). The title, as it stands now, is " 'She defyled her body wth a Pagan:' the religious contexts of interracial intimacy."

The core of the chapter, as it stands now, is a 13-page, 3,351-word paper I gave at the Berks this past summer. The paper, I believe, was favorably received. But of course a paper does not a chapter make. I've been working on what goes into this chapter this weekend (in addition to writing job letters.)

One topic I would like to address is Anglo-Indian marriage. The English seemed to have followed a model for dynastic marriage in the early seventeenth century. That is, raise the daughter of an Indian leader among the English. Teach her Christianity, baptize her. (see above, chapter three) Marry her to a prominent Englishman. Use her children to attempt to lay claim to Indian lands under English law.

If you think I'm describing Pocahontas, I'm not. I'm describing Mary Kittamaquund. After the death of her father (known as the Tayac, translated by the English as Emperor, of Maryland), her godfather Giles Brent married her in order to secure title to her people's land. Giles was attempting to challenge the authority of the Calvert family by taking an eleven-year-old bride. Mary had at least two children before her death; one of them was involved in Bacon's Rebellion in Virginia. Writers at the time described him as having inherited his mother's "brutish" and "heathenish" nature. (see below, chapter five)

So, my project for Columbus Day: write about Mary Kittamaquund.

06 October 2005

The Amazing Mr. Book, to the tune of...

My father, who helped nickname my dissertation "The Amazing Mr. Book." tells me that the phrase is based on the Mister Ed theme song. So I've taken to humming while I work, The Amazing Mister Book! (the a-MAZ-ing mis-TER book! or doo doo-DOO-doo doo-DOO doo)

And then I thought, why shouldn't my dissertation have its own personal theme song? I'm not much of a poet (not that this should be called poetry, more like doggerel!) nor am I much of a rhymer, but here goes:

To the tune of "Mister Ed:"

A Diss is a Diss of course of course
And no one can finish a Diss of course
That is, of course, unless the Diss is the Amazing Mister Book!

If something's amiss just blame the diss
It's always the cause of much that's not bliss.
It's living life in an abyss.
Thank you Mister Book!

People will claim that Mister Book just wastes my time of day
But Mister Book must soon be done because I have something to say!

Religion and race, of course, of course,
For slavery they were a driving force.
This should be a cause of much remorse
So this song must help me write...
The Amazing Mister Book!

Wow. My dissertation has its own theme song.

05 October 2005

Why is it called “writing up”?

A small group of my fellow simultaneously-dissertating-and-job-marketing graduate students and I have banded together to workshop our job application materials. We scrutinize vitaes for errors, analyze cover letters, and search for the perfect words to describe our life’s work in that most pesky of job application necessities—the dissertation abstract. For all of us, this is termed a "writing up" year.

Ah, the phrase "writing up." It connotes a calm graduate student who spends her days thus: the student rises reasonably but not insanely early, makes a cup of tea and some breakfast, peruses the morning paper. She showers, makes her bed, walks her competed job applications and her bills to the mailbox (with no fear that any of those checks will bounce), and returns to her quiet desk in her quiet apartment to "write up." There are no frantic searches for missing documents she knows exist but cannot find, no ransacking of bookshelves in search of the elusive secondary source citation she requires. No, this students is "writing up." She spends four hours in front of her computer tapping away briskly at the keys, producing several pages of quality writing. This is possible because writing up means precisely that: she needs only to write up the ideas and arguments that have been neatly shelved in her brain since she returned from her last research trip.

The writing up graduate student breaks for lunch, when she meets a few of her writing up friends in a quaint sandwich shop. They sip fancy sodas and eat delicate little sandwiches and talk about writing up. All are proceeding swimmingly. They know precisely what they need to write and how to write it.

After lunch our graduate student retires again to her quiet desk, where she spends the afternoon calmly working on job applications. Her CV is free of typos, her cover letters all neatly prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that she would fit in perfectly at each institution she applies to. Her dissertation abstract is brilliant but not smug; her teaching portfolio shows a capable and enthusiastic teacher. After finishing several applications (because it’s a banner job year in her field) she goes for a run along the river, and returns to find several new voicemail messages offering her interviews at the AHA.

What a year, this "writing up" year!

The phrase "writing up" implies the stress-free, productive writing year we all want accompanied by the equally stress-free, successful job hunt. But we aren’t really "writing up" are we? We’re writing, but we’re also reading, thinking, reevaluating, changing our minds, our arguments, our interpretations. We’re bludgeoning our brains into producing the longest, hardest piece of writing we have ever produced, while we pore over H-Net waiting for new jobs to be posted, contemplating nervously what next year will look like if we have no job and no funding.

My friends and I in our ad hoc support group aren’t "writing up." We’re writing. There’s a difference, you know.

04 October 2005

Tuesday Pet Blogging...

'Cuz we all need that Tuesday break! (And also because OCS also advises that all websites or weblogs be professional only--no pictures of pets!)

Princess Nani Lani (in Hawaiian, Beautiful Sky!) shows off her baby blues posing for the camera.

Panda, looking like the classic border collie! Of course, she is herding the person with the tennis ball, not a sheep!

And Muffin looking gorgeous as always!

03 October 2005

Chapter Three...

...is done. Or, at least as done as it is going to be for right now. I still have the feeling that it wanders a bit, and not all the arguments are as clear as I would like them to be. The footnotes need some fine-tuning.

That said, I think the best thing for me to do at this point is to let my committee have a peek at this chapter while I work on Chapter Four. I can take another look at Three in a month or so. Also, the work I've done on this chapter has prompted me to re-outline most of the dissertation; I have a much better idea where I'm going now than I did a month ago.

58 pages
18,119 words
117 footnotes

(But it isn't about the numbers, right?)

New Blog!

Kristine Steenbergh, a graduate student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, has started a history blog of early modern culture. Kristine was inspired by none other than Ivan Tribble to start her blog. Need we any other proof that Tribble's drivel is just that--drivel?

02 October 2005

History Carnival!

History Carnival #17 is up at The Apocalyptic Historian. Go and enjoy the fruits of the labor of history bloggers. I particularly liked entries on the history of mental illness, the Anabaptist takeover of Muenster in 1534 (which briefly made a cameo appearance in the Accumulated Mass of Writing Otherwise Known as Chapter Three before I cut it!), and entries about Greg James Robinson's discovery of a crucial memo pertaining to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. My usual method of Carnival-reading is to ration entries as rewards for pages written...

Also, in other news: CNN reports that Harvard's endowment has reached $25 billion. Yet graduate students remain squeezed--there isn't enough teaching or research funding to go around. Why?

01 October 2005

Letters to Captain Ian Fishback

Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish has set up an email address to send letters of support to Captain Ian Fishback, the West Point graduate who has blown the whistle on detainee abuse in Iraq and who now is, according to Andrew, "sequestered and under interrogation." There is some evidence to suggest that Rumsfeld wants Fishback's testimony squashed.

The email address is SupportFishback AT aol DOT com

Andrew will see that all messages of support are forwarded to Fishback's lawyers.

If you browse through recent entries at The Daily Dish you can read some of the emails sent to Fishback, Fishback's original letter to Senator John McCain, and Andrew's own writings about torture, abuse, and the Geneva Conventions.