Stay at Home Dads

Awesome article about being a stay at home dad by Conor Williams. Yep, we need to change the definition of masculinity, and uhm, let’s not just assume a dude out with his kids doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m not a mom, so he definitely knows more than I do. Girls don’t come pre-programmed with mom knowledge. I know, shocking that.

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Victorian Hair Styling

I’m probably required by the universe to get Ruth Goodman’s book on How to be a Victorian. In the above video, Goodman styles a very unlucky volunteer’s hair in the dreadful early part of the century style. Who thought that double part and those swooped braids were a good idea? Seriously? Sadly, I can’t even claim that it’s the worst hair styling idea ever because I grew up in the 1980s and had that dreaded 80s perm, which really was the worst idea in the annals of hair styling. My hair is not meant to be permed. Ever.

The first part describes how good poor Lucy’s hair is for this task: the right shade of blonde, the right length, pin straight, and thick. My first thought was “oh thank heavens, mine is not long enough, yet, brown, and only pin straight if I spend a lot of time with the flat iron. It’s probably too thick to boot.” I love studying the Victorian period, but I’d have made a lousy one or would have been one of those women working for dress reform. Plus, after watching Goodman use gum arabic and vodka as a hairspray, I’m left wondering how many times Lucy had to wash her hair to get the stuff out. Goodman, however, is absolutely delightful, and I know I’ll show this video to students.

Crisis in the Humanities Redux

The crisis in the humanities conversation has been around for awhile. It’s inherently bound up with what we think colleges ought to be doing: teaching the life of the mind or preparing students for a profession. In the past, the university was able to do both because it only trained young men for one profession really, the clergy. Other professions were slowly added, including the law, medicine, and academic professions such as science, math, literature, etc., but there has always been a tension between the university and the professions in our contemporary language–i.e. an office job of some sort. The university was not designed to train people to work in business. Indeed, the class and status structures that guarded entrance to American and British universities well into the twentieth century were anti-commerce. The university trained men to certain virtues thought to be necessary to genteel society/the old professions; business lacked those virtues for a variety of reasons, but mostly because commerce does not recognize old world class lines. The GI Bill and similar legislation in England post WWII changed the make up of university students, but it didn’t change this fundamental tension.

I think the above is important context for the crisis in the humanities question, which so many people wade into mid-stream. It’s inherently a class question, but it’s also one about what we want university students to learn–discreet skill sets for the work world or something else, something older and altogether less work world directed. This question has taken on more urgency as more and more politicians and state legislatures take pot shots at the humanities in their march towards reducing university funding. Why fund something that doesn’t equate to an immediate job, or so goes the line of thought.

Yet, a line of defense is emerging as more and more people argue that the humanities do something more that is necessary for living, not just working. John Horgan defends teaching the humanities to engineering students is just one installment.

Citizenship Test

Over at the Atlantic, the posit the hypothetical, what if citizenship weren’t automatic and you had to renew it every ten years? Could you pass a citizenship test? Hypothetical test of knowledge=me so taking it. I did really well, with a score of 55, which means I attained citizenship with distinction. (In this hypothetical, if you get distinction, do you get more citizenship privileges? Cookie delivery? Or is it like distinction in academia, which inevitably leads to more work? I’ll take the cookie delivery, all things considered.) Take the test here before reading further.

 

I only missed a few questions–that darn Arch and I mixed up Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court Justice face to name matching. Honest mistake really, considering I’m not sure what rulings Breyer has made in his tenure. Do they let him out ever? The elections you’ve voted in question was also a little confusing. I counted national and local, considering I liked voting in municipal Dallas elections because usually someone was trying to screw us over. I’m still steamed about the freaking still not built, but still stupid toll road in the levees. And I definitely have done my part in trying to vote Governor Goodhair out of office, to no avail sadly. I also didn’t know the Japanese interment camp name, but it was the only one in that list I didn’t know, so by process of elimination, I got that one right. I totally got the Alamo right, which I think getting wrong would have been grounds for revoking my Texas girl card, although the Texas legislature is making being state proud a hard proposition at the moment. How did y’all do?

Song of the Day: Sam Phillips, “Reflecting Light”

Sam Phillips’s “Reflecting Light” is one of my favorite songs, probably somewhere right after Bill Evans’s “Peace Piece” and The Sundays’s “Here’s Where the Story Ends.” I’d say there’s a top five list, but I think that might be a little restrictive, not to mention the list tends to change depending on my mood, the year, etc. But “Peace Piece” and “Here’s Where the Story Ends” and “Reflecting Light” are always on that list. The song starts around the 3:30 mark, but I liked the glimpse of the stroh violin you get in this performance. I also thought Phillips’s song appropriate for a weekend filled with good friends, lots of food, 11 year old baseball, and super moons.

“isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Sarah Melse has a wonderful article in the Los Angeles Review of Books on the “Ten Things I Learned From Loving Anne of Green Gables.” In the article, Melse details the key component of L.M. Montgomery’s writing that makes it so appealing and so well-loved for over a century–love. Indeed, readers who love L.M. Montgomery’s worlds do have a kind of short hand. I can tell my aunt I’m having a Jonah day, and she instantly knows what that means. I adore Anne’s optimism; “isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” As an adult, I know that mistakes are often not contained to one day, but in my most optimistic, pie in the sky moments, I like to think we can throw a switch and have a scrubbed clean morrow because we are loved. Love lights up Montgomery’s written world as orphans, war veterans, old maids, and old fools unfold under love’s illumination. I re-read many of Montgomery’s novels every summer, especially Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, and of course, Anne of Green Gables. Nothing much happens in these novels as Melse is quick to point out. No one goes on grand adventures. In fact, successful cooking seems to be the height of activity. Montgomery’s worlds are ordinary, recognizable ones. School, awkward family reunions, recitals of Tennyson, church, and daily farm life are the bread and butter of her plots. Yet, such a background is the place where amazing dreaming happens. And isn’t that so much our real lives? We dream among ordinary things and ordinary lives.

But mostly, we love. I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections that bind us lately, in large part because of a quote from Anne Lamont’s most recent book that my friend Walter put up as a commonplace: “They say–or maybe I said–that a good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal, and this is true also of our bosom friendships. You could almost flush with appreciation. What a great scam, to have gotten people of such extreme quality and loyalty to think you are stuck with them.” Lamont is only partially right in calling it a scam. Perhaps a better word would be serendipitous. Anyone acquainted with L.M. Montgomery knows that the serendipity of bosom friendships, kindred spirits, and the ability to “smack your lips over life” are key to the well-lived existence. Pleasure in the mundane is what fuels friendship for Montgomery; love binds ordinary lives together. It’s the glue that creates the extended networks of family and friends that make life extraordinary. Even more so, Montgomery shows how even a little bit of courageous love changes worlds. Jane stands up to her unloving grandmother, Anne finds kindred spirits reflected in her own loving glow, and Valancy’s compassion gives her courage. Love for Montgomery is almost contagious; once her heroines figure out the knack, they can’t help but loving as many people in as many ways as possible. Romance is there–these are after all late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century texts–but romantic love isn’t the only type of love in the world. I like to think that love radiates out into the world, and that those we love feel it even when they are many miles away. Silly, absolutely, but then again, love is perhaps both the silliest and the most profound of our connections.