In the meantime, my girlfriend Amy and I have been getting in lots of travel this month — first a long weekend in New Orleans where, among other things, I for the first time took in the French quarter, Frenchman St., and the future final resting place of thespian and scholar Nicolas Cage.
A fortnight later, we were off to Iberia for a stretch, with four and a half days in Barcelona and Lisbon each (with a brief, three-hour layover tour through Brussels — alas, we didn’t have time to visit my old stomping grounds of Waterloo.)
August is probably not the best time to visit Barcelona — it was as crowded as Times Square at times, on much narrower streets. Still, it’s an amazing World City, and Gaudi’s unfinished Sagrada Familia is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in this system. Very highly recommended (although, again, perhaps not in August.)
By comparison, Lisbon and its dozens of ancient churches was more of a sleepy European capital. But it too had its charms, not the least Sintra and its ninth century Moorish castle, only an hour or so away by train.
In any event, if you want to peruse some photos from the trip (and aren’t already a Facebook friend), I’ve put three dozen or so up in the long-neglected Flickr feed. Suffice to say, a grand time was had!
In any event, after a long slog, that project is finally finished. From PhDont to Hippie-Punching, whether you’re looking for Colin Firth, Colin Farrell or Colin Powell; Bill Simmons or J.K. Simmons, the Gitmo Gulag, Zombies, Other Worlds, Corporate Welfare, RepubliDems, or The New Deal, the first fifteen years of posts are much easier to sort through now. Now, I can focus on the next fifteen.
Yesterday evening, I came home from work to find Berk splayed out on the floor, dead for many hours. (His body seemed like it was in a violent position – legs up, head half under the couch. But now that I think about it, what probably happened is he died on the couch, hopefully sleeping, and his body fell off sometime later — hence the contortion when the rictus sent in.) My friend Arjun and I carried his corpse downstairs and drove it to the vet for cremation. In the space of ten hours, he’s gone from being happy to just being gone. Looking out at the snow everywhere this morning, I can’t help but think that this is the type of day he would have loved.
My ex-wife and I divorced the following year, in 2001. I knew I wanted Berk and gave up all our other (very few) common possessions — Berk coming with me was never really in doubt. And for the next twelve+ years, he was my constant companion and power animal. We’d walk the streets of New York and DC together, spend the weekends in Riverside and Central Park, Dupont Circle and the Mall, and days and nights just hanging around the pad — him circling or on watch.
There was a year or two of grad school there where Berk was the only living entity I had consistent contact with. I remember at least twice in our time together, when I was devastated after a scorched-earth break-up and the general despair of the long-term PhD process, where the only thing I could do for days was stagger around my apartment sobbing, clutching a half-gallon of water so I didn’t completely dry out. Berk would dutifully follow me around, tail wagging, and lick my face dry when I got in a place where he could reach me. Despair or no, there was salt to be had here.
He was a great dog. Lived happy until the day he died.
And he was my best friend. I can think of a lot of times when he felt like my only friend.
RIP, little buddy. I’ll miss you.
Down in South Carolina, back in 1993, I wore the blue and yellow, got ten free films a week. I built up some movie knowledge, right near the Florence Mall. Now those tapes have been taken away, lost amid the suburban sprawl. After mining the Internet hivemind, Matt Zoller Seitz gathers odes to the end of Blockbuster in the style of Bruce Springsteen.
Mowing neighborhood lawns notwithstanding, Blockbuster was actually my first job. And, while I never cottoned to their Republican-leaning ways or their ridiculous drug test policy, it was a pretty good gig for a high school kid, all in all — if you could withstand the same twenty trailers and episode of Duck Tales playing ALL THE TIME. Like I said, ten free movies a week. As an 18-year-old just working to raise beer-money for college, you can’t beat that with a stick.
Er…let’s not overdo it. Existing structures of power haven’t changed at all, and, after a bad week’s press, JP Morgan is still laughing all the way to the bank. Still, I was proud to get in early on the co-opting of JP Morgan’s inane #AskJPM forum on Twitter last week, which got tweets of mine mentioned in BusinessWeek, WaPo, The New Yorker, and various other venues — undoubtedly the strangest being a somber tweet-reading by the venerable Stacy Keach. In any case, if any of those links have led you back here to GitM this week, welcome, and thanks for dropping by.
Obviously, the blog’s been progressing in fits and starts this year, and the readership has definitely suffered as a result – This is more of a Google-trap than a blog on most days. (I’d also like to have finished the time-consuming re-archiving project by now, but I’m only 2/3rds done – 2006-2009 still need going over. But, hey, at least Uphill All the Way is now up all the way.)
In any case, hopefully a ghost of the old Ghost is still glimmering, and you never know what magic this bucket still has left in it — There may be life in the ole blog yet.
Either way, if you’ve been coming by for well over a decade now or just fallen down a Google hole today, thanks, as always, for stopping by.
Hello all: Back on the mainland as of 48 hours ago. In case the Election of 1924 talk of a few months past whetted your appetite for more radio ramblings about the dissertation, I discussed Uphill All the Way and 1920’s politics last night with Jay Ackyroyd of Virtually Speaking. Embed above — enjoy.
In any case, that’ll likely mean little-to-no updates around here for the duration. (Like that’ll be any different from recent months, amirite?) But, if for some unfathomable reason you find yourself in desperate need of GitM-style blathering, there’s always the dissertation. Until next time, here’s the inimitable Stephen Colbert, several cool friends, and one ginormous asshole grooving to the song of the summer. Feel free to sing along if the feeling strikes.
But, oh well. It’ll be grand once it’s all completed. And to be fair, I’ve also fixed the less post-intensive 2010-2013 period since the last update, so perhaps the next few sections will go faster. (Only five more years to go…) In any case, things I’ve recently (re-)learned:
Personal plug: If your interest was piqued by what I wrote about the 1924 Democratic Convention here, I was interviewed last week by Backstory on the MSG disaster for their episode on gridlock. (The segment I’m featured in starts at 33:30 — I’m the guy who sounds like Mike Mills from R.E.M. I should probably work on my radio skills.)
Also, FWIW, my dissertation is now downloadable as a PDF from Academic Commons. At some point, I’ll probably convert it here for easier web reading, like I have previous history writings — on Herbert Croly, Al Smith, Harvey Wiley, colonial taverns, William Borah, etc. But that’s a project that’s down the queue at the moment.
This came out while I was in Seattle and I’ve been meaning to catch up: By measuring the cosmic background radiation still extant from the Big Bang, the ESA’s Planck satellite gives us our most detailed map of the universe yet.
“[T]he new satellite data underscored the existence of puzzling anomalies that may yet lead theorists back to the drawing board. The universe appears to be slightly lumpier, with bigger and more hot and cold spots in the northern half of the sky as seen from Earth than toward the south, for example. And there is a large, unexplained cool spot in the northern hemisphere.”
I find these maps particularly fascinating because, as I said when NASA’s WMAP returned its data in 2003 (and here in 2002), I spent the summer of 1992 poring over the original COBE DMR version of this map for my high school senior thesis, in order to determine whether the radiation exhibited a fractal distribution. (And, honestly, how early 90’s is that?)
“‘A.M.S. has confirmed with exquisite precision and to high energy one of the most exciting mysteries in astrophysics and particle physics,’ said Justin Vandenbroucke, of the University of Wisconsin and Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.” In related news, NASA’s recently-installed Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer on the ISS is helping physicists and cosmologists get to the bottom of the dark matter mystery.
The A.M.S. has “confirmed previous reports that local interstellar space is crackling with an unexplained abundance of high energy particles, especially positrons, the antimatter version of the familiar electrons that constitute electricity and chemistry…’Over the coming months, A.M.S. will be able to tell us conclusively whether these positrons are a signal for dark matter, or whether they have some other origin.’“
FWIW, this particular piece of awesome was drawn on commission by former Simpsons illustrator Gary Yap, who can be found on Etsy for custom works. He also apparently perused my Flickr feed and/or GitM for our look and general inspiration (Note the back of the book and Berk eyeing the Roomba.) I wonder if he made it as far as the shelves of old Simpsons toys, currently collecting dust and resale value in a Chesapeake, VA attic. In any case, very cool.
Part of the reason for the shift is the good versus bad spending dichotomy I talked about in 2010. But, more to the point, I’ve since read up on Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). (See also: Warren Mosler’s Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy.)
Basically, I was parroting the conventional wisdom on “fiscal responsibility” back then, and didn’t know what I was talking about.
I’m only 200 posts or so in — Hello, summer of 2002. Gee, I wonder if these Harken revelations will bring down Dubya — and it’s already clear this is going to be a slow process. So apologies if you see an interesting topic listed that links to little-to-no content. Hopefully, eventually, it’ll all be up to snuff.
The Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissman takes another gander at the sorry state of the PhD life in America, with an emphasis on the sciences. “The pattern reaching back to 2001 is clear — fewer jobs, more unemployment, and more post-doc work — especially in the sciences. A post doc essentially translates into toiling as a low-paid lab hand.”
Note also the dismal situation of the humanities in the graph below. The average salary for a humanities PhD is not only less than I’m making in speechwriting these days — it’s less than what I was making in 2001, before I went off for grad school. It’s also less, or at the very least comparable, to the average salary of a public school teacher in America — a job where you’re probably much more likely to make a difference in the lives of your students. But hey, check out the big brain on me.
The upshot here, at least for the humanities? It’s generally a bad idea to spend a decade apprenticing yourself to a job that barely even exists anymore.
Update: “Let me start with the bad news. It is not even news anymore; it is simply bad. Graduate education in the humanities is in crisis. Every aspect, from the most specific details of the curriculum to the broadest questions about its purpose, is in crisis. It is a seamless garment of crisis: If you pull on any one thread, the entire thing unravels.” Literature professor Michael Bérubé surveys the sad state of affairs in the Chronicle of Higher Education.