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One of the best New York things I ever did, during the time I lived there, was to go see Bobby Short one cold night at the Café Carlyle. It was impressive how Bobby Short could make you love a nothing song like this one. Or maybe Cole Porter could write a nothing song that was somehow easy to love.

Anyway for some reason I like to hear that kind of music this time of year. Since we previously featured a Cole Porter tune roundly denounced as derivative, here’s the Muppets performing the tune from which, we are told, that one is derived.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "cole", posted with vodpod

Happy new year. If you like, throw a link to your favorite Cole Porter or other tinpantithetical tune into the comments.


I heart wiki:

Aristotle described a concept similar to the bromance as early as 300 BCE, writing, “It is those who desire the good of their friends for the friends’ sake that are most truly friends, because each loves the other for what he is, and not for any incidental quality”.

When I am king the word “listicle” will be first against the wall.


…you know you’re in trouble. Here’s Yoo’s interview with Deborah Solomon. He sounds vile, sure, and I truly pity his parents*. But give the guy credit: he’s mostly polished and on point. By contrast, here, again, is Professor Yoo’s boss, President Mark Yudof. It’s been a tough year for the UC. Let’s hope for better days in 2010.

* “Our son? He’s a law professor.” [pretends to kvell; walks briskly away]

The Edge of the American West (in conjunction with H-War) will be hosting the next Military History Carnival, on January 17, 2010. Carnivals are an ancient and hoary Internet tradition, bringing together the best submitted work on a particular topic from around the web:

A blog carnival is like a roving journal, a rotating showcase of interesting writing from around the blogosphere within a particular discipline. Individual bloggers volunteer to host a carnival on their personal blog, acting as chief editor for that edition. It falls to them to collect noteworthy items, and to sort through suggestions from the community, many of which are direct submissions from authors. On the appointed date (carnivals generally keep to a regular schedule) the carnival gets published and the community is treated to a richly annotated feast of new writing in the field.[1]

My belief is to construe military history as widely as possible: drums and trumpets, surely. The face of battle, most definitely. But also memorialization, gender, and anything else that seems related to war in all its forms.

Submissions are welcome.

Let’s start a tdih by turning over our pixels to the first couple paragraphs of John Milton Cooper, Jr.’s new biography Woodrow Wilson:

Each year, in the morning on December 28, a military honor guard carrying the American flag presents a wreath that bears the words “The President.” Accompanying the honor guard are members of the clergy, who carry a cross and say a prayer. The clergy are present because the wreath-laying ceremony takes place in front of a tomb in the Washington National Cathedral. Since teh day is only a week after the winter solstice, the low angle of the morning sun causes bright colors from the stained glass windows to play across the floor of the alcove where the tomb is located, over the stone sarcophagus, and on the words carved on the walls. The alcove contains two flags, the Stars and Stripes and the orange and black-shielded ensign of Princeton University. The wreath laying takes place on the birthday, and at the final resting place, of the thirteenth president of Princeton and the twenty-eighth president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson.
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Like any good Jew, I’ve made the annual hajj schlep to the greater Miami area. And I ate Chinese food last night. I might even go see a movie today. But I kind of doubt it, as I have some work to do. Merry Christmas to you and yours.


This is a guest post by our friend andrew, over by the wayside. Many thanks!

(Image from W.H. Michael, The Declaration of Independence, Washington, 1904)

On this day in 1941, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were taken out of their exhibit cases at the Library of Congress, carefully wrapped in acid-free and neutral packing materials, and placed inside a bronze container designed especially to carry them. When the packing was complete, the “top of the container was screwed tight over a cork gasket and locked with padlocks on each side.”*

The documents remained in this state for the next few days, until the Attorney General ruled on December 26th that the Librarian of Congress could “without further authority from the Congress or the President take such action as he deems necessary for the proper protection and preservation of these documents.” At which point the library went back to work:

Under the constant surveillance of armed guards, the bronze container was removed to the Library’s carpenter shop, where it was sealed with wire and a lead seal, the seal bearing the block letters L C, and packed in rock wool in a heavy metal-bound box measuring forty by thirty-six inches, which, when loaded, weighed approximately one hundred and fifty pounds.

Along with other important documents like the Magna Carta and the Articles of Confederation, the Declaration and the Constitution were then taken to Union Station in an “armed and escorted truck,” where they were loaded into a compartment in a Pullman car on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.  Accompanying the documents were Chief Assistant Librarian Verner W. Clapp and some number of armed Secret Service agents.

The documents left D.C. in the evening and arrived in Louisville the next morning, where they were “met by four more Secret Service agents and a troop of the Thirteenth Armored Division, who preceded by a scout car and followed by a car carrying the agents and Mr. Clapp, convoyed the Army truck containing the materials” to the depository at Fort Knox. The documents were to be kept there until it was determined that they could once again be considered safe in Washington, D.C.

It was not the first time the Declaration and the Constitution had been moved because of war.

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Seventy years ago this winter, in one corner of the American West, explosions shattered the peace. But they were not, as elsewhere in the world, symptoms of war. Rather the five dozen men spending winter in a large wooden shack at a Dakota mountain were finishing the giant likeness of Theodore Roosevelt, which would stand alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore.

In his speech marking the beginning of work on the monument, President Calvin Coolidge mentioned Washington the creator, Jefferson the extender, and Lincoln the preserver of the nation’s life. As for Roosevelt, “To political freedom he strove to add economic freedom.” Yes, Calvin “business of America is business” Coolidge said that; and Gutzon Borglum, the monument’s sculptor, explained that Coolidge really meant it:

President Coolidge once asked me, in discussing these men, what was my estimate of Roosevelt. “Well,” I answered, “I happen to know that Mr. Roosevelt said the cutting of the Panama Canal was the greatest and most important service he rendered to the nation.” Mr. Coolidge jumped to his feet and, with his index finger pointing upward, he said, “Have you forgotten that he was the only President who dared to tell big business, “Thus far you can go, and no farther, for the safety of our country”?

I was stunned. Not at the reminder, but that it came from Coolidge and in that phrase: “the only President.” Then he added, “Those words must be cut on that mountain.”1

They weren’t—they abandoned the plan to carve a brief history of the nation into the mountain—but still: Roosevelt’s progressivism inspired even Calvin Coolidge. The other men on the mountain are gods of War and Revolution and enterprises of great moment. Roosevelt is there because of what he did for Americans in their ordinary lives.
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Phil Nugent, my favorite cultural critic, has a great post up about Oral Roberts.

Here’s a taste:

It was Oral the raving bull goose loony whose image was preserved for all time by Lenny Bruce in his epic “Religions, Inc.” routine (“Thank you very much! Thank you, boy, here, have a snake!”). A milestone in Bruce’s career and the history of stand-up comedy itself, it depicted Oral as a cynical religious con man with contempt for the “thick rednecks” who were his natural audience, which stands to reason, since Bruce’s most fertile approach as a satirist was always to describe the powerful and respected as if they were just another bunch of nightclub performers who’d come up from working in strip clubs and toilets and hustled aluminum siding between gigs. It’s most prescient when it caricatures the rage that the self-made man (and woman, Sarah) feels at the brainy types who would dare to patronize him for his lack of book learnin’. “Go ahead, laugh at him,” Bruce’s Oral says to the straw men he’s sure must think the worst of him. “There’s a dummy! Ha ha ha ha! I’m a dummmy. Yes, I’m dumb, I got two Lincoln Continentals, that’s how goddamn dumb I am. I’m dumber’n hell, I don’t know how much a whole lot of nines are!” The supreme skeptic Martin Gardner once wrote of Oral, “Insecure feelings about his early poverty and lack of education mix with an awesome ego. Oral will never consider that when he hears the voice of God he is listening to himself, that when he builds a bigger monument it is a monument to himself. His visions are too childish to be fabrications.”

Really, you should read the whole thing. But be warned: before you start, block out a few days to make your way through the entire Phil Nugent back catalog.

Thesis:  A successful children’s cartoon in the 80’s required three elements: an occupation, a natural kind, and the ability to fight crime, broadly construed.

Case in point, from a late-night conversation:

“…the Mighty Ducks.”


“They were hockey players.  Who were ducks.”


“And they fought crime.”

Discussion point:  I admit one has to construe “crime” broadly to include the Decepticons and whoever it was that were the foes of the Care Bears.  I submit, however, that this is a legitimate construal.

[In what passes for a holiday tradition here at The Edge of the American West, I’m re-posting my thoughts about how to handle AHA interviews. If you want to see the previous iterations of this post, including some really useful comments, you can go here and here. Consider this my opening salvo in the war on Christmas.]

It’s the most wonderful time of year. No, not Christmas silly, the AHA. Or, as I’m fond of calling it, the world’s largest and least flattering mirror. The mere thought of thousands of historians gathered in one place warms the cockles of my heart. Particularly cockle-warming, of course, are AHA interviews, the preliminary candidate screening done by most history departments at the annual conference.

For the past few years, I’ve offered our graduate students a talk in which I’ve shared a few tips about how to handle the AHA interviews they receive. And, given the nature of this blog, I thought I’d pass along some of these ideas here. If you’re not a historian, I don’t know how useful this material will be, though I expect some of what I say is exportable to the AAG, the MLA, or most other three-letter waking nightmares. That said, much of what follows is targeted at graduate students in history. Also, although this should go without saying, I can’t promise that any of this will work for you. So let me know what you think. Or, if you’ve got an idea that’s missing from my list, by all means post a comment.

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This post is in response to Sir Charles’s request, though I can’t find it.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a liberal president, allowed by crisis to go further in turning the purpose of the United States to the aid of the least among Americans than any president before or since. He spoke frankly of his commitment to the poor and downtrodden.

Tonight I call the roll—the roll of honor of those who stood with us in 1932 and still stand with us today.

Written on it are the names of millions who never had a chance—men at starvation wages, women in sweatshops, children at looms.

Written on it are the names of those who despaired, young men and young women for whom opportunity had become a will-o’-the-wisp.

Written on it are the names of farmers whose acres yielded only bitterness, business men whose books were portents of disaster, home owners who were faced with eviction, frugal citizens whose savings were insecure.

Written there in large letters are the names of countless other Americans of all parties and all faiths, Americans who had eyes to see and hearts to understand, whose consciences were burdened because too many of their fellows were burdened, who looked on these things four years ago and said, “This can be changed. We will change it.”

We still lead that army in 1936. They stood with us then because in 1932 they believed. They stand with us today because in 1936 they know. And with them stand millions of new recruits who have come to know.

Their hopes have become our record.

Before he had campaigned on hope and now he campaigned on achievement. And he won, thumpingly. He promised to go further and do more.

I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

It is not in despair that I paint you that picture. I paint it for you in hope—because the Nation, seeing and understanding the injustice in it, proposes to paint it out. We are determined to make every American citizen the subject of his country’s interest and concern; and we will never regard any faithful, law-abiding group within our borders as superfluous. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.

And yet within less than two years his program stood dead in the water. Indeed if it weren’t for the obviously impending war, Roosevelt probably would have lost his campaign in 1940, if he had even run for a third term, and it would now be harder than it already is to point out the success of his New Deal.1

What stalled the New Deal and nearly killed FDR’s presidency? Why, a campaign for true democracy and ideological purity within the Democratic Party.

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A woman starts a freelance writing service from home.  Her business struggles along.  On a whim, and to distance herself from her struggling business, she chooses a male pen name, James Chartrand.

Her business takes off, earning two to three times the income she earns under her own name.  She wins recognition, and now she’s outing herself as a pseud.

The phenomenon here is reasonably well attested.  J. K. Rowling published under her initial upon the advice of her publisher, if I recall correctly, because of the belief that a book by a male writer would be more appealing to the kids’ market.  Identical resumes with female names have been found to be presumed to be less qualified than their male counterparts.   What’s striking about this particular anedote is both that it’s removed from most of the external forces that would amplify or diminish prejudice and that the outcomes are so stark.  Two to three times as much money!

No doubt that part of the difference in success is simply that success follows success; once James Chartrand had a few nibbles and early successes, he became not merely James Chartrand, freelancer, but James Chartrand, successful freelancer with a proven track record, and she had the confidence that goes along with success.   Even if that were the whole story, however, it’s still interesting how a small difference in her client’s perceptions (it’s tantalizing to speculate what their thought processes were, but I suspect it was mostly nothing more than “this guy looks qualified enough” vs. “I’m just not convinced that her work is good, who else can we look at? ” rather than anything overt) is quite literally the difference between wondering whether she can feed her kids on her income and having enough money to purchase a house.

Ever since he made his debut as a giant floating head, we knew Michael Bérubé has what it takes to be a world leader. We congratulate the MLA on choosing Michael to become their president, thus enabling his further ascent.

Bérubé to Putin: Step off my airspace, pal.


And of course we congratulate Michael, too. The original official Edge of the American West interview with Michael Bérubé is available in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

Can someone explain to me why this isn’t an obviously bad idea?  During pregnancy, quite a lot of the weight gain is blood volume, water retention, and the fetus plus the architecture that supports it; it’s not comparable to a non-pregnant 15 pound weight gain.

So if someone’s goal is to gain no weight during pregnancy, that’s going to amount to losing things like fat and bone density and muscle tissue quickly because there is no way to make a weightless placenta or a weightless baby, and doing this while expending all of the energy required to put together a little human being.  Fat doesn’t turn into a baby any more than fat turns into muscle while you exercise.

I feel like I visited most of the abandoned malls in this photo-essay when they were still operating. Or maybe not. It’s hard to say. I suppose that’s the point.


A holiday message from President Mark Yudof, of the University of California, including a conditional: “If our proposed budget is adopted, I expect that we can end the furlough program, which has placed such burdens on staff and faculty, by the summer of 2010.”

UPDATE: The message to the faculty emailed this morning reads, “As you probably know, we are asking Sacramento for an additional $913 million next year, an amount that will restore the steep cuts made over the last two years to the University’s budget. The furloughs will end in the summer of 2010.”

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This video of the Muppets doing Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” seems to have been chased off YouTube by Warners, and I can’t embed it because, according to WordPress, the site hosts NSFW video (unlike YouTube? anyway). But you can see it if you click on that link. It’s a fine example of what made the Muppets great—there’s lots of serious weird in there with the sweet. This is especially true of the Muppet Show pilot (1, 2, 3), sometimes called “Sex and Violence.”

If only the Beatles had accepted Lorne Michaels’s offer.

This is officially an award-winning blog

HNN, Best group blog: "Witty and insightful, the Edge of the American West puts the group in group blog, with frequent contributions from an irreverent band.... Always entertaining, often enlightening, the blog features snazzy visuals—graphs, photos, videos—and zippy writing...."