Saturday, 31 July 2010

Unicorn Chaser

A bit of uplifting linkspam after Vellum's downer of a post yesterday.

Is this a photograph of young Abraham Lincoln? Survey says not only no, but an emphatic no.

Talking Carls get in a fight, which quickly descends into a screaming match.

A letter from the Campbell Soup Company to Andy Warhol. Accompanied by two cases of tomato soup.

In other news, I was quite sure I was going to die last night when my (very significantly younger) sister convinced me to go on the Zipper at rural New England county fair. Apparently I am too old for this shit. I and my guts prefer that the extreme G-forces restrain themselves to one direction, thank you. The Re-Mix II was marginally less deadly, the G-forces being largely in one direction. The Cyclone was quite relaxing by comparison. No Tilt-a-Whirl, which depressed me greatly.

However, much to Vellum's delight, there was poutine, and we also consumed the obligatory fair foods: fried dough, blooming onion, ice cream... A successful outing all in all, even for my sister, who is at the age (still several years from being able to drive) where most fun things are deemed dull and stupid. Who knew that a few extreme fair rides are all it takes to keep a pre-teen happy? Then again, she spent the drive back explaining the plot of Saw to Vellum, so I suppose we shouldn't consider her representative of her entire demographic.


Something Else

I'm not going to have time to watch this over the next week or so, because I'm pretty much booked solid. My parents are coming to Small New England Town for a week from Upper Canuckland, Vaulting has jury duty, and I still have my job. BUT if some of you do watch it, please let me know if it's worth making 20 minutes of time.

Yes, that's right, some folks have made The Luttrell Psalter into a movie.


Friday, 30 July 2010

Something Newsworthy

This week in the blogosphere there's been a lot floating about. I mean hell, there's always a lot floating about. But over the past week or so it's felt a little like there have been fewer Double Rainbows and more Elegantly-Written Op-Eds on the Newsworthy. Everyone's experience of the internet is different, every day, but these things seems to come in cohorts, and so I think the average English-language blogger and blog reader (or at least those who spend an hour or more per day reading blogs) will probably have had a similar experience.

The latest wave in the PFC Bradley Manning case (google Wikileaks for more on that) has crested with his transfer to Quantico; Time Magazine has put a shockingly disfigured Afghani woman on their cover to highlight the dangers of the Taliban's religious extremism; Susannah Breslin's The War Project has just posted another interview with a soldier/survivor of the American Military.

And the Newsworthy isn't limited to war talk. There's the matter of Shirley Sherrod and her firing and re-hiring by Tom Vilsack in the wake of the NAACP calling on the Tea Party to renounce their racist elements (and of course their fully expected racist response, which, to paraphrase was something not far short of “how dare you n*****s call us racists!”). I seem to have read a host of articles on everything from Obama to Mad Men to Freemasonry that deal with this issue of race in the New And Improved Post-Racial America (copyright USA 2008, all rights reserved). Hell, I just watched a video of Commander Adama of Battlestar Galactica decrying the very idea of race as an excuse for waging cultural war (which I am tempted to believe, but which, to my mind, brings up a host of its own issues).

I've been reading about Catholicism and the supposed Natural Law justification for discriminating against homosexual sexual behaviour; I've been reading about Israeli right-wingers considering a one-state solution; I've been reading about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement and its on-again-off-again committment to openness.

Today boingboing posted a link to a collection of (some of) the Best Magazine Articles Ever – articles about the Maine Lobster Fest by David Foster Wallace, about hacker tourism and the laying of transatlantic cables by Neal Stephenson, about the depravity of the Kentucky Derby by Hunter S. Thompson – and I realized something:

I would make an awful, awful journalist.

I can hardly stand to read this stuff all week, let alone immerse myself in it enough to write about it. It's depressing as hell. After just reading this stuff I need a unicorn chaser something fierce – if I needed one in real life, what would I do?

I think I'll go back to reviewing the X-Files on my personal blog. It's only 17 years after the fact.

But at least it's not Newsworthy.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

On the hunt

Turns out it was a good thing that I didn't do any work the other day - I didn't get paid for it. Well, in the end, I did, but about a week late. Someday, I will share the WTFery that is my place of employment. For now, suffice it to say that I have no guarantee of being paid in a timely manner, nor that the bank won't show up in the midst of a tour to close us down and seize the building.

In the meantime, the job hunt is not going well. I've submitted applications to a number of places, for a variety of positions - library researcher, gallery director, assistant curator of things medieval at major NYC museum, curator of contemporary art, administrative coordinator at a museum school.... So far only one rejection, which I suppose is all I can hope for at the moment (unfortunately, it was the library researcher position, which would have been an absolute blast). I'm expecting the rejection from major NYC museum soon, as they just pulled the job listing.

I'm preaching to the choir here, but job searches are demoralizing. It seems like they shouldn't be - my résumé is much more impressive than it was last time I did this - but in the end, all you end up with is the fact that no one thinks you're qualified enough to do the only things you're qualified to do.

I'm trying to take things in stride. I'm not sure what my worst case strategy is yet. Most people say "well, I can always wait tables until I get something better," but I've actually applied for a lot of waitress positions, and was turned down for all of them. Where do you go when restaurants won't even hire you? Temp agency, I expect. Which, you know, there are worse things. I have experience bookkeeping, and a lot of experience in data entry. My out-of-practice typing is around 95 words/minute. I have experience with customer service, and in academia (obviously). Someone should want to hire me, right?

Feel free to share tales of successful or unsuccessful job hunting.

(amusing aside: when I went to paste the link to the previous entry above, I accidentally pasted this link instead. Worth sharing, but not quite what I was going for.)


Saturday, 17 July 2010

Things that need doing

Things that need doing:

1) My job. Seeing as I am, in fact, at work. This involves
• Researching artists who taught at and attended a certain 19th century arts school
• Inviting people to special museum events
• Adding to my directions for how to run the museum after I'm gone

2) Research for a potential K'zoo paper. The session on teachers and students in the Middle Ages is right up my alley, and I already have a couple of representations in mind; I just need to see if there are more out there. If so, I can write up my proposal. If not, I'll have to tackle another topic. Either way, these things should be done sooner rather than later, as 1 month from now, I'll be far more concerned about packing and moving than researching fun medieval things.

3) Applying for jobs. Despite being all set to begin the packing and the moving, I still have idea how I'm going to support myself after doing so. Starting to get nervous about this, as I'm moving too slowly on the applications, and job postings are starting to disappear. Minor panic.

Things I am actually doing:

1) Posting
2) Reading stupid internet stories
3) Eating Life cereal (dry, out of a plastic bag. I am actually in grade school, as it turns out)
4) Checking my watch to see if the day is over yet (answer: no)
5) Compulsively checking my email every 5 minutes

I'm going to go try and do something more productive now. Wish me luck.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Arthur's Round Table "Found"

This is just a quick post in response to the Daily Fail article stating "King Arthur's Round Table 'found' -- except it's not a table, but a Roman amphitheatre in Chester."

This is a table:

This is an amphitheatre:

Your argument is invalid.

In related news, they've found the remains of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat, and the Ark of the Covenant is in Axum, Ethiopia.

Happy Monday, all.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

New Byzantium: The Micronation -- Now on Craigslist!

Dear Readers,

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this on craigslist:

New Micronation Restoring Byzantine Civilization (Vermont)

I felt as though I had to post about it. It was originally going to be a kind of mocking post, because at first I thought this was just some crazy people. The more I read their website though (which is at the more I kind of like these people.

So they are, in fact, trying to start a sovereign nation to live by some idealized version of what they think Byzantium and the Byzantine Empire were like. They have a flag (hold on... um.. here:

pretty swank, yeah?) and they have a peaceful declaration and a set of foundational laws. They let all their new citizens have dual citizenship, and encourage them to (please, please for the love of god) continue to follow the laws of their countries of residence, but they are genuinely hoping to get 100 acres of land somewhere to start a New Byzantium.

They're really just a bunch of Byzantine Empire enthusiasts who've started what looks to be the most in-depth enthusiasts club I've ever seen.

As an Anglo-Saxonist, I'm not really cut out for signing up, but if you're into the Byzantine Empire and like re-enactment and want to start building something, then go have a look. Might be just what you're looking for.

In the meantime -- anyone up for helping me form the new, Federated Micronation of Anglia? Maybe we could just convince The Principality of Sealand to rename themselves.

Or on second thought... maybe not.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A World Lit Only By Misconceptions 3: The Dark Ages

It's taken me a while to get around to this, because every time I think of sitting down to write this, I open this horrific book and it makes me die a little inside.

But for YOU, dear readers, for you alone, I will wade into this cesspool. Enjoy.

The Dark Ages

In that part of that book of Manchester's, before which little (but the prologue) can be read, there is a phrase that reads "still widely known as the Dark Ages" -- here perpetuates an old lie.

Here is the full passage, for your perusal:

The densest of the medieval centuries -- the six hundred years between, roughly, A.D. 400 and A.D. 1000 -- are still widely known as the Dark Ages. Modern historians have abandoned that phrase, one of them writes, "because of the unacceptable value judgment it implies." Yet there are no survivors to be offended. Nor is the term necessarily pejorative. Very little is clear about that dim era. Intellectual life had vanished from Europe.

The words that Vaulting is mumbling as I read this passage aloud mirror not only my own, but probably yours as well, dear readers. But just to be sure, my thoughts rhyme with "ducking bass pole".

For those of you who may not understand why the phrase "Dark Ages" is no longer used, it is not for fear of offending the dead, nor even for fear of offending those living who study them. Instead the term is no longer used because it implies the (at best grossly simplistic and at worst off-base and categorically untrue) statement that intellectual life had vanished from Europe -- the statement that 19th-century Classicists liked to make to justify their absurd opinions about the Romans and (even moreso) about themselves.

What it is, is about literacy, and about using our own society to judge others. Like social darwinism, this line of thought suggests that today's western society is the pinnacle of human achievement, and because this is the pinnacle, everything which came before must be somehow lesser. It wasn't that our society was better because it was more like that of the Romans -- despite what those who touted the nationalistic rise of the so-called British Empire would have had you believe a century or two ago; rather, Classical society was better because it was more like ours. We teach today using the Socratic method, literacy rates are high (though the more scholarship that is done on medieval societies the more literate they seem -- see the third article down by Dr. David Howlett for an older example), and education is a sign of membership in the upper classes.

Just take the phrase "the uneducated masses" -- something which Manchester can't claim to be a member of, and so can't use as an excuse.

Calling them the "Dark Ages" is, as some useful scholar has pointed out, an "unacceptable value judgment"* -- one that judges literate society as superior to illiterate. If you want something great to read, go pick up a copy of Michael T. Clanchy's book "From Memory to Written Record 1066-1307" and flip to the section entitled "Being Prejudiced In Favour Of Literacy". In it he writes that "Literacy has become the shibboleth of modern societies", a phrase which I mention primarily because it is one I very much enjoy.

Contrary to what Mr. Manchester thinks, the reason a value judgement is unacceptable is not because it will offend. No-one is sitting around saying "well, I'm a medievalist, and I take offense at your statement that everyone in the Middle Ages was illiterate." What we are saying is twofold:

First, it's not true -- there were dozens of cultures whose histories weave all throughout that 600 year period, who produced beautiful works of poetry and literature and prose -- Hell's bells, they were translating Genesis into Old English hundreds of years before Luther was a twinkle in his mother's eye -- and into Old Saxon before that!

Second, even if it were true, to suggest that all went "dark" -- and to carry with it all the concomitant metaphors it implies -- for six hundred years because of a societal change is to trumpet our own achievements without ever looking at someone else's. If our society is the pinnacle, then we've nothing left to learn from the past and we as historians should close up shop and move on to other, more "useful," professions.

The problem with calling the Middle Ages the "Dark Ages" is that it marginalizes and minimizes the impact of hundreds of years of thought, of art, and of society. The problem with calling the Middle Ages the "Dark Ages" is that it perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes that encourage people to dismiss cultural differences as inferiorities -- something western society has been doing for centuries, and not just to the dead. The problem with calling the Middle Ages the "Dark Ages" is that it's bad practice, it's poor scholarship, and it's unbecoming of any historian who would dare to call him- or herself such in public.

And so calling them the "Dark Ages" perpetuates the old lie: that We are the best, and that They will always be less than We are.

*And just in case you were wondering, no, I have no idea who said it, because Manchester didn't even bother to cite it. Not a single footnote in the whole book!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Art History at Kalamazoo

The 2011 Kalamazoo call for papers is up here.

The preliminary skim suggests there are a lot of good art history sessions this year, so I'm going to list some of them. I've found Art History to be rather under-represented at K'zoo, so I'm delighted to see so many this year (including mine...).

Art and Reality in the Ninth Century: East and West

Thalia Anagnostopoulos

1200 N. Herndon St. Apt. 445, Arlington, VA 22201

Phone: 510-469-5297 Email: thalia.anag AT

Benedictine Tradition in the Art of Southern Italy and Longobard Politics

Pina Palma

501 Crescent St., New Haven, CT 06515

Phone: 203-392-6753 Fax: 203-392-6136 Email: Palmag1 AT

The Illustrious Vernacular in Literature and Art

Margaret E. Hadley

Lawrence Technological Univ., Dept. of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication, 21000 W. Ten Mile Rd., Southfield, MI 48075

Email: margaretehadley AT

The American Society of Irish Medieval Studies (ASIMS)
Art and Architecture in the Era of the Book of Kells

Contact: Maggie M. Williams,
William Paterson University, Art Department, Ben Shahn Hall, 300 Pompton Rd., Wayne, NJ 07470

Phone: 646-342-1962 Fax: 973-720-3273 Email: williamsm11 AT

AVISTA: The Association Villard de Honnecourt for the Interdisciplinary Study of Medieval Technology, Science, and Art

I: The Sacred and the Secular in Medieval Healing I: Sites and Images [co-sponsored with Medica: The Society for the Study of Healing in the Middle Ages]

II: Rediscovering the Portfolio of Villard de Honnecourt

III: Two Decades of Glory: Major Findings from Minor Sculpture in the Ile-de-France, 1125–1145

Steven A. Walton

Pennsylvania State Univ., 130A Willard Building, 201 Old Main, University Park, PA 16802

Phone: 814-863-9526 Fax: 814-865-3047 Email: saw23 AT

Dept. of Medieval Studies, Central European University

Motion in Medieval Text and Image

Gerhard Jaritz

Central European Univ., Dept of Medieval Studies, Nádor utca 9, Budapest 1051, Hungary

Phone: +43-1-470-9871 Fax: +43-2732-84793-1 Email: jaritzg AT

Episcopus: Society for the Study of Episcopal Power and Culture in the Middle Ages

Image and Episcopacy: The Art of the Bishop

John S. Ott

Portland State Univ., Dept. of History, PO Box 751, Portland, OR 97207-0751

Phone: 503-725-3013 Fax: 503-725-3953 Email: ott AT

International Association of Word and Image Studies (IAWIS)

“Ceste memoire si”: Words, Images, and Medieval Memory

Véronique Plesch

Colby College, Dept. of Art, 5634 Mayflower Hill, Waterville, ME 04901

Phone: 207-453-9130 Fax: 207-859-5635 Email: vbplesch AT

International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA)

Glazing and Stained Glass: Collaborations, Analogies, and Investigations Involving Stained Glass and Other Disciplines I–II

Kirk Ambrose

Univ. of Colorado, Dept. of Art and Art History, 318 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309

Phone: 303-735-0813 Fax: 303-492-4886 Email: kirk.ambrose AT

International Center of Medieval Art (ICMA) Student Committee

The Market for Medieval Art Historians: How to Stand Out in the Interview Process

Jennifer Lyons

413 Chelsea Circle NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Phone: 404-314-9235 Fax: 404-727-2358 Email: jllyons AT

International Society for the Study of Pilgrimage Art

I: In, Out, Up, Down, and Through: Innovative and Participatory Physical Architecture in the High and Late Middle Ages (1200–1600)

II: Innovative and Participatory Fictive Architecture in the High and Late Middle Ages (1200–1600)

Sarah Blick

P.O. Box 619, Gambier, OH 43022

Phone: 740-392-2507 Fax: 740-427-5673 Email: blicks AT

Italian Art Society

The Study of the Art and Architecture of Italy: A Reassessment of the Discipline I–IV:

I. Seminal Figures; II. Geographic Limits; III. The Temporal Element; IV. Urbanism

Felicity Ratté

Marlboro College, PO Box A, Marlboro, VT 05344

Phone: 802-258-9234 Fax: 802-257-4154 Email: rattef AT

Medieval Feminist Art History Project

New Approaches to Medieval Medical and Scientific Imagery

Jennifer Borland

Oklahoma State Univ., Dept. of Art, 108 Barlett Center, Stillwater, OK 74078

Phone: 405-744-3999 Fax: 405-744-5767 Email: jennifer.borland AT

Medieval Studies Workshop, Univ. of Chicago

Images of Medieval Kingship

Torsten Edstam

Univ. of Chicago, Dept. of History c/o Jonathan Lyon, 1126 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637

Phone: 773-834-0584 Fax: 773-702-7550 Email: tedstam AT

Society for the Study of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages (SSHMA)

Queer Medieval Images

Graham N. Drake

SUNY–Geneseo, Dept. of English, 1 College Cir., Geneseo, NY 14454

Phone: 585-245-5273 Fax: 585-245-5181 Email: drake AT

Texas Medieval Association (TEMA)

Landscape, Natural and Man-Made, in Medieval Spanish Literature and Art

Donald J. Kagay

2812-A Westgate, Albany, GA 31721

Phone: 229-434-4623 Fax: 229-430-7895 Email: dkagay1 AT

Univ. of Leicester and the Univ. of Aberyswyth

When New Won’t Do: Recontextualizing Images and Architecture in the Middle Ages

Ellie Pridgeon

Flat 6, Dover Court, Greenwich, London SE10 8DF, United Kingdom

Phone: +44-7890-244-489 Email: elliepridgeon AT

Drop me a message if I've missed any.

Here's looking forward to May 2011.