Wednesday, February 26, 2014

What happened to the UWF History Dept. website?

Looks like the website for the UWF history dept. has a new look.  Bummer.  Lots lost from the prior page, such as the newsletter.  I get the feeling this change was driven from above.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Maurice Cowling remembered

The American Conservative recently posted an entertaining article on combative 20th-c. British historian Maurice Cowling by Matthew Walther titled "Tory Nihilist."  While I take issue with the title, I thoroughly enjoyed the article.  I first heard of Cowling through David Bentley Hart's illuminating review of his final book in First Things (regrettably no longer available via the First Things website, but it can be read-and profitably-at this slightly creepy shrine to all things DBH).  Also see this excellent analysis of Cowling's oeurve by Richard Vinen at Reviews in History.  Vinen strikes a comparison between Cowling and post-punk band The Fall, which, in essence, means Fall frontman Mark E. Smith.  A most apt comparison.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nicholas Carr's good tastes in music

Do you know who Nicholas Carr is?  He wrote The Shallows, which I understand to be a monumental critique of the current state of the technological society (or at least the Internet).  I don't know, because I have not read it yet.  Yet.  It's on my list.  While I haven't read his books, I have read several articles and blog posts by Carr.  He blogs at Rough Type, which was recommended by one of my favorite writers, Alan Jacobs (who himself writes provocative blog posts at (among other places) Text Patterns, hosted by the site of the estimable journal The New Atlantis).

I noticed recently that Carr keeps another blog, Rougher Type, where he lets his personality hang out a little bit, including his tastes in pop music, which I find agreeable.  I haven't read all that far back, but so far he's touted Guided by Voices, My Bloody Valentine, the Zombies, and the Flying Burrito Brothers, notably.  GBV, MBV, et al - pretty cool.  Carr even made a Robert Pollard mix"tape" on Spotify!  Haven't listened to it yet, but looking forward to it.  (I haven't been able to keep up with Pollard for quite some time now, sadly.)

And back to Jacobs, he's professed admiration for Yo La Tengo and Ray Davies.  These guys are both smart and cool.  Maybe there's hope for me (in one direction or another).

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tim Egan: Channeling the classic American mythos

Tim Egan is our new favorite author of children's books.  It all began with Serious Farm, which curiously is left off the list of books at Mr. Egan's website.  This cover has Grant Wood's "American Gothic" written all over it.  Even though the book is about farm animals acting goofy and doing silly things to overthrow their farmer's suffocating seriousness - even though it's about the importance of not being too serious - the mood is fastened by a bolt of stoicism that runs throughout, as it does in all his books that I've read so far.  It's something in the way he draws faces.  Yet, that itself is the joke that ultimately brings a smile to his readers' faces.  He populates his books with stoic animals that we can't take entirely seriously, and it's this very fact that subverts the stoicism with mirth.  (Fishing for a Chesterton quote here.)

Okay, okay, hold on a minute.  Just ignore the previous paragraph.  I'm thinking about it too much.  Look, the bottom line is that Tim Egan's books are a lot of fun, touching but not sentimental, silly but not frivolous, uniquely rendered.  My 3-year-old son loves them, as do my wife and I.  He does channel something distinctly American.  So far, we've read Serious Farm, Metropolitan Cow, Roasted Peanuts (probably our favorite so far), The Pink Refrigerator, and Dodsworth in New York.  They're all a joy.  Glad to see many more Egan books to read to my kids.  And to myself when no one's looking.  Tim Egan, please don't stop writing!