Let Them Eat Wireless

In which Yr. Humble Correspondent tries his hand at that most dee-verting genre of blog posts, impotent griping about the slings and arrows of outrageous customer service.Calamity Jon Morris, the Gen-X Winsor McCay, wrote in his weblog the other day: “While thousands upon thousands have lost everything they ever owned, their homes, their families or their lives, I remain very angry at Netflix for dragging its feet on my latest returns. I may just be a monster.” I know how you feel, Jon. I myself feel a bit of a monster for posting the following. It does me little credit to moan about having no telephone while so many have just lost their homes. On the other hand, there were people suffering in the world long before Hurricane Katrina. What are we the bloggers of the world supposed to do, keep our whinging to ourselves until all of the world’s real problems are solved? Unlikely.

So, L & I moved into our new home two months ago. We love it. A downstairs and an upstairs, shiny appliances, funky details, a yard, a garage, a hidden treasure (allegedly), and the cutest little tree-lined street you’ve ever seen. Anyone who hadn’t been paying Boston rents for the last decade would judge it a modest little starter home, but I feel like an English colonist surveying the New World: “We will NEVER use up all this space! Never in a million years!” But there’s always a but, isn’t there? Here’s ours…
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Canada Recycles

The move continues: we’ve made it safely to Canada, although most of our stuff has not. No slaves to material possessions, we’re celebrating the 1st of July / 4th of July weekend in the land of sporadic internet access. I’ll log on long enough to recycle some more old junk from my LiveJournal. Never let it be said this weblog is not environmentally responsible.

In hono(u)r of Canada Day, some alternate history silliness I wrote in 2003:

Undead or Canadian? Not really an alternate history; just Inuit legend crossed with my Grade 8 civics textbook and Dawn of the Dead.

Dominion Day. Southern victory in the Civil War precipitates the rise of a fascist Super-Canada. The only one of these alternates not to cheat by using aliens or black magic yet still possibly the most preposterous.

Things Americans Don’t Know. The most popular of my alternate Canadas: what if the UFO crash at Roswell happened three days earlier and 1500 miles north?

The Northern Magus. Sex, drugs, and Pierre Trudeau.

The Secret History of Flin Flon, Manitoba. Not an alternate history, and not the fifth alternate Canada I still owe my LJ readers. But a crazy true Canadian history story about the remote Manitoba town my mother was born in.

And, in hono(u)r of my wedding anniversary (which was Wednesday), romantic mushiness from 2003 and 2004. Awwww.


Goin’ Down The Road

My blogging here will continue its typically pokey pace for the foreseeable future, as Lisa and I make the move to Canada. The computer I’m typing on gets packed up today and everything gets packed up tomorrow and I expect I’ll be in offline limbo for a week or two. But I have been blogging up a storm, at least by my own standards, over at my LiveJournal, and I thought I’d offer a link for those who don’t know me from there. I’ve written a series of posts looking back on my ten years in Boston, in particular my first years of grad school, and it’s all very angsty and autobiographical, for those who like that sort of thing. The LiveJournal is here, and the autobiography starts here, with yet another shout-out to Ben Franklin.

Be warned: my LiveJournal is not the work of a mature and erudite scholar but that of a feckless and nerdy grad student. Footnotes are never provided, profanity is not uncommon, and in-jokes that I do not bother to explain are rife. There are no permanent links to my LiveJournal from this page, but I haven’t made any great effort to keep the connection a secret, either. I set up this page while I was on the job market, and it made sense to strictly divide posts about history matters from posts about every other thing in my life. After I make the move, I’d like to renegotiate the divide a little between what I post here and what I post at LiveJournal. Not that I won’t have to maintain some kind of decorum here (in fact, I’ll probably remove links to my LiveJournal, or cull most of the more confessional posts, once I start teaching) but my favorite blogs are the ones that have a central topic and a grown-up tone, yet still let us in to the parts of the author’s life. Like everyone else, I’m still figuring out how to do this blogging thing, and just what authorial voice works best for me. Maybe if I bring a bit more of my own life over here, I’ll also feel like I have more to say about history proper at Cliopatria, since right now my most “serious” history blogging (I use that word advisedly) gets diluted between this site and that one, and I often feel bad about that.

But for now, just more radio silence, as we pull up stakes and bid adieu to the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave. Thank you, America, it’s been a hell of a decade. See you in Canada.


A Zooter from a Googly

Way back in September, the very second post in this weblog was an account of lunch with Jason Kaufman, a smart young sociologist at Harvard who wanted to talk to me about the comparative history of Canada and the United States. Reading that post, it’s easy to see my respect and envy (as a historian) of Jason’s willingness (as a sociologist) to make big generalizations and bold, contentious claims. I now have another reason to respect and envy Jason: he had an op-ed piece in this Sunday’s New York Times. (If that link expires, try this one.) But the reaction to the piece by other smart people I also respect reminds me of something about big generalizations and bold claims: they can easily be disputed, and they can often be wrong.

The op-ed is a teaser for Jason and his co-author Orlando Patterson’s article in the next American Sociological Review. Their NYT piece is called “Bowling for Democracy,” which is cute because Jason’s first book was an extended take-down of Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone. But they’re talking about a different kind of bowling here. The question they started with was, “why don’t Canadians play cricket?” Cricket remains popular in almost all the former British colonies; Canada and the U.S. are the two big exceptions. Kaufman and Patterson’s thesis is that in nineteenth-century Canada and the United States, cricket remained the preserve of upper-class elites. Anxious to maintain their class identity in an increasingly egalitarian society, Canadian and American elites clung to upper-class signifiers like cricket and kept the plebes off the pitch. When baseball came along in the late nineteenth century, it was all too easy for promoters like A.G. Spalding to caricature cricket as a sissy, blue-blooded game and position baseball as the manly, populist alternative. In India and the Caribbean, by contrast, British elites had little fear of class assimilation. There were easier ways to tell who was in the club and who wasn’t, so elites encouraged their colonial subjects to play the game.
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