Friday, 01 September 2006

The New Republic's Open University [X-posted from the Valve per the x-posting policy mentioned Monday (soon to be codified).] As its illustrious competitors for “Most Prestigious Group Blog” have noted, The New Republic‘s Open University went online today. The roster is nothing short of spectacular: David A. Bell, David Bromwich, Daniel W. Drezner, David Greenberg, Jacob S. Hacker, Michael Kazin, Sanford Levinson, Jacob T. Levy, Darrin M. McMahon, John McWhorter, Elisa New, Steven Pinker, Eric Rauchway, Christine Stansell, Lawrence Summers, Cass R. Sunstein, Abigail Thernstrom, Ted Widmer and Alan Wolfe. I’m not entirely sure what its establishment means for the future of academic blogging. Does it bode well? Does it mean academic bloggers have already “made it”? How will these titans interact with established bloggers? Will they participate in discussions or will they merely initiate them? Over the past three years, I’ve corresponded with four of its contributors; all four struck me as personable, charitable scholars willing to engage their opponents. (A few months back, I heard Pinker was “stubborn, arrogant, uncooperative and chewed with his mouth open.” That description—sans flourish—didn’t jibe with my experience.) What effect will having to deal with trolls, sorrowful or otherwise, have on them? I’m as curious as I can be (without wishing it upon them). Also, everyone should check out Eric Rauchway’s post on Deadwood. In addition to being an exceptionally gifted historian—his Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt’s America is one of the finest books on my period (Gilded Age/Progressive Era) I’ve read to date—he has impeccable taste in links.
Almost Famous? It is an ordinary morning. Scott wakes up, showers, downs a cup of coffee and unslumbers his laptop. The air conditioner in front of which he sits spews cool air and white noise. Scott: (to himself) Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, Eric Rauchway, spam, spam, spam—ERIC RAUCHWAY?!? (vigorously fans his hands in front of his face) The Eric Rauchway? (turns to bookshelf, removes Murdering McKinley from the shelf, stares the cover) Why I—I—I c—can't, c—can't hardly br—br—br—brea— (labored wheezing, followed by a dull thud as his head hits the keyboard) Time passes. Scott unslumps, looks confused, composes himself, replies to Rauchway's email and begins work for the day. The air conditioner continues blanketing his study with cool air and white noise. Scott is completely unaware of the Little Womedievalist as she enters. LW: (savoring the moment) Pack— Scott: (jumping seven startled feet straight up) Jesus Christ! LW: —age from Amazon. (exits) Scott: (gathering himself) What do we have here? Michael's What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Excellent. Just the thing I need to procrastinate. (opens book, flips to the acknowledgments page and reads aloud) "I want to thank Timothy Burke, some guy, some famous guy, some guy, Ralph Luker"—that's awful sweet—"Christopher Clarke, Roxanne Cooper, John Holbo, Scott Eric Kaufman and Amardeep Sin"—SCOTT ERIC KAUFMAN?!? (vigorouslier fans his hands in front of his face) ME Scott Eric Kaufman? (turns to mirror, looks at self, looks at book, points at self, points at page) Why I—I—I c—can't, c—can't hardly br—br—br—brea— (more labored wheezing, followed by a duller thud as his head hits the keyboard again) Five minutes later, Scott rouses himself, rereads the page, reacquires the vapors and faints again. Ten minutes after that, Scott rerouses himself, rerereads the page, rereacquires the vapors and faints again. Time passes. Seven hours later, the Little Womedievalist enters wearing a worried expression. The air conditioner still spews cool air and white noise. She looks at her husband, slumped over the keyboard, whispering his happiness in desperate, wheezy syllables and laughs, lovingly, at the foolish man-child before her.

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