A guide to better living through cured pork products

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Historians Are Shameless

I just finished preparing a textbook analysis project for my historical methods students. I am asking them to read up on a specific topic in western civ (like say the Renaissance, the Reformation, World War One, or some other lark) and see how coverage of that subject has changed over the decades. As a result I had to round up a swath of textbooks published since the 1930s until the present. After hauling a couple of dozen tomes down to the reserve desk my back hurts. I have also come to the realization that some of my fellow practitioners of the historical arts are motivated by crass material interest.

Textbook publishing is a boondoggle and there is no reason for historians to write or publishers to print the outrageous numbers of textbooks in circulation today. Do we really need a book to go into a tenth edition? Should a title be revised even after its original authors are dead? Did we really need to update that Western Civ textbook (a book essentially about European History) to encompass the events of September 11th? The attack on the World Trade Center was and is a significant event, but has enough time passed for it to be considered a 'part of history?' The answer to these questions is an emphatic No.

There is no intellectually valid reason for a textbook to be updated more than once a decade. The only reason that there are new editions or more than three survey textbooks on Western Civ is because they are Cash Cows for publishers and authors alike. Academic publishing has very meager financial rewards. Historians do not collect royalties on their monographs or articles. The publishers don't make any money at it either. The one place where they can make a modest sum (perhaps enough to put one of their children through college) is in the textbook business. Far be it from me to take the bread out of another scholar's mouth, but for dog's sake, lets not reduce history to the intersection of frivolity and cupidity.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Not Your Father's Sparkling Rosé

... well, ok, so your father probably didn't drink rosé anyhow. But the reputation of the pinkish sort of wine in America is generally bad. For the beer quaffing Midwestern male the blush wine is an effeminate drink and for women its a little too "pinkies up." For the highbrow country club types the rosé is for children and "middle brow" drinkers who pretend to sophistication, but cant handle the tannins in a Tuscan red. Sutter Home's White Zin was popular for a while, but it is now associated with the empty-headedness and "greed is good" climate of the 1980s. White Zin, in the eyes of many, is best drunk from a paper bag with a straw.

But not all rosés are created equal... Check out the Ameztoi Rubentia Txakolina from Spain's Basque country. The wine has a berry like flavor without being too sweet. It also has a gentle bubble and a slightly dry finish. Its just great. It tastes like an interesting white wine rather than a sweet red. It holds up to food but is pleasant to drink on its own. If you are in Minneapolis, you can find it for about $15 a bottle at Zipps on Franklin.

Ameztoi also makes a really nice white Txakolina with the same gentle sparkle. The taste is subtle and clean, but somehow it did not inspire the same awe that accompanied the Rubentia. Still an interesting white that showcases the diversity of wine makers on the Iberian peninsula.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Week One - Introduction

Well, this is a chance to test the water on writing a blog. I have been meaning to try it out for a while, but now I have some time to fool around with it this summer. I also really need to do some more informal writing, since academic publishing requirements are cramping my style. I plan on writing about three things:
  1. History & Books
  2. Food and Cooking
  3. General commentary
There might be a bit about travel and running too, but I have not been doing enough of either to make it worth mentioning. I am hoping that it will be a way for family, friends, and colleagues to see what I've been up to.