new boozy city

My favorite bit of narration from Prohibition, Parts II & III:

Consumption dropped in every major city, and everywhere in the United States, except in New York City, where it went up. New Yorkers then as now did NOT enjoy being told what to do and took to drinking in defiance.

Heh. Yeah, I could’ve guessed.

Another favorite tale: a woman at grad school in Cambridge (Radcliffe?) applied that intellectual talent (with a roommate) to making homemade beer. It blew up, thus spoiling an otherwise promising weekend, no doubt.

All of these stories–up to and including the spawn of what we now know as the mob–make for quite the tale of “crime, corruption and hypocrisy.”

Oh, and did anyone else catch the right to privacy first articulated thanks to Justice Brandeis?  Or a hero of New York politics, Al Smith? Imagine a politician today standing up for his or her convictions regardless of losing a general election, because that’s what Smith did after denouncing the strengthening KKK.

It was quite something hearing from The New Yorker’s Lois Long (aka “Lipstick”) who could be a blogger recapping her night somewhere on the Lower East Side circa 2011 : these are the tales which cemented the legendary flappers in New York’s imagination, I’m sure.

At last, Burns gets back to gender in the 1920’s, and brings up a phenomenon you’ll see again in the wake of 2nd wave American feminism: an incredibly politicized generation of feminist activists appalled at the sexualized behavior of their daughters. My delightful discovery, thanks to this doc, was that of Pauline Sabin, the blue-blood Republican who stood for repeal and against the Women’s Christian Temperance Union because she felt offended that they purported to stand for all American women.

Definitely worth a viewing–so put this one in your queue for a winter’s weekend, if not sooner! I’m impressed at Burns’ brevity here: there is more than enough material to have gone on far longer, and this film is fairly “tight” for him, clocking in at around six hours. It’s also genuinely insightful in terms of how long certain political and cultural debates have been with us as a nation, which is to say–as always–longer than we thought.


prohibition, part 1

It was interesting to see so many of the issues I’ve worked on in policy and feminist history show up throughout the first installment of Ken Burns’ Prohibition.

Kudos to Burns for tracing the history of women’s activism in terms of the temperance movement in the 19th century–they are absolutely intertwined. It is amazing to reread the history of temperance seeing “alcohol” as code for domestic violence, marital rape and financial ruin if paychecks were brought directly to taverns where they could be cashed and spent in full. This did not encompass every single drinker’s behavior, thank goodness, but it has always interested me to think about how easily we can use one identifiable so-called “evil” as a stand-in for far more amorphous social problems (then and now).

Last year, I spent a lot of time doing research on New York’s alcohol policy, and the same arguments from the 19th century about the city’s “vice neighborhoods” now appear as battles over the efficacy of allowing “nightlife districts”. Watching Burns’ documentary, you see history repeat itself over and over again. In America, fights over alcohol  have been going on in the background of our politics forever–one way or another.

“I have one request: Please use birth control.”

So sayeth Diane Miller, and rightly so, to local mob boss Sonny Corinthos on General Hospital as he pursues the federal prosecutor Claire Walsh.

That’s right, people.  I don’t have cable television, and I am nearly done with my second master’s, and I enjoy eating arugula, doing yoga, and hanging out in coffee houses, and yes, I also watch General Hospital.

If you’re in academia for the long haul, you tend to append a bit of a “fun” research interest or pop culture area of study to your CV, just for overall texture and yummy flavor.  I have colleagues who can parse detection fiction, sci fi, comic books, porn, underwater basket weaving—where was I? Oh, yes: mine would be GH, even though I have serious problems with it on several levels we’ll get to over time.  (TEASER!)

The show’s most recent publicity stunt (or rather James Franco’s publicity stunt) entailed his guest stint as a serial killer/performance artist, and do I even have to tell you how laughably, hysterically awful this was?

No, because Mallory on Serial Drama did such a spectacular job breaking down Franco’s penultimate episode I’m still sitting here doing a slow clap for her.  BRAVO.

Stark raving awesome

Friends, here is the BEST guilty-pleasure viewing of this summer: “The Good Guys”, Fox’s new action comedy (yes, you read that correctly) starring Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman from The West Wing) and Colin Hanks (TomSpawn) as a most unreformed non-PC cop and his straight-man partner.  I hadn’t read any critics’ reviews of this prior to settling in to check out Whitford, whose mustache for this role rivals anything Tom Selleck sported back in the day.  Frankly, I was just plain curious: what in the world was the man immortalizing the line “I’m so sick of Congress I could vomit” doing running around with a beer belly and crooked tietack shooting things?

Simply put, he’s having a blast.  This is the most fun, over-the-top, goofy piece of entertainment I’ve seen in quite awhile.  If you grew up on Starsky and Hutch, the A-Team, or others in the motley gallery of late 70s/early 80s buddy-action shows, the formula is obvious and this sendup affectionately madcap.   Don’t spend too much time trying to mull over the logic of any plot points or musing on “social commentary” served up by Dan Stark (Whitford).  That isn’t the point.  This is classic summer fare, perfect for watching under the spell of a whirring rotary fan while nursing a sweating bottle of beer.  What, I can’t invoke an old-school cliche now?

“The Good Guys” airs on Fox Mondays at 9/(8 central) or anytime you’d like via Hulu or the show’s website.

The Best Four? Hours of Some People’s Lives

It’s the Oscar Liveblog, including our usual cast of characters chatting it up as the beautiful people sat and waited for something. to. happen. Yes, the interminable middle section of this show persisted.

Some people we guessed would win did, fabulously, and the evening’s end turned into a shower of Oscars for Kathryn Bigelow.  I give two thumbs up (with a twist) to Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin: I thought they were actually, for the most part, funny.

And now?  For those of us out here in EST, time for bed.

Best. Skating. Ever.

Johnny Weir, skating to Lady Gaga on Sunday’s national championship exhibition show, was a simply fabulous way to end my weekend.  Thanks for an actual smile over here, sweet thang.  Favorite part: everything after 2:10.  Although, GOD, this is going to just wreck one of my vinyasa yoga podcast classes in which this tune is playing in the background.  I’m now likely to break concentration at a quite inopportune moment.  More fun for Ginsberg, watching me fall!

This is going to be such a fun Olympic figure skating competition.  I can’t wait.