Tag Archives: American Studies

Daily Schedules and Moral Resolutions

Benjamin Franklin, late 18th century:


Jay Gatsby (née James Gatz), early 20th century:


David Foster Wallace, late 20th century:

2–3 hours a day in writing
Up at 8–9
Only a couple late nights a week
Daily exercise
Minimum time spent teaching
2 nights/week spent with other friends
5 [recovery meetings a] week

Question You Already Know the Answer To

In a rotten economy, or really in any economy, how many people with PhDs in American cultural studies do you think we actually need?

Josh Wimmer

Related post: “An Important Lesson.”


I posted the below quote as a comment over at A Conversation on Cool but it got deleted. Does the very act of thinking about the racial history and connotations of cool make white people uncomfortable?

Cool is all about trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents. It’s about living on the cusp, on the periphery, diving for scraps. Essential to cool is being outside looking in. Others – Indians, immigrants, women, gays – have been “othered,” but until the past 15 percent of America’s history, niggas in real terms have been treated by the country’s majority as, at best, subhuman and, at worst, an abomination. So in the days when they were still literally on the plantation they devised a coping strategy called cool, an elusive mellowing strategy designed to master time and space. Cool, the basic reason blacks remain in the American cultural mix, is an industry of style that everyone in the world can use. It’s finding the essential soul while being essentially lost. It’s the nigga metaphor. And the nigga metaphor is the genius of America.

Donnell Alexander

Read the whole thing.

Related reading: Norman Mailer, “The White Negro” (1957)

An Important Lesson

Once you’ve lost a few hundred bucks at a three-card monte cardboard and newspaper table, you’ve learned an important lesson, one that should save you a lot of money and time. It’s the classic scam, and once you’re hip to it, you should never again be taken in. After a three-card monte loss, you should never again get burned. You should never go to a psychic, buy a magnetic bracelet or get a Ph.D. in American studies.

—Penn Gillette, the taller, louder half of the noir comedy magic team Penn & Teller.