Category Archives: almost certainly not worth posting about

August 13, 2014, 9:26 pm


It’s time to shut down The Edge of the American West. It’s been a long run, and I’ve enjoyed it, but blogging has become less compelling over the last year or so. I want to stop before writing for Edge actively becomes a chore. The blog has already had a number of lives, and different configurations, but I suspect that this is the last one. I’m proud of what I did here (and proud of what others did as well). Thanks for reading it.

The Chronicle will keep the archives of the blog running for the foreseeable future, so everyone’s wisdom will still show up in Google searches now and then. I’d like to thank all those who wrote large and small things for the blog – Vance, Kathy, my army of guest bloggers – for their efforts. I’d especially like to thank Ari Kelman and Eric Rauchway for starting up the blog and making it something that (even) William Gibson appreciated.

David Silbey

April 7, 2014, 6:20 pm

This Blog Was In London, By The Way

And, at times, over London:

IMG 2800

Thus the radio silence. I’m back!

September 19, 2012, 5:16 pm

Possible Things Mitt Romney Said During The Missing Two Minutes

There were two minutes missing from the Romney video the other night, coming right after the moment when Romney threw 47% of Americans right out of the lifeboat.

What he might have said (Warning! Speculative, fictional, and not to be taken as the actual words of Willard Mitt Romney, especially the Al Pacino part):

Mitt: Just kidding! Hah hah! Got you all.

Mitt: That is why, when I am President, I will announce a War on Poverty that will use the power of the government purse to bring all Americans a fair standard of living.

Mitt: (whips out cigarette holder, puts in mouth): I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people. Let us all here assembled constitute ourselves prophets of a new order of competence and of courage. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this crusade to restore …

Read More

September 11, 2012, 7:12 pm

McCain Leaps Ahead!

From the ABC affiliate in Raleigh-Durham, NC, September 9, 2008:

In an election for President of the United States in North Carolina Tuesday, Republican John McCain suddenly and breathtakingly surges to a 20-point win over Democrat Barack Obama, 58% to 38%, according to this latest exclusive SurveyUSA election poll conducted for ABC11-WTVD.

There were oddities in that survey (crosstabs here), including a shift of Obama’s support among women from being 2 points ahead of McCain to being 12 points behind, and Obama winning the 18-34 vote by only 3 points. In the end, Obama won North Carolina by a narrow margin.

From NC Civitas, September 10, 2012:

In the wake of the Republican National Convention, a Civitas Institute Flash Poll found that Republican candidate Mitt Romney took a 10 percentage-point lead over President Obama.

The Flash Poll of 500 registered North Carolina voters was…

Read More

September 5, 2012, 12:44 am

The Madness and Stupor of History.

A serendipitous confluence: This week This American Life re-ran “Fear of Sleep,” which begins with Ira Glass meditating on the dangers of that altered state, in which we – whatever and whoever we are – vanish, perhaps to dream strange dreams, walk perilously, even die; from which we can wake to unexpected faces and changed places. The recent New Yorker includes Oliver Sacks’s “Altered States,” a memoir – maybe a confessional – of his youthful enthusiasm for mind-altering substances (it was, he says, the 1960s and for some of the time, for him, it was California: even so, he seems to have been an avid and various consumer). Sacks reports on the thin difference – a few chemical micrograms – between our ordinary selves and psychosis, schizophrenia, hallucination, or an insinuation of heaven. In an amphetamine haze he absorbed Liveing on Megrim and as a result wrote his own Migraine

Read More

August 29, 2012, 5:05 pm

Romney to US: U Mad Bro?

Mitt Romney is surely the trollingest presidential candidate ever.

Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign toasted its top donors Wednesday aboard a 150-foot yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

The exclusive event, hosted by a Florida developer on his yacht “Cracker Bay,” was one of a dozen exclusive events meant to nurture those who have raised more than $1 million for Romney’s bid.

The rap on Romney is of course that he is inconsistent. Yet he persistently presents the impression that he is among the richest of men, in league with the richest of men and women, with little regard for the United States or its citizens except as a herd from which to extract profit.

That the yacht is (surely innocently) called Cracker Bay is only an extra incidental fillip for a candidate of the party that depends on the votes of white southerners.

July 24, 2012, 1:42 pm

A note on liberalism, Corey Robin, and Alexander Cockburn.

Corey Robin, unhappy with what he takes to be the liberal reaction to Alexander Cockburn’s death (roughly speaking, “good riddance”), writes,

Why is he or she willing to make his or her peace with the American state—despite all its crimes (crimes acknowledged by liberals!)—yet never willing to make his or her peace with critics like Cockburn, whose only “crime,” if you can call it that, was to apologize for the Soviet Union long past its sell by date? Why so much room at the inn for Truman, JFK, or LBJ—all men with real blood on their hands—while people like Cockburn and Chomsky are denied entry?

This seems to me a very peculiar question.

First of all, I’ve never known a liberal at “peace with the American state”. The liberals I’ve known all want the American state to do lots of things differently – to incarcerate fewer people, and to treat those it does imprison more…

Read More

July 10, 2012, 9:28 pm

Margin Call’s tacit tribute to the New Deal.

I loved Jeremy Irons’s performance in Margin Call, and not only because of John Tuld’s final monologue – which is in turn brilliant not only because it contains a tacit arithmetic tribute to the New Deal that undermines the thrust of what he’s saying.

In the list of dates, following 1797, the longest stretch without one of these crises is from 1937 to 1974 – the period of the New Deal’s sway over banking, finance, monetary and fiscal policy.1 Which undermines Tuld’s subsequent suggestion that there’s nothing we can do about it.

1He also misses 1873 and 1893, I think.

June 9, 2012, 6:54 pm

Some notes on Prometheus and Jesus and Lawrence of Arabia.


Prometheus wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Star Wars prequels, but my saying that tells you about how good it was. And it tells you what kind of movie it is, too - it is after all a prequel, that exists to explain a lot of the weird stuff in Alien. The thing is, as Patton Oswalt shrewdly notes, just because we like ice cream doesn’t mean we’d like to eat a bag of rock salt. We don’t actually want to see Darth Vader as a little kid; we don’t, really, need to know where the Alien came from and what the space jockeys were unless it’s wrapped in a story bigger than “oh, that’s what that thing was.”

There are, though, some parts of Prometheus that are truly excellent. Michael Fassbender is the main one. His performance as the android David is excellent. Fassbender should have been in a decent adaptation of an Asimovian robot story; he knows how to wrestle …

Read More

May 7, 2012, 3:22 pm

Random Thought Of The Moment

Always a pleasure to move into a new place just as someone is setting the upper floor on fire.

May 2, 2012, 1:01 am

Guess that scion.

I go on the road, and they move the blog? Did any of our commenters find us?
Here’s a suavely gratuitous scion of a robber-baron line, to hold this spot for the time being.

April 25, 2012, 11:24 am

On Ship Naming

We had a discussion about ship naming in the thread on the USS Lyndon Baines Johnson and I thought I would post a link to this lovely article by the Naval Historical Center, which pulls in (among others) Alfred the Great:

As if to emphasize the ties that many Americans still felt to Britain, the first ship of the new Continental Navy was named Alfred in honor of Alfred the Great, the king of Wessex who is credited with building the first English naval force. Another ship was named Raleigh to commemorate the seagoing exploits of Sir Walter Raleigh. Some ships honored early patriots and heroes (Hancock and General Greene). Others commemorated the young nation’s ideals and institutions (Constitution, Independence, Congress). A 74-gun ship-of-the-line, launched in 1782 and donated to the French Navy on completion, was named America. A Revolutionary War frigate named Bourbon saluted the King…

Read More

March 23, 2012, 6:09 am

A day in the archives.

- Hi, sorry to bother you, but could you please help me? I’m confused … the description of this collection says it has 44 boxes but then there are only 20 boxes listed.
- Hmm. Let me look at that for you … [clickety clickety clickety … pad pad pad … murmur murmur murmur … stride stride stride] Yes, that’s correct. There are 44 boxes, but 24 are uncatalogued.
- [heart sinking; the catalogued 20 are from a period completely irrelevant to your topic] Would it be possible for me still to see them please?
- [pad pad pad … murmur murmur murmur … stride stride stride] Yes, though you should know that once we catalogue them the box number may change.
- [calls boxes … boxes begin to arrive … begins looking]

On the one hand, this is terribly frustrating: you’ve no idea what you will get. On the other, it’s wonderful: you’ve no idea what you will get. There are papers in…

Read More

January 18, 2012, 12:43 pm

I Go To The Wrong Conferences

Any conference report that includes “but the mere public showing of his erection from the podium was not sufficient” is worth an extended read. The presenter–one Professor Brindley–was experimenting with cures for erectile dysfunction. His strategy involved the wince-inducing method of direct penile injection. He was not content with merely showing slides:

He paused, and seemed to ponder his next move. The sense of drama in the room was palpable. He then said, with gravity, ‘I’d like to give some of the audience the opportunity to confirm the degree of tumescence’. With his pants at his knees, he waddled down the stairs, approaching (to their horror) the urologists and their partners in the front row. As he approached them, erection waggling before him, four or five of the women in the front rows threw their arms up in the air, seemingly in unison, and screamed loudly. The…

Read More

December 22, 2011, 10:35 am

This history blog has its own history.