Weekly Varia no. 7, 12/31/22

I write enough about myself this time of year through my end-of year reflections (writing and books are up, with a general meditation and resolutions to come) that I don’t feel the need for short essay about whatever I’m thinking about on a Saturday morning this week.

Happy New Year.

This week’s varia:

  • Peter Kidd documents manuscript provenance on his own blog. I’m not a regular reader, but his post this week caught my attention. For his tenth anniversary post, Kidd relates his exchange with the secretary of an author whose recent book appears to plagiarize his blog. The conversation includes denial, threats of lawyers (not on his part), and the claim that since his blog isn’t significant enough to warrant citation because it is just a blog. The last is particularly galling. Blogs might not pass through peer review and come out through academic publishers, but that doesn’t mean that they are always inconsequential. To paraphrase something that Dr. Sarah Bond has been saying for a number of years now: writing in academic blogs is an exercise in public scholarship that can help ensure the vitality of a field, but they will only be considered legitimate if people cite them. At the same time, plagiarism is still plagiarism. If you use an idea, cite it.
    • Since the original post went up, the publisher appears to have made the PDF of the book in question unavailable, digitally altered a bunch of the online material, and questions have emerged about both the staff and the physical office of the publisher. People associated with RECEPTIO responded aggressively with reverse accusations, threats to involve the police, and attempts to “anonymously” harass and dox Kidd in an attempt to preserve what increasingly appears to be a scam to funnel grant money through and convince people to spend fees for workshops at this “research institute.” Kidd has written several additional blog posts that address specific parts of her responses. I have seen more than one academic demand a movie about one of the most flagrant cases of scholarly malpractice that I can recall and how the whole thing unraveled in just under a week as researchers trained in the very particular skills of identifying how manuscripts influence one another and in spotting misinformation turned their attentions to RECEPTIO.
  • A great piece about Sudanese archaeologists doing work that has traditionally been done by Western expeditions that used local labor and expertise, but erased them from the process of interpreting the past and receiving credit for the work.
  • Hamline University has non-renewed the contract of a contingent professor of religion who offered a lesson in an online class about historical Muslim representations of the Prophet Muhammad after a student complained. The Hamline Oracle has the fullest description of the incident and points out the steps that the professor took to offer content warnings and to allow observant Muslims to opt out of seeing the images. The administration is alleging that the lesson constitutes Islamophobia Rather than standing behind the subject matter expert, or, you know, historical reality, the administration chose to cut ties with the faculty member and could do so with no repercussion because the person in question had no job security. This is one of the major issues with contingent contracts in higher education right now. I also recommend Amna Khalid’s essay explaining why the administration’s actions offend her both as a professor and as a muslim.
  • A court has ruled that the Marine Corps cannot reject Sikh men who refuse to shave their beards based on their religious beliefs. The Marines claimed that these rules were a matter of national security, but the court sided with the plaintiffs who alleged that the policy reflects “stereotypes about what Americans should look like.”
  • George Santos has admitted to “embellishing” key parts of his biography, but insists that he is neither a fraud nor a criminal (CNN). I’m not comfortable about how people are questioning his sexuality given that he was previously married to a woman, but the rest of these are serious issues.
  • Stefan Passantino, the lawyer representing Cassidy Hutchinson during the January 6 probe encouraged her to lie about the events of that day and obfuscated when she inquired who was paying his fees, probably because the funding appears to have passed through a Trump-connected PAC, creating a conflict of interest that he did not disclose.
  • There are currently five transgender athletes competing according to their gender identity in Missouri high school sports, but ten bills to limit their participation in high school athletics pre-filed with the Missouri legislature. Because, of course there are (Missouri Independent).
  • Southwest Airlines cancelled thousands of flights this week. Weather is partly to blame, but people in the know are saying that Southwest’s antiquated scheduling system and staffing problems bear more responsibility. Pete Buttigieg had asserted that conditions were getting better, but 34 state attorneys general had written to him urging him to impose fines for airlines with avoidable cancellations and delays, something he has not done. Naturally, money that could have gone toward modernizing their systems has been spent on executive bonuses, dividends, stock buybacks, and lobbying.
  • Andrew Tate has been detained in Romania on charges of human trafficking…because the video he recorded responding to Greta Thunberg online retort displayed a pizza box that allowed authorities to confirm his whereabouts. Romanian officials are claiming that the timing is coincidental, but it makes for a better story.
  • Dinosaur skeletons rarely preserve their last meal, but a researcher named Hans Larsson recently identified such a find and discovered that the microraptor (a 3-foot tall dinosaur) had eaten a small mammal. Dinosaurs remain very cool.

Album of the week: Johnny Clegg and Savuka, “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World”

Currently reading: Reeves Wiedeman, Billion Dollar Loser, Mary Boatwright, Peoples of the Roman World