Archive for June, 2008

Another point of personal privilege

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

I realize that this has nothing to do with Russian history, but it did happen to an historian of Russia.  I’ve lived twenty years in Indiana, and eight years in Kansas, but last night was my first encounter with a tornado.  My house sustained some holes in the roof, a broken window, and a sprung garage door.  At least twenty of my neighbors weren’t so lucky, and had their houses leveled.  The best presentation of what I’ve seen is this aerial footage:

The only thing it doesn’t show is the extent of damage to the houses still standing.

I actually appear in the video for the first 1.5 seconds.  I’m the guy at the bottom of the screen walking with a hand in pocket, wearing purple t-shirt with white lettering and ridiculously large boots  (give me a break–lots of nails and broken glass around).

William Odom, 1932-2008

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

William Odom has just died.

He was a giant of our field, but he was more than that to me. I did my Ph.D in Soviet military history at a school (Yale) that didn’t have anything you could describe as a program in Soviet military history. As a result, I was enormously fortunate in my fellow graduate students, and particularly in more senior scholars who were willing to form an advising kollektiv of wonderful helpfulness and flexibility–Jeff Burds, Paul Bushkovitch, Paul Kennedy, and . . . William Odom.

Though Odom was a political scientist, and a career military man, he was tremendously giving of his time and support to me and to a number of other graduate students headed through Yale. What struck me most, particularly in comparison to other academics, was Odom’s fearlessness. It’s always seemed to me that the professoriate as a group has startlingly little to fear. Once we’re tenured, provided we manage to keep our hands off the undergrads, we are cursed with a living wage, near complete control over how we apply our time and energy, and the privilege of reading and talking and writing about subjects we love, not to mention job security unheard of in other walks of life. (more…)