Stories from Summer Vacation: A Dispatch from Dr. Bob Abzug

Today we press onward in our feature of fun summertime activities! Dr. Bob Abzug, Professor of American Studies, Oliver H. Radkey Regents Professor of History, and Director of the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies (phew!) offers us this dispatch from a vacation spot far from the grip of Austin’s summer heat:

Penne and I will be spending the month of July in Billings, Montana, where we rent a loft-like condo carved from an old Swift Meat Processing Plant, right next to the railroad tracks, where we both will be writing and visiting Penne’s relatives and going to rodeos, bullriding competitions, and minor league baseball games. The days are long, the weather comparatively cool, and the internet a sometime thing. I have included two pictures that illustrate that life a little, these taken last summer. Our local bar, a three minute walk from the loft, and the bull ring in Acton (population 75), a half hour drive out of town. I can feel the cool air just thinking about it.

List: 7 Films from 2011 that American Studies Scholars Should See

Somehow, it’s already December, and you know what that means: a million year-end lists of the best (and worst) 2011 had to offer. So we’re throwing our collective hat in the ring with this list of the best movies from 2011 that are of particular interest to American Studies scholars of all stripes. We can’t vouch for the  quality of all these, of course, but they at least provide some fodder for folks to potentially research and write about.

Quick note: there are a ton of worthwhile documentary films that were released this year that are worth a look, but this list only highlights fictional films. Have fun!


Ryan Gosling stars in this intense homage to a very gritty Los Angeles. He plays a Hollywood stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver, but a botched heist leaves him with a contract on his head. Though the film’s storyline is predominantly a tale of the unnamed driver dealing with a variety of folks who try to kill him, Drive also offers a fascinating and dark portrayal of the city. Visually and musically, it’s 1980s-style noir at its best (but caveat emptor: the violence is sporadic but incredibly graphic).

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