It’s the same shining city for those relative few who are lucky enough to live in its good neighborhoods. But for the people who are excluded, for the people who are locked out, all they can do is stare from a distance at that city’s glimmering towers. – Mario Cuomo, 1984 DNC RIP 1/1/2015Read More →

What do the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM) and the typical roleplaying game player’s handbook (PHB) have in common? The character typographies that both articulate are what Kenneth Burke would call “recipes for wise living, sometimes moral, sometimes technical” for fantasy worlds. Burke got this idea of recipes for living by analyzing proverbs through a sociological and rhetorical lens. He concluded that these short, pithy statements were a form of literary medicine, and that their medicinal quality could be found in all things literary. According to Burke, the medicinal quality of proverbs comes from their “naming” function, orRead More →

There is more to Clarence Darrow than I thought. As the old story goes, the famous litigator slyly distracted juries with his cigar. He supposedly threaded a thin wire through the cigar to keep the burning ashes from falling. Enthralled juries would watch the ashes with anticipation instead of listening to the opposing counsel. True or not, the story has longevity for every negative attorney stereotype. Darrow’s most famous cases – The Scopes Monkey Trial and the murder trial of Leopold and Loeb – are noteworthy for their fame and sensationalism. For these bits of trivia, I quickly dismissed Darrow in my early days ofRead More →

Emma Watson is the new UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women. She gave a powerful speech about the “F-word” and women’s issues to launch the HeForShe campaign. The Daily Mail covered her hair. Leonardo DiCaprio is the UN Messenger of Peace. The Daily Mail did not mention his manbun or attire. Compare the coverage for yourself: Her brown locks were swept into a centre-parting and she kept her make-up understated and natural. Completing the look she added a metallic belt and conservative black pumps.   And then this: the passionate environmentalist and “the world body’s new voice for climate advocacy.”     Note: I might getRead More →

Over the years, my therapists have asked me how I feel. They tell me my answers express my inner thoughts, not my feelings. My vocabulary of feelings is remarkably thin. This is unsurprising given that I am an academic; thinking to the exclusion of feeling is, presumably, my occupational psychosis. Ironically, the academy has taken the turn to affect. It’s an interesting twist given the centuries-long atrophy of feeling in the sacred grove. Now that post-human, post-gendered, post-raced but always material bodies can play in the exclusive grove, we can talk academically about how it all feels. Unintentionally. What gives? I have noticed a popular turnRead More →

The place of public speaking in the general education curriculum is constantly questioned. The image of communication majors in pop culture sheds light on why. Because “it’s kinda hard to put into words.” I experienced a moment of synchronicity to illustrate this. The moment is circular, a snake eating its tail. First, I received yet another email stating professional concern for eliminating public speaking in the general education curriculum. Then, later in the week, I watched a disturbing scene that negatively portrayed the communication major in the popular sitcom, Two and a Half Men.  This moment is circular because I don’t know which is the chickenRead More →

In a picture, when a child touches a black president’s hair, representational politics changes the world. In the 90s when academics and television pundits were busily engaged in the culture wars, I believed mastering the politics of representation was revolutionary. Surely, transformative images would en/gender transformative politics, and that social change could come from studying and politicizing media, popular culture, language, and discourse. There had to be some momentous connection between representation in images and representative democracy. In those days, young Turks in English departments fought old white guys about the canon, which entailed fierce battles over ethnic/area studies, women’s studies, and the relative meritsRead More →

In Django Unchained, the “N-Word” occurs 109 times. Occurs? Is used? (Look at how awkward that statement is; it’s an active sentence about a word spoken, but without a speaker doing the action.) I twitch to imagine Tarantino saying the word himself. It just sounds wrong. It sounds like some clumsy white dude trying to sound cool while he hangs with his homies. When Samuel L. Jackson says it, it’s quite cool and melodious. As a director, Tarantino can say the “N-word” one hundred and nine times with whatever accent, register, or inflection he desires. With gusto, in fact. Fortunately, at least for my auditoryRead More →

Fellow-citizens, we can not escape history. We of this Congress and this Administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We, even we here, hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave we assure freedom toRead More →