As Holidays Fade, Culture Disappears

As we step into, and away from, malleable malfeasance, we cannot but help to linger on what is, and what has been lost. In the United States, we have cheapened our culture with vulgarity, and purposeful misfortune, and cunning, evil, unrest. We have also abandoned a right celebration of our most beloved holidays.

Continue reading → As Holidays Fade, Culture Disappears

The Loss of Realness and the Rise of the Inauthentic: Does Anything Genuine Happen Anymore?

We now live in a world where Kim Kardashian’s butt in a pair of “see-through” jeans is delivered to us by the internet feeding tubes as a real and unprotected moment caught by happenstance and not on purpose.  We know by now that nothing reality fame whores do is spontaneous — or even interesting any longer — their behavior is all so predictable and transparent and, frankly, boring. We exist in a constant “on” society where everything counts and nothing matters and the ideal of “over-sharing” being uncouth died with the invention of the broadband connection and the ever-dumber smartphone.

Continue reading → The Loss of Realness and the Rise of the Inauthentic: Does Anything Genuine Happen Anymore?

A Skewed Semiotic: When a Picture Speaks the Wrong Thousand Words

Nicholas Kristof wrote a fascinating couple of opinion articles for the NYTimes over the last two weeks, and the reason for some reader dissent and confusion in the first story appears to stem from a core misunderstanding — purposeful or not — about the image.

Here’s what Kristof wrote on February 22, 2014:

As an infant, Johnny was deaf but no one noticed or got him the timely medical care he needed to restore his hearing. He lives in a trailer here in the hills of rural Appalachia with a mom who loves him and tries to support him but is also juggling bills, frozen pipes and a broken car that she can’t afford to fix.

The first error Kristof makes — but has yet to apologize for, or clarify — is labeling Johnny “Deaf.”  Deafness is a cultural condition from which one does not get “healed” so the proper term should have been “hearing loss” since the “Deafness” was not actual, but imagined, by Kristof.

The real outrage aimed at Kristof was not over his inappropriate use of “Deaf” — but rather the way some of his readers felt he was celebrating a degenerate lifestyle of poverty in this image:

Continue reading → A Skewed Semiotic: When a Picture Speaks the Wrong Thousand Words

Lost in Cultural Translation: Aesop’s Fables, Fairy Tales and Disney Movies

Every plan has a hole.  Every ship has a leak.  Every internet session is insecure.  These are the new universal writs of living in the new ancient world.  I learned that lesson in an especially troubling manner that forced me, in an instant, to reassess my role in the world as a Midwestern White Man teaching at-risk minority undergraduate students at a major New York City university.

I thought the assignment was simple and universally understood. I’d used a similar teaching plan at other universities with great success; but, in reflection, I realize most of those successes were found in mainstream classrooms with well-schooled students who were taught that learning was a priority in the home.

In my new teaching role in the inner city, many of these students working on a B.A. did not come from the same font of mandatory educational opportunities. They scraped by to earn understanding. They fought for what they grasped while others around them had learning handed to them.

There was a great divide of the mind and cultural experience that I quickly had to bridge or the entire end of the semester was at risk of failing, and the blame would solely be mine as the instructor for not being able to quickly re-adjust and move the field lines to be fair to my students so they could find success.

Continue reading → Lost in Cultural Translation: Aesop’s Fables, Fairy Tales and Disney Movies

The Goddamned American

How many times you have answered the following questionnaire while completing a regular survey in your lifetime without even thinking much about it?  I recently came across the following comment while working with a survey related to student learning:

I am an American, Goddammit!

It was a response for an ordinary survey question:

Are you a:

  • a) Caucasian
  • b) African American
  • c) Native American
  • d) Hispanic/Latino
  • e) Asian/Pacific islander
  • f) Others

Continue reading → The Goddamned American

How's Your Old Lady? – Ten Sentence Story #111

I was out for a walk alone yesterday when I bumped into my postman — we’ll call him “Benedetto” to protect his identity — and after exchanging the requisite “Heyas,” he asked me how my “Old Lady” was doing.

Continue reading → How's Your Old Lady? – Ten Sentence Story #111

Virtue Over Values

In our current, bloody, culture wars — values and morality are given passing play — but few people address the loss of virtue as a necessary component of a righteous humankind.

Continue reading → Virtue Over Values