Blogger-Involved Commentary

Several recent and prominent cases of shootings by law enforcement, each happening in different parts of the US, have made the use of deadly force by the police a national issue in a way that it hasn’t been before.

One of the things that I find interesting is the way the debate is framed, such as the very category used by media and government (but certainly not by the families and friends of the people who died…) to name these incidents: officially, they’re either called police-involved or officer-involved shootings. Continue reading

Lots and Lots of Bubbles

OprahAnother successful Fall semester has come to an end…

So while there’ll be a few new posts during the winter break,
we’ll mostly stick to re-posting some items from the archive
that you might have missed the first time around.

And then we’ll recharge our batteries.

With bubbles — lots and lots of bubbles.

Only What’s on the Menu

fiveeasypiecesFor a long time my wife and I worked at different universities, in different U.S. states, and it required some long distance driving when we got together, which in turn required coffee. So I’d often stop into a McDonald’s while on the drive, pick up a cup and maybe some food, and then get right back on the interstate, to save time. Since I knew it was “to go,” I’d usually start off my order by saying, “Now, this is to go…,” but I always found that after I finished ordering — “Yes, of course: supersize that!” — they’d always ask,

“Is that for here or to go?”

It was as if they hadn’t even heard me answer that question right from the start. Continue reading

“I Am Neil deGrasse Tyson. Call Me That”

Neil_deGrasse_Tyson_-_September_2010_at_Howard_UniversityWhen discussions of identification and labels note the complexity of labels and complicate the “strong cultural associations” that such labels often convey, I feel like cheering. So I was excited when my brother sent me a link to a nuanced NPR blogpost, “What if Atheists Were Defined by Their Actions?” by Tania Lombrozo. A professor of psychology, Lombrozo writes about Neil deGrasse Tyson’s rejection of the label atheist because he does not conform to the image and actions that people, including atheists and theists, associate with that label. Tyson discussed his views in an interview for the Rationally Speaking podcast. At 5:27, for example, Tyson succinctly highlights the problem of cultural associations, asserting, “Labels are intellectually lazy ways of presuming that you know more about someone that you have actually learned.” Continue reading

Putting the Ice in Artifice


Have you watched “White Christmas” (1954) recently? It’s a classic for a number of reasons — e.g., it was the first movie filmed in VistaVision — but something that caught my attention recently was the way the film plays with artifice. Continue reading

Going to the Talkies?

movie-piano“Going to the movies over the winter break?” is a common enough question this time of year, but the curious thing is that if we asked:

“Going to the talkies over the winter break?”

Continue reading

Policing Harvard’s Back Door

Extension SchoolA friend at the University of Missouri recently alerted me to what he thought was an ideal candidate for a post on our site. It involved a report in which a man who is said to have gone on “a naked rampage at [Boston’s] Logan airport” was identified by the media as “a Harvard student.” Continue reading

Subtle Strategies

KayaköyüWhile I was searching the web for tradition-related articles, I came across this news story written by John Laughland (a British civil engineer) who submitted an article to a Greek e-newspaper—“”—entitled “Kayakoy: Death by Restoration.” The title immediately caught my attention, given my own interest in how we use the term tradition, restorations, and the like. He and his German wife Beatrice have lived in Turkey for the last 26 years near an abandoned village known as Kayakoy, located at the south side of Asia Minor, and it is said that its Greek residents abandoned it after the 1920s population exchange between the two countries (i.e., Turkey and Greece). Continue reading

You Are What You Read, with Craig Martin (Part 3)

For a new Culture on the Edge series “You Are What You Read” we’re asking each member to answer a series of questions about books — either academic or non-academic — that have been important or influential on us.

3. Name one of your favorite books that’s not a theory book.

Naming two books is cheating I guess, but I adore Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. As Twain grew older — at least as I read him — he became almost as skeptical about morality as was Nietzsche. For Twain, humans are neither good nor evil; rather, human behavior simply follows from the processes socialization to which we’re subjected from the cradle, and moral evaluations of human behavior are not based on a universal ethics but are always relative to the sympathies with which one has been socialized. Consider the narrator’s commentary in Connecticut Yankee: Continue reading