The Blind Spot of Dissent

Have you heard the uproar about the decision not to televise the presentation of some Oscar categories on this year’s upcoming broadcast? It was reversed the other day, but the plan had been to deal with the ever-increasing length of the annual telecast by excluding four presentations from the live show that viewers would see — and awarding them instead during the commercial breaks. Continue reading “The Blind Spot of Dissent”

The Manly Vasectomy: When a Symbol Gets Snipped

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Some of you may have heard the recent hubbub surrounding urology clinics that are running March Madness specials. The idea is that men might be more likely to have the procedure done if their recovery can be timed to coincide with a period of sports-related TV watching that might otherwise be considered indulgent. As Time magazine tells it, the practice of advertising vasectomies with March Madness isn’t particularly new, but simply makes public a scheduling trend that had already long been in place, one initiated by men themselves. Time also reports that for those who like their sports with pizza, there is also at least one urology clinic that will throw in a pie with one’s procedure to accompany that bag of frozen peas.

This might strike many as somewhat laughable, but for me it reveals a rather ordinary (if often interesting) practice by which we socially negotiate the demise of a critical symbol. If one’s virility — the marker of manhood across the millennia — is now gone thanks to a vasectomy, then that masculinity can be rebuilt simply by symbolically interjecting a masculinized sporting event (and presumably being pampered by one’s wife, as these adds often imply) on the procedure’s other side. Continue reading “The Manly Vasectomy: When a Symbol Gets Snipped”

“Why would we have that playing at Tennessee?”

leninWhile not aiming to trivialize ongoing conflicts elsewhere in the world, I couldn’t help but make a connection between the above article and a video making the rounds of social media, in which the University of Tennessee’s football coach sniffs out the source of the song “Sweet Home Alabama” playing while his team practices — a song much associated with one of his team’s arch rivals (which, yes, happens to be where I work). Continue reading ““Why would we have that playing at Tennessee?””

Subtle Strategies

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 9.48.44 AMWhile 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—“protothemanews.com”—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 “Subtle Strategies”

“The problem is that we have that distinction…”

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Have you heard of the movie “Tim’s Vermeer” (2013) — it caused a bit of a stir for it suggests that a great artist wasn’t quite the artist we think him to be but, instead, a technologist who might have used lenses and mirrors to produce surprisingly life-like oil paintings. Continue reading ““The problem is that we have that distinction…””

Stars Upon Thars

sneetchesDo you know the tale of the Sneetches? It’s a Dr. Seuss story, published in 1961, about the inhabitants of a beach who are exactly the same apart from some having stars on their bellies. It’s a difference with no necessary significance, but it soon takes on consequence, of course.

Now, the Star-Bell Sneetches had bellies with stars.
The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.
Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small.
You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches
Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.”
With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort
“We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!”
And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking,
They’d hike right on past them without even talking… Continue reading “Stars Upon Thars”

Tea Time

teaAlthough I grew up in Canada, I’ve now spent twenty years living and working in the southern United States (5 of those in southwest Missouri, though midwest by some standards, didn’t feel much different from the three previous years in Tennessee, to be honest). I’ve been here long enough to learn to take some things for granted (like saying Zee instead of Zed) but others, at certain moments, still stand out, signaling to me that I am indeed a resident alien. Continue reading “Tea Time”

The Luxury of Nuance

winter 1The first time I came to Edmonton, Canada, was in March of 2010, in order to give a paper at a conference, and, since I had applied for a Ph.D. there, to also see the city—not knowing though whether I was yet accepted at the program or not. That was the first time I had been so far north and the only thing I knew for sure was that Canada is cold (that the temperature could get as low as -30C (-22F) was beyond what my imagination could grasp). Continue reading “The Luxury of Nuance”