Of Victims and Agents

I’m hardly the first to point out how curious the current coverage is of white communities in decline, dealing with poverty, alienation, and, in some cases, severe drug addiction, as opposed to the coverage of black communities that have long lived with many of the same problems. Continue reading “Of Victims and Agents”

A Rabid Dictionary?

5510506796_dff8c07b64_bAre the accusations of sexism in the dictionary definitions that have moved through social media last week reasonable? While problems in the entries seem clear, the situation is complicated. In case you missed it, Michael Oman-Reagan, a PhD candidate in Canada noted that the Oxford Dictionary presented “rabid feminist” as an example for the entry “rabid,” which he included as one among many examples of “explicitly sexist” entries. The dictionary editors responded that their “example sentences come from real-world use,” but, of course, they chose which everyday example they wanted to enshrine. For a term with a negative connotation like “rabid,” such a choice provides an opportunity to offend someone, making the choice significant. If they had written “rabid NRA member” or “rabid leftist,” different groups might be complaining. Continue reading “A Rabid Dictionary?”

At the Painting’s Edge

uacampusOur campus has a new painting, hanging in the lobby of our main library, depicting the University of Alabama prior to the Civil War — near the end of which most of the campus was burned down by northern troops passing through the city. But here, in this roughly 6 by 14 foot vibrant painting, we see the Rotunda brought back to life, as well as several other now missing buildings (only the remains exist today, such as a pile of debris that was once Franklin Hall that has come to be known as “the Mound“). Continue reading “At the Painting’s Edge”

What Did You Mean?

8373155559_515f69c2b2_z

What makes something offensive? In the contemporary context, some attempt to censor (often through social media campaigns) presentations that they consider offensive, making that label particularly useful for restricting public discourse. Two stories from December highlight the complexity of labeling something offensive.

A shopper in California during the holiday season noticed that wrapping paper in the Hanukkah section of a store had swastikas incorporated into the design. Deeply troubled by this symbol that the shopper associated (for obvious reasons) with Nazism, she reported it to the manager. With the story reaching the media, the store removed the wrapping paper with the offensive design nationwide and began an investigation into how the design was created and approved. Continue reading “What Did You Mean?”

“It’s Not Mine Anymore…”

Picture 4

Bill Burr: There’s this new level of, like, selfishness when you go to a comedy club, where they’ll watch you for 40 minutes and take everything as a joke, and then all of a sudden you hit a topic that’s sensitive to them and then, all of a sudden, you’re making statements.

Jerry Seinfeld: Right

Bill Burr: I’ve just given into the fact that once I say something now it’s not mine anymore. It literally goes into somebody else’s brain and its cut with their childhood, their experience, whatever happened that day…

Watch the whole episode here.

Everybody Plays the Fool

collaborate

When [Walter] Kirn was just starting his novel-writing career, he met a man who was a bold financier, an art collector, a fussy eccentric, a dog lover and a Rockefeller. They became friends.

But over the years Kirn began to learn that the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller was none of that — not even a dog lover. He was a psychopath and a killer.

How did Kirn fall for the fraud? Was Christian Karl Gerhartsriter — aka “Clark Rockefeller” — extraordinarily compelling? Or was the novelist, like a lot of other people drawn to the imposter, duped by his own desire to have an attachment to a famous name?

So opens a radio story on the curious case of Clark Rockefeller — or, might we say instead, the curious case of people, such as Kirn himself, who believed his friend to be the man he claimed to be. The difference between how we approach this story — is it about Rockefeller (pictured above) or Kirn? — tells us much about the social theory used to tell the tale. Continue reading “Everybody Plays the Fool”

Secret Agent Man

plugheadThe approach to identification advocated here at the Edge puzzles some readers since it troubles the usual notion that we have of the individual who does things for certain reasons. We talk about interests and purposes, yes, but we don’t presuppose the usual sort of agent doing things in the world.

Is that a contradiction?

I don’t think so. Continue reading “Secret Agent Man”

“Just By Magic”

wilburysFor those interested in historical narratives and the topic of origins, consider the following documentary from 2007, about the rock group that, as it turns out, just happened to have been formed when George Harrison had dinner with Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. Continue reading ““Just By Magic””

“Nobody Joins a Cult”

membership1My ear caught a line in a TV show last night:

Look, nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think is going to hurt them, or anyone else. You join something with people that you really like. People you believe in. Don’t you? Continue reading ““Nobody Joins a Cult””