Selling the Shootings

Finally someone is talking about this.  No, not talking about the shootings. Instead we have found a thought piece about the mushrooming “discourse” about the shootings.

It usually takes a bit of time for such a retrospective analysis to take place, but we live in a faster world. Today in Truthout, William Rivers Pitt  looks at the war-of-positions we’ve all been

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witnessing, and his thoughts are excerpted briefly below:

“A few hours before President Obama and Vice President Biden unveiled their proposals for gun reform in America, the National Rifle Associationlaunched a preemptive strike on the president’s children. To wit: an NRA-sponsored television commercial claimed that, because Sasha and Malia get armed guards in school and your kids don’t, Mr. Obama is an elitist hypocrite. Continue reading “Selling the Shootings”

The boss and his baby

“If you work for a company run by a male chief executive whose wife is about to give birth to a child—particularly his firstborn—you might want to cross your fingers they have a daughter” reports today’s Wall Street Journal.  ” And if you’re a male worker, you might get the short end of the stick no matter the gender or birth order.”

“The gender of a male CEO’s children is significantly linked to the salary of

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his employees, according to new research from Aalborg University economics professor Michael Dahl, University of Maryland Smith School of Business professor Cristian Dezso and Columbia Business School professor David Gaddis Ross. Presented Friday at the annual American Economic Association meeting here, the analysis suggests some explanations for the linkage, but doesn’t draw absolute conclusions. Continue reading “The boss and his baby”

China’s growing economic fortunes

China’s strong economy is expected to surpass that of the US by the end of the decade, with Chinese sales of goods to the rest of the world continuing at an astonishing rate.

China’s trade surplus surged 48.1china_2924_600x450 percent to $231.1 billion in 2012 from the previous year, though total trade volume grew at a much slower pace, official data showed on Thursday. This report come from today’s edition of channelnewasia.com. The story further states:

“Exports from the world’s second-largest economy rose 7.9 percent to $2.05 trillion, while imports increased 4.3 percent to $1.82 trillion, Continue reading “China’s growing economic fortunes”

Speech style and gender performance

A researcher at the University of Colorado has presented new evidence

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on how word pronunciation affects gender recognition among listeners.

While this may not be a great revelation to those who provide or receive speech training for gender reassignment, the story has significance in further documenting the social construction of gender identity.

The story appears on a noteworthy site called RedOrbit (see link below) on science and health. According to the study, “the style of a person’s speech may help listeners guess their gender just as much as the high or low pitch of their voice.” The researcher examined transgendered people during transition to figure out how humans associate gender categories with different characteristics of speech. Continue reading “Speech style and gender performance”

What made the news

It’s no big secret that what people think has a lot to do with what they watch and read. While ideologies and other belief systems also underlie public opinion, there is no denying the role of “news” in shaping contemporary worldviews – sometimes in direct opposition to empirical data.

For example, while many parents now fear sending junior off to school each morning, the odds of a child being shot in Sandy Hook fashion stand at less than one in a million, as it has for decades. If anything, schools recently have been getting safer.

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After reaching a high of 63 deaths in the 2006-2007 school year, the number of people killed in “school-associated” incidents dropped to 33 in 2009-2010 – the lowest in two decades, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Continue reading “What made the news”

Where did the Asian characters go?

Mainstream movies continue to minimize or exclude Asian characters, even when depicting historical events about Asia itself.imgres-1

Is this authorial racism, a market-driven response, or part of a broader ethnocentrism in audiences?

These issues are taken up in a recent essay by David Cox appearing The Guardian entitled “Attempting the Impossible: Why Does Western Cinema Whitewash Asian Stories?” Opening paragraphs of the story are below:

“The Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 killed at least 227,898 people. Around a third of these were children. The economy of coastal south-east Asia was devastated, with the loss in some places of two thirds of the boats on which fisherfolk depended. The environment was irreversibly defiled. Since many of the bodies were never found, psychological trauma was compounded by the tradition in many of the areas affected that the dead must always be buried by a family member. Continue reading “Where did the Asian characters go?”

Kim Jong Un vs “cultural infiltration”

North Korea is doing everything is can to crack down on cell phones, TVs, and anything else that can bring “subversion” into the country.images-1

It’s a Stalinist campaign reminiscent for the old Cold War, as Kim Jong Un has recently ranted: “We must extend the fight against the enemy’s ideological and cultural infiltration.”

As Worlding.org reported last week, campaigns to indoctrinate North Korean children are nothing short of remarkable. Salon.com writes that the new emphasis on media is just as extreme:  “Kim, who became North Korea’s supreme leader after the death of his father a year ago, called upon his vast security network to ‘ruthlessly crush those hostile elements.’

“Over the past year, Kim has intensified a border crackdown that has attempted to seal the once-porous 1,420-kilometer (880-mile) frontier with China, smugglers and analysts say, trying to hold back the onslaught. Continue reading “Kim Jong Un vs “cultural infiltration””

Dean Spade on the shootings and mental health care

“We have a long history in the US of giving people involuntary medical treatment and using mental institutions to lock up people who are “different” or threatening to social norms,” says University of Washington law professor Dean Spade, author of the book,  Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics and the Limits of Law.imgres-3

Spade was speaking about California’s “Laura’s Law” which provides court-ordered outpatient treatment for the seriously mentally ill.  “So many people who could use mental health care do not reach out for it because they are afraid that they will be locked up involuntarily if they reach out to a provider,” Spade said.

Spade is the subject of an interview appearing in today’s issue of The Nation conducted by Laura Flanders. The article begins,

“Exactly as the shootings debate is playing out, funding for mental health services are teetering on the fiscal brink. Obama and Speaker John Continue reading “Dean Spade on the shootings and mental health care”

Misunderstanding Media Violence

imgres-4As we enter the most recent round in the media violence debate, a story from the past is illustrative of the difficulties in drawing conclusions too quickly from what seem like common sense observations.

In a now-famous study conducted in the 1970s, a group of American researchers were convinced they’d come up with a perfect way to measure the effects of violent media.[i] They had decided to study teenage boys who lived in residential facilities and boarding schools where television viewing could be completely controlled. For a period of six weeks, half of the boys were permitted to watch only violent programs and the other half non-violent shows. Everyone expected the boys exposed to violence to become more aggressive and unruly, as similar studies of younger children had demonstrated. Continue reading “Misunderstanding Media Violence”

Autism means reduced health care access

Autism is in the media spotlight these days, but for all the wrong reasons. Despite the absence of any causal connection between autistic spectrum diagnoses and propensities for violence, worries abound nevertheless following the Sandy Hook shootings. 6.57_AUTISM-CURE-PUZZLEMeanwhile, children and adults with some form of autism become the subject of greater stigma – and their odds of receiving adequate care diminishes further. Autism already is highly misunderstood in terms of its origins, causes, manifestations, and treatment. Continue reading “Autism means reduced health care access”

E-books and the death of print

For many of us, this week’s final print edition of Newsweek was no great loss. Think of it as an editorial dinosaur succumbing in an age of the blogosphere.

But those of us who still write a bit for things actually published on paper get the sense they are coming for us next. The recession has been rough on everyone, but for publishers this has been a nightmare (especially for small, independent presses).14_52_39_416_file

If it isn’t big bookstore chains squeezing diversity from the retail marketplace, it’s e-books merchants like Amazon who  (following the iTunes example) extract ever larger slices of profit margin from both writers and original publishers. Today npr.org published a quasi-apology about the new e-reader. A few opening paragraphs are reproduced below:

“What counts as a book these days, in a world of Kindles, Nooks and iPads — and eager talk about new platforms and distribution methods? Continue reading “E-books and the death of print”

“I am” Adam Lanza’s mother

The essay below was written by Lisa Long, not the actual mother of Adam Lanza, but a woman whose son has some of diagnoses attributed to the young man who committed the recent murders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. The essay is about the complexities of living with and caring about a child whose behavior makes parental love a challenge.

“Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“‘I can wear these pants,”’ he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“‘They are navy blue,’ I told him. ‘Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.’ Continue reading ““I am” Adam Lanza’s mother”

Virtual and Real World boundaries blurring

Increasingly artists and scholars are attacking the separation between virtual worlds and real life. A recent paper by Linda Ryan-Bengtsson published in Leonardo Almanac continues the argument, stating that “When digital technology is integrated into our everyday environment, the border between media interfaces and physical environments is being blurred. Traditional division of spaces dissolves and are rearranged, complicating the linkages between private and public spheres. Interactivity intersects these spaces allowing users of mediated content to be affected by the actual and vice versa.”

Entitled “Renegotiating Social Space: Public Art Installations and Interactive Experience,” the paper states that its analysis “has emerged through the need for further research focusing Continue reading “Virtual and Real World boundaries blurring”

One Nation: Divided or United?

“We live in an era of democratic contradiction. As the Cold War recedes into history and the apparent triumph of liberal democracy spreads around the globethe domestic state of democracy within the United States remains in jeopardy,” writes David Trend in A Culture Divided: America’s Struggle for Unity. Echoing sentiments expressed in last night’s acceptance speech by Barak Obama, an excerpt from A Culture Divided follows below:

Rather than a nation where citizens feel empowered in their common governance, the U.S. has become a land of where growing numbers of citizens feel alienated from the democratic process. Voter turnout for the 2012 U.S. presidential election was nearly 20 percent less than in 2008. Massive anti-incumbency Continue reading “One Nation: Divided or United?”

Performance and the new cultural democracy

The economic recession has had one weirdly positive effect on the art world: democratization. Increasingly, museums and symphonies find that they can no longer get by on the generosity (or lack thereof) to an elite minority. Large cultural institutions need new audiences to justify their existence and to qualify for public dollars. Venues that once couldn’t care less about attendance now anxiously await busloads of kiddies and seniors. “Education” and “outreach” programs have exploded in recent years, with many places literally giving away tickets to boost admissions. Aside from benefitting “social practice” artists who have always occupied the fringes of art world, the is move to larger and more democratic approaches to audience has favored genres that are more friendly to the public.

Enter performance art. In the old days, performance was a marginal affair because it was edgy and conceptual––but also ephemeral. Continue reading “Performance and the new cultural democracy”

Gaga feminism

“In Gaga Feminism, instead of pitting bodies with vaginas against bodies with penises, I argue that we are living in a new world where the categories of male and female are rapidly being updated all around us,” writes Jack Halberstam is an essay in the  Los Angeles Review of Books. As Halberstam puts it, “Truth be told, gender and gender politics nowadays have little to do with simple genitality and are much more connected to new social arrangements, diverse households, and innovative classifications of identity, community, and desire …  In a world of sperm banks, in vitro fertilization, queer families, butch daddies, transgender men and women,  and heteroflexible women, pretending to be offended by the use of the word “vagina” in a public speech or making insupportable claims about rape and pregnancy are not just quaint and old-fashioned: they signal a deep ignorance about the world we live in and the enormous changes that have taken place within it in the last two decades. Continue reading “Gaga feminism”

Even worse than hating your body

It’s not great secret that fashion ads portray women and men unrealistically, promoting unachievable standards of beauty and reinforcing stereotypical codes of gender identity. This week one story is getting a fair amount of play, as a Christian Dior ad featuring Black Swan actor Natalie Portman has been banned in Great Britain for being airbrushed. At first it seemed that the British Advertising Standards Authority was irked at the ad featuring Portman promoting a mascara, accompanied by the boast that the product delivers a “spectacular volume-multiplying effect, lash by lash.” But it turns out that rival L’Oreal cosmetics first noticed the ad and filed a complaint. As The Guardian reports, ironically L’Oreal has been one of the biggest offenders in controversies over airbrushed and exaggerated beauty ads in recent years, with ads Continue reading “Even worse than hating your body”

Assault on Reason, revisited

With the approaching elections in the US, the nation’s polarization is getting more and more attention. Similar divides persist in many countries, causing those on both sides to wonder why their opposition seems so entrenched in its opposition. How can they not understand? Why are people so wrong-headed? What causes people to vote against their own interests?  One infamous figure in American politics has given this matter a lot of thought––and for good reason. Let’s not forget that former Vice President Al Gore actually was elected by the popular vote when he ran for the nation’s highest office, Continue reading “Assault on Reason, revisited”

The bully society

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As a topic, bullying has received considerable media attention in recent years in its linkages to online harassment, school shootings, suicide, and even a notable candidate for political office. While bullying can be overt or subtle, it nearly always involves a power imbalance based on some kind of difference in behavior, appearance, culture, or belief.  Perceived standards of the “normal” or “natural” get used to rationalize verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. In The Bully Society: School Shootings and the Crisis of Bullying in America’s Schools  (New York University Press, 2012), Jessie Klein argues that these notions of normality are far more significant in bullying than individual pathology.Bullies may the active agents in causing harm, but larger groups or an entire “bully society” may be the real problem, especially when we consider that this is not just about kids. Writ large, bullying can be seen to inhabit the workplace, the political arena, and the mediascape.
Continue reading “The bully society”