Social Media? Rhetoric? We got that.

We’ve rhetoricked a lot about social media, but it’s hard to locate all the rhetoricking our authors have done. So here’s a list with all our work analyzin’, criticizin’, and, pokin’ fun at social media communication practices. Below you’ll find all our pieces on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Enjoy, up your social media savvy, use for a class you’re teachin’ on rhetoric, show you’re in the know and disperse and spread our work on social media through, well, social media!

FACES of Facebook

Worlds Collide! Facebook, family, and George Costanza by Amy L. Spears and Julie Driscoll93-853-1-PB

tease: Facebook, family, George Costanza and awkward communication collisions in this cool analysis and interface about negotiatin’ different Facebook publics.





Like Me, Like Me Not by Paul Muhlhauser (@doctamuhlhauser) and Andrea Campbell (@akatecampbell)

tease: Explore the rhetoric behind “like” and the possibilities of “dislike” in this pretty darn cool interface on Facebook’s ubiquitous participation button. Includes Ryan Gosling memes!




Death: The End We All Have to Face(book) cover_article_215_en_USby Christine Martorana (@MaddoxChristine)

tease: This article describes the ways mourners turning to online spaces following the death of a loved one and notes the following: 1) Digital technologies are reconfiguring the permanence of death, inviting the living to recreate the deceased as a heavenly intermediary, and 2) this continued virtual existence of the deceased alongside the constant accessibility of digital technologies is opening a space for death-related egocentrism.

PINNING down Pinterest

Queer-the-Tech: Genderfucking and Anti-Consumer Activism in Social Media by Matthew A. Vetter (@MatthewVetter)

cover_article_195_en_UStease: Pinterest Activism! This essay, and the activism it introduces, demonstrates an appropriation of Pinterest, a “pinboard-style” social media network, for the purposes of subverting and exposing its typical heteronormative and pro-consumer practices.


Super Mom in a Box by Lindsey Harding (@linzharding)cover_article_197_en_US.png

tease: Check out how Pinterest influences identity formation in mothers who interact with the site. See how the site’s postfeminist content and interaction design create a hypermaternal identity for maternal interactors.


Encomium on the Overlord by KT Torrey (@catchclaw)resize

tease: This ode to Misha Collins and his success as an activist through Twitter is just, well, fun and darn insightful.  See how Collins’ construction of a megalomaniacal Twitter persona known as the Overlord has afforded him a particular kind of disruptive ethos, one he’s used to persuade his fans to regard both “normalcy” as a social problem and acts of art and public performance as effective means of addressing that ill.


Pleased to Tweet You by Cate Blouke (@CateBlouke)235-2028-1-PB

tease: Before you live-tweet, ya gotta read this this article that explores the ethics and rhetoric of live-tweeting.  The piece also challenges traditional argument by arguing using Twitter!

The YOU in YouTube

The Irony of YouTube: Politicking Cool by Jessie Blackburn 36-272-1-PB

tease: The rhetoric of YouTube, celebrity, and voting is explored in this piece. This article examines one of the most intriguing pieces of online political dialogue to circulate YouTube during the last few weeks of the presidential campaign. The widely circulated YouTube video known as “5 Friends” features high-profile celebrities ironically encouraging viewers to see the act of voting as a “trendy,” even “hip” behavior. In this article, I refute the assumption that youth voters lack political stamina beyond the ballot boxes…

Ready, Set…#DefineRhetoric

Taylor Swift says it best: “Shake it off.” And she’s right. It’s time to shake off last year’s #DefineRhetoric.  Get ready B2RngLpIQAAqrSO.jpg-largewith your new definitions, and Tweet them with a #DefineRhetoric cuz “the rhetors gonna rhet rhet rhet” (Swift 10). For our fourth annual contest, we’ll award the winner some pretty sweet items: a $40 dollar gift card from, a brilliant validating trophy (to the right), and, well, the prestige (we imagine about 4lbs this year) that comes with being THE author of THE definition of rhetoric for the year.  So play, shake the world up, and introduce it to a new lens for understanding rhetoric.

The Rules

  1. You’ve gotta tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, ya gotta make one.
  2. Tweet your brand new definition of rhetoric, your tweaked or remixed definition of rhetoric, one you’ve liked from a theorist, or even a visual or audio definition (music, infographics, & movies are accepted!).swift-rhet
  3. You can play or define as many times as ya’d like.
  4. Put the hashtag #DefineRhetoric somewhere in your definition because we find the definitions by searching for that hashtag. See Swift do it in the image on the right?

DUE DATE- September 15th 2015.

To get you started and motivated take a look at last year’s winners.

First Place — Rhetoric is the perfect kiss: the right moment, minimal tongue, while meeting the other halfway. @marijel_melo

Second Place — Rhetoric is a con artist. Crafty, always present, & never fully reveals the intention behind the action. @estee_beck

Third Place — “What is rhetoric?….The art of never finally answering that question.” John Muckelbauer via @caseyboyle

Good luck!

The End of “with Jon Stewart”

I have only fuzzy memories of the late nineties, but I can clearly remember finding out way back in 1999 that Jon Stewart was taking over for Craig Kilborn, and actually thinking…this guy’ll never be able to replace Craig. And he didn’t. Instead, he reinvented The Daily Show as many of us have known it for the last sixteen years: a pop-culture platform for reframing in humor what many of us experienced as the––insert your own hyperbolic adjective here––of coming to adulthood against the backdrop of the Bush years, 9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic meltdown of 2008. For me, The Daily Show, and later The Colbert Report, operated as cathartic performance art that challenged traditional notions of the real/fake binary.

Family Watching TVWhen I was growing up, traditional news programs were a staple in my family. I have clear synesthetic memories of the smell of breakfast cooking as my Dad got ready for work, my brother and I in pajamas, the family conversation overlaying the familiar babble of the local news station as it played in background. As a child, I remember trusting those talking heads because they seemed so official, so possessed of “capital T” Truth.

After the clusterf*ck that was the 2000 election (the first I was old enough to vote in), I found myself increasingly kerfuffled every time I tuned in to traditional news outlets. The Daily Show represented a way to stay connected to current political information without disintegrating into a puddle of panic. As time marched on, and the aggravation of the 2000 election was overshadowed by the horror of 9/11 and the ensuing madness of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stewart’s, and later Colbert’s, humor transmuted the shock and sorrow of those difficult years. I found myself trusting The Daily Show in a way that I could no longer trust other sources of news, and I was not alone. Many of my friends had turned away from traditional news outlets, preferring to get their information from the Internet, each other, and Comedy Central.

The trust that my generation has placed in Stewart and Colbert has evoked nervousness and ire from both sides of the political spectrum. And while it’s easy to accuse The Daily Show and The Colbert Report of diffusing activist outrage and fizzling real feelings of political discontent, I have to (sheepishly) admit that the majority of my “outrage” tends to manifest as paralyzing terror. So, while perhaps some people’s political momentum was arrested, The Daily Show and Colbert Report kept me in the world, kept me in the pipeline of information, and forced me to laugh at the insanity instead of hide from it. Is this the most effective strategy for political change? Probably not. Has it kept me involved in a certain way, yeah.

In their Salon article “The day Jon Stewart quit: Why ‘The Daily Show‘ isn’t the satire America needs,” Jamie Kilstein and Allison Kilkenny come down hard on Stewart and Colbert’s 2010 “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” which brought together folks who “don’t like shouting” for a spectacle of “reasonableness.”  I saw the rally as a type of performance art designed to draw attention to the all-too-invisible subjectivity at work in the red/blue binary. Kilstein and Kilkenny completely miss this point, instead adhering adamantly to the binary, stating that the “division’ [Stewart] dismisses is literally the only fight that matters.” If the division between red and blue is all that matters, then each of us becomes subject to the binary-driven political narrative, created in its image. Rather than simply satire, or a rejection of activism, the rally strove to disrupt the seeming solidness of a system that gives two pre-defined options and calls it a “choice.”

It’s too easy to pick apart these shows, to blast them for what they did or didn’t do politically. Or to compare them to more politically subversive comedians from the past. But The Daily Show and Colbert Report have done more than just amuse and distract, they’ve drawn attention to the absurdity of the political and media simulacra that’s been right in front of our faces all along. Like Magritte’s “Treachery of Images” forces the issue of representation vs. reality, just raising the “is it a ‘fake’ or is it a ‘real” news program question makes visible that all politics and media are a construction (and, if you want to go down a rabbit hole, that all reality is itself a construction).

The Treachery of Images by Magritte

Ceci n'est pas une News Program.
Ceci n’est pas une News Program.

If anything, complicating the real/fake binary provides a productive space for challenging established structures. By replicating and adapting the genre conventions of the “trusted” News program, and remixing it with absurdism, humor, and cartharsis, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are neither real nor fake, neither humor nor news, but something that calls attention to the power of both.

As a rhetorical appeal, humor can be seen as a form of pathos, an emotional appeal. Make someone laugh, and they’re more likely to like you, and therefore more likely to be persuaded by you. But that’s too simplistic a notion for the role that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have played in many of our lives. Rather, it seems that their humor was enacting an alchemical process of transmutation; as we sat with our sorrow, frustration, and anger, horrified by the unfolding of events that we felt little power to halt or effect, humor cathartically transmuted those feelings, providing instead a way to feel interconnected, and, through the process of posing the question: is it real or fake? granted us agency through awareness of the simulacra.

Though it may have couched itself as a “fake” news show, The Daily Show has provided a very real space for transmuting a generation’s frustration, anger, and disappointment. Where we have felt disenfranchised in many areas of our lives, the sheer force of Stewart and Colbert’s ability to get folks to act en masse has been vicariously thrilling during times when a lot of people have felt unheard. Stewart and Colbert have shown us that smart and geeky can be powerful, that wit can win, that the pen is mightier than the sword. Or at least, reminded us of these things for an hour a day, four days a week.


Issue 12

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Harlot’s 12th issue is published today!

Issue 12

Issue 12

Read the awesome works of Lindsey Harding, Mary Hedengren, Lisa Lebduska, Kathleen Ann Livingston, Lauren Murray, and KT Torrey. Learn about trigger warnings, emojis, Misha Collins as Overlord, beer, the effects of Pinterest on moms, and zombies. Zombies!

Also, check in to see who won the #definerhetoric 2014 competition and get your submissions ready for the next special issue on craft rhetorics! Exciting times, folks. Winning!

Let’s Get Awkward: Vloggers “A Rousing Intercourse” Take on Aporia

aporia-take-2 from Paul Muhlhauser on Vimeo.
Dear Viewers,
A Rousing Intercourse is BACK. This second episode is about aporia – using uncertainty and confusion effectively as a rhetorical strategy.

You’ll chuckle, you’ll chortle, and you’ll awkward as we examine the benefits of going off-script. Pour yourself a martini if you need to take the awkward edge off, and enjoy.

Forcebook, the Jedi, and May the #kairos be with you

If you don’t not think too deeply about being unshallow, it’ opaquely clear. And as long as you follow Jedi recommendations to “Feel. Don’t think,” you won’t force this idea beyond transparency: Star Wars’ Force is a form of social media.

Here are a few reasons to imagine the Force as Forcebook.forcebook

  1. The Force is made up of midichlorians, which are basically Wi-Fi connections. The more midichlorians you have, the more bars or the better access you have to feel the Force.
  2. The Force has a search engine. You just have to tap into the midichlorians and “search your feelings.”
  3. The Force is a network of information.
  4. The Force can allow you to predict the future. It’s sort of tells you if clickbait or triggers are working through midichlorian analytics.

And I like imagining the Force as social media. Using the Force as a trope helps me appreciate the cool of digital social media. It helps me see some of the ways the Force really sucks.

  1. Yoda the Hutt
    To use the Force, ya gotta be part of an elite club.  You either have midiclorians or you don’t. Unlike with digital social media, you can’t really join the Jedi club through research and practice unless you’ve got midichlorians. There is NO such thing as Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.50.14 AM
    midichlorian toothpaste for helping strengthen your Force.  Access to digital media is certainly an issue for a lot of people but tapping into the Interweb is much more accessible than being one or talking to one of the, like, thirty Jedi able to use the force and protect the galaxy.
  1. Force Bubble
    The Jedi only use one search engine – the Force.  Jedi Pariser makes a good point about digital media filter bubbles and how search engines are algorhetorical (algorithmic rhetoric) engines mediating the information we see and how users become shielded from alternative perspectives on issues: search engines game the information you see by providing results that reinforce your ideology or way of thinking rather than complicating and questioning it.  Or you may just get results for some businesses and not others – Dark Side/Sith businesses rather than Jedi run establishments. The Force, though, is even worse. It is THE only search engine in the Galaxy. There is no Duck Duck Go or Bing or even Alta Vista, which is Yahoo!. It is as if there is just Google.  There is only one bubble. And Jedi can’t even agree that they are feeling or seeing the same thing. Yoda might see something Obi-Wan doesn’t. And while it could be argued that such differences in Force use offer different or alternative perspectives, the perspectives are based on access to information. In other words, both Yoda and Obi-Wan can’t “read” the same tanner-binks“article” of the Force and compare notes or discuss the situation more completely.  At least, I could say, “Yo,Yoda, Obi-Wan. Check out this article from Harlot about how Jar Jar Binks and Stephanie Tanner are similar. It argues that this might be a reason Jar Jar was so hated by fans.  You know, because we were tired of Full House. Thoughts?”
  1. #kairos
    The Force doesn’t even let users participate very easily in a #kairos economy: that change or the difference between that regular old kairos that the Jedi utilize and what we use in social media. #kairos happens when you are always connected to your midichlorians or are always on the web when you carry your smartphone. It is the omnipresent and omnispace – it’s the always on possibility of being able to have that agency for a propitious moment in a propitious digital space.But propitiousness can’t happen as easily with one network to tap into. The Jedi just don’t have a very good network for #kairos. Jedi Rheingold Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 10.50.52 AMhelps explains #kairos’ importance: “”In previous eras, it may have been true that ‘it’s not what you know but who you know.’ Today, how you know who you know matters as much as who you know, and one of the most valuable traits a person could have in a twenty-first-century organization is a knack for knowing ‘who knows who knows what’” (From @hrheingold‘s Netsmart 24). And to amend and add to his explanation, there is also a knack for knowing when to know when to know what and where to know where to know what. I hope here and now and know is a where to know what to know when to know what.I just Dr. Seussed or Yoda, did I? At any rate, the flows of information along numerous networks are opportunities for users to create value (informational, social, and emotional) in just right spaces and just right times.  The Force limited these opportunities because of its limitations. Jedi had Forcebook.  They didn’t have Twitter, Reddit, Pinterest, YouTube, or Yahoo! Pipes.

In more, other, and our words, Jedi, it’s time to “Think. Don’t feel.” Forget the Force. May the #kairos be with you.

This is an excerpt from an article I’m writing with @CateBlouke.

Tweet Yourself to a Maven

Just got back from two cool conferences: Rhetoric Society of America Conference and HarlotTweets Twitter HeaderComputers and Writing Conference. Learned a lot about rhetoric and humor from @cateblouke; rhetoric and algorithms from @johnmjones & @jaykirby1; rhetoric and reproduction from @lbdehertogh, @kristinarola, & @maseigel; and learned about Google glass from @Zombieranian  – even got to try them out, which was really cool.

By “cool” I mean the presentations were thoughtful and engaging. In other words, I thought about things I ain’t never thought before. Besides the thoughtful and engaging presentations, another cool of the conferences came from the Twitter backchannels (#RSA14 and #CWCON) for discussin’, commentin’, and quotin’ presentations. In other words, I participated in ways I ain’t never done before because of my meatspace phobia and my lack of short term memory.

Though there was a lotta cool, there was one part of the conferences that was discool, uncool, or non-cool: the Twitter backchannel was rarely incorporated into the meatspace or live discussion following the presentations. Sorta made me feel like my participation was ignored. So I’d like to propose this cool idea for future conferences, though I’m not sure if it is possible or if there is an infrastructure for it:

Social Media mavens for conference presentations

Cool proposal: Social media mavens for conference presentations.

What I mean is, I think it would be cool, in addition to having a presentation chair, to have a social media maven who monitors and participates in the Twitter backchannel of presentations.

Here’s why it’s cool –

  1. Cook meatspace phobias – A maven can help bring the virtual conversations, comments, and questions, which are real conversations, comments,and questions into discussions following presentations for those with meatspace phobias. A Twitter backchannel is inclusive for those, like me, who don’t want to face-to-face and feel Meatspace is stressfulextreme stress (especially f starting conversations or discussions) when participating in discussions following presentations. The Twitter backchannel provides access to discussion for those with such fears.
  2. Honor the social media skill set – Having a social media maven monitor the Twitter backchannel will honor social media expertise – of collecting, reading, and synthesizing ideas quickly and getting a bead, a feel, the gist of backchannel questions and comments. A maven will even be able to add this to his/her CV.
  3. Include the online audience – A maven would ensure that ideas are “voiced” from audiences attending the conference online who are following social media conversations, comments, and questions through a Twitter backchannel.
  4. Remember in the moment ­– A maven is mnemonic. A Twitter backchannel is a @twitter allows presenters to record and share a thought before forgetting the thought they thinked at the time they thinked it.pretty public recording device that helps us remember the fleeting nature of oral presentations. And a lotta times, it seems like the last presenter’s work is discussed the most because it’s remembered. During an oral presentation, an audience may forget what was said (even in the most engaging presentations) when it was said and the context of what was said when. Backchanneling lets an audience converse, comment, and question a presentation in the moment. It allows presenters to record and share a thought before forgetting the thought they thinked at the time they thinked it.
  5. Take the pressure off chairs and presenters – A maven could take the pressure off of chairs and presenters to monitor the backchannel. During a presentation, the chair and other members of panels are understandably preoccupied with their performances. They may not have time or the skill set to respond to the Twitter backchannel. Though it can be done as @jennykorn showed in her savvy inclusion of Twitter backchannel conversations, comments, and questions, I know, however, this is really tough to do and I ain’t got the ability cuz I tried when I presented and #failed.
  6. Remove the #awkward – A maven could open up dialogue and crack the conversational seal that happens following presentations during the 15 minutes of discussion. You know, that awkward pause that occurs when a chair asks, “Are there any questions?” At this point, I usually look at my phone or laptop because I feel like I’m gonna be called since the presentation format is so lecture, school like. Conversely, when I present as a chair and ask that klutzy question, it feels like an awkward forever. If there isn’t a discussion because the room is full of meatspace phones like me or there is a looooong moment before questions, I feel sorta sad. The performance becomes out of sync, and I get the feeling my ideas weren’t really worth anything. All the time I spent on my presentation was wasted.  Feedback is love even if it’s critical. Seriously.

“Social Media Maven” may not be the coolest word for the addition I am proposing to presentation formats, but the idea has some cool, right?

Blackfish and environmental rhetoric… and some bleakness

Blackfish movie posterI finally watched Blackfish last night. I’d been wanting to for a while, but also avoiding it a bit because I tend to have what some would call extreme emotional responses to animals at risk, in pain, or otherwise affected by environmental degradation. My husband, Chris, recently suggested I find a therapist who specializes in environmental-related angst. (Of course, to me, these responses seem perfectly reasonable; I genuinely do not understand how/why others don’t have the same reaction. But that’s another issue entirely.) Case in point: When I watched the beautiful, devastating trailer for Midway, a documentary about the island where albatrosses breed and suffer the consequences of plastic litter, I cried so hard that Chris thought one of my friends or family members had died. Again, this seems like a perfectly reasonable response; see for yourself:

MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

The Cover movie posterI have a particular weakness for marine mammals and particular issues about animals kept in captivity, so when Blackfish came out, I was pleased but wary. I couldn’t help but think of The Cove, a powerful documentary about dolphin slaughter in Japan–that I can’t watch. I just can’t. More on that later. Thankfully, my husband watched Blackfish without me first and reassured me (and himself, I’m sure) that I could handle it. Since I’m increasingly fascinated with environmental rhetoric, I decided to brave it. I’m glad I did, though my eyes are a bit puffy today.

orca mother and calf

Only two scenes resulted in sobbing; both involved baby orcas being taken from their families — once in a brutal hunt/capture in the Puget Sound in 1970, and once within the SeaWorld organization. In each case, the grief of the orcas was palpable, as was the pain and regret expressed by the people who’d been somehow involved in the experience. Though the pathos of these scenes was intense, the majority of the film focused on more dispassionate first-hand accounts by scientists, experts, and, most often, former SeaWorld trainers. The prioritization of their voices was a smart strategy.

Although the film contains apparent messages about the cruelty of keeping orcas in captivity, it was carefully matter-of-fact in its treatment of the consequences for the whales and the people who worked with them. By prioritizing the perspectives of the trainers, the filmmakers kept the focus on specific, eyewitness accounts of the central plot: the history of orca attacks on trainers and the cover-ups engineered by SeaWorld.

One would think that such an emphasis could contribute to a negative view of “killer whales,” but the affection and sympathy displayed by the trainers worked against that. They clearly understood what marine biologists echoed, which was that the unnatural and inhumane treatment suffered by these creatures over decades can only lead to trauma for everyone involved. And that by hiding and denying the stories of the deaths and injuries of numerous trainers, SeaWorld was knowingly putting its workers in danger.

For me, of course, that’s a secondary concern. But for many audiences, I imagine it worked to spark a different kind of outrage about unethical business practices. Whether or not audiences were persuaded that capture and captivity is, in itself, insupportable, they surely recognized that SeaWorld is shady. But will that lead to the kinds of boycotts that would persuade SeaWorld to change its practices? There was a good amount of controversy when the film was released, so at least it was successful in drawing attention to the issue. At least it sparked conversation, which I imagine was the filmmakers’ realistic agenda.

They were careful. As Chris said, they did a good job avoiding polemic. Although their stance was clearly critical, they dialed back the pathos in favor of factual data, expert testimony, and the voices of those traumatized witnesses. And they were all scarred by the many betrayals: how they were deceived, how their colleagues were blamed for “accidents,” and how they contributed to the pain of the orcas they clearly loved. With the best of intentions, they’d signed up to participate in SeaWorld’s exploitation of incredibly sensitive, intelligent mammals for the purposes of entertainment and profit.

crowds at SeaWorld

Little attention was paid to the usual arguments in favor of organizations like SeaWorld — that without these showcases, people would not feel a connection to animals, that they wouldn’t work for their protection. This is the excuse of most parents who don’t want to deprive their children of such opportunities. I wondered about that omission, but I think the focus on the trainers worked toward that message: Their good intentions and their ignorance led to collusion in cruelty — just like the crowds that line up for SeaWorld every day.

orcas in the wild

In that light, the conclusion of the film makes more sense than I originally thought. The final scenes show several of the trainers going on a whale-watching trip, experiencing orcas in their natural habitat. The joy and wonder on their faces spoke to the healing power of that trip, a marked contrast to the sadness and regret they displayed throughout most of the film. The filmmakers’ hope, I suspect, is that audiences might be persuaded that this approach is the “right” one, that appreciation cannot be separated from respect — and that those who buy in to the SeaWorld product would (or should), like these trainers, suffer with the knowledge of their complicity.

That’s my reading, anyway. Of course, whether that message gets out at all depends on whether people actually see the movie. More to the point, it depends on whether audiences who don’t already agree with its messages see the movie. I didn’t need this to learn that SeaWorld is problematic (or downright evil) — but would those who’d really like to watch that orca show actually watch this movie? Perhaps, if that controversy made them curious enough. I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure.

dolphin hunters

Which brings me back to The Cove. After we finished Blackfish, Chris and I were talking about its potential effectiveness. I brought up The Cove as a cautionary tale: If those trailers turned others off as much as it did me, and I feel passionate about dolphin protection, how could it reach and therefore influence enough audiences to make a difference? Chris suggested that it had already achieved its aims; we both thought the outcry following its release had led to change in the Japanese government’s policy. It turns out not so much. So far, the pressure hasn’t resulted in actual change.

For a lot of reasons, SeaWorld is not Japan; it may well feel more compelled to respond in some way to widespread criticism. But is it really likely to do anything more than damage control? Release some statement (not animals), make minor improvements (not substantive changes), etc? Are enough people likely to decide against that vacation destination that they go out of business? Doubtful.

I really want to end this on a positive note. I’d like to hope that a careful, strategic, and “successful” film like Blackfish can make a difference. I know: Changing just one mind makes a difference. But does it really? Maybe in the long term. Maybe?

albatross corpse with plastic inside
albatross corpse with plastic inside

It might, in the case of Midway.

If everyone who sees that movie (or just the trailer) reconsiders their plastic consumption, picks up some plastic caps at the beach, even votes in favor of some kind of legal protection or prevention, that could maybe save a few birds. Maybe? You tell me:

MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

Coco Lynne Presents Us with “Warpaint”

If you have a minute, I highly recommend checking out this article on The Huffington Post about “Warpaint,” “a nuanced art project addressing the subtleties of gender expression.” It explains how photographer Coco Layne decided to play with her own physical representation in order to explore the subtleties of gender expression. What I find particularly interesting is her point about gender identity:

“It’s important to open up this conversation about gender presentation because its often confused and read as gender identity,” she added. “Gender presentation is not about sexual orientation at all! Playing around with gender expression is strictly an avenue to explore my identity as a queer person not my sexual identity.”

Since gender presentation is so often correlated with gender identity, it is interesting to note the nuance and distinction that she speaks of. It’s definitely worth a read.


Philosophical Spanish Lessons

Yesterday, my Spanish teacher and I were discussing Martín Fierro (1870s), a culturally significant epic poem in Argentina because of its depiction of gauchos. (If you’re not aware, gauchos are kind of like Argentine cowboys. At the time the poem was written, they were a sort of “sub-class” because they were multi-racial, being a mixture between the colonizing Europeans and the indigenous people. Traditionally, they weren’t land owners themselves, but worked with the cows and horses for other ranchers throughout the Pampas region of Argentina). Essentially, Martín is a gaucho who is drafted into the Argentine civil war, but doesn’t want to be a part of it. So, he runs away and escapes into the southern part of Argentina (Patagonia, really) until he is able to reunite with his children.

So, when Martín runs off to Patagonia, the book describes this by saying that he goes to “el desierto.” In some cases, based off of context, this could refer to a desert as we think of it in English–a place with sand, heat, and not a lot of water. However, in this context, it refers more to wilderness–a place which is “deserted.” (And, in fact, Patagonia is known for being extremely cold.) But herein lies the question: deserted by who? The poem itself describes how Martín and another gaucho, Cruz, spend their time with the indigenous people there. Obviously, this means that it was not truly deserted, only deserted by the European colonizers.

So, this prompted my teacher to pull out a hundred-peso bill. On one side is a picture of Julio Argentino Roca, an army general and president of Argentina in the late 1800s. On the other was “La Conquista Del Desierto,” the conquest of the desert (or wild as the case may be).

La Conquista del Desierto

The image itself depicts Roca and his men expanding and “uniting” Argentina, which pretty much meant killing or displacing the indigenous people living there and allowing more ancestral-Europeans to settle.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because my teacher made this point: these bills are being phased out. In 2012, the Argentine government started to make new bills depicting Eva Peron instead of Roca:

Evita on 100 peso bill

I (and my Spanish teacher) find this to be a fascinating indication of cultural priorities and the change thereof. Personally speaking, I was always aware of how commercials, newspapers, political campaigns, etc. were parts of a society that spoke to its greater cultural needs and how those cultural elements connected to the rhetoric performed in addressing those needs. But, the money. The thing that I carry in my pocket every single day. That had not occurred to me. The money itself–what we choose to put on it to represent our national identities–is symbolic for what we want to say about ourselves. And the changes to that imagery is important too. In Argentina (as in many other places), people are no longer persuaded by “the conquering forces.” Not only that, but choosing Evita is important. This is the first woman to be on an Argentine bill in over 200 years. Is that an indication of cultural priority? Are Argentines becoming more open to women in positions in power or is it Evita’s connection to social programs which speaks to the nation (even though Peronismo is a highly contentious subject here)? And when, for heaven’s sake, will there be a woman on a U.S. bill and not just being relegated to an unused coin? (Susan B. Anthony / Sacagawea, anyone?)