Category: Arts & Letters (Page 1 of 4)

House of Representatives Votes to Make Every Season in America Summer

Measure Intended to Curb School Shooting Epidemic

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

Washington, D.C. – The landmark legislation, passed strictly by the GOP along partisan lines, is intended to appease both the National Rifle Association and concerned parents.  All 248 GOP members of Congress celebrated the legislation, though some were secretly expressing concern that this bill would lend credence to the Democratic claim that climate change is real, and that the rising sea level is not because rocks are falling into our oceans.  Opting to fortify the NRA over the climate-change-is-a-hoax wing of the party, despite the two being wholly intertwined, the bill was celebrated by the GOP through a series of ignominious tweets.

“Thoughts and prayers definitely weren’t working, which was surprising because they always worked in the past,” said Texas Congressman Ted Cruz.  “It feels good to finally take action against this blight on society.”

“The American people deserve the right to feel safe and have an opportunity to better their lives, and the best way to do that is to make sure schools never open again,” said Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks.  “Kids love summer, and we love our kids.  We also like guns so when you factor all of that in, this is a no-brainer.  Besides, we never really have winter in Alabama anyway.”

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Crooner Michael Bolton’s Introductory Press Conference as National Security Advisor

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

April 16th, 2018, Washington D.C. – In an attempt to increase his numbers in national polls, President Trump has appointed singer Michael Bolton to be the new National Security Advisor, replacing former NSA advisor, John Bolton. John Bolton, you may recall, briefly replaced H.R. McMaster, who briefly replaced acting advisor Keith Kellogg (who had served for about a week), who replaced embattled advisor Michael Flynn, who briefly filled the role before he was forced to begrudgingly step down by President Trump.

In his introductory press conference, Mr. Bolton reassured a worried public that a powerful balladeer from the 1980s and 90s would be able to bring a sense of calm and professionalism to the position.

Jim Acosta, CNN:
Mr. Bolton, have you had a chance to speak with the outgoing advisor, the other Mr. Bolton?

Michael Bolton: 
Hello, DC! I told Mr. Bolton that I could hardly believe the news today.
Are you leaving John, leaving me blue?
Sadly, so sadly, I found out that it’s true.

Jim Acosta, CNN:
Why do you take long pauses to gaze into the cameras with sensual eyes and pouty lips? Is that a singer’s trick to get people to listen to you?

Michael Bolton: 
When the National Security Advisor loves a country, can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll fight the whole world to keep the good thing he’s found.

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Heidegger, Metaphysics, and Wheelbarrows: A Poetic Introduction to Heidegger’s Being and Time

By: Richard Oxenberg

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickensWilliam Carlos Williams

In order to appreciate Heidegger’s thought it is necessary to see it in relation to the Western metaphysical tradition from which it has emerged. This would be true, of course, for any thinker, but it is especially so for Heidegger, because Heidegger’s thinking represents a radical challenge to the tradition itself. Heidegger does to the traditional view of Being and the world what Marx is said to have done to Hegel’s dialectic: he stands it on its head. He stands it on its head – so he might contend – in order that we might finally see it right-side-up.

The problem with the traditional view, from Heidegger’s perspective, is not that it fails to illuminate the most abstract and remote issues, the Alpha and Omega of Being, but that it fails to properly grasp what is most obvious, what is everyday, what is right before our eyes; what is, perhaps, so close that it is uncomfortably close. And in this failure it has institutionalized an interpretation of life that is inauthentic and self-alienated. Perhaps the best way to see this is to examine something that is itself rather simple and everyday, first from the traditional and then from the Heideggarian standpoint.

The poem quoted above will serve this purpose well. It is, apparently, the expression of a simple moment of life; perhaps it is a worried sigh, a moment’s nervous reflection. It might have been uttered at the end of a long day’s work, or in preparation for a new one. It is almost too simple to say anything about. We are finished with it before we have begun. And yet it is precisely here, in the obvious, in the everyday, that Heidegger begins his revolutionary investigations.

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Racist Ideas, Justice, and Freedom: A Review and Reflection on Ibram Kendi’s ‘Stamped from the Beginning’

By: Jeremy Kingston Cynamon

We tend to think that hierarchical institutions like slavery emerge as the result of racist and hateful ideas. Ibram Kendi’s new book Stamped From the Beginning, offers an intriguing and far reaching historical challenge to that narrative. Kendi reverses the causal arrow and argues that rather than racist ideas causing discriminatory practices, racist ideas are more accurately understood as ex post justifications of those practices. In other words, hierarchical institutions emerge first – owing to self-interested economic, political, and social reasons –  and are then justified in theory by clergy, intellectuals, and other elites.[1] Perhaps Kendi’s most surprising claim is that racist ideas penetrate even the minds of liberal reformers, activists, and theorists, who are otherwise considered progressives. Here he cites W.E.B. Du Bois and Barack Obama amongst many others, ultimately suggesting that racist ideas infiltrate nearly every discourse and sphere of social life.

Kendi’s book is, as its subtitle suggests, an incisive and thoroughgoing study of the history of racist ideas in America. But it is more than that; Stamped From the Beginning is also rife with implications for political theory. It has much to say both about the ongoing discussion about distributive justice, and about how we conceptualize freedom. Its central argument, which points to the need to address deep structures of inequality, can be interpreted as particularly troublesome for liberal theories of distributive justice. This same argument also highlights some important limitations of the typical bifurcation of freedom into its positive and negative variants.[2]

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Naked, Shivering Creatures: A Look Behind Burke’s “Pleasing Illusions”

By: Sonia Maria Pavel

“Only man placed values in things to preserve himself – he alone created a meaning for things, a human meaning! That is why he calls himself “human,” that is: the esteemer. […] Only through esteeming is there value: and without esteeming, the nut of existence would be hollow.”[1] – F. Nietzsche

In the Reflections, Edmund Burke expresses his concern with the radical political changes prompted by what were then recent events in France. He sees the “new conquering empire of light and reason” threatening to tear off the old “decent drapery of life.”[2] Contrary to the enlightened reformers leading this empire of light, Burke defends prejudice and the “pleasing illusions” that surround political power. In his view, prejudices ought not to be cast aside simply because they are old or irrational, but rather valued as a common moral heritage that engenders stability through feelings of familiarity and belonging.

In this article, I differentiate between two dimensions of Burke’s argument. The first is a historical and anthropological description of ‘pleasing illusions’ – their manifestations and meanings in pre-revolutionary France. On this front, I take Burke to be arguing that the ‘pleasing illusions’ surrounding power are not designed as ways of deceiving people into obeying authority, but evolve alongside relationships of obedience thereby making them gentler and more liberal.[3] According to him, communities and cultures are not built from scratch in accordance to a rational plan to yield particular results, but emerge and develop historically.

At the same time, on a secondary political level, Burke’s argument is not merely a tribute to this fading cultural reality; it is in itself a rationalist justification of why it should be revived and rehabilitated. Burke argues that life without such prejudice is brutish and crude. Sans prejudice we would be left with nothing but our “naked shivering nature,” alone and afraid. As a result, he reasons that conventions should be maintained through prejudice.[4]

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Femininity and the Emasculation of Western Politics

By: Glen Paul Hammond

“Come, you spirits that tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, and fill me, from the crown to toe, top-full of direst cruelty!”

With these words from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the playwright provides modern readers with a sense of what the western world’s view of womankind was in the late medieval period. This view backed up a foundational belief that women were ill-suited to the hard demands of leadership outside the home. Shakespeare’s stratified society was a more complicated system than our own; aristocrats were “born to rule,” and women, depending on their placement within that system, were, more or less, expected to turn their talents to the personal sphere of society, allowing men to apply theirs to the professional world that operated outside the home. In Lady Macbeth’s desire to “unsex” herself, the character outlines the way different traits were assigned to the sexes: She wants kindness to be replaced with cruelty, and compassion to be replaced with action.

As these caricatures of sex traits began to be dismantled in the post-feminist world of the 20th century, female leaders were expected to adopt the attributes of male-styled leadership, since these were still considered the defining features of a leader. However, by the end of the 20th century this began to change, so much so that in the early 21st century, the pendulum seems to have swung the other way.

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PAUL RYAN ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT FROM CONGRESS

PLANS TO REJOIN THE CAST OF THE MUNSTERS IN THE UPCOMING REUNION FILM

Don’t Feed The Animals, A Series of Satirical Musings by: Josh Lorenzo

April 11th, 2018, Washington, D.C. – Current Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Representative of the 1st District of Wisconsin, Paul Ryan, has announced that he will not seek re-election when his current term expires.

​In a surprising turn of events, Speaker Ryan plans to rejoin the cast of the Munsters for a reunion film set to begin shooting early next year. Speaker Ryan will reprise his seminal role as the gregarious Eddie Munster.

​“The House is in much better shape after my tenure,” Ryan confidently told colleagues after announcing his decision. “No matter who the next Speaker of the House will be, they will be quite capable of facilitating the non-cooperation and partisan politics I have worked so hard to achieve.”

​Reprising the role of Eddie, the all-American boy/werewolf of the mid-1960’s television show, is truly a dream come true for the actor-turned-unmotivated politician. As the only child to Herman and Lilly Munster, Speaker Ryan was taught valuable lessons in selfishness, a lack of compassion for others, and a sense of entitlement. These traits were used quite frequently during his twenty-year tenure in the House.

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A Quick Word on How Social Media is Rewiring the Democratic Ganglion

By: Jared Marcel Pollen

All major political epochs have their corresponding media epochs: the reformation and the printing press, the nation state and the broadsheet newspaper, nationalism and the pamphlet. That Fascism rolled on the waves of radio, to take another example, is no coincidence. The acoustic space furnished by transmission, its spherical, enveloping field, allowed the disembodied God-like voice of the Fuhrer to cruise through every living room in the Reich. The proliferation of the bound, typeset book in the sixteenth century gave us what Marshall McLuhan called Gutenberg minds–– individualist, solitary, thinking. Books took us out of the city square and into the home, and newspapers later undid this by making reading more participatory and communal. If we take media as an extension of the central nervous system, one that provides the lattice which structures our whole reality, then any new transformation will inaugurate a transformation of the political nervous system along with it.

We now find ourselves at such an epoch, somewhere between the global village and the filter bubble. It’s been almost twenty years since broadband, and about fourteen years since the rise of social media, beginning with Facebook in 2004, and already we’ve observed the ways in which these technologies have altered democratic norms of communication; this includes a whole set of ethical questions re. privatization of the internet, censorship and “fake news.” (The last deserves some revision. We shouldn’t allow Trump’s slur for anything that dissents from the empire of his mind to be conflated with real obscurantism.)

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Bare Breasts, but no Bunga Bunga

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris
In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe, analyze, and influence contemporary politics.

The re-emergence of Silvio Berlusconi in the recent Italian election was protested by FEMEN, the “sextremist” group that uses bare breasts to bring attention to feminist issues. As a piece of political performance art, FEMEN’s action against the infamous lethario is powerful, and representative of how the art world is using exhibition space to demonstrate its concern the future of Italy.

A cocksure Silvio Berlusconi strode into his local polling station on Sunday, March 4th to vote in Italy’s General Election. He had dressed for the occasion. His black suit and sculpted hair was met by photographers who crowded the room as he checked in at tables manned by officials who still use paper ledgers to determine voter eligibility.[1] Berlusconi planned to vote for Forza Italia, the center-right political party he founded in 1993, which maintained dominance during his four-term tenure as Prime Minister. Forza Italia, in alliance with Matteo Salvini’s League Party, hoped to win a majority and oust Matteo Renzi and the Democratic Party.[2]

Berlusconi’s path was suddenly crossed by a bare breasted woman in black pants and heavy boots. With her arms extended defiantly in the air, the woman yelled “Berlusconi, sei scaduto!” (Berlusconi, time’s up!), the same message that was written on her chest.  Kicking and screaming the woman was then quickly removed.

The protestor was a member of FEMEN, and this was not the first time that the feminist organization had shown up to greet Berlusconi. They had staged a similar protest against him in 2013. [3]

Loved and loathed, Berlusconi is a living myth. He started his business career in the 1960s and since that time has built a fortune worth 7.0 billion USD, with most of his wealth attributed to numerous media holdings. His involvement in politics dates to 1994 and he was the longest serving Prime Minister after Benito Mussolini.[4] His political career was beset with scandals, and in the last decade he has been convicted on various charges of tax fraud and bribery. What makes Berlusconi so infamous, though, is not the corruption, but his “bunga bunga” parties, where he would socialize with swarms of beautiful young women, many receiving monetary “gifts” at the end of the night.

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“To Art Its Freedom”: Right-Wing Arts Policy in the New Austria

Art of Politics, Politics of Art, A Series By: Jeanette Joy Harris

In this series, Jeanette Joy Harris looks at how artists around the world are using public and participatory art forms to describe and analyze contemporary politics. With an eye to the intersection of politics and aesthetics, Harris looks to art as a type of political action and a means of understanding ourselves as political animals.


Art can be a challenge to power, or be power’s instrument. Sometimes it can even end up being both. This last is what happened recently in Austria, where a new, right-wing government has adopted the motto of an art movement that formed in Vienna in 1897, precisely in opposition to conservative leadership.

Here’s how things have taken shape. In December 2017, a coalition between the far-right Freedom Party and the more center-right People’s Party, took control of the Austrian parliament. Their win, representative of the increasingly conservative EU political landscape, was based on an anti-immigration platform. Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz has already promised Austrians stricter immigration policies and has recommended the creation of militarily-backed “safe spaces” where immigrants can stay before entering into the EU. This is a strong statement coming from the leader of the country that will hold the European Union Presidency from July to December of this year. [i]

Andrea Mammone, a historian of modern and contemporary Europe at Royal Holloway, University of London, talks about Austria’s new government as “nationalism in action,” providing examples of its ethnically-based politics in an article for Al Jazeera earlier this year.[ii] In 2017, the “Integration Law” was passed, which requires immigrants to read and speak German and forbids Muslim women from wearing a face veil.[iii] With this law as an example, culture seems to be a high priority for the new Austrian government, which has further claimed, in its public agenda, that common heritage “contributes significantly” to national identity. [iv]  But the power of nationalism, as a widely-held cultural value in Austria, cannot be evaluated strictly through policy and legislation. Consideration should also be given to the ways in which the government might use cultural institutions to more subtly define and refine what it means to be Austrian.

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