Culture Clash

The Firing of Melissa Click

February 26, 2016




This is where the faculty case against firing Melissa Click, otherwise correct in every respect, falls apart: But no one on the campus filed a complaint against the professor, Ms. Henrickson said, a step that would have triggered the university’s own procedures. “No one took the opportunity to avail themselves of that process,” she said, […]





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Thumbs Up for “Three Masters”

June 10, 2014




My latest film criticism, “Three Masters: Spielberg, Anderson, Haneke, and Their Audience,” excerpted in the previous post, is recommended reading for the week at RogerEbert.com. If that doesn’t get you to read, I don’t know what to do with you. (But I’ll think of something.) A further excerpt: In Saving Private Ryan, the film’s ultimate sentimentality, […]





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Three Film Masters

June 4, 2014




My latest film criticism is available now at Bright Lights Film Journal. “Three Masters: Spielberg, Anderson, Haneke, and Their Audience” addresses the question, as the tag line has it: “Is the filmmaker tyrant, aesthete, ringmaster, or hermit?“ It is commonly claimed by artists that they create for themselves. Wrote Stanley Fish, to whom I respond,”If […]





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Let Your Soul Stand Cool and Composed

March 24, 2014




From the National Portrait Gallery in Washington comes an exhibition on one of my favorite subjects: the cool. “American Cool” offers up its representative icons of cool in portraits by renowned photographers, such as Avedon, Arbus, and Henri-Cartier Bresson, who are sure to add to the alure of the exhibit, but that I don’t  think necessarily give […]





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Do You Give to the Ones Who Are Drunk?

December 23, 2013




Good friend Rivvy Neshama has written a book, Recipes For a Sacred Life: True Stories and a Few Miracles, that is the accumulation of a life’s gained wisdom. Panning through the grains of the sad red earth, we see the fool’s-gold sparkle, often, of the oh-so-smart, not so much the glimmer of the precious stone that is […]





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Invisible Cities

November 14, 2013




Tonight the The Industry and LA Dance Project production of Invisible Cities completes its extended one month run at Los Angeles’s Union Station. A 75-minute opera based on the Italo Calvino novel, with music and libretto by Christopher Cerrone, choreography by Danielle Agami, directed by Yuval Sharon and conducted by Marc Lowenstein, the production has […]





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Photography, Fathers, and Mayors

September 23, 2013




When Gil Garcetti was voted out as Los Angeles District Attorney in 2000 after two terms, he turned his dedication in life to another love besides the law – photography. In the years since, he has become a respected figure in the L.A. and broader photo community. He is especially known for what has become […]





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Scientism, Signifying, and Meaning

August 29, 2013




Since I wrote my brief broadside against Steven Pinker’s monumentally misguided New Republic essay “Science Is Not Your Enemy: An impassioned plea to neglected novelists, embattled professors, and tenure-less historians,” a slew of additional responses have come to my attention. Rhetorically, my reply was a proslepsis (among its many names), a technique by which one talks about something while pretending […]





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The Spectacular Arrogance & Ignorance of Steven Pinker’s Scientism

August 8, 2013




What is one to make of an essay seeking to bridge a purported divide of understanding between science and the humanities – in which the humanities are said to fear and mistrust the sciences – that opens with the sentence, “The great thinkers of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were scientists”? The essay […]





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Helen Thomas and Oedipus

July 21, 2013




On the CNN’s Reliable Sources this morning, new host David Folkenflik hosted three female journalists, including Judy Woodruff and Candy Crowley in considering the career and legacy of Helen Thomas. The entire discussion addressed Thomas’s groundbreaking career and generous influence on young women journalists like Woodruff and Crowley. Just before the end of the discussion, […]





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Homer did no injustice to his grief

May 17, 2013




. Robert Frost in the words of Tobias  Wolff, from Old School. Don’t tell me about war. I lost my nearest friend in the one they call the Great War. So did Achilles lose his friend in the war, and Homer did no injustice to his grief by writing about it in dactylic hexameters. There’ve […]





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Interview with John Spaulding

May 13, 2013




. From the spring issue of West Magazine, my interview with poet John Spaulding. Your can read Spaulding’s poems in the issue here. John Spaulding holds degrees in English and psychology and earned a PhD in psychology from the University of Arizona, Tucson. He has worked as a psychologist for the Phoenix Indian Medical Center […]





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“I’m Just a Bad Boy All Dressed Up in Fancy Clothes” (1957): West Poetry

April 23, 2013




. Another poem from John Spaulding, our featured poet in the spring issue of West. Read more here. “I’m Just a Bad Boy All Dressed Up in Fancy Clothes” (1957) by John Spaulding I’m just a bad bad boy all dressed up in fancy clothes a jive bomber a rocket 88 a war baby a […]





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West Poetry: “Bruja”

April 17, 2013




. Our featured poet in the spring issue of West is John Spaulding. Spaulding’s The White Train was chosen by Henry Taylor for the 2004 National Poetry Series.  He is the author also  of The Roses of Starvation (1987), Walking in Stone (1989), and Hospital (2011). His work has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry, […]





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Obama’s Male Gaze

April 15, 2013




. We forget it about Barack Obama. Amid his first-black-American-presidentness. His Africanness and his historical otherness. His – by American standards – worldliness. The youth in Indonesia and the exposure to Islam. The exotica, to mainlanders, of the upbringing in Hawaii. The life with a single mother. The academic achievement, the sometimes aloof scholarly mien. […]





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Speaking in Voices

April 11, 2013




. In the new, spring issue of West, my Poetic License column offers a discussion of voice in poetry, in introduction to the poetry of John Spaulding, whose The White Train was chosen by Henry Taylor for the National Poetry Series in 2004. The first thing I look for in a poem is its voice. It is […]





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Kingdom Animalia

April 4, 2013




for JSA April 4, 1947 – May 16, 2011 Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay When I get the call about my brother, I’m on a stopped train leaving town & the news packs into me—freight— though it’s him on the other end now, saying finefine— Forfeit my eyes, I want to turn away from the […]





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Zero Dark Thirty and Torture

April 1, 2013




. I held my peace during the controversy over Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty because I was working on an extended consideration of the film and preferred to make my case fully in that venue. Suffice it to say as brief introduction that I think the criticisms of the film, those that accused it of […]





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We Fuses

March 14, 2013




. Julia gave me a splendid gift for my birthday today. When I was a very young man in Manhattan, in my early and later twenties, I would pour over and plow through the book reviews and journals – all the epistles from the church of literature –  including, deliciously each Sunday, the New York Times Book […]





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Taking Stock, Taking a Leave

March 4, 2013




. The first post on this blog is dated December 2, 2008, so I have been blogging as of the date of this post, four years, three months and two days. I began when Julia and I hit the road during a sabbatical year, traveling the country in our motor home researching Native American life. […]





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When You Dreamed of Playing Guitar…

February 23, 2013




it wasn’t like this. I haven’t been posting much lately, about which more another time, but this called for it. Via old friend, guitarist Michael Robbins of The Border Collies. Stefano Barone. Related articles Zero Dark Art vs Journalism Breaking Downton Abbey Bad





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