I’m afraid I dare divert our attention away from the current Vice-Presidential debate this evening (as tempted as I am to address Paul Ryan’s recently released photos from a year-old Time shoot) and address the original celebrity VP with the limited rhetorical perspective that four years can give us. With the release of the HBO television movie Game Change in March of this year, the premiere of her daughter’s and grandson’s reality show Life’s a Tripp on Lifetime in June, and Bristol Palin’s return to the All-Star season of Dancing with the Stars just weeks ago, Sarah Palin has managed to pop up quite frequently in celebrity media even four years after her failed bid for the vice-presidency. Just this week in LA, a paparazzi photo of a much-thinner Palin made the internet rounds, prompting an investigation from People. (Surprise: in an exclusive interview, Palin translates her new, slimmer physique into an endorsement for a forthcoming fitness book that directly opposes Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, which Palin openly criticized in 2010.) How can we explain this resurgence in public interest in Palin, especially in an election year? What can the public’s interest in Sarah Palin’s post-political life, as well as the eagerness of the media to portray it, tell us about political celebrity in 2012?
Last night I was online looking for photos of Cuba’s baseball league, and I stumbled across the work of Cuban pop-artist José Fuster. Specifically, I stumbled across Fusterlandia, a ceramic wonderland that’s grown to include Fuster’s home, studio, and neighborhood. This world is a cartoon that’s come to life. In addition to ceramics, Fuster also works with canvas, graphite, and engraving, and his studio work is often shown in France and Britain. And since we don’t hear a lot about individual Cubans down here in Texas, save their aging leader, I thought I might take a moment in this week’s blog post to highlight the work of José Fuster. Fusterlandia is visually stunning, to say the least.
I’m weighing in late this week on last week’s first presidential debate. Jay has usefully analyzed several covers of The New Yorkerand illuminated for us a particular venue’s take on the candidates, while Todd has collected “Big Bird” memes to demonstrate a variety of reactions to Romney’s attack on PBS. I’d like to pick up the popular culture trail where Todd has left off and discuss one meme in particular, posted by RealityTVGifs on October 4th, the morning after the first debate. The gif depicts presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama superimposed on Real Housewives of New Jersey Jacqueline Laurita and Teresa Giudice, respectively, while Andy Cohen, Executive VP of Bravo, moderates. How can we read the comparisons this image invites—of the presidential debate to a Real Housewives reunion special? Though there is obviously the potential of productive discussion in the relationship between Romney/President Obama and Laurita/ Guidice, what if we examine the less obvious juxtaposition: how can Andy Cohen inform our reading of moderator Jim Lehrer?
In last week's debate, one of the more memorable moments was Mitt Romney's vow to cut off government funding to public television despite his appreciation of both Big Bird and Jim Lehrer. Because he would neither raise taxes nor borrow money from China, Romney argued, he would cut programs like PBS. I suppose Romney intended the statement as a bit of red meat for his base—those who would rather their tax monies not go to PBS—and perhaps also for the putative independent/undecided voter who also distrusts such government spending. I also suppose that for such audiences the line worked. However, for other audiences, Romney's enthymeme provoked an outcry, because those audiences do not share the unstated premise in his argument that PBS does not merit continued funding. Sesame Street lovers (and Romney haters) across the web responded with a torrent of photoshopped images criticizing Romney's position.
Almost every male speaker to the September Summit of the General Assembly of the United Nations wore a suit and tie. It is easy to overlook this fact, so widespread is the convention, so rare the defiance. But what heads of state wear in front of one another shows something peculiar about the modern nation state. Leaders are, by and large, drawn from the cultural and economic elite. What all this suit-and-tie wearing indicates, however, is that the ruling class of the modern nation-state must subscribe, or seem to subscribe, to middle class or “business” virtues, like hard work, entrepreneurship, merit, and self-effacement. When a male leader chooses not to don a suit and tie, a choice made by President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (pictured above), he is really saying something: but what, exactly, is he saying?
With reports that Mitt Romney’s been practicing “zingers” for two months in preparation for tonight’s debate, and press releases from both campaigns attempting to temper our expectations, I can’t help but post something related to this entertainment. And though I’m dying to ask you, patriotic reader, in light of the aforementioned press releases, whether American politics has actually distended to the point where our Presidential candidates admittedly aren’t our most able communicators, I’ll keep this on the lighter side. Well, actually, one serious question real quickly: If one practices zingers for two months do they actually retain their efficacy? OK, now that I got out of my system…I’m teaching a composition class based around The New Yorker this semester, and just yesterday I had the notion that a consideration of the magazine’s recent political covers might afford a decent summation of the issues currently at stake. I don’t know if I’ll have time to do this with my class anytime soon – we’ve got articles planned through Thanksgiving – but I thought the blogosphere might find it interesting. If nothing else, it’ll be a quick refresher before tonight’s commoditized version of Enlightenment political economy (the debate will make those of us who consume it feel like engaged citizens, even though it’s obvious that both candidates are products of a slightly un-democratic fundraising process).
With the recent passing of Neil Armstrong, the decommissioning of the space shuttles, and the release of the latest "deep field" image from the Hubble Space Telescope, the rhetoric of space imagery has been on my mind. Except for the occasional "why waste money on this?" argument, astronomical images find wide appreciation, appreciation which I certainly share. However, I also see a certain risk in the arguments made using space imagery that can be lost amidst the optimism and wonder.
Abraham Lincoln has been colored in by means of computer software. There are more color photographs of the past today than there have ever been before: and that is because people, like artist Sanna Dullaway, are using Photoshop to colorize black and white ones. In this post, I wonder why.
I'll test my art history chops today (no promises) as I explore the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593), late Renaissance Mannerist and an artist of interest to everyone from the critic Barthes to the stadium rock band Kansas to the surrealist Salvador Dali.
The designer(s) of this year’s TILTS symposium flier chose an engraving after Arcimboldo’s The Librarian (1566). In investigating some context for the painting, I couldn’t help but notice the aptness of the image—not only, of course, because of TILTS’ ever-present commitment to textual studies, but because of the particular place Arcimboldo holds in literary and popular imagination in the Post-Renaissance world.
Google Maps has a remarkable new feature called Sea View that spotlights oceanic life and space. Sea View is essentially the marine version of Street View, a layer of Google Maps that allows users to navigate though 360-degree panoramic images of the Earth's surface. By extending the concept of Street View to the ocean floor, Google has added six coral reefs to the long list of cities, landmarks and parks users can currently explore remotely, from the comfort of their digital devices. The fascinating images captured so far by Google and its partner, Catlin Seaview Survey, bear out the imaginative quality of the overarching project. It's almost as if Sea View is Google's attempt to fulfill a common childhood fantasy: to experience what it would be like to live under the sea. With its zoomable and virtually traversable underwater imagery, Sea View enables adults and children alike to realize this wish (without having to worry about oxygen supply or the expense of travelling to distant coral reefs).