“Rueful Reluctance:” An Unwitting Cat Owner’s Search for Meaning Among Memes

Mitt Romney vs. Big Bird: When Enthymemes Attack

Big Bird stands behind Romney at an outdoor microphone

Image Source: Unknown

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 basethose who would rather their tax monies not go to PBSand 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.

Panem et Circenses: The Hunger Games and Kony2012

Early-modern Bear Baiting

Image Credit:

I suspect I was one of very few people thinking of the First Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Cooper, as I watched The Hunger Games with my family last weekend. In particular, I was recalling how Shaftesbury lamented in 1711 that the English theater had come to resemble the “popular circus or bear-garden.”

It is no wonder we hear such applause resounded on the victories of Almanzor, when the same parties had possibly no later than the day before bestowed their applause as freely on the victorious butcher, the hero of another stage, where amid various frays, bestial and human blood, promiscuous wounds and slaughter, [both sexes] are… pleased spectators, and sometimes not spectators only, but actors in the gladiatorian parts.[1]

Calendar Boys, Beefcake Girls: Photographing the Bodies We Want

Rion Sabean, posed as a pin-up girl, with cordless drill

Image Credit: Rion Sabean

H/T: Melanie Haupt

My favorite way to take a break from dissertation research is to visit Facebook.  Some days, I’m lucky enough to be entertained by my friends, as when Melanie Haupt posted a provocative link to an article about male pin-ups.

Meat America - a photographic celebration by Dominic Episcopo

ground beef spelling WTF

WTF, by Dominic Episcopo, from Meat America

Dominic Episcopo wants to explain to you "the indefinable adjective that is 'American'." And as far as he's concerned, the best way to do that is with meat.  The images are funny, deeply ironic, and often ambiguous given Episcopo's purported mission. 

Meat is Couture? - Lady Gaga's Meaty Message

Lady Gaga's VMA meat dress

Image Credit: Lady Gaga at the VMAs, Designer Franc Fernandez

I realize that I may be a bit behind the times to be addressing (ha!) Lady Gaga's fashion stunt of last fall, but meat's been on my mind this week as I'm about to embark on 30 days of eating vegetarian - largely as a result of the text we're teaching in our introductory rhetoric classes here at UT: Colin Beavan's No Impact Man. But that's another story.  Gaga's appearance at the Mtv Video Music Awards sparked controversy that dissipated rather quickly, and though this may have been due to the singer's own inability to adequately (or logically) explain the reasons behind her wardrobe choice, the images left behind offer a really interesting opportunity for varying and disparate interpretations.  

Xtranormal in the Classroom

Image Credit: Adriana Cervantes, created as final presentation for my RHE 306 class

Particularly in technology-based classrooms like we have here in the DWRL, instructors are always looking for new ways to teach students non-traditional forms of writing. A few weeks back, Ashley wrote a viz. post about the on-line animation program, Xtranormal, whose motto is “if you can type, you can make movies.”  Her post inspired/challenged me to give it a try with my students. It's extremely user-friendly, and we were able to create animations in a single class period. Users enter text, and the program animates the dialogue for them. Above and after the jump are examples of my students' work, and I'll talk more about pedagogical value of the program.

What's Eating You? Viewer Expectations and Food Art

Thanksgiving turkey cake

Image (and recipe): Chow

When I discovered the true nature of the image above, which appeared to be a delicious carrot cake, I felt an unexpected disgust. Full disclosure: I am a vegetarian with a sweet tooth, so the fact that what appeared to be cake was, in fact, ground turkey was pretty gross to me. However, I imagine that someone who had been dooped might initially feel the same way, before, perhaps, shifting into delight that an entire Thanksgiving dinner had been contained in one slice, and so masterfully. My reaction, however extreme, made me think about food as a medium, the arguments it makes, and the arguments we make about it.

When Humor Hurts - Domestic Violence PSAs (part one)

Image credit: The OPCC via YouTube

H/T to Rachel for suggesting the topic sending me the clip

Although Halloween is behind us, and we've packed up the glam make-up and eaten all the goodies, I'd like to call your attention to an interesting use of bunny suits I recently came across.  Or, perhaps "interesting" isn't quite the right word... inappropriate, insincere, ineffectual... these seem more apt.  While this ridiculous domestic violence PSA has already been addressed by Irin Carmon over on Jezebel, I think there are some more fundamental issues we can tackle from a rhetorical standpoint.  Ultimately, the commercial leaves me with questions about when humor actually hits the mark and when it just goes horribly wrong.

The Inner Life of Toys - The Art of Jason Freeny


Anatomical bi-section of Mickey Mouse figure

Image Credit: Jason Freeny Moist Productions

Elieen's viz. post from a few weeks ago on Justine Cooper's photo-documentation of the American Museum of Natural History in New York has been bouncing around in my head ever since.  It (re)kindled a long-standing interest I've had in both natural history museums and slightly morbid kinds of art.  In both digital images and sculpture, artist Jason Freeny invests familiar children's toys with anatomical interiors, suggesting an inner life/death that both unsettles and intrigues.

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