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Mar 142013

John Roderick recently lamented that “Punk Rock is Bullshit” at Seattle Weekly, writing,

For those of us who grew up in the shadow of the baby boom, force-fed the misremembered vainglory of Woodstock long after most hippies had become coked-out, craven yuppies on their way to becoming paranoid neo-cons, punk rock provided a corrective dose of hard truth. Punk was ugly and ugly was true, no matter how many new choruses the boomers added to their song of self-praise. It was this perceived honesty that we, the nascent Generation X, feared and worshipped. But over time punk swelled into a Stalinistic doctrine of self-denial that stunted us. The yuppies kept sucking, but by clinging to punk we started to suck too.

At SF Weekly, Manjula Martin responded with “The Jazz Age Is Bullshit,” a nice bit of satire on Roderick’s piece and an enjoyable skewering of generational nostalgia (to my mind). Martin writes,

We took this music, which was different and new and hated by our parents, and developed it into a vibrant youth subculture based on one core principle: to rebel against the prevailing social and political standards, and to do it by partying hard on the dance floor and wearing clothing with a new aesthetic. But man, it turned out that once I got a little bit older, the Jazz Age totally disappointed me. And now jazz means something different than it did almost a century ago when I discovered it. Now, young kids get into jazz who don’t even know what jazz really stood for. Jazz has failed us. So can we finally admit to ourselves that the Jazz Age was bullshit? Because it was. Here’s why:

It seems like something our students might be engaged by, as part of discussions of countering and/or taking an approach in WR101, or in WR121 sections in which music and pop culture are the foci.

Book Reviewing Advice from David Walton

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Feb 142013
Many of the old practices and standards, and safeguards, of the publishing business have gone by the wayside over these past decades, at the same as the newspaper business has shrunk, and newspapers and publishing houses have gutted their staffs of editors, proofreaders, fact checkers. Reviewing books is an important part of a writer’s community, and grows more important as you grow in prominence.

@Literary Citizenship

The course blog for the “literary citizenship” course being taught by Cathy Day at Ball State University has posted some great resources for writers recently (this one on literary generosity in particular is something anyone aiming toward publication should read). The post excerpted above, a conversation between Day and experienced book reviewer David Walton, could be a good resource for those of you teaching the review as one of your genres in WR121, to help students understand why reviews and reviewing matter.

In a related — if more comic (or perhaps tragic?) — vein, you might also share with them Lincoln Michel’s “book report on Moby-Dick constructed from random sentences in negative Amazon and Goodreads reviews”, as an example of playing with genre.

Gender in profiles

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Jan 302013

With her delicate features, blue eyes, and blonde hair, Carrie Preston could double as a porcelain doll, but she hardly handles life with kid gloves. Halfway through an early morning lecture on The Invention of Heterosexuality and Homosexuality in an Introduction to Women’s Studies class, Preston tells students about the practice of pederasty in ancient Athens, in which Greek men developed relationships with adolescent boys they chose as sexual partners and mentored. The practice was completely accepted at the time, she notes, because sex was about power and virility. That’s hard to imagine in today’s world, where Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky’s sexual contact with young boys led to his imprisonment and a raft of lawsuits against the school.

@ BU Today

For those who teach the profile as one of their genres in WR121, this could be a useful classroom example — not necessarily for the profile itself, but for the comment discussion about how our “default” approaches to description reflect gendered complications.

Silencing the Science on Gun Research

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Dec 232012

The nation might be in a better position to act if medical and public health researchers had continued to study these issues as diligently as some of us did between 1985 and 1997. But in 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although they failed to defund the center, the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year. Funding was restored in joint conference committee, but the money was earmarked for traumatic brain injury. The effect was sharply reduced support for firearm injury research.


A teachable but tragic case study of how research and its presentation are never “pure” but occur within social contexts (economics, politics, etc.), something I hope my students take to heart by the conclusion of a semester in WR121.

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