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No Way to Prevent This

October 12, 2015

In a society where mass shootings have become semi-regular occurrences, where impending tragedy seems to stalk the halls of schools across the country, and where a single person’s mental illness (or extreme frustration or crippling loneliness) can radically alter the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals, there doesn’t seem to be room for humor.

And there shouldn’t be, not really. But for a “news outlet” like The Onion, where humor, irony, and sarcasm provide a lens through which to view current events, does that mean they are not allowed to participate in the discussion?


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What’s in a name? Mt. McKinley’s Makeover

September 3, 2015

Meet Mountains McKinley and Denali.

Mt. McKinley is the highest point in the U.S. And so is Denali.

Funny enough, they’re also both located in Alaska.

And here’s a picture of both.

National Park Service, Photo by Kent Miller

National Park Service, Photo by Kent Miller

Yes, they are the same mountain. But on a recent trip to Alaska, President Obama took the opportunity to erase the McKinley bit and replace it with Denali.

Same mountain, new moniker. So what’s the big deal? Read more…

Target Under Fire

August 31, 2015

Target recently announced some changes to their stores. No, it’s not the rumored addition of a bar serving alcohol (though my fingers are really crossed for this one); the company is in the process of removing gender-based signage indicating that certain merchandise is either for boy or girl children. In response to some customers who felt “frustrated or limited” by Target’s signage, Target released the following statement: “We know that shopping preferences and needs change and, as guests have pointed out, in some departments like Toys, Home, or Entertainment, suggesting products by gender is unnecessary.” The full statement can be found here.

CGct96FUgAA4hBASignage currently used in a Target store to separate children’s toys by gender

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Murder and Identification in Small-College-Town America

July 31, 2015

You have not heard of this Potsdam.

It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. This Postdam, the German one, is a little more famous, what with the Prussians and Kaisers and palaces.

But Potsdam, NY, a pretty little college town nestled in the shadow of Ottawa and the foothills of the Adirondacks, that unthaws for just long enough to cut the grass a few times before the first freeze, has recently gotten some attention. And as P.T. Barnum famously said, “All publicity is good publicity!”

Right? Read more…

Love, Hate and the Rhetoric of Race

June 26, 2015

The heinous shooting of nine innocent African Americans in Charleston South Carolina by Dylann Roof and the strange story of former Spokane, Washington NAACP Director, Racheal Dolezal living life as a “Black” woman have put race at the center of the national conversation. Two people, who are classified as “White,” have in many ways defined their lives around African Americans.   Dolezal and Roof’s preoccupation with “Black” people led the former to fully immerse herself in the created identity of a black woman and led the latter murder Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Daniel L. Simmons, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson inside a South Carolina church.

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Just the Facts, Please

May 13, 2015

Has this ever happened to you? You were little (or maybe not so little) and your mother came up to you, frustrated over some ill-advised life decision, sat you down, looked you in the eyes, sighed, and then said, “Listen, I’m not going to tell you how to live your life.” Do you remember how mom then proceeded to immediately tell you exactly how to live your life? If you do have one such memory (or many such) then you have been occultatio’d.

The occultatio is a rhetorical technique in which rhetoricians bring something up to let their audience know they are not going to bring it up. If this sounds familiar, but the notion of occultatio is unfamiliar to you, it might be because the technique goes by a number of other names (paralipsis, apophasis, preterition, antiphrasis, the list goes on and on). But occultatio may also sound familiar to you because you see it all the time, from your parents yes, but also in advertising.

Recently, this tactic seems to be everywhere, but one memorable example comes from a series of television commercials produced by Dodge for their Ram Truck series called “Just the Facts.” Take a moment and watch these ads here, here, and here before reading the rest of this so we’ll have some to talk about. Read more…

The Power of Black Twitter

February 15, 2015

I confess. I do not tweet. My social media participation began and ended with the now seemingly archaic Facebook. But for many, the most important and influential conversations are now taking place at lightning-fast speed in 140 characters on twitter.   Within this world of tweets, there is a subgroup that seems to be increasing in power and reach. It’s called “Black Twitter” and constitutes a subculture tweet about everything and anything regarding Black culture. The term “Black Twitter,” according to my research, goes back to 2009, and its ongoing influence on politics and pop culture is undeniable. Stories have been written about “Black Twitter” getting its own wikipedia page, and the Communication Department at USC is conducting an extensive research project on “Black Twitter.”

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