Category: Commentary

Commentary: Propaganda Ends Where Dialogue Begins

Written By Allie Schulz

A Facebook timeline encompasses many facets of human life. Facebook is a place where we go to record events, emotions, and things we find relevant or entertaining. We can see everything unfold on Facebook- birth, death, marriage, divorce. While reading about both meaningful and not-so meaningful topics in my Facebook timeline, I came upon an advertisement that I am going to analyze, using quotes from The Medium is the Massage by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore.

Facebook has become what we would consider to be a predictable space/place, yet, “Environments are invisible. Their ground-rules, pervasive structure, and overall patterns elude easy perception.” Continue reading

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Commentary: Eyes and Ears on the Gatsby Soundtrack

A few of the song lyrics on the soundtrack for the new Great Gastby film relate as much to American Panopticons as the story itself. I’ll call the idea of Gatsby’s obsessions with not only Daisy but in climbing the social ladder his visions of love. In this short essay I will analyze a part of two songs from the soundtrack, and include a bit of related artwork with additional description of what I mean by these visions. Continue reading

Commentary: What do the Hulk, Dr. Phil, and Reddit Trolls have in common?

Answer:  They’re all stuck in a web of privacy and ownership issues that has been spun together by blog style news site Gawker


Gawker’s in hot water, again! This time they allegedly used media from a source that did not give them permission. A clip of Dr. Phil’s oh-so-quality show. With the quality motto “Today’s Gossip is Tomorrow’s News”, this is not the first encounter with infringement.

Yep, Gawker is fresh off a ruling to take down another celebified clip.

Ordered to remove an illegally obtained sex tape featuring Hulk Hogan and any information written about it, Gawker “gawked” at the request. Armed with lawyers and an online version of the constitution, they dug their heels in and tried to keep it all- the video, the writing about the video…

The challenge from team Gawker is that the whole thing is protected speech; as it is of interest to the public and is about a public figure, they should be able to post the video and information about it no matter how it was obtained. How a judge rules could seriously impact the future of “gawker” style journalism (gossip? fiction? provocation?).

Check out their reasoning: A Judge Told Us to Take Down Our Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Post. We Won’t.

It was just last year that Gawker upset some of the higher ups at Reddit, another site in which “freedom to post” is seen as akin to “freedom of speech”. The unmasking of Reddit power-user and grade-A creep “Violentacrez” (pronounced violent-acres, in case, you know, the guy’s name comes up at dinner?!) shook the community. In the wake of Anonymous internet justice is a hot topic, but did the attack do any lasting damage to the power structures that support the misogynist photos Violentacrez was infamous for amalgamating? That’s doubtful.

So while Gawker posts two videos of/about people who expressly do not want their work posted on the site, a guy who posts private pictures on another site is lambasted… by Gawker. Is this fair? Is this just? There’s no right answer, and I’m not sure how to feel- other than happy I didn’t have to see that Hulk sex tape.

In the end, I just hope Gawker isn’t the future of free speech, because free speech might just mean no privacy and no ownership rights.

Commentary: The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

Fifty Shades of Grey

When I sat down to write a commentary on E.L. James’ bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey, I absolutely eviscerated the novel. My intent was to write a scathing critique of the book, from its truly terrible writing to the boring and repetitive nature of the sexual acts it portrays and the blatant misogyny occupying nearly every page of the narrative. I truly hated reading Fifty Shades of Grey because the whole time I was reading it, I kept waiting for it to reveal some kind of so-bad-it’s-good quality. I wanted it to be like watching Plan 9 From Outer Space, or something. With such a huge cult following, it had to have some redeeming quality, or so I hoped.

I’m here to tell you there is no positive feature anywhere in Fifty Shades of Grey. So, with this in mind, I wrote a commentary piece ripping it to shreds. I was prepared to gleefully publish this commentary, so I was talking to some coworkers about my approach to critiquing the novel when one dissenting voice among my friends said, “Well, at least it got people to read.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Surely he wasn’t serious. I dismissively fired back with, “If this is what it takes to get people to read, our culture is in serious trouble.”

I may have been right. However, during the last few days I’ve been meditating on the idea that Fifty Shades of Grey may have served a positive purpose after all. Inarguably, it did motivate a lot of people to read a book, which is a depressingly rare pastime amongst the general public nowadays. More than 65 million people around the world have read this book. It is the fastest-selling novel of all time. While the merits of the novel aren’t debatable because it doesn’t have any merits on its own, the indirect consequence of Fifty Shades of Grey as a social phenomenon has (and I truly hate that I’m writing these words) been an increased interest in literacy.

The characters are either utterly vapid or caricatures of sadistic creeps. The plot is virtually nonexistent because it only exists to loosely tie together the rapid-fire sex scenes that are the backbone of the novel. The writing is abysmal. None of the ingredients of a so-called “good” novel are present, but somehow the author was able to connect to a global audience and create interest in a book. Taking the time to read a book is a major commitment nowadays, and E.L. James’ Twilight fan fiction-turned literary megahit has proven that readers are willing to make the time for a novel. This, in a strange way, is a gift to the literary community.

Is it sad that this is popular literature? Absolutely. Is it better for the masses to read something rather than zone out in front of their televisions or engage in any of the multitude of mind-numbing distractions our culture has to offer? Yes.

So, with reluctance, I offer up gratitude to E.L. James. Hopefully readers’ experiences with her, uh, literature will inspire them to explore everything else the world of literature has to offer.

Commentary: Easter and Chreasters

Are you a  chreaster? You are probably wondering what is that? I do not know if you are religious or not, but if you live in the United States, you probably attend, at minimum, two church services a year—Christmas and Easter. Urbandictionary.com defines “chreaster” as “One that attends church only for Christmas and Easter.”

If you are a chreaster, (it’s ok to admit it), or religious, you may want to be aware that one of your obligatory holidays, Easter, is just around the corner. Obviously, whether you are religious or not, religions and their texts, specifically the Bible, have made profound impacts in American ideology. However, Easter, has become highly secularized—meaning religiosity has been pulled from the traditions. Where does religion lie within Easter? In coloring chicken eggs or with cute bunnies? Bunnies do not even lay eggs. How does a holiday about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alter into an emphasis of sugary peeps and egg hunts? Religion should lie at the roots of the Easter story.

In fact, shouldn’t the Bible tell all about Easter?

Bible and Chreasters

Having a religious background, my main question is why? Why does the Easter bunny exist? Why does he bring candy and lay eggs for children? None of these ideas originate in the literature—the biblical text!  According to academia, some of these traditions are rooted in pagan ancestry and are representative of fertility concepts as well as the welcoming of spring. So what is the origin of the word “Easter”? Why have many traditions, such as bunnies and eggs, evolved?

What does the Bible—the most popular book in the world—say about Easter? There is a whole fascinating debate about the origin of Easter and its significance with pagan concepts. What do you know about this religious holiday? Do you know the true origin of the word, “Easter” or anything about the Passover (the Passover is figurative of Jesus’ death) from the Hebrew Bible? The Bible is a unique piece of literature that arouses all sorts of questions, especially around Easter.

If you want to learn more, please check out these insightful readings:

This article reveals a deeply critical and analytical reflection of the origins of Easter: The True Origin of Easter

This article examines the pagan roots associated with Easter: Is the Name “Easter” of Pagan Origin?

invitation to the voyage banner

Commentary: Jubilation Over Translation

I’d like to share with you a poem titled Invitation to the Voyage, by Charles Baudelaire. I have never been one for poetry, and I mean never.  This poem is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and has absolutely lit a fire underneath me in several different ways. What I’m most fascinated by is the fact that the poem was originally written in French and later translated into English. Despite this, the entire piece is filled with absolutely beautiful and pleasant imagery, word choice, and rhyme in English.

As a member of Diversions: A Journal of American Experience, it is very interesting to me to note the subtle differences in various translations of the same poem, based on translators’ sense of popular cultural values and their own personal experience.  After returning home from first reading the poem in a class of mine, I had to do as much research as I could on this piece in particular. Upon doing so, I found 4 other versions of the very same poem, translated by different people. The version I’ve chosen was written by an unknown translator, and is, without any question, utterly superior to every other translation I’ve read.  This added to my fascination, because each version in English is clearly the same poem being translated, however is done so very, very differently as translators must maintain rhyme, meter, and the original version’s essential plot. How this is done so masterfully has had me baffled ever since.

‘Baffled’ is just one of the dozens of emotions I’ve been filled with since being exposed to L’Invitation au Voyage, in addition to sleepless, captivated, spellbound, fuzzy, and absolutely enthralled by the concept of literary translation. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I may have found a legitimate career option that would bring me a level of happiness and fulfillment no other choice has seemed able to offer.  I have literally lost sleep just thinking about this poem, the imagery, the decisions made by its unknown translator in terms of word choice and word order, rhyme, and even punctuation.  As far as the poem’s underlying message and what exactly it describes, Baudelaire has masterfully produced a piece of work filled with pleasantness and a soothing, calming effect on the reader despite telling a rather depressing story of rejection. This theme of love lost is very popular in American media, seen in countless television and movie dramas, however is typically not portrayed nearly as eloquently.

Pictured: Charles Baudelaire

Pictured: Charles Baudelaire

Invitation to the Voyage by Charles Baudelaire

My child, my sister, dream
How sweet all things would seem
Were we in that kind land to live together,
And there love slow and long,
There love and die among
Those scenes that image you, that sumptuous weather.
Drowned suns that glimmer there
Through cloud-dishevelled air
Move me with such a mystery as appears
Within those other skies
Of your treacherous eyes
When I behold them shining through their tears.

There, there is nothing else but grace and measure,
Richness, quietness, and pleasure.

Furniture that wears
The lustre of the years
Softly would glow within our glowing chamber,
Flowers of rarest bloom
Proffering their perfume
Mixed with the vague fragrances of amber;
Gold ceilings would there be,
Mirrors deep as the sea,
The walls all in an Eastern splendor hung-
Nothing but should address
The soul’s loneliness,
Speaking her sweet and secret native tongue.

There, there is nothing else but grace and measure,
Richness, quietness, and pleasure.

See, sheltered from the swells
There in the still canals
Those drowsy ships that dream of sailing forth;
It is to satisfy
Your least desire, they ply
Hither through all the waters of the earth.
The sun at close of day
Clothes the fields of hay,
Then the canals, at last the town entire
In hyacinth and gold:
Slowly the land is rolled
Sleepward under a sea of gentle fire.

There, there is nothing else but grace and measure,
Richness, quietness, and pleasure.