Category Archives: Essays

“Another One for the Fire”: George A. Romero on Race

By James Rushing Daniel 

Filmmaker George A. Romero died earlier this month at the age of 77, following a career spanning six decades. While he continued to work well into his final years, and was even developing a new film at the time of his death, he will be remembered for his early projects: 1968’s Night of the Living Dead and 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. Produced in Western Pennsylvania on meager budgets and with largely local talent, the films are pinnacles of midcentury independent cinema. Wildly successful in their heyday, their influence has arguably only grown since their release; The Walking Dead empire, Sean of the Dead (2004), World War Z (2006), video games Left 4 Dead (2008) and The Last of Us (2013), and even Colson Whitehead’s high-concept literary thriller Zone One (2011) are all are indebted to Romero’s work. Continue reading

Images of the Digital Age: “Something Unusual is Happening” at Printed Matter

By Megan N. Liberty

Fully immersed in the digital age, we are in a constant state of multitasking; we carry web browsers in our pockets, simultaneously talking, reading, and traveling. Whereas once we relegated combinations of image and text to children’s books, now they ooze from our fingertips as we spew emoji and GIFS alongside our letters. One particular media is well-suited to champion narrative that captures our new mode of interaction: the comic. Already steeped in image-text combinations, its layered multi-panel form speaks our digital language. Something Unusual is Happening: Experimental Comics and the Art of Visual Narrative at Printed Matter in New York surveys some of the comic artists innovating today, presenting a range of works that reflect the multitasking, fast paced, image-text communication that has become commonplace. The majority of the work is from the aughts, and includes American and European artists and stapled zines, bound books, textiles, and large prints. Shared by all is a commitment to expanding the form, pushing the limits of graphic narrative. Continue reading

Orphan Black Season Five, “Gag or Throttle”: If Your Eye Causes You to Stumble

By Everett Hamner

This is the seventh in a series of episode-by-episode reflections on Orphan Black season 5 (preview; episode 1 ; episode 2; episode 3; episode 4; episode 5; episode 6). These pieces do not provide thorough plot summaries but do include spoilers; they assume readers have already been viewers. Responses via Twitter continue to be very welcome! Continue reading

In Praise of Spectacle

By Jane Mendle

One afternoon in 1884, an elderly one-legged stranger was hired by a general store in Corsicana, Texas to walk a tightrope with an iron stove strapped to his back. The store was new. They sold everything, stoves included, and they wanted to draw all of Corsicana to their grand opening. They promised the afternoon would include an “astounding, astonishing, amazing, unbelievable, never seen before or ever again act of strength, gravity and defiance of common sense.” School was dismissed for the afternoon, crowds swarmed the main street, a band played, and the mayor made a proud speech. Corsicana watched, transfixed, as the Rope Walker inched confidently across the wire. He was practiced and skillful, with a notch carved in his peg leg so the wire fit neatly within. Continue reading

Learning to Walk

By Joanna Chen 

Stand with your legs apart. The earth here demands a different way of walking, a more mindful one. Wear what your mother would call “sensible shoes,” and make sure the laces are tied tightly. It is crucial they do not dangle; tuck them in at the ends. Now put on the crampons — spiky, metal contraptions that should fit your shoes snugly. Now you’re two inches higher above the surface of the earth. Continue reading

Pre-Modern Post-Truth

By Rhodri Lewis

At the end of 2016, the Oxford English Dictionary declared “post-truth” its Word of the Year, and offered a fine working definition of what the term can be said to mean: “Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping political debate or public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” “The concept of post-truth has been in existence for the past decade,” the OED declared on its blog, but they had lately “seen a spike in frequency … in the context of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom and the presidential election in the United States.” Few would attempt to deny that the political culture embraced and advanced by the Trump administration and the champions of Brexit fits the OED’s description perfectly. Continue reading

The Blue Force Field: A Justice System that Assumes Impartiality Fails Us All

By Justin Campbell

“The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 of hindsight. The calculus of reasonable must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation. The test of reasonableness is not capable of precise definition or mechanical application.” -Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Graham v. Connor (1989)

“Lower courts were asked to use three questions to measure the lawfulness of use of force: First, what was the severity of the crime that the officer believed the suspect to have committed or be committing? Second, did the suspect present an immediate threat to the safety of officers or the public? Third, was the suspect actively resisting arrest or attempting to escape?” -Ken Wallentine, “How to Ensure Use of Force Is “Reasonable and Necessary” and Avoid Claims of Excessive Force” Continue reading

Orphan Black Season Five, “Manacled Slim Wrists”: What Man Has Done to Man

By Everett Hamner

This is the sixth in a series of episode-by-episode reflections on Orphan Black season 5 (preview; episode 1 ; episode 2; episode 3; episode 4; episode 5). These pieces do not provide thorough plot summaries but do include spoilers; they assume readers have already been viewers. Responses via Twitter continue to be very welcome! Continue reading

Hamburg, and My Issue with Riot Porn

By Natasha Lennard

We call it riot porn — it’s a pretty self-evident term to describe videos of riots and protests, viewed and shared for enjoyment. They contain a few standard aesthetic elements: fire, smoke, black bloc participants, and confrontation, preferably in which the protesters appear to have the upper hand. They give little room for context, relying instead on the idea that we know an insurrectionary spectacle when we see one. Between online denizens of the far left, eager to share in what revolution looks like, riot porn gains swift social media traction and memefication. Continue reading