Category Archives: Essays

Jacques Tati’s Playtime: A Guide to Getting Along With Technology

By Aaron Timms

It’s been 50 years to the day since Jacques Tati released Playtime, his digressive, dialogue-light comedy about manners of being in the modern city. The anniversary has passed without remark, even in Tati’s homeland, where Playtime has always been respected, but not loved in the manner of his more accessible earlier films such as Jour de fête and Mon oncle. Continue reading

With Gun Violence, Ignorance is Not Bliss

By Lise Ragbir

On a Sunday afternoon, when a church-shooting left more than two-dozen people dead outside San Antonio, Texas, a hometown friend in Montreal called me to express concern about the tragedy. While the media-frenzy had carried reports all the way to Canada within hours, I was blissfully unaware of the shooting which occurred an hour and a half away from where I live. On Monday, an editor reached out to see if I had an opinion on the shooting — which I did. And I set off to organize an array of emotional reactions. But by Wednesday, I was told the heat around the incident was dying down and an essay about gun-violence would be over-shadowed by more current events. It is a horrifying truth: frequent coverage has shortened the attention we give mass-shootings — which could mean we might eventually not give any attention to such tragedies. That desensitization has ominous implications. Continue reading

Healthy Brain Intake: Modify Your News Habits to Ease Your Mind

By John Franklin, MD

Too much information (TMI) is internet speak for the notion that this information is more than I need, or care to know. I admit, I am a news junkie these days, but I’m claiming TMI.

Wandering through the Amherst College art museum recently, I came across a series of three photographs entitled, “Burning News,” by T.S. Parchikov. These admittedly photo-shopped pieces depict people earnestly reading Russian newspapers that are nearly consumed by fire. Continue reading

Remembering William H. Gass 1924-2017

By Greg Gerke

He grew up in the worst of times and died in end times. The Great Depression colored his mind’s eye and President Tweetledum and “The tweet is mightier than the truth” zeitgeist recently told him, Yes, the language can be more perverted and debased than anything heretofore. No matter, for William H. Gass, the world was within the word, the soul inside the sentence, the great texts together made a temple, and he added overly qualified artistry and highly poetic explication to the great chain connecting Joyce to Shakespeare to Homer. Continue reading

Say It: I’m Arab and Beautiful

By Fady Joudah

Dear editor: Do you ever consider what it’s like for an Arab American to wake up within his or her own American life and feel assaulted almost daily, for decades? Do you ever think how painful it is for so many like me to know that I live in a country — my country — which sees me only when I’m dead or dying, through the Arab body that is directly and indirectly decimated as consequence of our American wars? If you did, your sympathies would be less of a token. They would not be afraid of my agency. Necropolitics wouldn’t be your default mode. You would seek to publish and review, unapologetically, unflinchingly, and lovingly the works of Arabs as beauty, not as product of wars and death. This is the task ahead: The Arab is beautiful. Repeat it to yourself.   Continue reading

Requiem for a Media: On the Execution of LA Weekly

By John W. W. Zeiser

Americans have a strange and abiding trust in the corporate. There is an inherent problem with this trust, and it’s easy enough to spot, though our legal system has done everything it can to occlude it. Corporations are not people. I repeat: corporations are not people. Actual people, the kind who can be physically placed in a jail cell, are denied the framework to conceptualize this chasm; instead, we tend to transpose our own moral frameworks — the ones that allow us to operate daily with our neighbors, bus drivers, grocery cashiers, our friends — onto corporations. In a recent report from LA Weekly on Invitation Homes, the largest landlord of single-family homes in the city of LA, you can see this logic at work. In the report, a tenant expresses surprise that in the face of crippling rent increases, Invitation Homes wasn’t “negotiating and being nice with each other and com[ing] to an agreement.” Continue reading

Don’t Be Afraid, We Are Only Approaching the Outside World! — Curating Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo

By Charles Shields

Khalid Qassim and Ahmed Rabbani will starve as I remember waking up under an archway of tall pine. The smell of coffee. The up and down of steep roads. NPR playing softly, it seemed, from somewhere outside the car. We were in the Appalachian Mountains. The dark was vaguely green and here and there a star shone through the trees. I had just gotten out of juvie, and my new guardians were taking me on a road trip from Michigan to Long Island to meet the guardian’s extended family, which was now also mine.  Continue reading

Viewer Beware: We Need More LGBTQ TV Role Models for Kids

By Erik McIntosh

Disney introduced for the first time a storyline for a gay character on the fan favorite tween TV show, Andi Mack. Not everyone is happy. One Million Moms recently released a warning to parents, saying Disney has abandoned its “family-friendly entertainment” and sacrificed “children’s innocence.” Rev. Franklin Graham stated Andi Mack was dangerously trying “to influence the youth of today to accept and to be a part of the destructive LGBT lifestyle.” Kenya’s Film Classification Board cited the need to “protect children from exposure to harmful film and broadcast content” and Andi Mack from their television screens. Continue reading