Resistance at the Crossroads of the World

By Benjamin Reeves

Between President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the border with Mexico, his threat of a trade war with China, rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and skepticism about funding NATO, there’s no question that he seeks to separate the U.S. from the rest of the world. Virulent racism and explicitly anti-immigrant rhetoric are beginning to metastasize into actual, though disjointed and poorly executed policy. Yet a robust resistance movement is rising to meet it, and airports — perhaps the perfect symbolism of benevolent globalism — have become a locus of that resistance. Continue reading

Alec Baldwin, James Baldwin, and Apocalyptic Exceptionalism

By Matt Seybold

Ratings for Saturday Night Live steadily declined for four consecutive seasons, starting in 2011, as Lorne Michaels struggled uncharacteristically to cultivate a new crop of stars. In the fall of 2015, the overhauled cast began to rally around Kate McKinnon, particularly her portrayal of Hillary Clinton. SNL’s current season is on pace to be its highest-rated since, perhaps not coincidentally, the election of Barack Obama. Among the most viral videos the revitalized show has generated is “Hillary Actually,” which aired during the final episode of 2016. Parodying a famous scene from the romantic comedy Love Actually, the sketch features McKinnon, as Clinton, using cue cards to coyly communicate with members of the Electoral College. McKinnon ventriloquizes efforts to persuade electors to abandon President-Elect Trump and, as one of the cards reads, “just vote for literally anyone else.” One could interpret the scene as mocking increasingly desperate and delusional public figures who couldn’t seem to come to terms with the reality of Trump’s impending presidency. But it isn’t satire exactly. The cue cards, though witty, actually make a cogent and compelling argument for faithless electors, complete with bullet points like “2. He’s already provoked the Chinese,” “6. He knew Russia was involved in hacking the election,” “11. His Vice President believes in conversion therapy,” “12. More than a dozen women have accused him of sexual assault,” and “15. He doesn’t know how the government works.” Continue reading

Trickle-Down Censorship in China: An Interview with JFK Miller

By Susan Blumeberg-Kason

I first became acquainted with JFK Miller through Whyiwrite.net, a site he founded and curates of interviews with authors who mainly write about China. Miller, an Australian, is a former expat of Indonesia, Singapore, and most recently, Shanghai, where he was editor-in-chief of an English magazine for more than six years. He returned to Brisbane in 2015 and recently published his first book, Trickle-Down Censorship: An Outsider’s Account of Working Inside China’s Censorship Regime (Hybrid Publishers, 2016). I recently asked him via e-mail about his years in China, censorship, and publishing. Continue reading

Queer Shoulder to the Wheel: The Pervasive Politics of Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl Halftime Performance

By Carie Schneider

Lady Gaga, in a rooftop preamble to her halftime show at Super Bowl 51, sings to the America she wants to bring into being. Her medley of patriotic song snippets, woven in with the end of the Pledge of Allegiance, works like an apostrophe to “One nation under God.” The drones flanking her, in the sky, evoke the red and blue color scheme of the corporate logo of the show’s sponsor, Pepsi, but are also deployed politically. Gaga sings a couplet from Woodie Guthrie’s socialist anthem “This Land is Your Land.” The drones begin to change from a field of white stars to vertically divided swaths of red and blue. When Gaga sings “this land is your land,” half the drones turn red. At “this land is my land,” the other half turn blue. This was a not-particularly subtle illustration of the polarization of “red state” and “blue state” identities. The divided red and blue drones swirl up, and then unify into the image of the American flag. The flag is conjured up through the performative utterance of the last stanza of the pledge of allegiance, which, like a mantra, makes physically manifest that which it praises. The words “liberty and justice for all” bring red and blue together, into a hopeful pluralistic unity for the flag. This is the message of Gaga’s entire performance: Only liberty and justice — for all — will bring us together. Continue reading

Being an Immigrant is Hard Enough. Can’t We Just Be Compassionate?

By Ani Kokobobo

I arrived at JFK almost 20 years ago from Albania, a Muslim-majority country then torn apart by political and economic instability. We waited for years for the F-1 visa. I remember starting school and wondering whether I would be able to finish the year before we had to drop everything and leave. I tried to get two tourist visas before my F-1 finally came through. I cannot forget the adolescent embarrassment of showing up in front of US immigration officials with my middle school report cards and letters of recommendation from my teachers in order to make a good impression. Both times we paid significant fees, only so I could be rejected for unexplained reasons. Continue reading

Haruki Murakami Has More Books Out in Korean than He Ever Will in English

By Colin Marshall

Whenever someone has made progress studying a foreign language and asks which author they should try reading in that language, I always recommend the same one: Haruki Murakami. Though perhaps an obvious choice for students of Japanese, his mother tongue and the language in which he writes, his work has now made it into about fifty different languages in total. His stories’ globally appealing style, their abundance of non-Japanese cultural references, and their translation-ready prose style (legend has it he overcame an early bout of writer’s block by writing his first novel in what English he knew, then converting it back to Japanese) make them work just about as well in French, Polish, Turkish, Hebrew, or Mandarin as they do in the original. Continue reading

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