Identity Politics and Academia

I’ve seen a number of people recently post an article published on Vox, written by an anonymous college professor*, about the threats to his career and his “academic freedom” (whatever that term means anymore) posed by today’s college students and their “identity politics” (whatever that term means anymore).

I spent quite a bit of time deconstructing the article, at least in my mind. It’s worth noting that the anonymous professor only mentions one specific incident, in which a presumably conservative student reported him to the administration for having communist sympathies or something. That incident went nowhere.

I eventually came to the conclusion that the anonymous professor has a serious problem with regard to the tenuousness of his career, but that his beef is with his university, not his students. Why are professors’ jobs so shaky, and why are universities allegedly so quick to punish professors for offending people mostly age 18 to 22 (who are supposed to be there to learn from said professors)?

One could point to the increasing corporatization of academia, or the increasing tendency to treat students as consumers. Luckily, Amanda Taub, a fellow former-lawyer-turned-writer who deserves better than to be compared to me any more than that, addressed these issues quite thoroughly in a post at Vox. She notes that not only is there a serious problem in academic employment, but that many people are all too willing to dump the problem off on a bunch of teenagers, who make an easy target, quite frankly: Continue reading


“My mother was Irish.” (UPDATED x 2)

I was not planning on seeing Aloha, Cameron Crowe‘s latest film, but it’s getting some interesting scrutiny in the media.

First off, let me just say that Crowe’s Almost Famous is a modern classic, and Say Anything… is, at a bare minimum, a classic of its era (and probably also a modern classic). Singles will always be one of my favorite films (“I read half of Exodus!”) I’m not as enamored of Jerry Maguire as some, but it remains highly quotable.

Vanilla Sky did something truly astounding, though. It was a remake of a Spanish film, Abre los Ojos, that I thoroughly enjoyed. Crowe’s remake managed to be very faithful to the original (including casting Penelope Cruz in the same role), while also completely failing to capture whatever it was that made that movie good. I should also note that I saw Vanilla Sky in the theater, thought it was pond scum, then rented Abre los Ojos and thought it was great. The order of viewing may have influenced my opinion of the Spanish film.

I have not seen Elizabethtown or We Bought a Zoo, nor do I foresee doing so in the future.

Much of the media coverage of Aloha seems to recognize the relative slump in Crowe’s career. His most recent films haven’t done all that well in theaters, and perhaps more importantly (if you look at the “art” side of things), they just haven’t been as good as his earlier works. (Maybe that’s why there are rumors that he’s trying to go back to the beginning.) Continue reading


That Texas Open-Carry Law

The Texas Legislature passed HB 910, which amends current law to allow open-carry of handguns. All that is left is for Governor Abbott to sign it.

Someone asked the following question in what became a very strange Facebook thread: Can a business ban people who are open-carrying guns under Texas’ new law? The short answer is yes, they can.

To delve a bit more, currently § 30.06 of the Texas Penal Code (yes, I do find that hilarious) allows businesses to prohibit people with a CHL from concealed-carrying on their premises, referring to it as “trespass by holder of license to carry concealed handgun.”


Click to embiggen (via

HB 910 (PDF of the final version here) amends § 30.06 to remove the “concealed” language, because it appears that, assuming the governor signs the bill, the state will now simply be licensing people to carry handguns in public, concealed or not. Continue reading


About that Sansa/Ramsay “Game of Thrones” Scene

If you somehow haven’t heard about it yet (spoiler alerts and all that), last week’s Game of Thrones episode continued the general divergence from the books’ storyline by having Sansa Stark marry Ramsay Bolton (née Snow)—possibly in order to exact vengeance on Ramsay’s father, Roose Bolton, who murdered Sansa’s brother Robb and was directly involved in the murder of her mother, Catelyn. Sansa was apparently unaware of just what a bastard (pun intended) Ramsay is, as was Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who brokered the arrangement with Roose Bolton.

The overall storyline of having Sansa marry Ramsay is definitely a huge difference from the books, but it makes sense in the context of a TV show. In the books, Sansa is currently still at the Eyrie with her cousin, Robert Arryn (Robin Arryn on the show), and Ramsay is married to Jeyne Poole, a friend of Sansa’s from Winterfell who is being passed off as Arya Stark. Littlefinger has plans to one day send Sansa back to Winterfell and reveal “Arya Stark” as an impostor, giving Sansa the opportunity to reclaim Winterfell for the Starks. What’s happening on the show fits that same overall scheme, and it does it with fewer characters and less plotting-while-sitting-around.

But that’s not what I really want to talk about, and I think you know that. Continue reading


The Man-Approved Feminism of the New “Mad Max” Film

(Adapted from a Facebook comment.)

I have not yet seen Mad Max: Fury Road, although I am very excited about seeing it sometime soon. I re-watched The Road Warrior over the weekend, and have thoroughly enjoyed the various retrospective pieces about the film series. Perhaps even more so, I have felt an extreme sense of Schadenfreude with regard to the way certain people of the MRA persuasion are reacting to the film, generally without even having seen it. Apparently a movie set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland in which men are not the sole focus of attention is absolutely terrifying to some people (and not for any reason having to do with the “post-apocalyptic part.”)

A piece by Breitbart writer John Nolte, as quoted and summarized by bspencer at Lawyers, Guns & Money, offers praise to the film’s view of feminism, at least as Nolte perceives it, from a presumably conservative viewpoint (it is Breitbart, after all): Continue reading


The Real Meaning of Cinco de Mayo: A Conversation with Myself

Today is May 5, or Cinco de Mayo, a celebration of, uh, um…..

Well, honestly, more than a few people seem to have no idea what Cinco de Mayo is actually about.

I know what it’s about.

You do?

Yup. It’s about having a big-ass PAR-TAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA—ow! What the hell, man!

Oh stop it, you’re fine.

Why the hell did you slap me?

It needed to happen. You’re being an idiot. You don’t really know what Cinco de Mayo is about, either, do you?

It’s like the 4th of July for Mexico, right?

I know that’s not it. Let’s hit the interwebz. [Googles.] Huh, that’s interesting.

What? Let me see!

Cinco de Mayo is, traditionally speaking, a celebration of Mexico’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.


Not pictured: The Ark of the Covenant.

Wait, French forces? What’s that about?

The French invaded Mexico in 1861 after the Mexican president, Benito Juárez, stopped making interest payments to foreign-government creditors. French Emperor Napoleon III, supported at first by Britain and Spain, claimed that the invasion was necessary to ensure free trade between Europe and Latin America.

That sounds like kind of a big deal. Wouldn’t the U.S. have gotten involved? Continue reading


On Taking Offense

Here are a couple of nicely-synergistic pieces from Cracked about taking offense at things seen online and in society:


The Revolution Will Be Sponsored


There’s no way getting around it: Coachella ain’t cheap.

A three-day pass alone will set you back $375. Add in the costs of getting to and from Indio, after-concert Uber pickups, hotel rooms, vittles and other incidentals, and we’re already near $1,000. VIPs, trustafarians and other one-percenters can easily spend three, four or five times that. Even the grungiest, tattooed bro camping in a tattered tent and subsisting on booze, dope, cigarettes and dust can expect to spend around $500.

Compare that to Woodstock. In August 1969, advanced tickets to “3 Days of Peace & Music” cost $18, the equivalent of $120 in 2014 dollars. Not a bad deal to see The Who, Sly & The Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix all in their primes, especially since most concertgoers got in for free.

And the Woodstock Generation came to Max Yasgur’s farm clad in the counterculture uniform of jeans, beads and T-shirts — or nothing at all. Turns out it cost a lot less to be an actual hippie than a wannabe playing dress-up at Coachella.

– Marc Ballon, “How the Hell Do People Afford Coachella?Westword, April 13, 2015

(This is my obligatory annual I-don’t-get-hipsters post, roughly coinciding with Coachella.)


Secondhand America


In America, class lines run parallel to racial lines. At the very bottom are people of color. The Caucasian equivalent is me—an Appalachian. As a male Caucasian in America, I am supposed to have an inherent advantage in every possible way. It’s true. I can pass more easily in society. I have better access to education, health care, and employment. But if I insist on behaving like a poor white person—shopping at secondhand shops and eating mullet—I not only earn the epithet of “trash,” I somehow deserve it.

The term “white trash” is class disparagement due to economics. Polite society regards me as stupid, lazy, ignorant, violent and untrustworthy.

I am trash because of where I’m from.

I am trash because of where I shop.

I am trash because of what I eat.

– Chris Offut, “Trash Food,” Oxford American, April 10, 2015


Choosing to Be Heterosexual

(It’s strange that I have to update a post before it actually publishes, but that’s what I get for writing a post on Wednesday and scheduling it to post on Thursday. The restaurant described below is apparently closing for a while until the hubbub dies down. I also haven’t ruled out that this is all some elaborate April Fool’s hoax.)

An Indiana pizza restaurant has become one of the first businesses to announce publicly that it supports the new state law that would allow it to refuse to provide pizza for a gay wedding (h/t Jen). This seems….unlikely to happen regardless of what Indiana law says….but then, I dont know anything about Indiana weddings. Maybe pizza catering is a thing.

A small-town pizza shop is saying they agree with Governor Pence and the signing of the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The O’Connor family, who owns Memories Pizza, says they have a right to believe in their religion and protect those ideals.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” says Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza.

She and her family are standing firm in their beliefs.

The O’Connor’s have owned Memories Pizza in Walkerton for 9 years.

It’s a small-town business, with small-town ideals.

What, exactly, are “small-town ideals”?

They also have the audacity to insist that “We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.”

Well, now I have some beliefs about you. Maybe it’s unfair, though, to single this business out. It’s probably too early to know just how many businesses are on board with this. I guess my point is that I don’t want my reader(s) to give this one business any excessive amount of shit on account of anything I said.

Anyway, I just keep coming back to this part:

“That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?” says Kevin O’Connor.

I have a few thoughts here….

A. I didn’t “choose” to be heterosexual, and I feel fairly confident that most heterosexual people—of all political stripes—would agree with me on this, so WTF is this dude talking about?

B. Please, do go on, Mr. O’Connor. I feel like there’s an interesting story afoot….

C. At a minimum, I support “beat over the head” as an alternative to the ubiquitousrammed down our throats.”