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Within the past few years I have succumbed to a period of feminist ennui. It’s not that I no longer think the principles of equality are no longer important, but it seems as if the word and movement, “feminism,” has lost meaning. It has been co-opted, lazily applied, and devalued. I’ve become frustrated by so-called feminists whose actions betray their rhetoric and popular culture texts and figures who think just saying words like “feminist” and “intersectional” is enough. Just the idea that there is such an idea of bare minimum – that feminism is as simple as wearing a t-shirt, watching the female reboot of Ghostbusters, or reposting a quote from Gloria Steinem on her birthday. This is not to say that those things are not important, but that there is a sense that these instances have become more like rituals – they are to be done to reassert a sense of identity, but have lost meaning.

The new essay collection, Can We All Be Feminists? addresses the complications and hardwork of being a feminist who is intersectional, meaning understanding the ways in which feminism can and does intersect with race, disability, immigration, labor, and sexuality (to name a handful). The range of essays, edited by June Eric-Udorie, covers a lot of ground and at times seems like nothing holds them together, until you come back to the anchoring point that feminism and feminists have to diversify their portfolios. To end sexism, examining immigration policies, as Wei Ming Kam does in “The Machinery of Disbelief,” is as necessary as Hollywood’s recent interest in wage equality. And within the rhetoric of equal pay activism, the continued reiteration that “women get paid less” must further be broken down by these other intersecting points: white women are typically paid less than their male counterparts, women of color are often paid less than that, and women with disabilities even less. “Women” cannot be an umbrella term and nor can “feminist.” We have to become more discerning. More… “At the Crossroads”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.

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I think about shame a lot. I wonder when and why I began to care so much about stuff — my body, my face, my intellectual ability. Did it start when I was bullied on the bus in kindergarten? Was it some sort of pseudo-consciousness mind trick passed down from my parents? Was it because I picked up a Seventeen magazine when I was 11? For whatever reason, I remember a lot of low and high-key shame moments from my younger years. I didn’t want to wear shorts as a preteen, because I was starting to sprout leg hair and was too embarrassed I hadn’t started to shave. Clothes shopping in high school was never fun because I couldn’t find anything to adequately fit my body. I’d enter a dressing room with a pile and leave with nothing, because (what I imagined to be) my grotesque body wouldn’t cooperate. And while I was feeling so dejected and ashamed, I rarely vocalized. For years, I assumed everybody else had figured the body out. More… “For Shame”

Melinda Lewis has a PhD in American Culture Studies. She knows more celebrity gossip than basic math and watches too much television.

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In “I’m Dead (But I Don’t Know It),” Randy Newman takes some potshots at rock stars continuing to grind it out long past their prime. The joke, of course, is that the chief target of the satire is he himself. Although the cleverness and self-awareness of the song belie the indictment, “I’m Dead” invites the suspicion that in recent years each Newman album (to paraphrase the lyric) has tended to sound like the one before – just not as good. But Randy Newman peaked much later than many of his peers from the Woodstock Nation. Never having been a hippie, he could embrace middle age without embarrassment, and in 1988, at the age of 45, he brought out his best collection of songs ever, the rueful, sardonic, and teasingly autobiographical Land of Dreams. More… “Randy Newman’s Land of Dreams

Stephen Akey is the author of the memoirs College and Library. A collection of his essays, Culture Fever, was published in January.

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members of Blue Cheer
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Not all moments of musical awakening have to do with sublimity. The early days of 1968 found rock and pop music waking up with a kind of hangover from all of the psychedelic happenings of the year before, when seemingly everyone — even the badass Rolling Stones — went the shimmering kaleidoscopic route.

Something was due to jar everyone back to having their feet on the ground and their ears pressed against it for the movement that would play a role in defining the new year. Enter, then, Blue Cheer and its debut Vincebus Eruptum, the first heavy metal album in history. More… “Blue Cheer”

Colin Fleming’s fiction appears in Harper’s, Commentary, Virginia Quarterly Review, AGNI, and Boulevard, with other work running in The Atlantic, Salon, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and JazzTimes. He is a regular guest on NPR’s Weekend Edition and Downtown with Rich Kimball, in addition to various radio programs and podcasts. His last book was The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss, and he has two books forthcoming in 2018: Buried on the Beaches: Cape Stories for Hooked Hearts and Driftwood Souls, and a volume examining the 1951 movie Scrooge as a horror film for the ages. Find him on the web at colinfleminglit.com.

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Back in the alleged halcyon days when you could actually make a living making comic books (but had to hide your profession from everyone for fear of censure), one of the titles used in an attempt to mollify the sneering intelligentsia and bourgeoisie was Classics Illustrated, a lengthy series that by and large set about adapting classic literature — Shakespeare, Poe, Hawthorne, etc. — in the most mundane and unimaginative way possible.

As the medium’s status has risen over the past decade and a half, these kinds of adaptations have made a comeback of sorts. And while they might not bear the official Classics Illustrated moniker, they are, with few exceptions, plodding affairs, displaying little in the way of intelligence, wit, or imagination. Looking over the bulk of them, you might well wonder whether there are any cartoonists capable of adapting prose in a manner that avoids mere rote recapitulation of the original text.

More… Songy

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal . . . and this site. He is one-quarter of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.

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Boxing is an ugly thing. The outcome is considered a great success when one combatant has beaten the other into unconsciousness. Old boxers are a sad lot, a compound wreck of irreversible physical and mental damage. The details are well known. Yet no one seems to care all that much. As someone once quipped, “Sure, there have been deaths and injuries in boxing, but none of them serious.”

Underneath this fundamental ugliness is a greater wretchedness still. I think, for instance, of the opening of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, where a group of young blacks in the South are made to fight one another to the drunken joy of the white crowd in order to collect their “scholarships.” Muhammad Ali summed this ugliness up with his typical forthrightness. “Boxing,” he said, “is a lot of white men… More…

 

There’s a Donald Barthelme revival afoot. These things sometime happen to writers who have the temerity to die. Time moves on. Literary fashions wax and wane. Great writers are inexplicably forgotten. Forgotten writers are suddenly reborn in the literary imagination.

Such is the story with Barthelme. He was never exactly forgotten (he died in 1989), but his name hasn’t been at the forefront of the collective literary mind since then. I suspect that the new biography by Tracy Daugherty, Hiding Man, signals a change in all that. There’s also been a number of prominent “reconsiderations,” including a longish essay by Louis Menand in The New Yorker.

All of this was predicted by Thomas Pynchon, who wrote an introduction to a posthumous collection of Barthelme’s “satires, parodies, fables, illustrated stories, and plays” called The Teachings of Don. B. Pynchon… More…

 

A little background is in order. Last summer, I picked up Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book Blink. Then I wrote a belated review for 3QuarksDaily. The book, like most everything Gladwell writes, is a fun and sometimes exciting read. But I decided that, in the end, there wasn’t much of an argument in it. A nasty feeling crept over me. I wondered whether we’d all been duped into thinking that Gladwell had been saying something interesting when it really boiled down to well-placed anecdotes and well-told stories. The nasty feeling transformed into an admittedly nasty review titled “Down, I Say, Down With Malcolm Gladwell!”

I asked the reader to allow me to prove that Blink is “a piece of shit.” I talked about “sliminess” and “outright incoherence.” I called him a “huckster” (I’ve always liked that word)… More…

Homemade pizza is one of the larger letdowns of cooking. Even if you follow the directions for the crust perfectly, spend $30 on artisanal cheeses, and make your own tomato sauce, the process never seems worth the bother when you can order-in a pizza twice as good.

I have made some horrendous pizzas in my day, starting when I was around 7, and discovered that I could take an English muffin, cover it with ketchup and dried oregano, top it with a slice of American cheese, and stick it in the oven for a few minutes. (Seriously, God bless my father for eating these monstrosities without visibly gagging. He always waited until I left the room, proud as punch, before he… More…

If platitudes had weight, Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope would be impossible to lift off the table. Still, it’s a good book. By the standards of “writings by politicians” it’s in the top percentile. You read it and you like the man. You read it and feel that he has managed somehow to be both a skilled politician and a genuine human being. He writes, for instance, about what motivates politicians to run for office and to continue doing so:

Neither ambition nor single-mindedness fully accounts for the behavior of politicians, however. There is a companion emotion, perhaps more pervasive and certainly more destructive, an emotion that, after the giddiness of your official announcement as a candidate, rapidly locks you in its grip and doesn’t release you until after Election Day. That emotion is fear. Not just fear of losing — although that is bad enough — but fear… More…