December 12, 2006

A Finals-Week Joke

I hope everyone is making progress on their final papers and not TOO stressed out...Here's a joke to lighten things up:

At a local University, there were four sophomores taking chemistry and all of them had an "A" so far. These four friends were so confident, that the weekend before finals, they decided to visit some friends for a party. They had a great time, but after all the partying, they slept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to campus until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final then, they decided that after the final they would explain to their professor why they missed it. They said that they visited friends but on the way back they had a flat tire. As a result, they missed the final. The professor agreed they could make up the final the next day.

The guys were excited and relieved. They studied that night for the exam. The Professor placed them in separate rooms and gave them a test booklet. They quickly answered the first problem worth 5 points. Cool, they thought! Each one in separate rooms, thinking this was going to be easy.... then they turned the page.

On the second page was written....For 95 points:

Which tire? _____

December 11, 2006

Turning in the Final Paper

Just a reminder, but I'll be in Blegen Hall, room 215, from 6 pm onward next Monday (Dec. 18) to collect your final papers. If you'd like to turn them in early, you can give them to me in my office (if I'm there) or you can leave them with the history department main office in Social Sciences Tower, room 614 (please make sure it's clearly marked that this is to go in my mailbox.)

Media History in a Global Age

Tonight's discussion about globalization generally, and the question of the media in a global age specifically, raised some of the best questions of the semester. Thanks to everyone who spoke tonight. I hope to hear from more of you in the comments section.

To re-hash questions from class: Do we live in an era of globalization? If so, what defines it as such? (Canny folks will note here how this definition--of living in a certain historical "age"--goes very much against what I said last week about envisioning the present not as part of long and deep historical eras, but rather as a shifting field of questions and problems. Perhaps someone wants to engage with my own gaps in logic.) Is globalization good or bad (or more complicated than simple good or bad discussions)? Is "globalization" simply a cover for US imperialism, as one student suggested, or is it something else? (and, if so, what?)

In short, this question opens up a plethora of crucial topics...

December 5, 2006

Infotainment/News Parody

Last night was an interesting discussion, but I wish more of you would've added to our talk about the current media environment. The main questions I was getting at were these: why has comedy based on the news proliferated recently? Is this just a coincidence, or does it tell us something about how we think about the truth of the news itself? Also: is the rise of "infotainment" journalism something problematic, that raises troubling questions about the news media's role in providing information to citizens in a democracy, or is it something that's simply the collapsing of previous ways of doing things, which were themselves historically specific constructions. In other words, is infotainment something worth worrying about or not?

December 4, 2006

A Video for Tonight's Discussion

Tonight we'll be talking about news parodies, such as The Daily Show. Here's a video we'll watch in class.

November 28, 2006

The Media and the President

Well, we didn't get a full-scale debate going last night--thanks to everyone who played along, though--but I think we got at some really interesting questions and ideas surrounding how new media technologies have affected U.S. politics in the 20th century. Along with a continuation of our discussion from last night, I left class with some questions of my own that we could perhaps address in the comments section of the blog.

Were the effects of radio and television on Presidential politics different and, if so, how? We discussed radio being a better forum for conveying information, but there was also a question about whether it was as compelling as television. Are the effects of mass media on politics positive or negative? Last night I think the voices for negative won out, but I think there's a lot more that could be said about this topic. Other thoughts?

November 21, 2006

Magazines and the Middlebrow

Last night's discussion raised some interesting questions and, once again, this thread is a space to continue the conversation. I'll throw out some starters, but feel free to add your own questions in the comment section. First, what do people think about my (deliberately suggestive) comment that society is created _through_ these magazines rather than being something that somehow exists behind or underneath them? Are the "broader" magazines such as Time and Newsweek still relavent when compared to the more specialized or market niche products (and, if so, what does this tell us about who and what we imagine ourselves connect to when we read these things?)

November 20, 2006

Short Office Hours Today (Nov. 20)

Since I'll be going to the Christina Klein lecture this afternoon (I hope to see some of your there!), my office hours will be shortened today. I'll be in the office from 1:30 to 3:15 p.m. today if you want to stop by.

November 16, 2006

Christina Klein Lecture on Campus

Christina Klein, the author of this week's reading assignment, will be giving a lecture on campus on Monday, November 20, in Walter Library room 101, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Full details are below.

"Why American Studies Needs to Think about Korean Cinema"
Christina Klein is an Associate Professor of English at Boston College. She received her B.A. from Wesleyan University (1986) and her Ph.D. from Yale University (1997). Her publications include "Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961" (University of California Press, 2003) and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: A Diasporic Reading" in Cinema Journal (2004). Her specializations include American studies, film studies, the literature and culture of America's encounters with Asia. She is currently writing a book about globalization of U.S. and Asian film industries.

November 14, 2006

Final Research Paper

And here's the assignment for those students choosing to write a longer final paper instead of the essay and final exam (option B).

Final Research Paper

Second Essay/Final Exam Option

Below is the second essay assignment for those students choosing option A. If you go this route, you'll write a 5-7 essay and do the final in-class exam.

Second Essay

November 13, 2006


Once again, I found our class discussion/workshop of celebrity politicians to be insightful and interesting. Each of the groups came up with good theses to explain the phenomenon of the celebrity politician (although I think my thesis was in fact the weakest of those put forward...)

Here's some questions to think about or respond to in the comments (or, as always, feel free to continue our in-class discussion topics): is the phenomenon of the celebrity politician something that is increasing, decreasing, or unchanging? How has the role of the popular culture celebrity in politics changed throughout the twentieth century? What, if anything, is the difference between a star's fans and a politicians supporters? How do popular culture celebrities claim to have the authority necessary to represent voters in politics?

October 26, 2006

Midterm Exam Study Guide

Below is the midterm study guide. It will be an in-class essay exam. Specifically, you will write two essays. For the first essay, two of the three questions in the study guide will appear on the exam and you will choose one to write for the exam. The second question is exactly what will be on the exam. This will be a closed book exam (i.e. no notes, books, or other materials allowed).

Please email me if you have trouble opening the file.

Midterm Study Guide

October 24, 2006

Group Projects (Follow Up)

Once again, I was really impressed and excited by the presentations to class last night. It looks like every group took interesting photographs and found evocative images in the database to compare and contrast to them.

In addition to opening up a forum for any additional comments, I left class with my head full of questions after looking at all the images. Mostly, I'm wondering what larger arguments we can make after comparing student life now to that in the 1930s and 1940s. How do we explain the seeming move from formal dress to increasing informality? How do we interpret the seeming increased role of technology in everyday life on campus (and the uneasiness about it)? Do we have evidence, as several of you suggested, of a move from community to individualism? Several people mentioned the overwhelming preponderance of "choice" in contemporary photos, and I'm wondering if we might make a larger argument about how "choice" and its analog, "freedom" (thanks for the idea, Hussein), are essential to making sense out of our contemporary world. How do people feel about all this choice and freedom?

October 17, 2006

More Photography

I particularly enjoyed our class session last night. I think all the groups did a great job in finding, analyzing, and sharing an image from the FSA/OWI digital archive. Next week's presentations should be really interesting.

I left last night's class with a number of questions that we can hopefully continue thinking about here. Looking at the images from presentations, does Roeder's claim that WWII imagery led to viewing the war in simple dichotomies still hold up? After all, these were images that had their roots in the 1930s imagery we saw in class? I also wonder if anyone had more thoughts about how we could draw connections between the 10 images presented in class? We discussed some, such as the primacy of work, questions about segregation/integration and who counts as American. For example, what other ideas did people have in looking at the image from a Montana bar with a sign prohibiting Indians from buying beer? Was the photo supportive, ironic, hostile... In short, I think there were some great ideas mentioned in class and I'm hoping there will be more added here.