Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2013

Imagination Overflow: Halloween ‘R’ Us

DeLand Beacon, November 28-December 1, 2013

In recent years, our technologies and hard work have produced an extraordinary abundance of information. Think of the richness this brings to our lives: information at our fingertips, awareness of events half a world away, instant communication—such as your ability to read this essay. The remaining frontier: How to keep up with the abundance, sort it out, and figure out how to use its richness to enrich our lives, rather than just leave us overwhelmed.  Continue reading

Popular Culture and Cultural Politics

The Government Shutdown: Politics as War by Other Means

Originally published on October 8, 2013 in the History News Network, which can be accessed here:

With the shutdown of the federal government, we are a nation at war. While the vast majority of citizens would be content with almost any peaceable resolution, their elected leaders at the barricades keep the country in wartime footing. War emerges when political or diplomatic means fail; and war brings destruction. Witness the hardships that have already emerged from even a few days of shutdown, and there is no end in sight.

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Popular Culture and Cultural Politics

Democracy’s close watch on our government’s reputation factory

Originally published on July 4, 2013 in the Orlando Sentinel; which can be accessed here:

This piece can additionally be read as a .PDF here.

Most Americans have been aware of government surveillance for security purposes, but few realize the extent of these programs.

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Popular Culture and Cultural Politics

Unsustainable Politics, 2012

This piece was originally published in Volume 5, Issue 6 of the Sustainability journal. 

There were no ads during the presidential debates. This is the exception that proves the rule in modern America. Nascar drivers broadcast their endorsing companies across their outfits, and the rest of us more subtly wear logos of brand-name clothing.

Advertisers study us very closely to know just what we want; beneath our talk and even our thoughts, what will we pay for? In soccer, the eyes don’t announce a player’s next move, but the feet will. So to understand the political choices that were offered to us during the 2012 election season, don’t just look to the party platforms, the political speeches, the debates, or even the political ads presented during the most richly funded campaigns in world history. Look to the ads for other products.

To continue on, click here.

Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2012

Halloween on Minnesota Avenue: The Imagination Factory

The West Volusia Beacon, November 15-18, 2012, p. 1B

On October 31st, Minnesota Avenue was as full as ever with costumes and carnival delights. Some houses featured fanciful lawn decorations and music and lights, hot dogs and other treats, and of course candy, lots of candy. The crowds swelled—there must have been about 2000 people on the street and lawns.
As the token eggheads, I and two patient and playful neighbors, Blake Jones and Sam Valdez, persisted with the simple delights of meeting the kids of all ages on my front lawn, but with our mere Gang of Three to do the greeting, we turned more to talk and less to counting. Like the pollsters during the recent elections making predictions based on the returns of only a few precincts or interviews, our estimates of popular outfits come from the mere 800 that we actually could meet…. Continue reading

Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2011

Halloween: Carnival Day for Children’s Imaginations

The DeLand Beacon, November 17-20, 2011, p. 5A

Halloween is a day of the child. Most days, children have to do what they are told, or even try to be someone who doesn’t come naturally to their natural impulse: follow rules, learn challenging things, play to win. Halloween is a day for them to follow their imaginations, learn fun things, and play just to play. Continue reading

Popular Culture and Cultural Politics, Uncategorized

We are all weathermen now

January 2011

Another act of gruesome violence offers a painful reminder of the seething angers that lurk beneath daily life. The suspected shooter in Arizona (I avoid his name to keep from promoting his dark celebrity) may have no connection to extremist politics himself, but his depraved act is a reminder of the intense political views that have spurred violence of word and deed, as they have for years.

Most people lament the level of polarization that has overtaken our political discourse almost as much as they are horrified by the violence, but the polarization persists and even grows.

Just a few months ago, respected education professor William Ayers approached retirement at the University of Illinois, Chicago, but he was denied his bid for professor emeritus status. His case is a symbol of how we have not escaped our history—or our anger.

Read on here.

Sampling Popular Culture at MegaHalloween

Halloween 2008: The children lead us beyond the 1960s

October 2008

While witches and goblins walked the sidewalks of Minnesota Avenue, a controversy brewed.

Maybe I should have seen it coming in the number of political outfits the kids were wearing: two Sarah Palins, one John McCain, one Joe the Plumber, four Obama-themed outfits, including one with Martin Luther King Jr., one “kickin’ it” for the candidate, one “Obama Mama,” and one “loving school” (OK, not all Democrats are student rebels).

Before the Big Day (on our street, that’s Halloween), I offered the use of my front lawn to both political parties. With Halloween only days before the election, and hundreds of people descending on our street, I figured it would be a good chance to put some democracy into action.

The Republicans did not respond, but the Democrats did, big-time.

Read more here!

Private Life With Public Purpose

Dear Adulthood, An Open Letter from Childhood: Inspired by my son, turning 18 today

To: Adulthood

From: Childhood

Date: Timeless

Re: Growing Up

I’ve heard you are coming, and that you are going to stay. No fair! Why??—you don’t have to—besides, I never even asked you to come anyway….

I like it the way it is!!…. I like being cared for; I like playing around; I like just chillin’ with friends. I want to imagine things that are more real (and true and beautiful) and more fun than that “real”

stuff, all that serious stuff, you have to offer.

I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do and where you will take me …. Routines, responsibilities, commitments, hurts—bigger hurts—when things go wrong, and work, so much work….

But you know, I am kind of curious about all the things that you can do…. You, like, achieve things and get real close with people, and I guess you understand stuff, like how things work and all. That sounds pretty cool….

So, will you take me with you? I won’t take all your

time, I promise, and maybe I can help, if you’ll let me. Can we go … together?

Private Life With Public Purpose

Obscenity exposes foolish practices

March 2004

I spent part of my spring break in Las Vegas. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it—that is, serve as an advisor to The Reporter staff attending the National Collegiate Newspaper Convention. Besides, as a certified United States culture watcher, it was… well… sort of my duty to do some genuine culture watching in this remarkable town.

The Reporter remains the oldest collegiate student publication in the state of Florida–read on for more about their 2004 spring convention!