Atrium staircase, late afternoon

I am in the middle of grading midterms today. That involves lots of sitting, punctuated by the need to get up and stretch my legs more often than I usually think to remember. There is lots of late afternoon sunshine in the Grohmann Museum’s atrium right now as I’m walking the galleries and climbing the stairs. Today was the first time it broke 70 degrees in Milwaukee in 180 days, according to local television weather forecaster Drew Burgoyne. Bring it on!

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I liked the circles of light reflecting off the waste can at the elevator late this afternoon 😄

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What’s in a tagline? My blog’s identity: Version 4.0

I’m developing a new course at MSOE called “SS 3700 Digital Society.” To say I’m excited is to understate my enthusiasm for this topic. As a political science major who took computer programming classes in the late 1970s using a keypunch and a card reader and who then later got a PhD in English,  I have a long history of interdisciplinary curiosity and a strong drive to seek out connections among really disparate subjects.

The “Digital Society” course brings together my interests in humanities, social science, communication, media studies, and technology in a way that nothing else ever has. I’ve begun all the usual tasks of scholarly inquiry: assembling a bibliography (the academic equivalent of baby steps), attending meetups and conferences, joining professional societies, subscribing to journals, finding Twitter hashtags that can introduce me to new topics and fellow explorers, etc.

Since I’m essentially feeling my way here, any opinions and advice you’d be willing/able to share on this (very broad!) topic would be greatly appreciated! In return, I’ll share my readings and ideas with you. My blog isn’t really changing at all, but since I’m doing this work anyway, I’ve decided to post once in a while about what I find. Maybe it’ll be interesting for others to think about, too 🙂


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(Not Quite) Night at the Museum

Grohmann Museum, that is. Taken sometime around 6:00 p.m. yesterday. The building is closed by 5:00, but a few of my colleagues and I are often still here after hours wrapping up our current work day and prepping for the next.

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April “Fake News” Fools

These videos have been around for over a year but didn’t receive as much attention as I’d have expected. Given the strong resemblance to “pranks” in their inherent trickery and potential for malicious intent, it seems appropriate to highlight them in an April 1 post.

First, from July 2017, is a video created by a research team from the University of Washington using software and previous footage of President Obama to create a speech that is completely fabricated.

Second, from April 2018, is a similar speech created by Jordan Peele to put the same point across to a wider audience in the form of a humorous “public service announcement.”

And finally—also from April of last year—is this TED talk from Supasorn Suwajanakorn, a member of the research team that created the original fake. In his 7-minute presentation Suwajanakorn explains how fakes like this one are created, how to tell a fake video from a real one, and what the implications of this technology may be.

I guess the punchline to this “prank” would be: If we believe that “seeing is believing” with  any sort of digitally-vulnerable source, then the joke’s on us.

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Fave Movie Moments – “Do you know why this is my favorite tree?”

I showed The Florida Project last week in my honors film studies class, where the honors program’s theme, “The Power of Place,” is the central unifying subject of our course.

I really love this film and could not believe it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture. Then again, one thing I’ve learned and wished I’d known much sooner in my life is the extent to which awards are arbitrary, political, and subject to both conscious and unconscious bias/prejudice/ignorance. In the case of this film, the subject matter (white welfare mothers and their children living a precarious existence in low-budget motels-cum-housing-projects at the margins of Disney World’s tourist complex) was not “deserving” enough to warrant attention, much less recognition or validation, from cinema’s oligarchs. That’s my personal take on their slight (which clearly somehow affronts me on moral grounds😂).

Anyway, one little moment from this movie that I find incredibly meaningful comes when six-year-old Moonee and her friend Jancey score a loaf of white bread from the church group that distributes food from the back of a van each week at the Magic Castle motel, where Monee lives with her mother. The girls carry the bread to a nearby field and share a messy, sticky meal of jelly smeared over slices of bread with a spoon as they sit facing each other on what appears to be a tree branch, the jar resting between them on the bark.

“Kind of like that, don’t ya?” says Moonee. An old hand at getting free bakery items (and soft-serve ice cream cones via coins scrounged from strangers outside the Twistee Treat stand) Mooneee is Jancey’s guide to the art of enjoying “found” treats.

“This is the best jelly I ever eated,” Jancey replies.

“Do you know . . . Do you know why this is my favorite tree?” asks Moonee, a closeup on her profile as she bites into a slice of bread.

“Why?” says Jancey.

“‘Cause it tipped over,” explains Moonee, licking jelly from the bread’s surface. “And it’s still growing.”

Then we cut to an extreme long shot of the tree, the two girls barely noticeable at first in the lower right-hand corner of the frame. Only as we process their presence do we realize how huge that tree is. And that, yes, it is indeed “still growing “ despite its dire circumstances.

An image like a little gem of poetry.

The film is full of metaphors similar to this one. In fact, maybe the best way to deal with the movie’s unexpected final moments (uplifting? heartbreaking?) is to remember the lesson of Moonee’s tree.

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If you love ruins and abandoned places

Then you might want to read this review of a new book that sounds so “me” it jumped straight to the top of my to-read list.

I love Phaidon, publisher of fabulous picture books for grownups. Like DK,  my other fave picture-book publisher, Phaidon is headquartered in London. Their new book, Ruin and Redemption in Architecture (by Dan Barash), has a ship date of March 29 (tomorrow) if you order it directly from Phaidon. Very pricey to do that, though ($59.95).

Otherwise, you can order from Amazon, but the book won’t be released/shipped until April 17. At a cost of $37.39, though, a savings of almost 40%, I guess that’s worth the wait.


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