Monday, April 18, 2016

Greetings



Greetings everyone!

We're up and blogging again! Did you miss us? We know you did, but we decided to take a break from the blog so we could concentrate on your submissions and the layout for The Junction Magazine!  We have been so productive and we are satisfied to say that it's on the way (woohoo!).

The Interns at Prof. Natov's office, and Prof. Natov, would like to thank all who submitted work for Spring 2016's edition of The Junction. We are all VERY excited for this edition as it will be EXTRA special ;)

Next...

Do you feel like this semester is just dragging and dragging???  I feel like something's missing...

Oh yeah: SPRING BREAK!!!

Coming soon to a Brooklyn College near you! FINALLY, April 22nd marks the beginning of our long anticipated (and much needed) vacation. Enjoy!

The semester always flies by after Spring Break (especially this time because Spring Break is so late for us), so keep an eye out for some exciting upcoming events that we have planned.  Events like The Junction Function! Woot!


-- Sheena




New Briefs 4.18.16


The Ethics of Free Knowledge

Alexandra Elbakyan, a 27-year-old Kazakhstani grad student, is the world’s leading pirate of academic research.

In 2011, Elbakyan founded Sci-hub, a website dedicated to free (and illegal) downloads of scientific research papers and scholarly articles. Sci-hub has since expanded, and taken Lib-Gen, another pirating website that uses ‘donated’ passwords to access various databases. Elbakyan affirms that many passwords were donated to the site by those sympathetic to her cause, but also admits that many passwords were obtained using phishing schemes like those used by hackers to steal credit card information.

Sci-hub and its partners are facing an injunction by a federal judge. Each of the nearly 50 million articles could cost up to 150,000 dollars in damages. The sites have been sued before, but always return with new domains. Elbakyan has kept away from charges but has not shied away from being the face of her cause. She maintains that information should be readily available to all “without obstacles.”

While Elbakyan’s cause is admirable, her methods are questionable. Access to knowledge and the ability to learn should indeed be available to anyone, but pirating materials is not fair to the people who wrote, researched, and worked on the materials. As we all know, academia is not exactly a lucrative industry, and good scholarship takes many hours of hard work. Pirating scholarship is effectively stealing a product that one or many people worked hard to create.


Pirating is not the answer, but until the publishing industry finds a way to allow those who cannot pay hundreds of dollars for information, pirating will always exist. It is time to find an ethical way to reduce paywalls and keep the cost of information reasonable. Answers should always be available to the curious.

-Rachel
M-I-SS-I-SS-I-PP-WHY?

Gun on Bible at the left, The Reagan Diaries to the right.

On April 15th, Mississippi governor Phil Bryant signed into law the Church Protection Act, which allows guns in places of worship to provide a line of defense against attackers. There are many things about this law that are problematic, but lets start with the simplest: it permits people to carry holstered guns without, well, a permit.

The law states that if a church (*place of worship*, but the law says church, which in itself is problematic) bestows the responsibility of protector upon a congregant, all that person must do to become a designated armed security guard is undergo firearms training. They don't need a permit, they don't need to learn diffusion tactics, probably not even how to shoot under duress/in crossfire. Just...how to shoot.

These designated security guards can bring guns into church buildings - no background check, evaluations, or permits necessary. As long as your church trusts you, and you do some training, you are legally protected. The thing about this is, even the police don't appreciate this law. The Church Protection Act loosens Mississippi's licensing law, making it more difficult to check if a gun owner is a criminal or not.

Speaking of crime, here's another story: this week, word got out that Mississippi's prisons are experiencing crippling lack of revenue.

State and private prisons in Mississippi are losing so many inmates that they are struggling to stay afloat. As drug policy reform becomes more ubiquitous, less people are thrown in jail. Mississippi officials have recently opened up about the detriments of having less inmates in the system. 

Let's just say it's bad for the state's economy.

Many counties in Mississippi and other less-endowed states rely on mass incarceration for jobs and revenue. It's not only jobs created within the prison that people rely on, but the low-pay (in many cases free) convict labor as well. The more bodies in jail, the more money made, and the more cheap labor.
These prisoners do manual labor that taxpayers would have to pay for without their existence, thus making it easier for local government to handle budget cuts doled out by Tea Party members. Now, Mississippi can't pay many of their guards to work in their facilities - they can't afford free labor, as jails are losing inmates without replenishment, losing thousands of dollars each month.

What should have been about punishment, or better, rehabilitation, had become a method of money making. The prison system became a way to get around hiring people for fair wages, utilizing inmate labor instead.
Well what does this mean for Mississippi, and other states that rely so heavily on this intrinsically flawed, immoral Prison Industrial Complex? I don't know, but if drug policy reform and active efforts at rehabilitation mean more government level attention to Prison Reform, I can't say I'm upset.

- Renee

Trump is the President America Deserves

Islamophobia in the United States is real and pressing danger, as Khairuldeen Makhzoomi discovered this Sunday when he was escorted off of a Southwest Airlines flight for speaking Arabic. Mr. Makhzoomi is a Iraqi refugee who is studying at University of California, Berkley. This upsetting incident occurred when a woman on the same plane as Mr. Makhzoomi interpreted a conversation he was having over the phone about a United Nations meeting he had attended as a threat to the security of the aircraft.  Mr. Makhzoomi was removed from the aircraft and searched, but was apparently officially ejected from the flight after mentioning Islamophobia to a crew member.

This is a stark reminder of the moral and intellectual lowlands our country is wallowing in right now. We stereotype and discriminate against easy scapegoats in the form of newly immigrated  Americans who have come to our country to revitalize it with culture and labor, the way that immigrants have done so continuously for generations. While Trump may not be the President we want, he is certainly the one we deserve if we watch our fellow citizens act like this in silence.  




Currently Reading 4.18.16








Frank O'Hara~~~ Boss


So...

I really love it when artists explain themselves.
Of course, they don't have to... That's part of what makes art sooo awesome!
But still... It's also pretty awesome when authorial intent and context are sufficiently explicated.

To quote a wise man...


This semester, I've been reading quite a bit of this stuff~~~ authors blabbing about why it is that they do what they do, and how it is that by doing what they do, they are indeed the very best at what it is that they indeed do do... >_>.

By this, I mean theoretical approaches to literary craft, statements of stylistic purpose, and manifestos. Unfortunately, all too many of these have been... less than enjoyable.

HOWEVER, one super cool, super NOT pretentious artist grabbed my attention...

Frank O'Hara


Though I know very little about O'Hara, I must say that I love him!
After reading his Personism Manifesto, it was impossible for me not to love him!
He is equal parts intellect, wit, and SHADE~~~ Its awesome! 

"But how can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? for death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don’t give a damn whether eat or not."

Seriously! Who is this guy, and where has he been during the entirety of my poetry- struggling existence???

Aside from his shameless honesty, somewhat reckless abandon, and oh so lovely shadiness (sorry, I just love the not-so-subtle way O'Hara says that his contemporaries are simply trying too hard), O'Hara actually makes an intriguing argument in his proposition of Personism. He suggests that poets refocus their creative energies on a particular receiver and share, rather than focus on a particular audience and confound.

I think that what often makes poetry such an incredibly inaccessible DRAG is the fact that all too many poets are so preoccupied with "sounding like a poet," that they actually forget to actually be a poet...

Does that make sense..?

Anyway,
HERE is an excerpt from the aforementioned manifesto (It's short... >_>).
I sincerely hope that you too fall in love... <3

P.S.
Kenneth Goldsmith is the anti-Christ of any and all meaningful approaches to literary craft.

*drops mic*

~ Clinton

Poem of the Week 4.18.16




Hello Poem of the Week! It's me again-- Chante. We're good friends by now so let's skip the formalities and jump right in:

If You Are Over Staying Woke
BY MORGAN PARKER
       
     
Water
the plants. Drink
plenty of water.
Don’t hear
the news. Get
bored. Complain
about the weather.
Keep a corkscrew
in your purse.
Swipe right
sometimes.
Don’t smile
unless you want
to. Sleep in.
Don’t see the news.
Remember what
the world is like
for white people.
Listen to
cricket songs.
Floss. Take pills.
Keep an
empty mind.
When you are
hungover
do not say
I’m never drinking
again. Be honest
when you’re up
to it. Otherwise
drink water
lie to yourself
turn off the news
burn the papers
skip the funerals
take pills
laugh at dumb shit
fuck people you
don’t care about
use the crockpot
use the juicer
use the smoothie maker
drink water
from the sky
don’t think
too much about the sky
don’t think about water
skip the funerals
close your eyes
whenever possible
When you toast
look everyone in the eyes
Never punctuate
the President
Write the news
Turn
into water
Water
the fire escape
Burn the paper
Crumble the letters
Instead of
hyacinths pick
hydrangeas
Water the hydrangeas
Wilt the news
White the hydrangeas
Drink the white
Waterfall the
cricket songs
Keep a song mind
Don’t smile
Don’t wilt
funeral
funeral


I think I should start my discussion with this:

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time..--------James A. Baldwin

That's what Morgan Parker means by "Woke." So the title of the poem "translated" from AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) to E (English), is "if you are tired of being conscious." I'd like to think and I'm almost sure that Morgan Parker was completely aware of this James Baldwin quote when writing this poem.

Last year,  she visited my Poetry I class where she read from her book Other People's 
Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night. Don't you just love that title? Anyway, she was great. Her poetry was great. This poem is great.

"If You Are Over Staying Woke" is about self-care. It's about remembering to take care of yourself in times of great distress, and giving yourself a break from the rage that comes with being conscious. My favorite part of this is how internal it is. Parker seems to know that before you can tear down systems you must take care of you. The repetition of water in this poem is so important. She's saying, give yourself life.

With this poem, I'm signing out of Poem of the Week forever. It's been real. It's been: Claudia Rankine, Eileen Myles, Pedro Pietri, Sandra Cisneros, epigraphs, and my own poem about Laguna Beach. I've ran out of poetry but I'm happy to end with Morgan Parker in conversation with James Baldwin, reminding us all that it's okay to be tired.

-Chante


Currently Watching 4.18.16

The Powerpuff Girls and the Disappointment of Nostalgia

The Powerpuff Girls are back! My favorite feminist fans of fisticuffs are being rebooted. Rejoice ye faithful, for it seems this era of late 90's and early 00's nostalgia will never end, at least for now. While I am not particularly upset about that (since I am still rooting for a Courage the Cowardly Dog reboot), this approach to t.v. and entertainment in general has some drawbacks. Namely, the soul of whatever property is getting rebooted vanishes, and along with it most of what made the show great. We see this in t.v. and movies all the time. The new Terminator was a bust, as is the new Teen Titans show, the Netflix Full House reboot, Total Recall with that Irish guy, and the new Planet of the Apes starring Commissioner Gordon.


"Batman gets seriously hairy in this one guys!"

I did a side by side viewing of the new Powerpuff Girls and the old, and while so much of Townsville remains the same, something is lacking. The show is no longer radical. The girls don't fight as much, they bicker over little things. Side characters abound and yet offer neither levity nor plot. My ultimate  issue with the reboot is that Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles are still ultra-super powered crime fighters, but they adhere more strictly to a societally correct version of little girl-ness.

Case in point, in Season 4 of the original show, the Powerpuff Girls spent an entire episode learning about gender discrimination in the work place by besting grown superpowered men in a series of trails and then beating an unbeatable adversary when they are refused entry into the "League of Supermen". In the reboot, two of the Powerpuffs admonish their sister for being "irrationally angry" at gendered taunts thrown by a sexist villain named Man Boy. 

The reboot is trying to have the same spark as the original series, but it just isn't clicking. The transgressive core of The Powerpuff Girls seems to have left with much of the original talent. America and our television landscape in 2016 is a far more socially liberal place than it was 1998, when the show first premiered, and back then The Powerpuff Girls had genderqueer characters like the villain Him. Instead of taking the current landscape as an opportunity to experiment with perceived gender roles, or maybe the addition of underrepresented characters like people of color or those with nontraditional genders, it feels like the show runners are backing down from making progress so that they can make money. Therein lies the disappointment of nostalgia, it is never about the love of the original version of something so much as it is about the love of the money that is brought in.

-Nate

Currently Eating 4/18/16





Currently Eating Cake




I am currently eating cake because it's my birthday!!!!!!! *(Twerks on a handstand* Yasssss and my mother (the most awesome woman in the world by the way) surprised me by buying me a birthday cake this year (I usually get my own birthday cake because usually I suffer from the curse of being the middle child....but that's another story). I absolutely adore the pound cake and the birthday cake from my favorite Caribbean bakery, colloquially known as Alan's 1109 Nostrand Ave.  Aside from their cake I love the other goods that they have here.

 Hardo Bread



 Currant Rolls (it's like a Caribbean version of a Croissant with currants in it).



But here is the best thing that you can ever get from this place....BIRTHDAY CAKE!!






It has glitter on it.........😍






Sorry that I don't have any recipes available....all 
of this stuff is store bought but it is also baked on site





Don't forget to check out their website here!








One Love,



Lisa

Currently Listening 4.18.16


I've been a little obsessed. This past week has been very busy for me but whenever I found myself with some free time I've played this game, Hyper Light Drifter.


I haven't gotten too far into it, mostly because of work, but the amount of it that I have played I've fully enjoyed.

Aside from the art and the gameplay, which I find completely beautiful and challenging, what I love about this game is its ability to tell a story without any words. The only text you ever get in the game are from the title screen and the opening menu. Here's the opening sequence to give you a taste of the games silent storytelling:


It's stunningly beautiful and artfully cryptic. You get a good sense of what's happening but you don't completely know why. It feels totally alien but at the same time understandable. The art and the animation play a big role in the success of the storytelling, but I feel the music and sound design is what sets this form of storytelling apart.

Solely from the music we get the mood and we get the peek moments. We get the tension and we get the excitement. The sounds are jarring but they work together to create a coherent cacophony. The music tells you what's important and how to feel about them. And in the end it leaves you with a question. A sense of wanting to find more.

That was just the opening. The musical piece was designed to fit that sequence of images. The rest of the game, like any game, is free formed and the music can't completely predict the big moments and important personal feats of the player. At least with the current technology and research.


Music for the rest of the game, functions as a supplement to the world building. As you explore various areas in the game you run into tiny stories and worlds that have been affected by past events. You never exactly know what happened, you're only ever given at most four panels of a story, but the music forces you to feel a certain way about things. It helps you make assumptions and fills in the gaps that non-verbal storytelling leaves out.

It also fills you with a sense of exploration. Hyper Light Drifter is a game that drops you into a world that's almost completely open to you. It encourages you to take your own path and decide the order and magnitude of the story it gives you. What the music needs to do in a game like this, is to make you feel like there's something around the corner waiting for you, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Hyper Light Drifter succeeds in doing that. It's subtle, much like any background music, but it captures your attention.


I've been using this music to concentrate. It's not obtrusive for the most part and it sits well behind anything that you plan on doing. It sure helped me write for my fiction writing class.


I highly recommend this game. If you have no time to play games or if you just refuse to "play" "games" then just listen to the soundtrack in the background. You really do get a sense of the story. It's also a great exercise of the imagination if you make up the story as the music goes without any other supplements. There are great places in the music that you can latch onto that'll direct you into some sort of narrative.


-Christian

Culture Corner 4.18.16



Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!

I'm going to say something that the YouTubers (especially those who vlog) I watch can't.

There's this almost reflexive impulse to apologize for any slightly opinionated statement. It brings me down every time I witness it. And I'm not talking about blatantly offensive or even microaggressive statements--a YouTuber could say something simple like "I'm not thinking about getting any tattoos for myself" and spend 5 extra minutes explaining why he or she is not against tattoos, people who get tattoos, and pretty much the entire metaphysical concept of tattoos itself.

This harkens back to me the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer followed anything they said that could have vaguely connected to gay-ness (even though nothing they were saying was particularly offensive) with "not that there's anything wrong with that." Here's the video, just in case you were curious:


Now, I'm not going to waste words on talk about political correctness, because I feel that that's an exhausted topic, especially by white people (who are usually trying to excuse actual hate and prejudice). This issue has more to do with the overwhelming demand for YouTubers to be perceived as 'regular' but especially entertaining, humble but DEFINITELY not self-deprecating (otherwise you get a whole swarm of superficial 'sympathetic' comments like "u r bootiful" or "pls dont say that about urself"), and a bunch of other really difficult combinations to achieve in a public image.

A lot of this expectation has to do with the general ignorance and entitled-ness of viewers/commenters. A YouTuber's commenters will explode with 'betrayal' and anger if he or she posts a sponsored video (especially Audible.com for some reason), saying things like "wow i didn't know u were a sellout, unsubscribing." Yet sometimes sponsoring videos is the only way for YouTubers to make any money off of what they're doing (ads don't produce very much if you don't have upwards of 5 million subscribers), which is easily a 40 hour work week if they're passionate about it (planning, recording, editing, publicizing, etc). Commenters will twist anything the YouTuber says that is tinged with opinion into something horribly offensive and ugly. Here are some examples from my memory:

YouTuber: [is responding to comments] I used to work out; I was pretty muscular.
Commenter: lol do think ppl care about urbody? loser
Commenter: Wow, [name]. I never saw this side of you before. I used to think you were funny, but this video turned me off. #unsubscribed

YouTuber: [playing game, commenting on character's general features] She's chubby.
Commenter: come on [name]. no body shaming here. #allbodiesarebeautiful
Commenter: I'm chubby are you saying i'm ugly? :( unsubscribing

Alright, two things here. To me, these narrow-minded commenters are actually delegitimizing the causes they're claiming to support here (in the 2nd example) by attaching the issues with something completely irrelevant. Body-shaming is a real issue, but if people keep misnaming instances of it, they're effectively watering down the potency and problem of the body-shaming to those who view their comments. The second thing I'd like to address is that commenters/viewers treat subscribing like currency; and they throw subscriptions out like pennies and retract them like diamonds. This is very scary to people who actually make a living out of this capriciousness; whether or not they eat that week is based off of these dense, easily offended people who change their views as much as Hillary Clinton changes her policies.

I'm sure you're wondering why anyone would choose to be a YouTuber at all, then. Well, this career phenomenon is a niche for some people. They genuinely love what they do, whether it be vlogging, gaming, or specialty shows. And there is a good percentage of viewer/commenters/subscribers who have the ability to think outside of their own selves; in fact, I believe these people are the majority. It's just that the other percentage of people hold enough weight to dramatically effect the present and future of these YouTube channels, and change the behavior of YouTubers to be these aggressively neutral apologizers. The YouTubers I'm basing this post off of are genuinely nice, progressive people who just like to talk about anything. It's just sad to know that when I click on a video, at least a quarter of it will be apologizing.

Again, I'm not condoning microaggressions or other types of offensive behavior. I'm just getting sick of Youtube comments. Not that that's a new phenomenon.

I don't know.

-Alex



Canvas 4.18.16



William Blake was an esteemed English poet and painter. His notable works include Songs of Innocence and Experience; he lived around the time of the Enlightenment thinkers. He believed in racial and sexual equality. A lot of his works, such as Songs of Innocence and Experience, focused on exploring these dualities-- perhaps to demystify them.

Blake also saw visions as a child and a young man. At the age of ten, he saw a tree full of angels. He only escaped being "thrashed" by his father by telling a lie, and through the intervention of his mother. He experienced many of these occurrences throughout his life.

Once he had confided in an astrologer about his visions, he decided to paint one of them. Here is his "Ghost of a Flea--"


A lot of people don't know he's both a painter and poet; I might be preaching to the choir, here, since this is directed at the BC department of English, but I just wanted to share some of his paintings with you, many of which illustrated his poems.



Newton



The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed



Dante's Hell



The Agony in the Garden




Many scholars have argued that William Blake's ideas were a precursor to those of psychoanalyst Carl Jung.


-- Anna




Magic Hat 3.18.16

A Note on Editing an Editor's Note
- Alec Mateo

I began a draft of the editor’s note for our offices literary magazine, The Junction. I quickly deleted it all, because it was bad. I started writing another draft of the editors note and I deleted it all after a little longer, because it wasn’t better enough. Then I decided I should think about what I wanted to say, and with a message in mind, I could then go about writing it purposefully. I was satisfied with that conclusion, and that satisfaction bled over into a premature sense of accomplishment, which I rode into a nap. I woke up from the nap, and opened a notebook to list out main points for the editor’s note. I tried to draw a flower, and it was very bad because I’m very bad at drawing flowers. I thought about why I was so bad at drawing flowers. I thought that maybe I was so bad at drawing flowers because I like to see the flower after the lines, as opposed to seeing the flower in my head and putting lines to it. I tried to write the list again. I decided I liked orchids best, or maybe lilies.  



I have some decisions to make because I never made it past the list. On the list are a few items that I think contradict each other, and in this contradiction there may be a worthwhile discussion. An item I deemed important on the list was to celebrate the efforts of young artists putting their work out there. It requires courage to get over the insecurity inherent in being a young, unproven writer or visual artist in order to open yourself up to rejection. Everyone who submits something is accomplishing something, and many of the submissions were amazing examples of brave young artistry. Another point, and probably a more difficult one to express effectively, although in my opinion equally important, is that we need to begin to elevate the expectations of what we can accomplish with our expression. That is to say, we need to be ready to prune our pieces, and make them work to create an impactful literary presence. It would take even more courage and involvement, and a commitment to representing the best of ourselves. Therein lies one contradiction. How do I keep a call to action from making a celebration feel like pandering, and how do I keep a celebration from deafening the urgency of a call to action. I think that for either to be effective, a decision needs to be made, an ideological one. What is more positive, to be encouraged or challenged?




For the future of The Junction, I think it would be an interesting move to use an entire semester for collecting submissions. Beginning in the Summer we could begin to call for submissions. Towards the end of that semester we could finish with an already working list of pieces to be included. Once the Spring semester rolls around, we could then invite the authors of the pieces that we are interested in to come to the office for the writers circle, and we could use that space to workshop the pieces into perfection. The magazine would become a collaborative editorial effort, in which the interns and the authors actively and purposefully shape the end product. It can't be a coincidence that most of the submissions are from interns or ex-interns, we have had implicit access to each other as a resource. This process may mean a smaller magazine, but I think that it would be smart trade off to make. I believe that this alteration of the process could help us to truly craft a literary identity for Brooklyn College, and to bolster and expand upon the community we are building in the office. Thoughts on this? Opinions on the direction of the Editor’s Note? Some orchids have 30 inch petals and can weigh about a ton.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Illuminations 4.18.16




Here's an Idea: Questions are More Important than their Answers

When I was growing up both of my parents worked during the day, so I spent a large portion of my time with my grandmother. She lives in the attached apartment of my parent’s house (in fact, my grandmother is a part owner). I have a lot of memories of that time--the smell of the cut flowers she brought in from the garden, the taste of mac and cheese, the oriental rug and the antique teapots. One of my strongest associations with that time period is PBS, with the educational programming that my grandmother preferred for me to watch, and those ridiculous commercials asking for donations and offering free tote bags (my grandmother has a few of those tote bags, in fact). As I got older, my grandmother told me that she watched PBS’s Masterpiece Theatre with her husband for decades before his death, and even now I often find her watching British shows like The Vicar of Dibley on PBS. In many ways, PBS is and always will be inextricably linked with my grandmother.

What a show.

Now, my grandma is an amazing person. But I think we can all admit that when something is considered ‘grandmotherly’ it’s generally not also considered ‘hip.’ PBS, however, seems to have found a way to maintain it’s classic kitsch and also make strides into modern internet culture.

PBS Digital Studios is a youth-aimed project that sponsors and produces free educational content (mostly through YouTube).  ‘Educational Content’ sounds hokey and boring, but PBS has integrated itself seamlessly into the existing educational arm of YouTube. By partnering with pre-established creators and sponsoring successful but underfunded series, PBS has skipped the floundering, desperate stage of so many companies suffer through when they attempt to take on youth and internet culture. Rather than attempting to recreate the PBS brand in its entirety, PBS has found a way to merge its core educational values with digital media. It is a method that more companies should study.

With more than twenty series under the PBS Digital Umbrella, it seems that you can learn anything for free as long as you have ten minutes and access to the internet. BrainCraft explores scientific quandaries and questions, Crash Course--created by the Vlogbrothers--teaches a variety of subjects in alignment to AP criteria, and The Art Assignment works to ‘demystify’ contemporary art and make art more accessible and less intimidating.

My personal favorite series is Idea Channel. Hosted by KnowYourMeme founding member Mike Rugnetta, Idea Channel, according to the official website, “examines the connections between technology, pop culture, and art.” I like Idea Channel because it takes popular media and internet culture and investigates them in terms of philosophers like Kierkegaard or Barthes or applied linguistics, sociology, and psychology. Generally, Idea Channel and its host think deeply about parts of the culture generally deemed ‘low brow’ or even “vapid.” An interesting recent episode investigated the validity of mourning celebrity deaths online and asked why so many people feel the need to police other people’s feeling. One of my all-time favorite episodes studies the cartoon Over the Garden Wall, and utilizes Kierkegaard’s theory of the Knights of Faith and Skepticism to think about the protagonists.



Using extremely intellectual materials to think about a cartoon may seem silly, but it’s a fantastic method for introducing hard to parse academic texts to all sorts of people. Idea Channel never asserts that it is necessary to understand Kierkegaard in order to watch or enjoy Over the Garden Wall. Instead, the show simply introduces its theories as one of many ways to look at a piece of media. Each episodes begins with host Mike Rugnetta stating “Here’s an idea…” and ends with Rugnetta asking viewers for their input. The comments on Idea Channel videos are an integral part of the show, and each week the host makes a separate video to discuss his favorite comments from the previous episode. Idea Channel encourages its viewers to question its theories, and by extension, to question media.

Interestingly, Idea Channel never provides concrete answers. Episodes usually end in aporia, or else a kind of philosophical impasse. In what is perhaps the series’s most important lesson, Idea Channel teaches that while there are not always answers, it is always important to question.

My grandmother’s living room is much the same as was when I was little--same oriental rug, same antique teapots (though the collection has grown), same fresh flowers despite my dad’s anxiety over her gardening. She still sits in her arm chair and watches “her programs,” many of them on PBS. And PBS, too, is largely the same as ever--it just has some new appendages. Knowledge is so important, and widespread access to educational materials is so rare. PBS is admirable for its enduring commitment to public knowledge. I think I’m actually beginning to itch to donate and acquire one of their dorky tote bags.

-Rachel