Posted on February 27th, 2015 by The Public Professor
There are many obituaries of Leonard Nimoy
being written and published in light of his passing today at the age of 83.
I will not add to them. I won’t pretend to offer insights into his life or even his career as an actor and director, which spanned six decades. Instead, I will mourn the passing of his most famous character, Mr. Spock
from Star Trek.
I watched a whole lotta Star Trek growing up. Way too much, no doubt. When I was in elementary and junior high school, it was running fast and furious in syndication. In New York City that meant every evening before or during dinner on WPIX channel 11.
Probably about 200 nights per year for several years I watched an episode of Star Trek. There were only 88 total episodes, so you can do the math.
The peak of my devotion came in late junior high school. My friend Erik and I took the subway from the Bronx down to the Penta Hotel in Manhattan, across the street from Madison Square Garden on 7th Avenue. They were hosting a Star Trek Convention and Nimoy was the guest speaker.
I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that I loved the show and was curious about delving deeper into it. Read more »
Filed under: Culture, In Memoriam | 3 Comments »
Posted on February 19th, 2015 by The Public Professor
It’s the Year of the Sheep! Step back!
This is my year. The Chinese restaurant paper place mat told me so. And I’m gonna own it.
I used to be sheepish about my sheepiness. I used to mumble when people asked me what my Chinese sign was. I used to suffer with silent envy when someone else mentioned that they were a Horse or a Tiger or, gasp, a Dragon.
Why couldn’t I be a Monkey, I thought to myself. Monkies are comic gold. Or a Rooster, giving me a handy excuse to say Cock! in polite company. Even a Rat would’ve been better. Much hated, sure, but they’re crafty survivors. And living here in Baltimore, they’re like the unofficial Spirit Animal of the city.
A snake’s badass. I woulda loved to be a Snake. I’m a Scorpio in Western astrology, so I know the pleasure of being badass and having the deadliest sign. In quiet moments I dreamed of being a Scorpio-Dragon.
I dunno. Maybe it’s too much to have the coolest sign in both, to be a Scorpio-Dragon. Maybe the world just can’t handle that. Maybe I’d be too badass. Anything else, though, would’ve been better.
Rabbits are cute. Pigs are tasty. Dog’s are better than people.
But a Sheep? Dumb mutton. Something to be ordered around and shorn of its self-respect. Read more »
Filed under: Culture, Current Events, Holiday History | 2 Comments »
Posted on February 11th, 2015 by The Public Professor
I was gonna write something about the Clint Eastwood
film American Sniper.
Seems like a topic of the Now. Something the internetting public can really grab onto and scream about.
Clint Eastwood: Sentimental warmonger, or artist of more nuance than leftists and pacifists can discern?
U.S. sniper Chris Kyle: Troubled war veteran of humble origins whose experiences are a sharp prism for viewing America’s exploitative class divides and tragic foreign policy, or a remorseless, racist killing machine who’s murderous life and violent death reflect much of what’s wrong with the nation?
That kinda thing. People love that sort of stuff. Gets ‘em all jacked up, clickety-click. Plus, I just saw the movie and have some ideas of my own. But you know what?
I don’t wanna talk about moral ambiguity. I don’t wanna dissect global politics. I don’t wanna filter through the finer shades of artistic vision, intention, and reception. I don’t wanna delve into any of those abstractions. I don’t wanna tap society’s pulse and jump on the topic du jour. You know why?
Because life is meaningless. Read more »
Filed under: Communities, Culture, Current Events, Society | 3 Comments »
Posted on February 4th, 2015 by The Public Professor
Filed under: American History, Art for no Reason, Communities, Culture, Current Events, Economy, Education, Holiday History, In Memoriam, Media Matters, Politics, Q&A with the Public Professor, Society, The Book, The Sporting Life | 3 Comments »
Posted on January 16th, 2015 by The Public Professor
I think I’m supposed to call it a ship. I get confused about these things. All I know for sure is that we’re headed south.
I used to be tough when it came to winter. Not like strap-on-some-snow-shoes-and-hunt-a-walrus-with-a-harpoon tough, but tough enough that a five month season in Nebraska or Michigan didn’t bother me. That, however, was then.
I’ve lived in Maryland since 2001. It’s made me soft. When I first showed up, I thought to myself: These people are pathetic. Complaining about their mild, mid-Atlantic winter that lasts all of ten weeks. Can’t drive worth a damn in the snow. Losers.
And I do still make fun of them for their shitty winter driving and their weird snow amnesia; every year when it snows for the first time (and it snows almost every year), there’s a collective gasp of horror and frenzied panic, as if they’ve never seen the white before. Two inches, they close all the schools and pillage the supermarket. But by the time it dumps eight inches in late February, they’re acting like seasoned pros, talking about how this one’s easier to shovel than the last one because the snow’s not as wet. Every year, the same thing, evolving in two months from snow virgins to grizzled winter vets. Strangest fuckin’ thing I’ve ever seen.
Read more »
Filed under: Economy, Society, The Sporting Life | 13 Comments »
Posted on January 2nd, 2015 by The Public Professor
I was nearly 10 years old during the 1977 New York City mayoral election. Old enough to remember, but too young to really understand. All me and my friends knew that is that it was coming down to Ed Koch
and Mario Cuomo,
two city boys, one Jewish and one Italian.
“Did you hear?” my friend asked me?
“There are posters that say Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo.”
We laughed at the rhyming ditty. We laughed at the word homo. We laughed because that’s what we’d learned growing up in 1970s America: laugh at fags. They’re ridiculous.
It wasn’t just a 10 year old’s version of an urban legend either. The posters were real. For the rest of his life, Cuomo denied having had any involvement or knowledge of the ugly, homophobic smear campaign.
Koch won despite the controversy, and went on to become a three-term mayor of New York. He would never get married, never publicly admit to being homosexual, and never forgive Cuomo for the slur.
Cuomo would bounce back, however. Read more »
Filed under: In Memoriam, Politics | 5 Comments »
Posted on December 17th, 2014 by The Public Professor
I recently visited Scotland for the first time. While there, I did something I’ve not done since I was a child: one day during lunch, I enjoyed a crisp, refreshing 7-Up. And the next day I enjoyed a fruity, robust Dr. Pepper.
Mmmm, mmmm good.
What’s that you say? Have I not had a mainstream soda-pop in over a quarter of a century? No, of course I’ve had the occasional 7-Up or Dr. Pepper since childhood. But I’ve never really enjoyed one as an adult. And the reason is simple. More than two decades ago, American beverage producers began using high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar.
I’m not here to squawk about the supposed health hazards of corn syrup vs. refined sugar, which, quite frankly, I know next to nothing about, though for the record, I can’t imagine that either one of them is actually any good for you. We’re talking about soda, not pomegranate juice.
Rather, I’m merely advocating for good taste. After all, as any Coca-Cola fan worth their weight in saccharine can tell you, sugar just tastes a helluva a lot better than high-fructose corn syrup. That’s why each year the savviest of soda drinkers eagerly await the annual production of Coke made with real sugar, kosher for Passover; look for the cans and bottles with yellow tops.
So why the icky, sticky syrup instead of the clean, crystalline taste of sugar in our “fizzy juice,” as it’s known over in Scotland? Read more »
Filed under: American History, Culture, Current Events, Economy, Politics | 10 Comments »
Posted on December 16th, 2014 by The Public Professor
Yesterday I watched the 2000 Cameron Crowe
film Almost Famous
for the first time. After taking Hollywood by storm with 1999’s Jerry MaGuire
(yuk), Crowe got the green light to make his pet project: a semi-autobiographical feature film about a teenager who becomes a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine
This actually happened to Crowe in real life, and in the movie, the young stand-in protagonist drops out of high school to interview, write about, and follow a mythical band called Stillwater on tour around the country.
The film was okay. Nothing special and not as good as I’d been led to believe. But what I found most interesting was its portrayal of Rock n Roll as central to American culture. Read more »
Filed under: American History, Culture | 6 Comments »
Posted on December 15th, 2014 by The Public Professor
I still remember the first time I heard it. It was back in the late ‘90s, when I had cable. There was this openly gay guy, bald, a little overweight, a beard I think. He had some design show about sprucing up your house.
There weren’t a lot of openly gay men on American TV back then. They were just breaking through into mainstream culture. There was the sitcom Will & Grace, and those five gay guys who taught you how to dress. Anyway, this guy, whose name I can’t remember, was enough of a national sensation that Saturday Night Live spoofed him for a while.
I was sitting on my velour davenport watching cable TV. I flipped by his show. He was pointing out all the bric a brat cluttering a room and said: “I’m in tchotchke heaven.”
Except he didn’t say it right. He said choch-kee. Kinda rhymed with Versace. I cringed. Read more »
Filed under: Culture, Holiday History | 7 Comments »
Posted on November 24th, 2014 by The Public Professor
awoke in Winnemucca with a start.
It was pre-dawn and I was itchin’ to put it all behind me. The car was already packed. I dropped the room key and TV remote through the office door slot, as I had been directed by the motel’s matron, and then hit the road.
It was early. Too early. I had lost track of the time zones. It was an hour before I began to see the sun. Read more »
Filed under: Culture, The Sporting Life | 4 Comments »