3-for-3: Photographing all the Very Serious People

Robert Frank's "Elevator -- Miami Beach, 1955"

Robert Frank’s “Elevator — Miami Beach, 1955”

1. robert frank’s “the americans”

I haven’t been able (or willing) to pry Frank’s haunting photographs from my mind since I first read about the fifty-year anniversary tour back in 2009, and hopefully this NPR article helps others recognize at least a part of what makes these images so fascinating for me. There’s just something altogether uncanny about the way he and his camera inhabit the role of the voyeur-connoisseur as he documents seemingly-ordinary American lives in the middle of their happening. (It’s almost as if Walter Benjamin’s ideal flaneur took a camera along for the ride.) And though my copy of The Americans was severely warped/deformed during the Great Texas Migration of three years ago, I still plan to bring the book into the classroom this semester as a way of discussing how art — whether verbal, aural, or visual — holds the potential to render life more meaningful when the right combination of artist, text, audience, and situation come together.

Bonus Link: For a follow-up on the woman (Sharon Collins) featured in the above photograph, check out this second NPR article on Frank’s work.

2. if you capitalize “FACT SHEET,” it must be true

I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to say about this at first, but the more I read and think about the President’s new “Plan to Make College More Affordable,” the more frustrated I become that these are the terms we have agreed to use in the ongoing debate over educational reform in America. Even if you don’t read the entire press release, I think it behooves all of us — those directly involved in higher education and those simply interested in the discussion/debate — to pay attention to what counts as The Very Serious Opinion on such matters.*

I’m thinking about doing a long-form opinion piece on how and why the rhetoric of reform has become so saturated with business-y terms and phrases like pay for performanceinnovation and competition, and Datapalooza (okay, that last one isn’t necessarily a business term, but it does appear in this official White House press release), but that also means that I’d have to take time away from working on my dissertation prospectus to write about something that has virtually nothing to do with said prospectus.

[thinks for a minute]

So yeah, you can expect to see that piece on the blog soon….

3. i made these for dinner last night. so what?

In honor of the Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats…

(This is the “clean” version of the song, but it still probably isn’t something you want to be blaring over the intercom at work.)

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*Paul Krugman wrote quite a bit about Paul Ryan’s reputation as a Very Serious Person during the 2012 election, and I’m using the term “Very Serious Opinion” in a similar way. I think the concept of the Very Serious Person — especially as it’s discussed on the RationalWiki page linked to above — sums up quite nicely how un-serious the”Beltway Wisdom” regarding educational reform has become.

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