Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tax Cuts

Republicans are set to resist extending the payroll tax cut. I struggle to write anything that that statement doesn't already make clear. Republicans are going to fight a tax cut because it helps ordinary people and will stimulate hiring. Is this the end of cynicism? There's no subterfuge or misdirection here, right? This is bald-faced class warfare. Seems the only way to understand the gambit is as a test of how deeply the debt paranoia has penetrated. If the public doesn't react positively to Obama's tax holiday, the Republicans will confirm their triumph. Austerity for the working class will have become the new American value.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Dove Ad Rewrites Blake

For an early Americanist like myself, the new Dove Ad featuring a black, latina, and white woman immediately calls to mind the image to the left. William Blake represented his idea of racial equality in this colored engraving, "Europe Supported by Africa and America" (1796). In Blake's image, three figures are inextricably linked. The green sash and the blue-bead necklace encircle the women, while the figures' arms together create the sign of infinity. Featured as the central figure, the white woman who blushes and does not make eye contact with the viewer is held up, if not prevented from falling, by a black woman and American Indian, who are each bound with golden bracelets. The bracelets (or shackles) are distinct from the other encircling features of the image in that they bind these two "other" women in isolation. That is, what the women share (the golden shackles), they share separately.

Dove's ad, consciously or not, responds to Blake's image twofold. It adds a binary and temporal dimension indicated by the canvases in the background, above which are the words, from left to right, "Before" and "After."

The order of the figures are also rearranged. Black, brown, and white where Blake places the white woman in the center. That's where the image directs our gaze; our eye is drawn to the white woman first, and then we shift to see the complete image. As we take in the black and Indian figures, our view of the white woman as a object of desire shifts. Where we are first encouraged to look at her (she does not look at us), we are later positioned to identify with her. As we note that the black and Indian women look directly at us, we may be moved to feel the image staring back at us, evaluating us, judging our racist biases, forcing us to confront what we might otherwise disregard: that white privilege depends upon the labor of the other. We may blush, too, for our shame.

But where Blake's image draws viewers to the central figure, Dove's Ad reads from left to right. The words "before" and "after" are visual cues that instruct us to read the image as a sentence. We thus read black to white alongside "before" to "after" and the ad's text "Visibly more beautiful skin."

The Dove Ad suggests that, under the "care" of Dove soap, cracked skin (represented by the canvas on the left) will become smooth (the canvas on the right), but also that black skin will become white. It's message is similar to an older, explicitly racist ad for Pears Soap brought to my attention by Permaorangefingers at Here's the image:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More on Mendeley

The simplest way to add books to a Mendeley database is to use WorldCat and Import to Mendeley, an add-on that works best with Internet Explorer. I haven't been successful using it with Chrome. But with IE, the process is terrifically easy. Search for the book (author, title, or ISBN, etc.) and then click the "Import to Mendeley" bookmark. For whatever reason, the programmers at Mendeley have decided not to incorporate ISBN lookup into the program itself, as is the case with Refworks (via RefMobile). What I'm learning is that, as a dedicated user, I will have to develop my own workflow for making best use of valuable software.

Another feature I'm playing with is SEARCH. Naturally, Mendeley allows users to search their own libraries using various levels of filtering. But as a social networking application, Mendeley also searches all publicly available Mendeley libraries. Adding a citation to your own library is a click of a link away, and, when OpenAccess, you get the paper, too.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Mendeley is a newcomer to bibliographic software and will face a high hurdle with me since my institution currently supports refworks. But my initial impressions are very positive. I like the interface better than either Zotero or Refworks. Entering citations also improves on Refworks and Zotero, whose "grab-it" off the web features are spotty. When you download a pdf file into a folder that you have asked Mendeley to "Watch," it will automatically grab the data and add it to your collection. The note-taking features are robust. You can view a pdf within the program. A command ribbon along the top of the document allows you to highlight text, add a sticky note, rotate the document, and take notes more traditionally in a simple text editor incorporated into the reading window. Of course, the notes and markings don't affect the pdf itself, so you can still print the file without your notes. The notes essentially overlay the document. You can print from the original file or export and print with the notes. I haven't tried exporting citations from proprietary databases at Bucknell yet. More soon.


TechLitPlay will review applications for academics and students. The goal is not to be comprehensive, but to highlight those apps that I actually use.