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Student reflection: Sustainability extends far beyond Earth Day

by Alex Mihm

Humankind’s imprint on our surroundings is everywhere, commingled with the natural. I am typing this on my back deck. The moon, nearly full, casts stark silhouettes of the cedars before me. The wind’s breath sighs through the boughs, and somewhere nearby a fussy crow is doing a poor job of keeping the location of its nest a secret. On a hillside across the Willamette, three towers flash red in a jerky rhythm. Straight overhead a commercial jet just narrowly avoids a collision with the Big Dipper. All of this is my —­­ our —­­ world, and it is important to remember that, no matter what we invent or build, nothing we can own will elevate us above it, for we are still natural beings born of the Earth. We need to understand how connected we are to this place, and then cultivate that relationship with both enthusiasm and respectful deference.

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Irish as an endangered language

by Bob Burke

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) estimates that of the 6,000+ languages spoken today half will disappear by the end of the century if nothing is done. The Irish Language is “definitely endangered,” according to UNESCO. Will this language—spoken for several thousand years, first written around the time of St. Patrick (450 AD), and one of the oldest continuously-spoken vernaculars in Western Europe—be one of the languages to disappear? Or will it survive?

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Taxes_700

The new politics of the English language: Part II

by Barry Bennett

In an earlier post I updated George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language for the 21st century, describing how, by creating a false picture of the political process, the word filibuster masks the undemocratic nature of our political system. In this post I describe how use of other words and phrases creates similarly false images that obscure an equally nefarious phenomenon: the destruction of the social contract and the continuing transfer of the country’s wealth to a small elite.

The longest-serving and least noticed example of this deceptive language is defined-contribution pension. A brief history of pensions will illustrate how this term misleads.

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The new politics of the English language: Part I

by Barry Bennett

The crucial tool of politics—and many other human endeavors—is language. Language is how we relate to each other, how we teach and how we learn. Language informs, it instructs, it describes. And it manipulates.

In his famous essay Politics and the English Language, George Orwell condemned the increasing abuse of English, directing particular venom at the “swindles and perversions” that governments use to obfuscate and mislead in the most serious of situations: bombarding defenseless villages in wartime and driving out the inhabitants is pacification; imprisoning people for years without trial or sending them to die in Arctic labor camps is elimination of unreliable elements.

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Digital-Democracy_700

Digital democracy & American anti-intellectualism: Part II

by J.C. Caruso

Last week I wrote a post about some of the challenges we face in a digital age where expertise and authority seem to be under constant attack, but I’d like to follow that up here by exploring this issue from a slightly different angle.

What I see as the crux of our current challenge is this: how can we ensure that the digital democratization of human knowledge does not become mired in the same anti-intellectualism that has for so long been a hallmark of our American democracy?

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Drowning in Digital Democracy: Part I

By J.C. Caruso

It’s become commonplace, and maybe even a little passé, to describe our own ongoing digital revolution as analogous the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century.  Indeed, some points of comparison do continue to seem remarkably apt.  For example, the role of printed documents in spreading new ideas during the Reformation looks a lot like activists using Facebook and Twitter to share news and schedule protests during the Arab Spring.  Both show how technology can be a powerful force for democratization.  (Apologies if I’m stepping on any toes by seeming to valorize the Reformation as a positively democratic movement on the blog of a Catholic university, but you know what I mean.)

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A kind of dark beauty: art, melancholia & narrative

Art alum Dawn Roe has an exhibition — Goldfields – at The White Box at the University of Oregon in Portland. In her words, here is the story behind Goldfields, as well as the ideas that permeate and prompt her work.

by Dawn Roe

This work came into being during my time as Artist-in-Residence at the Visual Arts Centre of LaTrobe University in Bendigo, VIC, Australia. I arrived in the region (known as The Goldfields) without a preconceived idea about what I might do while there, so these intersections between the opposing perspectives of indigenous and colonial settler narratives, pastoral landscape representations, folklore and myth, became a kind of starting point for the project.  I was very conscious of the fact that I was an outsider to this space and not personally tied to its history.  But at the same time, I did feel an affinity to the bushlands in the same way most of us have a familiar response to the forest in general, largely due to the myths that permeate these spaces – both folkloric and personal.  So I chose to simply respond to the space while considering these layers, thinking equally about how various interactions within the region impacted the landscape both physically and metaphorically – the gold mining being paramount of course, but also the very rich indigenous narratives that remain overwhelmingly present in the form of rock formations, lookout points and the myths attached to natural fauna, birds and other animals.

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Daily-dose_700

Lower your daily dose

by Jo Jenner

Faced with the diagnoses of infertility, my sister’s solution was to remove daily doses of toxins.  Her hormones did return to natural levels, which facilitated her successful pregnancy and birth of my nephew. These success stories of regained health are common and attributed to limiting the chemicals brought into the home and, ultimately, our bodies.

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On the domestication of torture: a critical review of Zero Dark Thirty

by David Denny

The critically acclaimed and Oscar nominated Zero Dark Thirty directed by Kathryn Bigelow has generated a firestorm of commentary and debate surrounding the depiction of torture as the cause of finding Osama bin Laden. The debate can be summed up in the following way: Either the film is A), a brilliant cinematic feat in boldly and unsparingly telling the story of the killing Osama bin Laden in the vein of a detective procedural that takes that genre to a new level of sophistication, especially in terms of the way it utilizes cinema-verite (a documentary, hand held camera) to dramatize the story, or B), the film deploys these same cinematic techniques to captivate the viewer, to keep us on the edge of our seats, for the purpose of not necessarily informing us of ‘what really happened’ but of entertaining us, and therein effectively, even if perhaps unwittingly, endorsing the use of torture as a necessary means to a triumphant end.

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Student reflection: pursuing the dream of college

by BreeAnna Bender

The year 2008 was a very difficult year for me and my young family. My husband was injured at work, which made me the sole provider for my family. In addition to raising my two young children and working full-time, I decided it was time to change my life. Only I didn’t know how.

I had always wanted a college education, but I felt it was out of my reach. My reality was filled with children, work and everyday life. How on earth was I going to find time to go back to school? As if someone was reading my mind, a commercial for Marylhurst University came on the television. It spoke of a university that catered to the needs of working-adult students who lead busy lives, but that wasn’t what made me jump on my computer as soon as the commercial was over.

They had a degree in English Literature and Writing.

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