The Process of Belief?: Evolution, Creationism, and “Truth”

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I didn’t watch the debate about evolution and creationism between science educator Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham this past Monday, but I have had a few general thoughts about this topic lately as this seems to have stirred up a necessary conversation about the nature of science. Science is not a belief system.  People mistakenly say that they believe in evolution but that is not an appropriate way to phrase it.  We think that evolution provides the best explanation for the data we currently have on the diversity of life. It is an intellectual process that should be based entirely on what we can observe or measure.  Of course, scientists are people too so they make mistakes in … [Read more...]

Incubating Scholarship and Smart Students: Teaching and Publishing at Community Colleges amidst the New Realities of Academia: Best of AHA 2014, Part 4

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For Part 1 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification - click here For Part 2 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves - click here For Part 3 of ToM AHA 2014 coverage: Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform - click here For coverage of other conferences like UHA 2010/2012, AHA 2012, and others -  click here. “It’s like explaining something to a bright ten year old,” Emily Tai, an Associate Professor of History at Queensborough Community College told the audience. Tai, speaking to fellow historians, and … [Read more...]

Radical Politics, Disgruntled Veterans, Internment, and the Fear of Dependency: The Military and Social Welfare Reform: Best of AHA 2014, Part 3

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Over the past couple of decades, categorizations like “military history” have undergone numerous permutations. Georgia State’s John Southard ruminated on the state of the field for ToM in 2012 and ToM devotes an entire page to the subject. (There’s even something for the Civil War buffs. ToM has even posted some original research in the area of the military and postwar suburbanization.)  Historians like Roger Lotchin, Ann Markusen, Carol Lynn McKibben, and Andrew Myers have offered new insights into the ways military installations in the South and California have interacted politically, economically, and socially with local cities, towns, and suburbs in which they are located or abut. The … [Read more...]

Transnational Protest, Media Bias, and Monopolized Airwaves: Best of AHA 2014, Part 2

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In part II of ToM’s AHA 2014 coverage our correspondents begin with papers on the efforts of Latin American students, workers, and rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970 to use non-violent activism as a means to gain greater rights and autonomy in the face of increasingly repressive regimes.  We end with talks on media bias, conservatism, Rupert Murdoch/Fox News and the NAACP. What does it mean if we have more voices and greater diversity with those appearing in the media, but more and more of the airwaves under the control of fewer and fewer individuals? Remember, we went to the AHA so you didn’t have too.  For Part I of AHA 2014 - Bed-Stuy, The Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus … [Read more...]

Bed-Stuy, the Illuminati, and the Importance of Fungus Identification: Best of AHA 2014, Part 1

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Going to conferences is one of the great mixed blessings of the academic life.  On one hand, it offers the chance to get away (to New York or LA, or sometimes even exotic destinations like Richmond, VA) and travel, like an Actually Important Person (AIP), sometimes with your department or university picking up the tab.  We get to reconnect with old friends and have more than the appropriate number of drinks--on the pretext, of course, of "getting a feel for the city" (or in Richmond's case, not). On the other hand, there is the actual conference itself--a dreary procession of monotonously recited presentations, ranging from the navel-gazingly esoteric to the merely boring.  And if it's … [Read more...]

13 of Our Favorite Posts from 2013

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2013 was Tropics of Meta's biggest year yet, as we welcomed numerous new contributors (hello LG, Brian, Mark, Jimmy et al) and continued our collaboration with South El Monte Arts Posse, most notably with the East of East community mapping project.  Some of our pieces traveled far and wide online, such as Clement Lime's spirited defense of Howard Zinn.  Ryan's Minutemen piece got tweeted by Mike Watt, who is now our bestie (not really).  In any case, let's take a look back at some of the most interesting writing from the fourth installment of a five-year plan that just can't fail.  (When have five-year plans ever gone wrong?) The Spanish Roots of the 99% Jeffrey Lawrence explores the … [Read more...]

In Praise of Introductions

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Some people will tell you to skip a book’s introduction so that you might form a first impression that is entirely your own — unpoisoned by the academic arsenic of criticism, the blinders of one person’s interpretation, or the dated fashions of scholarly thought. But our palimpsest brains never begin at a book’s beginning. If we approach an introduction tentatively and critically, there’s no reason we shouldn't be able to accept or reject its premises on their own merit, at least to the degree that we could do the same with the premises of the book itself. Bad introductions – such as, say, the ones you’ll find in certain Barnes & Noble editions of public domain books – can still provide … [Read more...]

Dog Days Classics: Why I Love Michael Holt, His Bowties, & the Whig Party

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As an undergraduate student in Professor Michael Holt’s “Coming of the Civil War” class at the University of Virginia, I felt rather lost for the first part of the semester. It was a large lecture class that made it intimidating to ask questions or make comments (not that I would have anyway). Moreover, Dr. Holt was the quintessential university professor – impeccably dressed in a sport coat and bowtie (this was UVa after all) with a shock of white hair – and he treated us as though we already had an intensive handle on the history of antebellum America. Which I definitely did not. The central texts for the course were Holt’s own book, The Political Crisis of the 1850s and Eric Foner’s Free … [Read more...]

Fracturing Catholics: Big Idea Books, Daniel Rodgers, and the Fragmenting Catholic Church

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Rooney (Kevin Dillon): [Standing in line for confession] Hey, Williams, you got your list? Williams (Stephen Geoffreys): Oh, yeah. Rooney: Let's have a look. [Reading Williams' list] Rooney: Jesus! You got here you jerked off 168 times? And it's been one month since your last confession? That's an average of... Williams: 5.6 times a day. Rooney: Oh, my God, you can't tell him that. He'll cut your balls off. - From the 1985 movie Heaven Help Us For anyone who did time in Catholic school, speeches on the peril of wayward adolescent sexuality probably echo in the subconscious even as some of us move rapidly toward our late thirties.  “There is a beast living in each and … [Read more...]

The Right Way to Get an MFA

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I’m going to get my MFA in Directing (for theatre) in the fall.  Yay!  I present below a combined listing of advice I think I would have appreciated and an annotated timeline of theatre and life events leading up to my decision to attend an MFA program.  I know that none of my suggestions below are easy to do.  I just present it as stuff that I suspect might have been helpful to me on the way to getting into an MFA program. First, a few conversations in recent years that really affected me: At my old day job, helping 22 year old coworker unload the dishwasher, she tells me that she is applying for grad school.  “What else am I going to do, keep doing this sh*t for another five years?! … [Read more...]

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