The Tropics of Meta Gang Picks Their Favorite Cover Songs

We asked our contributors and followers what their favorite cover songs were, along with R. Mike Burr's piece about Ray Padgett's book Cover Me yesterday.  Here's what they had to say. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments! Saira Mazhar: Tommy Loveless: Chris Staaf: Nick Juravich: Jesse D. Kelly: Jude Webre: Todd Moye: Hope … [Read more...]

Womb Geography

Your son’s father is on Fresno PD’s MAGEC’s list of gang affiliated, even though you only can see the dog paw inked on his shoulder haphazardly. When he gets pulled over by the police as he’s driving you to dinner, you can hear the son you share holding his breath in the back seat, tiny air filling his cheeks, his hair cropped in shiny black curls like he’s an angel baby. You wonder why they call a gang task force MAGEC. If they could ever make boys like your son turn into smoke. You met your son’s father at a roller skating rink in Clovis. When you get dropped off there with your friends, there are brown boys hanging on outside the wall of the place, like they’re Christmas decorations. … [Read more...]

South of Shaw: Introducing Straight Outta Fresno

“Pretend,” we instruct our students, “that you have been hired by Fresno City to make postcards, visuals that capture and represent the city, its history, its people, its spaces.” “Now,” we continue, “do your best to draw some postcards.” They dutifully scribble lines that look like City Hall, the historic Warnors Theater, the Fresno arch and the Christmas Tree Lane in the Fig Gardens neighborhood. The more skilled and adventurous students draw portraits of elected officials and Fresno State’s President Joseph Castro. Despite our students’ ethnic and geographical diversity, they tend to depict and reflect a top-down version of both history and the city. Yet, in more casual conversations, … [Read more...]

Democracy of Sound Is Out in Paperback!

It's book-assigning season at colleges and universities across the United States, at least for those on the semester system.  We just wanted to flog Alex's book Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century, originally published by Oxford University Press in 2013. Because it was such a smash success as an academic title, selling literally dozens of copies, OUP decided to rerelease it in paperback.  It's cheaper now!  And the back cover now features blurbs by people that the author did not supply with copious amounts of coke--actual, impartial reviewers. If you are teaching courses on media studies, intellectual property, American cultural … [Read more...]

Joseph Rios Shadowboxes with Himself

In Shadowboxing: Poems and Impersonations, Joseph Rios evokes the image of an imposing Rocky Balboa as he opens with a quote from the 1976 film Rocky: “You gotta be a moron…you know what I mean? It’s a racket where you’re almost guaranteed to end up a bum.” This is Rios using impersonation as metaphor. We all know Rocky as the iconic boxer, the hero, but Rios is using the Rocky quote as a metaphor for poetry itself. It’s an ironic statement, but for the book it rings true, as Rios constantly battles that other part of himself, the darker shadow that dwells within. The book, through dramatic monologue, stage directions, line breaks, dedications, elegies, and impersonations becomes a metaphor … [Read more...]

Where Are You From?

How place determines race for racially in-between immigrants. July 4, 2002, was a particularly humid Independence Day in Boston. It was the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college. I had stayed on campus to work, and for the first time my family had come to visit me in New England. That year, we found ourselves among the thousands of revelers who descended in undulating waves down to the banks of the Charles River to see the fireworks. My mom and little sister scrambled onto the first available patch of grass while I unrolled a blanket I had snatched off my twin-size dorm room bed hours earlier. My aunt unpacked almonds, cantaloupe, and soda from a plastic shopping bag; my … [Read more...]

Take Me Down to the Sanctuary City

For our last big episode of the season, Doomed to Repeat is touching on one of the most polarizing issues in American politics: immigration and so-called "sanctuary cities." In the age of the Dreamsicle President, matters of law and migration have taken a vastly greater political, economic, cultural, and emotional valence that at any time in recent memory.  In dissing Trump, we do not mean to belittle the issue at all.  People are afraid.  One of our two co-hosts, in fact, has family who are now unable to flee violence and disorder in Libya and come to join their relatives in the United States because of the administration's appalling "Muslim ban." But it's hard to recall a time when people … [Read more...]

Academia Deserves Its Crisis

I was recently invited to be part of a student panel to welcome all new Ph.D. students to the large research university I am currently attending and to share with them my words of “wisdom,” so they can learn more about the upcoming challenges of graduate student life. The student panel was the last on the hierarchy of speakers, so we had to wait for and listen to people with big titles—titles like “provost”, “associate” with this, “assistant” for that, “co-director” of this center, and “under-secretary” for such and such affairs. It was clear from these presentations that graduate students are being encouraged to think of themselves as at-will employees who are expected to do the job “well,” … [Read more...]

Frontier Domesticity

In a July 10, 2017 entry on her website, The Pioneer Woman—popular television cooking personality Ree Drummond—describes a scene in which her husband and children round up their herd of cattle for shipping in the rain. Labeled under the tag “Confessions of a Pioneer Woman,” Drummond’s post details the cattle roundup and also serves as entry into the ways that the fantasy of the frontier continues to underpin gendered conceptions of individual, familial, and communal identity in the United States. Describing her daughter’s experience, Drummond writes, “Aw, poor cowgirl. She definitely earned her stripes. I wanted to run over and wrap her in a blanket, but she likes being one of the big kids … [Read more...]

Gary Soto, Oranges, Politics, and the World of Fresno

The Gary Soto Literary Museum is, unarguably, the "smallest, cutest, cleanest museum in the country." In Fresno, California, it tells the story of Soto, a high school graduate with a 1.6 GPA who went on to become one of the distinguished poets in American history.  Tropics of Meta and our sister podcast Doomed to Repeat had the extraordinary opportunity to sit down and talk with Soto about his life, work, poetry, and politics last Spring, at Fresno's LitHop festival.  ToM contributor and Fresno City College professor Juan Luis Guzman interviewed, and we hope you will enjoy this illuminating interview.  Soto reflects on both his own experience with youth and love as well as how to engage in … [Read more...]