Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Monday, Sep 23, 2013
Janet Mino patiently coaxes her students to say what they feel and to feel safe. Some are afraid, some are frustrated, and some are eager; all sit in her classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, New Jersey, and all have special needs.

Each day, Janet Mino patiently coaxes her students to say what they feel and to feel safe. Some are afraid, some are frustrated, and some are eager; all sit in her classroom at John F. Kennedy High School in Newark, New Jersey, and all have special needs. As you see right away in Samantha Buck’s documentary Best Kept Secret, premiering on PBS’ POV Documentary Series on 23 September, Mino and her associates, other teachers, counselors, and staff members, are deeply committed to the individuals in their care, a number that includes the students and their families.


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Monday, Sep 9, 2013
As the Obama Administration and its allies contemplate entering into another world policing situation, everyone might do well to consider multiple consequences.

As the Obama Administration and its allies contemplate entering into another world policing situation, everyone might do well to consider multiple consequences. While the advocates of missile strikes insist that the US will not enter into war or “boots on the ground.” One looming example of good intentions going wrong is the Iraq War, a lingering US misadventure. “There is the impression in the United States that Iraq had some problems in 2005 and 2006, but then we sent more troops, we sent Petraeus, and we won the war and we solved all of the problems. And so now there’s no more violence and the Iraqis who worked for us are in peace and they can just go home.”


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Monday, Jun 17, 2013
Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall spend a year with David Kato, tracking this bold gay rights activist's efforts and confidence, his infectious good humor and his terrific charisma.

It took David Kato some time to discover his calling, his identity as a gay man in Uganda and, beyond that, as a courageous fighter for gay civil rights. As he recalls in Call Me Kuchu, he came to his self-understanding when he left Uganda, briefly, in 1992. On arriving in South Africa, he remembers, he stayed at a YMCA. “I saw these men on the street,” he says, and when he asked what they were selling, wondering whether it was “gold or diamonds,” he was told they were selling themselves. He was further surprised when he learned that these men sold themselves to other men. “I said, ‘For what?’” Here David exaggerates his response, cocking his head to the side. “I said, ‘Ahh.’ And I’ve always wanted men, so I went to the street.” Returning to Uganda, he cofounded SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), and took up a series of public and legal campaigns against various sorts of homophobia, particularly concerning newspapers outing and targeting individuals. The filmmakers, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, spend a year with Kato, tracking and commending his efforts and confidence, his infectious good humor and his terrific charisma.


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Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Over three years, Jonathan Goodman Levitt's beguiling documentary reveals, three aspiring politicians undergo changes regarding their ideas about how the US system works, some more drastic than others.

“I think conservatism’s all about being a individual,” announces Nick at the start of Follow the Leader. One of three high school class presidents followed by the film, he’s eager to attend the annual Boys State Leadership Week, where he and his fellows will be learning all about “politics.” As the film begins, Nick, Ben (a liberal, at first), and D.J. (an independent, more or less) take this word to mean a career, dedicated to public service, fulfilling their own ambitions, and making changes in people’s lives. Over three years, Jonathan Goodman Levitt’s beguiling documentary reveals, all three undergo changes, some more drastic than others.


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Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013
As Washington Post reporter William Arkin puts it, "You never know who's watching you."

“More is good. A hell of a lot more can be bad.” National security expert Richard Clarke’s pithy observation comes near the end of Top Secret America: From 9/11 to the Boston Bombings, the repurposed Frontline episode airing on 30 April on PBS. And after watching the show—again, for those of you who saw the previous iteration in September 2011—you may be feeling the “more” in multiple ways. The report’s repetitions are in themselves disturbing, first that the costly ramping up of top secret America has gone on and on since 9/11, and second, that the results look negligible. It’s true that it’s hard to measure what doesn’t happen, but still, as the program lays out, the past decade’s efforts to “secure the homeland,” however tremendous, not only leave the homeland insecure, but also, in some cases, increase the risks. This is not only because advancing surveillance technology is ever incomplete, though it is, but more urgently, that some programs, say, drones or black sites, incite frustration, anger, and resistance in affected populations.


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