Friday, January 29, 2016

Gangster Warlords and High School Assault & Shaming

There are a couple of good media clips for the weekend.  One is a story about a Sundance documentary on sexual assault and its aftermath in high school.  The film is Audrie & Daisy, and it is about a teen who committed suicide after an assault while passed out at a party, and how her mother pursued the case.  The mother, Sheila  Pott, is rather amazing.  The second is an interview with Ioan Grillo, a British journalist who's worked on drug cartels in Latin American since 2001, and who has a new book, Gangster Warlords, about how the cartels are moving into the political system of Mexico and other countries, and what to do about it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Martin Luther King Day 2016

Democracy Now played a recovered audio tape of a speech MLK gave in London in 1964 (transcript and audio are here).  The crucial themes of desegregation and racial equality are there. In this context of this class, you can see the extent to which Dr. King was an interedisciplinary cultural thinker who made connections among realms most people see as separate--domestic racism, foreign policy, police policy, jobs and employment, international economics, and the psychology of personal identity.

In California, protestors shut down the Bay Bridge for a half an hour, for #BlackLivesMatter #BlackHealthMatters #ReclaimMLK and related justice issues.  SF Chronicle coverage is here.

Today, as we start our discussion of noir fiction, film, and society, we'll begin to ask whether noir sanctions or supports protest, revolt, or revolution.  The immediate answer is no--it thinks D for Dissent is for suckers. But does it also lay out psychological and social conditions of the kind that prompt dissent, protest, revolt, and revolution in the 20th century? Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Murder and Addiction: Two Sunday Themes

The New York Times has two good stories related to our topics.  One explains why Mexican drug cartels have been killing mayors, which is quite an interesting as well as horrifying story.  The other focuses on death by drug overdose, and its fairly shocking recent increase.  There's an ironic racial angle as well:
There is a reason that blacks appear to have been spared the worst of the narcotic epidemic, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a drug abuse expert. Studies have found that doctors are much more reluctant to prescribe painkillers to minority patients, worrying that they might sell them or become addicted.
“The answer is that racial stereotypes are protecting these patients from the addiction epidemic,” said Dr. Kolodny, a senior scientist at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and chief medical officer for Phoenix House Foundation, a national drug and alcohol treatment company.

This follows an earlier study about a sudden rise in suicide among middle-aged whites, which was attributed to increasing economic isolation, among other things.  In any case, here are a couple of good windows into contemporary social reality via some detective non-fiction.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

El Chapo and Drug Prohibition

Here is the Sean Penn interview with Sinaloa cartel chief Guzmán that I mentioned in lecture. The Mexican drug wars have received extensive coverage, including excellent material from actual journalists and investigative organizations like ProPublica.  See David Epstein's long piece, "How DEA Agents Took Down Mexico's Most Vicoius Drug Cartel,' on how you can win battles in the drug wars, like (again) arresting a kingpin like Guzmán, and still lose the war.  Here's Epstein on El Chapo at Propublica.  On the pointlessness of the drug war, see the exchange on Democracy Now.  This interview and the one that follows covers the connection between the drug wars and the state of Mexican government and society. The noir era starts with Prohibition (of alcohol) in the United States in 1920 via constitutional amendment.  Drug prohibition has been near-universal global policy ever since, with effects that many people, including conservative Latin American policymakers, now consider to be unacceptable. Is there a connection between the war on drugs, social underdevelopment and the  massacre of students in the state of Iguala in 2014? More on this as the course unfolds.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Their Pain is what got us here in the first place: that's what I learned from my troll

Here are a few items related to our Detective Fiction themes to kick off the new round on this course:

  • Free-floating hate: Jezebel and now GQ writer Lindy West talking about being massively and constantly trolled, and what happens when your troll has a change of heart and takes you inside the trolling mind.  This is a rebroadcasted segment on the always excellent This American Life (first from January 2015). 
  • Sexual assault: Propublica did a detailed investigation of an 18 year old woman who accused someone of rape, and then recanted, and then . . . 
  • World War on Drugs. From close to home, "Devils, Deals and the DEA."  A must for Chapo Guzman buffs.
Welcome back to the class where there's no clear boundary between fiction and truth