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    Why Not Say It's Racism? The Charleston Massacre

    The murder of nine people in Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston has left me sick and stunned, as it has left many of you. And what I needed badly, over the last two days, was national unity. But I didn't get it. Apparently, we're too divided as a nation to band together after a terrorist attack. We're so divided that some of us won't admit that the terrorist had the motives that he clearly proclaimed. Apparently, there are sides to take in everything, even this.

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    Rachel Dolezal and the de-Professionalized University

    Rachel Dolezal, currently this week's Object of Public Shame on the Internet, has apparently been fired from her job teaching at Eastern Washington State. Or rather, I learn from today's New York Times, they didn't have to bother firing her. You see, Dolezal was what's called an "adjunct instructor," someone who teaches on a course-by-course basis for low pay without any security for the next semester. There are more adjunct teachers than normal salaried professors in American universities today. So, EWU didn't have to fire her. She's just not hired for any classes for next fall.

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    The Two-Body Problem: What I Learned

    A few weekends ago I came home from commencement, hung up my silly robe for another year, cleaned my fridge, packed my car, and left town for the city where I live with my spouse. I won't be back until later in the summer. I've been making that five-hundred-mile round trip nearly every weekend for three of the last four years, with breaks for summers or sabbaticals. But this was the last time.

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    Do We Have a Constitution, Officer?

    A country is only as democratic as its police, and Constitutional rights are only as real as its police treat them. The fight over police work in America is ultimately a fight over whether or not the United States Constitution is real.

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    No, Colleges Still Require Shakespeare

    You may have seen news stories, timed for Shakespeare's more-or-less birthday, claiming that top American colleges have stopped requiring Shakespeare. This is not news (nothing about college requirements has changed lately), and not really true.

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    The Marathon, Democracy

    It's Marathon Monday in Boston, the second Marathon since the bombing. A Massachusetts jury is currently deciding whether the surviving bomber should serve life in prison or be executed, but that jury  will not meet today, because it is a holiday. Today is Patriot's Day.

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    Ted Cruz and the Quest for the GOP Obama

    Ted Cruz's declaration that he's running for President doesn't make a lot of sense from the normal perspective. No one has ever given him any reason to suspect that he could become President. No poll has showed him with even ten percent support.  It only makes sense when you realize who Ted Cruz is modeling himself after: Barack Obama. Of course, he's not like Barack Obama in almost any way. But Ted Cruz doesn't know that. He doesn't see the real Barack Obama. He sees the conservative caricature of Barack Obama, and that's what he's trying to mimic.

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    Why Fraternities Are Out of Control

    College fraternities have been in the news for the last two weeks, and not in a good way. First, the SAE chapter at the University of Oklahoma got videotaped singing a cheerful little fraternity song about keeping blacks out of the frat and hanging them from trees.

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    How Obama Talks About Terrorism and Racism

    Let's keep this simple. The way Barack Obama talks about Islamic terrorism is exactly the way he talks about white racism. Exactly. The only difference lies not in what Obama actually says, but in how his critics respond.

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    National Adjunct Walkout Day (and Why It Matters to You)

    Today, February 25, is National Adjunct Walkout Day. The majority of college teachers in America today are not full-time instructors with salaries, benefits, or job security, but allegedly "part time" adjunct faculty members paid a few thousand dollars per course. Today, across our country, those adjunct faculty members will be walking out of their classes and holding events to raise awareness.

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    Fifty Shades of Mr. D.: The Unwritten Rules of Romance Fiction

    Hollywood is making some big Valentine's Day cash off Fifty Shades of Grey, the movie adapted from the first book of E. L. James's mommy-porn trilogy. Let me say right up front that I have not read these books, because life is too short for that. But, like every living human in the industrialized world, I've been bludgeoned with so much unrelenting chatter about these books that I can recap the general plot: buff young billionaire punishes and dominates sweet young virgin in his sex dungeon, but also everywhere else.

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    A Story from the Crusades

    Apparently, some people are very upset that President Obama suggested that some Christians did bad things during the Crusades. Where does he get off saying something like that? Let me tell you a little story from the Third Crusade.

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    Against Rock Stars

    This summer, I went to a Cleveland Indians game which involved a pregame celebration for Johnny "Johnny Football" Manziel. [Full disclosure: I am a lifelong Boston sports fan living in Cleveland. Although I sometimes go to the Jake just to watch the Indians, I was there that night because my Red Sox were in town.] Everybody in the building seemed to be deliriously excited about Johnny Football. Everybody was making his little money-fingers gesture.

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    Typhoid Mary and the Anti-Vaxxers

    The measles outbreak in Southern California has been generously made possible by California law's "personal belief exemption," which allows adults to refuse vaccinations for their children or themselves based on their so-called "personal belief" that vaccines cause autism. Here "personal belief" is extended to include not simply religious and moral teachings -- the question here isn't that religion teaches that vaccination is morally wrong -- but factual errors.

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    Your New Year's Public Domain Report, 2015

    I'm late with my annual public-domain update this year. But that's okay because yet again this year, nothing new entered the public domain this January 1. That's right, because of repeated extensions of the copyright laws in the US, no copyrights expired this year. Or last year. Or the year before. Almost none have since January 1, 1979.

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    Shakespeare "Authorship Debates" and Amateur Scholarship

    So, just in time to ruin my New Year's celebrations, Newsweek has seen fit to publish a credulous article trumpeting the old who-wrote-Shakespeare conspiracy theories. I won't give Newsweek a link, but you can click through Amanda Marcotte's smart takedown at Rawstory if you're curious.

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    Confidence, Rejection, and Criticism: Advice from Actors to Academics, Part Three

    Christmas week is especially hard for young academics trying to get a job, especially in literary studies. The annual rhythm of the job search means that most first-round interviews (the interviews that take place at major disciplinary conferences over the winter) get scheduled during the first half of December. By this time of year, grad students (and recent PhDs) looking for a job are counting the meager number of schools where their applications are still active; they may have applied to dozens of jobs and gotten one or two first-round interviews to show for it.
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    Police, Danger, and the Social Contract

    I was blogging about the police tonight, and about the responses to protests of police brutality. Then I heard about the shooting of two police officers in New York City,  so the rest of that post (and some of the others I have been working on) will have to wait.

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    The Fire This Time

    There is one truth that we need to face today, after the grand jury's decision in Ferguson. And that truth is simple. No one can live like this.

    No one can live with an arrangement where their sons can be killed with impunity. No one can make their peace with that. No one can accept that. No one can live like this.

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    Turning Down the Imaginary Car (Advice from Actors to Academics, Part 2)

    I blogged earlier about how the academic job search can be framed like the search for an acting job (where the odds are incredibly steep, rejection is pervasive, and the stakes feel deeply personal). Today's post is a second installment of advice from Robert Cohen's classic Acting Professionally, a very career-specific book of advice that I have found applicable to other careers.

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