Culture on My Mind – The New Colossus

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The New Colossus

July 23, 2021

This week, I have Emma Lazarus on my mind.

Emma Lazarus was born on July 22, 1849, in New York City. She studied American and British literature and several languages, including German, French, and Italian. By the age of eleven, she was writing poetry. Over the course of her life her writing won recognition in the United States and Europe.

One of her most famous poems is the sonnet “The New Colossus”, which she wrote in 1883 to raise money for the construction of a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty (formally known as Liberty Enlightening the World). She was convinced to write the poem by writer Constance Cary Harrison who argued that the statue would be of great significance to immigrants sailing into the harbor.

The sonnet was the first read at the auction of art and literary works in November 1883 and remained associated with the exhibit until it was closed after the pedestal was fully funded in 1885. The sonnet was largely forgotten after this, even at the statue’s formal opening in 1886, until 1901 when Georgina Schuyler stepped in.

Composer and article writer Georgina Schuyler, the great-granddaughter of Alexander and Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, was a friend of Emma Lazarus. Lazarus died in November 1887 at the age of 38, most likely from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and Schuyler spearheaded the effort to memorialize her friend and the sonnet. The effort succeeded in 1903 when a plaque bearing the sonnet’s text was placed on the inner wall of the statue’s pedestal.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Petrarchan sonnet evokes several images related to the statue’s New York Harbor home and prestige:

  • The title and the first two lines refer to the Greek Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and contrasts that symbol of imperial grandeur against the maternal strength of Lady Liberty.
  • The “sunset gates” are the Hudson and East Rivers, and the “imprisoned lightning” is the statue’s lighted torch.
  • The “twin cities” were New York City and Brooklyn, which were separate cities since the boroughs had yet been consolidated. That would happen in 1898.
  • The “huddled masses” were the large numbers of immigrants arriving during the 1880s. Emma Lazarus was also an activist and advocate for Jewish refugees who sought asylum from persecution in Czarist Russia.

The poem changed the face of the statue, shifting her from a monument to the principles of international republicanism to a welcoming mother figure that shined a beacon of hope to outcasts and downtrodden around the world. The symbol has cemented the reputation of the United States as a sanctuary and a golden beacon on the hill.

As poet and Princeton professor Esther Schor, author of the award-winning biography Emma Lazarus, stated: “The irony is that the statue goes on speaking, even when the tide turns against immigration — even against immigrants themselves, as they adjust to their American lives. You can’t think of the statue without hearing the words Emma Lazarus gave her.”


For more information on Emma Lazarus, the American Jewish Historical Society has a detailed presentation on her life and their efforts to memorialize her.

For a general overview of the Statue of Liberty’s history and more, check out this video by Jared Owen.


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Independence Day

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Independence Day

July 2, 2021

This week, I’m thinking about a major holiday here in the United States. The Declaration of Independence was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. It was a pronouncement by the Thirteen Colonies that they should be independent states free of British control, a revolution that they were fighting for at the time in the Revolutionary War.

While the nation is not and has never been perfect, it still embodies certain elements that people around the world admire. For me, the American Dream is that we can reach that ideal some day, and that keeps me fighting for the principles expressed in the Declaration. I believe in the core philosophy of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Today, two days before the anniversary of ratification (and on the anniversary of the Lee Resolution’s passage), please enjoy this presentation by Kenneth C. Davis on some of the lesser known facts about the Declaration of Independence.

If you’re celebrating the holiday, please be safe and have a good time.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Juneteenth

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Juneteenth

June 18, 2021

This week, I have Juneteenth on my mind.

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, a holiday celebrating the emancipation of those who had been enslaved in the United States. It is also known as Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day. It was established in 1865, when over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves in Galveston, Texas were finally informed of their freedom.

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. It was formally issued on January 1, 1863, declaring that all enslaved persons in the Confederate States of America in rebellion and not in Union hands were to be freed.

Planters and other slaveholders had migrated to the more geographically isolated Texas from eastern states to avoid the fighting, many of them bringing enslaved people with them. This increased the enslaved population of Texas by thousands, and by 1865, there were an estimated 250,000 enslaved people in the state.

News of General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, which happened on April 9, 1865, reached Texas later in the month. The western Army of the Trans-Mississippi did not surrender until June 2nd, and by June 18th, Union Army General Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government.

The following day, while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, General Granger read aloud the contents of “General Order No. 3”, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves:

The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.

Even though the event is popularly thought of as “the end of slavery”, the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to those enslaved in Union-held territory. Those slaves would not be freed until a proclamation several months later after the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.

The freedom of formerly enslaved people in Texas was given legal status in a series of Texas Supreme Court decisions between 1868 and 1874.

June 19th is still officially celebrated as Juneteenth in Texas. Every state in the Union except South Dakota and Hawaii recognizes the event.


There are several places to find more information about Juneteenth and its impact on the Black community. I have highlighted four of them below. I hope that they offer a chance to learn about the importance of Juneteenth and spark further interest in finding out more about it.

“Why all Americans should honor Juneteenth” from Vox:

Vox also has a discussion and other resources at their website.

NextGen America presents a history of the event and how it has shaped the experience of Black people in the United States:

The Washington Post explores what Juneteenth tells us about the value of Black lives in America:

Finally, Dr. Shennette Garrett-Scott made a detailed presentation of the holiday’s history back in 2013:


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Pershing’s Own and Queen

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Pershing’s Own and Queen

June 11, 2021

This week, I’m reaching back to May 2020 and the United States Army Band. The U.S. Army Voices and Downrange joined forces to present a medley of hits by Queen.

You can find more about Pershing’s Own and the Army Band’s ensembles at their official website.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon. Take care.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Gingertail’s Mandalorian

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Gingertail’s Mandalorian

May 28, 2021

This week, I have music from The Mandalorian on my mind.

Specifically, this cover by YouTuber Alina Gingertail.

These musical versions of Culture on My Mind are short and sweet. Have a good weekend, and I’ll see you again very soon.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – The IDIC Podcast Festival

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The IDIC Podcast Festival

May 14, 2021

This week, I’m promoting a Star Trek-themed podcasting festival helmed by Women at Warp: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast.

IDIC Podcast Festival - 1920x1080

The Women at Warp crew will be hosting a virtual podcast festival on July 17-18, 2021. The weekend event will honor the Star Trek principle of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC) by celebrating and amplifying the diverse voices in Trek fandom through a series of live podcasts.

The general announcement, call for programming and contributors, and important dates leading up to the event can be found on the event page at the Women at Warp website.

The IDIC principle is something that I believe in and the Women at Warp team is a champion of the cause. I’m more than happy to spread the word.

Today’s press release follows.


Women at Warp Launches the IDIC Podcast Festival

Women at Warp: A Roddenberry Star Trek Podcast is pleased to launch our call for applications for the first IDIC Podcast Festival, set to run July 17-18, 2021. This weekend-long virtual event honors the Star Trek principle of Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations (IDIC) by celebrating and amplifying the diverse voices of our fandom through a series of live podcasts.

Over the past year, COVID-19 has taken away so many opportunities to connect with diverse creators and audiences in person. At the same time, we’ve seen fans taking to social media to seek out and share podcasts that approach Trek from diverse perspectives. As an intersectional podcast we know that women’s issues are inextricably connected to issues of race and class, LGBTQIAP2S+ issues, disability issues, and more. The transformative period that we are in gives us an opportunity to truly center voices from all these diverse communities in our fandom.

Any podcast that showcases diversity in its hosting lineup is welcome to apply for the IDIC Podcast Festival, whether newly-launched or well-established. We welcome shows that do not exclusively cover Star Trek in their regular episode lineup, but ask that panel submissions for this event be Trek-related.

Admission to this virtual event is free. Podcasts will be streamed live on Women at Warp’s Facebook and YouTube pages and podcasts will be welcome to share recordings in their own feeds after the event.

The deadline for podcasters to submit applications is Friday, June 18. Click here to apply.

For more information, visit out event page at womenatwarp.com/IDIC-fest or contact us at crew@womenatwarp.com.

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About Women at Warp

Women at Warp is a groundbreaking bi-weekly podcast committed to examining Star Trek from a feminist perspective, exploring Intersectional Diversity in Infinite Combinations with a rotating crew of seven hosts. Tune in for everything from episode and character analysis to history of women behind the scenes and in fan culture to discussion of larger themes and messages throughout the franchise. Women at Warp is part of Roddenberry Podcasts. For more information, please visit womenatwarp.com.

About Roddenberry Podcasts

Roddenberry Podcasts is a network of audio shows that deliver thought-provoking, insightful entertainment wherever you are. Podcasts that dig deep into Star Trek, social commentary, science and critical thinking – all ready to download in one place for you to enjoy on your commute or whenever you need a little lively discussion. For more information, please visit podcasts.roddenberry.com.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Death Mountain

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Death Mountain

May 7, 2021

This week, I have The Legend of Zelda on my mind.

We joined the Nintendo Switch crowd last Christmas and I finally got the chance to dive into the experience of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. That game has simply blown me away. Embracing an open-world approach to gameplay, Breath of the Wild tells a grand story that is completely up to the player to structure as they see fit.

After the tutorial phase is completed, the player could easily take Link into the heart of evil and confront Ganon. Such an approach would be foolhardy of course, but the point is that conquering the dungeons is not a requirement this time around. On the other hand, the depth of the story, from the main quests to the various side quests and treasure hunts, is spectacular. There are a ton of stories across the Kingdom of Hyrule, and that’s what has kept me from finishing the game after nearly half a year of playing it.

I mean, yes, I feel bad leaving Princess Zelda in the lurch against the awesome power of Ganon while I gather crickets, buy a house, and broaden my wardrobe of armors, but the rich tableau is just that addictive.

One of the aspects I love is the music. Manaka Kataoka, Yasuaki Iwata, and Hajime Wakai have composed a beautiful score that couples new themes with re-orchestrated tributes to the now 35-year-old history of the franchise. If you’re familiar with Zelda‘s musical history, there’s no finer example than the two Hyrule Castle themes in Breath of the Wild.

Among those tributes, however, was a theme that took me back to my childhood with a just a tiny bit of the nerves.

Welcome back to Death Mountain, it said.

The original Legend of Zelda was a (pun intended) game-changer in 1986 because it offered the possibility of preserving your progress with dedicated save files. Being able to pick up an adventure right where you left off is a standard now, but it was quite the novelty then. Over quite a long period, I fought my way across Hyrule and gathered the eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, but then sat the game down for a while.

During that time, my brother Nick was living in Washington and we wrote each other on a semi-regular basis. I sent him a letter that talked about school and life and my plans to storm Death Mountain. He had told me before about how difficult the dungeon was, but when he wrote back, he included a hand-drawn map of the level.

The map is lost to time now, but it still remains one of my treasured memories. It was photocopied from the original with custom artwork in the corner of Link rushing to the rescue. The maze of rooms and passages was coded by number and provided an easy to follow guide to the endgame. He even provided a suggested path that included the big treasures and simplest road to victory.

The battle itself, of course, was completely up to me.

I remember that it was a Sunday morning when I decided to tackle the level. All through the game, the music had been the same mix of the Overworld and the Dungeon themes, so I really had no idea what to expect in the final dungeon. The first step into the labyrinth brought the dark beats of the Death Mountain theme and I had to take a few minutes before leaving the opening room just to let it sink in.

The theme faded into the atmosphere as I ground my way through the level. I picked up the Red Ring to boost my defenses. I found the Silver Arrow, which is the only weapon that can kill Ganon. I meticulously tracked my progress and ended up at the room before the big battle.

This is where I lost it.

The Legend of Zelda was the first Nintendo game I had ever finished. When I reached that penultimate room, I knew that I was close to that milestone and my nerves hit me hard. Without even pausing the game, I sat the controller down and closed my eyes. While I centered myself, the music kept playing. After a few minutes, I picked up the controller again and walked into Ganon’s chamber.

The room was pitch black. Link held up the Triforce. Ganon snarled in the light. The fight was a blur but I distinctly remember firing the Silver Arrow and turning Ganon into dust, revealing the Triforce of Power.

I knew I had done it. I had beat the game. I entered the last chamber, met Princess Zelda, and watched the credits roll in a state of euphoria. It was amazing.

Looping back to Breath of the Wild, part of the story takes Link to Death Mountain. The game’s tribute to that theme caught me off guard. As I was climbing around the rocks those familiar notes took me right back to that feeling of nervous euphoria. I stopped for a moment and listened, remembering the story I recounted today, before smiling and climbing onward.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild could rest as a wonderful capstone to the franchise but we already know that it’s not the end of the line. It could easily be the basis for the oft-requested Zelda live-action or animated adaptation. So much of that is the story and the setting and the music and the artistry, but a big slice of it is personal. It’s my adoration of the mythology and the adventure.

It is the memories of working hard on something and reaching the payoff. It is the connection I share with my brother in a simple map to help me along the way.

It’s probably why The Legend of Zelda is my favorite video game franchise of all time.

I guess, in a way, I owe it to Death Mountain.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

The 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

The 2020 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar

Promotional image via The LEGO Group

One of the holiday season traditions in my household is the LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar. These annual boxes contain twenty-four unique small builds, many of which are abstract, along with exclusive mini-figures and whimsical winter-themed spins on Star Wars staples. We’ve seen a winter Chewbacca, a rebel pilot snowman, a Santa Porg, a “gonk” power droid decorated like a present, and the AT-AT and R2-D2 pair with reindeer antlers.

It’s whimsical and it’s fun. It makes us laugh.

This year’s box was tied to the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, which was so much fun to watch (but was definitely not canon). This year’s box also included The Rise of Skywalker in the mix of Star Wars favorites. A couple of my favorite builds this year were Vader’s Castle (for the ingenuity) and D-O (for the cute factor).

As you can see, the day-to-day images are posted on my Instagram account. Feel free to follow me there for whimsical observations, tons of pictures of my dogs, and this annual tradition. I compiled last year’s photos into a single blog post.

I hope this holiday season finds you and yours well. Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you next year.

Debrief: Pop Pop Con Con

Pop Pop Con Con
October 16 through October 18, 2020

Pop_Pop_Con_Con

Last weekend was Pop Pop Con Con, a free virtual convention hosted by Shaun and Laura Rosado of PopCycled Baubles.

Three days of geeky discussions helped to fill the gap of conventions cancelled by the global pandemic, and it was a really fun event overall.

All of the weekend’s panels can be found on the PopCycled Baubles YouTube channel, and the videos from the panels I participated in can be found below.

I want to thank the Rosados and all of the panelists for a great weekend, and for experimenting with the path forward for events like this in the future. The entirety of the convention was hosted and run on Streamyard, including the transitions between discussion panels, video bumpers, and scrolling chyron banners. It was very well crafted.

I keep saying that this is the way new and smaller conventions should be run. There’s no need for renting physical space with this, and it would certainly help to build an audience and get the convention on its feet in the first few years.


The New Normal – VOD

1984

Far Beyond the Stars

D&D Tips and Tricks (Player Edition)

NuTrek

Sci Fi Westerns

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Pop Pop Con Con

Pop Pop Con Con
October 16 through October 18, 2020

Pop_Pop_Con_Con

I’ll be contributing to another genre convention this year.

With the global pandemic, so many fan conventions have been cancelled. The fun of great conversation and hanging out with friends is something that I miss. In an effort to help fill that gap, Pop Pop Con Con will be happening over the weekend of October 16-18, 2020.

Pop Pop Con Con is absolutely free, and will assemble fans of anime, movies, comics, TTRPGs, and more. We’re going to be discussing a ton of fun topics with a laid back atmosphere.

The event is being hosted by Shaun and Laura Rosado, longtime fans and owners of PopCycled Baubles. Along with putting on this show, they’re also celebrating the re-opening of their online store.

The event will be hosted online on the PopCycled Baubles Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Twitch channel.

The schedule of events can be found on the PopCycled Baubles website, and the specific panels that I am sitting are listed below.

Friday, October 16th

PPCC-1-VOD9:30pm – New Normal VOD
Premium Movie Rentals: COVID-19 has changed how we do a lot of things, even going to the movies. Will Premium VOD become the new normal? What does the movie industry look like after COVID?
Panelists include Nathan Laws, Gary Mitchel, and Jenna Busch

PPCC-2-198411:00pm – 1984
It’s been argued that 1984 was one of the single best years in the history of movies. Is it true? Why? Let’s find out.
Panelists include Kristen Nedopak, Eric Ratcliffe, Gary Mitchel, and Calvin Watts

Saturday, October 17th

PPCC-3-DS93:00pm – Far Beyond the Stars
Deep Space Nine was a groundbreaking moment in Star Trek and in TV history. We’re going to talk about the best Star Trek series you’ve never seen and how it changed the world.
Panelists include Sue Kisenwether, Nathan Laws, Kimi Hughes, Michael Williams, and Will Nguyen

PPCC-4-DnDPE8:00pm – D&D Tips and Tricks (Player Edition)
Being a player can be tricky and sometimes it can feel overwhelming. We’re going to talk about the best tips and tricks to ensure you get the most out of your TTRPG experience (can be used for any Tabletop RPG).
Panelists include Dodger, Jeff Mueller, Nathan Laws, and Michael Williams

Sunday, October 18th

PPCC-6-NuTrek6:00pm – NuTrek
Trek has entered a new golden age of content. With Picard, Discovery, The Lower Decks and new movies on the horizon, the world of The Federation has grown by leaps and bounds. What hit? What missed? What’s next? Let’s talk.
Panelists include Sue Kisenwether, Callie Wright, Nathan Laws,  Michael Williams, and Calvin Watts

PPCC-5-Western7:30pm – Sci Fi Westerns
In the last 20 years, the Sci-Fi Western has become a regular staple and the cornerstone of a genre that tends to produce excellence. From The Mandalorian, Firefly, Westworld and Wynonna Earp, we’re going to talk about the Sci-Fi Western.
Panelists include Corrine Vitek, Bethany Kesler, Donald Maher and Brandy Roatsey

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