The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Tim Wright

Tim WrightTim Wright produces and analyses media, and maintains a website for himself and others similarly inclined of very diverse origin. His video documentary Conservation of Matter: The Fall and Rise of Boston's Elevated Subway won the New England Film/Video Festival in 1996 and the U.S. Small Format Film and Video Festival in 1997. He is currently working on documentaries about Credit Card Culture and also about Courtship in America. He teaches seminars on Film and Architecture and Visual Literacy at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture each summer, and teaches media production and media literacy workshops at community video centers throughout Eastern Massachusetts. He also works as a designated Creative Teaching Partnerwith the Massachusetts Cultural Council to design media grants for elementary and secondary schools. He holds Master's degrees from both the University of Chicago and Harvard.

The Branding of the American Gun Issue

There are legitimate doubts about whether the watered down gun related legislation recently proposed would have had a significant effect on gun violence. But surely its abject failure has at least one cause that is not much mentioned. When I hear National Public Radio, over and over again, reporting the latest on what they call the “gun control” debate, and other, explicitly “liberal” media outlets like the New York Times

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Opening the Kimono, Thoughts on the Language(s) of the Business World, Part Two

Editor’s Note: Last week’s post was part one of this essay, which described the opaque jargon of the business world. But let’s now turn away from the language of proactive solution modeling and cross-silo synergies to a much earthier language equally native to American business. It appears to me that the former style of jargon more commonly emanates from the higher reaches of a company…

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Opening the Kimono: Thoughts on the Language(s) of the Business World, Part One

Let me say at the outset that I have never worked in a large company. But I do love language, and am fortunate enough to be married to a woman who is an executive in the corporate consulting world. Through her post trip debriefings, I have become fascinated with the language of that world.

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Cut, Burn, Poison: A Bostonian Wages War in Rural Wisconsin

So I’m talking to a neighborhood guy in rural Wisconsin where my wife and I, besotted, purchased one hundred and twelve acres of lovely mixed pasture and woodland a few years ago. Our land is in a corner of Southwestern Wisconsin – called by geologists the ‘driftless’ zone – which is unique: its landscape alone in the Midwest escaped the physical scouring and flattening of the last ice age ten thousand years ago.

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My Architectural Problem, and America’s

I’m sitting in one of the better known architectural spaces in the world: the Frank Lloyd Wright drafting studio at his Taliesin estate. At many of the tables sit the students of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, which offers both B.A. and M. Arch. degrees.Whatever degree these bright and energetic student acquire, when they graduate, they will be in trouble.

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Have a Day

As one who once dropped out of an excellent small college in Vermont in the middle of sophomore year as a result of having to say “Hi” to everyone I passed on campus, I may be thought to be too dyspeptic to write on “the compulsion to be positive,” a subject suggested by Hayley Wood of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.To the contrary: I am in fact a lifelong optimist.

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I’m Sane; You’re Sane: We’re Crazy

If you keep up with the news, you could be forgiven for thinking that – pace Nietzsche – there are a lot of crazy individuals out there. To cite a few recent New England examples: Amy Bishop, a professor from Braintree, murders three other professors after they deny her tenure; in Winchester, Thomas Mortimer IV murders his wife and their two young children, then leaves a guilt-stricken confession on the scene…

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On Becoming an Orphan

You are sitting on a moving train, reading. Gradually, you become aware that the train is moving more slowly and stopping more frequently. Annoyed, you reach up to pull down the window curtain to block the view: it crumbles in your hand. You look at the seat in front of you; its fabric looks more worn than you had noticed when you got on; the headrest cover is soiled.

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Binary Thinking and Gender: Father, Daughter, iPod

So I’m talking with twenty-five year old Casey Llewellyn about music and I’m praising the digital sound quality on my iPod and she comes back at me with how analog sound reproduction is more accurate than digital, and tube amps are superior to solid state, and I come back with how about how digital sampling eliminates tape and gear noise, etc. and we go back and forth a bit more and then she says flatly: “Digital: That’s binary thinking, Tim,” as if that settles the matter.

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Seeing the World–And Living In It

“Who you gonna believe, baby, me or yo’ lyin’ eyes?” –Richard Pryor, on being caught in flagrante delicto by his wife. Here’s how I lost my innocence about looking: I was teaching Social Studies to seventh graders at a Boston public middle school in 1974. I had just given my students a quiz on one of a series of Black History comic books which had been donated to the school by the Coca Cola Company. Gail Gousby approached my desk. “Here’s my test, Mr. Wright. What should I do now?” I suggested she draw a picture of Frederick Douglass, whose life had been the subject of the quiz. Shortly thereafter, the bell rang and my students left for their next class. Going through the pile of papers on my desk, I come across Gail’s drawing, which had evidently been copied from a panel summing up Douglass’ life, an illustration of him from the waist up, with accomplishments listed underneath. She had, however, given her drawing a

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Fiction, Facts, Film

How do documentary media differ from narrative media? STOP RIGHT THERE, my wife says. You are supposed to be blogging, not writing an essay, and a stiff, academic,atherosclerotic one at that. But, I whine, The Public Humanist is not really about blogging, which needs to be a daily mind dump. Were just academic essayists trying to catcha ride on the fashion du jour. She is unrelenting. If you want anyone but academics to read it, you’d better be more real.

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Thoughts on Architectural Preservation 2

It is 1975. I nose my car slowly into the mouth of a winding driveway in the mountains above Salt Lake City. My companion and I are in search of the only Frank Lloyd Wright building in the state of Utah,a hunting lodge built in the 1930’s for a U.S. Steel executive in the town of Bountiful. Immediately, we encounter a printed “No Trespassing” sign; below it is a crude, hand-lettered addendum: "Survivors will be prosecuted." We are frightened, but being young and feckless, also thrilled.

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Thoughts on Preservation 1

I want to start with the notion of “preservation” in anon-architectural context. We say of someone – almost always a woman, because in our culture, a woman’s “looks” are still widely held to be her most important aspect – that she is “well-preserved.” No one, of course, would say this to anyone’sface because it is so deeply offensive. It’s not just that it is insulting; it is disgusting.

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The Encumbered Image

Oh Jeez, how can I possibly say anything worthwhile on this subject after Lisa Simmons’ brilliant description of the Grub Street workshop in which Famous Authors whose books had been turned into Movies read actual Passages and then showed Relevant Film Sequences? Even if Hayley had given me more notice, I’m just a documentary filmmaker who works from questions scribbled on the backs of envelopes, not from books.

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Green on Our Minds

I have no quarrel with David Tebaldi calling global warming a moral issue, and certainly share his dismay at the notion that for Christians to be concerned about it takes attention away from the real moral issues – “abortion and sexual morality.” But even as he writes, this group of reactionary Christian politicians is already being marginalized by a groundswell of support for action on global warming.

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The History of Moving Images

Lisa Simmons’ assertion that Hollywood films by and largecontinue to feature damaging stereotypes of African Americans strikes me astrue. But Ms. Simmons’ urging that independent thinkers create images which challenge these stereotypes makes me wonder about the origin and nature of moving images and just what it is that makes them so influential. The history of moving images is remarkably short compared to that of writing, painting and music making.

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