Random Reflections

This category contains 18 posts

Migrant Laborers as Tourists

A few days ago I was walking out of the subway station, when I became aware of a giant, dark blue bag in my field of vision. The bag was on the back of a person a few steps higher up the stairs, so it was directly in front of my face. For a few … Continue reading

The Split Presence of the Tourist: Battambang, Cambodia

While enjoying breakfast in a local restaurant on the street in Battambang, Cambodia, I captured a wonderful moment that highlights some of the contradictions of tourism. Two tourists, sitting in the comfortable posture of the lounge chair attached to the front of a sightseeing tricycle, passed by. Each wore dark sunglasses and large white headphones. They … Continue reading

Air France: Real Simple

In the summer of 2012 I wrote a short post about a breakfast that I was served on a United Airlines flight back from China—how the meal’s plastic beauty fascinated me and how intrigued I was about the mix of exotic processed proteins that had been used to create it. For me, the inflight fakery … Continue reading

Shen Yun Performing Arts as Falun Gong’s “Wild East Show”

This past week I went to my mailbox in the social sciences divisional office and was surprised to find every faculty mailbox had been stuffed to overflowing with a 2014 calendar of the Shen Yun dance troupe. It would be treating the “calendars” with too much respect to call them junk mail—much more respect than … Continue reading

The Facebook Database Must Be Fed

Most people around at the dawn of the public Internet might remember the brief period when important webpage addresses circulated by word of mouth, in emails among friends, and were even published in books. Back in 1994, for example, I remember buying a telephone book-sized tome hundreds of pages thick, packed with URLs broken down by type. I’d look in the … Continue reading

The Playtime of Surveillance

“Types of machines are easily matched with each type of society—not that machines are determining, but because they express those social forms capable of generating them and using them.” —Gilles Deleuze “All play means something.” — Johan Huizinga When I was growing up, a boy in the upper midwestern United States in the final decades of … Continue reading

God(zilla) Will Destroy L.A.

Just a few days after the New Year, while in Los Angeles, we visited Hollywood Boulevard. While I don’t imagine the beautiful people do a lot of hanging around in that particular neighborhood, it is sacred ground for the global mythology of Hollywood. Visiting the “walk of fame” is, after all, what tourists are expected to do … Continue reading

How the Auggies Schooled Minnesota Higher Education on the Marriage Amendment

Higher education in Minnesota has been schooled by the Auggies. Last Wednesday, Augsburg College publicly took a stand stating its opposition to the amendment to the Minnesota constitution that would only recognize marriage as “between one man and one woman.” Their university president, Paul Pribbenow, took the book on “best practices of ‘playing it safe’ in university … Continue reading

“Take Up Arms and Get Rid of the Guy”: Tom Head and the Conspiracy of Opinions

I’m not even sure what to do with this video clip. The first time I watched it I was just stunned. When it ended, I promptly watched it again three or four times. There was no Onion watermark in the corner. It didn’t appear to be a hoax. It appears to be real and valuable … Continue reading

The Mona Lisa: Art in the Age of Digital Consumption

The Mona Lisa is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable images in the world. Perhaps second only to the Eiffel Tower, it is an icon of the tourist experience of Paris. So, when we arrived at the Louvre with thousands of other tourists, of course, the first thing we did was go to see it. I … Continue reading


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