Miguel Rivera

BU English MA Graduate. Tufts English PhD Student. Philosophy Hobbyist.

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Society’s Ordered World & The Ontology of Genomics

On the January 27th, 2015 episode of The Nightly Show, Larry Wilmore offered some thought provoking questions to his panelists in the “Keep It 100” segment. Though the topic was vaccines, perhaps the least intellectually stimulating topic to discuss considering the preponderance of evidence in favor of vaccinating children, Wilmore’s line of questioning offered insight into how individuals order their world into a comprehensible whole. Wilmore asks his anti-vaccine panelist, Zoey O'Toole, “if a vaccine for autism came out now, would you recommend it?” Despite the absurdity (and perhaps betraying a fundamental misunderstanding of what autism actually is) of the question, O'Toole responds without a second thought “no, I wouldn’t trust it, no.” Watching this, my head moved so quickly into my hands that I assumed they were now inseparable.

Still, her answer provided significant insights...

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The Nightly Show Episode 2: Larry Wilmore and Rape Culture

The second episode of The Nightly Show is hard to watch, and for that precise reason is a resounding success. Wilmore tackles the hot-button issue of Bill Cosby’s serial rapes with candor and clarity and without potentially alienating academic jargon. Though it is worth noting the phrase “rape culture” is not uttered a single time in the episode, the discussion is no less rich for its omission. Wilmore establishes the terms of the debate immediately, “that fucker did it,” never for a moment allowing for doubt. A prudent move on Wilmore’s part, as potential rape apologist Keith Robinson does his best in the panel discussion to derail the conversation and defend Cosby. While I would like to heap praises on the episode, it is not without its serious missteps. Those missteps deserve attention first — if only because they’re at the beginning of the episode and don’t effectively set the tone...

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The Greatest Albums, EPs, and songs of 2014

So, here we are. A lot of music came out this year. Enough that many of my friends and contemporaries have had trouble whittling down their list to 20 or even 10 records. That’s a great problem to have, but my feeling couldn’t be more different. Although I did enjoy a significant chunk of this year’s releases, this particularly list seemed to fall right into place after powering through my backlog of records. My expectation was that the top 8 records, which have each had their spot secure since their release, might be threatened by some of the releases I neglected over the year. I couldn’t have been more wrong, though 2 of the approximately 60 records I listened to in November and December stood out and filled out the list nicely. As with the top 8 records, the songs and singles on this list have all been on heavy rotation since release.

Initially I had some misgivings about how...

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2014 Best Ofs: Here They Come

It’s that time of year again. The time of year I look back on what I did, and all I see is a vivid question mark. I like to take an inventory of what I do, what I see, what I experience in a given year. In that inventory, I have to keep special note of those things which are not just ‘new to me’ but new to the world. After all, writing about my deep dive into Guilty Connector’s catalog, or my first encounter with Maximum Joy, or my 90 days of consecutive Brave Frontier logins, doesn’t really have the same sheen as the kinship that emerges from being current on music, movies, and other such things. The vague awareness of the yearly release catalog of video games or clothing, saying “oh… I saw that” as someone else’s list brings it more keenly into focus.

Needless to say, I find these lists quite fun.

This year, I have taken to journaling. In fact, as a result of this, I have a fairly...

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On Regulating a Movement or; “You’re so vain, I’ll bet you think this song is about you”

Carly Simon isn’t happy. She isn’t happy because of Gamergate, and neither am I. Thought the conflict between the various parties involved is unequivocally an ideological one, the argument has been derailed and perverted into a fallacious race to the bottom about “practice.” Supporters of Gamergate cite the moral lapses (however few they may be relative to the number of supporters) of supporters of gender equality in video games as somehow contributing to the righteousness of their cause. This is, of course, silly — the ideology of Gamergate is the scrambling for an excuse to perpetuate gender oppression based on the false flag of journalistic ethics. The facts that are lost on supporters of Gamergate are as follows:

1) a movement’s ideological core has no inherent logical relationship with what is done in the name of that ideology. For instance, bombing a school and killing a large...

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Selfie, Mary Gaitskill’s “The Other Place,” and Misogynist Serial Killers

Yesterday I had the misfortune of watching the pilot episode for ABC’s new comedy Selfie. In no uncertain terms, Selfie is one of the most obnoxious and abhorrent television shows ever conceived. It surprises me that a show with such a contemptible cast of characters made it through focus testing — and likely the reason is the excellent actors Karen Gillan and John Cho doing their best with material that is equal parts annoying and offensive — but rest assured its cancellation is a forgone conclusion. The show suffers for its frustrating main character, Eliza Dooley, who uttered the words “epic fail” and “feels” for (hopefully) the first (and last) time on network television. Her language is peppered with internet idioms and other intolerable garbage. Though a lack of adherence of realism is a poor reason to dislike a show, the verisimilitude of the show is severely compromised with the...

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“If he’s a mathematician, what are you?”: Anxiety of Individuality and Authorship in Leonard Michaels’ “The Penultimate Conjecture”

For the ambitious but low achieving, there’s an immediate sense of self-recognition in Leonard Michaels’ Nachman character who recurs in a cycle of short stories the author penned toward the end of his life. As Nachman recounts packing for his brief intrastate flight — putting extra underwear, socks, and aspirin into his bag — he muses about the unpredictability of travel. Even for an overnight trip, one never knows what could happen. It is this same pathological anxiety that drives Nachman into relative obscurity despite his reputation for brilliance. Nachman is unable or unwilling to risk the potential embarrassment offering a proof for the (fictional) math problem, the titular penultimate conjecture, as a consequence of this anxiety. And yet, Nachman can’t divorce himself from his desire to solve the problem as he boards a plane to witness the wunderkind Björn Lindquist try his hand...

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The Young Adult Novel “Culture War”

When Christopher Beha wrote about the “culture war” in regards to the reading of young adult novels and its intersection with Henry James, I was a little confused. Perhaps it appeared to me that this issue had been adjudicated from my vantage point within the proverbial Ivory Tower. Certainly, classes at reputable universities on Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have been familiar academic fare for a while with no sign of the interest in these sorts of course diminishing. I read The Fault in Our Stars as a relaxing break from my master’s coursework at Boston University. It wouldn’t be accurate to say Green’s novel was more or less enjoyable than the readings for my Transnational Modernism class — although if you pressed me I would say in no uncertain terms it is far less enjoyable a novel than Masters of the Dew but far more enjoyable than Du Bois’s Dark Princess. Rather, the...

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“We’re happy, aren’t we?”: Self-Deception in Literature and Life in John Cheever’s “The Enormous Radio”

To what extent is self-deception justified? Is it a necessary evil in one’s daily life, to function and proceed through it, however hopeless it may be? Is said mechanism restricted to a certain social class? These are some of the driving questions behind John Cheever’s “The Enormous Radio,” (1947). In the story, Jim and Irene Westcott come into possession of a luxurious radio which plays, not the “serious music” from which they derive enjoyment, but the conflict, discord, and intimate moments of other tenants in their apartment building. Initially, Jim and Irene share in the joy of voyeurism as they spy and laugh on their neighbors. That fun, however, quickly turns to terror as Irene is exposed to arguments over impending financial ruin, plans to exploit friends, and even domestic abuse. Jim instructs Irene to cease her listening, but she is unwilling or unable to do so and brings to the...

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Peter Lamarque on Literature and Truth: Indulging Philosophy’s Worst Tendencies

Harold Bloom, one of the greatest Shakespeare scholars of all time, once remarked “I know that Shakespeare created us, to an altogether startling degree.” In his comment, Bloom captures the essence of the view that life imitates art rather than vice versa. This underrepresented viewpoint has been articulated by Oscar Wilde and Percy Shelley, among others, but seems to lack the traction of the more “common sense” view that art is a reflection of life. Wilde notably uses the fog of London as an example, arguing that it is the painter’s depiction of this natural wonder that brings it into our comprehension. That is to say, to recognize the beauty of the fog (which has literally existed prior to the painting) we require art as a guide. Wilde makes the distinction between “looking” and “seeing” which follows the pattern of the well understood distinction between “hearing” and “listening.”...

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