Douglas Emlen’s article “The Astonishing Weaponry of a Dung Beetle” is an interesting take on the modern-day arms race that constantly floods and consumes news reports all around the world. Emlen takes an interesting approach to tackle the issue of our contemporary arms race by using a bug, the Dung Beetle as an analogy. It must be recognized the Dung Beetle is not just any bug, but it is a bug that literally feeds on dung. The Oxford English Dictionary defines dung as “the excrement or feces of an animal.” Emlen’s use of the Dung Beetle as an analogy to describe the shitty-ness of the contemporary and historical arms races, one in which we seek to create weapons capable of annihilating each other in a matter of seconds is spot on.
When Emlen recounts his tales of 50,000 Dung Beetles converging upon a pile of dung to feed on and inevitably crawling on him and his peers in Tanzania he describes the battle amongst the Dung Beetles as “an epic struggle of wills.” This epic struggle of wills is later explained as the various ways in which Dung Beetles will fight each other to see who can be victorious and take home food or a female Dung Beetle to mate with. That’s right not only do Dung Beetles fight with each other over food, but they also fight because potential female mates will follow the breadwinners home.
By explaining the scientific names for various types of Dung Beetles and the processes by which they mate and feed readers are tempted to shut off their computer or flip to the next page of the magazine in search of something better to read. Emlen knew this would happen when writing a piece of literature comparing Dung Beetles to the modern day arms race. He cleverly brings an audience who came to read about politics and the arms race back into reality and away from the Dung Beetle analogy by referencing real-world instances of the arms race taking a toll on modern-day American society. From the battleships of the Mediterranean, the Cold War and eventually to recent hacking of the American fighter jet blueprints by the Chinese in 2007. Emlen believes that the arms race issues that humans face are not too different from the arms race that Dung Beetles face when growing out their horns so they can fight each other for food and women. The lesson that Emlen wishes to impose upon his politically savvy readers is brought out by his strange and effective analogy of the Dung Beetles fight to survive.
The story of an evil stepmother is heard time and time again throughout various points in our childhood, and that is precisely what Leslie Jamison wants to remind us of when she begins to recount her tale of being a stepmother in the Times Magazine. “In the Shadow of a Fairy Tale” recounts Jamison’s struggles and successes of being a stepmother to a young girl whose mother succumbed to cancer before she turned three.
Jamison begins her story with quite the odd tales of her stepdaughter’s play habits. Lily, Jamison’s stepdaughter, likes to play orphan even though she has a father and a stepmother if she were an orphan she wouldn’t have any parents. Jamison then tells readers about Lily’s other odd behaviors such as adoring Cinderella’s evil stepmother for her looks but follows it up with how pretty she thinks Jamison is. These tales lead us to the premature conclusion that Lily hates Jamison as a stepmother and find her to be a nasty old lady who has been thrust upon her. Just by reading about Lily’s make-believe play habits we have to assume that there is a vicious tension between stepmother and stepdaughter that would typically be seen in a Disney story hence the title of the article. Instead, we come to learn about the struggles that Jamison faced when becoming a stepmother and just how genuinely she wanted Lily to love her as if Jamison was her birth mother. If Jamison were indeed an even stepmother she never would have hunted for Frozen themed gifts, especially not from the Times Square Disney store which is a place no New Yorker would want to be caught dead at even on the best of days.
Throughout her piece, Jamison hits many of the small moments in the mother-daughter relationship between her and Lily and brings readers into a personal space that they might not have expected to find in the Times Magazine on a Sunday morning. Jamison also recounts how the notion of a stepmother has changed over time by analyzing and interviewing Leslie Lindenauer a historian who wrote: “I Could Not Call Her Mother: The Stepmother in American Popular Culture, 1750-1960.” In Lindenauer’s book, the stepmother started out as evil as the witches that were hung and drowned during the time of the Salem witch trials. As time went on in American history, Lindenauer explains how having a stepmother was better than having no mother at all and that a stepmother could bring some sort of peace and sense of normalcy into a home that might have been previously broken. Although some stepmothers may come into the picture and try to “fix” whatever may have been broken not once does Jamison see herself as doing that. Instead throughout the entirety of her article Jamison is merely trying to win the love and affection of a child who would have given it to her with much less thought and struggle on the part of Jamison.
The entire piece comes full circle when Jamison examines the only good stepmothers she had ever encountered in her quest to learn more about fairy tale stepmothers. These two stepmothers hailed from Iceland and had both put their stepchildren ahead of themselves. The fact that the fairytale stepmothers, even if it is fairy tale put their non-biological children ahead of themselves and went through the thick of it with children who weren’t theirs. This lesson is something Jamison aspires to and is something that she hopes readers can learn from and will bring her and Lily as close together as a mother and daughter could be.
Take a look at Jamison’s piece here, it’s a great read for a Sunday Morning!
Homepage Of Amdoc.org
A visitor’s first look at the American Documentary website, amdoc.org shows it to be a clean and well laid out site that instantly provides visitors with a clear understanding of the website’s purpose and usefulness. American Documentary’s website is meant to serve as a platform for documentaries to be compiled and viewed on. Upon further scrolling, the “about us” tab explains how American Documentary referred to as AmDoc is a national nonprofit organization that makes documentaries about social discourse easily accessible to the public. Within the AmDoc spheres there are four subsidies;
- POV (point-of-view) which screens independent nonfiction films
- America ReFramed which is a series that analyzes the contemporary society in America
- AmDoc Interactive which exclusively screens documentaries online and POV Engage which is the branch of AmDoc that seeks to actively engage and converse with local communities on topics that have been featured in their documentaries
- POV Engage also works with educators and community leaders to better disperse their films.
The homepage of AmDoc’s websites gives off an artsy, yet modern aesthetic that allows visitors to quickly navigate to one of the eight different pages on the site. By having eight different page options laid out on the home page and not forcing visitors to scroll down to find the information they want, AmDoc is catering to the immediate needs of visitors and not trying to convince the visitor of the value of the site. When visiting the “watch” tab which is the first ab on the homepage visitors are met with a variety of documentaries that they could watch, all of which are about various topics. By highlighting featured films on the “watch” page, AmDoc is directing viewers to some of the most popular, new or interesting films which is beneficial to AmDoc and the viewer because AmDoc can steer visitors towards some of the recent and best works. AmDoc’s usage of featured films on the “watch” page also gives various directors and producers publicity. Each featured film also has a thumbnail image that is quite powerful and seeks to evoke emotions from visitors. Aside from the featured films, visitors are easily able to navigate the “watch” page and sort by; series, topics or types.
“…they are not only legitimizing themselves but also enabling the everyday man to CREATE good.”
Another interesting section on the AmDoc website that further strengthens their message is that they have a “create” page. When visitors go to the “create” page, they are met given different options as to how their films could become a reality. If the entire purpose of AmDoc is to further social discourse by utilizing film, then they are not only legitimizing themselves but also enabling the everyday man to create good. While this is just an initial exploration of the AmDoc website and not an in-depth analysis I do believe that AmDoc’s website has some very interesting and important content on it and they are able to accurately and confidently cover sensitive social subjects that affect our daily lives.