Salman Rushdie’s Early Letters Reflect Audience Awareness

Prominent author Salman Rushdie, in an interview published on Literary Hub, reveals that his childhood letters to his parents were “fictions” designed to please them, his audience.  He didn’t want his parents to know he was unhappy at boarding school. Rather than detailing his true day-to-day life, he crafted content to have a certain effect upon them–to keep his mother from being sad and to show his father that his money was well spent.  See this excerpt from the interview:




Letter Convinced Schultz to Add the First African-American Peanuts Character

FrankliinIn 1968, schoolteacher Harriet Glickman wrote to Charles Schulz about the lack of African-American characters in the popular comic strip Peanuts.  Glickman, concerned about the racial tensions in the United States, urged Schultz that an African-American comic character could influence public opinion.  See Glickman’s first letter to Schultz below:


Peanunts Letter2

Schulz and Glickman exchanged several letters, discussing Schultz’s desire not to offend people of color by seeming to trivialize racial tensions by adding an African-American character. Glickman solicited opinions from some African-American friends and relayed their ideas to Schultz.  The two stayed in touch, and Schultz notified Gluckman when the new character would appear in 1973.

Read the article, “How a Schoolteacher Helped Create the First Black Peanuts Character,” for more of the correspondence between Schultz and Gluckman.  Identify the arguments Glickman used to convince Schultz.  Why do you think she was successful?




Are Emoji the “Gargoyles” of Our Time?

Emoji2Architecture has a long tradition of using medieval grotesques (sometimes incorrectly called gargoyles) and other faces to decorate architecture.  Recently, Changiz Tehrani, a Dutch architect, decorated a mid-rise building in Amersfoort with 22 cast-concrete emojis.  An article in the Verge quoted Tehrani explaining why he used emoji:  “In classical architecture, they used heads of the king or whatever, and they put that on the façade . So we were thinking, what can we use as an ornament so when you look at this building in 10 or 20 years you can say ‘hey this is from that year!’”

What other emoji could you suggest as building decorations?  Do you think these images are a good choice to represent the contemporary culture?  If you think of them as visual rhetoric, what does the use of emoji express?


How Pepsi Got Visual Rhetoric So Wrong

Pepsi Ad

Kendall Jenner appears in Pepsi’s “tone deaf” ad that has since been pulled.

Pepsi’s ad staff may have been trying to strike a similar tone to Coke’s famous “Hilltop” 1971 ad However, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner “Live for Now” advertisement misses the mark with the visual rhetoric choices the sponsors made.

Much of the criticism has focused on the ad’s unrealistic portrayal of a protest march as a pleasant outing, as well as its featuring of a rich and beautiful white model as a hero.  Such images trivialize racially-charged issues as well as the protest process.

Edward Boches explains the difference between the Coke and Pepsi ads: ““The ‘Hilltop’ spot wasn’t attempting to dramatize a real event. It was clearly contrived [visually] and invented as a moment. The Pepsi spot is attempting to recreate a protest march and in a very unrealistic way. Two, the promise of the Coke spot was a simple sentiment and a wish. ‘We would like to teach … as in ‘like to.’ It was a wish.”


Instagram Reacts to Pepsi Advertisement

Instagram exploded with meme images such as the two below that satirize the Pepsi advertisement.  What is the point of these images?  Perhaps that complex and racially charged situations cannot be solved by a Pepsi.

Drink Pepsi, Not War

A post shared by Danika (@comicbookgirl19) on

The great Pepsi fiasco of 2017 is giving me LYFE today

A post shared by Danika (@comicbookgirl19) on

Read a Variety of Opinions, Not Just Those You Agree With

Supreme court hearingAnna Dubenko, in the New York Times, reminds us that, as critical thinkers, it is important to find well-respected voices on both the left and the right of any particular issue.  Because of  today’s fast-paced and divisive news cycle, that isn’t always easy.   So, she has provided links to recommended articles from both sides of current issues, as well as a few from the center:  Go to the article to read Dubenko’s complete rundown.

From the Right

• From National Review on the Supreme Court hearings: To smear Neil Gorsuch, the Left has created and attacked a straw man.”  [Remember that a straw man is a logical fallacy.  See the explanation in Praxis.]

• From The Weekly Standard on immigration:  “It is easier to decide who we don’t want here than who we do.”

• From The Federalist about the alt-right movement:  “You thought Bane was a movie character; turns out he’s a political avatar.”

From the Left:

• From Jacobin on the Supreme Court hearings:  “Originalist textualists are no less activist than their peers. They’re just less open about it.”

• From In These Times on the Trump administration:  “Heritage isn’t an appendage of the Trump administration’s radicalism. It’s the heart of it.”

From New Republic on Trump’s relationship with the media: “In declaring the media the ‘opposition party,’ Bannon may have actually done it a great favor.”

From the Center

From Lawfare on various judges who have offered responses to Trump’s immigration ban:  “Why are so many judges being so aggressive here?”

Some things to do/to discuss after reading the articles Dubenko suggests:

  • Why would one want to read editorials and articles written by credible writers you disagree with?
  • Pick another issue and find a conservative, a liberal, and a centrist opinion on that issue. Discuss the differences in their arguments.  Are the writers at stasis [see the section on stasis in Praxis.]



Apply the CRAAP Test to Evaluate Possible Fake News

In an era of fake news, students need a standard way to evaluate sources they find on the Internet. Many librarians recommend using the CRAAP test, which was created by Meriam Library at CSU at Chico.  CRAAP is an acronym for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy and purpose.  The following graphic is a short-cut reminder of the criteria.  A fuller explanation of the topics follows:


————————– from Buford Library,—————————-

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author’s qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high-quality it is!

45 – 50 Excellent | 40 – 44 Good | 35 – 39 Average | 30 – 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 – Unacceptable



Doomsday Clock Ticks Closer to Midnight


On Jan. 26, representatives of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in a compelling gesture of visual rhetorical,  moved their symbolic Doomsday Clock forward 30 seconds, making the reading two and a half minutes until midnight.  The clock’s time setting is a rhetorical visualization of dangers to humanity that could cause extinction.  The current clock setting is the closest to midnight since 1953, when the Soviet Union and the U.S. tested hydrogen bombs.

Bulletin’s Science and Security Board explained their recent action:

“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change … This already-threatening world situation was the backdrop for a rise in strident nationalism worldwide in 2016, including in a U.S. presidential campaign during which the eventual victor, Donald Trump, made disturbing comments about the use and proliferation of nuclear weapons and expressed disbelief in the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.”

The impact of the clock image, ticking toward doomsday, grabs the imagination in ways simply a textual warning might not.  The Doomsday Clock, said physicist Lawrence Krauss at the Washington Press Club event offers “a rare opportunity to reach the global public directly.”

Activities: 1)  Discuss the visual impact of the Doomsday Clock set at two and a half minutes to midnight.  How does it make you feel about humanity’s danger of extinction?  2) Research the history of the Doomsday Clock and the recent action of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.  Do you think the scientists were wise in  choosing the Doomsday Clock as an attention-getting device?  How so?