Danny Duncan Collum, a Sojourners contributing writer, teaches writing at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, Kentucky. He is the author of the novel White Boy.
Posts By This Author
What Would Elvis Do?
When I began writing this column, way back in the second Reagan term, I held a certain spirit of optimism about the possibilities of American popular culture
The Spock Revolution
When he died, Dr. Benjamin Spock had been a household name for more than 50 years. His book Baby and Child Care, first published in 1946, coincided with the first swell of the baby boom. It kept selling long after the boom was gone. As of last year, the book had sold more than 40 million copies and was available in 39 languages.
That makes Benjamin Spock a major pop culture figure. Even in his dotage, he could always command a page in Parade magazine and get his pet causes onto the evening news. In his afterlife he will probably become a figure of urban folklore. In the next century, people will associate the name "Spock" with child-rearing without quite knowing why.
And the book will stay in print. It will stay around because it works.
At our house we’re already on our second copy. The pocket-sized paperback edition fell apart by the time our first child was 3. The pages on fever and nausea were the first to go. Now we have a sturdier trade paper version. It is underlined, dog-eared, and stuffed between the pages with notes and handouts from our own doctor, old recipes for baby food, and articles torn from magazines about parenting.
Dr. Spock was the one who told us that sudden, inexplicable fever in our 8-month-old baby, followed by an equally inexplicable rash, was just a fairly common infant ailment called roseola and nothing to worry about. Our pediatrician was quite impressed when my wife presented the baby to her and said, "It’s roseola, isn’t it?" Dr. Spock also told us, yes, you really do need to take that baby to the doctor with that 104 degree temperature, even if it is the weekend, because sometimes it doesn’t just go away.
The Impact of Absence
Thirty-five years ago, on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was assassinated in front of his home on the west side of Jackson, Mississippi.
An Epic Called Amistad
Oscar time is a'coming, and with it another chance to consider the relationship between Steven Spielberg's world and our own.
Pledging Allegiance to "Heritage"
Conversations about rock-and-roll music inevitably come up in my life. If the guitars and amp stored in my office don’t start it, the row of recent CDs on our living room bookshelf does.
The Revenge of the Local
The defining cultural struggle of the early 21st century will be between the local and the global. This is already familiar ground in this column.
The Death of Cool
The settlement between the tobacco companies and the 40 state attorneys general has been widely noted as a landmark in public health and consumer safety. And it is.
We Have Met the Enemy . . .
A Tourist Trap with a Difference
During Easter weekend this year, I finally visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy . . .
Beginning of the Middle of the Muddle
Not many meaningful public rituals in America remain.
The Digital Clock Will Not Turn Back
''Of the making of books, there is no end" goes a moth-eaten quotation. But maybe there is after all. At least that's the war cry of the latter-day Luddites.
A Pioneer of Pop
Live from Mt. Olympus...
The Atlanta Summer Olympics descended upon media-mad America like a vast mind-numbing, soul-sapping fog. The Olympic telecast, in any season, is like the Deep South heat so much discussed at the Atlanta games: It is there, and it won't go away. Mere mortals are powerless over it.
The other Leap Year staples—the Democratic and Republican political conventions—were once like this, too. The coverage was gavel-to-gavel and wall-to-wall for at least four days per party on all three networks; even political junkies got sick of it. Now the conventions get, maybe, an hour of prime-time per night. This is all part of an inexorable process that will lead to the banning of all not-for-profit activities by the year 2020.
The word from the sales department is that politics doesn't pay, at least not over the counter, in public. So the conventions are off the screen. There is no commercial payoff to Jefferson's ideal of an informed and enlightened electorate. Like all other values without price, that ideal is out the window in the Free Market Era.
The Olympic Games used to carry an aura of unsightly non-profit, touchy-feely ideals. The Games were inherited from the ancient Greeks. Every four years their best athletes climbed to the home of the gods, Mt. Olympus, to offer the finest of human performance.
The Games were revived at the turn of this old century with a lot of mush about international brotherhood and something called "amateurism." That was supposed to mean running the race or playing the game for the pure love of it. Excellence for its own sake and perfecting a skill simply for the joy of a job well done were suitable goals.
Not for the Faint of Heart
On Edge With the Unabomber
For weeks this spring I was obsessed with the (alleged) Unabomber.
Why, Pat, Why
If Pat Buchanan had not roared, grinning and sweaty, through the American political scene this year, someone would have invented him
If the Truth Were Told
Richard Nixon got his 15 minutes of media redemption last year...from the grave.
ER's Missing Ingredient
I confess to being a year behind the curve on this whole ER thing. I know it's supposed to be the bright hope of network drama-dom.
When the mode of the music changes, the walls of the city quake.