Some Thoughts On Life, Hate, and Action in the Post-Normal

I began writing this post several days ago. Since then several people have written and spoken about similar issues, some with more international experience, others with more journalism experience, others through Twitter threads, and others with more emotion. There have also been many “letters to my child” articles. And now John Oliver has weighed in, as well. This post is a combination of sorts with some additional storytelling and indignation. Thanks for reading.

* * *

She says, in this house it’s so easy
To set a world on fire, all you need is a name, the money
And a soul full of reckless desire
Now upstairs the landlord is dining with all of his very close friends
Don’t worry they’ll have their bags packed and be long gone
Before the real fucking begins
—Bruce Springsteen, “Hey Blue Eyes”

Around 1:30 on Wednesday morning, when it became clear what the outcome of the election would be, I said to my wife, “This is it. It’s over. There was yesterday. There was today. But there is no tomorrow. Not in the way we imagined it. Everything we believe in will be taken away overnight. Voting rights. Marriage rights. Medical rights. Social programs. Education funding. Environmental funding. Abortion rights. It’s all gone. We’ll be in a recession before we wake up. Russia will invade the Ukraine and we’ll be at war by summer.”

I had just come from my boys’ rooms where I knelt next to each as he slept, kissed each on his forehead, and apologized for what was about to become. I apologized because they had no idea about the significance of the events. That the world they were growing up in would not be as progressive, open, tolerant, and caring as the one we had imagined. I apologized because I lied when I told them that Hillary Clinton would be the next president (oh, I had taken great pride in knowing that the only presidents they would know in their lifetimes thus far would be a black man and woman). I apologized because I knew hatred would move from hidden to overt and would start that very day. When I left my younger son’s room I burst into tears in the hallway because one day they will understand. One day they will ask us how this happened, how America’s presidency went from moving toward greater equality for all citizens to one run by a con man, a misogynist, a bald-faced liar who makes fun of people with disabilities and surrounds himself with racists, anti-Semites, and bigots. How people chose to overlook hate in so many forms. Sea water caused Otitis can be easily get treat with sonus complete.

I slept maybe an hour that night. The next day I was supposed to go to Chicago for a conference, but cancelled those plans. It was important to be with family instead. The day went by in a fog. On the way to dropping my boys off at school we decided we’d write a letter to Hillary Clinton “because she must be so sad.” I folded laundry and watched Hillary’s concession speech and Obama’s speech on transitions of power—and I screamed at the TV because their calls to move on contribute to normalizing Trump’s hate. I went to the supermarket and walked down the aisles of fruit and cereal and milk wondering how these products were still here, in this place where nothing was the same; I wondered how long they would still appear on the shelves; I looked at the other shoppers, tried to gauge their level of fogginess, wondered if they thought I was a threat, tried to judge if they were. I picked my boys up early from school so we could make caramel apples. I made a healthy dinner for my family, since I been trying to be more healthy and started training and use supplements as resurge supplement to help with this. That’s what needed to happen. I needed to make sure they had a healthy meal with such sadness in the house. I was in an alternate reality, trying to assuage the fact that we were post-normal with tufu and veggies and green pasta. I was Gregor Samsa waking up like a bug; Josef K. confronted with a menacing government; Neo seeing the Matrix for the first time; third-grade Philip in The Plot Against America who had been living his typical life in a suburb of Bayonne, NJ, when in June 1940 “the Republicans nominated Lindbergh and everything changed.”

That night I drank some Robitussin and slept most of Thursday. In the few hours I was awake, I started singing the closing verse of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” over and again:

Now Tom said, “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry new born baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me mom I’ll be there.
Wherever somebody’s fightin’ for a place to stand
Or a decent job or a helpin’ hand.
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free,
Look in their eyes ma you’ll see me.”

I tweeted. A lot. More than I have in years, which is something because I tweet nearly every day. Lots of RTs and favs. I needed an outlet for my anger and a way to work through what I was feeling. Read others who were feeling the same way: Pissed off and ready to act. At some point I tweeted:

And that’s the crux of it for me: Millions of people chose to ignore (or embrace) outright hatred for one reason or another. And there is no excuse for that. Ever.

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Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music to be Published by Routledge

This post was updated on July 31, 2016.

A little over two years ago I released a CFP for Edited Collection on Bruce Springsteen for Routledge Studies in Popular Music Series. I received over 50 chapter proposals from around the world and, with the help of Susette Brooks, I submitted an initial proposal to Routledge in October 2014. After making revisions based on reviewer, I submitted an updated version of the table of contents on March 6, 2014.

I’m pleased to announce that Routledge will publish my edited collection, Bruce Springsteen and Popular Music: Essays on Rhetoric, Social Consciousness, and Contemporary Culture, as part of the Studies in Popular Music series. I submitted the complete manuscript on July 31, 2016. It should appear in hard cover some time in 2017.

Working Abstract draft
This interdisciplinary volume enters the scholarly conversation about Bruce Springsteen at the moment when he has reinforced his status of global superstar and achieved the status of social critic. Covering musical and cultural developments, chapters primarily consider work Springsteen has released since 9/11—that is, released during a period of continued global unrest, economic upheaval, and social change—under the headings War, Fear, and Memorial; Gender and Sexual Orientation; Lineage and Legacy; and Toward a Rhetoric of Springsteen. The collection engages Springsteen and popular music as his contemporary work is just beginning to be understood in terms of its impact on popular culture and music, applying new areas of inquiry to Springsteen and putting Springsteen fan writing within the same binding as scholarly writing to show how together they create a more nuanced understanding of an artist. Established and emerging Springsteen scholars approach work from disciplines representing four countries including Rhetoric and Composition, Musicology, Labor Studies, American History, Gender Studies, Literature, Communications, Sociology, Theology, and Government. Offering context, critique, and expansive understanding of Springsteen and his work, this book contributes to Springsteen scholarship and the study of popular music by showing Springsteen’s broadening academic appeal as well as his escalating legacy on new musicians and contemporary culture.

Owen Cantrell, Georgia State University, USA
Holly Casio, London, England
Peter Chianca, Boston, USA
Jonathan Cohen, University of Virginia
Sara Gulgas, University of Pittsburgh, USA
Nadine Hubbs, University of Michigan, USA
Donna Luff, Harvard Medical School, USA
Lorraine Mangioni, Antioch University, USA
Pamela Moss, University of Victoria, Canada
Karen O’Donnell, University of Exeter, England
Eric Rawson, University of Southern California, USA
Jason Schneider, DePaul University, USA
Jason Stonerook, University of Maryland, USA
Scott Wager, Miami University, USA
William I. Wolff, Saint Joseph’s University, USA

(cross-posted at the Springsteen Fans and Twitter Blog)

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[UPDATE] CFP: Edited Collection on Bruce Springsteen for Routledge Studies in Popular Music Series

I am soliciting abstracts by scholars from all disciplines, including scholar-fans and fan-scholars, to be considered for inclusion in an edited collection on Bruce Springsteen, which will eventually be submitted to Routledge’s Studies in Popular Music series. The editor of this series has expressed an interest in seeing a Springsteen collection proposal.

In the middle of Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 Wrecking Ball tour promotional interview with the Paris media, one reporter observed, “so many people these past couple years look to you for your interpretation of events… . Look at us: when we were waiting for you earlier, so many people care about what you think, and what you feel about what is happening in the world.”

For many around the globe, Springsteen has become a voice of the everyday citizen in a political and social climate where such voices are marginalized. He has received a Kennedy Center Honor and with Peter Seeger sang before millions after Barack Obama was elected President for the first time. He has actively located his work within the lineage of Woody Guthrie and Seeger, reinforcing the necessity of contemporary folk music. In his SXSW Keynote he also asserted the importance of early rock and roll on his work, exclaiming, “Listen up, youngsters: this is how successful theft is accomplished!” In other places, he has discussed the significant influence of film and short stories, often describing his records as cinematic and looking for sounds that would evoke certain images. A new community of musicians, such as Tom Morello, Mumford and Sons, the Hold Steady, and Arcade Fire, has looked to him as a guide. In his most recent albums, Springsteen remixes work in the public domain and covers lesser known artists whose work speaks in a voice similar to his own. He has become quite adept at composing songs that respond to immediate contemporary events, such as “American Skin (41 Shots)” and “How Can a Good Man Stand Such Times and Live.” As performers, Springsteen and the E Street Band are incomparable, with shows lasting over 3 hours without a break.

Despite his contemporary appeal, Springsteen also seems to be rooted in the traditional relationship between label and artist. His recent move to release live versions of his shows soon after the events, while seemingly progressive, reinforces artist- and label-centric publishing with the possibility of refocusing fans on official bootlegs rather than those they compose themselves. Yet, Springsteen doesn’t seem to mind—and rather enjoys—fans recording his concerts with their phones and uploading them to YouTube. He is genuinely appreciative of the efforts fans go through to see his shows and has fun with their sign requests. The decades-long conversation he has been having with his fans (and fans with other fans) has, like all conversations, been made more complex as a result of convergent media.

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Winter Break 2013 – 2014 To-Do List

My Summer to-do list helped me stay on track with many different projects, so I’m taking a few moments to compose my Winter Break 2013 – 2014 to-do list. Classes ended December 18 and start again on January 21, and since I’m writing this on December 22, I have just under month to try to get them all done. It’s going to be tight with only a few hours in the morning to work and if not exhausted some time after the boys are in bed. . . .


  • fun adventures with Wendy, Hydan, and Seeger
    • skiing at Stratton (no skiing due to the polar vortex, but ice skating and other fun times with family and DI)
    • visit family (visited W’s family over Christmas)
    • ice skating (ice skated in Greensburg, PA, and Manchester, VT)
    • see friends in Schenectady, NY (yep)
  • make 2014 calendar using Hydan’s artwork
  • make Seeger’s birth photo book (started January 9, finished January 22)
  • move my home office to make room for Seeger’s bedroom (started January 11, office in working order January 12 but much to move still)
  • get a dog


  • Compose article for BOSS: The Biannual Online-Journal of Springsteen Studies, due January 1, submitted on January 1 at 10:30pm
  • abstract for special issue of Kairos, due January 1 (first draft due Feb 14): drafted December 22; submitted “Baby, We Were Born to Tweet: #Springsteen, In Situ Tweeting, and the Emergence of a Distributed Composing Ecology” proposal on 12/24/13; accepted on January 8
  • Compose article for the European Fan special issue of Transformative Works and Cultures, due February 1 (started January 20)
  • begin interviews based on my Springsteen Survey
  • update Springsteen study IRB, due January 15 (submitted, January 14)
  • review #cwcon 2014 proposals, due January 3, completed December 25
  • book proposal for Routledge edited collection on Springsteen
  • finish Wrecking Ball Tour bumps chart


  • grade #wecf13 work, due January 3; completed January 2, submitted January 3
  • grade portfolio seminar portfolios, due January 3; completed January 2, submitted January 3
  • prepare courses for the spring semester (#core2s14 done January 14)
  • add inner navigation to course web sites that have since disappeared after the update
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