What happens when you mix a massive oil spill with a hurricane? When Obama finally decides to negotiate with the Taliban, what will he ask for? And how did Jane Austen become such a big celebrity? Answers to these and other vexing questions after the jump.

On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.

The links below open in a new window. Newer ones are on top.

Arthur Danto Sits With Marina Abramovic Performance art, as currently practiced, emerged as an avant garde movement in the 1960s and ’70s, and some of its features made it difficult to visualize how it might make the transition from galleries and public spaces to the more institutional environment of the museum.

Jane Austen as Global Brand In the two centuries since Henry Austen made that assessment, curiosity about his sister’s life, along with enthusiasm for her work, have reached a frenzied level, and her very name has become “an infinitely exploited global brand,” as Claire Harman observes in her fascinating and beautifully written study of the shifts and changes in the novelist’s reputation, Jane’s Fame.

Is Quantum Physics Responsible for Postmodernism? “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics,” wrote Richard Feynman, and given that he won a Nobel Prize in physics, why should you or I want to take a shot at it? …

After the Karzai Visit, Who’s at the Negotiating Table? An overview of what an alternative to war in Afghanistan might look like — negotiations, what a concept…

Credit for Teaching At many colleges and universities, the tenure trinity of teaching, research and service is widely viewed (at least by those coming up for tenure) as a myth.

The Pentagon’s Strategic Communications Overdrive Continues — Back to the Future In a May 25, 2010 news story entitled “Pentagon tries to steer media coverage on Iraq,” veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus pointed out that although the Pentagon may be sharply reducing its combat forces in Iraq, plans are well underway to expand its media activities in that country, throughout the broader Middle East and also in the US — under a single contract to some apparently yet to be named strategic communications company.

It Could Get a Lot Worse: Hurricane, Oil Spill Could Be Troubling Mix If a hurricane encounters the oil slick now covering parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the result could be devastating, scientists say. Not only could any hurricane increase the damage that oil does to coastal wetlands, but the presence of oil could lead to a more powerful hurricane, they say.

Reform Without Punishment The Senate’s passage Thursday night of far-reaching financial reform is being portrayed as a big loss for the financial sector. “No End to Banks’ Capitol Punishment,” reads the headline in The Wall Street Journal. But everything’s relative. The legislative action is a defeat in large measure because Wall Street wanted no reform. And it seems like harsh punishment because the default situation for the last 30 years has been that the financial sector gets precisely the regulation it wants.

One Border, Many Sides President Obama, appearing on Wednesday with Felipe Calderón, the president of Mexico, denounced Arizona’s new law on illegal immigration as “a misdirected expression of frustration over our broken immigration system.” Though the law is new, the frustration is most certainly not.

Ghostwriting and the political book culture In the spring of 1949, Eleanor Roosevelt turned in the manuscript for her second memoir — this one on the White House years — to her editors at Ladies’ Home Journal. “You have written this too hastily,” came the reply, “as though you were composing it on a bicycle while pedaling your way to a fire.” …

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