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Things Fall Together: An Introduction

Meet's newest blogger Sameer Pandya and his 'Research of Culture.'

Our cultural lives — the books we read and how we read them, the films we see and how they are made, the sports we watch and the athletes who take our money, the music we listen to and sometimes illegally download — are in a state of flux. Yeats' oft-quoted lines — "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold" — have been made relevant again by the recession, the rapid changes in information technology or simply in our new reading habits. Books and films, among other cultural objects, both diagnose and reflect these changes.

Consider some examples.

The Museum of Modern Art hired Doug Jaeger, a well-regarded marketing executive, for its recent ad campaign. Just as soon as the campaign —reproductions of major works from MoMA's permanent collection — went up in a New York City subway station, Jaeger hired a well-known subway ad defacer to rework the ads that had just gone up. In most cases, the remix occurs after the fact and is usually not initiated immediately by the originating artist, or in this case, the originating ad man.

Last year, the American novelist Peter Matthiessen won the National Book Award for Shadow Country, a reworking of a trilogy of novels he'd already published in the 1990s.

The major New York publishing houses are restructuring and firing editors left and right, while Amazon's Kindle continues to sell briskly.

Sean Penn has transformed himself from Jeff Spicoli to Harvey Milk and back to the ever-pedantic Sean Penn. And Slumdog Millionaire showed us something that anthropologists have known for some time: There must be ethical guidelines in place when casting for a film.

While the major American sports leagues are all suffering financial losses, the Washington Redskins still gave defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth a $100 million contract, one of the most lucrative in NFL history. And the hoopla around Tiger Woods' recent return to competitive golf made it seem like he was a part of Obama's stimulus package.

In this blog, our goal is to track these and other moments in our cultural life — as seen through films, books, music, media, popular culture, sports — all the while grounded in the research-based thinking that is the heart of Miller-McCune.