May 2, 2007

CMU

I walked around CMU for about 6 minutes trying to find a particular place to observe, and in doing so I covered almost the entire building. The place I chose was downstairs on one of the chairs next to the downstairs doors. It's the area you go out from after you exit the cafeteria area. The first thing i noticed, of course, was that this place was the easiest place to get a seat at. Starbucks and the upstairs area were all full of people but this place didn't seem to have any competition for empty seats. The people who passed by in it were all in a hurry to get somewhere not really talk or find a place to sit. Almost everyone who was sitting was quiet on their laptops or mp3 players and alone. The area smelled a little gross like old food that hadn't been taken out of the garbage can in a while. The color scheme was yellow white and black, which gave it a musty old feeling to it. The atmosphere was rather unkempt and unappealing, at least compared to the other areas in CMU. Even the setup of the area was lonely; the area was open with lots of space in-between and a lot of lightning everywhere which highlighted the space. The Starbucks area and the upstairs area were all cozy with low friendly lighting and color schemes. It appeared to me that this area was an area for people who were either uncomfortable in a cozy atmosphere or who were forced to because all the good seats were already taken elsewhere. Not only this but the area was filled with business oriented areas rather than entertainment. In this I mean that the cafeteria served meals for those there to eat a meal, and the bookstore was there for those who needed supplies or clothes, and the great hall was for meetings. Although some could see these as entertainment, other areas were much more entertaining based. The upstairs for example has a theater, Sta travel agency, Jamba Juice and a piano even (Not to mention it doesn’t smell like old food). The starbucks area does have business related areas, but it is the spotlight of the area, and the aroma and atmosphere of coffee fills the area with a comfortable lounge feel to it. The area I was in had a slightly uncomfortable feeling to it, like everyone else was moving past while I was sitting in a big open space doing nothing. It’s a lazy feeling, like people walking by you are hurrying you to get done quickly so you can move on. It seems as though people didn’t really mean for this area to become a place to stay, but more of a convenient place to put some chairs in.

April 24, 2007

Living Space as Product of Culture

Suburbs to Cities

The cities are huge and beautiful. The night is often lit with lights from the buildings and filled with music, cars, or people. The pollutants and homeless people are greater, or at least more obvious. People are often busy or in a hurry to get somewhere. In the cities there is something to do past 10PM and you don’t need to have a car to get places. The culture is much more diverse with a broader range of ideas. The culture and SES gap is much more extreme. The jobs are also much better in the cities. There is very little nature except for decoration on the side walks. The cities are more of an every man for themselves when you walk alone on the streets. Also, there is much less eye contact with others. There is the choice to be alone or not, because it is much less likely you will know the people around you.

It seems that quite a few things I feel other people from the suburbs agree on, as well as people from the cities. In my evaluation of the cities, I often looked at the black and white comparisons of the cities and suburbs that are either evident from personal experience or from the media. I don’t feel that I said anything that was significantly wrong, but of course that is because I said it. The biggest reason I came to the cities is to get away from the “close-knit? atmosphere that the suburbs carried, and I have found the cities to be pretty much everything I had expected it to be. I have visited the cities many times before, which is probably why I have an accurate depiction of what I was in for. I may change how I feel in the future when I get an actual apartment instead of living in the dorms.

April 10, 2007

Advertising and People of Color

I feel both ways on the advertising issue. I do not believe that people are trying to hurt other people to profit off them, however, the are trying to profit off them. Many of the things that they do are subliminal and they are not recognized as racism, and I don’t think they should be. I feel that many stereotypes may be unnecessarily reinforced by commercials and advertisements, however, it’s not like they weren’t already there. I feel that many people overreact to commercials racial statements. Also, I feel that the commercials made when the article was made are more likely to be racist than they are today. I cannot think of a commercial that struck me as clearly racist, however I often see my friends pointing silly things out that I feel are negligible. One of my friends was looking at a catalogue with me, and he saw a little Asian girl holding a panda bear, while the little Caucasian girl was holding a cat or something. He got all angry about it, but I don’t find that particularly offensive. I think that when it is in a context like that, it shouldn’t be looked at too closely. I often see many advertisements trying to avoid things like making statements about one race by putting every race they can find in a bunch of the advertisements together. It’s often very obvious to the point where it’s kind of funny. It might just show how out of the ordinary it is, for that to be obvious, though.

Honestly, though, I don’t think that if there were no advertisements, that there would be no stereotypes and racism. Furthermore, I don’t think that advertising does that much bad compared to good. I feel that advertising gets a lot of bad rep because of the idea of “subliminal advertising,? but if people just take the time to actually think about things, then they’ll be less likely to be controlled. It’s not like advertising is trying to destroy peoples lives, it is just trying to sell us a product.

April 3, 2007

Construction of the Female Self

On one hand, I believe that it is very important to look at what Disney, a leading children's entertainment business, is putting into their movies that may negatively persuade children into unhealthy or self-limiting ideals. I often feel, however, that feminists are highly over reactive of many things they "read" into. Although many of the Disney movies do use white females as the stars of the movies, I think that this was the original target audience when many of the older movies were made. Even beyond that, I feel that the Disney movies will not have nearly as much of an effect on girls as when they hit puberty and go through peer pressure, idols, teenage movies, and advertisements.

Another thing is that Cinderella has many versions in almost every culture. My dad owns a collection of books of all the different Cinderella versions from different cultures, which adds to over 50. All of those cultures star their own race, and I believe that Disney’s Cinderella chose white because it was once again, the target audience of America. Although it could have been viewed as politically incorrect, I don’t understand what else they could have done.

I’m glad that the article concluded that Disney has been improving, and I do agree that the newer Disney movies can be seen as more acceptable today’s culture. I feel that looking at old movies, though, is not always reliable because culture is ever-changing with time, and the older movies were made at a less culturally diverse time in American history than today.

In the end, I don’t personally feel affected by these movies. I personally saw the characters being portrayed as neutral when they were white, but maybe that’s me. I don’t know how to explain it; it’s probably not politically correct. I just feel that I looked more into the morals of the story, since as children that’s what we are asked at that time in our lives.

March 27, 2007

Race

While reading about inferential racism, it made me think about how my culture studies teacher told the class, “Everything is suspect.? In other words, just because people say something is a fact, and even if it’s supposedly been proven, there should still be doubt. Otherwise people will just continue to live their lives not questioning or achieving anything. An example would be how it was acceptable for Blacks to be taken to America to become slaves, not many questioned it at first, it was a part of life. Only afterwards are we able to see how completely wrong America was.

In terms of boundaries, I can only think of a couple examples where they could be considered being crossed. White rappers, for example used to be awkwardly accepted. It took a while for them to come into the industry. They aren’t quite seen as the same kind of rappers as blacks are, even now, and drifted off into a different genre of rap. Another thing I thought of during discussion is how my friend told me that people can create an all (choose your race besides white) school, but not an all white school. After thinking about this, I realized that it was completely different. When another race creates their own group, then they are seen as promoting diversity, or celebrating who they are, but when whites create a group, it seems as though they are racist. I suppose this is possibly a type of overt racism towards white people, but maybe not. In the end I don’t think that schools should be separated by race, anyways.

March 8, 2007

People Like Us

Personally, I found the video annoying. To me, the message was that there are cultural boundaries between class and race that separate us, and not only that, but that we keep it this way. I found this a little bit too obvious of a message. Also, it was asked that we think about the choices of clips for this documentary. I thought that the clips from both the rich and the poor were way too biased. In both cases there were extreme choices of people, and comments. I know there are people like this out there, but it makes it seem like all rich people are arrogant and hate everyone else, while they try to make people either pity or avoid the lower class. Underneath the documentary, I felt as though they were pointing fingers at people, but not addressing any type of solution. In my opinion, people are separated into different groups and classes and there is nothing anyone can do about it without brute force. One thing that the documentary completely left out is that although boundaries separate people into classes and groups, that doesn’t mean that people can’t and aren’t getting along with people from other classes. The video made it appear as though the different groups created by class separated us socially, but I don’t think it does. The video also made it appear as though rich people are more likely to not want to do with the lower class than the lower class not wanting to do with the rich, as if the lower classes for some reason all desired to be accepted and within the high class society. I’m not saying that there aren’t people like this, but more that the examples weren’t necessarily a good representation of the common values and beliefs of the American society.

February 27, 2007

Films/Shows that challenge the assumptions of Parenti

I have found that there are not many movies and shows that completely challenge Parenti’s thesis, however there debunk the normal stereotypes for the working class people. When I first read his article, I felt as though he were being very bold. After thinking about many of the movies and shows I’ve watched, I found it very difficult to challenge his assumption, even though I felt like he wasn’t correct.
One movie that I thought of at first was Memoirs of a Geisha. In this movie, the girl starts out as a “farm girl? which is the equivalent of a lower class. She is sold to a Geisha house and is viewed as the lowest in status of the household because of age and background. Compared to the other people in her residence, however, she is the most moral. She also keeps her virginity the longest in her household, and catches up in her Geisha abilities in a fraction of the time as the other girl living in the residence. Once she grows up, she becomes the most desirable Geisha in the area, even though she is the least liked, poorest, and lowest status in the residence she grows up in.
A show which challenges Parenti’s thesis is King of the Hill. The main character, Hank Hill is a working class citizen who is more moral than many of the people he works with, smart, clean, and is well learned in his propane job. Also, he is not necessarily more desirable out of all the characters; however, he is one of the most down to earth people within the series because of all his other qualities. Although Hank is somewhat ignorant in certain areas, he still strives to do the correct thing according to what he knows, and this gives him appeal to the audience. The entire show in general is like a real life view into the southern working class lifestyle, which helps lessen the focus on class status of the characters.

February 13, 2007

Facing the Facts of Bigotry and Society's Need for a Queer Solution

Archana Mehta’s essay brings up a lot of good points that I agree with. I completely agree that TV’s attempts at making the homosexual lifestyle is “othering? the homosexual orientation, keeping a distinct line between homosexuals and heterosexuals, thereby labeling each with their own stereotypes. The idea of queer theorists succeeding in depleting this gap, however, seems rather unrealistic. I believe that it is part of everyone’s human nature to categorize people, even in a room full of people who have the same interests; we will still look for differences and labels. In order to get everyone to actively participate in eliminating the traditional gender roles is impossible. I feel like such a pessimist for thinking it is hopeless, but homophobia is ingrained into too many parts of culture: religion, entertainment, lifestyles, and education. People who I know who are both homophobic and who are not all feel strongly in their position on homosexuality, to the point where I do not believe their values can change, and these values will most likely be passed down to the next generation. I personally have two godmothers, and so I was raised thinking it was normal for people to have any orientation they wanted. I was not aware of this being “strange? until I was in the 1st grade. I quickly learned that this was “Scary? and “abnormal? or even “gross.? My first position on the idea of homosexuality was that it was normal and acceptable, and many people have tried to change my view, but it has become so embedded in my mind that I don’t think anything could sway my opinion on homosexuality. It is apparent to me, that sexual orientation is a very touchy subject that people learn as children, and it is too difficult to alter these views later on.
In Kate Nelson’s essay on bigotry and racism, I agreed with her perspective. Erasing or denying racism will get our culture nowhere, however, I feel as though some people will not get past Kate’s 3rd paragraph that says “this is normal.? It frightens me to think that people will possibly use this as an excuse to stay or ignore being racist.

February 6, 2007

Cop Out?

I found Christopher Sievings essay “Cop Out?? very intriguing. He brought up that the “meaning of a word is determined entirely by its context…It is precisely a word’s miltiaccentuality that makes it a living thing.? The way the black community and the white community views the song is entirely different. This is not saying it is not possible for them to understand one another, or that these views are set in stone, but I believe there is a difference. Sievings quotes, “I hate to say rap is a black thing, but sometimes it is.? American culture is separated, and those separations create different views, of different communities and discourses which influence the way people create meanings for things. For me, this is proof enough that people who are within the black community and discourse are who rap is specifically aimed for. One thing I found particularly interesting is that those who opposed of the song tried as hard as they could to put race out of the question, and say that it was immoral to talk about killing cops. Of course, some of them never even listened to the song, but knew who Ice-T was. Personally, I think that this only highlights the fact that they do have a problem with the ethnicity. If the cops do hurt or kill people based on their ethnicity, then they should be viewed as evil or bigots, and in a crude way the song could be viewed as justice. This makes me think about my friend’s brother who is going to school to be a cop. I hate to say it but he’s one of the biggest racists I know, and he talks about going to be a cop because he can have power over the people he hates and turn them in because he will be more powerful than them. They gave him a test to rule out those with that type of mindset, but it was easily passable if you understood what they were looking for, so I’ve heard. It seems to me that anyone can become a cop these days, and that some people take the job for power, not to protect the innocent, and this may be exactly what Ice-T is talking about in his song. I find it ironic that, even after Ice-T personally withdrew the song, it was still a hit. It’s almost like making such a big deal of the song made his album more sensational than it would have been before, and possibly made it reach more ears of people who wanted to listen to songs for the violent messages.

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January 30, 2007

"Shitty First Drafts"

In the essay, “Shitty First Drafts? Lamott covered a lot of the repetitive paranoia and suffering he went through for each of his essays or reviews. I found it humorous that he emphasized his distaste for a certain writer who was able to write elegantly on her first drafts. Lamott states for his writing community, “we do not think she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her,? and that “Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning…One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.? This only emphasizes Lamott’s personal struggle of starting out with “shitty first drafts,? along with his resentfulness for the few who have never met this problem (Lamott). Overall, however, he tries to convey that most writers aren’t gifted with first drafts like this woman, and that it is beneficial that first drafts don’t start out publishable. Lamott talks about how you may find something in your first draft that just comes out as you are writing it like “the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six,? but that this line would not have come about without the “first five and a half pages? (Lamott.) This kind of reminds me of the brainstorming techniques, as if Lamott personally uses the first draft as a half free write and a half draft. I could see this as a beneficial idea, because then there might be less pressure to make it perfect and organized exactly, like a more structured brainstorm. Lamott also tries to emphasize that even the professionals struggle, and that he would still become overwhelmed when he had to start a draft. This was comforting, although I wouldn’t doubt it. I’ve heard of some writers that revise pages over and over, one in particular was mentioned in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. The writer that King discussed would personally revise every page in his book 7 or 8 times (I think), and by the time he was done with it, the book would be ready to hit the shelves. Another thing that Lamott brings up a few times is his fear that someone will find his first draft and read it. Lamott states how he can let a character say something embarrassing or strange, and that it comforts him. I think that this is a beneficial idea, many times I feel afraid of what to write, but if I knew nobody would see it, I could just write, even if it didn’t belong because I know that I could remove it later and not have someone comment on it.

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January 23, 2007

Chapter 7: Reading and Writing About Art

I took a Culture Studies 1001 course the previous semester, so many of the explanations of reading text is familiar and redundant (the introduction and the first part of chapter 7.) In the second part of chapter 7, however, I found the author’s analysis of paintings and the significance of the camera interesting. On the discussion of Franz Hal’s portraits of governors and governesses the author brings up mystification and seduction. I mostly agree with the author’s take on both these terms. It is definitely cultural similarities which give Franz Hal’s portraits a familiar feel to them, not the artist’s ability. In discussing the concept of mystification, the author states that “if we can see the present clearly enough, we shall ask the right questions of the past? (Silverman 471). I both agree and disagree with this statement. Understanding the present gives us a backbone to ask questions, compare, and see the changes of the past, however, I believe that mystification is unavoidable because we can only observe and understand so many things at one point before time has slipped away and the present has become the past. The author states that the invention of a camera could cut this boundary of time and perspectives of the world. He also explains how reproductions of paintings take away from the uniqueness of the original painting. I agree with this because to see a painting in person is saying something, but knowing what the picture looks like doesn’t mean as much anymore because it is accessible. Therefore, the paintings are seen as objects, money, or rare items. A good example would be the stereotypical tourist who goes to famous sites and art exhibits to get a picture taken of him/her with that famous piece that he/she has seen in pictures many times. The tourist doesn’t go to see the site for what it looks like since the tourist knows, but instead goes because it is famous or rare. The author also brings up the concept of authorship, which I already understand, and I agree with his perspective, which is that when a film or a picture reproduction is made, the painting no longer speaks for itself; the authority goes to film-maker or photographer. Alone, a painting or piece of art can speak for itself without other perspectives invading what it is saying, but reproductions often have words around them. I thought that the Vincent Van Gogh example, brought up a good point; writing that goes along with a painting that is not by the painter can alter the meaning of what the text is saying, thereby lending authorship, and possibly changing its place in culture.

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