May 1, 2007

Coffman Union

I noticed some pretty interesting things when I was “reading� the first floor of Coffman Union. The first thing that I noticed was the arrangement of the chairs and couches. They are arranged in small squares or rectangles facing inwards. I’m guessing that the purpose of this is much like one of the U of M’s goals: to promote individual communities through small groups or clubs. The people sitting in these small communities were usually not all of one ethnicity; in some cases, many ethnicities were represented. However, it didn’t appear as if anyone was communicating with one another. They were either sleeping, eating, or doing homework solemnly. I think that a majority of the noise on Coffman’s first floor comes from the through traffic, and not the people sitting.
Unlike the first floor, the second floor is almost completely segregated in many ways. I have spent a lot of time on the second floor between classes because it is much quieter than the first, and I can study. Firstly, the second floor is where most of the student organizations are: the GLBTA, the Muslim group, the women’s group, and some others that I can’t remember. Throughout my observations over the course of the semester, I noticed that the members of any one group do not associate with members of any other group. This is strange because all of the group offices are in a row on one side of the hallway, and members are constantly passing one another in the hallway. I understand that the purpose of these groups is to offer a small community for students of certain backgrounds, but, at the same time they seem to be promoting segregation, and creating rifts between groups. Segregation also occurs outside of these groups. For instance, different ethnicities tend to sit with one another, and ex-communicate everyone else. I understand why this is, but I still think it’s sad. It’s the twenty-first century, and we’re still afraid of people who are different.

April 24, 2007

Houses and Homes

Suburbs have replaced vast areas of forest in hundreds of large cities. They are completely devoid of any character, and their main purpose is to help people maintain a safe distance from the city. A suburb consists of hundreds of identical houses in neat rows, and it is usually racially and financially segregated. The interiors of the houses are pretty much identical with the exception of marble or granite countertops. I think that the number of bathrooms can also vary. All of the houses have perfectly manicured lawns, and large backyards. Also, there is usually an SUV or a hummer in the driveway. A suburb only consists of houses and grass. There aren’t any parks, restaurants, or office buildings.

My suburb description is derived from an experience that I had at my aunt and uncle’s house. They live in Highland’s Ranch, which is a large suburb of Greeley, Colorado. There house was really nice, but it didn’t have any character, and it looked exactly like all of the other houses in the suburb. It didn’t feel like a home. Personally, I didn’t used to live in a suburb, but I didn’t really live in the city or the country either. My city was too small to have any suburbs, so I basically lived in a residential neighborhood. My house was close to a school, and in a racially and financially diverse neighborhood. Honestly, I don’t think that suburbs are as horrible as my description may entail, but I wouldn’t want to live in one. I think that the best place to live would be in the country. I house sat a farm once, and I truly enjoyed living in the country. It was a lot of work, but, at the same time rewarding and beautiful. The country allows one to find oneself while not resulting in complete isolation.

April 11, 2007

Racism in Commercials

In regards to the end of Monday’s discussion, I do not think that I have become numb to stereotypes and racism in the media because of an experience that I recently had with a commercial. I was watching TV, and the Gatorade AM commercial came on. In this commercial, Kevin Garnett, a black basketball player for the Minnesota Timberwolves, is depicted as a milk man delivering Gatorade AM to white athletes. When I saw this, the first thing that I thought was of course the black man has to play the part of the milk man catering to the needs of white America. However, I don’t think that I would have had this same thought before taking this class. This class, and our recent reading have truly opened my eyes to the subtle racism and stereotypes that exist all around me.
The article also made me think of Aunt Jemima. I’m pretty sure that Aunt Jemima is still around today, and that is somewhat confusing for me because she is still portrayed in the same manner: a “Black Mammy.� I’m surprised that black people continue to tolerate her, but not that other guy who was serving little white kids oatmeal.
Another thing that I found interesting about this article was how the advertising industry reacted in the face of outrage from minorities. I think that it’s funny that the industry completely reversed their advertising policies in order to appease minorities. For instance, the article mentioned that the industry went from portraying Mexicans as lazy and dirty to portraying them as wealthy and affluent in society. In my opinion, the advertising agency greatly overcompensated, and the result was just as bad, and it still separated Mexicans from white Americans. In commercials, whites are almost always portrayed as middle class, and that’s how minorities should probably be shown as well. Although this article seemed kind of dated, it really inspired me to think about racism.

April 4, 2007

The Subtle Evil of Disney Magic

I enjoyed the irony in the article that we read for Monday. The authors took Disney, a symbol of happiness and magic, and portrayed it as an evil empire that attempts to oppress another generation of young girls every seven years. I also thought it was interesting how they pointed out that during the Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty Years, all of the writers at Disney were male. This brought an interesting picture to mind: a group of old, womanizing men sitting in an underground lair, smoking cigars, drinking gin, wearing suits, and discussing how to not only oppress women through cartoons, but how to reinforce the patriarchal way of life through cartoons about princesses.
For these reasons, I think that the article was a little on the dramatic side, and also little bias considering it was written by three women. I wonder what it would have been like if a man had been involved with it. I honestly don’t think that Disney cartoons have a huge impact on the way women act. I know girls that have seen Cinderella a thousand times, and they don’t care about being pretty, or courteous, or polite. Also, I know girls who have seen Pocahontas a thousand times, and they don’t care about having dreams, or being free-spirited, or what is just around the river-bend. In my opinion, this article is just looking for a scapegoat, and ironically, they decided to pick Disney.
People don’t act the way they do because they saw some trite cartoon a few dozen times. They act the way they do because of how their parents raised them, and who their friends are, and what kind of experiences they’ve had during their lifetimes. It’s absurd to blame a cartoon for spreading patriarchy, and oppressing women.

March 28, 2007

Inferential Racism

I just want to say one thing about this article before I begin my actual blog: it was extremely dated. This became apparent when I read the section about music. The author states that MTV only plays white music, and BET is reserved for black music. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Currently, rap, r&b, and hip-hop saturate MTV, and popular radio airwaves. In fact, there is a show on MTV dedicated to the aforementioned musical genres.
Anyways, I found the article, and our discussion during Monday’s class fairly interesting. I guess that I subconsciously knew that inferential racism existed, but I never really thought about it. My group came up with several examples of inferential racism: black people are good at sports, white people can’t dance, middle-eastern people drive cabs, and Asians can’t drive. These all sound truly horrible; however, I think that a lot of people consider these traits to be truths, and are utterly perplexed when certain races don’t adhere to them.
This reminded me of a particular episode of The Office. In the episode, the show blatantly addresses inferential racism. Michael Scott, the boss, has to put together a basketball team, so that he can challenge the warehouse guys to a game. Without hesitation, Michael chooses Stanley for his team. Stanley is the only black employee at the company. However, when the game begins, Stanley displays horrific basketball skills. He dribbles as a toddler, he’s slow, and he can’t shoot to save his life. When Michael notices this, he becomes angry and confused. Sadly, I was also confused by Stanley’s inability to play basketball. Because he was black, I inferred that he was going to be awesome at basketball, and, like Michael, I was somewhat confused when he turned out to be horrible.

March 9, 2007

Class

After viewing “People Like Us,� I’ve come to the conclusion that social class, and pay-grade are two very different things. The pompous, WASP, blonde, writer made this clear during his interview. He was talking about how he saw some people at the banquet that just didn’t belong. These people were probably wealthy because they were able to go to the fancy banquet; however, they still were not accepted by the other WASPS because they were not in the same class.
Another example of the difference between class, and pay-grade occurs when the brown-haired lady is giving the blonde lady lessons in pretending to be upper-class. One can’t be upper-class simply because of how much money one makes; their mannerisms, diction, and attitude must also indicate that they’re upper class. Despite the lessons, the blonde lady still didn’t seem to fit in. I felt as though the upper-class people at the art show could see right through her. The lady who gave the lessons even said that the upper-class have some sort of sixth sense. Personally, I think that’s a bit of an overstatement, but they probably can tell when someone is upper-class, and when someone is feigning being upper-class. In the movie, I think that one guy even says that one must take acting lessons in order to be, or pretend to be upper-class.
It’s a little depressing to know that no matter how much money one makes, one will never truly be able to change their class unless one receives some acting lessons. This emphasizes just how important class distinctions are to a society that is supposedly advanced. I find this to be archaic, and backwards; however, it’s not taken into account in schools, and most households. People don’t like to talk about class. For this reason, the problem will most-likely exist forever.

February 28, 2007

Response to Parenti's Essay

I disagree with Parenti’s view regarding the portrayal of working class people on television. I thought of a television example that contradicts both aspects of Parenti’s thesis: Prison Break
In Prison Break, Michael Scott overcomes adversity, and shows more virtue than the upper-class, white-collar characters on the show. Michael Scott, and his brother Lincoln went from one foster home to the next after their mother died, and their father abandoned him. However, Michael was able to overcome his horrible childhood by attending college, and becoming a successful, civil engineer. In fact, Michael is actually described by many of the other characters on the show as a genius. Michael’s virtue is further emphasized by the fact that he intentionally went to prison in order to free his brother who was falsely convicted. Michael Scott is portrayed as not only hard working, and intelligent, but also as brave, and loyal to his family.
In contrast to Michael, the upper-class characters on the show are vile, and greedy people; traits that are hardly virtuous. A majority of these people work for a political organization known as The Company. The Company was responsible for the framing of Lincoln Burrows, countless murders, black mail, and countless other horrible deeds. The Company represents the upper-class citizens of the show; it is comprised of white-collar, government workers, who wear suits, and drive expensive cars. Even the female vice-president on the show is a member of The Company, and she basically runs it. The Company, a symbol of wealth, and power on the show is far from virtuous, and greatly contradicts Parenti’s argument that the wealthy are presented as so.
Parenti’s argument may have been viable when he wrote it 15 years ago, but now, shows like Prison Break contradict both aspects of his thesis.

February 13, 2007

Stereotypes and Race

Honestly, the essay by Archana Mehta didn’t do much for me. I thought that she jumped around a lot, and after I finished reading it, I still didn’t know what kind of point she was trying to make. Maybe I just suck at reading. However, I thought that her inclusion of “queer theory� in the article was truly intriguing because I had never heard of “queer theory� before. I had always thought that queer was a derogatory term for homosexuals. I didn’t know that it was a theory that essentially encompasses all different types of sexualities, and I think that it’s a brilliant idea. Referring to all sexualities as queer would probably eliminate all stereotypes, and the world would be a much more accepting, and loving place. Nonetheless, queer theory seems idealistic, and utopian to me. American’s love labels; we literally label everything. We even have a term for straight men who dress fashionably: metro-sexual. I can’t fathom as to how people could accept a single, universal label after hundreds of years of using terms like homosexual, and heterosexual.
I thought that Kate Nelson’s article was largely ineffective because I was immediately offended by her audacity, and arrogance. What gives her the right to call everyone who reads her article a racist? Is she some all-knowing, omnipotent being? Anyways, I did agree with some of the points that she made. I definitely agree that everyone has prejudices; I know I do, and all of my friends do. I also agree that racism can’t be erased because color is so deeply engrained in our minds, and racism is conveyed through many mediums such as television, movies, and even books: the bell curve. I don’t even know if that’s the actually name of the book, but I know that it’s completely unfounded. Also, I felt like this lady was trying to hypnotize me, or guide me through a meditation: “We can, however, acknowledge that those thoughts cross our minds and control the ways we act on them.� Okay, Buddha.

February 6, 2007

Response to "Cop Killer"

There were two things that intrigued me about the article that our class recently read. The first is the theory of deracialization, and the second is actually something that we discussed in class regarding the article.
I was interested in deracialization because I had never heard, or though about the concept before. In my opinion, deracialization is basically just tip-toeing around racism. I can’t believe that CLEAT had the audacity to target a song that they’d never heard, but, instead of attacking the artist directly, they attacked the company that he was affiliated with. I think that this method of avoiding racism is ridiculous because it makes the attackers seem more racist in the long-run. Obviously, their “beef� was never with Time/Warner because Time/Warner represents everything that rich, white people love. From the beginning, their problem was with Ice-T, his lyrics, and the fact that he was a black man trying to express himself.
Deracialization also contradicts what the opponents of “Cop Killer� did. In the essay, it was mentioned that the attackers labeled “Cop Killer� as rap, when, in fact, the song was some sort of thrash metal hybrid. The rap label immediately connotes young, black, angry youths. In my opinion, this was racist.
I’d also like to comment on the Vh1 show “White Rapper.� It was mentioned in class that upon elimination, the white rappers have to throw their shows over a telephone wire. I can’t believe that Vh1 is ignorant enough to take something that, for many people, symbolizes fear/violence, and make a complete mockery out of it. Yeah Vh1, gangs, and crack dens are really hilarious. On Vh1’s next reality show, if one is eliminated from competition, then one will probably be sent to a concentration camp, or maybe they’ll be shackled, and forced to work on a plantation or something. The possibilities are endless.

January 31, 2007

Respones to "Shitty First Drafts."

I thought that “Shitty First Drafts� was a fairly interesting article, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. My first drafts are, by no means, superb, but I don’t think that they’re “shitty.� Most of the time, slight modifications to my first draft are sufficient for a decent second draft. However, this varies, and is dependent on how much time, and effort I put into my first draft.
In high-school, I only went through my first drafts in order to correct grammatical errors. A majority of the time, I would receive an A or B on these papers. College is severely different though. For instance, my first draft for this class was, in fact, a piece of “shit.� I mean, it was really horrible. The only thing that prevented me from rewriting it was “Shitty First Drafts.� “Shitty First Drafts� actually made me feel secure, and proud of my “shitty� first draft.
I also liked Lamott’s humorous anecdote regarding her experience at “California Magazine.� It’s nice to know that even professional writers can not just sit down, and type a masterpiece. In fact, she states that her first drafts were so bad that she would be embarrassed is anyone finds them.
Although I agree with Lamott, I don’t know if her theory of revision after revision is always true. I have had experience with this in the form of multiple choice tests. There are always one or two questions that I’m not entirely sure of, so I revise my answer about fifty times. By the time I hand in my test, there are tiny eraser rips on the scantron, and one would not be able to discern which bubble was actually filled in. Anyways, I never correctly answer these questions. Seriously, I’m never right. Maybe the aforementioned example is stupid; however, my best work is occasionally, not all the time, but occasionally, my first draft.

January 23, 2007

Blog regarding the essay "Ways of Seeing," by John Berger.

“Ways of Seeing� Blog

I thought that the essay, “Ways of Seeing� by John Berger was a truly interesting essay; it challenged my current perceptions regarding art, and persuaded me on several issues, and, for the most part, I agreed with Berger.
I found one of Berger’s points especially enthralling: the history of a painting, or the context in which it was painted can completely change its meaning. To illustrate his point, he displayed a Van Gogh painting entitled “Wheatfield with Crows.� At first, I didn’t think much of the painting; however, on the following page, the painting was displayed again, but with the following written under it: this is the last picture that Vincent Van Gogh painted before he killed himself. The simple, aforementioned sentence completely changed my perception of the painting. The painting now appeared ominous, and depressing. I also noticed the path that ends at the horizon of the painting. I found this experience to be somewhat amazing because I had never really even thought about how words can completely change the meaning of something. Berger’s example was somewhat ingenious in its simplicity, and it made me think that a majority of my perceptions are far from organic, and probably tainted.
I also agree with Berger regarding the value of paintings. Basically, Berger states that a paintings spiritual/emotional value is synonymous with its market value. I found this to be extremely cynical, but also true. In my opinion, the “Mona Lisa� is not an exceptional painting. There are millions of paintings that exceed the “Mona Lisa� in poignancy. In fact, the kid that sat next to me in my high-school art class could paint more meaningful pictures. However, many people are enthralled by the painting because it is worth a huge amount of money.
Essentially, I enjoyed this essay because Berger did not tip-toe around issues that may be sensitive for some people. He may be a little arrogant, and eccentric, but he made his points, and supported them with evidence. What more can one ask for in an essay?