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September 30, 2007

say something...

Someone needs to say something so I can comment on it! I will try to write a position for you guys tonight, but I need something to comment on too...please

September 25, 2007

something random shown to me..

yeah okay so i totally forgot how to add a link. i tried but i have a sneaking suspicion that i didn't quite do it i'll just post the url and you can do what you want with it...

and if by some miracle i did do it right...i just wasted some time of my life that i'll never get back.

September 24, 2007

Bourke-White Captures the Hopes and Dreams of Happiness

After reading Margaret Bourke-White and seeing previews from the movie we saw in class I became very interested in her book, her perspective on religion and its meanings. Despite the scandals that Mr. Ward talked about in class I wanted to learn more about this female figure that had importance in society before women weren’t socially accepted. “She was the first female to emerge in the field of photojournalism? (2004). Although her life wasn’t perfect she realized the people she was photographing were much worse off than she was. In 1956, it was discovered Bourke-White had Parkinson's disease. “After doing research on the disease, she believed that it manifested itself while she was in Korea. She went under operation which was successful, and Bourke-White resumed working for Life, but as a writer? (2004). This is additionally important because it shows how talented she was and despite her life outside her career she was respected by many.
After reading parts of “You have seen their faces? I noticed a reoccurring impact of religion within the society and wondered what her religious background was. It got me to think about faith and God and why people believe in Him. Is it for personally gain? Hope for a better life after death? Why did people pray then and why was it so frequently discussed in the reading? I discovered that Margaret Bourke-White grew up in, an atheistic religion. “Her parents had both rejected the religions they grew up in prior to getting married? (2004). I found this interesting because the people she is writing about, for Time, and taking photos of, live in a religion based society where people are praying that one day they will be in a better place. They live in only hope that they will be better off and happier someday. In “You Have Seen Their Faces? it says, “Once a week he can hear the minister promise him a new life in another world. It gives him something to look forward to during the other six days of hard labor when he and his family do not have enough to eat? (Cadwell 39). This shows how they wanted a better life and could only hope for something that great it also makes me think that they are praying and have faith for personal gain. It makes me wonder if people believe in God because they think it benefits them or for other reasons. Why is religion so important in peoples’ lives is it because they are selfish or selfless? It ties into the society structure too. People felt that they were born with a predetermined life on Earth that could not be changed. Cadwell uses the metaphor, “… to lift himself from the hole he stands in? (Cadwell 6). They felt they were born into a social status with nowhere to go and if life could get better it was not by much.
Lastly the best part about the book we read were the pictures that our evidence of the people living in the rough society that can be familiar to all of us. The whole point of the book was for people to be able to relate and understand that poor, scarred, hungry people are everywhere and just like you and me. I feel like Bourke-White really communicates through her photos. An example of how she does this is the angle she uses. I notice in most of her pictures that the working child or the starving family is viewed from below, looking up at the person. It makes them appear stronger, bigger, greater and more powerful, important to society. I think this shows how much she respected the working class and wanted others to feel and relate to their lives. In her photos she often shows the children and it reminds the reader that they were working to survive, to support their families and make their family happy in a pursuit of happiness and a better life. “In return for its labor it does not expect much, does not ask much, never receives much. It has pockets in its pants but there holed in the pockets? (Cadwell 1). It shows they had enough to survive but not enough to live happily.

Outside Source:, “Women in History?, (Ohio 2004).

September 23, 2007

Not eloquent, but effective

There was an interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times about Louis Armstrong. I didn't know there was a North Dakota - Arkansas connection in the civil rights struggle.

Mr. Armstrong had been contemplating a good-will tour to the Soviet Union for the State Department. “They ain’t so cold but what we couldn’t bruise them with happy music,? he had said. Now, though, he confessed to having second thoughts. “The way they are treating my people in the South, the government can go to hell,? he said, offering further choice words about the secretary of state, John Foster Dulles. “The people over there ask me what’s wrong with my country. What am I supposed to say??

Mr. Lubenow, who came from a small North Dakota farming community, was shocked by what he heard, but he also knew he had a story; he skipped the concert and went back to the paper to write it up. It was too late to get it in his own paper; nor would the Associated Press editor in Minneapolis, dubious that Mr. Armstrong could have said such things, put it on the national wire, at least until Mr. Lubenow could prove he hadn’t made it all up. So the next morning Mr. Lubenow returned to the Dakota Hotel and, as Mr. Armstrong shaved, had the Herald photographer take their picture together. Then Mr. Lubenow showed Mr. Armstrong what he’d written. “Don’t take nothing out of that story,? Mr. Armstrong declared. “That’s just what I said, and still say.? He then wrote “solid? on the bottom of the yellow copy paper, and signed his name.

Interesting to see how a photograph was required as evidence that Louis Armstrong actually said something.

September 22, 2007

Why are we here?

Though it isn't a part of the overall plan I had for the class, there was an interesting article in the Boston Globe last week about the reasons for education. Anthony Kronman attacks the emphasis on research which guides modern universities (remember that I placed research at the center of what this class is all about) suggesting that it is a bad thing.

I would like to throw the article out there as another opportunity for position papers and responses for next couple of weeks. I'd like there to be a good variety of things discussed on the blog to make responses possible. Remember that ideally you should be writing around one response/comment per week to make the participation grade work out right. I will count/grade them before class on Tuesdays. But I digress...

I've put some edited quotes from the Globe article in the extended entry, have a look if you want something different to think about.

One of the most forceful proponents of this view was Alexander Meiklejohn, a distinguished professor of government and constitutional law, and the president of Amherst College from 1912 to 1924. Meiklejohn insisted that undergraduate education be more than a preparation for a career. He thought it vital that students also explore what he called "the art of living," the spiritual question of how they ought to live their lives. He defended the idea of spiritual seriousness in a nonreligious age, and thought it could be studied without dogmatic commitments.

In the first half of the 20th century, many colleges and universities had programs that sought to implement Meiklejohn's ideal. Most have disappeared, though some survive today. . . . These programs differ in many ways, and inevitably reflect the culture of their schools; some are mandatory and others, like Yale's Directed Studies, are elective. But despite their differences, all rest on a set of common assumptions, which together define a shared conception of humane education.

The first is that there is more than one good answer to the question of what living is for. A second is that the number of such answers is limited, making it possible to study them in an organized way. A third is that the answers are irreconcilably different, necessitating a choice among them. A fourth is that the best way to explore these answers is to study the great works of philosophy, literature, and art in which they are presented with lasting beauty and strength. And a fifth is that their study should introduce students to the great conversation in which these works are engaged - Augustine warily admiring Plato, Hobbes reworking Aristotle, Paine condemning Burke, Eliot recalling Dante, recalling Virgil, recalling Homer - and help students find their own authentic voice as participants in the conversation.

These are challenging works. But they are accessible too, and an 18-year-old with some curiosity about life will find much that is inspiring in them: the great battle scenes of "War and Peace," and Tolstoy's meditations on the insignificance of the individual in history; Descartes' invitation to his readers to doubt everything they think they know, at least once in their lives; Arendt's account of Eichmann on trial, and her chilling description of the "banality of evil"; Virgil's Aeneas and Jane Austin's Emma, both in love, but with more on their minds.

I have assumed (through my selection of "documentary" as an organizing topic) that research and the question of "what makes life worth living?" are not mutually exclusive things. It is my thought that exploration of the world leads to the study of philosophy, literature and art, not away from it. What do you think? Are there enough required humanities courses at the U or too many? That, I think, is a really interesting and complicated question. You can read the whole article here, if you're curious.

September 21, 2007


More Than Just Another Mental Illness
By Michael Arens

When many people picture someone with a mental illness, the image of someone with a condition that can be physically noticed comes to mind; for example, down syndrome. According to, symptoms of down syndrome include skin folds on the inner corners of the eyes, poor muscle tone, a flat bridge of the nose, and stunted mental growth (generally an IQ between fifty and seventy) For many cases, including autism, there are no permanent physical characteristics shown. Children with autism display, generally before age two, mental symptoms such as trouble making eye contact, excessive body rocking or hand movement, lack of interest in other people, fascination with a particular topic and a need for a routine in daily events. ( I will use my younger brother, who is autistic, as an example. Between the ages of three and seven, in the majority of his free time, he would play with either plastic animals and dinosaurs or Thomas the Tank Engine toys. If he wasn’t playing with the toys, he was watching Thomas or a documentary about animals and he would wave his arms up and down through most of the show. For the most part, autistic people lead very normal lives and most autistic children are able to overcome their autistic traits.

One example of this is my brother. First, he has always been a very good student in school and has had good study habits. I believe he has only gotten one B during his education and he is currently a sophomore in high school. Next, he is also getting better at socializing with others as he has made quite a few good friends. Lastly, he no longer waves his arms when he is watching television, although that may be because he has a play station controller glued to his hands most of the time.

Another, much better, example is Temple Grandin. She was born August 29, 1947, and at age two was diagnosed with brain damage because autism was not known about at the time. When she was eighteen years old, she invented a squeeze box (sometimes called a hug box) in which she would place her neck between two supported thick foam pads. The intense pressure on her neck would have a relaxing effect on her muscles and would also mentally calm her.(Wikipedia) After high school, Grandin proceeded on to higher education. In 1970, she received a B.A. degree from Franklin Pierce College in Psychology. In 1975, Grandin accepted a Master’s degree Arizona State University in Animal Science and continued her studies toward a Ph.D. in the same subject at the University of Illinois in 1989. (Grandin's professional resume) After getting her Ph.D. she designed a livestock herding system designed to provide the cattle with a painless death. This was important for two reasons, the first is that the cattle feel no pain so animal rights activists are satisfied with the design. The second advantage to her system is that the cattle are not anxious when they are killed which provides a better quality of meat for consumers. The system is designed with many curves because the cattle can not see what is ahead of them and also because cattle have a natural instinct to circle so when they go around every second curve, they think they are going back to where they came from. Finally, the cow is shot in the head with an electrical stunner which kills them instantly. Today, approximately one third of livestock handling systems in America today are designed by Grandin.(Morris, Stairway to Heaven)

Grandin has co written four books regarding livestock handling and one regarding autism: Livestock Handling and Transport, Beef Cattle Behavior, Genetics and the Behavior of Domestic Animals, Animals in Translation, and Thinking in Pictures. She has also received a laundry list of awards, most significantly: Industry Innovator’s Award (1990), Woman of the Year in Service to Agriculture (1998), and, University of Illinois Illini Comeback Award (2002). (Grandin's professional resume) Grandin is one of the most successful people in the world in her struggle against autism.

To conclude, just because someone has a mental disorder does not mean that they will be easily recognizable to the public or that they will not be able to function in society. Temple Grandin is only one example of an autistic that has contributed more than her share.

September 20, 2007

Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up

In his article, Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up, Errol Morris poses two very intriguing issues. Is photography reality? And is seeing, believing, or is believing seeing? Morris is very convicted by the falsehoods that photography can place in our minds. Many argue that photography is evidence, but Morris is concerned about how photographs can, and many times do, deceive us.
In this article, Morris uses a recent current event to get his point across. When the world found out about the atrocities that had happened at Abu Ghraib, pictures were plastered everywhere; on television, on newspapers, and the internet. But then, came out the picture of a man holding the infamous picture of the “hooded man?. This man, Ali Shalal Quassi, claimed to be the person underneath the hood. Finally the world had a man beneath the hood, a real human being behind the photo. Every one, including me, looked at the picture of this man, and the caption underneath and believed that this truly was the man. So naturally, we were surprise when the truth came out, and the man was not Quassi, but another prisoner named, Hussain Saad Faleh.
Morris’ main concern in this article is how easily the public chose to believe that clawman really was the man under the hood. The fact that he was a prisoner there, and the person in the picture seemed to have a misshapen hand, made us, even the writers, believe it was him under the hood. With this example, I agree with Morris when he said it is not so much seeing is believing, but believing is seeing. When we see the photo of clawman holding the picture of the hooded man, claiming it to be himself, we cannot help but believe him. We want to put a person behind this picture. We want to learn the full story of what he really felt. With no other person out there to claim to be the one, we naturally just take the statement as fact, without question. We see what we believe. We believed that clawman was the person under the hood so in our mind we saw that the hand was disfigured.
I personally fully agree with Morris when he says photography could never be reality. In his article he says, “Reality is three-dimensional. Photographs are but two-dimensional? (Morris 4). Photographs offer one of a human’s five senses, sight. But what of the four others? What is the person smelling, is it could or hot in the room, is there a strange noise in the background, what is the taste in their mouth at that moment. What of time? What happened five minutes before, or five seconds after the button was pushed? The truth is photographs give us very little, if any, valid information. Morris talks about this in another article, Liar, Liar Pants on Fire. A picture without words, without a story means very little to the viewer. We try to make assumptions about the picture but without the valid information we cannot know the full story behind the photograph. There is so much left out of a photograph, so much that is yet to be learned.
Photography is amazing as a work of art, something to look at, to admire. It is great to keep old memories alive, to remember the good old days. And if used properly, photography can be used as a good source of information. But we must proceed with caution. Pictures can, and will easily deceive. We like to make stories up to go along with the picture, whether they are true or not. Writers trying to persuade their reader could disort the photo, or add captions to make us believe what they want us to believe. We must remember that photos are not reality. They are merely images of small portions in time, and we must remember that next time we are looking at an unknown photo

Pictures are True

Andrew Otto
Position Statement

Errol Morris is undoubtedly an inquisitive man that makes very good points throughout his article, Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire, but I do not agree with all the points that he includes. When reading the article for the first time, I looked at the pictures, and like Errol suggested, I started to associate the pictures with things that I have known about and things that I have come in contact with in my life. Again, as I read and learned more about the photographs, I formed different opinions about what I was looking at just as Errol explained would happen. However, when Errol stated that the photographs could neither be true or false, I disagreed.

The idea that a picture will never be true or false is well presented, but as Mike Cantor brings up in the second posting of the blog below the article, if pictures cannot tell the truth about something then how can we trust tape recordings or video. I believe pictures, video, and tape recordings are vital for the existence of the world as we know it. Look at it this way, if society did not trust any photograph that was brought before it, the world would be a mess. People would be busy researching every picture they came in contact with, and from personal experience, I do not know how I would have gotten through my school years if I did not trust pictures in my textbooks to be telling the truth. I completely agree with Morris’ point about how photographs can be misleading because of captions or context, but what is in the picture is the truth. The original photograph itself does not change, what is recorded is recorded. If someone chooses to tamper with the photograph later, then in my opinion it is not the same thing that we are looking at. The point I am trying to make is that we must be cautious when evaluating pictures, and in the case where one is attempting to make a serious claim about the photograph, more research should be conducted to be certain of what is in the photograph. By serious claim I am referring to making an argument, writing a paper, or trying to persuade others about the picture.

When using a picture as a basis for an argument or a story, one should do more research to be sure that the caption or context around the picture is not altered or changed in any way. A perfect example of incomplete research about a photograph is the picture and caption of an Israeli military vehicle in the New York Times. ( The photograph was not researched or double checked, so it was used in false context, just as Morris explained could happen, inadvertently misleading someone to a wrong conclusion. Again, the picture may have been set in the wrong context, misleading the reader, but there still was a military vehicle that was burning somewhere, otherwise the photograph would not be in existence.

Another author that believes photographs do not always tell the truth is Robert Coles. In his writings The Traditions: Fact and Fiction, he talks about how the photograph of the man and woman in the car was cropped to better enhance Dorothea Lange’s’ point about the depression. The photograph (figure 6 pg. 226) still tells the truth about the man, his clothes, and his emotion at the time of the photo. The only problem is that the whole truth isn’t being told. The photo has been cropped. To me, I would see this picture and due to my past knowledge about the depression I would understand that the man is going through tough times and struggling. The point of the photo is still true to me, and I believe that somewhere, at sometime, this picture was taken and is proof of this moment in time.

The world we live in completely bases its existence around pictures. From textbooks to government records, we count on pictures telling the truth. We as a society trust photographs. The proverb “a picture is worth a thousand words? refers to a picture being more powerful than words. That idea is the reason that when we first encounter a photo immediately we form opinions about it, where it came from, what’s going on in it, and do we believe what is happening in it. The captions and text around the picture are there to try and persuade us to believe in one way or another, not to justify if the picture is true. The picture is true, it occurred somewhere, either in reality or on a computer. Even if it were created on a computer somewhere, the picture still exists as itself. To justify that a computer generated or modified picture is still the truth take this text for example. Sometime in history someone had to draw the letters, and back then many people probably thought the letters were just little pictures; now the letters are accepted to represent something. When we read we do not ask ourselves if “e? is really “e? or if someone is trying to trick us.

Errol Morris does make good points throughout his articles, as does Robert Coles. The point that we make opinions about a picture as soon as we see it I agree with, and the opinion that we form is based on what we know and have experienced. The point that pictures can be modified or can have captions added to change the meaning of the photo, I also agree with, but to choose to believe what is in the photo is left up to us. The photo is what it is, the photo will always be telling the truth, what we choose to decide is true and false will always be left up to us.

Make a Move

Kimberly Ayres
Position Statement
Make a Move
If I have ever witnessed passion and purpose in my life, it would be that of Dorothea Lange, one of the most renown photographers of the Great Depression era. She was finishing up a photographing trip of migratory farm labor for the Resettlement Administration (part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal attempt that provided federal government aid to resettle farmers deeply affected by the Great Depression to new land according to Ohio Historical Society website) when she took some of her most famous photographs including “Migrant Mother? that sent her career soaring (Women Come to the Front). Just like James Agee and Walker Evans, she experienced the poverty and neglect of the farmers in our country during the Great Depression. Her fervor of her experience is spoken throughout her pictures.
In the short clip of A Visual Life, Dorothea Lange speaks about her relation to a camera by referring to it as “an appendage.? She is so utterly devoted to her work that she considers the apparatus a physical attachment that can function as productive as any other limb on her body. In A Visual Life she also states, when referring to what is projected through a lens, that “this is the way it is. Look at it.? My inference from that statement was that the idea of taking a picture of a scene emphasizes the audience to actually take in what is given in the printed image. A photograph underlines the image or the event that is taken out of reality so that we, as viewers, are forced to interpret the purpose or indication of it. Lange wants us to evaluate the image that she, or any other photographer, presents to their spectators. For example, if you see a picture of children playing in a rundown and polluted environment, Lange would want you to conjure up the intensity of the issue of poverty in the lives of innocent children. With this advice from Lange, I am able to deeply analyze not only what is shown in the picture, but also what is represented through the lens of any specific occurrence. In A Visual Life, Lange also speaks about her photograph’s impact on the viewers:
“No one asks how did you do it, where did you find it, they would say that such things could be.? With that statement, I realize that Lange is describing how a superior photograph should capture an idea or express an event. From what the image entails, the viewers should gain a feeling of belief and truth. To truly understand a photographer’s intention, I believe that one should have significant proof in their mind of that occurrence from each detail and figure that the suitable photographer has captured in a picture. Even if the photograph is cropped or untrue, the photographer’s intended message should be evident for the viewer.
Later in Lange’s life, when she worked for the government to photograph Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor in armed camps, many of her pictures were censored (Women Come to the Front). Her idea of truth in her photographs was hindered by the government when she tried to expose the harshness and tragedy in these camps. Her devotion would have exposed too much reality to the public. Lange’s photographs would be analyzed for validity just as James Agee’s writing, or Walker Evans’ photographs.
It is apparent that in both Lange’s photographs and Agee’s literature that people with such passion and fervor for their work still receive critical reviews. Both people used their works to spark a movement or expose an occurrence to the public. Lange did so by capturing the conditions of poor farmer families in California with her photographs. Agee attempted to inform the public of the poverty of farmers in Hale Country, Alabama with his text. What I see in both of these artists is each of their extreme respect and passion for their works and experiences. The extreme devotion of Dorothea Lange has influenced me to go beyond the norm to activate people’s interests, to promote my ideals, and to interpret resources with all facts and figures considered. To make a movement, one needs to depict the facts in a manner, as Lange describes in A Visual Life as previously mentioned, that people simply believe “that such things could be.?

Works Cited
Fleischhauer, Carl and Beverly Brannan. Documenting America: Photographic Series. 1988. 17 September 2007 .
Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters During World War II. 19 June 2006. 17 September 2007 .
Resettlement Administration, Ohio History Central, September 20 2007,

Believing is Seeing Position Statement

“Believing is seeing, and not the other way around.? Errol Morris made this as his closing argument when he wrote Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up. In a way, many people could agree with his viewpoints and I know it depends on the seriousness of the situation, or the focus that is subjected to the art of photography. Which brings me to my next point; Photography is art. Not only is photography an art, but a whole industry. People know how to manipulate photography to the point where people are outraged when they want to see more but they can’t.

I had a difficult time agreeing and disagreeing with Errol Morris when he said “Believing is seeing, and not the other way around.? The world wants proof; the world needs proof, and I think that we are always looking for the quick fix and the transfer of blame. I remember on September 11th every television in my school was on watching the news. I am almost positive that if someone went up to Errol Morris and told him what had happened he would accept it for what it is, rather than running to the nearest news source to double check the horrific scene. When someone witnesses something first hand it can change their opinion or beliefs almost immediately or sends them down into a road of rethinking their views. However I understand that when we do not see things such as God, it gives us hope because it has not been proven otherwise.

“We see not what is there, but rather what we want to see or expect to see,? states Errol Morris. Good examples of this are the Holocaust deniers that have the guts to stand up for what they believe in and speak their point of view. Of course this upsets me personally, but last year in my Holocaust class my teacher asked us to turn the tables around for one day and think what it must be like to live as a denier. I couldn’t do it. We had the infamous Buchenwald Liberation Day poster taped up right next to the door. If you have never seen it, it was taken by a Private in the Army in hopes that nobody would be able to deny the situation even after the Nazi’s terrible attempt to clean up the camp before they mysteriously cleaned things up (poorly) and vanished from Buchenwald. It contains the face of Elie Wiesel—the author of the book Night—along with many other people huddled together in the barracks. Margaret Bourke-White showed up on the following day and took her pictures which were later used at the Nuremburg Trials. With or without captions placed in these pictures they are still worth more than a thousand words. In Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Errol Morris states that “…a picture unaccompanied by words may not mean anything at all.? I would have to say it depends on the importance of the photograph. The Lusitania is quite an important subject if someone is studying history or simply has an interest. Not to mention that without a caption it is simply a ship—not a sunken ship—simply a manmade piece of work. However, I feel that captions aren’t needed when looking at survivors at Buchenwald, or even the farmers in Hail County, Alabama. There is a feeling of compassion for the unknown people in the photograph that whether or not you know how to relate to the situation, you manage to. To me, these photos ‘create their own narrative’ just like the Hooded Man.

I absolutely love how Errol Morris knows that “It is easy to confuse photographs with reality.? If every time we witnessed a picture we could think of what happened seconds, minutes and days before and after the snapshot was taken, we would need to rethink millions of memories that the photographs in our albums hold.

When it comes to believing people, simply because they say it is them and it is their story to be told, I see eye to eye with Mr. Morris. I absolutely hate hearing about battles of people, such as Gilligan, who say that it is indeed them in the picture and nobody else can believe them. When did we sink so low that when someone says that it is certainly them in the photograph no one can consider the possibility without an official investigation? The most recent image that I know of that was deemed ‘correct’ was The Kiss. That photo underwent multiple forensic investigations, and until this summer a special team of forensic investigators could finally say it was this gentle, old, brittle man who had made this claim since the 1980’s. I feel it was pathetic that it was necessary to carefully measure the nose and analyzed other body parts of the man who claimed to be this famous kisser in Times Square, coming home from World War Two.

For the most part I like Errol Morris’ viewpoints on how the art of photography can be a tricky one. It is so hard to believe something, when in today’s world it can be changed so fast with the help of a computer. I guess it is up to the individual on what they choose to base their beliefs on—seeing or believing.

Position Statement: 'Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire' and 'The Tradition: Fact and Fiction'

The Power Of An Image

In the article “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire? the author, Errol Morris, asks a simple question: are “photographs true or false? Do they tell the truth?? It seems simple enough of course. We have all grown up being told to not believe everything we read or see on TV, but we are still naively trusting of pictures. A photograph is the capture of an image, it can’t be a lie, right? Well not to cliché, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, it is also worth a thousand interpretations. Maybe a picture isn’t so simple. In “The Tradition: Fact or Fiction?, Robert Coles discusses documentary work as not having clear-cut opposites in that regard. His students stress Agee’s emphasis on actuality, “it’s responsibility to fact.? (Coles 212) Coles discusses pictures, how they act “looking and overlooking.? (213) The point being to “letting something slip by, sorting out what’s been noticed and arranging it for emphasis.? (213) For the power of the image to correctly convey the author’s intent, it must be determined what portions are to be used.

With an interest in photography, I was personally touched by Walker Evans’s photographs from “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.? His pictures were blunt, honest, and straightforward. I believed this was the photography before modern photography lost its soul to digital. In my astonishment, I was ignorant to what the artist intended. This is what he wanted viewers to feel, touched by the bluntness, the raw honesty. How powerful these images are that go straight to your soul. But are they really? I mean these images we see are a finished project, the dramatic final version a far cry from the original. Cole discusses a Paul Taylor, who reminds us of Evans’s skill, his “genius for careful, sometimes provocative cropping and editing of particular photographs.? (232) In figure 9 of “The Tradition: Fact and Fiction,? we see one of Evans’s pictures that appeared in “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.? It is the image of a man, staring straight at us. An emotional face, perhaps tired, but strong. Alone, his face absorbs the picture, you can’t look at the picture with out looking straight into his eyes. But wait, figure 10. There’s the same exact picture, just now it isn’t cropped. The man is sitting with his daughter, his face no longer so powerful, in fact, is that the crack of a smile on his face? The picture doesn’t convey what the author wants us to feel when we see this image. The man is not alone, he has his daughter by his side. The image had lost it’s intended power. This image didn’t make it into Evan’s book. Now look at the picture which was selected of the small girl working in the field. Notice in figure 11 how the angle of the camera makes the trees appear smaller, creating the image of a larger field--more work. The camera is low to the ground, showing the crops as larger, more tedious. The girl is looking away, with her back bent into her labor. Compare this to figure 12, the girl is looking at us, the camera is at her level. She appears, larger, more self-reliant. The trees in the background look bigger, less distant, creating the image of a smaller field. These pictures were taken is sequence with one another, but the emotions from them are drastically different. The author picks and chooses depending on what he want you to feel. The audience is less moved by a happy little girl, then one bent over with her labor. But both pictures show real images, they can’t be lies--these things actually happened.

Now back to Morris, can an image be a lie? Think of photographs in the past that we’ve all seen. The raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, JFK Jr. saluting at his father’s funeral, the Beatles crossing Abbey Road, even the famous faux of the Loch Ness monster. Everyone of these pictures is meant to make you feel or think a certain way, its image was specifically designed just for that. All photographs are taken of something that was real, that actually happened--though perhaps not as we perceive it. It just depends how the artist wishes you to interpret the image. “The idea that photographs hand us an objective piece of reality, that they by themselves provide us with the truth, is an idea that has been with us since the beginnings of photography. But photographs are neither true nor false on and of themselves. They are only true or false with respect to the statement that we make about them or the questions we might ask of them.? (Morris)

One looks at a photo and sees an image, a story, perhaps feels an emotion. And that’s really the point of a picture, to get someone to see something a certain way. Photographs are a common tool used for documentary. We’ve all seen pictures, perhaps unknowing that they were meant to make us feel. The image of coffins in a mass grave, an example by Morris, of the propaganda used to enrage the American public into WWI. But in documentaries information is manipulated to entice us to feel or think a certain way. Just remember that. I agree with Morris when he states there are two words you can never apply to a picture: true and false. Of course the photograph is true, but the image you actually see, the information one interprets can never be completely true or false.

The Question

I would like to take this time to ask a question. However before I ask this question I want to let you know that this question only brings on more questions, and as far as I can reason l don't know the answer. Here it is moreover in a series of questions:

When can one stop questioning what is true and when one no longer questions it's truth how is it known or proved to be so?

This question is complex and so far it has been thought about by many of the pieces that we thus far have read in class. Agee must have thought about how he could hold true the stories of each person who is accounted for in his book "Let us now praise Famous men" yet it is very apparent in his writing style that he does not quite know how to treat the information that he has other than to write it as he sees it. He however can not possibly write down everything that he sees. So how can he write it as true? The answer? He can't.

There seem to be some sort of definition of truth that is missing here ( the definition of true). If something is true but it does not include the whole situation does the account of the truth that was told loose meaning for being shy of the whole tale? Is this just something that applies to telling a story. If my mother asks where I have been, I could tell her the truth that I went to the mall and out to dinner, and this would be true. But then I did leave out the part about getting arrested for shop lifting and I ended up eating in prison and that's why I haven't been home in a few days! Of course this isn't true of my life, but the point is that my original story doesn't seem to be true in comparison to what really happened, and if I left my mother with the first story I would not feel as if I had told the truth.

What I am trying to show is that there is the truth and then there is the whole truth. Leaving out some parts of a story can then persuade someone to create a false interpretation of what really happened. This makes the job of anyone who is to recreate anything difficult! I could say it makes the job of a writer difficult, which it does, but I wont, because to have the job of recreating anything, not just a story, is to have a job that you will never succeed in. Every attempt, whether it's a story, a picture, or even a map, will be a failure to recreate the real thing. It however is the job of the Author to depict the story in a way that will create an image closest to what is real in the mind of the reader, which is hard if you are not a mind reader! Each person interprets things differently, and the author must try to account for that no matter how silly or impossible that sounds.

This is the same for cropping photos, which was brought up in class when we read Robert Coles's, "The Tradition: Fact and Truth" When taking any photograph we are trying to capture a moment; whether to aide personal memory or to share with someone else matters not, for the photo produced can never tell the whole story. However, most of the time it is not the whole story we are trying to tell. Things are left out all the time and for good reason, no one wants to read a detailed story about what happens every second of the day, it's a waste of time. But when it comes to a matter of history it is important to capture as much as possible of the important things. What is important ? That is up to each person to decide. And what he or she decides wont always be liked or thought of as correct, but that is why it is hard. Not everyone will be pleased, not every detail will be shown, and the truth will never be complete.

I will ask the question once more:

When can one stop questioning what is true and when one no longer questions it's truth how is it known or proved to be so?

How will you answer this question?

"Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up"

I read “Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up? by Errol Morris. The article is about Ali Shalal Qaissi proclaiming to be “The Hooded Man.? The article also talks about ways photographs can be altered to become misleading.

In the first paragraph of the article it talks about a picture that was not very newsworthy because everyone has already seen this picture. This may be hard to believe, but for some reason I have never seen this picture before in my life. So I went on Google and typed in, Abu Ghraib and “The Hooded Man.? I found a website that had 279 pictures and 19 videos of what went on at Abu Ghraib. I could only stand to look at a few of the pictures before I closed the window. The fact that people would do these torturous activities to other people and take pictures of it is just cruel in my mind.

The Hooded Man picture will likely become the iconic picture of the Iraq war. The article states, “Without the iconic photograph, it is likely there would have been little or no interest in Qaissi or his story.? I believe this to be a very true statement. Qaissi holding the picture makes it more believable that it is him as the Hooded Man. The caption for the picture in the New York Times, which read, “Ali Shalal Qaissi in Amman, Jordan, recently with the picture of himself standing atop a box and attached to electrical wires in Abu Ghraib,? reinforced the idea that he was the man in the picture. When I first looked at the picture and read the caption I instantly believed that it was him and the picture. I felt bad for what he went through. However, later in the article another man is introduced, Gilligan, who is also believed to be “The Hooded Man.? Now which man is actually under the hood and attached to electrical wires. Qaissi was quoted in the article saying he never wanted to become famous. This statement, if true, tells me that it could actually be him under the hood. I happen to think that he did come forward to tell human rights workers to ultimately become famous. If he did not want to become famous then why has he now put the picture of the Hooded Man on his business card? In my opinion, because he became famous by claiming to be the Hooded Man, by putting the picture on his business card will remind people of who he claims to be and more people will want to work with him. In the article, Errol Morris shares why he thinks Qaissi came forward and why he printed the picture on his business card.

“Human rights workers and prisoners needed a spokesperson to dramatize the growing evidence for abuses at Abu Ghraib and at other U.S. military prisons around the world. The Hooded Man was that ideal spokesperson – a living symbol of abuse. An icon. Clawman had suffered at Abu Ghraib, and he had an interest in being heard. This is not to say that anyone was involved in conscious fraud. But it is to say that there were pressures on all of us to believe that Clawman was the man under the hood.?

Errol Morris’ theory is a good one but I feel that Qaissi (Clawman) only did it to become famous. Gilligan is the man who was originally found to be the man in the picture of “The Hooded Man.? I believe this to be the true man under the hood. Sabrina Harman, an M.P. at Abu Ghraib, took pictures of both Clawman and Gilligan. Clawman was her prisoner and she said that he was never attached to wires or forced to stand on a box. She also said that Clawman would have been too heavy for the box and would have crushed the box. Sabrina is also quoted in the article basically saying that it was definitely Gilligan on the box and in the picture. I also believe it is Gilligan because no one knows where he is now. If it was me in that awful picture I would not want to be associated with it. I would want to forget about it and try and move on with my life.

In conclusion, “Will the Real Hooded Man please Stand Up? was a very interesting article for me to read. I think it is horrible what went on at Abu Ghraib. A picture and the words accompanying the picture can make people believe different things about the same picture. Who do you think is the Hooded Man, Clawman, Gilligan, or could it even be someone else?

The website for anyone who would like to see the other pictures or the videos is

September 19, 2007

Position Statement: Seeing Vs. Believing (Robert Preston)

After examining Errol Morris’s journal on the iconic photo of the Hooded Man, I feel Morris thinks a lot like I do. He emphasizes time and time again how one has to be careful in what they believe the truth is, even if it seems to be ‘proven’ with a photograph. I had a little rant yesterday about how seeing something doesn’t always prove that it is true. Norwood Russell Hanson said that “observations in science are not independent of theory but are, on the contrary, quite dependent of it?. Now the science he speaks of could be related to anything. In physical science (like when calculating the acceleration that gravity has on an object) the experiments are formed around the notion of a theory. As reluctant as the scientists might be to say that gravity is only a theory, they do believe it, and that’s why the experiment works. It is, as Morris puts it, that “believing is seeing? (my emphasis). Since we believed that Clawman was in the photograph initially, even with the facts in order in a latter time, there will always be the connection of Clawman and the Hooded Man.

I worked in a photo studio for two years. I was the head lab technician (which basically meant I developed all the pictures). Deception is not always intentional, or meant for wrong doing. After the thousands and thousands of pictures I saw, I could honestly believe some of them, but that’s not to say there can never be any doubt. Let me explain in greater detail: I could believe the pictures that people took of their families going to a picnic on a gorgeous August day. There wasn’t any photo-shopping and there weren’t any alterations. Now I can never be one hundred percent sure that there wasn’t any deception in the photograph (remember, not all deception is intentional, or bad), but how am I to know that Uncle Fred’s girlfriend was cropped out from the right side of the family shot because she wasn’t officially ‘part of the family’? And what if she was cropped out just because the stranger that you found walking his dog and asked to take your photo just had a bad eye for photo taking? Morris explains that “it is easy to confuse photographs with reality?. Morris says that “reality is three-dimensional. Photographs are but two-dimensional and record only a moment, a short interval of time snatched from the long continuum of before and after?. Maybe Uncle Fred’s girlfriend wasn’t cropped out of the photo, but missed being in the photo because she was in the restroom? There are things incorporated with the hundredth of a second that the shutter speed captures that are very unintentional, but sometimes very intentional. Another problem is “this idea that photographs can be true or false independent of context? as stated by Morris in Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire. All of the photos that went through our printers, and checked by me could mean a million things; told millions of stories. Occasionally I would be able to converse with the customer about their family picnic, or their trip to Africa. That makes the story much more true by hearing it and seeing it.

Morris tries to explore the different techniques of the photographer when capturing the image of Clawman holding the Hooded Man’s picture for the front page of the New York Times. He clearly goes over all of the possible reasons why the left hand (or the claw) was cropped out of the photo. He goes over almost all of the possible explanations; from respect to not show his demented hand on the front page, to the possibility of a hoax. I think it could be something entirely different. In photography aspect ratios become everything, especially when trying to enlarge a photo, or emphasize something in it. I think the photo of Clawman holding the Hooded Man’s picture was merely a cropping due to aspect ratio and the fact that the newspaper wanted to make the Hooded Man’s photo fairly visible in along with Clawman. The images on the front page of any newspaper are in all honesty not that large (which would make sense, because news prints usually have a lot to say, and they have to compromise with smaller pictures for more words). I think the hand was ‘sacrificed’ to get the picture large enough to recognize it, and get enough words in to explain the story (or at least the story at that point).

I like the way that Morris brought up the flaws in how we perceive the truth in by what we see. I like the way he brought in Othello and his “ocular proof?. This article confirmed that everything has to be examined by multiple sources (that meaning by multiple people, and by different medias). This notion goes all the way back to our first reading by Agee when he states that “[the photographs], and the text, are coequal, mutually independent, and fully collaborative?. The tricky part then becomes having multiple people vouch for the honesty in both the words and the photographs.

Position Statement: Stairway to Heaven

I don’t know whether or not to reflect on the work of Errol Morris, or on the extraordinary life of Dr. Temple Grandin, so this reflection will be a combination of both.

When I got back from supper and my other classes today, I decided to take Professor Ward’s advice seriously and do a little searching online on the web vista course link for different things to write about in this overdue position paper. Being impacted by the “Stairway to Heaven? video today, and somewhat curious about the life of Dr. Temple Grandin, I slowly found myself skimming through the abstract pages of Errol Morris’ web site. Watching clips from the movies he has done, as well as the numerous Miller High Life advertisements, I began to further understand his style of images and videos, and how they can leave a larger depression on someone rather than the traditional way of cinematography. His combination of images, slow motion video and ‘artsy? shots, in addition to being narrated by a loud, meaning full tone, his point was more stern fully made, rather than leaving the listener the option to follow along. I believe that his way for making film visuals is so successful because all the content is important and meaningful; rather than being too abstract or filler. This technique is evident in “Stairway to Heaven?; I could be interpreting this wrong, but I am seeing a connection between Morris’ style, and the way in which Grandin thinks and learns: through pictures and other images. The following quote is from an article written by Errol Morris called “Liar Liar, Pants on Fire?. “I have beliefs about the photographs I see. Often – when they appear in books or newspapers – there are captions below them, or they are embedded in explanatory text. And even where there are no explicit captions on the page, there are captions in my mind. What I think I’m looking at. What I think the photograph is about.? I think that Morris and Grandin look at pictures with more detail than other people. There are certain things about images that help them remember and get more out of the pictures that they see.

When “Stairway to Heaven? first started playing, and the introduction of an autistic teacher was made, a feeling of remorse sent chills down my spine. For on this last Tuesday, the first meeting of the University of Minnesota’s Block and Bridle club was held. This club, mainly for CFANS or agricultural related students, is focused on education and promotion of the general livestock (cattle, hogs, and sheep) industry. The remorse that I was feeling was because the B&B officer team was trying to get a group to go to a seminar regarding animal handling and husbandry, with Dr Grandin as the keynote speaker. Not ever hearing about her, or knowing next to nothing about the special abilities she has, I didn’t feel it necessary for me to go to this special seminar.

Just like with Errol Morris, I did some research on Grandin via the World Wide Web. I followed the link from the course site to her website, where there were numerous writings and procedural tools for proper animal handling, along with a list of books that she has written. On the book sales page, preview chapter link was availble to entice people to buy her work, and in the book “Thinking in Pictures?, Grandin discusses the different ways in which autistic people think, learn and respond to different situations. Autistic people have abilities in the brain that most do not, so naturally they are going to be better than others at some activities. “Being autistic, I don’t naturally assimilate information that most people take for granted. Instead, I store information in my head as if it were on a CD-ROM disc. When I recall something I have learned, I replay the video in my imagination….I can run these images over and over and study them to solve design problems.? This explanation fits perfectly with the way Morris, thinks and sees pictures and connects to people through cinema. Morris picks the videos and images specifically to leave more of an impression in the viewers mind.

Errol Morris and Temple Grandin are two very different people. They probably have never been used in the same sentence before now. What is special about them is the gifts that they have that make them very similar. The ways of learning through and interrupting pictures and videos connects Morris and Grandin. Although they are completely different, their style and work is executed through the same process: thinking about pictures and what they can do with them.

Jason Ertl


So my roommate showed me this hilarious thing yesterday and I'm sure you've all heard of it, but if you haven't you should go check it out.

its called 'You're The Man Now Dog!'

you have to kinda mess around for a little while and search for random items but I thought it was so funny that they had a whole section dedicated to misheard lyrics like 'corn on the cob' and ' a lung' lol. which is obviously not what they are saying. Just search for misheard lyrics if your interested.

Response for Marissa and TJ

Although there weren't a lot of position papers from the first week, the ones that were written were strong.

One thing I forgot to mention was the possibility of using the "extended entry" section in Movable Type to hide longer form entries to make the front page neater. I'm going to do that here, so you get an idea of how it works.

I want to comment specifically on some passages that I thought were quite well done-- for those of you still thinking about getting a position paper in by tomorrow midnight, you might want to have a look at what I consider really successful about these position papers. Simply click on the "continue reading" link at the end of this entry to read what I have to say.

There was one really big problem with Marrissa's writing-- she called the piece she was responding to "Words and Images." This is the name of the textbook, not James Agee and Walker Evans's piece. The book is named Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It's a simple mistake, but it can be really confusing for a reader. Most of the pieces come from the textbook (which should be italicized, not in quotes-- article titles are written out in quotes, books are italicized), so which piece in the textbook are you talking about? There's only one piece by Agee and Evans, but there could be more.

To use italics, highlight the text and click on the "I" button above the window you are writing in. But to get to the good stuff, Marrissa wrote:

Agee described the children as, “uncommonly sensitive, open, trusting, easily hurt, and amazed by meanness and by cruelty, and their ostracism is of a sort to inspire savage loyalty among them.? (303) From this I realize everything that we experience in our lives changes who we are and what we believe in. They lifestyle makes them much more innocent and sincere than your average American and because of their attitudes and way of life it makes the reader appreciate and love them. If Agee had one reader that recognized this passion for life and the sincerity of these kids it would be worth a book to be published. Knowing these are real people and allows the reader to feel their emotions and respect their lives so much more.

The citation here is perfectly used, but the punctuation is off. The period in an inline citation goes at the end of the page number. Remember how I tried to explain that in class? That error is trivial; the real accomplishment here is great-- "everything we experience in our lives changes who we are and what we believe in" is such a great way of putting things. Marrissa has really entered into the spirit of the piece, and the complicated nature of being an observer who wishes to report to a public that may or may not care about what the witness has to say.

What you might want to think about, though, is the nature of the identification of these subjects as "real people." We are given false names. The photographs bear little identification. The reader really has to work to connect them. The argument that Coles and others put out there is that by being more "anonymous" the people become more universal. Doesn't this work against our sense of them as "real"?

TJ made some great points in a different way:

In my opinion the tone of the article is perfect for the topics that are being talked about. However, this article varies greatly from other academically focused articles. I think this because Friedman talks about an academic subject without necessarily being in a full academic tone. I feel that by using a somewhat formal yet informal writing style Freidman got more information across to whoever was reading the article. Another way Friedman adds academic tone to her article without making it boring is by using short and to the point quotes from several different sources. I have found that when reading longer articles with larger block quotes from the same source becomes extremely repetitive and very uninteresting because we only see the opinion from one source instead of many.

Emphasizing the citation style is right on target with the skills we're trying to get from this article. I think TJ's initial observations are right on target-- but some quoting of examples of what you mean by "formal" and "informal" would make matters clearer. Some things just aren't served well by big blockquotes, or even small quotes. There is no need to show examples of her using different sources, it's much shorter and to the point to paraphrase her technique. Good strategy here. The idea that using multiple sources is more effective than relying on a single source points directly at the problem of context.

Here, we simply have TJ's opinion and the Friedman article. Adding another source, or a comparison with another academic paper would have made it stronger. But we hadn't got that far yet. Comparing the Friedman article with the one this week on "White Trash" would be a good position paper to write.

But given what TJ had to work with, I think he did a good job. I look forward to reading the way these positions develop over the course of the semester.

September 18, 2007

6 Billion Others

After viewing this at my leisure, I have come to see this site as an attempt to bring groups together in order to break barriers, stereotypes, and hatred. Rarely do people have an opportunity to see how others live outside their state, let alone their country. This project enables us to become that much closer to our friends across the seas without leaving our seat!

The ‘Six Billion Others’ project takes a light approach by asking people around the world for their opinions on various subjects. The topics include love, joy, tears, family, God, as well as several other universal concepts that we all share. These interviews are then played one after another, each voice represented by another region around the world. Perhaps by listening to these testimonies, we can realize our similarities and differences based on our principles as humans and not of race, ethnicity, origin, political identity, gender, religion, or age. The creator of this website, Yann Arthus-Beatrand, is a humanitarian from France. His work originated from a project website called Both projects, along with other outreach efforts to promote global warming awareness and animal rights, are meant to tie ‘sustainable development’ concepts around the world. His objective is that “this Earth is ours, it belongs to us all, but throughout the world, people are ready to die and to kill for a portion of it. Hence my obsession: I need to know why we cannot live together and coexist in harmony. As a result, I launched the project called 6 billion Others. The basic idea is to meet these Others...and to ask them simple questions about their life, to receive their testimony on questions that concern us all. This, to find out how each identity is shaped by experience. To find out what keeps us apart, and what we can share? ( In this respect, these projects are incredibly interesting and profound with peace brought to its simplest form.
I was really amazed at how deep some responses were. The questions are seemingly innocent and are overall light topics. This, I assume, is so that the interviewers won’t strike raw nerves with the people they’re interviewing. It is difficult to ask pin-point questions about God without offending many people, so it makes sense why they chose to ask general questions about happiness rather than asking about the Iraq war, gay marriage, drug use, or other controversial subjects. Nevertheless, many of the vague questions seem to generate a lot of emotion from some. Instead of becoming angry at people, however, this project is meant for us to sympathize with people and their pain. Each language is translated into English, as well as French and Spanish. I’m assuming that as this project grows, it’ll be available in more languages so that we’ll all be able to understand one another.

What I found most compelling with the ‘Six Billion Others’ site was how we can relate to others on many levels, yet still have difficulty with other points of view. For example, many people that were interviewed had similar childhood dreams. One man spoke of wanting to become a superhero, a lady spoke of wanting to be rich and famous. Yet at the end of each main subject, the viewers are left with a profound statement unlike the all the others. At the end of one particular category, a man from an African nation spoke of the happiest day of his life, where he was reunited with his family after being separated as refugees. It is difficult to see the impact of war, especially if we have never directly experienced it. Another subject that I was impressed with was the subject of fear and how others rationalize it. What is scary for someone in Bulgaria I wouldn’t even consider because it is not something I encounter on a regular basis. One lady from India had a great fear of fighting with her husband for fear that she’d leave him. This project is attempting to allow people from all nations to be able to relate to others, where we would’ve found differences and miscommunication otherwise.

This project is attempting to take a non-political stance. Each testimony speaks for itself and allows the viewer to make their own opinion. It doesn’t tell us how to think; it is a genuinely sincere project that deserves recognition and praise.

-Miranda Hanson

This is the mother website for the '6 Billion Others' project, Good Planet. Very interesting stuff!!

Visual Proof?

As I got back to my dorm room today I was browsing the internet like any other college student who didn't quite want to work on their homework. Today in class when we learned that documentaries don't have bounds or rules to them, it almost made me question the integrity they had. I understand that some photographs have been cropped to prove a point, or exaggerations with extras to show what they mean, but couldn't documentaries B.S. some points, just to make a stronger, maybe more appealing agrument? Anyways, it made me question if we should believe what we see on T.V., hear on the radio, taste at sampling stations, smell at the baseball field, or feel at the store? I understand it is just an exaggeration, but what if we don't know any base fact about the subject? Should we take everything we see as truth? Nowadays photos can be altered (more than just cropped, but added to as well), movies can be cut together, nothing seems as proof anymore. In the movie from SkyCast: Star Wars Vs. Star Trek, it can be seen in a more obvious way that everything may not be as it seems. But what if you didn't know that the things done in the movie were out of the ordinary? What if the effects and story were taken as a truth? There can be decieving things out there that make me a little uncomfortable as a consumer (false advertising), and as a general being.

I don't know if this can be totally applied to the exaggerations of documentaries, and the techniques used my Errol Morris, but Prof. Ward said we could post things that were cool, and slightly provocative on here, so I am. Unlike Temple Grandin from 'Stairway to Heaven' I don't think in pictures, but I think more abstractly, and I love to think in metaphors. Anywho, if nothing else, just watch this for fun.


ps- I did this one other time, and I hit the back button and it all disappeared... I hate it when that happens!

So after doing all of this, I of course was still on YouTube looking at random videos. I stumbled across a thought provoking and exciting video entitled 'Can Your Film Change the World?' which is an exciting, but not yet made, documentary of the lives from the diversity of the planet. I will always have a certain doubt about the images I might be seeing on the big screen, but this new documentary will be something that I will definatley go out of my way to see. Check it out!

Stairway to Heaven

Position Paper by Kyle Sommers

After viewing the short documentary on Temple Grandin titled “Stairway to Heaven? I became very inspired how she can overcome all the different situations that life throw at her yet she stands up and defeats them. Being autistic in a sense helps her because she has received a gift that she can tell how cattle are going to move and behave in different types of corrals.
To me she is a person to look up to because she has figured out a way to do what she loves and be happy with the decisions she makes. She is someone that people admire for her courageous efforts to live in a society that’s not as forgiving or understanding. Her work especially to me is inspiring because I grew up on a 500 cow dairy farm and I understand what she means about how cattle move. I feel that the gift she has is very important because there are many cases of where farms don’t have the understanding on how cattle move. She has proven that she really does understand cattle because over one third of the packing plants in the nation are designed by her. She believes that if there are curves and all they can see is the cow in front of them that the cattle will walk smoother. She says a spiral is the natural movement of cattle which makes it easy for them to walk in confined and new places.
One thing that I agree with most of all in this film is when she talks about cattle being meant for slaughter. I believe that to fullest extent of the statement that all cattle are meant for food. Being from a farm I know what it takes to raise the animals to the whole process of them becoming food to eat. For some people they do find it not very tolerable or nice, but that’s life and that’s how it is. I think one of the main assumption people have about the slaughter portion of the process is that the animal suffers. There is no time in the process where they feel a thing and it’s very harmless. I really like how she talks about the whole process because people actually find out what it is that happens.
The Big Squeeze interested me because the way that she goes about understanding how cattle feel when they are in a shoot. The cattle become calm when they get squeezed down and remain that way. When she makes a machine that she can do the same to herself was interesting because she is taking the role of an animal to really know what it feels like to be in a confined space and be nervous. But when she squeezed the sides together she became calmer. She was able to relax and stay calm.
The part when she talks about the “Stairway to Heaven? is a part of the film that I thought was very real and alive. She talks about how the cattle walk up the ramp like they are on their way to heaven. It gives a real life exposure to a person that has no idea what it’s like to be around cattle and what they are about.
The one part about the film that I disagree with is the fact that she says the animals think for themselves. I feel this is false because I have been around cattle and other animals my whole life and I see everyday what goes on. The way animals work, is that they see food they eat it until it’s gone then they lay down. When they get up they drink water and just lay around. To me an animal is an animal and is meant for food, to support another life form.
Another part of this documentary that struck me as interesting is the fact that she says that she doesn’t fear death. To me I’m scared to death to die because I haven’t done everything in life that I have wanted to do. To not fear death is one thing that I don’t see as possible because I don’t think there is one person out in the world that actually wants to die.

Mammoths in South Dakota

Mammoth Site

Is this the Mammoth Site you're talking about, Robert? If so, I've been there too.

September 17, 2007

Big Poop

I try to find something interesting every day. Today, this story in the New York Times caught my eye:

DUVANNY YAR, Russia (Reuters) - Sergei Zimov bends down, picks up a handful of treacly mud and holds it up to his nose. It smells like a cow pat, but he knows better.

"It smells like mammoth dung," he says.

This is more than just another symptom of global warming.

For millennia, layers of animal waste and other organic matter left behind by the creatures that used to roam the Arctic tundra have been sealed inside the frozen permafrost. Now climate change is thawing the permafrost and lifting this prehistoric ooze from suspended animation.

But Zimov, a scientist who for almost 30 years has studied climate change in Russia's Arctic, believes that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air it will accelerate global warming faster than even some of the most pessimistic forecasts.

"This will lead to a type of global warming which will be impossible to stop," he said.

You'll need to sign up for the Times (details in WebVista) to be able to read the whole thing.

September 16, 2007

Check This Out...

This is what I am in the process of writing my position statement about. If you are curious, visit The Porch Movement website. That website has not been working for me so just google The Porch Movement. Also, if you want an intro on how the porch movement was established, go here for a video. My friend informed me about this movement by the U of M students that wanted people to be more involved and connect more with their community. Check it out!

No Response

I notice that 2 people out of 21 (10%) of the class have had the guts/interest to actually start trying to use the primary discussion tool, and only then because they perceive it as an assignment. As I've tried to explain in class, I know I can't make you interested in things, I can't make you have a sense of wonder-- but that is what I'd love to see happen here. I tried to set a certain tone of silliness because I want you to feel free to be yourself instead of just being "the student."

Students get tested. Students pass or fail. Students do a very limited number of things, mostly dictated by "teachers." People live. People get interested or bored by stuff. People respond to other people, not just to "assignments." People have fun. Can we have a little fun along with fulfilling our designated roles of teacher and student here? In other words, can we just talk? Don't be so shy. It will be a really long semester otherwise.

Some people might be confused by the concept of "responses." It's really simple. There is a button on every post here that says "comment." Click on it. Write something about the post you're commenting on. It can be long or short. If it's long enough, you get credit for it. It's that simple.

When I said on the syllabus that responses were due on Tuesdays, I meant before class on Tuesday. The reason for this is that when people make the effort to formulate a position, it actually sort of hurts when no one pays attention to what they have to say. The sooner you can respond, the better people can feel about going to the trouble to write for you. The position statements are actually for you (the members of the class) not me-- they give you a chance to hear what other people think. As a teacher, I need to evaluate them, but that happens in private. You really just need to listen to them, and ask yourself if you agree or not. It's not that hard. If you can give reasons or make comparisons, then it's a response that I can privately evaluate. I won't be cutting people apart in public. It's not my style.

Are there any questions? If it's a teacher question, feel free to email it unless you think it is of general interest. Talk amongst yourselves. I mean it. I don't want to be the center of attention here. When I write in public on the internet, I hate "playing teacher." I like writing stuff that I think might be interesting to other people. Try to quit "playing student" and write things that are interesting to other people instead of "the teacher". You will not be graded on that. Most people actually find it fun-- it's like, well, talking! I don't like begging, but I also hate silence. Is there anybody out there?

September 13, 2007

Position Statement on "How to Make Your Students Cry"

Position Statement by TJ Dubbs

When assigned to read the article “How to Make Your Students Cry? by Natalie Friedman, I thought it would be an article about another holocaust story. I was expecting a narrative in first or third person. However, this was obviously not the case. The article turned out being more of a teacher to teacher information article about a particular way of teaching. However, this was not a bad thing because the article not only contained information about a particular way of teaching but also a point of view about the holocaust. The first time I read this article I was confused and frankly uninterested. However, because I felt that I did not understand it the first time through when I read it on my computer. After reading this article in a more concentrated and focused state I learned more about what was being said and actually understood and enjoyed the article.

One of the first things in this article that interested me was Friedman’s personal connection to both the class and the message as a whole. Through her very brief but to the point description of her ties to the issue the reader understands why Friedman wants to get a reaction from her students. She is very passionate about her class and wants to stay away from stereotypical class rituals. These rituals include trivial items that just force the students to write neutral responses to very sensitive issues. Friedman essentially wants to change this for her class and make the students write and talk about what they really feel. When I read this I felt that a class like that would actually be really interesting and exciting because throughout my high school career all I ever did in my English courses was write to the expectations of the teacher. This became bland and repetitive. I felt like our opinions would never truly matter because either the papers and other assignments didn’t allow for such discussion or it simply would not go over well at the end in the grade book. Furthermore, a class like this would stimulate real discussion as well as different ways of thinking about the same issue that may or may not be present in many other classes. After getting through the initial difficulties that Friedman faced at the beginning of her class any group of students could effectively write and discuss sensitive or hot topics.

Another aspect of this article that intrigued me was the nature in which the article was written. This article was written by a teacher for other teachers. The language and tone used in this article clearly show this and also add an academic tone to the article. In my opinion the tone of the article is perfect for the topics that are being talked about. However, this article varies greatly from other academically focused articles. I think this because Friedman talks about an academic subject without necessarily being in a full academic tone. I feel that by using a somewhat formal yet informal writing style Freidman got more information across to whoever was reading the article. Another way Friedman adds academic tone to her article without making it boring is by using short and to the point quotes from several different sources. I have found that when reading longer articles with larger block quotes from the same source becomes extremely repetitive and very uninteresting because we only see the opinion from one source instead of many. I think that the way Friedman uses quotes to support her writing is done very well because they are not over used or underutilized. Each quote has meaning and serves as another opinion to base the information off of. After reading the article the second time and discussing it during class I found that not only did Friedman use some more well known sources, not known to me of course, but she also used some obscure references in her work which shows the length to which she researched and thought about this topic. Overall I feel that this article was not only informative and well thought out but interesting to read.

To conclude, “How to Make Your Students Cry? was a very well thought out and informative article. I learned a lot from this brief academic writing and would like to see a class such as this. I feel a class like the one Friedman taught would be more beneficial than many other types of courses because one such as this would force or rather stimulate personal connections to many different topics. Furthermore, this type of atmosphere would stimulate critical thinking as well as many other ways of thinking because in my opinion more people would be engaged in discussion especially if they were connected to or passionate about the topic at hand especially if opinions and ideas could be heard in an open academic atmosphere.

Position Statement for Images and Words

Position Statement: By Marissa Weatherhead

Reading Images and Words for the first time I was very confused and thought
the reading was not worth anyone’s time. Surprisingly I am very pleased to
say after reading it again I really connected with the author on a
different level. I began to understand what he was trying to convey to
the audience and felt how passionate he was about the families he lived
with. The passion he had for these people and the way he describes the
experiences he went through helped me to understand the problems in our
world, the responsibility he gives to the reader and a different
perspective on education.

James Agee had a very difficult task of viewing the life of poor,
hardworking, suffering families and sharing their story to the world. Most
people when they read books see it like a story, something that isn’t ever
going to happen, something they can’t necessarily relate to, almost like a
fairy tale or fantasy world. This book is nothing like that, Agee shows the
cold hard reality and truth of the lives of real people living in America.
He addresses the universal theme of suffering allowing the reader to open
their eyes and see difficulties between social classes that are found
everywhere, some more extreme than others. If there is one thing Agee
makes clear it is that people choose to see what they want. The goal of
the book is to make the reader see reality in an attempt to make a change
and a difference in the world.

Agee additionally puts pressure on the reader and questions what good the
information is if nothing is done. He questions his own book and what
change will come from it. I was very inspired to learn that the book
became popular around the civil rights movement because in such an
important historical time in American history. I was additionally
impressed by how much passion Agee had for what he was writing about and
the love he had for the families. Through the details, at one point I hated,
describing the families I suddenly began to understand and care for the children in
particular, especially Louise. Agee developed her character throughout the
book describing her with so much determination and flair allowing the
reader to appreciate her talents as a student and daughter. Agee described
the children as, “uncommonly sensitive, open, trusting, easily hurt, and
amazed by meanness and by cruelty, and their ostracism is of a sort to
inspire savage loyalty among them.? (303) From this I realize everything that we
experience in our lives changes who we are and what we believe in. They
lifestyle makes them much more innocent and sincere than your average
American and because of their attitudes and way of life it makes the reader
appreciate and love them. If Agee had one reader that recognized this
passion for life and the sincerity of these kids it would be worth a book
to be published. Knowing these are real people and allows the reader to
feel their emotions and respect their lives so much more.

What made the book interesting for me was the section on Education. In
school we learn education is knowledge obtained by a student and developed
by a learning routine. Education can furthermore be personal experiences
that teach one and helps one to adapt to the world. Some believe that
education is more within the individual and how they see and create the
world where as others believe education is learning to adapt to the world.
Agee however completely disregards and bashes this particular educational
system. He feels that it damages, corrupts, and traps children into the
ethical and social pressures of society. I loved how he could see both
sides to education the books and then the social aspect; although he failed
to appreciate either side. It’s difficult for me to relate to this portion
when the only education I have had I loved. I think Agee understand that
many people reading his book have enjoyed their education to a certain
extent. As a result of showing his hatred for it in this particular society
makes the reader realize how dreadful it must be because they can’t relate
to this experience the reader begins to understand it is because they like
a different and more fortunate life. I can’t relate to this awful society
with horrendous walks to school, illiterate uneducated parents, and
sickness all around. This difference in our views of education brings me to
a much larger scale understanding of the world, all the different lives and
paths people have in our own country.

To conclude, the passion he had for these families allows the reader to
draw conclusions about the people and makes the reader grow attached to
their problems, education and question how to change it. Through this book
I think one could learn from the power of believing in what you write and
its effect on the reader. Overall I think Agee did a good job with the
difficult task of portraying reality and allowing the reader to view the
life in someone else’s shoes. In the preamble Agee says, “… nothing I
might write could make any difference whatever. It would only be a book at
the best.? (100) I disagree, although I see his point it is 'just' a book but 'just' a
book could go a long way and I think he made his point very clear. If a book can
impact a society, influence new leaders to be created, change the way people
think and act, is it 'just' a book? I dont know the book Images and Words does
all these but it certainly did get me to think about a more universal idea of social,
educational, and family values.

Bizarre Wikipedia Battle

This is the entry we were talking about in class.


Is this in bad taste? What do you think?

September 9, 2007

Reading Resources

I was looking at the Longman's Writers Companion textbook (note that pages 1-44 are also assigned for Tuesday) and noticed a web site listed about "Reading your textbooks effectively and efficiently." It's not bad at all. There are several word documents you can download that may help you get past some of the common myths about reading.

Poking around on the Dartmouth site, I also noticed a video that contains most of the same information as the handouts, so if you don't want more reading about reading, there's an alternative.

This general advice is a good start, but it won't necessarily be enough to really master an extremely difficult text like Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. It will, however, help you master textbooks (like the Writer's Companion) really quickly.

September 8, 2007


I am having trouble focussing on new readings of "let uf now praise famous men" when there are so many details; does anyone have any good concentration tips that they like to use? Also are we supposed to post our intros here too?

September 7, 2007

Squirrel follow-up

la la la.... I suppose I'll keep talking to myself. sniff

One of my favorite web comics is Cat and Girl. Recently, Cat was accepted at Squirrel College. The comic today is about forming groups; there is an interesting confusion between "the Carter Family" (an old country music /gospel group) and President Jimmy Carter. At least, it was funny to me given Cat's desire to be a squirrel and the fact that Jimmy Carter is in a video I'm uploading for the class talking about Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

September 6, 2007

Hack 2 School

I stumbled on this interesting site for design students, Hack 2 School. It has some interesting information (like how to build an airhorn, do your laundry in the shower, etc). It's good even if you're not a design student. Have a click around.

It would be kind of nice if someone else would share stuff here besides me. It will help you get used to using the interface. How about at least posting a comment?

September 4, 2007

Minneapolis Squirrel

This is the example of something "popular" (1 million views) on the Internet that makes you question what sort of authoritative information you can find there that I mentioned in class.

September 3, 2007


I strongly recommend Firefox campus edition. Besides being an all-around great browser for free, it also has some add-ons that will prove indispensable for this class.