November 14, 2007

GM Food Scandal

After reading the Dick Taverne article, “The real GM food scandal?, I feel much more informed on the issue of genetically modified foods. This is an issue in which I, frankly, had not taken enough interest, most likely because I do not do the grocery shopping for my family and I trust in my mother’s food purchasing decisions. In his article, Taverne’s objective is to first refute the claim that genetically modified foods are unsafe for consumers to eat, and secondly to show why so many people are so strongly against the genetic modification of their foods.

Taverne cites research studies completed in several countries such as India, China, Mexico, France, Brazil, and the United States that all find that the risk for genetically modified crops to be unhealthy is no greater than the risk for conventionally grown crops in order to refute the arguments of those objecting to the genetic modification of crops. He also acknowledges a 2001 study conducted by a European Union commission and also funded by the EU that recorded that not only is the genetic modification of crops healthy for humans, it is also not harmful to the environment. For those that have realized that a safety argument holds no water, and prefer to argue from and environmentalist stance, Taverne recommends a recently concluded study performed by Graham Brooks and Peter Barfoot of PG Economics. The study monitored the environmental effects of genetic modification in the first ten years of its use from 1996 through 2005, and found that any negative externality genetic modification might have on the environment is far outweighed by its positive externalities. Genetic modification of crops reduces agrochemical spraying, saves, energy, reduces need for fossil fuels and emission of greenhouse gasses, and uses land more efficiently. Taverne also argues that traditional methods of modification, in other words cross breeding, is expensive, time-consuming, and is successful much less often than genetic modification. Finally, he shows how many of the people opposing genetic modification are hypocrites because they often embrace this technology for medical purposes. Scientist were able to transfer the human gene that codes for insulin into bacteria and yeast to treat diabetics.

So why is the genetic modification of crops so universally conflicted and disliked? Why would regulations in the US and Europe make entering a genetically modified crop into the market so much slower and more expensive than a traditional crop? Taverne believes the problem lies within the fact that the large companies with resources to enter genetically modified crops into the market care more about financial gain than the overall welfare of the world’s people. The Reagan administration fought to abolish these regulations and convince lawmakers that genetically modified foods should be viewed as simply a new product rather than looking at how it was derived. However, large companies like Monsanto were able to strike fear of new technology to the American public and stave off change. Another contributing factor is the regulation laws being passed in the first place. Rather than provide comfort and security to the American public, they made the public suspicious, they thought genetic engineering must be dangerous if the government feels the need to regulate it.

I agree with Taverne in support of genetic modification of crops because there are scientific studies that have torn apart arguments of health issues and problems for the environment. The fact that a multitude of countries have all performed studies on genetically modified foods and have all come to the same conclusion is enough evidence to favor genetic modification. Another factor leading to my support of genetic modification is that all of the arguments against it are purely speculation. The fact that the opposition has little or no data to back up its arguments is almost as convincing as supporting data.

Michael Arens

November 13, 2007

Why Men and Women Argue Differently-An Article Made Up Of Stereotypes

I read the article, “Why Men and Women Argue Differently,? written by Damian Whitworth from The Times. The first thing that I noticed about this article was that this article was in the Men’s category in Life and Style section. So before I even started reading the article, I was already making assumptions about what this article was going to be about. After reading it through a couple of times, I have mixed feelings about this article. It seems to me that this topic is a pointless one, but being in a relationship and having been in past relationships, I am kind of intrigued by some of the things Whitworth talks about in the article, but more than being intrigued, i am just plain annoyed.

Continue reading "Why Men and Women Argue Differently-An Article Made Up Of Stereotypes" »

November 9, 2007

Students getting dumber?

When I read "American kids, Dumber than Dirt" I thought to my self what is intelligence? Is it just reading writing and arithmetic like my grandparents say? I don’t think it is. When you think of the way kids write it is almost like they have their own language like lol, brb or ttyl. It does not make a lot of sense to an older person because technology has been such a great influence on the kids today. Some of the kids are so intrigued about video games that they take a look how the games work and become designers in the computer industry.
When this Oakland school teacher gets older the world changes around them but the material in the class room stays the same. Their is not a whole lot of change when it comes to writing papers or doing math problems but what changes is the experience with the preciseness of what he is teaching. Students rely on their computer to check for spelling or calculators to check their math. Even when they work at a fast food restaurant or at the lumber yard they don't use the pen and paper they use computers and the computer due the work for them. It isn't because they don't know how it’s because the computers can be more accurate and faster. When computers are more accurate and faster why wouldn't you use them? This is why schools should have more computer classes to get the most out of each of your computers.
I agree that kids need to go out and play more. It isn’t because they lack imagination it’s because they need the exercise. Kids are just as imaginative as ever the only thing is they have more tools to do this inside. If kids go outside and run, jump, skip and play they become better physically and emotionally because they will spend time working on social skills that they would not learn if they were inside.
I think social skills are another thing that gets missed when kids spend too much time inside. They don't know how to act with fellow kids. They tend to sit by themselves to shy to say anything to anyone because they realize they are bigger than other kids or they are smaller or they have a different skin color. If kids go out and play they then can see that we are all the same and we can get a long with each other. When you have social skills you can then learn to deal with problems and deal with them in a civil manor.
I think that when people go to college to get their degrees they tend to go into something that they are interested in like technology or if they are interested wildlife or natural resources. This is a reason some of the more practical classes can be the most beneficial. The cooking classes Agriculture classes or the shop classes can be the most beneficial by installing common knowledge that once was instilled by your parents is now going to be installed in the classroom. This is where some of the classes need to be geared to so people get the proper education of the world around them.

November 8, 2007

American Kids: Dumber than Dirt

My first reaction to this article actually came before I even read the first paragraph of the article. It came when I read the extended title which read, “Warning: The next generation might just be the biggest pile of idiots in U.S. history.? I read this and was shocked. All I could think was whoa, how could someone say that about me, my friends, and this generation of kids that I am in. What evidence do they have to back this statement up. This extended title is really the reason that compelled me to continue reading this article.

I used Google to search for Mark Morford, the writer of this article, to get some information about him. I was directed to Wikipedia. On Wikipedia I found that Mark Morford is a very controversial writer. He is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Morford writes about various topics including sex and deviance to popular culture, technology, music and politics. He has actually been suspended twice, once for a comment he made in one of his writing about on a sexual relationship between a teenage male student and an older female teacher and the other time he got suspended for using a swear word in an email news letter.

Continue reading "American Kids: Dumber than Dirt" »

Magic and Photography: Once Well Kept Secrets

How can we manipulate pictures? Pictures can be manipulated to protect people, persuade people, and eventually to make people talk about what “could’ve, should’ve, would’ve, and did happen?, as the infamous Carrie Bradshaw and friends would state.

Continue reading "Magic and Photography: Once Well Kept Secrets" »

November 7, 2007

Wee R Stoopidz

After reading the “American Kids, Dumber Than Dirt? article, I found several problems with the author’s argument. From a conversation solely between him and his teacher friend, Mark Morford claims that “kids these days are overprotected and wussified and don't spend enough time outdoors and don't get any real exercise and therefore can't, say, identify basic plants, or handle a tool, or build, well, anything at all?. Morford makes the mistake by assuming that his readers all agree with him, and therefore provides little background to his claim. He goes on a ramble about the education system and its lack of direction, and believes the enhancement of technology is responsible for the supposed shortcomings of education in children. Teenagers are apathetic and will not aspire to anything, nor do they appreciate their opportunity to free education that our country graciously provides.

Continue reading "Wee R Stoopidz" »

November 4, 2007

The Arrogant Artist

Where does one draw the line between an idea that was influenced by someone else’s work and an idea that was “stolen? from its originator? I found the situation between the artist, Christian Marclay and the iPhone company rather comical and, overall, surprising.

My first confusion accumulated when I read that iPhone courteously asked Marclay if they could build off of his idea. I would have thought that such a massive conglomerate would not have even considered asking Marclay if they could use his “idea.? It seems that the IPhone Corporation may have just been attempting to eliminate any potential lawsuits that Marclay may have gathered. But even that does not make sense because the iPhone company used the idea anyway. I think it showed civility from the iPhone company to ask Marclay if they could use his broad idea that had a gray area when it came to defining the original artist; they obviously were not concerned about lawsuits, but they at least asked.

It seems like Marclay took advantage of the fact that iPhone ultimately considered the “Hello? medley from various movies as his idea. I would assume that Marclay would not even consider the iPhone ad a plagiarized version of his work if iPhone had not asked for his permission. Marclay acted stubborn and arrogant to refuse to give permission to the company to recreate a collage of movie clips. Marclay portrayed an immature action when he refused to let iPhone use “his? idea. This situation reminds me of an event when I was younger. My little sister looked at a picture of a person that I drew, she complimented me on the way I drew the person’s eyes, and then she constructed a picture using the same eyes that I incorporated into my painting. It happens. People get influenced by certain things and have the right to renovate and advance the idea that motivated them. That same idea was represented by Marclay’s lawyer when he wanted to persecute the iPhone company, “’there’s nothing I can do about it. They have the right to be inspired’? (Bercovici).

One does not credit nature for being the drive and motivation for the work of practically everything inspirational. We just respect it – just as the iPhone company did when it asked for Marclay’s permission even though the act was unnecessary. I am glad that iPhone countered Marclay’s refusal. Marclay of all people should understand the aspect of being inspired by other people or other already-established ideas. His entire career consists of borrowed sounds; he even says aloud that he influenced by the “sounds that people don’t want? in Telephones (Bercovici). Marclay needs to relax; he is not the first person to integrate mixed music or specifically cut videos into one’s work. People have been utilizing all different types of objects to get a particular noise for a movie or mixing music on turntables far before Marclay came up with his “unique? form of art with abstract noises.

My second confusion was how Marclay contradicted himself when he spoke about lawsuits. He first spoke to his lawyer about filing a lawsuit against iPhone, but he was shot down by his own attorney after he said that people have the right to get inspired. The lawyer probably laughed in Marclay’s face because Marclay was upset about iPhone’s supposed “rip-off.? Marclay then says that he is not fond of the idea of going to court over a dispute like that, “’This culture’s so much about suing each other that if we want to have anything that’s more of an open exchange of idea, one has to stop this mentality,’? (Bercovici). Hmm, Marclay, I thought you just tried to file a lawsuit but your lawyer told you that you couldn’t.

Marclay has no reason to be complaining. He extracts noises from musical tools that have already been used for a melodic purpose. He must have been influenced by disc jockeys and turntables to create his artwork; he is contradicting his own work by persecuting the iPhone company. He needs to be consistent in his statements. He tried to file a lawsuit, but it failed, and then he comes up with an excuse for why he is not going to sue the major company. If the iPhone company did anything wrong, it was asking permission from Marclay to use “his idea.? The commercial’s “Hello? idea was too broad to specify one particular artist. Ultimately, all people are influenced by something or someone at one point in their lives. We all build off of each other’s creativity or even the creativity that exists in nature. If we did not do so, nothing would get done. As long as it is not a lucidly direct copy of someone’s work, it should be grounds for inspiration.

Works Cited
Bercovici, Jeff. RadarOnline: Artist Says IPhone Ad Was a Rip-Off. 27 March 2007. 3 November 2007 .

November 2, 2007

Are we moving too fast?

In her article Finding Time The fast, the bad, the ugly, the alternatives, Rebecca Solnit deliberates her opinion about the fast paced, industrialized world we live in today. She brings up several different topics such as the loss of personalization the internet has caused. And the deficiency of time when people commute to their high paying jobs.

Solnit’s four main culprits of loss of humanization today are; efficiency, convenience, profitability, and Security. Together these four are making us more and more like machines and less and less human.
Today in the industrial, economic America, efficiency and convenience are most important to our fast paced lives. One of the examples she uses in her article is the buying of a book. Web sites such as are fast, and efficient. We basically have to press a couple buttons and we have bought a book. But there is something lost when we don’t even leave our room to purchase a book. Solnit states that, “The virtual version rips out the heart of the thing, shrink-wraps it, sticks a barcode on, and throws the rest away?. We cannot grow from what we already know, and we cannot go beyond what we know when searching online. When we go to a book store, we have to opportunity to explore other options. We will see a whole store of books we never even hear about. Same goes for the example of using a treadmill instead of walking outside. Yes, it may be convenient but what about fresh air, the leaves turning colors and flowers blooming, or people we may meet on the way. I entirely agree with these two arguments. I go to bookstores quite often. Usually not to buy a book, there is just something about the environment that I love that I can’t find on a web page.
Her third topic is profit. Americans live off of competition and profit. The media today is one of the main offenders. Bigger and more is better. It has imposed in us a mentality that we always need more. We are no longer satisfied with a home and a car. We need the cottage, speed boat, and platinum television. This need for more is causing an immunization to limited time with family. Children are becoming used to rarely seeing their father. And in the modern world, many times their mother as well. Money may not be the route of all evil, but it is quickly becoming the route to depersonalization.

Solnit is showing us what many cannot see. America is moving too fast. As a college student I don’t even have a job right now. But between classes, homework, and other obligations, I rarely have time for myself. It is all about competition, making it to the top, and if we slow down for a second we may never get there. I believe that we would all agree that we should slow down, take a trip to Hawaii for a couple weeks. But we all dread what we would be coming home to. We cannot survive getting behind, it just isn’t practicable.

Solnit explains that it is all in the language. The way the media, our professors, our bosses, or our peers tell us what is best for us. Much of what is said is about things, material things that we can purchase. But that has very little to do with what makes a human a human. The objects that we cannot describe are what separate us from all other creature, such as Emotions, relationships, compassion, and forgiveness. These are things companies cannot advertise, that people cannot purchase in a store. And these could quite possibly be the most important part of our existence.

The main idea that I got from this article was to just slow down. Take a breath, look around and see all the wonderful things in my life that have nothing to do with competition or material items. In light of Thanksgiving coming up, we should think about all the things in our lives that we are thankful for. And don’t forget about the language that many times cannot be spoken.
molly murphy

November 1, 2007

The Onion

Although I find The Onions headline disturbing and very inappropriate, I still think that it’s very affective in getting the reader to pick up the newspaper. I guess readers tend to want to read more about tragedies more than wanting to read about happy events. This could be because of the culture of fear. The culture of fear is defined as a term that refers to a perceived prevalence of fear and anxiety in public discourse and relationships, and how this may affect the way people interact with one another as individuals and as democratic agents.
By reading about the fearful events, or events that are of disastrous then it feeds into and in a way it reinforce the idea that if this event of fear is happening then therefore it must be happening ever where else as well. Barry Glassner a sociology professor at Washington University said that in our society American is afraid of the wrong things because of the media and this article demonstrate so I what it is saying. By setting their headlines and by writing about misfortune they are creating the culture of fear that Glassner is talking about through the media.
Although I believe that in our society without newspaper such as The Onions, many American wouldn’t know what to do. For example without the newspaper such as The Onion American would not know about the plain truth about the seriousness of the issue therefore it’s a good thing that The Onion can create such headline to appeal such serious event, but at the same time I think that it’s also doing so harm too. By that I mean harm such as feeding fear to the public. By just constantly writing about misfortune The Onion is implying that there is only misfortune in the world and there isn’t any good thing that happens in the world. Although The Onion is feeding the culture of fear at the same time it is getting the truth across therefore it’s both a good and a bad thing.
I personally think that what the Onion is doing is a good thing because it is giving the plain truth out so that the readers are aware, but at the same time I think that their headlines are too disturbing in a way. Although the headlines may be as disturbing as it is; if the headline can carry the message across than it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable the headlines maybe use it.

Finding time

When reading the article finding time I wondered what is the plan of the article? Is it to show us that we are lazy? Is it to show us that we want to find a way to get things done faster? I decided after reading the whole article it was about how people are loosing their social skills.
The article starts talking about music and how you do not even have to meet someone to collaborate on an album. This is a problem with me because I was in the orchestra and music is a big part of my life. I think music is about feelings and without knowing the feelings you can not understand the true meanings. I recently seen on ESPN that a couple of journalists were debating whether what was harder conducting an orchestra or managing a baseball game and since it was a sports station one guy has to take the side of baseball and be the total jock that does not understand why conductors are important. He said the conductors are not even needed in the orchestra because the notes are written down in front of them and they know how it is to be plaid. I think this is a bunch of malarkey because the conductor is very important. Each conductor has different interpretations of each music piece they can add crescendos and slow the beat down which can change the piece of music drastically. This is why when you think that people can collaborate on music without talking to each other is not going to work because they will have different interpretations of the music. Most people do not understand this about music and does need to be understood.
This continues in the argument that people need to stop relying on technology because it is hurting people and their social skills. Have you ever meet someone that lacks the social skills to hold a conversation? Usually this person is someone who sits at home and finds time to be by themselves. They either spend time on the computer or reading in the corner of the lunch room by themselves. I am not saying they are not nerds or lame people, but I am saying is that they find it easier to be in fantasy land imaginings themselves away from where they are now because it is easier to understand. They are not accustomed to dealing with people and dealing with problems with others and this takes practice. Even I lacked the social skills because I lived on a farm and I had to be home to do chores but when I discovered sports and got a job in the food service industry I developed social skills because I was constantly working on them. With technology today people would rather play in the house on their play station or watch TV. This is hurting our society because we lack the social skills of a developed country.
Other countries tend to spend more time with their families going on vacations and visiting family in other cities. They also find time to pay for what they need and work less then typical Americans. This is because they do not find the need to have multiple homes and cars because it is not what they value. Even though Americans work more than the people in Europe they tend to view Americans as lazy and that is because we want it faster and easier with fast food and one hour photos and so on. This does affect us in our social skills and that is something we need to fix.

October 31, 2007

If We Snooze, Do We Really Lose?

According to If We Snooze, Do We Really Lose, I apparently had an old fashioned childhood. Throughout elementary school and middle school, I rarely stayed up past 10:00 on school nights. I had to go to daycare on weekday mornings, so I had to adjust to my parent’s schedule of leaving the house by 7:30. It wasn’t until high school where my sleep habits would drastically change. By the end of my senior year last year, I would nap religiously after school for two or three hours, then stay up until 2 or 3 o’clock. In addition, I had this stupid policy were I would never do homework before 9:00 and always quit before midnight. In the mornings I would get up around a quarter to seven to go to school and be fairly tired but conscious during the day. To sum up my sleeping habits, if I needed to sleep, whether it be in class, after school or driving (just kidding), I would sleep and make the best of what I got. I know it’s the same way with other people, but if I sleep for over 9 or 10 hours in one night, I would be tired and worthless for the rest of the day. I don’t know if there is any scientific explanation for this, but I suppose the body goes through different cycles and 10+ hour’s means you’re going into another one.
For me, I don’t really think that school had anything to do with staying up late daily. Sure, every now and then I would do homework until late, but if you are good at managing your time, homework can get done rather quickly. I believe that the dominant factor in lack of sleep was television. Our house finally got cable, or dish, last fall and that was probably the more exciting that Christmas. We had so many channels that I could never stay on one channel because I was going to miss something on another.
In the article, Dr. Avi Sadeh tests the affects of lack of sleep on young students and concludes that the loss of sleep on a person is equivalent to two years of education. The overwhelming evidence against night-owls raises a few questions of mine. If the students were in a normal sleeping cycle, would they go to sleep before the suggested time for the study? And how would this affect they scores they got on their tests? Kids have a general idea of the homework schedule or the other things that need to get done, and those who are more motivated will do them. I assume that younger children are less apt to stay up later doing homework or other activities, so if they needed the good sleep what could be stopping them?
There are many factors that determine the amount of sleep a person will get, mainly activities that people are involved in that consume time. I can see how someone can be busy with school, sports, religion or work, but this doesn’t justify staying up late. There are too many things for a person to waste their time on like watching TV or videogames or the computer, and the time spent on these activities is taking away from what needs to get done. Time management comes into play here; if you are good at spending your time wisely on the necessities of life, then you should have no trouble with losing sleep. I guess we could blame the media or parents for youth “insomnia?, but the only person who has control is the child. I can’t see a parent forcing their child to devote all of their time to a sport or make them watch TV. Now someone could complain saying those children’s minds and bodies are developing and they aren’t able to be self reliant yet, but that is beside the point.
What I got from If We Snooze, Do We Really Lose, is that there are many correlations between lack of sleep and decreased productivity. Steps have been made to give students more time in their day to sleep, by example starting school later. If I had the prospect of going to school an hour later, I would still get the same amount of sleep because I would stay up later. One thing I was expecting to read in this article was something regarding diet. Surely the fact that students are consuming more caffeine and calorie dense foods play a factor in the amount of sleep. I, for example, am an avid supporter of Cherry Coke and Mountain Dew, and chugging one or two of those before bed probably affect my sleeping habit. I guess the solution to the problem is going to be pretty generic: manage time wisely, do your homework early, don’t watch too much TV, don’t have a Myspace, watch your diet, exercise…
Now that I have come to college, my habits of sleeping have gotten a little more reasonable. Besides staying out late on Thursday nights, I am usually in bed by 12:30 and in a solid sleep until around 7:30. Some days I need to power nap between classes, but overall I am not extremely tired. Its kind of funny, I was taking after supper today and totally forgot about to finish this position paper, evidence that the studies are valid?

If We Snooze, Do We Really Lose?

Andrew Otto
Position Statement

I read the article about sleep and the effects of sleep deprivation; the information and research presented I could really relate to. I agree that sleep is an important part of our existence, especially how humans need sleep to function. I need eight hours of sleep to function at 100 percent, but with a lack of sleep I can still get through the day. When I was younger I always had a bedtime and being that I was from a farm I had to get up early in the morning and work on the farm, so for me I just went to bed when I was supposed to. I always felt good the next day, not tired and perfectly able to function at 100 percent, so I never experienced sleep deprivation until I was in high school. When I entered high school I got a job, and there was sports, school, the farm, and friends all to balance into my schedule. Things were often times a lot more hectic in high school and my sleep usually suffered. I would usually get about 6-7 hours of sleep every night, but I was still able to perform all the tasks presented to me. The less sleep I got, the longer is seemed to take to perform a task, but I managed and soon getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep became a habit. Eventually it appeared that my body was able to adapt to the lack of sleep and compensate for it. Now that I have moved on from my high school sleep schedule to college, I have noticed I am more alert when I get six to seven hours of sleep, not as awake as if I had gotten eight hours of sleep. It seems like if I get nine to ten hours of sleep, I am tired all day, so I guess in theory a person can oversleep. I am a little more irritable when I get less sleep, but I still have the cognitive abilities of when I get a full eight hours rest. I guess the amount of sleep that a person needs to function will vary with the person; some people just need more sleep than others.

Continue reading "If We Snooze, Do We Really Lose?" »

Politics in the Classroom

In the article about teachers bringing controversial topics into the classroom there are many points made about whether the guidelines for what is talked about in class is acceptable. I agreed with many things in this article, but also found it hard to believe other topics.

From what I learned in my days of schooling I found that teachers could not give their opinion for it might influence kid’s decisions about what they believe or think about a certain topic. There is a lot of criticism given out to teachers who try to get a conversation starter in a class that do not give all sides of the topic being discussed. As said in the article as long as the topic being talked about is defined in many ways and gives the sides of the topic that are sufficient. The sides of the topics need to have enough evidence and ideas behind them before a teacher should bring them up in class. If it is just merely one argument then that could be considered not efficient.

There are many different views of the way the guidelines are taken which are perceived different by everyone. This causes people not to be sure about what is considered acceptable. What I think is perceived by the majority of the people in this situation is the fact that you can talk about a controversial topic if first of all it pertains to the topic you are already discussing. If it does follow your topic already being discussed then the ability to show all sides of the story without giving your own opinion. The teacher must be able to do this because the students may just go off of their idea because they feel it is right because the teacher said so. This is a very bad way to gain an opinion because the students are not actually looking at the facts which also causes less stimulation of the mind to think and talk about the topic in class. As it is said in the article, a person can gain stimulation from an audience by taking off their clothes or yelling, but that is not always the kind of stimulation the person wants. A teacher is more often looking for a class to talk and to discuss why one thing is more important or why one person thinks this over that.

There are many examples used in the article and there are many more topics that could be examples of teachers using the class for the wrong reasons or trying to persuade the students without giving all of the information. When it comes to the wording of how the guidelines are written there are many different ways it could and maybe should be written, but will it ever be good enough that no one can question it? I do not think that is true with anything because someone is always questioning everything. My personal opinion on this is that teachers may just stop bringing in controversial topics just for the fact that they do not want to get in trouble for saying the wrong thing. I think the guidelines should be changed, but to the point that they are trying to make. What is the point of having guidelines when no one actually follows them exactly to what they say?... I guess that is why they are guidelines… not rules.

October 30, 2007

Is it More Intelligent to You???

I read the article “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Is the Onion Our Most Intelligent Newspaper?? written by Greg Beato. I think that the title to this article can be misleading. “Is the Onion Our Most Intelligent Newspaper?? Some people would hear the name “The Onion? and instantly say no way. Others, who stop to think about what the paper is doing, may take a while longer to respond to this question. Depending on how you are thinking of the definition of “intelligent? will provide how you answer this tricky question.

Continue reading "Is it More Intelligent to You???" »

In the Shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine

In the shadow of the Reich: Nazi Medicine was a very interesting film. It was very well done and included some facts that I had never heard of before. I have seen the film three times now and each time I pick up a few more facts that I didn’t the previous times. I had no idea that the United States was involved in a genocide movement, as well as 30 other countries. The movie states that there were over 7,500 people sterilized in Virginia because they were part of an undesirable race, most cases from the U.S. involving mental disabilities or physical abnormalities. I was shocked to learn that the United States supported German research and that we actually funded their experiments.

I began to think about the scientists and so called doctors who conducted the studies. They were widely praised and supported in their community while conducting their research. However, after the holocaust was over they were told what they did was wrong and some scientists were killed for their “work.? This seems odd to me. If first you praise and support someone and tell them what they are doing is correct, and the country will benefit from their work, and then scold them for only doing what you told them, what was right, to do, does that seem right? I don’t think it does; I understand that justice had to be served but by serving justice to these doctors it almost seems like a second injustice. Arthur Caplan, author of “When Medicine Went Mad,? made a statement that got me thinking about this in the first place, he said that the doctors had a mind set that, “they were doctoring a nation.? His logic is similar to mine in that the doctors were able to justify their work.

I am not even remotely saying that it is okay to murder millions of people for the benefit of science; however what I am saying is that it is going too far to in turn murder doctors who truly believe that they are helping a “nation.? There are examples in the justice system today where criminals are not given the death penalty because they are proven to be legally insane. If these doctors were brainwashed or convinced that what they were doing was right when clearly it was wrong, is this not also a form of insanity. A web site defines terms to which someone can plead insanity in their defense:

A criminal defense asserting that at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense. U.S.C. 18.

I bold Wrongfulness to make a point that is clear in the case above. Maybe the doctors should have been put into metal hospitals with those whom they had thought to be unfit to reproduce; this may have been a better punishment. They may have found out that they were wrong. I can not speak for the sanity of the doctors because I have not and will not meet any of them; however, by definition and the history of the time it appears there may have been injustice at the Nuremberg trials.

This was one thing that caught my attention that I had never thought about while doing my research. I did not think that there would be any logical reason why the doctor’s actions would be defendable. However, I was never taught in school that the United States supported German Eugenics research either. This makes me wonder what other holes of history present in my education, and who is behind it.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
By: TJ Dubbs

While reading “Finding Time? by Rebecca Solnit many things came to mind about what she was saying. The some of the basic arguments that Solnit had are that there are a few central elements in today’s society that are essentially lacking or rather too imperative in your lives. These elements are “Efficiency, Convenience, Profitability, and Security? (Solnit). Efficiency in our world is everything, our lives are all about getting things done fast and getting it done right. One of her main arguments and examples is centralized around the internet and the idea that things are too small now-a-days. By this she means that anything that can be searched for or can be found in a keyword search is strictly limiting purchasing or finding by accident. Furthermore, Solnit argues that leaving the house is greatly decreased do to increases in efficiency (i.e. the internet).

Another aspect of efficiency that Solit argues is a negative aspect of society is the idea of less walking as opposed to driving. Because of urban sprawl more and more people are spending much more time in the car rather than walking to and from work. This is negative because we lose the day-to-day connections and details that can only be obtain through human interaction and essentially walking around according to the article. Furthermore, in my opinion this is very true, isn’t it hard to interact with other people when you’re sitting in a metal box for long periods of time go places? Not only does Solit argue for human interaction but for the sheer fact of being out in the world and getting exercise it a good thing as opposed to sitting in a car. I couldn’t agree with this statement more, I think that getting out is one of the most important things we can do on a day to day basis. Not only is walking good for you, it is essentially safer. If one were to note the amount of people killed each year in a car accident and compare that to the number of pedestrians killed the numbers would be surprising. More than 42,800 people are killed in motor vehicle accidents each year, this number is enormous compared to the estimated 4800 or more fatalities of pedestrians.

Another evil that Solit covers in here article is the eternal goal of owning a huge house, three cars and maybe even a pool. She argues that the American public spends too much time traveling to and from work, which is partly due to the outrageous amount of other people doing the same. I agree with this statement, there is too much traffic and too much of the economic activity happens in the city, if we have urban sprawl, why not city sprawl? A comparison between the United States and Europe is made, in the area of material things and work, Europeans work less and have less things. We as Americans work more have more things, such as a third car, jet skis, snowmobiles, boats and alike. This comparison between the United States and Europe is valid in my opinion, although I do not know this first hand for I have never been over there, but I would very much so assume that Solit has good reason for making this type of assumption.

The overall theme to this article is essentially a return to simplicity. By living more simply and taking everything in so to speak instead of just hurrying through life we as a society will be better off. Not only should we not hurry through life but we should take more time to enjoy everything, society is too materialistic, we need to learn to live simpler. Can simple things in life be enjoyable as well? Of course, we do not need all the extra things that see, to be the goal over every individual in today’s era. In my opinion society needs to slow down and embrace for lack of a better phrase, time off. We need to slow down, and rethink the way society works in an effort to get back on our feet in regards to economy as well as global power for lack of a better term. The United States is ahead of many countries however, if we do not heed to the warnings of the “Four Horsemen? we will no longer be the forerunners in the global economy or for that matter anything.

October 29, 2007

Which Came First (pt III)

Yet again I am attracted to Errol Morris. His writings have intrigued me, and how could I read the first two entries of a trilogy without reading the third? In all three of his essays he examines Fenton’s photographs of The Valley of the Shadow of Darkness. In the first essay he examined the two photos, made a point to not favor which one came first (the one with the cannonballs [ON] or the one with the cannonballs [OFF]), but interviewed ‘experts’ in the field to hear what they thought. Morris just played devil’s advocate by trying to take the opposite of every position that the person on the other line had. Morris did not draw any conclusions, but I had developed a notion that the cannonballs that were [ON] were first, and [OFF] was second, because of the need to travel across the road. When the second entry came out, Morris was still undecided, but invested some great research into his dilemma and traveled across the world to try to find the exact spot where Fenton had taken the original photos some 150 years ago. When he arrived at the spot, he discovered that the photos were taken facing North/Northwest, rather than the original notion that Fenton took the photos facing southward. This is vital information for anybody who was trying to analyze the photos based on the light directions and shadow casting of the landscape or cannonballs. He also visited a museum and got a sample cannonball to see how the light reflected off of it, and how feasible it was to either put all the cannonballs [ON] or to take them [OFF]. He had to see if he could draw any conclusions. He still wasn’t convinced he was sure about what he had found out, and continued interviewing experts to see what they had to say.

In his third entry (the final in the trilogy) he starts out adamantly researching the light spots on the cannonballs and background, and try to figure out chronologically which one came first. He encountered a problem in that with the technology that they had 150 years ago it was hard for true blues to appear in black and white photography. This presented a problem in that it was really hard to decide if the pictures were taken in an overcast or sunny day. The other problem was that the tones in the two pictures were different (which would make the sun angle dating much more difficult). After lots of alterations, the photos seemed comparable, but then a new factor arose: the placement of rocks. There is no doubt that one of the two photos ([ON] or [OFF]) was staged. One had to be the original, and the other the second, or altered photo. However it may have happened, the alterations of the cannonballs (for either aesthetic photography, deception of danger, or making way to drive past) would be noticed by the people moving them, but the rocks that they tripped would not be so noticeable.

I really like how as humans, sometimes the easiest answer to something we do not know, or do not fully believe, is that it was a conspiracy. Morris brought in the Moon landing of 1969 and how some people are convinced that it was a conspiracy. He brought in proof that I had not heard, but really liked: in his interview he uncovered the unbeatable truth that the dust that the astronauts kicked up, fell straight back down. Since Earth has atmosphere, those dust particles hover for a moment, and fall in disorganized patters, whereas the moon does not have an atmosphere, the dust rose and fell the way it was kicked up.

It was interesting that after Morris and his colleague had made this slight discovery with the rock displacement, his next interview also brought up that point, and ultimately made a conclusive decision that [OFF] occurred before [ON]. The rocks in the pictures had fallen down slightly with gravity, and that was a much better argument than the nearly impossible task of mapping the light in the valley. Morris concludes that [OFF] occurred before [ON] but was sure that he would never really know why [OFF] was before [ON]. It could be because Fenton wanted to make it seem as if he was in more danger than he was. It could’ve been because it was more artistic to have it on. I really cannot draw a conclusion either, because there is no way for me to know either. Even though I had believed that [ON] and occurred before [OFF], this new evidence is much more powerful and I’m just going to have to go with what Morris concludes.

The Onion

This was a good article for us as a class, because The Onion is readily available to all of us in most of the buildings around campus. The Onion can always be a fun and entertaining piece to read at the bus stop, on the bus, or while waiting for our next class. The article “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Is The Onion our most intelligent newpaper?? was interesting, especially trying to connect it to the past couple weeks in Writing 1301. The things that have really stuck to me so far have been our discussions (or sometimes debates) about documentaries. A newspaper is as much of a documentary as a film or book. When we read The Onion we know that some of the pictures have been altered or posed. With these different alterations that the photos have with the stories, it makes the stories false, but usually pretty funny. I personally like The Onion because of its humor and its lightheartedness.

Sometimes The Onion can take things too far. They have a tendency to sometimes over-generalize, or demean groups of people, organizations, or specific people. These crude comments that The Onion makes are sometimes bluntly true (but improper to address), or sometimes it is a load of crap that just shows the author’s own feelings on the subject matter. Sometimes with the oversimplification of the story, the result is a rude feeling toward the event. Although The Onion sometimes makes rash comments about subject matters, I still usually find it pretty lighthearted and fun. It is much lighter than the ‘real news’ and a lot less depressing.

I do not like our obsession of violence and tragedy in the modern media. The philosophy of ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ really disturbs me. The Onion takes serious things, and dims them down, so that reading the ‘news’ can be more enjoyable. With most of the readers of The Onion being from ages 18 to 44, they should know not to take the stories too seriously (as if they actually happened exactly the way the paper said). An interesting point that the article brought up was that the viewers of the ‘mockery news shows’ (The Colbert Report and The Daily Show) were actually more aware of the world’s current events. It is a simple fact that the viewers of the show are entertained by the inaccurate portrayal of current events, or the sarcastic humor of the newscasters. The viewers who are not up on their current events don’t comprehend the jokes that the media is trying to convey.

The one downfall that The Onion has for me (as a college student), is that sometimes I don’t know how accurate some stories are, and how some information isn’t. Just the other day my girlfriend and I were waiting for the Campus Connector and picked up The Onion. We both read the same articles, but pondered how much it actually connected to reality (which strengthens my last point that the knowledgeable readers enjoy the jokes more). Some of the stories are so farfetched that it is obviously just for humor, but some of the stories are written in a more sophisticated tone, and without knowing everything that had happened recently (I don’t have cable), it was hard to decipher what was fact, and what was fiction.

For this reason, The Onion should never replace other forms of media. Although the news on TV and the newspapers have the philosophy “if it bleeds, it leads? they are trying to incorporate lighter subjects to their papers or shows. The papers are incorporating more entertaining articles to the paper, especially with their newer sections like “Entertainment?, “Housing and Gardening?, and others.

In addressing the question of the article: “Is The Onion our most intelligent newspaper??, I would have to say it might be. The economics that The Onion has are amazing. It is a free paper that is one of the most read papers in our time, and an innovator in displaying stories to the public. Many of the top selling newspapers are including different ideas that The Onion provides (making the paper more entertaining, rather than just a tool). Even if the stories that The Onion prints are not true, it is a very well done paper in my mind. It combines our nature of wanting to know what is going on, and mocks our obsession with violence and crime. It makes serious matters funny, and it’s readily available almost everywhere and is free!

October 28, 2007

Solution to sleep problem

I found this article very interesting because it relates to everyone; we all have our own sleeping pattern, habits and schedules. There are so many topics rolled into sleep and how much students should get. I believe the times for schools should be changed and believe there are many benefits rather than negative aspects to this change. An example of this is the school district I grew up in there are 2 high schools, 3 Middle Schools and eleven elementary schools. I believe there is solutions to the sleep problem my district had and that is start the elementary schools first then the middle schools and lastly the high schools. For parents with a full time job the average work time starts between 6-8 am. Many parents could benefit from this time change rather than sending their kids to daycare or leaving them at home hoping they are safe at a bus stop. If school started at the high school times between 7 and 7:30 they could drop the kids off or at least see they get on the bus safely. As for sleep this means that if children in elementary schools go to bed at 9 and wake up by 6 they are getting the 9 hours of sleep recommended for their age. This is easier to obtain as a child with parental influences for a bed time.

When individuals get older it becomes “cooler? to not have a bed time and stay up a little latter. As for high school students they are more responsible and more capable to get transportation to schools with many kids that can drive and would benefit from the extra sleep seeing as they are more involved in after school activities then younger students. High school students need about 8-9 hours of sleep which isn’t too much different than that of an 8 year old. The difference is that due to over packed schedules and school activities they are typically chronically sleep deprived. “Recent data suggests that 70 million Americans may suffer from either chronic sleep disorder or intermittent sleep deprivation? (Rubin). This may also be a reason for bad tempers, problems in school, driving accidents, and drug use. I think most of our class can attest to the fact that in high school it is rare to get to bed before 10 at night. If a student were to start school around 9am as most elementary schools start now they could go to bed at 11pm get up between 7 and 8am getting their 8 to 9 hours of sleep in. This is also good because it is closer to the time they would go to sleep on weekends. As the article said, “Staying up three hours later on weekends is equivalent to flying across three time zones every weekend.? With a midnight curfew for high school students on weekends the bed time is only thrown off by an hour or so.

By having this starting time change in schools would not only benefit the students and their sleep but additionally the safety and convince issues it would have for parents. Comparing elementary to high schools if is easy to say the difference in sleep is obvious. “60 percent of high schoolers report extreme daytime sleepiness.? How many times can a person remember falling asleep or seeing someone asleep in elementary school? It just doesn’t happen often but as schooling continues for an individual the more sleeping goes on in the classroom. In high school, “over 25 percent fall asleep in class at least once a week. The correlations really spike in high school, because that’s when there’s a steep drop-off in kids’ sleep.? This sleeping problem could all be solved if administration of the school districts could come together and realize the importance of sleep in children and how it affects their overall education.

Continue reading "Solution to sleep problem" »

October 25, 2007

Is The Onion our most intelligent newspaper?

Although I do not read The Onion often, I am usually greatly amused when I do open it up. With all the seriousness in the world today, it is a nice change to laugh for a bit about current events. The onion is anything but credible and I would never replace it with reading a real newspaper, but I do enjoy it from time to time to keep up on my current events.

Despite its “Fake news?, The Onion has done extremely well. It is one of the top selling newspapers in America, and you can find it almost anywhere in the country. It is a relatively new paper, first written in 1988 by a college junior. It’s modern form of writing appeals to younger people and the majority of its readers range from age 18 to 44. Many older, reformed journalists find it to be inappropriate and unprofessional.

Molly Murphy

The Onion can be very offensive to certain people about certain articles. Even just reading some of their headlines, I question how they are even allowed to write some of the things that are in it. In the article, Beato claims that one of The Onion’s key selling points is, “Their willingness to Offend?. The newspaper has no problem offending any one person, or group of persons. This willingness to offend has caused The Onion to almost be law suited out of business. But it is also what makes it an extremely popular newspaper. American’s are getting tired of the regular newspaper’s beating around the bush. There is an appreciation when one reads someone’s actual opinion, even if it is offensive.

To compete with The Onion, other newspapers are becoming more personal, asking for the communities input on things like cooking, gardening and current events. Although the public does seem to respond to this personalization of the news, it is still not up to par with what The Onion has to offer.

The Onion’s approach to use sarcasm is becoming a popular form of media. Other television shows such as The Colbert Report are using the same method to attract an audience. Although many people are very against this form of journalism, in the article Beato states that, “viewers of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are among America’s most informed citizens?. So even though the show’s main purpose is to make a comedy about today’s current events, it still is focusing on current events, and people who wouldn’t normally pick up a newspaper are getting their dose of knowledge about the world today.

I personally quite enjoy this change that the media is seeing. Whenever I turn on the news all I see are sad, depressing events going on in the world. But The Onion’s goal is not to eliminate these stories; in fact they are doing the opposite. By bluntly stating the story, usually totally and completely stretched, they form a story that is interesting and doesn’t put a damper on your day.

As I stated before, I would never replace The Onion with a regular newspaper. But it is a nice change of pace from every day news. It will forever be a controversial newspaper, but that is part of the appeal of it.

October 24, 2007

Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite.

Sometimes when I go to bed at night early I’m so excited by how much sleep I’m going to get and how good I will feel in the morning. What usually happens is that I went to bed so early that I wasn’t tired and ended up laying in bed for an extra hour or a half just waiting for that next minute when possibly, luckily, I will fall asleep. Whenever this occurs I always feel like I wasted another hour and a half of valuable time that I could’ve used studying, reading, writing another paper or watching at least three full episodes of Sex and the City. I suppose we all have ways of spending our precious time on this earth and to some sleep might not be that important. I know of two girls on the floor above me that study to two o’clock in the morning and are in Math at eight the following day. Where are our priorities? And should sleep be the highest on the list?

Continue reading "Good Night, Sleep Tight, Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite." »

The Never-Ending Controversy of Teaching Politics

Kimberly Ayres
Writ 1013 Ward
Position Statement
Preface: I had some disagreements with the author of this article until I read a short biography about the author, Stanley Fish. To make it short and simple, Fish has held a number of distinguished positions in the academic world. He is an author of ten books, had taught at the University of California at Berkeley and he has held several scholarly positions around the U.S. My disagreements with Fish terminated possibly because of the other New York Times article posted on the class website, Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus, when the author, John Tierney, referred to a common fallacy in the scientific world called the “information cascade.? He explains that most people agree with one person who seems confident with their answer; this fallacy possibly makes the true answer or information lost in the depths of the he-said-she-said erroneous belief. My reaction pertains to Fish’s article, George W. Bush and Melville’s Ahab: Discuss! but my initial background pertains to the concept of Tierney’s article.
At the beginning of Fish’s article, he affirms that the opinion of the American Association of University Professors states that teachers are able to liberally teach material to their students, but they must abstain the controversial matter that does not relate to the subject. He questions the clarity of the specific words “controversial? or “relation? in the statement in the article of 1940, which seems quite clear to me. Especially in our current nation, any person can easily distinguish something controversial from something that is not within the snap of a finger. There is no need to question something on whether or not it is biased; as Americans, living in a heavily-disputed democracy, when we sense opinion, we know. The AAUP presented a well-structured, sturdy guideline that was left up for the rest of us to interpret; that obligation to us seems to be fair because they cannot possibly define all aspects of Fish’s supposed confusing words, “controversial? or “relation.? In its statement, the AAUP acknowledges that teaching controversial subjects is inevitable.
He then presents the subcommittee’s viewpoint that a teacher is able to teach their political standpoint as long as one is able to give ideal background information and educational insights on why one’s opinion is shifted in that direction. Fish specifically states that the word “balance? signifies the view of the subcommittee. I agree that an essential part of teaching consists of a balanced viewpoint of all possible alternatives and conversations that apply to a theory.
My main concern is that academics should come first; the political position of a good teacher should remain a mystery to the classmates. Relating to Fish’s stimulation technique in the classroom, I have experienced that, during a class debate or discussion, the teacher endorses both sides of an issue, praises the students’ insightful statements for each position, and the teacher does not deem a certain viewpoint as a “winner? for the debate. The idea is to get students to formulate their own opinions about current arguments and to reinforce them with praise or a good grade. This technique exposes students to the actual debates circulating in society, without making a particular topic superior.
Fish’s description of the negative comparison between Captain Ahab in Moby Dick and our current president, George W. Bush, should not have been extinguished from teaching, as Fish implies. It should have elaborated not only the perspective of Bush as a dictator, but should have equilibrated with the positive point of view about Bush. Whatever is criticized should be analyzed.
Fish arranges a good argument about the controversy within the discussion regarding freedom of speech in education. He compares his opinion on the declaration of the subcommittee in the AAUP. It is essential to learn both perspectives of politics or even religion. This gives students a “heads up? in the political world if they study each side in depth. In our world, it is simply impossible to try to give an unbiased lesson on politics; the only way to avoid it is, as Fish mentions, to create stimulation within students on certain issues as long as it falls into the academic category rather than the awry “Bush-Ahab? category.

Works Cited
Fish, Stanley. "George W. Bush and Melville's Ahab: Discuss!" The New York Times 21 October 2007.
Tierney, John. "Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus." The New York Times 9 October 2007.

Snooze or Lose. The Choice is Yours.

I was initially drawn to this article because normally only get seven and a half hours of sleep per night as opposed to the recommended minimum of eight hours for young adolescents and teens. I have always assumed that a half and hour of sleep was not a big deal, especially since I have always had relatively good grades. However, this article seems to prove my way of thinking incorrect.

Dr. Avi Sadeh’s experiment with seventy-seven fourth and sixth graders definitely provides undisputable evidence that a half an hour of sleep really does matter. Sadeh randomly gave these children instructions to either go to bed early or stay up late. The first group went to sleep thirty minutes earlier than normal. The latter group went to sleep thirty-one minutes later than normal. After three straight nights of this behavior, the children were given a neurobiological functioning exam. The test used can accurately predict both a child’s academic achievement and their ability to maintain focus and attention during class. The tests showed that the hour’s difference in sleep is equivalent to two grade levels of cognitive knowledge, in other words, “a slightly sleepy sixth grader will perform in class like a mere fourth grader.? Sadeh is not alone in his findings, Dr. Monique LeBourgeois of Brown University and Dr. Paul Suratt of the University of Virginia have conducted similar studies. LeBourgeois found that students scored seven points lower on school-readiness exams after a weekend sleep schedule. Suratt also found a seven point differential on vocabulary tests between students with sleep disorders and children without them.

One thing schools can do to combat this trend is to start classes later. There are a handful of schools nationwide attempting this approach, the most known being right here in Edina, Minnesota. The start time for high schools in Edina was changed from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The following year, SAT verbal and math scores for the top ten percent of Edina’s students had increased by two-hundred twelve points. In Lexington, Kentucky, school start time was moved back one hour and student awareness was positively affected. The district saw a sixteen percent decrease in student related automobile accidents while the rest of the state saw a nine percent increase.

Another part of this article that I found intriguing was the mention of University of Minnesota Professors Dr. Kyla Wahlstrom and Dr. Mark Mahowald. Wahlstrom surveyed seven thousand Minnesota high school students regarding their sleep habits and grades. She discovered that A students got approximately 15 more minutes of sleep than B students. B students sleep about eleven minutes longer than C students, and C students sleep about ten minutes longer than D students. An earlier, similar study had had the same results with three thousand Rhode Island high school students. The two studies show that not only does every half-hour count, but every fifteen minutes counts. Mahowald’s mention in the article is more of a comment than a study. He states, “Of all the arguments I’ve heard over school start-times, not one person has argued that children learn more at 7:15 a.m. than at 8:30?, as a dismissal to those who argue for earlier school start-times. This statement is warranted because he has a Ph.D. in neurosciences and currently manages a sleep clinic at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

The final section of the article that I found interesting is the discovery of the “neuroendocrine cascade? by Dr. Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago. Most people would say that overweight people are lazy and people that sleep a lot are lazy, so by the process of circular reasoning people that sleep a lot should be overweight. However, Cauter’s research disagrees with this statement. She found that sleep loss triggers the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger, and decreases the body’s output of leptin, which suppresses appetite. Sleep loss also increases the effects of the stress hormone cortisol. Human Growth Hormone or HGH, which is secreted as a big pulse at the beginning of sleep, is also disrupted. I do not understand this part of her research because it seems to me if HGH were secreted right away, children could sleep for five minutes a day and still get the HGH they need.

In conclusion, this article was very interesting and brought up some good points, but I won’t be changing my sleeping habits, at least not unless my grades take a sharp dive in the near future.

Michael Arens

If we snooze, do we really lose??

I read “Snooze or Lose? by Po Bronson and I found it really interesting. The article is about how the average kid today is getting an hour less of sleep than they actually need. Over the years, I have always been told by my mom and dad that I need sleep to function. This seems like an obvious statement to me, and I have always thought so. Unfortunately, like most kids and teens I never actually went to bed when I was “advised? to. Why go to sleep if I do not feel tired? I had many reasons or according to my mother, “excuses? as to why I should stay up later instead of going to sleep. I had homework, I was talking to my friends, or I just could not sleep still being way too wired from the hectic day of school, sports, and friends. One reason why I usually did not go to bed was that my “bedtime? was never enforced. “While parents obsess over babies’ sleep, this concern falls off the priority list after preschool? (6). In the article, Po Bronson discusses the idea that if schools start later, students will learn better. While I have no personal experience with this idea, it seems to be a great idea for students today. Having attended a school that started at 7:25 every morning I never had trouble contributing or functioning in my morning classes, but maybe that was because I woke up earlier than most students do, or maybe I managed somehow to get an adequate amount of sleep to get me through the day of school.
The article provides countless “evidence? that if a school starts later in the morning, then the students will learn better and be better students because of the later start time for school. The author discusses a school in Edina, Minnesota that decided to start school at a later time than they had started in the past and after doing that found that “In the year preceding the time change, math and verbal SAT scores for the top 10 percent of Edina’s students averaged 1288? (18). Apparently not only test scores can be changed for the better, but also the numbers of car accidents students have each year. “After the time change, teenage car accidents in Lexington were down 16 percent? (19). While I know that it is common and obvious knowledge that getting a good night’s sleep is important for any activities, I think that most people do not really consider that before they get behind the wheel to drive a car. I know at my high school students would wake up a half hour before school was supposed to start, drive to Starbucks to get their coffee to wake up, and then after finally getting their “wake up?, they would carry on to school. It seems insane that people do not think about things like getting into accidents when they are tired and getting behind the wheel of their car, but students and people on their way to their jobs all do this, whether they admit it or not. Another aspect of the idea of starting schools at a later time is the fact that many schools ignore the evidence supporting this idea. “85 percent of America’s public high schools start before 8:15 a.m. Thirty-five percent start at or before 7:30 a.m.? (20). One question that comes to mind is, if starting school at a later time will not only help your students’ test scores but also make them safer out on the road, why would a school not change the start time to a later one? Apparently there are a great number of reasons that fights this idea. “Having high schools start earlier often allows buses to first deliver the older students, then do a second run with the younger children. This could mean doubling the size of the bus fleet. Teachers prefer driving to school before other commuters clog the roads. Coaches worry their student athletes will miss games because they’re still in class at kickoff time? (21). While all of these reasons make complete sense, they seem to me to just be excuses for the school districts to not have to go through the “trouble? of changing the way things are. Teachers are usually at school a long while before most students start to arrive at school, and if it is really a concern the times of sports events could be changed to support this change. I think if the people in charge of the schools could, they should consider changing the start times of school. The benefits will outweigh the negative aspects by many, most important being the success and safety of the students.

October 18, 2007

Camera Lucida

Barthes’s view on “Photographs? as he calls them with the capital P was a very interesting view point. Unlike other reading before him he tries to tackle photograph from a different view point by defining pictures in a whole new way. Barthes’s method of viewing photo was amazingly interesting because he does not take what other have to say about the picture, but look at picture from only his view point with saying the words “I like it? or “I don’t like it.? Barthes interestingly created two words from Latin to categorize the photos with simply “punctum? and “stadium.? Barthes categorizes “punctum? as photos that “pricks? us while “stadium? photos are simply photos of like and dislike.
To what Barthes has to say make senses to me. For example when he talks about how “Photographs is pure contingency and can be nothing else,? it makes sense because most photos that I have seen so far represented something in one way or another. Another point that he made that took me awhile to think about was that “Photograph is dangerous.? I though how can a photographs be of any danger in anyway. Then remembering back to the Errol Morris article a photograph without the context cannot be that dangerous, but one with context can be dangerous.
I found Roland Barthes article “Camera Lucida? very interesting to read because I buy what he is trying to say. I also found myself agreeing to most of what he had to say about photographs therefore it was much easier to read what he had to say.

“In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself?

“In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself? is a nice change of pace from constantly reflecting on the science of photographs. Hopefully the pollution problem in China will yield a debate that will come to some type of conclusion, because I am getting sick of running in circles with photography.

As I first started reading this article, I couldn’t help but think about our situation here in the United States. It seems like we (the US) and China are in on the same problem when it comes to pollution. We acknowledge this issue, but are hesitant for a change when it jeopardizes profitability. China is also engulfed in this debate, but their “hesitant? nature consists of arrests and secrecy rather than addressed public concern and political debating. “Fixing the environment is, in other words, a political problem.? Too much time, in both countries, is spent talking about finding ways to limit and reduce pollution instead of actually doing our plan. (Yes, bio-fuels are an example of progress in becoming more eco-friendly, but it doesn’t really count. We still pollute by chemical application on fields; ethanol and Biodiesel produce CO2; and we haven’t really reduced our dependency on foreign oil, we just have more to use.)

The main steam of the environmental protection debate is revolving around one thing: money. I believe that if money was not an issue; environmental pollution resolutions would be an easy task for any government to complete. I cannot speak for the United States, but in China four-fifths of the revenue for government comes directly from taxing chemical, power and production plants. It is understandable why they aren’t being as aggressive as the United States when trying to clean the air and water. By constricting these plants, they wouldn’t be able to fund themselves, the environmental clean up programs they need, or many of the other problems that China is facing, like over population.

This article sparked another concern that I have; I’m sorry for not going into further detail about Wu Lihong and the trouble he has gone through, but I feel that overpopulation in China may work in tandem with pollution to cause complete chaos in the country. As you know, China is the largest country in terms of population, with well over one billion citizens. Within the past few decades, cities large and small have started to catch up with other developed countries in the world, and this increased need for technology, mainly cars and computers, will ultimately mean increased need for energy. China is not implementing up to date science and environmental awareness when they construct their thousands of power plants. I heard a statistic from a professor here at the University that China is building a new coal-powered power plant almost every week. Frightening news. The United States is consuming the majority of the worlds supply of coal, and with competition from China, the reserves will dry up quicker than expected. Daily life here and in China will become more complicated as a result. Another disturbing result is the affects that China has and will continue to have on the environment. Joseph Kahn illiterates this for us in “In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself,? where we can read of the damage that has already occurred. Just imagine the impact of new power plants on the environment without the implication of environmental protection.

China, the United States, as well as many other countries need to get their act together when it comes to protecting the environment. I acknowledge the baby-steps that most of us have taken, but other things need to happen; strict mandates or laws with no under the table barters, in order to see and feel a difference in the world. The issue of money needs to be set aside so we can focus about what is most important: a quality environment for future generations to live in. We are all too concerned about “paying the mortgage? but the earth has a mortgage too. I had a teacher last year who had a saying about the environment. “The earth is not ours; but rather we are borrowing in from our grandchildren.?

Camera Lucida

“I see photographs everywhere, like everyone else, nowadays; they come from the world to me, without my asking; they are only ‘images.’? So begins section six of Roland Barthes essay on photography, Camera Lucida. Barthes’s voice in Camera Lucida has a very arrogant feel, and most of his evidence towards his claims come directly from himself and his own opinions. He speaks about the art of photography as if talking about an old acquaintance, giving Photography a capitol ‘P’ when mentioned, such as when he states “there are moments when I detest Photography? or “that Photography is an uncertain art.? What’s rather peculiar about the reading is that Barthes is constantly contradicting himself. Towards every given photo, and several others at that, Barthes offers his opinion judging towards the importance and significance, and his interpretation of it. But in his paper Barthes clearly states that he has no desire “to fill the scene of the text with [his] individuality.?

Continue reading "Camera Lucida" »

Frogs and Better Hearing Aids

I read the article, “Lessons from the Frog Chorus? and the four videos which went along with the article. The article was very interesting in the fact that I would never even think about combining the research of frogs to human hearing. In the article it talks about Mark Bee who is the lead researcher on the project, why frogs are good subjects to study, and how he is going about conducting his research.

Continue reading "Frogs and Better Hearing Aids" »

"In, around, and afterthoughts"

While first reading this article I found myself to be in complete opposition of Mr. Ward’s first disposition, towards the article. I was on the side of Martha Rosler. She had some good points that Jeff acknowledged, as well, but I could agree with her because I could not think of a way to prove her wrong, based upon my lack of knowledge of the history of documentary. Then again a few of her ideas rubbed me the wrong way and I could only try to reason why. There were times in this article when I wanted to rip my hair out, and there were times when reading that I understood what was going on. Here is what I came to understand before Tuesday’s class, even if now I feel slightly differently.

When reading “In, around, and afterthought? I noticed that Martha Rosler had a continuous theme of talking about the history of documentary compared to today’s version of documentary. Throughout the piece I picked up on the idea that Rosler did not want to discredit the photographer or the artist rather that she was putting out the idea of having the documentary in the first place. Rather within the piece she actually hints at reform within the documentary in order to suit the public, either being documented or the audience. She talks about people not caring about documentary and only reading them as a way to make themselves feel better about there own lives, which is shown when she says, “liberal documentary assuages any stirrings of conscience in its viewers the way scratching relieves and itch and simultaneously reassures them about their relative wealth and social position.? (pg 306/307)

I could believe and relate to this. I see ads for feed my starving children on television and I read about news stories of traumatic events, such as the flooding in southeast MN. These people could use my help, but I don’t do anything. At the age of 18 I am perfectly capable of trying to help these people, yet they don’t receive my help. It has to do with priorities; people don’t want to rearrange their schedules to help someone who they don’t know. However, the goal of writing anything of worth is to make people care, according to Rosler this is missing in Liberal documentary. She is saying that documentary needs to reform or leave.

However, I can also take another point of view; here Rosler’s logic is flawed. I see her article as a response to society’s ignorant repugnant self, who does not take into account any problems but their own. She is saying that documentary is useless because nothing comes of it, but it is not the fault of the artist, it is society that makes the documentary obsolete.

So on one hand it is the documentaries job to make the public care, but on the other hand, if the public refuses to care, what should be done with documentary? Or is the quarrel simply over the definition of documentary?

One point of interest in the article is when she talks about the subject in the documentary. She talks about the people being cheated, both by “betraying their own heritage,? (pg 310/311) and by the case of Florence Thompson.

First she talks about cultures being put into history. When cultures are documented she says that it continues “traditional racism? (pg 311). Parts of the culture are left behind because there is no way to represent everything about a group of people. But in doing this the culture is misrepresented just to get the attention of the public.

As far as Florence Thompson goes her story is sad. This quote really stood out in my mind, “That’s my picture hanging all over the world and I can’t get a penny out of it.?(pg 313) Is this right? Florence thought that by being photographed she would get some help to better her own life, but this never happened. Here I almost felt like Lange was the bully, and that's not right. (this shows how skewed this article is) People like her received some relief, but that probably doesn’t mean much to Thompson who had high hopes of getting some help herself. In documentary it is hard to help anyone if the documentary is not reaching the capable public.

It is also hard to completely trust what Rosler says because she is focusing on the ulterior motives of every person involved, in other words a pessimist. She focuses on the fame and fortune (“bedrock of financial gain? (pg 320/321)) aspect of the photographer, whether it is his/her goal or not (not, in the case of Gene Smith). She focuses on the subjects longing for individual attention, help, and money. And she focuses on the readers unresponsive, self praising tendencies. When she does not bring up the true goal of the artist her argument is skewed. She also does not bring up the amount of help the public does put in; in cases where charitable foundations are created and succeed, ex sunami. These articles do reach the public, just not the whole public, and she puts no mention of this in her piece.

I believe that Rosler sees a problem with society and she immediately associates it with documentary. Yet she only sees the problem because she is looking for it. The goal of documentary may not be to get help for others, but to inform in hope to get others to care about the topic.

By reading this article I am very confused by her interpretation of events, I can agree and disagree with her at the same time, which shows that her choice of argument is a good one, and well as complex. Before being able to understand this article one would have to have a grip of knowledge on the subject as well as an understanding of both sides. I do not have that much knowledge on the subject, which is why my position is somewhat of a volley in a match of wits.

In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself

In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself
By: TJ Dubbs

After reading “In China, a Lake’s Champion Imperils Himself? and then reading it again right there after, I asked myself “what in the world?? These were about the only words I could even think of after reading this incredibly disturbing yet ridicules article. While reading I read of pressing issues in the environment, lies, and corruption. This article is especially pertinent to me because this is my field; this is what I am studying. This kind of thing is my future, no matter how polluted and nasty it is. The information is this article is appealing, how could the government or any environmental groups not care? In my mind, I cannot even comprehend it. The facts presented in this article are very clear, especially concerning what is actually going on at Lake Tai, in central China. In the article, Joseph Kahn the author speaks of vast amounts of industrial type plants near the banks of this large lake in central China. This lake is the 3rd largest lake in China and is key to thousands for water, food, transportation, and irrigation.

There are an estimated 2,800 chemical plants near Lake Tai and its tributaries. These plants make everything from bricks to dyes, adhesives, and soundproofing material just to name a few. All of these plants take water from the lake and put it back, but the water being put back is full of chemicals, pollutants, and other harmful things that destroy the environment and the area around the lake. It was reported that the lake turned a “fluorescent green? as a result of all the harmful things being dumped into the lake both blatantly and secretly. It was not until Wu Lihong, a local worker and resident who protested against the pollution did things start to get better. However, it took over a decade for that to happen. Over the course of a decade Wu faced hardships of every kind. He lost his job, he was arrested, persecuted, and thrown in jail because he protested against the government and its policy toward pollution.

Wu went as far as taking pictures and samples of the water near him as well as in other areas further away. He did get some results, local media and officials came to examine an area at one point. Wu thought this was a good thing, however, the plant nearby got wind of the inspectors arrival and proceeded to clean up nearby streams, dredge them, only emit clean water, remodel their factory, and put fish and fishermen on and in the stream. The plant went to huge lengths not to reveal their true secrets or intentions. The media came and went, saw nothing wrong. Wu had charges for fraud and other things put on him because of instances like this. When I read this it really bothered me. The facts were so obvious, how could people not see? The lake was green! Lakes are not normally green, no not normally smell like death or require the use of rubber gloves and boots to avoid melting of the skin while coming in contact with the water. Things like these should not happen, simple as that. The facts were very much so in plain view at Lake Tai. This was not for a short time either, things like these went on for ten years. That really gave me a shock, that it took ten years and a lot of hardship just to get someone with authority to notice that a huge source of water was horribly polluted and essentially destroyed.

The lake got the point where there was a thick layer of green algae that floated on the top of the water for months! This rendered the water undrinkable and forces hundreds of thousands of people to have to buy bottled water or find other ways to hydrate themselves. This made me mad, this environmental problem should have been stopped long before the point where the majority of the lake was rendered useless. I cant even begin to express my utter disdain and disappointment of the Chinese authorities and other government leaders for letting something like this go one for so long. This would never happen is the USA, it would have been cleaned up and things would have changed in half the time if not better, the sheer idea of having that many industrial plants near a lake is daunting , even though the lake is enormous. Industry expands this is a well known and accepted fact, but we as citizens and people who live in this world need to watch out for things like this so it doesn’t happen. Wu tried to make changes, he seemed as though he was mostly alone in the fight, this may have been due to fear or the fact that some people just don’t care. Overall, the voice of the little man was silenced.

I feel very strongly about this issue, I think that incidents like Lake Tai should never happen regardless of what country it is in. Furthermore, in today’s day and age we need to pay attention to the environment, especially with growing population, and the especially popular topic of global warming. Incidents like this are but a glimpse of the things that could happen if the right steps are not taken to protect the environment.

October 17, 2007

Andres Serrano

The article about Andres Serrano’s paintings getting destroyed is not a surprise to me. I read the article and when I heard about some of his other works, I was disgusted! I’m not exactly sure what photographs taken by Serrano were on display at the gallery, but if they were in the taste of his other works that I researched I have to say in a way I am happy that they were damaged. However, I do not support vandalism or the destruction of art, nor did I see the exact images that were destroyed myself.

I did go to Google and look up Andres Serrano, and found that his other works were absolutely distasteful. The “TriumFish? photograph depicts a nun pleasuring herself and the “Piss Christ? photograph depicts a crucifix immersed in Serrano’s urine; both pictures taken by Serrano. I don’t even know what to say about pictures like that. I am a practicing Christian Catholic, and those photographs are so offending I can’t even put it into words. Other photographs taken by Serrano are of similar material, being pictures of nudes or corpses from morgues.

Continue reading "Andres Serrano" »

October 16, 2007

How can frogs help us build better hearing aids?

I think this topic is very interesting. It has been known that we have used pigs for their hearts and other animals for other parts that are related to the human. The new a very fascinating topic is the use of frogs to understand how to make hearing aids better. I think it would be a marvelous idea and outcome because the majority of people when they reach the elder years of life will want to have hearing aids. Why not have hearing aids that are just like you didn’t have them? Isn’t that the point?

The research being done is very helpful because they are taking a female frog, which has better hearing than a male, putting it in a situation that can be controlled and having all kinds of other kinds of frog’s calls going. The female can pick up on the call from its own species and tell exactly where the male is in the room. I find this to be very true in humans also, if you walk into a crowded room and find one person you know you can tell what they are saying because you know what their voice sounds like which is different from everyone else. By studying frogs in many different situations can give researchers a better understanding of this way of hearing. It can also tell them why it happens and how. One thing that Mark Bee, lead researcher, wants to do is manipulate the sounds the frogs hear to find out if frogs have the ability to hear the mating call of a male frog and pick it out. Bee selected this college because of all the water. Although there is only about fourteen species of frogs there is a large quantity of them. One thing that will benefit him here is the fact that many people at the U are interested in human hearing.

The sound chamber they are using also sounds very interesting because it is a dark box to simulate night time that has speakers in it the give off different male frog species mating calls. Infrared camera in the box allows them to see what speaker the female frog jumps to. The idea of manipulating the surroundings and using what the frogs will give them is what the research will really help them with.

The research in the way it is being done is also a wonderful idea because it is giving the opportunity for students to conduct in actual university studies. The University of Minnesota is a research college so why not let the students get their hands wet with something may love to do. It is also teaching students about life and hearing especially. This will provide experience, learning practices, and possibly helping them out in the future if they discover a way to relate the frog’s sense of hearing back to humans and use it in hearing aids.

October 11, 2007

'The History of Sex' Scandal

If you didn’t know the history behind the Swedish Art Gallery Scandal, one may ask why someone would do such a thing to hurt one man’s work of art, or even better yet— a masterpiece. But if you look at the past history of Andres Serrano you can see what his artwork consists of and observe how they caused tension in many groups worldwide.

Continue reading "'The History of Sex' Scandal" »

Which Came First? (Part 2)

Which Came First? (Part 2)
Position by Robert Preston

As mentioned in class, there is a strange attraction to Errol Morris and his stories. This could probably be explained by the fact that we might ‘trust’ him, or know more of him (and his past works) than other writers/photographers. I also like Errol Morris because the way that he writes, but also his views on things. While we might not be ‘two peas in a pod’ in our beliefs on photography, and the sincerity of every picture, we have very similar ideas. I like the way he can put into words exactly what he is thinking, or what he is thinking the other people are thinking. He is an author that really allows the reader to go into his head. With this type of writing style he can really portray to the reader his rational for all of his arguments.

Last week he posted his first of a presumed three essay part to Fenton’s misunderstood famous cannonball picture at the Valley of the Shadow of Death. It is odd because it is a pair of photographs, which are taken in the exact same spot, but depicting two very different scenarios based upon the position of the cannonballs in the foreground. The question then becomes which one was taken first, and why were there two shots?

Errol Morris is definitely very thorough in all of his research, and interviewed five different people with different theories of why Fenton would do something like that (taking two different pictures). From the first essay I was pretty convinced that the cannonballs were on the road first, and then removed for the cars to get past. I agreed with Jason Eartl’s comment on how sometimes a photograph should just be taken as a photograph, and not always overanalyze things too much. Errol Morris is definitely an analyzer by trade, and was still not convinced by anybody’s theory, and had to explore it for himself.

That’s where the second part of the essay began. He flew into Simferopol to try to get to the actual spot where Fenton had taken the shot in 1855. He looked for quite a while before getting to a spot where he is almost positive the shot was taken (Morris is not a fan of absolute certainties). The shocking thing about this essay was that when he got there, he realized that Fenton was probably shooting towards NNW, not SSW or WSW like presumed before. I thought it was great how Errol Morris really ‘got his hands dirty’ to figure out where he had taken the shot. Now that he knew the time the shot was taken (or close to it), and the position the camera was in, they could tell which shot was taken first by the light shone on the cannonballs’ surface. Morris does not draw a conclusion in his second essay, but should in his third.

I entertained myself by reading the comments to the second part of Errol Morris’s essay. Many people think that they have drawn conclusions from just the first two parts of the essay. There are some people who feel very strongly about what they have to say. The thing I was most interested in was the people who were talking about GoogleEarth and looking at what the place actually looked like. I entertained myself by following different coordinates that they were explaining and trying to look for the place myself. It’s almost like a geocache on the internet.

After the second essay I don’t really know what to believe now. I am excited to see what Errol Morris concludes in his third essay. I can probably expect him to conclude something, but with not 100% certainty. Another interesting point would be to interview the ‘experts’ as he did in the first one, and explain any new evidence he uncovers while he is exploring out in the field what is going on. He spoke very briefly in addressing some of the comments in an unplanned third essay. That would be fun to read his rebuttal against the angry internet bloggers that challenge the force that is, Errol Morris.


October 10, 2007

Because He is Not an Artist, He is a Jerk!

Andres Serrano, an American photographer, was born August 15,1950, in New York, New York. Serrano is half Honduran and half Afro-Cuban and was raised as a strict Roman Catholic. He is an excellent artist and has won ten major awards in the last twenty two years. Many of his works are relatively uncontroversial, including America, Nomads, and even The Objects of Desire are not too bad. However, Serrano has taken some photos in which his Roman Catholic background does not shine through. Some of these include Piss Christ (1987), which is a picture of a crucifix in a jar of Serrano’s urine, Daniel (2000), a picture of a young boy in a noose, and Triumph of the Flesh (2000), a picture of a nun pleasuring herself. Needless to say, these photos are highly controversial and have been scrutinized among conservative and religious groups.

In fact, as recently as Friday, October 5, 2007, a group of four vandals entered a recently opened Serrano exhibition in Lund, Sweden, around 3:30 p.m. and proceeded to smash display cases and seven of Serrano’s 50-by-60 in photographs worth an estimated two hundred thousand dollars. The group left behind pamphlets stating, “Against decadence for a healthier culture?, although they listed no name or organization. Local police believe the group of vandals were part of a neo-Nazi organization. Later Friday evening, the group posted their video, shot at the scene with a handheld video camcorder, on, and Google video. Google has since taken down the video from both sites due to the pornographic pictures. The group has not yet been found. The exhibit, “A History of Sex?, remains on view at the Kulturen Gallery with bolstered security.

Upon further research, I discovered that this is not the only time that Serrano’s art has been publicly scrutinized. In 1998, Piss Christ was placed on display in the National Gallery of Victoria, in Australia. (4, 51)The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, The Most Reverend, Dr. George Pell brought a lawsuit against the gallery that asked the picture be removed. Pell argued that the showing of the photograph would constitute the crime of blasphemous libel against the church. The Supreme Court’s ruling was “blasphemous libel was not an offence know to the law of the state of Victoria?.(4) “However, the court held that if the crime of blasphemous libel did exist it was necessary to show that publication of the matter complained of would cause unrest of some sort. In the absence of such evidence the court declined to grant the injunction sought.?(4)

The recent article in the New York Times also alluded to the National Endowment for the Arts coming under fire by conservative politicians in 1989. I was able to locate part of the United States Congressional Record for May 18, 1989, that includes the statements made by Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato (R, NY) and Senator Jesse Helms (R, NC). (5) The document starts out with D’Amato addressing the president of the Senate about letters he has received concerning Piss Christ, although he is too repulsed to utter its name. The letters questioned “How dare you spend the taxpayer’s money on this trash.? regarding the fifteen thousand dollar endowment that Serrano received from the National Endowment for the Arts through the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. D’Amato then show a copy of Piss Christ to the president and continues to tear into Serrano and his photograph: “And to ad insult to injury, after this group of so-called art experts picked this artist for this $15,000 prize - of taxpayer’s money; we paid for this, our tax payers- I do not blame people for being outraged and angered, they should be angered at us, unless we do something to change this?.(5,6) D’Amato also exclaims, “The purpose for which the Endowment was established, and I quote, ‘to support the survival of the best of all forms that reflect the American heritage in its full range of cultural and ethnic diversity and to provide national leadership on behalf of the arts.’ Mr. President, I submit this as a distortion of those purposes. It does not reflect the full range of cultural and ethnic diversity; rather, it is a perversion of those principles.?(5, 8&9) The document contains a letter written to Mr. Hugh Southern, acting chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts in sections 12 through 18, and signed by notable senators such as Bob Dole and John McCain. Senator Helms then feels it is necessary to add his two cents to the conversation, “Mr. President, the senator from New York is absolutely correct in his indignation and in his description of blasphemy of the so-called artwork. I do not know Mr. Andres Serrano, and I hope never to meet him. Because he is not an artist, he is a jerk.?(5,19).

If I were to side with or against Serrano, I would side against him because my own personal religious convictions. His photographs are distasteful and offensive, although I believe it is safe to say that I would not take my convictions as far as Senators D’Amato and Helms, Archbishop Pell, or the four vandals have as I do not feel quite as strongly as they do.

Michael Arens

1. New York Times

2. Wikipedia


4. House of Lords

5. May 18,1989, Congressional Record

October 9, 2007

Interest in John Berger and his Interpretations

After reading Appearances I grew very interested in John Berger. Many things he said in his reading really enthralled me. I was curious about this author his ideas of art, photography, time, memory, meaning, communication, history and where his analysis was coming from. I liked this reading more than the others in the book and I think it is because he is straight forward about things and discusses so many different subject matters that involve humans and their part in society, how people perceive and react to things.
Some background information I did not know that is important about Berger it that he served in the “British army from 1944 to 1946, after that he attended the Central School of Art and the Chelsea School of Art in London? (Chandler). He was an artist before he was a writer; he taught drawing from 1948 to 1955 and continued to paint the rest of his life. This is important because his opinions were formed bases off these experiences in his life. An example of this is when he is discussing history he says, “History used to pays its respects to morality: the enduring honored the value of what is brief. Graves were a mark of such respect… History no longer pays its respect to the dead: the dead are simply what it has passed through? (Berger 190). I believe this is important because it gives you a glimpse into his own life and makes the reader curious about his own personal experiences with death. Additionally it gives a different perspective of how his paintings can be interpreted with this in mind.
I really enjoyed the way Berger questions pictures and drawings. I like his interpretations of the photograph because they are different then mine yet I still agree about what he is saying. Berger’s interpretation of communication was furthermore intriguing. I enjoyed how he compared the aspects of drawing and photos through the idea of communication and expression. Drawing and photographs he feels are two very different forms of expression “a drawing is translation? (Berger 181). He is trying to convey that drawings are a different kind of communication because they aren’t always true and are more emotionally there is more feeling expressed through them. Photography unlike drawing possesses a language and it is normally given by a caption that can be equally bias or hide parts of the picture the audience my not see but still is communicating through a different form of expression. “Man ray said: ‘I photograph what I do not wish to paint, and I paint what I cannot photograph’?(Berger 193). Berger seems to be an expert on art and all types of perspectives within each art form.
John Berger wrote a book called Ways of seeing. I wonder after reading this section about Appearances if he would agree with Errol Morris on the idea that seeing is believing rather then believing is seeing. “to focus not on the single painting in isolation but in general, on the ways we have learned to look at and understand the images that surround is and on the culture that teaches us to see thinks as we do? (Berger 174). This is important for people to understand that their interpretation is personal because of their life experiences and because of the culture we live in and through our culture, media, teachers, parents, religion, music, and art we think the way we do. Our society tells us to a certain extent how to think. I wonder how far and how much of our opinions are based on society? Why people living in the same society have such different opinions? I guess apart of the American culture is learning to appreciate others opinions and learn from ours and others previous experiences.
Overall I enjoyed this reading and think Berger had a lot of valuable and controversial information that he expressed easily and straightforward. He shows a lot of interest in art and his writings and interpretations are exceptional. Berger brings up several interesting questions about art and photography and I am definitely interested in learning more about him and his other paintings and writings.
Chandler, Daniel. “Ways of Seeing?

October 8, 2007

Appearances- John Berger

In the controversial essay “Appearances?, John Berger elaborates the notion of traditional photography and its artistic, historical, and political implications. He discusses the difference between drawings and photography, both which are commonly mistaken as similar media in terms of art. He also explains that photography depicts time through captured light, and has a raw meaning because of its plain existence. 1 Berger compares photographs to footprints because they are both cultural artifacts and naturally composed. 2 I was taken by this comparison not only because of its truth, but also because it demonstrates how fragile our memories are. It’s as if photos and memories could easily be brushed away, like footprints in the sand.

Continue reading "Appearances- John Berger" »

October 5, 2007

Another "Which Came First..."

Again, I decided to do make a position on the writings of Errol Morris. His works are some of the more interesting on the vista link, but I’ll try not to repeat any of my views from the previous paper. When I first started reading “Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg?; I kind of chuckled inside and said, here we go with analyzing photos again. I mean it’s interesting to follow these arguments, but I never though that I would have to dissect different photos again and again.
My first impression of reading “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? for the first time was that this shouldn’t be to hard, because photo “on? must be the first of the two because Fenton wouldn’t remove the cannonballs, take the picture, then put them back up to take another. But then it got me to thinking of from which way he had traveled. If he had come from behind the picture, then the order should be “on? then “off?. But what if he had come in the opposite direction? They could have been “off?, moved his group out to take the picture, and then turned around with the cannonballs “on?. Only with further reading would this debate confuse the reader more.
Because we don’t know the way in which the balls were found, we cant come to the conclusion if Fenton had come to the valley with an original landscape, the unaltered way in which the cannonballs fell from the sky. If this is the case, then we can say that he altered a previously altered situation. Then, if anything, Fenton would eventually be returning to the way that they actually were, resulting in the same two photographs, “on? and “off?; but they would technically be switched in terms of time of day taken. Again, proper citation is coming into play, fore had he actually recorded what he had come across, then we could decide which was taken first. But now we are back to the question of can we trust Fenton’s citations? It had been stated in “Which came First, the Chicken or the Egg? that Fenton could be considered in the words of Susan Sontag “lazy or cowardly?, so could this laziness carry over into recording his work? When Morris is talking with Baldwin later in the reading, Baldwin disagrees with others opinion of Fenton. People are getting the bad impression of him after his death from two sets of letters that don’t completely match up. His personality can’t be fully judged if we have no solid, direct quotations from him.
Baldwin also puts to words what I really feel about most of the images that are now such a hot topic. Back then, photographers were merely documenting what went on; searching for good shots regardless of what is in the picture. In present time, I feel that we are always over-analyzing things, worrying too much about what we think the picture means instead of what the person taking the picture means, or for that matter what is happening in the image setting.
On the question of whether or not Fenton was trying to make the setting seem more dangerous by staging the cannonballs on the roads, its kind of trivial to think that he needed to do that. It was known to be a dangerous a war zone but the obvious signs of cannonballs, and he knew that people seeing the pictures would know that.
I think that Malcolm Daniel sums up this debate quite well. We don’t have any reliable documentation about the order in which the balls were found. The danger was there, proven by the obvious cannonballs. Moving them around would be difficult, so the least amount of carrying them would be the most logical. By analyzing all of the facts, we aren’t able to get any closer to figuring out the order in which the pictures were taken. The way that I see it, there are two good pictures, called the first influential war images. We more than likely will never know the true order of “on? and “off?, so we might as well just admire them for what they are.

October 4, 2007

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

When reading this article, to be honest, my first impression was, who cares? Is it really important what picture was taken first? But then I remembered how much I appreciated Errol Morris’s article, Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up. We as humans deserve to know the truth. To some viewers there is a huge difference between photo number one and photo number two. But with the little evidence we have, we are left to only what we believe to be true, and what other people say is true.

There are two arguments presented in this article, the first is the off – on theory. Both Keller and Haworth-Booth say that Fenton took the first picture with the cannonballs off the road, and then ordered his assistants to move some of them onto the road. Their major argument was that Fenton was a coward. He never actually took pictures of real battle or death. But he liked the attention, so he staged a picture to make it more dangerous looking than it really was. Keller argues this point when he states, “Fenton obviously rearranged the evidence in order to create a sense of drama and danger that had originally been absent from the scene?.

The second theory is the on – off theory. If I were to choose between off – on and on – off, I would have to agree with Daniel and Baldwin who say the cannonballs were first on, then off, first of all because I see no motive to move the cannonballs onto the road. Actually when looking at the pictures, the one without the cannonballs off was more of an impact to me than the one with them on. There is a sort of an eeriness that comes with the empty road, like it was a real “Death valley?. The second thing that caught my attention was the fact that the soldiers frequently recycled the cannonballs. It could be very likely that Fenton took the pictures before and after the balls were removed by the soldiers. One point that really caught my attention was not by a person who has studied these two photos for months, but by a lady that works in Morris’ office. Her point was probably the most basic but made the most sense to me, she tells Morris, “Of course he took the balls off the road. Don’t they need to use the road?? Its common sense, move the cannonballs to use the road. The last thing that convinced me was the letters that Fenton sent to his wife. They seemed to be very descriptive, yet nowhere in his letters does he mention that they moved the cannonballs onto the road. He did not know that in the future historians and artists would be analyzing his letters, so I believe he would include that in them.

Whatever way we look at these two pictures, it completely changes our perspective of this man. If he did in fact move the cannonballs onto the road he would be a coward, a liar. We would see him as a man simply looking for attention. But if we say that he moved the cannonballs off the road we would view him as honorable. He made the picture seem simple, more realistic. That’s why the order of these pictures is so controversial. It’s not just what was real and what was fake, it’s describing the personality of a person.

Unless more evidence is found the order of these two pictures can be argued forever. As Morris says in the article, “We don’t see Fenton (or anyone else for that matter) in either of the photographs bending down as if to pick up or put down a cannonball?. There is nowhere in writing stating that someone moved the cannonballs for the pictures purpose. We have no physical, completely solid, evidence either way, which tells us the truth. We are left with our beliefs about the photos, and our beliefs about Fenton as a person.
Molly Murphy

“Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg??

I read the article, “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg,? by Errol Morris. The article talks about two pictures taken by Roger Fenton. The pictures are titled, Valley of The Shadow of Death. They were taken from the same exact spot with a significant difference. This difference being one of the pictures has cannonballs on the road while the other one does not. Errol Morris seeks out a number of people with opinions on these pictures and puts his conversations with them in the article. Morris’ goal is to find out which picture came first and if one of them was staged.

I was interested in the arguments for a while but then lost my interest about half way through the article. I did finish the article though. The first question that came to my mind while reading was, how do they know which picture came first? Also, which one, if either, was actually staged?

Continue reading "“Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg??" »

"Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg"

In his article, ‘Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg,’ Errol Morris, as several times before, asks a simple question. In what order were two of Roger Fenton’s famous nineteenth century war photographs taken, and to what extent were they staged? The article starts as many popular TV crime dramas do: first you are presented with evidence so obviously making the suspect look guilty, but wait--then you are presented more information from another source, with possible rationale that turns everything you thought before around.

Continue reading ""Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg"" »

Agriculture in the south.

When reading about what Taylor was saying about the future about agriculture I could not help looking at present day agriculture and how what Taylor said has come true for the most part. I kept thinking how the size of farms has grown and how their still is a cry to try to keep the family farm in business. So when I read the Jstor written by Hopkins about how Taylor’s view of agriculture is so wrong I only kept chuckling to myself about how miss informed this guy might have been.

Hopkins starts talking about subsistence farming is the way to keep all of these farmers employed and feeding their families. Well as time has gone by sociologists will say that there are different ages going on, first everyone was a hunter gatherer, next came the age of agriculture, after that was the industrial revolution, and now we have come to the age of knowledge. This shows us that in order to keep your job you must be able to move into a different category of evolution, because technology keeps advancing at such a high rate that we will move into a new age faster. In another class we are reading a book called the "8th Habit" by Stephan Covey and he talks about how we are advancing threw a new age of knowledge and the industrial revolution is coming to a standstill because technology has become so advances that they just do not need the employees that they once needed. This is totally the opposite to what Hopkins alleges that must happen.

Hopkins claims that farms must not become mechanized and no longer be a family farm. This is the same argument that some people still talk about today. There are even studies being done to show the country that family farms are needed. The University of California Davis has done research to show how family farms are beneficial to the public claiming that crop competition is good for the economy. One thing I must say is that the definition of the family farm has changed from the thirties to today. In the thirties the family farm was about 80 acres and you grew what you ate the beef was your steer that you feed and the vegetables were grown on your garden and what was left could be sold to town for profit. Today’s family farm is on average to be around 350 acres and everything grown is brought to town or the elevator for cash and then you buy what you need with your profits. This is a major change from 80 years ago. This mechanization has changed the family farm even though people try to save the family farm.

Taylor says that the industrial revolution will increase profits to the farmers. It is true that prices have gone up since the thirties but that has not made farmers any richer. This is one of the few comments I agree with Hopkins. The price for corn was $2.01 per bushel in 1980 while as recently as 2005 the price fro corn was $1.80 this means the price of corn actually down in 25 years of inflation according to the Iowa Dept of Agriculture. The price is obviously up from the thirties but I could not find the actual price from that era. Hopkins did not plan on how the advancement of genetics would improve yield in their crops which does switch the income back to Taylor’s favor.

After looking at all the facts I could agree with Hopkins and Taylor, but Taylor seemed to be right in the way of agriculture went to large cooperation and went to Industrial. Hopkins was right when it came to the hardship of farming and the price for their product. Taylor might have even been right about the income of the farmers because farmers were never a rich source of income but a way to survive.

Research and The Development of the Student

Andrew Otto
Research and the Development of the Student

I read the article from the Boston Globe posted by Professor Ward; I found it to be very interesting and thought provoking. I am a strong promoter of creative thinking and exploration of one’s surroundings to try to find out what can be learned or discovered. This article attacks the way that higher education institutions teach pupils, arguing that most universities and colleges work only to promote research and forget to encourage the youth to question the meaning of life. I have to agree with the article, despite the fact that I am attending one of the leading research institutions in the nation.

The first strong point that I believe the article makes is the fact that most academic programs at colleges and universities are very direct and focused in their studies. When a student is going to college, they are often put into one of many degree programs, which usually come with certain required courses that leave little room for elective classes to explore knowledge and information outside of the major. The article addresses the fact that universities no longer try to assist students in finding their purpose or how they fit into the world and will be able to leave their mark; the goal of colleges and universities is to guide research and development in a specific field.

Continue reading "Research and The Development of the Student" »

Hpokins VS Taylors View

After reading “An American Exodus? I found myself very confused on what Paul Taylor has to say about the south and the problems and his plan on what should be done to improve those conditions that were a problem throughout the United States. It was very hard to understand what point Paul Taylor was trying to convey through his writing, but the reviewer of his work made it clearer to understand what he was trying to say to his audience. After reading the different reviews written by different reviews from different background it help my understanding of what Paul Taylor was trying to convey through his writing. Although by reading the review did not make the reading in “An American Exodus? any easier it did help me understand what Paul Taylor is trying to say. Also by reading the reviews by the different authors I found myself agree and disagree on what they have to say about the book.
The review that I found most interesting was the review made by Hopkins. He wrote his review from the perspective of Agriculture and he didn’t agree with Paul Taylor. Everything that Paul has to say Hopkins did not buy any of it. Hopkins said the book “An American Exodus? just gave a perspective of the whole picture. Hopkins said “Lange and Taylor have given us briefly and succinctly a board perspective of the whole situation.? Hopkins said that Paul Taylor and Dorothy Lange were not giving the readers the whole picture they were just saying what they wanted to say and he didn’t buy that. He said that what Paul Taylor said about how to solve the problems at the time was not a solution. Paul Taylor stated “it’s plain that with advance in agricultural techniques the country requires fewer farmers rather than more,? by decreasing the number of farmers would be the solution to the problems, but Hopkins argue that by decreasing the number of farmers would not solve anything. Hopkins called what Paul was saying “personal disillusionment and social disintegration.? Hopkins argues that the problems lies with what the farmers were doing with the crops that they have harvested. Hopkins said that the solution to the problem instead of farmers turning their crops to “cash crops? they should just keep the crops that they harvest. That was Hopkins’s solution to the problems that Americans were facing with at the time. Although Hopkins bashed at Paul Taylor for what Paul said about the solution on the problems he didn’t attack Lange’s work. Well, Hopkins attacked Paul he was praising Lange for her work which was actually funny.
My stand point on Hopkins and Taylor views is in the middle of them. I agree and disagree with what Taylor was saying and I on the other hand also agree and at the same time disagree it Hopkins. Hopkins saw that the problem was because farmers were turning their crops into “cash crops? and that was the problem. Hopkins stated that by increasing the number of farmers would actually increase the independence of the people which would be a good thing. And I agree with him on that but what I disagree with him on is his statement that it would solve the problem. Yes, it’s true that by increasing the number of farmers it would help, but at the time the lands were too destroyed to be able to increase the number of farmers thus would only add to the problems of the dust bowl. Plus, by increasing the number of farmers it would only cause more damage than it would do any good.
Nothing only that, but because most crops at the time were just cotton crops that there was no way for the farmers not to turn the crops into cash crops. Farming cotton was their specialty, so by switching to another type of farming would not help them much. Even Hopkins himself said that what he suggested would not solve the problems, but it will help for the time being. Therefore I totally disagree on his idea of increasing farming would help the problems, but at the same time I don’t agree with Taylor either. Taylor wanted to decrease the number of farmer which was impossible at the time. It was impossible because there was no other way to live at the time. Banks were closing and financial in the United States at the point was at it critical point. There were more people out of job then people in job so be decreasing the number of farmers at the time would only add to the number of suffering. I believed that there was no fast solution to the problems during the Great Depression. Both of what Taylor and Hopkins suggested would work if the conditions of the Great Depression were a little better than what it was their plans would have worked, but because of those conditions I don’t think that either of their plans would have worked for the better.

October 3, 2007

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (part one)

When I began reading “Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? (Part One)? written by Errol Morris I did not expect to find myself becoming so engrossed in the article. The article begins with two sentences from Susan Sontag’s book, “Regarding the Pain of Others.? It was based on these two sentences that Morris began researching two pictures taken by Roger Fenton that have been the subject and discussion of controversy over the years. The two pictures are of a road, and in one of the photographs there are cannon balls on the road, and in the other picture there is an absence of cannon balls. This is a simple description, but I am assuming that everyone has some understanding of the photographs. Sontag discusses the two photographs in her book and causes Morris to have some questions he wants answered. These two pictures that are the interest of so many individuals have been labeled by Morris as “OFF? and “ON? and are mentioned throughout the article by Morris and the people he interviewed searching to find information. In her book, Sontag states that she believes that Fenton staged the second photograph by adding the cannon balls.

I found the discussions about which picture was the first one taken very interesting. How did everyone know which picture Roger Fenton took first, and how did they know that he staged it? These are questions that Morris brings into the light very early in the article. I had already been skeptic about the fact that Fenton had staged the photograph with the cannon balls on the road, and the more I read on though the article I found my skepticism increasing ten-fold. Ulrich Keller, from whom Susan Sontag has received most if not all of her beliefs that Fenton had staged the so-called “second? photograph had stated that Fenton added the cannon balls to the second photograph because of the lack of drama and danger that he wished to be shown in the picture. Errol Morris eventually interviewed Keller and got straight to the heart of things. I found Keller’s explanation as to why he believes the photo with the cannon balls on the road to be the second picture and also the reason why the photo had to be staged quite lacking and unconvincing. “It’s much, much more likely to assume that Fenton would have taken these balls out of the ditch and onto the road rather than the other way round. What motivation would he have had to take cannonballs that were on the road and remove them?? I was surprised to learn that this was the basis on which he and Sontag believe that the picture is staged. Morris discussed the idea of Sontag lacking evidence for her statements on the subject, and I found myself thinking about that as I read the interview. There is in fact absolutely no evidence supporting the claim that Fenton staged the second photograph, or if that picture was even taken after the other one. Fenton’s good name and reputation are being called into question based on the assumption of one man who deduced his way to this idea.

As I read on I found myself laughing at a reason for moving the cannon balls that in my opinion makes a much better argument than the one Ulrich Keller came up with. “‘Of course he took the balls off the road. Don’t they need to use the road?’? This realistic reasoning comes from Ann Petrone, a woman who works in Morris’s office. Morris goes on to explain that although this idea is indeed very plausible, it is not the first suggestion that pops into his head. He goes on to explain the artistic reasons that Fenton may have had for wanting to move the rocks. And on explaining the reasons, it seems that there are many supporting ideas for both orders of which the pictures were taken and why. A point that I think is very important and have forgotten to mention is when Morris states that we cannot know what Fenton was thinking or feeling when he took the photos. We will never know why he added or removed the cannon balls to or from the road, just like we will most likely never know in what order the pictures were taken. It is amazing to me that because one man decided what was true and false with absolutely no evidence could lead us to question the character of a man based on the removal of some cannon balls.

Epic 2015

The video about Epic 2015 I think is a very imaginable future. It’s exactly that, imagined. There are many new tools being used in media and one of the largest being the internet. After being developed in 1989 there have been many new advancements made to the internet. One of the advancements has been having computers write news articles. Also, computers have the capability to search anything online using search engines. There is such a vast variety of things that are able to be done on the internet that people (this movie) are starting to think that the computers will someday have a mind of their own and be able to write just as effective as a human would about any story that is wanted to be read by anyone.

I think this new era won’t come by 2015 nor do I think it will ever come. There is nothing more enjoyable about reading a piece that has emphasis on different topics that human writers bring to an article. I just don’t see it possible that a computer could take hundreds of different resources and put it together to make an interesting article to read. It may be possible that a computer could search a key word, which already happens, that brings up articles written by humans. There will be many new advancements in all technology, but to have computers write what has happened and yet make it interesting would be hard to see happen anytime in the near future.

The movie is also making the different search engines or companies involved with the internet seem like empires, like they are going to take over all of media. These different search engines are merely used to search for items. I have never read a piece that has been published by Google or any other search engine. They are used to look up information posted on the internet at a different location. It is made out to be that these companies will build up a join to make almost a government ran over the internet telling us what we can and cannot read. I think that sounds kind of familiar... China is one country that does do this and they screen everything that their people see. Google even has a search engine used for China so the information can be screened. If anything these search engines are trying to be the most used on the internet, but for people to use them they need to be truthful to what is resulted in the searches. The movie states that the search engine Google will buy out all of these other publishing companies such as the New York Times and force people to have to read what Google puts out. I think this is very unrealistic because there are always new things coming and going from the internet each day that it can’t happen. To say that any company in that matter is very unrealistic and not possible to take over the internet.

October 2, 2007

American Exodus: Different View

American Exodus: A Different View
By: TJ Dubbs

After reading and examining the text and pictures in the reading of Taylor and Lange, I felt slightly confused about the message of the text. Once I sat down and actually thought about what was being said as well as reading the other position statements on this reading I begun to understand what it was about. Essentially this reading is about the troubles and challenges that farmers and other previously employed persons had in the south. The text covers a range of hardships, from unemployment to wages. In my opinion the basic idea being that Taylor and Lange are communicating through the text and pictures is the idea that these changes in southern lifestyle were necessary.
Though lifestyle changes in the south were very necessary, especially after the civil war. This is mainly due to the freeing of all enslaved persons in the south. One may think this was not such a big deal, so a plantation looses a few laborers, what is the issue when there are tons of people to work? The issue is simple, the population of freed slaves in some counties of the south reached as high as 89% according to Taylor (318). This is one of the highest, however, this was the norm in a region known as the Cotton Belt. In the delta of the south, where several major rivers meet in the Louisiana region, the slave population in some areas outnumbered the free population by nine to one (318). After reading some of these facts and figures shown in this area of the text one could see why things were after the civil war and how they progressed overtime.

With the freeing of slaves after the civil war several practices became the norm on plantations which turned into sharecropped lands with one landowner presiding over many. One such practice was the hiring of laborers by season where more were needed for “chopping in the spring, and many more needed for picking in the early fall?(319). In regards to the other times of the year less workers were needed to do the day to day jobs. The actual cultivation and seeding of land required very few workers in comparison to before. Cuts such as these were done by landowners in an effort to cut out overhead as a result of cheap labor as opposed to slave labor.

The idea of seasonal employment discouraged many farmers of the day because there was not always enough work for all of the unemployed because there were so many. In addition, growing seasons differed and sometimes no work could be found. One of the common methods to fix this problem was to simply move somewhere else in order to find work. Many tried to go west toward California, many of whom had trips mirrored to the one described in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. However, not everyone made it to California, many did but arrived to find nothing or very much of the same. Others migrated toward cities in an effort to supply the growing industrial need for employment, but again many tried and did not succeed. This may have been due to harsh conditions or health, but in general, travel is expensive. Families needed transportation, food for an extended time, and money to get the things they needed along the way. People essentially had to leave, or just try to tough it out. It needed to happen because the rate of unemployment grew ever greater and no solution was in sight. The only way at that time to solve the unemployment at the time was to move the unemployment somewhere else so someone else could deal with it.

Not only did seasonal employment and vast unemployment hurt the farmers but the use of machinery did also. Progressively the use machinery and heavy equipment increased across the board which meant more effective farming and greater yield of crops to do an increase in overall productivity and marginal productivity on the whole. This was due to the fact that a man on a tractor could easily replace several workers, be cheaper in the long run, and be more efficient. The idea of being replaced by tractors was unsettling for many, and I particularly liked this quote used on page 319 of the text: “Tractors are against the black man. Every time you kill a mule you kill a black man. You’ve heard about the machine picker? That’s against the black man too?. This didn’t only apply to African Americans at the time it applied to everyone. This is because without a job, there is no way to earn a living and thereby get by. Although this is a tragic thought it needed to happen. At the time banks became more interested in the larger farms everywhere because they would be more inclined to loan them money in order to invest in capital (tractors) for their farms which would thereby increase efficiency, increase production of both crops and tractors which stimulates the economy. Although the increase in the supply of cash crops grew, the price did not. With an increase in supply comes a decrease in price.

Overall, the idea of unemployment and suffering on the part of the southern farmers is a tragic situation but it was an integral part of history and was an unavoidable and necessary hiccup in the history of America.

October 1, 2007

An American Exodus

After reading the excerpt of “An American Exodus,? and the reviews posted on the web site, I found that there were a few aspects of Taylors writing that were unexplained and slightly confusing. The story begins by setting up the problem in the south and across the United States as the dust bowl takes its toll; families began to look to new forms of work in the city. However the jobs were just not available, “They come off the plantations ‘cause they ain’t got nothin’ to do… they come to town and they still got nothin’ to do.?(pg.313). The areas that were still usable for farming became industrialized. I have come to understand that an increase of industrialization leads to a decrease in jobs. Taylor points out in the “Directions? portion of the book that, “the country requires fewer than farmers rather than more.? And this is completely true; the point is hit home with the fact that, “twenty-two tractors and 13 four-row cultivators have replaced 130 families.? (pg.304). If a machine can do the job of many families then it appears many families will be out of a job.

This leads to the question of, what will happen to these families displaced? This is where I become curious. Mr. Taylor offers a solution to the problem under his “Directions? section; he says that, “new patters…must develop.? (pg.323) He then lays out his plan, “Associations of tenants and small farmers for joint purchase of machinery large-scale corporate farms under competent management with the working farmers for stockholders, and cooperative farms, are developments in the right direction.? (pg323) Here his plan is great for the few families that will have a job on the farm, but what about the “hundreds of families? displaced by lack of jobs on the highway? (pg317). Is there nothing left for them? The huge problem was not what to do with the people who had jobs, it was what to do with the millions left unemployed by the stock market crash and further by the dust bowl. Industrialization only hurts this population of Americas.

One of the reviews caught my attention because they too disagreed with Taylor because of his “solution? (pg 241 review of books). Here the author of the review, William S. Hopkins, says that the problem lies not with machines but with a surplus of “cash crops? in the “market,? (pg 385 reviews and new books). He believes that there can never be a surplus of farmers, but there can be a “too many cash crops? (pg 385) in the market. This would lead to a lowered value of the crop in the market, and thus less paid workers. He suggests instead of using machines to focus on cash crops (i.e. cotton) America should focus on, “a basic reorganization of the producing and marketing features of our agricultural economy.? (pg 386) I took this to mean that the farms should look at the market to see what the people need, not what is profitable at the time; this way what the farm grows will be wanted. People buy the product and the family will earn enough money to survive.

These are two opinions on how to better the problem the depression had created. I was curious about how the depression actually ended. Neither man was right; in fact Taylor was definitely wrong. The depression was ended on December 7th 1941, when the United States entered World War II, ( By joining the war, the government now had a need for industrial workers, and for men to join the armed forces. Enough jobs were created that unemployment was no longer a problem. I find it funny that Taylor said, “The false prosperity of war is no solution to the problems we describe.? (pg 323), yet entering the war was the solution in the end.

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 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

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.

Continue reading "Believing is Seeing Position Statement" »

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.

Continue reading "Position Statement: 'Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire' and 'The Tradition: Fact and Fiction'" »

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.

Continue reading ""Will the Real Hooded Man Please Stand Up"" »

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

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!!

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.

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.