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March 30, 2009

Into the Rabbit Hole.

I found d.R’s commentary on the work of Jessica Dimmock to be very interesting and almost shockingly honest. He/she raises the questions of the artists’, as well as the viewers’ obligation to the artwork, when the artwork in question documents something unfortunate or tragic. Should we be able to admit that we like pictures of people strung out on heroin, people whose lives have been ravaged by drug abuse? Is it okay for us to want to view such pictures, and to feel a sort of thrill in doing so? The author of the article seems to offer a very strong “yes” to that question. D.R claims that to say that you don’t like to look at such photos is to be dishonest, and that people actually enjoy looking at devastation, from car wrecks on the side of the road, to news coverage of national disasters on television. D.R writes that, “I will call the viewing that I get in looking at her photos a pleasure even if the subject matter is beyond brutal.” He goes on to say that, “I will even go so far as to say that Jessica’s photographs are beautiful even in the midst of their bone-crunching pain” He states that the reason such pleasure and beauty can arise from such devastating photos is because it is “Art” and “only in art can such a phenomenon exist”.
While I agree with the author that the photos are incredibly hard to turn away from, and provide an almost perverted kind of lure, I’m not sure that I want to so easily credit Jessica’s work with being especially artistic or “beautiful”. I’d like to ask the author exactly why he considers these photos art. I’d like to know if it’s because they showcase pain, extreme addiction, and a way of life that even people who have never done any drugs are strangely drawn to. It is simply because they are subjects captured by a camera and photographer? It is because they seem to juxtapose tragedy in such an aesthetically pleasing way? Or is it art because it’s something people like to look at? I’m no artist and no art expert, so I don’t want to necessarily claim that Jessica’s work shouldn’t be referred to as art; However I am just a bit cautious in naming the documentation of a group’s heroin addiction as true art, just because it’s something that people like to look at. If it truly is art, which is just fine with me, I’d simply like to know what makes it art.
Reading this article also really brought to mind Martha Rosler’s essay, since it seems her opinion would be in stark contrast to this author’s. When it comes to this particular case, I would have to say my opinion falls more heavily on Rosler’s side than d.R’s. These people may be addicts who let themselves be photographed, but while seeing them, do we realize that each of them is somebody’s child, sister, brother, childhood best friend? I’m sure many of them are even someone’s parent. I have to wonder how those who love them feel about these pictures immortalizing their current awful addiction? Even if the subjects themselves do not care, what about those who can still remember the real them, what they were like before the addiction? Would you want to be the person publishing or gawking over the photo of a little girl’s mother on heroin if you knew that little girl? Would you want people to stare at and comment on a photo of someone you loved at an incredibly low point in their lives? Wouldn’t you rather that person have justice done to them as an entire person? Or perhaps, you would rather not have them immortalized in one static state at all.
Jessica Dimmock’s work seems a good example of one group consuming another through images; We can “experience” what it’s like to be a heroin addict without actually going near heroin. Jessica Dimmock has received praise for daring to enter The 9th Floor, because so many people would not actually want to go there themselves. It also is very easy to look down on these people and instantly feel better about your own self, because at least you aren’t living like they are.
All of this brings me to the question, “why document this?” The author admits that there’s nothing Jessica could do, or that we can do now, to help these people. I can’t see any other real benefit to it, other than the possibility of keeping someone else off of drugs. (Even in that case, I think the odds are slim and that there have got to be better ways.)
My main issue with Jessica Dimmock’s work here is that she is immortalizing human beings as heroin addicts, while there is nothing we can do to help them, so really, it seems like pure exploitation in the name of “art”. Yet exactly what makes it art is unclear to me.

March 27, 2009

The Mall Of America basically a rectangle with four smaller rectangles

In this article Ian Frazier mentions a lot of things about the Mall Of America that I had no clue about. I think the mall is more than just a rectangle with four smaller rectangles. Us Americans love to shop and spend money and not only are the Mall Of America allowing us to do that it is also giving us a historical site to see and remember. People who have never visited the MOA want to really see it because it’s the biggest mall in America and they probably heard some amazing things about it that they can’t believe. With some many people going to the mall of America yearly, it is a great place to get publicity that’s probably why he chose to write about his book signing at the MOA.
I don’t think it’s anything wrong with stores coming and going in the MOA because that just like any other mall or buildings that’s been sitting somewhere for a long period of time. That’s just like when he mentioned about Metropolitan Stadium, that’s apart of construction and technologies keeping up with business and money industries. Its one big obvious thing that has also changed Camp Snoopy is no longer there it’s called Nickelodeon Universe now.

In reality do people really think about home plate, the metro dome stadium, and what the MOA use to be while there shopping or kids running around Camp Snoopy ( Nickelodeon Universe). I know I’ve never thought about what the MOA used to because when I’m there it’s usually to have a good time; to shop, hang out with friends, eat, or go to the movies. “In fact, most of what the entire Mall sells was made someplace far away.” I don’t think the MOA is the only mall or place that has items that’s not made in America. A lot of goods that America imports are from different countries around the world. I think Ian is only making a controversy about it because of the name “Mall Of AMERICA”, but it is the biggest mall in America so what else would you call it. It’s cheaper for the United States to import goods from other countries then to make them on our own.
When 9/11/2000 first struck I heard plenty of people saying that the MOA would be a great target for a terrorists attack. But how many years have passed buy and still no bomb has went through MOA and I hope it never will. I don’t think that the security at the MOA is allowed to tell or show all of the security plans for the mall. “I didn't see any of the cameras myself. No police squads and no soldiers patrolled. The only security change I noticed was a policy regarding kids fifteen and under: now they must be accompanied by an adult if they come to the Mall after six in the evening on Fridays and Saturdays. This policy has existed for some time and is not aimed at terrorism”. This isn’t true because every time I visit the MOA I see plenty of security guards and police officers walking around or standing at major entrances, all vehicles delivering or picking up goods at the Mall of America must first submit their vehicles for inspection at the Mall of America Security Inspection Station, The commission of any act defined by Federal, State or local ordinances as a criminal act is prohibited, Guns are banned on the premises, Using or possessing consumer fireworks is prohibited, and Mall of America Security Department is a highly respected, professional and private security organization with State-of-the-art technology.

We call it Book(TM). Now try to find the plug...

As I started reading "People of the Screen", I was immediately reminded of a recent Penny Arcade strip on the same subject- and in three panels it sums up why books won't be made obsolete so easily. New devices and services like the Kindle are constantly being released and updated, and they deliver compact storage and speed of information that paper books can't match, but I don't see them ever fully replacing traditional books.

After all, the book is wireless, user-friendly, has a lag-free touch interface, and never needs to be recharged. Kindle attempts to match these benefits by mimicking them with an e-paper screen and more recently with Kindle 2's improved button layout- but why mimic something when you have the original already? As stated in Christine Rosen's article, the Kindle boasts a wireless internet connection- first with wi-fi and now Kindle 2 taps into almost ubiquitous cellular data networks. This is great for getting more books, but it also detracts from the purpose of a book. Internet access, as almost all college students can attest, is one of the most distracting things available today. The world's combined knowledge at your fingertips and all of it is formatted and condensed for the rapid consumption that we're all so used to- plenty of ways to prevent you from finishing that novel.

And with that, the Kindle no longer seems like a replacement for books. It's a fantastic way to store, expand, and read a large collection of them, and especially for the student with their own library of heavy, expensive textbooks, it could be a godsend. But it's only worth the cost for certain markets and in certain situations. For example, I'd much rather carry a Kindle with me than a collection of novels or textbooks while traveling- but most people who read at home would much rather curl up with a good book than a wireless reading device. They want to be immersed in one book, not thrown into a web of information.

So if I'm right and eBooks won't entirely replace our old paper tomes, then what effect will eBook readers have? After all, the action of reading will inevitably evolve as it already has- from the space-free Latin writing of Rome that had to be read aloud to be understood to the mumbling reading of monasteries to today's silent reading and short electronic articles encroaching on the realm of full books. Personally, I already read much more online than I do from books. But I read extensively online and I found myself saying "I saw something online recently..." and then describing it in conversations more than I'd like to admit. So from my personal experience, even though reading has shifted from longer books to shorter articles and posts, it hasn't caused me to think any less seriously or academically. In fact, I believe I've become much more knowledgeable about technology and the environment (the subjects of the articles that I most often come across while using the browser plugin StumbleUpon) than I would have in a time where books were still the most popular vessel for casual learning.

Still, I can't say that I've gained this tendency without books. When I was in elementary school (and of course before the internet was so ubiquitous), my parents constantly encouraged to me to read, and read to me often when I was younger still. So I was deliberately given a habit of reading from early on, and even with that, I find myself thinking all too often that I should read more books. I start them without much problem, but it takes me forever to finish a book- due in large part to distractions online. I'm currently in the middle of 3 books, and have been for an embarrassingly long time. So, despite my upbringing, I have the short attention span and appetite for quick, uncomplicated information that are so often referenced when writers explain the negative effects of the information age.

So, from my experience, the onset of the internet and services like Kindle hasn't just transformed reading. They've transformed how we absorb information. An increasing number of us overwhelmingly prefer it bite-sized, concise, and nicely formatted in Web 2.0 fashion- a far leap from the densely worded, thin pages of War and Peace. I still don't believe that reading will be transformed in a way that eliminates the use of books. When you're sitting on a couch or bed with an hour or more to dedicate to reading, a book is just more comfortable and convenient than anything with a screen and network connection. But reading and the way we learn will still continue to evolve with technology- this much is inevitable.

March 26, 2009

Madoff does Minneapolis

Oak Ridge Country Club was hit hard by a big scandal, after wealthy families invested with Benard L. Madoff. This particular Country Club in mostly Jewish and was founded around the time of 1921. This is where the scandal started in the Twin Cities. Madoff had a very agonizing impact on these wealthy families’ lives. The “Ponzi” scheme that he used totaled over $50 billion all together from the different towns. In the town of Hopkins just west of Minneapolis, he preyed on Jewish families and Jewish foundations. Regional reports showed that there were losses of $300 million, but a local attorney has a different opinion. He says the $600 million is a much more accurate number that best describes the situation. The lawyer claimed that he knew two families that together lost a total of $130 million. Some of the rest of the money from the scandal was at a smaller scale, for example like for a child’s college savings and for retirement. This also got Jewish funded groups stuck in a rut and not able to pay basic core missions for the poor.
This however wasn’t the only hit the Twin Cities received, just two months before the Madoff case, Tom Petters was arrested and charged on 20 felony counts for a scam of about $3.5 billion dollars that he took from investors as well. Petters also scammed on a religious community, which happened to be his members from his own evangelical Christian faith.
Maddoth didn’t only hit in one place in the Twin Cities he also trapped the small group of Hillcrest Country Club, also a Jewish golf course, but this time in St. Paul. Bruce Graybow was personally affected and one of the victims of the former scam artist. He heard about Madoff from his late father, many gulfing buddies and good friends shared madoff’s name amongst each other and they formed a trust with him so a large majority were all affected. In Graybow’s case he put a large amount of money from his family plumbing and heating business into Madoff’s firm. These families that have been affected by this have truly had their lives turned upside down. “I saw this as a safe and conservative investment, a good place to put my discretionary savings,” says Graybow. “When I found out what happened, I was shocked and in absolute disbelief.” He also felt physically ill and went into a cold sweat. The state government is even involved in the process because many investors will have the right to reclaim taxes paid on fake gains at the state and federal level. Because of the way the economy is and for a state like Minnesota the impact of the losses could have major consequences.
The Oak Ridge Country Club members are worried about the future of the club because of what people may think from the scandal. To regain confidence the clubs president sent out letters to members reassuring them that they will pull through this just fine, he also inscribed the charitable work of the Oak Ridge members and encouraged them not to talk to them press about Madoff. Many houses of worship that are Jewish are already struggling from the economic rough times and in the near future the Madoff scandal could make things much worse. But even under these circumstances some of the rabbis are trying to teach the people to learn from this incident. Rabbi Alexander Davis is trying to be optimistic, even though he knows that people are shocked and some think that this brought shame to their Jewish Community. “It’s definitely an opportunity, whether we wanted it or not, to rethink our values,” says Davis.
Graybow thinks that the government failed to see Madoff’s mischief behavior even though there were warnings and many investigations into the firm. He thinks that the government should have a fund for victims. This sounds like a good idea but I don’t believe that this will work in the real world. Just as the writer says, “The line at the government till is already very long and is likely to grow longer” (Kansas). For right now there are no for sure answers for the Oak Ridge Club.

Art in all its forms

If you were an up and coming photographer who was stopped on the streets and asked to photograph heroin addicts in a New York apartment, would you be thrilled at this chance? According to the critic who wrote about Jessica Dimmock, this should be how any artist needs to feel in a common situation. According to the critic, art can be a lone aspect in which beauty is not judged by the story behind the images, but rather the distinctness and how it makes the viewer feel, and “pleasure and beauty can occur in the midst of pain because it is art.” Even though it may seem counterintuitive at first, this claim does have validity.

Representation of un-ideal situations tends to draw a big and diverse crowd. For example, popular culture can demonstrate that people are very drawn to art forms involving a situation they do not want to be in. According to TV.com, up to three of the top television shows depict adverse styling (Lost, House, NCIS). When something is out of the ordinary, our heads seem to turn quickly and we are in amazement of the situation. The same can be told by movies. Movies of the action genre seem to stretch the confinements we are used to, and portray many un-ideal things. Yet, we seem to be naturally inclined to this with no end in sight.

One possible reason why people are so attracted to art depicting these things is that it is simply in our nature. It would be hard to argue that children, for example, seldom resort to violence or anger when one steals another’s toy. We tend to act in violence when under a tough situation. So whenever we see a photograph of a cocaine addict punching someone, it might relate to another person, creating an attraction. According to Heather Whipps of the “LiveScience” journal, there is an abundance of evidence that supports “violence…..are all part of human nature.” Theoretically, only a certain number of people can be put under this category, for those who find no relation to the lifestyles of what is being photographed, the basic notion that it is different to what they are accustomed to may get their attention.

This is not to say that people are only attracted to these kinds of portrayals. Art that depicts much more humane and comforting things can also be very popular. For example, the artwork of Van Gogh is very popular, yet they don’t carry a common theme of violence. This ties back into the author’s views that art is a “phenomenon” unlike any other. Only in art can pleasure arise from pain.

Jessica Dimmock stumbled upon an opportunity to take photographs of cocaine users in what was called “The Ninth Floor,” a floor in an apartment in New York City. Although these conditions are less than favorable, the critic still claims that her work was beautiful. They then continue to make the claim that art is an aspect in which beauty can emit from a situation that many feel contains no beauty. This argument is valid because people tend to be attracted to this kind of art.

Sources: http://www.tv.com/shows/top-shows/today.html?pop=1
http://www.livescience.com/history/090225-human-aggression-evolution.html

The Grinch that Stole Hanukkah

Just two weeks ago, Bernie Madoff pled guilty to 11 felonies which included security frauds, wire frauds, mail frauds, money laundering and perjury for what has been called the greatest investor fraud committed by one person ever. For those who do not know, Bernie Madoff was chairman of the Bernie L. Madoff Securities LLC which bought and sold stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. He gained great fame when he helped develop a computer technology that was able to disseminate its quotes called the NASDAQ. By 2008, Madoff’s firm was the sixth largest market trading on Wall Street. However, he told his sons that the asset management arm of his firm was a ponzi scheme. Later that day his sons told the authorities and arrested Madoff the next day. Recently, prosecutors have said that the scandal has amounted to nearly 65 billion dollars in fraud.

Oddly enough Madoff has been accused many times for such acts. For example, in 1999, a financial analyst named Harry Markopolos told the SEC (Security and Exchanges Commission) that Madoff could not have both legally and mathematically made the amounts of money he said he was making. On top of that the amount of accounts he had was said to be unimaginable.
Many of those accounts and small investors were of the Jewish religion and many of those people live near the Twin Cities. Thanks to Madoff, all of them have losses to as much as 130 million dollars in savings. In Hopkins, Minnesota there is a small country club called Oak Ridge Country Club that is all Jewish. In this country club, attorneys have stated that the losses there have reached about 600 million dollars. In order to get to these people, Madoff asked help from a stock broker in the Twin Cities by the name of Mike Engler. Unlike Madoff, Engler focused more on local stocks and obscure edges of the financial market. It was almost an honor to invest in guys like Engler and Madoff. According to Minneapolis asset John Pohlad, “The illusion was created that Bernard had to pick you to be in there… Madoff was one of the most difficult to compete against because he had so much momentum and mystique about him.” Violet Werner, a member of the Oak Ridge Country Club, set up a small foundation to support the local arts and cultural groups. She got help from Madoff and invested 1.6 million dollars with him. "The whole thing is just the most horrible scam I've ever heard of," she said. "This money went to help people in need, and to people who do wonderful work. I'm so sad I can hardly speak." The scandal has gotten so bad that there has been talk about the club shutting down after 88 years of history.
Other places like the Hillcrest Country Club in St. Paul and the Upsher-Smith Laboratories in Maple Grove have lost millions of dollars all thanks to Madoff. Bruce Graybow, president of Graybow Communications in Golden Valley, was caught in Madoff’s scam when his father told him that Engler was “honorable” and “trustworthy”. Bruce’s father sold his plumbing and heating business and invested that money into Madoff’s company. Bruce later created his own business in audio-visual systems. In 2007, he sold a big part of his company and invested his profit in Madoff. “I saw this as a safe and conservative investment, a good place to put my discretionary savings,” says Graybow. “When I found out what happened, I was shocked and in absolute disbelief.” Graybow goes furthering in saying that, “It is shameful that after numerous inquiries from the investment community. The regulators didn't thoroughly research and investigate the truth and uncover the underlying mechanics of the Madoff operations.”
Many charities like human-rights activism and foundations that have been associated with Elie Wiesel and Steven Spielberg have been hit hard from this incident. “A lot of money has just disappeared. It's beyond shocking, the widespread damage that has resulted from this behavior,” said Barbara Frey, director of the human rights program at the University of Minnesota. “Local charities played a strong role in funding this work, and a lot of them are all of a sudden out of cash.” Obviously this comes at a bad time since the economy is in such horrible shape. Because all of those people have been frauded out of money by Madoff, they can reclaim some of their taxes in return for this situation.
Now the Jewish community must learn from their mistakes. Alexander Davis, rabbi at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park stated, “It's definitely an opportunity, whether we wanted it or not, to rethink our values. We need to examine the cultural norms that allowed us to get into this situation. There's an opportunity to reorganize our thinking so that it better reflects our priorities.” As for the Hanukkah that occurred right after Madoff’s confession, “This year the lights of may seem dimmer, the gifts may be fewer, but the message of Hanukkah continues to shine forth brightly. We will not allow Madoff - the Grinch who stole Hanukkah - to dampen the message of Hanukkah. For the light of Hanukkah is not the sparkle of gelt but the spirit of god.”

Mall of America and Outsourcing

Ian Frazier’s article titled “The Mall of America” offers a writer’s story of how he has come to Minnesota several times and has found the Mall of America (MOA) to be very fascinating to him and it surely is. I’m sure most people from Minnesota may take the mall for granted because they have been there and heard about it so many times. I know I am sick of going there and sick of hearing about it even though it is a fascinating place when you stop and think about it. I never really took the time to stop and think about the history behind the mall and how it was originally the beginning of the Twins baseball team. The mall is a symbol of the past as well as a symbol for the future and where our nation is going.

The mall as well as the area around it seems to symbolize the industrialized nation that we are becoming. As Frazier stated in the beginning the Mall covers seventy-eight acres and encloses forty-five of those acres. That is one big mall! The only one larger is the one in Edmonton but the one here in Minnesota will soon surpass that with an addition to the north side. We are becoming obsessed about having more and more products at cheaper prices. Frazier hints to this in the article when he talks about how all of the items in the mall are made in different countries. It is funny to think what someone in a different country would think of some of the things we ask them to produce for us like thousands of tiny plastic loons for the Taste of Minnesota store. This section of the article brought up a few questions to me. He explained that it would be too costly to produce goods in the U.S. Why then are we so obsessed with having so much of a specific good and why are we relying on other countries to produce our goods? An answer to this question is that we simply cannot supply enough products at a cheap enough cost so we need to outsource to other countries such as India and China. Frazier hints to this at the end of the article when he talks about how large the area surrounding the mall is and how the Southdale Mall which opened in 1956 and was the first enclosed shopping mall. Here is pointing out that our obsession with goods and products is increasing as well as the number of people that are living in industrialized cities. People are no longer relying on the family farms as they once were. They are now moving to cities where everything is much more easily acceptable. As a result we must get most of our goods from other countries.

After googling the topic of outsourcing to other countries I have found that it just comes down to the price. In simple terms, it costs less money to produce something in a different country than in the U.S. According to one source, outsource2india.com, companies can possibly cut their operating costs in half by outsourcing. Many companies are also sending their IT programs to other countries, such as India, because they can provide around the clock service at a much cheaper price than the U.S. can. This is due in part to the number of people that they have.

I feel that whether we like it or not, we have not choice but to outsource the production of a lot of our goods because it is much more cost effective. These countries can produce these products at a much cheaper cost than we can here in the U.S. and it makes perfect sense to allow them to make products for us. I also feel that as a result we have become a more industrialized nation because we are able to get more and make more money off of it. This takes people off of farms and puts them near or in the city. It is tough to argue against it because more of the population is centered near and around major cities than in the past. I came across a census brief report from the years 1990-2000 written by Marc Perry and Paul Mackun. According to this report, in the year 2000 nearly 80.4 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas and the population in these metropolitan areas was up by 14 percent since 1990. This has been caused by our outsourcing of products as well as companies and receiving a much larger profit from these products.

The Mall of America is a symbol of the American economy and how we have grown over the years. We used to rely on a lot of local production but now we are gearing towards importing our goods and services from other countries. The Mall of America has been growing and so has the area around it. It symbolizes the industrialization of a city as well as a nation as people are changing their lifestyles to better fit the needs of our nation.

You've Been 'Hoffed

We see them everyday when we flip on the television, pyramid schemes promising to make you rich in only thirty days! These commercials are easy to disregard due to the salesman’s blinding smile, overly gelled hair, exaggerated hand motions, and improbable business proposals. Rarely will anyone pick up their phone and dial the 1-800 number of these “to good to be true” investments because they had been taught their whole life to be sensible with their money and only put it into “sure things”. But what happens when that sure thing dissolves into one of the biggest financial scams our country has ever experienced? Just ask Bernard L. Madhoff, the man behind the $50 billion Ponzi scheme that has resulted in many dropped jaws… and bank accounts.

Minnesotan’s can collectively say that when they turn the channel to CNN or Dateline they rarely see a story having to do with our home state and when there is, it’s usually the scandal du jour of a Viking player. Citizens here tend to grow comfortable with that fact and feel as if there state is a safe haven of sorts. Bernard Madhoff took our trusting nature as a golden opportunity and twisted it into an evil business scheme. The members of Oak Ridge Country Club (Hopkins) were some of the first to be affected by these manipulations.

Madhoff was a motivated businessman who was always looking for a new way to hit it big and the Oak Ridge Country Club members consisting of many close-knit families of the Jewish religion, were a perfect target. His plan was to develop a network of trustworthy partners from around that area that would be able to steer business his way. Mike Engler, a respected stockbroker from the area, was unknowingly roped into this network. The families and tight knit communities from Minnesota alone were scammed out of a total of over $600 million. These losses have affected many families but also philanthropy groups and charity programs.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission warns investors about faulty programs on their website by stating, “In the classic "pyramid" scheme, participants attempt to make money solely by recruiting new participants into the program. The fraudsters behind a pyramid scheme may go to great lengths to make the program look like a legitimate multi-level marketing program.” But how is an everyday Joe Shmo expected to recognize the difference between a good investment and a scam if the government isn’t even capable?
Just last week I was at McDonalds renting a movie from the Redbox. There was a couple in front of me trying to figure out which movie to pick and were visibly struggling. I began to chat with the couple, talking about movie and anything else that popped into my head. The woman finally decided on a film and turned to her husband to show she was ready to roll. Before they left, the man reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card telling me he loved my attitude and would like to talk with me about a business opportunity. He called me the next day and we met at a coffee shop near my house. He talked and talked, explaining how much money I was going to make and how perfect I was for the position. At the end of the conversation as I walked to my car I realized something, I had no idea what the business even was. His salesmanship and charm hooked me in and I trusted him instantly. I thought to myself, how much money is this man going to make if I joined the business? He told me that all I had to do was give him $200 and I would be able to start my own business. He then pointed out the few that hit it big by doing just this and told me that I could be right up there with them. He then told me that only 3% of Americans had decided to invest in it and that if I did I would be ahead of the game. Any sensible person’s immediate reaction would be to think it was a complete scam. But then I started thinking, what if he was right? Maybe this company truly was legitimate but my skepticism was thwarting me from achieving success.
Madhoff, a former Nasdaq Stock Market Chairman, was a different story. He had the credibility and the mystique. He used these two things to his advantage by targeting the Jewish community much like Tom Petters had done two months before him, targeting those of Christian faith and taking close to $3.5 billion. Many think that the victims of this scam should be reimbursed because it was the government regulators fault because they did not research and investigate thoroughly. If all of these people were to be given their money back it would send our already faltering state into financial ruin. When something like this happens many people want to point fingers and place the blame on anyone but himself or herself. This incident was a catastrophic one that left many families grasping for any type of financial stability they could hold on to.
Jewish Synagogues are also feelings the affects of this scandal, leaving the congregation in utter ruin. Words of great wisdom were spoke by the Rabbi of a local synagogue, "It's definitely an opportunity, whether we wanted it or not, to rethink our values," says Davis. "We need to examine the cultural norms that allowed us to get into this situation. There's an opportunity to reorganize our thinking so that it better reflects our priorities." No one possesses a crystal ball to tell them which investment is worth it and which will fall through. But like the rabbi said, we need to take this as an opportunity and learn so we don’t make a similar mistake in the future.


http://www.sec.gov/answers/pyramid.htm
http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20081224/BIZ/712249863
http://money.cnn.com/2009/01/16/news/newsmakers/kansas_madoff.fortune/index.htm

Madoff Made-off with Minneapolis

Bernie Madoff has made a name for himself by not only creating a safe bet for investments in a dwindling economy, but more so by being arrested for swindling over fifty billion dollars from his clients. Recently Madoff was arrested for his behavior, a Ponzi scheme that hit the Twin Cities particularly hard. How could this happen? I have to wonder to myself if these people that were investing with Madoff fully understood where exactly their money was going. With over twelve percent in returns on should be automatically cautious about where they’re throwing their money. However, some of the failures must also be passed onto government regulators who failed to understand Madoff’s scheme.

Madoff created a name for himself as a chairman of NASDAQ, and by being the middle man between brokers and investors, since NASDAQ has no selling floor where buyers can meet face to face with sellers. (Time) Over a number of years he created a persona about himself that led people to believe that his company was a reliable and safe bet for their money. The first thing that a thief has to do is gain trust. Madoff had the trust of all of his clients, and he used it to his advantage. His $50 billion Ponzi scheme landed in second place among a top ten list as the biggest scheme in history. (Business Pundit) So how did Madoff make it successful? Taking a look we see that he evidently “preyed” on Jewish communities and his investments often ran as philanthropies. These organizations worked on volunteer money. But we must also take a look at what exactly a Ponzi scheme is. Webster defines it as an investment swindle that encourages investors to take bigger risks by being paid off with money by later investors in a chain. But it seems evident that most Ponzi schemes end up as a collapse. However, Madoff sees incoming money, and of course he is going to continue, as long as he covers up his foot prints. It is issues such as this that make the Stock Market a dangerous investment. Upon sufficient research one may make a lot of legitimate money off of stocks, but people like Madoff and circumstances where the market can crash make it unstable. The nature of the stock market itself is what lured people into Madoff’s arrangement. He promised them double digit returns in a market that could rarely give away half that amount in today’s conditions.

Madoff’s crime hit Minneapolis particularly hard. Dave Kansas’s article explains why the Twin Cities fell such big victims to Madoff. We must look at why the Jewish families in Minneapolis-St. Paul were so willing to invest their money with an unknown investor. Kansas claims that this tightly knit group of golfers often trusted their friends, citing that “the people you golf with, after all, are usually people you trust.” This tight knit nature of the Oak Ridge country club left the members vulnerable to such fraud, and it’s easy to see why when investors see the results their fellow investors are getting. This is not even the first time that the Twin Cities have been hit. Two months before the uncovering of Madoff’s scheme, Tom Petters- owner of a local tycoon- was arrested for allegedly scamming almost four billion from investors. Petters also gained the trust of religious families. While there are reports of people regaining some of their lost money, there are still hundreds of people that sit with frozen accounts, some accounts holding children’s college funds or self-retirement funds. This scheme will surely set an example for any investors in the state of Minnesota, and it may be expected that they will turn to other forms of investment such as real estate. This is just another reactant in the economic downturn that has so many Americans already hurting in the pocketbooks.

In Kansas’s article, he claims that the only way that the affected families will gain money in return is if the government decides to start a fund, since some may say it is their fault for not monitoring Madoff’s behavior in a close enough manner. What is important is that the innocent people see some sort of refuge in this whole situation, whether or not the government subsidizes them. I think that we can’t blame the investors for what happened, and Madoff’s fortune should be dispersed among affected families. There has also been controversy about Madoff’s wife, Ruth, and his two sons, Mark and Andrew, and whether or not they had any involvement in the scheme. All three family members were part of the organization, and all held senior positions for over 20 years. Though lawyers of each family member claim that they knew nothing, and Bernie Madoff himself claimed that it was all his fault, I am skeptical as to just how much they did know. It seems very convenient that none of them dug their noses into Bernie’s business, and may suffer few consequences to his predicament. I personally think that they should all be convicted, regardless of what their convictions may be. It is obvious that they all played a role in the wrong doing, and last time I checked, wrong doing needs to be punished.

Works Cited
Gandle, Stephen. "Wall Street's Latest Downfall." Online posting. Dec. 2008. 27
Mar. 2009 .
Kansas, Dave. "Madoff Does Minneapolis." Online posting. Jan. 2009. 27 Mar. 2009
.
Gandle, Stephen. "Wall Street's Latest Downfall." Online posting. Dec. 2008. 27
Mar. 2009 .

Upload Complete : Google Books

In case you get bored spying on your neighbor with Google Earth, trying to find your own picture on Google Images, or with the ho hum sources found using Google Homepage, you can now access Google Book Search, “the twenty-first-century equivalent of the Library of Alexandria”, to read books online, search with in books for words and phrases, and read reviews of any book. For instance, if you type in “Google Books” in the Google Book search, “Googlepedia” pops up. On the right hand Sidebar, if you search “Copyright”, you are led to a page with a little quip on the end. It begins:
“As the Google Books Library Project goes about its business of scanning hundreds of thousands of library books, it’s important to note that Google is scanning those books without first seeking the approval of those books’ authors or publishers. That has caused a great deal of friction between Google and the publishing community-and at least one major lawsuit“. (Googlepedia). On one hand, Google has collected at little cost thousands of pages, documents, and books worth of information and opened it up to the public. On the other hand, Google’s new book store and library monopoly has the potential to overtake the efforts of the original authors, publishers, and venders of these books.
Whether or not you oppose Google’s efforts along with the Authors Guild, shy away from the Google Monopoly by hiding in the “Dark Age”, or subscribe to Open Minded Cosmopolitan Intellectual Rights and Utopian Ideals newsletter, you automatically qualify for the eighteenth century “Republic of Letters” bill of citizenship. The act of reading and writing is essential. “Writers formulate ideas, and readers judge them. Thanks to the power of the printed word, judgments spread in widening circles, and the strongest arguments won” (Google and the Future of Books). There fore, It makes sense to let the public deside whether or not they will use Google Books. Lets face it, in today’s economic downturn, who could afford to be apart of the imagined “Republic of Letters” let alone buy volumes of books. “Despite its principles, the Republic of Letters, as it actually operated, was a closed world, inaccessible to the underprivileged. Yet I want to invoke the Enlightenment in an argument for openness in general and for open access in particular.” (Google and the Future of Books). At the risk of uploading books with out permission, google has now provided people with the opportunity to view parts of books they probably never would have heard of otherwise.
Google isn’t the first to step on Copyright Law’s toes. It is not hard for anyone to download music, share files, take pictures, or even to check out a book from a library. Information is being shared and transferred at an incredible pace. Lawrence Lessig then raises the question, "What does it mean to society when a whole generation is raised as criminals? The creative practices of today's youth include a range of activities -- file sharing, most notoriously, but also the production of mashups -- that are illegal under the current copyright regime, but criminalization is having little success as a deterrent. Instead, the focus on "piracy" is changing our relationship to the law itself, which has come to seem arbitrary and unfair, and it's hampering creative and educational uses of new technologies.” It's time to consider, Lessig argues, whether the costs of this war are too high. Although Congress has passed 24 laws to correct copyright problems, it has failed to protect artists, businesses. It seems as if Congress and other authority are focusing on the wrong “intellectual rights” culprits. “While the public authorities slept, Google took the initiative”. (Google and the Future of books). Google is just moving along with our culture of open communication. We have come to expect easy access to information. Lessig points to a number of successful examples, including craigslist, Flickr, YouTube, and Slashdot, all of which combine a mode of community-based production with corporate services. "You create value by giving people what they want," Lessig points out; "you create good by designing what you're offering so that people getting what they want also give something back to the community.” (Remix) At the end of the day, Google is bringing back books to society and at the same time advertising lesser-known books for free.

Google and the Future of Books, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22281

Miller, Michael. “Googlepedia”. http://books.google.com/books?id=sZPXICDPcKwC&pg=PA484&dq=google+books&ei=PEjMScWhC4vKNYenle4N#PPA512,M1

Ink Slinging http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2009/01/ink-slinging-wr.html

Lessig, Lawrence, “Remix: Making Art and Commerce thrive in the Hybrid Economy”.

Review of Lessig, Lawrence, “Remix: Making Art and Commerce thrive in the Hybrid Economy”.
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/bn-review/note.asp?NOTE=19717592

*This is the second time I posted this blog : I'm not sure if it went through the first time

March 19, 2009

Hymen or Prostitute?

There have been arguments between men and women in our society on who is the dominant sex. Both genders have equal rights, but it is very apparent in our history and even in our society today, that woman do not have equal rights. For Natalie Dylan to do something as outstanding as her [experiment], it shows the reality of what the United States society has been teaching young women, including the educated women. The experiment of Natalie Dylan of selling her virginity to pay off her tuition and doing it for research purposes is a degrading act, not only for herself, but for all women of the United States and all over the world.

Any kind of woman that sells herself is not a form of empowerment or self-respect; it is an act to prove something that does not exist. Our history has been proven to look at women in specific ways and treat them in certain manners that are discriminatory. This act that Natalie Dylan is attempting to prove is an act to reassure those who discriminate on women that they are correct. Natalie does not want young girls to look up to her on what she is doing; she is simply jumping on the bandwagon of society’s critical and discriminatory views on women. Instead of being a role model or teaching true empowerment and leadership, she is enforcing a degrading point of view for young girls all over the United States through a ridiculous act.

Natalie selling herself for $3.6 million may be a good way to pay off her tuition debt due to college, but the manner and ethical foundation this is based on is completely unfortunate for all young women. On television on TLC and CNN there are shows and arguments about women making money from prostituting; and we see prostitutes on the streets making a living off of pleasuring men and girls on craigslist asking for sex and money; this is exactly what Natalie is doing except has the (reasoning] that it is for experimental purposes. Instead of going out on the streets on a day to day basis to EARN well-deserved income, she is just bidding on a one time expensive sex call to last her for the rest of her life. Even illegal prostitutes on the streets in the United States are against what Natalie Dylan is doing; the prostitutes go day by day at least legitimately earning their income; hookers, prostitutes and strippers cannot even come close to making that in one life time.

Since the American society and big forturne 500 companies are allowing Natalie Dylan the right to sell her virginity out to anyone that is rich, it is implying that all women have the right to do such thing. Despite the fact that prostitutes do it every day in our streets and neighborhoods, because Natalie is doing in for [educational] purposes is appropriate. Everywhere in the world is going through an economical crisis and our society in the United States, willing to do anything for more money and more power, is looking for new opportunities to raise this idea of power. Due to this corrupt society, the generations from here on out will be influenced by this culture; the culture of materialistic luxuries and unnecessary things in life that do not make life important.

Women will go out and do the exact same thing that Natalie is doing and rich guys (in our hard living economic system) will have no problem buying their virginity and sex from them. The new culture of the United States has one more person to thank for the corruption; one woman is giving the right for all people to look at women in the same way as they did in our history. If researchers are willing to put time to see how much a girl can get from her virginity it is a massive letdown for all women and our future generation of what is to come for the society and culture of the United States. Researchers should be doing something progressive that would help our environment, or finding new technological purposes that can make good use for everyone, and help fix our economic crisis; not spend time researching about a virgin, college student prostituting herself for large amounts of money.

March 18, 2009

Mission Accomplished?

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime;” give a child a camera and they tell the world the tragic story of their lives. Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids is a 2004 American documentary written and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman about the young children of prostitutes in Sonagachi, Calcutta's red light district. What started out as a trip to photograph a man named Jesus soon turned into a project to help better the lives of children living in horrible conditions with little hope for improvement in their future. Soon after arriving in Calcutta, Zana Briski, referred to as ‘Zana Auntie’ in the documentary, befriends many children living in the red light district who’s mothers were prostitutes. To better understand them, she provided each child with a camera, taught them a little bit about photography and gave them the freedom to capture whatever they wanted. No one ever could have imagined what the children were able to tell the world through their pictures.

In my opinion the documentary is a masterpiece. It does just what it intended to do-- tell the story of the Calcutta children lives, show what their future most likely holds for them and what they would rather their future be. It also documents the steps Briski took to try and give the children a brighter future. Born into Brothels evokes many emotions- sympathy, sadness, frustration. The documentary helps you understand why things are the way they are and makes you want to help; it also makes you somewhat grateful for the life you have. It’s primary goal is to better the lives of the children behind the cameras. Though Briski does exactly what Martha Rosler deems as exploitive in her text, In, Around and Afterthoughts,-- raising money for and lending a hand to the children by setting up exhibitions that display their photos as a fundraiser while also doing everything in her power to get the talented children into boarding schools to give them a little more hope for their future, I do not see it as exploitive. Rosler claims that documenting the people and their way of life the way Briski and Kauffman did makes them seem more helpless and worse off than they actually are; it victimizes them and ever labels them as prostitutes and children of prostitutes. Born into Brothels may show the horrible conditions of the red light district, but it shows the hope that the children have for their future; they want to better themselves. It may victimize them to some extent but it also shows the children overcoming their situation when some take the opportunity to go to school outside of the brothel, even though some were not fortunate enough to stay.

While I think Briski and Kauffman portrayed the children growing up around the sex trade in Calcutta with as little exploitation as possible, critics disagree and after some speculation, I believe they make very good points. “In their advocacy of Sonagachi's children, the directors turned the tables on [the children’s] mothers (and fathers). We see them at their worst: drugged, screaming at the children, shooing them away when clients arrive, fighting with one another, obstructing Briski's efforts to give her students a future” (Swami). Any time the parents of the documented children are filmed, they are screaming profanities, verbally abusing their kids or committing illegal acts. While the directors do not seem to portray the children in a bad light, the shots of the adults are extremely manipulative and are used to make the viewer feel even worse for the children. Briski and Kauffman also seemed to stray away from revealing to the audience that the sex workers in Sonagachi, Calcutta are “well-known [for their] efforts to gain democratic rights, notably the legalization of their profession - and of their growing success in securing rights…[it] is one of the safest centers for sex workers in India” (Swami). Here, again, the directors make the prostitute parents look worse off and more criminal than they really are.

Its much like what John Berger says in Appearances- photography (as well as any other documentary work) is ambiguous. It is up to the photographer, or documentary director in this case, to portray the message they want through their work. What I first thought was a great work of art now makes me wonder what is real and what is not. The children are portrayed in a way that is less exploitive and more sympathetic. Briski and Kauffman want the audience to feel sympathy for the ‘kids with cameras’ growing up in the red light district. They do this by giving them cameras to show the world what they live in and taping interviews of them where they were asked specific heart-wrenching questions that would evoke a feeling of anguish among the audience. The parents, on the other hand are exploited in numerous ways, only being shown yelling profanities, committing crimes, and objecting to their children’s opportunity to attend boarding school. Audience members never get to see “the children of Sonagachi [enjoying] moments of intimacy or comfort with their parents,” and they are never told the story of the prostitutes in the brothel fighting for the legalization of their work. Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman show you what they want to. I guess you never can tell what’s real and what’s not anymore.

Sources:

Swami, Praveen. "A Missionary Enterprise." Frontline 12 Mar. 2005. India's National Magazine. 9 Mar. 2009 .

March 15, 2009

Bush Latest GOPer to Show Democrats Better for the Economy


“If you want to live like a Republican, vote Democratic.”
-Harry Truman made that statement generations ago, and it appears now that there is much proof behind it. Former president George W. Bush (who was, interestingly enough, our nation’s first MBA president) presided over the worst eight year economic performance in modern American history. His administration was marked by a recession that began two months after he entered office and took another downturn in his final year of office. The last president to preside while the stock market did worse was Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression. Overall, our nation is counting on Barrack Obama to get us out of this, and time will tell whether he is able to or not. But is it possible that being a Democrat, Barrack Obama will automatically have a better command of our economy than would another Republican, such as George Bush? This article sites plentiful evidence that that could be the case.
Poll after poll has showed that when the American public divides up the chores of running this country, they tend to think of the economy and stock market as Republican domain, while there is a tendency delegate “softer” issues, like the environment, to the Democrats. Contrary to this, however, much evidence has been shown which illustrates that it is the Democrats who are the ones more adept at managing our economy.
Perhaps the most interesting piece of evidence I’ve come across regarded the stock market; Imagine you had to invest in the stock market under either Democratic or Republican administrations exclusively for the past 40 years. If you had invested under Republican presidents only, an investment of 10,000 in the S&P stock market would have grown to 11,733. (As of October) Under strictly Democratic administrations, however, your 10,000 would have ballooned into 300,671 dollars. (Also as of October) The average annualized return under Republican presidents is 0.4%, though in fairness, it would be 4.7% discounting Herbert Hoover’s presidency during the Great Depression. Under Democrats, however, the average annualized return is 8.9%. Which basically blows both .4% and 4.7% out of the water. I also find it very interesting that most of the 20th century “bear” markets have taken place under Republican administrations; from the stock market crash of 1929, to the early 1970’s oil stock, to the 1987 correction and finally to the current stall under George W. Bush.
Interestingly, the superior performance of Democratic presidents has been shown to not be specific to the stock market, either. According to findings in 2006 by Elliot Parker at The University of Nevada, Democratic administrations have done better than Republican ones when it comes to;
Unemployment- 5.2% to 6%
Job creation- .4% decrease in unemployment vs. a .3% increase
Gross Domestic Product growth rate- 4.2% vs. 2.9%
With this evidence considered, I have to question why on earth Democrats appear to be so much better at handling the economy? I doubt the entire reason is anything so simple as regulated vs. regulation free policies, or any single ideology of the Democratic party, though I suppose those factors definitely should at least be considered. After looking at the evidence which shows the economy so strongly favors Democrats, I wish it were shared with more people, and made into common knowledge by the public. It’s not that I believe that the Republican party deserves embarrassment, or that I believe everyone will begin voting Democrat because of this or even believe this to be true, however this evidence needs to be put forth and examined, because perhaps if we are able to figure out why this trend has taken place, we can eventually find the best ways to run our economy. Whether you’re red, blue, green, or anything else, having a strong and healthy economy is in all of our best interests.
I found this article not only very informative, but also supported by ample evidence. Because it had so much in the way of evidence and sources, I don’t think it deserves to be written off as some sort of propaganda. Even if the article was written by a staunch Democratic supporter, I think we should take the facts and figures and let the history speak for itself; The Republicans are a group known for wanting to be judged by history, after all.
The only thing I felt the author was lacking in this article was a possible explanation for why this might be, though perhaps the answers are just unknown at this point. That’s why I believe it’s so crucial that we figure out what’s really going on so that maybe we can possibly zero in on just what really works and what doesn’t for our economy. I know people have different ideologies and often take them very seriously (I know I do mine) however, I think that for the most part, Americans are all in this together, and we all have the common goal of being prosperous.


*Bush Latest GOPer to Show Democrats Better for the Economy*
http://www.perrspectives.com/blog/archives/001367.htm
*Bulls, Bear, Donkeys and Elephants*
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/10/14/opinion/20081014_OPCHART.html

*Kudlow Rewrites History, Blames Dow's Slide on Democrats *
http://www.perrspectives.com/blog/archives/001207.htm

*Parker, Elliot. (2006) Does the Party in Power Matter for Economic Performance? UNR Economics Working Paper Series
Working Paper No. 06-008 Retrieved February 28th, 2009.
http://www.business.unr.edu/econ/wp/papers/UNRECONWP06008.pdf*

March 14, 2009

People of the Screen

As a freshman in college I am finding myself surrounded in the age of digital technology. I find myself spending hours and hours a day on my computer. Like many other Americans I am spending those hours buying, blogging, surfing, and playing games. According to Christine Rosen of the new Atlantis, the screen is “the busiest port of entry for popular culture and requires navigation skills different from those that helped us master print literacy.” With the age of the internet growing and developing at alarming rates I find myself wondering how traditional printed books have the capacity to compete with the new technology. Computer use is causing us to become increasingly “distractable, impatient, and convenience obsesses, the paperback book just can’t keep up.”

According to the National Endowment for the Arts Americans are reading less often and for shorter periods of time. Less than one-third of 13-year-olds are daily readers, a 14 percent decline from 20 years earlier. Among 17-year-olds, the percentage of non-readers doubled over a 20-year period, from nine percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004. In addition to that Americans ages 15-24 spend over two hours a day watching TV and less than 7 minutes leisure reading. Keep in mind that these statistics pertain to print reading only. Although we may be reading on the computers, this is causing Americans to read less well. In national reading tests of 12th graders, the scores have fallen significantly below the 1992 reading levels. The rise in technology is having a inverse correlation with our ability to read well. American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.

The desire to read on one’s own is something that has to be taught in the home at an early age. As our future parents are reading less and less so will their children.

To me I believe that we are not necessarily reading less but reading differently. We are as Rosen stated, becoming “people of the screen.” According to David A. Bell, a historian from John Hopkins University, the computer was not intended to replace the book, but to allow people to read in a more strategic targeted manner. This allows the reader to be the “master,” not some dead author.

Motoko Rich from the New York Times, tries to tell teachers not to fight with technology but to embrace it, at least when it comes to games. He talks about how pairing a novel with a game brings the world of the book to the reader instead of the other way around. Video games therefore should be brought into the classroom. The only problem is the fact that you can’t make a mistake when reading a book, but you can mess up when playing a game.

In 2007 Amazon released their very own electronic reader called the Kindle. This allows readers to download books in a digital format and read them on a screen wherever they go. Readers who travel enjoy the fact that they can bring dozens of books with them stored all on one device. This device trains readers to read on the specialized screens to reduce eye strain, instead of reading in books. Since leisure reading is something that must be cultivated at a young age, I have to wonder what the Kindle would be like around little kids. I can imagine trying to read a book out loud and having a child distracted by the fact that they are looking a screen and not a book.


I think that the book is not necessarily dying but changing. Books are being transformed into new formats, these involving screens and computers. We may be more impatient than ever, but we are reading and interpreting information faster than ever. This is all being done on the computer.

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/people-of-the-screen
http://www.nea.gov/news/news07/TRNR.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/06/books/06games.html?pagewanted=print

March 13, 2009

The World's Most Expensive Hymen

Learning about 22 year old Natalie Dylan’s business venture/ “social experiment” to auction off of her virginity over the internet was at the same time both problematic and puzzling for me. I, like so many others was very quick to condemn what she is doing, but perhaps it would not be fair to not try to consider this matter from her point of view. Natalie herself writes in “Why I’m selling My Virginity” that after being brought up to believe that her virginity was to be held onto until meeting the right man, she learned in college that such teachings were “just a tool to keep the status quo intact“, and that the act of deflowering is “historically oppressive.” I can agree with that argument, however I think that even though the value of preserving your virginity might have once been a way to keep women as the property of a single man, it could also be considered a useful value for both men and women. Instead of just telling women that they should wait for marriage (or the right person, or until they‘re emotionally mature) I think the fair thing to do would be to stress that to both sexes. I think it would do much better things for our society than having women realize the value of their virginity only so that they can sell it for money, or dangle it over boys‘ heads like a piece of meat.

Natalie says that instead of having her father as her pimp (referring to the old fashioned way) she is being her own pimp. (With the help of Dennis Hof and the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, of course) I understand what she means by this, but really, should she be proud of the fact that she is “pimping” herself, and that she is also essentially being her own whore?

I find it problematic when Natalie says she is turning her virginity into “something that allows her to gain power and opportunity from men”. I don’t think it makes sense to assume that because she receives an incredible sum of money for sex one time (or even several) she is going to have either power over men or power within our society as a whole. In reality, I think she’s going to get a bunch of money this one time, for something that she will never have again, and afterwards she will be immortalized as “the woman who auctioned off her virginity”. (and that’s probably one of the nicest things she’ll be called) Once the deed is done, she’ll no longer have this “prize” to sell to anyone else, she’ll be a non-virgin, like the majority of society. Unlike most of society, however, she won’t be turning in her V-card quietly, she’ll be known, very publicly, for selling her body for money. Even though she’s getting a very substantial amount of money, I feel that that’s the only positive thing she’ll end up with out of this.

I also feel strongly that this enterprise will effect how she is later viewed in the academic and professional world. By participating (very openly, no less) in prostitution, and doing something that is frowned upon and viewed as immoral, radical, and definitely illegal by society as a whole, her future reputation as a scholar and a professional is probably already tainted. Also, because she’s sold herself for money this one time, who’s to say that later more men aren’t going to try to proposition her for sex? What will she do then? How will she feel if after completing a post-graduate education, men are treating her like a call-girl? And if it was okay this time, what‘s to stop her from doing it again?

It also bewilders me that it has come to this for her financially. Looking at her (and even her sister as they appear on The Tyra Show) she does not seem like a girl who wants for anything. Higher education is expensive, but why a smart woman would turn to this sincerely puzzles me, especially since I am doubtful that she is in any especially difficult financial situation that most college and grads students aren’t in.

The last thing I find puzzling about this matter, and perhaps the very most confusing, is why any person, sane or insane, would be willing to pay over three million dollars for sex? It’s a given that virgins are valued and sought after in many societies, including ours, but is sex with anyone ever worth more money than some people see in their entire lifetimes? That amount of money is a very incredible chunk of change. Really, I am quite interested in the man who is willing to spend that much money for a one time sexual encounter. As much as you may want to criticize Natalie for what she is doing, the men who are buying into this (quite literally) deserve partial responsibility, as well. While I don't agree with what this particular woman is choosing to do, I think any men involved need to be held just as accountable.

"Natalie Dylan and the World's Most Expensive Hymen" Global Comment, Jan19, 2009. http://globalcomment.com/2009/natalie-dylan-and-the-worlds-most-expensive-hymen/

"Why I'm selling my Virginity" By Natalie Dylan, The Daily Beast, Jan 23, 2009.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-01-23/why-im-selling-my-virginity/full/

Natalie Dylan appears on the Tyra Banks show. Dec 07, 2008
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do3otUSbTpA

March 12, 2009

The Fall of America

The Mall of America is incredibly symbolic in its position as a tourist attraction and as a symbol of our society today. Looming above the city of Bloomington, Minnesota, the Mall of America is a sign of industrialism. Ever since the industrialization of America and the move from out to up, we have been going higher and getting bigger. The mall is the epitome of this change. In Ian Frazier’s article he describes how the mall stops time itself, it encourages visitors to live in the present. It is easy to see how the Mall achieves this status. With over 500 venues, the Mall is the second largest shopping place in the world.
In Frazier’s article, he talks of the Mall and the history it encompasses. He claims that history becomes feeble. Being in the Mall is like watching television. It is hard to remember anything other than what you’re seeing at the moment. Things come and go regularly, and it is not uncommon for stores to be moving in and out, sometimes in under a month. He talks of book tours at the Mall and how each time he goes there things have changed. One of the more recent changes is to the amusement park, Camp Snoopy’s transformation to Nickelodeon Universe is the most obvious mark of change in the Mall’s atmosphere. When inside the Mall, one can’t help but be taken aback by the atmosphere inside. It really is its own little world, and how it all works is largely psychological. Every day the Mall caters to those who can’t hold on to their wallets without throwing down some cash to buy the latest styles or trends. It seems as though the goal of the Mall and its hundreds of shops is indeed to create a shopping craze throughout the population.
Frazier talks about how the mall of America actually does incorporate history, though without trying. In a deep corner of Nickelodeon Universe, there is a plate in the shape of home where home plate lay when the old Metropolitan Stadium occupied that area. This history takes the imagination away if one lets it, it creates somewhat of a parallel universe where one can feel the energy, the hundred thousand eyes focusing on the plate. I think that it is interesting to consider this. The Mall is a place of the present, the psychology behind shopping is not often talked about, but indefinitely still existent. However, at the same time there is so much history encompassed in its being.
Halfway through the article Frazier mentions the mall as a terrorist target. Being the largest shopping mall in the country, with more than 45 million annual visitors, it’s something that cannot be denied. There are so many people at the mall on a daily basis, especially the weekends, that the mall is easily at the top of the list for possible strike zones. After the attack on September 11th, sales were down. The flow of visitors was visibly squenched, and talk of the possible effects on the Mall’s business numbers was pessimistic. But in reality, who could deny a visit to the Mall? After a period of time, of course visitors will come back. It’s the largest mall in America. A consumer giant of that scale couldn’t possibly go under. The talk of terrorism brings up an interesting point in Frazier’s article. He mentions the USA America Pride store, and how business there was incredibly steady. People were buying American paraphernalia and other goods that showed the United States stars and stripes or anything that one could proudly hold and claim they supported their country. However, upon looking at the labels on all of these items, Frazier could not find a single one that was made in the United States. Isn’t it ironic that people buying these “American” goods and symbols of USA pride are really supporting other countries? Things in the world of economics are never what they seem. Frazier’s article shows us insight into exactly what the Mall of America is, and even how its name may be miscommunicated. It is obvious that the Mall isn’t exactly innocent in its behavior, nor does it promote a positive message when it comes right down to the bones.

Works Cited
Frazier, Ian Frazier. "The Mall of America." Online posting. Aug. 2002. 12 Mar.
2009 .

Kinzer, Stephen. "A Nation Challenged." New York Times 20 Oct. 2001. 12 Mar.
2009 fullpage.html?res=9D05E3DC173FF932A25753C1A9679C8B63>.

People of the Screen

Christine Rosen’s article “People of the Screen” made a lot of sense to me and made me think, as well as consider, a lot about how we are required to be “digitally literate,” as she puts it. She explains in her article how we take for granted how we are able to just pick up a book and start reading. It has not been until recently that we have had the technology to create books that can be produced on a large scale. She says that technology is evolving which means that the screen will replace the book. She means that we will be viewing books on small, personal computers such as a cell phone, or something similar to an ipod. I agree with Rosen in that the book will be completely replaced by digital versions that will be much more easily accessible as well as less costly. I also believe that this is a good thing and will have positive effects on our society. As is presented in her article, there seems to be a problem with this transformation of books to online files. She points to several articles that seem to demonstrate that we are not reading printed books as much as we used to. There is a lot in this article and a lot of ways to go about explaining it, but one thing that is very important is how we are becoming less efficient readers of printed material.

Rosen’s article points to a study done by the National Endowment for the Arts. Rosen states a fact from the article that says nearly half of Americans ages 18 to 24 do not read books for pleasure and Americans ages 15 to 24 spend only between 7 and 10 minutes per day reading voluntarily. She also says that two thirds of college freshmen read for pleasure for less than an hour per week or not at all. That means that only one third of freshmen read more than one hour per week. What Rosen fails to mention in this section of her article is an important fact that is in the actual National Endowment report and can be accessed through the link that is provided. It says “Americans are read reading less well.” It explains that besides that we are not reading enough on our own, we are not reading as well as we once were. According to the report reading scores for American adults at all different educational levels have been declining. This is true for even the best educated groups. The report also says that from 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped 20 percent. There is a direct connection between these two groups of statistics. One is saying that people are reading less and the other is saying that they are not reading as well as in the past. It makes perfect sense that because we are not reading, we are not reading as well but there is certainly more to it than just this.

Another part of this article adds to this and states that the study done by the National Endowment did not include online material. It is easy to criticize and say that people are not reading books because they read everything online, but this would not explain the decrease in test scores. As pointed out by Johns Hopkins University historian James A. Bell, there is a much different way that we read a screen than a book. He suggests that we read on a screen and look for specifics. A report published by the British Library also adds to this and says that we read books horizontally and online articles vertically.

The declining of reading scores seems to be directly linked to the ways that we read. The tests that we take may be geared towards printed material. Maybe these tests need to be re-written to account for the online content that we skim through and pick up. Or maybe we are becoming worse readers as the transformation of online books takes over. It is evident that books will eventually convert to online databases but when that happens could be far off in the future. We may or may not make up for our decreased scores but it seems as though we are doing just as much and being just as efficient with these slightly lower scores.

Valuable Virgin

Natalie Dylan is clearly a very educated woman earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies, and soon to enter a Masters Degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy. It is quite a surprise to me when she decides to auction off her virginity online. If I was to hear this from someone and not by reading the article that Ms. Dylan published “Why I’m Selling My Virginity” I would assume that Ms. Dylan has made an asinine decision. After reading her article, what surprise me the most was that her virginity is worth 3.8 million dollars and she auction herself off to hear the public’s response.

With Ms. Dylan’s education, she is not making a senseless decision. She realized that she could use her virginity as a tool for power, a power over men because that is what us men think about all the time. Ms. Dylan also said “what’s to stop me from benefiting from that? It is mine, after all.” She is correct and from the numbers, she is benefiting a lot for her virginity. I agree with Ms. Dylan, virginity is nothing special, it is such a big deal to most women because of the media, friends, parents and religion. People always say the good girls are the virgins and when people hear about this or that girl is not a virgin anymore, most would say that she is a slut. What Ms. Dylan is doing is a great idea and as one CEO of a Fortune 500 company put it "entrepreneurial gumption." She is doing what many who are as educated as her would not think of doing what she is doing, she is doing what a smart business person would do, something different.

While I do agree that what she is doing is smart, I also think that what she is doing is wrong. She is making a big stand for women but in a negative way. She says that it would give women power over men, but I see that she is just spoiling men. Just like a kid, if you give them what they want, they would only cry for more. Ms. Dylan states “These days, more and more women my age are profiting directly from their sex appeal, but I’m not sure other women should follow my lead,” I hope that other smart women do not see this as a smart way for power because in this society, we only see the hopeless and the desperate as prostitutes.

Mall of America a Sports Stadium!!

After reading the Mall of America position article I have learned a lot of things that I never knew about. I have been to the Mall of America twice and have never noticed the things they mentioned in the article. Just how they say that you learn something new every day, today I became educated on the Mall of America. The Mall of America was once a stadium for the Vikings and Twins back in the day. That is why after you start looking at the mall you think about why it is so big and then your told that it was a stadium at one point and then you understand why it is so big. It is also interesting how the first indoor mall was built in Minneapolis, Minnesota which was the Southdale Shopping Center. It was originally the first Mall of America before the Mall of America took over the stadium that belong to the Vikings and Twins in Bloomington, Minnesota, which was rebuilt and the mall opened later on when the sports teams moved to downtown Minneapolis. The Southdale Shopping Center was the world’s first enclosed mall and was built in 1956 by the Minneapolis department stores.

Also in the article they pointed out a very good objective that the United States does not have many things that says ‘made in the United States’. Ian Frazier, the writer of the article, also wrote books and one of her places to go sign books was the Mall of America. She always had an escort that she took to the book signing and selling, which was when she learned about the Mall of America. Ian learned the history through her escort who grew up in the area and knew a lot about Minnesota. One time when Ian came to Minnesota early before a book event and she studied the Mall of America before it even opened looking from the outside and the looks of where everything once was when it was a stadium. Then she started to ponder on a store that was a level up from the ground opening. It was a United States of America Pride store. She went in there when it opened and that was when she realized that we have very little things made in the United States. She looked at where things were made and she realized that there was only maybe five or less things made in the United States and why is that. The United States imports clothing, glass items, pretty much anything we use or have today. The reason why we import most of the things we have today is because it is cheaper to have them imported then to be made here because we cannot afford the things made in the United States and also that it is more cost efficient.

The Mall of America is almost the largest mall in the world except for the one in Canada but if the Mall of America adds on to the south it will take back the title. The Mall of America does have the most shoppers and visitors, however. It is also known to be one of the best tourist attractions in Minnesota. The largest shopper response during the Holiday Season in the Twin Cities area takes place at the Mall of America where people will spend hundreds of millions—very close to a billion spent just in the holiday season.


Works Cited
http://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/stories/2008/11/17/daily34.html

March 9, 2009

Hey look, Virgin For Sale!

Our economy might be tanking, but at least we know where our spending priorities are. While selling your virginity might seem ridiculous, desperate, or even just out of the norm, we all know that it is not. A bookstore owner bought Che Guevara’s hair from the CIA for $119,000. If Jesus graces your pancakes, you are guaranteed at least this months rent, and if you come across Marilyn Monroe’s notebook with her celebrity numbers in there, well, that’s an easy $90,850. But lets not give the celebrities and worshipped too much credit. Average people like Natalie Dylan deserve to put themselves, literally, out there as well. (http://www.dropshiparea.com/wordpress/2008/11/17/848.html)

It turns out Tim Harford was right, Life is logical. Although pro-life educators still push abstinence education programs in school, the pledges seem only an opportunity for teens to practice their signatures. According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, virginity pledges may be ‘useless’ when comparing ‘pledgers’ to ‘nonpledgers’. http://www.lsureveille.com/news/studies_show_virginity_pledges_do_not_work-1.1598269 If everyone else is doing it, then its only logical that Natalie Dylan does too. If anything, Natalie proved that she could learn from the mistakes from others. Why waste time signing a pledge when she can set up a profile on the Moonlight Bunny Ranch website.

The up and coming ‘Marriage and Family therapy counselor’ was not the first to attempt and capitalize on the “role of women” in society. The Play Boy Bunnies implored people to explore their mansion, 50 cent took us to the Candy Shop, Little Jon told us how to Get Low, and Britney Spears Did It Again. Oops. Whether or not Miss Natalie earns a buck or two, I doubt the sex industry will pull a Bank of America. Natalie does have one thing going for her, however. “ [She’s] been congratulated for my "entrepreneurial gumption," as one CEO of a Fortune 500 company put it.” I bet Christina Aguilera is kicking herself for not being the first to think of selling herself for her first.

It is increasingly apparent that Ms. Dylan should be recognized as a model for all women; she is taking a stand by laying down. Now some may argue that by allowing the media to flock to Natalie, we are “sitting by complacently” (Global Comment) as the male mindset gets its way, but that’s only usually what happens. Natalie after all, offers her full consent to the issue at hand. Because Natalie is a “women studies” major, her understanding of the “Feminine Mystique” must allow her to avoid the “great crime against her sex’, which is still chained by being valued only for sexual services’. She may be in fact a better model for women than Sarah Palin was for the Republican Party. After all, The few minutes McCain knew Palin before hiring her for the job is about the same time Natalie will know her highest bidder, except Natalie will earn roughly 3.8 million, instead of spending 150,000 federal money on designer clothes.

Natalie Dylan leaves the Daily Beast audience hanging when she alludes to a future trend, but I fear the only impact Natalie will have on the world perception of women will be the impact she leaves on her highest bidder. It is not as if her actions will cause markets to hire less women, lets face it, markets are no longer hiring anyone. But if the goal of feminism is to ensure that women make as much or more than men, then Natalie is definitely making more than the average American man and engaging in serious academic work. I hope Natalie Dylan is right. After all, if horny teenagers aren’t satisfied with the sex industry as is, then I do not see any reason why childless parents should be happy with the adoption system. Does any one know where I can find a baby on Craigslist?

Trippin' With No Place To Unpack

What fuels our experimentation? What causes us to take that hit or drink that beer? I remember when I was three years old and I decided to write the word “butt” on a piece of paper. I then heard my mom coming up the stairs and quickly erased it with the guilty feeling that I was now a bad kid because of it. As I grew older I began to make excuses for the things I did and the new things I tried and slowly begin to “slow dance with the devil”. I was drawn to this documentation by Dimmock because it stirred a feeling inside of me that I believe many of my peers share. A false mindset that I am so much different than the addicts documented, and that I would never be able to slip as far as they had. Indulging in these horror stories helped me to realize what made them who they are and helped reflect tendencies in my life that related me with these subjects.

I have been to many school drug meetings and have been told countless times that marijuana is a gateway drug. I seldom listened to what these speakers had to say because they seemed old and far from street saavy. But then I watched as my friends began to smoke weed. The true potheads would smoke and smoke, letting the day softly slip through their fingers like sand through a clenched fist. I heard their complaints that they weren’t getting as high anymore and were looking for the new thing to do it for them. Jessie, one of the junkies documented in this report, said this about the subject of getting high:
Jessie: “And I remember leaning back. And I was on a cloud. And there was not a worry in this world. It just relaxes you. Takes away any of the concern. No fears. No worries. It doesn't do that forever. After awhile you're just doing it to stay straight, to stay normal. And you're not getting the same effects anymore. And then that's why they say you're chasing, the first hit. Cause then you're just doing it to try and get that same feeling that you got in the beginning. But you never really get that. You may get glimpses from time to time. But you never really get that. “

Jessica Dimmock did what many are afraid to do, she melded the thick line separating journalism from art. Art is a subject with an unlimited freedom of expression and often artists chose to dig into the darker side of our world. The general public decide to not indulge themselves in art because they believe it to be morbid or too sinful. But as stated in the article, the highest ratings of television watched is often in times where are country is experiencing a disaster. This raises the question, are people lying to themselves? Many people are afraid to look at something like this because they know that they may find a way in which they relate to these junkies and that is unnerving for them.

Listening to Jessie's stories among others was eye opening for me. Many Americans try to block these stories out as an attempt to try and act like they are not really happening. In order to gain a full understand of the world, we must also study the underworld and its inhabitants. Find out how they got to that point and what decisions were made that separated them from the general public. Studying these people will help us to change our ways before we slip to a spot right next to them.

One of the final questions asked to the reader in this articles was this:
Do you need to react with a form of action if you are to participate in "the looking"?
Not much can be done to help a junkie unless they first decide that they want or need help. This question addresses helping yourself. I looked at these people with hurt and sadness because I felt bad for them and their actions. But the biggest emotion I felt when looking was a feeling of fear. This text acted as a mirror into my life and mindset. Reading this taboo story was the first form of action, the next is to stop the free fall before it is too late.

March 5, 2009

Amy Tan On Creativity

The notion of moral ambiguity has inspired ‘creative people’, or as Amy Tan put it ‘multidimensional people who have the sense or inability to compress and look at the things in life’, to pack up their muses and go on journeys of self-discovery ever since the stone-age tales of Gilgamesh. The big questions of life probe us to wonder who we are, what our purpose is, and how we know what we know. After thousands of years of vivid philosophical debate and quandary, the answers are still rather pointedly unanswered and inexplicably desired. Amy Tan, like millions of other creative persons, underwent an epic life-long quest to find the meaning in human existence, specifically her own. It would seem that after answering Socrates’ ceaseless questions, dealing with Descartes duality, and eating everything but the words of a Chinese sage, it would seem that we would call it a day and go home to drink recently expensive beer.. There are a myriad of reasons that could provoke a person to persistently dig at life to pull out possibilities, yet I am more interested in what separates the enlightened artists from those living on “Easy Street”.

Amy Tan described a muse as those “things that transform in our life, that are wonderful, and stay with us”. I am under the impression that a muse is the inspiration for creation. Or for the non-AP creative students, a muse is that which keeps you going through the day. Her’s happened to be a smallish dog kept in a smaller suitcase. Surprisingly, the dog was still throughout the duration of Amy Tan’s humorous and enlightening presentation. As I understand it, moral ambiguity allows one interpret a situation in different ways, so I am sure the dog interpreted being in the closed dark space as a chance to mediate instead of a being in a space where no “Man’s best friend” should have to go.

The questions “what is the answer to question 3 on the SAT”, “What is the least amount of sleep and red bull I can consume to function through out the day”, “What happens after I die” all have uncertain outcomes, although the last question is slightly more ‘morally ambiguous’. Not only does test anxiety, sleep deprivation, and suicidal tendencies indicate poor school performance, but they indicate a mental block which inhibits the creation of anything, well, creative. Amy Tan attributes to the tendency of humans to hold back to the Uncertainty Principle, which is generally regarded as a physical theory stating ‘one cannot assign exact simultaneous values to the position and momentum of a physical system. Rather, these quantities can only be determined with some characteristic ‘uncertainties’.’ There is uncertainty in everything. To over come uncertainty, Tan emphasized “We need a focus, When I have a question, I focus on it, and notice things that I wouldn’t have otherwise”. It is very easy to lose focus when the subject matter is tedious or overwhelming, or when distracted by our blackberry’s. Our focus can be cluttered by the words of others. Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of “Eat Pray and Love” mentioned in a TedTalk if she had listened those who doubted her choice of career 20 years ago she would have lost her focus on her writing goals. Gilbert finds the link between uncertainty and creativity disheartening to say the least. “And we have created the notion that creativity and suffering are automatically linked. It would be better if we could encourage the great creative minds to live.” Perhaps we have really lost focus on what matters if we are willing to put the burden of answering life’s greatest questions only on life’s ‘most creative minds’. Their advice directed at the aspiring creative genius’s of the world applies to the everyday man as well. Become a horse with blinders, block out the uncertainty, focus on what is necessary, and ultimately just show up for the race.


Sources
http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html
http://www.philosophytalk.org/pastShows/MoralDilemmas.htm
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-uncertainty/
Deffenbacher, Jerry L. “Worry, Emotionality, and Task-Generated Interference in Test Anxiety: An Empirical Test of Attentional Theory” 1978.


Born into Brothels: helpful or degrading

“Born into Brothels by Ross Kaufman and Zana Briski is a interesting and compelling documentary about a group of young children who have been born into the world of prostitution in the red light district of Sonagachi, Calcutta. Zana makes an altruistic attempt through photography to improve the lives of the children, who seem to be living in a place that I would deem completely miserable. The children as young as ten have seemed to accept life as full of sadness and pain, but they are still so full of life and surprisingly talented when given cameras and some tips from Zana.
I really like the way the film and photos give light and insight into the lives of these children. They are constantly struggling with a culture that has been this way for hundreds of years. The struggle seems futile. While the documentary aims to better the lives of these children, I ask myself an important question; does this strategy work? Zana makes attempts at raising money for the children by selling the children’s photographs, fund-raising, and charity. According to the reading from Martha Rosler, charity is an affirmation of ones wealth and defeats the whole purpose of educating the alleged educated on these actual people who need help, because in an ironic sort of way, she says that the probing style of some documentaries imply to the “socially powerful” that the people depicted are helpless and can do nothing for themselves.

While this quest for ascendance of the children is an admirable one on Zana’s part, I wonder how ethically appropriate this film has been done. I do not believe she could have done all this for these children without profiting in some way herself. Undoubtedly, she has. This film is the winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature giving her at least nation wide fame. I am not saying that her efforts aren’t noble, I am just pondering the possibility that she may have exploited these children without bettering their lives a substantial amount, yet she gained quite a bit of recognition. It was the framers of the constitution of the United States who said, “man is inherently greedy’”.
Zana does put a lot of effort into helping the children look at the world with a new trained eye. I cannot deny that her efforts have done nothing for these children, one of the children involved in Zana’s documentary, Avijit, ends up going to Amsterdam to represent India in an exhibition of child photography. He probably would not have been able to go if it were not for Zana’s efforts to acquire all the papers necessary for him to get a passport.
Zana fervently tries to find boarding schools that will take the children of prostitutes, which happens to be more difficult than she first thought. Through her efforts Zana was able to find some boarding schools that would accept a few of the girls and a couple of the boys, although she found them schools, only a couple of the children are in those schools. Most of the children were taken out of the schools by their parents and one or two left of their own accord.

There is much criticism about the affect that this documentary has had on the children and the Indian culture, especially that of the area depicted in the film. After the film was released the interpreter of the film, Partha Banerjee, wrote a dissenting letter of the film to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stating that he has been active with the post part of the film and has visited many of the children after the film. He claims to have found many of the children involved in the project to be in worse conditions than before the project. According to Partha, the despair of the children has only exacerbated because of their belief that being involved in Zana Briski’s camera project, there would be an opportunity for them to live a better life. He goes on to say that the sex worker parents of these children believed with the unrestricted access into their secretive lives that their children would be shining in some of the glory that the filmmaker’s are now. Partha also goes on to suggest that the style of the film makes the conjecture that the filmmaker’s themselves were the only people responsible for any humanity and benevolence doled out to the children or parents.

With this documentary in mind, I really question this process of informative probing into the life of a people beleaguered with problems for profit. Even if the goal is essentially not exploitation for profit, it would seem that can be the outcome. This film has gained Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman fame and some fortune, but what have these children gained. I do agree with helping people of lesser fortune than myself, but at what cost. There must be a better way.

World's Most Expensive Hymen

Men have always been the ones that are the takers of a woman. The more women that men have had intercourse with the more masculine society has shown them to be. This is the exact opposite social status for women. Women are suppose to stay virgins until they are married and lose that to their husband and the one that “owns them”. This is one reason why Natalie Dylan is auctioning her virginity has been so controversial. This is her way of showing that women can have control over men. Even though men are the takers of a woman’s virginity and have been the ones in control forever. Natalie is proving that what they want, in this case, they have to pay for and she chooses who will be the lucky guy, so she is in control. Sure this maybe a way for women to have more control in the world. But this is not the way to do it. I mean come on do you seriously have to sell yourself to try to prove that women are in control over men? Some may think this is the perfect way to control men because they want sex and by this you control who gets it and so on. But I think that this shows that the only thing that women can do is over power a man using sex, using their body since men have always been in control of this, now she’s trying to turn the tables. You can’t turn the table on this one; men were physically made the way they were just the same as women are, we can’t change the way god made us unless we have extensive surgeries to have a sex change. But that’s getting really extreme.
What ever happened to women using their heads and being smarter to out power men? There is nothing wrong with trying to over power a man, but its ridicules that she is using her body to do it. I mean don’t you have a little more pride and dignity then that? This struggle between men and women has been going on for a long time and there won’t be an end to it anytime soon. So let’s come up with a better way to prove that woman can over power men. This way just shows an easy way out and a big fat check to pay for college. The sad thing is that this does prove that our society is highly ran on sex appeal and Natalie’s experiment is working because the bids keep coming in for this attractive 22 year-old. They are already up to 3.8 million.
Natalie wrote her own article bout why she is doing this to explain it to everyone. She is doing this as a research project in grad school and I realize that it is her body and she can do what she wants with it, but the method that she is choosing to pursue is what frustrates me. She explains that as girls grow up they are taught that their virginity is sacred and that they should hold on to it until they get married. Ever since Natalie went to college her professors changed that point of view for her. That helps me understand a little bit better as to why she is doing this because her virginity isn’t important to her, but instead she is using it as a tool. Everyone has their own beliefs and thoughts on things and to her this isn’t important but to use yourself as a tool is a form of prostitution. This sociological experiment that she is doing was a way to test how society would react but things have switched around and now society is testing her. Which I think is very appropriate. She has this new idea, people always criticize new things, which stir up emotion in all type of people to what they really think about the topic. This has given her a lot more media attention then she anticipated. She should have known that it would give her a lot of attention because this isn’t something that people that graduated from college with a degree do as research projects on a daily basis. In fact it’s not something women usually publicly do ever and the fact that she has gotten such high bids already is a different story. The one thing that she does say that I agree with is the fact that I don’t think that other women should follow her lead and that society isn’t ready for public auctions like hers. Except she says society isn’t ready yet, I hope it never is.

Pray before you go to hell

The article “Born Believers; How your Brain Creates God,” holds a truth and reality that many people live by on a day to day basis. In the world today, many things have to be “scientifically proven” for it to be a fact; everything has to have proof of where it originated from and why. Each generation has become more technologically advanced and has various methods of investigations and analyzing stories and data. For example, there have been many scientific investigations in attempt to prove and disprove the story of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. The entire world is diverse in politics, economics, cultures and beliefs; there are different beliefs in higher beings, saviors and God’s such as Buddha, Allah, Brahma and Jesus Christ. In the article it states, “During the Great Depression… most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance. … Only now is science beginning to tell us why. Our brains effortlessly conjure up an imaginary world of spirits gods and monsters, and the more insecure we feel, the harder it is to resist the pull of this supernatural world.” After analyzing the article and the reasoning for people’s faith, not only are religion and their beliefs a way of life, but it has grown to be an explanation to why humans feel obligated to believe and have faith in a higher being.
As a way of life, people have their religion and their beliefs in God completely integrated in their lives; starting early in the morning praying before the first meal of the day and each one there after up until before falling asleep. Women are to stay a virgin until the day they are married, children have to be baptized when they are born and men were to be strong for the entire family and support them with everything he could. The bible, originally to be told as a story, is a book of rules and ideas that people are supposed to follow throughout their entire lives so they can be with God. The sins were to never be committed, and if they were, you had to confess them to God and to the Priest for forgiveness. People had to dedicate at least one day a week just for God, some more than others to demonstrate their true dedication to their Savior. People believe that if they show the dedication to God everyday, they will go to Heaven. Not only do they pray from him throughout the entire day, but they pray for the “after-life” they imagine they will have when they pass away. One of the most powerful reasons why people choose to turn their beliefs to their religion and in God is the idea of what will happen to them once they are no longer able to walk on Earth. Living in a world of ideas and beliefs in the supernatural, the idea of higher beings gives humans the idea of protection and security when we least feel it.
“It turns out that human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief, especially during hard times.” Humans have the desire for tangible things, but long for those that are not. We want to have the luxuries in life; money, cars and big houses. However, we desire the intangible even more; fame, love and happiness. Many people turn to God or their religion when they have problems; they feel that if they pray, their faith can relieve them of their problems. Whether the problem may be of financial issues, family illness or just simply want to have a better day than the last, people turn to their religion or their higher being for help, luck or something as brilliant as a miracle. Many people believe they have no one there to help them get through their problems and that God is their only hope; that God will solve everything and make everything better. When something unfortunate happens to a person, that person will believe that it was not their wrong-doing, or the fault of another person, but will believe that God did it for a reason. They believe that God has done this to them because they will learn from in it in the long-run or because it was meant to be.
There are many people who are not religious, but when that time comes where they feel they have absolutely nothing in life, are about to lose their life or even feel like they will lose something important to them, they will automatically ask God for help, for strength and for happiness. Humans will search for their higher being, the One who has the image of always being there no matter what. The idea and beliefs of God brings humans a sense of happiness and security that is difficult to find tangibly. In the generation that we live in today, humans always need answers, and if answers are not given, they are investigated until a conclusion has been reached. Scientists question in a higher being and their research has given them answers. Similarly to how psychologists wonder why people act a certain way and why, scientists have wondered what is it about God or the idea of a higher being, why humans feel the necessity to have God in their life and why is it God that we ask for forgiveness and not an actual human being. Scientists have proven their methods by having people take public surveys, and have gathered a lot of quantitative information. “It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in Gods;” our minds run on electricity and electricity is a part of the science of life.

Mmmmm.....beer

Reading the articles about beer and alcohol sales in The Consumerist and on fivethirtyeight.com really piqued my interest in this subject, and it left me with a couple bones to pick with Mr. Nate Silver. Mr. Silver offers no real explanation as to why sales of alcohol are decreasing; times are rough, so it is very counter-intuitive to think that sales of something that makes people forget their economic woes would be on the decline. But he does throw out a few ideas that he thinks “perhaps” could be the reason behind this phenomenon, which then makes it the readers obligation to go out and research this topic in order to gain actual insight into it; any 4th-grader that is failing in math can read a downward-sloping graph of money and tell you that this is a bad thing, but it takes some digging to come up with a plausible reason why.

His first “reason”: alcohol sales were on a “hot streak” prior to the 4th quarter, and slumping sales were just a “reversion to the mean.” A reversion to the mean? By going down by almost three times the previous record drop? This would be like Kobe Bryant putting up 50 points a night for an entire week and then reverting to the mean by driving the team bus off a cliff. His second golden nugget of explanation is as follows: “Perhaps people are substituting Michelob and Coors for more expensive microbrews like Alpha King and Dogfish Head.” In order for me to understand why this was possible, I thought back to the first course on basic economics that I ever took, ECON 1001: Principles of Microeconomics. Basically, as my professor explained it, when consumers have less money the demand for inferior goods, like cheaper macrobrews (Michelob and Coors), goes up while the demand for normal goods, like more expensive microbrews (Alpha King and Dogfish Head), goes down. But I always had a hunch that my University of Minnesota professor was just a crackpot old fool who rambled about nothing and sputtered out sentence fragments, so I guess Mr. Silver just proved me right in that respect. Reason number 3: “Perhaps retailers are discounting their prices.” This to me seemed plausible, but just for the sake of confirmation-bias I figured I should check it out. Retailer discounts should result from supplier discounts, right? Since beer is the main culprit, and the main focus of the article, I did some research and found a quote that came straight from the Clydesdale’s mouth, Anheuser-Busch.com: “As planned, implementation of the company’s 2009 price increase plan was initiated in the latter half of September.” Wait a minute now, Anheuser-Busch increased prices? And sales plummeted? Mr. Silver is really batting 1.000 here. He then brings up a shortage of hops (one of the main ingredients in beer) in 2007 and 2008 as a potential reason. Again, some economics: scarcity of input resources make prices go up, not down.

So now that we have made clear Nate Silver’s economic prowess, what, then, could truly be the problem? That, my friends, is easy. So easy, in fact, that I could describe it in a mere 501-word essay located beneath a red and blue economic graph. The answer to this is twofold. First, more people are gravitating toward bars’ Happy Hours, where they can get twice as drunk for their money as they can during regular hours. A Los Angeles Times article written on January 10, 2009 reports that bars’ Happy Hours are starting earlier and lasting longer in order to draw in more customers. Here’s a quote from the article, talking about customer Luis Romero’s new spending habits:

“‘You start watching your pennies a bit more,’ said Romero as he sipped a $3.75 pint of Honey Blond Ale one recent afternoon in the Yard House restaurant at Shoreline Village in Long Beach. Just a few hours later, the same beer would sell for $6.”

In tough economic times, everyone starts pinching pennies. In the case of the bar-goers, this means getting more for your money during the aptly-named “Happy Hour.” This penny-pinching brings me to my other reason for the slump in alcohol sales. In hard times as these, consumers may not have much money, but they never lose sight of what’s really important: getting drunk to forget about their empty bank accounts; taste is merely an afterthought. As a result, people are trading down from their Belvedere and Grey Goose to cheaper brands that still do the trick like Absolut or Smirnoff. This same principle can be applied to any type of alcohol, be it Captain Morgan to Admiral Nelson or Crown Royal Extra Rare to Rebel Yell.

So all in all, consumers really just want to get the same amount of drunk for a smaller amount of money. If anyone really wanted the slump in sales to end, they would push for legislation to lower the drinking age so more college students could fritter away what little money they have at the bars. Damn, that just makes sense.


March 2, 2009

Social Networking is Killer...Literally

MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Bebo; there is a never ending list of social networking sites available to people all over the world. What at first was seen as just a way to keep in touch and communicate is now seen as a health and safety hazard.

According to Lady Greenfield, “social network sites risk infantilizing the mid-21ish century mind,” meaning those who typically spend long hours in front of their computer screen in a virtual world are reducing their brain capacity and the way it functions to the state of an infant, “characterized by short attention spans…the inability to empathize and a shaky sense of identity” (Wintour). Constant screen shifts and window changes on the computer are said to halt brain cell connection, ultimately resulting in short attention spans and even attention deficit disorder, more commonly known as ADD. Even more so, because people all over the world are spending more and more time on social networking sites, they are spending less time reading and studying so the brain is not developing in a useful way; even “the art of intelligent conversation is being lost” (Myslewski). While knowing how to operate technology is big in today’s society, the lessons learned from reading books, sitting in a classroom and interacting with other humans face-to-face are even bigger. In correlation to this, Lady Greenfield “warned there [is] a risk of loss of empathy as children read novels less” because reading does not always generate an instant reward like when you are chatting on Facebook and as soon as you send a message, you receive one in response (Wintour).

Along with mental health issues, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace can also lead to many diseases including “cancer, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, influenza, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus [and] even the common cold”(Myslewski). The reasoning behind this claim is that isolation from the real world and face-to-face interaction can hinder the production of leukocytes which help fight disease so the immune system is not as strong as it could be. It is also said the loneliness due to the isolation computers bring can be “linked to inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders” (Myslewski). I wonder if networking in groups causes the same issues?

Aside from mental health issues and serious diseases, an overuse of social networking sites can also put you in severe danger. Because we tend to lose ourselves in the virtual world, hooked on the “constant reassurance that you are listened to, recognized, and important,” social networkers often sell themselves out to complete strangers. In the article What Are the Effects of Social Networking Websites? by Jonathan Popoola, a great example of this is given:

“‘Words can't describe me,’ is how Adnan Patrawala, a 16 year old teenager from Mumbai, India had described himself on his Orkut profile. However, his kidnappers and murderers got to know a little more of him and ensnared him into a trap which ultimately led to the death of the young boy” (Popoola).

We all have heard the horror stories associated with MySpace where adults pose as teenagers and pedophiles manipulate underage teens and children into illegal situations. This example of Adnan Patrawala is just like that. He met people on the web who most likely posed as different people, who ultimately took advantage of him when all he wanted was a friend. Obviously, this is an extreme case, however, things like this do happen.

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and Twitter were all designed to help keep people connected. With their increasing popularity though, people all around the world are becoming obsessed, spending hours and even days in isolation. This is damaging to their health, infantilizing their minds and hindering the development of their immune system. Some people are even subject to manipulation and violence through the Web because they become so wrapped up in the constant attention they receive. I am not saying that social networking sites are always bad because when used in moderation or for the right reasons it is a healthy activity. Just make sure you do not overdo it because in the end, “social networking activities can kill you” (Myslewski).

Works Cited
Myslewski, Rik. "UK boffin: Social networking causes cancer, heart attacks, lupus, dementia... Death by Internet." The Register 20 Feb. 2009. 2 Mar. 2009 .
Popoola, Jonathon. "What are the Effects of Social Networking Websites?" Weblog post. Ezine Articles. 2 Mar. 2009 .
Wintour, Patrick. "Facebook and Bebo Risk 'Infantilising' the Human Mind." Guardian.co.uk 24 Feb. 2009. 2 Mar. 2009 .