March 26, 2009

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.

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March 5, 2009

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.

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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.

February 26, 2009

Beer on the Run

According to a small article by Nate Silver, the market for beer has gone down dramatically. During the fourth quarter of last year, sales of the delicious alcohol plummeted by nearly ten percent. Although percentage wise it does not seem like much, the fact that this statistic is so confounding is that since 1959, the worst percentage the beer industry has dropped is 3.7 percent. Although sales of wines and spirits went down during the last quarter as well, both only decreased by a much smaller margin, no bigger than two percent.

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Born Believers: Is Religion really an adaption?

Religion is a big part of many peoples life. In 2001, eighty-one percent of the adult population identified with one or another religion group. In the United States, seventy nine percent of the Americans who is a part of religion are some kind of Christian who worships the same God. Anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor says “I don't think the idea makes much sense, given the kinds of things you find in religion,” I feel the same way with what the bible reads. I am not a Christian, I have read parts of the Bible and while other Christians believe in the bible, I think the book is just a fairytale. The Bible talks about events that would happen in a fairytales.

I am Hmong and most Hmong people holds a strong belief in Shamanism, but I have Hmong friends who are Christians and many Hmongs who is still holding to the original religion thinks that the Hmong Christians are traitors to the Hmongs but that is usually what the parents of first generations would think. My parents believe in Shamanism, but that doesn’t make me one, I consider myself an Atheist. Shaminism is the belief in communicating with the spirits from the Spirit World. So when a family member is sick, we don’t pray for that person to become well, we believe that a bad spirit has taken that person’s soul with the spirit. The family will then hire a Shaman who can enter the Spiritual World and communicate with the dead to bring that soul back. Like I said, I do have Hmong friends who are Christians, but I do not care what religion they live for. Whenever my Hmong Christian friends talk God to me, I find it hard to believe in what they believe in and I just keep that feeling inside. I am the type of person who needs facts before I can believe in it. For example, the evolution theory has a lot of scientific facts behind it to prove how animals are related to each other through evolution. With the Christian religion belief, they believe that the Creation of Earth, Humanity, etc. is all due to God. So far with this belief not many can prove this theory using scientific reasoning.

I agree strongly agree with Michael Brooks’ article “Born believers: How your brain creates God.” He uses scientific reasonings through psychology on how people created God and not the other way around. It all starts with a psychologist at Yale University, Paul Bloom who observed different age groups from pre-school students to adults and record results on how they use their minds. In the studies shows that part of our brain are capable to create supernatural thoughts and beliefs proving that the thoughts of God could be just created through the mind.
If you ask the Christians who are strong believer of God, they will have a testimony about how God has touched them. Most of the testimonies are about how they were in trouble and God saved them. That gives the reason why during the leanest of times, the strictest, most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance. When people are stressed, sad, or when they feel like no one is there for them anymore, they turn to the one they hear as the “Almighty God,” this Almighty God will save you from your misery and bring you happiness. What's going on, Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas in Austin suggests that when we feel a lack of control we fall back on superstitious ways of thinking. Having a religion, for example church, makes people feel like they belong to a group. When they go to church, it is not just a building to them; it is a sanctuary that hides them from the corrupted world filled with crimes, poverty, selfishness, greediness, hatred, etc.

Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford strongly identified with the religion-as-adaptation argument. With Robin Dunbar argument, I think what he is trying to say is that religion is part of survival method to humans and Darwin Theory clearly states “Survival of the Fittest.” That means that believing in God is not going against the theory of evolution, it is part of the evolution. Religion is a part of the evolution of humanity.

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Facebook and Bebo risk 'infantilising' the human mind

Social networks like facebook, bebo, twitter, and many others are causing disorders to the future generations. A professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln College, Oxford, and director of the Royal Institution, Lady Greenfield has diagnosed many students with a disorder caused by social network behaviors. The disorders that are becoming from the social networks are hyperactivity disorder, attention-deficit order, compulsive eating, and compulsive gambling. Also along with social networks many people using these networks are losing communication skills.

Social networks are not the only thing that is given people today communication problems it is also texting and any use of computer chat. It is losing the face-to-face conversations, real life conversations, emotions in the voice, and body language. How will the world end up if everything is done by the network of computers and robots?
The social network does not only cause the disorders I mentioned earlier but biologist have also completed reach that show how social networks can also increase your susceptibility to cancer, dementia, heart disease, diabetes, influenza, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and even the common cold. The world is coming so reliable on social networks that they have become the only way people communicate. This can be very inefficient because it is common for the network to crash daily.

A personal story with having the network as one of my main sources of communication and having difficulties with it there has to be another way to get around to communicate. I have had times that the network crashes and you do not know what to do. All you can do is wait until it is back up and running. While being a student at the University of Minnesota teacher are using web vista to given test, quizzes, and other class work but web vista is also known to crash and not work for hours on end. Also along with communication at school email is a big way to communicate between organizations, faculty, and classes but that also cashes sometime too. But really there is no way to get around the social network.

While there are many downsides to the emergence of social networks, they have allowed a greater free flow of information and have enhanced, for example, the political process. Politicians have increasingly become more technologically connected with their constituents throughout the year but especially during campaigning. Part of Barack Obama’s campaign website was modeled after facebook, and Chris Hughes, a co-founder of the company, left facebook to work on his “new-media campaign” personally. (The Facebooker Who Friended Obama, New York Times, July 7, 2008) This allowed voters to feel more connected to the campaign, attracted young voters, and may have contributed to Obama’s win in 2008. Congresspeople have even started using Twitter to update their colleagues and constituents as to what they are doing; sixty-five members of congress are currently using Twitter as a communication tool. (Congress’s New Love Affair with Twitter, TIME, February 11, 2009) So, while some may say it decreases the communication skills of our youth, social networks have increased the ability of one of our country’s most important, communicative body: Congress.

However, while some see this new version of politics as transparency, others see it as the increased immaturity of congress. Many congress members twittered through Obama’s address on Tuesday, which caused a Washington Post article to quip, “it seemed as if Obama were presiding over a support group for adults with attention deficit disorder.” (Politicians twitter throughout address to Congress like bored school children, The Washington Post, January 26, 2009) So, as congress people are gaining ability to network from afar, they may be losing their credibility, etiquette, and attention spans.

The social network is a part of everyday life and people have gotten used to having it apart of their daily routine. Social networks, cell phones, and any other electronically device have put many people’s attention spans in jeopardy. While some see this increase in social networks as an increase in transparency, others see it as a move towards impatient and rude members of our society who feel the need to update their status even during the most inappropriate of times. This is why everyone in society should take control of their actions and cut back on the social networking, cell phone texting, and using other electronic devices.

Should you be on Facebook?

If you were asked the question “Do you use Facebook,” the answer might be obvious. Perhaps a more valid question would be the number of times you are on Facebook during the course of a day. Current technology enables us to utilize the internet as a means for communication (or networking) with friends. This action may seem second-nature to many, but some are arguing that social network websites are leading future generations down a path that should not be traveled. A path that is characterized by “short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity.” Does this belief have validity? Although terms such as “Facebook addict” are often coined, this belief has no backbone to be realistic.

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How Your Brain creates god

In Michael Brook’s article Born Believers: How your brain creates God, Brooks discusses the idea how human beings have a natural tendency to create religion, and the idea of god. He says “It turns out that human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief especially during hard times.” This is obviously relevant to us in the state of our economy, the war in Iraq, environmental issues all leading up to our new mega churches and Jesus camps.

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Beer No Longer Recession-Proof

Comparing alcohol purchased from home and the economies quarterly change with real gross domestic product (GDP) isn’t something that should attention. I think the amount of alcohol Americans consumes is their own personal business. Is the decrease in alcohol sales really affecting the nation's total output of goods and services? I believe that they could have compared the real domestic product with something more important such as increase or decrease the amount of oil the united states uses or the how some of Obama’s plans will help the economy.
Even though the “sales of alcohol for off-premises consumption were down by 9.3 percent from the previous quarter” people who are alcoholics are going to continue to buy the alcohol. In the article it also says “This is absolutely unprecedented: the largest previous drop had been just 3.7 percent, between the third and fourth quarters of 1991.” As many problems that alcohol in general causes this can be a positive thing for the economy. Alcohol can harm the human body and causes diseases and have a person’s body in bad shape in the future if that person consumes alcohol for so long. Alcohol is also one of the main reasons why teenagers get into car crashes and die, because they drink and drive. Alcohol is increasing the death rates of teens who drink and drive and have there friends in the car with them.
I don’t think that “Perhaps people are substituting Michelob and Coors for more expensive microbrews like Alpha King and Dogfish Head”, because of the condition the economy is in. We are in a recession and prices are increasing on everything and not just beer and alcohol. “This is unpatriotic, by the way, since all the macro brews are now owned by foreign-based multinational conglomerates“. This would be unpatriotic, but I don’t think that Americans care about being patriotic when they purchase alcohol and beer and when they are drinking, I think they just buy the beer because it either taste better to them or they just don’t care about what kind of beer they drink and just want to get drunk. “Perhaps retailers are discounting their prices, or brewers are passing along cost savings to their consumers”, I don’t think this make sense because if prices of alcohol and beer were decreasing wouldn’t consumers be buying more? Instead of prices decreasing and dropping shouldn’t they be increasing?
“Nevertheless, it's absolutely startling to see a major consumer staple experience a sales decline like this“, I don’t agree with these because to me even though alcohol is a major consumer and the sales are declining the affect of alcohol matters more.
At the end of this article it mentions that the movie theaters are doing terrifically well and motion pictures are increasing their revenues and I think this is because people can learn from movies and when a movie comes out that seem interesting to a person they usually go see it either with a significant other, friends, or family. Movies can also be a reason for people to get out the house and enjoy themselves outside of school or work. I think the movies is just a place you can relax.

Facebook and Bebo risk 'infantilising' the human mind

Facebook and social networking sites are now being blamed for infantilising the human mind. This means that social networking sites are making our minds childish and immature. Social networking is being added to the list of technologies that are corrupting the children of the world. People are using these sites to stay incontact with people and to meet new people. I do agree with Greenfield when she says, "This was coupled with a distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation, which were "far more perilous … occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses" and "require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones, those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously". If people get lost in there virtual world and rarely have an important conversation face-to-face. This will effect the future geneations ability to have intelligent conversations.Just like reading the only way to become a stronger speaker is to practice it. The number of books being read is decreasing not solely because of social networking there are many reasons the this is happening. If the popularity of blogging and social networking continues to raise then the future generations will be effected.
ADHD is attention-deficite hyperactivity disorder. Greenfield says that, "If the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviours and call them attention-deficit disorder." I have grown up with a family member being clinically diagnosed with ADHD and i do not believe that being on social networks or playing video games has cause him to have ADHD. The man I know infact never had the opertunity to be on the internet, to gain access to these sites, or to play video games. This man's family didnt even own a game console or a computer until after he was diagnosed with ADHD. To a certain extent I believe that some kids that are put on medication for ADHD do not even have the medical condition. The parents just think that their child is abnormally hyper and they cannot control them. Never-the-less they are put on the medication and it helps them concentrate and control themselves better. Part of ADHD is not being able to stay concentrated on a certain task for an extended period of time. Unless the child is greatly interested in the task and/or topic. Then it is hard to distract them from that task and/or topic until it is completed to the fullest of that individuals extent. So social networks effecting the concentration levels of people with or without ADHD is a gray area to investigate seeing that people with ADHD already have a hard time concentrating.
Greenfield is very right that the up raising popularity social networks is effecting and going to effect the newer generations. I do not believe that it will effect it to the extent she is suspecting. There will be an effect on the abilities for people to interact and carrying on a conversation face-to-face with another person. This is one of the undeniable effects of social networking but text messaging is also going to influence this effect. I just have a hard time believing that social networking is going to increase the effect on our attention spans. Which then is going to increase the number of people diagnosed with ADHD.

Facebook and Bebo risk 'infantilising' the human mind

At first, after reading Lady Greenfield’s article titled ”Facebook and Bebo risk ‘infantilizing’ the human mind” I was a bit set back but eventually came to the conclusion that she is basically saying that Facebook, as well as Bebo and Twitter, are bad for your brain and may cause symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder. She claims that the rapid flashes of the screen constantly changing may change the brain and cause these effects. Greenfield is obviously a very established scientist at Lincoln College and who am I to even begin to criticize her, but it seems as though she is claiming a lot. Nowhere in this article does she refer to articles or specifics. All she does is claim and believe that these websites are producing negative effects on the brain. However I do agree that she raises a good point and it needs to be looked into. After all she has caught the government’s attention with the subject. I believe there is much more to the problem other than what she claims and has attempted to identify.

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Facebook and Bebo risk 'infantilising' the human mind

Facebook is a social network site new to the 21st century that millions of users log on to every day to virtually interact with their family and friends. Lady Greenfield, professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln college at Oxford University, believes that such social networking sites are putting attention spans in peril. Baroness Greenfield thinks these sites risk infantilizing the mid-21st century, meaning we will become sensationalists with a powerlessness to empathize or recognize our true identity. She has caused members of the government to acknowledge their effort on internet regulation hasn’t stretched to more generalized issues, being matters such as the psychological impact on children.
The first concern Greenfield states is that “if the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviors and call them attention-deficit disorder.” She makes several compelling points while taking this stand - - - times are changing rapidly, and the pace of our lifestyles are quickening along with them. I think that our brains, whether we like it or not, are in fact becoming accustomed to our ever-so-rapidly changing lifestyles. Nevertheless, I would become quite concerned if our brains weren’t altering to fit the way we live our mid-21st century lives. A person who lived in the 20th century would be eaten alive if they attempted to live a recent day in the life of, for example, a New York City businessperson. Going out on a limb here, I might even take it as far as saying in order to live in today’s world, you need to have a slight case of attention-deficit disorder to keep up with everybody else. Change is unavoidable, as we must succumb to it in one way or another. Now, I’m not saying that a kid should be able to spend 4 hours of the day on Facebook. At that point, there are other issues that need to be evaluated. But, according to Greenfield, there’s something that happened in that past that can be compared to what may be to come.
It all started out when “killing, skinning, and butchering an animal to eat” was replaced with “the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf.” Greenfield thinks that “real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues” referring to, say, a conversation between two people over Facebook rather than in person. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go to the supermarket and purchase my meat in the convenience of a package, whereas it seems Greenfield would just as soon rather go out back and shoot ‘ol Bessy instead. In this weird and unjustifiable way, she tries to compare the horrifying slaughtering of a farm animal to a conversation with your grandparents, and the “three-dimensional, real-time interaction” environment with the meat section at your local grocery store. Greenfield tries to make it seem as if these children will be somehow without any social interactions, when surely they will be interacting with their family and friends at home, in person, for a larger portion of the day than could be spent on the computer.
The last piece idea that Greenfield threw out in the open which caught my attention was this statement: “After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible.” As far as I’m concerned, the point I feel she’s trying to make is that there happens to be nothing else in life that is reversible. It’s not as if when you finish a book, it will disappear the moment you read the final page. Or when you’re in an argument with another and say something you might regret in the heat of the moment, an apology is not an option. My point is, there are in fact real interactive situations in REAL life that are reversible.
Lady Greenfield makes some referable points on and unsubstantiated stand that is most definitely going to be unnerving more apprehensive parents worldwide. She’s SUGGESTING the government they need to pay more attention to this. She SAYS that Facebook will infantilize us. The problem here lies within the fact that she has no facts to back up what she believes. At this point, it’s all simply her opinion. Extensive research needs to be done to convince anyone whether this is a serious issue that needs immediate attention, or if it’s absolute drivel from the ever-growing technological dissenters.


Errol Morris’ blog post about the Photoshopped images of an Iranian missile launch attests to not only the changing ways of altered images, but also how experts are constantly administering one of two titles to photos: True or Fake. Recently two images were discovered taken in Iran, and distributed in Iran. The confusing thing is, why were they both posted? The first image (though relative date of posting is unknown) shows four missiles being launched from an Iranian test missile site, while the second image shows only three missiles being launched. So why were both images posted by an Iranian source? Why would someone Photoshop an image just to show one more missile launching? Who can we trust?

These photos represent, as John Malkovich would put it, “the idiocy of today.” It seems that society has become lackadaisical when it comes to information that is posted by those whom we believe are authorities. Errol Morris talks to Charles Johnson in his article, Johnson states “They all came from Iran, I know that much. If I check it out, I think it was Sepah. The L.A. Times on their front page actually credit it to the Revolutionary Guard. I thought that was pretty ironic.” The Revolutionary Guard. Upon research, I found out that the Revolutionary Guard was “originally created as a ‘people’s army’ similar to the U.S. National Guard.” ( Charles Johnson claims “it’s just very odd to see a photo on the cover of a major American newspaper that’s credited to one of our sworn mortal enemies.” Perhaps any journalist would jump at the opportunity to write about conflict, especially conflict with a country like Iran, as relationships with the Middle East never cease to boil.

In order to justify why both pictures were distributed, we must try to understand why both photos came from Iran. So what is the exact story of what happened at the Iranian missile test site? A senior U.S. military source states that “Iran launched only one missile on Thursday, [which is] not a new full round of tests.” ( Iranian media, however, claims that Thursday was the second day of long range missile testing; where a total of seven missiles were fired. The picture comes from a test where four of those seven missiles were activated and triggered, but one missile failed to launch. U.S. Intelligence claims that the missile was fired the next day. The story has changed. Upon reading the article the first time, I was lead on to believe that someone in Iran came out with a picture of four missiles being launched; and that this picture was later determined to be entirely Photoshopped. However, upon reading the article and researching the situation a little more in depth, it is to be believed that all four missiles, plus three more, were in fact launched. Now we may look at why someone would Photoshop a picture of four missiles firing instead of just posting the information that in fact seven missiles were fired. That answer is quite simple. It is connected to the neurological processes of our brain, where “30 to 50 percent of our brain is doing visual processing.” (Henry Farid) Morris talks with Farid in his article about the power of images about why people trust images. Farid claims that our brain processes tons and tons of information, comparing sight with sound is like comparing the information stored on a video camera to that stored on a voice recorder. Being that a good portion of our brain is devoted to this visual processing, it’s no wonder that images have such a toll on our emotions. When people see an image, they remember the image, and often forget what the setting is that’s associated with that image. Farid says that “For example, when you put out a fake, like the Kerry/Fonda one.[2] And even like this missile one. You start putting it out there and saying, “Oh look, this picture? It’s a fake. This picture? It’s a fake.” But you know what people remember? They don’t remember, “It’s a fake.” They remember the picture.

So it is now understandable why someone may take the time to go through and Photoshop a picture like this one. Say an Iranian nationalist, perhaps educated in digital modification just like Farid, is aware of the fact that the brain is a visual processor; that we prefer to use video cameras rather than voice recorders. Say this person wants to instill fear on the American people. He took the correct route. Instead of seeing three missiles streaking heavenward and one missile pronounced dud defying the other missiles and the image that a photographer taking this picture may be trying to put across, we see four deadly missiles streaking high into the blue in a direction that may as well be west. It all comes back to how we perceive fear: something we see is far more likely to cause fear than something we hear. The creator of this Photoshopped image has improved his country’s reputation as a frightful source. People will soon relate the picture with fraud, but in the long run it is very likely that we will forget circumstances, and will look back on the frightful image of four Iranian missiles being launched as a threat.

Works Cited
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. 25 October 2007. CFR. 24 Feb 2009
Morris, Errol. “Photography as a Weapon.” New York Times 11 August 2008.
U.S. source disputes Iran missile tests. 10 July 2008. CNN. 24 Feb 2009

Old Economics in the New Media: Is the Google Books Settlement Enough?

The main issue in Robert Darnton's article is the struggle between publishers and the public for money and control over information. Publishers want to make as much money as possible off of their business, while consumers generally want to spend as little as possible on the information they want. Writers seem to be caught somewhere in the middle of this battle, as the first priority for any dedicated writer is for people to read, understand, and appreciate his or her work. However, to keep writing, they obviously need money, and they certainly deserve to be paid for their work (as publishers do). Google recently sneaked in as the middle man in this situation. By digitizing books and making them free on the Internet, they sparked the debate over control of information in a time when information is no longer scarce. Whereas books take physical resources and time to print, digital copies of any book can be made relatively quickly and cheaply, and can be copied an infinite number of times and displayed online.
The effort to control this new infinitely copyable form of knowledge is seen in the new legislation. Google's database can only be accessible from one terminal and cannot be printed without a fee. To me, this seems like putting an electronic bookstore (one that can only be “visited” by one person at a time) inside a library- a place where we expect to borrow books for free. This inherently betrays the idea of information for the public good- Google's books are not free to the public; they have to be bought or read entirely from one computer in a public building. This is not what a library is for, but as long as the books are copyrighted, we don't have an alternative. If the Google database was freely accessible from home computers, there would be no need to buy the information (you'd just be buying the right to print). So to ensure that people pay for the information, Google has the “consumer license”. The library terminals and consumer licenses will allow much greater access to these books, and the digital copies will be much cheaper than a printed and bound book. But even when we gain this vast scope of access to books, we lose the basics of the library. With this lawsuit, Google's books are not free of cost, simply because a digital copy can never be borrowed without the option to copy it. It's a great step forward to have this easy access to what Danton calls the largest library in the world, and I certainly don't want to belittle that. But when it comes to truly free information, we're back to square one. Old library books can be borrowed, but Google's trove of ebooks can only be viewed with a purchased license or individually bought.
So then, how can we preserve the enlightenment ideals of free access to information while still ensuring that writers and publishers are paid their fair share? The only answer I can see is sweeping copyright reform. Writers and publishers deserve to be paid for their work without a doubt, but when a writer dies, he has gotten all the payment he ever will out of his work. Buying a book from a dead person is just illogical- which is why we buy old books from publishers (not writers). But in my opinion, 70+ years is just too long for information to remain in the possession of publishers. Copyright once protected the public interest and the livelihood of writers as it should, before it was usurped by publishers to simply elongate the amount of time they have to cash in on a given book. 28 years is enough for a good writer to get much more than a return on his investment, though elongating the period in light of longer life expectancy would make sense too.
Thankfully, there are people throughout the world pushing to reform copyright law for the good of the public without sacrificing the well-being of artists or publishers. One such group is the Piratpartiet, or “Pirate Party”. Originating in Sweden due to disputes about internet piracy, a group of young people shifted their efforts from filesharing to reforming copyright law by forming a political party. Though it may seem at first that they just want more lax laws to allow more filesharing, the Pirate Party is a registered political party with a thoroughly researched, logical, and lawful agenda advocating copyright reform, the right to individual privacy (online and off), and transparency in the government. There are already active Pirate Parties in several other countries, with officially registered parties in Spain, Austria, Germany and Poland. The U.S. Pirate Party (active but not registered) focuses on the very same ideas of 1700s-era copyright law as Darnton. By simply reducing the time that copyrights last for, vast amounts of information would be free to citizens without taking money from the writers and artists who originally recorded the info. So, while I share some of Darnton's enthusiasm for Google's new database, I don't believe that it's quite enough to make our economy compatible with the digital age or to give both consumers and artists what they deserve- reasonable access to information, and copyrights that serve everyone, not just publishers.

February 24, 2009

Char Broiled Burger

Burger King has just released a new line of ads, in which they search the globe to find a “Whopper virgin.” In other words they are looking for people who have never tried Burger King’s specialty hamburger, something I can easily say most Americans have had once or twice in their lifetime. Along with that, their goal is to show that people like the Whopper better that McDonald’s version, the BigMac, on taste alone. They find people who have never tasted either, and are then blind to the Brand name of each of the Burgers. These people have never experienced all of the Advertizing that might otherwise sway their opinion on which burger is better. They are essentially taking a page from the “Pepsi Challenge” taste test and adding a new twist that includes a little touch of cross culture empathy.

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February 23, 2009

Going Postal

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February 19, 2009

Are you on Facebook right now?

Facebook is a communication website that young teens to older adults use to connect with friends and family. But is that all we use it for, do we only use it to keep in contact with old and new friends; or do people use it to look cool, and to look popular by having over 600 friends. The article that Matthew Hutson wrote was true; he knew so much about Facebook that I think that he is also mind controlled by Facebook. I saw differences and similarities on his thoughts. Anyone that is anyone who has a Facebook is addicted to it. Why do I have so much information? Because I am a victim of Facebook.
When a person meets another person at a party and they talk for the slightest second. Right when one of the other get back home, they go on Facebook and search them on the friend search and asks them to be friends with them; anticipating for their friend approval not to talk to them, but to just have an extra number on their friends list. People only ask other people just to look cool, to reach a goal of having the most friends out of their friends, and to not look like a loser. After reading this information on Hutson’s article, there are a lot of differences to this. I have a Facebook account and I have over 600 friends, but that does not necessarily mean that I have that many friends to look cool, or to show off that I am popular; I have that many friends because that is the amount of people I know and met in my life, that I would want to know more about; and those people are some people that I would want to stay in touch with in present time and in the future.
Like I said, I am a part of this traumatic effect of meeting a person somewhere then the instant I get home I get on my laptop and Facebook is the first site I visit. Since I am attending the University of Minnesota, I always meet new people; so every time I log on I always have a friend request waiting for me or I look onto other friends pictures and If I ever met the person my friends are with, I always ask them to be my friend. As “stalkerish” as that sounded, Hutson was right. People get on their Facebook and scroll through their friends picture albums and go through every single picture, they know where their friends are by checking out their status on what they’re doing; and people scroll up and down their friend’s wall postings and read who their friends are talking to and what their friends are doing when, where, and at what times. It is a phase that everyone is going through and that is all people look at while they are on Facebook.
“They hypothesize that Individuals with too many friends may appear to be focusing too much on Facebook, friending out of desperation rather than popularity, spending a great deal of time on their computers.” I wish I could say that this is a fact but this hypothesis is what every teenager does. People check their Facebook on a daily basis, and sometimes stay on it all day. Facebook is like those swirled circles that hypnotizers have, telling us to stay on Facebook instead of studying, telling us to waste our time on going through everyone’s pages and writing comments; and as intriguing as that sounds everyone falls for it. I have written papers, studied, and read academic work while talking to friends, looking through pictures of friends, and checking it every five minutes for the anticipating wait of a new notification; it is horrible how people can waste their time on it. All of my friends are always online, and I know their online because they message me every single time I log on. Most of my friend’s statuses are “I need to start studying, I am not in school mode right now, I am not ready for tomorrows test.” I am guessing a big cause for all my friend’s troubles are from Facebook, why would they waste their time telling people their problems over a status and comment bar while they can be studying. You be the judge.
Facebook is great way of entertainment when people are bored and a great way to communicate with others, but Facebook brings out a lot of non understandable problems how people cannot study, waste two hours on Facebook when it seemed like ten minutes, and make people look like stalkers. I do not really believe in the hypothesis that people having 600 friends is a way to make them look cool; it is just a way to show how much time Facebook sponges out of you to make you have the time to find 600 friends when you could be doing something better for yourself. From moving from MySpace to Facebook; Facebook is a type of electric drug, everyone is addicted to it until something better comes out that is more convenient to communicate with friends.

February 18, 2009

Number of Facebook 'Friends' Does Not Matter

Let’s face it, if you do not have a facebook account, you are practically a loser; either that or you do not live in the twenty-first century. Facebook, as if you do not know, is one of the largest social networking websites in which “members…craft an image of themselves as they would like to be seen” by others (Reardon). You create a profile in which you share your favorite books, movies, music, quotes and any additional information you want with the world, all complete with your personal picture, birthday, relationship status, religious views and political affiliation. After you set up all that jazz, upload some pictures into a virtual photo album, add the very popular bumper sticker application and you are ready to use the search bar to find and connect with friends as well as Facebook “stalk” or “creep” complete strangers. This is why I think Matthew Hutson’s Blog “What’s the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends?” is somewhat unnecessary and inaccurate. The number of friends you do or do not have does not matter. As stated by Patrick T. Reardon, “on Facebook, a ‘friend’ is not necessarily someone you know well.”

By definition, ‘friend’ means “a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard” ( In my opinion, the Facebook definition of ‘friend’ can range anywhere from the dictionary-definition to something like “a person you once stood behind at the drinking fountain in the science wing in high school” or “your brother’s girlfriend’s best friend’s older cousin that you saw a picture of and thought was really cute.” Facebook is so impersonal and so creepy in the sense that you do not really even have to know or physically meet someone in real life to be ‘friends’ with them online, and nine times out of ten, that is the case. I personally have 836 Facebook ‘friends’ but I would only consider a fourth of them dictionary-definition friends. The other three-fourths are acquaintances or friends of friends that I have met at one point in time. I am not personally one to request friendship because someone looked cute in their profile picture, but hey, it is not uncommon.

Young Facebookers often think if “they even slightly recognize a name or face, they should be your ‘friend’” (McGinley). People from the older generation, however, are very selective when it comes to who they accept and request as friends. While some people limit their facebook posse to co-workers, neighbors and family friends, others will not even go that far. In an Blog titled “Deciding Whom to Friend on Facebook” by Gina Chen, she says that her husband “refuses to ‘friend’ anyone on Facebook except people he cannot really see frequently in real life… he ‘friends’ his childhood friends, who live in California, but not the people he sees everyday at work.” She goes on to say that her husband would not even add her because he was afraid of the potential friend requests he would receive from others because of it. So, while some ‘friend’ everyone under the sun, others like to stay in the dark and not ‘friend’ anyone.

While I know Matthew Hutson’s Blog “What’s the Optimal Number of Facebook Friends,” links social connectivity to genetics and that is what my position is supposed to be on, I find it far more worth while to argue over the statement “you are either cool and have 600 Facebook friends, or you are worthless and only have 40.” I may now have 837 ‘friends’ -- yes, in the last hour of writing this I became even more of a social slut in Hutson’s terms, but that does not make me any cooler than someone with 37. The idea that people “with too many ‘friends’ may appear to be focusing too much on Facebook, friend requesting out of desperation rather than popularity… trying to make connections in a computer-mediated environment where they feel more comfortable than in face-to-face social interaction” is not necessarily true, either (Hutson). People with ‘too many friends,’ like myself, may have just met a lot of different people over time and have a lot of acquaintances. On the other hand, people with ‘too few friends,’ like Gina Chen’s husband, may only want to connect with certain people and not get caught up in the highly addicting website. There are no specific rules for Facebook regarding how many ‘friends’ you are allowed to have or how well you have to know someone to add them. If you want to have 600+ ‘friends’ and be a social slut, good for you; if you want to have fewer than 40 and be worthless, even better. It is your profile to do with what you want so do just that. No one needs a stranger deciding for all of society what the optimal number of friends needed to be ‘cool’ in cyberspace is.

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