Monday, December 12, 2011

Essay on Buddhism

The True Man with no rank in Burton Watson’s translation of the Lin-Chi Lu, “The Zen Teachings of Master Lin-Chi is first described in the introductory preface on page 3 as being “constantly at home, yet never ceasing to be on the road.” This could easily be tied back to Buddhist concept of avoiding the antas, or extremes, and finding the middle ground, or Madhya (R) in that the true man is neither on the road nor at home yet he is both. A description of an arhat (R), or an enlightened body, a True Man with no rank is just that, one who falls between the lines, never reaching or meeting the extremes and exemplifying the label of “without rank” in that he is indescribable, without character, a pure essence likened to zero.
“If you can just stop this mind that goes rushing around moment by moment looking for something then you’ll be no different from the patriarchs and buddhas.” That sounds like a solution to the problem Buddhism seeks! But it seems quite a simple way to reach nirvana, usually a long arduous journey must accompany such a reward and it does so this statement, this solution only sounds easy until it is practiced. However, it is in the suggestion that our thoughts are manipulated and fabricated by the perception of the material world translated by our five senses (skandhas!), or what Lin-Chi calls the environment. Every translation, whether literature or sense object, is tweaked so that it is nearly impossible to get the true essence of the original. What all branches of Buddhism provide are ways to see past this translation difference and allow one to operate their senses in a way to respond to the essence, or pure dharma’s of the universe.
Lin-Chi’s tendency to use a method of teaching discipline and teaching his students a lesson or two to his monks when answering a question employs a sort of “mind over matter” strategy that is actually fairly in sync to the moral of the story of the “Ten-Square Foot Hut” in that you take what you have in life and accept whatever unlucky or unfortunate circumstances you don’t see coming. One cannot necessarily prepare for an unforeseen event, however, if received with acceptance and overall grace by mentally refusing to react, it can serve in avoiding the generation of karma, an act better known as asrava (R), by simply not reacting. The shout, if self-prescribed is actually a great physical feeling when applied at the right times. It can be likened to a type of release felt in many systems of the body, from mental to physical stress release and, if thought of positively, is a great tool given to his students by Lin-Chi. The shout, so simple yet so powerful. It is just a sound but the truest essence of noise, understood by any creature with audible sensation.
It is often argued in theology that the “devil” and/or “god” is not actually a physical entity or a someone or something, but closer to an idea or concept or possibly a behavior generated by the activity of an individual or communal mind that is difficult to describe but not as difficult to feel once successfully described. According to Lin-Chi even the enlightened ones, free of all karma and on their way to a perfect non-existence are potential prey to the seed of doubt, or this case Lin-Chi calls it Mara, or the devil. “Learn to put a stop to thoughts and never look for something outside yourselves” (P.41) is a suggested method by the guru. It is a rare moment of encouragement from Lin-Chi to trust in your own essence and strip away the façade, the materialism, and see the true nature of the universe. One cannot see the world without first seeing themselves.
Komo no Chomei and the Ten-Square Foot Hut
If all accounts are true, Komo no Chomei is a man who has been witness to some unbelievably horrifying events in his time. It is no wonder he believed he was staring Armageddon in the face after surviving twisters, mountain-leveling earthquakes followed by machine-gun like aftershocks, drowning floods, and city-sweeping fires. As a follower of Buddhism he believed he was at the “end time” which is known to be the catastrophic moments before the regeneration of everything and time all over again, a cycle known as samsara (R). Religious, spiritual, believer in something or not, it would be easy to a “true nature” if not a less guarded and material essence of others when attempting to survive physically and mentally the horrors of a deadly natural disaster. For example, he saw the true will of parents rationing off their very last portions to their children to aid their survival before wasting away themselves. It is cruel and quite pessimistic but it does enhance the idea that we are all manipulated into comfort by the sensual perceptions of the structured environment around us.
Komo no Chomei’s hut was just big enough for everything. Adorned with caitya (R), otherwise known as Buddhist relics and charms often seen in temples, it is literally a ten-square foot hut which mathematically is probably about a 36”x40” space, about the size of a large moving box! He eventually adds to it by giving it “three foot eaves” to protect against weather and aid in cooking meals. As crazy small and cozy as this hut may have been the most unique thing about his home was that he made it portable. Moving from different lands to mountainous elevations, his hut came with him wherever he felt necessary. Like Lin-Chi’s student monks are well taught through hit and shout technique, Komo no Chomei learned to take unforeseen punishment with no reaction or emotion and found a way to let his life live on without interference or distraction. He lived life as it came and play the cards you’re dealt without every playing. Ultimately the goal was, for him, to avoid generating karma by avoiding activity and prapancha by embracing the quiet still.
In any quest for spiritual sensation and advice of those aiding you to achieve it, there will be verbal and written contradictions that both seem right or wrong for reciprocal reasoning of their own contrasting statements. This is just the case of Komo no Chomei “grasping” of his need for quiet and minimalist-to-the-extreme dwelling. But it can be argued that this is the Buddhist phenomena of shedding the materialist needs and essentially releasing by grasping. Less is more. He creates without creating a still environment, free from the anitya of regeneration. It is one of many steps of his quest to achieve liberation and release from this world. He may still yearn for quiet and calm, “What place can you live, what activities can you pursue, in order to ensure a haven for your body and bring even a moment of peace to your mind?” (P.63). Maybe without realizing it, he has successfully begun to see the true essence of things when he says of his ten year old friend, a little boy, while at age 60, “We’re far apart in age but we seem to enjoy the same things.” He may never admit his successes and may never perceive himself on the path to enlightenment in this lifetime; after all he claims he has been “born unlucky.” But his need of less and less without ever actually needing anything at all is best mirrored by the rhythmic down-sizing of all his houses: from mansion, to house, to hut. And with each progression he regressed and better understood himself. With each chant of Amitabha’s name he grew quieter and closer.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Master Cleanse Diet

So this semester at school I made a conscious commitment to be aware of my all around health and at one point was lifting weights for 2-3 hours at least 5 to 6 days a week for the last 10 weeks, unfortunately I didn't keep a journal or a record of my progress in the gym which is why I am doing this one. I also started eating a little better, cutting out as much red meat as possible and staying away from fast food type stuff as well as overeating. I am very slim and I literally do NOT gain weight past 180 lbs. no matter what I eat. However overeating makes me sluggish and puts me in a shit mood as well as minimalizes my good energy. I took advantage of not having to worry about my weight, physique, or overall appearance my whole life by eating whatever, however, and whenever I wanted but I don't know when that lifeline will be pulled and I start to gain weight and develop into an unhealthy body. I've decided to do the hardest part of transforming into being health conscious as far as diet is concerned and undergo the Master Cleanse. It is a fast and a full body flush that emphasizes the benefits of scraping the walls of your colon and intestines clean, something that can go a LONG way when it comes to long-term health benefits. I will lose weight and I know the first 3-4 days will be difficult and sometimes painful but I am assured that the long-term pros far outweigh the short-term cons; they always do when you commit to sacrifice. It is intended to be for 10 days but my goal is 7 for practicality and stress purposes.I don't think I could have picked a better time frame as it is beautiful weather, a week before finals, two weeks before I start work and move back home. I will not have to exercise as rigorously (no exercise at all for that matter aside from walking and stretching)  Here is a list of some things I intend to keep an eye on during and after the cleanse:

  • Eye color (whites of my eyes)
  • Hair texture
  • Sense of smell (I have almost NO sense of smell)
  • Weight - I will lose weight, probably 10-12 lbs, but I will see if it's muscle or "extra", then how I put it back on
  • Energy Levels
  • Muscle Mass
  • Mental Clarity
  • Skin Rash (armpits, inside my nose when the weather turns dry)
  • Creativity (I'm a design major)
  • Drive
  • Attitude towards people
  • Sex Drive
  • Organization
  • Sleep
So this afternoon starts Day 1, and although I had an apple turnover today I will be consuming nothing else except the laxative tea and of course the lemonade. I am not looking forward to the sacrifice, but I am looking forward to a healthy, happy summer, a clean body, and the Charlie Sheen sense of WINNING once the task is complete. Once again, my goal is 7 full days of this cleanse and to keep a daily journal of how it goes. I don't think I could have picked a better time frame as it is beautiful weather, a week before finals, two weeks before I start to work. I will not have to exercise as rigorously (no exercise at all for that matter aside from walking and stretching). Good luck, me!

Day One

A full day on the cleanse and nothing much going on. I drank the organic laxative tea last night and I completed the salt water flush which went as most testimonials had described it, except not nearly as long which I'm totally cool with. I slept well although I had some weird, vivid dreams. The skin rashes in my armpits have gone. Although it's not unusual for them to disappear, they did so very quickly once I started drinking the lemonade. I made some progress on one of my projects and I'm getting ready to go my one class today. Aside from being a little hungry, there haven't been any side effects and I'm staying away from physically straining myself at all to worsen this.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Venus of Willendorf v. Aphrodite of Knidos

Sculptures of the past provide us in the modern day a narrative of cultural experience through three dimensional physical representations of certain cultural standards, stories, and visions. A sculpture’s style can tell us what civilization created or who specifically crafted it, the material can tell us from what and where it was made, and each subject, most importantly, can provide for us insight on why it was made. Earliest three dimensional sculptures, like the Venus of Willendorf, date back as far as the beginning of art itself. A progression in materials and knowledge led to the height of sculpture during the Classical period of Greek and Roman antiquity led to such masterpieces as The Laocoon and His Two Sons, and are profound influences on more recent pieces like Donatello’s Equestrian Monument to Erasmo da Narni. For much of recorded and deciphered history, the male figure has been the most respected and prized form to which art and sculpture could be dedicated. Heroes of war were memorialized and leaders of country such as pharaohs and emperors demanded countless monumental statues to be created in their likeness to be regarded eternally. But male figures didn’t account for every piece. Female figures were carved by every culture that had a say in art, beginning as symbols of fertility for the human race and eventually cut into modern standards of beauty. Two figures worthy of further close examination are the ancient piece, the aforementioned Venus of Willendorf (Woman of Willendorf), and from the Classical Period, Praxiteles’ masterpiece, Aphrodite of Knidos.
The two figures have much in common; most obviously they are both female representations and both are quite nude. Many culture’s artists either did not have the talent to carve a complete three dimensional sculpture or were just fond of only frontal and peripheral views as sculptors from the Old Kingdom of Egypt gave us the slate statue of Menkhaure and Khamerenbty, a sculpture whose physical back is solely a flat rock surface. Our two pieces under study, in contrast, are fully three dimensional, sculptures in the round, meant to be admired equally from any angle in which a viewer pleases: Front, back, side, looking down on it, or any other angle. Each piece has a carefully crafted head of hair (or possibly headdress in the case of the Venus of Willendorf) probably to the latest style of their respective culture. They have both endured the wrath of nature and the clumsiness of mankind to last for thousands of years to come out as priceless symbols of history and art. The most meaningful characteristic of each work of art lies not in their physical description but behind the purpose of the work, the influence that sparked the first cut of each piece. In order to accomplish that, each sculpture deserves to be studied for its unique properties.
The Venus of Willendorf (Venus), was discovered in 1908 during an excavation near the city of Krems in Austria. It is estimated to have been carved out of oolitic limestone during the Paleolithic Period somewhere between24,000-22,000 BC. Very little is known about the history of the sculpture. It is unknown what culture created it, nevermind its individual artist. It is arguable whether she represents a goddess, served as a symbolic ideal for what was desired in a woman at the time, or was an actual portrait of a woman. The lack of facial features drives the argument that she was solely a symbol of sexual fertility; it was not her face, but her body that was important. This is a feature of all Paleolithic “Venus” figurines. Standing no more than 4.5” tall the robust woman probably served more as a token for one to carry and is best described by Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe:

The sculpture shows a woman with a large stomach that overhangs but does not hide her pubic area. A roll of fat extends around her middle, joining with large but rather flat buttocks… Her thighs are also large and pressed together down to the knees. Her forearms, however, are thin, and are shown draped over and holding, with cursorily indicated fingers, the upper part of her large breasts. Small markings on her wrists seem to indicate the presence of bracelets. Her breasts are full and appear soft, but they are not sagging and pendulous. The nipples are not indicated.Her genital area would appear to have been deliberately emphasized with the labia of the vulva carefully detailed and made clearly visible, perhaps unnaturally so, and as if she 
had no pubic hair.

Now conscious of the likelihood of prehistoric Homo sapiens not having the adequate, consistent caloric intake to become so large and endowed with fat, the Venus’ proportions are exaggerated but remain a remarkably realistic representation of a very large woman.
            Praxiteles was the most important sculptor of his time during the Classical Period of Greek history, an era of remarkable accomplishments in art. At a time when men’s bodies and minds were the regarded as the epitome of strength and beauty, women were looked down upon as being simply a necessity in order to conceive life to (hopefully) more males. They were considered solely as vessels to hold children, often equated with other forms of vessels like a vase or a tub to hold water. Men were the Olympians, the soldiers, the crafters, and the geniuses who created and became the highest standard of attraction. A shift in this belief can be traced back to a single piece of art, Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos. Originally casted in bronze around 350 BC, what we have today is a composite of two copies made of marble by the Romans. It is fully deserving of the description of “ekphrasis” which is a Greek term that means a “description of a work of visual art, often saying that the work is so masterful that it truly seems alive.” Aphrodite, born of the sea of Paphos, was the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sexuality. Created so lifelike and sexually stimulating there is a story of a young man who secreted himself in attempt to fornicate with the statue after sneaking in to the basement where the piece was being stored. The statue is roughly that of human proportion standing about 5’6”. Unlike the Venus sculpture, Aphrodite’s face is fully considered and stands on two feet in a cantropasto pose, her weight shifted onto her right foot, and is reaching for a towel after her ritual bath that restores her purity. What brings to life and encapsulates the viewer’s attention is the state of mind of the figure. She seems to have been caught by an intruder during her private moment and is picking up her towel to cover herself with her left hand while gently covering her privates with her right hand. Her face is caught in a mild state of alarm while somehow being quietly amused at the same time. This pose and these features lead the viewer to believe that he or she is the intruder themselves. This monumental piece of artwork was the first Greek piece of art to fully exploit the female body and arise it to a standard of beauty from the previous place of “vessel.” After more and more artists viewed the sculpture over time their pieces gradually focused on the female body as the desired object of sexuality. Originally made as a cult image for a seaside shrine to the Goddess Aphrodite, it was rejected by many city-states of ancient Greece for it being too risqué and dangerously indecent to the public until it was finally commissioned by the city of Kos where it was heralded as a masterpiece.
            After reviewing two ancient, popular pieces of sculpture of the ancient worlds there is a little insight on the beliefs and position on women and sexuality of each culture. The Venus of Willendorf provokes a curious nerve that leads us to explore more of the Paleolithic ideas and standards of women despite it not representing popular women’s standard of beauty today. Praxiteles’ Aphrodite of Knidos marks a shift in the global standard of beauty from the male body to the female body. It is also apparent the care and attention each sculptor paid to each piece by simply looking at the physical features of each woman from the hair, to the midsection, down to the feet, or in the Venus’ case lack of feet. The three dimensionality of both works of art allows the viewer to admire it from any angle and their proportions and liveliness are timeless to any culture lucky enough to appreciate and interpret for themselves their true meaning and influence.


Reeder, Ellen D., Pandora: Women in Classical Greece Wallers Art Gallery, Baltimore, MD (1995)

Hersey, George L., Falling in Love with Statues: Artificial Humans from Pygmalian to the Present University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London (2009)

Witcombe L.C.E., Christopher Women in Pre History: The Woman of Willendorf,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Response Paper: Breaking the Mold of Pop Culture Ideology

Our film “The Graduate” featured Dustin Hoffman in a role that many common American men dream of living. He is young, handsome, a Division I standout athlete, part of an enviable wealthy family, knows women, and on and on. These characteristics have been the standard goal of masculinity since before 1967, when the film was made. Bo Derek in “10” played just that, a perfect ten. It is what every man wants and what every woman wants to be, and every emotion emitted by people around her is elicited solely from her looks, her sexiness. These roles are traditionally reserved for heterosexuals and neglecting almost altogether the use of minority ethnicities in those roles. It complicates what’s to be expected from these groups, further separating them from a normal society. The rough ten percent of the population who are not defined as heterosexual are forgotten altogether. These goals of masculine and feminine roles in American culture didn’t come from nature. They are stereotyped expressions delivered by the media to constantly affirm the hegemony of the position of power of owners and producers over consumers through social and cultural construction of masculinity and femininity. Men are expected to know everything and become successful, women are worth their weight in sexuality and only seek a partner to be defined by him. Although the examples are modeled by heterosexual, European-descendant Americans, they are expected to be a lifestyle goal for everyone.
The previous examples of masculine and feminine ideals that bring to light the expectations of male and female role models are from the 1960’s and 1980’s, respectively, so it may seem like this wasn’t always the case. But take this excerpt from Katherina’s monologue is Shakespeare’s 1594 comedy The Taming Of The Shrew :

The husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for the maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe

The play is a comedy; it is a satire that exaggerates meaning. Nevertheless, there is truth in every joke and the source of this joke is the expectations of women in the home. Katherina lies at home, warm and comfy, waiting for her man to return from conquering the world for her life to have meaning again. Fast forward 360 years to Tennessee Williams’ play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Maggie would put on her best face in any situation for her drunken, has-been husband, Brick. Many of her lines indicated she did it out of love, which may well have been the case in some respect but common sense indicates that she married up and was hell-bent on keeping her status in a higher class because, once again, she needed to be defined by her husband. As Barker notes, “this structural subordination of women has been described by feminists as patriarchy, a concept that has connotations of male-headed family, mastery, and superiority (Barker 281).” Recent progressions of this standard have been made and it is typically credited to the feminist movement of the 1960’s. “As a movement, feminism has been concerned with two key issues. First, to win citizen rights such as voting and equality before the law. Second, to influence cultural representations and norms in ways that are beneficial to women.” The first step to earning one’s place is saying ‘no’ to previous ideologies. Judd Apatow does this in ‘Knocked Up’ by giving his lead female role the power in the relationship. Katherine Heigl’s character, Alison Scot, doesn’t seek security by depending on her male counterpart. She is a successful, career-driven woman who puts a solid relationship and her health as her priorities before her ideal class status. She is so secure in herself that she unforgivingly falls in love with Ben, the lazy unemployed father of her oncoming child.
Alison Scot isn’t a character so powerful that she can shed all feminine expectations, however. She works for E!, commonly known as a medium for pop culture entertainment. She is a model and a representative because of her ability to articulate during interviews and, most importantly, because of her ideal looks. She is a tall, slender, natural blonde, with angles in all the right spots and physical features that rival a Greek goddess. Foucault claims we have learned to sell sex and how we sell sex through women is physical appearance. A bright smile, long healthy hair, a trim body, and flawless skin are among requirements for women to obtain their ideal man. Media sells affirmation of appearance requirements by consistently displaying women of ideal beauty in positions of envy. In other words, “If you look like her, you can have all this.” If hegemony has to be won and re-won (Barker, 68), it is constantly being won by the producers of cosmetic products. Susan Bordo’s article “‘Material Girl’: The Effacements of Postmodern Culture” exposes the manipulation of such companies like DuraSoft who prey on the insecurities of women who feel they constantly need a physical change to maintain happiness, also known as piquancy. Plastic surgery is another way women have been altering their appearances. According to the article, 681,000 patients went under the knife in 1989, almost double from 1981. These numbers were shocking until research informed me that over 3 million people paid to have their body physically altered by way of plastic surgery in 2009.

Beauty can also be an asset of men, as well. Patrick Bateman, Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho was a beneficiary of skin-smoothing masks and workout items designed to create a perfect abdomen. There has been a sharp increase in the rise of cosmetic alterations for men who now make up 35% of plastic surgery patients. But this new-age phenomenon is only meant to enhance the ever-increasing standard of men’s expectations. Youth is seen as energy, energy seen as productive, productivity is seen as profitable. Career and status is what drives men, and if they can be seen as youthful and full of potential, they can be seen as profitable to an employer that can grant them a career, giving them status. The beautification of men has only come out of necessity to fulfill the demands of markets like entertainers, physical fitness trainers, models, and bodybuilders, all markets that did not exist less than a century ago. The point is men are always willing to undergo drastic measures to take the next step up in enhancing their image as the breadwinner.

Opposite the female gender, Warren Farrell states is best when he says “men are the ‘disposable gender’; they die in war and from suicide more often than women and are also the most common victims of violence, over-work, and mental illness (Barker, 304).” The unrealistic expectations pressure men so much that it can break their psyche. Men almost expect to be disfigured or suffer bodily harm on their way to achieve happiness. On the same page Steve Biddulph argues that the central problems of men’s lives – loneliness, compulsive competition, and lifelong emotional timidity (failing to realize your own emotions) – are rooted in the adoption of impossible images of masculinity that men try, but fail, to live up to.
Men of the 1970’s and 80’s saw a rise in popularity of TV shows starring the superhero. Comics and programs featuring the likes of Adam West playing Batman were a hit due to his bravery, wit, and cunning schemes to defeat the bad guys. Spiderman was a nerdy bookworm. Today’s heroes have evolved into hulking masses of muscle and anger like The Hulk, and the weapon-happy, whiskey drinking ways of Iron Man. Sure it’s good to defeat the “bad guys,” but shouldn’t it matter how it’s being done? We villainize athletes who use illegal drugs to perform better to the demands of their fans, yet push a chemically fueled green monster-man bent on destroying everything in his way as the “good guy” to the point of $263 million revenue.

Be this big, mean and strong. But don't forget to take care of your family!

The popularization and mass production of television to the point of every household owning one began sometime in the 1940’s or early 50’s. Sitcoms like I Love Lucy ran the show and gave families a reason to come together. It also suggested proper roles for men and women in the household. Ricky Ricardo left for work during the day and came back to smoke cigars and hang out with Frank. Lucy stayed home and did housework, frequently gossiping with the company of Ethel. The lack of attention to a career became the norm for women, and men’s incompetence around the house progressed to common knowledge. Everyone was comfortable in their roles of fulfilling the American Dream. At least media made it seem so. The women’s rights movement of the 1960’s was demonized by the news; more specifically the editors and producers, aka the gatekeepers in charge of enforcing ideology. They are the ones who selectively choose what is being put out there for us to consume. They feared this movement would disturb the comfortable roles that Americans worked so hard to forge they made up the now-infamous bra-burning story to portray women of this movement as outrageous, irrational, and out of control.
Degrees of masculinity and femininity are said to exist in biological men and women. Femininity is a condition or subject position of marginality that some men, for example, avant-garde artists, can also occupy. Indeed, it is the patriarchal symbolic order that tries to fix all women as feminine and all men as masculine, rendering women as the ‘second sex' (Barker, 297). It’s as if one day someone in charge decided men were to be the desired sex and anything less would be uncivilized. This mentality is carried through almost every culture throughout history and is reaffirmed by the texts of Sigmund Freud as he claimed the phallus is understood by nature as the symbol of power and is to be envied by those who don’t possess it by privilege of birth. Once birth gives you a symbol with which to define yourself, you begin learning your role as a male or female through a process called Social Learning Theory which one interprets their pre-constructed roles as a male or female by observing and imitating others and by reacting to the rewards and punishments others give in response to imitative behaviors (Wood, 50). The irony is that once anyone oversteps their boundaries by displaying too strong of a degree of masculinity for a woman, or femininity for a man, no matter the biological sex they are labeled a “bitch.”
What are the roles for one who cannot identify with living with the perceived acceptable degree of femininity or masculinity?
Identities are wholly socially constructed and cannot ‘exist’ outside of cultural representations. There is no known culture that does not use the pronoun ‘I’ and which does not therefore have conception of self and personhood (Barker, 216). Media does not take that stance in recognizing the community of non-heterosexuals, especially men who choose to display an otherwise unacceptable degree of femininity. They are labeled as transsexuals, fags, bitches, among other hateful things and have become things to be studied, not accepted. You see them on television on late night HBO programs like “Taxi Cab Confessions” and “Real Sex,” shows that cater to already mature, comfortable audience who see the lesbian, gay, bi, and transsexual community (LGBT) as a spectacle of entertainment and not to be taken seriously. Even when exposed to a mainstream audience on prime time networks, shows like “Will and Grace,” whose two lead male characters are homosexual men, they are in a comedy, again, not to be taken seriously.  Judith Butler takes a stand in her article “Imitation and Gender Insubordination” by claiming homosexuality is the original, the real, the creative, and heterosexuality is the imitated version only destined for failure. Heterosexuality is always in the process of imitating and approximating its own phantasmic idealization of itself – and failing(Butler). Enforcing her point by going back to Social Learning Theory, she may even suggest heterosexuality only exists today because of the rewards it reaps.
Genuine efforts to challenge the ideals of heterosexual masculinity are challenged by performances such as drag. Judith Butler argues that drag can destabilize and recast gender norms through a re-signification of the ideals of gender. A man dressing as women dress somehow does this. Media constantly portrays these performances as acts of outrageous, unstable people to be feared. But if hegemonic heterosexuality is itself an imitative performance which is forced to repeat its own idealizations, [then drag] is at best only a reiteration and affirmation of the Law of the Father and heterosexuality (Barker, 299-300), and does not even need to be attacked by the media as a phenomenon.
Television media can be a consistent source of entertainment and education for learning a social role, when you have a role model to identify with. But the lack of a visible role model to learn from for non-heterosexual, masculine or feminine idealist-seeking types can leave a void that they must fill by creating their own identity with which to fill the void. When you create something it is original, not imitative. Maybe Judith Butler was on to something when she states homosexuality is the original and heterosexuality is in a constant state of miming itself to its own failure.
The minority population has their own battle to face. Their minimized and devalued sense of worth in stereotyped roles may be the most criminal performance of American media littering the screens of televisions and movie theaters from the conception of television until today. In an attempt to reduce them to savage behavior, each recognizable minority, Asian, Mexican, and black are closely associated to a violent art whether it is the martial artist to Asian culture, boxing and knife fighting to Mexicans, and gang banging to blacks. Through glorification and criminalization of conforming to these aggressive roles, it leaves members of each ethnicity searching for the meaning of what’s outside the violence. Through hip-hop music videos, the black culture has become iconic for senseless greed and gross dehumanization of females. A typical example of an expected role of a black person according to movies is Craig Robinson’s role as the bouncer in our film Knocked Up. He’s featured as the “doorman,” and is responsible for being the muscle, letting in or out whom he pleases at the new, popular club in town. By his character’s own admission, although he’d love to ‘tap that ass’ of Debbie (Leslie Mann), and Alison Scott, he is not allowed to grant them entrance because he is the authority on who is fit to be associated with the club and who is not. A stereotypical, feminine response follows by Debbie lashing out at him for insulting her sexiness and questioning her youth.

Middle Easterners, more specifically Iraqis, Iranis, and Saudis are frequent features of more serious telecasts in the news. Often portrayed as evil madmen, we are rarely told why these people think as they do, for example that Bin Laden understood the presence of US troops in Saudi Arabia to be a violation of sacred Islamic groud (Barker, 267). Our film Team America does so in similar fashion, obliterating their language to roughly three words, ‘derka,’ ‘mohammed,’ and ‘allah.’

In reality, these ethnicities have more to offer to our culture as a whole than fulfilling the roles media sets forth for them. Comparing the role of minorities to non-heterosexuals, it is the most difficult challenge to break a mold pre-cast by others based on examples of a forgettable past than leaving one to create their own to a certainty of failure. Anne Waldman took the thoughts right out of my head when writing this argument when she proposes a “utopian creative field where we are identified by our energy, not our gender.” While she speaks specifically of literature, I propose the advancement of this idea to all creative fields, especially media. We as humans learn first with our eyes, then our ears and when we constantly see and hear the subtleties of an evil cultural hegemony processing stereotype after stereotype in an effort to drive femininity and masculinity to the point of unrealistic expectations, suppressing the potential of blacks and other minorities to few and frowned-upon roles, and leaving out non-heterosexual men and women in the cold to fend for their own representation, it only confirms the historical bloc of ruling-class factions exercising their social authority and leadership over subordinate class by winning over their consent by selling us to ourselves (Gramsci, Barker, 442). If Gramsci is correct in stating cultural studies has adopted the view that ideology is rooted in the day-to-day conditions of popular life, then the first step to re-defining the social roles of pop culture that entertainment media sets forth is by first turning off the television and learning your fellow man and woman before being taught by others.  

                                                                            Sources                                                                                                                                              Texts
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies - Theory & Practice 3rd Ed.(2008). Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA (2008).
Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives
Bordo, Susan. “’Material Girl’: The Effacements of Postmodern Culture.” Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall/Winter 1990).
Butler, Judith. “Imitation & Gender Insubordination.” (1991)
Waldman, Anne. “Feminafesto.” (1945)
Knocked Up. Apatow, Judd. Universal Pictures Productions, (2007)
10. Edwards, Blake, Geoffrey. Productions, Orion Pictures Corporation (1979)
The Graduate. Nichols, Mike. Embassy Pictures Corporation (1967)
Team America: World Police. Parker, Trey. Paramount Pictures (2004)
“The Taming of the Shrew.” Shakespeare, William (1590-1594)
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Williams, Tennessee (1958)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's all about effort

After going over some of our blogs today in class, I had a moment of satisfaction. I volunteered to go over some of my work and was willing to observe some of my classmate's as well. In class discussions I realize I tend to go off on a tangent or apply certain theories incorrectly before I get clarification. Some of the point of my writings have been difficult to apply or understand to the point of me completely re-doing them, including my reflection paper which is probably the second most important paper we'll do for English 313.
The moment of satisfaction I had was that noticing my own effort. In a past life I would graciously count on my intelligence to be realized and not have to put in the work to earn a grade, a symbol of an accumulation of effort and personal genius. After comparing to some classmate's version of what they took in and work they put out, I at least tried. This was an elective class for me taken out of curiousity. Maybe I didn't understand the material as well as some but as with Chemistry, a class I couldn't comprehend for the life of me, I would've given up. Not this time. I made a conscious effort to come to class as much as possible with balancing 12 units, (still) pledging a fraternity, and work 20 hours a week among other responsibilities like taking care of my physical and mental health and keeping close with my family who aren't geographically near. Like my blog about Sula, I found a balance. And it wasn't just a short term balance with which I could have short term satisfaction. I spent the time to think critically, apply what theories I did absorb, and communicate with my professor when I needed clarification. So I'm proud of myself for putting in the energy to a topic for which I have an interest but little passion without quitting when in the past I would have. It didn't come naturally but working hard did forge some understanding and new knowledge that Professor Wexler tried to bless us with.
Wish me luck on my final paper =)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dichotomy of the Cyber World

Today's discussion about the utopian society vs. dysopian society of the interenet shed some light to me on the positives and negatives of the globalized community. Although the discussion barely scratched the surface it brought up some very negative memories of how the internet can erode the physical and mental well-being of an individual close to you. I will continue with drawing from personal experiences to add my blogs.
The scene of Farenheit 451 of the show connecting with its audience was eery. The TV show was like a mix between a "choose your own adventure" book, a classroom quiz, and a cable network drama. It was eery in the sense that you could tell the character Linda was sucked it and there was no escape, accounting to the visual presence of the source of her information. The man's gaze was hypnotizing, his tone uncompromising and impatient, and Linda, being the good citizen, couldn't help but obey her master by answering the question in a hurried tone to the best of her knowledge. The TV show was like a mix between a "choose your own adventure" book and a cable network drama.
<<Graemsci>> A beauty of the internet is blogs like this where no idea or thought can go punished because the anonymity that a "screenname" offers. It is a true freedom of speech. Being a Kobe Bryant and Laker I love to go to YouTube and talk smack on LeBron James and say Kobe is better than even Michael Jordan. It's a way for me to voice superiority without the fear of being challenged, a high that many can attest to.
<<Material body>> Unfortunately the internet is not the link between mind, spirit, and body. World of Warcraft (WoW) is an role-playing game (RPG) that is advertised as promoting teamwork, community, and an escape from the bland, boring world. A very good friend of mine got hooked on WoW back in 2005. I literally did not see or hear from him until late 2006. My father, who has always been an internet junkie, had a worsening injury to his knee to the point of a necessary surgery to repair a torn miniscus. During the recovery stages, his computer was entertainment and company. This connection to his laptop bred to another unhealthy point; he refused to set aside time to rehab his knee to spend time in chatrooms and now has no better function of his knee than before the surgery.
This entrancing nature of digital media is destructive and unchallenging to an always developing mind. Yes, the immediate access to free entertainment is relaxing and computers can create endless opportunities for one searching for the right thing in the right place. But it can easily turn into a "needle in the haystack" search for opportunity and can result in a journey down a road to nowhere. The beauty of literature is there is a beginning and an end, affording time before and after for one's own physical health and time for others close to you. That is, the one's close to you in the physical world.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cities Speak!

Barker's book breaks down six features that can describe cities:
  • Plant life and ecology
  • Power and surveillance
  • Symbolic culture, suburbanization, and gentrification
  • Postmodernism
  • Information technology
It's hard to argue that each take responsibility for the reputation of a city. But what it forgets is the magnificence of cities as a whole. If a postmodernism is a language of a city, then cities are the signature of the human race.
Los Angeles, hate it or love it, beat it or root for it, is a city is among the most, if not the most unique city in the world. Modeled after no plan before it, Los Angeles city spans 498.3 square miles and connecting metropolitan areas including Ventura and Orange County make it one of the largest metropolitan cities ever. All superlatives aside comparing it to cities that are the most this or the best that Los Angeles space was created as the first "sprawling" city, utilizing the area east, west, north, and south before utilizing the space above that is verticality. Beginning in Europe, large cities' growth depended on high you could build. It wasn't until the 19th century that a skyscraper was built in New York to fully break the surface of a 4+ story building habitable to every day activities. Even now, when one looks at a picture of downtown L.A. it is noticeable to realize the lack of sky space utilized when comparing to other major cities like Chicago or New York therefore it is reasonable to question how space has been utilized efficiently and what differs in the citizens' respective time space geographies. How long it takes for a New Yorker to get to work compared to the two hour, ten mile drive on rush hour in the 405 of a working Los Angeles person is an example of the difference.

Look at all of that unused real estate

Within that shape of a city is its contents. What materials have structured its prominent buildings, what angles the rooftops take, and its physical geography relative to any point of the city speaks to what it took to create and sustain this particular city. One can predict the age of structure simply look at the materials and shape. What a city can say to an observer by sheer appearance is astounding.

Sometimes cities can be misleading
 Cities are the accumulation of all progress and accomplishment of us and those past. They are more than just of a stack of brick and steel. They speak, they grow, they change, they require maintenance and love, they are hated and adored, they label, they kill, they create wealth and house the poor. They contain the very organisms whose past fathers created them and will be around for as long as the human brain is alive.