Blog #11: "Trust Me. In These Parts, Hot Dogs Actually Repel Bears

Ian Frazier's essay was very humorous and simple to read. He effectively draws in the reader by sharing an embarrassing moment experienced that establishes trust and credibility. I think anyone can relate to their own amateur experiences in which they relied on How-To or DIY books and/or advice from "the professionals" (and how they at one point or another cursed the figure in the black and white photo inside the cover for the personal disasters their recommendations have caused). It is funny how much faith and trustworthiness we are sometimes willing to put into advice from those situated in environments we unfamiliar with.

I too have experienced the subtle cold shoulder from locals (especially in small towns) when it comes to visiting new territory and inquiring about their attractions. It is almost as if habitants feel threatened by tourists roaming about their land and that they think we throw off the town’s equilibrium they have established. When comparing this to our general attitude towards tourists on our turf in Victoria, while we may not be so obvious in our attitudes or body language, I think we may behave in similar ways.  I reflected on some of the times I spent downtown in the summer, and the random conversations that were overheard between Victorians stopped on the street and curious tourists. Several times their answers were wrong, so wrong; but I didn’t correct them. Maybe they genuinely had the wrong perception. Maybe they were on their way to that restaurant themselves and didn’t want competition. Maybe they were just having fun. Nonetheless, the tourists turned on their heels and booked it in the direction that was suggested without question, and without stopping to ask more locals to cross-reference information.

It is really such a boggling concept Frazier introduces. Most of us probably have a tendency to be more skeptical and oppose people we are closer with than we do strangers.  At times we verbally question and oppose a teacher’s statement in a lesson, or a friend’s attempt at making a suggestion. When it comes to strangers however, we seem to be more inclined to follow their lead. We have been told by our parents to "question everything" but in a foreign environment we think we are always being given a helping hand.  It isn't until we learn for ourselves where the best place on the mountain is to catch the sunset, where the best martinis are served, or where you should go for optimal ocean waves.

Frazier certainly was not joking about those fine establishments owned by Pappy's, Cappy's and Happy's either. These places are ironic: They tend to sell all sorts of goods to serve in your adventures, yet their effectiveness is depleted or unexperienced thanks to owners' poor advice.


Blog #10: The Comics

When I was a kid I always took out bounded books of Garfield from the library, and no one in my family was allowed to touch Sunday's Life section of the paper before I read my coloured comics. As I grew up, I started to back away from these illustrations as I didn't find them funny or entertaining anymore. Arthur Asa Burger's narrative made me reflect deeper into the characteristics of comic strips however, and how they are so much more than what they first-handedly appear to be.

I enjoyed Berger’s analysis of how a reader must bring a level of knowledge and understanding to fully grasp the miniscule presentations trapped inside square boxes. He labels such limitations as an art form, as artists must creatively work within the boundaries. I always thought previously that this would actually be more feasible: basic drawings, lots of primary colours, and scarce wording. However, many comics have intricate story lines with robust character profiles as Berger mentions, validating his point. Any amateur would have trouble trying to decipher what the “movement” lines around a character’s hands meant –wouldn’t they? Or would they be able to comprehend the main message depicted in the storyline by analyzing facial features and the surrounding environments in reflection of their own experiences as opposed to focusing on balloons and action lines?

Berger then takes us on an elaborate analysis on how we read comics and how we manipulate the information provided to achieve a connotation that makes the most sense to us. He delves into established graphic styles of the artist, and what techniques are used to achieve a whimsical, grotesque or angry theme. One thing I definitely didn't consider previously was how filmmakers have studied shots found in comics; it makes so much sense, as they both work within frames.

I’m not sure if I agree with philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s theory of comics, labeling them as “cool” mediums. He contrasts comic strips with photographs (“hot” mediums), stating that photographs carry more information. I believe there is a great deal of analysis needed for both. Photographs may have superior detail in terms of backgrounds, defined facial features and intricate colouring, however they both require an analysis of the subject to determine what they are doing and how they appear to be feeling in the process. Additionally, photographs typically do not usually have a brief description or balloons of dialogue printed within the scene. I personally create imaginary scenes to explain the action in a photograph, just as I would for a comic. I think a forced interpretation is present for both visuals.

I enjoyed reading Berger’s analysis of our perceived notions of popular and unpopular forms of art, and the question of whether or not they are truly all that different. If a comic strip is transformed into a painting, does it really take a status of higher caliber? What makes it so different after all? I found Berger’s publication to be very casual and unaggressive in comparison to other analyses. It was written very thoughtfully with the reader in mind, and I felt a little more well-rounded in terms of perspective.

Blog #9: Exposing Ourselves in South Park

Tessa Sproule's publication was so refreshing to me! As a student in Camosun's marketing vein, we are always talking about possible correlations between media/video games and real-live violence. More often than not, the perception of media as the culprit usually overrides the other possibilities in our discussions.

When my brother began watching South Park regularly, I also despised it. I thought it was a low-budget show of equally low-caliber. He always asked me to sit down and watch it with him, but Cartmen's voice made my ears twitch and I always declined. I also thought it was "pop-comedy" - the kind where people only find it funny because it is popular or in the spotlight. A couple years passed, and Cartmen's outbursts were still echoing down the hall into my room. One day I really paid attention to what was said and erupted with laughter until my sides ached. I've been a viewer ever since. For me, Sproule was very accurate when she said that it is "smarter than any 'real people' comedy sitcoms out there."  Many comedy shows seem to be so predictable nowadays, as they either inject heavy foreshadowing or the storylines have all been done before. At times, I don't always agree with the subject matter or how they present things in South Park; however at the end, I still feel entertained with my morals intact.

I recently wrote a piece discussing my views of the issue between media and violence. I definitely think that when parents are in the spotlight for their child's violent behaviour, it is very easy for them to point the finger to media and video games to deter shamefulness or criticism. The thing for me though in terms of video games, is that when I was around those ages, I certainly could not afford to dish out $60 - $80 on a video game, and had to rely on my parents purchasing it for me for Christmas or a birthday. I wish the news coverage for such issues would state where the child got the video game in the first place (maybe some do; I have yet to see it). I wouldn't be surprised to find that most of them got the game from their parents. 

Issues like these make me think of piteous cases; like the one where two teenagers sued McDonald's because “they got fat.” McDonald’s is not the problem just as South Park is not the problem. The problem is a lack of education which may lead to a lack of personal responsibility. If I am in an art gallery and observe a painting of a battle scene captured from a war, I’m not going to walk out and stab/shoot someone for a number of reasons – primarily because I know it is wrong on several levels. I don’t see how any other venues are different. Their forms of presentation may appear more lifelike, but the underlying principle style remains. Parents need to acknowledge this and take responsibility for their child’s actions. They should be monitoring their child’s behaviour and determine – based on their maturity levels – what exposure or allowance is appropriate.

[Oh yeah, and if they need a little help, they can always resort to the viewer discretions or age ratings that are so conveniently presented for their benefit.]

Blog #8: Twenty-One Questions

This essay was by far one of my most favourite reads at this point of time amidst the semester. When I read Jane Hamilton's personal snippet before her story, I couldn't help but wonder if she was reflecting on a personal experience she may have gone through in preparation for her very own marriage to her wife, Joy - especially with such lively quotations and humour. Her divided segments took the form of scenes in my head, and I could vividly picture the described settings and conversations.

The reader is given the privilege of being able to immediately observe the different personalities possessed by the two women. Their illustrated expressions and statements take the form of conversations and thoughts being relayed amongst many couples in pursuit of tying the knot. Right away, the first woman is labeled as the official marriage-initiator, constantly expressing her love, happiness and devotion to the other. The second woman is equally devoted; however appears to consider a little more the weight of the commitment, the divorce rate, and other commonalities of similar nature. The essay outlines their attempt to transform the traditional “heterosexual” wedding into a ceremony that suits their preferences. At times they favour tradition, such as engagement rings and attire. For other situations however, like the concept of pooling incomes, the following rationale arises: “We’re not heterosexuals, or hadn’t you noticed? My money is mine. Your money is yours.” They want to make their relationship an official bond, while also holding on to pieces of their individuality – which is exactly what a union should entail.

That being said, I was a little disappointed with all the attention that was placed on wedding traditions. Shouldn’t “marriage” be a celebration of an eternal union of love and commitment? The essay was filled with doubtful questions such as “What are we saying to our community?” and “Are we really engaged?” I think many people hold traditional weddings and rituals too high as a base. I personally couldn’t care less if I attended a wedding and both the bride(s) and/or groom(s) exchanged vows in jeans and flip flops. I would be appreciative of the invitation to celebrate their milestone and would party the night away with them, if that is what they chose to do of course. At the same time however, it is a special, sacred day, and couples do strive for authenticity and validity of a ceremony.  Being someone who has absolutely no interest in having a wedding, and would much rather prefer eloping (and throwing a big party back home with family and friends), I suppose I possessed a pre-existing sneer towards the tradition. I also found myself being too quick to judge, as I am completely oblivious to the issues such couples deal with. In my head I kept saying “Who cares? This is about YOU!” but really, it is most certainly not that easy – for any engaged couple.

The concluding question “Are we really married?” was a little mind-boggling for me. I was unsure as to whether to take that statement as A: They were immature and hasty in their decision, (in recollection to their doubts) and they were in fact not ready? Or B: When it all comes down to it, marriage is what they make of it and what they define it as, regardless of legal, parental and societal influence or interaction. I would hope its true meaning took on the latter’s definition. I decided to research blogs of opinions belonging to those addressing the question: What defines marriage? Some say it’s the bible, however several others do define marriage as “The merging of two lives as one,” “a commitment between consenting individuals who wish to share their lives, love and possessions,” and “a declaration of affection and adoration.” In my opinion, commitment, affection, and the merging of two lives do not properly take the form of gowns, champagne, church bells, or garters. They are intangible matters that cannot be replicated or defined by anything or anyone.


Blog #7: "I'm Not Racist But...."

Neil Bissoondath introduces his piece by stating that racism and stereotyping is not prominent in just one location; it is exercised all over the world. He also mentions how people resort to insulting others in the heat of the moment, based on their obvious physical qualities. This analysis is quite accurate, as it is a commonality exercised in human verbal conflict.

It seems like stereotyping and racist-related themes have become more and more accepted within the entertainment industry. Comedians such as Dave Chappel and Russel Peters can make a theatre roar with laughter by joking about and enforcing stereotypes associated with different ethnic groups. Peters in fact picks out certain people within his audience and questions them with loaded inquiries, based on such stereotypes. In attempt to take the tone back to equilibrium he states, "I don't make stereotypes; I just see them." Similar acts can be found on the big screen, potentially fueling the fire. Movies falling under the comedy genre especially use a lot of stereotypical content; whether it is in the form of exaggerated accents, foods, and mannerisms.

The title of this essay was intriguing to me, as I was unsure as to which of the various possible connotations it would take ownership of. I soon discovered that Bisoondath couldn’t have been more truthful with this quote, because it is exercised all of the time. He also described the witnessed events when friends of his have expressed racist comments, oblivious to the true nature of the phrase and the damaging effect they can hold. It must be a really difficult situation to be in. How does one go about to confront this unaware individual, who also happens to be a friend?

The segment I appreciated the most was his ending paragraph – particularly the phrase “racism for one, is racism for another.” I have never before thought about this, and it packs a punch. It can mean a variety of different things for a variety of people.

Overall, I enjoyed Bissondath’s writing technique; I felt as though he was telling a story in person. The tone was very easy-going and gentle, however he effectively got his message across nonetheless.


Blog #6: Don't You Think It's Time to Start Thinking?

Northrop Frye illustrated an interesting and engaging connection with the audience in this piece, ironically causing the reader to also think and reflect while reading. His approach is relatively casual and portrays an inviting feature to silently contribute, thus enhancing his persuasive initiative.

We have been exposed many a time to issues and experiments having to do with conformity, and while we know what it is and its damaging potential, Frye explains how it is still regularly exercised. "...if you say as little as possible and use only stereotyped, ready-made phrases, you can hide yourself in the mass," he states, and continues to show how some people are willing to place themselves a few notches down the intellect ladder to save face or preserve image. I believe this to be true especially for high school students, where image and reputation usually take first priority. In post-secondary institutions however, I think that this act diminishes a considerable amount, due to its more mature and accepting environment. Nonetheless, it is a shame that our society as a relative whole has accepted such conventionality, an even bigger shame how some people feel so uncomfortable in showing their true colours with verbal expression. Speaking out in such a way can be a nerve-wracking experience however, and I too have been guilty of stepping down as well from time to time.

In accordance to Frye's statement, the phrase "reading and writing" is used quite loosely. He states that the genre of reading and writing consists of many elaborate levels, yet it is most commonly treated as one, simple package. I realized that I never really stopped and considered such a concept previously, but it didn't take me long to reach an agreement. Many job postings for example list the popular mandatory requirement, "must be able to read and write," or something similar along those lines, and it is comical thinking about how this vague portion could be applicable to someone as young as six years of age.

It is also interesting to see how things have changed since this essay's publish date in 1986. Frye focuses on the society during that time as being so dedicated to blending in with the crowd and not standing out by presenting themselves differently in an unprecedented way. If this were to be applied in today's society, while some issues would remain, the bigger difference would be how the overall environment has evolved. We are living in a world where rapidness and speed are more valuable and important than presentation or delivery. Personnel are reporting back to their bosses via texting and instant messaging between cell phones; a language full of acronyms and shortcuts. People are out gobbling up all sorts of information and rough data quickly, to have it re-written and edited by someone else for presentation. I suppose this somewhat distorts its credibility for me. This essay was published close to a quarter of a century ago, during a time before I even existed on this earth. Frye does have some great points, but it is difficult to stay within this timeframe while living in this ever-changing and fast-paced world.

Blog #5: Our Daughters, Ourselves

Stevie Cameron's arguments perfectly mirrored the arguments I have had - and occasionally continue to have with my parents, as I watch my brother, two years my junior, go out and do everything I couldn't. "How are you going to get home tonight from there?" they ask him. "Oh, I'll just take my bike or walk. I should be home around 2." It especially frustrated me when we were in high school, and began going to house parties on weekends. I would have no choice but to get picked up by my parents around midnight, and get busted for drinking. Ben, on the other hand, was able to walk/bike/cab home, and only had to wake them briefly to let them know he got in, free of a roasting. While I understand that their efforts have been for my safety and all, I cannot help but have anger for the applied double standard, and the feeling that they don't believe I have the street smarts or the strength to deal with such a situation. 

Another concept applies to my life as well in sports. I will go watch my boyfriend's soccer games and nine times out of ten, they have official linesmen and a well-respected referee. For our games however, we either have to recruit parents to run the lines, or we have a couple of 10 year olds. We also tend to have referees "the boys refuse to have." My parents have additionally dealt with friends or neighbours who come over for dinner and as soon as I leave the kitchen, say "thank god we don't have a daughter."

The part that carries the most punch however is Cameron's concluding statement. "Fourteen of our bright and shining daughters won places in engineering schools, doing things we, their mothers only dreamed of. That we lost them has broken our hearts; what is worse is that we are not surprised." For persuasion to be effective, credibility needs to be built, and Cameron effectively did so with this. I do however, also think Cameron went to extremes when describing the actions of some bad guys. Girls being beaten, raped, threatened, mocked;  I do understand that this happens, but I also feel that the underlining message she portrayed is that there is no hope, as she described it as a generality that all of us girls talk to our moms about.

The unfortunate event illustrated must have been devastating. Mothers who have tried for so long to protect their daughters, so proud of their accomplishments, until their lives are taken away by a culprit they spent decades working and teaching to avoid and prevent.

Blog #4: The Case for Curling Up with a Book

As soon as I finished reading Carol Shields' essay, I glanced over my shoulder to the neat stack of novels on my bedside table. They've been sitting in that corner for months; their bindings still uniform and un-crinkled from not being opened. I then looked at my other table, housing an unappetizing assortment of sloppy textbooks and lined paper, all fanned out and distributed like someone trashed the place. The novels are literally the last thing I see before I close my eyes to sleep. Every week I brush off the light coating of dust it collects, and I try to distract the urge I get to read them. You have a midterm tomorrow! I tell myself. This will conflict with all the things you've just learned! Even when I don't have a test, I regularly find myself waking up with a two-pound text sprawled across my chest, which was kind enough to put me unwillingly to sleep.

I couldn't help but chuckle at the content in Shields' second paragraph, as she seemed to have described my current relationship with reading effortlessly. Sure, I may grab a book here and there to kill some time waiting in line or on a bus, but I know it's not going anywhere. I'll dip into a few chapters and put it back on the shelf to reread again in the future in its entirety. Textbooks demand more attention, and when my weekly schedule is thrown into the mix, I hardly have enough time to paint my nails.

Comically, with equal accuracy, the third paragraph describes my mom's reading relationship. She is an avid reader and at times seems to polish off more books in a week than I do pages. She reads in the loveseat in our living room next to an adjustable lamp-in total concentration and focus. I know this because I have to say her name three times before she looks up. I miss that kind of reading. I miss not having to multi-task and take notes or answer questions. I never seem to find a genuine opportunity to read how Shields describes.

I admired Shields' analysis of reading, especially her statement on how the activity extends far greater than the two-dimensional words printed on the page. I relished the thought of getting "lost in a book" and picturing myself in the described scene like I used to. I miss laughing out loud after reading a sentence the author so perfectly and comically pieced together. Surprisingly, Operations Management and Internet Marketing books just don’t seem to tug at the corners of my mouth.  

In this day in age there is a huge emphasis in online reading, online book reviews and book clubs, to use as substitutes for the real deal, and it was interesting to learn about Shields' stance. I agreed with her. How intimate can you get with a “book” that has glowing pages?

Blog #3: A Walk on the Wild Side

Alice Munro's A Walk on the Wild Side shares similarities with David Adams Richards' My Old Newcastle in terms of vivid childhood memories, youthful experiences, and more significantly, the often common discomfort associated with the evolution of change. Additionally however, Munro possessed a persuasive stance, like Carol Geddes did in Growing Up Native.

Much like the majority of the essays read so far, Munro uses a hefty portion of her piece to paint a picture of robust pastureland detailing, aiming to describe to the reader the reasons why Wingham was so special to her. Her descriptions actually make it near impossible for the reader to not become attracted to Wingham's past identity, thus adding a competitive advantage per se, to her eventual persuasive incentive.

Simultaneously however, I found her statement, ".... to see the country as a landscape that belongs to you and to which you belong, and to see it close up and at not too great a speed," an oxymoron to her later plea regarding government regulation and activity in the outdoor recreation sector. Personally, when I am outdoors I enjoy the fact that I am away from the ruckus, including-but not limited to- the government affairs that saturate our headlines, TVs and computer screens, relationships, and much more. Perhaps I possess an uncommon understanding, but this thought immediately sparked within me as I read. While Southern Ontario's conditions are considered "unideal" in her eyes, perhaps so many people described within the essay regard these deserted areas as unchartered authentic terrain, leaving room for adventure. The statements, "At another crossing, we saw cyclists throwing their bikes over the barrier," and "valiant cyclists pumping along the thin edge of paved highways with traffic roaring by," showed that although the conditions are risky, there are many people using these areas nonetheless. Perhaps that even though many of the railroads are no longer in use, they preserve a part of the past, something she led us to previously believe she had strong advocacy for.

Munro essentially destroys our heavenly mental image of Wingham with descriptions of the modernized, developed location it has become, and then discards her preceding stance on preserving the past, by moving on to a new one favouring additional change and constructive involvement.  She seemed to have conflicting thoughts, which in a way transformed her persuasive approach into something that was at times unidentifiable. Thus, I found myself taking on a Devil’s Advocate role, as I supported some of her thoughts, yet experienced confusion and disagreement with others.

Blog #2: Growing Up Native

Carol Geddes’ dynamic descriptions held similarities with those told by my boyfriend’s father. Although he has only shared a few stories with me, he too has experienced the turmoil associated with residential schooling, along with the misunderstandings and stereotypes insisted by some inconsiderate people. Although I do not feel I am at liberty to share what was told to me, I can assure you they are as shocking and gut-wrenching as the examples Geddes illustrates.

Much to my surprise, I was able to relate, in one way or another, to the content in this essay. I have known my boyfriend for a number of years now, and have somewhat transformed into a sponge, soaking up the history and traits of his culture. At first glance, you probably would never assume that he is half-Native, with his deceiving appearance consisting of lighter skin and blue eyes. Because of this however, he and I have been around people spitting racial slurs about Native individuals, completely oblivious to the backgrounds and cultures present within the vicinity of their insults. While I agree with Geddes’ claim that there is a renewed interest in Native culture, there is still a lot of discrimination present. I have personally heard slurs related to everything Geddes discusses: from those involving welfare, substance abuse, and intelligence levels, to others referring to reserve residences, work ethic, - even on supposed attire preferences.

On a more positive incline however, out of everything Geddes’ mentions, I related to the family aspect the most. My dad was in the Navy, which required us to move around constantly. In fact, until moving back to Victoria, I had never lived in one place for over two years. Unlike the majority of people I know, who seem to have all of their family tucked inside the Island’s perimeter, most of my extended family lives in Ontario. I have seen my grandparents approximately a dozen times during my lifetime, and it is always just the four of us during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other holidays of similar stature. It was quite a transition for me, understandably, when I began to meet everyone within my boyfriend’s family. They have a very open and inviting home, and constantly have family and friends walking through the door unannounced – something that has never happen in my home. Everyone I have met has been genuinely kind and welcoming, and treats me as if I am a member of their very own families. Some I only see a few times within the year, but when they are in town they greet me with big bear hugs or visit me at work, which means an immense amount to me. Their warmth has allowed me to experience the bonds and relationships I have never really had a chance to create myself, and has given me a more realistic and wholesome definition of family. 

I particularly enjoyed Geddes’ conclusion, where she takes on a more leadership stance, expressing her concerns and suggested courses of action. It is quite obvious she wants to preserve the culture, and to revive those who have lost themselves amidst the negativity. I find her arguments effective, as her personal journey and stories build credibility and power, which in turn enhances the delivery and tone. Her essay couldn’t be more appropriate for this week’s topic consisting of personal writing. She pulls the reader in with a memory brought to life with vivid description, and then reverses back to the beginning to tell her story. She also emphasizes that there is potential to excel, and uses her tales of personal growth as confirmation. Her overall style is very relaxed and personable, and she brings everything out in the open, despite how hurtful or embarrassing it may have been for her.