Port of San Diego Public Art

Artist proposals for the lighting of the iconic Coronado Bay Bridge are due in less than a month, and then the Port of San Diego Public Art Committee’s work will really begin. June 6 marks the end of the submission period and the beginning of the selection process for the Port’s signature project, in which they are collaborating with CalTrans and the City of Coronado.

The pressure is on for the committee and the artists alike, as this project is intended to be the public artwork to represent the city.

“With all of the artwork that’s been done in San Diego, the response has consistently been, ‘Well, what does that have to do with San Diego?’ or ‘That doesn’t represent San Diego,’” said PAC Director Catherine Sass. “None of those pieces has ever been intended to do that, to be an icon for the city, but clearly that’s something the community desires… Over the years membership at the PAC has discussed their desire to use some of the money to have an iconic piece or a signature piece.”

In 2003 the Port started looking for a site around San Diego Bay. It quickly became an obvious choice, said Sass.

“The icon for San Diego is the bridge, and it’s also very meaningful because it’s regionally visible… It’s a great site,” Sass said.

Lighting the bridge is anticipated to cost approximately $2-3 million for the design, fabrication and installation. That amount must cover all project fees including artist and consultant fees, materials and fabrication costs, installation, site-preparation, traffic control costs, legal fees, insurance, permit fees, taxes, travel-related fees, and documentation of the project.

The Public Art program is funded by a set-aside of 0.5 percent of the Port’s projected gross revenues each year, and by dedication of 1 percent of project budgets on all new construction, according to Port bylaws.

“Our job is… to bring people down to the waterfront to support these businesses, and… to make it more engaging for people to come and use the tidelands for recreation. The art fits hand in hand with that,” said Sass. “Most of our money comes from the [port] tenants.”

The program’s annual income, however, is only about $750,000 and must also cover operational costs and fund other public art projects like the Urban Trees, which is budgeted at $140,000, and the North Embarcadero Picnic Tables, at $6,000.

The rest of the funds for the bridge lighting, then, are expected to come from grants, none of which the PAC had secured to date. In fact, the PAC set aside only $50,000 for the bridge project initiation, which included developing the project parameters, marketing, and receiving artist’s submissions, though this period is supposed to include around $75,000 (or up to $15,000 each) for the five semi-finalist artists/teams to further develop their lighting proposals. This is before any of the proposed pieces have been selected, manufactured, or installed. A timeline for installation of the piece, once it is chosen, has not been determined yet.

The PAC applied for a grant through CalTrans, with whom they’ve partnered on this project, but they did not receive it, according to Jocelyn De Piolenc, executive assistant to the PAC, but they’re still optimistic.

A finalist in the project selection should to be chosen by November, though if no additional funds can be secured the bridge lighting will have to be shelved for the time being.

“Let’s not think that way!” said De Piolenc. “We are expecting to get regional funding in support of this project but no, there’s no Plan B if that doesn’t happen.”

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ARTSea Cafe 2008

“POP!” goes the art Saturday at 6pm as A Reason to Survive hosts its fourth annual ARTSea Café fundraiser, once again at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla. Two artists and 12 performing chefs are slated as the evening’s entertainment, along with music by the 80Z All Stars, at this year’s pop art-themed gala.

ARTS is a non-profit organization that uses art to help children dealing with adversity, founded in 2001 by Matt D’Arrigo after art and music helped him deal his mother and sister’s simultaneous cancer diagnoses in the early 1990s.

“We are here to provide the supplies and equipment, the volunteers and support, the structure and curriculums for the children to create on their own and share the same experience I did,” said D’Arrigo.

D’Arrigo founded the organization with $5000 and a book on starting a non-profit seven years ago. Now he is one of San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch in 2008, among several other accolades, and the organization is hosting events like ARTSea Café, which in previous years has netted a total of $240,000 for the program.

“I have seen ARTS grow from a one-room office with solely outreach programs to a 7,000 square foot facility with classes here every day,” said Jenna Mohler, events and marketing coordinator for ARTS. “I think that ARTS offers such a different and valuable program to these kids, allowing them to express themselves through art, no matter what they are feeling. It is such a great feeling to see what I do directly affects the kids, growing them personally and giving them a sense of self-esteem and self-worth.”

ARTS accommodates children facing anything from terminal illness to divorce to a deployed military parent, but there’s not really any other requirement such as financial need. Any child from any income bracket or background can qualify.

“The children have to be facing some kind of difficulty,” said Dana Nitti, ARTS development director. “We keep that pretty broad. It’s about the emotional needs of the child, not financials.”

Once children qualify for, or are referred to the program, according to Nitti, they get started in all kinds of free art classes, rotating through the various media available at the Pat D’Arrigo ARTS Center, ARTS’ own facility at the Naval Training Center Promenade in Point Loma, which opened a little over a year ago. The center was named for D’Arrigo’s mother, who died of cancer less than a year after being diagnosed. Children can get involved in the visual arts, performance arts, and literary arts. Some homeless teens have even been hired to work in the children’s art gallery and framing business run by the center.

In addition to artistic resources, ARTS now has a shuttle service to bus children to Point Loma from any of their more than 20 partner sites, which include the Ronald McDonald House, Rady Children’s Hospital, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Linda Vista, among others. This shuttle service, dubbed Van Go, provides yet another level of assistance to the 25,000 children who have been served by the organization.

Rob Tobin, painter and ARTS’ Artist in Residence, was one of the program’s first volunteers seven years ago, having worked with D’Arrigo at Pacific Event Productions. When they opened the center, he said, they needed a full time artist and he just fit.

“[My job is to] teach kids, do community projects, murals, mosaics, drive the Van Go, take out the trash – anything that needs doing,” Tobin said.

How can an organization that provides so much on a $600,00 budget still afford to host a gala like ARTSea Café? Connections.

Scripps Institute of Oceanography has been the venue every year, at least partly because ARTS Board Member and ARTSea Café Event Chair Jill Hammons worked for more than 25 years as director of special events at Scripps.

The performing chefs and artists are mostly returning volunteers also.

“The only non-volunteer [entertainment] is the band,” said Nitti.

The art programs have directly benefitted from these partnerships as well. Two years ago Studley, a Del Mar-based consulting firm, donated 25 new Dell computers to ARTS for use in their administrative offices and media arts lab.

“We bought these computers to use at our annual company meeting and were hoping to identify an organization in San Diego that could truly benefit from receiving them as a donation,” said Michael Colacino, the president of Studley, in an interview with the San Diego Business Journal.

Having this kind of assistance from community businesses allows ARTS to put a greater percentage of the funds raised on Saturday to good use.

ARTS anticipates over 300 guests at Saturday’s event, much like last year, and hopes to raise $100,000. Tickets for ARTSea Café are $150 per person and can be purchased at www.artsurvive.org.

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A Brief History of Journalism

“Journalism is storytelling with a purpose. That purpose is to provide people with information they need to understand the world. The first challenge is finding the information that people need to live their lives. The second is to make it meaningful, relevant, and engaging.”

The journalistic principle of engagement and relevance means exactly that – journalists are asked to present the information they find in interesting and meaningful ways, but without being overly sensational.

There are two sides to this principle, however, and they must be balanced for the journalist to be successful. Engagement is what makes the story intriguing and readable. Relevance is what makes it worth the reader’s time, what makes the story important to the reader’s life. The industry has struggled to find that balance throughout its history, but studies, such as those conducted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, have shown that in the long term journalism that tends more toward the engagement (or entertaining) side without adequately addressing the relevant side will not be as successful.

During the Penny Press era, news consisted of little political debate and much human interest appeal. Stories focused on sex, violence, and features instead; they were sensational and engaging, but not always especially relevant to their readers’ lives. In 1851, however, the New York Times was founded, declaring its commitment to objective and reasoned journalism, and the swing toward the relevant side began. To aid that shift, the inverted pyramid style was developed in response to the strategic destruction of telegraph wires during the Civil War. Journalists had to transmit the most important, or relevant, information first in case the transmission was cut short. This style was then carried through into the post-war era.

During the period known as the era of Yellow Journalism, newspapers became for-profit ventures. Sensationalism still had a hold on the industry, with a focus on high interest stories and attention-getting headlines rather than useful information for the public. Stories focused on the mass appeal of death, dishonor, and/or disaster. In the 1890s, however, relevance made more of a comeback. With immigrants moving into the middle classes, news became more of a commodity. Sensationalism began to give way to the sobriety and objectivity of the New York Times. Two story models were in use at that time: the story model of the Penny Press and Yellow Journalism eras, and the informational model of objectivity.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, even Joseph Pulitzer’s notoriously ‘yellow’ New York Sun had become more literary. By the 1920s, though, objective style was beginning to be questioned. Objectivity presented only the facts, the relevance parts, without any commentary or color, and the world was becoming too complex for information alone. Parallel to the rise of radio, interpretive journalism was born to help explain what was happening.

From the Depression through the Cold War, tabloids continued to give way to seriousness in reporting. This trend continued into the 1960s and ‘70s, as the Great Newspaper Wars whittled down the number of papers in each town. The surviving papers were not the tabloids, but the serious papers, and the same was true of television news programs. The news products that people chose in the long term were those that provided them with the more relevant information, rather than entertainment.

During the USA Today era of the 1980s, news was increasingly being produced by companies outside of journalism, and a resurgence of primarily engaging news began. Radio and television had long since replaced newspapers as the dominant news sources, and papers began to add more feature-centered sections. When the industry addressed its readership losses, rather than addressing this substitution of entertainment for content, it focused on cosmetic solutions such as layout, design, and color, thus continuing the decline of relevance in newspapers. To illustrate, a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that news magazines such as Newsweek and Time were seven times more likely in 1997 to share a cover subject with an entertainment magazine like People than they had been in 1977. Whereas in 1977 those covers would have contained a political or international figure 31% of the time and a celebrity or entertainment figure only 15% of the time, in 1997 political figures were down to about 10% of cover stories, and celebrities were up to about 20%.

“Infotainment,” or the new version of tabloidism, is still a prevalent format for today’s news, but as a result “avoidance of local news has doubled in the past ten years,” according to data from Insite Research. The public continues to show a preference for relevant information over entertainment-centered coverage. Another study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, conducted between 1998 and 2000, found that stations that produced higher-quality news programs were more likely to have higher ratings, and even rising ratings, than those that produced lower-quality ones. In this Internet era, also, the web has become a vehicle for up to the minute updates on news and information, providing the public with a venue for relevant and engaging information 24 hours a day, allowing for public and civic journalism to get a foothold among the many other choices the public has to choose from.

Over the decades, the journalism industry has swung like a pendulum between a focus on the entertaining and on the significant sides of the news. Whenever it reaches one extreme or the other, the pendulum begins its swing in the opposite direction. Always, the optimal position for the industry and for the public is somewhere in the middle.

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On Tea & Japan

“Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.”

~Rinzai Zen Priest Eisai (1141-1215)7

Originally brought to Japan from China in the early ninth century by Buddhist priests, tea – specifically green tea – was first used as a form of medicine and as a stimulant for monks who needed to stay awake during long hours of prayer. “Ancient recordings indicate the first batch of tea seeds were brought by a priest named Saicho in 805 and then by another named Kukai in 806.” Tea became the beverage of the religious and royal classes, but by the mid ninth century the practice declined along with many other aspects of Chinese culture imported since the late sixth century.

Tea drinking saw a revival during the Kamakura shogunate. Eisai (1141-1215), the founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism, reintroduced tea to Kyoto as medicine when he returned from studying in China in 1191.

The tea seeds Eisai brought back made their way to priest Myoe Shonin, and Uji tea was born. Otherwise known as Gyokuro, or Pearl Dew, the tea grown around Uji was very delicate and sweet. The leaves were rolled and dried, then steamed to brew the tea. Also from the same plant came tencha and matcha teas. Tencha was dried without rolling the leaves. The leaves were them broken and ground into powder for matcha.

Around that time, Shogun Sanetomo Minamoto became ill, asking Eisai for advice. In addition to prayer, Eisai prescribed tea as a remedy. With the Shogun’s recovery, tea’s popularity in Japan was once again on the rise, especially among the samurai classes.2

By the early 13th century, “green tea became a staple among cultured people in Japan — a brew for the gentry and the Buddhist priesthood alike. Production grew and tea became increasingly accessible, though still a privilege enjoyed mostly by the upper classes.”7

A process of roasting tea leaves was introduced to Japan, and the most prized varieties of tea were grown at Toganoo, in the mountains to the north west of Kyoto. “Early forms of the tea ceremony were largely occasions for the ostentatious display of precious utensils in grand halls, or noisy parties in which the participants guessed the origins of different teas.”3 The samurai elite held competitions in identifying which regions certain teas came from by taste, similar to a modern wine tasting. They had a passion for collecting Chinese objects for display during these early tea gatherings. In addition, tea gatherings were an opportunity to discuss poetry, calligraphy, painting, and philosophy.

“Finally through the influence of Zen Buddhist masters, the procedures for serving tea in front of guests were developed in the 14th and 15th century into the spiritually uplifting form in which millions of students practice the Tea Ceremony in different schools today.”1 Chanoyu, or the tea ceremony, evolved, including the rules for tea preparation, serving, consumption, and setting.

The chashitsu, or tea room, also developed. It was a self-contained, one-room world of tea, originally based on the shoin style of living room. The space was at least six to eight tatami mats in size (each woven mat measured approximately 3’ by 6’), and the mats covered the floor entirely. A shoin desk, shelves, and alcove was built into the room, in a style based on the study chambers of Zen priests. Only Chinese utensils were used to prepare tea at this time.

Murata Juko (1422-1502) broke with this style to hold a tea ritual in a humble four and a half tatami mat room, known as the souan style. The mats were arranged in a chase-around type layout, with the half mat at the center. Originally a Zen Buddhist monk, Juko was regarded as the founder of Japanese tea drinking. He said there was no social hierarchy in tea and took the ceremony out of the shoin style study room and into its own freestanding tea hut. With the standardization of the hut’s décor, Juko brought tea from an expensive Chinese style into a definitively Japanese style, choosing simple local elements over fine imported items.4

The son of a wealthy merchant, Sen no Rikyuu (1522-1591), considered the first sage of tea, took Juko’s refinements one step further. Rikyuu’s “background brought him into contact with the tea ceremonies of the rich, but he became more interested in the way priests approached the tea ritual as an embodiment of Zen principles for appreciating the sacred in the everyday. Taking a cue from Juko’s example, and seeking to join Zen and tea drinking, Rikyu stripped everything non-essential from the tearoom and the style of preparation, and developed a tea ritual in which there was no wasted movement and no object that was superfluous.”1

Instead of expensive imported utensils and lavish surroundings, Rikyuu made tea in a thatch hut with an iron kettle, bamboo utensils, and a rice bowl for drinking. Most of the implements he designed himself and crafted from bamboo and other simple materials. “The only decoration in a Rikyuu-style tearoom was a hanging scroll or a vase of flowers placed in the alcove. Owing to the very lack of decoration, participants become more aware of details and are awakened to the simple beauty around them and to themselves.”3

Rikyuu’s ideal space consisted of only two tatami mats and could fit no more than two to three people. In addition, Rikyuu pioneered the use of nijiriguchi, or crawling-in doors. A small, low entrance to the tea hut brought every guest to the same level. Reportedly, Rikyuu was intrigued by a small wharf entrance near his home and appropriated the idea for his tea hut.

Rikyuu introduced raku ware to the tea ceremony in the late 16th century. He was said to be inspired by roofing tiles made by Choujiro, and commissioned the artisan to create the spare, rustic, and imperfect simple pottery items. Raku ware was not turned on a pottery wheel but handmade, and roughly, emphasizing a “quiet, simple, and unassuming aesthetic.” This style was in line with the wabi aesthetic. Wabi, literally “desolation,” said that beauty was to be found in things humble and poverty-stricken, or “specifically, it was an appreciation for the imperfect and irregular aspects of nature.” 6

Rikyuu became tea master to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), considered one of the most significant figures in Japanese history. “Although Riky? had been one of Hideyoshi’s closest confidants, because of crucial differences of opinion and other reasons which remain uncertain, Hideyoshi ordered him to commit ritual suicide.”4

By the end of the 16th century, green tea, and the unpretentious ceremony perfected by Rikyuu, was available to the masses. It became Japan’s most popular beverage. In 1740, another form of tea was developed: sencha. Soen Nagatani developed this unfermented process of tea preparation, in which dried, crumbled leaves are used instead of the powdered matcha. This loose leaf preparation is now a mainstay in Japan. 5

At the end of the Meiji period, in the late 19th century, the warrior class was abolished, making women the primary practitioners of the tea ceremony. In addition, machine manufacturing began replacing handmade teas. By the 20th century, tea processing had become completely automated, but Japanese green teas are still considered the finest on the market. The roasted teas are not very common, but powdered matcha teas are still used in ceremonial fashion.

Rikyuu’s great-grandsons founded two of the largest tea schools of today, Urasenke and Omotesenke, and the tea ceremony is now being taught worldwide to both men and women.7

“Chado, the Way of Tea, is based upon the simple act of boiling water, making tea, offering it to others, and drinking of it ourselves. Served with a respectful heart and received with gratitude, a bowl of tea satisfies both physical and spiritual thirst.”

~Sen Soshitsu, Ura Senke Grand Tea Master6

Works Cited

1. Embassy of Japan, Nepal. 10 May 2006.

2. “Green Tea.” Japanese Food 101. 20 Jan. 2006. 20 May 2006.

3. “History of the Tea Ceremony and Wabi-Cha.” Japan Fact Sheet. 1 June 2006.

4. “Japanese Design, Culture in the Age of Civil Wars.” Sengoku Expo. 25 May 2006.

5. “Japanese Tea Ceremony.” Wikipedia. 18 May 2006.

6. Neighbour Parent, Mary, comp. JAANUS – Teminology of Japanese Architecture and Art History. 2003. 25 May 2006.

7. “Tea History.” Green Tea Lovers. 15 May 2006.

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Take Back the Night

It was chilly and gray at 6:00p.m. that Thursday. One hundred, maybe 200 people were gathered at the bottom of the Aztec Center Free Speech Steps on April 27. They were mostly students and the vast majority were women.

Clumps of women in sorority sweatshirts dotted the crowd, as did an equal number of women in purple T-shirts that read “Let’s Talk About Sex,” and “Break the Silence, Stop the Violence.” Two uniformed campus police officers stood by their truck at the base of the steps, watching the proceedings.

A podium at the top of the stairs stood like a pulpit in front of the speaker, and the crowd listened in respectful silence until it was appropriate to laugh or cheer. A large blank projection screen was set up behind her, but the wind knocked it over mid-sentence.

“I guess that’s intermission,” she said. “That’s good, because I was starting to get a little choked up.”

The crowd laughed a little, and Tracy Johnson from the San Diego Rape Crisis Center went on speaking.

“Aren’t you all here to raise awareness? Aren’t you all here to show other students, your faculty, administration, and public safety group that you’re serious about sexual violence on campus, and you want them to be too?” shouted Johnson, and the crowd cheered. “Let’s increase community awareness… and help change the culture of sexual violence!”

It was the annual Take Back the Night rally at San Diego State University.

“Take Back the Night has been going on for 28 years in the US,” Johnson said into the microphone, competing with the wind again. “Let’s put that into perspective: that’s almost three decades of Take Back the Night.

“On the one hand, I want to celebrate – and I do celebrate each and every one of you for taking the time to care and wanting to put an end to this silent epidemic. On the other hand I’m distressed, as you can imagine – 28 years of Take Back the Nights and they still have to exist?”

According to Johnson, one in three women has been or will be assaulted in her lifetime. One in twelve men will share the same fate.

“The American Medical Association has declared sexual assault an epidemic in our society,” she said. “This is more than Take Back the Night tonight. This is Take Back Our Rights – our right to walk home…, our right to run in the evening after a long day of classes, our right to go to the bar for a drink, or for many drinks, and not fear that someone will hurt us, or violate us, and the right to go out… and be safe!”

Johnson stepped down from the podium and the women staffing the even passed out glow sticks, picket signs, and chant sheets printed on squares of pink paper. The march portion of the evening had begun, and the crowd flowed between the columns of Aztec Center and over the footbridge. Their path took them between the residence halls, down Montezuma Ave., and up Campanile Rd. where the throng held up traffic for a good five minutes.

“Our bodies, our minds, our right to decide!” yelled the marchers, along with some other more colorful slogans.

Car horns honked as they chanted their way down either side of Fraternity Row before heading back toward Love Library. The officers drove behind the marchers to discourage onlookers from causing trouble.

One resident on Hardy Ave., Jake Kobernick, was standing outside his house watching the procession.

“What they’re saying obviously I agree with,” he said. “I think everyone does. I don’t know what protesting is going to do down these streets though. It is nice to see that they’re standing up and that they’re doing something. For sure, it’ll raise awareness. I’m sure there are people down these streets who don’t even think about [violence against women]”

Once back at the Free Speech Steps, white candles were distributed and lit, although it wasn’t quite dark yet. The flames sputtered and dipped against the weather but most kept from going out. Poet and performer Kimberly Dark, the other featured speaker of the night, stepped up to the podium. A PowerPoint presentation displaying various facts about sexual violence churned on the big screen behind her.

“First of all, I need to liberate myself from this podium!” she said as she pulled the microphone from its stand. A few of the women cheered. She recited a poem about discovering the broken and bloody victim of incest in a public bathroom one night after work. The crowd didn’t make any sound over the noise of the wind and Dark’s words hung heavy for a moment.

“Thought becomes word becomes deed becomes habit becomes culture,” she said. “So what you all have done here this evening in marching and getting together is you have turned stories into action. And that is a very powerful thing.”

It was time for testimonials. A few dozen of the remaining crowd, maybe a third its original size, approached the microphone, and, one by one, they shared their own quiet tragedies of sexual violence and abuse. Hugs and tears flowed freely, and the evening began to draw to a close.

“As you leave tonight remember the reality is that most of the violence against women is not perpetrated in public places,” Johnson had said earlier in the night. “Most of the violence against women happens in our own homes, in our personal relationships.”

Take Back the Night has been hosted by the Women’s Resource Center at SDSU every spring for the last several years, but this year’s rally was different. It was a protest against sexual violence just like in past years, but this time the WRC was joined by the SDSU chapter of the National Organization for Women, several Sorority houses, and Fraternity Men Against Negative Environments and Rape Situations, or ‘Frat Manners’.

“If we work together we’ll be even stronger,” said Christina Gonzalez, co-president of the campus chapter of NOW. NOW has been a supporting organization behind Take Back the Night, which is hosted by the WRC, for three years, but just this year the two organizations began coordinating their efforts to create Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which ran from April 10-27. T-shirts that read “I ? Consensual Sex” were sold, and then back-ordered. The second annual Love Your Body Festival was held on April 14.

“I think it’s great,” said Manny Konedeng of Frat Manners, who also spoke briefly before the march. “It’s a great turnout.”

Frat Manners has been on campus for over three years, and they got involved with Take Back the Night after some fraternity men were caught throwing things at the marchers one year, said Konedeng. The men of Frat Manners decided to get involved and take action.

“Sexual assault prevention starts with a sense of responsibility for your actions,” Konedeng said, “and it begins with respect for women.”

The same incident with the fraternities was cited as a reason for the campus police’s presence as well. Lea Dennis, an alumnus who participated in the march several years ago, said there were also problems with men following women into the restrooms during the event, but campus police could not confirm or deny the report.

Officer Ruben Luna, on duty during the march, said that though he was relatively new to the force, he had heard about fraternity men exposing themselves to the marchers and throwing eggs. Overall, though, he said Take Back the Night was a very positive event.

Corporal Josh Mays patrolled the rally last year, one of two officers assigned to the march, and though he cited the reason for police presence as a request by event organizers, he too saw the rally as a positive measure on campus.

“As with any type of issue or event,” said Mays, “you raise awareness and awareness is power. When you have an event with media and police presence people are going to take notice. In that sense I think it was a successful event.”

The number of sexual assaults on campus since the introduction of Take Back the Night has fluctuated some, but Mays could not confirm any direct correlation between the event and the crime rates – there are simply too many factors to consider, he said. More detailed information on campus crime rates and bulletins is available at www.dps.sdsu.edu.

“Take Back the Night and RAD (the Rape Aggression Defense program offered to women on campus) are the most prominent programs on campus,” said Mays.

And while the number of assaults dropped significantly between 2004 and 2005, there was an increase in forcible sexual assaults this year, from 11 to 16, but Mays said the participants in these programs were not likely the victims. Even so, the majority of attacks on campus were perpetrated by acquaintances. According to Mays, only three of the attacks listed in the department’s statistics from recent years were stranger rapes.

Just how prominent are these campus programs for women’s safety, though? While there was a significant turnout of sorority members at Take Back the Night, not one of the women interviewed from Alpha Phi or Sigma Alpha Zeta had ever heard of the event before the Pan-Hellenic Council made the announcement this year and encouraged them to attend. Even Kobernick, who lives along the route that the march has taken for the last several years, had never heard of the event until it strolled through his front yard.

Unlike in previous years, the march wasn’t listed in the campus e-Newsletter. NOW and the WRC manned a table in the Aztec Center, selling T-shirts and passing out purple fliers all that week, but there was no big announcement on campus to let the approximately 40 thousand students know about it.

Associated Students President Chris Manigault spoke during the rally, with ideas to make sexual assault an even more prominent issue on campus.

“Let’s march during orientation,” he said. Incoming freshman especially need to be made aware, said Manigault.

“These are things people think about but never say,” said event participant Jennifer Cesena. “We need to be out here more than once a year.”

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The walls are a splotchy yellow. They feel unfinished, hastily painted maybe, but inviting in a way. They host a patchwork of paintings. Some rest in heavy, ornate gold frames; some have naked canvas edges. It is a roughly even mix of skillfully and amateurishly executed art, not one likely designed to be hung adjacent to its neighbor. Seemingly random pillars and doorframes dissect the space, a skeletal version of the quaint Craftsman house it may have once been.

In the front room is a large counter with a cash register and a whirring espresso machine at one end and a glass display of decadent desserts at the other. Next to the register sits a glass vase, half full of crumpled bills. A handwritten index card taped to the vase says “401K.” In the opposite corner sits a squat table with a built in screen, a rather dated Pac-Man console.

A hodgepodge of armchairs and couches, and wooden tables with mismatched wooden chairs is unevenly distributed throughout the shop, atop oriental rugs and hardwood floors. Most of the seats are taken tonight. In any direction, half a dozen laptop computers can be seen, open and glowing amidst a clutter of large hardbound books, binders, papers, plates of half-eaten food, and mugs likely full of caffeinated liquids.

One laptop is open but doesn’t appear to be turned on. Two men and a woman are seated around the old table. One of the men talks animatedly about his latest idea. He’s thinks they should use a Norplant-like system to deliver Ritalin to school children, he says. His red tennis shoes match his backpack. The woman scribbles absently on the open newspaper in front of her. The men go back to their reading and the computer screen remains dark.

A ceiling fan turns steadily overhead, creating a strobe effect as each blade passes under the light fixture in the ceiling. There is a steady whine from the espresso machine in the distance.

A group of six or seven women have pulled chairs from some of the tables and congregated in a circle at the back of the shop. They are intent in their discussion and don’t seem to notice their surroundings. One woman in a pink and black striped shirt is doing most of the talking, occasionally wrinkling her forehead intently. She and her companions are significantly older than the rest of the shop’s patrons.

Across the room two women sit by themselves at a table that could probably hold six. Both have computers in front of them, but only one is paying attention to hers, the screen reflected dully in her glasses. The other woman talks on her cellular phone, her eyelashes fluttering every time she speaks. She stares at the ceiling while the other party buzzes in her ear.

A man with his baseball cap turned backwards stares at the wall instead of at his open notebook. He sighs and adjusts his glasses on his nose, absently turning a page as though he had read it. He begins fiddling with a stray lock of his dark hair that’s stuck out from under his cap. A heavily worn paperback book rests on his small table – the spine says Organic Chemistry. The book is turned toward the other chair, currently occupied by a rumpled backpack.

One table seems shoved into a corner of the back room. A woman in a striped red headscarf sits facing the room, using her lap instead of the table as a writing surface. She seems hunched, huddled there under the yellow light of the table lamp, her bare feet up on the adjacent armchair. She blows her nose noisily and resumes her work.

The man with the red shoes discusses polygamy and the Church of Latter Day Saints with the other man at the table. The woman twirls her platinum blonde hair absently. Not long after the two of them leave and the other man is left alone at the big table. He fidgets and tries to concentrate, repeatedly taking a highlighter to the pages in front of him.

A large, five-paneled bay window reveals the patio outside, and the busy street beyond. White orbs of light seem to float on the bushes, their lampposts hidden by overgrowth. A marquee for the mortuary across the way glows obscenely in the darkness. Near the window is a large painting, an abstract mess of color that seems an attempt at impressionism. Beneath the painting sit two women, their books spread out on the table in front of them. They talk intently with one another and the books are forgotten. One woman absently holds a pen in one hand, but it is nowhere near her paper.

Loud voices erupt over the dull murmur of the shop, growing to a cackle and subsiding just as quickly. The circle of women have finished their discussion and turned to gossip.

A man in a leather jacket walks into the back section of the shop, scanning the room for an empty seat. He sees the woman in the headscarf and walks toward her. She looks up and smiles. He sits across from her and they begin speaking in another language.

In the wide door frame that opens to the center section, another man sits with his computer. He carefully lifts the teabag from his cup, squeezes it, and sets it in a waiting smaller cup. He laces his fingers behind his head and stretches briefly before returning his attention to the screen.

The man with the backwards hat brings his backpack from the chair to the floor next to him and begins to rifle through it. He pulls several small objects from the pack and drops them into a waiting plastic cup. He sighs again and begins flipping through his book, again twirling the lock of hair on his forehead.

A woman in the middle section of the shop begins to pack up her belongings. Two newcomers circle her table like vultures over a carcass. She buses her own dishes and leaves, several bags in tow.

The man in the leather jacket moves to the table where the man with the highlighter sits, but he talks across the room to the woman in the headscarf in their strange, rapid-fire tongue. She takes a sip of a drink the same color as her scarf and looks down at her books.

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E85 Ethanol Fuels

You may have already seen the commercials for the new Go Yellow, Live Green campaign. E85, or ethanol-based fuel made from fermented corn, sugar beets, and other common crops is the latest attempt to find an alternative to the U.S.’s petroleum dependency. Is it just another short-lived solution, like the all-electric car and the accompanying visions of a giant extension cord, or is E85 something the public – and the automobile industry – could actually get behind?

According to www.goyellowlivegreen.com, “E85 is an alcohol fuel mixture of 85% ethanol (grain alcohol) and 15% gasoline (petrol) that can be used in new Flex Fuel Vehicles. It is clean-burning, domestically produced, renewable fuel that contributes to decreased dependence on imported oil… [These FFVs] are designed to run on any mixture of gasoline or ethanol up to 85% ethanol by volume.”

And if there isn’t an E85 pump nearby? No problem, said the website – you can put gasoline into an FFV even if you’ve been running on ethanol, and vice versa. The fuel injection computer can account for the different levels of each fuel and the car will run accordingly. For a list of the E85 stations currently in operation, visit www.e85fuel.com/database/search.php.

A new study cited by the website, conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that “even in the most critical eye, ethanol’s energy balance is positive and its environmental benefits clear. Ethanol is an efficient fuel made through an efficient process, and it pulls more than its own weight in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

The cost of this new fuel can vary, according to the website, but it can be “as much as 40 to 50 cents per gallon cheaper than gasoline.”

In addition, “all vehicles in the U.S. are ‘ethanol-capable’ and can use up to a 10% blend of renewable fuel. The majority of ethanol in America is retailed as E10, [and] this 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline blend is covered by the warranty for all vehicles,” according to the website.

So why haven’t we seen these new cars around, you may ask? You probably have.

Ford and GM have been producing these FFVs for several years, but since there are no E85 pumps here on the West Coast as of yet there hasn’t been too much talk about them. For a list of the vehicles currently available, go to www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/afv/models.html.

Ethanol does seem to be taking off in the Midwest, however, with 95 plants already in operation and upwards of 30 more under construction or in the planning stages, more than half of which are, or will be, owned by the local farmers and investors involved in corn production. That’s a far cry from the petroleum industry, which is controlled by only a handful of giant corporations.

The U.S. is not the only nation to be working on using ethanol as an alternative fuel source. The technology is also not as new as it seems. Brazil is the world’s number one nation using bio-fuels, or fuels made from organic renewable compounds. More than half of Brazil’s road fuel needs have been supplied by sugar beet derived ethanol for decades now, according to an article in The Scotsman. European countries have started to get on the bandwagon as well – the first E85 station opened this week in Norwich, England.

If and when E85 does reach California, however, Dave Curtis, a retired Navy engineer, automobile enthusiast, and hobby mechanic, is skeptical.

The problem with alcohol-based fuels, he said, is that our vehicles’ engines require twice as much pure alcohol as gasoline to travel the same distance because these fuels burn at different rates. Older fuel-injected vehicles could be made to accept ethanol because the cars’ computers can measure and compensate for the different types of fuels and the amounts needed.

The problem, he said, arises at higher speeds – the older injectors may simply not be able to push enough fuel through the system to satisfy the engine’s needs. Ethanol is also highly corrosive, and the newer vehicles, the FFVs, have been fitted with a fuel system made of stainless steel and lined with Teflon – a modification that would be quite costly for a pre-FFV.

“Yes, [ethanol] might be cleaner burning,” Curtis said, “but a cost to mile-per-gallon comparison is necessary to see whether it’s actually a better value. I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all solution.”

Older, carbureted engines would be unable to make the conversion, he said. The fuel systems on classics from the 1970s and earlier put out a steady flow of fuel and they couldn’t be easily made to compensate for the amount needed to keep and engine running on E85. There go all the old Mustangs and pink Cadillacs that Americans are so fond of, to name a few.

The other issue worrying Curtis is the fact that E85 is made from crops that would normally be produced for food.

“I’m concerned because I don’t see it as an endless supply,” said Curtis. “How much land can I put into corn production [for fuel] before I start cutting into the food supply?”

Rather than alternative fuels at this point, Curtis would rather see the vehicles we already own be able to run more efficiently.

In Los Angeles alone, he said, if all the vehicles were able to run at the posted speeds – at the speed limits rather than the slow crawl they normally manage – all those engines would be running more efficiently and that would save almost 1 billion gallons of gas per year. And that’s just Los Angeles.

Yes, that would require widening the roads to accommodate the current populations, said Curtis, but if each major metropolitan city could boast that kind of savings it could make quite a difference.

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AIDS: Chasing the Bug

Most anyone who has seen Gia, with Angelina Jolie, can’t help but remember the grisly scene at the end of the film. Destroyed by AIDS, the former supermodel’s body literally falls apart when it is lifted off the hospital bed.

Mainstream films like Gia and Philadelphia showed, in heartbreaking scene after scene, the plight of AIDS sufferers through the 1980s and ‘90s. The generation of (mainly) gay men and women who came of age in the 1970s and ‘80s witnessed the full force of the disease’s birth, and many of them are not around today to tell of it.

“There aren’t many of us left,” said Tim DeLoach, an openly gay man in his forties, and former outreach coordinator and director of information technology for the now-defunct San Diego AIDS Foundation. He’s seen many gay men of his generation fall victim to AIDS because of the lack of information about its transmission and treatment available 10 and 20 years ago. When AIDS was first discovered in the early 1980s, he said, it was an almost absolute death sentence.

Since then, the medical field has come a long way. New drug cocktails allow those with HIV and AIDS to live almost normal lives for many years longer than they would otherwise. The problem with these developments, said DeLoach, is that the younger generation doesn’t have to see the consequences of AIDS anymore – and they aren’t being as careful as they should.

“The most disturbing thing about HIV today is that the fastest growing population is 25 [years old] and under,” said DeLoach.

Part of the reason, he said, is the public service billboards and such don’t illustrate how devastating the disease can be; instead they advertise the antiviral drug cocktails.

“We’ve made AIDS too comfortable,” said DeLoach.

One example is the growing trend of “bug chasers.” According to about.com’s online glossary, a “bug chaser” is allegedly “a gay man who deliberately attempts to contract HIV by having unprotected sex with a man or group of men known to have the virus.” The term was coined in the 1990s, but the group of men it applies to has grown.

According to wikipedia.org, “it is thought that some men wish to become infected with HIV because they feel guilty (or even left out) because many of their friends are HIV-positive or because they feel fatalistic about becoming HIV-positive and want to stop worrying about when they might become infected.”

“AIDS is a sword of Damocles hanging over every person,” said DeLoach. Like the mythical sword suspended over Damocles’ head by only one hair, everyone is faced with the risk of AIDS and HIV. People, especially young gay men, said DeLoach, may have gotten tired of waiting for the seemingly inevitable and have taken matters into their own hands. Several successful “bug chasers,” though, according to DeLoach, now regret becoming infected.

The anonymity of the internet helped this phenomenon to grow. Numerous forums and chat rooms, such as bareback.com, have sprung up across the web, with most of the sites having formed since 2000, according to the Center for Disease Control in a report published in September. On the surface these sites appear to be merely places for gay men to network and meet others with similar sexual tendencies, such as “barebacking” (engaging in unprotected homosexual sex). In the profile section of these sites, however, there’s a blank for whether one is a “bug giver” or “bug chaser.”

A search of profiles active in the last 60 days on ultimatebareback.com, using just these criteria generated an intriguing number of hits. Of 6,200-odd active profiles, nearly 400 were listed as “chasers,” and 250 as “givers.” Of the entire database, 1,900 “chasers” and 1,450 “givers” are registered.

It is not a trend embraced by the entire community, however. “Many gay men,” according to wikipedia.org, “particularly [HIV positive] gay men, look down on bug chasers with disdain, as being delusional or not understanding that antiviral therapy is extremely expensive, can have painful and unpleasant side-effects, and does not cure or ultimately stop the disease. Some gay men are also concerned that bug chasers might ‘give the gay community a bad name.’”

Still, some questioned whether the trend even exists.

“Doubts have been raised about the existence of the phenomenon,” according to wikipedia.org, “[but] various gay websites have chat rooms devoted to bug chasers, who are looking specifically to have unprotected sex with HIV-positive men. There have even been ‘conversion parties’ where people have gathered together to pursue their goal.”

To be fair, many of these sites also posted numerous advice columns, letters-from-the-moderator, and other writings on practicing semi-safe sex. One site recommended a practice called “serosorting,” in which those who are HIV positive only partner with other positives and negatives only with negatives. The site’s creator, who referred to himself only as “Bareback Michael,” theorized that if gay men continue to “serosort” they could eventually eradicate AIDS from the community because the disease would not infect new people. The validity of this theory has yet to be explored by the medical community.

In the meantime, DeLoach said his primary concern is for his younger friends, whom he sees acting increasingly casual about practicing safe sex. Though most of them aren’t into the riskier practices like “barebacking,” he said, they’re still at risk because of their casual attitudes toward AIDS and HIV.

“They were giving me a hard time because I smoke,” said DeLoach. “But when I asked them how many of them had had unprotected sex in the last month, they all got quiet.”

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Vintage Autos: Not Just for Boys

The guys call it “The Purple Twinkie.”

RyAnn Leep, 29, calls her lavender and pearl 1953 Chevy Bel Air “Violette.”

“[That car] is my passion and my hobby so it doesn’t matter what [people] think,” she said.

Leep, part of the “Rockabilly” scene, got into vintage culture through her grandmother.

“When I was 16, I started dressing like she did in the ‘40s,” Leep said. “I looked at pictures and [did] my hair like her. I put on red lipstick and it was all over!”

The cars followed naturally. A lot of women, according to Leep, get into hot rods because they love the old music or the clothes and get turned on to the cars. For Leep, it happened while she lived behind an auto shop where friend Dallas Patterson worked. Leep woke up to the sound of air compressors.

“It was all location and timing,” said Leep, who would wander in to watch Patterson work. “I thought, ‘If I have access to this knowledge, I might as well learn something.’

“I worked on my own car but I had to use a book [at first],” Leep said. “It’s confusing as hell if you don’t have a car background.”

Little by little Leep got into car maintenance, modification, and culture.

“[The scene] is addicting,” she said. “You want to go to every function.”

One such function is the Classic Cruise Parade of Lights, Wednesday, December 7th in El Cajon’s Historic District. Hot rod owners park amidst vendors of vintage paraphernalia, rockabilly musicians, and fellow devotees – and most of these car owners are men.

Leep wants to change that. She and friend Tracy Caccavelli started brainstorming a car club for women in 2000 when Leep bought “Violette.”

“We want to park our cars together, not next to the boys,” said Leep. “[We want to] say, ‘yes, I can rebuild a carburetor and I [can] sand down a car. I don’t just ride with my boyfriend.’”

Leep also learned the hard way that men don’t necessarily know about cars themselves – another reason for women to have their own scene.

“I made the mistake of asking an ex[boyfriend] to lower my car” said Leep. “He did it incorrectly and it [was] dangerous for me to [ride] like that.”

It’s not easy to go your own way as a woman in the hot rod world, though, said Leep.

“It’s intimidating to be a girl and to take your car to some mechanic,” said Leep. “They look at you and say, ‘There’s a girl; we can take advantage of her.’”

Mustang owner Hillarie Goetz noticed the same thing.

“When I get parts for my [1965 Mustang], I always get looks,” said Goetz, 22. “People don’t understand a female working on classic cars and understanding what she’s doing.”

The Mustang was Goetz’s first vehicle, and the reason she started working on cars.

“I learned how to replace pumps, hoses, radiators, and other things,” said Goetz. “But it never fails when I take her[sic] out I get some comment. It’s usually, ‘Nice car. Is it your husband/boyfriend/father’s?”

Goetz stopped driving the Mustang because of rising gas prices, but, she said, there’s a sense of pride in knowing she can fix anything on it, no matter what others say.

Not all women who work on cars find the same attitudes Leep and Goetz have. Some, like Marlee Goodman, 37, get involved in classic cars and find respect – and an income.

Goodman and her grandfather started working on a 1962 Jeep CJ7 when she was 12. She started working a series of odd jobs and eventually stumbled into her current one: installing screens and rebuilding classic cars.

Goodman’s boss is a wiry man in his 60s, with chaotic grey hair and two days’ stubble. He chain-smokes, stepping over a cat, while approaching one of his 11 vehicles. They occupy every square foot of yard. Some are covered, lined up on the lawn; some have their guts in boxes, waiting to be reassembled once the body work is done.

Russ Brunstch’s screen business pays the bills; he and Goodman rebuild cars out of his Clairemont Mesa home for fun. Goodman has been his assistant since 2000. Nine [classic] cars, a house, a man, and three cats keep her plenty busy, she said.

“It’s a two-man operation,” she said. “I do the grunt work and he makes [the cars] pretty; I’m better at welding but he’s better at painting.”

Brunstch’s house sits just blocks from Clairemont Town Square, where car enthusiasts meet every fourth Saturday to show off, but even Brunstch’s prize-winning ’76 Corvette hasn’t made it there yet.

“I’ve never done shows [with his cars],” Goodman said, “but [we should] finish the [1932] Chrysler. It’s a definite classic.”

It took Goodman two weeks to scrub the rust off that Chrysler when they started on it. That, she said, was how Brunstch saw she wasn’t afraid of getting dirty.

Brunstch doesn’t need an employee year-round, but out of respect he keeps her employed. Although she’s gotten plenty of cat-calls driving Brunstch’s cars, Goodman said she’s also gotten more respect than Leep or Goetz have.

“If a woman walks in[to a parts store] with a head gasket,” said Goodman, “they don’t have a problem handing [her the parts].”

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On Photography and Graphic Design

The art world, for all its open-minded and revolutionary rhetoric, has not always been accepting of new media. Court painters during the medieval period were considered craftsmen instead of artists. Performance art met with hesitation and distrust. Photography, until fairly recently, was considered more of a craft than an art. The same has been true of graphic design – it was and is seen as a vocation by many, rather than a form of “fine art.” It is possible that graphic design is currently in the adolescence of its development; it is possible that the “commercial art” label will soon be replaced by widespread acceptance into galleries as well as the communications arena, much like painting, performance, and photography.

With photography as an example, one can see the various stages of development that have led to the medium’s acceptance as fine art. In several instances, such advances did not come without disrupting the status quo.

“In the nineteenth century a series of inventions in the reproduction of words and images had similarly far-reaching effects. The artist felt them especially. The perfection of photography by Daguerre, in 1839, was a simultaneous shock and challenge to the painter. Inexpensive color lithography (chromolithography), introduced in 1827, made it possible to reproduce a fairly wide range of colors and tones, especially in outdoor posters” (Feldman 148). As Edmund B. Feldman points out in The Artist: A Social History, these few small technological advances caused some very large ripples in the art world. Unfortunately, the ripples themselves wouldn’t be readily recognized as art until quite a while later.

With the Daguerreotype, photography brought to art an amazingly accurate recording device. Though many further developments would be necessary before the camera would be an accessible and convenient medium, this invention immediately began to change the face of portraiture, landscape painting, and other genres that required accuracy and precision, according to Philip B. Meggs’ A History of Graphic Design (137). Paintings that would have required several hours of labor and relatively great expense were effectively available from a photographer in considerably less time and for considerably less money – not to mention that these early photographs were more accurate than what even the most skilled of painters could produce.

Painter Francis Bacon once stated in an interview published in Art in Theory: 1900-2000 that, “photography has altered completely this whole thing of figurative painting” (Harrison 638). Photography allowed (and/or forced) painters to focus less on perspective and representation and more on their own artistic ideas. Photographs also took a fair bit of the portraiture market from painters (Meggs 142).

Osip Brik, in his essay “Photography versus Painting,” originally published in 1926, commented that “the photographer is enormously impressed by the fact that the painter does not work to commission but for himself, that paintings are presented in large exhibitions with varnishing days, catalogues, music, buffet food and speeches… and that such exhibitions are regarded as cultural events. All this confirms him in the idea that painting is true art, photography merely an insignificant craft” (Harrison 472).

Photographers did not receive the recognition of having their work in galleries as other artists did. They worked off commissions from patrons rather than from their own ideas and theories. Most photographic theory of that time was based on technical processes rather than creative ones.

But, “new forms of art are created by the canonization of peripheral forms,” according to Viktor Shklovsky, a Russian Formalist critic and novelist (Sontag 189). Indeed, who is to say that what is now not considered art won’t be better understood and accepted in the future?

As it happened, photography became gradually more welcomed in art, gaining considerable respect in the latter half of the twentieth century. “The customary separation of photography into a specialty medium with a discourse apart from the general course of contemporary art largely disappeared as more artists turned to the camera,” (Fineberg 384). In the late 1960s and early 1970s artists began to rely more on the camera to get their ideas to a broader audience, especially when working “in conceptual art, performance, temporary installations, and works in remote settings” (Fineberg 384).

“The aesthetic of photography also entered painting around 1970… Painters used opaque projectors, slides, and other mechanical aids to produce [images] that seemed technically precise and had [their] point of reference in photography (the reproduced image) rather than in nature” (Fineberg 384). Thus photography gradually won itself a place of recognition, as more and more artists became comfortable with the medium. Painting had moved far enough past the realms of precision and documentation to no longer feel threatened by a chemical process and a light-tight box.

Photographs became more and more creative and experimental as the technologies continued to advance. “With computer programs to alter photographs, the presumption of objectivity in photography is increasingly questioned… In the meantime photography has moved closer to the fictions of painting” (Fineberg 488). Now that photography had un-established itself as an unbiased journalistic medium, audiences could better understand the creative potential of it.

Photography had become a fine art.

Similar to photography, graphic design had its start outside the realm of the fine arts. Having evolved from the medieval illuminator to the Victorian poster designer to the illustrator to the modern graphic designer, it was difficult to separate graphic design from its commercial origins.

As Feldman points out, “the early perception of illustrators as, at most, artisans, was based on the fact that they ‘embellished’ a writer’s thought. Their craft had originated with the decorations for medieval manuscripts – decorations that were in no sense crucial for understanding the meanings of the words. The medieval scribe and the medieval illuminator were, of course, the same person. However, it was the word, the logos, that mattered most; the image was a lovely adornment of the word. The reunification of artist and scribe, of image and idea, took place only recently under the auspices of the graphic designer” (Feldman 148).

Just as the growth of photography was advanced by various technological developments and various social factors, so was illustration, and therefore graphic design. According to Feldman, “the growth of illustration in the nineteenth century was set in motion by technological, demographic, and political forces: improved methods of printing, a vast enlargement in the reading public, the evolution of publishing into a mass-consumer industry, and the democratic idea of bringing news, ideas, and visual stimulation to the general public… Yet no matter how talented, the illustrator could not claim the status of ‘high’ or ‘fine’ artist” (Feldman 150).

Fine art status was defined by the motivation for the work, just as it was for photography. Commissioned “craftsmen” were not going to be regarded as highly as those who answered to no one but their own will to create. “The focus of romantic art is with the artist. Illustrators, however, cannot afford that luxury. The emergence of the modern illustrator, followed by the professionalization of visual communication in the art of the graphic designer, has had revolutionary implications for business, industry, education, even the environment” (Feldman 165).

Referring to Norman Rockwell’s Triple Self Portrait, Feldman dubs it “a clever parable of the fine artist and the illustrator – as Rockwell saw their relationship. Fine artists, he seems to say, confront and announce who they are. Illustrators (who can be anyone they wish to be) are uncertain about their identities. They hide behind their creations” (Feldman 155). Even as one of the most recognized illustrators of his day, Rockwell did not consider himself a fine artist – his profession was not merited that level of respect. The irony lay in our appreciation of his work today.

However, “the [commercial] success of the illustrator and the poster artist leads to the profession of graphic design – the comprehensive art of visual communication in printed or electronically reproduced form. Graphic designers preside over a complete visual strategy embracing words, images, and their relations to particular publics… Formerly, writers and editors made the controlling decisions. They are still involved in graphic design, but it is now realized that effective communication of an idea requires sensitivity to the way a special public perceives that idea. And perception, like thinking, is mainly a visual process” (Feldman 161). The medieval role of the illuminator had been reversed. The word was no longer considered more important than the artwork, or the overall design of the page. While this afforded designers more creative control, they did not yet have the artistic standing of, say a painter or photographer.

“Until the Second World War, graphic design was better known in the United States as commercial art. Performed by printers and typesetters, it was more vocation than profession, more a reflection of the economic realities of a newly industrialized culture than an opportunity to engage the creative expression of an individual or an idea… Commercial art was a service industry” (Helfand 137). This visual medium was recognized for its effectiveness, but not yet for its place in the art realm.

“Fifty years ago illustrators would have been honored to exhibit in an art gallery, to see their work in museums. Today their successors in graphic design work at the cutting edge of visual art. The best designers are the shock troops of art’s avant garde. And the gallery painters and printmakers know it” (Feldman 166). Just as one can now find Rockwell’s work in museums across the globe, alongside photographers, graphic designers are occupying more gallery space than they used to.

Originally published in The New Republic, Jessica Helfand’s article “Paul Rand: the Modern Designer,” described how graphic design is so inextricably linked to the rest of the fine arts. “Graphic design is the most ubiquitous of all the arts. It responds to needs at once personal and public, embraces concerns both economic and ergonomic, and is informed by numerous disciplines including art and architecture, philosophy and ethics, literature and language, politics and performance… Graphic design is a popular art, a practical art, an applied art and an ancient art. Simply put, it is the art of visualizing ideas” (Helfand 137). What are the other media, but alternative methods for the same process? Should the commercial applications for graphic design continue to set the medium apart from these disciplines? That didn’t stop photography.

“Visual memory, the duration of sensory excitation, the connections between optical and tactile feelings, the processes of symbol formulation, sexual and educational influences on vision, subliminal perception, the stimulation of latent imagery, the interactions among media – all these factors impinge on the work of graphic designers. They are the tools and the objects of research conducted by specialists in graphics information. Let us call them artists” (Feldman 166)!

Works Cited

Feldman, Edmund B. The Artist: A Social History. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1995.

Fineberg, Jonathan. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood, eds. Art in Theory: 1900-2000. Malden: Blackwell, 2003.

Helfand, Jessica. Screen: Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture. 1st ed. New York: Princeton Architectural P, 2001.

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. 3rd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1998.

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. 3rd ed. New York: Picador, 1977.

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On the Outskirts: Marginalized Artists in the 1970s and 1980s

At the start of the 1970s two major groups were setting in motion the beginnings of their respective grand entrances to the art scene, both beginning in Southern California. Women artists and Chicano artists alike had been marginalized by the mainstream art world – but that was about to change. The 1970s brought about social upheavals for many different groups, and these two were no different.

Women had long been pushed into the domestic sphere of the arts, their work discounted as mere handcrafts. At this point in California, the Ferus Gallery artists were focusing on the perfect surfaces of finish fetish art, and Judy Chicago was, at this point, just “one of the boys.” When critics reviewed her work exhibited at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1969, they analyzed it solely for its technical aesthetic, completely missing the subtle feminist statements she was making, and after that Chicago began working to make a name for feminist art. In 1970, Chicago and many other women artists began working collaboratively, a concept almost unheard of in the mainstream art world, founding women-centered programs for educating women artists, like those begun at Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State University.

Women’s art work had previously been characterized primarily as domestic craft and given a status below the “high art” of men. Their work was emotionally charged and dealt with issues of human struggle, a concept that was taboo in the male-centered art world since society said men weren’t supposed to be emotional. Instead, mainstream art focused on a cool visual and technical aesthetic, leaving subject matter by the wayside. These new women’s art programs emphasized an integration of “high art” and “low art,” of finish fetish with tradition handcrafts, bringing women already skilled in the latter and with statements to make, into exhibition spaces that had long been missing them, and into spaces created solely for them.

These women collaborated on huge projects such as the Womanhouse installation at CalArts in 1972, an abandoned house transformed into a life-size diorama of women’s issues and concerns. The CalArts program, along with the feminist arts program at Fresno State, gave birth to many moving performance, installation, and “traditional” art media pieces in the years following the programs’ geneses. Possibly the most famous and controversial of these was Chicago’s own Dinner Party.

Dinner Party was a collaboration of over four hundred women in the construction of an installation that took from 1974 to 1979 to complete. It was a fusion of the male finish fetish aesthetic with the female crafts of china painting and embroidery, resulting in a mammoth three-sided table honoring thirty-nine historical women with place settings resembling nothing so much as thirty-nine individual vaginas. Since its completion, Dinner Party has not always been well received. Some critics have written this colossal effort off as kitsch rather than art. Some contemporary feminists now protest that the piece only serves to reinforce the body-based sexual stereotypes against women. Either way, the piece serves as an example of the sort of monumental effort women were making to finally be heard as artists and as people in the 1970s and 1980s.

Women weren’t the only group struggling against the mainstream at that time, however. Chicano culture in Southern California was emerging with a vengeance in the wake of the movements against the war in Vietnam, for the United Farm Workers, and for the students across the country. Much as socially conscience women at the time were realizing they had a cause of their own to champion, Chicanos were becoming more aware of their indigenous culture being swept under the collective rugs of the countries to either side of the border. But the indigenous culture of those living in that border region would not go quietly.

At the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s and 1980s, Chicanos in San Diego especially began focusing on educating their communities about the origins of their cultural identity, working on collaborative art works that integrated traditional themes and techniques with more mainstream ones. The establishment of groups such El Centro Cultural de la Raza and others “fostered an ongoing dialogue about the native cultures of the border region,” according to Philip Brookman in El Centro Cultural de la Raza: Fifteen Years. The muralists, sculptors, dancers, musicians, and poets of the Chicano Art movement were integrating their traditional culture into their work, but the galleries weren’t showing Chicano Art, so the artists had to find new exhibition venues and studio spaces.

Local storefronts, warehouses, and community and commercial spaces in and around the barrios of Logan Heights and Sherman Heights became makeshift galleries for these artists. One artist, painter Salvador Torres, got permission from the city of San Diego to temporarily use the abandoned Ford building in Balboa Park while working on large scale pieces, and soon after the building was the unofficial home of a large group of Chicano community activities. Eventually, the group did get permanent possession of a comparable space elsewhere in the park, but not without a struggle similar to that over the construction of Chicano Park.

The city seemed to consider this group as a cultural threat, and made several efforts to disrupt the communities in which they lived and worked. Chicano Park evolved out of a protest against the city’s placement of major freeways through the middle of the barrio, and the Ford building was reclaimed by the city with plans for an aerospace museum. The city eventually ceded a comparable building and funding for Chicanos in Balboa Park and Chicano Park was spared from becoming a California Highway Patrol parking lot, but not without occupations lasting several days for each site.

Artists such as Torres, the poet Alurista, Guillermo Aranda and Ruben de Anda, as well as scores of others, were integral in the organization of the community groups, but also in the realization of several large artistic projects. The interior mural on the “official” Centro Cultural de la Raza building, titled La Dualidad, was designed and organized by Aranda and de Anda and worked on periodically from 1971 through 1983. This was the first permanently displayed Chicano mural in San Diego. Once Chicano Park was established in the Fall of 1970, the community began claiming the space as their own by planting the area under the freeways, and in 1973, by beginning their murals on the many concrete pillars throughout the park. These murals were begun by Los Toltecas en Aztlan and Congreso Artistas en Aztlan, making the community truly theirs once again.

Several new gallery spaces were opened throughout California at this time as well. In San Fransisco one of the first Chicano cultural organizations opened the Galeria de la Raza for Chicano Art. Also, in 1973 UCLA hosted one of the first major Chicano exhibitions, entitled Yolteotl, and in 1974 the Galeria Poxteca opened here in Logan Heights. Though there was some heated controversy surrounding the emergence of the Chicano community in Southern California, this indigenous border culture has managed to establish itself alongside, though generally not in line with, the mainstream art community.

For both women and Chicanos alike, marginalization by the mainstream culture and art community was rebelled against during this tumultuous period only a few decades ago. Both groups had the task of asserting their cultural identities in an art world that had not yet shed its conservative and homogenizing skin. For women, it was an issue of breaking free of patriarchal definitions of what was worthy of being deemed “art,” as though men held a monopoly on the creative processes. For the Chicano community, they faced the task of reclaiming their indigenous border culture from being “whitewashed” or swallowed up altogether by the surrounding cultures of the US and Mexico. Finally, both groups managed to force the mainstream to recognize a redefinition of the nature of art outside of the cold analytical space of the traditional gallery.

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Performance Art, Pop Art, and Minimalism

The period spanning the late 1950s to the end of the 1970s gave rise to many an art movement, most of which were either a direct response to or a continuation of the work of the Abstract Expressionists. Some of these movements included Pop, Assemblage, “Happenings” and other forms of Performance Art, Minimalism, and Process Art. Three such categories will be discussed herein.

Performance Art took many forms during this period, evolving out of the theories of John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg in the 1950s into the Happenings and Performance Art centered in New York at the end of that decade and into the early 1960s, to Fluxus and the Nouveaux Realistes in Europe throughout the 1960s, and the work of Body Artists in California towards the 1970s. From Cage’s “event” at the Black Mountain College in 1952 sprung Allan Kaprow’s early Happenings in 1958 and 1959 and on.

Kaprow saw his work as stemming directly from that of Jackson Pollock, as a continuation of Abstract Expressionism, moving from the purely visual to include the remaining four senses. For most of these performance artists, there was a deep appreciation of the accidental, as there had been for the action painters.

The performances of Kaprow as well as those of Claes Oldenburg’s Ray Gun Theatre, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, and the Judson Dance Theatre were a way of calling attention to aspects of everyday life, as well as making the occasional radical proclamation. With Oldenburg’s work especially, it was a kind of precursor to his later works, and Pop Art’s use of mass media and culture as subject.

In Europe, Fluxus and the Nouveaux Realistes were born as a reaction against the expressionistic quality of Happenings. Key players of these loosely connected movements were Yves Klein, Joseph Beuys, Jean Tinguely, and Nam June Paik. The exception to this reaction was Tinguely, whose amalgamations of machine parts and comical mechanized choreography “painted abstract expressionist pictures” with their raucous motions, as in Homage to New York of 1960 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, tying his work definitively to Abstract Expressionism and therefore still to Kaprow’s Happenings. Otherwise, Fluxus performances were relatively minimal and generally apolitical with the exception of the occasional criticism of the art world. For example, Beuys’ performance of 1965, entitled How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare was pointing out the futility of trying to explain art.

In California towards the end of the 1960s and into the 1970s another type of Performance Art had taken hold – that of Body Art, inspired by the work of Viennese Actionists such as Hermann Nitsch and Rudolf Schwartzkogler, and involving the “intense bodily involvement” of the artist. In California there was Dennis Oppenheim, who “painted” his body by laying an object on himself and getting a sun burn around the object. There was also Chris Burden, known for exhibiting only the “artifacts” of a particular action, such as bloodied nails from Trans-fixed of 1974, claiming to have used those nails to affix his palms to the roof of a Volkswagen as though crucified on the car.

The idea of using mass media and culture moved from its more subtle manifestations in Performance Art to a movement of its own in Pop Art. As mentioned earlier, Oldenburg’s use of mass media objects as art would lead into his work as a Pop Artist and he was not the only one or the first to do so. For all of the Pop Artists, though, the focus had shifted from existentialism, or a concern with identity and philosophy, to semiotics, or a concern with the language of the medium.

In Europe in the early 1950s the term “pop art” was coined by the Independent Group, a breakaway from the Institute for Contemporary Art. Artists such as Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi, and Peter Blake were appropriating images from American advertising, as well as British art and mass media, and creating art with the goal of making European art less elitist and more egalitarian. They focused on the accessibility of British “high art” and were fascinated by American pop culture.

In the United States, Pop Artists weren’t as interested in the political side of the work – with the exception of Rosenquist in his later works – but more in the emergence of this newly consumerist culture they lived in. They called attention to the alienation of mass media by presenting images from everyday life in a cool dispassionate manner. Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Roy Lichtenstein, and James Rosenquist dominated the scene in New York, culling images from advertisement and film and magazines to play upon the shallow quality of the media itself. Warhol exemplified the recent development of the celebrity art scene, becoming as famous and seemingly shallow as the images he used.

With various exhibitions opening at the Castelli Gallery or the Janis Gallery in New York, and at Ferus in Los Angeles, Pop was becoming a popular interest across the nation. The art world, however, didn’t welcome the movement so readily. The Abstract Expressionists and established critics alike were furious with the inclusion of mass media and mechanized production as “art” but the media and fashion industries were quickly sold with the emergence of the aforementioned celebrity scene.

With the work of the Pop Artists in New York, there was a tendency toward a very mechanical handling of the materials. Warhol used photo silk-screening methods. Lichtenstein’s half-tone color fields were straight out of popular comic books and printing press techniques. For the most part, these artists all had a cool, crisp handling of materials that left no room for expressionistic tendencies.

In California, the influence of Zen and Taoism came through in the Pop movement, as well as the influence of the Beat culture and the Assemblage aesthetic. On the West Coast artists escaped the alienation inherent in mass culture by retreating into their own consciousness, similar to the Abstract Expressionists, but without the abandonment of figuration. Funk Artists such as Joan Brown and Manuel Neri used expressionist paint handling that showed of the influence of Willem DeKooning and Francis Bacon. Jess Collins and Bruce Conner, as well as Brown and many other West Coast Pop Artists assembled collages from various materials, but with a surrealist quality not present in the work of the New York artists. These works were an analysis of mass culture but also of the wonder of everyday objects. The Beatnik scene and the antiwar movement also figured heavily into the California Pop Art in the 1960s.

Minimalism was prominent at the end of the 1950s and through the 1960s, starkly contrasting Abstract Expressionism’s romanticism with its mechanical polished physicality. The work was about the object and the object alone as art. Its manifestation was a cold, crisp, generally geometric regularity, with little or no evidence of the artists’ touch. Indeed, minimalists such as Don Judd, Frank Stella, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin were more concerned with being literal than with reflecting any aspect of the culture. It was a movement that took Greenbergian formalism to an extreme. To paraphrase Judd, art history was a progression and it could be reasoned that Abstract Expressionism had become outmoded.

Ironically, Greenberg discounted the movement as contrived and deduced, rather than “felt or discovered.” It was seen by some as aggressively authoritarian in nature. Lucy Lippard championed the minimalists, however, praising their attack on the notion of boredom and repetition in art. The work was highly theoretical, with very simple pieces requiring grand explanations as to the reasoning of the artist – with the focus on physicality and not content, and therefore not culture or politics or any of the other issues raised by the other movements discussed earlier.

All three of these movements form a quasi-linear progression from Abstract Expressionism, and all three – as well as the remaining movements of the time period – came out of or in reaction to Abstract Expressionism. In addition, all three managed to redefine what was accepted as “art.” For Pop it was the incorporation of mass media images and everyday materials, following in Jasper Johns’ and Robert Rauschenberg’s footsteps. For the various forms of Performance Art it was a matter of redefining the line between art and theatre, or blurring that line altogether, a la John Cage. For Minimalism it was art as object as object. It was the formal reduction of the medium into the most basic and repetitive of shapes – taking Greenbergian formalism to its extreme.

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Past in Reverse: Contemporary Art of East Asia

According to www.dictionary.com, the term globalization means “growth to a global or worldwide scale,” from the root word globalize, which means “to make global or worldwide in scope or application.” This concept was precisely the subject of the Past in Reverse exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art – an exhibition which featured over twenty artists from various East Asian countries whose works focused on the relationship of this concept of globalization, or in some cases, more aptly called Westernization, to their own traditional cultures. Four such artists will be discussed in this paper.

Wang Qingsong’s photographs connect the past to the present in several ways. His piece entitled Knick Knack Peddler is scaled to evoke traditional hand scrolls, and depicts a seemingly typical traditional scene. Similar to an historical piece in the exhibition depicting a basket peddler, Qingsong’s photograph shows a peddler (actually the artist with a few blacked-out teeth) with his wares surrounded by children and a few parents in exaggerated traditional costume. The primary difference here, though, is that this peddler is selling items from the global market, such as Coca-Cola, candy, toys, and other imported and equally useless and consumerist goods. The traditional idea of a peddler bringing useful things to small towns has been convoluted by modern consumerism. Ironically, the artist does not exclude himself from this market culture, and in fact has postcards of his own work to sell. By looking into the camera lens in Peddler, the artist seems to be peddling to the viewer the idea that his culture has been significantly diluted by the influence of the Western global economy, and daring the viewer to look closer at the effects of such globalization.

Qingsong’s other photographs in the exhibition are of a similar tone, but employ traditional flower arrangement and the peony, China’s national flower and a symbol for prosperity (according to the artist’s statement), to convey the message. At first glance, this series of large scale digital photographs appears to be of one’s garden-variety flower arrangements set into a rock base, but actually these “flowers” are constructed of slices of raw meat. The second half of this series was a re-shoot of these arrangements after they had been frozen for a week, and the decay was beginning to be evident.

According to the artist’s statement on his website, http://www.wangqingsong.com/html/index.htm, these works depict “a transition from prosperity to decay and [his hope is] to freeze such materialistic decadence made out of fleshy desires.” His work is a statement against what he sees as the dissolving of his traditional culture into the global sweep of Western consumerism.

Another artist in the exhibition was painter Hee-Jeong Jang. Her work is a combination of traditional floral motifs, indeed the same motifs as in Qingsong’s peony photographs, painted on stitched-together scraps of mass-produced western floral fabrics, assembled into a sort of make-shift canvas. She sews these pieces together and then paints certain aspects from each pattern, partially obscuring the rest in a misty haze reminiscent of the traditional motif. According to a review of the exhibition by the Union-Tribune, Jang’s work “is a running metaphor for the way the East seeps into the West and vice versa” (http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041111/news_lz1w11art.html). She incorporates modern cheapened versions of a tradition into a rendering of that tradition itself, but each is a part of the other.

According to the San Diego Museum of Art’s quarterly publication which included this exhibition, Jang’s work also evokes European vanitas in her work, as well as the traditional folk painting mentioned above. These vanitas were still-life paintings typical of art of the seventeenth century in the Netherlands, intended to symbolize the transient nature of human life and of “earthly pleasures and achievements” (www.artlex.com). With Jang’s work, it would appear that mass production and the global economy are inextricably linked to this sense of futility and isolation common among the global population. Her work manages to point out the relationship between the beautiful and traditional and the modern and meaningless and how they have become inseparable within the marketplace.

Cai Guo-Quang’s public events seem to take on a more positive note than the works of the two artists mentioned above. His work has been to produce a traditional and very simple Chinese landscape, namely a waterfall, by using, for one event a traditional material in a non-traditional method, and for the second modern aircraft. His waterfall was made at the Miramar Air Show this October by two skywriter planes, and again at an event in front of the San Diego Museum of Art where he ignited a trail of gunpowder to mark a large sheet of paper with the same design.

The decision to use gunpowder refers not only to the fact that the material was invented by the Chinese hundreds of years ago, but also to the constant need for new artistic media, according to a review by the Union Tribune (http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20041111/news_lz1w11art.html). Guo-Quang’s use of gunpowder differs from the traditional firecrackers, however, in that he uses it as a drawing medium – the charred trails left on the paper become his lines. Also, the use of modern western aircraft as yet another medium in the other production of this traditional motif further connects his work to both the past and the present. Guo-Quang’s work seems more to celebrate the expanding possibilities brought about by global technologies than to criticize as do the other two artists mentioned, but his work does not deny that changes have been brought about by globalization.

The last of the several artists to be discussed is Michael Lin, whose architectural paintings, or installation-type pieces, evoke traditional Taiwanese wedding linens in their bright floral patterns. Lin’s piece in this exhibition was a large expanse of wood flooring painted with a large scale version of these traditional floral prints, with a few matching pillows strewn across it. The idea behind the piece was for the audience to interact with the space by walking across, sitting on, or lying on it. According to the museum’s provided text on the piece, Lin’s work is meant to “domesticate public space,” and brings the traditions of Taiwanese hand-crafts to large metropolitan arenas. One might venture to say that Lin’s work suggests that the integration of traditional culture can bring comfort in the chaos of modern life. Modern materials in a modern setting have been employed to pay homage to a ceremonial and traditional craft.

The remaining eighteen artists featured in the exhibition explore similar themes surrounding the effects of globalization on their own individual traditions, making for an effective and telling conglomeration of work. The exhibition had its impact on me, in that I now see East Asia as being much more connected to the western world than I had previously. I used to see Asia as though the Japanese isolationism of old were still intact, not to mention applicable to all of the cultures of the region. Even though I frequently saw examples of Western clothing integrated into modern eastern society through film and other media, I didn’t realize just how much of an impact Western consumerist culture had until this exhibition. I assumed that the traditions of those cultures had been better preserved by the general population than our own diverse Western background has been, and I suppose I envied them that. This exhibition, however, has helped me to see that for most East Asian people, the situation is not so different from that of the West – except that we seem to responsible for that corrosion. Our competitive business culture and capitalism have managed to pervade these several cultures that started out so vastly different from our own, and to replace many of their traditions. Many of these artists have managed to depict just how negative that permeation’s effects have been overall, and one can hope this exhibition is as eye-opening for others as it was for me.

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Bad Examples From Hollywood

Hollywood talks itself up as this great self-aware role-model machine. Myriad famous people are always quipping about being aware of how much influence they wield and trying to set a good example. I’ve noticed, though, that Hollywood is good at perpetuating stereotypes when no one’s looking.

I work in the video rental industry so I see a lot of cover boxes and posters. I’m studying graphic design so I tend to notice said movie paraphernalia. I have frequently observed that on a given cover (a term which I will use to refer interchangeably to the box and the promotional poster as they are often nearly identical) the order in which the actors are credited is in no way egalitarian.

Women and men of color are quite often listed after white men, even when their characters are more important in the context of the film or their photos are more prominent in the cover art. Occasionally, the various actors’ “star power” will be a factor in the order – for example, Samuel L. Jackson’s billing is often first – but even that doesn’t always account for it. Women or black men important to the film who are pictured on the cover sometimes are not even listed at all, never mind second billing.

To give an example or three or four, for the cover of Far From Heaven, the black actor, Dennis Haybert, is listed last, although his character in the film is just as prominent, or more so, than Dennis Quaid’s. Haybert is also not even pictured on the cover, only Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid are. For Dark Blue, the story centers around Kurt Russell and Ving Rhames, but Rhames isn’t mentioned or pictured at all, only Russell.

In the film 21 Grams, all three of the leads could be considered of equal importance. If anything, Naomi Watts’ character would be the pivotal one, I suppose. On the cover they are pictured from top to bottom in this order: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio del Toro. The credits are given in this order, however: Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro, Naomi Watts. Both ways, the white male is given first billing, then the woman and the “ethnic” man are listed second or third, even though they are all on just about equal footing in the context of the story.

The same appears to be true for 8 Mile, in which the billing is (from left to right) Eminem, Kim Bassinger, Brittany Murphy, and Mekhi Phiffer (the only black man credited). As far as I can say, all three of the latter actors had about equal roles in the film. Requiem for a Dream is another culprit, where Marlon Wayans is listed last of the four key players.

Granted there are some exceptions where the designer had listed the actors according to their depiction, left to right, etc, such as for S.W.A.T., or Runaway Jury. For the most part however, it is absolutely astounding how frequently Hollywood has perpetuated, however subtly, the ideology of white male supremacy through these movie posters and cover boxes.

Although such examples may be subtle to those unaware of the consequences, to me they stand out as an example of bell hooks’ theory of the interconnectedness of all forms of oppression. It’s either the women or the colored men or both whom are often given second billing on these promotional pieces. And just think – these are publicity tools. These are posters and covers meant to advertise, meant to be seen. How does one more effectively spread this subtle perpetuation of supremacy?

Why should Hollywood not be held responsible for the example it is setting on a daily basis? Why not, if, as I am sure those in charge would claim, the billings are random at best, come up with some standardized way of crediting actors on such covers? Names could be listed alphabetically by the actors’ last names. They could be listed according to the pictures on the cover, from left to right as some films have done.

Then of course, if we want to work in this “star power” idea that seems to be so prevalent in Hollywood, we could always list them according to how much each was paid for the film, no?

Ah, but then we’d probably run into the same problems because of that blasted wage gap.

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It’s in the Wording

Recently I’ve begun noticing that sexism isn’t just in the way we act, but in how we make use of our language. There are several examples of phrases that I have come across lately that illustrate our culture’s views of the sexes and the roles proscribed to each. These constructs of language serve primarily to reinforce the notion that one group is superior to the other, to reinforce “the Western philosophical notion of hierarchical rule and coercive authority,” according to bell hooks.

One such phrase that I have heard time and again is that “so-and-so had the balls to do such-and-such.” Why should men’s genitalia be significant in whether or not someone is brave enough or determined enough to do something? Why are men’s genitalia linked to ability and strength and perseverance? The problem being that our culture in general does not equate women’s bodies with any of these qualities, but even so, why should we not use “guts” more often that “balls?” Why should we constantly be reiterating the idea that men are these qualities? Why not, if we’re going to refer to a body part, use one that is possessed by both genders?

Here, hooks might argue that putting ourselves on equal footing with men via this change in terminology still would not be enough. In response to this, several women I know have taken to using the term “ovaries” instead of “balls” in such situations, and I have noticed that this causes people pause when they hear it. They are taken aback by hearing the opposite of what they are expecting, and maybe – just maybe – it causes them to think about the origins of the predominant phrasing. I suppose one can only hope, right?

In addition, women are almost never referred to as women. Clothing companies predominantly label departments as “guys’” and “girls’,” but not “boys’,” or “young men’s” and “juniors’,” “men’s” and “ladies.” Why are we never called “women?” (The only time I have seen a department labeled “women’s” was when they were referring to so-called “plus sizes.”) In terms of these labels, women are not allowed to grow up. We are referred to as everything except women in the hopes that we will learn to conform to these labels, that we will continue to be subordinate to men, that we will be socialized to think that we are supposed to be small and helpless like children. Our culture sees calling a grown male “boy” as utterly insulting, but has no qualms about referring to a grown woman as “girl.” That’s considered normal, polite, or flattering even. Referring to a woman as a “lady,” in my opinion, is no better. It implies that she is expected to uphold all of the idealized qualities of a lady – to be quiet, docile, and obedient.

I see no ladies here.

hooks also discusses our definitions of family and parenthood and the idea that we reaffirm the “central tenets of male supremacist ideology” when we use terminology that suggests that women are better suited to family life and the domestic sphere. She talks of (and I have seen examples of) our language reinforcing the “stereotypical sexist notion that women are inherently better suited to parent” by saying that a good father is being “maternal” or that, to use one of her examples, a little boy acting the role of a caring parent with his dolls is being “maternal.”

In addition, she discusses the actual dictionary definitions of “father” and “mother” (and I have looked into these myself) and the implications of each. According to www.dictionary.com, to father, is to “To create, found, or originate, or to acknowledge responsibility for.” To mother is to “to give birth to; create and produce, or to watch over, nourish, and protect maternally.” Both these definitions support the notion that it is primarily mothers who are responsible for nurturing and care taking, which as hooks argues, just reinforces the ideals of patriarchal rule.

This usage of our language is dangerous to feminism’s cause and to the way in which women in our society are viewed, and it is details such as these that make oppression so difficult to eradicate. If we are not able to recognize that which perpetuates the process, we will not be able to rid ourselves of the effects. I have also noticed that people in general have no idea of the implications of their speech – it is just the way that things are said – and that is the worst aspect of all.

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Radical Notions

I’m sure it’s rather obvious, but I’ll go ahead and say it anyway. I’m a feminist. Wait, where are you going? That’s not as bad a word as it seems. No, really, come back, I won’t bite (hard). Good, now let me start over. I’m a feminist. I believe in the equality of women and men, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to choose what to do or not to do with my body, and so and so forth, yada, yada, yada. That doesn’t sound so scary now, does it? No, it doesn’t.

Now, that you’re not so afraid of me, allow me to correct a few notions people seem to have. I’m not some raging bitch with a vendetta against all men, only a select few, and I assure you, they deserve everything they get. Stop looking at me like that. I’m not out to overthrow society as a whole, only the inherently oppressive aspects of it. Wait, that is all of it. Okay, ignore that last part. I’m not a dyke, although I occasionally may dress the part, a femi-nazi, although I won’t hesitate to confront someone about his actions, or a battered “domestic engineer.” I carry a knife, but that doesn’t mean I’m radical and violent, just like carrying a book doesn’t make people necessarily smart. And I’m sure you’ve met people who’re great examples of just that. I’m just a woman like all the rest, but I decided I didn’t feel like taking shit.

See, feminism isn’t nearly as frightening as it has been made to sound. It’s just that oh-so-radical notion that women are people. So, help spread the word, the idea, and the facts about how women are entitled to everything men are. Or do I have to add a few of you to my list of grudges?

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Fence Sitting: Religious or Spiritual Education?

For every debate, it seems there’s always someone stuck in the middle, someone who just can’t separate the issues into one black and one white side. When it comes to taking sides between Svi Shapiro and James Moffett, that person is yours truly – to a certain degree, anyway. Shapiro, in his essay A Parent’s Dilemma: Public vs. Jewish Education, argues for a religious-based education in a society where he believes the free market has destroyed the public’s values and sense of community, while Moffett, in Censorship and Spiritual Education, discusses a multicultural curriculum for the diverse world in which we live, and the necessity of such understanding in order to feel like part of a community. I have to admit that I agree with them both, although with neither author entirely.

While Shapiro discusses the benefits of a religious education, Moffett suggests a “spiritual” one, while defining spirituality as something wholly different from religion. Moffett asserts that spirituality “is the perception of oneness behind the plurality of things, peoples, and other forms… The supreme identification, of oneself with the One, brings about that reunion toward which religions work at the same time that it makes morality apply beyond the in-group to the world at large.” One must understand this distinction in order to evaluate each author’s argument and to see each argument’s relevance to one’s life.

Moffett advocates teaching children to have a sense of the rest of the world and to feel a part of that “whole,” and his method of preference lies within a multicultural education, rather than a particularly religious education. “However divinely inspired, any religion partakes of a certain civilization, functions through human institutions, and is therefore, culturally biased.” That bias is precisely what makes it so difficult for a religious education to be useful to its recipient in as diverse a society as we have here in America.

Children should be taught about all different cultures, and the inherent values of each in order to make them more understanding of the world in which they live. Moffett argues that stronger morality and community will result from this kind of understanding, “because the more that people identify with others, the better they act toward them.” Isn’t that what parents want for their children anyway, for them to be well acclimated to and accepting of the diversity all around them? Things might not be that simple, according to Moffett, who observed, in his dealings with fundamentalist protesters in West Virginia, that many parents are actually afraid that if their children learn of ways other than those of their families, they will abandon what they were taught at home. Well, granted it is a frightening idea that one’s children could possibly reject the cultural influence of the parent, although it is not as likely as one might like to think. Parents should learn to be more confident in the fact that they have passed on part of themselves, since their culture will be “transmitted” more through everyday life than through the school systems anyway, and realize what benefits lie in teaching their children about the rest of the world’s, or even the rest of the country’s, ways.

In this I agree with Moffett, that one needs to be educated in the ways of the other peoples around them in order to properly and peacefully function within society. However, children have very little basis for this kind of deeper cultural understanding without previous religious or spiritual influence, which is where my partial agreement with Shapiro comes into play. When children are younger, they do need to learn the kind of cultural identity that he advocates, especially in a culture which “continues to foster self-interest and a lack of concern for the common good…where the market place alone is the arbiter of economic investment and social values.”

Because of the impersonality of modern society, Shapiro argues for a religious education for his daughter, wanting to provide her with a certain richness in her everyday activities, which is something all people seem to struggle for today. He points out that denying her the public education and the multicultural curriculum that goes with it could breed a more narrow mind-set, but he feels that the risk of such, when countered by the intensity of a religious education outweighs the “thin” overview of the world which is provided in the public schools.

Public schools do teach too little about too much, it seems, rather than focusing on fewer subjects with more intensity, but the hope is to spark a child’s interest in all fields of study, and all aspects of themselves, while still leaving something left for discovery. Shapiro doesn’t seem to see this widespread education as something his daughter can utilize and decides to continue to send her to a Jewish school where her faith will be nurtured more than her sense of her place within the world, which will become a more crucial issue as she matures.

Children should be given a solid spiritual foundation upon which to stand, but when such focused and potentially biased schooling is continued for too long, the likely result is definitely an ignorance of the rest of the world and possibly a prejudiced outlook toward others. I agree with Shapiro’s wish for the well being of his daughter’s cultural identity, but what Shapiro doesn’t realize is that later in her life, that identity will only have meaning when placed into a more global context. Therefore, Shapiro’s educational views only apply to the education of younger children, who are more in need of a cultural foundation, which can certainly be found via religion, but once that is established, children must be educated on a much broader scope. At that point, the child should be transitioned from learning about himself or herself and his or her background to learning about the many different peoples of the world.

In this way children can begin to locate their place within the whole of society and the world. They can identify with other cultures via some common teachings and/or practices, and establish within their own minds the inherent values of other cultures, as well as begin to define which group they personally fit into. Children may not always decide that they fit into the same niche as their parents, but, as was mentioned before, parents should be secure enough to realize that children will always retain at least one, if not many of the principles they were raised with. Allow them to explore, for the children will be that much more at peace with themselves and the world for the experience.

The methods suggested by Moffett better suit the education of older children than younger children. I would argue for this type of broader education, but not before children obtain some sort of foundation of their own through a more focused, and possibly religious educational program. Without a religious or spiritual upbringing, I don’t feel that children can fully appreciate learning about other cultures. They would have no basis against which to measure what they learn about these other peoples. It is not that children should be enabled to judge the worth of other cultures, but without a standard already in place, they will not be able to see the true value in the practices cherished by other people. In this aspect I agree with Shapiro in the need for a religious education, although only for younger children.

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A Parent’s Dilemma: Public vs. Jewish Education

The time had come far too soon for the author to decide between public education and Jewish education for his daughter. There is always the danger of one person’s individuality being lost in the grand scale of “moral, ideological, and political considerations,” but a parent cannot ignore the needs of the child just for the parent’s own concerns. The author lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, a somewhat conservative middle class area where the small Jewish community is “well-established and comfortable.”

Being Jewish in Greensboro is definitely a minority experience, but it is much more accepted than in other areas. The Jewish day school his daughter attends teaches traditional values and she has become very comfortable there. The decision in her school had to do with not only wanting to see her embrace and continue the Jewish tradition, but also for her to have that richness in her daily life. Support for politics that destroy public institutions goes hand in hand with the hostility toward the state’s “impersonality, inefficiency, and waste;” this perception has caused the Right to “gut” nearly everything with public in its name. Part of this assault is what “lionizes” the marketplace and cuts social supports for “the elderly, children, the unemployed, the poor, and the sick.”

The marketplace needs to be toned down because its importance is causing our culture to promote self-interest over the common good. “For all of its flaws, the state embodies some notion of a shared purpose; its ultimate client purports to be the public good, not simply the desirous ego.” Ironically, the conservatives who speak most against the decline of community have also been the ones to pursue the most freedoms in the marketplace. People only react when cuts in benefits hit home; the market has created a world where companies no longer feel any obligation to their “workers, consumers, or community.” But in spite of all of this, people still want a society with a strong sense of the common good. This struggle is most focused around public education, which is essential for a “democratic civil society.”

The “current crisis of democracy” is related to the lack of places for people to have meaningful critical conversation. Unfortunately, public schools are far from being what they were supposed to be and are still riddled with dividing lines of race, class, and resources. Public schools act as mirrors to the divisions within society. While public schools are supposed to level the playing ground for students, they actually tend to magnify the advantages of some and the disadvantages of others. Schooling doesn’t generally mean real learning, but rather regurgitating miscellaneous facts, and the underlying emphasis on success and therefore competition destroys any semblance of community within the school.

The “withdrawal of the middle class from public institutions” is part of the reason those institutions are declining – those provided by the public are seen to represent the poor and the standards of those in the private sector are much higher. In deciding whether to send his daughter to public school, the author must consider his own responsibility in such a withdrawal, and his commitment to those public institutions. How does one “reconcile a commitment to public education with the need to recognize and affirm cultural, religious, or other differences?” People increasingly realize how public education refuses to recognize the contributions of people from outside our cultural definitions. Even so, multicultural awareness has become trivialized, and the differences that make different peoples special is only taught superficially.

A multicultural education is rather “thin,” whereas the type of education received at a Jewish school would color his daughter’s entire life. Only an environment thick with Jewish culture can instill in a person a commitment to “Jewish life and continuity.” This kind of intense experience, however, could foster narrow-mindedness. They teach social responsibility at Jewish day schools, but they are also a very sheltered community. Critics observe postmodern society as one in which all kinds of barriers have collapsed, and that we are in an age of “unfixity, uncertainty, and flux.” This is certainly a good thing, but it comes at a price of “traumatic consequences for the young.” There is a strong desire for discipline in raising the young because of a strong sense of instability in terms of “place, family, and normative communities.”

Talk of discipline, values, and tradition are not just a conservative view anymore as parents struggle to raise their children in a society where suicide, drug abuse, and depression, among others, reign amid “cynical detachment from social institutions.” In the midst of this, Jewish schooling offers a concrete sense of identity in the long Jewish history of “for a world of justice and freedom,” and of being excluded. “Such identification is one of connectedness to and enduring moral and spiritual vision.” Jewish orthodoxy can be rigid but it seeks to make everyday life sacred. “It is in this synthesis of social responsibility and joyful mindfulness that we can find the beginnings of a meaningful response to the rampant cynicism and nihilism of our culture.” The school offers only limited ability to question and be critical, and it is important for people to be critical thinkers, but it is also important for them to be taught that the world can be changed.

Without rootedness and affirmation there is only apathy and cynicism. The Right is correct that people need discipline, only not that “of an obedient drone,” but the structure gained from responsibility and participation. Everyone needs to find a way to commit in an uncertain world of uncertain beliefs and principles such as ours. The author’s concern with his daughter’s Jewish education is not that he wishes her to be able to practice all of the rituals and such, but that she becomes more aware of the “worth and dignity of all the lives that share our world.” Even so, the author worries that such a choice will encourage others to simply become more separatist, rather than concerned with the world at large.

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Censorship and a Spiritual Education

Morality and religion, which “function through human institutions,” are inherently culturally biased and focus largely on a particular group of people. Spirituality is a connection to the whole, rather than just to one group, and an education in such can achieve generally the same goals as religious teachings, although with more emphasis on plurality than on any single ideal.

American schools wrestle with this issue in choosing a curriculum; the most significant controversy over something such as textbooks having taken place in Kanawha County, West Virginia in 1974. Protesters kept their children from beginning school that year while they picketed the schools, their actions shadowed by sympathetic workers from various other occupations. Although the school board agreed to pull the books in question for review, protesters became more extremist, firebombing elementary schools and “roughing up” reporters, for example. The board ended up approving all but the most controversial of the books and the protests eventually died out after state troopers were allowed to intervene.

The author interviewed several of these protesters, analyzing their criticisms of the various books and found that what was most important to these people was their religious beliefs. It turned out that the protesters were very much afraid of their children being “kidnapped by voices from other milieus and ideologies,” and felt threatened by multicultural studies, open-ended discussion, et cetera. They objected to course material having anything to do with people outside of their own reference group, differences namely characterized by ethnicity, complaining that their own culture was not being passed on, but one must contemplate whose culture it is that should be passed on to such a diverse nation.

Protesters claimed that the books attacked authoritative figures, namely that of the family. These accusations were simply part of the struggle to determine if it should be the family or the school system that is blamed for “problem” children and the troubles of society. The protesters would not allow modernizations of religious stories, calling them blasphemous, or personal accounts of history, such as the Vietnam War, saying that such selections were only included to make students feel guilty. The real issue here was self-examination, which was resisted via the term “invasion of privacy;” the protesters preferred to continue to point fingers rather than looking in the mirror.

“Know thyself” should be first and foremost the focus of school curricula, for even concepts such as good citizenship and productivity would follow from personal development. Morbidity and negativity in literature were also targeted because the protesters denied the idea of such issues being a part of themselves. The case made by the censors for such exclusions dealt with the idea of focusing only on the positive. Even though literature deals with the “horrors” of self-examination, if works are not read too shallowly, they can still be viewed as “gospel” when the reader manages to put imagination into the reading. Religious education has been gradually replaced by English education, and the fundamentalist protesters are right to want to hold on to the spiritual education, and that society sees spirituality and religion as one in the same while it shies from both, but the fundamentalists cannot bring spirituality back into the classroom by restricting reading.

Spirituality can be restored by withdrawing the control over the students, such as by granting much more freedom in what students choose to read and in how they interact with others. Students should be negotiating reading materials for their own individual curricula, rather than faculty choosing one for a diverse population, which would not only undermine the practice of censorship but would also begin educating students spiritually. Social boundaries also restrict knowledge, understanding and spirituality, while learning on a much broader scope helps to overcome these limitations.

People tend to feel that self-identity depends upon one’s close-knit reference group, and they shut out anything that could potentially alter that identification, censoring themselves in the process. Literacy is feared because it is able to overcome cultural barriers, causing society to fear “transmitting” any more than one culture, anything other than one’s own, via literature. Culture is passed on in our daily lives rather than taught, so putting restrictions on things such as great books does nothing except keep culture from being added to as it is passed along. People are at war with one another because they try so desperately to pass on their ways at the expense of others’ ideas; they are trying to create conformity rather than unity. The perpetuation of culture lies in teaching the next generations to think for themselves so that they can help the culture to evolve, and if such is not allowed, that culture will eventually fall into extinction.

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Opportunity Masking Reality

It seems to me that every generation has to have something or another to complain about. Generally speaking, each will gripe about all of the other generations at least once, if not much more frequently. Our parents’ generation talks about everything that our generation is lacking, and our grandparents’ generation is equally negative in regards to our parents’ generation. Reg Theriault discusses just such laments in his article “Old Blue Collars, Young Blue Collars, and That Little Place You’re Going to Get in the Country,” from his book, How to Tell When You’re Tired: A Brief Examination of Work. He brings up the age-old idea that “kids don’t want to work anymore.” Is such an assertion reality, or is it just the right of every “old-timer,” as Theriault deemed the older generations, to think they are superior to younger people? In order to determine that, one must first examine those making such a statement.

According to Fredric N. Fields, a writer for the Boston-based periodical Inc, the generation that grew up around the time of the depression and World War II possesses “skills, experience, reliability, and dedication… An older workforce is more stable, productive, and satisfied than its younger counterparts… Older workers have a stronger work ethic than younger workers because they remember…times when many Americans experienced deprivation.” To put it simply, two generations ago people truly knew the value of hard work because it was absolutely necessary for survival, not just for success and happiness and prosperity and all of those pretty little words people are so enthusiastic about today. Theriault points out that people of the older generation have accepted “that it easier to do the job than fight it. As you grow older working, work becomes your ‘thing,’ and you do it with somewhat less resistance.” As the economy improved and the “Baby Boomers,” our parents, were born, more and more opportunities arose and those who had not yet accepted work, mainly in the sense of manual labor, as their “thing” tended to blaze knew trails, finding ways of making a living in a different fashion from that of their parents.

The Boomers were “better educated, more articulate, and aware of the power of networking… [They felt] ‘entitled’ to stimulating work. They value[d] self-expression and fulfillment more than security, status, and power.” Advances in technology led to new fields and, with them, new job opportunities, as well as a need for creativity, entrepreneurship, et cetera. This new generation was more interested in learning new skills and training for new jobs in order to “ensure their upward mobility,” because the focus had shifted from survival to success, and people were eager to climb that corporate ladder. Along with all of these shifts in technology and the job market in general, came changes in the way that people did business. The resulting system, which is still in use today, is one with “no mutual respect between management and labor.” Boomers still wanted to work, but they wanted to do so in a very different manner from their parents. People wanted to run their own companies and the “workingman,” to use Theriault’s term, suddenly sat much lower on the totem pole. Companies moved overseas or to other cities where “the labor was cheaper,” producing the ever-present monster that we call downsizing. “The result is a system where the worker has no sense of security and no incentive because he could be let go tomorrow,” which leads to exceptionally high levels of stress in the American business world and a generation transformed from the largest group of infants to the largest group of workaholics.

And, how, one might ask, does any of this have to do with whether or not it’s true that kids don’t want to work today? Well, all of the pressure around keeping a job and the stress that naturally accompanies that contributes to this image that our generation has of the way the working world works. We see our parent’s generation constantly under large quantities of stress and people changing jobs continually, whether because of downsizing or personal dissatisfaction, and we conclude that whatever job we take on is only a temporary thing, but our “work ethic,” if you will, isn’t much different from that of our predecessors – we still need to work. We also feel that need to work at a very early age – most kids have at least some informal work experience by the time they are twelve, and 64 percent have informal jobs by the age of fifteen – but we simply aren’t required to remain in a position that we dislike.

It is because of this constant movement between jobs that anyone older than the Boomers sees us as not fickle and lazy and so on, but to quote Arthur P. “Jay” DiGeronimo, president of Victory Super Markets, “young adults today aren’t very different from previous generations, except that now they have more opportunities” (Beaudette 2).

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On Noam Chomsky

The other day I saw the words CHOMSKY KNOWS scratched into the wall of a toilet stall. This is how word of Noam Chomsky tends to spread: you hear the guy, your life changes and you share the news however you can. (7, 1)

While sitting in a café, I saw a young woman walk by in a denim jacket. On the back she had written with bright-colored markers the imperative, READ CHOMSKY. (2, 2)

One would imagine that a man whom some people are as fanatical about as Noam Chomsky would be considered a near-celebrity, or at least someone whom most people have heard of. Why, then, is his name so unfamiliar to most Americans? Well, for the same reasons that the genocide in East Timor is so virtually unheard of – the “free press” isn’t as free as one would like to believe.

The public is taught to believe that the media is a good source of unbiased information. That is merely one of several of what Chomsky calls “necessary illusions,” deceptions that are vital to keeping the public appeased. (1) “In American society the role of the mass media, overwhelmingly controlled by large corporations, is to manufacture the majority’s consent for the continuing rule of the rich and powerful.” (3, 48) A great deal of propaganda is sent via the media every day, all in order to keep the public from actually becoming involved in the workings of the nation. (1) “Our society is not really based on public participation in decision-making in any sense… It is a system of elite decision and periodic public ratification.” (5, 25) The evening news can’t really be considered informative, but more like a carefully arranged selection of propaganda. The televised sports and sitcoms that people love so much are intended for the sole purpose of numbing the public mind and diverting attention from the real issues. (5,25)

People are “using their common sense and intellectual skills, but in an area which has no meaning and probably thrives because it has no meaning, as a displacement from the serious problems which one cannot influence and affect because the power happens to lie elsewhere… Some intellectual skill and capacity for understanding… and thinking through problems could be used – and would be used – under different systems of governance which involve popular participation in important decision-making, in areas that really matter to human life.” (5, 24-25) Chomsky states that in order to protect the interests of the elite, they must keep the general public from actually trying to affect the nation’s fate. “Since we don’t participate, we don’t even think about questions of crucial importance; we hope somebody who has some competence is paying attention.” (5, 25) The public is conditioned to believe that they are not as qualified to make decisions about national affairs as the elite are, therefore allowing said elite to remain in control and serve their own interests.

One of the factors behind the fact that only conventional views are presented by the media, is the “need for concision.” Airtime is money, and they want speakers to be quick about presenting ideas. That takes controversial topics off the agenda because anything not with the standard ideology generally requires an explanation, which networks won’t take the time for, thereby reiterating the standardized views of those in control, hence Chomsky’s lack of recognition by Americans, and the filtering out of other independent thinkers from the mass media. This need for concision “makes life easy, and permits expression of a good deal of nonsense or ignorant bias with impunity, also sheer slander. Evidence is unnecessary, argument beside the point.” (5, 25) This gives the government an excuse as well as a means to keep the public in the dark, and therefore makes it much easier for the elite to get away with things. After all, “too much public awareness might lead to a demand that standards of integrity be met, which would certainly save a lot of forests from destruction, and would send many a reputation tumbling.” (5, 25) All of these methods contribute to the “huge concentrations of private power which are as close to tyranny and as close to totalitarian as anything humans have devised, and [the elite] have extraordinary power. They are unaccountable to the public.” (2, 1)

So, then, the next question one may ask is, “What is it that the elite aren’t taking responsibility for?” Well, according to Chomsky, the United States government “has pursued, in blunt fashion, the right to rob and plunder the Third World, and… the dominant intellectual class describes this theft in the most noble and grandiose terms… The US government will insure our transnational corporations have an inviting arena for lucrative investment and profit, regardless of the cost to the local populations.” (2, 1) In short, the United States has seriously violated basic human rights in order to make a few dollars for the very same corporations that run the façade of a democracy that is our government.

Although there are numerous examples of such atrocious happenings, only a few are necessary to illustrate the government’s practices. First of all, there is evidence of a strong correlation between the United States and torture. In a study by Lars Schoultz, it was found that US aid tends to “flow disproportionately” to countries in Latin America that tend to torture their citizens. There is also such a correlation where there is a favorable market for US business investments. “In other words, the better the climate for business, the more the aid, which is in turn achieved by murdering union organizers, torturing priests, massacring peasants, and anyone else attempting to achieve ‘democracy.’” (6, 1)

Another example is the infamous Cambodia/East Timor discussion from the mid-seventies. While Pol Pot’s actions in Cambodia were openly shunned by the American press, the US was sponsoring a similar genocide by Indonesia in East Timor. Pol Pot was on the US’ “official enemies list” and the “killing fields” were highly publicized, but the US wanted access to the oil reserves and submarine passages near East Timor and therefore didn’t make any mention of Indonesia’s atrocities, let alone the US’ involvement in them. (1) The government manipulated the press, and therefore the public, by picking and choosing which battles to condemn based on which it could benefit from the most by supporting.

Finally, there is the issue of the “silent genocide.” Chomsky notes that about eleven million children die every year due to easily treatable diseases, such as diarrhea, and half a million children from “debt repayment.” This is created when banks, including US banks, lend money to dictators in the Third World and the loans were not repaid. Those loans then become “bad debts” which the general public has to pay back, causing much-needed money to leave the country rather than remaining local to alleviate disease, hunger, et cetera. (6, 3)

Once disturbing facts such as these have been brought to one’s attention, what can one do in response? Chomsky suggests that one take steps to ensure that these horrors can never be born. He refers to “intellectual self-defense,” or resisting the ever-present brainwashing of the government and elite. He believes in the idea of challenging authority figures and testing them for legitimacy before allowing them to lead the public away like the Pied Piper. Change is not brought about by a few catalytic people, but by many, many people getting the ball rolling, however slowly, in their communities and raising awareness. Finally, he reminds people that as long as the elite have control of the media, they will use it to benefit only themselves. (1) Should they really be the ones in control? That is the question one must ask oneself.

The juggernaut still goes on, but you can throw a lot of sand in its gears.

~Noam Chomsky (3, 49)


1. Archbar, Mark and Peter Wintonick, Directors. “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media.” Necessary Illusions & the National Film Board of Canada, 1993, Canada.

2. Chmiel, Mark. “Chomsky’s Lover’s Quarrel With the World.” Catholic Reader of America, 1997.

3. Dwyer, Victor. “Against the Grain.” Maclean’s, 22 March 1993, pages 48-49.

4. Everett, Daniel, Ph.D. “Chomsky, Noam.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000. http://encarta.msn.com/concise

5. Peck, Jim. “Noam Chomsky: an American Dissident.” The Progressive, July 1987, pages 22-25. From The Chomsky Reader. 1987, Pantheon Books, Random House.

6. Shelden, Randall G., Ph.D. “Noam Chomsky: The Concentration of Power and the Political Economy of Human Rights.” Radio Free Maine, 27 September1994. http://radiofreemaine.com/rfm/chomrev02.html

7. Young, Charles M. “The Role of the Media in Manufacturing Consent.” Playboy, May 1995.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—Nonexistent “Nontagonists”

Just as most people are mere carved pieces in the great chess game of existence, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, were basically insignificant in the greater scheme of things. They were really only so until their deaths, though, much like a chess piece which gains so much importance only after it has been captured. As William F. Thomsen put it, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were “nontagonists,” bodies on the stage, but never really the heroes or villains of the play. The course of the game most certainly did not revolve around these two confused pawns, but it didn’t neglect to move them across the board either.

Throughout the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spent their time on inquiries, most of which referred to the idea of death, of nonexistence, of “the ultimate negative. Not-being.” And because they spent so much time and energy on nonexistence, they became it, in a sense. They transformed themselves from beings of importance during life to ones of significance only in death, in nonexistence, and therefore earned themselves the roles of “nontagonists.” They felt so insignificant in life, that to have so much revolve around their ceasing to exist was difficult to grasp, and caused Guildenstern to ask, “Who are we that so much should converge on our little deaths?” The two were not the protagonists, or generally speaking, the “good guys,” or the antagonists, the “bad guys,” but the nontagonists, the guys-who-are-only-important-because- they-have-so-little-importance-while-breathing. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s lack of significance during life wasn’t the only thing that made them nontagonists, however.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s philosophizing also delved into the concept of mankind’s perception of its control over the universe, or lack thereof, and how small and unimportant all of the chess pieces are without a chess player. Guildenstern observed that people “can move, of course, change direction, rattle about, but [their] movement is contained within a larger one that carries [them] idly toward eternity without possibility of reprieve or hope of explanation.” They realized how utterly out of control they were and, by recognizing that, became nontagonists, because once one relinquishes control of his or her actions, he or she cannot be considered one of the main players, and therefore is classified as a nontagonist. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, like any pair of enlightened but still inanimate pawns, considered the idea that “there must have been a moment at the beginning when [they] could have said no. But somehow [they] missed it.” Indeed there may have been such a moment for every chess piece as it was being carved, but because it missed that moment, it became another nontagonist, another pawn in the game of existence, and didn’t get to be the chess player or the player’s opponent.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s significance only in death, and lack of control in life carved them into the minor pieces that they were, the pawns otherwise known as nontagonists. As the player put it so well, “You are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. That’s enough.”

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