There’s No Such Thing As A Selfless Selfie

The 17-year-old Australian girl who quit social media has peaked my interest. Though I want to chuckle at this young girl who clearly has very little understanding of how the world works, I also have to hold myself back from being a complete a-hole, and understand that this girl is only 17.

As someone who works in marketing, hearing someone complain that all social media is fake and every product you see some one using on social media is just an advertising scheme feels as offensive as it is untrue. Yes, their are fashion and lifestyle bloggers being paid to use certain products, but I like to think may of these individuals are choosing to promotes products and services that they believe in. If you feel like you’re being fake or living a fake lifestyle, welcome to the real world. I wish I didn’t have to hide aspects of my personality out of fear of them being deemed “unprofessional.” Lots of people have to behave a certain way in their profession, and if you don’t like it then find a job where you can be 100% yourself, but there’s no need to call others miserable because they’re trying to make a living. I am not miserable in the slightest. My goal has been to become a writer, and I get to do what I love everyday.

Moreover, I also don’t think social media is as bad as some people say. However, that is certainly not to say that some people experience very real feelings of sadness and isolation as a result of social media. I’m just not one of them. I get very few likes on all my posts, and I’m cool with that. I don’t post for anyone, but myself, which leads me to my next thought: is social media extremely narcissistic? Of course it is. How can it not be? I post pictures I want to show off (nonetheless, I really don’t care about getting likes on them; I just want people to see how cool I am).

Believe it or not, this post wasn’t inspired by anything I’ve discussed. It was inspired by a girl I follow on Instagram, who posted a selfie wherein she was in the car, and you could see a man with a backpack and raincoat standing outside. On the photo she wrote “Give to strangers. It feels good.” In the caption she proceeded to spell out a lengthy story about her decision to give this man money even though she “never gives money to the homeless.” Now, I write about this, realizing that by ridiculing her on an Internet blog post, I’m probably no better than her. After all, she did a nice thing by giving a man whom she perceived as homeless a dollar, and if sharing that act on Instagram made her feel better because she thinks she’s inspiring people, all the power to her – maybe someone was inspired by that. Honestly, even if someone else looks at her photo and thinks, “Hm, helping people is a great photo-op,” and then goes out and does the same thing, at least someone benefited from that action. There’s no such thing a selfless good deed. Right?

I digress (sort of). I didn’t take issue with the post (because it’s not surprising at all coming from the girl who posted it), I took issue with the lack of self-awareness. Am I crazy for thinking that posting a selfie with a homeless man in the background, and then going on about how you just had to give him a dollar a tad narcissistic?  I mean, why can’t you just give the man a dollar and feel good about it? Personally, I would never do that because I can’t imagine how anyone would see it and go, “wow, she is a really great person.” Though, I guess in this day-and-age, unless someone sees you doing something, it’s as if it didn’t happen. So maybe that means that it’s not enough to just donate money to or volunteer at charitable organizations, unless you document it with a selfie.

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Tabloid Journalism: where imagination soars

Remember when Time Magazine printed a darkened photo of OJ Simpson on the cover? In 1994, two photos of OJ Simpson appeared on two magazines, Time and Newsweek. The photos should have been identical. However, Time Magazine’s photo illustrated a significantly darker and more threatening OJ than Newsweekly’s unfiltered photo. Time’s photo – a doctored version of a photograph made by the Los Angeles Police Department – was criticized by nearly every media outlet for exercising poor editorial judgment and racism. By printing a photo that was perceivably more sinister, Time Magazine was shifting public opinion. Whether that was their intention or not, their actions were considered unethical.

Time Magazine has been around for decades, reporting on hard-hitting topics, and therefore, is held to higher ethical standard than say, In Touch Weekly, which circulates entertainment news.

In Touch Weekly and other tabloids spread gossip. As is the case with gossip, it’s difficult to pin down sources in order to prove that the information is accurate. To that end, if the information doesn’t stand on solid ground, why are the tabloids printing the information? Moreover, why are publishers blatantly lying, and doctoring photos based on shallow assumptions? Last week, In Touch Weekly ran a cover photo of former Olympian, Bruce Jenner, in full makeup, with the headline: “Bruce’s Story: My Life As A Woman”. The article discussed Jenner’s transition from living as a man to realizing he is a woman. It didn’t take long before it came to light that the pictures and cover story were lies. It seems Jenner’s face was superimposed on British actress, Stephanie Beacham’s photo. As of right now, there is absolutely nothing indicating that Bruce Jenner is planning on undergoing a sex change. To that end, for In Touch to create their own simulation of Jenner as a woman, and try to pass it off as a real photo, based on shallow speculation, was an extremely poor editorial decision.

In 2010 Gawker ran a study testing the accuracy of multiple tabloids, in search of the most trustworthy. In Touch’s overall accuracy was 21%, beating Ok! and Stars, and losing to Us Weekly and Life&Style. When a tabloid’s credibility is already low, is it worth getting upset over that tabloid’s inaccuracies? In 2013, In Touch Weekly had one of the top five readerships by single-copy sales, which is likely due to their attention-grabbing headlines, featured stories, and pictures.

According to celebrities, gay rights activists, and social media postings, In Touch has crossed the line, reported The Inquisiter. Russell Brand posted a video on his YouTube channel, “The Trews”, expressing his disgust with the responses from entertainment media outlets like TMZ. He posted multiple clips, one of which featured TMZ staff members meticulously analyzing Jenner’s entire appearance from his clean fingernails to his long ombre hair. Brand is concerned with this issue as an act of bullying. After all, transgenders have been an object of ridicule, and the celebrity gossip vultures seem to be having a field day when given the slightest indication that the former Olympian who conquered the decathlon would go through such a procedure.

However, the rumor exploding to such an extreme is entirely due to In Touch Weekly’s fake photos. Furthermore, their actions were certainly unethical by any journalistic standard, but obviously not by any tabloid journalistic standard. So why is that okay? Will there ever be a tabloid that is capable of presenting the truth, or at the very least, holding on to their stories until there’s more supportive evidence? Will this constant lying and failure to fact check ever impact these tabloids? Or will they forever be associated with lies?

In Defense of the Singletons: why the Rabbit isn’t making you happy

In the age of digital media, biased and baseless editorials are as common as the social media platforms that users share them on.

Semi-recently, an article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, entitled: “Cuddlers, Rejoice! Science Proves That Sleeping With Someone Else Is Good For Your Health”. At first, I disregarded the misuse of the word “prove”, chalking it up to a desperate attempt to drive up their web traffic (I was right). Reading on, it wasn’t the findings, but rather the misrepresentation of information that made my jaw drop. Overall, it was the senselessly nasty and insulting tone of the article that infuriated me, and prompted me to write this blog – to defend my singletons.

The article “presented” the collective research that Andrea Petersen had previously presented in The Wall Street Journal. Please note that science doesn’t definitively prove anything; it finds evidence to support a theory. Phrases like, “would suggest”, are frequent in Petersen’s paper, as they should be. The opposite is true for its ditzier step-sister, which opens alerting single women that, “there really is some science as to why your sorry, single self is going to bed at night alone and waking up miserable…We’re probably not the first people to tell you this – and don’t get all offended when we do – but you need to find a partner”. Low blows like, “And if you’re still single, there’s another reason to feel worse about yourself (no, it’s not about skipping a gym day)” are peppered throughout the (shockingly) non-Op-Ed piece (it was listed under Women’s Health!). The closing line reads, ”Basically, science is telling us something we already knew: One really is the loneliest number”.

If the goal of this article was to fabricate scientific research, and push a once confident single woman into insecurity – job well done. If the objective was to present accurate research in a short, comprehensible summary – well, it was certainly short and easy to read. In an attempt to be funny and cute, the author came off as extremely ignorant. As a journalist, her job was to present research that found that “couples may get health benefits from sleeping in the same bed”. Instead, she shames single women for their lifestyles, ignoring the fact that single women are not a cult or an entity – each woman is an individual, and therefore has her own reasons for being single.

The assumption that everyone should be looking for a relationship is simply outrageous and potentially harmful. A woman needs to have the integrity to wait for a partner who is respectful and satisfying. This piece not only ignores that, but also encourages women to find someone just to keep loneliness at bay. It tells women to “hold onto their man” or risk being “lonely, cranky, and tired.” It’s that kind of juvenile advice that drives women in unhappy, maybe even physically or verbally abusive relationships to stick around because apparently being single for even a month is worse than a black eye.

I understand that ethical journalism is simply obsolete in certain publications, so I guess I shouldn’t that this particular publication threw caution to the wind when it came to unbiased reporting. But as a woman, stick up for your gender. Just because studies have found that women who sleep in the same bed with someone every night were happier, doesn’t mean the others are “miserable”, and if they are, I don’t think the answer is to sleep with whatever Joe they see.

American Horror Story: (Insert zany guesses here)

American Horror Story is one of my favorite shows. Ryan Murphy has a way of making the macabre so beautiful via concepts, set design, and sharp dialogue. The anthology, which up until the fourth season appeared episodic, is connected by way of characters (Pepper – a pinhead who starred in the Freak Show, but after her companion, Salty, died, she moved in with her sister (Maye Winaham) who shipped her to Asylum) .  Give a possy to Ryan Murphy and his team if they pull this off – I’m not saying they won’t, but if I’m not saying “Ohh!” by the end, I’m going to be extremely disappointed.

Now, as Freak Show comes to an end, the fun begins – time to guess what next season is going to be. I love and hate running Google searches for viewer ideas. I love it because oftentimes people suggest theories that actually seem possible. I hate it because sometimes I wonder how anyone who actually watches the show could suggest something like, Summer Camp or Hotel. I’m assuming the latter was suggested by AHS Murder House enthusiasts (nothing against that season, it was a great start).The Hotel plot theory led off with, “Um, The Shining?”, which was my cue to stop reading. The Shining is an incredible story, but based on the plot and overall structure of season 2-4, I don’t see AHS writers working directly off that plot. I think I’ve noticed AHS pulling ideas from Stanley Kubrick more often than Stephen King. Quite a few scenes in Coven reminded me of The Shining, and I think that Ryan Murphy has a slightly different perspective on monsters than Stephen King – King’s characters seems to fear the monster and Murphy seems to empathize with the “monster”. Still, both fear virtuosos pen brilliant characters.

Regardless, hats off to those speculating what the next season would be because I’ve got nothing.

Speaking of hats, apparently one of the easter eggs planted in Freak Show was a top hat on Emma Roberts’s cup in the second episode. I’ll be honest, early on, I thought season 5 would include aliens, but I now realize that wasn’t the best assumption (based on Pepper who, in Asylum, was possessed by aliens and I felt that, that particular storyline was never resolved). However, it seems that the U.S. Army’s 1953 “Operation Top Hat” exercise could be a more likely assumption. It was speculated early on, but Ryan Murphy has said that no one has guessed it. Though, Ryan Murphy also said season 4 wouldn’t be set at a carnival,  and we ended up with Freak Show, and prior to the season premier, the webosphere was riddled with phony promos and posters, so I wouldn’t blame the guy for not wanting to drop the plot prematurely, just think of the massacre.

We’ll find out soon enough, but I think it will be good regardless. Though, it will be amazing if one strong female lead sticks around. Jessica Lange, if you’re reading this, have mercy on our souls and please don’t leave us. Season 5 needs you.

Huh?

I hate when people say, “Huh?” via text message. So much so, that I’ve come pretty close to cutting ties with one of my best friends over it. To be clear, I don’t much care for “huh?” in a face-to-face chat either, but it’s a quicker exchange. I don’t have to waste my time trying to figure out what he or she doesn’t understand, I can just quickly ask. Texting draws out the entire discussion and 90% of the time, I find myself explaining a statement I made about something as menial as an idiomatic expression that someone hasn’t heard of. Maybe I should just stop using idioms? Or maybe I should just complain via blog because I can get it out, without it being too public so as to piss anyone off.

I hate the ambiguity of “huh?” I also think it sounds a little condescending. I used to have this awful second grade teacher, Mrs. Obrien. Every time someone answered a question wrong, she’d go, “huh?” and get the entire class to chime in. It was absolutely mortifying and discouraged me from even trying to answer a question. She’d call on me and I’d tell her that I didn’t know. Looking back on it, this isn’t aggravating because it completely killed my motivation to participate in class (until college); rather, it’s aggravating because in the time she spent berating me and getting the class to join in, she could have explained to me  why my answer was wrong or explain the correct answer. Isn’t that what a teacher is supposed to do? Apparently Mrs. Obrien’s version of teaching involved telling us we were going to live in boxes when we grew up (as if she could have predicted that when we were in second grade) and encourage her “smart” students to make fun of her “dumb” students.

I hadn’t thought of Mrs. Obrien in a long time, but I was reminded of her when I was writing a story about my old boss, Catharine. Again, I don’t care about including her name because this woman used to give me articles she wanted me to read and have me give her the bullet points. In addition to the many, many things that I hated about Catharine, I think the worst was when she would say, “I don’t understand.” It was always followed up with, “This really scares me.” I will dedicate an entire post, maybe even a page, to the awful that is Catharine (dying to write her last name because it rhymes). When I worked for Catharine, I would write blogs for her or at least that’s what she wanted. Writing blogs for a business sucks for someone my age. I’m not in the business enough to be able to just free-write and give my thoughts and ideas, yet it’s considered to be such a simple task. I digress.

My blog-writing process, per Catharine’s request – like I had a choice – was to read an article someone else had written, pull the bullet points and rewrite it. So that’s what I did and being the millennial that I am, I also looked for more related articles and compiled a mini research paper (no more than a page long). I sent it to Catharine and the next day I went into her office for our sporadic weekly meeting. She’d already been yelling at me because the guy who shovels didn’t shovel, apparently as the person who sits closest to the door, I should have taken the initiative. Alright. So I go into her office and ask her what she thinks.

“Well, I can only see it on the computer so how am I supposed to know?” She spits.

“So you want me to print it out?”

“Oh my god!” she yells followed by incomprehensible statements about how she needs to read things on paper, not a machine. My bad. I guess I was under the impression that a when the document is less than a page, you were capable of reading it off of your laptop. Because this is the 21st century and you’re a business owner. I digress.

I sit on the other side of her desk while she “reads it.” She read the first sentence and her already stinky expression got stinkier. The expression on her face was as if I’d written, “I’ve slaughtered three-year-olds, and I’m happiest when my boyfriend ties me up” in bold letters. Only the latter is true. Just kidding. So Catharine looked pissed. I’m used to criticism on a rough draft. In fact, I encourage criticism because I’m never fully satisfied with an initial draft. Catharine did not have criticism. She threw the paper at me. It just missed the edge of her desk, landing on her mountain of invoices and other documents labeled “URGENT” that she’s probably never glanced at.

“Did you plagiarize this?!” She shouted so that everyone in the hall could hear. I said no, though I was very taken aback, because honestly I felt that rewriting and condensing an article that was written by someone else was a lot closer to plagiarism than researching and reading a bunch of articles and writing a completely new piece, in your own words. She told me that she “didn’t understand” and that my piece “makes no sense.” How can you accuse someone of plagiarizing something and then say it doesn’t make sense? Wouldn’t blatant “plagiarism” make sense? Why would it have been published by Forbers in the first place. I asked her which part, specifically. The whole thing. So I asked her if she could at least give me notes on a specific section, so I have a better idea of what she’s looking for. “No it’s all just terrible. Did you even read the article I sent you?” Yes, did you, Catharine? I felt like asking.

Catharine felt confident because she’d successfully reduced one of her 23-year-old employees to tears, and made her feel like a complete idiot, but that wasn’t an effective business practice at all. Instead of going back to my desk and rewriting it to fit her expectations, I went back to my desk and stared at my computer screen – filled with anxiety. Then I contemplated going postal. Then I remembered that I loved all of the people I worked with, Catharine was just all of the swear words combined, and filled with filthy, trashy sludge. So I didn’t go postal. I did remove her Botox injection appointment from her calendar, which lead to her missing the appointment. Point – Kellie.

Lydia Millet’s “Love in Infant Monkeys”

Love in Infant Monkeys Jimmy Carter would have beat Ronald Reagan had it not been for that “killer rabbit”. Apparently the United States didn’t want a leader who was near assassinated by a foot-long swamp rabbit. At least, that’s how Lydia Millet writes it in her latest collection, Love In Infant Monkeys. One of three finalists for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize, Millet’s collection of stories crosses the acclaimed celebrity with the muted animal. This collection, although short, is bursting at the seams with questions about human feeling and desire, which all too often seem to surmount the constitution of an animal.

Millet is known for her grim, yet whimsical writing style. Readers will find themselves dismayed at the top of one page and laughing by the bottom. Third-person omniscient narratives take the reader into the stream-of-consciousness of past presidents, esteemed (and unheralded) scientists, actors and actresses, dog walkers of actors and actresses, and pop stars. It’s through each character’s thoughts, some more maniacal than others, that the true stars of the collection take shape – the muted animals. Some sections read like a medical textbook, others read like the diary entry of a mental patient, but most read like a TMZ blast. The latter seems fitting – after all, what is the Hollywood gossip mill if not a zoo vainly portraying cultural icons in their “natural habitats”, but invested only in spectacle, and detached from any real-world context. It’s these erratic shifts in the caliber of the voice, and the species in focus that make for a versatile collection.

The title is borrowed from psychologist, Harry Harlow’s, most esteemed paper published in the Scientific American in 1959. Harlow was concerned with the bond between mother

Harry Harlow's cuter monkey study. Unfortunately, this isn't the study that's discussed in the book.
One of Harry Harlow’s monkey studies. Unfortunately, this isn’t the study that’s discussed in the book.

and child, as well as isolation effects. As Harlow points out, the only way to understand how love works is to remove it and study its absence. Therefore, Harlow would separate infant monkeys from their mothers to study the babies’ reactions, which often proved to be psychologically damaging beyond the point of repair. This section begins in a textbook tone, and although Millet fictionally adapted Harlow’s stream-of-consciousness, his actions are fact. Told from a third-person omniscient narrative, Harlow’s episode is orchestrated around his experiments, and Millet paints a callous portrait: “The only thing I care about is whether a monkey will turn out a property I can publish,” he said. “I don’t have any love for them. I never have. How could you love a monkey?” Harlow is unconcerned with the well-being of his animal subjects and sees them as just that – objects for him to use to test his psychological theories. The prosperity of these living, breathing species pales in comparison to his research. His psychological discoveries are advancements in science, which are seen as a victory for the human race. Yet Millet calls attention to the suffering animals that have contributed to our scientific progression. Based on Millet’s rationale, depravity and progress are inextricably linked. Savagery and depravity also are connected just as stringently. How can one argue that torture, i.e. progress, promotes evolution, when the very nature of said procedure is deleterious to our current understanding of humanity?

Millet tends to use a satirical writing style to mediate the dark content. The novel begins with a particularly witty story, starring a distressed Madonna who has shot, but not fully killed, a pheasant on her English estate. As she searches for the rest of the hunting party to “do the honors” of finishing the bird off, her mind drifts to thoughts of culture, religion, homosexuality, and a few carnal dispositions, one of which pertaining to weaponry: “A gun was basically a huge iron dildo designed by someone French and classy.”

In addition to satire, endearment also ties into this dark flash fiction. Stories of cruelty neutrally mingle with stories of affection. The story titled, “Sir Henry,” features David Hasselhoff’s clear-sighted dog walker whose professionalism is manifested in his love for dogs. Unfortunately his professionalism is limited because he cannot detach himself from a dog the same way Harlow detaches himself from the monkeys he experiments with. He understands that in reality animals, even domesticated animals, are regarded as lesser species. Yet his ideologies seem to scrutinize the pet owner who opts for euthanasia over prolonged treatment. Referring to a client who is fast approaching death, the dog walker thinks to himself: “A dog in his state would have been euthanized long ago.” His compassion for the dogs he walks ranks higher than the large fee he is paid for doing so. He has no patience for irresponsibility when it comes to the care of dogs; he screens all potential cliental to ensure that once he begins walking a dog, he will do so until the dog passes away. His mantra is that the decision to invest in a dog is a permanent commitment; the dog must remain in the owner’s possession until one of them passes away.

Several stories suggest that nature works at a higher order, embodying connections that go far beyond human understanding. The chapter titled “Girl and Giraffe” features the late George Adamson and his lioness, Girl. Adamson tells a retrospective story about a peculiar hunting experience. Adamson and Girl were walking through the forest in Meru, Tanzania when they came across a herd of giraffes. Fearing for their lives, the herd scattered. But one foal foolishly stayed put. Girl cornered the foal, but she didn’t pounce. The animals stood frozen, staring at each other for only a moment. The giraffe went back to chomping on branches while Girl patiently waited. When the giraffe finished eating, he lay down at the feet of the lioness and accepted his role as prey. Adamson concludes that an agreement between the Girl and the Giraffe had been established during their drawn out stare. Girl reprieved the giraffe, granting it a free afternoon where all concern about its past or future were unimportant; the giraffe would be dead by nightfall so thinking about anything other than the present would be fruitless.

Although fictional, this novel has a realistic backbone that runs deeper than the fact that each story was in part based on some factual underpinning. An animal is always at the mercy of the human. Even animals that surpass humans in size and strength, like elephants, find themselves in captivity where they are submissive to the human and may undergo the worst of treatments from zoo captors or circus folk. Any attempt to fight back will earn them an express trip to their death. In one story, the execution of an elephant is mediated with the following explanation: “The execution of animals, an odd extension of a medieval practice, assumes the animal is a moral agent, accountable to the law and therefore punishable in a formal and public context. It is noteworthy that the elephant was not being euthanized or exterminated, as vermin would, but penalized for her sins against God and man by execution qua execution.”

A YouTube search for “Topsy the Elephant” will reveal a twenty-three second video of a circus elephant’s electric execution – a snuff film. Thomas Edison filmed the execution in order demonstrate the dangers of an alternating current system. Edison states that: “Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.” Yet he films the electrocution of an elephant to theoretically promote progress.

This collection excavates the crooked private lives of the celebrities, politics, and scientists. Although fictional, the bulk of this novel is composed of very real perspectives; the road to notoriety is a popularity contest, to say the least, and often the true actions and feelings of notorious figures are not exactly crowd-pleasers. The wit of the narrative and the context of the stories occasionally focalize on the hypocrisy of society as a whole.

Although episodic, detaching the stories from each other defeats the magnitude of the collection. It is the amalgamation of the stories that fully illustrate the submissiveness of the animal and moreover, the hypocrisy and disregard for the feelings of the voiceless animal. “Love In Infant Monkeys” is a thought-provoking novel that provides insight into human feeling, and questions the role that all species play in the environment. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a good sense of humor, and can appreciate the inclusion of written factual and fictional violence that interprets the role that the voiceless animal plays in the human-controlled world.

 

Stereotypes & Racism in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth

White Teeth by Zadie SmithZadie Smith’s White Teeth paints a multicultural portrait of 20th century Britain, when racial tensions were still at large. During World War II, Britain was in desperate need of more workers, thus immigration was encouraged. As a need for labor stimulated immigration, an influx of immigrants sparked racism. Despite the inherent exclusivity of the word “minority” it almost becomes a blanket term in which to group all seemingly substandard races. Smith’s cast of characters is a salad bowl of English, Bengalis, and Jamaicans all of whom face very different struggles. The story’s first generation immigrants Clara, Samad, and Alsana are often brutally discriminated against; wheras Archie sees racism by proxy through Clara. Samad and Alsana martyr themselves by refusing to assimilate to a culture that they feel has already rejected them. In result of that same supposition, they also observe reverse racism against the enemy that they feel so prominently victimized by, which tends to be members of the lower class who feel disenfranchised by the presence of immigrants. Perhaps succumbing to their teenage insecurities second-generation immigrants Magid, Millat and Irie conform in an attempt to thrive in a society where they realize their parents are bitterly stunted.

The story opens with the attempted suicide of Alfred Archibald Jones, an Englishmen who is recently divorced. The attempt is foiled, and Archie finds solace in the disruption. His epiphany, that the earth must need him alive, manifests in the optimism that defines his character throughout the novel. As a native born, white male in Britain he faces the least amount of adversity, especially in comparison to the other apparently polarizing characters. Archie’s only tastes of racism occur when his boss, Mr.Hero, revokes Archie’s invitation to company events reasoning that it is unpleasant for people to have to look at his Jamaican, toothless wife while they eat. Benevolent Archie is unaffected by the assertion.

Clara Bowden was raised by her mother, a devout Jehovah’s witness, of Jamaican descent. Like most teenagers, Clara struggled with her identity. The strict life of a Jehova’s witness paled in comparison to the attractiveness of Western pop culture, seemingly free of morals. Clara eventually dismisses most of the values from her upbringing and marries a white Englishmen- much to her mother’s disgust. Clara and Archie decided to repudiate religion and heritage, in an attempt to raise their daughter Irie in a family free of dogma. Clara is happily submissive and forgiving to a fault. She does not object to any type of racial slur made against her. She accepts her Jamaican lineage, but at the same time perceives it as devaluing. She believes that ones race is directly correlated with ones potential, and thus ones future is basically mapped upon inception. When Joyce affronts that Irie’s intelligence is an inconceivable anomaly in relation to her race and social class, Clara assuages that it’s probably due to her white grandfather. Clara disregards the offensiveness of Joyce’s suggestion, and hopelessly accepts her race’s stigma as fact. She’s been indoctrinated with discrimination for so long that she recognizes her minority status as not just her burden, but societies burden. Her only advantage at this point comes from acknowledging her intrinsic downfall, hoping that she can mitigate some of the ignorance that she presumes is naturally within her. Ironically, it is societies ignorance that has caused her to believe this to be true.

Irie Ambrosia Jones talks and acts like any other British teenager, but one must look no further to understand her trials. She’s Jamaican, from her exotic hair right down to her voluptuous rump. Her peers regard her as inferior because of her physicality, and therefore Irie reasons that to increase her innate value she must adhere to Western standards of beauty. Her passivity comes from her mother, yet Irie takes bigoted attacks as constructive criticism rather than irrevocable truths. Irie is hopeful that she can rise socially if only she regresses introspectively, whereas Clara is too brainwashed with discrimination to even fathom equality.

Alsana and Samad exhibit reverse racism in an attempt to hold onto their culture. They’re immersed in a world that doesn’t understand or seem willing to tolerate them; therefore they’ve deemed everyone outside of their own faith as irrelevant and amoral. To assimilate is to destroy their lineage. In spite of their acrimonious portrayal of other racial groups, they find comfort in Archie and Clara. Upon first meeting, however, Alsana prejudged Clara to be trashy and ill mannered, which no doubt went on her “con list” (55). “Black people are often friendly” Alsana generalized, adding this swiftly to the record of races she kept in her head (55). Though the aforementioned comment is complimentary on a superficial level, it also implies that all black people are of the same disposition.

When Alsana learns of her niece Neena’s betrayal she regards her with fury. She very much so carries an “us against them” mentality, and to adopt English culture is treason. When Milliat and Irie began their lessons with the Chaflens, she fears the same fate for the children. She believes they’re being preyed upon and indoctrinated with British culture, “they are like birds with teeth, with sharp little canines–they don’t just steal, they rip apart!” (285).

It’s human nature to reject what we don’t understand. What we don’t understand seems threatening. Samad Miad Iqbal sees no need to immerse himself in British culture, or to regard Britain at all. To him, Bangledash is not only his home but his moral, ethical and spiritual compass. It’s also where he’s comfortable. Britain and all its lavishness have sucked in his children and threaten to destroy the traditions of his lineage. His response is to counterattack. At a school governors meeting, he demands that the school celebrate a Muslim holiday rather than the annual Harvest festival. The suggestion is of course shot down, as the school has its own tradition- only adding to Samad’s martyrdom. He regards this as a final rejection of himself and his family. He believes there is no way for him to be a part of this world.

Magid Mahfooz Murshed Mubatsim Iqbal, son of Samad and Alsana, strays from his Bengli and Muslim roots. Magid is more invested in the English education that he’s required to undergo, rather than the Muslim education that his parents encourage. His parents become alarmed by Magid’s rebelliousness, especially when they learn of Magid’s pseudonym, Mark Smith- clearly an attempt to normalize himself with his classmates. Magid knows that his father has come to regard the Harvest festival as everything that is unjust with British culture, but he simply doesn’t care. Magid does not simply wish to conform to English morales, he wants to be English. At times it seems as though Magid feels superior to his family because of his English education, perhaps because at that place and time his education is more relevant. Although Samad thinks that sending Magid to Bengladesh will help Magid understand his heritage, it only makes Magid more iconoclastic. His father romanticizes his own past in Bengladash, perhaps because at least there he was seen as an equal, but Magid sees the city in ruin and distress.

Millat Zulfikar Iqbal has accepted English culture, but one issue he finds is the way women dress. One of Millat’s many love interests, Karina Cain, frequently shows off her stomach. Millat believes that she is “prostituting herself to the male gaze. Particularly white males. Because that’s how it worked between Western men and Western women, wasn’t it? They liked to do it all in public. The more he thought about it, the more it pissed him off. Why couldn’t she cover up? Who was she trying to impress?” (309). Millat views the preceding behavior as Karina not respecting herself. This is where the western and eastern views seem to conflict. In western culture if a girl is dressed provocatively, she’s often met with disdain or jealousy from fellow females and lust from males. Karina asserts that she doesn’t dress for Mallit or anyone else; she dresses for herself (309). In eastern society it tends to insinuate insecurity and a lack of respect for one’s own body and therefore ones family. Karina and those of similar fashion inclinations are harlots who will probably never marry suitable husbands. When Millat addresses his confusion and concern to Shiva, she shares his confusion but with a bitter twist, “Don’t talk to me about white women. It’s got to the point in the West where women are men! I mean, they’ve got the same desires and urges as men-they want it all the fucking time. And they dress like they want everyone to know they want it” (309). In their culture men and women have clearly established roles. Sexual urges are exclusively masculine. Karina’s implication of sexuality is vulgar because it’s coming from a woman, even though she proudly declares that she dresses to please herself, not the desires of man.

If Irie Jones had her way heritage would play a mediocre role in the present and future lives of individuals. Sadly, however, this wish seems to be far fetched. Zadie Smith’s White Teeth certaintly illustrates the struggles of multiculturism. Racism becomes a key trait throughout the novel. While Archie plays the protagonist who is for the most part free of racism, his wife Clara has been so beaten down by the racial slurs made against her that she eventually comes to accept them as fact. Although Samad tells Archie “that land they call ‘India’ goes by a thousand names and is populated by millions, and if you think you have found two men the same of that magnitude, then you are mistaken. It is merely a trick of the moonlight.” (85) However Samad’s hypocritical behavior throughout the novel hardly leads him to believe his own mantra is true about other communities and his wife, Alsana follows his lead. The second-generation immigrants of the novel Irie, Magid, and Millat have conformed to the Western values that they have been taught, although Millat protests against the way Western women dress. Smith’s White Teeth ultimately depicts the social realism of the racism that spurs as a result of a multicultural society by venturing through generations of English, Bengali, and Jamaican cultures.

Works Cited
Smith, Zadie. White Teeth. New York: Vintage International, 2000. Print.

The Decomposition of a Dream

URL: http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR2V5YT#a=1

The image below evoked my extreme obsession with abandoned places.

URL: http://www.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=USRTR2V5YT#a=1
Photo credit: David Gray

I’d venture to say that nearly everyone in the world would look at this photo and be reminded of the iconic Disney castle, especially now that media outlets like the Washington Post, Huffington Post, and Business Insider have written on this abandoned park using Disney-esque indicators. The picture below is the Magic Kingdom in Florida. The abandoned castle is a skeletal representation of the richly populated and treasured castle below, or at least appears to be.

Disney World Theme Park -  Florida
Disney World Theme Park – Florida

The derelict castle was part of a 120-acre amusement park in the village of Chenzhuang, China – about 20 miles outside of Beijing. Funded by the Thailand-based Reignwood Group. The Disneyland parallel – Wonderland – was intended to stimulate tourism in this otherwise vacuous farmland. The project soon fell victim to financial problems when farmers and local government fought over the value of the land. Investors pulled out of the project, bringing construction to an abrupt halt in 1998, and despite attempts to revive the project in 2008, Wonderland remained a skeletal representation of a dream that, as of 2013, was razed both physically and metaphorically.

Side note: According to an article by National Geographic: “Many analysts say such scenes may become more common in China as property values that soared over the past decade have moved steadily downward for the first time since private home ownership became legal in the 1990s. Local governments, which have used land as collateral for some U.S. $1.7 trillion in debt, are left in a dangerous situation.” The distressed remains of the Wonderland castle offer a desolate perspective of the rifts in China’s economy, and offering plausibility to analysts’ fear of developing a property bubble.

For me, there’s something very apocalyptic about the castle in Beijing. I used the word “skeletal” earlier, and I did so because I think the word, “skeletal” takes on both a literal and abstract meaning in that photograph. Literal, obviously because the park lost funding in the early stages of construction leaving the castle with the wire frames shaping what would have been the gothic towers and points.

Abstractly, the Beijing castle withered away to nothing, impels me to compare it to the break-down of human remains. When a person’s heart stops pumping blood through their body, the cells are deprived of oxygen and rapidly begin to die, prompting the decomposition process. The investors were the heart of the operation, pumping money through its veins to fund construction, but when the heart stopped blood stopped flowing, and without it the  construction workers had no reason to continue, depriving the cells (the structure) of oxygen.

The West Side- My Journalism Experience this Semester

I have lived in Buffalo all my life, many people believe Buffalo is not just the second poorest city, that always has cold weather, and a really awful football team, Buffalo is my home and I am proud of it. Although I was aware of the extensive architectural history of several beautiful buildings in Buffalo, there was a lot I did not know.

Based on my project and the projects my classmates have been working on, I have learned so much about the great and amazing community Buffalo has to offer. Maybe in the past Buffalo was not known as the safest, wealthiest place, but times are changing. In the past decade organizations such as the Massachusetts Avenue Project and Push Buffalo work to make the downtown, distressed areas of Buffalo aesthetically pleasing and safer.

The piece I have been working on throughout the semester is Massachusetts Avenues, Growing Green campaign. This organization utilizes urban gardens to provide healthy and affordable food to those in need. They also provide jobs to inner city high school kids. Jobs that focus on skill building and really help these kids make important life decisions, such as going to college.

The motivation these people have to help their community is astonishing. Only in Buffalo could you find such a kind community. A community who may not have much to give, but they will give as much as they possibly can to help someone else in need.

My Production Experience

Production rarely goes as planned. So much planning goes into video production and if one part of the plan does not work out, you need to come up with a solution. The key factors of my piece include, the weather and the schedules of two other individuals. Unfortunately, people do not work on my schedule, which means I have to adjust and make it work, so that I can get what I need for my video. The same goes with the weather, the weather does not adjust to when I have to film. For example, I have to shoot the urban gardens for my piece, however whenever I have time to get down to the city, it either rains or snows.

The shots that I have been able to get display the food deserts in Buffalo. My next plans are to get my interview with a family who uses the urban garden program, and shots inside the greenhouse and in the garden. It is supposed to be nice out on Wednesday, so I plan on going to the gardens and getting my footage.

Although the video project is a lot of work, I enjoy it. I have also found that if plan exactly what I want to shoot, the entire process goes much smoother.