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Self-image on the web is a very peculiar thing. Judging from my experience with the internet over the past ten years or so, it is interesting to look back at the various ways in which I portrayed myself online. We were astounded by the methods of instant messaging. I still am! Everyone was doing it. Everyone updated their "infos" in AIM or their profiles for Yahoo and MSN messengers. Some of us had our own dumpy websites through good 'ole Geocities with the thick, neon marker-like font and little counting mechanisms to see how many people visited the site. I remember when I got my first AIM messenger. MSN messenger took my cherry when it came to online messaging, but it seemed like all the cool kids had AIM, so I got an AIM screen name, as well. It's interesting to look back at my "info" I had though AIM in the beginning. While everyone else's "info" revolved around inside jokes to their friends, song lyrics, and images made through text, my "info" was literally a little biography about my hobbies, as if the people who would be looking at it were strangers. "My name is Sarah and I like to blah blah blah." But back then, I used AIM's little search engine to find complete strangers and talk to them, and believe it or not, I still talk to more of them than I talk to my actual "real life" friends. But since then, my "info" has evolved and pretty much contains links to my various sites. And perhaps a quote or whatever.

The "info" really used to intrigue me, but now they kind of bore me. They are too personal and precious. I'm not interested in someone who is snuggling themselves into a box, I'm more interested in the now, etc. So, next my interests peaked into away messages. Still, away messages are boring with their dopey song lyrics or their automatic idle stances. And it's interesting to think that I am interested (but not really caring) in what that person is doing when they are not sitting in front of their computer or laptop.

Quite an evolution we have going on, you know? Now everyone has websites, pretty much. Only they're not hard to work for and it doesn't include any techno-savvy at all. That is thanks to the webworlds of MySpace and Facebook. I have both, as a lot of us do, but the one that is more interesting to me is Facebook. Facebook is for pretty much anyone, my own mother can probably do it (and that's saying a lot).

The reason why I'm writing about this today is because of the recent election. During the election, I went on my Facebook account to send a message and was amazed at all my "friends" constantly advertising themselves and their thoughts/philosophies concerning the election through their Facebook status-updates. I was amused and weirded out at the fact that all these people I knew were sitting in front of their computers watching the election.

It is now two days after the election and people's status-updates are still inundated with politics. But that's not why I am writing this. I want to take a look at some real-life examples of people's status-updates and just talk about them. I don't mean to deduce or poke fun at anyone, but I just want to share my observations.

It's strange how just a status-update can mimick how things happen in real life. Have you ever known someone who was sad or upset about something, and it was obvious that they wanted you to ask them what was wrong, but they say they don't want to talk about it? I'm sure we've all done this at one point or another. We have all searched for pity because face it, it's hard to be alone with yourself through hard times. There are status-updates that do this same thing. There are allusions to illness, all-nighters, migranes, broken hearts, etc. Keep in mind that most of my "friends" are my age (early 20's). Not to say that older adults don't search for pity and attention. And also keep in mind that a lot of my "friends" are students, and good ones, at that. So good, in fact, that they will garb their status-updates with all the work they have to do and possess allusions to "intellectual" and esoteric finds in studies, books, etc. But I guess my favorite is the people complaining that they need to get stuff done and they are so stressed, but then again, they're on Facebook. But I've done that too! It's all understandable and I'm not here to judge.

And I'm not really intereted in people's choices for their status-updates, but the reasons why they choose what they choose to write. Some people even feel the need to write something there. Some people will say "I don't know what to say," or "status update". It's funny! If you don't know what to say, say nothing at all, perhaps.

I understand that these status-updates aren't summing up whole lives, but just the status of a person or what their "present" is like at the moment or in the future. It would be interesting if we can further narrow it down to just one word (some people do).

I can go on and on about this and even give actual examples of my friends, but I don't want to invade their privacy, despite the fact that they billboard it onto Facebook. But this will be it for now.

Let me know what you think.
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Since the 1950’s, American women have taken on more significant and demanding roles, some of which collide with one another. Many of these women have become more educated and therefore obtained higher paying jobs and more responsibilities beyond just caring for her home and family. The fulfilling of all these roles inevitably leads to more conflicts for these women such as time management, keeping mentally and physically healthy, staying energized, being organized, and looking good while being an excellent mother, wife, professional, homemaker, friend, and community member. These conflicts can lead to a woman’s self-consciousness. Advertisers are well aware of the sources of these self-conscious feelings that multi-tasking women possess. I want to argue that many advertising agencies and articles within magazines geared towards women are attempting to influence women to be hardcore multi-tasking heroines that should be able to prepare a wonderful meal for her husband and children in less than an hour, while looking good and feeling good either because she just won the case in court or because she just might be able to have the time and peace to do aerobics or Pilates before crashing into her bed that is guaranteed to make her feel like she slept eight hours instead of five. Phew.
Advertisers use several different techniques and methods not only to grab a potential consumer’s attention, but to convince the consumer that the product is right for them. One of the many ways to do so is to not only glamorize and sell the product, but turn the product into an element of a specific lifestyle or emotion that is highly desired. For instance, when advertised, healthy food products are usually shown as being eaten by hikers, athletes, self-conscious soccer-moms, and various other stereotypical groups of people who either are fit and healthy or want to be so. The advertisers would not want to advertise a healthy, weight-loss snack being eaten by a three-hundred pound man sitting in front of his television.
When it comes to selling products to adult women, advertisers work with several clever assumptions concerning the modern-day American woman and her various tasks she performs throughout the day. Advertisers want these lady-consumers to understand that not only are they aware of the action throughout a woman’s day, but that they are also aware of how this woman must feel concerning what she does, how she does it, and what she looks and feels like when she does it. This here is one of the clever assumptions that advertisers make: that most women are busy and self-conscious. This is a safe assumption for the advertisers to make when it comes to the magazines I looked at: Oprah, InStyle, Good Housekeeping, and Cosmopolitan. A lot of the women who read these magazines are college girls, mothers, and grandmothers that work, care about their looks, have husbands or boyfriends, go out and have fun, want to please their men, want to know what’s going on in the world, are busy homemakers, or are bored.
Yes, bored. This is one of the seven ways that I noticed how advertisers interest women. Advertisers are aware that these magazines are in doctor’s offices and other such waiting rooms. These women may be going to see the doctor because they are depressed or a part of their body is not working the way it used to. So, in these magazines, there are advertisements containing happy, energetic women who became happy and energetic because of the product that is advertised. I labeled these advertisements Get back out there and multi-task!
An advertisement for the migraine medication Topamax contains a worried-looking woman at a desk in front of a lap top. The aesthetics themselves show that she must be a professional, or busy woman. Above her head are her thought bubbles concerning the stress that she will not be able to make it through her daughter’s recital or the presentation she has to give on Monday. The last thought bubble says, “Somehow I’ll have to get it done.” Here, a woman is stressing over her inability to perform tasks due to her migraine. Above the name of the product, it is written that, “Life shouldn’t always revolve around migraines.” There are two assumptions at play here: the assumption that life should revolve around doing tasks rather than having and recovering from migraines and that women who have migraines seem to earn them in a way, because they are busy, working women.
In advertising, ailments can sometimes come across as something that is earned due to a vigorous, hard-working lifestyle. For instance, in another advertisement that encourages women to get back out there and multi-task, there is a pair of aerobic weights next to a bottle of water. This is an advertisement for Tylenol Arthritis Pain. Above this image is a paragraph that encourages women to conquer their arthritic pain. The first sentence of this paragraph states, “Arthritis pain might sound like a reason to skip your daily walk.” This sentence makes the assumption that most of the older Oprah readers desire to stay fit despite their pain.
Another get out there and multi-task advertisement from Good Housekeeping advertises Verizon. It shows a well-dressed husband and wife with their cell phone, which the wife is using. There is a close up of what can be assumed is their personal cell phone. The contact list shows “Brother”, “Club”, “Daughter”, “Grandkids”, and “Neighbor”. This here portrays this specific couple as very family, community, and friend oriented. This couple is older and above them in text is, “Retired but busy,” which is Verizon’s way of selling not only a cell-phone plan, but a lifestyle.
The second way that I noticed how advertisers interest women is by advertising the product itself as a multi-tasker, thus relating it to the multi-tasking women. I labeled these advertisements Let me do the job for you! A LiveActive cereal advertisement in Oprah states, “A fiber cereal with the ability to multitask.” Not only does this cereal regulate your digestive system and support good bacteria in your body, but it also looks and tastes great. This may be relative to a woman herself who can multitask and look and feel great.
Another example of a multi-tasking product is Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. It shows two maids (women) on either side of the product. In text it says, “It’s like having a maid times two.” This shower cleaner not only performs the task of two maids, but it saves the consumer time so that she can go about her other tasks during the day. This leads to the next way that advertisers trap women.
From on-the-go yogurts and cereal bars to long-lasting toothpaste, companies are finding more and more ways to cater to an American woman’s busy lifestyle where she makes time for everything and everyone else but herself. I labeled these advertisements Time Savers. Some of these time-saving products encourage women to relax and use a specific product to do the work for them but other products encourage women to keep on working and not waste time doing something as simple as making coffee. From InStyle, I found an advertisement for On The Go Vanilla Latte. The text says, “The perfect place for your vanilla latte? Your purse.” There is an image of a prepared vanilla latte on top of a stack of busy-work papers. This advertisement makes the assumption that it is typical of most women that read InStyle to not have the time to simply drink coffee or relax. It does not encourage women to sit down and relax, but that it is okay to be this busy because now there are companies that will help women remain this busy.
To counteract this example, there is an advertisement in Oprah for Olay Definity that shows a sleeping woman that is obviously using the sleep cream on her face. This advertisement encourages women to sleep or relax while at the same time performing the task of fixing discolorations of the skin, wrinkles, and the evening of skin tone. This also caters to beauty and makes the safe assumption that most women want to have a pleasing appearance and are worried about how the stress their lives contain will show through the wrinkles in their faces. Despite all the action of their day, they may not want all the effects of that action to show on their bodies, which leads me to the next, and very important way that advertisers interest women.
Women are busy. They are mothers. They have stress. They are wives. They are professionals. They are coaches. They are best friends. They fix things. They grow things. They clean. They organize. They listen. They pay attention. They worry. They work hard. Advertisers appear to love to show women as being dominant, strong, capable, free-spirited, independent, intelligent, care-free, yet careful, like men, and better than men. Rosie the Riveter would be proud, to say the least. Advertisers use these ideas, though, to their advantage, often portraying women as hardcore and intimidating. I call them “ideas” rather than “facts” because not all women are hardcore, but a lot of them want to be so. There are still a lot of women who feel trapped in undesirable roles and want to be like the women portrayed in these magazines. Advertisers prey on these women, as well. I labeled these advertisements, Yeah, I know I’m bad-ass. Most of these advertisements seem to be selling a lifestyle rather than a product. The product is so glamorized that it seems like it can change a woman’s life if she purchases it.
Centered in bold, pink letters, an advertisement says, “IT’S TIME TO LET NOTHING CONTAIN YOU.” This advertises a lifestyle of freedom and self-discovery while at the same time advertising Miracle Gro in Good Housekeeping. Several boxed pictures surround this bold, central encouragement. These pictures contain an attractive, young, happy-looking, free-spirited woman and her joy concerning her flowers.
Sometimes women even look like men in these advertisements. An advertisement in Oprah for DoubleTree shows a professional looking woman wearing a woman’s suit and carrying a non-gendered carrying-case. It is still obvious that she is a woman despite her hair being pulled back to give the illusion that it is short. In text, it says, “Work. Dream. We’ll leave that up to you. But as far as taking care of you goes, you can leave that up to us.” This advertisement seems to encourage women to not pay attention or care for themselves, and to instead keep working and pursuing goals; that it is not the woman’s job to take care of herself, but to take care of outward pursuits.
Another advertisement containing a woman that looks like a man also subtly portrays the woman as a man. This is an advertisement made by Good Housekeeping itself, encouraging women to use its website for quick tips to get through the various tasks women must perform each day. In the advertisement is a woman with short, boyish hair, wearing a plain, white button-down shirt, sitting on a floor, surrounded by paperwork. Next to her in text, it says, “Wish I had a wife.”
Yeah, I know I’m bad-ass advertisements are also prone to using actual, hard-working, successful women. In Cosmopolitan, Covergirl uses Queen Latifah. Good Housekeeping uses Glenn Close in a got milk? advertisement. got milk? advertisements typically always use celebrities or other famous persons to show that milk is an essential ingredient to their everyday lives and careers.
The fifth way that I noticed how advertisers interest women is by what I labeled it as Taking it home. In these advertisements, the mother and wife are encouraged to be excellent mothers despite being so busy. An example of this in Good Housekeeping is for a household cleaner spray called MoldControl. In one solid image, a woman’s tasks are embodied. The image is of a piece of moldy wheat bread that is in the shape of a house. Not only are the elements of home instilled within this image, but of food, and of any disaster that can strike and cause problems for the household. The woman is the protector of the house, the food, and the killer of the mold if she purchases this product. I found it interesting that the bread appeared to be wheat rather than white. Wheat is known to be the healthier alternative when it comes to bread, and this leads me to the sixth and seventh ways that advertisers interest women.
To bring my observations of advertisements to a rest, I want to discuss two ways that advertisements encourage women to rest and contemplate the welfare of their bodies. Many women are very self-conscious and most of the time aware that their bodies are being worn down from all the work they perform. Many women feel that they need to be pampered, but just do not have the time to do so. I call these advertisements But what about me? These advertisements often compliment women for their work and contributions. Some advertisers use this idea in a slightly deceptive way. In Oprah, I found an advertisement for Culturelle, a probiotic for the intestinal tract. The image on the advertisement is a silhouette of a woman meditating. Words in the advertisement include “enlightened”, “the road to health and happiness”, and “health be with you”, equivalent to “God be with you”. This particular advertisement deceives a woman’s desires to be meditative, happy, and healthy, by promoting a product that seems needed in order to obtain those feelings.
A complimenting advertisement I found is from Cosmopolitan and it states, “You’re beautiful and smart…why pay more?” The advertisement compliments the consumer so to encourage her to buy New York Color’s Smooth Mineral Loose Eye Powder.
An advertisement that tries to reward the hard-working woman by encouraging her to rest is from Sleep Number in Good Housekeeping. It shows a woman sleeping and asks, “Are your busy days rewarded by restful nights?” It encourages women to get their needed rest, but to still remain busy during the day, when they are not sleeping in Sleep Number’s Sleep Better bed.
The seventh way in which I noticed how advertisers got women’s attention was through a way I call Me & Nature. Advertisers are aware that women are or really want to be “one with nature”. This connects to What about me? because this way also deals with what a lot of women desire for themselves. A lot of women are very careful and wary about products they use and they desire to use consume and use natural products that are eco-friendly. One of my advertisements includes a woman covered in green leaves for Physicians Formula. Olay shows a woman showering in what seems more like a waterfall than a shower stall and the text goes across her body: “Fuse the beauty of nature into your skin.”
Women are going to continue to be busy and products are going to continue to be more accessible, easy and quick to use, and defining of how a modern, American woman should be spending her time. It is both something to celebrate and worry about to think that women are going to continue to think that they must fulfill these roles. It is good because a lot of women do indeed get satisfaction from all the tasks they accomplish and the status it gives them. But it is also bad, for sometimes all those roles disallow a woman to be herself and pursue passions that are more internal rather than external. But advertisers are getting ahead of their game, advertising that peace and happiness is indeed in the game, in the job, and in the home.
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I decided that I wanted to watch a channel that catered to audiences of all ages. I decided upon Nickelodeon’s Nick at Nite, which airs late in the evening and provides television shows that cater to both humor for children and adult humor. During the day, I believe that the commercials cater to children and teenagers for the most part. When the evening comes around, however, commercials make a transition into adult entertainment and desire, as well. So, not only is there a noticeable transition within the shows on Nickelodeon, but within the commercials as well, as time passes through the day.
The first commercial I analyzed consisted of a cute yellow lab puppy romping around a park filled with active people. This commercial is visually stimulating for it has bright colors and a lot of fun, family action taking place. All the poignant actors within the commercial wear solid, bright colored shirts. The grass in the park is a vivid green and the sky is a summer blue. The aesthetics are therefore pleasing, but there are also cuteness and humor factors involved. The puppy is of course adorable, but the actions of the puppy are quite humorous. Throughout the commercial, the puppy is running around the park observing peoples’ bottoms and the various, uncomfortable elements that their bottoms are exposed to. For instance, there are bottoms that are shown on uncomfortable, small bicycle seats, bottoms on seesaws, bottoms slipping off the end of a sliding board, and bottoms falling while rollerblading. These aspects add humor to the whole commercial where most of the visuals are an adorable puppy and peoples’ bottoms. The amusing auditory effect of this commercial is that the puppy’s perspective comes from a voice-over (a man’s comical voice). Throughout this commercial, the audience does not exactly know what is going to be advertised or how the commercial will conclude. As the audience, I was at the edge of my seat wondering how this commercial would conclude. Towards the end of the commercial, another voice-over (a woman’s calm voice) speaks directly to the audience about how life causes aching bottoms. She encourages us to make a change and “be kind to your behind.” As this voice-over influences the audience, the puppy approaches a woman who is sitting in a comfortable chair that is kind to her behind. After this scene, a bland scene appears where the only vivid color is the blue on the Cottonelle Toilet Paper wrapping. Next to this toilet paper is the puppy, approving of the product. This commercial reaches out to all ages. The colors, bottoms, action, play, and puppy stimulate children. They stimulate the adults, as well, but the adults, I believe, might be more interested in the motive of this commercial rather than the content. I believe that a child would be satisfied with this commercial even if there is not a concluding advertisement. This commercial promotes family values and the producers of this commercial seem to want to show to the audience that this brand of toilet paper is something that can be depended on for comfort within a family.
The next commercial that I analyzed was yet another talking animal commercial in which two black bulls graze in a golden pasture underneath a beautiful, blue sky. Since I have seen commercials related to this one, I know that these bulls are in the rolling hills of California. The ways in which these bulls speak is equivalent to a college boy. The first bull talks to the other bull about the “babes” (female cows) that surround them. The first bull asks, “You’re from the east, huh?” using colloquial language. The first bull then goes on to explain that these “babes” must be “babes” due to the sunny sky, clean air and good food. A cow crosses their path and he asks her, “Hey, d’ya work out?” A voice-over then interrupts, telling the audience that “Good cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.” This commercial that advertises Real California Cheese excels at engaging all ages of an audience. I mentioned above that I knew the direction of this commercial because I have seen others related to it. In a way, that makes this commercial a part of a mini-series of commercials, kind of like a funny show or cartoon. That is one way to get the attention of children (especially if it is a talking animal). To have the bulls speak as if they are college boys might engage an audience of that certain age. An older audience might find it amusing because the effect of these bulls mimicking how their own children sound is quite funny. This commercial values production very much. When the first bull speaks about the “babes”, he explains that they are babes because of how their environment produced them. The production of these “babe” or “happy” cows is of course assuring to the idea of producing a product (Real California Cheese) that can make the consumer happy, as well.
The last commercial that I analyzed is a Busch Gardens commercial. This commercial also reaches out to all ages. It is a very quick and thrilling commercial, a lot like a ride in an amusement park. It shows quick, changing scenes that show happy children, happy couples (young and old), and happy families. The scenes involve children with looks of awe and wonder on their faces, a child peering through a foggy window at a woman baking, a happy couple dancing on a glorious dance floor, children petting farm animals, and happy families gathered around a table eating a meal. This commercial seems to value fun for everyone, whether or not you have children, and whether or not you are young. But also, I believe that this commercial poses a value of the consumption of fun. It seems to say we guarantee that if you pay to visit us, you’ll be as happy as these people! The producers of this commercial are aware that fun can be sought elsewhere and without having to shell out a lot of cash. Therefore, that is why I believe that this commercial put more of an emphasis on family fun rather than the rides and entertainment that is provided. It shows the family being entertained by each other rather than them being entertained by what is provided at the park. This mechanism is a way for Busch Gardens to somehow form a promise to the consumer.
I muted the television during a Campbell’s Mushroom Soup commercial. This commercial consists of a family of three generations (children, parents, grandparents) gathering for a meal. The mother is busy in the kitchen, putting the meal together. Her son and daughter are in the kitchen with her, watching her. Everyone in the commercial is wearing either white or beige so that the only colorful thing in the commercial is the green bean casserole that the mother prepared. Green bean casserole is a traditional American dish that is served on holidays or during family get-togethers. Food is often advertised as a way to bring family together. Therefore, I believe that Campbell’s is trying to portray a familial connection between this specific food and family. Another value I notice in this commercial is the value of the mother. The mother has her place in this commercial as the provider of food, family, and color. It is because of her that everyone is happy at the table because she is the sole creator of the dish that portrays their happiness.
All these commercials attempt to socialize families into active, comforting groups of people that get along and have fun. All these commercials contain animals, bright colors, and a lot of healthy action and involvement. These commercials also make assumptions that products are purchased for the purpose of family togetherness and identity. Family identity in commercials is very generic and avoids contradiction and biases. When contradictions and biases are shown in commercials, it is for the purpose of humor. For instance, during those cell phone commercials where the daughter and grandmother both talk in “text” language or jargon. It is humorous because it is not put into a very serious situation. Commercials geared towards families all have one thing in common. And that is…to be common.
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I write fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. It's what I'm at school to do (although I've been pigeonholed into being called a poet). I'm not going to get into the logistics of "I am a writer", but let me get this straight. And I'll be a bit more specific. I am a poet. Writing exists within me despite my background. Really.

I was reading my sociology book once again (Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life Sixth Edition by David M. Newman). While reading, I came across the textual definition of what Identity is:

Identity is our most essential and personal characteristic. It consists of our membership in various social groups (race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and so on), the traits we show, and the traits others ascribe to us.

I was appalled. I read this definition to my room mate. Her response was, "It's a text book." I had to therefore go and search for another definition of identity, so I looked in Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary and found this:

Identity The condition or fact of being the same in all qualities under consideration; sameness; oneness.

The condition or fact of being some specific person or thing; individuality; the condition of being the same as something or someone assumed, described or claimed.

Much better, I think. The former definition seems to propose the identity as something that is gained from the outside. The latter definition seems to propose a constance within an individual. It's what is there before something is gained from the outside, and remains there no matter what.

Like I said, I'm a poet. No one in my entire life pointed at me and said, "Being a poet is cool! It's what you're supposed to do!" I have never belonged to a group of writers, not even here at college, really. To be totally honest, I've gotten more looks of disapproval than approval when people learn that I write and that it is what I want to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm supported by the people close to me, but it was not them that told me to have this desire. And if I never had the desire in the first place, not one of them would point me in my current direction. So, where does my desire to write come from? My parents never really pushed me to read. I did it on my own. I come from a lower-middle class family that works and complains about money, not having enough time to decipher literature and sip champagne to Coltrane. My parents are not highly educated. I went to a public high school that consisted of what most high schools consist of (hierarchies, nerds, druggies, jocks, preps, and all those stereotypes). I worked on and off as a cashier with young (16-18 years old), impregnated girls and the guys trying to get into their pants. I worked on and off as a factory worker with the same situations, but add drug-addiction, alcoholism, abortion, racial hatred, theft, extra perversion, homosexuals, and complaints to that equation. If anything, all these experiences helped to develop my already-present desire to write, for they're all interesting things to write about, but the desire was there to begin with. This has nothing to do with the looking-glass self, meaning that I pursued something because someone told me I was good at it. No. I did this on my own accord.

Whether or not I grew up in Nowheresville, Pennsylvania or in Somewheresville, California, I believe I may have wanted to write. It's a constant within me. I will of course have had different situations and have encountered different people, but I'd still have that constant.

But of course, I change. I change all the time. We do. Everything does. Like the Buddhist saying goes: You can't step into the same river twice.

Hell, you can't step into the same river once!

There are quantities of human beings, but there are many more faces, for each person has several. There are people who wear the same face for years, naturally it wears out, it gets dirty, it splits at the folds, it stretches like gloves one has worn on a journey.

The Notebooks of Malt Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to talk more about identity/self later.
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Towards the end yesterday's post, I was asking about the middle-ground. What is it about extremes that curtails us from the middle-ground? What is so unattractive about it? In my philosophy & film class, we began reading Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed. In the section of the book titled And What is Virtue?, virtue is defined in one sentence (Sorry, Socrates): Virtue is the behavior most distant from the possible extremes of behavior in any given situation. So, virtue is the middle-ground? Here's an excerpt:

Virtue cannot be found in the extremes: both the man who voluntarily refuses to eat and the glutton harm their health. This is not virtuous behavior; to eat with moderation is. The absence of physical exercise, as well as the too violent exercise, ruins the body; moderate physical exercise constitutes virtuous behavior. The same is true of the moral virtues. Creon thinks only of the good of the State, while Antigone thinks only of the good of the Family and wishes to bury her dead, traitorous brother. The two behave in a non-virtuous manner, for their conduct is extreme. Virtue would be found somewhere in the middle ground. The man who gives himself to all pleasures is a libertine, but the one who flees from all pleasures is an insensitive person. The one who confronts all dangers is foolhardy, but he who runs from all dangers is a coward.

So, are Kamikaze girls trying to not be virtuous? What is so disconcerting about virtue? Perhaps I'll get back to this again soon.
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My professor, 
, told me about a group of fetishists on youtube. Now, you must pardon my ignorance considering the youtube household because I haven't yet been sucked in to the youtube craze. But I joined and searched for these videos because they very much connect to my previous post concerning Kamikaze girls. I mentioned that Kamikaze girls are self-destrucctive or like to appear that way. I am studying Kamikaze girls in self-portraits, and now, it seems, in videos. Videos are pretty much extended self-portraits. There's the subject (the Kamikaze girl) in a certain amount of space in an extended moment, and she must make an impression. Kamikaze is a very broad idea, though, and can be portrayed in many different ways. And that is why I am now studying these videos of girls smoking.

What is a cigarette? It can be burned, tossed aside, stomped on, given up, replaced, wasted away, soothing, sickening, dangerous, and even deadly. It has a few moments of glory and fades away. It is addicting. It is disliked and abused. It is on fire. It is consumed. So is a Kamikaze girl (or she at least portrays her self as so). Smoking has history, mystery, and background to it, as well. A person usually smokes due to a terrible thing that has happened to them or because of a bad influence. Not just those two reasons apply, however. When someone searches for an identity, they light a cigarette. It's in films. Someone is sick of life, so they smoke. They don't care anymore, so they smoke. It's in all the lifetime movies about teenagers and peer pressure. It's in American Beauty. But upon encountering a person who smokes, those questions are there: What happened to this person? Who influenced them? What or who hurt, traumatized, abused, manipulated this person? But smoking doesn't just portray weakness in women. I've mentioned before that girls like portraying themselves at extremes. They'll portray themselves as extremely used or portray themselves as an extreme user. A girl can smoke to identify with the consumed, replaceable cigarette or she can smoke to prove her predatory nature as consumer. "Yeah, I smoke. I'm not dying. What the hell do you care? This is the bad-ass Kamikaze who wants to prove her dominance over something considered threatening. I came across a video of a fifteen year old girl with the above attitude. Unfortunately I didn't copy down the url for this girl's video. This girl spent two or three minutes defending the fact that she smoked, but no why she smoked. She tried to sound like a bad-ass by disobeying authority. In my personal opinion, there wasn't any rational argument in what she was saying, but I felt that she was just flaunting her decision to disobey authority.

Youtube makes things very interesting, though. You can view the comments that are made concerning these videos. I'm sure that there is the capability to not allow comments, but these girls in these videos allow comments, knowing that the comments can be lewd, derogatory, demanding, and even mean. These comments make the Kamikaze girl seem like the man's slave or his bitch. Some of these videos are taken by men, as well. So then, the girl is obeying the man's desires by doing as he desires on the camera. Like I mentioned, some of these comments from the male fetishists or non-fetishists are demanding. They demand for the girl to take her shirt off, smoke a specific brand, inhale/exhale a certain way, etc. Sometimes the girl will comment back, saying "No" in one way or another. But I feel that this is just another way to establish her bad-ass persona.

Here is a video. I don't know how to put videos in my journal. I think I'm doing it right, though. You might have to be a member to see some of these. Sorry.

Don't worry, I'm aware that I have not yet mentioned the obvious reason why this smoking fetish is indeed "sexy". Obviously it's an oral fixation and the cigarette is the phallus slowly being consumed. The off-white smoke is equivalent to semen. It enters and exits the mouth. The actions of the mouth signify oral or vaginal sex. This girl is a really creative smoker. She seems predatory. Even the music in the background suggests it: "You've been a bad, bad boy..." Her eyes are also on the camera for most of the video. She seems to be trying to seduce. She really shows off tongue work and even manages to blow smoke that looks phallic and sexy, as well.

Check this one out.

As you can see, this woman is being spanked by a man as she smokes a cigarette. I guess I can say that this video speaks for itself. She is either desiring or agreeing to appear submissive and abused. Keep in mind that I'm not really focusing on her (or any of the other subjects') actual desires. I'm not really going into the psychology of how they really feel. I'm just studying aesthetics and actions. This woman really might like being spanked. But I'm just studying the fact the aesthetics of how she looks and the impression that she is making.

I don't know if this girl is a model or not. I'm only wondering about the black, studio-like background. I tried to find non-modes/pornographic subjects. Throughout the video, this girl is serious and Kamikaze. How does she seem Kamikaze? She looks bored. Kamikaze girls want to appear hard to satisfy. They want to appear like something so terrible has made them the way they are and that nothing can cure their misery. But then she laughs! She brings reality into the video. But then, before you know it, she's acting Kamikaze, again. This girl's username is EDVIL which can be a play on words. "ED"/Eating Disorder; EDVIL/DEVIL". She's very thin. Don't get me wrong. I don't know her at all, and I'm only guessing about this name and the meaning behind it. She can be a total hog with an awesome metabolic rate.

This is an example of a slave girl. Here's a few of the (horrible spelling) comments to her video that she does not say no to or reply to:

wear a thinner shirt next time and inhale

inhail it bitch

take off the shirt bitch or get the FUCK OUT >=O

smok salem green lable 100s

this is ugly girl smoking a 100 cigarette

i like to fuck you..you have a realy nice boobs..i wana eat you...baby..

I think that's enough.

My professor brought up an interesting observation/idea. He mentioned the idea of becoming nothing in order to become something. Or to disappear in order to appear. He was speaking more along the terms of eating disorders, but this idea can be applied to the totality of the Kamikaze girl. Especially the smoking Kamikaze girl. As the cigarette vanishes, it becomes smoke and ash--simpler elements. Bare bones.

This whole study so far makes me think of extremes. What about the middle-ground? Are all these extremes just aesthetic, but essentially ordinary? Is there "truth" in the middle-ground? I can take this study into so many different directions: prostitution, peer-pressure, abuse, feminism, art, youth studies, fetishes, etc. There's so much. I'd like to see what you all have to say about this.

Just to let you all know, all this Kamikaze girl talk has nothing to do with what is being talked about in my class. I do want to post soon about my ideas concerning what we're talking about in class. I'll get to that soon, I'm sure. And I think I can probably tie things together.
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As mentioned a while back, I wanted to do a quick study on self-portraits. I just think that it's interesting for a person to want to portray themselves in one moment in one specific amount of space. I did some reading concerning self-portraits, but nothing too in-depth. I know that some of you are artists, so I encourage you to contribute or refute my thoughts. I came across a book called Self=Portrayal, edited by James Alinder. Within the book, there are several portraits and I categorized them. The categories include "portraying self through nature", "power", "smallness", "artistic", "vulnerable", "suppressed", "comicozzie girls", "villains/predators", and "innocent". I know how to explain all these categories, but I do not know exactly know how to give them any substance in their existence (in my mind). But I'll try my best. When people make self-portraits of themselves, they seem to be trying to portray an image that they want to be seen as. But these images might not be who they truly are. Let me explain each of these categories I put together. Please be aware that I know that there are several other types of categories. Please be aware that I'm aware that these categories might be insufficient, as well. And please be aware that I'm slightly tipsy right now. "Portraying self through nature" is obvious. People are portraying themselves as a part of nature because they are a part of nature. "Smallness" to me is when someone portrays themselves as a small portion to a larger picture. It signifies their insignificance or lack of power. "Power" would be the opposite of this. This would be a person taking a picture of themself atop a mountain or next to the carcass of an animal. "Vulnerable", "suppressed", "comicozzie girls" and "innocent" mostly tie to women. But women sometimes portray themselves as "predator" as well. Girls seem to want to portray themselves as vulnerable, weak, nude, hurt, abused, used, alone, etc. If it's not that, it seems the opposite, They'll look domineering, fearsome, and like they can jack you up. I stole the term "comicozzie girls" from Woody Allen. They're girls that are self-destructive because they know that their self-destructiveness is sexy or something to revere. So, I ran a little study today with the book that I mentioned above. Of 34 portraits of women, 29 of them were in the categories of "comicozzie girls", "vulnerability", "suppression", and "innocent". I'm going to give some examples from a community that I joined a while back.

This is a picture of a young girl on a bed. Beyond a picture of a girl on a bed is a girl, covering her face, in underwear, thin/vulnerable looking, and definitely "comicozzie-esque". The blurred picture gives a sense of movement or time passing, but the picture itself is merely a moment. So, this suggests (to me) that she is trying to represent a long, tumultuous time within one moment. The fact that she's on a bed speaks many volumes and so does the sepia tone.

Here's yet another girl on a bed. I didn't go around communities, looking for similar themes within self-portraits. These two pictures were found within the same community around the same time period. This has a very "Virgin Suicides" feel to it; a girl that is suppressed, has interests/desires that she cannot exactly pursue. She has a dark side. You can see it through the resentful look on her face. She's the portrayal of innocence, but she is not at all innocent. Just like those Virgin Suicide girls. Girls often have a tendency to follow this tradition to appear like they're less than they really are. You might be wondering where I got the idea of the "resentful look". She's looking at something besides the camera, which suggests to me that she's gazing at something that she cannot obtain. At the same time, she looks pretty dangerous. This makes a good contrast to the innocent, vulnerable look that she's portraying in the photograph.


Girls like to portray themselves as either innocent or predatory. Here, a girl is portraying herself as innocent. She's like Alice in Wonderland, but Alice wasn't all that innocent. She was very precocious and vivacious. Everything about her is child-like. From her drinking through a phallic straw, to the dress, to the childish drawings in the background, to her pose, to the look on her face, to her body language.

Even though this self-portrait is just legs, it speaks a lot. The position of these legs is a symbol among comicozzie girls. I apologize in advance for not explaining myself sufficiently in this post. In my opinion, "comicozzie girls" want to appear vulnerable, weak, etc. The position of these legs suggests youth, innocence, and vulnerability. In this self-portrait, her legs are spread quite a bit and her feet are turned inwards. This position creates a slight gap between the thighs, making a girl appear thinner, and therefore more vulnerable. A lot of singers do this on stage; from Lindsay Lohan to Hannah Montana. Notice the shadowed stripes going across the person's legs. This suggests an imprisoning or suppression. The colors are dark and her legs are bare, exposed. She's engulfed in shadows and the surroundings are kind of indistinguishable. Attention is drawn to her legs. This leads to my pictures of girls with eating disorders. Live Journal contains communities of (mostly) girls that promote eating disorders. There is even a community where girls post "progress pictures" of their weight loss. I wanted to look at these pictures to see which parts of the body that girls choose to expose through their vulnerability.

This girl posted a picture of herself at one of these pro-eating disorder communities. My motive in studying these pictures of girls showing off their bodies for the sake of showing off their desire to be "perfect" is to find, through their self-portraits and the way they represent themselves, how they want to be portrayed. This girl not only has qualms about her weight, but "appears" be going through body-image/self-image issues. She is aiming to lose weight, has tattoos on her body, and has her hair dyed unconventional colors. By the way that she is touching herself, she is sub-consciously (or consciously?) trying to emphasize the slenderness of her mid-area. She does not look straight at the camera, suggesting, "I don't need to look anymore to see if you're looking at me." Yes, I know I sound extremely judgmental right now. I can hear all the arguments... "Just because she has a tattoo...", "What right do you have...", "You don't know her...", "Just because her hair is green and yellow...", "You're just like the rest of them..."

I'm really not trying to be biased or judgmental here. I'm just simply pointing things out one at a time and at a very random and unorganized order. I promise I'm getting at something here. This is a really raw study.

Here's another one.

Again, with the legs. Her legs are joined at the knees, giving her a thinner looking thigh. She's obviously trying to emphasize her clavicles and thin arms. Comicozzie girls focus on these aspects: any protruding bone in the body, props that signify addiction, pain, constraint (cigarettes, booze, facial expressions, beds, nudity), large eyes, child-like attire, isolation, loneliness, shadows, piercings/tattoos/body modification, large lips, straight/crazy hair, makeup, music. Comicozzie girls often portray themselves as too much or too little of something. They want to be found at extremes, for they fear being ordinary. If they portray themselves as ordinary, it seems to be a way for them to use ordinariness as a way to be an individual rather than them just trying to emphasize that they're ordinary in real life.

Of course, there is so much to be said about the self-portrait. I didn't touch upon much of anything, bust just managed to produce stereotypes (mainly among young women) when it comes to the art of self-portraits. Self-portraits can be (or always are) very intimate, and it's fascinating to be a part of that intimacy as the viewer. When looking at self-portraits, we tend to not really think of it as an auto-biography, but more as the artist portraying him/herself as an artifact of time. Or perhaps it's a way for us to watch an artist as he/she watches him/herself.

But back to the artifact. Why an artifact? Is an artifact merely an evidential feature that objectifies the passing of time? Isn't time a place for progression? Sartre, when asked for a definition of progression responded, "that long road which led to Me." Is the act of taking a self-portrait merely a way to document the passing of time and how one has changed through that passing?

Perhaps there will be more on this sometime soon. Please feel free to take this subject somewhere new or expand upon it. This subject is not yet complete, sensible, or well thought-out. It's just a seed.

Guten Nacht.
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Definitions of reality frequently reflect underlying economic interests. Consider, for instance, the story of a very successful contemporary painter named Marla Olmstead. Marla's paintings have been compared in style and spirit to the work of Jackson Pollock and currently sell for about $6,000 a piece, though one gallery owner thinks they could easily sell for $50,000 ("Marla Olmstead," 2004, p. 1). Her work has appeared at some of New York's finest art galleries. Critics note that her pieces are rhythmic, beautiful and magical. They rave about her depth and understanding of colors, which commbine in unique ways and blossom across the canvases. She has been featured on The Today Show, and 60 Minutes as well as in the New York Times and Time magazine. There's even a DVD--available for purchase on her Web site--that depicts her creating one of her paintings.

Marla has garnered all this attention not because of the quality of her work alone but because of who she is. When she first burst onto the artistic scene, Marla was 4 years old--and she'd already been "painting" for two years.

Marla uses bright acrylic paints, which she splatters and scrapes on large 6'X6' canvases. She sometimes works on one piece for days at a time, and her parents never know exactly when she's done. When she decides she's finished, she gives her paintings titles, prints her name at the bottom (sometimes with the "r" backwards), and goes on to the next thing that interests her--a TV show, a doll, a swim in the pool.

Is Marla an "artist"? Is her work the expression of creative, artistic vision, or is it the result of a child playing around with paint? More importantly, who gets to decide if her work is defined as "art" or as "childish doodles"? The investors and collectors who pay thousands of dollars for each of her paintings clearly define it as art. But what if she had never come to their attention and never sold a single piece? Would she have simply remained a child who goofed around with paint? For something to be considered art, does it have to have some economic exchange value? And how do you think all the thousands and thousands of struggling artists who never sell anything their entire lives feel about Marla's instant and apparently effortless success? Would they be less inclined to define her as an "artist" than the investors who buy her work?

What do you think? The amazing thing about all the classes I'm taking this semester is that they all collide with one another (which is a relief for me!). I read this for my sociology class. The book is called Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life (Sixth Edition) by David M. Newman.

So, this little girl is successful because people considered her paintings as art and therefore paid extravagant amounts for her work. This makes me think of Adorno (go ahead and groan). The producing of art in this situation doesn't make me think of Adorno, but the purchasing of the art does.

Buying the name. How many articles of clothing do you see everyday that has a brand name on it? Sure, there are people who buy things because it is a better quality. But face it, people buy the names, too. Newman specifically mentioned how Maria spelled her name with a backwards r. How adorable is that? And to be honest, her work is quite visually appealing:

So, is the consumer purchasing this art because a child did it or because it really is good? If an adult had painted that or a very highly trained artist painted that, would it be worth the $60,000 just the same?

Let me be pessimistic for a moment. Reasons a person would buy Maria's paintings (feel free to add to the list...and don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to debase a little kid that supposedly has talent):

1. The art is good.
2. The girl has talent despite the fact that she has never been trained in art or its mediums.
3. The girl is a prodigy.
4. I can hang that on my wall and say a small child painted that.
5. I can hang this on my wall and piss off my artist-husband/wife who never sold a thing.
6. She's my inspiration.
7. I love those colors.
8. I love the "meaning" behind it.
9. I love the message.
10. I love the fact that she's going to be soooo famous and I'll be able to brag that I have an original from when she was a child!
11. I love kids!
12. I want to piss off my anti-elitist husband/wife.
13. Maybe my kid will stop playing video games.
14. That will match my couch.
15. This piece really speaks to me.
16. She created art on her own without any persuasion.
17. She might still create the art even if it weren't worth $60,000.
18. Her poor parents must really need the money.
19. Maybe I can show this to my boss and we can use it for our purpose (with permission).
20. It doesn't even mean anything to her!

The list can go on.

On Monday, my class is watching Schizpolis. I will of course post an entry about it after I watch it. Have any of you seen it? Here's a link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117561/

I hope to get into a different study soon. I joined a self portrait community on Live Journal. Obviously, it's just pictures that people take of themselves. I want to study what it is that people try to portray about themselves. It's amazing all the different things that go into portraying yourself as still and in a certain space. I'll look at lighting, texture, poses, angles, color, clothing, makeup, hair, eyes (the big one), movement, and all kinds of stuff. I'm not a photographer, but I like looking at things. A lot. It should be interesting, nonetheless.

And I'd like to thank you all for "friending" me. You're all making great contributions and I appreciate it.
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