Archive for April, 2009

Reconstructing Stonehenge

April 30, 2009

In response to Mike’s blogpost Stonehenge It Still Works

Many people don’t know that Stonehenge was actually reconstructed sporadically throughout the twentieth century. Currently, it may look nothing like it did when it was initially constructed, so its original form is anybody’s guess. Nonetheless, it stands as a monolithic reminder of the mysteries of the long-lost ancient world– authentic or not. Here are some pictures of its reconstruction:

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Sad Tree

April 30, 2009

I’m sitting outside for an art class right now, the assignment is to draw anything. I’ve been looking around for an hour and a half, drawing leaves, trees, ponds, and rocks. After a short break just a moment ago I looked up and around, searching for my next subject, and I saw one particular sad-looking tree staring right at me. It has two knots, that if on a face would be cross eyes, it has a long crevice underneath them that I can only see as being a nose, and then underneath all of those it has an upturned u shaped frown. Upon further investigation I have been noticing more and more sad faces on this tree. I can’t help but find the irony in this. according to McCloud, we see faces in everything because we see ourselves in everything. I know I’m being dramatic but with the environmental chaos today, wouldn’t you be a sad tree too?

Cars at Face Value

April 30, 2009

The concept of making the world over in our image, as brought up in McCloud’s piece reminded me of an article that I read some time ago, published in the journal, Human Nature. For many years, car companies have been spending copious amounts of time in researching the way people react to the fronts of cars, as if they were indeed human faces. Carmakers used to strive for an inviting face, but in recent years they’ve been pushing for an edgier look: Car faces that look meaner, angrier and, at times, even downright evil. This can be seen with the ‘bubble’ cars of the nineties, which put an emphasis on aerodynamic, clean lines and rounded features. The mid-nineties Ford Taurus is a prime example, as is the New Beetle.

Today, cars have taken on a more angular, boxy and sleek look with more emphasis on broken lines. Cars like the Chrysler 300 and Cadillac STS were designed under the doctrine of this new design philosophy and such cars seem to even echo the design of cars from the seventies.

Slightly unrelated, but I wonder if this interest in boxy, angular cars with ‘angrier’ faces says anything about the global mood or climate. Round, friendlier-looking cars seem to gain prevalence in mainly peaceful and decadent times, such as the early sixties and nineties, then during times of war or economic turmoil, it seems we prefer the boxier, more aggressive looking cars, as during the Vietnam/Iraq wars and during the recessions both then and now. Perhaps it’s a subconscious need or desire to vent that alters our taste in the aesthetic and stylistic elements of the automobile?

…Getting back to my point: The study that was done about a year ago concluded that about a third of all people found a 90% correlation between human faces and the fronts of the cars that they were shown. The theory is that through evolution, human brains have been wired to “infer a great deal of information about another person such as, age, sex, attitudes, personality traits and emotions—from just a glance at their face. As a result, people are tempted to see faces anywhere they look, whether it be in clouds, stones or cars (ANI).”

According to Dennis Slice, the conductor of the research from FSU, “The fact that we can so easily see faces in inanimate objects may tell us something about the evolutionary environment in which this capacity arose. Seeing too many faces, even in mountains or toast, has little or no penalty, but missing or misinterpreting the face of a predator or attacker could be fatal.”

The original and very jovial-faced concept for the New Beetle

The original and very jovial-faced concept for the New Beetle

The agressive-faced new Camaro concept.

The agressive-faced new Camaro concept.

A news article discussing the study can be found here.

5:30 Mass

April 29, 2009

There’s a hundred different hair-dos here

and three hundred uncoordinated outfits.

There’s pant suits and tracksuits, jeans, skirts, and dresses, 

sweatshirts, and jerseys of all kinds.

There’s a bouncing baby the next pew up—

her attention devoted to the reflection of stained glass windows on the tiled floor—

and a crying one behind.

A lone cell phone interrupts the service, and everyone rustles around, 

Checking their pockets and bags.

 

Pay attention

I can’t

We’re at church

I’m too distracted.

 

Breathe in 

a mixture of mothballs and mildew.

Breathe out

And conspicuously scan left hands, wonder who’s married, widowed, divorced.

 

He means well up there, speaking of Ugandan women and their water pails

But it’s hard to concentrate when his deep purple vestiges against the white walls strain my eyes

And his South African accent strains my ears.

Media Ecology Theory

April 29, 2009

The following passages are taken from “A First Look at Communication Theory,” by Em Griffin.  They are talking about the Media Ecology Theory which basically shows how changes in the human era can be linked to it’s pertaining media.

“Literacy also jarred people out of collective tribal involvement into “civi- lized” private detachment. Reading words, instead of hearing them, transforms group members into individuals. Even though the words may be the same, the act of reading a text is an individual one.”

This passage embodies the concept that you can read your way to the top. Who needs education when you have a library card?

” “The new tribalism is one where everyone’s buiness is everyone else’s and where we all are somewhat testy.” 8  Citizens of the world are back in acoustic space. ”

This definitely relate to the new era we’re living in now. Take Facebook for example, is it wrong to say that everyone’s business is everyone else’s when someone’s every move shows up on your Newsfeed? I think not.

The Sandwich Incident in 3 Acts

April 28, 2009

I
Little Billy Baxter took off down the hall. His sloppy, stupid mushroom cut flopped up and down with every step.
“Get over here you little son of a bitch!” I launched myself out of my seat and hesitated for a moment. When he disappeared around the corner with my sandwich, I darted across the cafeteria floor, throwing tiny little Jenny out of the way with outstretched arms. Behind me, things went silent and I could tell I had become the center of attention. There was a gasp—eyes locked in. My stomach growled deep below grit teeth.
I ran down the hall and cut a quick left, nearly taking down little James, who wore high socks and smelled like sour milk. The sound of the wind rushed passed my ears. At the end of the hall I could see him. He had a good lead, but his stubby little legs couldn’t take him too far. Not from me.
“Hey you! No running in the hall!” Mr. Harrison with the red face did nothing to stop me. Billy went right. I was gaining on him and I could see his little left hand clutching my beloved ham sandwich. The thought of his little bony finger imprints on my two previously flawless, fluffy, and wondrous pieces of white bread made me crazy with anger. My stride grew longer and my fists tore through the air.
He was a few yards away and I could almost smell it. It was either the ham or the smell of Little Billy Baxter’s imminent death. I reached out, stretching my right arm as far as it would go. It strained. When I felt his little collar in my hand, my heart started to pound. I yanked at it with all my might and heard the fabric tear as I heaved him onto the ground. There was a light thud and the sandwich exploded in all directions, escaping his weak grip. I screeched to a quick halt and looked down. There was a long trail of peanut butter leading to one of the pieces of white bread, indented with little Billy’s desperate handprint. Red was everywhere. Strawberry Jelly I suppose—no wait, blood? That’s when I remembered that I had already eaten my ham sandwich that afternoon. Silly me.

II
Today is my special day. After all, it’s my birthday. My mommy told me that if I got an A on my spelling test yesterday, she would pick me up early from school and take me to Happyland Ranch. I got every word right, even ‘biscuit’—after all, it is Happyland Ranch; the happiest ranch in the whole wide world! I couldn’t wait to ride the pony. Last year the pony had pneumonia and some man named Elmers had to come and take him away. That’s what my mommy said. This year, my mommy said that the pony was happier than ever. There are sheep that go baa, and you can pet them too! There are even little yellow ducks. Geez I love ducks. This is my special day.
I looked up at the clock. She was coming at 12:30 to get me. I couldn’t believe I was going to leave school early. I sat at my table with Jenny and my best friend, Benjamin, waiting for mommy to come. I wasn’t hungry that afternoon. I was all filled up on my mommy’s special vanilla cupcakes that she baked for me and my class; they had rainbow sprinkles. My favorite.
When the little hand… no wait; the big hand got to 30, I said bye to Jenny and Ben. They had pudding all over their faces. I couldn’t wait! The last time I got to go home early was when I had pneumonia.
I was so excited that I got up and ran down the hallway, I couldn’t help it. I took my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with me in case I wanted it later. I think Mr. Harrison said something to me when I passed him, but nobody likes Mr. Harrison anyway. My daddy says he used to touch children, but my teacher touches me all the time. She gives me hugs and one time she even put a little, yellow star sticker on my shirt for me when I gave Jenny my apple juice, because her mommy forgot hers. Poor Jenny.
At the end of the hall, I could already see my mommy’s blue car outside. I thought I saw her waving and smiled.
Then I heard someone running behind me. Maybe they were going to Happyland Ranch too. That’s when I was choked and thrown to the ground. My new collared shirt that Grandma got me, with yellow stripes and a ‘Happy Birthday!’ sticker from Mrs. Stankowitz ripped in front, right down the middle. I lost my sandwich and my nose bled everywhere when my face hit the ground hard.
It’s my special day.

III
Big Heath looks like he’s thirty, but he’s just thirteen. He’s big, freckled, has red hair on his head (and face) and likes to kick his dog. He probably couldn’t tell you the difference between right and left. I don’t know why I hang out with him. He’s a terrific asshole. Not that he’s terrific, but he’s terrific at being an asshole. He’s the only thirteen year old I know who smokes Marlboro Reds.
I remember one time he peed his pants in Mrs. Barbarito’s math class. He didn’t do it because he had to pee that badly, he did it just to be funny. I didn’t think it was funny, but everybody else seemed to. I didn’t think they had a choice. I pretended to laugh; otherwise I might end up like Michael Deever, who forgot to laugh at one of Heath’s stupid jokes. After school, Michael opened his backpack and found a dead, bloody raccoon. Nobody knows where he found it to this day.
Heath doesn’t have any real friends; people are just afraid of him and act like they’re his friends. If he were to disappear tomorrow, I don’t think anybody would care. There would be an unspoken relief in the air and I think the meatloaf would taste just a little better.
That’s why it didn’t even faze me when Heath got up from our lunch table and ran after some little second grader, ten minutes after eating my goddamn ham sandwich, which he makes me give him every day. I started telling my mom that I’m really hungry and now she makes me two. I usually sneak out and eat the other sandwich on the playground just before lunch. She wonders how I’m still so skinny.
Oh man was he in trouble that day. Principal Connell nearly beat his ass, himself. Apparently Heath thought that the little kid took his lunch—my lunch. What a moron. I watched him eat it right in front of my face. I heard he gave the kid one hell of a nosebleed when he punched him in the face—or threw him on the floor, depending on who you ask. I heard it was this little kid’s birthday or something. Man, that really blows. His parents got called in as usual and did nothing as usual. The school suspended him for like three days and he had to write a written apology to the Baxter family. When he was back in school, I asked him what happened and he said he thought the kid stole his (my) sandwich, so he roundhouse kicked him in the face and flushed his bloody face down the toilet. Yeah, okay.
Big Heath is a terrific asshole.

A ham sandwich.

A ham sandwich.

Stonehenge- It Still Works

April 28, 2009

It was just… sitting there. Outside of our coach window, Stonehenge was a craggy blemish in the middle of the Salisbury Plain. We were let out across the old road and took a tunnel underground. We passed by a few souvenir kiosks, and finally, there it was, in person, with no glass between us and one of the most magnificent enigmas our species has created.

The heat was brutal. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that it rains all the time in the United Kingdom. However, it was a necessary trip. Within a few days I’d be leaving the United Kingdom, alone, to backpack all over the continent. But first, I needed to see a little more of Great Britain. After a long day of travel and arguing with the bus company in Salisbury, we finally arrived at Stonehenge. I turned to my travel companion, whom I’d just met days earlier, smiled, and walked as close as we could to the rocks. We walked the path around the monument, paused to take pictures and watched as birds flew around and perched on the great bluestones. The actual monument itself was roped off; though it was slightly disappointing to not be able to touch the thing, it was nice to be able to see it in all of its mysterious glory without having to ignore little kids using it as a playground.

As we wound around it, I paused and turned to the tourists. We were parading around Stonehenge like we were participating in some great religious rite. I thought about how the ancient people that built the monument knew exactly what they were doing. Whoever built it, for whatever reason, had the right idea; people still circle around and pay their respects to Stonehenge. It’s a pilgrimage to make it out that far. But we still do it. We revel in the mystery. Whoever built Stonehenge, wherever you are now, I just want you to know one thing: it worked.

-Michael

Bianca and I at Stonehenge

Bianca and I at Stonehenge

Here is a link to a great feature on Stonehenge (I brought this issue of National Geographic with me to the actual site):

Stonehenge Decoded- National Geographic

Big Brother Googles Your Name

April 28, 2009

Have you ever Googled your name? Sometimes, the things that pop up are surprising. When I search for anything floating around the Interwebs that has my name attached to it, one of the first images that shows up in the results is a photo someone took of me from a little over a year ago. I was at a literature festival hosted by Middlesex University, the school that I attended in London while studying abroad. Whoever took the picture knew who I was. I’m around twenty pounds heavier, and my hair somehow looks even more disheveled.
And this is what people see when they Google me. Great. But I suppose it could be worse. It could be a photo of me from my senior year in high school, my legs up in the air, a keg nozzle in my mouth, and beer spraying all over the place. Or something else that’s incriminating. What upsets me is that I know that my professors–and some of my potential employers–have access to these photos and information, just like everyone else. I’m not ignorant enough to become a “fan” of Rowan on Facebook so that they have open access to my profile, but I am aware that there are students who have “friended” me because they work for the University. I recently made my profile “private,” but I am concerned that it happened too late; I still haven’t heard back from the University regarding a scholarship, and I hate to think that it’s all because there are photographs floating around of me drinking beer.
Vaidhyanathan’s (Siva, consider a pen name, please, for the sake of all writing students) article, “Naked in the ‘Nonopticon’,” discusses the idea of being observed without being aware of it. The state can watch us behave “normally” and identify people who may cause a problem–and get in the way of the state’s agenda. Back in London, I knew that I was being watched by thousands of CCTV cameras. As a temporary resident of a strange new city, I did not exactly mind having the watchful eyes of the government trained on me. It probably kept me from getting mugged by football hooligans. But, I can understand how it is still a violation of privacy. We cannot always act like Grandma is in the room with us. As advanced and civilized as we claim to be, we are still animals, at least in my opinion. We obey the natural laws of nature, not necessarily this fabricated moral code that our Western society has emphasized over the last few decades (and hundreds of years, though it has evolved, and is still changing rapidly).
But I should mind my tongue. They’re watching.

Prices are Writing on the Menu

April 28, 2009

Relating to the the previous post, “Do You Speak Engrish?” I found this sign outside of a cafe in Verona, Italy. 

reccommended-retail4

I think it means that the prices vary when you sit inside or outside. But obviously that’s not exactly what it says. In written word or language, when things get lost in translation, not only do their meanings change, but they sound downright stupid.  

I guess it’s entertaining, I mean I got such a kick out of the sign that I took a picture of it, but for those of us looking for jobs in the writing industry, maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about the current economic situation. If whoever  wrote this sign can get a job, so can you.

Do you speak Engrish?

April 23, 2009

As much as writing is about understanding writing, a whole new dimension of writing is revealed when due to a language barrier, writing is awfully regurgitated, skewed and completely mis-interpreted, often to the point where the original idea or concept has been completely lost:

If the fire doesn't get you, the grenade will.

If the fire doesn't get you, the grenade will.

Welcome  to Engrish.com

If you haven’t heard of it or seen it yourself, do yourself a favor and take a look. Many of the examples of “Engrish” on the website are so obscure, it’s hard to image what they actually intended to say. It really looks like many of the words and sentences were taken out of a hat. Nonlinear writing? you got it.

You had me at the..of.....

You had me at the..of.....

Nothing cracks me up more than a poor translation in a public space, or on a label… especially when it seems like they didn’t even make an attempt to get it right. Reading the labels on paper chopstick sleeves and miscellaneous items at the dollar store is a queer pastime of mine and I’m more than happy to share it with you. Have a joyluck happy goodtime.

I knew I left it somewhere...

I knew I left it somewhere...