Friday, April 24, 2009

The end of popular culture?

First off I just want to say that doing this reading was very to relate to since the subject was not just something I had heard about but already previously experienced. In this case I'm talking about Jennifer Lopez and more specifically her rise to fame and the impact of her body on our culture. Furthermore the sentiments projected in the Salsa in London article, I've witnessed many times in North America even if it wasn't with Salsa. This is not to say that I didn't enjoy reading the article on the Marcos movement I had just never heard of it before. In fact I thought it was a very enthralling article shedding light on the level of performance that was involved to make the whole movement work. The costumes, props and masks were all key in creating intrigue, and uniting people who previously didn't have a voice. To me the distinction between a uniform and a costume is very small. Why is that when its the military or government workers its a uniform but when its anyone else its a costume? They have the same purpose to make the group easily identifiable as part of their affiliation and let you know that you can come to them for help. I think by utilizing this manner of dress Sub Comandante Marcos did a very smart thing. They used what they needed to in order to get their message out, is it trickery that you planned a performance to do it. I think its not any worse than what any politician today does on the campaign trail. Going back to the Hollywood Latina body article, I thought it was interesting how the writer really focused on Jennifer Lopez's acting career when for me I had no idea who she was until she came out with her first c.d. In my mind she was always a singer first and an actress second. This is of course largely influenced by the fact that when her first movies were coming out I was too young to be interested in seeing them however her music videos played on Mtv were quick and fun. Soon there after the media was saturated with talk and images of her backside. I can't really remember how I felt about it at the time, but I think now that the acceptance of a fuller booty was a step in the right direction moving out to the waif image of the nineties. However she is still a very small woman, who although having some curves is not an icon for full figured women. On the other hand I do remember seeing some of her films after she had already become famous. Again I've never acknowledged her as a great actress but she doesn't come across badly onscreen either. The idea that this one woman's rear end has been talked about more than actually news is appalling but is indicative of our culture right now. All in all I think that this article made me realize that celebrities even if I'm not a fan, do impact my life more than I would care to admit.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Popular culture as Mass culture

I really liked this weeks readings regarding the history of futbol and prominent futbol players in Latin America. The videos that we watched in class furthered my understanding as well. I believe this topic was so interesting to me because it was easily related to my own life and upbringing where pretty much everyone plays futbol in elementary school. After that the popularity somewhat wanes but many stick with it at least a recreational level throughout high school. Its almost impossible for me to imagine my childhood without the practices and games not to mention the after game snacks. The funny thing is that I was never really that crazy about it, but I am an only child and I think my parents really wanted me out of the house. In their defense I did go through a biting phase. Anyway back to the readings, I was amazed to learn about the long lasting effects of the world cup in 1950. I can't imagine having an entire nation feeling that much sadness over something where no one person was physically hurt. A good point was made in the article though that really nothing that tragic had ever occurred in or to Brazil before. They do seem like fun-loving people and it hurts to see the film reels of so much silence and shock. On the other hand I also felt bad for the people in Uruguay who died of excitement!I suppose I would rather die at the happiest moment of my life than at the saddest Furthermore the level of recognition or remembrance that the Uruguayan players received was short lived. To this day on July 16th the Brazilian team gets calls while the Uruguayan team "lived in the moment" and when it was over so was their fame. Although . Again back to the reading I also loved learning about Garrincha, the angel with bent legs. What I found most intriguing was the comparison between Garrincha and Pele, with one being "adored" and the other "revered". Pele was a business man he invested his money and new how to market himself. He got better because he trained hard and focused on his ultimate goal of fame, the fame his father never received. Garrincha did not want to play professionally he just loved the show, the spectacle. Like a futbol globe trotter he would pull stunts with his famous dribbling no matter what his coach had instructed him to do. To everyone's surprise it worked, for him it was never about the money which he stored in "fruit bowls" but as a means to be a clown without having to wear the makeup. I believe that I too if I had been alive at that time would have liked Garrincha better without being able to explain why but in a way this big futbol player never really grew up something I also never wanted to do.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Summary of the class so far...

Upon reading the course description for the class I didn't quite know what I was getting myself into. I was pleasantly surprised on the first day of class when we watched Orfeo Negro one of my favorite movies that I've only seen because my father took me to see a reshowing of it. Ever since I have learned a lot in this course about the people of the culture and why said culture has endured. Moreover I have gained much from the discussions of the readings and videos including different interpretations and symbols that I completely missed the first time around. In the future I would like to have more of these discussions because I feel they have sort of petered out through the weeks. Anyway back to what I enjoyed about the class, among the reading I relished the legends and the pongo's dream the most. It was like brain candy allowing my mind to wander into a long ago land full of whimsy and creativity. In the spectrum of reality I really liked reading Eva Peron's "My Message" even though at the time I found it contradictory and repetitive. Now I see that its more about the ideas she presented and what she meant to the people that made her great whether or not she made conflicting comments. I found some of the readings challenging and anger-inducing but I would rather that over some easy boring piece that elicits no reaction inside me. Its makes writing a blog easier. Lastly I find it much easier to understand the readings and the authors point of view once given context and more information about their lives. Perhaps before asked to the reading we could be given a briefing that would enable us to critique more fully. All in all I enjoy this course.

Theories of Mixture 1: Mestizaje

I found this past weeks reading on the mestizaje by Vasconcelos and Wade to be much different than I expected. I was not prepared to read about Vasconcelos' "solution" to the problems of having a hierarchy of races. His plans were very far out and I was glad to see that Wade took a different stance. When reading the beginning of "The cosmic race" I was interested in the history of the ruins that proved the Latin American cultures were around if not older than what we thought were the most ancient of civilizations. Furthermore the increasing evidence of Atlantis, what I've always thought of as sort of a fairy tale, was intriguing. However soon after this information was presented I began to see this article taking a different direction that I could not get on board with. The author identifies himself at first as being Latin American and then when this is no longer convenient clarifies that he is Spanish. Moreover he feels the need to distance himself from both associations when talking about their mistakes in battle and ideology. Hindsight is twenty twenty and to Vasconcelos if everyone had just listened to everything he said the Spanish would be the dominant race. Moving forward since this is all in the past, the most shocking ideas in this article to me were based around the plan to create one “new race” or “the fifth race”. This new people would not “exclude” the other races but would succeed in dominating them. In order to create this better race “the very ugly will not procreate” therefore it will be a beautiful race. Which in turn will also eliminate “poverty, defective education,...” because those are both problems that stem from ugliness. People will learn to only love one another if they are worthy of breeding superior offspring. After decades of this what “today is normal will come to seem abominable.”, only the best traits from each race will be perpetuated into the new one. Thus giving hope to the “inferior races” by imparting on them the opportunity to present the “better specimens” who would go on to a higher level of importance. This plan is preposturous and cruel and I hope to never see it implemented. On the other hand I found Peter Wades article a more comprehensive look into the mestizaje with less personal agenda. I agree that even in mixed races there is a hierarchy still based on the lightness of skin. A factor that Vasconcelos overlooked. Among other things I found the parts on music and food engrossing and a great relief after reading Vasconcelos stark look at things.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Popular culture as folk culture

In comparison to last weeks chapter of epic length, I found these tales much easier to get through and was captivated by the imagery presented. I'm not very familiar with magical realism and am eager to discuss these stories in class and get a better understanding of the basic plot. I found "The Pongo's Dream" pretty straightforward, but thats not to say it wasn't impressive. I was afraid that it was going to end with the pongo dying tragically and was pleasantly surprised to find a reversal of roles between the master and servant when it counts the most. Furthermore I enjoyed learning about Arguedas efforts to keep the indigenous culture alive. Even though he wasn't brought up a servant, he fought for the "Incan tongue" and helped to inspire movements of people to defend themselves. On the other hand while reading the multiple legends by Asturias, I was bombarded with vibrant illustrations of these mythical characters. I kept imagining an intricate storybook of sorts, flipping the pages in my head as the tale progressed. It was hard for me to keep my mind set to the actual plot or message of the stories, my brain still hung up on the descriptions of the creatures and setting where the action was taking place. I especially liked the "Legend of the Singing Tablets", the idea of a "Moon- Chewer" really appealed to me. Furthermore I really liked the line explaining the full moon as "the swelling moon which suddenly could no longer be contained either in their mouths, or their eyes..". Moreover the notion that everything is made of something else that is natural, "those who wove mats and embroidered with butterfly wings". In addition the tablets themselves only being written on in dew and "blood of warbling birds". In summation I found the task of reading these beliefs written into fables a very pleasurable activity.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What is the people?

When I found out that our reading for this week were selections from Eva Peron and Jorge Luis Borges, I was very excited. Having read two short stories by Borges before, Emma Zunz and The book of sand, I thought I was prepared for this piece of writing. I had forgotten the need to be on my toes when reading his work, its definitely not something to be glanced over. I loved and was frustrated by the narrators manner of motor mouth speaking. Some great phrases came out “skinnier than the slot you put the nickel in” and “ I got all tangled like a squid in the sleeves…” however it was work to follow along with the narrators jumpy thought process and scattered retelling. On the other hand I think Borges really captured the nerves and anticipation felt by this “patriot” along with the relief commands can bring, “A gray-haired Indian came out, and it was a pleasure how he bossed us around…”. Furthermore the instant camaraderie that our storyteller feels with the rest of the “gang” , even though they make constant reference to his large belly, put disgusting things in his mouth and overall trying to leave him behind. Not to mention the monster himself, mentioned numerous times in an ironically positive style, who seems to be the leader of all the goings on. Or given the setting for this story one of the Argentinean government officials responsible for the coup. Which brings me to the final speech of Eva Peron entitled My Message, I found it extremely passionate if not moving in my first reading and continually enthralling in my second. Despite the contradictions and somewhat black and white point of view, I found myself rooting for Peronism and for Evita even in her final hours. Its evident that the admiration and love she had for the colonel was not only bountiful but enduring through all time. I can’t imagine having the drive not to mention the energy to spend hours dictating a final message to the people, at the same time as uninhibited in style as this was. Eva made it crystal clear what she thought of the oligarchy and middle of the road type supporters. She promotes a very strict your with me or against me doctrine that to a certain extent I can get on board with. I believe based on this reading the Evita really was for the people, the workers, the “descamisados”, especially near the end when she speaks of her possessions going towards programs to benefit the needy whilst still attributing the any wealth she does have to the people also. In the end I was found both readings exceedingly interesting and much easier to get through than the first pair.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is culture?

I'd like to start off my saying that this is a couple days late because I accidentally made two separate blogs and posted my first response there, anyway here it is in the right place.

I began the first reading by Williams with much enthusiasm and enjoyed his comparisons of lifes journey to that of a buses. However as I got further and further into the text I found it quite difficult to follow his thought processes or understand the point he was trying to make. Holistically I think I grasp it even if point by point I thought it to be unclear. Even so one of his very first points related to us stuck with me throughout the rest of the article, "To grow up in that country was to see the shape of a culture, and its modes of change" (pg.11). This caught my attention because it bodes true for every person, no matter which country they are from. While he was talking about his personal history and culture, I couldn't help but think of mine. Although in the grand scheme things I'm not even a blip on the timeline of the Earth, I've still been around long enough to have been one the neighborhood kids and then outgrow that same title. A new generation is trick or treating while I'm now the one doling out the sweets. Moreover I think we all constantly hear stories from our parents or grandparents of the golden ages, when things were safer, gas was cheaper and kids played outside instead of rotting their brains on the couch. I know I used to roll my eyes at such stories which felt more like neverending lectures than accounts of the past. Now I can feel similar tales welling in my mouth waiting for to be released on younger ear. Anyway what I’m trying to say is I agree with Williams in the respect that there is this wave of elitist culture more about keeping others out then including everyone in. Why not let everyone enjoy the opera whether or not they can afford box seats? On the other hand I believe those striving to become a “culture vulture” are missing out on the most accessible and fulfilling form of culture possible, family. During the article Williams makes multiple references to his ability to stay grounded by thinking about the ones he loved and pitying them because they were part of the working class. There is nothing shameful about creating and in today’s internet run world, something you can hold on to, touch , and feel, well, that sounds pretty darn goods