My Last Lecture

Randy Pausch tells of how he was able to achieve his childhood dreams in his “Last Lecture” series.  Dying of pancreatic cancer was a setback for him but he was able to bounce back into a state of optimism where he was extremely comfortable living with his condition for what little time he had left.  Not only was he so positive but he was also very strong, being able to accomplish what many other people only dream (literally) of doing.  He wanted nothing more than to spark the interest of the audience in the fulfillment of their own childhood dreams.

One of my biggest childhood dreams was to one day attain the most successful idea of the American Dream as possible.  Being with my husband and kids, working long hours to make enough money, and living in a nice house with a picket fence was all I ever wanted.  Although recently this dream has somewhat changed for me, I still long for success and wealth to do the things that I love.  To achieve this, I must stay positive like Pausch and be willing to work harder than ever.

Another of my childhood dreams was being an Olympic gymnast.  Gymnastics was a huge part of my life before high school and I was completely dedicated to every moment.  When I had to quit my sophomore year, I had to stay positive in order to have a mindset willing to try new and interesting things.  I picked up more dance classes and I started cheerleading which was just as exciting to me.  To be able to still accomplish this childhood dream would mean that I would have to get back to training.  Even though it wouldn’t be easy, Pausch makes me think that it would be completely worth it.

Pausch mentioned many closing lessons for the audience to remember and think about.  He mentioned being prepared, never giving up, and working hard for the things you love.  My favorite message was when he said “Brick walls show who really wants it and who doesn’t.”  Oftentimes when something goes wrong we will become pessimistic and defeated.  He calls us to rise up and continue on.  Only very few people are strong enough to do something like that but only very few people will ever be able to accomplish their dreams.

Pausch tells us that in order to enhance the dreams of others he became a professor, where he thought he would have the most impact on the lives of children.  He always offered encouragement to his students and stuck up for them, knowing that they could achieve great things.  He feels the same way about his audience and wants all of us to triumph in our wildest dreams.  Pausch realizes that to accomplish your childhood dreams requires a lot of perseverance.  He motivates us to work to the highest of our capabilities and act on what we can before we become too old and start regretting that we hadn’t.

My strongest words of advice for anyone trying to fulfill their childhood dreams would be to carry on no matter what.  If someone has a dream, it is destiny meant to be followed and I strongly suggest anyone to find enough courage to actually get up and follow it.

What Are We Without Creativity?

Today in class we watched the TED Talk, “Laws that Choke Creativity”.  Throughout this speech, Larry Lessig speaks on the idea that vocal cords have been taken over by infernal machines.  The technology that we are surrounded with today will eventually ruin any sense of artistic development that we have left.  This same technology that is supposed to enrich our community is simple choking the creativity out of it instead.  It is only very soon that “We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cords will be eliminated by a process of evolution.”
He also speaks on the idea that we used to have a “read-write culture”.  People would participate in the creation and recreation of many works that enhanced society.
However, we have become a “read-only culture” in which it can be asked: Who is left to write? Who is left to think?  In this type of culture, “Creativity is consumed but the consumer is not a creator.”  The government has played a key role in all of this.  The laws that have been passed restrict our ability to become unique and independent in our thoughts and ideas.  The copyright laws, especially, force us into the position where there is no room left to create because every thought has already been thought by someone else once before.  Because of this, the copyright laws inflicted upon us constrain our creativity.  We cannot think of our own ideas because they are technically not our own.  If this is the case then there is absolutely nothing in this world that is ours.
Lessig’s main argument is that the internet is an opportunity to revive our “read-write culture”.  He shows a series of videos where people have taken previously created works and remixed them to produce something new and artistic.  He wants not piracy but creativity, using technology to recreate and enhance what we already have.
Lessig also argues that the architecture of the copyright law has produced the conjecture that all activities are illegal.  Every single uses of our culture is a copy and therefore nothing new can ever be created as long as this law is enacted.
Lessig concludes his speech with the phrase, “Legalize what it means to be young again.”
The culture that kids today are producing revolves around the idea of taking “the songs of the day and the old songs” and reviving them.  It is how we feel we can speak and be heard.  Being creative is our way of understanding the world around us.
He then states that “…the law is nothing more than an a** to be ignored and to be fought at every opportunity possible.”  Let us rise against the laws we deem unfair and let us stop being victims of this loss of creativity, especially to such “infernal machines”.
Larry Lessig’s points and arguments remind me of a short film I once watched entitled “2+2=5”.  In this film, a group of young boys were conditioned to act a certain way in the classroom.  If they disobeyed the teacher or the elder students, there were severe consequences.  One morning the teacher began his lecture by telling the students that the product of two and two was five.  They all had to repeat him over and over until they had conditioned themselves to think of this as the norm.  The one boy that challenged his teacher was forced to the front of the classroom in which he still did not obey.  He wanted to have a mind of his own.  He did not want to be persuaded by authority that easily.
The same goes for us.  The government has forced these laws on us, mostly to keep us safe.  But some of these laws are not truly enacted for our common good.  Copyright laws restrict our capability to be that independent, out-of-the-box thinker.  It chokes our creativity.

From Candidate Deceit to Government Position

John Oliver on Last Week Tonight recently discussed the issues of congressional fundraising; funding to support the campaigns of politicians.  It’s quite ironic actually.  These candidates and politicians subject almost as many as four hours a day to sit in an enclosed room to make calls in which they beg for money.  Literally beg for money, but then flipping the switch completely to pose for the public as if they are being forced to do this.  One politician even explained it as “embarrassing, ugly, and demeaning.”

They can make as many excuses as they want and act like their actions are as innocent as ever but before even getting to know one, our views of politicians are already that they generate their campaigns solely around deceit.  In fact, one candidate in the show even exclaimed that his tactic for successful fundraising was to go directly to the wealthier individuals first.  By doing this, more money could be earned in the same amount of time as a less experienced politician could earn by calling anyone and everyone for hopes of scrounging a couple hundred dollars.

It is said that a whole day could be constructed of a politician’s fundraising patterns; breakfast, lunch, and a reception.  There are many candidates that even use concerts and parties to ask for money.  They act as if they dread the task of asking for money, yet do it voluntarily.

The issue with this system, though, is that it is in fact not voluntary at all.  Everything exclaimed above is what is probably thought of a politician at first glance.  However, it is not actually like this.  We look at candidates as dishonest and untrustworthy but we fail to take a further look into what the candidate must go through to succeed.

In order for a candidate to receive votes from the public, they must be well known.  To be well known, a candidate must advertise.  Unless the candidate is wealthy enough to pay for their own campaigns, like Donald Trump, they must get money from somewhere.  This somewhere happens to be the people.  So, although congressional funding can be looked at from an insolent point of view, it is in fact quite necessary; it is an involuntary evil.

It only becomes evil if the candidate IS in fact dishonest and untrustworthy.  Donald Trump is a wealthy man, we know this.  However, many times in his speeches he hints to the people that he wants their money, he needs their money.  Due to the fact that he is running against people who are not as rich as him and who do ask for money, it seems almost normal that he would also be doing the same.  But Trump can afford his own campaigns.  He has made this very clear.  By asking for money, he only makes the others look like less of good candidates.  The government tends to be run by rich people for this very reason.  These wealthy candidates trick the people into thinking that they are better than the rest and the na├»ve or easily persuaded are all on board.

Ethos Without Words

Ethos is an appeal to ethics as means to convince a reader of an author’s credibility.  Scott McCloud, best known for his work in the production department of DC Comics and his many own comic series, establishes ethos in one of his most famous works, “Understanding Comics”.  In this series, a caricature of himself explains and traces the relationship between the use of words and pictures in a comic strip.

Of the first sixteen panels of this comic, six without words at all, McCloud is able to portray a very clear depiction of his young self during his class’ Show and Tell.  He stands at the front of the room, introducing his toy robot to his teacher and classmates.  He stumbles trying to explain the functions of his toy aloud but has a very easy time showing them.  In the fourth frame, his teacher insists that the boy TELL the class about his robot, not demonstrate.

This can be related to the idea of the combination of and harmony between words and pictures in comics.  An author/artist must choose between illustrating their comic through words, pictures, or both.  For many people, if they are given an image, they either want the exact words to know how to feel or they like to make their own dialogue.

I especially remember last year when my mother told me to listen to my baby sister read me a book for school.  I had read the book to her probably close to fifteen times and it was one of her favorites.  As she started reading, I realized that she wasn’t actually reading at all.  She would look directly at the pictures that accompanied it and would make up her own story.  There were times when she “read” to me and it would have absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot; her imagination would run wild.  Not only did I find this entertaining but I almost admired her for it.  She was able to look at a picture and explain exactly how it made her feel.  She could come up with a page worth of words for just one scene.  The pictures simply weren’t enough for her to be satisfied with.

McCloud tries to explain this exact theory through his comic.  He wants readers to see all of the variations of comics.  By portraying one of his childhood memories, he is able to help guide us to understand this.  He is able to establish ethos through this memory.

Also, the seventeenth frame interrupts the Show and Tell scene.  His older, more experienced self-caricature talks about how we have all been in a situation like this; where we “use words and images interchangeably.”  He is able to establish ethos in this way as well because he is proving to his audience that he has dealt with this for much of his life and is experienced in his opinions.

Unfair and Unrealistic Standards (That Are All Our Fault...)

Society seems to become infuriated and/or repulsed by the thought of celebrities living unhealthy lifestyles.  We gossip about those who smoke when nearly one in five of everyday humans has or is smoking currently.  We gawk at the idea of an overweight model.  We think it’s crazy for a celebrity to go to the grocery store without makeup on.  Why do we do this?  The answer is actually quite simple…
According to “Celebrity Bodies” by Daniel Harris, it was brought to my attention that “Hollywood didn’t create fat, anxious Americans; fat, anxious Americans created Hollywood, a vision of humanity that bears little resemblance to the typical dissipated physique…”  So often do we place unfair standards on our celebrities that we forget that most of the time they are actually quite unattainable and sometimes even detrimental and dangerous.
The essay opens with the proclamation of the death of two Uruguayan fashion models.  Harris claims that in the months before her death, one model only ate lettuce leaves in order to stay fit and healthy.  Now, this is not truly fit and healthy, for we know that a truly healthy diet is composed of a balance of proteins, fibers, etc.  But at the sign of a fashion model, we think that they really are being healthy.  We strive to be like this skinny woman but little do we know that she probably isn’t fueling her body very well.
Most common in the average adolescent, “thinspiration” is sought.  Kids want to be just like the skinny celebrities that they see on television and at awards shows.  However, it is fair to ask something like, “Does Lindsay Lohan’s waspish waistline make us skip meals and induce vomiting…?”  The answer is, of course, no.  Even if you were compelled to say “yes”, it isn’t her, only the idea of her that actually encourages you to transform.  Society created celebrities to reach the standards that are too high for the average human to reach.  We choose the most “perfect” humans to take on the most “perfect” lifestyle so that we don’t have to.
One of the things that struck me the most when reading this essay was that “The typical American woman is 5’4”, weighs 140 pounds, and wears a size 14; the typical fashion model is seven inches taller, twenty-three pounds lighters, and twelve to fourteen sizes smaller.”  We blame pop culture for x, y, and z, yet it is our fault that they feel like they have to live up to the standards we have set on them.  They are starving themselves, overworking themselves, causing harm to their bodies, just for our entertainment.
At the beginning of the year, my class watched a TED Talk by Cameron Russell.  She went on to tell us about how looks truly aren’t everything and that what we see may not actually be how it really is.  Russell is a fashion model who is actually very unhappy.  She is extremely insecure due to the fact that she knows she cannot go out unless she looks her best.  She is not allowed to have an off-day.  She is not allowed to look ghostly when she is sick and she is not allowed to wear sweatpants unless she won’t be seen.  Why are we placing these harsh standards on the lives of our celebrities when we do the exact things that they “should not” or “cannot” do?

My Zombie, My Fight

“My Zombie, Myself” by Chuck Klosterman talks of zombies and their immoral qualities.  Although there many medial incidents where humans attempt to kill zombies, they never completely die.  Even if they do, it doesn’t matter because there will be another zombie right behind the one that was just killed.
In my opinion, these zombies represent the common human’s addiction.  This does not necessarily include the common drug and alcohol addiction but also the minor addictions.  Perhaps we are completely unaware that they even exist.  To me, my addiction is my anxiety.  Even if I seem to kill it and it ends, it always seems to come back and haunt me.
On an average day, I go to school, go home, and then go to either dance or cheer.  It seems simple, and it is.  But at the same time it is extremely difficult.  I always seem to get anxious about the stupidest things.  I know how to control it and most of the time I am successful in doing so.  However, it always comes back.
The idea of killing zombies is no different.  Klosterman writes, “If there’s one thing we all understand about zombie killing, it’s that the act is uncomplicated: you blast one in the brain… That’s Step 1. Step 2 is doing the same thing to the next zombie that takes its place. Step 3 is identical to Step 2, and Step 4 isn’t any different from Step 3.”
Perhaps your own zombie is social media, or maybe it’s something more private.  Either way, the only way to overcome it is to persevere and be determined.
“Don’t travel at night and keep your drapes closed. Don’t let zombies spit on you. If you knock a zombie down, direct a second bullet into its brain stem. But above all, do not assume that the war is over, because it never is. The zombies you kill today will merely be replaced by the zombies of tomorrow. But you can do this, my friend. It’s disenchanting, but it’s not difficult. Keep your finger on the trigger. Continue the termination. Don’t stop believing. Don’t stop deleting. Return your voice mails and nod your agreements. This is the zombies’ world, and we just live in it. But we can live better.”

Hip Hop Nation

Abiodun Oyewole, founder of the Last Poets (para 18) once said, “A lot of today’s rappers have talent. But a lot of them are driving the car in the wrong direction.”

Especially at the very beginning of the hip hop movement, rappers appeared to create meaningful poetry.  Rap was a musical composition without an accompanying backbeat and harmony.  It didn’t have a negative effect on the general public.  It didn’t create uneasiness with older generations.  It was just a feel-good genre for a new kind of musician.

As time passed, rap seemed to revolve.  It was less about the artistry and more about an individual’s ruthless activities and rebellious attitudes.  Artists began to brag about their lives of crime and illicit behavior.  Lyrics were less poetic and more disruptive and violent.  Although this is certainly not true for every hip hop track today, the numerous examples started to build the genre’s decadent reputation.

There are artists today that support these ghastly lifestyles.  Lil Wayne, Chief Keef, and Young Thug are a few examples.  Most, if not all, of their music is disruptive and troublemaking.  Young children who find this music catchy and entertaining are being exposed to the seditious lyrics.  They may try to act like the rapper to be more like the rapper.  However, this is hurting our children.  They are growing up to think that what is wrong and even sometimes illegal, is okay because their idol can get away with it.

On the contrary, there are some artists who have kept the original hip hop vibes.  Drake, J. Cole, and Tupac Shakur are some examples.  They are rhythmical and eloquent and write their lyrics with positivity and motivation.  Rap truly isn’t all about the money, drugs, and alcohol.  Although many artists choose to portray their music like that, it should not define the genre.