Big Brother in Religion

The following video is the visual representation of my term paper, which compares modern dystopian literature and frameworks with religious perspectives. For someone who has not read the novels depicted in the video, the comparisons may be a little hard to follow. You can find synopses for Uglies, Pretties, 1984, We, and the Bible almost anywhere in the web. The purpose of this project is not to prove or disprove the existence of God, but to explore “Big Brother” characteristics shared by religious concepts, namely Christianity, as well as how our idea of “Big Brother” came to be and why it is important to humanity. I hope that you enjoy the video and take no offense to it, for none is intended.

If you have any questions, comments, or just want to know more about my English project, feel free to contact me.

Both men and women are heavily affected by the media, which distorts body image more and more every day. The following video, showing the transformation of an average woman into a gorgeous billboard star, was made by the Dove Beauty Campaign. This video is very popular, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

Everyone knows that people in magazines and other images are usually altered and airbrushed, but seeing the entire process makes it a harsh reality. This video is the kind of thing I used to shake my head at, disappointed with the way that young girls everywhere were being influenced to achieve an impossible beauty standard. But something worse has already trickled down into the many facets of the beauty industry.

The airbrushed-but-still-human look is a wave of the past. The models replacing the photoshopped ones don’t even exist. That’s right; the two women in the picture below are completely computer generated, with features hand picked by fashion tycoons. If you look closely, the bodies of the two women are strikingly alike. How can any real woman possibly look so perfect? The fact is, they cant, and the spokesperson of H&M (the company who created the models below) agrees.

“H&M…cannot find someone with both body and face that can sell their bikinis.”
-Helle Vaagland

Click image to view source article.

The sad thing is, millions of people will see these images and buy into the messages they convey. The mission of the Dove Beauty Campaign is to remind society what human beings are supposed to look like. If companies continue to create impossible standards, we may be headed into the same sinkhole as the world in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies.

Next time you compare yourself to a picture in a magazine or a person on TV, remember that God didn’t grace that person with perfection; a computer did.

What Poetry Isn’t

Poetry is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and effective literary mediums that exist. In comparison to prose, the boundaries of poetry are very much expanded. However, that’s the kicker; there are still boundaries. Unfortunately, many people today (especially teenagers) have the wrong idea about poetry. Many public schools fail to expose their students to poetry in the correct way, partly by allowing them to write weak poetry.

Growing up, I was primarily exposed to Haikus, simple rhymes, and an occasional sonnet here and there. Needless to say, I never want to see another Haiku again. Unfortunately, I developed an aversion to poetry because I felt it was boring and unimpressive. Honestly, I still feel that way about certain forms of poetry. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really came to know and enjoy good poetry. I was lucky to have Tasha Seegmiller as my teacher, who taught many forms and elements of poetry that I never would have experienced had I not taken the class.

I feel that this is the case of many young people today, who tend to make two very distinct mistakes when approaching poetry.

The first mistake concerns “free verse” poetry. Traditional poetry forms are taught in less depth than they were a hundred years ago, which has triggered a flood of creative writers who don’t quite know what to do. This tends to result in what I like to call “Paragraph Poetry.” This kind of poetry often lacks depth, meaning, and literary value. The term “Paragraph Poetry” comes form the distinct structure of the poem, which seems as if the author wrote a paragraph about how they feel about a certain subject, and then just varied the line length enough to make it classifiable as a poem.

There are those that say “I can write it however I want, that’s what poetry is all about!” Or is it? If one who knows nothing about music bangs on random piano keys, does that make he or she a musician? Does throwing canned soup into a pot make one a chef? Icarus made himself wings; therefore, is he a bird? Certainly not. Slapping words onto a page without rhyme or reason (see what I did there?) does not make one a poet.

Even in “free verse” poetry, there is structure. Free verse simply indicates that a poet had strayed from conventional poetry styles, not that the poet is about to spew a mountain of unorganized word mush at the reader. University professors rarely delight in poetry that follows the “paragraph” format. “Good” poetry usually follows a specific form, evokes feelings and thoughts not expressly written in the poem, and includes literary genius. It is questionable whether what most teenagers write and consider to be poetry is even poetry at all.

This leads us to the second mistake, which involves content. Dr. Todd Petersen once said “Edward Cullen hates your emo poetry.” Although this statement induced many giggles from the class, everyone understood the importance of what it meant. Too often, young people write angsty poetry that is of little value to anyone but themselves. Writing about feelings is wonderful; many of the greatest poems ever written are about sadness, etc. However, there is a fine line between poetry that only communicates “I’m sad and misunderstood” and poetry that does good to the world. There are so many things in the world that are more worthy to write about. It’s important to consider what poetry is all about before flinging unchecked thoughts and feelings onto a page.

This isn’t to say that one cannot write simply for one’s self. It is often very healing to express thoughts and emotions through writing. However, not everything one writes must be shared with an audience; you are what you give to the world.

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Nonverbal communication is essential when speaking in person. Gestures, facial expression, body orientation, posture, and other physical indicators are crucial when it comes to getting one’s point across. Because few of us can speak with the same eloquence and clarity as scholars from centuries ago, we often rely on nonverbal cues to compensate.

Obviously, nonverbal cues in speech are important. But what about in writing? Is it possible that writers use a modified form of nonverbal cues?

The answer is yes. Few authors of the 21st century rely purely on language. Hundreds of years ago, only the wealthy and religious leaders were able to read. Now, most people in developed countries are able to read and many frequently do so for recreation. Because the general public is now involved in the literary world, writing styles have changed. Although writers did use nonverbal communication in their work, readers were less inclined to notice it. Now that people as a whole are brought together by writing (newspapers, ads, books, online materials, etc), readers are now better equipped to “read between the lines.”

Shakespeare, who frequently used sarcasm and irony in his work, is one of the best examples of early authors who utilized nonverbal communication. Although people enjoyed the fruits of his labor by watching it performed on a stage rather than reading it in a book, the effect was the same. The idea that one could communicate something without actually saying it outright was born.

Writers today frequently use nonverbal communication such as irony and sarcasm. Readers typically enjoy work that is full of meaning that they must interpret themselves rather than pages and pages of description that explains it all for them.

Imagery is another great great component of nonverbal communication in writing. When speaking with someone face to face, it is easy to interpret their attitude, mood, context, and latent meaning. In writing, one must actually describe such things if they are to be portrayed at all. For instance, instead of simply “she was sad,” one might say “she plopped into a chair and buried her face in her hands.”

Nonverbal communication is a bigger part of writing than one might think. A writer can drastically improve his or her work by taking its importance into greater consideration and realizing the effect it has on the reader. Writing is not just about what’s on the surface; it’s about what the reader can make of it.

The English Language

Of all the beautiful languages spoken on earth, English is perhaps one of the most complex and confusing. It may seem difficult to pinpoint exactly where the English language came from, but the answer is simple: everywhere. A friend of mine, Ian Hall (author of the Jamie Leith Chronicles), shared this entertaining video on twitter. This video is an excellent portrayal of where English originated and implications of how it will continue to evolve.

As we can see, the English language is clearly the melting pot of many other languages. This can sometimes make things like spelling very difficult to comprehend. The following image is a popular depiction of just how convoluted actual spelling versus phonetics can be.

Of course, the sounds that the letter combinations “gh” and “ti” create above typically only do so in the middle of words, not at the beginning or end. Perhaps a more accurate phonetic spelling of “fish” would be “phoche.”

Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the English language is one of the most interesting and flexible languages in the world. It certainly has both pros and cons, just like every other language out there. For instance, English words created from Greek or Latin stems are easy to understand, while Russian is known for its extensive and detailed vocabulary and German is built on cases that offer more syntax opportunities.

In short, knowing the limitations and strengths of a language is an invaluable skill for writers of any kind. Communication comes with responsibility; what you say can affect people’s feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Learning how to effectively communicate is one of the most powerful things people of all races, genders, backgrounds, and fields of study can do.

What will you do with your language?

Winds of Change

The internet is one of the most important social and commercial mediums that Americans enjoy today. People can connect with friends and family, view information, make purchases, and, most importantly, present their own information and opinions. The entire focus of web 2.0 is the users and what they think, as opposed to the large corporations that had control of the internet when it first became available to the public.

America is one of the few places left that has not censored the internet. Many governments across the world have either taken away public assess or censored the web. Many of these countries, such as Egypt, are now areas of great social unrest.  How would the U.S. be different if we had censored internet? A lot of people have never even considered this question. Unfortunately, the issue is now more pressing than ever as a new bill is sent to congress, one that many citizens know nothing about.

This video pretty much says it all:

 

This situation is extremely frightening, especially since the matter is not directly in the hands of citizens. The protesters of corporations of Wall Street seem to have the right idea, they just aren’t protesting anything specific. Well, this is it. Censoring the internet could make or break America as we know it. The  best course of action is to raise awareness, and fight for our right protected by the first amendment. The internet has become the core of the successes of many writers everywhere. Would we even be able to speak our thoughts and opinions at all if this law were put into place?

Just like the video pointed out, one of the main concerns is what this could lead to. If this bill becomes a law, we may be headed for the society that George Orwell himself cautioned us against. What will the government do next? take away our right to assemble? Supervise our every move? Enforce nationwide curfews and travel restrictions? The answer, again, is in the video. They will go as far as we will let them.

What Every Mom Should Know

The results of a recent study have driven an uproar from the public regarding FDA regulations and consumer safety. This week, there have been multiple discussions on ABC, USA Today, Doctor Oz, and many other news mediums concerning the safety of one of the most highly used products in America: apple juice. It has now been disclosed that fruit juices may contain dangerous levels of arsenic.

Arsenic is an element that can be lethal to both humans and other organisms. Although it occurs naturally in the environment, the manipulation of mankind has made it one of the most dangerous poisons that is now found in every day things such as glass, wood, and food. Lenntech Water Treatment Solutions says the following about the health effects of arsenic:

Exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause various health effects, such as irritation of the stomach and intestines, decreased production of red and white blood cells, skin changes and lung irritation. It is suggested that the uptake of significant amounts of inorganic arsenic can intensify the chances of cancer development, especially the chances of development of skin cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and lymphatic cancer.

A very high exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause infertility and miscarriages with women, and it can cause skin disturbances, declined resistance to infections, heart disruptions and brain damage with both men and women.
Finally, inorganic arsenic can damage DNA.

According to the Dr. Oz website, most drinking water in the United Stated contains about 10 parts per billion. At least 10% of tested apple juice samples contained about 23 parts per billion or higher, more than twice the drinking water standard. Arsenic is carefully regulated in the U.S. because it is so highly toxic, so how can arsenic levels in juice possibly be so high?

There is a simple answer. A very large portion of the products that Americans use every day are imported from other countries; up to 60% of juice concentrate is imported from china alone. Although regulations on the substance are strict in the United States, many countries have little or no regulations. The United states also has import regulations that may differ from those for products made in the states. This means that water used to irrigate crops may be tainted with high levels of arsenic and other toxins attributed to pesticides. The plants, which absorb arsenic and other poisons easily, eventually make it into our refrigerators.

Obviously, most of us feel completely fine. So what’s the big deal?

One of the most frightening concerns this brings up is the safety of our children. Anyone who is a parent knows that children are some of the biggest juice drinkers out there. I witness my siblings drink multiple glasses almost every day. Such large amounts of juice that can possibly contain toxins can be harmful to young bodies that are not yet able to filter them out. What disturbs me most is the fact that the two juices that my siblings consume the most, Juicy Juice and Gerber, contain the highest levels of arsenic in the study. In fact, Gerber is owned by Novartis, a pharmaceutical company that is also know for putting mercury in flu shots.

The point is, few of us know what is is we are feeding our children and consuming ourselves. Although the FDA is a great organization that can protect us, we should be doing our own additional research on the products we use.

To view information discussed in this article, visit:

http://www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/as.htm
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/arsenic-apple-juice
http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/dr-oz-investigates-arsenic-apple-juice