Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clothes + Drugs + Hot High Chicks = Compelling Fake Ad

Before Thanksgiving Break, I had my students turn in a draft of their final paper so that I could grade them on my week off. I've been lazy so far, and blogging doesn't aid my productivity, but with the few papers I've seen already, I'm starting to get really angry. Not at my students (bless their hearts), but at an advertisement that a lot of them seem to be writing about.

This paper asked my students to pick any piece of media they wanted: a print ad, a scene from a TV show or movie, a music video - and then analyze it. I showed some examples in class that they could choose from, and I also gave them permission to choose something on their own that they felt was interesting or that spoke to them. Then, they were to rhetorically analyze it using the three magic rhetorical devices - logos, ethos, and pathos - and to also uncover any cultural biases or stereotypes in the media. I want them to start questioning the entertainment they're bombarded with, and stop accepting inherently sexist or racist attitudes embedded within those forms of entertainment. Basically, the media pisses me off, and I want it to piss them off, too.

However, I have been hit with an onslaught of papers deconstructing this print advertisement (which is not one I showed in class):

Click for bigger view. [source]

I'm frustrated with this advertisement, and my students getting so riled up about it, because it's a fake. I first became aware of this ad last year and was weirded out and disgusted by it, until I learned that it is not, in fact, part of Sisley's ad campaign. It was made by an agency called Zoo Advertising, and it's considered part of a "creative campaign," which means it's not official, which means it's a damn fake.

My problem with this is that no one seems to know. This ad inundated the web last year and people were furious, until Benneton released a statement saying it was made by a third-party company and had nothing to do with Sisley (which is a daughter project of Benneton's.) My students don't know that it's fake, either. I suppose this is a perfect opportunity to educate them about the validity of various types of media (like that MLK Jr. website created by white supremacists that shows up as the sixth hit on Google when searching his name). But I feel too angry about this to turn it into an effective teaching lesson. Hopefully by the time break is over, I will have calmed down.

The misspelling of the word "fashion" irritates me; I get that they're trying to be cute and clever by equating being a fashion junkie with being a heroin junkie... even though the models are made to look like they're doing cocaine. I guess it's just more glamorous, eh? Coke makes you skinny, and heroin just scars up your arms. But in this fake Sisley world, drugs are drugs, whether you're snorting them, shooting them, or wearing them. Isn't that what we're meant to believe?

Whatever, I get that clothes "look better" on someone who is 5'11 and weighs 120 pounds. I clearly don't like this, for the same reasons people always bitch about it, and so a part of me can appreciate what Zoo Advertising is trying to do here. Look how stupid you sheep are, clamoring after the same white vest, beating each other down to look the most cool and sexy at the toilet tank. But I don't appreciate that more press didn't surround the outcome of this advertisement, especially after all of the attention it received online. Because now my students - and myself - are paying for it. We're suffering from the repercussions of an invasive piece of media whose web presence is too great and whose satire is not explained clearly enough. It's one thing to make a point about the fashion industry by equating it with coked out, modelesque women hiding in a bathroom, yet it's quite another to allow an image like this to so deeply saturate the internet without adequate evidence to the fact that it wasn't originally fabricated to sell the clothing.

I feel badly that my students think this is a real advertisement, and yet a part of me glitters with happiness that they've chosen to deconstruct it for their paper because I haven't heard a single positive thing about the ad yet. So maybe something I've taught them is getting through.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The apprentice becomes the master.

On Thursday I was sitting in the AML, simultaneously acting as consultant (refilling the printers with paper, et cetera) and reading a text for my Space and Embodiment class on Tuesday. (A text that I have to present on, but that's beside my point.) There were also three of my students in the room I was sitting in, working on their collaborative research paper that was due to me the following day. They didn't need my help at all --the asked me like two questions about citing -- but I would periodically look up from Split Subjects, Not Atoms to sort of check on them. I was very mother-hen about this scenario. It just felt so good to watch the three of them sitting side by side, diligently working on a project I'd assigned to them. Occasionally it hits me how awesome it is to be an instructor.

It took me a while to notice this, but when it occurred to me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. My English 101 instructor, Rosemary (who is pregnant, yay!!), was also in this room, sitting on the opposite wall as my students. They're parallel to one another, their backs to each other. They obviously had no idea who the other is (or, the others are).

I realized this dichotomy, or coincidence, or whatever I should call it, and felt a wave of warm euphoria wash over me. I got up to sit next to Rosemary and told her my students were in here, and how funny it felt to be in this room with my students and my ex-instructor, simultaneously aware of my role as a past 101 student and a current 101 instructor.

It's amazing how things change, how life evolves, how you can be a student and a teacher, or a mother and a daughter, or even a friend and an enemy. It's amazing to me the binaries that exist in people, the dualities; how can we be one thing, and also be its opposite?

In short, it made me really happy. I owe so much to Rosemary -- I might not be in grad school today if I hadn't had English 101 with her when I was a sophomore in college. She pushed me so hard to forget that molecular biology crap (she's a smart one) and become an English major and if she hadn't urged me so insistently, I may never have looked at the Liberal Arts degrees offered and I may never have found DTC (which is a depressing thought) and then I may never have ended up where I am today, getting a Master's and teaching English 101.

It was so nice to be shocked into awareness of my past on this particular Thursday, and how my past has shaped my present, and I couldn't help but think about the ways they will both shape my future.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

romantic ecology.

"They grew among the mossy stones, about and about them; some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness, and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake."
(From Dorothy Wordsworth's The Grasmere Journals.)

I love it I love it I love it I love it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Lauren... you know, the girl with the curly hair."

Last Wednesday, I asked my students to write on the prompt, "How do you identify yourself?" This comprised their writing diagnostic, so I could get an idea of their skill level with regard to composition, as well as figure out how to tailor the rest of the semester so that we are discussing relevant-to-them issues. Of course, as I asked them to write about what defines them for 25 minutes, I did the same thing. Surprisingly, and very unexpectedly, my pencil (yes! I was using a pencil! WEIRD!) started scribbling wildly and before I knew it, I had used a paper's front and back to craft a narrative about my hair.

As you probably (or maybe don't) know, my hair is a big source of personal contention. I have always had a love-hate relationship with it. It's a perfect hybrid of both my parents' hair types: my mom's is thin and straight, and my dad's is thick and curly. He had an afro in the 70s. This is hysterical if you know my dad. (If not, well, not so funny.)

Let me tell you, thin, curly hair is idiotic. It doesn't make sense. When you think of a curly-haired person, I'm sure you immediately envision a thick, tendrily, mop of pretty little s-curves. RIGHT? I don't have that. I realize that there are many different types of curl, and I realize that many women with curly hair have a similar love-hate relationship, but I'm so frustrated with my hair and still weirded out that after thinking about what identifies me, I unintentionally wrote about my hair.

First off, "running out the door" isn't a concept I can grasp. If I need to be anywhere, and fast, I always have a mini-panic attack about what i'm going to do to my hair. I don't "hop in the shower." Because when I get out, I have to dedicate at least 15 minutes to styling my hair, and that's after I let it air dry for 15 or 20 minutes, because it won't have any volume if I style it wet. Not like it has much in the way of volume, anyway. This is why Big Sexy Hair's Root Pump Plus is, like, my most favoritest volumizing product I have ever, ever used. OBSESSED.

If I don't put anything in my hair, it lies limp and frizzy and I look like a wet dog. (Without the wetness part, I suppose, because it's so thin it will be near completely dry after, like, a half hour.) But I can't ever find a product that works well with my hair. It's so dry in Pullman that I need something hydrating, and it can't be very thick so it doesn't weigh my curls down, and something that holds but isn't too sticky. This is the worst part about buying hair products.

Don't get me wrong, I love buying new hair stuff that I have never used, but I always keep this idea tucked away in the back of my head that it's not going to work, anyway. I am still furious with KMS for changing not only their packaging a few years back, but their product line-up. I used to use their Curl Gloss, and it was incredible. We had a love affair for years. I would periodically switch to something else, just to try it out, but I would always come back to Curl Gloss. I was addicted to it.

Then, they changed their curl line. I was irate. I saw all this bull everywhere that read, "Used Curl Gloss? Try our Hot Spiral Spray!" So I did, of course -- doing what the nice KMS people told me to do -- but it wasn't even a poor substitute; there was just no competition. Since then, my hair has been doomed to live a Curl Gloss-free life.

The moral of the story?

Another issue I deal with is something that began in high school. I was always described as the really loud girl with the crazy, curly hair. So, yeah, I was too loud then. I never laughed, I gaffawed. I didn't exclaim, I yelled out "OH MY GAAAWD" in the hallways. It was always "lookatmelookatmelookatme." (Wow, how things change, huh?)

But I was often also defined by my hair. I still don't know if this was a good or a bad thing, but suffice to say, it made me insecure. And here I am today, still worried that people won't like me because of my hair. The grass is always greener, true, but I can't express how many hours I've spent thinking about how much easier my life would be if my hair were long, thick, and straight. Straight hair is easy. (I assume, anyway.) Luckily, I can blow out my curl very easily, but I still don't pass for a straight-haired girl. The ends always start to twist and bend their way back into the curl they should rightly be displaying proudly. That's my problem, though. I can't display it proudly. I feel like the crazy chick with the crazy hair who is too loud and who everyone can only take in small doses. Maybe I am. Maybe that is something I just need to live with. Perhaps I need to stop trying to straighten myself. (Know what I mean?) But, except, however, that isn't who I think I am. That isn't who I want to be.

It's kind of baffling to me that so much of my identity can be wrapped up into a bunch of keratin and dead protein. It's irritating that a social construction of the way hair is supposed to look so heavily influences the way I feel about my own hair. Maybe because it doesn't fit the mold. I don't want to fit the mold, though. So why am I whining? I don't really know. It's a love-hate relationship. Sometimes I adore the curl, I love how easy it is to dry my hair, and I appreciate that if I need to, I can just put on a thick headband and throw it back into a baby ponytail. Yet at the same time, when I touch my hair too much while it's still wet and it gets frizzy and limp, or when my hair wins the battle between my products and I look like a dried-out wet dog, or when I accidentally use too much Catwalk Curl Amplifier and it weighs down and pulls out my curl, I want to scream and shave it all off. Because it doesn't look perfect everyday. It doesn't look as good at 5:00 pm as it does at 9:00 am. I need to try to embrace my hair, though, as a part of what makes me, me. It wouldn't be right if my hair was long, and thick, and straight. I wouldn't be me.

I'll need to remind myself of this next time my hair isn't cooperating in the morning and I'm ready to throw on a hat and just leave my house. Because I'm not really a hat person. Hat hair is reserved for an entirely different post.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Merry August 17th.

It was so effing hot yesterday that there was no way I was going to even attempt cooking dinner. So I called up Ben and Julie and asked if they wanted to go get sushi. We piled into my car at 6:00 and drove over to Tokyo Seoul, and remembered once we pulled into the parking lot that they're closed on weekends. The next goal was to go over to the new Thai restaurant in Moscow, where that really shitty place called Archie's or something used to be. They've got sushi, or they will, eventually. Julie, Toria, and I tried to go there once a couple months ago, only to be met with an empty bar and "We don't serve sushi on Mondays." WTF?

Since it was Sunday, we decided to try our luck. When we got there, a sign on the door read, "Sushi bar will open Wednesday, 8/19/08" (yet further proof that this Wednesday is going to be the best day of the summer). The waiter came out to tell us what was up: The chef is on vacation and he's coming back by Wednesday, and after Wednesday the bar will be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, until another chef gets hired in which case they'll be open every day of the week. Things might change a bit in the winter, though, because he buys his fish from Seattle and there may be occasions when he can't get across the pass. So now you know.

That last part totally satisfied me, because I like knowing where my food comes from (thanks, Julie & the Trouts). Although I hope this guy's rig has some serious refrigeration capabilities, because 5 hours is a long time for raw fish to be hanging out in a car. I have faith, though, that this restaurant is not trying to slowly but surely kill off all of the sushi lovers in the Palouse.

So, armed with a wealth of knowledge regarding this new restaurant that managed to still disappoint us, we decided to trek over to Uniontown and eat at Eleanor's.

If you have never been to Eleanor's, shame on you. Sure, Uniontown is po-dunk and you can drive through it faster than you can say, "This town is smaller than Colfax," but it's a really nice little community AND... it's got Eleanor's!

My favorite thing about Eleanor's is the sign on the door that says you can't bring your firearm inside. Or, it's the free, homemade chips that get plunked down on your table, begging to get snacked on. Or maybe it's how nice the staff is, giving us free beer to try and interjecting comments in the most good-natured way. Actually, it's probably just the burgers. NOM NOM NOM.

When Julie, Ben, and I got there, we sat at the table by the air conditioner (the only table I've sat at, actually), sipped our beers and watched pre-season football on the TVs while we waited for our food. During this time, I grabbed a Christmas coloring book and these jumbo crayons, which were probably two inches around, and prepared to pick out a page. The guy working hollered from the kitchen, "If it's really good, we'll put it up on the wall!" We all laughed, and Julie said he was placating me, in the nicest way possible: "Notice how there are no other drawings on the wall?" Nonetheless, I picked what I deemed a "good" image, and set to work.

Ben told me I should put it on my office door, which I was totally prepared to do. After I colored the bear, sitting in a stocking wearing a striped Santa hat, I wrote, "By: Lauren Clark!" in the bottom right corner. Yes, last name and ex point included. Then I added, "Merry August 17th" near the top and a "We <3 Eleanor's" underneath.

But, like a hawk who'd spotted a mouse, the guy nabbed my drawing and tacked it up behind the bar. I was SO EXCITED. It is much better off hanging up at Eleanor's than it would be on my office door. Julie had me take a photo of it with her phone to show the blogging world (or, you know, whoever reads this):

So, if you ever find yourself meandering toward Uniontown, make sure to stop in at Eleanor's. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is cozy, and they hang my drawings on the walls. So get over there, order a burger, and say hello to my Merry August 17th bear.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Open Letter to the Girls who Live Across from Us.

Dear neighbor girls,

I say this with respectful understanding and without attempting to channel a certain person who seems to get her kicks from hating on people younger than she, but ... I am so glad I do not live in the apartment underneath yours.

Judging from the youthfulness of your faces and the Omigod!s that pepper your speech, my roommate and I decided you must be sophomores and that this is your first apartment. Honestly, it was hard to believe you were in college at all. When I first met you both, and you introduced yourselves with your adorable, girly names and white-toothed smiles, I knew we could never be friends. It would just never work.

Now, I remember being your age. I remember having people come over to party. (Except, my roommate at that time and I usually went out because we didn't want people messing up our place.) I remember playing music really loudly just because we could, and "not giving a fuck" if it annoyed anyone. And, of course, drinking liquor that someone else had purchased for us.

I remember how fun those days were, and I wouldn't want any college-aged girl to be deprived of that, but I have to say that I am eternally grateful that you live across the building, instead of next door or even underneath us, so that I can retreat to my bedroom and be spared the thumpthumpthumping of you blasting Top 40.

I will admit, I like the Lady GaGa song Just Dance, probably because I've never really grown out of enjoying poppy music that has a good beat. However, at 9:00 on  a Sunday, I don't particularly want to hear "Just ju-ju-just DANCE," unless I am playing it for myself. But I'm not. And I'm not hanging around with hot guys, drinking Busch Light, or getting ready to go to Valhalla, and I am certainly not going to the Rec Center.

Sure, sometimes when the song comes on my Shuffle at the gym, it's all I can do to not belt out, "I love this record, baby, but I can't see straight anymore!" And yet, even though I have a kind of unnatural love for this song, I don't want to be forced to listen to it. I sympathize immensely with your downstairs neighbors, because I know what it's like to have horrifically loud people living above you. In fact, when I was your age and doing the kinds of things you are doing, the two guys living above me and my roomie were even worse. They would constantly wake us up by having sex at 3:00 a.m. (not with each other), or playing country music at 8:00. It ruined the friendship we'd formed early on in our move downstairs from them. You are unwittingly driving away the people with whom you share a ceiling-to-floor wall, and that sucks.

But, I guess, as long as you're having fun and making memories, I can't be angry at you. I want you to have fun and live up your first apartment experience... just don't do so at my expense. As long as I can hole up in my bedroom and escape the sound of Miley Cyrus or whatever you're playing, I'm happy. Also, please don't start partying on weekdays. Thursdays are forgiven, and Friday is technically part of the weekend, but if you ever start pumping ZFun 106 on a Tuesday evening, I will have to knock on your door and then knock your lights out.

your neighbor, Lauren 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Shout Outs & Stuff.

Numero Uno: The latest prompt on Word Grrls, a pretty neato site for supplying uncreative or lazy or just plain stumped people with writing prompts, reads thusly:

"You're back in time, Moses is building the ark and the leprechauns are doing everything they can think of to get those darned unicorns aboard. Nothing is working. They just keep frolicking around and laughing about anyone silly enough to be afraid of a little rain.

How do you get the unicorns on the ark, saving the species and changing the outcome of that old Irish jig?"

I'm not going to write on this, I just wanted to give a shout out to Daniel Taylor, of itwasmeteors.com, who has, IMHO, a superb sense of humor. He makes me laugh, me makes me cry, and he introduces me to other seriously awesome internet comics. Moreover, he has really inspired me to make my own list of enemies, because I think it could be such a nurturing experience. ...One day.

Anyway, when I read the Word Grrls prompt, I immediately thought of this:

Click for a bigger pic, or just click the source link.

This is, I think, my favorite IGAFU image. The first time I saw it, I laughed out loud, a lot, due to the sheer silliness and how adorable everything in this image is, even the dinos. Then, a minute later, I was really upset and saddened about the poor little unicorn. That's what Daniel's stuff does to me; it makes me happy and sad at the same time. Kind of like THIS COMMERCIAL. Ack. Gets me every time. (I am so emotional.) 

Numero Dos: I was on Etsy yesterday and came across this shop. The woman sells painted Scrabble tiles-turned-pendants.

They are SO COOL! I am obsessed with them (weird, I know, I can hardly believe it myself). They're super cheap, especially considering they're buy 2, get 1 free. After shipping, you get three pendants for 15 bucks! I love love love them. So much, in fact, that I agonized for an hourover which three to get. I went so far as to Photoshop the images of the pendants I liked so it looked as if the pendant being worn in this image:

was the pendant I was considering buying. This may sound kinda goofy, but it actually helped me narrow down my 5 billion Maybes into 3 For Sures. I'll let you know which ones I purchased if you're interested, or you'll just have to wait until you see me roaming around Avery, perpetually wearing one of three of my forthcoming pendants.

Scrabble tiles!!!!!!

Numero Tres: Julie and I had one-on-one Coop Coffee time today, after our one-on-one f.mark experience, and it was very, very nice and I enjoyed myself immensely (and I think she did, too, considering I am now 95% sure she doesn't hate me [just kidding, J-Squigg!]). HOWEVER. I would appreciate it if Toria and the Trouts (ooo, that's a new one) would COME BACK because I miss them all very much. And yes, I know, I ditched out of two f.mark-and-Coop experiences, but still! I'm selfish! Soooo, come back soon!

Numero Cuatro: I am so excited for school to start. Julie is going to be on the third floor, I get two batches of fresh-faced-men (you know, like fresh-faced freshman? Doesn't work? Oh well.), I get to take (hopefully) awesome seminars, and frankly, I'm bored as shit. I need some structure and some assignments and some demands! I gotta get back into the swing of things! Moreover, I can't WAIT for Wednesday. A) Because it's the first day of Orientation (with a capital O)and I am really eager to meet all the incoming MAs and PhDs and really really eager to speak on my Panel of Awesomeness (maybe that's what we should call ourselves?) and B) Because it's supposed to be 73 and cloudy! YES! Do want!

My widget says (as of about a half hour ago; it's gone up five degrees since then):

That is too hot for me! I love the warm weather, I really do, but it's a BITCH at night. I slept so badly last night because it was just way too hot. And I'm a big whiner and come the end of September I'll be like, "Waaaah, why isn't it a hundred anymore? Waaaaah."

But right now, 73 is looking glorious. Yay, Wednesday.

Numero Cinco (el Ășltimo numero, te lo prometo): I effing HATE it when guys work out upstairs at the Rec Center. Just go downstairs with all your male buddies, dude! I hate because they screw up the machines. There was a guy up there yesterday who was using, like, every machine, and he'd put the seat and the handles down to 1 and the weight at some ridiculous amount, between like 100-130 pounds. And then I had to go in after him, move the seats to 5 and the handles to 9 (even when I've got the chest pad on the row/rear delts machine [which I loooove, btw] all the way forward, I still have to reach out to grab the handles. I am little and therefore discriminated against) and move the pin waaaaay up into the girly-range of weight lifting. It's SO ANNOYING. I mean, it's bad enough that the seats are like impossible for me to move up. When I have to go from position 1 to position 5, I get very irritated. Stop messing with the girls' area, men! That's what I say. Go downstairs where everyone is 6 feet tall and lifting at least 130 pounds and leave us upstairs to be short and ... delicate, if you will.