Thursday, January 31, 2008

Free Write: When In Riga...

Warning: The following blog is saturated with ethnic stereotypes concerning the Baltic state of Latvia; some are true, some are true most of the time, and some are about Russians, which are both true and false and drunk.
Viewer discretion is advised.

The first Latvian person I ever saw was on the flight from Stockholm to Riga. He was hunched over asleep, his hat askew, and was seemingly incoherent of anything going on around him at the time. He was also the pilot.

Latvians don't belong in cities like Riga. They belong far out in the country with their quaint little summer homes and quainter little gardens, digging up potatoes, gathering lingonberries in the forest, and jumping over fires during the pagan Summer solstice festivities, wearing oak leaf crowns, drinking beer and singing songs about drinking beer. That is their natural habitat, their zen place. Unfortunately, the neighbors of the Baltics decided that no one should leave such a docile and happy life, so they invaded. Sweden, Germany, Russia; they all wanted a piece, or sometimes the whole pie. Hence, we have Riga; a city split in two by the lumbering Daugava river. If a grand Europeanesque vacation with days of site seeing, picture taking and cultral exchange is what you had in mind, spend it somewhere else. But if, off the beaten path, is your personal eccentric cup of tea, then maybe there will be something of interest for you here.

A stroll down the cobblestone streets of old town and already you've identified five diverse subgroups. First and foremost are the loud and obnoxious Americans coming back from their group dinner at TGI Friday's, where a waiter will be more than happy to offer you water "with gas, or without gas" in his best english. The Germans are close by gawking up at one of the many church spires, trying to decipher the oversized map of the historical sites to see, systematically marking them off one by one. The tourists of the Oriental variety are draped in amber trinkets and taking pictures of one another by the most obscure and insignificant "memorial" sites, which can sometimes be as dynamic as a street clock or a local colony of hoody cladding adolescent goths (usually over by TGI Friday's under the Liepa trees). And then of course, there are the natives to consider. The Latvian business man with his square toe ankle high boots and striped pants, anxiously making his way through other pedestrians on his way to some very important occasion and the fragile old Russian woman, viscously guarding her carts of knick knacks and paddy wacks and amber trinkets. This is Old Town, and it's what mostly everyone comes to see.

However, if you will bypass all of that rubbish, and beeline straight to the train station, you will find the beating heart of the city - the Tirgus.

This open-air market is home to some of the most prized junk in all the world. The little man under the bridge has his "rolecks" watches, the gypsy woman has her CCCP memorabilia, and then every Vova, Nicoli, and Katya have their rows and rows of leather jackets, soccer jerseys, pirated DVDs, fur hats, orthodox candles, and a million other items that seem to be in every cubicle on every acre of available space. No outsider (foreigner) goes into the Tirgus and actually finds what they were looking for and when they actually DO find something of interest and value it's nowhere to be found the next day when you come back to pick it up. The only thing that stands in the way of it being officially declared a certifiable labyrinth is a christening ritual performed by David Bowie (What babe? The babe with the power). That's why a successful purchase at the market has such a satisfying appeal, because it's basically like an Easter egg hunt, except in this story the easter egg rips or breaks in two weeks and you have to either go back and find a new one or just decide that you don't like eggs anymore and would prefer to go without. And thus we see, that by small and simple means do great and pointless tales come to pass.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rhetorical Analysis: Cats and Alienhead Norwegians


Fa ra ra ra raaaaa! Ra-ra-ra-raaaaa. That doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I though you might enjoy that bit of timeless humor from A Christmas Story, now then back to more sensible words.
I know you said to refrain from doing the rhetorical analysis until Wednesday but since you shot my paper on guns (puns abound) out of the sky like a Christmas goose, I'm doing it anyways. Besides, I took Humanities 101 like 3 years ago, so basically I know everything there is to know about the arts. That being said, listening to most art critics makes me feel nauseous; a painting is a painting is a painting. To them I say, don't suffocate me with your pompous and pedantic insights about what the artist is really trying to say in his piece, lets' just ask him/her what they think and if they're not around leave me alone and let me enjoy it how and if I may.

" I was walking along a path with two friends—the sun was setting—suddenly the sky turned blood red—I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence—there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city—my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety—and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature." - Edvard Munch

Back in the 19th century most schizophrenics were locked up and subjected to all manner of cruel and unusual therapy (ironically leading many to believe that everyone was out to get them). However, some got to walk on boardwalks with their friends and paint swirly pictures instead. We now call these people, geniuses. The medium used in Scream is oil, giving it a heavier "weightier" feel. The sharp contrasting colors (inverted from a natural setting) have fast reckless strokes that contribute to the sense of anxiety and anticipation. Other than the crimson sky, all of the objects in the painting converge on the central figure; including the "water", boardwalk or path, and direction of motion of the other 2 personages. Instead of being positioned at center or observing the rules of thirds, the screamer is off center, creating a strain and uneasiness compounding his fear. "His" fear may not be entirely accurate. The creature depicted seems to be void of sex and other characteristics that would categorize it as "human", thus isolating the figure from the rest of humanity, alone even when others are present. It's not up to us to determine whether the two black figures in the back have hostile intent toward the subject, but rather that they have a role to play and in the mind of the screamer they may possibly be a primary or secondary source of his/her distress.
The connection that I wanted to make from the photo to the painting (other than an attempt at humor in their similarities) is the theme of self perception and isolation. Although cats by themselves have limited inherent value, similar to that of a manatee, the white cat is all the more interesting not so much because of his reptilian antics but because he has broken free of the pride of kittens to go off and do his own thing. Whether he is screaming or roaring, he's playing to his own drum, he's accepted himself for what he is, a crazy raptor mimicking kitten, a lesson our Norwegian alien screamer man could learn from our feline friend. Maybe then he would pipe down, take a xanax, and go watch sportscenter like the rest of us instead of trying to understand the universe, but then again Europeans are always so presumptuous in their intellectual capacities. Live and let live, I guess.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rhetorical Analysis: The Name's Bond, Lame Bond.

Don't get me wrong, Bond's a stud. Misogynistic cold hearted killer though he may be. But the shameless use of Ian Fleming's most lucrative character in Omega's advertising is a betrayal to his legacy. Considering that this particular advertisement is almost completely void of text an analysis of the imagery and product design will give insight to the assumptions made and selling point of the advertisers.
The Product being advertised: Explicitly - Men's Luxury Watches. Implicitly - Men's and Women's luxury watches.
The Audience: Men with disposable income or a need to appear as one with disposable income.
The adjacent advertisement shows two of the three special addition Omega Seamaster Casino Royale watches ranging from $2000 - $5000 + tax. The macro camera shot and angle present emphasis on the amount of detail and workmanship involved each timepiece's construction (which includes 10,007 parts). The trademark 007 symbol on the second hand and face are given particular distinction and the avid bondaholic will (evidently) appreciate the rifled gun bore of the blue faced watch used in the introduction of every single bond film. Omega's strategy has been for several years to use celebrity image coupled with their product in absence of textual advertisement in order to create this identity of class and presumption that their product (and those who wear them) speak for themselves and need no explanation as to their quality and desirability. In this particular incident of creating a Bond like image it's completely appropriate considering the calm and cool demeanor of Agent 007. Also, text would be counterproductive considering the type of publication that this ad would be placed, most likely The Robb Report where well over 50-60% of the pages are single ads for luxury accessories and pleasures. Considering this fact and the average reader of such publications it is my belief that Omega isn't really trying to sell this particular watch, otherwise why would it be a limited edition? Unless you're either 12 years old or a complete tool, you're not going to wear a watch with 007 written across the bottom of it. A cross examination of the demographic Omega is trying to reach would most likely reveal that there are not many pre-adolescent male readers or tasteless men (ok, maybe half of them are) who would have the income to shell out 5k on a wristwatch. Instead they are selling a brand, an image. By getting their foot in the door (or your brain), they've created a binding relationship between one of the all time best selling franchises in American cinema and themselves. When you see bond you'll think Omega. How you sell a $5000 watch with logos or ethos I have no idea, maybe if a portion of the proceeds went to children in Africa or something but that's a stretch in and of itself. No this is pure unadulterated pathos, a pathetic appeal to man's need to see himself as a bad-A, licensed-to-kill, promiscuous assassin drinking shaken vodka martinis and driving the lasted Aston Martin. The saddest thing of all is I think that they were financially successful in what they set out to accomplish. Viva Ego.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wet Socks

It's Tuesday night now and that which was intended to be completed yesterday has unsurprisingly crept and slept its way right up until the current time, 19:23 as the little clock in the corner tells me. Although my yet-to-be-written autobiography titled "Procrastina-" hasn't quite come to fruition yet, if and when it would hypothetically be written there would be a chapter within titled "Wet Sock Days".
Wet Sock Days recently came to me in the inspirational form of a wet sock; God works in mysterious ways sometimes. See, yesterday was Martin Luther King day or human rights day or something, all I know is I didn't have to go to school, go to work, or for that matter go out of bed; any holiday that has minimal public interaction and responsibility is a Grade A Holiday in my book. In their most cynical interpretations ( a mood I find all the more comforting on a dark January night with cold feet) some holidays are just too cumbersome with tradition, ritual, and social propaganda (charging material items to an 18 month interest-free credit card comes to mind). But that's a tangent for another time. No today is about Wet Sock Day or "Dirty Monday" if you will. WS Days are any day after a 3 day, 4 day, or prolonged weekend/vacation not to exceed a total of 14 days (after that long you're just plain lazy) when one is expected to get right back on that ninny of a horse called "reality" and you just can't seem to get with the program. It's the world's little way of giving you a sucker punch or a well placed Dead Leg right after a relaxing massage. You've gotten this free pass day to do essentially whatever you choose (they tell me this luxury becomes a rare delicacy indeed after marriage but for now, they're mine and I'll savor them) and then, BAM, you wake up the next day and you put on a pair of fresh warm socks and minutes before you leave you step in the melted snow that has come off of your sneakers in the kitchen and now it's too late to get a new pair AND catch the last bus that will get you to class on time. Wetsockday. It doesn't happen to be that literal every time but it's a metaphor that catches my point in all its drudging glory. You may even find a voice of alleged rational inside saying, "Well maybe it would be better if we didn't have these Holidays in the first place, hmmm?" But then you quickly silence that self righteous condescending little snot by mocking him in the quintessential 4th graded fashion and move on to your next topic of thought. Recently, ran an ad in which hundreds of suburbanites awake in the pre dawn darkness and rally together armed with their pillows and their coffee tables in order to fight back the approaching abomination of Monday morning; to no avail as you might have assumed.
Mondays I can handle; Monday was that little clause that most of us skipped over in the premortal realm.

"Hmm, a body and an opportunity to exercise free will with a reward behind doors #1 through 3? Or being cast down into outer darkness forced to watch as a spectator as everyone else gets a shot at eternal glory..."

"Yeah I'll take option #1 thank you very much and have a nice day. Oh, and you say I'll have an average of 4000-5000 Mondays while I'm down there? Well how bad can they be, amirite?"

Having personally just recently overcome Monday #1307 I can say that they (Mondays) are getting easier with the passage of time. Either that or the twinkle of youthful hope has most certainly dimmed entirely from my soul's window & considering my 20/400 vision that might be a more logical explanation.

At any rate, most critics (and dads worldwide) would respond to such a complaint with the ever popular, seldom thanked message of, "Well, you gotta grow up sometime!" although it's almost always used in an imperative form with a healthy dash of disgust added for good measure, at least that's how I've heard it.

That's basically it. Wetsockdays suck.

Oh, and when I tried to buy chocolate milk at the vending machine this afternoon to drown my sorrows, it wouldn't take ID cards, that's like double dutch Wetsockday.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

The .40 Calibre: An American Cartridge (Free Write)

Scene: SHOT Show, Las Vegas Nevada, 1989
Smith and Wesson introduce an improved 10mm cartridge in response to the demands of law enforcement agencies for a more powerful and user friendly personal sidearm, the .40 cal. The .40 cal or .40 is the great compromise between the existing 2 most common used NATO rounds for handguns, the 9mm and the .45 ACP. Both time tested and widely available, the 9mm and .45 have their drawbacks that limit the use and success rate of the firearm and its operator.
When lethal force is concerned and/or necessary a number of variables must be accounted for.
External variables include target, location, environment and distance. Meanwhile, internal variables are accuracy, rate of fire, clip capacity, and reliability. Issued nearly 100 years ago, the Colt 1911 was the issued military sidearm for over 70 years. Using the .45 ACP the heavier 230 grain (15 grams) bullet had impeccable stopping power due to its large surface area and more importantly its low velocity, less than 900 fps, as seen in the adjacent ballistics gel test. It was extremely simple to operate and need little repair because of the low force generated by firing the weapon (21,000 psi). However, a fully loaded 1911 had a capacity of 7 rounds + 1 chambered, although current service models are capable of 13+1 capacity the gun itself is respectively larger and does not fit to every hand.
Issued in 1985 and still used by armed forces today, the 9mm is a lighter, higher capacity round that travels significantly faster than the .45 (1,200 FPS). Because of this and the smaller surface area the 9mm has been criticized as a "hole puncher". The issue is that when a 9mm round enters an armed assailant it passes right through him/her with minimal expansion, allowing the shot individual to continue being a threat for some time. For law enforcement this has an additional problem with non combatants are in the surrounding environment. A shot placed throught the shoulder or other soft tissue area of a perpetrator could easily strike a civilian or hostage, entirely missed shots can penetrate walls. As seen in the infamous (yet gratuitously overacted) scene of the death of Sonny Corleone, this smaller round requires several direct hits in order to bring someone down.

Enter the .40 calibre. With a wide range of available grains, the .40 can be a slow, hard hitting round or faster for penetration of vehicles and improvised cover with only a 20% loss of clip capacity in comparison with the 9mm. Now in it's 19th year of production, the .40 S&W has become the standard issued cartridge of the US Coast Guard, the first US branch of law enforcement to do so. Whether the Army and Marines will follow suit in the coming decades will largely determine on the round's acceptance as a standardized NATO round and whether a cost/benefit analysis can be satisfied for the upgrade from the 9mm for regular infantry. For the average citizen who does not have the time or capital to shoot tens of thousands of rounds and still wants a weapon for personal safety that does not have issues of over penetration the .40 is the right chose to make...unless you'd now like to talk about shotguns.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Enthymemes and You

#1 A Current Battle

WATCO raising the thermostat on our apartment harmony?
Audience: Roommates of Apartment #114
Raising the Thermostat will disrupt our apartment harmony.
Because expensive gas bills upset poor roommates.

#2 An American Injustice

WATCO allowing students to grow beards on the learning atmosphere of BYU?
Audience: Administration of BYU
Allowing Students to grow beards improves the learning atmosphere of BYU.
Because allowing Grayson to maintain a well trimmed beard reduces his stress increasing his capacity to study and learn.

#2a Preferred Format but possibly illegal

WATCO allowing students to grow beards on the learning atmosphere of BYU?
Audience: Administration of BYU
Allowing Students to grow beards has minimal effect on the learning atmosphere of BYU.
Because allowing students to maintain well trimmed beards will no longer be taboo and thus insignificant to other students.

#3 The Neverending Story (minus Falcor)

WATCO taking a full 18 credit hours on a student’s overall well being?
Audience: Parents
Taking a full 18 credit hours will significantly harm a student’s overall well being.
Because allocating the recommended 54 total hours for academics will place excessive mental strain on Grayson’s brain.

#4 Once upon a time

WATCO eating only fast food on a student’s GPA?
Audience: Lazy students and/or freshmen

Eating only fast food will lower a student’s GPA.
Because having a diet high in calories & fat and low in vitamins and minerals will inhibit a student’s metabolism & motivation.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Rhetoric + Beer + Dogs = Party Time

Spuds MacKenzie. Need I say more? Ok then, here goes.
America's favorite narcotic, alcohol, is a multi billion dollar industry with an advertising budget to match. At the forefront of alcoholic advertising is Anheuser Busch, which outsells all other domestic brands combined. Introduced in a commercial during the 1987 Superbowl, Spuds, the "Original Party Animal", is seen here wearing a frat shirt, party hat and is on the verge of enjoying a cool refreshing goblet of foaming Bud Light. However, this ad is not just selling the concept of purchasing and drinking a product, but rather of how the product can create excitement, happiness, and social acceptance. The last assumption may be a bit of a stretch but stick with me here. First of all, who is the audience for this pooch? The list could include college students (men), former students nostalgic about their younger days (slightly older men), people susceptible to being deceived into making an irrational purchase primarily based on how cute a doggy in a t-shirt looks (women), alcoholics who inherently suffer fr0m depression, lastly and most controversially, children. Considering that Spuds MacKenzie memorabilia can still be found in abundance on the internet nearly 15 years after his death (technically "her" death, but that's another blog for another day) gives an indication about the success of this particular campaign which lasted less than 6 years. All of the above listed demographics have subcultures that frequently or occasionally consume alcohol in social (or not-so-social) environments. If you say "not children" feel free to get a plane ticket to any number of eastern European countries. By creating an icon, brand recognition and appreciation will increase consumer loyalty in these groups. Elements used in this ad include brand recognition, humor, and to some degree, shock value. Although fine print exists on the ad, the image is the major selling point, and that point is that bud light is a staple to having a good time. Using a dog instead of the stereotypical bikini model will leave a much more lasting impression on the viewer, the tell-tale black eye on Spuds only strengthens that goal. After several years of bad publicity (although there's really no such thing) Spuds was retired and Anheuser Busch abandoned the use of animals having a direct correlation to the consumption of alcohol in their advertising, at least until a certain trio of bullfrogs came into the picture....

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Back to School, Back to Cool

Ah, everyone loves a good oxymoron.

And that's where we are kiddos, smack dab in 'happy-valley' Utah.

You'll see a significant increase in the number of posts in the coming weeks, granted that I get into the class that i am jockeying for today. See, it's part of the curriculum to post thrice a week about both specific and random things in a structured format.

We'll keep you posted until more conclusive results can be verified.

Danke and enjoy the Miami winter.
In the meanwhile enjoy an exhilarating round of FROGGER!!!

- G