Archive for November, 2011

Black Friday shopping, the American way!

I’ve seen this more this year than I think I have any other year: People griping about those who go out shopping for Black Friday on Thanksgiving night. Maybe this is because stores are opening earlier this year than in the past. Regardless, I’d like to present a small argument on why I don’t agree with the many negative sentiments I’ve been hearing.

Frankly, I don’t understand. For those who condemn this activity, they say that it takes away from the real meaning of the holiday, which is to be with family and ponder about all you’re thankful for.

I’m not entirely sure how going out shopping and taking advantage of the great deals available takes away from the spirit of Thanksgiving.My parents have been divorced since I was young, and today I’ve spent a fair amount of time at both my house (where my mother’s side of the family gathered to feast) and my Grandmother’s house (visiting and spending time with my dad’s family). Now, near 7:00 pm, both sides of the families have dispersed and probably went home to curl up in a ball and enter their food comas. With this in mind, I’m not entirely sure how going out at midnight or 2am takes away from the time I am not, and would not, be spending with my family.

On a similar note, many people attest the idea of stores opening at midnight or earlier. In a consumer driven society, especially in a time of economic disparity, stores must try to have “the edge” to attract people more than their competitors. Sure, its a national holiday and a symbolic day for many Americans, but what’s more American than shopping?

I don’t feel that getting an early start for Black Friday shopping takes anything away from Thanksgiving or its meaning. It just means getting an early start on holiday shopping and taking advantage of the great deals available that day. Stores that open early for Black Friday, even if it means a few hours before the actual turn of the next day, are only doing so because that’s what we, as consumers, want.

So, enjoy the holiday. Spend time with friends and family and eat a lot of great food. More importantly, take a few moments to think about what you’re thankful for.

Then, after a power nap and maybe another serving of turkey and the like, bundle up, hop in your car, and stand in line trying to buy one of ten “special priced” items. It’s not wrong, it’s not demeaning the holiday… It’s simply American.


Newt Gingrich… Oscar the Grouch?

Recently, LZ Granderson wrote a rather scathing article about Newt Gingrich and his bid for candidacy in 2012. Opening the article, LZ talks about a recent scheme of Newt’s to “benefit” the children of the working class poor in the schools… His grand plan: to break up janitor unions, have one master janitor, and pay the students to clean the schools. This, Newt claims, will give the students cash in their pockets and more pride in their school. 

Personally, I agree with LZ when he states that in order to be consistent with what Newt has said back in 2009, he should be lobbying for funding designated for early childhood education and addressing the cycle of poverty. Instead, he is now focusing on breaking up janitor unions and “making poor kids indentured servents.”

One of the main points in LZ’s article is to point out the lack of compassion Newt has during this early campaigning season. He states, “I shudder to think whom he would not have compassion for if elected president. Some of the GOP candidates are too simple-minded to be president. Gingrich is just too mean.” 

To compare his scorn for this Republican potential, he compares him to President Obama. For starters, he says that the reason Obama is still so widely liked (which is arguable in itself) is that he “possesses an approachable quality that embodies the good we want the world to see.” LZ does not find this quality in Newt and he even goes farther to say that he doesn’t even think Newt cares.

This article’s content is not all bashing Newt, however (even if the main message behind it is). LZ does praise him as being the “sharpest” candidate during the Republican debates, and says that Newt is extremely smart. However, this leads to the fundamental question of, “What are the more important qualities in a presidential candidate?”

I tend to side with LZ in that personality and demeanor go a long way in helping a presidential hopeful gain support. In my opinion, the largest characteristic about a candidate that determines the amount of support they’ll gain is there political party. Minus the few swing states, red goes red and blue votes blue. Political platforms and personal beliefs also carry a lot of weight when people are deciding which in their party they will choose to support. However, I think another large characteristic that largely goes unnoticed is the candidate’s appeal. Are they approachable? Do they seem nice? For example, look at how many people supported George W. Bush because they claimed he was the type of guy they could see themselves drinking a beer with.  

I wouldn’t vote for someone just because they seem like a nice person. And I wouldn’t necessarily NOT vote for someone because I think they’re a jerk.

But when weighing all the pros and cons and trying to weed out candidates in the primaries, the “nice” factor might actually make or break somebody. 

Who would God vote for in 2012?

I’ve started to become a little tired of LZ’s abundant use of sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong, I think it adds a lot of flare to his writing and is one of the reasons I’ve never found myself bored reading one of his articles. But, I needed a little bit of a change… This is why I’m really glad I found his article, “Who does God want in the White House?” It is filled with just the right amount of witty remarks but mostly written in a serious (albeit disapproving) tone, filled with quotes from candidates and well written statements that underscore his argument.

In the article, LZ argues that it is really disgusting that many of the GOP candidates (namely Bachmann, Cain, Perry, and Santorum) have now made references that God is leading them to run in the 2012 election. Essentially, this is like saying that God is on their side in this election. By making the outrageous insinuation that they have the Almighty’s support, they’re really cheapening religious belief and taking advantage of the power faith plays in political elections.

“‘I felt like Moses when God said, ‘I want you to go into Egypt and lead my people out.'” Cain said. “Moses resisted. I resisted. … But you shouldn’t question God.’ Repeat: You shouldn’t question God.”

Rick Perry’s wife, Anita, also had this to say during an interview, “[the other candidates are]  there for good reasons. And they may feel like God called them, too … I truly feel like we are here for that purpose.”

It is important that I clarify LZ isn’t just picking on the GOP. He is similarly disgusted when Democratic politicians cross the line and try to “out-God” one another. Regardless of party affiliation, candidates and other politicians shouldn’t claim Divine preference, it’s just wrong. What is this, 16th Century England? However, he does say that no Democrat has really publicly stated that they were called by God to run. “Not because Democrats are not religious, but because they seem to know where the line is.”

I especially liked one of LZ’s last points, when he said that if candidates continue to try to manipulate the public and claim that they’re supported by God himself, we’re soon going to see outrageously offensive slogans. His examples include:

“Vote for me or God won’t bless America.”

“Vote for me, or you’ll be left behind.”

“Vote for me… Jesus did.”

Right now, I don’t think anything this bad would fly in the 2012 election. But really, we might not be too far off. Can’t politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, just stop trying to use religion to win elections.

What ever happened to their political platforms and ideals? (Well, unless they try to claim these were somehow derived from a conversation with The Big Man Upstairs also…)

Publicizing Your Blog

Top 5 things to promote your blog:

  1. Write quality content and post regularly- Updating your blog regularly will provide your followers with a reason to keep coming to your site. No body wants to keep checking on one of the bloggers they follow if they don’t post regularly. Also, it is important to write well and produce quality content. If you have bad grammar, misspelled words, and disorganized thoughts you probably won’t have many people looking to read your posts.
  2. Write search engine “friendly”- Search engines are an important part of trying to promote your blog. You should make sure to post titles and post page archiving, When you’re writing your post, try to write as descriptive as possible and about something specific, so your post winds up near the top of any search result.
  3. Link to  other blogs- People who are already following or browsing other blogs are the type of audience you want to start by trying to attract, seeing as they already appreciate and like following blog posts. When you link to other blogs, you give that other blogger their opportunity for promoting their page, and they might just do the same thing for you. Also, perhaps commenting on these bloggers posts and saying that you’ve talked about a similar issue, they probably won’t mind if you share a link to your own site.
  4. Be an active commenter- Similar to what is described in the previous method of promotion, when you comment on another person’s blog site, all of their followers have the opportunity to see what you write and even check out your page. If you write a well written and insightful comment, they might want to see some of the other things you write.
  5. Post links to your blog site on your various social networking pages (like Facebook or Twitter) and/or email the link to family/friends- This promotes your page among the people who are already interested in what you have to say or talk to you on a regularly basis. Maybe they just never knew you write a blog and if they see your link or a page suggestion for one of your posts, they’ll like it and start following.

There are several persuasive techniques that you could use to successfully perform these tasks and promote your blog. First and most importantly is first method, to write quality content and post regularly. In order to create well-written arguments in your blog, one must utilize all the various rhetorical techniques we’ve been learning this semester.

The same applies to active commenting on other people’s blogs. When you comment on another’s blog you shouldn’t just try to tell them what they want to hear like, “that was great, sooooo well written!” etc. Instead, tell them what you thought of their argument (minus anything clearly offensive) and then supplement their thoughts with those of your own. This allows that blogger and others reading your comment to appreciate your insight on the topic and click on your blog to check out what else you have to say. Make sure that in your comment you incorporate some rhetorical strategies (because, after all, you’re making a mini-argument in the comment). This could include appeals to emotion or reason, including facts/statistics or appeals to authority, witty remarks or sarcasm to essentially entertain the audience, etc.

When you post a link to your blog or a page suggestion for it on your social networking sites, it is important that you highlight it in an appealing way. Give those who stumble across it a reason to check out what you have to say, maybe by posing a rhetorical question that you analyze in your blog post.


Anti-Smoking Efforts

I have recently come across an article on the blog site, which discusses some new (and quite radical) efforts to further restrict smoking in the public atmosphere. Well, that’s if you can even call it “public,” considering it is in your car.

The article announces that the British Medical Association’s Board of Science recently released a report in the UK urging politicians to ban smoking in personal vehicles. They seek this regulation in an effort to “achieve a tobacco-free society by 2035,” and it appears that the surest way they can reach this goal is to constantly chip away at smoker’s rights. Now, I have a vast range of opinions on the idea of smoking in public, especially when kids are concerned or it is inside of buildings/restaurants/etc. However, I think that outside of a building, at a reasonable distance from the main entrance, the air dissipates and makes the “nasty smoke” a relatively non-issue. Furthermore, inside someones PERSONAL VEHICLE, I think that it is an individual’s right to smoke (which is still legal, remember) if they so choose.

It is mentioned that the Association is trying to persuade lawmakers through the whole “it’s distracting” cause. Okay, I’ll admit that smoking a cigarette might be a bit distracting to a driver (especially one that is inexperienced or young). Sometimes you can’t get it lit quickly and you have to fiddle with a lighter or matches, getting the ash outside of the window if often a pain and more than once you get ash all over yourself, and God forbid you accidentally drop the cigarette in your car and have to have an en-route manhunt before it burns up your upholstery.

But, let’s all get real for just a second. It is my opinion that nearly everything you do while driving is a distraction. Talking to a passenger, trying to eat fast food, sipping a hot coffee, opening a water bottle, changing a cd or song on your ipod, fixing your hair, digging around for that long-lost pair of sunglasses, browsing the line up of stores at a strip mall, fixing an unruly contact, taking off a sweater, etc etc etc.

Yes, big distractions like texting while driving should be made illegal and attempted to be enforced at all costs. But honestly, I’ve never heard of some horrific accident caused by someone taking a drag of a cigarette. And if I had, I’d definitely chalk it up to some freak accident and asked what other strange factors were present to also cause it. “It would be good for road safety if we could demand that people drive in total silence and keep their hands on the wheel at all times, but that’s an unreasonable expectation.”

In a society that increasingly views cigarettes as the enemy, I guess this sentiment shouldn’t really come as a surprise.

The end of this article underscores how well of a rhetorical job the blogger has done in analyzing this topic and presenting their own argument. At first, they present the facts, pepper in some opinions about those facts, demonstrate the negative aspects of the proposed regulations, and then offer their own solution (while underscoring the fact that this solution is not an appropriate one, nor is it reasonable).

It is not the most effective to continually keep narrowing “smoker’s rights,” in hopes to irritate the smoking population enough that they finally throw up their hands in frustration and defeat. As it would happen in some cartoon-like, giant unison, nation-wide. Instead, those seeking a “smoke free society” should refocus their efforts away from the consumer towards the producer. “However, if governments are truly committed to ending smoking, they have to stand up to the tobacco companies and ban cigarettes. If we’re going to keep letting people buy cigarettes, we can’t tell them that there’s absolutely no place where they’re allowed to smoke them.”

Taking away an individual’s ability to smoke on their own time, in their own personal vehicle would probably push some to “just quit already.” But is that what the British Association and other’s championing this cause is really seeking? Go for the tobacco companies.

Post #26: Bob Greene

I’d like to use this post to analyze another columnist for CNN that I have grown to appreciate. Bob Greene is a very good rhetorical writer, and many of his political pieces catch my eye.

In his article, “America, our hands are clean!” written in late August talks about how the H1N1 pandemic pushed Americans into a hand sanitization frenzy. The beginning of this article starts out by describing something you see in your daily life many times, using vivid detail and comical descriptions for those who use this product. Then he announces it: hand sanitizer.

Describing the time before the Swine Flu as generally following the “a little dirt won’t hurt” saying, provides a realistic contrast between then and after the outbreak. He then backs up his assertion that Americans have become a little too Purell obsessed with various facts about the hand sanitizing product industry, for example stating “The marketing research firm Global Industry Analysts Inc. has projected that because of people’s newly awakened concern about the need for perpetual cleanliness, the annual market for hand sanitizers in the U.S. will grow to more than $402 million by 2015.”

Greene even states that DirecTV is in the process of producing the first “antimicrobial remove” that is essentially germ-free…

The tone of this article is meant to highlight the (pretty absurd) dependence Americans have on those tiny little bottles of hand sanitizer, without alienating those in his audience which actually use them. I think he does this brilliantly, because I’ll admit I generally appreciate hand sanitizer and even have one in my purse, but I didn’t feel offended by this article. He uses a light-hearted manner to make his point, but backs his assertions and opinion with verifiable facts and credible authorities. Greene also places responsibility on the outbreak of H1N1, not someone or a group that people would feel the need to defend… everyone hates the Swine Flu and are willing to let it be the scape-goat for our paranoia. I agree with Greene when he says that our society has become a little too “emotionally attached to those little bottles.”

I especially enjoyed the last few lines in his article, reminding me of my own columnist, LZ, who uses sarcasm and witty remarks to add character to his writing.

“So, Mr. Bond, we meet at last.

But first, we’d better squirt some of that stuff onto our hands.”

“‘What you do’ is the new ‘Who you are'”

You can’t meet anyone new on LVC’s campus without either asking or being asked within the first few minutes, “What’s your major?” I have probably answered this question literally hundreds of times, from fellow students, administration officials, professors, parents, etc. A student’s major is part of who they are, it defines them.

And yes, many people do judge that students based upon what they’re studying. Try telling a pre-med major or PT student that you’re a philosophy major… and see the looks you’ll get.

In the real world, “What’s your major?” is replaced with, “What do you do for a living?”

In an article by LZ Granderson titled, “The question on everyone’s mind,” it is described that in contemporary American society, people are becoming increasingly characterized by their job. In previous times, asking that question often implied that the person was interested in learning about the way someone spends their day or their interests. Now, however, it is used to determine a persons financial worth or level of happiness.

It is described that while money can’t buy happiness, society frequently reaffirms the fact that apparently, “we can’t be happy without it.” And for both the individual themself, or those who they meet, “happiness’ is closely tied to their paycheck. This is how “what you do” can lead someone to make assumptions about your quality of life.

LZ makes a great point when he states that instead of immediately asking what a person does for a living, you could instead ask other “non-threatening questions.” He states, “But why not ask about something not related to money, such as “When was the last time a moment took your breath away?” — getting back to what it means to be human as opposed to a consumer.”

I agree with LZ’s sentiment in this article completely. Asking someone what they do for a living seems like the norm, but really it just often leads to judgement and assumptions. Someone can work at McDonald’s and still lead a very happy life. Similarly, a person can be a lawyer or doctor but be sad and miserable all the time. Money can’t buy happiness, so socially defined “good” jobs can’t buy happiness.

And remember this when you’re trying to make new friends at LVC. Sure, the obvious question is “What’s your major?” but maybe you could ask something a little more about the actual person you’re trying to get to know. What do they do for fun, where did they grow up, and what other activities are they involved with on campus?

Just as someone’s job doesn’t define who they are, a student’s major isn’t, either.