My Future Thoughts

Posted: December 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

Its hard to believe this semester has come to an end and this will be my last blog post that fulfills a required “quest.”  I chose to take the Intro to Popular Culture course for my critical thinking requirement because it sounded a great deal more interesting than some of the other courses offered.  I not only enjoyed learning more about Pop Culture and the internet but also noticeably improving how I make an argument and analyze the arguments of others.

Critical thinking is an active process.  Rather than jumping to conclusions or accepting information at face value, critical thinking involves understanding the information or argument, carefully considering evidence, checking the credibility of sources and the ability to think objectively.  Oftentimes, popular culture does not inspire us to think critically.  We accept it and consume it without considering the ramifications.  I think this applies especially to the internet.  In the last day of class we learned that if something is free, then we are the product.  Going forward I know that is something that will stick with me.

The internet, or “Web 2.0,” is one of the largest aspects of popular culture in my life.  Social media is given away and I use it regularly.  I use Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for myself and my salon business.  I use Snapchat to keep up with my friends.  For school I signed up for Twitter and created this blog.  I have been guilty of accepting information without checking it in the past, sometimes even passing it on.  My new favorite tool is Snopes.  Now, if something sounds fishy, too good to be true or perhaps interesting enough for me to share, there is a site I can use to verify it’s validity.

I will also be more cautious about relying on Wikipedia.  Don’t get me wrong, its a great site and very useful but the information it contains may not always be true.  Some of the articles are more reliable than others depending on the security settings.  It is definitely wise to check the sources cited within the articles and make sure they are credible.  Sometimes using books for good old-fashioned research may actually be necessary.

Now I also have a better idea of what to look for in a website to assure its credibility.  The top level domain gives you a better idea of where the information is coming from, “.gov” and “.edu,” are fairly trustworthy sources.  It is smart to look at the “About” page of a website and to check the authors and their credentials and expertise.  Its also good to understand what purpose the website serves.  Do the creators have something to gain from advocating a certain point of view?  Although I have to say every once in awhile I really enjoy an article from The Onion to lighten things up a bit.  I get a real good chuckle when one of my Facebook friends shares an article from another friend that shared an article from The Onion and obviously believes the content.  I suppose they’re just looking at the article and not checking to see what the website is really about.

That about wraps up how I will be using critical thinking in relation to Pop Culture but I’m sure I will benefit from this class even more in my day-to-day life.  I am confident the ability to construct a reasonable argument will be quite useful.  It might be even more handy to be able to deconstruct and analyze others’ arguments.  Armed with a fully developed prefrontal cortex and my newly honed critical thinking skills, I have a definite advantage.

Thanks, Sukey.  It really was a great class.

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Who would you rather be?  Rob Lowe or super creepy Rob Lowe?  Do you want Directv or do you want to watch people swim when your cable goes out?  This is a hilariously entertaining example of the Appeal to Celebrity fallacy.  I would venture to say most people know who Rob Lowe is but for anyone who lives under a rock doesn’t he is an actor who has been around since the 80’s.  He has been in movies, TV shows and was part of the infamous “Brat Pack.”  Currently, he is the always peppy Chris Traeger in Parks and Recreation.  He also is pretty ridiculously good looking, in my opinion, so if you can consider that a skill, he’s got it.

Does Rob Lowe actually use Directv as his television service provider?  Maybe.  Apparently his alter-egos, Super Creepy Rob Lowe, Less Attractive Rob Lowe, Crazy Hairy Rob Lowe, Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe and Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe all suffer with their cable TV service.  Let’s be honest, its a little ridiculous.  At the end of the commercial, the non-creepy, normal-haired, good-looking Rob Lowe says, “Don’t be like this me.  Get rid of cable and upgrade to directv.”  Normal Rob Lowe has a top-of-the line entertainment system in his immaculate home.  The other Rob Lowes have old-fashioned TVs (if it shows a TV at all) in their dingy houses.  Just because we watch Rob Lowe on TV does not make him an expert on television service providers.  Normal Rob Lowe does provide information about the satellite service, which is surely in a script given to him to recite.  However, even though Mr. Lowe most likely did not come up with this information on his own, one can’t help but pay attention to this commercial.  It is one of the more eye-catching, humorous commercials on TV which is what directv wanted.  Rather than tuning out as one would do through most commercials, you stop and watch.

Its hard to say at the moment whether the commercials are actually having the effect of getting cable customers to switch to directv.  In the 3rd quarter, directv reported a loss of 28,000 subscribers, however the commercials had just begun airing.  One thing is certain, these commercials are certainly garnering attention.  They’ve been shared, tweeted and liked.  On YouTube alone they have half a million views, with Less Attractive Rob Lowe being the most popular at over 300,000 views.  I know I’m not planning on switching to directv any time soon simply because I enjoy their commercials (they are far superior to Cable One’s commercials).  I know just because I have cable doesn’t make me creepy or less attractive.  However, I think just getting viewers to pay attention to a commercial for the entertainment value can trick them into hearing your message and that’s pretty much the whole point of advertising. Right?

I will leave you with my favorite of these ads…

An Educated Google

Posted: December 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

I always tell my kids they’re so lucky to have Google since it wasn’t around when I was their age.  Even when I started college well over a decade ago (we won’t say how much over, thank you), it wasn’t as popular and widely used as it is today.  I use it fairly regularly all the time now so I was surprised to find out about something I didn’t even know existed…Google Scholar.  The search engine for your studious needs.  My assignment was to perform a search in Google and Google Scholar for a subject from another class and analyze the results.  Pretty interesting, maybe not for you but I thought it was.

I chose to search “burnout” for an essay I am writing in my Social Service Case Management Class.  I already know what burnout is because I am experiencing it right now. HA HA HA.  For those of you who don’t know, burnout is a result of chronic stress and results in loss of interest and motivation and poor performance in certain aspects of your life. For the sake of my essay, we’re talking about job-related burnout. On to the search!!!

When I searched burnout in Google and it so kindly suggested “Burger King,” “burlington,” and “burning man.”  I said, “No thanks, I’ll type in burnout.”  Google graciously produced 43,500,000 results in .26 seconds. Wow. Maybe I should have suggested job-related burnout but I was keeping it simple.  The top results were all very relevant to what I was looking for.  The first result was the Wikipedia page for “Burnout (psychology)” and after looking it over, it’s pretty accurate.  Next was “Preventing Burnout” from Helpguide.org which mirrored some information I was given in a handout in class.  This site also collaborates with Harvard Health so I find it to be credible (yes, I checked the links).  Up next was “Job burnout” from Mayo Clinic, also a reliable source.  It did start to get interesting around here. I took a self-test on mindtools.com and scored 50 which puts me at severe risk of burnout and says I need to do something about it urgently.  Then “In the News” there is a report of “Black Friday burnout.” The Urban Dictionary definition of “burnout” is “A high school or college student who does little else than cut classes and smoke weed. Usually has long, straight hair and a proclivity toward heavy metal bands of the 70’s and 80’s. Can often be found in smoke-filled bathrooms and makeshift basement bars.”  Which is a pretty great little comic relief while doing research.  And in Google images I found this…

burnout

Google Scholar is definitely less entertaining but certainly more educated.  My search on “burnout” (minus strange suggestions) turned up 448,000 results in .13 seconds.  The first result was “Maslach burnout inventory,” which I thought might be more accurate than the self-test but sadly returned a “page not found” message.  Next was a book “Staff burnout: job stress in the human services,” (starting to second guess my new career choice) in the National Criminal Justice Reference Service website.  It had a “find in library” link which uses WorldCat “the world’s largest library network” to try and locate the book in your local library.  How freakin’ cool is that?! Then we have “Job burnout” in the Annual Review of Psychology.  You have to pay $32.00 to access the article but it is in a professional journal (I heard the Yavapai College library may have the hookup).  These results were older but were sorted by relevance, you can chose to sort by date.  When I chose to list items since 2013, 26,400 results appeared.

Both searches produced relevant results that would be helpful in researching and writing essays.  Google may help come up with a general definition and concept.  Google Scholar may be more suited towards writing higher level research papers.  I find the “Cite” option extremely exciting (nerd, here) and useful.  It gives citations in multiple formats, including APA which I will definitely be needing.  With Google I can find a fun self-quiz for entertainment value (and possible insight), Google Scholar may be able to give me a professional tool to evaluate clients in the future.  So there you have it.  There’s more than one way to Google, especially if you’re researching.  So go, get your Google on.

By the way, are you experiencing burnout?  Maybe you should take the self-test here… http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_08.htm

footloose_1984_movie_poster-385x600Footloose2011

For my movie poster comparison I chose Footloose, originally made in 1984 and remade in 2011. Now I’ve never actually watched the remake because the original was one of my favorite 80’s movies, one of a collection of movies I hold sacred and feel any remake would ruin for me. Others include The Breakfast Club, Labyrinth, Dirty Dancing and Goonies. You hear that movie companies? Come up with some original ideas and leave my childhood alone! That being said, I figured it would be interesting to compare these two posters and what impression they get across.

We’ll start with the wording and font on each poster. The title of the movie is the prominent text on each poster and they are relatively similar.  The 1984 version has the very hip 80’s vibe, it’s cursive and modern (for the time) and fun. The 2011 poster utilized the same font for the title but made it appear like a neon sign to modernize it. It almost appears to be the name of a nightclub which lends itself to the dance theme of the movie poster. They used the same effect for the tagline of the movie, however, the taglines are very different. The 1984 version lays out more of the plot directly at the top poster, stating, “He’s a big-city kid in a small town. They said he’d never win. He knew he had to.” Then, placed next to the Walkman on his hip, “The music is on his side.” The 2011 poster simply states, “There comes a time to cut loose,” which seems to be a nod at the song “Footloose” and a simplified explanation of the movie plot. Neither poster features the actors’ names in a prominent position, so in both movies they are depending on the theme of the movie to draw people in rather than big name stars.

The images are the most prominent aspect of the posters and they both feature the main character dancing. The 1984 version features Kevin Bacon and his glorious hair rocking out solo. In the background we see farm buildings and a church which represent the small town. He looks rebellious and heroic at the same time. The 2011 version of Ren is wearing the modern equivalent to the 1984 casual cool look of jeans and rolled up sleeves; a T-shirt and jeans gives the same vibe. The girl’s outfit of cut-off short shorts, tied up shirt and cowboy-ish boots is modern but country, it gives off that small-town vibe. The 2011 version features the main character and his love interest dancing extremely close while there is a blur of dancing in the background. I think this plays into the popularity of “dance movies” like Step Up (aren’t there like 20 of those now?) and You Got Served (also too many to count), and the whole “sex sells” approach. Without prior knowledge of the original movie, one would assume this movie is more about a couple trying to “cut loose” than a “big-city kid in a small town.” My belief is that this aims to portray this as a “date movie” and to appeal to a broader audience.

I am actually a little more interested in watching the remake now just to see how it was done and if the impression I gathered from the poster is what is portrayed in the movie. Or perhaps I’ll just stick to the original…

Critical thinking and Pop Culture don’t exactly seem to go hand-in-hand. Enter Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Director of Hayden Planetarium, Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, named in Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” and “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” in People Magazine. Tyson has a knack for taking complex concepts and presenting them in a way that those of us who aren’t rocket scientists can understand. He seems to enjoy spreading knowledge and is a champion for critical thinking. He has published books, hosted award-winning shows, taken away Pluto and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and hosts his own podcast called StarTalk.

StarTalk targets those who never thought science could be interesting or entertaining, it connects Pop Culture and science. The introduction of each show states, “Our universe is filled with secrets and mysteries which leaves us with many questions to be answered. We find ourselves searching for those answers as the very fabric of space, science and society are converging. Here for the first time, these worlds collide.” Neil partners up with celebrity guests and comedians to talk about many different scientific topics, he says they explore “everything under the sun, or rather the universe!” He approaches subjects ranging from scientific discoveries to pseudoscience, from the possible benefits of video games to the physics of superheroes. Listeners can submit questions to the show on Twitter. Mr. Tyson approaches the topics and questions with rational (albeit, humorous) discussions backed by scientific evidence and facts. He explains that scientific literacy serves to protect us against pseudoscience. These shows are amusing, entertaining and incredibly informative. The way he explains why things happen or why they couldn’t possibly happen is fascinating and easy to understand. This was one of my favorite episodes in which he answers questions about superheroes…

He explains how a super soldier serum, as in Captain America, could not actually increase the strength of a person’s muscles beyond a certain point if the tissue remains the same size due to the physics of strength. Also, now I know that Magneto could not tear apart the universe but could theoretically “tear a new one” in a star. Superman would be torn apart by a black hole because he is made of matter from this universe. These are very interesting answers to questions I’ve personally had about superheroes.

I also found this great quote encouraging critical thinking (he’s full of them) from an interview on The Science Network. [A] most important feature is the analysis of the information that comes your way. And that’s what I don’t see enough of in this world. There’s a level of gullibility that leaves people susceptible to being taken advantage of. I see science literacy as kind of a vaccine against charlatans who would try to exploit your ignorance.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson promotes and encourages critical thinking. He is able to do so using popular culture, through social media, television and his podcast. He makes science inviting and exciting. There is no question he is the most popular astrophysicist in America today.

Well I registered for classes today.  I will be a full-time student next semester and I couldn’t be happier.  A little nervous but happy.  It will be interesting being a full-time student, a full-time hairstylist and a full-time mom.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go to school at all.  I’ve been paying for classes out of pocket so far and am pretty much out of money for that.  The school got rid of their deferred payments so I would have to pay for my classes when I registered.  I was getting really depressed and everyone kept saying “Everything happens for a reason.” “Some things aren’t meant to be.” “It will all work out.” You know the kind of stuff that makes you want to go around punching people in their faces.  And then something happened.  One of those things when you say, “Whoa, is this a sign or what?” A friend offered to help me out.  A friend.  I woke up to a message that said he would pay for my classes and I can pay him back.  I thought about it all day long.  I don’t go around borrowing money from friends.  Ever.  But there he was offering.  The night before I had written out the class schedule I wanted.  I kept looking at it and willing it to be true.  That was my class schedule.  This is what my spring semester will look like.  It was too much of a coincidence for me to ignore so I accepted my friend’s offer.  I am happy.  Good things happen.  Wow.

So here I am struggling with 9 credit hours and committing myself to 12 credit hours next semester but it doesn’t matter.  I will do my best.  I am motivated.  I will make my friend proud (and pay him back).  I see myself graduating, I see myself getting good grades.  I know I can do it!  This will be my mantra.

On a side note while looking up books on Amazon because they are waaaay cheaper than in the college bookstore, I found out that as a student you can try Amazon Prime for free for 6 months and then its 50% off.  Hello free 2-day shipping!!!  So here’s a link to that…

http://www.amazon.com/gp/student/signup/info?ie=UTF8&refcust=U4WD4MP66VJJVOKUNTEM7OTPLU&ref_type=generic

After the last couple of weeks in class, I’m almost ashamed to do this assignment. The question is, “Where do YOU go when you want to find out the facts?” And to be quite honest…Google. I Google like crazy. Having a hard time helping my kids with their math homework…Google. Need to find stress management techniques for a presentation in my Social Services class…Google. Trying to find alternate words to express myself more eloquently in a scholarship essay…GOOGLE!!! When I check my search history it appears I average around 70 searches a week. Which, oftentimes, leads me to Wikipedia. That (and ehow.com) happens to be the top site visited in my history. I always thought, “Gee! A free encyclopedia? Can’t go wrong there.” Oh how wrong could I be?
Did you know anyone can publish information on almost any subject on Wikipedia? It doesn’t have to be an expert or even an educated person. It might not stick but what if you’re searching oh, say the heavy metal umlaut and you find it on Wikipedia in the 2 minutes that some bad information was published. Well, crap, won’t you feel foolish when you cite said bad information in your next discussion on the subject.
Let’s, for a moment and for the sake of my assignment, take a look at my other top information gathering site, eHow. I travel here roughly maybe once a week. The last time I remember visiting this site was to figure out how to write a resume for a volunteer position. I’ve never checked the credibility (until now) but I gather the information I need and discard anything that doesn’t seem useful. According to the “about us” on the website their information comes from professionals in various fields. When checking out the various articles you can click on the author and decide for yourself if they are a credible source to gather information from. Are they educated? Do they have a degree in their area of expertise? Are they biased?
Fortunately, I am learning to think critically. Something I’m sure Ive done in the past but now I’m doing it more consciously and consistently. So, as far as this “quest” goes I’ve failed in the past. I haven’t paid attention to credibility or accountability aside from a gut feeling of “I think this website seems fishy” or “This seems legit.” However, now I am learning what to look for and how to better verify if it really is legit. I will be more cautious when using Wikipedia and I will check the facts I find there. I am shaking my head in embarrassment as I think of my instructor reading this post but hey, at least I’m being honest. I’m admitting I have a problem, which is the first step. My name is Jami and I’m a Googawikiholic.

Trying to figure out what my own “lovemark” is for this assignment was rather challenging. I don’t feel as if I’m “loyal beyond reason” to any particular brand. I don’t own an iPhone (and I don’t care to), I don’t wear Nike to work out (I pretty much look like I’m in pajamas at the gym, which occurs rarely) and I’m not particularly fond of Starbucks (anything with caffeine will do). Mmmmm…caffeine….soda….Coke!! I have loved Coca-Cola since I was a child and even though I’ve tried to cut soda out of my diet completely, every once in awhile I’ll slip up but only for a Coke. Usually when I’m out to eat. But if I say “I’ll have a coke.” (and I snicker to myself because it’s a Boondocks Saints reference that too few get) and the server says, “Is Pepsi ok?” I kind of take offense…because its not ok, its not the same, it is not a Coke. In my mind and in my mouth, its about the taste, BUT it could also be their marketing, their fun, whimsical commercials; the implied happiness. Maybe that’s what first struck me as a child, Santas and puppies and cartoony polar bears. Or it could be hereditary, my mom will only drink Diet Coke, she will bring a gas station soda into a restaurant if they serve Pepsi products. I have seen this and it is as embarrassing as it sounds. Now, the commercials are getting even better. They don’t just have cartoons that imply family time togetherness, they are clever and imply togetherness as a whole, as a community, as a universe. Here’s a cute one from a couple years ago…

These commercials are funny, they make you happy. Therefore, if you drink Coke you will be happy and become part of something, something bigger…the Coca-Cola universe! I also checked out their website which is actually pretty cool. I never thought I’d look at the website for a soda, even one I love this much. There is happiness all over the place at http://www.coca-colacompany.com/ so now I might have become even more loyal, perhaps beyond reason.

Aye!  There she be!  The beautiful wild argument.  I came across her in The New York Times, caught her and will now proceed to dissect her.  Here we go…

http://nyti.ms/1t9O3Ii

The editorial I chose is High Time: An Editorial Series on Marijuana Legalization; Intro: Repeal Prohibition, Again.  The thesis, or argument being made is that the federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

The first piece of evidence given to support the conclusion is that 3/4 of the states have already either legalized medicinal use, reduced penalties for possession, or legalized recreational use.  When I Googled “Marijuana Legalization,” I came across Medical Marijuana ProCon.org and found that 23 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use.  On norml.org, there is a handy little map that told me that 15 states have decriminalized marijuana and of course, I think we all know by now that it is legal in Colorado and Washington. There is a little overlap and some states that have legalized marijuana for medicinal use have also decriminalized the possession of marijuana but from what I have found, I was able to verify this information.

The next premise is that the ban on marijuana is harmful to society.  They cite statistics from the FBI saying that in 2012, there were 658,00 arrests related to marijuana possession, while there were only 256,000 arrests for cocaine and heroin.  Following the link in the article to the FBI website, I was able to see the same information for myself.  It is more of an opinion that these arrests create a social problem but it is one that they explore further in a different segment in this series.

The last piece of evidence presented that I will explore is the statement that “Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults.” The author concludes that it is less dangerous than alcohol.  This is where it becomes tricky to find unbiased information.  It seems there are a lack of studies on the long-term effects of marijuana use on health.  It may cause respiratory problems when smoked but it is unknown if it can lead to cancer.  I could not find evidence of any marijuana overdoses.  According to the CDC, excessive alcohol use leads to approximately 88,000 deaths per year and can result in alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, high blood pressure, certain cancers, social problems and more.  However, the information about marijuana use was limited and seemed to be grouped together with other illegal drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

So there you have it; an argument, stripped down, pulled apart and analyzed.

There are many aspects of popular culture present in our daily lives. We may not even be aware of it.  I know while completing this assignment for my Intro to Popular Culture class, I was surprised to see how large a role it plays in my life.  So here’s a little photo tour of my pop culture world…

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First up, my favorite jeans, L.A. Idols. It seems everyone has sparkles on their butts these days and while I can’t afford Miss Me’s, these are just as trendy and fashionable at about half the price. I really began to notice how popular they are when I worked at a shop that sold them. These suckers fly off the shelf!
Next is my first choice for entertainment…

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My husband’s Xbox!  We turn this on on a daily basis and not just to play video games (which I am terrible at).  We have Netflix which I watch my favorite show, the very popular Orange is the new Black, and full seasons of other shows at my leisure.  We also have Hulu, to watch tv shows that we have missed. I honestly have no idea why we continue to pay for cable.  I think watching shows online will someday make cable television obsolete.
Then there’s my biggest addiction…

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Pinterest. Why, oh why did I ever check this website out!? I hear it all the time, “I found it on Pinterest.” And now I’m guilty of repeating that phrase over and over. I thought it sounded boring at first but as it gained popularity and more people told me to check it out, i finally succumbed to temptation. Need a recipe for dinner tonight? There you go. Want to make your own all-natural cleaning products? There’s a plethora of links to happy homemakers with blogs devoted to exactly that.  If one of my clents wants a new ‘do, its the first place I turn.
Which leads me to the last aspect I’ll discuss…

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My career.

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As a hairstylist I have to stay on top of the latest trends and which celebrity has the most desired hair of the moment. My career depends on knowing who my client is talking about, what their hair looks like and how to achieve it on them. Ombre, balayage, color melting,  I’ve seen these trends come and go and then come back again. It keeps me on my toes and I have to stay up to date on the look of the moment.
Popular culture is the culture of the masses and I am just one of the many consumers of what Pop Culture has to offer today.