Thursday, May 3, 2007

The following advertisement is for Budweiser Beer. Today we see an intense competition played out in America over domestic verses foreign import brands. Characters in our narrative are not Disney types but more Reality Show types. This story is a search to define what the “true” man is and the audience identify with him. Hopefully the Budweiser beer is the drink “cool” American people will imbibe in. Reality shows like our advertisement communicates false images rooted in bias and prejudices of its authors. One may question, who is the “Bud” man, will he sell their product, and how is a beer the means of providing a life?

In the method of reading for meaning we are instructed to lay out the story line of the author, the events of the narrative depend upon a previous Budweiser advertisement. As drinkers of beer usually have a problem with memory the authors may be hoping for more than they get for assuming one recalls a past advertisement. To be unaware of the past advertisement would put the observer at a disadvantage in understanding the parody of the present story. The narrative is simple; three white men of upper class socioeconomic status play off against the previous advertisement as a spoof on what a “real” man is because of what he drinks. In the first advertisement they focus on cool drinkers who only purchase Budweiser Beer. The present three characters are not quite as cool, but individuals that need to get a life for themselves. The kairos moment comes when two black men are deemed cool because they have a Budweiser Beer, a life and apparently watch television. This revealing moment seeps in when the audience responds with a wow! The realization that its beer that turns out to be the dynamics necessary for having a cool life.
The advertisement assumptions tells us that if we drink import beers we are most likely boring and live lives that are meaningless. Domestic beers are what “real” men consume and give them a sixth sense to see shallowness in others and especially in geeks. As for the solid rock cool people this advertisement ends with two couch potatoes looking at a television show where our three not so cool lives of artificiality and superciliousness are lived out. Real men are the same who drink “Budweiser” and watch misfit uncool types imbibe fake beers that are not even American. Their advertisement infuses a transformation of cultural values that plays on racial and patriotic biases. The kairos however, is not enlightenment but a play on language and an effort to shift meaning on specific words.

The technique of reading as a writer shows us three white guys as upper class geeks that live out a life of meaningless dialogue and boring activities. We hear seven times in the advertisement, the phrase, “what are you doing?” There is however, an impressive and varied hearing of that phrase expressed in different intonations and punctuations. The answer to the question is direct, nothing, because it reflects an uncool life of sheer boredom. There is also the repetition of the word “correct” which gives an affirmation to the boredom of living without a “Budweiser.” It can be expected that in the meaninglessness of the human encounter we are giving Becket’s “Waiting of Godot” where non “Bud” drinkers are living aimless lives and waiting to be enlightened by the true Godot man. Yelling at each other may be the most important event where there is nothing to say to each other than let others know that at least they exist. It is a symbolic yell for help not for the three import drinkers but for the advertisement to end. They have nothing to say because they do not have a life. The cause of their human condition is that they are drinking the wrong beer. The yelling, however, does appear to fit the scene better than the dialogue.

The cool drinkers peering at the three import consumers quickly look at each other as if to say they have a life because they are holding a Budweiser. Yet the look at each other is unconvincing to the audience and one is left wondering as to the status of their place in life. They are couch potatoes glued to the T.V. and drinking a Budweiser Beer. Are they macho sports fans with no specific geography but just a boring life to watch television sports and reality shows? The observer is left without an answer but can surmise the type of life they really might have with a “Bud.”

The logos or rational argument in the advertisement is week and unmoving for its audience. It begs the question as to the consequences of its story and of what we define as having a cool life. The rational jump from import beers to existential meaningless communication proves little for the two cool drinkers at the end of the narrative. One is left trying to sort out how a boring life transformed a plastered man in a state of stupor from a Budweiser.

They are three upper class white guys who do not have a life of their own? The values of the writers are clear in their narrative. One of the import drinkers is interested in the stock market so he must be involved in investing. He possibly has a job in that particular area whereby we cannot determine what form of employment our two cool domestic drinkers hold down. A second import drinker in search of a life is a tennis player which is not manly enough for a “Bud” man. A third may be an Ivey League type as he likes to wear his sweeter around his neck and make a statement of his royal blood. There is little appeal to the logos of the argument but much more to that of its pathos. The audience is moved by images that affect an emotional reaction in the viewer. We feel the senselessness of their dialogue, superficiality in their lives and it is captured in a quick smile of the two Bud drinkers identified as cool. The viewer feels the emptiness in their lives and false personas display towards each other. It is not a sorrow one feels for them but a pity because they are all out of step with reality. How could we identify with couch potatoes acting cool because of a beer brand? It is a good example of how persuasive techniques package a product to impacts ones life, and gives them a false identity of what is a cool life.

The characters of the three upper class types carry no authority even though they may be self made men but what does the matter because they do not know what a good beer is. Two television watchers, however, posses character because they drink the right beer. The advertisement is an emotional response for its viewers and not a rational view. Its effort to take the values of business men, sports individual and Ivey leaguer and turn them into negative values falls short of their goals. They have little more to say to each other than to yell which is a stretch of the imagination.

What is real for the writer is a cool life and that turns out to be a Budweiser beer drinker. Yet one has to wonder who has the life, the three import drinkers or two Budweiser beer drinkers. Language dominates the persuasion tone of the advertisement and is not evident in the characters themselves or in the locality of the narrative. There words create a silliness of dialogue which seeks an emotional reaction in the observer. Loaded with internal prejudices it targets television sports men but definitely not tennis players or stock market investors because they possibly are out working and enjoying a rich life. The effort to connect this advertisement to the previous one is risky, especially if one did not see it nor can remember it. To remember the past advertisement one would than see a humorous comparison to its present players. It suddenly offers up a new definition of what real men are and what cool men drink. The socioeconomic bias is merely humorous but never convincing as a technique of persuasion. Lastly, while the humor in this ad was persuasive the simple fact that a Budweiser could never taste as good a cold Corona or a stouty Guinness, is what discourages me from Budweiser!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Senior year of high school I was honored to play Lacrosse for another High School other than the one I was attending, George Washington. It was a struggle but I accomplished what I put my mind to achieve on the field and in the game. The team was open and always welcoming to me as a member from outside the school. As the year progressed I came to love the game even with all the highs, and hardships involved. It most often is a tough game and is dedicated by its outstanding players that participate.

When the Duke Lacrosse scandal broke I felt an empathy because of my love of the game. I thought about the virtues of the game, companionship, friendships, trust, and most of all respect. Like most Americans I sat in front of the T.V. and questioned much of the media reporting of the accusations. The first impression did not waver my judgment as the story unfolded throughout the year. Simply something was missing from the accounts and the case itself. I remember the list of notorieties that appeared on CNN, FOX and MSN all spewing private opinions on guilt and horror of social injustice in the case. Legions came to condemn and indict without trial or evidence. A country that prides itself on a rule of law is more often than not lacking in its own foundational principles.

The year continued with the occasional “Duke Lacrosse Rape” case plus changes in stories, new bits of information and many more contradictions from the news media. Than last week we were told that the case was not just dropped but that the three Lacrosse players were found innocent of all charges. In other words they were totally innocent and were falsely accused guilty by the media's talking heads. There was no litany of voices this time concerned with righteousness or civil libertines for the innocents. No media lovers lining up to apologize or seek forgiveness for false accusations and condemnation.

They had found two new victims to accuse, the original accuser and the District Attorney. As I watched a new episode for media interment open up I wondered why we have a blind spot for the abuses of power of our media. Yes, I believe the accuser is responsible for slander and the District Attorney for personal political agenda and abuse of constitutional rights. It is a set of questions we have to start asking today concerning the medias rush for news entertainment. Why do we rush to judgment without fear of libel and care so little for the destruction of ones personal character? When reputations are in shambles we do not hear from those who condemned the innocent giving an apology. Nor do we see the accusers strive to undo the damages done.

We are a society out of control because we are indifferent to our responsibility for others reputation and the pain that is inflited on their lives. We have allowed statistics, advertisers and ratings to determine what we watch. We come to know how individually vulnerable we are to powerful decision makers in our society. They leave us with wonder as to what degree of the cultural tensions of the thermostat we must reach before we become motivated to question cultural assumptions, the prejudice of prejudice, fear of fear and powerful organizations. How many Lacrosse players must a society condemn or innocent men locked up in prison because of the color of their skin before we become self-aware of our cultural biases. Hopefully this case will open up a new dialogue where openess and honesty will govern the medias' reporting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

E.C. Joshua Poteat

Last summer I spent two weeks taking my aunt and uncle to see tourist sights around Denver and Colorado. As I listened to Joshua Poteat’s poetic readings, I was reminded of my summer adventure. What came to mind was the way my aunt and uncle asked questions, described what they were seeing and the language they used. It took a few days to become acquainted with the Irish brogue yet, it took a little longer to get acquainted with the way they described local scenes that I take for granted. Poetry is not the language of mathematics or even our common every day practical usage. It is more like the language of love and humor. When my family described Mountain peaks or a new food experience there was passion, and excitement in the descriptions. They made connections to items in their personal Irish experiences. Listening to Mr. Poteat I realized and heard the same type of passion, excitement of life and connections to personal experiences of growing up in North Carolina and around the Hampstead marshes.

Poetry is communication embedded in one’s character as well as in culture and our language. He was a person capable of disclosing through his words a way to enter this world and explore the creatures that inhabit it. His readings and talk achieved this with a relaxed attitude and good sense of humor. His humor evoked surprise and relaxation in the listener to provide insight into his poetic stories. He allowed us to see objects that are otherwise taken for granted and placed them within a new context and perspective.

It was clear in Mr. Poteat’s delivery that poetry is a revelation of another’s soul because love always reveals a lovers depth and breath. Plato tells in his story that the god Zeus split the approaching Beings who were about to attack Mount Olympus. Fierce creatures with two heads, four hands, and four feet and in splitting them down the middle he slows them down. When Zeus finished the confused creatures were left with one head, two hands and two feet as humans beings are today. Ever since, Plato believed, we seek that other half of our being and find it when we become attached, or as we call it today finding our soul mate. Poetry is like a viaduct by which one is offered a glimpse into another’s soul or we simply discover that soul

Two poems in his Ornithologies had an impact upon my reading of them and they responded to my interest in the poet. The first was “The Stigmata rather than a Punch on the Nose,” p. 73-75. It referred to his Father and the sorry young kids that called him “Little Bo Peep” as he stated they did not understand that his father was a “bonnet-headed shepherdness” because he was proud of the name Poteat. They had a great pride in who they were (the Poteat’s) and in growing up “furiously defending his name.” These childhood memories now embellished by his attachment to nature became verbal paint strokes left as an echo in his mind. In the protection of their name, he now was a protector of nature and animals. He learned from his father that “Our ruins follow us” or the past is with us in who we are and what we do. At the end, there is only the pig and a question “You don’t know him at all.” The mystery in Joshua Poteat was not only his father but also his family and the history where he grew up in North Carolina. In Joshua’s reflection of his father, he sees mystery of who he really was and his task to punctuate this personal history within a symphony of nature and its rhythms.

A second poem stood out in his collection on the person of Mr. Poteat himself, called a “Self-Portrait as the Autumn I have Lost.” This poem was not written to defend a name but to show a devilment in fun continued by the poet as part of his family history. He derailed a train and recalled in his poem how easy it was. Now, however, he put his secret into words, “There I said it, it wasn’t much to think about.” His guilt appeased by the power to place his experience within the structure of language. As a young kid, he lived an excitement where odd things happened just as they did with his father. It was painful but he was responsible if only for the pigs he derailed on that train and especially seeing their “Perfect white feet rising in the dusk.”

Listening to Mr. Poteat evoked a curiosity in me about who the person Joshua Poteat was and especially how we reveal our soul in words. It reminded me of how rich profiles hidden in layers of rock reveal to geologist great stories of nature and history. It is true also for the poet as he is a geologist of the imagination who digs up his family history and the stories of North Carolina hidden in layers of imagination. His imagination integrated with the rich experiences of his youth, his love of nature, birds, and even pigs all transformed through his language. His explosive uses of pregnant metaphors create new ways of looking at a world that he came from just as a seed shoots from its soil. A world that gave him a sense of pride in place and family.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

On the Western Coast of Ireland, lies Doonbristle Stack, a towering cliff that rises like a lonely giant from out of the Atlantic Ocean. Here at this lonely juncture, the Atlantic meets the Irish coastline to create a stunning isolated cliff scenery. This lonely cliff rises hundreds of feet like a Poseidon god to clutch above a deep blue sky. The cliff is surrounded by constantly pounding whitewashed waves that seem as if eternally beating to a primordial ocean rhythm. Standing on the mainland looking across at this wonderful sight one is overpowered by its awe-inspiring size and loneliness. It fills the emotions with an innocent wonder and curiosity about its presence. Questions rush the mind as if one was on a roller coaster grasping for breath, wondering if one could climb the rugged broken sides to a green patch of grass on top. Wondering when in the past, did it come into existence? When was it part of the mainland and why did it break off? Why does it stand alone as if holding back the ocean from the mainland? What wonderful species of life has made it their home?

The green patch on top sits like a flat hat against the ragged brown and grey rock that line its sides. In the sunlight, it seems timeless because it has not changed over the centuries. Its silent isolation does not immediately appear cut off from the mainland but independent on its own. First impression is that of a strong rock giving off spiritual echoes as it stands against natures elements alone and undaunted. It bristles with life; birds land and fly from its ragged rocks. Sea guiles in their nestled nests where life explodes and the air filled with their cries. A gigantic alienated cliff standing against the might of Atlantic gales, the barrage of windswept erosions and the hidden decay only time sees.

It is a singular landscape reflecting the mindscape of a people. A people that echo the same story not in rocks but in words and images. Rugged gray pot marked rocks from weather beaten erosion constantly change shape and color. Unfolding new vibrant hues from the varied shadows cast by rolling clouds. Any observer would immediately identify with the captive souls in Plato’s Cave where images of reality are seen in fleeting moments from the sun’s brilliant waves. At a distance, it appears small but one becomes aware of the limitations of perception and illusion of size. The whipping and lashing of waves against its base reinforces in the observer its aloneness. The surgical cut sides lashed by rainstorms yet, warped in a soft ocean mist make it a sacred space. A space where the infinite and finite tangently meet and cross paths. White bellowing clouds that race across the sky bring the top green to life as the shadows reflect upon it. Like sterile images, they come alive when one flips pages so that they become like a dynamic verb. The message of this space raises its voice in a magic of presence. One may well wonder weather the observers are looking at this cliff or the cliff observing the observers?

Its geologic story unknown and its memories secret but still it unfolds its snaking rock ridges into ones awareness. It is like a visual symphony with its presence of a dynamic sky, wide-open ocean, isolated birds, and this solitary cliff. In its superb view, the observed is the observer embedded in a bond that links both of them in mystery. If magical creatures ever did exist than surely it was on this isolated but beautiful cliff. Created by a hidden hand to show a mystical atmosphere undaunted by time where the ugliness of iron and concrete are unknown. The small green top bears testament to a rain blown richness where grass seen is beyond ones touch. An untouched “spot” that provides a feeling of sacredness emerging not only from the Irish wilderness but also from the human spirit.

The cliff is a story of a torn past, yet ancient in its vibration to flow within ones soul. A glorious sight evoking a sense of who we are, and of the nature of human character. Questions of nature are issues of identity that we observe in power, strength, and wonder. Like the observer, it is a place formed and informed by the soil, rocks, sky, and sea. Life fashions a cliff observed by the human spirit in a divine union with nature. In the many forms of rock, sky, sea, and land, one encounters a beauty that questions the truth of aesthetics itself. Doonbristle Stack Cliff mysterious in its twisted shape rising from the sea, yet so unconnected to the body of land it clings gravely to. Like the human spirit, we also are individualistic and alone against the forces of our times. Can we stand alone in character and power as the force of history is windswept across our culture? Knowing that underneath the watery ocean of the landmass rock connects and the barriers of water are false boundaries. Man also belongs to a bigger reality that connects him in love and human community. His struggle is to overcome and see the false boundaries the separate and divide him.