Monday, April 30, 2012

Reflecting on the Course

The blogging experience for our Writing 140 course this semester offered a nice break from the otherwise more formal assignments usually assigned. The casual environment that blogging provides actually allowed for a more effective analysis and presentation in that students could relate more to the issues raised in the posts.

However, keeping up with posts and deadlines was, in all honesty, difficult due to the specific nature of the posts. The casualness offered by blogging was counteracted by the topics being so specific as to make posting more of a hassle. I think an easy way to remedy this issue while still being relevant to the AMST and Writing 140 courses would be to make the post topics more general. This will further allow students to discover what interests them in the course and talk about that, thus increasing their interest in the related material.

Overall, the blogging experience in Writing 140 was a nice deviation from the formal assignments we had, and I believe that my interest in the course material has benefited from its inclusion in the curriculum.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Simply put, a fallacy is an instance in which the premises offered by an argument do not support its conclusion. There are various ways which people use fallacies in attempt to support their argument:
  • Emotional / Moral
    • A plea to the emotional and/or moral side of people which is not really pertinent to the argument.
    • Example: "The senator's bill should not be passed because he was unfaithful to his wife and is therefore wrong."
  • Logical
    • An instance in which the premises do not logically lead to the conclusion stated.
    • Example: "Raising tuition prices will cause the Apocalypse."
Here is a clip of a debate in which an Appeal to Popularity is used - the fallacy is evident at the 3:25 mark:
The defense Megyn Kelly uses in response to allegations that Fox News is biased is the fact that Fox News is popular among its viewers and that there are over 1 million of them. The reason this is a fallacy is that how popular Fox News is among its viewers has nothing to do with how biased or unbiased the media source is. Furthermore, her statement that people like Fox News because it is fair and balanced is a jump in logic - just  because people like the program does not mean it is unbiased.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Consequences of No Revolution

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of revolution in America. Both the benefits and detriments of revolution have played vital roles in the history of the United States, as previously mentioned. It is difficult to pinpoint any one issue related to this value considering that there is such a wide variety of revolutions occurring ranging from the environment to the American economy.

However, since present day Americans seem to have lost their value on revolution, obvious problems have begun to rise. Obviously, the economy and wealth distribution in the U.S. is a cause for concern. When one percent of the population controls the majority of the wealth in the country, problems such as homelessness, costly education, and etcetera start to become major issues. Although the Occupy movement has grown in response to this, many citizens still feel that OccupyWallstreet should not exist, or should at least not be disruptive (thus completely undermining the point of protesting).

The consequences of this overall attitude to revolution (not limited to Occupy) is that the underlying issues to the revolution lose focus to the protests themselves. As such, nothing actually gets solved. To address this, we must look at the reason for protests and use critical reasoning / judgment in determining whether or not the protesters are indeed justified (rather than jumping to the conclusion that they are not since they are undermining authority). Of course, not everyone arguing for or against some cause will have a valid point. But to ignore people with justified arguments would be to allow issues to further escalate until we are forced to deal with them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Death of Revolution and Civil Disobedience

For my upcoming topic, I plan on exploring how the value American culture has placed on revolution has started to die. While this may sound rather dramatic, no less can be said of the current state of the U.S. in its dealing with new "revolutions" concerning the economy, politics, etc.

The United States has historically been very supportive of the revolutionary spirit. From the founding of our country to the Civil Rights movement, the vast majority of Americans are proud to talk about the successes various revolutions have had over the course of American history. Of course, there is no denying that these revolutions were met with strife and conflict. However, American culture has always celebrated the overcoming of these conflicts, reinforcing the idea that standing up for one's beliefs is a noble and respectable act.

Yet, for however much we state that we are in support of the revolutionary spirit, our actions speak otherwise. One needs to look no further than the Occupy movement, arguably the biggest movement in recent American history, to see evidence of our rejection of revolution as an American value. Protesting unfair business and political practices, the Occupy movement has generally been met with strong resistance from authorities.

This movement has consistently striven to defend the American public from unfair practices by the so called "one percent". People of all backgrounds and from all classes (even the wealthy) have shown support for the movement. However, there appears to be an equal, if not greater, group of citizens against the Occupy movement. Many people believe members of the Occupy movement to be unjustified in breaking the law to support their revolution. They believe that, by not following the established system, the protesters are in the wrong. There are also many citizens who don't feel strongly one way or the other about the movement but who believe that the protesters shouldn't break the law in their demonstrations. Why not continue to protest, but do so legally?

A better question to ask: what happened to our value on civil disobedience? We are quick to cite Rosa Parks in the Civil Rights movement or George Washington and the founding fathers when describing American pride, yet we shun the Occupy movement for doing the same thing these spearheads of change did.

My paper will be exploring why this contradiction exists. Ultimately, I believe that the idea of revolution being a part of American values has come under strong attack. In my exploration, I will address what I believe to be the causes of this sudden change in thinking concerning the United States and the American Dream.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Speaker Series: Maria Varela

On April 4th, civil rights activist Maria Varela spoke at USC about her experiences with the Civil Rights movement and the struggles she faced. Her comments on what occurred reveal both challenges to and support for the American Dream.

One of the most memorable comments Ms. Varela made concerned the organizing of so many people for a common cause. Obviously, getting together such a wide range of people would be difficult due to differing ideas, personalities, etc. What she emphasized, and what seems to have been a strong point for the Civil Rights movement, was that things always had to be decided on collectively. If the group wanted to present itself in a certain way, the majority had to be supportive of that decision. Furthermore, once the decision was made, everyone had to follow despite what they may believe is a better course of action.

Of course, this did not always go smoothly. Ms. Varela even commented that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. strayed from these policies at times. However, her experience and overall success as a civil rights activist offers much to be learned to our generation in dealing with the issues of today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Recession and the Dream

The economic recession of 2008 has put the American Dream into question for many people. The once possible goal of attaining economic security, a major component of the Dream, has now become seemingly impossible to achieve. For many, this has brought on a sense of disillusionment with the American Dream.

However, I do not believe that this means that Americans have given up on the Dream. Rather, I believe that Americans are fighting for their right to continue pursuing the Dream without impediment. Just because American citizens believe they cannot attain the ideals described by the Dream now does not mean that they think that they will never achieve this goal.

Additionally, I believe that the economic recession has allowed people to come closer together, strengthening community bonds and maintaining the social / cultural aspects of the American Dream. Although the Occupy movement has created a lot of controversy, the movement has also allowed for the public to gather together and rally for a common purpose: to stop corrupt practices in big business and Congress.

What do you believe the recession has had on people's view of the American Dream?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Dream Today: What is It?

The American Dream today cannot be defined as any one ideal or image. Considering the vastly different individuals that comprise the United States, what one citizen's view of the American Dream is will differ from another's. However, there are some generalities that are common for most Americans in their vision of the Dream:
  • Economic Security: Most Americans consider economic security a major component of the American Dream. The ideal would be for families and citizens to have no need for financial concern - money should not be an issue.
  • Cultural: Since there are numerous cultural groups within the U.S., the culture aspect of the American Dream cannot be biased towards any one way of living. Rather, the Dream propagates the idea that people are free to celebrate their own culture without bias or prejudice directed towards them. Furthermore, the Dream suggests that the various cultures within America coexist peacefully and as part of an overall tight-knit community.
  • Political: The political side of the Dream is similar to the cultural component in that Americans should be free to decide their own political / social views without having their opinions attacked or infringed on by others.
I do not believe that the components of the American Dream are exclusive to each other since there is nothing in any one aspect of the Dream that contradicts another. However, I do believe the ideal suggested by the Dream to be realistically impossible to attain. This is because there is no feasible way for everyone to be wealthy and individualistic without coming into conflict with others. Overall, although the future may see a reality closer to the ideal of the Dream, I do not see a way for every citizen to realize the components of the American Dream currently.

What are your thoughts on the American Dream?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lessons from Watts

According to my research, the Watts Riots were caused by a build-up of underlying racial tension between African Americans and the white Anglos. High unemployment, poor public maintenance, lack of convenient public transportation, and other significant social factors all led to the riots.

These aspects of the Watts Riots are well-known and are usually the subjects addressed when discussing the event. However, what's perhaps more interesting and much less known is that the neighborhood actually deteriorated even further after the riots occurred. Despite the various efforts to rejuvenate the district, the citizens of Watts have reported that the area has seen minimal improvement (note that you need to log in to ProQuest to view the webpage).

How could the neighborhood continue to decline in spite of the success of the programs aimed at improving the area? The answer is two-tiered: many of the programs were only short-term solutions, and the citizens who benefited tended to leave Watts as soon as was financially possible. A major problem with many of the projects focusing on contributing to the area's regrowth is that the solutions were only temporary. Improving the streets and public transportation are meaningless if these improvements are not maintained.

Additionally, considering the poor state of the Watts neighborhood, many of the citizens who found employment and financial aid through the new community-based programs left the area once it became financially viable to do so. From their perspective, it would be better to live in a slightly more expensive area if that meant escaping the poor conditions of Watts.

What can be learned? The answer is long-lasting solutions to underlying social problems. Had the programs and projects aimed at helping the Watts district simply maintained their efforts, the neighborhood would have avoided further decline. Although continuing these programs may cost more, the payoff would be worth the money considering the consequences are widespread unrest and eventual rioting.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Watts Riots 1965

The Watts Riots of 1965 was a reaction against racism and segregation that lasted for 5 days from August 11 - August 15. The Riots started when police officers pulled over a car driven by an African-American man under the pretenses of drunk driving. A crowd began to grow around the officers, and in response they called for backup. This led to a series of events which ended with five days of rioting, looting, and vandalism.

Obviously the tensions that started the rioting and looting stem deeper than someone being arrested for drunk driving. Considering Watts had been suffering long before as a result of high unemployment, high rates of crime, poor maintenance and public transportation, etc., its no surprise that so much violence eventually occurred (especially considering the major reason for Watts' condition was racism). If anything, the initial premise of the riots is inconsequential: the tensions building up to the riots could have easily occurred before or after the starting incident.

The amount of damage caused by the Watts Riots stands as one of many testaments to the consequences of racism. However, how do we progress from such violence? Considering the Rodney King riots of 1994 and even the current Occupy movement, what lessons were not learned from the Watts example?

As such, I will be focusing much of my research on what happened before and after the Watts Riots rather than during. What lead to the Watts Riots, and how did the area rebuild? What was efficient at diffusing the tension, and what caused it? In the next post, I will be answering these questions and more, so keep checking for an update!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

What is a Public Space?

In the last post I talked about how Santa Monica Pier acts as a public space. However, what exactly is a public space?

A public space can be described as any place that promotes social interaction by welcoming all members of the community regardless of class or ethnicity. The space should be easy to access and should be safe without prohibiting or preventing people from entering. Additionally, the interests of the overall public should be represented in the public space. Obviously, the public may not agree as to how the space can best serve the community. In such a case, a resolution in which the majority of the public is left satisfied should be reached.

Public spaces should be as welcoming to the public as possible. Therefore, things such as proper facilities, public performances, benches (if outdoors), etc. should be included. There would be no purpose to a public space if it did not attract people to the area.

The problem of safety versus accessibility should also be addressed in a way that satisfies the majority of the public. There have been some instances where, in the interest of safety, certain citizens have been excluded from using a public space. For example, charging people to use a public space would exclude lower class residents from making use of the area. Rather than exclude these citizens, a more effective way to maintain safety while simultaneously welcoming all members of the public would be to hire public security to patrol the area. In fact, such security could even be a part of the attraction of a space.

Recent events have called into question the legitimacy of some public spaces and how "public" they truly are. Specifically, the Occupy movement has sparked debate as to whether or not protesters truly have the right to "occupy" spaces that are considered public. Many protesters have been arrested for occupying spaces that were / are considered public, including those in OccupyLA (which I witnessed firsthand). To my readers, I ask what your opinion is of the issue. Please note that I am only asking for your opinion as to whether or not the protesters have a right to the space; I would like to avoid any political arguments about the 99% versus the 1%. I simply find the debate over the rights of people to public spaces both interesting and relevant.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Santa Monica Pier

If you ask someone what the essential image of the California Dream is, you will most likely get a response that involves "sunny beaches". To this end, the Santa Monica Pier seems like the quintessential place for the California Dream. As a public space, the pier has done much to be inviting to the general populace as is evident by its history.

The pier was first opened to the public in 1909. Since its inception, the pier has undergone various transformations, such as the addition of an amusement park in 1916 and a yacht harbor in 1933 (for more information about the various additions / transformations, click here). What's interesting is that the property on which the pier was located was owned privately until it was sold to the city in the early 1970's. When the pier was in threat of being destroyed in favor of building a man-made island resort, the public responded with discontent, eventually causing the plans to be scrapped.

What I find interesting about this bit of history of Santa Monica Pier is the fact that the public felt so strongly about the issue of the resort that they were able to prevent the change from happening. Furthermore, it seems that the Pier has always striven to attract a wide range of people. That is, there doesn't appear to be discrimination against any specific ethnic group or class. From firsthand experience, as well as some reviews which I believe confirm my observation, I believe the pier is truly a public space - that it does not try to exclude any one group of people.

My opinions on the beach as a public space will change as I research more, but for now I would like to ask to any readers your opinions of Santa Monica Pier as a public space. Do you believe the space is truly welcoming to all? If not, why? Any sort of firsthand experiences of visiting the pier would also be appreciated!

Monday, January 30, 2012

New Insights

Although the attack made on the California Dream in "Been to Hell" seems to be typical of music criticizing the fantasy, the lyrics and video introduced concepts concerning the dream which were both insightful and novel. Specifically, the song presented the idea that the disillusionment of the California Dream was universal: that anyone who pursued the dream would ultimately meet with failure. What makes this different from most other songs is that, typically, attacks on the California Dream describe some sort of personal failure. By stating that the falsehood of the fantasy applies to everyone, Hollywood Undead makes a unique critique that questions the validity of the California Dream.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Been to Hell" by Hollywood Undead

The song I chose for my essay is "Been to Hell" by Hollywood Undead. Apart from simply enjoying the band and the music, the reason I chose this song in particular is due to its effective attack on the California Dream. Rather than pretend that the dream can be attained by all who come to Hollywood, the band acknowledges that such a pursuit is more similar to being a "nightmare". Considering all of the music in support of the California Dream (even some from Hollywood Undead itself), it was refreshing to see a song that did not buy in to the advertised ideal.

Been to Hell by Hollywood Undead
Welcome to a city that'll bring you to your knees
It'll make you beg for more, until you can't even breathe
Your blindfold is on tight, but you like what you see
So follow me into the night, cuz I got just what you need
We're all rollin' down the boulevard, full of pimps and sharks
It's a motherfuckin' riot, we've been dying to start
You better grab a hold cuz now you know you're falling apart
You thought these streets were paved in gold
but they're dirty and dark

[Chorus (2x):]
Been to hell!
I can show you the devil!
Down you fell
Can't hold yourself together
Soul to sell
Down here you live forever
Welcome to a world where dreams become nightmares!

Welcome [2x]

In the belly of the beast, I'm a wolf amongst sheep
At the bottom of the hill, but at the top of the street
Above the boulevard, schoolyard, victim of deceit
And you're running hard, but this wolf it's always at your feet
Yeah you've seen it all before, but the wolf's outside your door
And you're old enough to run, you ain't hiding anymore
Another victim of the star spangled banner of the street
Now you're in the world of the wolves
And we welcome all you sheep


Welcome [2x]

You need to wake up and face it
So you can taste my reality
Now you're stuck in this place you hate
And you came here so happily
Then it made you lose your faith
And that's what fucked with your sanity
Say goodbye to your soul and say hello to your vanity
Hollywood is your friend, and the undead are your family
We'll take you to the edge, and turn your regret into agony
And I'll never let you go, cuz I know you'll come back to me
I'm the reason you came here, I'm the American Tragedy


Welcome [3x]
Welcome to a world where dreams become nightmares!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The California Dream vs. The American Dream

Unlike the American Dream, which appears to glorify a lifestyle of contentment and strong family values, the California Dream emphasizes a world of fame and fortune. It promises that anyone can rise to super-stardom and live a life where all material desires are satisfied (which is markedly different from simply being content). Although there are many versions of the California Dream, there appears to be some common elements to each interpretation:

- Amazing weather
- Attractive men / women
- High income jobs
- Fame
- Security
- A sense of fulfillment

The most noticeable difference between the American Dream and the California Dream, as evidenced by the list above, is that the former highlights a sense of community and family whereas the latter is more concerned with personal gains. Additionally, it seems that the California Dream panders to young adults - the Dream offers the potential of great success and accomplishment. The American Dream, on the other hand, appeals to those who are looking to "settle down" so to speak - those who are seeking a comfortable, content life rather than one of fame and fortune.

Considering this difference, another major distinction between the American and Californian Dream arises: the success of one's chasing of the dream can be measured in the latter, but not in the former. It would be nearly impossible for one to say whether or not another had truly "accomplished" the American Dream since the ideas it glamorizes, particularly family values and contentment, are subjective in nature. However, since the Californian Dream is concerned with material wealth and gain, success in attaining the dream can be measured by how much wealth and fame one has.

The consequence of this difference is that more people become disillusioned about the California Dream. They realize that the fame and fortune promised only happens to a select few, and even those who do attain those are not necessarily happy. In the next post, I will be presenting a song which I feel embodies this sudden disillusionment.

Until next time, keep living that college dream!