Monday, March 28, 2011

New idea!

Hey so i was thinking for my "personal" project of doing an instructional video, "Como Sobrevivir La Rambla" and focusing on the area where we live in Barcelona. Then i could show it to my underclassman friends who are coming next year. Might be fun!

Just throwing that out there.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Interviewing/Final Projects

The video interview tips were really helpful, but also pretty intimidating. I have done interviews only a couple of times before, and on those occasions it was audio interviews for a written research project. I don't even know where I could do a video interview that wouldn't be either really echoey (studio) or completely obliterated by background noise (sirens, motors, screaming homeless people...) I have learned a few tricks for reducing background noise on Garageband and iMovie, but this city is pretty loud and crowded. And quiet, private space is limited to approximately zero. I'm in my own dorm room with my headphones in right now and I can hear the guy in the next room laughing and yelling randomly. The lobby is public circulation space. The study room has the acoustic and aesthetic qualities of a dungeon.

I am also concerned about having good equipment. My camera takes good-quality video footage, but I don't think I have access to a tripod and/or lighting tools. I know where to get them in Clemson! ... Doesn't help.

ALSO: my selection of interview subjects is severely limited by the language barrier. It's too bad, because interviewing people is kindof fun. But because of the delicacy required in portraying a person from a different culture respectfully, accurately, and with the proper "Topos," it seems a multi-lingual interview would be a disastrous failure. If I could manage to prepare well-phrased questions in Spanish, I certainly lack the skills for spontaneous follow-up or clarification questions. THEN I would have no qualifications to translate their responses faithfully (carrying the sense and tone of the words in addition to their literal meaning). I'm just not at that level.

And it seems unfair to set up a non-native English speaker for a video interview unless they are very comfortable with English. I will keep my eyes open but I think my subjects might have to be professors and friends who are comfortably bilingual.

I think I want to interview one of our studio professors for the final project. For the segment on professional/career connections I'm planning to research the education and licensing process for architects in Spain. In the states, it varies a lot from state to state, and it's even illegal to call yourself an "architect" without proper documentation; it would be interesting to see how a Spaniard qualifies him or herself to practice in Spain.

On the other hand, I really don't know what kind of photo or video footage could accompany that research. I definitely have a ton of pictures of architecture, but sorting out which ones are by Spanish architects might be way more difficult than you'd expect. International architecture is really common and I don't have labels on all my pictures. Suggestions from Clammers?

I also am still back and forth on what to do for my "Personal integration with the culture" segment. It seems like it needs a theme or structure to avoid just being a random blog about my experiences, of which there are a lot.

I know I'm a teensy bit behind as far as storyboarding goes. We just got back from a succession of very long, very taxing travels in and outside of Spain and the class deadlines are now upon us, so the CLAM projects have admittedly not occupied the forefront of my consideration for the past few weeks. Doing a good project is going to be challenging in this end-of-semester chaos.

Tripping and Tropos: A few examples of video clips

With the final projects in mind I have been trying to take video of Barcelona that shows how I experience the city, both in the broader context and in a more subjective way. For instance, when I first arrived, I was impressed by the big crowds that are the trademark of a dense urban environment -- big contrast to my small-town upbringing. In this brief clip, I try to show the crowd of shoppers on one of Barcelona's big tourist and shopping districts.

video

But this second video clip shows the crowd from a different perspective, to convey what it's like to navigate a busy crowd of foreigners. I was really trying to show the experience of being crammed in with tons of strangers and catch the babble of Spanish in the background that sounded so strange when I first arrived. This shot is different from the others because it's taken while moving inside the crowd, and from a lower angle. The low angle emphasizes the people as intimidating and/or obstacles to movement, and the motion of the camera viewpoint demonstrates the street as a path to be navigated, not just a stationary space. I especially like the way that people's backs move suddenly in and out of the near foreground. They are all wearing heavy coats which make them appear very solid. It captures the experience that I constantly have of nearly tripping over people who seem to be moving erratically and blocking my path unexpectedly. Humans do not always behave in a rational manner.




Unfortunately, however, my hand is not as steady as I thought it would be. The shakeyness of the shot reminds me of those old Star Trek episodes where the camera shakes and sparks shoot out of the computers whenever there's an explosion. I guess they still do that in action movies. Maybe it helps to convey the action of the place, or... maybe it will just make the viewers motion-sick. I'll probably try this same shot again with a smoother motion, in different places and from different perspectives. An angle above the crowd might be interesting to show the overall flow of the urban streetscape.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

CLAM BLOG 9: DOCUMENTARIES.

Ok so for my final documentary I'm going to focus on some interesting socio-economic aspects of Barcelona neighborhoods, inspired by the signs that say "Volum un Barri Digne" ("We want a decent neighborhood") and a squatter settlement near our residence. I have already started taking pictures and pan shots for the documentary although research is lagging behind due to other schoolwork. I would also really like to get an interview and use my skills from last semester's Creative Non-Fiction course. The trick is going to be figuring out who I can access and/or communicate with. I know enough Spanish to form some intelligent questions, but not necessarily enough to explain my purpose, make an appointment and accurately translate the response without some significant confusion. Hopefully my professor will be able to help me make a connection. I will have lots of time with her in the next week -- we're going to Berlin! -- so I'll be sure to ask.

I wonder what the length requirement is for this video. I'm not sure I've seen the assignment written out anywhere... any tips, Clammers? Sometimes i lose track of these things.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Clam Blog 8: Tropidyboop!





Here you will enjoy a further analysis of the "tropos" of some of my images. Not all of them, because let's face it: both of us have lives and neither of us wants to be here all day listening to me ramble about tropos. But here we go.

NUMBA' ONESIES:
<--Notre Dame Cathedral: This image emphasizes the grandiosity (real word, I checked) of the Notre Dame's west facade.





  • Anytime an image is centered and symmetrical, it presents a very strong focal point for the eye.
  • The trail of umbrella'd people leading up to the door further marks the cathedral as an important figure, drawing people in from the foreground; literally in the image, and visually by leading the eye.
  • A reflection on the rainy pavement extends the cathedral vertically giving it an even greater presence.
  • It was an overcast, wet day when I took this photo, so the muted colors and washed out sky impact the viewer's impression of the image as one of solemnity and authority. No blue skies and fluffy bunnies, here, folks.

Digging further, you could say that the tropos of this image is to emphasize the authority of the church itself, with the cathedral facade representing the Catholic faith; grand and imposing, drawing followers through the rain and cold to it's triumphal arch while all else fades into the background.

NUMERO DOS:







In this image I've framed Primary Traveling Companion Ellis against the vast Mediterranean Sea.







  • This image relies heavily on negative space, that is, space that is not occupied by the primary figure. Ellis is relegated to the righthand third of the image, while the rest of the image is filled with ocean water coming up to the rocks beneath her and the sky. A large portion of the composition is devoted to emptiness.
  • The sea/ocean/any large body of water/water itself is often used to symbolize mystery, the depth of life, and the unknown in Western cultures.
  • Ellis is facing away from the camera. We cannot identify her or see her facial expression. Thus there is an important and intriguing element of the photo that IS unknown, enhancing the viewer's sense of questioning or mystery.
  • Ellis' posture is slightly unbalanced, with all her weight on one foot. This causes her shoulders and hips to form angles that give her a mild "S" shape. Combined with the wind blowing though her hair, I must say she looks quite elegant and wistful.
  • The colors are faded and bluish, such that the photo has a sort of aged and melancholy tone.
If you want to get all serious about it, you could say this image is, essentially, a communication about the unknown or unknowable deep. Ellis symbolizes humanity gazing into the mysteries of the universe. What is she finding there across that ocean? Can we find it, too?


THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM:


<-- These balls in Bon Pastor are not being played with. No, no they're not. Poor little lonely balls. (alright get your mind out of the gutter)








  • IN FACT, they are not being played with because they're trapped. Trapped behind this giant texture-y concrete framing device. Oooh noooo!
  • There are two of them, like friends.. the colorful balls are associated with children, youth, companionship, and carefree playtime.
  • But no. They're alone. And dirty. Neglected, even.
  • Most of all, these toys are completely inaccessible. They sink into the (heightened perspective) background while the tiny concrete window through which you can see them takes up the majority of the photo. The emphasis is on the unfulfilled potential for happiness, tantalizing, but locked behind impassible barriers.
Deep, man, real deep (stoner voice). It's like we are aware of the potential for happiness, of ideals of youth, companionship and freedom, but we are unable to fulfill that potential. It remains forever just outside our reach.

POP QUIZ:


What does this image say about art, architecture, enlightenment, and humanity? What is the symbolic significance of light and dark? How does the camera's position in the dark area of the photo affect the viewer's perception of his/her role in the message? How does knowing that the image is taken from the Louvre in Paris -- one of the largest and most famous historical art museums in the world -- impact your understanding of the photo's TROPOS? What further layers can be uncovered by knowing more about the origins of the glass pyramid and the domed structure behind it?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

FOTOGRAFIAAAAAAAA!!!


A'ight, people. Get ready for some photographic acción ovah heeyuh!

DID I HEAR SOMEONE SAY GRAPHIC COMPOSITION??
Centered, symmetrical: Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, France
Rule of thirds/horizontal: Building facade in Sevilla, Spain

Rule of thirds/vertical: Mediterranean sea from Barcelona, Spain

Ooooh wait, but what about HORIZONTAL VS. VERTICAL ORIENTATION??


Vertical orientation draws attention on the two patterned yellow buildings...
...But horizontal orientation focuses on activity in the plaza below. =D

Bet you wanna see some VARIETY OF FOCAL LENGTHS!


Fore/Mid/Background: Cat on Montserrat, Barcelona
Check out how dramatic this cat becomes in the foreground, while the photographer is in the mid ground and the majestic mountain landscape falls to the background.


Now how about some FRAMING??



















Bon Pastor, Barcelona | The Louvre Museum, Paris

Did you like that DRAMATIC BACKLIGHTING??













^ Gargoyles on the Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris




Wait till you see my OTHER LOW-LIGHT SETTING PHOTOGRAPHS:













The Eiffel Tower at night, and a Chandelier in an opera house in Paris


Wanna see some MORE INTERESTING ANGLES??












Clockwise from top left:
Plaza in Sevilla, Spain, from the Cathedral bell tower; Streetwall in Madrid, Spain, from across the plaza and standing on playground equipment; Cuatro Torres Business District in Madrid, Spain, from the ground; Liz Cooney on the Mirador Building in Madrid, Spain, from balcony above.


All of these photos present the subject in a unique way based on the position of the camera and the composition of the shot. The angle, composition, and distance from the subject can even influence the identity of the subject. For instance, below:


















Upside-down and with exaggerated perspective, this strange facade becomes a sculptural object.

Mirrored in a reflection pool, a dimly lit gothic-groin-vaulted hallway flattens into a monochromatic, symmetrical composition and loses it's meaning as a 3-dimensional space.

The brick pavement in this garden, photographed up close, reads as a texture image.



BAM. All these photos were taken previous to this clam assignment. I think I've pretty much got the gist as far as photographic composition goes; I do as much as I can with a point-and-snap anyway. Someday when I've got a lot of money lying around I'll buy a really nice camera and then I'll have to learn all the fancy lens mechanics again. Hasta entonces.



Wednesday, February 23, 2011

CLAM 6 part II: Barcelona advertisement


The following is an advertisement for a university in Tarragona, found in a publication in Barcelona.

CHRONOS||CONTEXT The advertisement is for a college called Universitat Rovira i Virgili. Since they are placing an ad in a paper, I am guessing that it's a small school or one that exists primarily online. Their intended audience is 18-25 year olds who want to go to college. The text is written in Catalán, so I'm not sure what it says.
PATHOS||EMOTIONAL APPEAL The ad clearly plays to a desire for freedom. The college students are sitting around in the sun, blue skies, laughing and having a good time and don't appear to be doing any work. Nonetheless, the text says something to the effect of increasing your ability or pursuing your dreams. It inspires a sense of fun, carefree life that college can bring you! The bike lurking on the right hand side and the license plate at the bottom also emphasizes the sense of freedom, mobility, or running away.
ETHOS||AUTHORITY Although I'm not certain of the exact translation, the text of the ad says something to the effect of the University helping or believing in you. The ad portrays the University as a tool or a friendly presence that enables you to reach your dream of sitting in a group of fun, fashionable young people on a hilltop. The university doesn't make any moves of seeming authoritarian, disciplined, bureaucratic or even offer very much reference to academics at all. Instead, the student is at the center of attention...the advertisers flatter the ego to get on the good side of their readers.
LOGOS||LOGIC With the invitational text in the top center, the image large and centered, and the phone number below, the logical flow of this ad is clear. You want to go to college? And be carefree and pretty like these people -- then call this number for information about the Universitat Rovira i Virgili.

CLAM 6 Part I: McDonalds Website Analysis


The first impressions given by the USA McDonald's website and the impression of the Spanish website could not be more different!

The Spanish website features clean, layered fragments of the McDonald's logo with a blue sky background and strong "graphic design" image. Animated panels offer information about McDonald's specials and nutrition, and every few minutes a cheerful video plays advertising McDonald's "Calidad" -- or, Quality -- with fresh ingredients flying across the screen in slow motion, with those tiny little water droplets as if the lettuce were JUST washed.

The ETHOS is that McDonalds is a hip, modern corporation that values good health and quality ingredients -- just like you!
The PATHOS is the guilt-free satisfaction you can enjoy from eating McDonalds, with all those positive associations of fresh, healthy vegetables and high-quality beef.
The CHRONOS (sp?) or context of the website is that you can know what your food is made of, and be responsible for what goes into your body. A corporation that is up-to-date with modern values of healthy eating and civic responsibility is supposed to have the clean graphic approach that McDonalds has worked hard to display.
The LOGOS of the website is clear, with easily navigated links across the top, to tools such as finding a restaurant, applying for work, looking up nutrition facts, or finding out information about the corporation itself. Additionally the scrolling animation promotes features that McDonalds would like to highlight, such as new menu items and offers for children.

The USA website, on the other hand, is just painfully stereotypical American. A giant Angus Chipotle BBQ Bacon Burger dominates the front page. As if the sheer amount of meat in the advertisement was not enough, the slogan underneath emphasizes the sensuous, indulgent qualities of the meal: "Chipotle is here for a good time, not a long time. Smothered in the sauce that's sensationally smoky, deliciously bold." The background is a drippy sauce-colored image that adds to the over-the-top promotion. The whole thing is totally sexed up: lighting, colors, testosterone-charged Cowboy vocabulary...even the Angus Axiom has thinly veiled sexual connotations ("for a good time call...") Meanwhile the add urges viewers to "seize the bold" -- adding to the manly cowboy image of the site.

ETHOS: McDonalds knows its business with MANLY MAN FOOD. We don't mess around with piddly little sissy stuff. We've got what you REALLY want.
PATHOS: McDonalds food is SEXXXXYYYYYY.....! You know you want it. Look at our clean, sexy meat. Beef beef beef. This entire ad is intended to make you salivate and subconsciously consider the various applications of the phrase, "Seize the Bold"...
CHRONOS: the context of this advertisement is the understanding that Americans want big, chunky, manly meals. Our priorities are not strongly aligned with health and quality. Instead, this ad tries to seduce us with sensory information about appearance, texture and flavor.
LOGOS: In a sidebar on the left, users can navigate information about the food, promotions, company background info, services, locations, and contact info. At the bottom of the Angus ad are some more visually appealing ads for McDonalds products, as well as a link to information about the beef quality.

This post is getting really long so I'm going to break it into 2 parts

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Literacies: The whole of human history leads here.

I hit my browser icon and type in the username and password to log into the Internet. This step always annoys me. As soon as I’m authorized, I open 2-5 tabs to different pages… whichever one loads first gets the first 5 minutes of my attention. It doesn’t matter whether I’m doing homework, looking for a friend online, or googling images of Jordan Gordon-Levitt, I’m going to flick back and forth between those 5 tabs every few minutes. A new window takes about 8 seconds to load. I will spend those 8 seconds on another page. I’m in two separate instant-message conversations as I write this.

Am I a spoiled, shallow cross sample of a generation of Internet Divas? “Oh my gawd, the internet is, like, soooo slow!” Is Google making me stupid?

I think the changes in the way we think and read (now, “browse” and “surf”) are both a symptom and a product of humanity’s cultural history. And I think it’s important to honestly assess those changes without being quick to make value judgments. Things change. People change technology, technology changes us… it’s a dynamic relationship that flows both ways, in which fear is our only enemy.

Our priorities have changed. Richard Foreman’s “cathedral-like” person – dense, complex, and articulate – is no longer the primary cultural ideal. A cathedral is a particularly apt simile. Who builds cathedrals anymore? They don’t, not like they used to, hundreds of lives and hundreds of years, stone by stone. We can throw up a church in a couple of months, now, but so what? What is the meaning of a cathedral built in a single summer of crane-crossed skies?

We want something different, now. We want to free ourselves from the generations of trade knowledge that taught the peasants how to cut stone and build arches. The arch was successful, and the road, and soon, ideas and information were coming from across the world. It’s too much. We can’t store it all. We need a repository.

Humans dissociated themselves from time so that trains could run on a uniform, legible schedule. Henry ford dissociated us from the manufacturing process: reduce what you must know. Store the rest in a system. Technology multiplies information, and it’s too much. We live in a global world, now. I’m a 21-year-old female: a hundred years ago, I might well be darning socks by candlelight for my husband. That’s all I needed to know. Now, I need to have access to vast quantities and unbelievable varieties of information, just to competently interact with the world around me. When I wake up in the morning, I wake up to a globalized existence.

The Internet – this patchwork of screens that I live in – is that repository. From any portal I can access any bit of information. Thank God. I cannot imagine having to remember all the width and breadth of my knowledge for myself. The knowledge is stored and organized for me, without relying on my memory. Yesterday I talked to a guy from Korea. The city of Haeundae-gu, to be precise. While I was talking to him I looked up the Wikipedia article for his hometown. Now I know about one city in South Korea. It has great beaches. I was able to make this reference by looking up the article in my browser history. You need your socks darned? There’s a how-to website somewhere. I share knowledge with a 19th-century housewife and a South Korean student. The homogeneity and universality of the Internet is what enables me to access that knowledge.

Now I function not as a data storage unit, but as a node of relationships. “On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective,” Kevin Kelly writes in his article, “Becoming Screen Literate,” “The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link.” How postmodern of you, Kelly. But those are our priorities: not to discover “absolute” data, but to draw new relationships between existing ideas. Hyperlinks are the ultimate expression of modern intelligence. Direct. Succinct. Impersonal. In this manner, we create and use thousands upon thousands of new relationships every day, between data, between ideas, between images and words and knowledge. Retaining data is not important. Drawing relationships between data points is our life and breath.

Is Google making us stupid? Or are we now still primitive man, chipping away at stones, making new tools to free ourselves from old labors to seek new ones?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

See pictures/read about Poor Man's Potluck here.

Tratando de ser integrada!

So I have been working on my integration into my host culture. This week I watchedCómo Entrenar a Tu Dragón with my Spanish friends (Gabriel, Sergi, Ramón) across the hall. It's exactly like How to Train Your Dragon, except with your comprehension of dialogue scenes relying heavily on expressive animated body language and repeated keywords.

I also somewhat successfully cooked Spanish tortillas, which is not at all what you think of when you hear "tortilla." In Spain, a tortilla is the lovechild of an omelet and a potato cake. They're simple to make, and thus popular as college kid food. Mine turned out okay although Gabriel says I need bigger chunks of potato to make it the right size and consistency. Cooking itself is still a little foreign to me, so I consider this an accomplishment.

To top it all off, a bunch of us ventured out last night to celebrate class being postponed today. We went to a bar where Liz and I got the opportunity to chat with some locals. (Parents: the bar culture is much more mainstream and not as sketchy as you probably imagine from back home. Also I was with lots of other people.) We met two young men, an Argentinian and an Australian. The Australian spoke perfect English and Spanish. The Argentinian (Mattias) knew only Spanish and the English titles of Pink Floyd albums. With Liz and I at about the same level of Spanish language competence, it was the perfect quadrangle of conversation with the Australian there to patch the holes. YAY!

I'm looking for ways to improve my grasp of Spanish by reviewing verb forms and vocabulary. I almost always understand the gist of what's being said, even at normal speaking pace, but I lack the resources to respond intelligently. The more I understand of the other person, the more complicated my intended reply becomes, and I'm stymied by simply not knowing the words. Last night was fun because it was light conversation, the kind of tone and vocabulary I've practiced in classes.

Friday, February 4, 2011

CLAM Blog 4: Imaginary Exchange Student

RIPPLES, RINGS, AND DEFINITION OF TERMS.

One of the things I laugh about here in Spain is my utter confusion when someone asks me, "Where are you from?" When meeting new people in Clemson, that part of the conversation is a well-worn routine. "Greenville... about 40 minute's drive from here... I went to Eastside High School..." Pausing, of course, to allow them to ask the series of questions that falls within their range of familiarity with the area. If they go so far as to ask what High School I attended, they'll likely conclude by rattling off a few names to see if I recognize any. There's about a 30% chance that I will.

Here, in Spain, I don't know what question I'm being asked unless I have some background information on the asker. "Greenville" means nothing unless you know South Carolina. South Carolina means nothing unless you already know I'm from the United States, which is in North America, which is in the Western Hemisphere. But sometimes, they're asking what study abroad program I'm with, where I'm staying in Spain, or even where my family's lineage hails from. I'm tempted to begin replying, "Planet Earth," just to establish some common ground. But, depending on who's asking, I'm not sure if the humor would translate.

Because the final, tiniest ring in the concentric circles of identity that ripple out around me is the space of my own mind, where everyone but me is a stranger. Think how often you have to explain yourself to someone inside all your other rings. I do things that seem illogical to outsiders because of the values, rituals, beliefs, song and dance in my head; the ethos, nomos, mythos, archon, and techne of my own subjective experience.

So "my people" needs definition, and a lot of it is reflexive: I am a female as opposed to a male, an American as opposed to a Spaniard, a South Carolinian as opposed to a New Yorker, a Clemson student as opposed to a Texas A&M student. I'll identify myself towards others in response to how they identify themselves towards me. Who is this exchange student? What is their previous culture and body of experience? That will make all the difference in how they encounter my people for the first time. I'm going to call my exchange student Eubert.

BIG PICTURE: GEERT HOFSTEDE'S CULTURAL DIMENSIONS

I think Geert Hofstede's cultural dimensions are helpful for explaining the overall value systems and cultural trend of the largest circle, which is modern American culture. Based on my own experience, I would guess that Americans have a low PDI, a high (very individualist) IDV, have a lower MAS (more feminine), a medium low UAI (avoiding uncertainty), and a Long-Term orientation. In summary: Americans tend to have a low tolerance for unequally distributed power (watch the news), value individualism WAY more than collectivism (every man for himself. Watch the divorce rates), minimize the difference between gender roles and values (compared to the rest of the world), avoid uncertainty and favor belief in absolute Truth (I'm talking a culture-wide trend, here. Way more Baptists than Buddhists in America), and value thrift and perseverance with a big fat "F.U." to tradition, social obligation, and preserving reputation. Strangely, these are things that are easier to explain in an academic way than to explain to someone experiencing them for the first time.

Ehn... it's impossible to fully explain everything in all my culture rings to a stranger. Too broad a scope. I'mma skip down a few to a more interesting culture shift.

DEAR EUBERT, REMAIN CALM.

Dear Eubert,
Welcome to your new life at my family dinner table. Here are a few guidelines:

  • The cultural rule is don't discuss politics, religion, or sex at the "dinner table," but this rule will be broken by your mother, father, and grandmother. It's fine if they bring it up but not if you do. Smile and nod politely and avoid expressing any strong view which may be considered controversial. Since my grandma is a minefield of political and religious triggers, and my mother will die of shock and shame if you say anything about sex at all, I'd avoid speaking entirely until you've adjusted.
  • You should be smart. If you're not smart enough to seem smart, criticize pretentious people in an excruciatingly ironic meta-pretention.
  • You're also supposed to be creative. Good luck proving it.
  • Name-drop philosophers, artists, and authors as much as possible.
  • Mom has a sensitive conscience. Try not to make her feel guilty about anything or inadequate, because she often feels that way anyway and it will really make her sad.
  • Don't interrupt Dad's sermonettes on whatever has been on his mind lately. Sometimes you get really good stuff out of them, so try to listen in addition to being polite.
  • NEVER CUSS or you will get dirty looks from the parents and possibly a lecture about your character later.
  • Do not mention alcohol more than once in a conversation or you will receive the aforementioned lecture about your character.
  • Entertain Grandma's ill-informed questions about your life. She means well.
  • UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you permit a political discussion to begin with your Grandma present! Do ANYTHING, stand on your head, belch, sing row-row-your-boat, anything to divert attention away from political affairs. If you don't you will have to endure your grandma's incredibly misinformed political interests which she nurtures under the tender care of Fox news and fear-mongering militant conservative talk show hosts. Do not sarcastically refer to ridiculous political rumors (Obama is the antichrist, healthcare reform bill is a sign of the apocalypse, etc.) because chances are she might actually believe it.
  • Evan is Straightedge, Caroline is a vegetarian, Eric shops at thrift stores. Try and find something within the mainstream "hipster" counter-culture to distinguish yourself.
  • Pretend to be a Christian, even if you're not, for the sake of your grandma and to avoid more lectures.
  • Once you part ways with the Faith every negative experience you have will be attributed to your spiritual deficit. I would just keep hush about it and avoid the whole thing. It doesn't matter what you believe as long as you can smile and nod.
  • Eat grandma's food even if it is a strange combo and has too much mayonnaise.
  • Always compliment mom's food, too.
  • You can make fun of Dad's cooking if needed. But you won't, because he only cooks eggs and pancakes, and they're awesome.

Good luck.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sevilla y la Sociología

Humor me, I’m a Sociology minor.

This past weekend I took a trip to Sevilla (Seville to non-Spaniards) for a breath of fresh air. It’s a smaller city, so Ellis, Nathan, Colin, Melissa, Nick and I were able to comfortably explore the whole thing on foot in two days. I loved it. In part due to its size, Sevilla’s streets are wider and cleaner. Everything is very colorful and sunny, with the exception of a few minutes of rain Friday night. My favorite part was Alcazar: a gorgeous palace with extensive courtyards, fountains, and garden after garden. I loved the detail of the tilework and filigreed arcades set to a bright color palatte (thanks Moores). And in one garden, we saw peacocks! =D There’s a river through the city, and the walking path alongside it was beautiful, too.

One of the other things I noticed about Sevilla in contrast to Barcelona was the culture shift. People were out and about the entire weekend, dining in the plazas, shopping, and filling up the parks and boardwalks. In Barcelona, we did small scoping projects on local parks as part of our Seminar coursework, and everyone’s photographs showed barren, empty parks and plazas. Part of the difference may be the weather, since it’s still pretty cold in BCN, hovering in the 50’s this week and the 40’s last week. But I also noticed that people seemed friendlier and more accommodating in general. We went into a café, obviously foreign and shy of Spanish, and the proprietor went far out of her way to explain the menu and make us all comfortable. Not the resentful stare you get up here.

It’s probably a little of the North-South thing. I read somewhere a long time ago (warning: highly credible source, obviously) that the dynamic between friendly southerners and “colder” northerners shows up in many cultures throughout the world. Based on my current four points of reference, my scale goes something like this:

  • Greenville/Clemson: People initiate contact with strangers and are actively (some would say aggressively) friendly. Borders on creepy if you’re not used to it.
  • Sevilla: People mind their own business, but if they do interact with you, they’re going to be pleasant about it. It’s the perfect balance!
  • NYC: People mind their own business. I didn’t find New Yorkers unpleasant. They just assume you know what you’re doing, and they’re not going to get involved. They’re refreshingly indifferent to strangers.
  • Barcelona: There is ALWAYS someone trying to sell you something, getting an attitude or cat calling you. Actively unfriendly, in my personal opinion.

To cut the Barcelonians a break, we are living in Raval, which is a strange mix-mash of the “sketchy” side of town (not actually dangerous, just your stereotypical minority community) and the heavily touristed area across La Rambla. I think the locals who aren’t trying to make money off of tourists are pretty sick of them. At 5’10” and an Eastern European (?) profile, there’s no way I’m sliding past that one.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

CLAM Assignment #3: Cultural Literacies

I thought the E.D. Hirsch excerpt, along with the Cultural Literacy video, were them most interesting parts of this segment. It put in words something I have always known but never quite been able to articulate: the way that culture-specific "background knowledge" (cultural literacy) enables learning.

The academic world and learning itself has always been a topic of interest to me. I was a high-performing student in High School, by South Carolina public education system standards, which admittedly means very little. Even at the time, I did not believe my performance should have been that outstanding (all I did was show up to class with the homework finished, for Pete's sake), and I was frustrated by my peers who didn't care enough to try. "When am I EVER going to use this?" was the constant whine. I couldn't convince anyone that the things we were learning -- however broad in scope or tedious or seemingly irrelevant -- were a foundation for something greater. Not just college applications, but for understanding the world we live in. The knowledge is valuable as potential for new knowledge... which is itself valuable.

From a culturally specific point of view, that is. When I hit college I was totally out of my element. Conservative, homeschooled, and nerdy (see previous), I had a LOT of YouTube videos to watch and slang to catch up on. Urbandictionary.com saved my social status on more than a few occasions when I had to figure out what people were talking about (what is "shotgunning"? What the heck is a "bro"?) . Thankfully, as Lauren mentioned in her post, there are plenty of tutors waiting to help incoming freshman make that cultural adjustment.

Now I'm trying to cross another knowledge gap. A lot of the knowledge that is helping me become "culturally literate" is picked up on the go: body language, trial and error, asking myself why everyone is staring at me. Learning some history from class has really put things in context, too. I was amazed at the huge portion of Barcelona that is carefully master-planned into matching sets of blocks: an undertaking that could make it in America. After lecture today, I realized that Spain has been under socialist government for a long time. They could do that sort of thing without asking opinions from every Sergi with a coffee shop on the alley. Barcelona's architectural setting makes a lot more sense when coupled with its historical and political setting.

Later in class I had a moment with Patty when we realized that Holland and Poland are both parts of the Netherlands. We felt pretty stupid about being confused... but political geography like that isn't relevant in the culture we come from, so we lacked the context for that information. "The Netherlands" is a term without strong meaning for me... something vague about windmills and wooden shoes comes up, but that's about it. I'm sure the nomos is much different for someone from the Netherlands -- or Spain -- or anywhere east of the Atlantic.

I'm coming into Europe with a uniquely blank slate. My blog is called "Small Town Girl Adventures" because as I prepared for this trip, I began to realize just how culturally illiterate I was for this setting. Geography, history, and language are all massive gaps in my knowledge, due to my educational, family, and cultural background. My naivety has had a profound effect on my first few weeks here, as I attempt to learn everything starting from surface level. Rather than seeing my ignorance as merely a handicap, however, I've been appreciating the opportunity to start from scratch, as free as possible from preconceptions and prejudice. I have baby eyes... everything is new and it makes it that much more amazing.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Clam Assignment #2

Social Networking Relationship History

Second CLAM assignment. Looks like I may have to set aside my anti- (gerund) about (gerund) policy. ;-)

Clam Assignment #1

So I am expected to blog about my initiation into CLAM: Cultural Literacy Across Media, because there are simply not enough acronyms in the world to make the University happy. It’s a course in which we maintain a blog for “Cross Cultural Awareness” credit back home in Tigertown. So far everything seems really… ah… obvious. From my perspective, it’s hard not to know how to blog unless you’ve been living under a rock with a really flakey wifi connection. So I expect this will be enjoyable. I love blogging.

(I also hope never, ever again to blog about blogging. It’s like songs about the life of a singer-songwriter, or poems about writer’s block: all the appeal of an ingrown toenail and likely infected with a thriving colony of stupid).

I WILL SAY, however, that I am excited about doing our documentaries and I already have ideas for mine which I will not tell, because you’d steal them, you sneaky-sneaker!

El fin.