‘You might be a redneck if” you consider yourself one?

If you go see Jeff Foxworthy take the stage in sold-out arenas wearing cowboy boots and an AHRA t-shirt holding a six-pack, you might be a redneck. If you drive a pick-up truck, attend church on Sundays, work hard, and live paycheck-to-paycheck you might be a redneck. Ladies if y’all are blonde, wear sundresses, and strive to maintain a spotless reputation, you might be a southern belle. If you go to private school, drive a Mercedes, and go on lavish vacations…you might be a redneck? Growing up in small town that many would consider ‘hick’ and that most young people try to escape, I had always assumed that being considered a ‘redneck’ was not a desirable thing. Even though there were lots of rednecks in my town (my family included), there were also many that looked down upon the ‘country’ way of life. After I left my little town and the sheltered bubble it provided, I was surprised to learn that to some being a ‘redneck’ is idealized and at times even desirable. I first noticed this when I was on Twitter. I follow several country life accounts and I was surprised to see tweets along the lines of, “cruising around in the Benz with the top down listening to country music #countrylife”. This confused me and my inner country girl was yelling, “You can’t hashtag country life! You’re not even driving a Chevy!”

Through this experience I started thinking about modern country music and what it represents because rednecks and country music tend to go hand in hand. In 2012 country music was one of two music genres that had an increase in sales and five of the ten most popular albums of the year were by country artists. Much of last year’s country success was due to Taylor Swift, one of today’s most popular artists. Swift alone sold over three million records. Two other popular country artists of the year were Luke Bryan and Brad Paisley. Bryan also had a successful year selling over one million records and gained over a million followers on Twitter and Brad Paisley enjoyed a similar success. In many of Swift, Bryan, and Paisley’s songs it is not uncommon to hear lyrics that reflect the stereotypical image of rednecks and southern belles. Images of tailgates, beer, slamming screen doors, and blondes with blue eyes flicker alongside the fiddles, acoustic guitars, and honkey tonk twang. On the surface it seems that these artists are the perfect representation of what it means to be ‘country’.  However, if one does a little digging into the background of these stars some interesting facts emerge. Luke Bryan and Brad Paisley are both college educated and come from reasonably well-off families, a contrast to many of the lyrics they sing in their songs. Taylor Swift spent her youth traveling to New York City from her hometown in Pennsylvania to audition for Broadway shows, a far cry from her apparent ‘southern roots’. There are many examples of prominent ‘country’ figures with very different backgrounds than what one would think. Through these stars’ backgrounds it would appear that many try and strive to seem ‘country’, when in reality they may not have the country background that we are lead to believe. This realization surprised me and  I began to wonder why people feel this way and why people wanted to be considered ‘country’, which was at one point was considered low-class and ‘trashy’. ‘Country’ now appears to be more of a popular style that people want and try to be rather than an actual social class. This raised many questions in my mind and I wanted answers, so I dusted off my saddle, pulled on my cowgirl boots, and travelled down a red dirt road to find the answers (I apologize, I had to include at least one cheesy country metaphor).  

The first question I set out to answer was what exactly makes a ‘redneck’ or a ‘southern belle’ and when the terms first come about. According to writer Tom Leland, the term ‘redneck’ was first used in Scotland in the 17th century and was a slang word for Scottish Covenanters, or supporters of the National Covenant, that did not agree with the Church of England and wanted the Presbyterian form of government. The supporters of the National Covenant signed documents in their own blood and wore pieces of red cloth around their necks in a form of protest and were thenceforth dubbed ‘rednecks’. It is likely that the Scottish immigrants brought the term across the pond with the influx of immigrants to the American colonies in the 17th century. Leland also states that many researchers agree that the term ‘redneck’ was used in early America in the 17th century to describe white workers in the agricultural sector who toiled under the sun all day and had sunburned necks; thus being called ‘rednecks’. The Industrial Revolution played an important part in pinning the term to reflect people from the south. The Industrial Revolution took place mainly in the northern United States which left the farming to southern states that relied heavily on that sector to survive; thus, the term ‘redneck’ was then centralized and referred mainly to southern ‘country folk’ or farm workers because that is where the majority of farm work was still being done. In the 17th century the term redneck was used to describe Scottish political rebels and southern farm workers, but both of these things had negative connotations and are a far-cry from the glamorized life of today’s redneck elites.

Today’s image of a redneck, in a way, still reflects southern farm workers and politics. Artists like Luke Bryan and Brad Paisley sing about those things in their songs there, but as stated before these are ‘country folk’ that never worked on a farm and are not from the south. Today’s modern rednecks and southern belles have come to represent much more than a sunburned farm worker; to many being a redneck or belle symbolizes hard work, faith, independence, and pride. The blog The Enlightened Redneck describes the modern redneck’s ideals and philosophies as follows:

“It means being independent. It means knowing how to fix things when they break. It means not being helpless outside the modern urban island. It means knowing the difference between right and wrong, and knowing how to apply my best judgment. It means knowing that there are things more important than my own comfort and my own skin, and that those things are worth fighting and dying for.”

The author of the blog, Danny Glover, says that to be a redneck it does not matter if one is from the south, from the county, or even if one is white. He says that rednecks are black, white, city-slickers, college-educated, self-taught, and can even be from California. Glover says, “It’s never really been about where you’re from, or who you were born to; it’s always been about the decisions you make.” Reading this blog post raised another important question of whether the majority of modern rednecks share the same belief as this self-proclaimed enlightened redneck. Throughout history the word has been associated with a distinct group of people, a stark contrast from the inclusive language that Glover preaches.

When discussing the history and the meaning of a redneck, it is hard to ignore the racial/racist implications that the word holds. As stated the term ‘redneck’ was used to describe a white, low-class southern male and left many races and backgrounds out. It is common knowledge that throughout history in the southern United States there were rigid racial tensions in which the term redneck is closely associated. The controversy surrounding this word continues and is still apparent in the current culture of the southern United States. In 2007 in North Carolina at Cordington High School there was a quoted ‘race riot’ in which white students, self-proclaimed and described by the press as ‘rednecks’, fought with their fellow black students over race. In February 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida former spokeswoman for the Duval county public schools, Jill Johnson, was thrust into the spotlight after she described her husband as a redneck. A discrimination complaint was filed against Johnson by Kandra Albury, a black coworker. Speaking about this incident William Link, a professor of history at the University of Florida stated, “African-Americans might regard redneck as a term that may be threatening because of the history of violence perpetrated on blacks, often by a class of whites seen as rednecks — the lynching or urban riots that you had in that period”. Lest we forget about country music superstar and college-educated Brad Paisley’s new single ‘Accidental Racist’. The song is a duet with rapper LL Cool J about Paisley, as a white southern man, wearing the Confederate flag on his shirt and what that represents. Paisley sings that it is simply about pride for where you come from and not pride about the history. LL Cool J raps about how it feels for a black man to see a white man sporting the ‘red flag’. One of the lyrics reads, “I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air but I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here”. The main chorus of the songs states:

“‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland just like you I’m more than what you see. I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done. And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history, Our generation didn’t start this nation and we’re still paying for mistakes that a bunch of folks made long before we came and caught between southern pride and southern blame”.

The song not surprisingly has sparked a controversy. Many say that the song likely came from a good place and if anything if brought the issue out into the light again, but the lyrics are highly controversial. For some the lyrics too controversial. Leonard Pitts, Jr. writing for the Miami Herald commented that in the song Paisley states it is difficult to walk in a black man’s shoes and to see things from his side. Pitts calls Paisley out on this stating that he simply never tried to walk in a black man’s shoes. While the philosophy of the Enlightened Redneck is a hopeful and inclusive definition of the word redneck, based on the current controversies surrounding Paisley’s song and similar events, it is likely that not all feel the same way as Dover does.

The historical and modern definition of a redneck is specific and represents a small minority of white, working-class, men. It leaves out other races and classes, but also other genders. When one thinks of a redneck the likely image is of a chubby man, missing his front teeth, and sporting a beer belly. The stereotypical image of women from the country is the complete opposite from the low-class and beer bellied man. A ‘southern belle’ is a sophisticated, dainty, and beautiful woman. She is usually blonde-haired and blue-eyed, wears conservative yet fashionable dresses, and sits on her porch carefully sipping lemonade behind a delicate smile. I was intrigued by this stark contrast to the male ‘country’ stereotype. I wondered how the ‘belles’ come to be and the expectations that they represent for ‘country’ women. I found that the history and the ideals of southern belles are quite different than those of rednecks and rather show the women’s role in our society now and throughout history.

The term southern belle first came about in the 19th century after the civil war. The war ravaged the American south and its people were defeated and frail. New laws and immigrants from the north challenged the south’s traditions and culture, especially the culture surrounding slavery and plantation life; the very culture that the south had fought so hard to maintain. Historians believe that the southern belle was created as a way to idealize and maintain the memory of the antebellum south. Many experts argue that because of this ‘southern belles’ never actually existed, but rather existed through the literature of the time.  Perhaps the best example of a southern belle can be found in the ultimate classic film Gone with the Wind adopted from the nostalgic novel of the antebellum south by Margaret Mitchell. The quintessential southern belle is the novel’s main character Scarlet O’Hara. Scarlet is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and she represents the perfect southern woman. She is charming, classy, and beautiful. Throughout the novel and film, O’Hara overcomes every hardship and obstacle that comes her way by using her infamous charm. At one point in the movie Scarlet tries very hard to cover the fact that she has been working outside in order to go visit her love interest, Rhett, to get his help in saving her family’s plantation. When Scarlet goes to visit Rhett, he talks of how Scarlet represents everything wonderful about the south and essentially how she is the perfect southern belle. At one point Rhett touches Scarlet’s hands and finds that they are calloused because she has been working in the fields and he is put-off by this realization. This example raises an interesting question regarding gender roles within the ‘country’ lifestyle.

Throughout history the traditional roles of men and women have been clearly defined.  It was not until the past several decades that the roles between men and women began to intertwine. Typically, it was assumed that men have jobs in order to make money and provide for their families, while women tend to the house and care for the children. This can be seen in Gone with the Wind because Rhett was turned-off by the fact that Scarlet had been working, and there are uncountable other examples of this scattered throughout history. As much as there has been large steps taken in favor of blurring gender roles, in this regard the ‘country’ lifestyle still appears behind. Many current country music songs still talk about how daddy works hard and momma is at home. I wondered if this could be the reason why the contrast exists between rednecks and southern belles. Under the ‘country’ lifestyle the ideal for men is to be hard-working providers for their families, which is also essentially what the stereotypical redneck represents. The ideal for ‘country’ women is that they do not work but stay at home with the children and keep up appearances, which is traditionally what a southern belle does. I believe that this is the key to understanding why the ‘country’ lifestyle is idealized and strived for today. In our world that is ever-changing with new cultures and ways of life evolving every day, being ‘country’ represents tradition and an ideal embedded in previous cultures of the United States.

Today there are many cultural occurrences that may challenge the values and ideals behind the ‘country’ lifestyle. There has been a strong push to enforce stricter gun laws, little-by-little our society is taking steps to legalize gay marriage, women have a strong presence in the workforce, farms are forced to close, and factory jobs are being sent overseas. ‘Country’ foundations such as the right to bear arms, Christianity, traditional gender roles, and hard work at a blue collar jobs are being challenged. I believe all of this contributes to the upswing of success in country music and is also why people who wouldn’t traditionally be considered ‘country’ are hashtagging country life in their Mercedes and calling themselves rednecks and southern belles.

When we consider the history of the terms ‘redneck’ and ‘southern belle’ it is clear that they both represent traditional ideals. The redneck is desirable because he is hard-working and strong-willed, and the southern belle is desirable because she is beautiful and classy. It’s no wonder that people want to associate themselves with the ‘country’ way of life. Who wouldn’t want to be considered hard-working and beautiful? I think this is why in popular culture today there are college-educated artists singing about dead-end jobs, farms, and their mommas. It is not about actually about being a redneck or actually growing up in the south, it is more about how what a redneck represents and being associated with those traditional values. It is similar, I believe, to what  The Enlightened Redneck Danny Glover was trying to say in his blog; that it is not about watching NASCAR and going to church on Sundays, but rather holding on to and belonging to a traditional culture.

My aim in all of this was not to make fun of or prolong the ‘country’ stereotypes, but rather to understand the history and mentality behind them. This was a particularly interesting study for me, as I stated previously, I grew up in a small-town with the quintessential redneck for a father and for a majority of my life I identified myself with the ‘country’ lifestyle. It was not until I left my hometown that I began to question what it actually meant and why others who did not have a similar background to mine also choose to identify themselves with a similar lifestyle. The conclusion that I hope can be drawn from this is that being a redneck or a southern belle is more than what it seems on the surface. There are racial implications and facepalms associated with the terms that cannot and should not be ignored, but underneath there is a traditional culture that comes from humbleness and hard work.  I think that this area of American society is worth more investigation, as I fear that this piece may have raised more questions than it answered. Particularly surrounding the racial implications associated with the lifestyle. I very briefly grazed this topic, simply because it was too big to tackle in a small essay but too important to ignore. Another area that may be interesting to research that is  not addressed in this piece is the idea of patriotism and how it is typically associated with country music and the ‘country’ lifestyle. Through all of this research, I came to the realization that with my background and new ways of thinking, I may also be an enlightened redneck. But then again based off of the examples we studied, you might also be a redneck if you simply consider yourself one by holding on to traditional values.

Works Cited:

Shirley, Carla D. “‘You Might Be a Redneck If…’ Boundary Work Among Rural, Southern Whites.” Social Forces (University of North Carolina Press) 89, no. 1 (September 2010): 35–61.


“What Does Redneck Really Mean? A Racist or Just a Country Person?” Members.jacksonville.com. Accessed April 29, 2013. http://members.jacksonville.com/news/premium-news/2013-02-05/story/what-does-redneck-really-mean.


Burton, Orville Vernon. “The South as ‘Other,’ the Southerner as ‘Stranger’.” Journal of Southern History 79, no. 1 (February 2013): 7–50.


“The Enlightened Redneck » What It Means To Be A Redneck.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://www.enlightenedredneck.com/2009/05/06/what-it-means-to-be-a-redneck/.


Hardie, Jessica Halliday, and Karolyn Tyson. “Other People’s Racism: Race, Rednecks, and Riots in a Southern High School.” Sociology of Education 86, no. 1 (January 2013): 83–102. doi:10.1177/0038040712456554.


“Origin Of ‘Redneck’ … A Term That Crosses Race & Geography | Race and Ethnic Relations | USA on Race.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://www.usaonrace.com/labels-stereotypes/origin-redneck-term-crosses-race-geography.


“Leonard Pitts: Brad Paisley’s ‘Accidental Racist’ Not Honest – Leonard Pitts Jr. – MiamiHerald.com.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/04/13/3340702/brad-paisleys-accidental-racist.html.


“JSTOR: The Georgia Review, Vol. 25, No. 3 (Fall 1971), Pp. 333-342.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/41396796?uid=16234336&uid=3739864&uid=2&uid=3&uid=67&uid=19073&uid=62&uid=3739256&uid=5911688&sid=21101961802283.


“Idealism and Insanity.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://www.uiowa.edu/~smack/archive/smack1.1/ess1.htm.


“Deep South Magazine – Southern Food, Travel & Lit » Blog Archive » Anatomy of a Southern Belle.” Accessed April 29, 2013. http://deepsouthmag.com/2011/06/anatomy-of-a-southern-belle/.


“CMT : News : Country Music Sales Up in 2012, Nielsen SoundScan Reports.” Accessed May 2, 2013. http://www.cmt.com/news/country-music/1699779/country-music-sales-up-in-2012-nielsen-soundscan-reports.jhtml.



“Killing Me Softly” with His Words

Some notable sentences (at least for me) from Kiese Laymon’s piece, “How to: Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America: A Remembrance”, even the title is great.

“Mama takes it personal when she realizes that I realize she is wrong.”

“I’m a waste of writing’s time.”

“I’m not the smartest boy in the world by a long shot, but even in my funk I know that easy remedies like eating your way out of sad, or fucking your way out of sad, or drinking your way out of sad, or smoking your way out of sad, or lying your way out of sad, or slanging your way out of sad, or robbing your way out of sad, or gambling your way out of sad, or shooting your way out of sad, are just slower, more acceptable ways for desperate folks, and especially paroled black boys in our country, to kill slowly ourselves and others close to us in America.”

“Some days, Gunn and I save each other’s lives just by telling and listening to each other’s odd-shaped truth.”

“I’m a walking regret, a truth-teller, a liar, a survivor, a frowning ellipsis, a witness, a dreamer, a teacher, a student, a joker, a writer whose eyes stay red, and I’m a child of this nation.”

“Lots of times, we’ve taken turns killing ourselves slowly, before trying to bring each other back to life.”

High Stakes

We did not have class on Friday to discuss the “stakes” of writing. So, I’m going to take a gander and assume that “stakes” means the risks that the writer took with the piece – but I am not exactly sure.  It’s either that or Buffy the Vampire Slayer holding a wooden pointed stick. I’m hoping for the latter but I’m gonna go with the first thought.

Today’s piece was The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders. It is a great piece that criticizes the media in the United States. I think the biggest stake that the author takes in this piece is putting himself out there by the nature of his arguments. The overarching theme is the media and how it makes us stupid, but the examples he uses may be considered controversial. Towards the beginning of the essay he talks about 9/11 and the war that followed. Saunders says on page four, “by this time our national discourse had been so degraded – our national language so dumbed down- that we were sitting ducks”.  I just think it’s funny because he’s calling everyone stupid and saying that we are all mere followers of the guy with the megaphone. I don’t necessarily disagree with him and do find it humorous, but more importantly I find it bold. The author makes very strong arguments throughout the essay and sets the “stakes” high. On top of all of us being stupid, Saunders also claims that because there is so much stupidity in the world we have become tolerant and accepting of this stupidity. Which again, I don’t necessarily disagree with his agrument but it is another bold statement setting the stakes even higher.

The author gives several reasons as to why this may be. He talks about the megaphone guy, that if someone talks loud enough and makes enough noise they will eventually be followed by others. Saunders also says that our world is profit focused and that we are willing to tell the truth but not enough to make the ratings suffer.  I definitely agree with this. Of course because we are all focused on the money and getting bills to make it rain, we do everything we can to “stay in the game”. One example that the writer used was his educated friend that has a job as a writer that writes mindless stories about Anna Nicole Smith and likes only to avoid delivering pizzas again. People are afraid of falling backwards, with the mentality “don’t hate the player, hate the game”.

How will I set up the stakes for my essay? I suppose by taking risks and putting my own opinion out there, even if it may not be the popular one. I hopefully will be able to give solid examples like Saunders to defend my points. His arguments are also clear and well-stated. This would be a valuable trait for my essay to have because it makes the work easier to understand and follow. Biggest thing though put the stakes high because, “if you aim for the moon and fail, at least you’re among the stars”, right? – or something cheesy like that.

Vocal Vowell

There is a whole lot of rule-breaking going in the Sarah Vowell’s The Wordy Shipmates. First and foremost she starts the book off by basically saying that she learned nothing in history class in school. Instead, she learned the majority of her historical knowledge from watching American sitcoms and cartoons. She gives many examples including The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, Mr. Ed, and The Simpsons. My favorite was when she talked about an episode of The Happy Days in which she reveals that in reality, the Fonz was the person who gave us the great American tradition of Thanksgiving. I think that this is what sets her essay part from others because she applies “modern” examples to “old” history. The author uses the sitcoms and in another part she uses her real life experiences to relate it back to history. At one point she talks about the song “Ten Little Indians” and when she first realized what it actually meant. I think examples like those really stuck with the reader. Also, I just think it’s really cool because people always say that history repeats itself and everything is connected and this is made clear through her examples. I had some, “well whatd’ya know?!” moments, which is always nice.

I also enjoy her use of sarcasm and humor. It makes the topic of history, which at times can be dry and boring, interesting and fun. I liked the part when she was described the Massachusetts Bay Colony Official Seal. The seal shows a Native American sporting a loincloth and holding a bow and arrows, and it reads, “Come over and help us”. I never knew this before reading the essay and Vogel talks about how the seal has also been used throughout history since then. Her tone is super sarcastic and therefore fantastic. I like that the author does not seem afraid to hold back, she simply tells history as see views it and, at least for me, it does not come off as too much.

Vowell uses a lot of quotes and references, which is good because it makes her seem like she actually knows what she talking about. I’m no history buff, so for all I know she could have been making up that episode about Pilgrim Fonzie on The Happy Days and I would never know. But the fact that she uses quotes and references to back up her work makes me not question her, and I can happily envision the Fonz in a pilgrim outfit with little difficulty.

Another rule that I think the author breaks in this essay is the traditional essay flow. This essay flows, but it is not a clear path. It’s more like your windy country crick. I feel as though she uses the same references a lot and pulls from many different sources at different times. I don’t know…it just feels really jumpy to me. As a reader the jumps kept me on my toes, but I think I would have enjoyed even more of her great examples. I don’t know if I would aim to use this type of flow in my own essay, but I can still appreciate the creativity. We need to shake things up and break the rules everyone once in a while or else all our essays be would be boring and fun-sucking.

The Price Is Exact

I read TV’s Crowning Moment of Awesome by Chris Jones in Esquire magazine. The essay was really interesting. I think one of the things that made the essay so great was that is about The Price is Right -seriously, though. It is the longest running game show in history and it’s an American tradition. If you’re home sick from school or you’re taking a personal day from work – what do you do? You watch The Price Is Right, that’s what you do! Choosing this topic for an essay in Esquire was interesting because it’s something that every American knows and can relate to.

Along with the topic, the essay itself flows very well. It starts out with a detailed description of Terry Kniess and his typical American home. Everything seems completely normal. You read the description of his t-shirt that he wore the day of the “crowning moment”. You also learn about the couple’s beloved dog that sadly passed away. It all seems so normal, but then you get to the part about how Terry is kind of a math genius and can count cards and basically hustle casinos. It then becomes apparent that is not your typical story. I also love the part when it all suddenly becomes dramatic with introduction of Ted Slauson. Which contestant is lying!? The world may never know. The descriptions in the essay are vivid and enjoyable as well; you can easily picture yourself there.

Also, the length of the piece was appropriate. I have to admit that I have trouble getting through long essays, even if they are well written and interesting. I think this length was just right and I wasn’t fidgeting halfway through waiting for it all to be over. This is something that I hope to transfer to my essay for other antsy readers like myself.

I think the users of Longform likely enjoyed the creativity and flow of this essay. It’s about a historic moment on the longest running TV show of all time that was completely overlooked. The flow of the essay is smooth and overall it is very well written. It also made Drew Carey look like an ass, which is something that we can all appreciate.

Consider This…

First and foremost, I’d like to begin this post by saying that I am a proud vegetarian. I don’t mean that in a boastful or condescending way, though it likely feeds into what one of my steak-eating, rib-devouring, and seafood-loving friends says about vegetarians. His line is something like, “How can you tell if someone is a vegetarian or not? – They’ll tell you”. What I mean by starting off the post in that way is that because I’m a vegetarian Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace really resonated with me. I was surprised and happy to learn that a non-vegetarian was taking a stance for animal rights on the rather unusual platform of Gourmet Magazine.

The essay is written very well. I enjoyed the points that the author brought up, but mostly I appreciated his honesty. Wallace’s honesty and willingness to see the other side is what really sold the work for me. On page seven the author disputes his own beliefs and biases, willingly admits that he is not a vegetarian, and that he could be preaching a double standard. But he clearly puts all of this out in the open, and I feel this strengthens his argument because he addresses the other side ahead of time.  

There are many strong aspects of Wallace’s essay but one that is done extraordinary well is the layout of the piece. The author is writing for a gourmet culinary art magazine in which the readers are expecting an article on how wonderful they will likely find the Maine Lobster Fest with its World’s Largest Lobster Cooker. Instead, Wallace decides to tackle the other side and write about how the readers may not find the MLF wonderful at all. He starts the essay by painting a mental picture of the festival with just a smidge of disapproval and the reader begins to understand that this essay may not be a raving review. The author then moves into the description of the lobster and the history of its consumption. The history is quite interesting and it is clear to the reader that the author has done a lot of research. He goes on to talk about how the Maine natives don’t seem so keen on the festival, and talks about the aged “hippy” PETA protesters presence there. Wallace then starts to dip into his main argument and talks about pain and how humans, animals, and debatably lobsters feel it. Next comes the part about cooking which the readers of Gourmet Magazine would likely be the most interested in. But again, this is not the typical Gourmet essay and Wallace very vividly describes the ways in which lobsters can suffer when “prepared” or cooked. He ends the essay with several thought-provoking questions, which I imagine (well, I hope) left a large impact on the Gourmet readers.  

I thought that the essay flowed very well, and each point that the author brought up seemed relevant and tied in with pervious points. This made the essay easy to understand, easy to read, and impressionable. As I stated before, along with the flow, the authors willingness to admit his own biases and areas that he was not an expert validated his argument in my eyes.

On a personal note – I hope that the essay really made the readers of Gourmet, the attendees of the festival, and everyone think and actually “consider the lobster”.

Creativity Is Key

I really loved the video that I watched for this assignment. I loved it so much that immediately after I went on Amazon and purchased the speaker’s book that he mentioned in the video.  I spent twenty minutes listening to Sir Kenneth Robinson of England speak about the connection (or lack thereof) between creativity and education system throughout the world.  His point was the way we currently teach and the subjects that we emphasize kill creativity. In his view,  we would rather slap a fidgety child with a label of ADD, give them pills, and tell them to pay attention than realize that some children may need to focus on other  nontraditional subjects.  Anyone that has an interest or an investment in education should take the time to hear his appeal.  

I loved the speech itself and the points that Robinson made, but I also enjoyed the way in which he presented them. He did not have a PowerPoint or any other presentation tools. Instead he simply stood in front of the audience and spoke. But the way he did it was so craftily done that  it felt as if you were just having a conversation with him. He used a lot of humor and personal stories which made the topic seem very real and relatable. I was impressed with his ability to hold the audience’s (and my own) attention. I listened very intently to the things he had to say and it left an impression on me.  Clearly, as I stated before I purchased his book directly after seeing the video. What is even more impressive is that the speaker has a condition that inhibits his ability to fluidly walk. Usually for me, when I watch a speaker I am able to pay better attention when the speaker is actively involved and moves around during their speech. But this didn’t matter with Robinson because he was such a gifted speaker. Instead of his legs, he used his hands and facial expressions to be actively involved in his speech.

Our group could definitely adapt traits from Robinson’s speech into our presentation.  In an indirect way his message applies to our project, but I think we would benefit more from practicing his public speaking skills. Using humor always helps to lighten the mood and make the situation feel more comfortable; this is something that we could try to do. We could also remember that one doesn’t have to be overly active when speaking. Using gestures and facial expressions could really add to our presentation without looking like we’re trying too hard. Also, the most important aspect is that we do not have to hide behind the presentation tools. Robinson simply spoke and did a great job, so we don’t always have to rely on the Prezi to get our point across. Keeping these points in mind, I think we can create a really awesome presentation in hopes that it won’t be god-awful and boring for the audience.

Check it out: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

Pixar Perfect Storytelling

I read the Presentation Zen entry about Pixar Studios filmmaker Andrew Stanton’s TED talk. The entry is titled The storytelling imperative: Make them care! The entry includes the link to Stanton’s actual TED presentation and without a doubt it’s worth the twenty minutes of your time. The filmmaker is a gifted public speaker and an even more talented storyteller. (After all, he does work for Pixar). The audience watches him like a hungry puppy watches a little kid eating cake. What is great about Stanton’s speech, and the TED talks in general, is that the filmmaker offers advice and invites us into the world of his storytelling success.

Stanton discusses his eight key points for storytelling success. The point he stresses the most is “making the audience care”. He challenges you with the question why the audience should be invested in your story. Stanton credits this as being the most important aspect of recounting.  The filmmaker says that there is no really good way to do this but the most important thing is to always craft your story with your audience in mind through their likes and emotions. The remaining key points that the speaker makes are to make a promise from the beginning that the story will be worth their time, don’t be overly obviously with your point by leaving some room for interpretation, there should always be change and a building of antici…pation, the theme should be clear and “infused with wonder”, and lastly you should include yourself and personal experiences in the story. Folks, if you remember and introduce these eight key points you too can be the life of the party by making your stories the best stories. Your story about that time your 80 year old grandma tired Just Dance will always be a hoot.

Stanton’s eight points for successful storytelling is definitely a useful tool for our group’s project.  Our project is an e-book written as an oral history. The whole entire point of our project is to tell stories and have the audience care about what we have to say. His points tie in very well with the depth of our project but perhaps more importantly with the presentation of our book. We decided to mimic a book signing for our concept and this will likely include a reading.  All of Stanton’s points will be very useful for the reading, especially the one about being “infused with wonder” cause that’s what I want our book and presentation to be. I also think that the Pixar pro’s points can also be adapted to public speaking in general.  Every public speaker wants their audience to pay attention and actively listen to them. We could ensure that by catering our presentation to our audience and to our readers. Our group could use these points throughout our entire presentation and “book-signing” and then hopefully it won’t suck.

“If At First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try, Again!”

As usual, Shirky makes important points in his book Here Comes Everybody and chapter ten is no exception. The chapter is basically about how failure can be a good thing. How can failure be a good thing? Why, because it teaches you lessons of course! Or according to Clay, it makes the risk of failure the next time smaller; especially when you’re dealing with a large amount of people (Clay’s favorite thing to talk about). Personally, I found the “lowering the cost of failure” section the most boring and difficult to read. This is not to be taken personally; it was because I found it to be super technical and I am probably the least techie person in the history of ever. I know two technical terms and they are Microsoft and Apple. 

I deduced that the section was mainly about Lexis – not Lexis that’s a car – it’s about Linux which is apparently some software thing that’s super important but I had never heard of. But Linux is cool because it was essentially created by a bunch of people coming together to create something awesome. Dare I say, like our own group projects? I believe the point that Shirky was trying to make was that because so many different people were working on the program, it made the idea of failure seem less threatening because if the program failed the blame would be on a large group of people versus on one individual. I agree with this and I think you can clearly see the example in things like Wikipedia. Plus from personal experience, I know it often feels safer taking a risk when someone else is taking the risk along with you. For example, if you decide to participate in a limbo contest in front of a bunch of strangers, you feel better when your best friend agrees to participate too. I think this can definitely be applied to our group projects. We’re all working on the project together and at the end all four of our names will be on it and that makes it all feel a little less stressful because if it’s absolutely wretched all the blame can’t be placed on one person. Thus, my friends, it makes failure cheaper and something that us broke college students can afford.

My favorite part of the section was the part about community and how the author and the engineers from AT&T argued over technical support. That part I understood well and it made me smile. It’s nice to think that there are people in the world willing to give their time and knowledge (for free!) for the benefit of others that are equally passionate about something.  Again, I think we can spin this right back ‘round to our group project. All four of us are dedicating our time and energy into creating something unique in an area that we are all interested in. I think it is important for us to keep this thought in sight and to remember that giving peoples travel stories the chance to be heard and creating research through them is something awesome and could potentially put a smile on someone’s face just like the AT&T story did for me. We should also remember that TK Zine was created in only 48 hours…

Just Be Human and Collaborate Nicely

Evan Rosen brings up many great points about group collaboration in his article Creating Collaboration Takes More than Technology. I think the most interesting point that he makes relates to culture. Not culture in the sense of your heritage and where you come from, but rather the atmosphere that you create. Group dynamic and organizational culture are both extremely important for collaboration. To moi his point makes perfect sense because if someone doesn’t feel comfortable within an organization or a group they typically do not give their fullest and the whole entity suffers. It’s also not reaching its fullest potential, which creates a negativity which can be hard to shake.

Rosen states that formality is a large hindrance to collaboration because people feel that they need to stay within the lines and can’t voice their opinions. The author says that this formality can be reduced simply by the leadership habitually interacting with the workers. Which makes perfect sense because if I would see my boss or my boss’s boss on a regular basis around the office, I would feel much more comfortable voicing my ideas or concerns and would likely feel more motivated to perform.  The concept of culture is very important in our own group project for the same reasons. While there is not a designated “leader” of our group it is super important that everyone feels comfortable voicing their ideas and opinions and feels that they are valued. Having a solid group dynamic is the only why that we will be able to successfully collaborate and create a stellar project.  The idea of presence and interaction is also crucial. We all should feel like we’re equally contributing to the project and we should be interacting with one another on a regular basis. As Rosen states interaction lessens formality and low formality creates a comfortable group culture. I can personally attest to this, our group has had many good discussions about topics outside of our project. It was really nice to get to know the other members.  I feel comfortable in the group and would not hesitate to express my opinion whilst collaborating.

Rosen says that “value creation” is the main goal of collaborating and is what makes collaborating so appealing. Based on our group experiences thus far, I couldn’t agree more. When more than one mind comes together you inherit a glut of new ideas and ways of thinking. It’s fabulous because you’re able to create something marvelously unique and see things in ways you wouldn’t have before. That is how the idea of our project came about; we started out with the very broad idea of travel. Through collaboration and establishing a good group dynamic our idea morphed into something splendid that we were actually excited about working on. Win – collaboration at its finest!

Overall, I like the whole point of Rosen’s article that working well one another is so much more than having technology. It’s much more simple and basic; it’s a human thing. He brings the focus back to people in the simplest form by creating a positive environment and thence a positive group culture. Through my experience with my current group and others previously, I can definitely say that’s all it takes. Be less formal, talk to one another, have fun, and collaborate.