Silent Rogue - Blog
 
Samurai Armor
            Samurai have been the traditional fighting force of Japan for centuries. The idea of samurai has pervaded the present day with images of such romanticized feel that it has created an highly legendary connotation behind the warrior class. Sometimes this image has reached us so deeply that we fail to recognize we have any perception of a samurai at all. Often times, we assume that what we see in popular media concerning samurai is fact, but that is where we err. The media has distorted the true image of samurai.

            The truth behind the image stems from their creation centuries ago. They began as simple farmers trying to protect their lands, but eventually transformed and evolved into elite soldiers, only to become obsolete as Japan modernized into the 20th century.

            What is samurai? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes it as a military retainer of a Japanese daimyo practicing the code of conduct of Bushido; the warrior aristocracy of Japan. This definition leads us to ask what Bushido exactly entails. Why were samurai created and, why did they create such romanticized nostalgia in today's world?

            The image of the samurai, in particular, has pervaded our daily lives to such an extent that we do not even notice. There have been numerous films, TV shows, and mini-series made about samurai, including The Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa - 1954), Samurai Jack (Genndy Tartakovsky- 2001-2004), and Shogun (Jerry London – 1980) – not to mention all the novels created as well. While these deal directly with samurai as their subjects, the influence of samurai culture and philosophy can be seen everywhere. One of the most striking examples is the Star Wars series, in which Darth Vader's suit is reminiscent of samurai armor and also in the Jedi training process which is reminiscent of the samurai training process. This fascination is not simply a phenomenon in Japan or even the United States. This fanaticism extends all over the world with places like Britain and other European and Asian countries portraying samurai in their fictions and other works. Not only is the simple image emulated, but the very way of life of the Samurai is held in high regard; Bushido, Seppuku, and many other practices are looked at with great curiosity and also enacted from time to time. To better understand this fascination, we must first turn our attention to better understanding the subject of concern.

            The role of the samurai originated in ancient times when bands of farmers began to come together and align themselves with each other in order to protect their lands. From there, their roles evolved and samurai became more like land proprietors. They were the rulers of the land until about the sixteenth century, when they “exchanged their rural patrimony for residence in the castle town... [and] the institutionalized right to rule society by virtue of their two-sworded status” [1]. What this change did was put samurai under the guidance of daimyos and other higher officials as opposed to no real authority above them before. In essence, it marked the transition of Japanese medieval times into the beginning of the modern era. This metamorphosis, although allowing a great redistribution of wealth, was hurtful to the samurai because they lost many of their privileges and authority in the villages. Conversely, they did gain status in the society, security (both financial and biological), and monetary benefits.

            In 1559, a certain Register, which compiled a list of the samurai's retainers' landholdings, was created. With this information, the government was able to formulate a pseudo-army like structure, and with the changing profile of warfare (such as the need for more soldiers and the advent of modern technology like the rifle) there came a need for a larger and larger amount of soldiers who would fall into rank and file. By the second half of the century, battles had already shifted from the glory of a single samurai and his prowess to well-organized fights that did not allow for independent glory. This setup of battles made it easier to distinguished between lower-level samurai and higher-level samurai. The role of the samurai had continued its evolution and it would not stop here.

            This distinction eventually led to the formation of the four classes division of the samurai based on geographic region. However, this did not help simplify the idea of samurai. In fact, it became even more complex to tell who was considered a samurai. While samurai were thought of as those living in the castle towns previously, the increased number of samurai could not be contained within the castles, so there were numerous samurai in the villages. These warriors were considered the lower samurai while the castle warriors were the higher samurai. This distinction is important only because historians have divided these warriors as such and because it allows for an easier method of understanding later developments.

            During the Tokugawa era, the two divisions of samurai became the retainers of the Shogun (the higher level samurai) and the retainers of the daimyo (the lower level samurai). The Shogun retainers were banner-men and housemen while the daimyo retainers were lower and were not granted audience with the shogun. The difference between the two can be put simply (although not completely accurately) as soldiers of the army under the Shogun being the higher level, and the lower level being personal guards and hired hands for the daimyos, or feudal lords. This separation, as well as the developments of the political structure in Japan, eventually led to the slow downfall of the warrior class. However, that was a long way coming, and the samurai occupation would have to endure yet more changes.

            The samurai class transformed from its military position into a more administrative position, as there was no wars occurring at the time. They had evolved from the small-time fighters to intelligent bureaucrats. As Nippon prospered during this era, so did the economy. However, this effect towards the economy soon resulted in grievances from the samurai (especially the ruling samurai). Traditionally, it was believed that the samurai's disapproval resulted from the increasing poverty they felt. While this point has its validity, one study takes into account what it exactly means to have increasing poverty. This study suggests an analogy where the samurai have a fixed income rate in a growing economy, in effect “providing higher real incomes to others within the economy” [2]. As expected this led to discontent amongst the ruling samurai class and became one of the causes of the eventual downfall of the Tokugawa.

            Other sources of discontent include “political conflicts over national policy within the ruling Tokugawa coalition of daimyo, the spread of formal education and growing respect (at least in principle) for individual ability among the samurai, and the feeling of intellectual isolation... Insecurity of status and feelings of social discrimination in the samurai class may have been another important reason for growing disenchantment with the status quo” [3].

            In 1853, some samurai saw a hope that they would return to their former purpose when Perry arrived, however when later generations looked back upon the preceding events, they understood why “the Meiji state took away [their] swords and topknot” [4]. These samurai could see that the Tokugawa had failed to perpetuate and maintain itself for two reasons: “To perpetuate itself, the Tokugawa would have had to share in the increasing agricultural output, for only then would it have been able to withstand the increasing need for cash in the increasingly monetized commercialized economy. To maintain itself, the Bakufu would have required the loyal support of an economically well-rewarded samurai class. The Tokugawa Shogunate failed on both counts” [5]. In effect, the failures of the regime can be said to draw from its inability to appease its two biggest groups.

            As the Tokugawa faded, Japan was already well on its way to modernizing as a result of Perry. By the end of the Shogunate, they had already acquired multiple western-styled battleships and the army had lost the need for swordsmen. Seeing this need for reform, the Meiji era fostered in an official army (as opposed to the previously exclusive samurai class of soldiers). The transition to the Meiji era was similar to the onset of the Tokugawa because the samurai were once again compensated for their forced change. The samurai lost their prestige, but were monetarily stipened in order to aid their transition to normal citizens.

            The samurai had no problem doing this, as they played an integral part in bringing about the Restoration. They had had enough discontent with the Tokugawa. Unfortunately, this new era left the samurai with no apparent function – they had become obsolete as far as the rest of Japan was concerned. The Meiji government stripped them of their grants, their pensions, their authority, and their special place in society. However, “despite the wholesale deprivation of traditional status and role in these early years, the samurai remained very much a class” [6]. The members of the class, although stripped of everything, could not be stripped of their pride in the fact that they were samurai. As government officials began to recognize this, they came up with the idea to push for samurai involvement in business and industry. “Among the most delicate of the reforms was the disestablishment of... a group that comprised five or six percent of a population of some thirty million" [7].  This plan succeeded as numerous samurai entered the economic force and helped forge a new path in Japanese economy. Former samurai entered the government for work at a great percentage, and other entered law enforcement, education, and military. “And it may be, then, that the rapid transformation of Japanese society in the Meiji era was in large measure achieved because of the tools, training, education, leadership, and experience brought to it by members of the former feudal class” [8].

            A few extreme cases needed more persuasion for them to end their samurai lifestyle, and a special rehabilitation program was designed for these members. “In December of 1871, after limited experimentation, the Meiji government took its first step in formulation of a samurai rehabilitation program when it promulgated the so-called commercial law” [9]. This new law basically decreed that samurai could take up any job that they wanted. Even with these adjustments, samurai did not always have a permanent solution to their financial problems. Many scholars have differing thoughts on the success level of the samurai in the new age. Some argue that the samurai resulted in the success of the Meiji era while others argue that the samurai were unable to adapt to the Meiji era and were lost into the pages of history. In reality, a combination of both is probably true. The samurai were sure to have made an impact in the Meiji times, but there are always exceptions to the rule, and many samurai are sure to have faded into obscurity as failure ensued upon them. In modern days, the effects of the Meiji Restoration are still rippling as Japan has now become one of the world's leading economies.

            While the samurai may have affected the world most in economic implications, there are other areas that were also affected. One such area is the Japanese military, which forms a basis from samurai tactics. This effect deals a lot with the samurai ideal of Bushido. “In its origins Bushido was the moral code of conduct of the bushi (samurai) or military class of pre-modern Japan and the first systematic exposition of Bushido was written in the mid-seventeenth century at a time when the function of the warrior class was changing from that of being strictly military to that of also providing the political, bureaucratic and intellectual leadership in the centralized feudal state being developed by the Tokugawa Shoguns” [10]. While the ideals of Bushido were not completely followed, the Japanese soldiers took inspiration from the code, and used many of its points in their own lives. Certain points such as no fear of death and utmost obedience to superiors were highlighted by the military. These points are still highlighted today.

              Other influences left by the samurai have less profound implications. They include the popular image of samurai. In films, books, and even advertisements samurai have been depicted as mystical figures with superhuman abilities and charm. Much of these images have been romanticized to a grand extent. As a result, the image given by the media has taken on a caricature personification. A very persistent and prominent example of this comes in the form of teenage turtles that fight crime while living in the sewers of America – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. While they are named ninjas,  they  look and act more like a samurai. The creators of the show use the romanticized image of samurai to create a commercial product which can make them money. “Their images sell everything from cookies to dolls, cereal to towels, and their characters make special appearances in shopping malls and in the imaginations of young boys 'Ninja turtle-kicking' their way through elementary school and into the nurses' offices” [11]. The image of the samurai here has been reduced to a tool for economic benefit, and many other such images exist.

            Sometimes the images are negative, as in the crazed evil samurai of old films. Sometimes they are meant for comedy, as in the Saturday Night Live Skit of the Deli Samurai, and yet some are neutral or even positive as in the case of the popular children's cartoon Samurai Jack. There are just two common factors amongst these items: one, they all involve some image of samurai, and two, they are all made for the purpose of economic gain [12].

            In conclusion, the samurai have had an impactful and ever-changing history. They originated from mere farmers and peasants banding together to become an elite warrior class and back to normal citizens. While samurai have usually been at the top of Japanese society, they fell pretty far below during the Meiji restoration. They were looked down during that time by the average citizens, who had been fed up with being dominated by the “elite.” Often times they were spit upon, kicked around, and harassed in many other ways and forced to cut off their top knots. The only way to escape this treatment was to assimilate into the new era by becoming businessmen or government officials of some sort.

            As the samurai were able to escape their harassment, they made a grand impact in the economy by adding to the number of businesses and strengthening the industry with a large addition to the workforce. The most resounding effect left by the samurai in today's society is the economic boon they gave Japan. With their aid, Japan was able to speed into its miraculous growth in the 1800s and enter the age of modern states.

            The samurai also left a mark on the Japanese military by creating a template from which the army could gain ideas and create defenses. While the new constitution of Japan does not allow for invasions, the samurai's Bushido was effectively incorporated in their defense force with each member willing to give his life for complete obedience of the state.

            Probably the most prevalent effect left by the samurai is the popular images that exist. Children and adults are equally captivated by the lore that they have left behind. This is significant as it often influences dealing between the west and Japan.



[1]Birt, Michael P.; “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto”  Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2; The Society for Japanese Studies (Summer, 1985); p. 369
[2] Yamamura, Kozo; “The Increasing Poverty of the Samurai in Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868”  The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 31, No. 2; Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association (Jun., 1971); p. 402
[3]Moore, Ray A.; “Samurai Discontent and Social Mobility in the Late Tokugawa Period”  Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 24, No. ½; Sophia University (1969), pp. 79-80
[4] Birt, Michael P.; “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto”  Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2; The Society for Japanese Studies (Summer, 1985); p. 399
[5] Yamamura, Kozo; “The Increasing Poverty of the Samurai in Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868”  The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 31, No. 2; Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Economic History Association (Jun., 1971); p. 403
[6] Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882”  The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 28, No. 3; University of California Press (Aug., 1959); p. 257
[7] Masatoshi, Sakeda; Akita, George; “The Samurai Disestablished. Abei Iwane and His Stipend”  Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 41, No. 3; Sophia University (Autumn, 1986); pp. 299-330
[8]Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Progress of Japan and the Samurai Class, 1868-1882”  The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 28, No. 3; University of California Press (Aug., 1959); p. 266
[9] Harootunian, Harry D.; “The Economic Rehabilitation of the Samurai in the Early Meiji Period”   The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 19, No. 4; Association for Asian Studies (Aug., 1960); p. 435
[10] Holmes, Colin; Ion, A. H.; “Bushidō and the Samurai: Images in British Public Opinion, 1894-1914” Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2; Cambridge University Press (1980); p. 310
[11] Cobb, Nora Okja; “ Behind the Inscrutable Half-Shell: Images of Mutant Japanese and Ninja Turtles” MELUS, Vol. 16, No. 4, Toward the Multiculture; The Society for the Study of the Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (Winter, 1989 - Winter, 1990), p. 90 
[12] An interesting point to note is the idea of a perfect fighter in Japan and the West. In Japan, the samurai were normal framed men of no particular physical prowess, but in the West, knights were expected to be large strong-muscled men without flaws. The images of samurai these days suggest that samurai need not even be in proper conditioning – such as the blind swordsman Zatoichi – which once again adds to the lure of the samurai.
 
Picture
            What child has not had fantasies of mythic adventures in a faraway land? What child has not felt the joy of immersing oneself into the universe of a wonderful and beautifully told epic? What child? One that has been deprived of true joy in childhood and robbed of the power of imagination. Stories allow us to live our dreams and unlock endless possibilities within ourselves. “It is not true that we have only one life to live; [through stories], we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish” (Hayakawa, S. I.).

            Stories (in films, novels, comic books, television shows, and history books) have captivated my imagination for as long as I can remember, and it is this fascination that developed into my storytelling passion. Ever since I was a child, I have loved not only hearing stories but also telling them. I began to tell tales with the use of hand made comic books. The Alpha Stick Comics Studios (as my two friends and I called ourselves) published well over twenty epic graphic novels of varying lengths, which were all received quite well by our fans. Eventually, though, the studios had to be shut down as high school came into the picture, but that only brought new opportunities to further my creative capabilities.

            In high school I joined the school's television station and produced numerous shorts. I also wrote a few short stories and narrative poems and even started working on four different book series. However, my passion for storytelling did not lie within words on a page or even in public interest videos. My passion for storytelling needed images that could speak a thousand words with numerous emotions and could engulf the viewers into a strange new universe. What I needed was a film crew. With them, I was able to make exceptional films that allowed our group to almost completely sweep the school's film festival. After high school I continued to make films on my own. I created many short clips of varying subjects and entered a couple film festivals. In my spare time, I still try to perfect old films and work on new ones as well.

              It is this burning passion of storytelling and film making that drove my desire to become an cinemartist. However, I didn't just want to be any typical filmmaker. As cliché as it may sound, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to create films that will have some significant impact on the world by following in the footsteps of those like D. W. Griffith, Steven Spielberg, Akira Kurosawa, and even Al Gore. Because of the popularity of films, I believe this effect can realistically occur. I am sure that others will have a story that they must tell the world, or they may want to give their audience an escape from the tribulations of society. These are great reasons to study film, but I want to do more. I want to inspire others to action with my films – to take them away from the dredges of this world while also providing them with a method to experience the true beauty of life.

            I hope to accomplish this goal by feeding off of my philosophy in life. I believe that our lives are all that we have. Even if there is an afterlife, we will not be the same beings, and because we only have such a short time, it should be our goal in life to leave an imprint upon the world. After our deaths, we will be remembered by those that knew us, but after their deaths, we will be left to sink into the sands of time. Thus, it is our priority to leave a lasting legacy. This philosophy is what drives me to excel in everything I do. I can think of no better way to leave a mark than by positively changing the world, and I see no better way to do this, than by creating films that will inspire this change. I realize though, that the tides of the River Time wash away all things – Rome fell; Ozymandias is no more; and even the grand Emperor of China has been dethroned. However, the influence of anything great still exists, and that is what I wish to do – leave some positive influence on the world for ages to come.

            While I know what I want to do, I have not perfected a method of conveying my message. I will sharpen my skills, allowing me to instill emotion and inspiration into my audience, and begin to create works of deep significance and eventually achieve my goals. However, other than my love for recounting grand adventures, who am I really? Words on a page cannot allow you to truly understand someone's character. Even the greatest film ever made could not accurately portray the full essence of any one person. It is with the hope that I may proceed towards that end that I do what I do.

 
Read the first act of my script "Resonance"!

It's about a prodigy doctor who copes with the loss of a past love and comes to acknowledge a budding new one all the while dealing with his grave illness.

It's a tragic romance drama with comedy. Call it a dromgedy. It's amazing. READ IT!

Let me know what you think or if you want to read more!

 
Melies Moon Landing
            Film is a means of presenting one's ideas, thoughts, and opinions. In its advent it was definitely a “new technological means of communication with the potential to reach a truly mass audience.” Film has been used for many purposes, but it can be said that film has been “increasingly deployed to represent difficult and contentious material.” Whether this “contentious material” represents some social commentary or some sort of message or request, film has a great impact on our lives. It has the potential to change the face of the earth. It has, in fact, been used many times to advance the opinions of its creators – and often, very successfully. This success can be attributed to the fanaticism of the many audiences that cinema has gained. These audiences are what allows films to spread their messages. As such, the main focus of most filmmakers has been to gather up the biggest force of loyal viewers, but this is not as simple as it sounds. With each change in cinema comes a change in its viewers. Each new period of film history must “[reconstruct] its spectator in a new way.” This was very evident in the sound era, when possibly, the most drastic change to cinema occurred. 

            Film brings things into familiarity. When we spend a few hours looking at a screen displaying images of people living their lives, we suspend our own existence and place ourselves into the existence of the characters on screen. Even after the film is over, the fact that we transported ourselves into an alternate universe leaves us with imprints of that world and more importantly with the messages contained within, behind, and in the film. With this familiarity, the audience softens up to ideas that come out of the film, assuming them to be real in the universe of the film. Even though viewers consciously believe that they are separating themselves by validating the ideas in only the universe of the film, the audience becomes unaware to the effects that come along with any suspension of beliefs at all.

            Film affects us in more ways than we realize. It can numb us to death, injury, and gore. It can inspire us to great things; it can produce in us such grief that we feel as if we have lost a brother or mother. Film has capabilities to fashion our lives. We seek to imitate that which we see on others, and film contains people that will be seen by multitudes of people. Even those who resist the initial urge to copy the characters will eventually follow suit as the rest of society deems it necessary. However, forming styles and beliefs are not the only effects, as disseminating beliefs comes into play with many films. Film can be used to produce a strong hatred for something or to rise people to take action against something as well – as in the case of Leni Riefenstahl's propagandist films. But why is film so good at these things? Is it that we simply see films as a source of truth and authority that we must follow? Is it that we see film as something familiar that we identify with (even though the familiarity that we feel may be false)? Is it something else?

            Ever since the inception of moving pictures, people have been captivated by the ability to simulate movement and in effect, life. From its very beginning film has had the ability to spread some message – whether it was one of change, hope, revolution, support, or expectations. It can bring about change in the world through social commentary, propaganda, and exaggeration. However, even with its potential for such impact film cannot exist without an audience to view them. It is the audience that allows cinema to be so effective in communicating its ideals and ideologies. Without first, engulfing the audience into its world, film has no hope of reaching its mass potential. Once the viewer is immersed in the universe created by the filmmakers, then only can the message be presented. As the audience become captivated, they also become susceptible and open to the ideas contained within each film, and in effect they take the content of the film and make it a part of themselves. It is no surprise then, that the introduction of sound films drastically changed the way films are watched. There was no longer the physical participation of reading and hearing the voices of other audience members. Those had been replaced with the voices of the characters and sensual participation that created a three dimensional world that could be imagined without ever being shown. No longer were audiences satisfied with what Gorky defined as a “shadow world.” They vied for a more realistic representation of life, which has continued to this day. Exaggerated acting and extreme close-ups took second place to witty dialogue and diegetic sound. In conclusion, film has been evolving from its very creation into a means of mass communication, and one of the biggest mutations in its genetic code occurred when sound-on-film was invented. Film has not been the same since, and it will continue to change as newer and grander methods of exhibition come into existence.

 
It's been a while since I posted here. I've been focusing my attention on my tumblr since it's a much easier process of regurgitating simple and short thoughts that cross my mind or sharing other images and videos that intrigue me. So, it's time to update this blog again:

I've recently been working on a feature length script about a young doctor suffering from cystic fibrosis who has never been able to get over his ex leaving him for his brother. On the surface, it's a story about this man's relationships and his fight against his progressing illness, but on a deeper level, the film is about the unbreakable bond that is forged between two people once they meet, and the connection that lasts even after years of absence.

The protagonist Grant is obsessed with his memories of Richelle and has never been able to forgive his brother for getting together with her. What's worse is that his family supports his brother and his "true love" with Richie. Upon hearing news of their engagement, Grant becomes possessed by the idea of winning Richie back and struggles to make it happen. At the same time, Grant's personal assistant Cheryl, who has been his rock tries to win his heart over. The changing relationships between these characters forms the focus of the film, but the alienation and reconciliation of Grant and his family also takes a strong role.

In essence, I am trying to create a raw human drama where the characters involved learn to accept and appreciate their stages in life and move towards the future with bright eyes and open hearts. One cannot go through this life alone, but trying to focus on gaining the attention of a singular being while ignoring all others around becomes just as detrimental. Humans need balance, and when obsession or lack of closure begins to come into the mixture, the balance is upset, and an unhealthy situation is established.

By the time I finish this script, I am hoping that it will forge a connection between the audience and the individuals on screen and convey a message of hopeful progress.

I think it is because I have such lofty goals for this script that I have been unable to settle on a name. Normally, I have a title decided before I even start writing, but this one has just been difficult. Temporarily, I have settled on the name "Eye to Eye," but I am by no means pleased with it. I have toyed with ides like "Revolving Door," "Serenity, Courage, and Wisdom," "Grant Repose," and horrible ones like "Moving On," "Heartfelt," and "Relating" without being satisfied by any. I guess I just haven't found the perfect words to describe the entire essence of the film. (I'll take any suggestions you have to offer by the way!)

And with that, I must return to this story of love and growth. I would tell you how it ends, but I'll save it for the actual film release. As always, it's been a pleasure...

s_ro
 
Corporate Flag
It's nothing new, but here's some info from the University of Washington:

"Growing numbers of observers contend that the dominant public role of our time has shifted from citizen to consumer. Indeed, respondents in polls typically cite entertainment, shopping, and other consumer activities as their top free time preferences. Commercial media and public entertainment venues offer environments carefully constructed to avoid politics and real world problems that might disturb these consumer impulses. 

As people in global societies increasingly enjoy the freedoms of private life, it becomes increasingly difficult to communicate about many broad public concerns. The personalized society enables people to choose individual lifestyles and identities that often lead to disconnection from politics. Many citizens become receptive only to consumer-oriented messages about tax cuts, retirement benefits, or other policies targeted at particular demographic social groups.

Culture jamming is an intriguing form of political communication that has emerged in response to the commercial isolation of public life. Practitioners of culture jamming argue that culture, politics, and social values have been bent by saturated commercial environments, from corporate logos on sports facilities, to television content designed solely to deliver targeted audiences to producers and sponsors. Many public issues and social voices are pushed to the margins of society by market values and commercial communication, making it difficult to get the attention of those living in the "walled gardens" of consumerism. Culture jamming presents a variety of interesting communication strategies that play with the branded images and icons of consumer culture to make consumers aware of surrounding problems and diverse cultural experiences that warrant their attention.

Many culture Jams are simply aimed at exposing questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture so that people can momentarily consider the branded environment in which they live. Culture jams refigure logos, fashion statements, and product images to challenge the idea of "what's cool," along with assumptions about the personal freedoms of consumption. Some of these communiqués create a sense of transparency about a product or company by revealing environmental damages or the social experiences of workers that are left out of the advertising fantasies. The logic of culture jamming is to convert easily identifiable images into larger questions about such matters as corporate responsibility, the "true" environmental and human costs of consumption, or the private corporate uses of the "public" airwaves.

The basic unit of communication in culture jamming is the meme: the core unit of cultural transmission. Memes are condensed images that stimulate visual, verbal, musical, or behavioral associations that people can easily imitate and transmit to others (see Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, second edition 1989). For example, culture jammers play on familiar commercial memes such as the Nike swoosh, the McDonald's happy meal, or the Coca Cola polar bears to engage people of different political persuasions in thinking about the implications of their fashion statements or eating habits. In one example, a jammer named Jonah Peretti strained the purity of the Nike image by creating an email exchange with a custom Nike web site that refused his request to put the word "sweatshop" on his custom Nikes. This e-mail circulated in viral fashion to a huge population world-wide. As a result of the meme play with a popular icon and the paths through which such messages often travel, Peretti's culture jam made its way quickly into mass media news and culture content. As a result, mass media content became a carrier of questions about the limits of consumer freedom and the fashion statement involving expensive shoes made by child sweatshop labor.

For Kalle Lasn, one of the founders of Adbusters, the best culture jam is one that introduces a meta-meme, a two-level message that punctures a specific commercial image, but does so in a way that challenges some larger aspect of the political culture of corporate domination. One metameme, noted above, is "true cost" which conveys the larger environmental and human costs of products beyond their sales price to the consumer. Another is "Media Carta" which calls for a serious charter to make the public airwaves truly public, and not just a corporate domain. Another is the call to rewrite the corporate "genetic code" so that corporations have less license to become social and environmental predators, and more responsibility to contribute to the well being of society. For example, a TV "subvertisement" produced by Adbusters begins with a series of tobacco executives lying to congressional hearings (the specific product/corporate jam) and ends with the question of whether such corporations should be allowed to exist (the meta-meme). Yet because of the lack of well developed public media rights (the "Media Carta" meta-meme), Adbusters has had little success in getting broadcasters to sell air time for these subvertisements. Most broadcasters reject the ads on grounds that they might contaminate the purity of media environments designed exclusively for communicating commercial messages.

Culture jamming and meme-driven communication offer interesting windows on the transformation of politics and communication in our time. We are interested in studying these developments and learning how they may be useful in striking a balance between commercial values and other human interests in society."

 
Heart
Earlier today, I was at an event for the Children's Hospital of LA, and I had the pleasure and privilege to be inspired by a girl of about 15 who aspires to perform on Broadway. Partway through the event, this girl came on stage to deliver a speech as the other former patients of CHLA had given before her, so I didn't really expect anything profound. How wrong I was. This girl, who has survived multiple cardiac illnesses and numerous operations and procedures, came on stage and delivered a well-crafted speech that was delivered with the finesse of a politician. However, what hit me the most was a single sentence she uttered. It struck me with awe because as I listened to her, I realized the struggle she has had to overcome, and yet she perseveres through it all. I surprised myself in the amount of respect I felt for her - not only because I have never met this girl personally but also because I am not normally a person who jumps to great admiration of another so quickly.

The sentence she uttered was: "Hearts are judged not on the amount of love they can give but on how much they are loved." In the instant that I heard that sentence, I immediately refuted it in my mind. I have always felt that hearts must be judged not according to the perceptions that others have of you. If we try to bend ourselves to the whims of others, where does that leave us? Should we not judge a heart on the amount they care for others? Does that not give them the essence of human decency? Are we expected to succumb to the desires of the exterior if we are to be judged positively? These are the thoughts that entered my mind as I heard her go on about her experiences, ambitions, and hopes.

While I can say for sure that I hold fast to my belief of placing the importance of loving over being loved, I must admit the alternate intrigues me. While the context of the statement by no means indicated such, the idea that judgment is made upon the notion of how much we are loved says a lot. In the eyes of those around us, our value is placed on how much we are loved and how we are praised publicly. It matters very little (and possibly nothing) how much the love we hold in our hearts for others. Let's face it, when was the last time you admired someone for their ability to share and convey love to others? Now, when was the last time you looked up to, admired, praised, or commented on celebrities? While (most/some) celebrities are deserving of their fame, it is not for their ability to love that they are praised. It is because they are loved by others that they are praised even more. It is the mob mentality, and the world is reduced to a generalized drone.

I don't know which side of the equation is heavier, or even if it is an equation, but I hold fast to my opinion of loving surpassing being loved. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just can't justify judging more positively those who are simply loved more over those who have the heart to love with real passion...
 
Bridge
So, I realize this blog has taken somewhat of a depressive turn recently, but I guess I just have a lot on my mind...

Life can take you on some astonishing directions when you really start contemplating yourself. Think of life's journey as a bridge held up by strong columns of ambition, hope, desire, and security. This bridge can be followed with little thought, and it will lead to destiny, but when you start thinking of where you are coming from, where you are headed, why you are who you are, and whether any of it even matters, the bridge begins to split into directions that lead to vast unknown regions enshrouded in foggy uncertainty. Some paths may lead you backwards, some may be dead ends, and some may be difficult to follow, but none will be as perfect as the original, and when you realize that fact, the bridge collapses. The strong foundations holding it up disappear as if they had never existed, and you're left free falling into an endless pit. That queasy feeling in your stomach doesn't go away, and directionless, you are left with nowhere to go but deeper into the darkness that will prove to consume you.

You suddenly realize that you never had anything at all. What motivated you before doesn't motivate you anymore. Your smiles fade in mere seconds, and your body is weighed down by an unseen dark shadow tearing away at your soul - at the very essence of who you thought you were, or who you fooled yourself into believing you were. That strong vision you built up of yourself is suddenly unmasked to reveal a scared, lost little child.

You know, confidence is an interesting subject. It's not hard to convey to others, even if you don't have it. You pretend to be unphased by life's challenges, you brush off everything that could be seen as weakness and move forward without looking back. Of course, this isn't possible without building walls: walls to keep yourself from looking back at the pains of the past, walls to keep your thoughts contained, walls to protect you from every little thing that can and will be tossed in your direction. Unfortunately, these walls are mere illusions for yourself. They won't keep you from being haunted by the past; they won't keep your mind from wandering, and they sure as hell will never protect you from anything. These walls only have one purpose, and that's to fool both yourself and others to believing you are confident.

Too bad it doesn't work... Can people really be deceived as easily as I think they can be? Do they even care enough to notice? Is that why I've lost motivation for everything I ever cared about before? Is that why I feel so fucking isolated from everyone and everything right now? Funny how it just takes a small thing to spark thoughts that have have piled into your mind for ages...

To all those who care, thanks for listening...

And to all those who don't give a shit... FUCK YOU

Happy Valentine's Day

Hug
 
Watch it. That is all.
 
Shame on you; this could be the greatest night of our lives, but you’re going to let it be the worst. I guarantee a week won’t go by in your life that you won’t regret walking out… letting them get the best of you. Now I’m not going home. We’ve come too far, and I’m going to stay right here and fight for this cause.

Your courage might fail you some day, but not today! We draw the line HERE. This far, and no further! I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. We’re going to have to work harder than we’ve ever worked before, but that’s okay. We’ll just come out stronger in the end. If we grit our teeth and show real determination, there’s no way we can fail, and that’s how winning is done!

Believe me when I say that we can break them here, but you have to want it – I mean, really want it. If you want victory, then you have to fight for it! Let’s take it back one inch at a time, and they will know what we can do. Let them see how menacing we are! We are lions; we are bears!

This… is your time! Seize the day; never surrender – victory or defeat – that’s the only way! Who’s with me? Stand! Stand! Don’t let them see you die; stand! Alright… Let’s fly!

And gentlemen, they will know our names across the world when we tell them that they can take our triumphs, but they will NEVER take our heart!

*adapted from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d6wRkzCW5qI