Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Blog 12 State of contemporary america

The website I have chosen is the American video site youtube. While this might not be an obvious answer I believe that it is a good symbol of the contemporary United States. The fact we have used it so much in previous blog posts shows what a powerful a tool it has become. Within reason you can more or less upload whatever you want on there. It is a great example of freedom of speech in America which I believe is one of its greatest strengths. It played a large part in Barak Obamas election campaign in 2008 and many others have used it to send their own messages and opinions on the state of the world. It has also allowed many ordinary people to become famous and successful. This is also a recuring theme in America. That one can start with little and end up with lots. Youtube has certainly helped many people achieve that ambition.


I have chosen the Nation Rifle Association as the website that most of all typifies the contemporary state of America. The NRA are dedicated to protecting America's second amendment rights allowing citizens to legally own fire arms for their own purposes. On the website they quote from a speech George Stephanopoulos gave saying "Let me make one small vote for the NRA. They're good citizens. They call their Congressmen. They write. They vote. They contribute. And they get what they want over time." This statement to me symbolizes that members of the NRA aren't lunatic psycho's that just go around shooting up where ever they feel, its that they are concerned citizens who's only agenda is to protect themselves and their families by fighting and protecting their constitutional rights. If anything this statement shows that members of the NRA are more concerned for their country as they are so involved in politics and by keeping in touch with their congressmen and voting they represent the proportion of Americans who will vote for what changes or not they want to see in their country. I think this is a really interesting website and there's a lot of information on it about the kind of work that goes into protecting American second Amendment rights. I feel this website typifies America because a general view in America is preserving the peoples rights of the constitution as that is what America was founded on.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Contemporary America

I have chosen this website for my final post. It is a live count of the illegal aliens in America, amongst other figures. I think this website represents contemporary America the most because 21st century America has become focused upon immigrants (legal and illegal) and how they have changed and will change the country. Contemporary America has altered the national character because of immigration, the workforce has been altered because of illegal immigration and the media has had to be altered because of immigration.

This counter refers only to illegal immigration- and the speed the counter goes up at is shocking! It really highlights the problem contemporary America has with illegal immigration. The figures that define 'other than Mexican' immigrants is perhaps most important to contemporary America. It suggests that most illegal immigrants are Hispanic, and this is thus why there have been new names created for America, such as Mex-america. It is the immigration that is altering the national character most. As a figure below shows, there are an increasing amount of illegal immigrants in the schooling system- which has lead to debates over the national language and how history should be taught.

This illegal immigration, which is what is being counted has dramatically changed the economics of the workplace. America can now pay illegal immigrants less than minimum wage, and treat their workforce how they like- because as the counter suggests, there is always someone ready to take their place if a complaint is made. I think this is shocking- and America should treat all humans equally if their constitution and ideals are to stay strong. None the less, it is interesting to see the continuous influx of illegal immigrants into America- and it gives people such as myself a visual representation of how dire the situation in America is. This counter for many America politicians should pose a real problem- do they shut the golden door to America, or leave it open and allow this number to keep increasing?

What is most interesting is why these immigrants flee to America? There is so much press regarding the sub-standard of living and life these illegal immigrants have to endure, so it makes one wonder why it continues. But the answer is simple, it is the idea of the American dream which is driving the illegal immigration in America!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Relationship of China & the US.

The website I found is a little out of date, but I thought it would be interesting, to look at how far or the progress made between China and American relations in comparisson to now. The piece of material I focused on was an interview of Wang Yizhou, Vice-director of  the Institute of World Economics & Politics under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The interview was carried out just after former President Bush, visited China back in 2002. During the interview, its clear from China's view that both them and the USA understand their relationship isn't based mainly on  a fraternal foundation but based on a mutual beneficial interests especially in regards to economic gains that both countries will receive in terms of  an increase trade.

Blog 11 China and the USA

The article above was written during Hu Jintau's state visit to the USA in 2011. The fact that the Chinese president is visiting the USA already signals the improvements between Americas relationship with China. With both countries now holding a great deal of political and economic influence they have been forced into a fairly uneasy relationship. As the article points out there are still significant ideological differences between the two countries. Certainly America still feels uneasy about Chinas human rights record and this was raised at the summit. The article points out that a third of the nations economy comes from these two countries. Both countries want this relationship to work. But it is still very complicated.

Relationship of America & China

This is an article from USA today discussing the relationship between America and China, the relationship is described as one that as they are “the two most powerful economies on earth cannot long continue to thrive without each other”. The article states “China is here to stay” these statements indicate that both countries need each other to excel in the world and they are in it for the foreseeable future. Even though the United States wouldn't be where it is today without China the article states that China has to come to terms with the fact that they “never will replace the United States” as a world superpower. This is due to the issues China is dealing with such as human rights. The article states that “both countries share enough at minimum a common aspiration for peace and prosperity that cooperation makes far more sense than a struggle”. This again relates to the difference within both countries and not letting issues they are both dealing with at home interfere with the work and policies they agree upon. The article also states that China will never over take the US because of how each country treats and spends on it military. “China spending between one-seventh and one-fifth of what the United States does on defence, our security is assured well into the future. Our fighting force is the biggest and most expensive — perhaps even the best — the world has ever known.” this shows that the US feel the need to have a larger and better military than any other country, not just China, to remain on top. This could be seen as a fear the United States has that they have to always be on guard for a foreign attack especially after 9/11 also it could be seen as a threat to other countries that they would want to be on the right side of the US because they have the advantage of having a bigger and stronger defence than any other country. As China holds most of the United States debt so it makes it an even more important issue for the United states to have a positive relationship with China.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chinese and US relations

The item i have chosen is an article about the current tour of the US that the Chinese Military Chief begins in the week. I think this is an important article as it contains imfomation about the current relationship between the two countries, and it shows an interesting outlook for the relationships. This article is found on the website for Fox News, and therefore is as always very opinionated.

The article states that "Pentagon officials hope the visit, which begins Monday in Washington, will mark a fresh beginning for a prickly, start-and-stop relationship between the two military behemoths of the Asia-Pacific region." This is focusing on on the military relationship- which is hoped to improve. However this article doesnt take into account the other factors that will effect the US and Chinese relationship such as political and cultural factors. Also the unstable past and the current competition that is found for the struggle to be the worlds superpower in the 21st century.

Whilst the article does show a sense of positivity, there is no denying the element of threat that is shown towards China in this article. America it is claimed feel threatened by the continually increasing power of the Chinese military and perhaps the trip is to enable America, as the saying goes 'to keep your firends close but your enemies closer.'

The continued stress between the relationship is also picked upon when it is argued "This week's visit was delayed due to Chinese anger over the Obama administration's approval in January 2010 of a $6.4 billion weapons sale to Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims as its own territory and that the U.S. is committed to arming." To me, i think this material and this article suggest that the visit is simply for show, and that behind the scenes feelings and attitudes will not have chnaged at all. The material in the article draws upon all the negative points in the history between the Chinese and American relations.

As always, the article is biased and supports America continually, when it is says "China's unwillingness" and "China refused to believe that the 1999 bombing of its embassy in Belgrade was accidental." To me this article fails to give China a fair argument- believing America is obviously the innocent, sleeping giant that is it always portrayed as and that China is the agressor, and is always doing the wrong thing. The Chinese are of course, seen by many as Amoral, but the US have their faults aswell, especially with regards to military action and this is not picked up on in the article.

The article, was always going to have a bias towards America, yet being about and based on the Chinese visit to America one would have assumed that the author would have made more of an effort to give China a fair assesment.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Blog 10 9/11 tribute

This is an independently made video that was posted on Youtube to pay tribute to those effected by the events of September 11th 2001. It uses images from the attacks as well as those in mourning as a result. There seems to be a focus on the emergency services that tried to save people on that day. The use of "How to save a life" by the Fray is very suitable for such a video.

The final quote in the video is "We will live our lives as Americans". This is highly symbolic and helps define what it means to be an American. They will remain strong in the face of adversity.

9/11 Tribute

This video I have chosen is of President Bush speaking on the night of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. This video shows a collection of pictures of the hijacked planes hitting the Twin Towers, them on fire and the Towers falling. There are also pictures of the American flag and the Eagle with a tear falling from its eye. The message Bush is giving to America in his speech is “Our country is strong” and that “America was the target of a terrorist attack because we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world and no-one will keep that light from shining.” Here Bush is stating that America are being victimised for its ideals and beliefs but that will not stop what America has come to be it will only make America stronger.

Bush also speaks about how things will still go on, people will return to work, “the functions of our government will continue,agencies in Washington [..] will be open for business tomorrow and our financial institutions remain strong and the American economy will be open for business as well.” This is a message to America and to the world that even though they have suffered this terrorising attack it wont stop or destroy America from being all it can be.

President Bush then goes on to say investigations into who is responsible are already in place and they will be brought to justice and that he will “make no distinction between the terrorist who committed these acts and those who harbour them” This message tells Americans that the people responsible for they attacks will be caught and justice will be served. To finish off his speech Bush quotes from the Bible Psalms 23 “even though I walk through the valley of shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me.” this is a message to the American people that they dont have to fear what has happened because they have the power of God to help them through it and dealing with the tragedy of 9/11.

'Crash' Film Review

The film Crash is based on racism and discrimination within contemporary America, its focus is on the stereotypical types of people from different cultural backgrounds and how they all react and work together within the American society. The opening of the film we hear Don Cheadle's character saying “Its the sense of touch, In any real city you walk, you know, you brush past people, people bump into you, in LA nobody touches you, we're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.” I think what Haggis is trying to get at here is that people are so afraid of each other that they keep their distance because they don't really know who people are and what they are about because of these built up perceptions they have of people which have grown and infested within society and the only time people do come into contact with each other is when they are forced to collide by a series of consequence of their own actions.

We see different types of racism and discrimination throughout the film, which are based on the personal views of the characters and their appearances as well as their voices and names. The language that is spoken and used is a key element in the film, one early scene we see a Persian man in a gun store attempting to purchase a gun after the store owner asks if what the Persian man is say is the closest he can come to English they begin to argue and the store owner jumps in and assumes that he is maybe a terrorist and tries to blame him or his people for 9/11 by saying “you're liberating my country and I'm flying 747's into your mud huts and incinerating your friends”. This shows the anger and hatred some American's may have for people of different cultures because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Later we see two young African-American guys (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges & Larenza Tate) leaving a cafĂ© and they are discussing racial discrimination when Ludacris' character notices that a white woman clings to her husband when she sees the two black guys walking towards them, he then states that if anyone should be scare it should be those two as they are surrounded by white people and the “trigger happy LAPD”. The two young men then pull guns out on Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser's characters and steals their car. We later see that the car-jacking has affected Bullocks character when a Mexican-American locksmith comes to their house to change the locks she tells her DA husband that she wants the locks changing again because the guy the company sent is a gang member who is going to sell their key to his friends. This is based on her fear of what has happened earlier that night and what the locksmith looks like as she describes him with the tattoos and the clothes he wears and how he wears them. We later learn though that the locksmith is a family man and he moved neighbourhoods so his family would be safer.

We also see how people mistake other people's nationalities and ethnicities based on their looks. The DA husband (Fraser) talks with his employees about a man who he say “looks black” when actually he's Iraqi. Also when Bridges and Tate's characters are driving the vehicle they stole they run over an Asian man who they refer to as a 'Chinaman' and also Cheadle's character never gets his partner's ethnicity right and she has to tell him she's not Mexican and her parents weren't from Mexico. This shows that people are judged on the colour of their skin as well as what they wear.

There's a sense in the film that white people can get away with almost anything just because they are white and they have power, for example the scene with the African-American couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard) are pulled over by the police (Ryan Phillippe and Matt Dillon), one officer shown throughout the film as a racist then sexually assaults the woman and the husband and the other cop just stands there and does nothing. Later we see the cop saves the woman from a car accident and pulls her to safety just before the car blows up. This is when the cop realises how he treats people and starts to feel ashamed and guilty for it.

Everyone in the film is guilty of something, whether it be discrimination, racism or human trafficking. I think the Haggis' aim for the movie was to shoot the character's in the way he did so that it would be easier for the audience to relate to what kind of people they are and what role they play in society and how their actions and discrimination and prejudices affect everyone. Haggis has picked out the key elements of what kinds or racism and discrimination people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis because of their skin colour or their cultural background. Throughout the film we only see the murder of the young African-American (Tate) he is shot by a cop (Phillippe) because he thinks he's is reaching for a gun, through the film we see Phillippe's character not act upon his fears but when he is on his own with a someone of a different race he jumps to conclusions and he kills the kid. Then when he realise he was reaching for a statue figure he dumps his body and burns his car.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Osama Bin Laden Reactions

Osama Bin Laden Reactions

I have chosen to discuss reaction videos to Osama Bin Ladens death for two reasons, the first being that it is the more recent event and as such i have a greater understanding than i did when i was 8 years old. Secondly the reaction videos to Osama Bin Ladens Death are generally people speaking about the event where as most of the 9/11 videos were news footage with music playing.

This firsr video is of an American who has a news show on youtube, i have chosen to discuss this video as it presents a well formulated reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden and partcularly he addresses what this event means to him and America as a nation. he discusses how it has taken 10 years to kill him as well as adressing the countless conspiracy theories. But most importantly he discusses where he was on 9/11 and how he remembers it as a young person. There is also an acknowledgement of the lost lives on both sides which i felt was significant as it displays the dying perception that America is the saviour of the world and can do no wrong.
finally he discusses how the death of Osama really has no effect on whats going on in Afghanistan but is cosmetic victory for America "just in time for a sputtering re-election campaign.

Over all the video shows a balanced an reasoned reaction to the death of Osama.

This second video presents the opposite to the first video, it shows the spontaneous American enlightenment to the fact that Osama is dead. But most importantly it shows how important this news was to Americans as it is probably not the way anyone in Britain reacted to this news. The video mentions how the American dream is still relevant in America and "if you work hard you can do well in America"

this shows how unlike the first video the attitude that America is exceptional, still. The above statement is an indication that he feels this would not be possible in any other country it's the 'only in America' attitude.

Fianlly the video descends into chanting USA, USA over and over, something that reflects what was happening in America at the time this video was made. There is much less awareness to any wrong doing on Americas part, the fact that thousands of innocent people would have died in the lead up to this event is insignificant because this is the victory America needed.

Crash Review

Crash Review
Crash (2004) is a film that deals with stereotypes and racial tensions which are heavily present throughout American society. The film is keen to address and either negate or confirm these stereotypes through its variety of characters and their interlocking stories. Throughout the film we see racists put their prejudices aside and liberals act upon what is almost portrayed as a natural instinct. This is particularly evident when the character of Tom Hansen, a police officer who rejects his partner on the grounds that he is a racist, shoots and kills a young black man because he reached into his pocket. The film portrays this almost as a natural fear as despite all of the police officers attempts to be as fair as possible when it comes down to it he is just as scared of a black man reaching into his pocket as other characters within the film who we deem as racists, particularly Matt Dillon’s character.
The reaction to minorities and the stereotypes that come with their ethnicity is constantly being addressed and either confirmed or denied. For example we have the character Daniel who is a Hispanic father with an honest trade, throughout the film he is portrayed as a good father who is constantly confronted with the social stigma that comes with his ethnicity from both white people and other minorities, such as the Persian store owner Farhad who is perceived by others as an Iraqi. This is a significant as it demonstrates how racial stereotypes are acknowledged by all ethnicities, how even the persecuted can be prejudice based on race. Farhad is an interesting character as he is suspicious and paranoid of almost everyone in the new land he is in, his character is in essence an acknowledgement of how America is a nation where the weak will be taken advantage of, however he takes this to the extreme and it is his determination not to be taken advantage of that leaves him weak and vulnerable.
Whilst Crash is keen to demolish racial stereotypes and does so throughout it is also its rightful acknowledgement of these stereotypes as somewhat accurate that perhaps has caused some of the controversy surrounding the film. Crash is not an anti-racism film, it is simply a depiction and portrayal of how these stereotypes can influence decisions and people’s lives. It is my belief that Crash’s intention was not show how bad stereotypes are but to simply show them and the effects stereotyping has. But at the same time it acknowledges that these stereotypes are not without warrant, something which Ludacris’ character Anthony and his friend Peter reference and discuss rather ironically at the beginning of the film. It is the fact that Crash’s black characters conform to the stereotype the film acknowledges that both makes the film an Oscar winner and stirs up controversy around it. The black characters are gun owning thieves, the Persian man thought of as a terrorist does have an extremist attitude after all the first thing he does is buy a gun and eventually tries to shoot a man. It is the acknowledgement that these stereotypes exist because people do conform to them that essentially defines this film in my opinion.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Crash Review

The film Crash is effective in portraying a contemporary American Society. It is interesting the way the characters within the film interact- and they re-enforce whilst at the same time proving some stereotypes completely untrue. It shows, and this is visible from the ending of the film that no matter how hard to try to beat a stereotype and prove yourself to follow a different ideology; this cannot always be done. The white police officer continuously proves himself throughout the film, implying he realises that in the new American identity there is no room for racism or gender subordination. However the ending of the films suggests that despite trying your best to ignore stereotypes, it is harder than it first appears. Sandra Bullocks character again shows this whilst walking past the two black men. Crash is successful in showing how hard stereotypes are to break and how hard it is to change the dominant ideology in America.
Crash shows many different characters from different walk of life- and i think the film portrays some more positively than others. For example, the African-American characters are shown speaking full English and assimilating into the white culture- it is suggested that the director character doesn't know what it is like to be black. However, the Asian-Americans are portrayed in a different light (perhaps this is because they are the 'new' immigrants and society hasn't adapted and embraced them fully yet.) The family whom own the shop struggle to understand the American language and cannot communicate outside of the family. This lack of communication leads to a shooting- which could of potentially lead to a death. These immigrants are portrayed as a problem in American, and the China men aren't seen as people, but property to be sold. This takes America back to the 17th century when African-Americans were pieces of property.
Overall Crash deals with many identities in American society, and some are shown to be more adapt to life in America than others. Ethnicity is the main component of the film, producing the racism and the stereotypes. But as well as dealing with ethnicity, it touches upon many other aspects of American life such as the Civic religion, family, religion and gender. Therefore Crash is a film that shows contemporary America not only at its best (with the integration of black and white people, women and men) but also at it's worst, with positions of power being abused and immigrants facing discrimination and hardship because of their lack of understanding of the American culture.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

9/11 commerative video

This is a video from YouTube and the video itself creates a sense of unity amongst all Americans- and the amount of views the video has had also implies that America comes together in such harsh times.
The images create a sense of despair and shock in America and truly represent the American tragedy. They are of crying and distraught people, who simply cannot do anythning but cry for their countries loss, or even the loss of their family and friends. The continuos image of the American flag is important in this short video as it re-creates the sense of American ideals, and the unity the ocountry has. The colours of the red and blue also distinctly constrast to the dark rubble the flags are being placed in. I think this shows not only respect to the individuals who lost their lives, but also that America is going to fight back and conquer the dark forces that were behind the horrific attack on America. This unity marks a turning point in American history- as it had been at least 10 years since the country united over a common enemy and a war. The phrases such as 'hope' that are clearly shown suggest that America has not given up, and that they will put the people that died that day to rest, whether this by retalitation or not. The video gives america an identity of unity and closeness. The citizens all come together, whatever race, whatever class to join the war on terror. Everyone that died that day and that was affected was seen as American, and 9/11 erased any barriers between minorities and created a common cause for the people of America once more. America is the victim like history has always suggested.
The image at the end of the video re-inforces the American identity and importance of religion in America. The cross emphasises the christian nation that America is and also suggest that god is looking after these people. This is included in the video because religion is a driving force is so many americans lives, and the idea of god taking care of America and those who lost thier lives makes people feel better. God is a guding force in many Americans lives, and will continue to join people together in the aftermath of 9/11.

This is a video i found whilst on YouTube and i just wanted to post it because i think it is a stunning tribute to the victims of 9/11. The horses suggests that all of America is haunted by that day, it is not simply the lives of humans that were changed, but all living things in America felt the impact and the loss of th people, and the building. The music suggests a sense of sadness, and is very moving.
I like the images of the horses bowing and stopping before they even reach New York- it shows a sense of respect and re-enforced the significance of the attack as we look at the altered skyline and the distance the horses travelled just to bow their heads and a pay their respects.
I could not uses the video for the actuall blog task because it is a commercial (aired only once however, so not to make a profit) by Budweiser, and therefore does not truly reflect the citizens horror and anguish on the day of 9/11. But it is a truly moving advert and a good tribute to the 9/11.