Friday, May 23, 2008

Miss. Mavendorf

I did something today which I thought I would never do. I took a stab at Second Life. My Second Life experience began with a few hiccups though. Firstly, I had trouble registering with Second Life because they were having technical difficulties or something. I had to check back several times to actually create my avatar. Then when I finally did register, I was a little dissapointed with what I found. I was expecting thousands of possibilities for my avatar. But for a basic user like myself, I could choose from only a few. That's why I picked fuzzy-sexy-fox lady, she was the most interesting and wasn't super ugly like the rest of the default female avatars. I named her Jeannine Mavendorf. I chose Mavendorf because it sounded like something from Harry Potter. When I took my first step into Second Life I was a bit scared. I was thrown in a random room with a bunch of strangers, and they were all speaking different languages. One person said, "Hello Jeannine!" But I didn't want to speak to them, so I left. It took me a little while to figure out how to move around, talk, and of course, dance. But from there I went to a Reggae Dance Club, and felt a little more comfortable as Jeannine Mavendorf.

I felt way more at ease in our comfortable classroom setting. I was so much less afraid of being in an online universe with people I knew from class, even though they looked really different...and someone was naked. As for the art displays which were available in our pretty little garden, I also had very high expectations. I was really expecting mind-blowing work. Even though I could never produce anything like the work I saw, I had a completely different vision in my head regarding what we would see. I also think I got too caught up in the whole experience, and was so excited/distracted by my classmates that I didn't get the full effect of the installments. For instance, with "The Raven," it asked me to change the environment setting to midnight to get the full effect of the literary classic. But, I didn't. I looked around and went to the next one. With "Mme Rimbaud's Salon," I was expecting a beauty salon. But, I guess they meant a room. An empty room, I guess. I appreciated the creative writing portion of "On Looking North." I also really enjoyed the paintings featured in "A Vision of Raphael." Although, some of the paintings were blurry and I didn't know if I could change that. I thought each of the installments were great examples of things we touched on this semester. I think having taken BECA 670, we are all on the right path toward creating interesting projects like the ones we saw, if we are so inclined.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Cinco de Mayo

Today was Cinco de Mayo. While many people say that you don’t have to be Irish to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, they also say you don’t need to be Mexican to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. In America, March 17th and May 5th are traditionally two days a year where we get drunk in honor of another country. I’m not saying that this is entirely bad. I too, on St. Patrick’s Day: wore green, ate Irish Stew, drank green beer and Irish carbombs, and passed out on my friend's couch. The next morning, I woke up believing that I thoroughly celebrated the unofficial holiday. But, one thing that always bugged me a bit was not knowing why I was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. So, I looked it up and felt a little better about having celebrated like I did.

I’m not Irish, but I am Mexican. While seeing lots of ads for Guinness around St. Patrick’s Day never bothered me, seeing all the ads for Corona around Cinco de Mayo did set off something in my brain. This feeling was kind of like anger, confusion, and thirst all mixed together. I thought, “Why is Cinco de Mayo all about getting drunk?" And then, “Am I a hypocrite because I drank on St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m not Irish?” And, of course, “I really like to drink, and I’m Mexican. Should I just forget it and go get drunk too?” (For the record, I hate Corona. There are plenty of other tasty beers that come from Mexico. And I appreciate how those other tasty beer companies don’t make cheesy commercials. When I vacation in the tropical paradise of Mexico, you won’t find me lounging with a Corona!) After all of that, I decided that I would not judge myself too harshly. Instead, I would take my pride in my heritage and do whatever I felt like today. This is what I felt like doing...

I did some research on Cinco de Mayo, and found that it is not just a chips-salsa-Corona-Margarita holiday. (I also don’t drink Margarita’s because tequila is like liquid disaster to me.) Technically, it’s not an official holiday at all. Most people actually think it is Mexican Independence Day, but it’s not. Mexican Independence Day is a highly celebrated holiday in Mexico. Whereas Cinco de Mayo is moderately celebrated in certain parts of the United States by Chicanos. Mexican Independence Day celebrates Mexico’s fight to win independence from Spain, and is celebrated on September 16th annually. On May 5th, 1862, Mexican forces won a battle against French forces in the city of Puebla. Today, Cinco de Mayo honors that victory on Mexico’s behalf. Even though I have celebrated on May 5th in the past, I never knew of the battle that took place in Puebla. Thinking about it more and more, I guessed that many others have not either. But, since I live in a city heavily populated with people who have emigrated from Mexico; I guessed that many other people actually have heard of the Battle of Puebla. Either way, I decided that I wanted to publicly appreciate the people who made Cinco de Mayo possible: the people who fought in the honored battle.

While doing research on the Battle of Puebla, I found some of the names of leaders and generals who were involved in Mexico’s victory. I jotted down the name of Mexican President Benito Juarez, and Generals Ignacio Zaragoza, Felipe Berriozabal, and Porfirio Diaz. I printed out some pictures of these fellows on some glossy photo paper I had at home (only the best for these war heroes). I wrote their names on the front of each photo, took some duct tape, and was off to show some appreciation for making Cinco de Mayo such a popular date.

I thought I should go to some areas of San Jose which have a great Chicano presence, or that have a high amount of bars where people may be celebrating and tape the pictures where they would be seen. My reasoning was that people in the Chicano-populated areas may recognize those pictures and names and take some time to appreciate them, and those on their way to a bar would see them and wonder who they were. I began my journey in East San Jose, and worked my way to Downtown San Jose. What began as another chapter in my Guerilla Media Campaign, ended up being a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Driving around on an undesirably hot day, I found myself around places I had not seen in years. East San Jose was where I grew up, but moved away from around 15 years ago. Driving down familiar streets, I past my cousin’s old apartment building, the place where my grandma used to get her hair done, the high school my mom went to, Lake Cunningham Park where we used to have bbq’s, and eventually, the house I grew up in. It was a great day. After waking up some great memories, I went back to business.

I stopped at Latino Mercado’s on Capitol Rd. and Alum Rock Rd., randomly on San Fernando St. downtown near some bars, and in front of the Dairy Belle on McKee and Story Roads for no reason other than I wanted a milkshake badly. (It was a corn syrup slip-up. I had an Oreo milkshake. It was amazing.)

Cinco de Mayo, 2008 meant remembering those who fought for the country my ancestors came from, and how far my family has come in my lifetime. Guerilla Media aside, I took today to appreciate my heritage and the culture that surrounds it. And, I also drank Pacifico.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Net Neutrality: More important than Miley Cyrus

We expect a lot from our Internet Service Providers (ISPs): no one wants spam in their inboxes, consumers want to feel safe while buying stuff online, whiny parents don’t want their kids to see anything inappropriate, and copyright holders don’t want anyone to steal their stuff. We want our ISPs to make us feel safe and we expect access to whatever we want online. Like myself, many of us thought that all was well in the internet world. I guess we were all like selfish little children who took and took, and asked very little questions. For me, it was quite a shock to learn that ISPs were taking advantage of many by being sneaky and blocking services and sites that they felt unnecessary for me to use/see. Thank goodness for all the smart people who caught wind of companies like Comcast, who were slowing down peer-to-peer file-sharing for users of BitTorrent. If it weren’t for all those smart people, I would probably still be in the dark on the whole topic of net neutrality.

It was a little hard for me to accept this news about Comcast (I am quite fond of their commercials. I admit they make me giggle.). I even tried to justify Comcast’s actions by assuming that users of software like BitTorrent were probably taking advantage of unauthorized content that was available online. However, I cared little about how Jimmy Download got his illegal copy of Ironman and more about what this trend might mean for everyone else. After some research on the topic of net neutrality, I found that many ISPs are planning to offer neutrality for a price. This meaning that the companies with the larger pockets would be able to pay ISPs more money in return for higher priority and faster availability. Speaking of large pockets, Neil Burkett of Virgin Media can’t seem to get enough money in his. Burkett has openly called net neutrality, “a load of bollocks.” Well said, old chap. Like Comcast, Virgin Media sees users of services like BitTorrent sort of like internet hogs using up large portions of broadband. Burkett has openly warned content providers that those unwilling to pay the fee his company proposes for priority, may get stuck in the “bus lanes” of broadband delivery. This is the same principle behind my mom’s warning at the dinner table when I was a child, “If you don’t eat, then you can starve.” On the other hand, Comcast is trying a less-confrontational approach to standing up against net neutrality. In a recent press release, Comcast has proposed an inclusion of a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” to be used among ISPs and peer-to-peer users. In response to the recent investigations being made by the FCC and the potential inclusion of Congress, Comcast’s press release states,

“The arrangement is yet another example of how these technical issues can be
worked out through private business discussions and without the need for
government intervention.”

(I think they learned their lesson when it comes to pulling a fast one on its users.)

With more research, I realized I was much more na├»ve than I thought. I would consider myself a reader; a person who reads books, stories, signs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, but I guess not terms of service and contracts. This article addresses the many ways our ISPs control our internet uses, which we agree to allow in our signed contracts. I’m almost afraid to speak out about the subject, fearing some form of thought police might break down my front door any moment. Even though it seems like some kind of 1984, pre-Terminator ideas here, but it’s not. While many of us live and organize half of our lives online, ISPs are taking advantage of the fact that we need them to do so.

I felt like I should take part in spreading the word about net neutrality. Many companies, bloggers, and even ISPs are taking action in creating a solid army behind keeping the net neutral. However, I will not go as far as this chick in the fight to spread awareness about net neutrality. Unfortunately, I have not been able to create a guerilla media strategy in confronting this topic. Using only words, I thought this topic was worthy enough of an entire blog entry.