Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Contemporary America.

The website I have chosen to represent contemporary America is I believe it represents the want and need for convenience many America aim for today. America is country where everything and anything is available nearly 24/7 for most of the American people, 24 hour fast food drive throughs like Mcdonalds and KFC, 24 hour supermarkets and shops, many companies work 24/7 to get the latest magazine on the shelves or the newest toy out sooner. What ever the time, you are very likely to be able to get what ever you need when ever you like. With google you are able to search almost anything and find out anything you want. You can type almost anything and it will come back with millions of results that somehow reflect what you searched for. For example if i was to type America into google 1.28 trillion results come back and i am able to search through millions of websites to do with America. 

America also represents the biggest and most successful things in the world. Not only does America have one of the largest land area, but it also has one of the largest populations, one of the largest economies, the most successful companies and businesses, the most successful people, celebrities, musician etc. and is no different. Google is one of the most visited websites, if not the most visited website in the world, with close competition from websites like and which are also American based websites. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

contemporary America

I chose the National Rifle Association as the website because I feel it represents many aspects of contemporary America.

One aspect it represents is Patriotism. Patriotism in present day America is still very strong as a result of things such as American flags flying outside houses and everyone standing up for the National anthem being a common occurrence. This is despite many recent events which have made people outside America to view the country negatively, such as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The website displays patriotism through a number of different means, such as the NRA logo displaying the Eagle, (a symbol of America and it’s power) and by stating on it’s website as being “America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights”. Protecting the constitution which defines America and it’s way of life is another example of patriotism.

This can be linked to another aspect of contemporary America which the NRA represents, which is the country’s strong defence of the constitution as a whole and refusal to have a total revamp of it. An example of this is that although the constitution was created over two hundred years ago, America still continues to live by it without many changes, despite life in present day America being a stark contrast to what it was like in the past. This refusal of major change can also be related to a current event, such as the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona earlier this year. Despite that being a result of someone who was mentally unstable being able to purchase a gun and shooting, causing many deaths and injuries, there was no change, or even major discussion in government about changing the laws regarding guns, and instead the main discussion to come out of this event was about the possible restriction of violent political imagery. The fact that the shooter is deemed to be mentally unfit to stand trial, but was still allowed to buy a gun displaying the lack of restrictions regarding gun control in America is shown in the following article in the Huffington Post.

Therefore the NRA website which attempts to display the positives for allowing Americans to own guns, protecting their constitutional rights represents the aspect of contemporary America in which they still live by the American constitution, despite the problems it can be linked to.

In conclusion, the NRA website represents the defence of the American constitution and patriotism, which I believe are two main aspects of contemporary America.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

U.S - China relations

This article, published in January of this year, focuses on the developments made concerning Sino (China)-U.S relations since Obama's last visit to China since November 2009 that, it states 'until [that] week [had] been perhaps the worst [...] in two decades [...] since the Tiananmen incident of 1989.' A meeting between presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao succeeded in 'stabilising the world's most important relationship.'

A key determining factor seems to be a necessity for both parties to restart positive, pro-active discourse and 'reset the tone.' The summit seemingly lead to a 'detailed joint statement [seen as] a step in the right direction, setting out common positions and perspectives on a range of issues.' More contemporary issues were discussed such as intelligence services, internal security and the Chinese military. They appeared to agree on issues surrounding human rights, with President Hu accepting that a lot still needs to be done.

The United States has the world's largest economy, with China having the second largest. The two countries are major trade partners and have two major common interests - the fight against terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons (nuclear proliferation). The act of recognising the fact that 'full respect and dignity befitting the leader of the world’s second largest economy' should be given to President Hu by the American side seems implicit in the development of the 41 point statement agreed by both sides.

The article I have chosen is a useful source in highlighting the building rivalry between America and China. The issue is that with China's cheap labour and other factors mean that Chinese companies are quickly becoming a large threat to America's companies. This is why smaller business's such as the sock makers Wigwam Mills inc. will go to great lengths to keep their Chinese rivals from getting an advantage over them technologically, by not allowing even unused equipment be sold to Chinese companies. Most people seem to see the blame as landing on the American Government and multinational corporations for the problems and for not doing anything about it when they could. Now predictions suggest that America's economy will continue to decline, as China's continues to rise. The reasons for the larger corporations allowing this to happen could simply be down to the amount of money they make from their interests in China. "Only last week, Yum Brands Inc, the owner of the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell fast food restaurants, reported its operating profit was 75 percent greater in China than in the U.S. in the first quarter." This coupled with China's constant desire for expansion means that in the long term America's economy seems set to lose out.

American-Chinese relations.

This is an article on American-Chinese relations from the foreign policy magazine website. The article suggests that 'the world's most important bilateral relationship' has already reached it's peak. It explains that the Chinese leader; Hu Jintao was unwilling to form a G2, similar to the current G8 including the USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Canada and Japan, and the G20 which includes 20 of the top major economies. The article goes on to suggest the relationship between America and China will only begin to deteriorate form that point. Further suggestions made by the article are that China are unwilling to play a major role on the world stage, however that in the years to come their role will have to grow.

At the end of the article it includes an interesting figure which says 44% of Americans believe China is now the world leading economic power, with only 27% believing it is America who is the leading economic power.

9/11 commemoration video.

This commemorative video for the events of 9/11, posted exactly 5 years after the attack, does not just pay it's respect to the people and the families of the people who died in attack, it also in part pays tribute and remembers the fire fighters and rescue services who risked their lives to save the people trapped in the two building as well as pays tribute to the people of New York who were also victim of the 9/11 attacks. The video ends with a speech given in the wake of the attack which enforces the idea to the people of America that they have to stick together, with the final words being ''we are going to live our lives as Americans''.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

American - Chinese Relationship

The above article on the Chinese – American relationship is from a website called American Manufacturing. As it was created on the 1st January 2011 it is up to date with most of the current issues.

Throughout the article, the writer is bias towards America, as the reasons he states for China’s continued rise to power is through “ill-gotten gains” such as trading with anyone despite their intentions or due to America’s treatment of China such as negotiating a weak-deal when China entered the World Trade Organisation. He expands on this by stating many ways in which China have benefited from America such as President Nixon opening relations with China during the Cold War. This displays that he thinks because of previous Presidents trying to be friendly to China, or being to complacent over their potential, China are now serious competitors to America.
This shows bias however, as the author doesn’t mention at all the possibility of an American decline, which, along with China’s rise, would have allowed them to become serious competitors to America. By leaving this out, he is stating that due to America’s “friendly” relationship with China”, letting them getting away with things and not being strict with them, China are now powerful, and that if America starts treating China like any other country, and focuses on them as competitors, thewn America will soon become the only superpower once more.

Also, as expected from an article from American manufacturing, the manufacturing element is analysed, using facts such as “America losing 2.4 million manufacturing jobs and opportunities to China” and China about to pass America as the top manufacturing nation this year

In conclusion, the article believes that China have rose to dominance as a result of complacency on behalf of America, and gives China no credit for their rise therefore it displays bias. In regards to the future of the relationship, the author mentions Obama as being the President to change things, and that under his guidance, if America starts looking on China as serious competitors instead of having a friendly relationship with them, then America’s power will be restored.

Monday, 16 May 2011

9/11 Tribute video

The video found at the address above focuses on the 343 members of the New York Fire Department who lost their lives on September 11th 2001 attempting to save members of the public. Images of the horrendous attack on the World Trade Center towers are interspersed with more uplifting photos of the American flag, members of the FDNY and some people who were successfully rescued.

It is inevitably expected, and indeed evident, that the 11th of September 2001 is remembered solely for the two planes that struck the two towers in Manhatten and the office workers and plane passengers who lost their lives. It is therefore vital hat the message that this video promotes is highlighted - many people who would have surely been killed, survived due to the efforts of the members of the fire department. If it is at all possible, it is important to gain something positive from that horrendous day nearly ten years ago. This video salutes the 343 firemen and women who lost their lives in the attempt to save others.

Approximately 3000 people died on that day - a figure that would undoubtedly have been higher if it weren't for the efforts of the emergency services. By understanding the courage and bravery displayed on that day, it may be possible for a glimmer of positivity to come out of something so hideous. That day was surely the worst in American history, but the unity and sense of a collective cause has proven that the terrorists will never win.

The Relationship Beteween the US and China

This article depicts the relationship between America and China and claims that that relationship is worsening, even more so in the past two years. In 2008, it had a 'friendly' relationship when Hillary Clinton first stepped into office as Foreign Secretary. A year on from that, this article is written, claiming that the Chinese remain in refusal to change their ways. Through Chinese trade with immoral nations and their ways of censorship, they are far from the democracy of the United States. On paper, it is impossible for these two nations to have any sort of relationship, but growing American decline and huge growth of China as a country and economy means that it is vital for the two powers to have an amicable relationship.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

This video focus's on the people lost in the 9/11 attacks more than the attacks themselves. Instead of the more popular theme in 9/11 memorial videos on Youtube where graphic and shocking images of the attacks are shown alongside emotive music, this video is more focused on the aftermath. It focuses on the families who have lost people close to them. The repeating line towards the end of the song “love will find a way” suggests the video is more promoting hopefulness in moving forward rather than wanting to incite revenge or hatred.

Crash is not a film to be watched in the background while making dinner or chatting to your friends. It is not an easy film to watch, a constant assault of emotional and thought provoking scenes which will require your full attention and enthusiasm. However if you let it, it will surely leave a lasting impression. Its message deals with racism, though not the kind of extreme racism that the word suggests, it deals with the kind of everyday preconceptions that are subconsciously made due to a persons ethnicity. In some cases it confirms these stereotypes, and in others it knocks them down. Yet in all cases it attempts to show how being a victim of race based preconceptions does not stop the victims making similar assumptions themselves. In some cases knowing that they are victims of racial prejudice can breed further prejudice on their part.

This is all put across through a series of interlinking stories, well written and interesting characters, often culminating in some very thought provoking and evocative scenes, extremely well acted throughout. My only criticism of the film would be its relentless pressing of the message its promotes which can sometimes come across as unrealistic in its unsubtly, and therefore somewhat counter productive. That said it is a unique and powerful film which might just change your perceptions of people.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

9/11 Memorial Video

This memorial video was created for the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attack on the US. It depicts what happened and the fall of the twin towers and pays respect to those who were killed and the service men and women who saved lives and many of whom of lost their own lives trying to save others. It commemorates the day when the world saw evil, but also celebrates the good in mankind.

9/11 memorial video

The above commemorative video of 9/11 is divided into two parts. The first half of the video contains haunting background music and many pictures of the Twin Towers during the attack. News clips and pictures of people jumping out of the buildings are all shown. Therefore this segment of the video is meant to make you understand how horrific it would have been for the people in the Towers when they were attacked, knowing that they had little chance of survival.

However the second part of the video has music which seems upbeat and is very patriotic. Instead of pictures of the buildings under attack and of people dying, there are pictures of the memorial services for the victims, and people holding American flags. As a result this segment is supposed to make people think about the consequences of the attack and that Americans are all in this together , in the fight against the people who did this. The Eagle is also shown throughout, and with it being a symbol of America, it increases the sense of American patriotism during this part of the video

In conclusion this video was interesting as unlike the others I found it was divided into two parts, which both remember 9/11 differently. The first part defines it as a horrific act which caused so much terror, pain and death. The victims are remembered during this, especially the fear they must have felt, which is displayed by pictures of people jumping out of the building being shown. The second part defines it as an event which resulted in an increased sense of patriotism, and that an attack on the 9/11 towers was an attack on the whole country. The patriotic symbols such as the Eagle and American flag portray this feeling, with the war in Iraq being a result of this terrorist attack against America.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Review of 'Crash'

'Crash,' a 2004 film directed by Paul Haggis, centres on racial tensions in Los Angeles. Characters from multiple races feature, with seemingly equal screen-time given to whites, Persians, African-Americans and Hispanics with a small focus on a Korean couple. The characters are drawn together by events that unfold over a mere twenty-four hour time period, with each one being guilty of, or indeed a victim of, racism. Racial preconceptions are examined, with them gradually being broken down and revealed as misconceptions.

The lack of awareness (one could argue ignorance) prevents the characters from seeing past skin colour, living conditions and material possessions. A well-off white woman (Sandra Bullock) flinches when she sees two black men in the street and with no valid reason accuses a Hispanic locksmith of being a gang member. The frustration of a white police officer (Matt Dillon) is intensified when he realises the health coordinator who he is talking to on the phone to get help for his sick father is named Shaniqua. And two black men, shown outwardly as crooks, who insist on not stealing from black people, hijack a car thought to be owned by a typically wealthy white person, before realising it is actually being driven by an Africa-American (Terence Dashon Howard).

As the film progresses, characters from different racial groups find themselves forced together and linked by occurring events, largely out of their control. A degree of realisation takes place, amongst all the characters, with Bullock's character, for instance, eventually realising that her Hispanic housekeeper is actually her only "real friend" as the film draws to a close. Dillon's police officer, portrayed largely as an overt racist, abuser of power and hot-head, is seen not only rescuing the light-skinned wife of Howard's character, who he had previously humiliated by performing an invasive body search for a simple traffic violation, from a burning car, but also caring for his ill father, perhaps explaining (albeit not excusing) his racist behaviour. We, as viewers, begin to understand the reasons WHY certain characters behave the way that they do, through the depiction of the ideological mindset, with the plot progressing and the characters developing enough to break down the prejudices that set up and define the film.

By incorporating a relatively diverse range of cultures into one setting, the subtle levels of racism can be explored, with the ramifications for the individual, along with the families portrayed. The film in no way will rid the world of racist behaviour, but I do not think it ever thought that it could. It does, however, begin to open a world up to people that they may never have seen before. Awareness is raised, and progress is made. It will not doubt leave the viewer with much to think about - with their own behaviour brought to the fore.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Crash film review

Crash is a film released in 2004 and directed by Paul Haggis. The characters are from different backgrounds and races in order to represent the widespread make up of the American population. From the start of the film is clear that racism is the main subject as most of the characters perform at least one act of racism, either minor or major throughout the course of the film. As the film employs an ensemble cast, each character has roughly the same amount of screen time allowing us to see the actions they perform and what happens as a result. By doing this, it shows that every act of racism and similar hateful acts have a consequence such as the black woman refusing to be rescued out of a burning car by a white cop because he had sexually molested her earlier in the film. The film also attacks racial stereotypes, showing how wrong they are. This is displayed in a scene in which a white woman played by Sandra Bullock wanted her locks changed again even though they had just been changed, because she thought that the Hispanic locksmith was a gang member, it eventually turned out that he was a devoted husband and father. Another point was to show the hypocrisy which people can show in regards to race. This is portrayed by the relationship between two white cops, where the younger of the two was so appalled at the racism the other one took part in that he decided to patrol the city on his own. However, he ends up assuming that the young black man in his car was going to shoot him, so he killed him, when in fact the black man didn’t have a gun, making him an even worse person that the person he was appalled at.

In conclusion, the film crash is extremely powerful, showing the problems and affects of racism with characters that seem like they could be real. As a result of most of the characters lives interlocking with each other at least once, the affects of racism and their actions can be clearly seen, which makes it an even more powerful and emotional film. Although there are many critics of the film such as David White who said that “it’s really funny when Hollywood decides to tackle a serious moral issue and throw star-powered weight behind something that everyone but Neo-Nazi’s agrees on already.” This, in my opinion is the exact type of person Crash is aimed at, someone who believes that racism hardly exists outside the extremely racist groups. I feel that the film Crash is trying to show people that racism is still rife, however minor, in American cities, even well known places such as Los Angeles, and only when people know it still goes on and change their actions because it is wrong, will it finally be gone.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Kabbalah Centre

The main idea behind the teachings of Kabbalah from the Kabbalah centre is that goodness is the key to life and our aim in life to fell fulfilled, through happiness, rather than just short flashes of happiness. The teachings stem from Jewish teachings of Kabbalah but has become some what of a belief system of it’s own. They believe that following the teachings of Kabbalah will lead to a fulfilled life.

The website outlines 5 key principles of Kabbalah;
·        Sharing is the purpose of life
·        Awareness and prevention of our ego
·        Awareness of the laws of cause and effect
·        We are all one
·        Feeling uncomfortable for others can bring positive light to our lives.
The website explains that following these 5 key teachings will lead to a feeling of fulfilment in out lives.

The Kabbalah Centre claims to teach universal principles that apply to all faiths and religions. The website explains that they teach people the tools to understand the world and understand why things happen to you. These teachings can possibly bring together people and groups of different religions. This idea of many groups coming together is the basis of American identity; the coming together and mixture of many different cultures and religions.

Madonna, journalist?Kabbalah has become known to many people because of the increasing amount of high profile celebrities that follow it. Celebrities such as Madonna, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Gwyneth Paltrow have all been found to follow the teachings of the Kabbalah centre. They have also seen to wear red braided bracelets which are supposed to ward of looks of ‘evil eyes’. This has popularised the Kabbalah centre and it’s beliefs because celebrities are following it. Like many things celebrities do, Kabbalah can be seen as becoming fashionable.  

Although not one of the largest religious groups in America, Kabbalah has become known to many people, mainly as a result of it becoming a popular belief among high profile celebrities. However, it does have the possibility to bring together many different religions which is the basis of American identity. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Church of Ekankar is a very new religion originally founded in 1965 by Paul Twitchell. Its headquarters are based in Minnesota, USA. They seem to be loosely associated with Christianity in their references to "God" although they seem to see god as more of a nondescript divine being, rather than one associated with any particular faith. Interestingly they have adopted the Hindu and Buddhist ideas of reincarnation and Karma, believing in past lives and the idea that the soul continues to exist after the body is dead. The basic beliefs of this church are that light and sound ore gifts from god and that it is possible to traverse different plains of reality through soul travel.

They believe very much in the importance of family and especially children. They believe that children are important in that they have an innocence and a an unbiased outlook on the world which is lost by the time one reaches adulthood. Therefore they believe that there is a lot to be learned from children and they are an important part of their beliefs. This kind of focus on the family is a very American feature of the religion. As is the fact that membership requires a yearly donation of $130, or $160 for a family pass.

They don't seem to be confined to America however they seem to have followers all over the world, some as far as Asia and Africa. I terms of defining America, ECK certainly follows the American phenomenon of ordinary people creating their own religion, and then making money from it. The idea that if somebody doesn't like the religions that are on offer for them, they can simply create their own, is a very American one. Some of the more recent ones such as ECK seem to be moving away from any Christian affiliation and tend to be more spiritual beliefs, taking elements from lots of religions.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Religious Groups in America - Amish (Mennonites)

Religion in America is evidently very important to the majority of the population. Religion plays a part in everyday life for many Americans, with multiple, recognisable "extreme" religious groups synonymous with the country. One such religious group is the Amish Mennonites. The Amish are now mainly situated in the north-east of the United States, notably in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and southern New York as shown by the population map above. You can see they are starting to spread westwards into Indiana, Illonois and Missouri.

The website (The Pennsylvania Dutch Country Welcome Center) examines the idea and views of the Amish and looks at how such a group can exist in today's modern world.

Mennonites (a group of which the Amish is are a part) are part of a Christian denomination, known as the Anabaptists ("re-baptisers.") They typically do not believe in traditional Christian practices (wearing wedding rings or taking oaths for example) but do believe in the literal translation of the Sermon on the Mount and the idea that baptism can only take place as an adult as one has to be able to understand what it means to be a Christian and provide their own declarations of faith.

The Amish are very family and community-orientated, believing that a large family is a gift from God. There seem two key concepts intrinsic to the Amish belief system - somewhat of a rejection of pride or arrogance and an importance weighted on calmness and placidity, better understood perhaps as "letting go" or "submission." This second idea links directly to the Amish's insistence to fight progress and resist modern technology. They reject any labour-savving technology which would potentially lead to less dependence on the community.

America is seen as a modern, progressive society - potentially the epitome of Western ideals and advances. The Amish shun such progression and therefore go against typically-American values surrounding individualism and advancement. It seems ironic therefore that their continued presence and relative success help define America as a land of extremes and reaffirm the positive sense that people do not have to fit in with an "ideal norm" to survive.