Questions, Intuitions, Revisions:
Telling and Re-Telling Stories About Ourselves in the World
A College Seminar Course at Bryn Mawr College

Forum 8 - Papers on cultures one has experienced ...

Name:  Anne Dalke
Subject:  This week's draft
Date:  2002-10-24 15:54:37
Message Id:  3338
Hello, Questioners.

Your writing assignment this week is to tell the story of some aspect of a culture with which you are familiar. Step back from it, "make it strange" and then tell the story--whatever it might look like. Make it about 3-4pp. long.

Looking forward to hearing your tales--
Anne (for myself, Haley and Paul)

Name:  Elena Weygandt
Subject:  Pinochle
Date:  2002-10-27 11:27:59
Message Id:  3365
Elena Weygandt
CSEM Culture Paper
October 28th, 2002
Professor Thomas


Pinochle has been played by Weygandts ever since the first Weygandt emigrated to America, and settled in Illinois. Indeed it is a popular game in the Mid West. Yet it is unique to my immediate family because we speak only "Weygandt" when we play it. Those who are not familiar with this language would describe it as the tongue of the "stream of unconsciousness." The game withdraws us from reality so that we are no longer concerned with making sense. The words we utter, though, fit perfectly into our world of interpretation and impression. This world is exclusive to us and is the only world in which I choose to play pinochle.
In a game where table-talk is prohibited, the thrill and pleasure stems, ironically, from the bantering. After the cards are delt, trump announced and meld tallied, for instance, we can count on mom saying, "Ok, now what's trump again?" Following suit, my brother, Arkell, and sister, Ida, will rock back in their chairs, laughing at my mom's absent-mindedness. My dad, on the other hand, will reach for his forehead, sighing, and then exclaim, "Oh Maria! For Pete's Sake!" Then, everyone will reply in unison, "Clubs!"
"Oh, ok!" and she will put down an ace of clubs, since, of course, she made trump. Though while we play, we pay close attention to the game and count trump, save trump, count tricks, follow suit and trump, we do not play to win. We play to let off steam. After dinner, when we have finished discussing and trying to make sense of the day, we clear the table and forget about our worries. We dwell on the cards in our hands and not on our emotions and we act and speak without second thought, that is, we speak in Weygandt. It is safe to be whimsical here because in our world of card-playing, there are no consequences. If we sat in silence and played seriously, the game would take control of our emotions confronting us with feelings we want to avoid at the end of the day, such as competition, greed, loss and triumph. Instead, we play the game as if conducting a crazy and funny pageant, celebrating the personalities of my family.
Pinochle brings out the authenticity in us and makes me realize why my favorite people in the world is my family. How we make pinochle a ritual illustrates that my family values immaterial pleasures. Rather than taking pride in selecting a preferred deck of cards, we make sure that everyone agrees on the music played. There are, though, like the decks of cards, only two choices. Either blues from the kitchen radio or German singing and harpsichord, which in Weygandt, the latter is translated as "Doodle-ja music." Included also in the pinochle atmosphere is the simmering of the tea kettle. My family acknowledges the importance of nostalgia for holiday traditions and salutation to French and German culture. This unique atmosphere in our home, most prevalent during pinochle, makes us comfortable to switch from English to Weygandt.
Every time we play pinochle, we laugh. Sometimes, we yell and maybe someone will storm off and cry. It is not the game that triggers these emotions in us, but how we interpret the Weygandt that is spoken. Thus, during this card game we reflect, unconsciously, on the story of my family. Arkell, the youngest of us four children, but well into his teens, insists only on speaking Weygandt, demonstrating that he is truly comfortable here and not ashamed of his strange family that is deeply fanatic about a particular card game. At most other times of the day, he is reserved to few words. At he pinochle table, however, he is a stand-up comedian. One moment he is Sean Connery on "Celebrity Jeopardy," and will slam down a card, exclaiming in a heavy Scottish accent, "Trump this, Trebeck!" The next minute, when Ida does indeed trump his lead, he will tell her to go back to Russia, even though she has never been there. If, by chance, Ida adds a counter to his trick, he will announce his satisfaction by pronouncing the last name of her boyfriend with a trill of the tongue, "Mike F-f-la-la-la-la-la Fletcher!"
Arkell's utterances are not seeds of schizophrenia, they are just his version of Weygandt. My dad's use of Weygandt rest in his facial expressions and puns about our neighbors. If he has a difficult decision about which card to lead, he will tuck in his chin, suck on his lower lip, flare his nostrils, squeeze his eyes shut and concentrate on reproducing the winkles on his forehead. After discarding with a sigh as if a plane were landing, he watches the cards that drop onto his and takes the trick. He will begin to talk about the neighbors, and we know he is fully satisfied with himself: "So I passed Bob on the road today, driving his new black Kompressor. I told him Mike Rodko had the same one in yellow, and maybe they could get together, you know, and make a sort of bubble-bee, you know? Well, Bob took one look at me, said 'No, Peter' and drove off." We all collapsed our cards in our hands and laughed. The rivalry between our rich neighbors is hysterical to us. Though we have no resentment towards our neighbors, we love to joke about other families and imitate them and by doing so, they play a more significant role in lives because we have talked about them in our distinctive Weygandt-tongue and have accepted them into our exclusive world.
A game of pinochle is the only guarantee that this world, or country where Weygandt is spoken, will supercede reality. At most other times in my house, we are too concerned with our commitments and agenda for the Weygandt to come out. But when one of us calls up the banister, "Who wants to play some pinochle?" we put down our books, turn off the computer or TV, hang up the phone, turn away from the mirror, turn away from internalizing, from predicting, from planning, and thump down the stairs as if pounding out a thought every step. Therefore the pinochle table is the only place where I am exposed to people without pretenses. It is so rare and unique, that other people outside my family would never understand it. I wonder if other families have their own language, and if so, what accepted medium they embark across to step from reality to a world where consequence is erased. And for those families who do not cross any such threshold when playing pinochle, I can only ponder that unfortunately, they must have learned to play it a different way.

Name:  Kristina Copplin
Subject:  Csem & Culture Paper
Date:  2002-10-27 12:45:36
Message Id:  3370
My family has never been rich in culture, especially around the holidays. Thus, last December, my neighbor from Holland introduced us to her idea of Christmas in order to enrich our understanding of tradition and culture. In the Dutch tradition, Sinter Klass(our St. Nicholas) appears to the children in early December . He travels to the country by boat with his assistant, Black Peter (Piet). Once the boat is docked, Sinter Klass and his helper greet the children who have gathered at the landing. He then mounts a white horse and leads a procession throughout the town wearing fine, expensive robes. Tradition says that both Sinter Klass and Piet have spent the last year in Spain evaluating the behavior of the children. While Sinter Klass records his findings in his red book, Black Peter goes off in search of presents for the children. Parents often use this belief as a form of discipline- the children are told that if Sinter Klass finds that they have misbehaved, Black Peter will either chase them with a stick or will stuff them into his burlap bag and sell them into slavery.

After Sinter Klass has arrived in Holland, the children prepare themselves for his arrival to each of their homes. During the day they bake "letter blankets" which are biscuits that are shaped into letters, marzipan pastries and "peper noot"- biscuits made with cinnamon and spices . Children also participate in "Secret Sinter Klass", in which they pull names out of a hat and are responsible for finding a gift for that person. As the day proceeds, the children grow more excited as they anticipate the arrival of Sinter Klass. On the Eve of St. Nicholas' Day many families have parties at which they enjoy in the traditional baked goods and exchange the "Secret Sinter Klass" gifts. That night, the children place wooden shoes near the fireplace in hopes that by morning, the shoes will be filled with candy. Often, the children will place hay and carrots inside the wooden shoes for Klass' horse; they believe this will earn them even more candy from Sinter Klass. After this has been done, the family settles down for the evening, prepares the children for bed and often the Christmas story is told.

On the morning of St. Nicholas Day, December 6th, the children wake up to find both their wooden shoes filled with sweets and large presents that have been brought by Sinter Klass and Black Peter. After the presents have been opened, the rest of the day is spent relaxing and generally there is a small family meal at night. Additionally, church bells are rung to announce the arrival of Sinter Klass while farmers blow horns to emphasize the Christmas Period. Once the day is over, the children look forward to the coming of the next St. Nicholas Day.

Clearly, the celebration of St. Nicholas Day is very rich in Dutch culture and the origins of the customs add to the ambiance of the holiday. People believe that Sinter Klass originated from the fact that a Spanish King took over the Netherlands in the mid 1400's. The Spanish sent clergymen to look after the trading, and it is believed that Sinter Klass was the bishop of Myra who was sent to do this. Thus, it is logical that he resides in Spain for most of the year with his horse and assistant, Black Peter . The origin of Black Piet is not quite as clear. Some believe he descends from an Italian chimney sweep during this time. Others maintain that Black Peter is actually the devil, and Sinter Klass enslaved him and forced him to assist him with his duties. Children believe that Klass does not want to get ash from the chimney on his ornate robes so he dropps the presents down the chimney into their shoes. The origin of filling the wooden shoes with candy is derived from the story of the poor man with three daughters. It is said that the three poor girls, whose father could not afford their dowry, hung their stockings in the fireplace to dry. St. Nicholas pitied the girls and dropped gold coins down the chimney, which landed in their stockings. It is possible that the idea of putting wooden shoes by the fireplace is reminiscent of this tale.

Clearly, the Dutch culture and its tradition play an important role in holidays, customs, and everyday life in Holland. The families in the Netherlands take active roles in the culture and foster an even richer sense of culture with the future generations.

Name:  Kristen Coveleskie
Subject:  Bunny in the Sky
Date:  2002-10-27 15:17:54
Message Id:  3372
When a newborn baby is brought outside for the first time, proud mothers swell with pride as the miniature hand extends from the mounds of blankets, reaching up as if identifying a familiar face in the all too strange world. What if, however, the tiny digits weren't directed towards the doting mother, but focused on something beyond. Perhaps the first thing a little infant looks at when it goes outside are the fluffy white clouds that magically seem suspended against a massive backdrop of blue. The tradition of looking at clouds starts when we are quite young and continues throughout our lives. Although the clouds always look the same, what people see in them is continuously changing along with their lives.

Young children, when released to play outside, seem to run about like wild animals. Climbing on the monkey bars or playing baseball in the park, doesn't appear to afford them much opportunity to gaze skywards. But the rapid movements of the child's body mimic the rapid movements of their mind. Both have an amazing ability to flit back and forth among various points of focus. When asking a child what they see in the clouds, they are likely to reply in a rapid yet concise fashion. "It's a bunny rabbit" or "It's an airplane" are examples of possible responses. The imagination of children can concoct some pretty fascinating images in the sky. To children, the sky is a blank canvas full of possibilities. They see castles, grandmother's face, and their favorite television or storybook character. Animals are another popular sighting. Looking at clouds with a young child can be like taking a trip to the zoo.

Once children grow out of the wild animal stage and begin to calm down many of their hobbies change. One constant is often their fascination with the clouds and all of their possibilities. On a clear day children often take a blanket to the park or backyard just to lie down and gaze up at the sky. As children grow older and begin to calm down their images seem more detailed and thought out. Instead of a bunny rabbit, there is a white rabbit, with big floppy ears and a great fluffy tail carrying a carrot between its two buck teeth. Their imagination thrusts into high gear as they put themselves in a cloud world full of all their favorite things. Kids can see in the clouds what they desire in life.

As kids go to school, they are shown the endless possibilities of the world. This infinite array of options is reflected in the endless shapes and meanings discovered in the clouds. Children begin to apply their lessons in school to the images in the sky and the clouds soon gain a whole new meaning. Clouds are no longer just shapes and images, but metaphors for life. Passing of clouds becomes the passing of time; so slow that it is hardly noticeable, yet constantly shifting. Once again, what a kid sees in a cloud can, like an inkblot, reveal their innermost wants and desires.

As the children grow into adolescents, they are burdened with more responsibilities of the world and find it harder and harder to simply stare at the sky. When time does permit a furtive gaze, the clouds seem to become less distinct. Instead of specific destinations, they just represent a broader escape; perhaps back into the time when they saw so much meaning in the cumulus formations. The childhood fantasies are slowly worn away when the harsh realities of life become more evident. Time spent looking at clouds is replaced by other more pressing concerns.

Adults rarely even have time to glance at the fluffy white masses in the sky. When they do look up, it is mainly to determine if their busy schedule will soon be interrupted by some form of precipitation or the impending darkness of night. Overwhelmed with preoccupations they often forget why they looked at the clouds in the first place. The wonder and magic they had once known seems to have been forgotten like a distant dream.

Not everyone loses sight of clouds. Many continue to see their importance and value even as they get older and begin to accept the responsibilities that come with age. For some people, imagination never dies or fades away. Clouds continue to form different shapes and meanings in their lives. These are the fortunate few who realize the importance of the imagination.

Then as people grow older, retire, and move down to Florida, they suddenly find time again to look at the clouds. Most, however, have forgotten how. They watch the little kids in the playground and wish they could only remember, but the trails of life have left them too broken and jaded. Then there are those who can still see visions in the fluffy white masses. Most of these aren't much better off. They see the world of possibilities knowing that it is no longer open for them. Unless they have lived a fulfilling life, the visions in the clouds can produce feelings of regret and loss.

The interpretation of clouds represents an important aspect of our society. Clouds could represent magic, imagination, and a world of possibilities. It is a sad truth that people tend to analyze clouds less and less as they age. The same world that once held so many options seems to have dwindled. Drowning in everyday responsibilities, there is no longer time to come up for air. Then when the time comes, clouds are forgotten. Could this all be prevented if we invested more time in creative wonderings such as those that accompany cloud gazing? I guess the moral of the story would be, never forget the promise in the sky.

Name:  Ro. Finn
Subject:  Analysis of Risk and Reward in the Cat Fancy
Date:  2002-10-27 15:56:34
Message Id:  3373
At first, I thought I would write about high-tech corporate culture,
but then decided that the cat fancy would be far more believable...

It began innocently, with our intention to have a house cat that might deter mice, at least the smarter mice that live in Ann Arbor. As soon as the weather turned cold, we had squeaky visitors skittering up and down the warm ductwork of our heating system, and they outwitted us at every turn. There was only one solution. I chose a pedigreed cat: a silver tabby, show quality Norwegian Forest Cat kitten. He had no mouse training, but that was not a problem. By the time I had chosen a breed, found one of its rare U.S. breeders and an even rarer kitten, five months had gone by and so had the mice. In the meantime, Gabby's breeders had taken me "under wing" as the lore of the breed and the lure of the competition sucked me in. Like Alice tumbling through her looking glass, I submerged into an entire subterranean culture known as the cat fancy.

The cat fancy is comprised of tens of thousands of breeders and pet owners, worldwide. There are a dozen or so "registries"(1) or associations, each of which regulates, grants and keeps records of pedigrees. In addition, each solicits members, holds elections for regional and national offices, conducts cat shows and manages a system of titles and awards. Most of their active members are breeders of one or more of over 40 recognized breeds. The majority of them are connected via lively Internet discussion groups, association volunteer activities, and shows. It's another planet.

At first, I thought that the primary pull of people towards this planet was their love of cats and joy of raising kittens. The cats are the center of much pride-filled attention. Breeders are obsessive about grooming, nutrition, cattery housing, socializing their kittens for the show ring, etc. They engage in endless exchange of photographs chronicling the development and life of their felines. I have come to realize, though, that the cats are probably not the primary driver for their involvement. For example, breeders normally neuter and give away cats once they are no longer useful to their "breeding programs". They may have been pampered and coddled champions one year, but they're excess baggage the next. Long-term involvement in the fancy seems to be about the sport at show and status within the social structure of their association.

Breed-specific Internet discussion groups with hundreds of members are used as means to brag about show wins, show off new litters, and share complaints and advice. Hours per day are spent on these forums, while the cats languish at the sidelines. For these breeders, their cats are not surrogate children, nor are they extensions of themselves. They are engaging, animate objects that keep them company and are things that others will covet. The coveting extends to kittens or stud service from the special cat-of-the-moment. But there's always the next show, next competition, next promising kitten. Breeders are on a treadmill to keep up or slide back.

Like the "focused gathering" defined by Erving Goffman as "–a set of persons engrossed in a common flow of activity and relating to on another in terms of that flow"(2), the community of cat show people convenes at shows every weekend, somewhere, to re-enact the drama with audience participation, sub-plots and power-plays. To understand the range of inter-related dynamics at a cat show, you need to see the show in the context of its important role to the cat association, a non-profit organization with salaried, elected officials, costs for its infrastructure, and a dependence upon volunteer support from its members. There are three dominant sources of income: membership registrations, cat and litter registrations, and donations from foundations. There is competition among the registries for the finite number of worldwide potential members who can generate the bulk of possible revenue via both forms of registration.

A breeder chooses to be a member of an association and be more or less active, depending upon his/her perception of the politics and relationships that will hinder or help personal gain, and access to enough shows within driving distance. This last factor is critical in order to satisfy the progressive requirements for titles and to have a walk-by of fresh prospects to whom to sell kittens. Breeder-members of an association form local clubs that financially back and produce shows. A show can cost from $10,000 to $25,000 or more in up-front money from the (typically, 4 to 12) club members. Money is recouped from exhibitor entry fees and paying visitors. How much is determined by the club's ability to attract cat entries, advertise effectively, be blessed with good weather, etc. It's high risk with no safety net. Clubs can and do get into serious financial difficulties, indebtedness and irrecoverable losses. On the other hand, there is association praise for those who participate in the production of local shows and social stigma for those who do not.

Those who produce a show try to attract hundreds of cat entries by arranging to have 10 or 12 of the most popular judges. Judges, all of whom depend upon club invitations for their weekend "second jobs" or discretionary income, want to be invited again, so a lot is at stake when they make their selections for the show's top cats, especially since the cats of the host club members are involved. Sometimes, favoritism and politics enter the picture. Sometimes, current top-winning cats are selected simply as a safe bet. Sometimes the best cats there that day are actually selected. It's a capricious sport, and exhibitors grumble bitterly at every perceived or real injustice. But they keep coming back, just as the gamblers return to Los Vegas.

Cat show morning, a few hundred cats pull up in vans and cars, and are shuttled into the show hall by owners who are all business and adrenalin as they set up their benching cages and get situated. Small clusters form to discuss the odds and latest scuttlebutt. As judges arrive, old-time exhibitors saunter over to say hi – to be noticed –as others bury their heads in the catalog to check out the competition. Everyone is feeling a rush. When the show finally starts, cats are carried to judging rings with great pomp and purpose. All eyes are on the judge to note how the cat is handled and also to be noticed by the judge while their cat is in the ring. Judges often spend a fair bit of time and care explaining the strengths of each cat as they make their decisions to select one over the others. All parties are extremely polite amid judgments that can sometimes seem arbitrary and subjective. As the two days progress and ribbons accumulate on some cages and not others, tempers and tensions mount, but usually do not flare. In the end, the real drama unfolds in the restaurants and bars after each show day has ended. Judges and favored exhibitors swap pointed opinions and juicy rumors. By the end of the second day, the exhibitors are talking about the next month of shows and judges. Best of the Best is awarded with few on-lookers other than the recipients, and everyone rushes to pack up, drive or fly home, hang the new ribbons, count the points, get on-line and report the news.

What drives cat breeders? It can't be money. Everyone I know has run at a significant net loss, year after year. Veterinary, food and grooming costs are continuous. Stud fees are typically $500 to $1500 each, and revenue from kitten sales is often consumed by complications with kitten deliveries or illnesses. All of the costs associated with showing cats are sizable: several hundred dollars per show for entry fees, transportation, room and board, etc. Most breeders attend 1 or 2 shows within driving distance each month. Many also fly to shows with their cats on a regular basis. Those who lust after international championships fly, weekend after weekend, across North America and to Europe in order to secure a top international title among campaigning cats. For these "campaigners", it is not uncommon to spend $20,000 to $40,000 in one show season. Some have mortgaged their homes and 'maxed out' their credit cards in months of frenzied travel for the competition. In addition, it is widely known that marriages can implode and health can deteriorate in the process.

Show winners and campaigners receive no monetary rewards and no broad social status. There is, however, public triumph over enemies and fame among colleagues. There is magazine and e-zine coverage and a cascade of formal banquets at the end of the season, at which photos of winning cats are displayed on large screens overlooking a sea of chicken dinners for attendees in evening attire who have come to walk to the stage – perhaps, more than once on a given award night – to receive applause, trophies, ribbons and certificates for each of their honored cats. There are enormous bragging rights in a circle that spends a great deal of time – by phone, at shows, and in on-line discussion groups –reveling in rumors and news about each other, their cats, and the politics surrounding their breed or the association. Likewise, while judges are paid pennies per cat to judge them, they crave the audience, the power and prestige, the ability to affect the direction of a breed with approval granted or withheld in their show ring.

For campaigners, they and their cattery name can become legendary as part of the folklore kept alive within their worldwide sub-culture. Also, if a breeder wants to become one of the salaried, elected officials of the association, campaigning a cat internationally is a tacit pre-requisite, an expectation that is validated by the power cliques that have formed and the politics that have played out repeatedly. The top positions are held by those who have risen through the ranks from breeder to committee member, to judge trainee, probationary then full judge, and then to elected official. Likewise, for those who want to protect or influence the standard by which their breed is judged, campaigning establishes their prowess and intensity, and can help in the election process to become a breed committee member. I have also witnessed breeders campaigning one of their cats to thwart the rise of another cat of the same breed whose "type" was different. Once a cat has achieved international status, the look that cat displays manages to impress judges for many seasons to follow.

If we look at the financial and other (marital and stress-related) risks associated with running a cattery, campaigning a cat, or producing a show –and serious breeders perform all three activities –we might think that they are engaged in a form of "deep play" as defined by Bentham in "the Theory of Legislation" and discussed in Geertz' book, "Deep Play". Bentham's definition is "play in which the stakes are so high that it is irrational for men to engage in it at all." (3) It is more than enjoying the company of like-minded individuals. It appears that social status is the primary reward. The organization acts as society and/or family for many of the fanciers, and – no matter their limitations or origins – their next cat, which will be perfect in all regards –can bring them to a position of influence and esteem. They have seen ordinary people become leaders and enduring legends on this other planet.

In this regard, this hobby may well be addictive. Some become addicted to the discussion groups, competition, campaign rigors, and feelings of inclusion. As evidence of its compelling strength, the community of active cat fanciers is virtual, not physically located in one place. It has always been global, even before the Internet, when its members flew and phoned expensively to maintain the same rituals. Those who have felt the creeping imbalance between risk and reward have exited the game, but reportedly still feel its tug.

1- The International Cat Association (USA), Cat Fanciers' Association (USA) , Federation Internationale Feline (Europe), Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (UK), American Cat Fanciers' Association (USA), Canadian Cat Association (Canada), World Cat Federation (Brazil), and several smaller associations.
2- from "Deep Play" by Clifford Geertz, citing E. Goffman, "Encounters: Two Studies in the Sociology of Interaction", 1961, 9-10
3- from "Deep Play" by Clifford Geertz, footnote (19), p. 217

Name:  Alexandria Frizell
Subject:  Marching Band
Date:  2002-10-27 16:25:18
Message Id:  3374
Alexandria Frizell
College Seminar
Professor Grobstein
October 28, 2002

Marching Band
There are many groups with which I identify; however, marching band is especially prominent in my mind. Though it may seem strange, band has a very rich culture among its members. Competition is high and every small detail is important in a show. Through grueling practice, band camp, ridiculous football games and gratifying competitions, marching band has become a rich culture that I identify with.

Band members can be picked out in a crowd. They walk in time with each other. If there is any music in the background or any type of rhythm, they will walk in time to that. They have very good posture. Band members can quickly snap to attention. They have respect for other bands. They stand when someone else is performing, and they are quiet during the performance. However, they are brutal in criticism. They will pick out who didn't roll their feet high enough, whose legs weren't straight, who had a bad horn angle, and who was flat.

Band members have an extreme amount of self discipline. They readily admit errors and do pushups to make up for them. Rarely is an error repeated by the same person in the unit. They practice long and hard. They do callisthenics before practice and run during practice. They are in excellent shape. They do breathing exercises and muscle toning to ensure endurance. They must be able to play and march for a ten to twelve minute show. Band members complain about yet love band camp. The work is brutal- about ten hours of rehearsal a day. However, it is understood that the practice is necessary to win.

Many outsiders do not understand that marching band is a sport. Band members practice and train much like a sport does. They practice in the cold, the mud, the dust, and the pouring rain. They must be in good shape to perform. They compete and receive statistics much like sports teams. Band is just as intense as football, just in a different way.

Competitions are very serious events. Respect is paid between bands. It can be admitted when another band is better than one's own. That only makes the band members want to practice harder the next week. Bands stand for the host band, and are quiet and still during all performances. The section leaders from different bands also introduce themselves to each other and laugh about common experiences. They talk about their particular show and how they feel they are doing that year.

Football games are a humbling experience for a band member. Where at a competition a uniform is something to be proud of, at a football game a band uniform makes one stand out. The band plays corny songs like "The Hey Song" to get the crowd going. They also perform their competition show during halftime, when most of the football fans are at the concession stand. They are basically performing to a group that doesn't care what the band does. This makes it harder for the band, but it also helps them. It makes them perform harder and better to capture the attention of the crowd.

Marching bands also have very strong support groups. The parents volunteer a tremendous amount of time in making flags for the color guard, working the concession stand, and providing water for the players. They build sets and chaperone competitions. They provide first aid. Parents are also important in that they are a constant fan club. They provide an audience for every practice and performance. Even during the worst performance, they find something good to say about it to their children. They also give constructive criticism.

Band members share common experiences. They are musicians working toward a common goal. On first glance, they are kids in uniforms with instruments. With further study, it is found that there is a deep culture embedded within each group. They are people that share a common bond- of wanting to be the best. They will work their hardest to get there.

Name:  Abigail Bruhlmann
Subject:  En Schwiizer Wienacht z'Amerika - (A Swiss Christmas in America)
Date:  2002-10-27 17:32:42
Message Id:  3375
After years of not understanding what in the world goes on in the Bruhlmann house for Christmas, Abigail once tried to explain the concept of a Swiss Christmas to me. Here, I am trying to tell you what I have learned. I suppose the Swiss version of Christmas is ok, but I prefer the traditional American Christmas because that's what I'm used to. I can't see any other method of celebrating Christmas as more special than the way that I have grown to know and love. Interestingly enough, Abigail says the same about her Christmas tradition.

The perfect Christmas tree has strong branches with big spaces in between them, according to my friend Abigail. Normal people go for the bushy trees, but not her family. Nobody wants their "ideal" tree, so they always have the pick of the lot, if that's what you want to call it. It kind of reminds me of Charlie Brown's scraggly Christmas tree more than something you'd be proud to display in your living room. Why would they want such a weird looking tree? The Bruhlmann's hang wooden, straw, and other assorted traditional Swiss ornaments on the tree. These ornaments are delicate and have long strings, so the ornaments would get tangled in bushy and dense branches. They also put lighted candles on the tree. Open flames on a tree...does the term "forest fire" sound familiar? Smokey the Bear would SO not approve of this. What is wrong with the American standard of a tree with a theme of store bought ornaments and electric lights?

Perhaps I could get past the strange tree with the weird decorations, if it weren't for the fact that the Bruhlmann's celebrate Christmas completely wrong. Everyone knows that on Christmas Eve, Santa (or the closest approximation that varies from house to house) brings presents, and puts them under the tree for everyone to find and open Christmas morning. Well, the Bruhlmann's continue to celebrate Christmas the Swiss way, which is totally bizarre, since everyone around them celebrates Christmas American style. First of all, they start 19 days too early, on the 6th of December. This day is called, "Samichlaustag" in Switzerland, which means "Santa Claus day". On this day, Santa comes to bring treats to all of the children. Their Santa Claus doesn't even look right. Instead of a fat man wearing a red pantsuit who rides around in a flying sleigh with reindeer and has a big bag of toys, the Swiss Santa is tall and skinny, wears a red cape, carries a staff, and delivers his presents while walking on foot with a donkey that carries the bag of treats that include clementines and chocolates. That is so far fetched. There is no way one person can walk around an entire country in a day. Flying reindeer are much faster.

So, on December 24th, the "Chrischtchind" ("Christchild," an angel) flies into the house through an open window to deliver the presents. As the Chrischtchind leaves, the father rings a bell that hangs on the tree to let the family know that the Chrischtchind is gone. The family can now come into the room to open the presents. That's right: presents are opened on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. The family sits around the tree, listens to old records of traditional German Christmas songs, and opens presents quietly while watching the dancing and flickering shadows that the candles throw on the walls. The family is quiet and gazes at the tree which isn't looking nearly as Charlie Brownish as it did without the presents, the lighted candles, and the simple ornaments that now catch the soft glow of the candlelight.

After the presents are all opened, the family watches the candles burn for a while longer. (On January 6th, the candles will be lighted again and will be burned all the way down.) The family goes to bed now, and on Christmas morning, everyone sleeps in. However, Abigail does have a stocking that she opens, which is a decidedly American Christmas characteristic. Her father, getting increasingly jealous over the years that he has no stocking, used an old sweat sock as a stocking until a friend of the family sewed stockings for the whole family. The funny thing about a Swiss Christmas in America is that the two traditions are blended together and do form a functional, modified tradition.

There are some other slight variations between the Swiss and American Christmas traditions that aren't noticeable at first glance. The Bruhlmann's put an advent wreath on the dinner table every Sunday during Advent. While the American Protestant advent wreath has 5 candles (3 purple, 1 pink, and 1 white candle in the center), the Swiss Protestant advent wreath has only 4 candles, all of them red. The Christmas cookies the Bruhlmann's bake have no sprinkles, and aren't very sugary sweet. The cookies are called Mailaenderli (little Milanos). They taste of lemons and honey and are so delicious that I wish these cookies were a part of the American Christmas tradition.

I sometimes wonder why the Bruhlmann's continue to celebrate Christmas in the traditional Swiss format, even though Abigail's parents have been living in America for 30 years. However, one's traditions are so internalized that celebrating or even living differently than what one is used to is difficult and uncomfortable. I do like some aspects of a Swiss Christmas, but the American style is a part of me that can never be replaced. It is for this exact reason that the Bruhlmann's have kept their Swiss tradition alive in this country. In modern day Switzerland, not everyone puts candles on their Christmas trees anymore. In fact, one can buy pre-decorated fake trees in stores. The Bruhlmann's version of Swiss culture through the Christmas tradition is a purer form of Christmas that mirrors Swiss Christmas celebrations of the past, yet is flexible enough to include aspects of modern day American culture as well.

Just so you know...
The voice I adopted is a combination of different reactions I've heard when telling other people about my family's Swiss Christmas. They all agreed on one thing: the cookies are delicious.

Name:  samea
Subject:  Korean-American
Date:  2002-10-27 23:10:41
Message Id:  3377
February 13, 1984, in Seoul, Korea my mom gave birth to me. Nevertheless, that fact no longer matters. Oftentimes, people will come up to, and with a lack of a more tactless way to phrase the question, they will ask, "What are you?" When I was younger, the answer was easy for me; naturally I would tell them I am Korean. Nevertheless, now that I am older, I find myself at a loss of words and frantically seeking an answer. Instinctively, I could tell the person that I am Korean, however, I no longer feel as though that is the case.
In my definition of a Korean, nowhere does it talk about someone who can rarely stammer out a few words of broken Korean. A Korean is not categorized as someone who can both read and understand Korean at a rate of two words per minute. A Korean does not seem like someone who has lived seventeen of her eighteen lives in America.
I spent hours thinking of a topic to write about, and I realized that culture has become so difficult for me to relate to because so much of my culture was lost in my family's immigration to America. My family, in an effort to become more comfortable here, had to abandon many of the traditional Korean ways, in order to find acceptance in a society where the unfamiliar was sometimes looked down on. Therefore, my family, and many others, have succumbed to the hyphenated title of "Korean-American."
I feel as though, for me, it would be impossible for me to pick up my life and drop it back in Korea, where it all began. Too much in my life has changed and although at times I may feel some level of prejudice, I should stay here. Despite my skin color, the shape of my eyes, or the color of my hair, I could not live my life anywhere else besides here. It is difficult, and almost sad, for me to admit it, nevertheless, it is also impossible for me to deny. Korea is none other than just another vacation spot to me. I was born there, and my history is there, but unfortunately, my life is here now and there can be no turning back for me.
Do not get me wrong, I am not denying my heritage, I am just elaborating on it. Realistically speaking, it would be impossible for me to return to that place and try to integrate. Summer of ninth grade my family went to Korea for a few weeks, and the opposition I felt there was indescribably thick. Everyone looked down on me. It was shameful to them that I had gone to a foreign country and adapted to their ways. I was rebuked for my lack of Korean, and further denounced for my fluent English. I was judged because my fashion did not match the popular style there. I was criticized because although I looked just like they did, I had very little in common with them. I was reproached for forgetting my roots.
I left Korea that summer feeling unbelievably angry. I, myself, never believed that I had abandoned my roots, and was angry at all of Korea for abandoning me. However, the more I analyzed and thought about the situation, the more I realized how little of me belonged in that country. My anger quickly transformed to remorse as I understood the severity of how my lifestyle had changed.
After thinking all this through, I still am unsure of the topic of my paper. I was told to "write about an aspect of culture with which I am familiar." As for now, I find this assignment almost impossible for me, considering I am still unfamiliar with my own culture. Moreover, I can not even seem to describe the category under which my culture falls. In reality, although I may not belong in Korea, I do not know if I could say that I belong here either. Of course I did say I cannot live anywhere else, nevertheless I still do not know if this is where I belong. It is very confusing for me, in actuality; I can no longer call Korea my home because although physically I may feel comfortable there, it quickly becomes clear that my heart could never find a home there. Nevertheless, for me to call the United States home would be a stretch for me as well. No matter how long I live here, that label of "minority" will hang over my head, leaving me still struggling to find my identity here.
The hardest idea for me to swallow is that this is probably where I will stay; furthermore, this is where my children will grow up. They will probably still have to face the racial tension and prejudice at least once in their lives, and they will wonder where they really belong. It is actually quite a predicament for me. Do I stay where I am more comfortable and be surrounded by those who are different than I? Or do I go to a place where I am rebuked by those who are just like me. The more the question rolls around in my mind, the more unanswered questions I am left with.
Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder
Subject:  sheila's family
Date:  2002-10-27 23:41:41
Message Id:  3378
Knowing Sheila's family
Sheila walked into the room and gagged. Her nightmare was sitting on the bed. When she was young she used to have nightmares. She hadn't had one in a while, but when she walked into the room and saw one sitting on the bed she gagged. Sheila looked at it closer and realized that her sister was inside of it. Sheila couldn't see her sister because the nightmare was on her. Sheila stood there and wanted to scream. She forgot to breath. She thought all the fluids were going to pour out of my body. She looked at the nightmare and deep inside of it I saw her sister, begging me to see her. 'It's me,' her eyes pleaded. 'The nightmare hurts me so much,' said her eyes. So Sheila sat down beside this horror and touched it. She soothed the enemy, trying to touch her. She can't think about it any more.
Sheila's going to name my first child Ophelia.
Her brother just stared out the window. Seventeen years old, smokes pot, thin, tall, has a girlfriend. When he walked into the room Sheila used to smile and not be able to stop. He makes everyone laugh. Sheila is proud to be herself when she stands next to him. Once when they were in a restaurant he saw his reflection in the mirror and began to admire his 'chiseled jaw.' He's the only one who can pull that off without being called conceited. He will never laugh again. He will never speak again. He will never breath again. After he saw the nightmare in the bed. He will forever look out the window. He's blind.
Her mother's brother died in an airplane crash twenty years ago.
Sheila used to pretend that she was sad, hiding something behind her smiling face. She did it so that she could write well not knowing that when the pain was read she would not be able to write or feel. She will never again study language and shewill never again read Shakespeare and she burns Salinger. Sheila will never write again because her eyes burn with a lack of tears and she can't see so she can't write. She feels sharp stabs. Knives in her head and heart and lungs and throat. She moves her fingers along the keys and feels the teasing pound of writing in her hands and veins that shoot up her arms and run thick life into her heart, but she will never again write.
Her father has a big beard. He's had a beard since he was Sheila's brother's age. I think her brother could probably grow a beard if he wanted to, but he doesn't want to be like his father. Last summer when the air was warm her father shaved his beard. Sheila hated it. It was like he had cut off part of his face. But she didn't think that then. Yesterday her father shaved his beard again. She never wants to see him again. Ever.
Have you ever hated being in a room with people and wanted to burst into flames? She can feel the fire inside herself and she wants to open her mouth and the flames to burst out. She must keep her mouth closed, she must, or else she will consume everything living. She want to be in a desert, She want to feel the hot cancerous sun on her body, burning her red. Like the nightmare. She is the nightmare. She scares herself and screams, letting flames burn her throat and my face.
Please, sir, can I have some more?
Sometimes late I night she thinks of writing. She thinks poems in her head, but she can't get up to write them down. She memorizes her poetry at night, knowing that she won't remember it in the morning. She is too weak to get up to write. She wants to write, but her body is limp and She lets pain eat her instead of draining it from her veins. Her hands shake and the red polish on her nails makes her see blood rushing out of her fingers onto the keys and then onto paper and under your eyes. This is her family. They used to love each other. Everything is in these sharp images. I know these images. I breathe these images. Smell vomit. Have nightmares. Drink water. Don't write. Don't edit. Don't think. Feel numb. Static burns my ears.
When Sheila grows up she wants to be in love. She misses touch. She doesn't feel anymore. But when she grows up she will remember how to feel. She will remember how to cry. She will paint her nails purple. She will have a job and a big dog. She will have children without cancer. Children who don't scream, children without nightmares. Her oldest daughter will have brown hair that falls half way down her back. Blue eyes. She will not write. He name will be Ophelia.
Name:  Lim, Xuan-Shi
Subject:  Voices in a Chinese Family
Date:  2002-10-28 07:27:29
Message Id:  3382
Voices in a Chinese Family

September, 2002.

They are pushing my head into water. And today, I dreamt of God. People usually dream of God when death is near, I am afraid. If only I knew. God didn't tell me what to do. She let me decide.

October 2, 2002

The unspoken rule in the household: "Thou shalt not wash your dirty laundry in public." Family honor should never be threatened. The ultimate punishment for straying away or turning my back on my family is to be disowned.

Dad threatened to kick me out of the house today. Maybe they see themselves in me, the part they of themselves that they hated and despised. Or perhaps, I am supposed to be a mirror of their lives. The message got lost somewhere, but it was communicated. All along, I was fighting a battle to be myself. And sometimes, I hurt myself more than I hurt them. Only they didn't think so.

October 7, 2002.

My parents always thought I am anything but Chinese. Why am I always so disobedient? Why don't I ever listen to them? Why do I need a therapist when I have a family? The string of never-ending whys.

My mum blames herself for the way I have turned put to be. She can't understand when I tried to explain that everything that has screwed up isn't her fault. It is typical of Chinese mums, to be unable to separate themselves from their daughters. She wants the best for me, and she wants to have it done her way. Her call of duty drowns all other voices, so she only hears herself. That harsh, berating voice. I know because I hear that voice all the time inside of my head, which she believes is part crazy. She actually thought I have plotted to make her this miserable.

Last year, J was on her computer when her mum suddenly pulled off the power plug and begged J to stop torturing her. I recall she was having lesbian issues.

October 8, 2002.

Sometimes, it's hard to differentiate between what I want for myself, and what my parents want for me/themselves. Every important decision is made considering how it would reflect on the family. I guess what my parents ask of me is to put my family before myself. And to put my needs before my boyfriend's. How is this supposed to work when they haven't even taught me how to focus on my own needs? Maybe it's only the Chinese that make demands on their children to declare loyalty to the family. We have to present ourselves as a tight, collective unit to the world. We are a proud and dignified people.
I feel I am being tied to a string and allowed to wander out to the periphery of this circle. My parents are always there to pull me back not only from danger, but from disgrace.

October 10, 2002

The Chinese must have hidden plenty of skeletons in their family closets. We never talked about things that make us uncomfortable, or force us to confront ourselves. Sometimes, when we are brave enough, we mentioned it briefly as a passing remark. There are rarely open discussions that do not lead to a scenario whereby the member that threatens the security of the family is attacked and criticized. Whatever it is, they must be "shown the light".

I get the feeling now that when this storm blows away, mum and dad would pretend nothing ever did happen. Promises that have been made count for nothing, like the currency of a fallen empire. While I cling on and look at reality in its face, they want to drag me back into the alcove of warmth, safety and denial.

I am already starting to love them less. It is usually in a crisis that we see through a person, their strengths and soft spots. Maybe it's just Chinese to want to resolve a problem at hand in the most practical way, and to move on with life. For all the values I have grown to reject in the Chinese family, I have contradictory feelings about this one: inner strength.

But how can I move at all with this much emotional baggage?

October 13, 2002.

"You don't have to remember the pain, to remember the memories."
-Janet Jackson, Velvet Rope.

Our demons live inside us. No matter how far I run, they catch up in my dreams. How can one try to let go of the pain that comes with memories?

October 14, 2002.

Today, I was invited to dine with an American family. It surprises me how they start a conversation at the dinner table talking about how their day went, or how they feel in general. Much of what is said and shared is honest and revelatory, and it comes so naturally to them. We Chinese, however, concentrate on eating during our meals. We do pause occasionally for conversation, but there is rarely ongoing chatter. Usually, we eat quickly and quietly so we can take off to do other things.

I can't help feeling inadequate and intrusive. As I sat listening, my thoughts drift to my family. I could only imagine how uncomfortable everyone would be if we have to interact with one other in this "mushy" manner. It is funny how we appear to be so distanced from one another, and yet have our identities so meshed up underneath the surface.

October 15, 2002.

Sometimes when I am too scared or too hurt, I go away somewhere. I don't worry about getting back to me, because I don't feel pain when I am there.

Mum and dad decide to stop their dialing marathon for awhile. Since I have made a decision, which by no coincidence suited the way they wished for things to turn out, I have received no phone calls.

Maybe they understood my need to be alone. Maybe they were just tired and relieved. I think I am growing to hate them. But we can't hate our parents. I would probably turn out to be the kind of children they are, resentful of their parents. But I resent and hate them. They certainly did a fine job of passing down their bitterness to me.

October 17, 2002

It is fall but it feels like winter. Nothing makes sense. I have the feeling of walking on snow, looking for something I buried. Only I don't remember where it is. Only I don't remember why I did it. Only... I have gone numb in the cold. And I don't know why I am searching, when I know it is lost to me forever.

October 24, 2002.

I believe I am supposed to feel lonely now that I am away from home. Some part of me misses being at home. The food, the ironed laundry, my queen-size bed... I realized how much I missed only the material comforts of my home. It is sad to have to grapple with the truth that I have little else to look forward to.

I can't deny that I am Chinese inside out. Neither can I pretend that I am not my parent's firstborn. My calculative and manipulative nature, I have inherited from my dad. Like my stereotypical Chinese mum, I am careful with my money, prone to guilt, and critical of myself. Not a very promising picture at all.

However, unlike both of them, I have broken out of the habit of sweeping things under the carpet. I doubt if this makes me less of a Chinese, since Chinese are generally shy and reticent. It only makes me more of a human.

Name:  jessie
Username:  jposilki
Date:  2002-10-28 12:05:44
Message Id:  3383
This isn't what i meant to come out. My judaism and my connection to my family are two separate issues...perhaps we can just look at this paper as a story of a family. Not of me. or my family.

Jessie Posilkin

Tell the Story of a Culture, looking in.

Often the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the customs we follow dictate culture. However, the importance of family and family gatherings is what dictates my family's Jewish identity. We tell time in traditional life cycle events-births and deaths, bar mitzvah's and weddings-but we remember those times by who was there, and who wasn't there.
My great-grandfather came to America from Poland all by himself. Here, he made money in order to pay for my paternal grandmother and her siblings to come to America. Never having forgotten the sacrifices her parents made, my Grandma Etta made a trip across New York City every weekend with her husband and children to see her parents. In writing, it seems like a small trip, but given the irregularities of everyday life, my grandparents were raising three boys and running a business, I can only imagine the planning it required to see two family members every week. As it happened, there was a fight amongst my grandfather and his brothers-in-law. After much ado, my Great-Grandmother Elka demanded that her children convene in her small apartment in Queens for a "pow-wow," in the words of my father. There, she forced her children to stop being children and just get along. Some families let their problems fester, other stop talking to one another. But my Great-Grandmother would have none of it! Her children were going to get along. And they have.
My family recently celebrated the Bar-Mitzvah of my youngest cousin. Taking place in Montgomery Country, Maryland, many family members were fearful of the sniper. We all had other events going on in our lives "back home." Parents weekend, football games, track meets, friends from out of town. But after all the work that had been done to keep the family together, no one would miss this occasion for the world, let along a football game, or track meet, or social obligations.
From an anthropological perspective, the event in and of itself is not the interesting part. The relationships between family members and attitudes towards these events during the course of a "Shabbat" reveal the true feelings of the family. Conflicts between the traditional values of Judaism and the new values of American Jewry are always present.
Family members are often given honors during the service. Often, they read from the Torah or the Siddur (the Jewish prayer book), or help with other parts of the service. When asked to perform these "Mitzvot," these commandments, the answer is supposed to be "yes," no mater what our true feelings are. When my cousin was asked to read a prayer, she said no, because she doesn't like to be in front of large crowds. When my uncle asked me to read a prayer, of course I said yes-my parents wouldn't allow me to say no. While my family was offended that we were asked second, we also were brought up not to share these feelings. Letting the anger fester, however, just brought more tension to the weekend. Needless to say, my father didn't relax for two days around his family.
Unfortunately, the Old World values of my family, which came from a true love and connection to one another, have now been transformed into resentment. "Why are we here?" I have asked before. My dad's response, however, was frustrating. "Because we are supposed to be here." Not that we want to, but that we are supposed to.
Modern Jewish society will no doubt continue to decline if we all continue with the attitude "Because we are supposed to." Maintaining the connection between our family members is the first step. Once we are together, it is important that we not just sit quietly next to one another. Rather, we need to continue to tell stories and find ways to connect to make these traditions enjoyable.

Name:  Diane G.
Subject:  Altered States in Pentecostal Prayer
Date:  2002-10-28 13:20:17
Message Id:  3384
Altered States in the Pentecostal Prayer Group

In the Pentecostal form of Christian worship, worshippers achieve a sense of community as well as "altered states" of consciousness which they interpret as being"touched by the Holy Spirit".
People enter the church and sit quietly. There is a sense of expectation. Newcomers are welcomed. Churches are constructed so that people look forward to a focal point, usually an altar containing a tabernacle in the Roman Catholic rite or a large cross. The core group enters, consisting of a group of selected members and a leader. The leader begins by taking the microphone and leading the group in prayer tongues. Also at this time a prayer for deliverance may be said. This is usually some form of exhortation to the group to declare it's allegiance and also it's rejection of "evil". I have observed a sense of relief and even bodily calm to come over participants after this exhortation. It serves to establish a "safe" place for the events which are to follow.
Prayer tongues would seem to the observer to be a form of idiolalia.
The person receiving the prayer tongues is asked to let go of his intellectual mind and to just allow his mouth and voice to make utterances like a baby. This is sometimes a difficult thing to achieve and a beginner may only hold onto one syllable or a flow of many diverse syllables will come out. Prayer tongues are seen as an important factor in the initiation into Pentecostal prayer. All newcomers are encouraged to "receive" prayer tongues at the onset of the meeting. Often while a new member is receiving the prayer tongues the rest of the congregation will utter their own "tongues". It is interesting that rather than a cacophony of noises, very often subtle harmonies and orchestrations result when the entire group prays in this manner. At times, it is quite melodic and beautiful.
Prayer tongues are repeated through out the service. There are times when participants are encouraged to receive a new or different tongue. In some congregations, different tongues are seen as having different purposes. When asked to pray for deliverance, or the defeat of evil spirits, tongues can become quite aggressive and choppy. There are also tongues for healing. Richard Rohr states that "everyone knows prayer tongues are just a shortcut into the right brain".
A number of songs are sung. The songs are often repetitive and may be filled with images of a loving God according to Christian dogma. These may include Biblical references to the Good Shepherd, King or suffering servant. There are often lyrics about heaven and intimate songs about forgiveness and healing. The songs are easy to learn and after one or two stanzas, a participant can conceivably master them. Sometimes hand gestures accompany the songs. Most people will gesture without embarrassment although some can be observed looking around or smiling. Often one person's inhibition can appear to free up the rest of the group. Another common gesture is the raising of one or both hands or the closing of eyes. This indicates reverence and awe, a sort of physically reaching up for the divine.
At times during the singing or during the prayer tongues, individuals may begin to cry. Some may cry softly and others may sob dramatically. This is known to Pentecostals as the "gift of tears". It is understood to be a cleansing gift, a time in which one is filled with remorse or relief from pent up worries and or conflicts. No one comforts the person in tears. It is seen as a personal time of encounter with God and not to be interrupted. So that a person can be sobbing in a bench filled with worshipers and his/her activity will be accepted. In fact, sometimes a person who witnesses another person with the "gift of tears" may exclaim "Praise God" or "Thank You, Jesus". Usually, after an extended period of "tears" a worshipper will then exhibit a demeanor of deep peace and rest.
The meeting usually contains a scriptural reading and teaching given by the leader. The leader is either a priest or minister, a person who has received some form of education and training in religious doctrine and practice. During the teaching, Pentecostals listen intently and may at times speak out in affirmation, or as a group, break into applause and praise. The teaching may list various religious experiences of other Pentecostals, or saints or leaders and/or it may discuss the "times we are living in" as being dark and ominous and in need of the particular divine help and truth that the congregation is seeking. Most of the time it is based on the scriptural story which is shared from the Bible.
This may be followed by prayer tongues and another gift called "prophecy". Prophecy is an unusual phenomenon in which individuals, usually in the core group at a large meeting, will be prompted to speak words, or share visions that have come to them from the Spirit in prayer. These words and pictures often organize themselves along the lines of an unforeseen theme. It would appear to be a shared experience of the collective unconscious. People are often extremely impressed by the prophecy gift and amazed that a connection has been made to their own experience or their own thoughts which the sayer could never have consciously known about. The nature of the visions are not actual hallucinations but mind pictures or thoughts in words which the prophesier does not
"think up" but only "hears" in their own mind. Most of the time, these words or pictures are consoling and encouraging and serve to further unite the group. In "Neurology of Religious Terrorism" Todd Murphy makes the comment that "connotations of words are processed through their meanings and in the context in which we hear them. If a thought feels meaningful, then it will try to find a context for itself." He attributes this to the limbic system which plays a "crucial role in the production of thought and emotion".
At some point in the meeting, there will be an invitation for worshippers to receive the "laying on of hands". This is prayer, sometimes in prayer tongues, accompanied by an actual touching ministry. People are touched on the tops of their heads or their shoulders. A group of people can gather around one person and all lay hands on them, or an individual may receive an individual "touch" from one of the members of the ministry team. When hands are laid on someone, there is usually a "catcher" placed behind them to catch them when they fall to the ground. Once again, it is not a sudden spontaneous faint, but a "letting go" of their own will and submitting to and being overcome by the situation. The "ability" to fall down is often in ratio to the amount of time the participant has spent with the group. Newcomers do not always go down easily. This is interpreted as things that have to be worked out for that person spiritually in order to help them to "surrender". After falling down, a demeanor of stillness and serenity is maintained. Nothing would appear to disturb the fallen as they lay on the cold marble floor. They appear to be in an altered state of peace and tranquility. Some will weep or laugh softly at this time.
At other points in the meeting, healings may be acknowledged by leaders of the group. Words may be said like, "There is a healing of feet tonight". "Someone claim a healing of feet".. and at this suggestion, someone in the crowd might raise their hands, or shout "Thank you, Jesus" or "Alleluia.". Reports of actual healings may be confirmed by participants and attributed to prayer.
Money is collected at some point during the meeting as well. It is seen as a Christian's duty to contribute to the ministry and expenses of the church. The minister may report on the good works that are being accomplished by the gifts presented that night. Exhortations to give generously often precede the dishes or baskets that are passed by members of the congregation up and down the rows of the church. This part of the ceremony does not appear to be given a lot of attention. People seem to part with their money as an aside.
At the conclusion, another song or two will be sung which serves to unite the group and encourage them to go out and act on their beliefs in their life.
The transition from "altered state" or deep prayer to getting up and going about one's business is pretty quick. Participants can be seen reaching for keys, talking animatedly among themselves, getting into their cars and heading home. Whatever occurred often re-enforces the persons willingness and preparedness to re-experience the phenomena shared Experiences are shared and the next meeting is looked forward to with excitement and anticipation. The effect of these meetings is often release of pent up emotions, assurance that a direction in life is a good one, affirmation of a person as being valuable and having a meaningful life and building allegiance and loyalty to the group and it's agenda.
Richard Rohr

Name:  Adina
Username:  ahalpern
Subject:  The Culture of Crows Nest Markets
Date:  2002-10-28 15:00:14
Message Id:  3386
Throughout Sydney, Australia are outdoor markets which sell merchandise ranging from plants to secondhand books to handmade crafts such as jewelry, woodwork, and clothing. One such group of markets, comparatively small and with relatively few customers, is Crows Nest Markets. These markets at first appear to be quite hostile and competitive, but as the day goes on and people begin to relax, they become more open and the atmosphere becomes pleasantly friendly. Between bouts of sporadic sales, sellers begin to talk to and relate to one another. This surprisingly warm atmosphere is the key to why the sellers continue to struggle the way they do in an economically unstable profession. The kindness that they bring to one another is something so cherished that it is worth risking the security of a continuous flow of money that comes with "regular" employment.

At 8:00 a.m. the small open field of grass between Crows Nest Shops and Crows Nest Community Centre is completely deserted. By 8:15, a few eager sellers are beginning to haul in tables and by 8:45, fifty-odd tables are being stacked with all kinds of merchandise. At 9 a.m., just when the finishing touches of presentation are being made, a few elderly early-birds stroll through the markets. Perhaps they buy some plants; usually they do not buy anything.

During these first few hours, there is almost a hostile atmosphere amongst the sellers. They keep to themselves, focused on beating last week's profits. They scope out competitors who are selling similar products to their own and they try to manipulate the system of assigned table spots so that they are able to be as close to the shops or street-front as possible. They look at other sellers for ideas, and they look away when they realize that they have been seen.

As the day goes on, sales are made and sellers temporarily forget about their financial insecurities. It is often interesting for them to meet people who buy their products, because often, they have similar interests. Still, there are relatively long periods of time when no sales are made and no customers need to be tended to. As is traditional with Australian culture, some sellers pass this time with Victorian Bitter, a native Australian beer. Others read, and some just sit and wait.

By the last few hours of the day, the sellers have gained more confidence. For some, it is from the alcohol. For others, it is the fact that they have been working there for so many hours and they now feel part of their surroundings. Slowly, they begin to talk to each other. They exchange stories and helpful hints.

The artist selling wooden carvings, boxes, and mirrors is now invigorated from his VB and begins to find out more about the sixteen-year-old girl who is selling handmade beaded jewelry. He learns that she has designed her merchandise herself and that this is her first experience as a seller at markets. She learns that he once sold screen prints but turned to woodwork when screen prints went out of style and money began to run low. The woodcarver tells her that January is the slowest season of the year because it is right after Christmas, and that sales will improve as the year progresses.

The lady selling the hats wanders over to the girl and tells her that her sales might be improved if she changes her presentation. Perhaps the cloth over the table should be a different color, and maybe she should try layering her merchandise to make her table appear less busy and more interesting. The girl is encouraged by the woman selling candles, jam, and various other goods at the stall next to hers. She tells the girl about other markets that she should try, and she muses over the fact that she is only sixteen. At the end of the day, the woman gives the girl a lavender-scented candle and tells her that it will give her confidence whenever she lights it.

One wonders why it is that these sellers, month after month, continue to live a life which is so economically risky and unstable. It is often thought that the "artist" variety of these sellers is out to be discovered. This is sometimes the case; however, it is much more common at busier, more commercial markets such as Paddington Markets and Fox Markets. What drives these people is precisely this life. It is the people that the sellers meet – the other sellers, the so-called competition – that keep them going. It is meeting new people and re-meeting people with whom they have sold before. It is the exchange of stories and the similarities between the stories of completely different people with all different interests.

The selling environment at Crows Nest Markets appears very hostile. However, upon closer observation, and as a day at the markets progresses, one is able to recognize that these sellers are not so competitive as much as they thrive on each other's encouragement and each other's stories. Their friendliness is what keeps them in business.

Name:  Gwenyth Cavin
Subject:  Radnor Hall: Why We Do the Things We Do
Date:  2002-10-28 18:49:34
Message Id:  3389
"You live in Radnor? Wow. I'm sorry to hear that." Like most of my fellow freshmen Radnor dorm-mates, I was puzzled by this initial reaction from other students. It took a few days and plenty of these disapproving responses for me to realize the stigma attached to Radnor Hall. Some people think that we residents of Radnor play loud music all day and ignore our studies in order to smoke (both cigarettes and other substances) and drink all day long. We are notoriously laid-back, some may even say careless. While some of this may be true, Radnor does represent a grouping of similar-minded women who, together, create this atmosphere where it is the norm to be laid-back and have fun.

Radnor's third and fourth floors, along with the main lounge are the only official indoor smoking areas at Bryn Mawr College. It is common at our dorm meeting to pass around a gigantic ashtray with a cloud of smoke from 40 cigarettes hanging overhead. By grouping all the smokers in one dorm, the College has created a very distinct ambiance which is quite different from the rest of the non-smoking halls. Generally, some things may be deduced about smokers than is generally not true for non-smokers. Perhaps smokers are more careless. They know they are habitually acting in ways which are undeniably unhealthy. They may not be concerned about what others may think of this, and other things for that matter. Choosing an increasingly unpopular position, especially here at Bryn Mawr, suggests that Radnor residents are strong-minded and maybe even a little stubborn. They do things because they want to, not because they are good for you, or because they make sense. This idea is at the foundation of why we act the way we do.

As for the rest of us, myself included, who do not smoke, how do we fit into the Radnor model? The rest of us do not mind living with smokers, sometimes even in the same rooms. Much can also be inferred with this fact. We are women who are typically flexible, laid-back and not easily bothered by others smoking as well as most things in general. On our room-request forms we chuckled at questions about sleeping with the windows open or closed and what music could be played, how loud and at what hours. We don't care!

The women in Radnor help to shape the general behavior of each other as well. When we freshmen realized most women here stay up late, play loud music, and indulge in perhaps deviant ways to have fun, we too (already being generally the same way) took up many of these practices. Perhaps the same is true for every dorm. A studious, quiet dorm would probably prompt its residents to be the same way. The unique atmosphere at Radnor allows its residents to feel free to do almost whatever they want without fear of complaint from fellow hall or dorm mates.

It seems as if Bryn Mawr College is not particularly proud of Radnor Hall. Prospective students are not shown Radnor and never stay here overnight. In a few days, children will trick-or-treat at all of Bryn Mawr's dorms for Halloween, except Radnor. Geographically, Radnor is banished to the edges of the campus, far from the center of main activity. We at Radnor are well aware that we are outcasts in a way. It is possible that we take a certain pride in our status. If we have the stigma, we may as well live up to it by throwing the wildest parties and generally disrupting the norms of Bryn Mawr life.

We at Radnor behave significantly unlike most other students at the College for a variety of reasons. We are all typically laid-back and outgoing. We play loud music, avoid studying, use various legal/illegal substances to alter our moods, and throw parties (which even those who turn their noses up at us regularly can be seen enjoying our music and alcohol). Radnor is a group very deliberately put together of like-minded individuals which is specific and unique compared to other halls. We engage in behavior which suits us individually and as a whole quite nicely, although it may be seen as outlandish by others. We are proud of our place on campus, and usually agree with and follow our reputation. We do the things we do because it is expected, it is okay to do them here, and because Radnor girls just want to have fun.
Name:  Bridget Dolphin
Subject:  Anthropology
Date:  2002-10-28 19:16:21
Message Id:  3391
To play soccer for Bryn Mawr College, it is necessary for a woman to love the game of soccer. Students don't come to Bryn Mawr for its athletic program. There are no athletic scholarships given, and one or two out of several sports can claim a winning record in the history of their existence at Bryn Mawr. Soccer is no exception. The team hasn't won a conference game in at least five years and the majority of its games by three goals or more.

So what is it that makes women want to play? After close observation, I have arrived at a clear but somewhat difficult to explain solution: Freshman girls come to Bryn Mawr after playing soccer for four enjoyable years in high school (most with winning seasons, ironically) and fall in love with the aspect of such a team, every single one of the other players, and the fact that one can indeed learn to appreciate soccer without needing to win often (or ever, in extreme cases).

Though my experience is somewhat minimal, never have I seen such closeness in a team. There's a minute amount of unspoken rivalry, and harsh words exchanged in the heat of the match, but the bottom line is each of these women would do absolutely anything if one of her teammates desired it to be done.

There are of course certain people who get along exceptionally well and spend more time with each other than others on the team, but the closeness of all members is evident. Never will a soccer player notice another soccer player on campus without acknowledging her, despite the distance or the disturbance it might cause. There are a wide variety of outside interests, so a woman can always find someone with whom to attend all sorts of social, religious, and artistic functions. Also, especially at social functions, a soccer player is bound to see a few teammates to make her feel more comfortable and welcome. She can even meet more people when a teammate introduces people she's with and visa-versa.

One of the good things about soccer is that all different types of people play, so when a woman is on a team she can meet people she wouldn't have met under normal circumstances. Because it's necessary for everyone on a team to accept everyone else, sometimes women learn to accept a whole new kind of people. Friendships form between English majors and math majors who have no classes together and share dissimilar political views; who wouldn't ever have had the opportunity to meet and discover their mutual love for trashy soap operas and the Minnesota Twins if they weren't forced to live closely for a week during preseason and ride together for two hours in a van to and from an away game.

When a freshman learns to appreciate these things, winning becomes less important. She realizes that the most important thing is to get to know her teammates and work hard not to let them down in the game, but that when the team is close, whether they win or lose, it can be done together and with pride. Furthermore, winning becomes very much sweeter when it is not as expected and there is less pressure to do it.

The experience of playing soccer is so advantageous to freshmen that hardly any fail to return their sophomore year. In addition to the 20 classmate friends each player gains, she also gains a friend and mentor in her coach, which can be very important for a young woman independent from her parents for the first time.
Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder
Subject:  i realized today after class that i did not do the right assignment and i wish that i hadn't posted my last posting. so if you would be kind enough to
Date:  2002-10-28 19:37:37
Message Id:  3392
Sometimes I go to Harvard Square at nighttime when the air is warm. I sit on one of the pillars on the edge of the pit. I feel out of place and alone but I can't seem to be able to pull myself away from the little conversations. When I can no longer take the discomfort I stand and quickly walk, eyes downcast, to the subway where I catch my train home. I got home tonight and the smells of the pit cling to my clothes and my hair, they contrast the smells of my starched suburban home. I walked up the carpeted stairs and sat at the computer. I inhale deeply the contrast of my home and the pit and as the smells enter my body and my mind. I write...
"A foot long green Mohawk reaches for the sky as two young lovers sprawl themselves on the steps of the pit. Two starving image poets scrawl in notebooks and compare surrealist art while sharing a joint on the descending stairs. A pierced girl yells at a tattooed teen, "You don't believe in God but you believe in green aliens?" A protest against the local bagel store has filled the pit with ripped and shredded bagels. There's a store next door called 'The Freak Generation.' I wonder, how will we be remembered? as a guy in a wife beater tank top retches into the trashcan next to me. "This won't be pretty," he heaves. Homeless teens sleep in hundred dollar sleeping bags that they stole from their parents before they ran away to the pit. I'm running from the ease my parents have given me. I could float through life and yet I am rejecting the positive qualities that I see in my parents and myself. I want to be an individual, not merely a mixed reflection of my parents in one person. I see myself as sensitive and I know it is the sensitive from my mother and so I try to write in dry heaves of anger. I hate beer and know my father doesn't drink so I drink and hate it but love the burn as I retch in the trashcan. Parents that hate each other can scar their children so I love and entangle myself in his arms and sprawl myself on the steps in an attempt to love. I need to rebel and protest and be remembered and make a difference so I raid the local bagel store. I used to think that if I grew up to do something I was passionate about and I didn't make a lot of money that would be okay. The starving poet image is romantic, but the feeling I get while sitting on these steps is not romantic and the grip that I had on his hand has weakened because I have no strength. I'm thinking of calling my parents and asking them for money. Maybe I should go back to school and become a banker or a lawyer or a doctor and forget the writing and the passion and the love; maybe I should leave them sprawled on the steps or retched in the trashcan. And as I look at the reaching green Mohawk I wonder if it is really reaching or are my eyes playing tricks on me. Is that his real hair? I wonder. How does he get it to stand so straight? Spray paint? And are the starving poets really starving or are they merely smoking cigarettes? Are the homeless lovers really platonic suburban siblings pretending to be sexual? Were they feeding the birds with bagels? The man retching in the trashcan ate too much for dinner and the pit is rising and the Mohawk is a wig and the 'freak generation' is now the suburban generation and I think I will go to college and become a lawyer and make a lot of money just like my parents and be forgotten as the retching lover in the pit. Yes, I believe in God and maybe aliens, but I don't think they are green."
Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder
Subject:  a picture of a culture
Date:  2002-10-28 19:42:12
Message Id:  3393
i did not do the right assignment previously. so this is my paper on culture- please ignore the last one. this paper is about a culture that i know because i have created it in my head. i have watched the culture at the pit in harvard square but it is not internal therefor i do not know that culture. here, i have internalized this culture and made assuptions about it that exist in my head. this is how i view the culture of the pit at harvard square.

Sometimes I go to Harvard Square at nighttime when the air is warm. I sit on one of the pillars on the edge of the pit. I feel out of place and alone but I can't seem to be able to pull myself away from the little conversations. When I can no longer take the discomfort I stand and quickly walk, eyes downcast, to the subway where I catch my train home. I got home tonight and the smells of the pit cling to my clothes and my hair, they contrast the smells of my starched suburban home. I walked up the carpeted stairs and sat at the computer. I inhale deeply the contrast of my home and the pit and as the smells enter my body and my mind. I write...
"A foot long green Mohawk reaches for the sky as two young lovers sprawl themselves on the steps of the pit. Two starving image poets scrawl in notebooks and compare surrealist art while sharing a joint on the descending stairs. A pierced girl yells at a tattooed teen, "You don't believe in God but you believe in green aliens?" A protest against the local bagel store has filled the pit with ripped and shredded bagels. There's a store next door called 'The Freak Generation.' I wonder, how will we be remembered? as a guy in a wife beater tank top retches into the trashcan next to me. "This won't be pretty," he heaves. Homeless teens sleep in hundred dollar sleeping bags that they stole from their parents before they ran away to the pit. I'm running from the ease my parents have given me. I could float through life and yet I am rejecting the positive qualities that I see in my parents and myself. I want to be an individual, not merely a mixed reflection of my parents in one person. I see myself as sensitive and I know it is the sensitive from my mother and so I try to write in dry heaves of anger. I hate beer and know my father doesn't drink so I drink and hate it but love the burn as I retch in the trashcan. Parents that hate each other can scar their children so I love and entangle myself in his arms and sprawl myself on the steps in an attempt to love. I need to rebel and protest and be remembered and make a difference so I raid the local bagel store. I used to think that if I grew up to do something I was passionate about and I didn't make a lot of money that would be okay. The starving poet image is romantic, but the feeling I get while sitting on these steps is not romantic and the grip that I had on his hand has weakened because I have no strength. I'm thinking of calling my parents and asking them for money. Maybe I should go back to school and become a banker or a lawyer or a doctor and forget the writing and the passion and the love; maybe I should leave them sprawled on the steps or retched in the trashcan. And as I look at the reaching green Mohawk I wonder if it is really reaching or are my eyes playing tricks on me. Is that his real hair? I wonder. How does he get it to stand so straight? Spray paint? And are the starving poets really starving or are they merely smoking cigarettes? Are the homeless lovers really platonic suburban siblings pretending to be sexual? Were they feeding the birds with bagels? The man retching in the trashcan ate too much for dinner and the pit is rising and the Mohawk is a wig and the 'freak generation' is now the suburban generation and I think I will go to college and become a lawyer and make a lot of money just like my parents and be forgotten as the retching lover in the pit. Yes, I believe in God and maybe aliens, but I don't think they are green."

Name:  Kim Cadena
Subject:  The Joy of Fencers
Date:  2002-10-28 20:42:59
Message Id:  3395
When you enter the Candlewood Fencing Center, the first thing you notice is the smell. It's reminiscent of a locker-room, all sweat and adrenaline, except a locker-room doesn't have the faint odor of gasoline that wafts up to the CFC from the auto repair shop below it. Almost concurrently with the notice of the smell is the realization of how noisy it is. At any given time, the place is filled with loud beeping, the clang of metal on metal, the pounding of feet on metal and wood, and the shouting of friends, instructors, and students. It's a madhouse to the untrained eye, full of people in various types of strange clothing, who speak rapidly in long strings of slang, fencing terms, and Teenager and dodge between bouts, classes, and lessons with apparent ease.

The crowd varies from night to night, as the lesson schedules and footwork classes change, but typically the room is mostly teenagers, ranging from middle-school kids to college age. The rest is a motley crew of instructors, parents, middle-aged fencers, and the occasional very old or very young fencer. They sort by experience, not by age, resulting in mixed groups that embrace almost the full age spectrum. Sex is not an issue, either, because the informal bouting is not conducted tournament-style, where the sexes would be segregated. The social order is a basic free-for-all, with a feeling of group kinship generated by the shared interest that is being engaged in.

The two main social foci of the room are the 'couch' and the back corner of the room near the exercise equipment. The 'couch' is actually a large, bleacher like piece of furniture that is used as a place to sit, a depository for fencing bags and equipment, and a social center. Fencers use it socially, but it's predominately parent-oriented because the rest of the room is less parent-friendly and serves as a safe space for fencers to indulge in things that would normally be frowned upon. The back corner is the nexus of this safe space, it being an area for getting dressed and stretching. The corner is dominated by the members of the Fairfield high school fencing team because it is where they leave most of their equipment, but sooner or later, every fencer in the room has to walk by for some reason or other and chat.

The actual fencing that goes on most night is a highly informal affair, with most bouts being organized with nothing more than a "Hey, do you want to fence?" The limited number of strips force some order onto the chaos, leading to a system of rotating between directing, fencing, and resting. Directing, for those not familiar with the term, is the fencing form of refereeing: watching the fencers in right of way weapons to determine who got the touch, using the lights on the machine as an aid, calling halts when touches are made, and starting everything off by yelling "Ready, fence!" in between touches. Normally, the rotating system calls for one person to take a turn directing one bout, then fencing two bouts before sitting down again, but it certain cases 'king' is played, with one person remaining on strip until they are beaten either by someone better or less exhausted. While the bouts are going on, it's not uncommon for the spectators to discuss the action amongst themselves or to shout out comments to the fencers. In between touches, whole conversations are carried out between the directors, the fencers, and the spectators, most of which have nothing to do with fencing. The shared intimacy of the fencing club results in the fencers knowing many personal details about each other, which are typically discussed on strip or while stretching or even during footwork classes.

Said classes are slightly more structured than the bouting is, but not by much. They begin when the instructor for the night yells to everyone in the room that class is starting in five minutes, giving people enough time to strip for class. (Note: 'getting dressed' and 'stripping' are very different concepts to fencers. One involves layering all the protective equipment over a base layer of clothes, and the other involves removing everything but the base layer.) All those who are participating form two or three lines facing the instructor in area cleared of benches and other obstacles. Most classes consist of 'keeping distance' with the instructor, or, in other words, responding to what the instructor does while keeping proper fencing form. Other activities can be tacked on as the instructor wishes, but keeping distance is the bulk of most fencing. Even while doing this, the fencers engage in friendly banter with each other and the instructor. Falls are greeted with applause and insults are traded freely. Leaving the line to get a drink or take a rest is considered perfectly normal and encouraged to prevent injury and dehydration. Fencing is taken perfectly seriously here, but so is taking care of the body that does the fencing.

For all the seriousness that goes into the actual fencing at Candlewood Fencing Center, an equal amount of casualness in put into the relationships there. The shared goal, the feeling of safety generated by being with people who are in friendly competition with each other, the intimacy caused by seeing people utterly exhausted and wearing the same strange gear, and the utter ridiculousness of some of the thing fencers have to do creates an atmosphere perfectly conducive to this casualness. An outsider would not feel it, but those who fence do and love it.

Name:  Rachel Steinberg
Subject:  On Being a Mets Fan
Date:  2002-10-28 22:39:57
Message Id:  3398
The ball hits the bat and there is a large crack as the ball soars over the fence. Home run! The red light-up apple bobs up and down, and the already standing crowd erupts into cheers. The emotion is at a high as strangers slap fives with each other. All the people in the stadium feel bonded to one another. The Mets have gotten a hit.

It is hard to be a Mets fan in a Yankees world. When asked what your favorite baseball team is, you are shunned and ridiculed. "Mets?" they ask, with a shocked look on your face? "Why? They're terrible!" It is hard to respond to such comments. You do not want to let these comments slide, you want to stick up for your favorite sports team, but at the same time it is hard. Most Mets fans have come to the realization that this past season, the Mets really were horrible. However, that does not mean that we stop supporting the Mets- we are fans for life.

Going to a Mets game is an exhilarating experience. I have even converted Yankees fans in this manner. Beginning on the drive there, traffic can be a fun encounter. Mets fans are over enthusiastic about their team, and tend to scream to supporting fans as they drive by. It is obvious who a Mets fan is because they all have bumper stickers.

When you arrive in the parking lot, barbecues can be seen everywhere. Tailgating is popular prior to the game. It gives Mets fans a chance to hype themselves up for the game, and of course eat, a favorite past time. Loud men with strong Queens accents can be heard throughout the walk to the stadium. The original Mets fans were from Queens, but they now branch out to neighboring boroughs and states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut.

When the tailgating is done it is time to head into Shea Stadium. After your ticket is ripped, you head up one or several tall escalators depending on your section. My family heads up to the Field level section. We are season ticket holders with three of my father's friends. By the time we get to our orange seats above the Mets dugout, the game has usually already started. Most players get cheers as they head up to bat, but there is an occasional boo for someone who is doing particularly poorly that week.

I think it is safe to say that my father and brother are obsessed with the Mets. My dad has been a fan since he was sixteen and worked in Shea Stadium as a vendor. Naturally, my brother caught on at an early age, thus conversations invariably turn to the subject of the Mets at all times. We discuss everything about the Mets, from who is being traded to how players are doing to Bobby Valentine, the manager (generally we talk about his mistakes). From listening to these conversations, I would say that I have picked up moderate knowledge about the Mets, and definitely enough to know who to cheer for at the games.

The loudest cheer always goes to Mike Piazza, the catcher. He is the star of the Mets, and my mom and I have a preference for him. Mo Vaughn tends to get loud cheers, and the rest of the players get their cheers based on how they have been doing in that game or season. There is never any dissent among the fans as to what player deserves what type of cheer.

I take pride in the fact that Mets fans seem to be like one giant family. Together, we rejoice in the team's accomplishments and feel let down when they lose. We follow them religiously despite their success, and why we do is unexplainable. No one but a Mets fan understands why we would follow a losing team, but there is a closeness among fans that creates an atmosphere where we want to watch baseball and just enjoy the fun of the sport. The excitement of games brings everyone together, and there is always that hope that no matter what, your favorite player will go to the All-star Game or the Mets will finally return to the World Series where they belong.

Name:  risa
Subject:  My Family is Drag
Date:  2002-10-28 23:01:19
Message Id:  3399
She was polished carbon black and wore hoop earrings as big as saucers. She had two front teeth capped in silver, spoke with a slight lisp that sounded textured by cigarettes and yet still innocent. She had slim hips, thin arms, and short hair, which circled her head in a symmetrical, black, felt crown. Sleek as a cat, she moved with the confidence of a woman who was being watched from every direction and thiught it only right that this should be so. She chain smoked cigarettes and said to call her "Dove" through a puff of white, hot smoke. When she spoke to me it was with a mixture of intimate feminine disclosure and motherly concern. She shook her head from side to side when she laughed, and the giant gold hoops would tink-tink-tink against her necklaces. Her eye shadow sparkled multiple shades of glittery peaches and salmons, a million dollar sunset over the cheap hotel of her clothing. She called me "Honey." I hadn't been called "Honey" even by anyone in my own family. I loved the way she said her name, with the full measure of her mouth opening to introduce the sound to the air. "Call me Dove."

My brother would draw on his cigarette then simultaneously speak, exhale, and act exasperated all at once: "Oh Bobby," he would murmur and roll his eyes away. Bobby was Dove. Bobby is Dove. Bobby is Bobby and Dove is she is he is they are that which together make up one of the first drag queens of my teenage life that would raise me after my mother died. This was before I knew Torch Song Trilogy and Hedwig, and right before AIDS took the stage and capitulated everyone into the dark theater of witness.
But back to drag. First comes the passable traits that are important to alter, conceal, or exaggerate. One might be able to out-makeover Max Factor but nothing is going to kill the act like a wall to wall shag rug of chest hair. It appears that men who take up this kind of gender performance already exhibit some "natural advantages" at first glance, such as less body hair, a less pronounced Adam's apple, smaller hands and feet. They appear to have thoroughbred female legs and almost all of them reported a preternatural ability to launch themselves upright into spike heels at a tender age. This last part I made up because I so want to believe it.

If I simply look at a drag queen on stage what I would see is a highly finished product or in some cases- a catastrophically under styled version of some kind of thing we think we know as female. I would not-- at first glance-- be able to tell which attributes where applied in a dressing room, and which the queen already possessed herself, i.e., a great cut of fabric that would flatter the legs as opposed to actually having a gorgeous set of legs. I might not know what is "natural" as in belonging to the pre-made up state, and what is a product of that miraculous vision that comes with the suspension of our belief once the sequins start to sparkle under the lights. How then, to read, and understand this performance as appropriating the feminine? How then to center any drag-anthropography* based on what cannot be known about their bodies?
Once, while watching Audrey Heartburn balance an enormous, absurdly scaled martini glass in one hand while wielding a burning cigarette in an 18 inch ivory and black bakelite holder and a microphone in the other hand I understood that while it might be ungainly to balance flammable liquids, electricity, and fire all at once, it would be far more devastating to not pull off a truly convincing display of femininity.

If I look at what was "feminine" about Audrey Heartburn I would find that she did master all of the prerequisites and standard signals that would let everyone know there is a female running about. Even if she did look like a drunken Jackie Onassis gone bad and had none of the demure coquettishness that Audrey Hepburn embodied: she had on a dress, she had perky breasts, she had on hose and heels. She also had a voice that would tweeter and totter in a register that I would not be able to reach and excellent manners. I wanted to marry her. But that's not the point. The point is that it was those things that were not expressly feminine that helped her pull off the inversion. The invoking of the martini goddess, the cigarette holder also fancied by dandies and fashion conscious opium addicts, and the hair flip that, at some point prior to Jackie, belonged first to Gene Wilder. So how did I become convinced she was she when the convincing clues were not the feminine?

The other side of that point is that one cannot "know" by what means this performance becomes feminine. One cannot know if it is the voice that carries verisimilitude, the walk, the high, perky breasts-- I mean; which one of these are the ones that will make it "real?" Which one indicates authenticity? If dress indicates authenticity then let's take any ten random men and put them in dresses. My father, for one, thought if he could just get something custom from the House of Chanel, the illusion would come off. But oh, such hubris!

I thought I too had known what indicated authenticity; which was --that which the performer appropriates in order to perform-- but now I think I am barely half right. One cannot actually tell what elements of a drag performance make it not only believable but uber-real. One cannot say for certain, it is indeed the dress and not the legs. One cannot say for certain that it is the long, tapered fingers, and not the French manicure. I have come through this lens to find that one can appropriate every aspect of the feminine, but it will still not deliver. What does the drag queen employ in order to go from being a man in a dress to being a splendid, glamorous woman?

A brief analysis of dress, character, physical attributes and performance dynamics all together make this reality up. None of these attributes can be removed or the illusion is shattered. It is therefore, not just the skill of the man himself at applying the effects of the illusion, nor his body, nor our ideas about what constitutes the feminine nor our suspension of belief. After backing up from this I find that skill, talent, and alcohol is only a part of the grand illusion.

The things that signal or are signs of the feminine aren't always feminine. Take for example, my brother, who I think once dressed up as a frumpy Country and Western has-been singer named, "Virginia Ham." He is of medium height, with a pudgy build, and when he gets sun, he turns the color of lunch meat, so at least he is aptly named. He has no glamour, no verve. He possesses none of the grand illusion of high drag. Yet, without so much as one indicator of femininity he was surprisingly real. It makes one wonder how we can gain clues to assess what is "real" when the clues are not even "real"?
Such unreality therefore leads me back to examining drag again. I find that my markers of what is supposedly feminine I can not root in the performer's skill nor in their body. This un-rooting means that I go back into the mystery of it- before I thought I knew what made it an illusion and could de-code those elements and find the "real" behind it. In really looking, and trying to really KNOW I have found that a deeper examination restores the mystery. The attraction to drag was the real becoming the unreal. Through this recent looking I have found that drag is now the unreal becoming another unreality and how that works, I cannot explain.

* "A description of all the parts of the human body" from the OED, typically used in sociological discussions which I have hyphenateded to change the meaning to describing the "drag body" and the "body of drag" as a whole idea and a whole persona/person and not necessarily that which relies on literal proof of difference via race or other physical attributes typically associated with this word, but an entirely subjective use as befits any discussion of gender. Cha-ching.

P.S. might i also add that samea's & Xuan-Shi's papers rocked my world!

Name:  claire mahler
Username:  cmahler@bmc
Subject:  waldsee
Date:  2002-10-29 00:01:23
Message Id:  3400
Komm Mit Nach Waldsee...

"You go to a German camp? What kind of stuff do you do there?" In general, when other people learn of the history of my past five summers, one of two emotions cross their faces: disdain or confusion. On special occasions, I may even receive both at once. Yes, the rumors do, indeed, hold truth. Claire Mahler has often attended a German camp. At a quick glance, the setting looks like any other summer camp set in the woods, but underneath the seemingly "normal" façade abides a culture entirely different from any other that I have ever encountered.

Each year, my mother would drive me up to the Twin Cities in our silver station wagon, my yellow duffel bag and backpack--chock-full of t-shirts and shorts, of sunscreen and mosquito repellent--waiting in the trunk as expectant traveling companions. After four hours in the car, my luggage and I, subsequently transferred to a coach bus, traveled the remaining five hours to the bustling metropolis of Bemidji, MN. Once there, all campers must pass through "customs," a gathering of counselors all speaking german who help with orientation and confiscation of any Schmuggelware (contraband)--basically any non-german food, music, books etc. The camp takes its mission as an immersion environment seriously, even to the extent that all counselors speak German, all recipes used for our meals is of Germanic origin. Although this seems like a hardship to many, it in fact promotes quite an enjoyable environment.

Not only does Waldsee (the name of the camp, which means "lake of the woods") physically remove one from almost all civilization, a whole new culture comes to life each summer. Everyone there has a positive outlook on life. All there to learn and to have fun, rarely do campers complain about activities, from swimming in Turtle River Lake to baking, from playing sand volleyball to throwing pots. The entire concept of "coolness" among youth flips completely around; the more begeistert, the better (the closest translation I can think of for that one is a genuine and uninhibited excitement). Everyone feels comfortable with their identity at Waldsee, and everyone encourages each other to, thereby fostering a comfortable and playful atmosphere.

Music also plays a large role in the camp (an added bonus for those of us who love music!). Singing for all meals is a must, literally. Campers cannot enter the dining area without first reciting a few old standards. In fact, singing for almost any activity is a must. Receiving mail, language learning groups: somewhere amidst the plethora of miscellaneous German songs pounded lovingly into each camper's memory, at least one tune applies to nearly every situation. And if one doesn't, one sings nonetheless.

This camp has played a major role in my life, fostering friendships, love of the German language, and an enjoyable environment in which to have some good clean fun. For me, time spent at Waldsee definitely places in my mind amidst some of the most fond memories I have of summer and of my life in general.

Name:  Lauren
Username:  lkurtz
Subject:  It's A Jungle Out There
Date:  2002-10-29 00:44:20
Message Id:  3402
I spent four years there, weaving my way through the jungle, a jungle of human behavior. Every day, I felt as though I were embarking on a new adventure: the danger, the intrigue, the suspense that accompanied my every move.

The natives, suspicious of anything different, were hostile when one first met them, but became friendlier as time went on. Strangers were not admitted to the tribe at once; they first had to prove their worth. It was not uncommon to see newcomers lunching alone; it was the mark of an accepted member to eat your meal in the presence of others. Once admitted into a section of the tribe, one was allowed to partake in group activities; eating together, talking together, socializing together and gossiping (together) about the other groups.

It was advised that one should assimilate as quickly as possible, by adopting indigenous mannerisms. The easiest way to adapt was to clothe oneself in similar garments to theirs. Males and females wore very different attire; to dress in the fashion of the opposite gender was taboo. For trousers, denim was the usual fabric for all, but the tailoring between male and female pairs was quite distinct. Shirts were typically of a cotton blend, again, with very different cuts. But for both sexes, the standard practice was that somewhere on the clothing article, one flaunted the name of the manufacturer, preferably in large white block letters. One of the most common phrases emblazoned across clothing was "Abercrombie and Fitch," or simply "AF." However, there certainly was no dearth of other brands, such as "American Eagle" or "Aeropostale."

While not mandatory, ornamental facial paint for females was encouraged. At the site that I studied, the females preferred to coat their eyelids with a semi-opaque color, most often white, and lined the rims of their eyelids with a thick black line. The eyelashes were also encrusted in a black paint, and the lips were smeared with a glossy petroleum-based substance, usually tinted a pinkish or reddish hue. To ensure that their faces were kept in line with social expectations, many females redid the application every hour or so in the lavatory.

Hair coloring was also a favored way of beautifying of the body; many females sported lighter, bleached strips in their manes, affectionately referred to as "highlights" or "streaks." Hair coloring among men was extremely rare, and when done, it was usually a vivid color done as initiation into an athletic team. A few daring souls, usually female, dyed their tresses garish colors (such as hot pink) of their own accord; to make a statement, be different, or simply because they liked the shade. While such deviations were not encouraged, they were tolerated by the vast majority of the tribe.

Decorative earlobe jewelry was also common among females. Rare was the female who did not have pierced ears. There were members of both sexes who had alternative facial piercings, such as in the nose or on the lip, but such ornamentation was found unappealing by the vast majority of the tribe.

Males, as a whole, were not quite so constricted in regulating their appearance, but there were social expectations nonetheless. The variations between male hairstyles were very slight, and longer hair was considered too feminine for most. Many employed the use of gelatinous substances to shape their (short) coiffure into a desired shape. The natural merging of both eyebrows, called the "unibrow," was strictly forbidden, and greatly ridiculed across the tribe.

For those who wanted to integrate themselves, it was best to follow at least some of these socially prescribed behaviors. Other practices were also helpful in blending in, such as attending frequent social gatherings. Usually, there was some sort of fermented beverage available, and those present were usually expected to imbibe, sometimes to the point of inebriation. Dancing, on occasion, was available, as was beer pong.

Organized athletics also played a part in this little society. The sports teams fostered another set of small groups within the tribe, sometimes opposing ones. The soccer teams and the field hockey team were often quite chummy, but rare was the occasion when one would see a wrestler and a cheerleader together.

While there were definite outsiders, relations among insider groups were not always harmonious There were small border disputes within the tribe, group against group. But unity could always be found through football games, dances and a universal hatred of math homework.

It was an interesting four years, I must say. I called it a fascinating anthropological study of human behavior. I called it hell. I called it high school.

Name:  Kate Shiner
Subject:  What is Winterguard?
Date:  2002-10-29 00:57:16
Message Id:  3403
Winterguard is a distinctive culture that has developed into a global competitive event and now contains shared aspects of the cultures of countries all over the world. This performance art is a blend of art and sport, combining aspects of dance, science, and mathematics; and in its greatest moments it can even be a form of social and political commentary. The collective story that the guard members tell through their physical interpretation of a selection of music lasts only a few minutes, but is the result of months of endless practices and personal challenges.

The routines that spectators view at exhibition or competition are collective stories in the truest sense of the word. Although they are initially the creation of one or more concept designers and choreographers, the story is in a constant state of revision from practice to practice and even show to show as instructors are forced integrate what works better in the moment and as guard members offer their own suggestions and interpretations. However, most of the long hours of practice are spent in creating and implementing a precise standard of exact angles and forms of movement for every moment of the show.

And although the impact of the piece is so dependent on the exact synchronization of each member with the whole, the show cannot survive without personal interpretation by each of its members as well as the audience. Solos throughout the show, at times partially improvised, are the exception to strict standards of routine and add an element of creative freedom. In fact the essential dynamic that separates the award-winning and really enjoyable guards from the more mundane is the individual emotion that each member brings to the show. The collective display of individual emotion in an extremely ordered group setting is very powerful to an audience.

Although winterguard allows for so much creative visual expression, it is done in the context of a standard culture with its own boundaries and vocabulary. WGI, or Winter Guard International, is one of the largest organizations which hosts winterguard competitions and sets international rules and standards to assure that each performance is able to be judged in the same way. Although the competition element is often not nearly as important to members as what they gain from the experience of winterguard, it enables the activity to continue as a comprehensible and unified form of expression. For example, if one group were to perform a twenty-minute show and another were to abandon flag completely, the shows would still be art but the idea of winterguard as a community would start to dissolve. It is almost like a science in that it requires that precise methods be used to come to a viable and presentable conclusion.

Winterguard is also a culture in that its members often identify strongly with each other as opposed to other groups they might encounter or belong to. They develop special vocabularies of guard terms and references, with different dialects from group to group and region to region. During the large amount of time they devote towards reaching a communal goal they gain approval and a sense of self-worthiness. They also often feel that others outside the group will never be able to even begin to understand winterguard and in particular their specific guard, not only because its members are an extreme minority to the general population, but because of their shared experience of living day-to-day only with each other.

I see winterguard as a beautiful combination of different modes of expression and even as a type of research into the human experience. Although it may not hold the weight of an area of inquiry such as physics or science, to its individual members the winterguard form of telling a story is as much a purpose worth dedicating one's life to as discovering the scientific origin of the universe.

Name:  Margaret Ketchersid
Subject:  Alcoholics Anonymous
Date:  2002-10-29 01:28:21
Message Id:  3404
"Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. There are no dues or fees for AA membership; we are self-supporting through our own contributions. AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution; does not wish to engage in any controversy; neither endorses nor opposes any causes. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and to help other alcoholics achieve sobriety."(1)

This statement is read at the beginning of AA meetings all over the world, and it sums up the mission of Alcoholics Anonymous very succinctly. AA is the original "12 step" program, giving 12 suggestions, or "steps," to help people overcome alcoholism. There are also 12 "traditions", or group principles, that help keep AA the informal fellowship that it is. It is estimated that there are about 2 million members worldwide, although there is no way to have a truly accurate count since membership is anonymous. (2)

AA is made up of small groups that form a loose, collective whole. Each group is fully autonomous and there are no membership lists or tallies taken. The group can take its name from the town in which its meetings are held: i.e. "Rockaway Valley Group of Alcoholics Anonymous" or sometimes from its philosophy: "One Day at a Time Group of AA." Each group holds any number of meetings each week; as many as they can support and sometimes more than one a day. AA members can attend any meeting, anywhere they'd like, but they are encouraged to choose a "home group" where they can start to make closer connections with other alcoholics.

There are a number of different types of AA meetings: Speaker meetings, in which there are one or two members from a neighboring group who stand up and tell the stories of their alcoholism and recovery, sometimes with a question and answer period afterwards; discussion groups, where anything related to alcoholism and recovery are discussed; Big Book meetings, where chapters from the book Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known as the Big Book) are read and discussed; and step meetings, where each week one of the twelve steps or twelve traditions are read and discussed. These meetings come in two categories: open and closed. An open meeting is for everyone, alcoholics and non-alcoholics alike. Closed meetings are for alcoholics only. Members of other groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous, are welcome as long as they identify themselves as alcoholics as well as addicts.

When a person first begins to attend AA meetings they are given the label "newcomer." A newcomer is usually given a copy of the Big Book and told to take it home, read it and come back with any questions. They are also told to hook up with a sponsor. The sponsor is very helpful to the newcomer, helping her learn the steps, get to meetings and just plain understand what's going on. The advice is often given to find a sponsor who's been sober at least two years, and if at all possible try to connect with an old timer (people with 20 years or more sober are generally considered old timers). These length of sobriety suggestions help ensure that the sponsor has some experience in living without alcohol.

There are many pat phrases used in AA to describe certain ideas or to give advice. "One day at a time" is probably familiar to most people, in or out of 12 step meetings. One phrase a newcomer hears repeatedly is "90 meetings in 90 days." Other members often suggest that attending 90 meetings in 90 days will help the newcomer stay sober for those three months. Newcomers are often given the "coffee commitment:" they are put in charge of making the coffee and setting out the cookies before a meeting. The idea behind this is that it gives them a sense of belonging and responsibility, as well as self-worth. Other suggestions are to avoid new romantic relationships until one year of sobriety has been achieved and to connect with people who "work the program." People who "work the program" are those who have come far in their sobriety and are diligent in "working"—following—the steps. The interesting thing about most of these little bits of advice is that they do not come directly from the Big Book or the Step book, the guides to the AA program. They are based on ideas or phrases from those two books but have morphed into something quite different from what the founders intended.

AA literature reminds alcoholics that they are sober "one day at a time" and that there is no cure for alcoholism. At each meeting an alcoholic introduces herself like this: "My name is Margaret and I'm an alcoholic." Despite this focus on staying sober for just this one day, there are celebrations of sobriety milestones. Once a month, a speaker meeting will become a celebration meeting and there will be cake and sometimes balloons. Family and friends are invited to attend. Celebrants may receive cards and/or gifts from other members. The first milestone celebrated is 90 days, then one year, then each consecutive year. The person with the least amount of time sober chooses the speaker for that evening. Before the speaker each celebrant is called to the podium to be recognized for their achievement and to say a few words about how their lives have changed since coming to AA.

AA calls itself a "spiritual" program, one that does not require members to rely on a particular "god," just a "higher power." However, it has a decidedly Judeo-Christian emphasis. Although Jesus is never mentioned, God often is, and meetings are closed with all members standing, holding hands and reciting the Lord's Prayer. It is an essential tenet of the program that the alcoholic come to grips with the fact that there is a power greater than herself. Step Two: "Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." After Step Two the higher power is named only as God. The Step book suggests that newcomers use the group or even a doorknob as their higher power but fully expects them to accept God later on. The Big Book has a chapter entitled "We Agnostics" that tells the story of early members' journeys from agnostic to believer. The Steps do leave a small amount of wiggle room, though, when they use the qualifying phrase "as we understood Him," to describe God. Step Three: "Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him." Like the advice cited in an earlier paragraph, this idea of a "Higher Power" can be misunderstood and misused. Although the Step book itself says a newcomer could use just about anything as a higher power as long as they are willing to admit their powerlessness over alcohol, some people will suggest acceptance of anything other than God as a higher power will lead to a relapse.

Because sobriety can be so difficult for alcoholics to maintain there can be a lot of fear at AA meetings. Certain behaviors are deemed dangerous and anyone who engages in them is seen as being "on their way out," or ready to drink again. These behaviors might include not going to meetings every day, associating with people who drink (not necessarily abuse) alcohol or not doing what your sponsor tells you to do. Offenders are confronted by other group members to try and help them "get with the program." Newcomers are often told to stay away from such people because they are a threat to a newcomer's fragile sobriety. Again, this is a twisting of the advice given in the Big Book and Step book and is far from what the founders had intended.

I have only written about tiny pieces of the AA culture in the broadest possible terms. Each meeting within a group has its own dynamic. Some are closer to the spirit of AA's founders than others, but even those who have strayed from the original focus have something to offer a suffering alcoholic.

1. AA Preamble copyright © by the AA Grapevine 1950
2. "A.A. Fact File"

Name:  Bonnie Balun
Subject:  Children and Television Violence
Date:  2002-10-29 06:44:43
Message Id:  3405
Children and Television Violence

There has been over forty years of research on the influence of television violence on children. The research clearly indicates an association between heavy viewing of violence and agressive behavior. Yet despite this research, regulatory policy has failed to decrease violence on children's television. In fact, it has increased.

Young children watch approximately 4 hours of television every day, 28 hours a week and, sometimes, 10 hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Before their 18th birthday, children may view 25,000 hours of television. Most of the programs are violent and contain many killings. According to an American Psychological Association Task Force on Television and American Society, by their graduation from elementary schools, children will have seen 8,000 killings and more than 10,000 other acts of violence (Chang,2000). Many children grow up in "constant television households" where the television, continually on, provides an ever-present background to family life. Some research has shown that television rivals parental and school influences in importance to children. In absolute amount of time, television viewing surpasses that spent with parents or teachers (Lazar, 1994).

Television related themes are in our children's language every day. They enjoy talking about their favorite television shows and acting out their favorite scenes. It is evident in their play, in their drawings, and in the stories they tell. Television plays a cental role in the lives of our children. It is what they think about and what they talk about.

From the beginning televison was "sold" to the American public. Network television in its promotion period, 1949-1952, offered diverse programming to children. High quality children's programming was the incentive to buy a television for some familites. Consequently, in the eary 1950's families with young children were the biggest purchasers of the new "educational" medium (Lazar, 1994).

As television gained a secure position in American culture, diverse, high quality programming for children disappeared. Children's quality programming, expensive to produce, was no longer needed to attract customers. Once television was firmly established in American daily life, broadcasters were able to sell children's viewing time to advertisers in exchange for programming of lesser value. Broadcasters learned that children are "quickly captivated" by television. (Lazar, 1994). The more violent and action-packed shows keep children "glued" to the screen, even during commercials.

Television violence encourages agressive behavior in two ways: children imitate what they see, and they absorb the message that aggression is appropriate behavior. The process of imitation is emphasized by social learning theory, a well-established approach in social psychology. Initially, social learning theory attributed children's imitation of televised aggression to modeling and conditioning. Over time social learning theory, later called social cognitive theory, expanded to incorporate a more active version of the child. Research by Berkowitz in 1984, for example, states that memories, including television images, are stored in networks and pathways that can be primed by associated thoughts. Violence on television can activate aggressive thoughts and feelings leading to aggressive actions (Lazar, 1994).

Research by Huesmann in 1982 makes a similar argument. He suggests that children learn problem-solving scripts in part from their observations of others' behavior. Frequent exposure to scenes of violence may lead children to store scripts for aggressive behavior in their memories, and these may be recalled in a later situation if any aspect of the original situation is present (Felson, 1996).

Children who see both heroes and villains on television accomplishing their goals through violence and lawbreaking are more willing to break rules themselves. They may become less sensitive to real-life aggression; for example, they may fail to protect a victimized child from a playground bully. And they may be less likely to think of cooperating to resolve differences.

There are many other forms of anti-social behavior related to television violence. Research has found that frequent viewing of violence creates for the viewer a "sense of danger and risk in a mean and selfish world." Frequent viewers report "a sense of relative insecurity, vulnerability, and mistrust" as well as feelings of "alienation and gloom." Children show signs of decreased cooperation and sharing, less frustration tolerance, restlessness, and less self-control (Lazar, 1994; Felson, 1996; Hough & Erwin, 1997).

Furthermore, aggression and anti-social behaviors can persist overtime and may lead to peer rejection. Peer rejection increases the likelihood of deviant peer group affiliation and academic failure, which are both risk factors for criminal behavior (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996).

Finally, viewing violence on television can have a desensitizing effect. Repeated exposure to television violence can cause gradual desensitization of children to violent scenes. It has been argued that this desensitization, in turn, may weaken some viewers restraints on violent behavior, such as guilt and fear of retaliation and fear of social disapproval (Hough & Erwin, 1997).

Society is not "violent-germ free" (Chang, 2000). We live in a toxic cultural environment. Broadcasters like to tell parents that they can always turn off the television to protect their children from the negative impact of violence on television. This is like telling parents that they can protect their children from air pollution and food pesticides by making sure they never breathe or eat. Violence is in our environment. We swim in it as fish swim in water. We cannot escape it. Unless, of course, we keep our children home from school and never let them play with other children. Even then, television's violent messages are in our intimate relationships, our homes, our hearts, and our heads.

What accounts for this steady flow of violence into our homes through the television set? Many blame the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While broadcasters have fought every effort to regulate commercial airwaves, the Federal Communications Commission, that government agency that protects the public interest, has been ineffective. The FCC's approach to regulation has been passive and reluctant (Lazar, 1994). What many Americans do not know is that we, American citizens, are the rightful owners of the airways and that the FCC has the authority to require broadcasters, as a condition of their license renewal, to demonstrate their efforts to better serve the educational and health needs of children and society (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996). Still the broadcast industry has demanded proof of harm. It has argued that television's influence on children is minimal, while at the same time spending billions of dollars to influence them (Lazar, 1998).

Bonnie A. Lazar (1994) sums up this dilemma in her research: "The television industry, a corporate commercial system organized around maximation of profit, has consistently benefited from the FCC's reluctance to regulate. The resulting lack of coherent public policy is further complicated by the historical development of television as a private enterprise rather than a public service in the United States. The combination of commercial control and lack of coherent public policy has created freedom for corporations at children's expense. Business interests cannot be entrusted with children's welfare. While many believe that networks sell programs to the audience, in actuality broadcasters sell the audience to advertisers. Children are the product! Selling children's time to the toy and food industries is big business."

If "children are the product", how can we protect them? Parent involvement is very important in mediating the influence of television violence. Measures such as co-viewing (parents and children watching together), program selection, establishing rules, and encouraging alternative recreational pursuits; such as reading, sports, drama, volunteerism, and others are suggested. Family cohesion and shared recreational time serve as protective factors in children's lives. Discussions with children to help them recognize that violence on TV is different from violence in real life, that violence produces long-term negative consequences for the perpetrator, that victims of violence suffer, and that effective alternative solutions to problems exist is very important.

When school-based interventions are included alongside parent involvement, the chances for a positive impact on children's attitudes and behaviors are enhanced. Teachers and parents can take advantage of media literacy courses to help children develop consumer-awareness and critical viewing skills. These include teaching children to discriminate commercials from programs to understand the persuasive nature and intent of commercial television. Instructional programs have been used as early as preschool to assist with the development of positive cognitive and decision-making processes, based upon the belief that students with this training will use means other than violence for problem-solving (Hughes & Hasbrouck, 1996).

We can reduce the effects of our toxic culture on our children. But the first step, as always, is to break through the denial. Social advocacy intervention must concentrate on cultural elements such as advertisers expoiting children to sell products and services, and the predominance of violence in television, movies, and magazines. Everyone is responsible for his or her part in protecting children.


Chang, N. (2000). Early Childhood Education Journal, 28, 85-89.
Felson, R.B. (1996). Annual Review of Sociology, 22, 103-128.
Hough, K.J. & Erwin, P.G. (1997) Journal of Psychology, 131, 411-415.
Hughes, J.N. & Hasbrouck, J.E. (1996) School Psychology Review, 25,134-51.
Lazar, B.A. (1994) Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 11, 3-19.
Lazar, B.A. (1998) Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 15, 117-131.

Name:  Molly Cooke
Subject:  Not revealing much about the Movie Going Ritual
Date:  2002-10-29 11:29:56
Message Id:  3410
Is the seemingly benign activity of going to the movies leading to apathy of the masses? Is it replacing religion? Does it allow us to leave behind our problems and difficulties too easily? What does it say about the minds that are addicted to them? These are the questions that should be applied to any need for escapism. What in this world is so difficult that we turn so easily to movies: depression, dissatisfaction, inability to cope. Is movie going a good thing? In moderation is the perennial answer to such broad open questions. Is movie going an engaged activity, or passive? In order to shed some light on these questions, it is valuable to observe individuals¡¯ movie-going habits and draw either conclusions or more questions from that study.

In this study there are two subjects, a couple from central New Jersey of average description in all ways: size, shape, age, intellect and character. Subject A is 38 and Subject B 28. Subject A prefers action, adventure, horror and suspense thrillers. Subject B prefers comedies, foreign and independent films, mysteries and classic novels. Following is a description of their movie-going ritual which will, hopefully, lead us to better understand the purpose it plays in their very average, hum-drum lives.

Let¡¯s first examine the circumstances that motivate them to go to the movies as there are a few variables. The first and most common reason is that Friday night has again rolled around and the two are very tired from a week of unsatisfying corporate-lackying. They are not interested in conversation and they wish to relax. Not having developed skills to do this, they have learned that going to the movies is an effective replacement. Another circumstance which motivates them to go to the movies is when they come to the same realization, but earlier in the week and decide they must make the excursion on either a Thursday, or occasionally even a Monday. In some cases a movie comes to the theaters that actually stimulates enough interest to warrant a special trip to the theater, rather than the mere need for Friday night release. The last reason, which only occasionally happens, is that the couple goes to the movies when they are in good spirits. Under these circumstances, we have concluded that there is a celebratory connection made when purchasing popcorn and soda at a %2000 mark up.

Once the decision to go to a movie is made, the couple decides which movie to go to. This is done through a brief negotiation which usually results in the person with the least apathy that day making the decision. From examining dozens of this couple¡¯s movie excursions, we realized that there is a pattern of alternate decision making which favors Subject B 2 to 1. From this we conclude that Subject A is probably more apathetic than Subject B. Subject A has seen many more movies than Subject B.

The couple then proceeds to decide which theater and which time slot to go to their chosen movie. Part of this necessary negotiation also includes the beginning of a conversation regarding how much time they have to get to the theater, and whether it is enough. Subject A prefers to arrive at the theater at least 15 minutes to half an hour early in order to ensure good seats and hot popcorn. Subject B prefers to arrive at the theater at the exact time the movie is supposed to begin in order to avoid watching the previews and wasting time in line for popcorn which nevertheless is always appreciated. Based on this analysis, it appears that Subject A is actually less apathetic in this matter than in the matter of which movie is sought.

The conversation about what time they will arrive continues throughout the car ride to the theater and occasionally through both the ticket line and the popcorn line. In order to end the conversation, Subject B occasionally stands in the popcorn line so that Subject A can run and get good seats and not miss the previews. If Subject A does miss the previews, it is likely the conversation will be continued after the movie and into the next day.

Once the tickets are purchased the couple processes to the ticket-taker guy. He is familiar with them since they are there nearly two times a week and he greets Subject B unfailingly. Subject A complains that the ticket taker guy only greets Subject B. They process further to the concession stand where they stay in line behind one other individual who is ordering popcorn for a fleet of school children from a counter person who took too many qualudes before their shift. The previews are about to begin and Subject A is getting anxious. Subject B suggests that they split up and that Subject A may go get seats. Subject A enthusiastically walks, sometimes even runs, with feverish anticipation in the direction of the theater while Subject B observes 12 boxes of children¡¯s size popcorn which were precariously balanced on arms and shoulders, topple to the floor, requiring the qualuded youngster behind the counter to have to come out and clean up. Next register, please. Eventually Subject B is able to order the goods, but at this point has forgotten which size of popcorn Subject A had requested. Subject B gets the wrong size. Subject B also orders Cherry Coke. It¡¯s lower in caffeine than regular Coke and it tastes better.

Subject B proceeds to the theater and fumbles around in the dark to find Subject A. The previews have begun, most of which they have both seen three times before. Once they have seen a preview for a movie more than three times, they feel there is no need to actually go see the movie. They watch the movie. Both are completely swept away until one of the audience whoops too loudly.

Once the movie is over, the two, as if in a trance, get up and join the growing parade to the restroom. The bright lights of the real world hurt their eyes, and the chilling disappointment of messy cineplex bathrooms gently urges them out of their stupor. Once hands are washed and shaken off (no paper towels), their eyes meet in the mirror. They ask each other, as if there are a possible variety of answers, ¡°Ready to go?¡±

They brace themselves for the outdoor whether, whatever it may be, and trudge to the car. Depending how miserable it is outside, it could be anywhere between a solid minute and 5 before Subject B makes a comment about the movie. Subject B believes this comment is provocative and warrants an equally provocative response, but does not get one. Subject B concludes that Subject A did not feel the same way about the movie and attempts to reframe the comment, asking what Subject A thought. Subject A responds with a simple three word sentence, usually, ¡°I liked it¡±, sometimes ¡°I Loved it¡± and occasionally, on the more exciting occasions, ¡°Ugh¡±

On the typical occasions when the couple does not agree, after Subject B has fully reviewed the film, there is prolonged silence in the car on the way home. Tension is usually broken when one comments on the annoying audience member who whooped too loudly. They both agree that the whooper should have been promptly and mercilessly removed from the theater and when they arrive home, 2-3 otherwise unbearable hours have been painlessly consumed. Tomorrow is another day, which will be basically the same as the one before, or the week before and in approximately 7 days, sometimes more, sometimes less, the two will opt to go out again to the movies.

In conclusion, the ritual of movie going for this average couple is clearly ingrained and important in their way of coping with the every-day disappointments of life and eachother. In some way communing in a dark room with a large, random assortment of strangers provides a sense of connection to the world around them not unlike church-going, but less demanding. It is not known how long the couple can survive with the virtual satisfaction this ritual supplies, but will the real world still be their when they are ready to come out?

Name:  Beth Ann Lennon
Subject:  A world within a world
Date:  2002-10-29 13:22:47
Message Id:  3413
They're tall and skinny, mainly because they don't eat. They're obsessed with fashion and makeup and the way they look in general. The average IQ is ten. Yep, you guessed it, we're talking models. With all these perks to go with the job, it's no wonder that every girl dreams of becoming one. Who wouldn't want to be see as a vain, bitchy snob who everyone thinks believes herself perfect and thus are all on a perpetual quest to find flaws in? Dream material.
It's the glamour. It works as camouflage, hiding all that negative stuff. Who cares if your constantly dieting if, as an end result, other women everywhere will look at pictures of you with envy in their eyes? Free clothes, makeovers, lots of money, national, possibly international, recognition: this has to be one of the most glamorous jobs in the world. Can you imagine opening up a magazine and seeing a picture of yourself on the inside? All of your friend would be jealous. You might even become famous, a supermodel.
What does it matter if you loose everyone's respect and become an object? You're their friend "The Model." No longer are you a teammate, class mate, or room mate. You travel to exotic places and meet interesting people. All this for the simple asking price of your identity. They must know you, after all, they saw a picture of you once.
In a culture where beauty is valued above all else it is hard to criticize the idealistic views of modeling fostered by most women within it. They, however, do not see the true world of modeling. In that world there are stupid people and there are smart people. There are those who are obsessed with fashion and those who could not dress themselves in the morning without some help. It is a world like all others; mixed. There are those self centered egotistical women who cannot look beyond their own surface and thus will never last, even in the modeling industry. There are those who's beauty comes from within and their personality is what makes them great at what they do.
The idea of things such as free clothes and continuous makeovers definitely originated outside of the modeling world. Most of the clothes that are modeled are not those that anyone would want to wear outside of a photo shoot. They are seldom given to the model anyways. Makeovers mean standing there while someone pokes you in the eye and burns you with a curling iron; fun. Sometimes you have to stand in below freezing weather in just a bikini for ten to twelve hours. Or wear two sweatshirts and fleece pants in one hundred degree weather. This is the reality of a photo shoot. And if you complain, chances are they won't hire you again and you ALWAYS want to be hired again.
Strip away the glamour and what do you have? Another job, a career, an industry. Professional women going about their business. There are thousands upon thousands of models out there, all competing for the hundreds of jobs available. It's sort of like a failing economy; too many people and too little work. For every yes you hear you hear at least a dozen no's. Most of your time modeling is spend going on castings and meeting clients, for which you are not paid. Also, when you do get work it is usually so random that all of the money goes right back into the work. You have travel expenses, pictures, composite cards, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come along. Sure you get paid hundreds or thousands of dollars but these things cost money, like in every business. When you model you are self-employed. That means it is your job to find clients. If you are luck you have a good agency who works for you to help in that process, for a fee of course.
Like every other culture, it has its underbelly. There are agencies out there that take unsuspecting girl's money and do nothing in return. Those girls, however, probably didn't do their homework, finding out about what they were attempting to do. They will probably never make it to the legitimate modeling world. The promiscuous sex, rampant drug use, and other such things that you hear about on E! TV are there but definitely avoidable. Don't go around having sex with everyone, you can get work without doing that. Do drugs if you want but that means that your modeling career will probably last one fourth as long as those who don't. These are the things that people with a brain avoid, thus eliminating them as an issue. True, it seems that ninety nine percent of models smoke. That does not mean that every model must smoke in order to be considered a true model.
Ahh, the mystical supermodel. That state which many attempt and few achieve. Just because you model does not mean that you are a supermodel, far from it. Most people don't know who you are and never will. You could be sitting next to a model on the train and never know it. They are people, just like you and me. More than that, they are complete people. They play sports, go to school, have friends, and enemies. You could know a model and never even know it. Why is that? Simply because anyone can model. Sure there are rules in that society saying you must be thus tall and look like this or that but these are rules to be broken. Next time you are bored you might consider breaking into the world of modeling and see what you learn. Open up one more culture for you to explore.
Name:  Joy Woffindin
Username:  jwoffind@brynmawr,edu
Subject:  No Longer a Stranger
Date:  2002-11-01 15:33:44
Message Id:  3467
Each summer for the past three years I have spent several weeks studying Italian in a "total immersion" language school in a tiny town in Tuscany called Poppi. Poppi, which is about a 20 minute drive outside of Arezzo (where the movie "Life is Beautiful" was filmed), is a beautiful Medieval-era town, complete with a grand hilltop castello (castle). The people I have met at the "Scuola d'Italiano per Stranieri" (Italian School for Foreigners) in Poppi have generously let me in to their lives and shown me a side of Italian culture that regular tourists never get to experience. Though I am not ethnically Italian, I feel truly at home walking the streets of Poppi, as the place is no longer strange to me. I, like the native "Poppesi", can spot the American tourists (though there are relatively few, since Poppi is one of the last gems undiscovered by American travel agencies), and cannot help but think of them as outsiders.

The school itself is situated in a building which, like virtually all the other buildings in the town, dates back at least to the Renassaince. Not that you would know however; it certainly isn't grand or even interesting, but is strangely endearing. We always keep the windows open during class – this town scoffs at air conditioning – and as my teacher speaks, the beautiful Italian words rolling musically off her tongue, I sometimes become hypnotized by the whirring sound of the street cleaner truck that rolls by each morning. It makes me smile, because I know the narrow, cobblestone streets of Poppi would be spotless without the cleaning truck's daily rounds.

Each morning we have an hour and a half grammar lesson, followed by an hour and a half conversation class (with a half hour cappuccino break in between, during which we go to one of the three bars that are no less than two minutes walking distance from the school). It still strikes me as funny that in a town with no supermarket, no department store, and very few clothing or appliance shops there is a bar or café about every 20 feet – though I shouldn't be surprised, for I know this is quintessentially Italian.

One can see as the people of Poppi go about their business – the old women sweeping their tiny doorsteps or hanging up their freshly hand-washed aprons to dry, the fruttivendolo unpacking crates of fresh cherries and putting them in green wicker baskets, our friend Clet, the young artist, working in his studio which doubles as a gallery – that they are proud of their town, and especially proud of the fact that for the most part, they have stuck to the traditional Tuscan way of life.

Most afternoons and some weekends we go on excursions and outings with our teachers and the other students from the school. It is not unusual for us to be the only Americans attending and because of this we get to hear our fair share of German, Portuguese and other languages spoken in addition to Italian. There are usually no more than a dozen people attending the school at any given time – most of them over 50 and almost all over 30. My boyfriend Michael and I are always the youngest people there when we go, and when we first came to Poppi three years ago we were the youngest people ever to have attended the school.

One night each year we are all invited to dinner at the house of Signora Grazia, one of the town's many classic Italian matrons. She and her husband are large, jolly, casual, generous people, as well as great cooks. All the students and teachers arrive at Grazia's house in the early evening to help prepare the food. We are instructed by Grazia in exuberant Italian (much faster than our teachers'), as the smell of fresh garlic, peppers and tomatoes sizzling in a saucepan fills the cozy kitchen. We eventually all sit down in Grazia's living room for what seems like a 20 course meal. Italians take their dinners as slowly as possible, and it is not uncommon for these festivities to last until midnight, the evening permeated by impromptu singalongs.

On the last night of class we all gather for a final dinner and then convene at the outdoor café where we exchange stories over cappuccino. It is always poignant, as I play foosball with the 9 year old son of the school's secretary, exchange emails with the other students, and smell the blossoms of the flowering trees that overhang our table for the last time. Of course I could spend hours writing about the many amazing people I have encountered in Poppi, as well as all the art, history and culture I have absorbed from the town and its surrounding region. But I'd rather not get nostalgic yet, for I hope to visit Poppi for many years to come.

Name:  orah minder
Username:  ominder
Subject:  Pueblo reading digression
Date:  2002-10-24 21:23:01
Message Id:  3341
at the begining of Leslie Silko's reading: language and literature from a pueblo indian perspective she says, "many individual words have their own stories. so when one is telling astory, and one is using words to tell the story, each word that one is speaking has a story of its own,too. often the speakers or tellers will go into these word-stories, creating an elaborate structure of stoies-within-stories." it is interesting to think about different layers of existence. we hear one story and without knowing it we are hearing another story simulaniously. when we listen to a person telling a story we are hearing her words but at the same time we are in the midst of her personal story. we experience a peice of her life story without knowing that we are watching it, feeling it, hearing it. sometimes, when walking down the street, i watch people and think that we are all living the stories of our lives and here on the street they are all intersecting without our noticing. i am living the sphere of my life and sitting next to me is a man who is living the sphere of his life; we touch edges and bounce away, i may never see him again but we have skewed each other. i make eye contact with a stranger on the street and have entered her sphere for an instant. i wish i could float above and see down, look at all life pulsing simultaniously- see you living beside me-see him sitting in an empty room, alone. what do things look like when no one sees them. does a tree make a sound when it falls and no one is around to hear it? what is the deepest meaning of a word? what is your deepest story? secret?
last year [when i was writing] i wrote a peice about this feeling of wanting to know the hidden things, the invisible things, the deepest meaning of a word. i will paste the peice here.

Stray Ray
Sitting here on a rock I watch the water rush towards me reaching up to me and dipping into itself away from me. It comes close and then as if it has not enough energy it falls back into itself. The water pulses up and down, towards me and then away from me. The sun glints off the water, dancing in my eyes. A loose ray blinds me and colors flash in my eyes. I sit back, relaxing in the warmth of the sun and the lapping lull of the water. The rock that I sit on is hard against my hand and I feel the grains of pebble imprint themselves in the skin.
The water is beautiful, rushing towards me and away from me, the sunlight prancing on it and in my eyes. The rock supports me. The sunlight is beautiful in my eyes and the colors it makes in my eyes are beautiful.
The water moves but I can only see it in relation to myself, rushing to me or away from me. Nature is beautiful in my eyes, but I wonder if it would be beautiful if I were not here. The rock supports me and it is hard, but it is only hard if my hand is pressing on it, it would not be hard if I were not there. I wish I could watch nature from the outside. I wish I could see the water rushing and the sunlight shining and the still rock just being.
It is hard to see beauty outside oneself. Beauty is always seen in relation to oneself.
I saw a beautiful person yesterday, walking down the street in my direction. He was walking towards me. We watched each other walk down the street, approaching. His body seemed to follow his chest, which directed his feet forward, towards me. He held his hands on the straps at his chest protecting himself from the passing strangers. We passed each other and were gone.
I wish I could see him sitting, alone, beautifully. I wish I could see him being. I wish I could watch him not watching me. I wish I could just see him being beautiful.

that's it. that's what i think about. the end of this horibly long posting.

Name:  Phoebe Anderson
Subject:  Aspect of culture
Date:  2002-10-28 14:10:43
Message Id:  3385
Christmas at Aunt Karen's House

It is 2:00 pm on Christmas Eve and the Anderson household is bustling with activity. Mom is downstairs putting the final touches on the riscrem, stirring the cranberry topping and putting the rice pudding in the refrigerator to chill. Dad and I am hustling upstairs, showering and changing, trying to get in the car and on our way by 2:30. The car door slams and we are on our way to Timonium, Maryland to celebrate another Norwegian Christmas with my father's sister.

We are greeted warmly by the "first-arrivers," usually my cousins Randy and Marlene and their family. We place our gifts beneath the overwhelming large Christmas tree in the living room. If I was a little child like many of my second cousins I would rummage through the ever-expanding pile of gifts, trying to find ones that had my name on them. I would also check the Christmas tree to see if my aunt had included at least one picture of me in a hanging ornament. After the children do their routine check of the tree, they dash upstairs and put on some of my grandmother's old clothes. It is amusing to remember when my cousin Julia and I were the youngest and would entertain the adults with a fashion show of grandma's clothes.

The Christmas bell jingles on the front door, signaling the entrance of my cousin Laurel and her family. A mini herd of excited children come dashing through, greeting my aunt (their grandmother) and checking out the tree. Once everyone has arrived, hot cider is dished out, the children become content with playing with each other upstairs in my cousin's old room, and the adults and teenagers settle down in the den to eat shrimp, crackers and cheese.

The rich smells of a tasty Christmas dinner call everyone from their respective places and people begin to form a buffet line. Parents get the children seated at the "kids' table" in the living room and cut up their meat and tell them to behave themselves, while the rest of the adults seat themselves at the adult table in the dining room. We hold hands and say a dinner prayer in Norwegian. Even though I am not a very religious person I still take part in the prayer because at this particular moment there is a closeness and feeling of satisfaction and security. The people around the table are so different, each with their own story. It is almost hard to believe that we come from the same family. At this one unifying moment we feel connected and our differences seem to vanish.

After the dinner plates are moved into the kitchen for washing, coffee is put on and people talk amongst themselves while waiting for dessert. A plate of assorted cookies including karumkake, a traditional Norwegian cookie that is made with an iron and is quickly rolled into a cone before it hardens, is put out on the dining room table. My mom and dad always make a batch around Christmas time, keeping some for ourselves and passing the others out at work. The cookies my parents make are always light, crunchy, and perfect, while my aunt's are soggy and bendable. Each year we try to figure out what her excuse will be. Sometimes the amount of margarine is wrong and sometimes the day is too overcast. The most important dessert is the riscrem that my mom often makes. It is rice pudding that has a wonderful cranberry sauce. Each year a whole almond is placed in one of the bowls. Whoever gets the almond becomes "Santa Claus" and gets to pass out the presents. There have been a couple of years when we had to determine who was "Santa Claus" by a different means because the child who got the nut mistakenly ate it.

The kids' table is broken down and we slowly assemble in the living room for the gift exchange. Carlo, my aunt's partner, is always the cameraman, capturing the excited and overjoyed faces of the children. The youngest child usually gets a huge gift from my aunt and her partner. After all, I am her only niece. The rest of the children are her grandchildren so she must be "grandmotherly" and spoil her darling grandchildren. It is always a large production. There are jealous glances and impatient gestures. The child that received the huge gift wants to play with it immediately even it isn't all that way put together and the other children want to take a turn.

After a while when the children's eyes get heavy with sleep, the evening is at an end. We say goodbye to one another and say, "see you next year". We all drive off to our respective houses.

Each year I analyze the gathering and vow as soon as I am on my own I will establish my own Christmas traditions. My complaints are not with the food, or the drive, or the traditions. They are with the company. The gathering seems so artificially put together. An outsider would feel like they were watching a Christmas movie because everyone has their own purpose, the children running around and playing with the assorted toys, my aunt cheerfully putting on the final touches to the Christmas dinner, and the adults chatting amiably amongst themselves. This movie even includes a delightful soundtrack of Norwegian Christmas songs and the smells of home cooking. With a closer look, however, the outsider will not hear meaningful, interesting conversations. Laurel, my cousin, gives us a soap opera-like update on what's been happening in her life, while my cousin Julia tries desperately to stay with the ever-changing trends.

I never see these people any other time of the year. Christmas is the one time that we are all thrown together in one house. I need something more, a relationship outside of the Christmas gathering. We have tried numerous times to establish a closer relationship with my cousins, but the excuses fly faster than tennis balls fly out of a ball machine.

Recently, however, I have learned to embrace my extended family. I have realized that they are the only family that I have and while I can choose my friends, I cannot choose my family. I have learned that I really am satisfied with just a Christmas visit because I don't have enough in common with them to want a closer relationship. So I have embraced Christmas at Karen's house. I have embraced the dramatic chatter my cousin Laurel has to offer, I have embraced the frantic activity of my younger cousins, I have embraced the "um-pah-pah" of the Norwegian Christmas songs, I have embraced the drama that comes every year when a child breaks one of my aunt's Santa Claus figurines, and I have embraced her efforts to hold the family together through food and tradition.

Name:  Nadia Christidis
Subject:  Ramadan, Through the Eyes of an Outsider
Date:  2002-10-28 20:53:46
Message Id:  3396
Ramadan, when it arrives, changes the entire face of the western part of Beirut. This is not just as a result of the appearance of brightly colored decorations such as the popular multicolored "fawanees", typically Arab lanterns that I had heard about in The Thousand Nights, representations of the "msaher", whom I will talk about later on, and tents pitched in front of restaurants and stores in which people sat listening to an old man strumming on the "oud", eating "manakeesh", drinking a steamy white pine flavored drink called "sahlab", blowing smoke from their narjilas, and playing "tauola", an Arabic style of chess. For readers who are not familiar with some of these terms, I was not either. I discovered them during my first visit to this land of tradition and modernity. It does not however change only the appearance of the streets but also the behavior of people.

The first time I encountered the idea of Ramadan was actually during my first night in Beirut. I had arrived late in the night and looked forward to nothing except slipping into bed. It struck me during my taxi cab ride from the airport that the city was bustling strangely for it was 3 o'clock in the morning on a weekday. We had passed many small many bumpy roads and small allies before we had reached Sadat street, where my hotel was located, right off of the well-known Hamra street. Lights were still on in apartments and if you looked closely into one, you could see families moving around, particularly in the kitchen. I found this and the long lines in front of the numerous open restaurants intriguing. I apologetically interrupted the Fairuz song "Sanarjaou Yaoumann" and attempted to ask the driver who spoke broken English what was causing all this commotion so late at night. When finally understood my question, he chuckled, lit a cigarette and answered half in English, half in Arabic, "Oh, heeda Ramadan."

I would spend the next few days trying to discover what Ramadan is and what its connection was to how busy the streets were. My discovery of this began almost as soon as I had arrived. No sooner than I had fallen asleep, I was awaken by the sound of a repetitive beating on a drum and the voice of a middle-aged man shouting in Arabic saying something along the lines of wake up, wake up. His shouts were then met by the voices of children welcoming him saying, "Marhaba ya msaher, ya marhaba." I quickly jumped out of bed wanting to see what was happening, what all the commotion was about. Was this normal? Did this have anything to do with Ramadan? Or was this only something that happens on that particular night of the year? When I looked down into the dark street, I found a man wearing a colorful robe and a fez beating a large drum, looking up at the surrounding apartments, shouting, in an attempt to wake up their residents. Then I looked up at the apartments on my street and saw people of different ages, but mostly children, standing on their balconies in their pajamas welcoming him. Once most of the apartments had lit up, the man wandered on to another street, still shouting wake up, wake up. If you listened, you could hear the dialogue between him and the children occurring in nearby neighborhoods.

Now, at 4 in the morning, people were moving as though it were midday. Unable to sleep as a result of the noise around me and my curiosity about the scene I had just witnessed , I decided to go downstairs and have something to eat. After all, I had been tempted by all the delicious food I had seen people eating on the streets, food which I would find out was typical of Ramadan such as "kalaj". Finding the receptionist in the lobby awake, sipping away at his coffee, I decided it was the perfect opportunity for me to ask about what Ramadan is. His reply was that it is one of the five pillars of Islam, in which Muslims are required to fast not only from food and water but also from bad habits such as swearing, lying, and gossip from sunset to sunrise for a month. This made sense to me but I did not understand why Muslims fasted Ramadan, how it was related to the commotion outside, what the scene I had just witnessed, and what other traditions are incorporated in it. I thanked the receptionist for his time; I didn't want to overstay my welcome.

I headed towards the restaurant that was, as all the rest around the hotel, open. I sat near a window overlooking the street, not wanting anything to happen without me knowing about it, and ordered a cup of bitter Turkish coffee, without looking at the waiter for fear of missing something. As I waited patiently for my coffee, at about 5 in the morning, I noticed an influx of men, looking clean and dressed in shorts longer than the knee coming out of their buildings heading in one direction. Where were they going? What were they going to do? I was about to ask the waiter when all of a sudden I heard the morning call to prayer coming from a nearby mosque. The waiter, having seen me engrossed in what was going on explained to me that the men were heading to morning prayer. He said that in Ramadan your good deeds are magnified and therefore praying once in Ramadan counts as though one had prayed many times some other time during the year.

Feeling tired and overwhelmed by what I had witnessed, I excused myself, asked for the bill, and retired to my room. I lay awake a while in bed wondering about Ramadan until I finally fell asleep again. I got up the next day at around noon time, feeling famished but revived from sleep. I left the hotel in search of food to eat but as soon as I stepped out I realized that although everything was still going on around me as usual, the pace of the city was much slower than it had been the night before. I found a shawerma restaurant and decided to have that. The restaurant had a few customers, not near to the number it had had during the night. The men and women running the restaurant seemed tired but at the same time driven by some other source of energy, their faith. I ordered a chicken shawerma and sat down on a stool nearby waiting for my order to arrive, feeling guilty about having to eat it in front of others who could not. Overcome by curiosity, I asked why Muslims fasted during the month of Ramadan. A short bald man that had been thumbing his worry beads replied in perfect English, "It is to appreciate what we have, what good has given us. It is to feel with the poor. When we fast, we feel what it is like to feel hungry and not be able to eat and as a result of this we give from our possessions. It stops us from taking things for granted and makes us realize that our situation can change and that just because we are wealthy now, we will not necessarily be so in the future... As for fasting from bad habits, this is to purify our souls and practice self restraint."

I thanked him for his time and feeling ashamed about eating in front of him, left. I remained in my room for the rest of the evening writing notes about everything
I had seen during the day. At sunset, I heard the sound of canon exploding and then briefly afterwards heard once again the call to prayer. I went downstairs to the restaurant to see exactly what happens when the sun sets. I saw families sitting at tables having a hearty multi-course meal. I suddenly became confused... The poor did not have soup, salad, a variety of main courses, and desert after a day of hunger; they did not eat late at night in order to sustain the day. The same waiter that had spoken to me yesterday, seeing me confused came up to me again and asked what was the matter. After I explained what had been bothering me, he nodded as though he himself had thought about this questions many times. Then he said, "It wasn't always this way. The prophet, God rest his soul, ate dates and drank water. The tradition of eating large meals at the end of a day of fasting is a relatively new one. However, eating a large meal at the end of the day does not mean that during the day you do not feel what it is like to need something and not have it. On the contrary, at the end of the day, when you have a large meal and when you eat late at night after you are awoken, you realize how wonderful it is to have what you have. "

I thought about this for a long while as everything I had seen during the past few days began to come together. There was so much I wanted to learn about this tradition; I had just learned the basics. Now I was ready to find out more...

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