I recently came across the new I Can't Believe It's Not Butter advertising campaign promoting their "Turn the Tub Around" video competition. The videos include a "cute" little song featuring the product I Can't Believe It's Not Butter as a "healthy" alternative to real butter. The company declares that their product has less saturated fat than real butter and that it contains no hydrogenated oils.
Quick background information regarding hydrogenated oils: these are man-made oils, also known as trans fats, which deliver absolutely no good nutritional value; in fact, they increase risk of obesity and heart disease exponentially. They do nothing but horrible things to our bodies and were only invented very recently. They only exist in processed foods. Trans fats also include partially hydrogenated oils; not just the hydrogenated kind. We should avoid any food that includes trans fats, hydrogenated oils, or partially hydrogenated oils. Consuming products with these ingredients is no different than deliberately injecting poison into your bloodstream.
Now let's take a look at the ingredient list for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter:
The second item on that ingredient list says "Vegetable oil blend (liquid soybean oil, partially hydrogenated* soybean oil)". That's right; I Can't Believe It's Not Butter blatantly lies about the ingredients in their product! Artificial flavours are also prevalent in this product, which are also an unnecessary and toxic ingredient in any food product.
Real butter is not going to kill you. It is a real food, and as long as you don't consume large quantities of it, it will not have any major negative effects on your health (by which I mean, only consume small quantities of it, and try to reserve it for special occasions). If you are vegan, or if you prefer not to eat butter, an excellent alternative is Earth Balance (not to be confused with Smart Balance, which contains artificial flavours and other unhealthy ingredients). If the reason that you prefer margarine to butter is that it is more spreadable, simply leave your butter in a dish on the counter rather than the fridge. It will easily spread on your toast. Besides, I should think that trading in a spreadable substance for a poison-free substance is worth it.
The rhetoric that food manufacturers use is incredibly misleading. The only way to counter it is to do the work ourselves and read the ingredient lists: looks on these packages can be deceiving.
*Emphasis my own.
In university, we tend to gravitate towards others within our department of study. It's only natural that we identify with others who share our passions for the subject matter that we engage in daily, so it can be a nice shift of perspective when we spend more time with people from other departments.
My major is in Rhetoric, Writing, and Communication. Once upon a time, I had planned to major in English. I soon recognized that I'm a rhetorician at heart, not an English student, so I made the department switch. This semester I am taking a class in the English department, however: Creative Writing.
On the first day of class my professor asked us the question, "what gives something 'literary feel'?" He continues to ask this question every class, and every time he asks it, it perplexes me. When people offer suggestions for what gives something "literary feel", he says that he disagrees with them. In Rhetoric, we would instead be looking for a definition for the term "literary feel", and we would be examining how the phrase affects a piece of writing, and how we are affected as an audience. I find it incredibly frustrating because I feel that my Creative Writing professor is taking this approach from an angle in which we simply won't be able to come to an agreement or, indeed, any satisfactory answer whatsoever.
English and Rhetoric may appear to be quite close in similarity, but they are vastly different. A more obvious difference between departments is Rhetoric and Geography. As the boyfriend and I studied together this past weekend, I was reading a 30 page article that analyzed the iconic "Flag Raising on Iwo Jima" photograph. He was using Microsoft Excel to chart data of white earlywood tree rings over a certain period of time.
These disciplines are clearly very far apart, but this does not necessarily mean that one discipline is "right" and one is "wrong". We learn about the world because of our variety of disciplines; we may always feel as though "our" department is the most relevant to study, but each discipline of study is essential to the development and progress of personal and societal understanding. There is a benefit to studying everything. It is how we use it, and how it impacts our learning, that will make the difference.
When it comes to Creative Writing, the opening can be what makes or breaks the story. While the opening scene should intrigue the reader and invite them to read more, the first paragraph and even the first sentence should be carefully thought out so as to be the most appealing for the audience.
It is because of this that anyone interested in improving their writing skills in works of fiction can benefit greatly from experimenting with writing "openers" to their stories. This is an easy exercise to try out for yourself, similar to one that is conducted in the Introduction to Creative Writing course at the University of Winnipeg:
1. Take about a dozen of your favourite fiction books and copy down the first sentence from each book on one piece of paper. Is the first sentence of all of these books appealing? What makes each sentence so compelling? Why did you continue to read the book? How does a question, a statement, dialogue, description, or the length and word choice in that one sentence change the "feel" of it?
2. Write down ten of your own "first sentences". They can be the first sentence for ten different stories, or they can be different opening sentences for a single story you already have in mind. The idea here is to not spend a lot of time agonizing over each sentence; just write what pops into your head.
3. Compare the ten sentences that you have written. How do you feel about them? Could a decent story come out of them? What do you feel makes them interesting or cliched?
With this kind of exercise, you can help yourself to discover what it is that you like in the first sentence of a story. Maybe you love all of your first sentences; maybe none of them are quite "there". Regardless, you are likely going to put a little more thought into that first sentence for whatever kind of fiction you write in the future: the important lesson to take away from this exercise is how valuable and influential that first sentence can really be in impacting the reader and convincing them to continue to read your writing.
One of my classes this term is Revolutions in Communication. Essentially it is a course about the history of communication, beginning with oral societies. Oral societies relied on stories to convey lessons, and an important part of these societies were the telling of fairy tales.
The book that we are reading is Folk & Fairy Tales, fourth edition, edited by Martin Hallett and Barbara Karasek. It is a beautiful 411-page compilation of fairy tales from all over the world. They are divided into sections: first, we have a section each devoted to the tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella. The sections following these three classic tales are Growing Up (is hard to do), The Enchanted Bride (Groom), Brain over Brawn (The Trickster), Villains, A Less Than Perfect World, Juxtapositions, Illustration, and Criticism. These sections include variations of the stories of The Brave Little Tailor, Beauty and the Beast, The Three Little Pigs, and Rumplestiltskin among many others.
This is an excellent book for those interested in learning more about the evolution of fairy tales and the way in which different authors have written their own versions for each story. Some of the most well-known recorders of fairy tales are Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen, but there are many others besides featured in this book. Perrault has a habit of tacking an explicit moral onto the end of each of his fairy tales for the reader's benefit, and it is his style which I have found to be particularly appealing: his stories would interest children, but they are also written in such a way that adults will appreciate the subtleties that children will not understand.
This book includes some beautiful coloured photographs of favourite fairy tales and closely examines prominent motifs featured in major fairy tales. It is lovely to see some of the better-known versions alongside the lesser-known ones, and to consider these fairy tales in a different light than our usual Disney understanding of them.
Interpretations of Fairy Tales
In our class we have been dissecting these fairy tales according to a few major theorists so that we can consider a few different ways in which we might interpret the fairy tales. This allows us to also look at the stories from angles which we might not have thought of prior to the class. For example, we looked closely at Freud's interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty. I'll spare you the details lest you never think of these fairy tales in the same light again, but essentially he believed that these fairy tales are all about the psychological transition of becoming a sexual being. The red hood, the long sleep, even the number of fairies included are all, in Freud's point of view, innuendos for sexuality.
Although Freud's interpretation seems rather extreme, his understanding of the message of fairy tales is important because it teaches us that there is much more to just about anything than we originally may think. We view the world with what knowledge we already have, so if we can broaden our minds by learning about other interpretations of the world, we can benefit by expanding our understanding. And increasing our awareness is always useful to our livelihood and wellbeing.
You can find calendars everywhere. The iGoogle Homepage, student agendas, the bank, cellphones, and most homes all contain calendars. Many companies give out free calendars to promote their businesses and organizations: I've collected these from the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, World Vision, and VitaHealth among others. But just because there are a lot of calendars out there, doesn't mean they are all good quality calendars.
Good quality is a rather vague term because it is really dependent on what exactly you're looking for in a calendar. The basic information includes the dates and the weekdays in a chart with the name of the month printed above. Calendars are clean and tidy with neat boxes that line up with one another. Smaller calendars might have just the date and nothing else in the box; these ones are specifically for knowing the bare minimum of the date and day of the week for that month. But I prefer bigger calendars, the kind with larger boxes so that you can write in your own schedule. In a way, these calendars cease to just be calendars, and instead become organizers or daily planners.
These bigger calendars are also useful if we wish to know the phase of the moon or if any holidays are coming up in the next couple of weeks. These small extras contribute to our desire to have as much information as possible all in one place. The consumer will feel more as though they are getting their money's worth if the calendar provides them with more information, even if it is information that they will never pay attention to.
Aesthetic appeal is equally important. Calendars that appear sloppy and unorganized will likely be overlooked by one which displays a more professional layout. Likewise, pictures and text can also increase the likelihood that you will buy one calendar over another. For instance, two female roommates might decide to invest in a James Dean calendar featuring a different classic photograph of James Dean for each month. Likewise, if they are travelers, they would probably also be interested in a calendar such as the "1,001 places to visit", which is graced with beautiful colour photographs and snippets of information about the places that the calendar urges travelers to visit. Organizations that are affiliated with health and nutrition might feature recipes and photographs of the finished product in their calendars, a sure seller as each recipe tends to be associated with the kinds of foods available at that time of year.
The kind of material that the calendars are printed on, and the typography and the fonts, will all be variants in how much someone might like to have the calendar on the wall. It might seem a silly thing to take into consideration, but this calendar will be hanging on your wall- and likely in a very prominent place- all year long. What do you want to be associated with? What do you want to look at day after day?
The key to selling the calendar, then, is to be timely and to know who the audience is that are being targeted. The last component to the making of a successful calendar is contact information: if your calendar is as good as you hope consumers will believe it to be, you want to make sure that they know where to reach you so that they will buy into more of your business.
"Symbolic action is the dancing of an attitude."
"Symbolic action" includes but is not limited to gesture, images, demonstrations, music, slogans, and tone of voice. Rhetoric isn't necessarily "twaddle"; it can also be (and most often is) a form of connection and a way to identify with one another.
Rhetoric is truly beautiful.
Last weekend I visited the Winnipeg Art Gallery with the mother dear and the boyfriend. It had been years since I last looked at the art there, so it was a lovely experience to wander the big rooms and appreciate the photographs, sculptures, paintings, and other forms of art that graced the walls.
Because it was one of the last days for the current display of Yousuf Karsh's photography, the entire building was packed full of people. The three of us decided to move against the grain, going backwards through Karsh's life rather than forwards. It was easier to move at our own pace. In hindsight, it also would have presented a unique view on the development of Karsh's interests and skills as a photographer, if we had been paying attention especially to that.
The mother dear rushed ahead and was finished before the boyfriend and I had strolled halfway along the gallery. The boyfriend and I weren't even reading the plaques on the walls; we were simply peering over people's shoulders, admiring the art and interpreting it however we saw fit. We enjoyed guessing who the subjects of the photograph were before craning to see the names on the plaques beside them. We weren't moving at a snail's pace, but we were taking our time.
On the other hand, the mother dear was uninterested in looking at every single photograph with great detail. She preferred to go along and stop when a particular photograph caught her eye, or when she recognized the subject. When she arrived at the gallery showcasing Inuit art, she spent much more time reading each plaque and absorbing the beauty of the sculptures, because that was more appealing to her.
It seemed that the majority of the people attending the Karsh gallery were reading each plaque and taking a good long look at each photograph in the chronological order that they were represented. People barely moved, shuffling along every few minutes after they had analyzed the picture and the writing beside it.
There is no right or wrong way to view art, just as there is no right or wrong way to go through life. The way we see the world, the way we interact with the world, bears our own stamp. We mark it as we see fit and we will move at our own pace, looking for what intrigues us and passing by what we aren't interested in. In this way, we appreciate the good things, aren't bogged down by what we deem is less important, and we take some meaning away from it relevant only to ourselves. It doesn't matter the speed of our adventures: what matters is that we do learn something from it all.
How do you interpret your view of the world?