Article Response #1: Behind the Fifty Shades of Grey

Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/jul/06/why-women-love-fifty-shades-grey

Author: Zoe Williams

Title: Why women love Fifty Shades of Grey

Main topic: an analyzation of what makes Fifty Shades of Grey popular, with some subtle review components

 

Zoe Williams, the author of this response to EL James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, writes with a very bright tone which makes her article very fun to read. She writes generally with the tone of an “outsider” trying explain a strange phenomenon, and she only sometimes weaves in her own opinion of the book. Her opinion may, of course, be very different from the opinions of other readers (for example her statement that the book’s characterization is lame and some of the literary tools are annoying) – which makes the article tailored to a smaller audience, that is, the people who have the same opinion as her. However, this technique also adds personal meaning to her writing, and makes readers try to emphasize with her on a greater level. In this way, they can reach out farther to try to understand what she is saying and her words will be accepted with more depth by more readers.

Williams goes on to say that it is surprising how popular this book has become, and that it supposedly came as a big surprise to publishers as well. To paraphrase the article, “it marks a change in perception of what women want”. I honestly don’t think that this is entirely true- women that like erotica books have always liked them. Perhaps when the books they were reading weren’t as popular as this one, it just wasn’t so noticeable. Or, they were more shy about being seen reading them if they weren’t top-shelf bestsellers. This is certainly one of the first books of its style to become this widely known, fast selling, and openly read by women, but that also depends on public record. How many women will have admitted to reading books of this style before Fifty Shades of Grey arrived at the scene? When reading a book we feel we’re not supposed to, massive popularity provides some consolation. I’m sure that some people even picked it up only because its popularity got the better of their curiosity. There was, after all, an entire bookstore section dedicated to this series, with big block letters and advertising surrounding it. Read a book containing floggers, handcuffs, and whips, and you may be considered a little odd by some. But read a book containing floggers, handcuffs, and whips that is well known, and you will most likely be considered more or less normal. Thusly, I don’t think this necessarily marks a shift in what women like, but perhaps just a shift in their openness about it. It suddenly becomes something worth boasting about to say “I have read Fifty Shades of Grey!”, and people are less afraid to admit it, be it because the book is considered so accomplished, or because a much larger proportion of the world is also in their shoes.

Williams also hints that this book’s popularity shows a surprising women’s interest in the, ehm, strange sexual habits endorsed in the book. I don’t think that the fact that women read this book means that they like everything in it- even the corporal punishment. If the latter was the only reason why women liked Fifty Shades of Grey, then that definitely would be a marked change in what women want- but again, those that have such preferences knew about them before. If anything, women will be more accepting of such things now because it is becoming such a popularized idea through this series. I think that as there is already a shift in women’s sexuality and openness happening in these modern times, the book may be further accentuating those changes – but it is not driving them. It is just a way of changing sexual values openly manifesting themselves in society – riding the wave of change.

EL James says she disapproves of how teenagers are reading her series, but the fact today is that if you put a great sex book out there, teenagers will read it. It’s the way the world is today, at least in North America. I don’t think that it’s the first time teenagers have read books like this, either. Perhaps it was just not so publicized before. Furthermore, there must be some reason why teenagers are eager to read this series, and that can only be a compliment to EL James.

Williams comments by saying she thinks that it is the fact that the sex scenes are “especially well written” that makes this book rise above the rest of the erotica-themed press. That may be true, or perhaps it is some other element of the book’s characterization or literary tools that makes a great read. Quite possibly, it is a combination of both. Williams concludes with the suggestion that although the book has some very “irritating tics” and poorly scripted “improbable dialogue”, it won’t stop people from furthering its popularity, because the most important thing to them are the sex scenes, rendering such poor book elements irrelevant. If this is true, then maybe the book really is marking a further change in our society’s openness with such content. However, I think good writing will always stay good writing, no matter if it includes kinky sex scenes or not.

Article: http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0310/from-poverty-to-power-celebrities-who-started-with-nothing.aspx#axzz2H7IrzZwK

Author: Michael Deane

Title: From Poverty to Power: Celebrities Who Started With Nothing

Main topic: mini biographies of famous wealthy people who started from the bottom

 

This article, written by Michael Deane, may be considered an inspiration to those who feel that if they are not rich today, they never will be. I honestly think that the fact that the world (along with our personal circumstances) is always changing is almost blatantly obvious, but it does help to remind ourselves of it once in a while. The problem is, however, that the people talked about in the article are more often the exception than the rule. They had great talent, but also, they found themselves in the right place at the right time. You may have the best singing voice in the world, but if you are not in the right place and time to be heard, no one will listen to you anyways. It is these people’s talent, but also luck, that got them to where they are today. That being said, luck is not always just a matter of arbitrary chance. There are dozens of sayings that express this: “chance favors the prepared mind”; “some people are destined to be great, but more often they are determined to be great”; “a winner never quits, and a quitter never wins”; bottom line is, hard work pays off.

The law of attraction, an idea that’s steadily gaining popularity, may partially be at work here. Some people want something a lot, and they channel their energy correctly into positive thinking and harnessing positive “vibrations” that allow that situation to actually come to happen. The process is easy, but the reason why not everybody is able to make it work is that not everyone has the drive to work really hard at something. Or perhaps life just doesn’t want to let everybody be super rich and popular and famous – we would all be just the same, and then where would fortune go from there?

The way Deane’s wraps up his article is a perfect conclusion. It is an encouragement: incentive nudge, following the evidence of “miracles do happen” to prompt people to get off their feet and go change the world (especially their own) for the better. I would replace his use of the word “talent” with “passion”, however, as I don’t think talent exists – it is merely the result of hard work driven by our love for the given sport or activity. I must here return to my argument that things such as luck may be randomly given out by nature, but I maintain that it is just a result of our own hard work and not being afraid to get our nails dirty with it. If there is one thing that the people discussed in the article have in common, it is that they all love what they do. It is impossible to work day after day for something you don’t really want, something that your heart would not chase after if it could spontaneously sprout legs. I share Deane’s encouraging outlook on the inspiration of these fortunate celebrities, so I will follow his lead in my conclusion; perhaps not everyone can make it to the top, or even chase after their dreams, but you will not know if you are one of the few who can until you give it a try.

Article: http://www.allkpop.com/2012/07/breaking-ccm-announces-hwayoung-will-leave-t-ara

Author: “MountainMadman”

Title: CCM announces Hwayoung will leave T-ara

Main topic: explanation of what happened surrounding a member’s dispatchment from a popular Korean Pop girl band

 

I don’t read that many newspaper-styled articles, but if there is one thing I know from my small scope of knowledge on the subject, it is that they are often so overfilled with biased opinions and exaggerations to make the content seem scandalous (and effectively, to get more people to read it) that the facts are often buried under the mountain of connotations and fancy words. Thusly, I am glad to see that this article, written by someone who goes by the username “MountainMadman”, has chosen the formal “let’s not offend anybody” approach. Although I am not exactly thrilled with this style of writing, I think that it is at least much more respectful of everybody involved to not try to skew up the facts in favor of someone.

As Simon and Martina explained in their video “TL;DR – T-ara’s Break Up Scandal and What It Means To Kpop”, no one really knows what happened to trigger the splitting of Kpop band T-ara. Unless you’re a member of T-ara. Then you probably (hopefully) know what happened. It is the same situation in everyday teenager’s school lives. If two friends have an argument, or a fight, or a misunderstanding occurs, rumors can fly about it all the way to the classroom at the way opposite end of the school before  the lunch bell rings, and the story gets chewed over so much on people’s tongues that by the time it reaches the last pair of ears, it goes from being something like “Tony dropped a sandwich on the floor” to “A sandwich ate Tony!”. And the actual story really goes something like “Tony almost choked on his sandwich and had to be rushed to the hospital”. Unless you were there, you have no evidence that what you heard about whatever it may be is true.

People are gossipy creatures, and it is perhaps our boredom that makes us want to stick our nose into everybody’s business and change the facts around a little too. I think that it is rather unfair that celebrities are picked on so much. Because they are widely known, and the media has nothing better to do, they pick at every little string and piece of lint found on the celebrities until it becomes a bulging monstrosity. “Omg, so-and-so gained so much weight!” “Wow, can you believe what she said??” “Ha-ha, he tripped and fell walking up the stairs.”. Wow! Everyone makes mistakes, we can all say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment, life goes on! But for celebrities, it takes much longer, or it doesn’t at all, because the media will crawl all over it in an instant, pick it apart, reassemble it, and slap everyone in the face with it.

There are two sides to this T-ara argument; one being that Hwayoung was being bullied by the other members, and the second that she was being a B-word to them and deserves to get the booty kick out of the group. This article doesn’t express favoritism for either theory, and the only thing I have here to add is that what happens between T-ara is only T-ara’s business, and if the rest of the media had a bigger sense of respect for celebrities who are also human beings, they would not pretend to know all the facts when clearly they don’t. “MountainMadman” was to my relief very polite and plain about addressing what happened, but many other news and gossip media sources are not; and I am not just talking about professionals or people with diplomas. Anyone is capable of pompously assuming they know what they do not. I think especially news reporters could learn a little from Socrates: “There is but one thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.”

It is with this in mind that my mind met this article’s relay of the events with much ease. A member of T-ara left the group. That’s all there is to say. Good luck to her, and good luck to the rest of the group, and good luck to the Kpop fan-world out there for not tearing themselves to shreds with arguments over what really happened.

Article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-virgin/gluten_b_1834836.html

Author: JJ Virgin

Title: 7 Ways Eating Gluten Makes You Fat, Sick and Tired

 

The introduction of this article endorses the sort of controversy over information that so often and frankly, easily happens in today’s informational paradigm. The article’s author JJ Virgin provides a link to an article written by Dr. Glenn Gaesser that goes on to explain how gluten is presumably good for people. Although the latter article is no longer accessible, it supposedly explains several health benefits to it like for example benefits to the heart, gut, and immune system. JJ Virgin then goes on to disagree with Dr. Gaesser and explains how removing gluten from our lives will really make us thinner, healthier, and more energetic.

What I see here is a dilemma of contradicting facts that all appear to be equally supported. Who to believe? This happens very often in our modern world because things people say are often a) not backed up by enough supportive evidence (or none at all), b) not verified, c) myths with false evidence, or d) only what people want to believe, so they accept it as the truth. Dr. Gaesser and JJ Virgin can’t both be correct; If Dr. Gaesser is correct in his statement that gluten is healthy for us, then it would be wrong for JJ Virgin to argue that we should remove it from out diets. Perhaps there is a middle ground on which they are both right; gluten may have benefits for some body types, or if eaten in moderation. On the other hand, in excessive amounts or for some people, it may become detrimental to our health, figure, and energy.

About the claim of weight gain coming from gluten, I agree with how JJ Virgin states that calories-in, calories-out is what really matters. Whether junk food is gluten free or not, it will still make you gain weight. Further into the article, she backtracks and states that eating gluten further stalls weight loss by exacerbating cravings, inhibiting nutrient absorption, and worsening thyroid gland performance (which regulates the metabolism). These were rather interesting pieces of information, and they reminded me of the sort of claims that are made in the book “Flip the Switch, Lose the Weight”. I am referring to claims of the likes that doing some movement every half hour will keep your metabolism running fast (even if the movements are very easy, like just walking around the room a few times). Such claims are nice to believe, which may make them easily subjected to faulty assumptions of truth, because people feel more comfortable believing the information then going through the tedious process of verifying the facts and finding out they are wrong. However, the question of whether or not they are correct still remains open. Similar pleasing-to-the-thought ideas (“just don’t eat ____ and you’ll lose weight!”) appear rather most ridiculous when analyzed with any degree of logic. For example, there’s the claim that certain foods make you burn more calories than they give you. If that would really be true, then if you ate a ton of those foods, you would become increasingly more skinny and emancipated until you’d supposedly die of malnutrition. It just does not make sense for nature to give us food that does exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. Yet, there was a whole book based on this claim (“Foods That Cause You To Lose Weight: The Negative Calorie Effect”, written by Neal Barnard) and it was backed up by “facts” as well.

It is apparent, then, that misunderstandings do happen rather easily in the modern information era, and the trick in catching them lies in being able to tell apart false claims from facts with real evidence. JJ Virgin seems to provide substantial evidence in her article advocating the removal of gluten, but we also know that even studies and researches can be faulty. Therefore, as I am no health or nutrition science expert, I feel I have to remain skeptical about the content of this article, and I think that any information given to people should be viewed in a similar manner instead of being naively accepted as gospel truth. However, on the positive side, I think that JJ Virgin’s words may be interesting and helpful to read for people. If nothing else, then it at least provides an interesting perspective on a fairly easy (since almost everything out there has a gluten-free counterpart) way to diet .

Article: http://cratesandribbons.com/2012/11/18/women-arent-funny-gender-and-stand-up-comedy/

Title: “Women Aren’t Funny” – Gender and Stand-Up Comedy

Author: writer of blog “Crates and Ribbons:

Main topic: analyzing the belief that women aren’t as  funny as men and why

 

The blog-writer of “Crates and Ribbons” raises many good points in his/her article (to make referring to the author easier, since neither name nor gender are known, I will use the author’s blog name to refer to him/her). The topic is feminism; a topic that is definitely not new to our bulletin boards; and the arguments and observations raised probably aren’t any sort of novelty either, but Crates and Ribbons’ approach to the information at hand is refreshing. The author outright says they are a feminist, so they would naturally be arguing that women can too be as funny as men. But I was pleased to discover that they are also capable of thoughtfully and objectively analysing what the opposition has to say. And I do think that both sides can have some correctness in their arguments.

Perhaps there is in fact a biological trait that makes men naturally funnier than women; maybe they are just naturally more confident on stage. Maybe looks don’t matter that much to them, so even not so good-looking men can make it to the show business, thusly providing a much broader selection of male stand-up comedians than female ones. The author of this article brought up this possible factor as well, stating that women have to conform to much tighter standards of beauty and attractiveness to make it to TV (almost any broadcaster or show host that is female could have been chosen for her looks!) so not so many of them will try. I also thought it was very interesting to think that women still consider themselves with a lower social status and that is why they woudl sooner laugh at jokes than tell them.

The author, and I’m pretty sure everyoen else can agree that they have female friends that are just as funny as their funny male friends. But maybe somehow it changes when we have to do it on stage. Be it because of an evolutionary course, or a cultural/social norm, men seem more comfortable and adept at bringing the audience to laughter.

The author of this article wrote with a thoughtful and not too biting tone, which is what allows it to present information and personal opinions to the readers without causticity or attack. In this way, readers can take what they want from the article without feeling like they have to snap back at the author (this often happens with delicate issues such as feminism and women’s rights) and that is why I think this article is really good. As far as the content goes, I don’t have much more to add than the author themselves suggested, other than my curiosity for humans to figure out more about this odd trend. Feminism is certainly nowhere near coming to a conclusion yet.

Article: http://goodwomenproject.com/from-the-men/break-ups-hurt-us-too

Title: From The Men: Breakups Hurt Us Too

Author:  Stephen (no last name given)

Main topic: an article written in a personal letter format, addressed to all ladies on the topic of the stereotype that men move on immediately after a breakup

 

I always find articles like this interesting; perhaps because I have an interest in psychology (and relationships are a huge part of it!), perhaps because these sorts of articles are written in such a sincere and honest fashion, or perhaps because there is STILL so much confusion and arguments over these topics.

The latter is understandable, and the main reason for the continuing controversy despite so much confessions and “truths” being spilled is that men are different. Some men, yes, will move on immediately, as if they were never attached in the first place (and that was probably then the case). But some men will brood over breakups for much longer than females. It is thus apparently very hard to put a label on men collectively, because like women, they all have different responses. Perhaps from the broad perspective, men seem to move on from breakups faster. And maybe that’s true. However, I think I agree with Stephen in that men are simply just better at hiding their emotions. They fall quite hard too.

I like how this article is written with such an honest and sincere tone. It makes me feel like Stephen is going through some sorrow, perhaps a hard breakup, himself. Moreover, the readers will then lean in closer to be touched by his words and his article will reach a bigger audience on a deeper level.

In conclusion, relationships continue to be a complex issue in all societies, and the best thing we can do to work on them is talk about them. This article does just that, so I have nothing bad to say about it.

Article: http://www.runnersworld.com/health/running-empty

Author: Caleb Daniloff

Title: Running on Empty

Main Topic: This article talks about personal stories that took their obsession with running too far and let it develop into an eating or exercise disorder, and analyses different takes on the situation with the goal of raising awareness on the issues and finding more ways to get out of them.

 

This is quite a lengthy article; but I believe that it is well worth people’s time to read it, especially for runners who can learn much from the advice and anecdotes contained within. Several runners tell their story, which usually starts out with them being dedicated, fairly healthy runners, then hearing that being lighter can improve their time, so they slowly starve themselves down in order to beat their times. Strangely enough, this tactic works, and they do in fact beat their time. However, even after they revert back to healthier eating and gain back the (mostly excessive) weight they lost, their times continue to improve! The mentioning of this raises a suspicion in the readers that maybe eating less and running better are not so much cause-and-effect as coincidence. I’m a little frightened that other runners will read this article and only take from it that losing weight improves running. It’s easy to ignore things such as long term health issues when you can do something that gives you short-term results in something that is your deep passion.

I would have prefered if this article gave more information with regards to the health of runners and how they should be taking care of themselves. It talks a lot and gives a lot of opinions, but barely any science and nutrition information. All the people with eating disorders that give their story end up becoming healthy eaters – but do they really, if they eat burgers and fries? Maybe that was the reason for their weight gain in the first place. And I’m not saying that if you really love fries, indulging in a small serving once in a while is unheard of. I just don’t think they should be eaten regularly, because they’re not much of a good fuel for running, or much of a good fuel at all for us, if we get down to it.

I like the way this article gives advice and stories from accomplished runners to people who look up to them, but I think the direction strays from where it should go. I had really hoped it would be the sort of encouraging, “eat healthy and don’t be afraid to have a cookie here and then, and DON’T starve yourself!” kind of article, but it kind of left me hanging at the end. I’m not sure if the author intended for the audience to scratch up their own selection of advice from the article, or if there is in fact not supposed to be a moral of the story. With something as severe as eating disorders among heavy athletes, I shoudl expect there to be one.

I was also surprised how people who exercise so much can find themselves with considerable extra weight in the first place. If they are running through 600-1000+ calories with each training session and they train several times a week, then they must eat absolute junk to have 20+ extra pounds! I think there should be a middle ground between their obsession with eating little and super healthy and their original slack “burgers and fries” attitude. Runners need good fuel; all of carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fibre, but not in the form of ice cream and cookies for lunch! It is possible to stay in good shape with a well balanced diet even without running marathons, so I’m sure these runners are able to accomplish their fitness goals as long as they make smart decisions. I just hope they know how to make them.

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