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Culture exported – the violence debate

America’s great export is our culture. What we consider normal American TV and movies is viewed much differently if your country in inundated with American culture.

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When I came to the U.S. four years ago freshly graduated from high school in China, my mother warned me about a lot of things. Never walk alone on the streets after dark. Make friends with good people who will not drug me. Never argue about politics and religions with Americans. 

Of course, my mother has never been to America in her life nor has she ever talked to an American. She is a typical working-class mother who basically brought me up on her own when my father was sailing around the world as a sea man. Throughout the years I lived here in Pueblo, I tried to tell my parents how safe it is – I have never gotten pick pocketed once, and no one broke into my apartment even when I left the balcony window open for two days. Americans seem to be exceptionally friendly and always in a good mood because they are always “doing great.” The sense of security I have living in America, or at least in Pueblo, is something unimaginable in China where we live in a big city with more than 8 million people. However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t erase the pre-conceived image of America in her head. The fact that she has never been to America drives her imagination wild – gangs, guns, drugs, sex, murders, primitive ways of problem solving. The possibility that one day a gun could be pointed at her daughter’s head terrifies her, and it wouldn’t even be her daughter’s fault. But where did she get all that from? 

Growing up, I didn’t specifically remember products at home that were made in the U.S. I came to know America through Hollywood blockbusters, hip-hop music on MTV, first-person video games in which my avatar was white, and the real events that occasionally popped into the news such as the (accidental?) bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Kosovo and 9/11.  

American popular culture is by far America’s largest export, and the most powerful one. In Chinese politics, the Communist Party likes to call it cultural imperialism, namely rich cultures dominating poor ones. The party accuses the U.S. of using its soft power as a way to erode the masses and replace our own heritage. The threat American culture poses to the Party indeed seems a lot bigger than weapons and fists. It’s trendy. It’s cool. It labels the followers as open-minded and civilized. It’s intangible, but very convincing.

I don’t believe that exporting American pop culture that involves a lot of violence has to be particularly a political scheme, but it may be a business one. Certainly, there are tons of greater American cultural pieces that don’t always spotlight hotties, big muscles or shooting your way out to save the world. But these are the ones that do get most watched. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” produced by Paramount Pictures and Dream Works, is the seventh in box office world-wide and received 68% of its revenue overseas. “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” was named the most watched TV series world-wide at the Monte Carlo Television Festival last year, as well as five times in the past seven years. It’s not difficult to understand why sex and violence sell when they are the two most primitive drives for human survival. They are instinctive, universal, and way beyond what languages can convey. Audiences world-wide can get a thrill while the U.S. is making its money. The American model of quick success is learned by other countries and American values are penetrating along the way. The movies are not real anyway. So what does it hurt? 

The Pew Research Center, based in Washington, D.C., has conducted an annual Global Attitudes Project that surveys worldwide public opinions since 2001. In 2007, the research on America’s image in the world shows that while a large percentage of people continue to admire American music, movies and television, 70% on average consider American ideas and customs spreading in their countries bad. Favorable opinions of the U.S. and Americans had been dropping in the world. Many countries think the U.S. could be a military threat. 

After all, culture is not just a symbol of traditional values and customs of a country. It’s also no longer limited to the emblematic forms of high art followed only by elites. When I think of Chinese culture, I no longer think of the aloof things such as paper-cut art pasted on the wall for New Years or a folk song played on traditional instruments, but something more mundane that really defines and reflects what we are both as individuals and as a collective body that lives in that certain environment. There’s not much doubt that people find America’s image confusing while feverishly absorbing American culture. I also wonder, “Where do rappers find inspirations if not from real life? How on earth could those peaceful minds plot those senseless machine gun shootings in films?” Marketing a film or a TV series as based on a true story has been a way overused tactic but, still, very effective. However small a piece of the fabric is true or even close to truth, it makes the film way catchier because it feels real. So how could people differentiate the real America thousands of miles away from the illusion of America that occupies their screens and billboards? How could they not feel fear about it especially when there are two wars and many other U.S. military interventions going on, and mass shootings rampage in schools and malls?    

The culture America has been so proud of exporting all over the place speaks for itself, which has made my mother’s worries reasonable. I won’t tell her that she’s wrong, nor do I feel that I’m living in an America she pictured. But sometimes the image of violence does stay with me, which makes me doubt my sense of security. I remember how vigilant I was in China, but yet the society seems way peaceful. Violence exists in every corner of the world, but at least, we are not celebrating it.

 

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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APRIL 1: Iceburg’s 17 minute investigation into April Fool’s Day

While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.

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Humor is to wellbeing as a tightened fist is to a lighthearted crotch-shot: they both leave you breathless, on your knees in a rejuvenating stupor (or in a red-rain of pain!), and eager to contribute to or reciprocate the joke (or low-blow) with giddy enthusiasm. 

With this month being helmed by All Fools’ Day, we’ve never been more accepting of the hysteria that comes with being barraged in the funny bone; regrettably, history doesn’t share our excitement. While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.

Those people and events include…  

The Pope Who Fooled the French

New Year’s Day was originally on April 1. No, really. Several ancient cultures, like the Romans and the Hindus, marked the now notorious day for practical tomfoolery as the beginning of the year because the date closely aligned with the Vernal Equinox, which is usually around March 20. 

In 1582 Pope Gregory “Me So Fresh” XIII ordered the use of the new calendar. It placed New Year’s in January, and when the change was made, rumor says that many of the French were either unaware of or rebelling against the date change and continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1. These traditionalists became one of the most rotund butts in the history of jokes, and April Fools’ Day was born. 

The Volcano That Burst Forth (Probably Because It Took Offense to a Joke)

If we’ve learned a single piece of [mis]information from the science portion of our grade school education, it’s that a volcano’s ease to anger is only equaled by its unwillingness to be a comedic punch-line. You’ve at least witnessed parts of the eventful life cycle of a volcano on the Discovery Channel (before reality shows like Rise of the Stink People began oozing their irrelevance over the airwaves); its dome was seemingly sedated, calmly drooling its molten effluence down a thirty-degree grass patch at speeds that an infant in flame-retardant pajama bottoms could out-roll. Unexpectedly, like the quick snap of a sucker punch, the cameraman or the millionaire working pro bono as an expert in lava composition cracked a bad joke at the volcano’s expense, and all hell leaked, boiled, blew, and broke loose. 

This might have been the case on April 1, 1793, when a collapsing lava dome — Mayu-yama from Mount Unzen, an active group of volcanoes on Japan’s Kyushu Island — triggered a landslide that rioted through Shimabara City and belly flopped into the Ariaka Sea, creating a pant-fertilizing megatsunami that reached the titanic heights of 330 ft., which combined with the land slide killed an estimated 15, 000 good humored citizens. 

The man who offended the snoozing goliath with salty humor was never found (or existed), but if he was (or did exist), we’re assuming: (A) he was a white guy (because that’s provocative), and (B) he was a would-be galactic samurai, i.e. the megalomaniacal ancestor of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (AKA Tom “The Pleasure” Cruise). 

The Novelist Who Sneered at a Royal Suggestion

You don’t tell royalty no, unless, of course, you’re Jane Austen (or a free spirit dying to experience exile). On April 1, 1816, Austen responded to a letter from the Prince Regent regarding a suggestion to write a historic romance by saying, “I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.” 

Maybe it was a joke: “Prince Regent, your story pitch is awful; I wouldn’t consider it unless my life was on the line… April fools!” 

Claire Harman, author of “Jane’s Fame,” talked on NPR on March 25, 2010, about Austen’s personality in addition to her popularity, and it turns out everything you’d imagine Austen to be is probably true: she was witty, cynical, and judging by her response to the Prince Regent, a little bit headstrong. 

Harman says that Austen’s fame was, in a way, rekindled by the biography written by her nephew. “James Edwards’ memoir of his aunt made her into a sort of sentimental object. You know, and people loved her as a person and as a character, as well as the books and sometimes instead of the books,” Harman said. 

The idea, however, that Austen had a meek and mild personality would not be accurate. Who would have thought?

“She wasn’t necessarily a nice person at all. I mean there’s really nothing in the letters to suggest anything other than a very sharp-witted and at times rather acid-tongued woman,” Harman said. 

So the whole “screw you Prince Regent” thing probably wasn’t a joke then. You go, girl! 

The Theory That Big-Banged Science

Melodramatic male studs who claim ladies to be the ficklest of life’s challenges need to escort Science on a dinner date or two: During the appetizer (cheese sticks), Science would intimately observe your surface area to get an estimate of your internal composition. She’d alleviate your physical insecurities by assuring, “Your name’s Pluto? How cute! I hear that small planets are in touch with their emotional side.” 

But the moment the dessert platter (Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Mousse served on an Astronaut’s face shield) lands on the table, she’d be all curled up on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, bragging about how she recategorized you as a Dwarf Planet, Science’s way of catapulting you into the “friend zone.” 

Science played the Steady State Theory in the same sort of way; prior to April 1, 1948, cosmological opinions were split between whether Steady State Theory or the Big Bang accurately described the origin and continuing development of the cosmos. But once the Big Bang Theory was officially proposed on the date listed by subjectively sexy, objectively brilliant geniuses Ralph Alpher and George Gamow in Physical Review through the essay “The Origins of Chemical Elements,” Big Bang began to gradually earn more favor within Science’s academic bedchambers. Science has been developing excuses to keep Steady State in the “friend zone” ever since. 

The Revolution That Preferred Loss-of-Life over Laughter 

Remember when McCarthyism was a thing? It was kind of a blip in American history. Luckily, China out did us. How often do you get to say that? 

Roughly ten years after the red scare settled down in America, the Cultural Revolution in China became the cool new trend. Just by chance, the nationwide witch-hunt for capitalists started on April 1, 1966. 

Admiration for market economies is no joke. 

This was the era of Mao Zedong and communism was at its peak. Zedong feared the country was headed in the wrong direction, so he called on China’s youth to put the country’s political ideology back on the right – well, left track. 

Nearly 1.5 million Chinese lost their lives and tons more felt the wrath of a large group of angsty, nationalistic teenagers. Take that, laws of supply and demand. 

By Leviathan Robb & Ginger Jones

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Profiles of our beloved supreme leaders – Kim Jong-Un, Paul Ryan and Chris Brown

Three men who want to rule the world and are the truest examples of what a supreme leader should be.

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Kim Jong-Un

At only 30 years old this bright individual is the supreme leader of North Korea. Not only has Kim Jong-Un legalized pizza he has also forced employees at the local gourmet restaurant, McDonalds to serve breakfast until noon. Sure he threatens people with nukes every day, what teenager who plays Call of Duty doesn’t? Kimmy is such an inspirational figure to local teens, they can really learn how to be a social success and loved worldwide.  Rumor has it that Kim has sent all local redheads to South Korea so that they can find Seoul—whatever that means. If your bratty little brace faced sweetheart won’t listen, why not pick up a copy of Kim’s new book, “The Nukes of Hazzard.”


Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan looks like a model straight off a package of Hanes boxer briefs—the look every politician strives for. Who cares if he has just graduated from pampers to public dampers. After recently announcing, “We are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system”, his ratings went through the roof– taking with it your average American’s basic personal rights. Ryan is the guy you can go to with all of your personal problems, sure he won’t listen but you’ll be sidetracked by his baby blues. Like Kit-Kat give him a break! If Paul Ryan were an item at Big R he would be the perfect tool bag.   Paul Ryan has the kind of personality only a mother could love—which is totally in right now. 


Chris Brown

If young men want to know how to be the perfect guy look no further than Chris Brown. When Chris was a child listening to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” he took it to heart by utilizing the lyrics and incorporating them into everyday life.  Brown likes his women like he prefers his eggs; beaten and over easy. When Rihanna (Browns’ current girlfriend) told Chris that she wanted a “black guy” he misheard her and gave her a love stamp right across her face—now that’s love.  Recently, Rihanna had taken up a career in stand-up comedy at high school proms but soon gave up another one of her dreams due to Brown’s embarrassing behavior. Reports say he kept “beating her to the punch line.”

   

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Talking to the ‘that’s what she said’ girl at your mom’s house

Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.

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I recently sat down with a woman we all know, but few would actually recognize. Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.  

Iceburg: Hi Lauretta, thank you so much for meeting me today.

Lauretta Scapini: Of course, thank you for having me.

Ice-B: That’s what she said. 

LS: Yes, yes it is. 

Ice-B: Nice. So how did this whole thing get started? How have you taken the blame for so much, and please excuse my lack of decorum, but sluttiness?

LS: That’s a great question, thank you. Well, as many people probably know, the phrase “that’s what she said” gained tremendous popularity on the NBC hit show The Office. You know the one where the boss tries to screw over his employees?

Ice-B: That’s wh- um of course.

LS: I knew some of the guys on the set, you know, as a woman in my profession would–

Ice-B: Which would be what, exactly?

LS: Isn’t it obvious? I make wax sticks to light on fire. I’m a candlestick maker. 

Ice-B: Excuse me?

LS: It’s a very erotic field, and I mean come on, look at me. I’m a California “10,” which is like a New Mexico “87.” Don’t take it wrong.

Ice-B: None taken. So tell me more about being a candlestick maker and how that brought you to work with set guys at The Office.

LS: I’ve always been fascinated by my ability to mold wax into shapes, then just watch it burn. The scent combinations is probably the most exciting part of it. Anyway. I had a series of videos that were posted on YouTube that have since been removed where I walked the audience through the process of making candles, step by step. I know how men — and even some women — look at me, so I knew the best way for me to really market myself and my candles would be to play up my sexuality. So everything I said was meant to taken as euphemism. (Editor’s note: We love to take euphemisms.)

Ice-B: What would you say to those who criticize that sort of behavior? Discussions about who “she” must be inevitably turn to accusations of promiscuity and defamations of “her” character.

LS: It’s the cross I choose to bear. As much as I loved Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I can’t help but feel more connection to the work and theory of Audre Lorde, specifically her discussions of intersectionality. As a beautiful, intelligent, mixed-race woman, I’ve found it frustrating to live and accept any sort of authentic experience that posits we live in simple binary oppositions that serve to differentiate men from women. Lorde maintains that there are a whole slew of categories and subdivisions for characterizing women because each experience is authentic and different and beautiful and can’t possibly speak to the whole experience of being a woman; of being a feminist. 

Ice-B: So by being overtly sexual, you’re helping women? I don’t understand. 

LS: We’re taught using the master’s tools. Our culture is a patriarchal one that we’re wholly dependent on. So I take what’s expected of me and blow it… out of proportion. 

Ice-B: Has it been hard? 

LS: That’s what I said. [Laughs] But yeah, it has been. It’s been a long, hard, road full of bumps and bruises, leather and lace– 

Ice-B: Ample alliterations. 

LS: Exactly. But my work isn’t done. We tend to categorize everyone: races, religions, genders, sexual orientations. If the world was meant to be black and white, we wouldn’t have colors. As much as women are forced into specific roles, men are, too. They need to know that they’re not sex machines, expected to fertilize the earth. And until I can get people to accept and own their sexuality, I won’t quit. I’m not finished yet.

Ice-B: That’s what he said.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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