Commonplace 10: Evidence Should be Convincing

In my US Society class we had to find a sociological academic journal and write about it (Sounds familiar, right?). I chose an article about gender nonconformity in preschool age children in Maine (obviously I chose a study from New England). In her study “No Way My Boys are Going to be Like That,” Emily Kane argues that generally parents of many socioeconomic demographics are accepting of their preschool age child’s gender nonconformity. Kane does find a few exceptions to her findings, but for the most part parents in her study encourage their children pushing gender norms.

An ad depicting children playing with toys outside of their traditional gender norms.

I honestly found Kane’s results to be rather interesting. She claims, and has the evidence to back up her claim, that Maine parents are so quick to be accepting. While she did find that some parents had problems with their sons playing with dolls, wearing feminine clothing, and wearing nail polish, she still concluded that most were not opposed to that kind of behavior. Honestly, I sort of expected that outcome as soon as I read where the study took place. Maine is a rather liberal state, especially at upstate wealthy and private liberal arts colleges Bates, Bowdoin, and Colby. Similarly to AU, these schools are notorious for being liberal. Kane works at Bates College. Of course she would interview people around her and get a liberal result.

I thought that if she had extended her research to include the interviews of families all over New England, then she would have had stronger, more well-rounded evidence. Perhaps she could have interviewed more conservative families in western Massachusetts or even some parts of New Hampshire to hear parent opinion in those traditionally more conservative areas there. If Kane had presented diverse examples from more than one location, then I would have had an easier time believing her argument.

RA 4: Place Matters

In chapter eight of his book City of Rhetoric, David Fleming argues that there is a relationship between place and rhetorical well-being in cities. In other words in chapter eight, entitled, “Toward a New Sociospatial Dialectic,” Fleming outlines how the physical location of a place relates to the overall rhetorical design of a city. More specifically, he uses the Illinois city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs as evidence for his argument. For example, Fleming how human behavior is affected by various city locations. Previously in his book Fleming had written specific chapters focusing on certain parts of a city such as the ideas of ghettos, suburbs, new urbanism, and homes. For instance, he analyzed how a poverty stricken ghetto has a low rhetorical well-being while a wealthy suburb has a high rhetorical well-being. Also, Fleming analyzes how the well-being of a location influences the overall attitude of the people who live in those places. For example, on one hand residents of a suburb are generally happy with their environment because they have good schools, stable homes, and many opportunities. On the the other hand, the inner-city ghettos often lack all of those things, therefore making ghettos a rather unhappy environment.

According to Fleming, location and citizen well-being are directly connected. In short, cities are rhetorically designed, and those designs affect the well-being of different demographics of people in entirely different ways.

The top photo is an image of the Cabrini Green area of Chicago. The bottom picture is of a home in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.

Annotated Bibliography 3 & 4

“Dupont Circle.” Washington.org, March 18, 2016. https://washington.org/dc-neighborhoods/dupont-circle.

This section for the Washington.org website outlines the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC. First, the website shows the many different activities there are in Dupont such as shopping, dining, entertainment, and fitness opportunities. Basically, the website is trying to show how many fun activities there are to do in Dupont. Also, the website features posts about these opportunities from various social media accounts and platforms. This shows that the website wants to convince tourists to try Dupont Circle by having tourists look at all of the fun things other Dupont Circle visitors have done. Ultimately, the Washington.org website is attempting to advertise the rhetoric of Dupont Circle.

The Washington.org website is useful because it helps me understand the overall rhetoric of Dupont Circle. This website’s vast information about the culture in Dupont will better help me understand BGR’s specific placement in that part of the city. In particular, this website outlines the types of foods tourists can find in Dupont. This is beneficial to my research because it can help me understand how the Burger Joint fits in with the rest of the neighborhood restaurants. Overall, I believe this website will help me understand the rhetoric of Dupont Circle.

This is the image Washington.org has for the header of their Dupont Circle site.

Carman, Tim, and Tim Carman. “A Burger Joint Is Opening in Dupont Circle That Serves Only Virginia Beef.” The Washington Post, December 22, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/going-out-guide/wp/2016/12/22/a-burger-joint-is-opening-in-dupont-circle-that-serves-only-virginia-beef/?utm_term=.86dc9fc4778b.

In his article for The Washington Post, Tim Carman outlines the new burger competition in Dupont Circle. First, it talks about a new burger restaurant called Red Apron Burger Bar that was coming to Dupont Circle this past January. Then it goes on to describe the demographics of the restaurant such as what kind of burgers it would be selling. Actually, outlining this point is important because it will persuade a certain audience of readers to try the Burger Bar. In other words, readers who want local meat will go try the Burger Bar because the Post advertised its use of local meat. Overall this source analyzes a new burger restaurant in Dupont Circle.

This article from The Washington Post is useful to my paper because it shows the competition the Burger Joint has in Dupont Circle. With the information in this article, I could research the burger restaurants listed and compare them to the Burger Joint. I could compare the types of burgers, prices, atmosphere, and location of all the burger places in Dupont. That way I can better understand where BGR stands among their competition. Overall this source will help me analyze the Burger Joint’s place among its competition in Dupont Circle.

This is a Yelp image of the inside of the Red Apron Burger Bar.

Commonplace 9: Halloween at Yale

In my Cross Cultural Communications class this week we read Conor Friedersdorf’s article for the Atlantic called “The New Intolerance of Student Activism.” The article explains how administrators at Yale sent out an email to students suggesting what costumes they should avoid that Halloween. The intention of the administration was to deter any potentially demeaning costumes. However, students felt that they were capable of making their own responsible costume decisions. Therefore, university professor Erika Christakis, who was also reside at the school, decided to write a letter to the administration defending her students’ abilities to choose appropriate costumes. Unfortunately, Christakis’s attempt to defend the students backfired, and she got caught up in major backlash and protest.

Students fought Christakis and her husband, who is also a professor who lives on campus, because they were upset that she spoke on behalf of marginalized students. The students basically attacked the one professor who was trying to defend their integrity as adult decision makers. The students claimed Christakis’s letter caused them stress in their home environments. Farther down in the article, Friedersdorf mentions that the protesting students believed that by writing the letter, instead of creating a home on campus, the Christakis were creating an academic environment. But is that not what college is? When you live on campus, is your home not in an academic setting? The idea of a home and an academic environment are not mutually exclusive. College campuses are usually both of those things.

When I first read this article, I was honestly appalled by the behavior of the protesting students. They got two professors fired because one of the professors defended her students. I was really surprised that this issue was taken so such an extreme. If a professor here at AU took a stand against the administration in an attempt to defend students, even if I did not totally agree with what he said, I would respect him for at least trying to defend his students. Instead of focusing on the freedom to make their own choices, or even the marginalized students themselves, students focused on tearing a couple down. Overall, this article was an interesting take on what college students today believe are important issues.

Commonplace 8: Live, Freeze, Then Die!

Two weeks ago I was super excited to go on spring break. I wanted to go out with my friends in beautiful weather. I thought, perhaps we can go for a hike in the mountains or spend a morning at the beach. We could go to every ice cream stand we can think of and pig out. However, I knew these activities were rather far fetched considering I live in New Hampshire.  

The best way I can describe New Hampshire weather is that snow miser from Year Without a Santa Claus LOVES us. It snows for about six months a year and is warm about one month a year (usually July). Granted, New Hampshire summers are amazing because you can go to Boston, the mountains, and the beach in the same day, but weather does not often permit that lifestyle. Overall, living in New Hampshire is basically consenting to shoveling your driveway every weekend for six months straight. Nobody explains it better than New Hampshire border native and comedian Juston McKinney.

In his stand up comedy act titled, “Live, Freeze, Then Die,” McKinney describes the rhetoric of  New Hampshire life in the winter humorously which is honestly not a common vantage point. The best and most relatable part of this sketch is the white holiday sequence. Sure we have a white Christmas and New Years, but we also have white Easters and Springs. It is always humbling to wake up to a foot or more of snow after being promised sixty degree weather. The only holiday Mckinney forgets is all of the white Halloweens we’ve had. I remember several times during my childhood when I paired my Belle dress with snow boots and an LL Bean jacket.

McKinney also discusses the real purpose of New Hampshire picnic tables. For most families, a picnic table is purchased to enjoy meals outside during the warm summer months. In New England, picnic tables are used to measure snow without stepping foot outside of your warm-ish house. There are truly only very specific days you can actually use the picnic tables. McKinney says, “there has to be a little breeze so there’s no bugs, but not too much. There goes the plates! There goes the napkins! There goes the food! It has to be a space shuttle launch.” I can honestly think of only a handful of times my family used our patio table last summer.

A New England patio table.

In conclusion, the New Hampshire winter rhetoric is accurately and comedically explained by Juston McKinney. I can personally account for many of the scenarios in the video, and the video certainly reminds me of the everyday rhetoric back home.

RA 3: The Apolitical Nature of Suburbs

In his book City of Rhetoric, David Fleming argues that suburbs are apolitical because they are an attempt to escape the political structure of cities. Furthermore, Fleming explains that the US Census Bureau defines a suburb as, “any place beyond the boundaries of a central city but still within the urbanized, or relatively dense, economically and socially interconnected metropolitan area that surrounds that city” (95). In other words, a suburb is any neighborhood between the outskirts of a city and the countryside. For instance, in City of Rhetoric Fleming focuses on the northwest Chicago suburb of Schaumburg.

A map of Schaumburg’s relativity to Chicago.

Schaumburg was originally a small, German town, but overtime grew to be a major suburb of Chicago. Typically the suburb was inhabited by quiet, respectful people who were seeking a break from loud and chaotic city life. Additionally, Fleming explains that Schaumburg had newer and nicer schools, churches, and housing than the city which made it very appealing for families. However, most of the families who lived in the Schaumburg suburb were white. Therefore, the city of Chicago created a housing program called the Gautreaux Assisted Housing Program that helped low-income minority families move to the suburbs. In fact, with the help of the Gautreaux program, more low-income and minority families left the city for a suburban lifestyle (112). Overall the program helped make Schaumburg the major suburb it is today.

A welcome sign on the border of Schaumburg.

Fleming uses Schaumburg as an example of an apolitical community because of the nature of a suburb. As previously mentioned, many families of many backgrounds migrated to Schaumburg to escape a chaotic city life. However, the city life they were fleeing was a highly political one. For example, cities are at the center of local politics because of their high taxes, government programs, and public institutions. That is, people who live in the city are surrounded by public land and building that can be used by everyone. Therefore, these public spaces help encourage politics because the many citizens who take advantage of the public space want to elect officials who will continue to support public access. Contrastly, suburban towns have largely privately owned programs and institutions (Fleming 106). Consequently that means that private business is more greatly supported than neighborhood politics. As a result, Schaumburg’s lack of political involvement makes it a prime example of an apolitical suburb.

David Fleming uses the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg to argue that suburbs are apolitical because they avoid the typical politics of a city or neighborhood. Ultimately this argument is important because it explains the different, more privatized, structure of suburbs compared to the highly political structure of cities.

Essay 1: The Burger Joint

In her piece “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment,” Sarah Schindler argues that cities are intentionally designed to segregate a city’s poor and minority populations. In fact, cities are designed so that certain institutions can be accessed  more easily by wealthier, as opposed to poorer, citizens. This idea certainly can be extended to institutions in Washington, DC. Specifically, this can be applied to a popular restaurant in Dupont Circle called The Burger Joint. Dupont Circle has been a wealthy area of DC for decades, and it has many trendy shops and restaurants. One of those popular restaurants is The Burger Joint. The Burger Joint, commonly abbreviated to BGR, is an upscale restaurant that serves specialty burgers. The BGR carries on the long history of upscale living in Dupont Circle.

In a special presentation on his book A History of Dupont Circle: Center of High Society in the Capital, Stephen Hansen discussed a detailed history of the high society in Dupont Circle during the nineteenth century. Specifically, he listed other influential people who lived in Dupont such as; President Taft, James Blaine, Sissy Patterson, President Grant’s widow and her family, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, and Senator George Hearst, and many more diplomats (Hansen). Hansen also described how the neighborhood was a social hub for high society right from the beginning. Fine dining and rich parties attracted wealthy citizens and politicians to Dupont Circle. In the early 1870s William Morris Stewart, a career politician, built a mansion in Dupont called Stewart’s Castle. There he hosted elaborate parties that the wealthy  would flock to on weekends. Later, when he moved back to California, he rented his estate to the Chinese Ambassador. Hansen then talks about what happened after the Chinese ambassador rented Stewart’s Castle. In 1873 British Ambassador Sir Edward Norton, wanting to be in the hub of high society, was encouraged to build his embassy in Dupont Circle as well. His mansion became the epitome of posh parties in Dupont Circle, and his mansion was the center of high society in the neighborhood. Anybody who wanted to be taken seriously as high society member was invited to his parties. Then in 1883 the several term United States Secretary of State James Blaine bought Stewart’s Castle and rented it out to Levi Leiter who was the cofounder of Marshall Field’s department store. The Leiters threw extravagant parties that the high society members all flocked to (Hansen). Anyone who wished to be taken seriously in Dupont Circle’s high society went to the Leiter parties. The trend of the wealthy excluding the poor in Dupont extended well into the twentieth century just as Schindler claims in her study.

This essay will use Sarah Schindler’s theory of intentional city discrimination to prove The Burger Joint is an institution that also discriminates certain customers. I will analyze how the Burger Joint website is an example of BGR’s discrimination of customer with a lower economic status. While BGR is close to the metro and easy for everyone to access, the restaurant’s atmosphere makes it more upscale than other burger restaurants such as McDonald’s. BGR has a rustic, laid back atmosphere, which makes it feel very modern. The restaurant attracts tourists and locals because of the great food and atmosphere. The walls at the Dupont Circle location have exposed brick and pipes which contribute to the rustic feel. The dining space has a contemporary red, white, and black color scheme. The restaurant has more of a casual family feel than a formal feel. The space makes patrons feel comfortable and relaxed. BGR also has rather high prices, especially when compared to burger places like McDonald’s. The McDonald’s website shows that their burgers average around five dollars, but a BGR burger averages around double that rate at ten dollars a burger. Clearly, the prices at The Burger Joint are much higher than the ones at McDonald’s. BGR’s high prices show how they cater to wealthier customers.

The Burger Joint website was published in 2009, and the it has been a positive and negative reflection of the company. In 2009 the website was poorly designed, so it was not very popular. Therefore, The Burger Joint needed to revamp their website. The Wayback Machine, an internet archive, shows its bland website layout and decrease in hits, which likely caused the BGR to redo their website (web.archive.org). Unfortunately, the BGR website was down for about a week. When I called the restaurant to find out why, an employee at the Dupont Circle location informed me that the site was down because it was being updated. The image below shows what the URL displayed during the time the site was down. The page had only two logos, one old and one new, and a short message displayed.

The display when the site was down.

The Burger Joint’s new and improved website is now up and running with new features that show off the company’s values. It is much more modern and now has a sleek black and white color scheme. The website now matches the feel of the physical restaurants. Now images of featured burgers and a restaurant history are right on the homepage. There are specific links to the menu, locations, awards, and even contact information. Now the BGR website appeals to the same audience as its restaurants. The site is as sophisticated as the atmosphere of the locations. The website totally transformed its whole design. The new website design definitely will attract new customers. Thus, the restaurant will make more money. The high end locations listed on the site show customers how gourmet the restaurant is. They have locations in wealthy, competitive cities such as DC, San Francisco, and Atlanta. It is expensive to build a brand like BGR in its home country, but it is even more expensive to build the brand around the world. The BGR website lists the several locations it has outside of the United States such as Kuwait and Oman. The locations in the capitals of major Middle Eastern cities show how expensive the BGR brand is.

The new website’s homepage.

The Burger Joint also created a more personalized website in order to attract new customers. There is now a combined locations and menu tab so that customers can see their specific location’s menu. The tab first lists of the BGR locations both domestic and foreign. Then there is an option to select the location you are interested in. From that specific link you can read the new menu for your specific location. Allowing a customer to view his specific menu is a way for the restaurant to make a more personal connection to the customers when they are not in the store. Making a personal connection outside of the restaurant location is an important way to build and keep business. Having each individual menu is also good for tourists. People who are just visiting DC may not know where their closest location is. The new website not only shows tourists where their location is, but also it tells them exactly what they can get at their specific restaurant. This is also a good technique to get business in different locations. Restaurants often do not have the exact same menu items at all locations. With the individual menus, BGR can bring business to less popular locations by adding a desired burger to its menu. The locations and menu tab allows BGR to control where their customers go for certain burgers. This directly relates to Schindler’s idea because the BGR is specifically designing menus to steer customers to certain locations in and around DC. The connection between the menu and the locations on BGR’s website shows that they are interested in steering customers to certain locations.

BGR also updated the ‘About Us’ page on their website to advertise their all natural ingredients. The page now features an explanation of values the franchise holds. The ‘About Us’ page talks about how the BGR values its fresh meat. They claim that BGR now stands for “Burgers Grilled Right.” The page is stressing that the burgers are, “made to order and cooked to temperature” (bgrtheburgerjoint.com). BGR stresses this fact to ensure that customers know that their burgers are fresh. It is very important for The Burger Joint to have their customers know the food is fresh. Fresh food is important to consumers because they want to make sure the food they are eating is natural and not frozen. This is especially true for smaller businesses like BGR. The Burger Joint needs to stress their fresh food because that is what attracts customers. People love knowing that food is prepared fresh and not taken out a freezer. Small franchises like The Burger Joint do not want a poor reputation because of the way they prepare food. These restaurants clearly want to have a reputation for good, clean food to attract health food fanatics and burger lovers alike. Therefore, BGR puts their, “made fresh and cooked to temperature” (bgrtheburgerjoint.com) tagline in several spots on the page. That way, they can be sure that customers visiting their site will know about BGR’s fresh food and be even more inclined to try it.

The Burger Joint is an example of Sarah Schindler’s claim that cities are intentionally designed to segregate a city’s poor and minority populations. More specifically, BGR is an institution that attracts a wealthier city population. The gourmet burger restaurant is popular among tourists and locals. Despite its popularity, in an attempt to attract new customers, the restaurant shut down its bland old site for nearly a week to update it to the new sleek design it has now. Revamping The Burger Joint website was a move the franchise made to boost sales and web traffic. The website’s several new rhetorical strategies to gain more customers show that they care about the messages they send to the public because BGR knows that a good message will attract more customers. Overall the new rhetoric of The Burger Joint is important because it shows the underlying discrimination in American cities like DC.

Works Cited

bgrtheburgerjoint.com. “BGR The Burger Joint | BGR Burgers Grilled Right.” Accessed 2 Mar. 2017.

Hansen, Stephen. “Discussion History Dupont Circle | Video | C-SPAN.org.” CSPAN.org, January 13, 2015.

mcdonalds.com. “McDonald’s: Burgers, Fries & More. Quality Ingredients,” 2016-2017.

web.archive.org. “Menu | BGR The Burger Joint,” 11 Jan. 2016.

Schindler, Sarah. “Architectural Exclusion: Discrimination and Segregation Through Physical Design of the Built Environment.” The Yale Law Journal. April 2015.

 

Commonplace 7: Coping with Failure

In his story “Worstward Ho,” Nobel prize winning writer Samuel Beckett once wrote, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The idea of failing better is interesting because as a successful writer, one would not consider the fact that Beckett failed at some point in his life or career. However, Beckett is trying to say that everyone fails, but people need to learn to move on from their failures. Everybody is afraid to fail, but the way people handle failure is what sets them apart. Beckett is saying that when a person fails, he should get right back up and try again. For Beckett, those who try again handle failure in the most effective way. Samuel Beckett conveys his opinions of failure by using the punctuation he thought would best fit.

Beckett uses short, simple sentences to get his effectively get his point across. Short and simple sentences usually grab a reader’s attention. They are meant to force a reader to be thoughtful about the concept as opposed to just reading whatever explanation the author wrote. When audiences read this quote with the abrupt sentences, they can sense the urgency but are left to come up with their own meaning. If this quote was not written in short sentences, then it would have a completely different context. If this quote was written in a DC, IC form, then the audience would have a different interpretation. The quote would lose its sense of urgency, and be more of a complete thought. The complexity of the sentence would take away from an audience’s initial interpretations of the idea Beckett is trying to convey. Also, changing the punctuation of the quote would change its meaning. If question marks were added after the first two lines, then the quote would be telling people how to react to failure. The reaction is not what Beckett finds important. Instead, Beckett believes that failure is a necessary part of live that everyone experiences. Therefore, he is encouraging people to handle failure in a positive way. Furthermore, adding exclamation points to the last two lines would change the quote’s meaning in a different way. Adding exclamation points would make the quote more positive and enthusiastic. Again, this slight punctuational change would corner the audience into interpreting the quote in a specific way. Overall, Samuel Beckett chose his punctuation specifically to convey the urgency of his idea without influencing audience interpretation.

A photo of Beckett’s famous quote.

Commonplace 6: Somewhere in America

“Somewhere in America there is a child sitting at his mother’s computer reading the homepage of the KKK’s website that’s open to the public but that child will have never read To Kill a Mockingbird because the school has banned it for its use of the ‘N’ word. Maya Angelou is prohibited because we are not allowed to talk about rape in school. We were taught just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to talk about it”

From “Somewhere in America” – by Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen

 

As a lifelong avid reader, I could never understand why books would be banned in schools. Books enhance learning, and school was all about learning. Why inhibit my education? How am I supposed to truly learn about racism, truly learn about growing up and losing my innocence, if I had no context for those lessons? If these banned books are literary masterpieces, why are we not analyzing them? Perhaps one reason I am so bothered about this issue is that my favorite book in the world is technically a banned book. My school in particular encouraged the reading of nationally banned books. Therefore, To Kill a Mockingbird was on the tenth grade curriculum. I remember reading that book and wondering why anyone would ban such a masterpiece. Sure, there were bad words and sensitive topics, but those topics are the same ones society sweeps under the rug. Nobody wants to talk about racism or rape. Nobody wants to talk about things that make them uncomfortable. For example my father, a father of two daughters, has never, and vows to never, read To Kill a Mockingbird. No matter how many times I beg him, he refuses to acknowledge the topics that make him uncomfortable. However, if sensitive issues like racism and rape are not talked about, we will never learn about them. If we enver learn about them, we will stay ignorant and silent. Silence solves nothing. Silence changes nothing.

We read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at my Catholic middle school because Maya Angelou is one of the most prolific writers of her time. My school focused on good writing. On true literature. My teacher never addressed what happened to Angelou. We also read Speak at my Catholic school, and my teacher only hinted at what happened. There was never a discussion on rape. We were never told that horrors like that happen. Just because something happens doesn’t mean you have to talk about it. I remember being horrified at what Angelou and the main character in Speak went through. I was horrified and confused, but we never talked about it.

As a society, we should talk about it. Perhaps not in the middle school level, but high school should at least acknowledge things like rape and racism and the N word. Young people should learn what these things are, and how to handle them. That way, there is less ignorance. Less ignorance means less silence. The more vocal we are, the more change can come.

Commonplace 5: New England Rhetoric

All semester we have been discussing the rhetoric of cities and buildings. I have researched about Dupont Circle to discover the norms of the area. This research really had me thinking about the rhetoric back home in New Hampshire. The more I learn about DC, the more I realize how unique a lot of things in New Hampshire are.

This article from Movoto lists many those unique characteristics of New England. There are strings of liquor stores along the highways in my home state of New Hampshire. It is ironic that drinking and driving is illegal, yet it has outlet liquor stores right there on the highway. Another crazy highway issue in New Hampshire is the lack of a seat belt law. Seatbelts are not required like they are in most states.

In New England, wicked does not mean evil. Wicked is another way to say ‘very.’ My friends here in DC often point out how much I say wicked in casual conversation. I just cannot help it, it’s the way I grew up.

Dunkin Donuts is the place for coffee. Every morning New Englanders flock to ‘Dunks’ to get their coffee and donut. If you order a regular coffee at a Dunks in New England, then you will get cream and sugar in your coffee. Unfortunately, Dunkin Donuts’ here are rather hard to find.

The points mentioned in the article are only a fraction of typical New England culture, but they certainly do help non-New Englanders understand the unique rhetoric in our states.

A shirt with a saying that everyone in New England uses.
A sign for a liquor store on a NH highway. I know precisely where this photo was taken as I have been on this highway hundreds of times.