Posted in WRD 422

WRD 422: Post 16

Potential articles for use in Research Review:

Biofueling Hunger: How US Corn Ethanol Policy Drives Up Food Prices in Mexico. Action Aid International USA, 2012. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

  • Overview of ethanol, biofuels, and food prices
  • Case study of Mexico’s import dependency and US ethanol expansion
  • Action plans for Mexican and US governments

Lagi, Marco, Alexander S. Gard-Murray, and Yaneer Bar-Yam. “Impact of Ethanol Conversion and Speculation on Mexican Corn Imports.” New England Complex Systems Institute (2012): n. pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

  • Test conducted of various factors that could explain rising food prices, with construction of model
  • Results: increasing corn-to-ethanol conversion in the United States and excessive financial speculation determined as main causes
  • Impact of US policy changes, including subsidies for ethanol conversion and deregulation of financial markets

Wise, Timothy A. “The Cost to Mexico of U.S. Corn Ethanol Expansion.” Global Development And Environment Institute (2012): n. pag. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.

  • Expansion of US production and consumption of corn-based ethanol
  • Impact on poor consumers and net-food-importing developing countries
  • Estimation of direct impacts of U.S. ethanol expansion on Mexican corn import costs

Many articles discovered anticipating Mexico’s actions as the leader of the 2012 G20 Summit in regard to biofuel policy changes. No articles yet found discussing if any changes were actually pushed through as a result of the summit.

Many back-and-forth policy changes regarding corn in recent years; examples:

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: POST 22

What is “visual rhetoric”?

Rhetoric requires at least two parties: the producer and the consumer, or the creator and the audience. Visual rhetoric is, by its nature, more open to interpretation than much written rhetoric (whether by use of more abstract principles, intentional obfuscation, uni- or multicultural symbolism, etc.); what the creator intends may be vastly different from what the audience interprets, and different members of the audience may have vastly different views among themselves. This divide, being particularly characteristic of visual rhetoric, must be directly addressed, and thus we may formulate the first part of a definition: “creative production with intent and subsequent interpretation.”

Visual rhetoric must, by definition, be comprised of or include a visual component. Herein lies the second part of a definition: “of visual artifacts or multimodal media.”

All rhetoric also relies on communication of ideas; the spouting of nonsense is not rhetoric. Rhetoric is often employed in arguments in favor of or against a particular issue, and thus is usually based in persuasion. However, visual rhetoric—being more abstract by nature—encompasses many broader topics, such as evoking feelings and thoughts rather than simply persuading. Thus, whereas a typical definition of rhetoric might include persuasion, it may be removed from this definition, leaving us with the third part: “with the end of communication of ideas.”

In sum, “Visual rhetoric is creative production with intent and subsequent interpretation of visual artifacts or multimodal media with the end of communication of ideas.”

Posted in WRD 422

WRD 422: Post 15

While every cook introduces her own personal flavor to Mexican food, her tastes as well as the food change through the encounter . . .. Now firmly established as a global cuisine, Mexican food will continue to evolve, together with the tastes of its countless aficionados. (188)

Planet Taco writer Jeffrey M. Pilcher effects, to my mind, the perfect summation of the perception of “authenticity” with this quote. One might wish to visit Mexico to taste more “original” Mexican flavors, but even those have been altered over generations to become something new. Indeed, each region to which Mexican food is brought will put its own spin on it, not out of malice, but out of ingenuity. And the same goes for other foods as well; as cultures spread throughout the world, as we all grow closer to each other, cultural blending is bound to occur, and this is a good, important, valuable thing. The expansion in breadth of appeal for the various types of food in existence—which are certainly far too numerous to count—is evidence that people of all cultures may bond over the experience of consuming good food together.

For these reasons, I couldn’t care less whether the flavors that enticed my palate on Saturday were “authentic” or not. They were delicious, and made with the whole-hearted involvement of people who are proud of the food they create. That is what matters.

So whether you’re slurping up birria in Jalisco or in Lexington, or chowing down on hard-shelled tacos from the Bell, each iteration of the evolution of Mexican food is, in itself, a miniature revolution. The changes and the results are parts of a natural process that shows we are all growing together, sharing our experiences, and becoming more wordly as a result. So share a popsicle and a paleta, or whatever you desire; you’re part of the process—the vivacious maturation of a more connected globe.

Posted in WRD 422

WRD 422: Post 14

Cruising down Whittier Boulevard, under the landmark steel arch, I had my choice of placed serving birria (braised goat) from Guadalajara, Ensenada fish tacos, Salvadora pupusas, and a dozen other regional specialities. (3)

Chef Carlos Hernández Cedillo, a native of Guadalajara, moved to Buenos Aires with his wide, an Argentine pastry chef, in 1997. He worked in a succession of Mexican restaurants, trying to raise the standards of their cooking, and eventually opened his own place, Quinta Escencia (The fifth sense), on the fashionable Avenida de la Libertadora. Although he made his own tortillas from nixtamal in-house, his efforts to introduce regional dishes such as birria, pozole, and tortas ahogadas met with a lukewarm reception. The most popular menu item among Argentine customers was a massive sampler platter of fajitas, tacos, and burritos—all with beef. (173)

These quotes from Planet Taco by Jeffrey M. Pilcher are the sole two instances of the word “birria”—which is quite the shame, given that they do no justice to the dish. In both cases, the  bowl was passed over and ignored, in favor of something different.

The glossary describes birria as “Spicy goat stew, a specialty of Jalisco” (263). Indeed, the place where I first tried the dish was a homey little restaurant called Birrieria Jalisco. The birria came in two forms—stew and platter—with the choice of either goat or beef. I tried the birria en su jugo chivo (the goat stew) and was wowed, to the point that I described the taste to my sister in the fairly colorful terms of “Imagine if pork and venison made sweet, sweet love.” I sprinkled on some cilantro and a dash of lime juice after trying my first few bites, making sure that I had experienced it in several ways. Each was in turn better than the last.

Birria en su Jugo Chivo

The meat was thick, juicy, tender, the stew wholesome and substantial, not a single flavor left by the wayside. The small bones remaining within it clacked between my spoon and the bowl as my nose inhaled the fresh scent of cilantro and the swirling, heavy aroma of the broth. The bowl was a big as my head and filling to boot. It was one of the most pleasant food experiences I’ve had in my life.

Let no reader of Planet Taco be disparaged by the sparse descriptions and “lukewarm reception.” Birria is the cure for what ails you when hearty, savory food is desired.

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: Post 20

In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode “King Ramses’ Curse,” a central ideology is that of the Egyptian curse. The model is fairly simple: an ancient artifact is removed from a tomb or similar structure in a place almost invariably designed to seem Egyptian, by people of European descent; following the theft, a mystical curse manifests in one or several of various ways, harrowing the thief and anyone else who comes into contact with the object; this results in the death of the original thief, typically in addition to several others, before the artifact is returned (by another person of European lineage) to its original resting place. This episode follows the formula quite accurately.

Slab Screenshot
The artifact in question.

This ideology emphasizes ancient Egyptian culture while ignoring its modern aspects entirely, painting Egyptian people as both mysterious and vengeful—ever the antagonists, even after death. It is up to the modern white male to save the day from these cursed relics of the past (or, in this episode’s case, the modern pink dog).

Hand-in-hand with this ideology is the trope of the intrepid archaeologist, also white, also upstanding, though far more likely to be a bumbling fool or ineffectual scholar than the adventurous savior. This episode showcases both in one:

Explorer Screenshot

This character is closer to yet separate from the ancient culture, and this closer association often comes with either a devotion to that culture, or an aloof disdain for it. Even in the former case, the devotion is often still of an aloof quality—the objective academic studying uncivilized peoples or their culture. The latter case emphasizes this relationship in a supremely negative direction, often leading to the exploitation of the native inhabitants, but the former remains dangerous, instilling such values as the desire to “uplift” more “backwards” peoples, rather than respecting different cultures as simply different, and not better or worse.

Furthermore, the ancient civilization depicted is one laden with riches, the artifact itself of supreme value, though no mention is ever made of how the artifact came to be. In this case, despite appearing to be nothing more than a carved stone slab, the artifact is valued at a million dollars. A similar situation is described in How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideologies in the Disney Comic:

Marx had a word—fetishism—for the process which separates the product (accumulated work) from its origin and expresses it as gold, abstracting it from the actual circumstances of production. It was Marx who discovered that behind his gold and silver, the capitalist conceals the whole process of accumulation which he achieves at the worker’s expense (surplus value). (65)

The artifact is an enigma, with no past beyond its use as an artifact; the people who constructed it no longer matter, as to the mind of the viewer, it was not constructed. It simply always was.

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: Post 19

In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode “The Magic Tree of Nowhere,” several ideologies are displayed. One of these makes its appearance at approximately four and a half minutes into the episode; in this scene, Eustace is upset that Muriel is sick—not because he is concerned for her welfare, but because he is disgruntled that she is unable to provide for him. This is demonsrated prominently in the conversation that takes place:

Muriel: “Courage, could you get me some water, dear?”

(Courage runs off to do the errand.)

Eustace: “How about breakfast?”

Muriel: “No, thank you, Eustace; I couldn’t eat a bite.”

Eustace: “I meant for me!”

The ideology at work here is that of the breadwinner/homemaker model. In this model, Eustace is the breadwinner, or the person who works outside the home in order to provide the house with financial stability. This is demonstrated when, in response to Muriel stating that the magical tree is providing for their family, Eustace asserts that it’s supposed to be his job to do that. He is the adult male of the household, which is typical of the breadwinner. Muriel is his counterpart; being the adult female, she is relegated to the homemaker role, which consists of staying at home, cooking, cleaning, and generally catering to the breadwinner. This model is part of the “nuclear family” ideology that took hold over much of America during the mid-20th century, and it relies on the perception of women as passive and men as active. This contributes to the female-as-servant, female-as-prize, and female-as-temptress stereotypes that have been prevalent in media to an abhorrent degree. As Dorfman and Mattelart discuss in How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic, 

. . . [T]he woman has no chance of switching roles in the dominator-dominated relationship. Indeed, she is never challenged because she plays her role to perfection, whether it be humble servant or constantly courted beauty queen; in either case, subordinate to the male. Her only power is the traditional one of seductress, which she exercises in the form of coquetry. She is denied any further role which might transcend her passive, domestic nature. (37-38)

A second ideology is displayed just before seven minutes in, where Eustace steps up, brandishing a rough-hewn axe, similar to a Stone Age tool (despite having spent the previous minute sharpening an apparently modern axe). A camera pan upwards shows him to be wearing brown roughspun garments under a cloak made from a bear skin, obviously meant to portray him as barbaric. Courage, within the walls of his dirt castle, plays the role of the civilized defender, while Eustace becomes the one-man savage horde; simply by donning a skin and wielding a stone weapon, the connotation that he is a vicious attacker is cemented. However, contrary to what one might expect, the noble defender is eventually defeated; it is the barbarian who wins the day (though Eustace, back in his normal attire, does get what’s coming to him by the end of the episode).

Eustace Barbarian Screenshot

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: Post 18

Meme 3


An episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, entitled “King Ramses’ Curse,” involves an ancient stone slab. Whoever comes into contact with said slab sees ghostly vision of King Ramses, who commands, “Return the slab, or suffer my curse.” Widely regarded as one of the scariest antagonists of the series, and the source of many a child’s nightmares, the computer-generated Ramses stands in stark contrast to the traditional style of animation used elsewhere in the show.

For this meme, I once again address Donald Trump’s stance on immigration, particularly referring to his assertion that all undocumented Mexican immigrants should be deported, forcibly if necessary. Once more, this meme has a double meaning to it; the “curse” spoken of stands as a threat to those who do not heed his words, but it also refers to the curse of Trump’s presidency, should he be elected. Under his executive order, anyone who did not agree with Trump’s ideologies might very well view his presidency as a curse.

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: Post 17

Meme 2


One episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, “The Magic Tree of Nowhere,” featured a tree that would grant any wish. At one point, the tree told Courage, “Do not be afraid. I have the cure you seek,” when Muriel (the woman who adopted Courage) became sick due to her husband’s inadvertent ill-spoken wish. The tree was portrayed as a benevolent figure, sacrificing its own life to reverse Muriel’s sickness.

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has made many bold statements about relieving the financial burden on students—something that most students would consider miraculous. It almost seems as though it would take some magical benefactor to accomplish such a feat; thus, portraying Sanders as a wish-granting tree seems appropriate.

Posted in WRD 308

WRD 308: Post 16

Meme 1


In the cartoon Courage the Cowardly Dog, Courage is often startled by Eustace, a malicious elderly gentleman who is often jealous that Courage managed to save the day, causing Eustace to feel inferior as a result. Eustace scares Courage by putting on a mask and shouting “Ooga booga booga!” The phrase itself is nonsense, only used as a scare tactic.

Donald Trump has loudly voiced his opinion that minorities—particularly Mexican immigrants and Muslims—should be removed from the US. This meme is designed to poke fun at his words, branding them as meaningless grandstanding through which he attempts to make himself feel more important. It also demonstrates that the voracity with which he voices his opinion may turn many minority immigrants away from attempting to enter the US, due to the apparent bigotry of Americans—thus accomplishing Trump’s goal in a roundabout manner.