Saturday, November 26, 2011

Feed pt. 2

One thing I couldn't help but laugh at while I was reading Feed was the fact that every character in the novel besides Violet and her father were pretty immature. The adults were basically children, just like their kids!

When Titus and his father are arguing, his father replies to him, "...Dude, chill. I just bought you an up-car." It's as if Titus's father is no more than a grown up child.  This would make sense in their society considering the adults never really had to grow up and learn any responsibility.  They always had the feed telling them what to do, where to go, what to think, etc.

With the adults having the brain-power of teenagers, it's hard to fathom what the world would be like.  I couldn't imagine my parents talking to me like that.  Parents are supposed to have a sense of superiority and control over their children, but in Feed, they are merely equals to their kids.  It's almost as if there is no sense of hierarchy in Feed at all.  Everything is controlled by the corporation FeedTech and that is basically it.  I just found it hilarious that a father would reply to his son with something as immature as, "...Dude, chill."

Friday, November 25, 2011

Feed pt. 1

I would give a summary of Feed, but assuming that we all read it, I would much rather just discuss it.

In my mind, this is an uncanny representation of what the feed is. After I read the book and saw this commercial, I was flabbergasted. To me, this is exactly what the feed is. In Feed, technology plays an imperative role in pretty much everyone's life. Essentially, the kids no longer go to school to learn about commonplace things, but they go to learn how to better use the feed! I guess if I had a computer implanted in my skull I wouldn't need to go to school anymore either. I can't even fathom having every bit of knowledge at my fingerprints, or better yet, in my brain.

This commercial struck me as almost exactly what the feed was in the novel. It's almost a human-to-computer interaction. It involves no human contact at all. All you need is the computer itself. It blows my mind that, as a society, we are moving towards this level of technology. You can simply ask your phone a question now and it will respond immediately to you as if you are having a conversation? It literally blows my mind. I've been waiting to blog about this commercial since the moment I read Feed and saw this commercial. Did this remind anyone else of the feed?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contemporary Poetry

GARAGE SALE by Laure-Anne Bosselaar

This poem is has a very sad tone to it. The speaker sold the bed her mother died in for a "song." My interpretation is that the speaker is very troubled over selling the bed. The "song" she sells the bed for is like that of "yearning like an orphans." And the tune is "garroted" which, after I looked it up, found that it was a Spanish method of execution where they would fasten an iron collar around someone's neck and choke them to death with it. Not quite the uppity version of a "song" that you might have originally thought of. I also think the line, "For the kind of song only morning can slap on love-stained sheets..." represents when something great that you don't want to end is taken away  from you. Literally, it's the love that was made, but in the author's instance it is the abrupt death of her mother.

I didn't necessarily understand the un-broken bread and river to the ferryman's oar part of the poem. Those seemed to me like they weren't as negative and more optimistic.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Flash Fiction

The Hamster by Tara Laskowski

This is the story of a hamster that has escaped from its cage. The mother of the children's hamster hears the hamster scratching through the walls. She can't stand to think about how her son, Damien, will feel if the hamster dies, so she attempts to rescue it. In order to do so, she jury-rigs a makeshift ramp in a hole under the sink. In the end, she feels the hamster testing the ramp, hopefully coming to be rescued.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Red Convertible-Louise Erdrich

The Red Convertible is a short story told by Lyman about his life and the fallout his brother had after coming home from war. Lyman and his family live on an Indian reservation. Lyman is a young entrepreneur, always finding ways to make money, and has a hard work ethic. He does odd jobs until he lands a job washing dishes and eventually comes to own the Joliet CafĂ© at just 16 years old. When the restaurant blows over in a hurricane, Lyman and his brother pool their money together to purchase a red convertible. They drive the red convertible all over until one day they pick a girl up named Susy and live with her family in a tent for some time. After they leave Susy, Henry is drafted into the Vietnam War. When Henry comes back, it is very apparent he has changed. He is no longer friendly and laughing, but “jumpy and mean.” Unsure how to get Henry to change back to his old self, Lyman comes up with the idea to damage the convertible so that Henry will pick fixing it up as a hobby. The plan works for a while as Henry fixes the car. One day, Henry asks Lyman to drive with him to the Red River. Here Lyman finally confronts Henry about his change, and Henry finally breaks down and comes out of his shell, or so it seems. Henry eventually goes crazy and jumps into the river and drowns. Lyman lets the red convertible drive itself into the river behind Henry.
Some of this story had, yet again, a very transcendental vibe to it. When Lyman describes the willows, he says, “…I lay under those trees and it was comfortable…The branches bent down aall around me like a tent or a stable.” Also, when Lyman and his brother live with Susy, he says, “You might doze off…like an animal in nature.” Lyman feels connected with nature in both of these examples.
Speaking of Susy, I think she was a hippy, which goes somewhat along with the transcendental feel. Her act of hitchhiking and go-with-the-flow attitude represents this. Also, her long hair solidified the fact that she was a hippy; an extreme hippy. I don’t think foil is the right word, but she is an important character for Henry because she was probably against the war since she was a hippy, but Henry goes anyways. Henry lets her jump on his shoulders because he “…always wondered what it was like to have long pretty hair…” This carefree attitude Susy brought out in him changed dramatically after he returned from war.
When Lyman says, “Some people hang on to details when they travel, but we didn’t let them bother us and just lived our everyday lives here to there.” Lyman and his brother are living freely in the moment. Life is easy and they don’t have much stress. This is the complete opposite when Henry comes back from war. He is in a constant agitated and distraught state.
Henry definitely suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. There are several examples of this. The one that sticks out the most in my mind is when he bit his lip one night at dinner and just continued to eat his bloody food. No one in his family said anything to him because they aren’t sure how to deal with it. PTSD probably wasn’t even a condition back then. I think commenting on PTSD Erdrich’s main point of the story, or at least bringing attention to it.
Did Henry commit suicide in the end, or just lose his mind, or both? I think Henry just lost his mind. There are a lot of times in the story when Henry seems like he has flashbacks to the war which put him in his crazy state of mind. For instance, when Lyman shakes Henry, Henry’s “face was totally white and hard. Then it broke…all of a sudden.” Also, when Lyman calls Henry crazy, Henry “…looks as though he will take this wrong at first. His face twists, then clears, and he jumps up on his feet.” It’s like something inside Henry snaps in both examples.
 Henry is terrorized by the war. If not evidenced by his actions, it is evidenced by his smile. When Bonita takes the picture of the two boys, Henry smiles an eerie smile. “There are two shadows curved like little hooks around the ends of his smile.” Henry’s smile is drawn into the shadows. The way it’s twisted and shadowed allows you to see the pain, hurt, and distress in Henry. It’s sad. The smile Henry smiles is no smile at all, but a forced representation of the hollow shell he now is.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Last Day-E.B. White

Last Day by E.B. White takes an excerpt from Charlotte’s Web. In the scene, Wilbur has just won a medal for being a prized show-pig.  As Charlotte and Wilbur rest after the ceremony, they begin to talk. We find that Charlotte is not going back to the farm with Wilbur and the others because she is about to die. Wilbur goes into a panic because he can’t fathom losing such a good friend. As the time to leave draws nearer and nearer, Wilbur comes up with a plan to memorialize Charlotte. He plans to take her egg sac so that her children may live on the farm. However, Wilbur can’t reach the egg sac from inside his cage, so he enlists the help of Templeton the rat. Templeton, however, has different plans. He does not cooperate with Wilbur at first because he is getting nothing out of saving the egg sac. When Wilbur offers him first dibs on his food trough for the rest of his life, though, Templeton quickly changes his mind and gets the egg sac. Wilbur stores the egg sac in his mouth until he returns to the farm where generations of Charlotte’s offspring continue to flourish. Meanwhile, Charlotte is left at the fair grounds and dies.

This story correlates strongly with the theme of death we’ve been speaking about. Again we see that death has a different impact on everyone, much like we saw in A Silver Dish. While Wilbur is distraught over Charlotte’s death, Templeton remains quite apathetic. In A Silver Dish, it was almost as if no one really cared about the father’s death besides Woody. I think the empty fairground when Charlotte finally did pass is an example of this. As Charlotte dies, the fairground that once thrived with people is barren besides the trash on the ground. This represents the emptiness and loneliness of her death.

The third or so paragraph at the beginning and the second to last paragraph have a very transcendental feel to them. For instance, Wilbur thinks to himself that, “[the farm] was the best place to be…this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons…the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders…and the glory of everything.” Wilbur loves all that is around him. He is a part of the farm, and the farm is a part of him.

The idea of Wilbur taking Charlotte’s egg sac back to the farm is symbolic of the circle of life. While Charlotte may be dead, her offspring live on. Where there is death there is life. I think this is White’s main point here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

From Blossoms-Li-Young Lee

From Blossoms by Li-Young Lee describes Lee eating a peach. The peach is “succulent…” and he eats, “…dusty skin and all…” Yet, the peach represents so much more than just a peach. I think the peach is a metaphor for life. The sweetness of the peach represents the good times in life. Lee says, “ eat…not only the sugar, but the days…” He compares life to an orchard, wishing he could carry it with him to obtain those sweet times whenever he wants.
“From laden boughs, from hands from sweet fellowship in the bins…” All of the peaches come from the same place. They sit in “fellowship” in the bins. All humans come from the same place (debatable, but you get my point). Humans are all inherently tied to each other in some way, even if that reason is solely because we are the same species.

“…comes nectar at the roadside, succulent peaches we devour, dusty skin and all, comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.” The peaches are eaten regardless of the dust that adorns them. Even with the dust, the peaches are still succulent. I took this to mean even through all the hardships and adversity one must overcome in life, the sweet moments in life still trump the difficult, “dusty” moments.

Lee further adds to this point by stating, “There are days we live as if death were nowhere in the background; from joy to joy to joy…” We have all had these days; the sun is shining, we have a pep in our step, and nothing can go wrong for us. Even if it doesn’t last all day, even if it is just for a brief moment, in that moment we love life. You can feel it down in your core, resonating from within. It’s almost epiphany-like when you realize it.

I think Lee takes a different stand on life than some previous authors we’ve read such as Barthelme. For instance, the first apparent difference is that Lee focuses on life whereas Barthelme focused on death. Lee wants the reader to appreciate the act of living and the good moments in life. Also, where Barthelme was more linear in his view on life, replacing each dead thing with something new, Lee is more takes a more cyclical approach. For instance, Lee says, “…we live…from blossom to blossom…” Each time a flower blossoms, it is essentially being reborn.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The School-Donald Barthelme

The School by Donald Barthelme is an interesting one to say the least. Death is prevalent in the story. The story begins by telling the reader about the orange trees the kids planted that died. Then we hear about the snakes that died because of the boiler being shut off because of a strike that was going on. What was the strike about? Next, we are told about the herb gardens that died. This time, the narrator begins to think the herbs may have been sabotaged. After the herbs we are told of the tropical fish that died. Then we are told of how the little Murdoch girl found a puppy and brought it to class, but, what do you know, the puppy died too. After the puppy, things get a bit more personal. Next, the Korean orphan exchange student the kids had been raising money for to bring to America dies unexpectedly. Then we are told of all the parents and grandparents passing away via many different methods:  heart attack, suicide, drowning, stroke, and a car accident. Yet, still more death occurs as we are told about “the tragedy.” Matthew Wein and Tony Mavrogordo, the children’s classmates, were crushed by big wooden beams at a construction site. Finally, Billy Brandt’s father was murdered. One day, the kids finally ask Edgar where all of the dead things/people go. Edgar has no answer for the children. The children reply with a rather cynical response about life and death to which Edgar blindly agrees with. The children then ask Edgar to make love to the teaching assistant, Helen. After a few repeated requests, Helen and Edgar embrace and begin to kiss until a new gerbil enters through the door.

Death is everywhere in this story. It seems like everything the kids associate with dies. The interesting thing about this is that the kids are continuously given new things! Once one thing dies, it’s simply on to the next, new thing. I think that is the significance of the ending and the new gerbil. The kids, after making a brilliant deduction/realization about life and death, finally move on to a new topic, even if it is watching their teacher make love, until something as feeble as a new gerbil walks in the room. I think this is a lot like modern society. We become so absorbed and enthralled by petty things, we neglect to realize how brilliant we are and how worthwhile life is.

As for the kids quote, “…is death that which gives meaning to life?” Does death give meaning to life? Or does life give meaning to death? Or neither? Or both? I think it’s a bit of both. We want to accomplish all we can in this life before we are dead, thus death gives meaning to life. Yet, death would not be significant without life. Then again, society somewhat shuns death. It’s just a commonplace, everyday thing. That kind of reminds me of the opening paragraph of A Silver Dish and how Bellow talked about death as “peristalsis.”

Short and sweet, and definitely weird and pessimistic.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Silver Dish-Saul Bellow

A Silver Dish is essentially a story written by Saul Bellow that describes the main character, Woody, and his reflection on his father’s death. When Woody’s dad, Morris, passes, Woody is sent into a stage of nostalgia, remembering times, both good and bad, of his father, the lessons Woody’s father taught him, and why Woody loved him so much. In particular, Woody is reminded by church bells of the time his father had him help connive $50.00 from Mrs. Skoglund, head of the seminary Woody attended. During their attempt, Morris steals a silver dish from Mrs. Skoglund’s china cabinet. Woody and his father physically fight over the dish, and Woody has his father agree to return it. Although Woody thought his father returned the dish, his father actually stole it and was granted the $50.00. Later, Woody was questioned about the missing dish and ultimately was expelled from the seminary. Woody confronted his father about it, only to be told that the dish was pawned off and he could go buy it back if he wanted it. After the flashback, we are taken into the hospital as Morris is laying in his deathbed. He is fighting the treatments by pulling the IV tubes out of his arms. Woody climbs into the bed with his father and restrains him, not letting him pull the tubes out. However, while Woody holds him, his father essentially shuts down his body, dispelling all the heat from himself, and dies.

I think the opening paragraph and a portion of the second paragraph serve for Bellow to voice his ideas on death. In the first paragraph, Bellow asks, “What do you do about death?” This is a universally perplexing question. No one person reacts to death the same. Some choose to mourn, others choose to accept it, and still others choose to ignore it. Further in the opening paragraph, Bellow describes the actions of the Lufhansa pilots in Aden (I think he means a middle-eastern suicide pilot) and how they kill without remorse and are not scared of death. He then says, “That’s what you read in the press, see on the tube, mention at dinner.” Furthermore, Bellow states that death is “like a global death-peristalsis.” Death is a commonplace, everyday occurrence in society, so what makes the death of one person meaningful and significant?

“To the world, you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.”—Dr. Seuss

One thing I found interesting in this story was that Woody always seemed to take care of everyone else but himself. Woody took care of his father, mother, his two sisters who were retarded, and even his wife he was separated from for 15 years. In one instance, Woody gave his father all the money he earned working on a golf course. After 15 years of separation, Woody still shopped for his wife every Friday, filling up her freezer. Throughout the story we hear of all the things Woody does for everyone else, but no one ever seems to do anything for Woody. Woody doesn’t even have time to mourn for his father. No one ever asks Woody how he’s holding up or anything.

One connection I made (it’s kind of random) was in the end when it talks about Woody traveling all over the world to places like Japan, Africa, Jerusalem, etc. It really reminded me of Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying.” I don’t know if Woody traveled and did extreme things (like smuggle hashish) because of his father’s death or just to feel alive. I think with no one around to listen to him, Woody had to do something in order to remind himself there was more to life than just working and taking care of other people.

My final comment is on Woody’s upbringing. Woody faced a lot of tribulations growing up. His father and mother split up when he was young, he was surrounded by people that didn’t genuinely love Woody, and his father definitely didn’t set a good example for him as he lied, stole, and gambled. Yet, through all of these hardships, Woody grew up to be a wise and successful businessman. He completely turned his situation around and did not let it bring him down. Woody could have easily slipped down the same path as his father, or become a preacher like everyone wanted him to, but Woody chose what was right for him.