October 2009 Archives

Crazy Room Colors

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I already blogged about Poe's "Masque of the Red Death," and talked a little bit about Romanticism and Realism, but here I decided to tackle the colors of the rooms, or rather my opinion of them. I honestly think that Poe included them for two reasons: First, I think it really shows the oppulence of the room. It was far more extravagent to have colored lighting back when you couldn't just buy a 60 watt bulb in any color you want for a couple bucks.

Second, it screws with the reader, creating a great deal of ambiguity. While I don't really think he had any specific symbolism in mind behind the colors (except the obvious black in the one room), he was definately well aware that people read all sorts of different things into colors. Colors are symbolic of all sorts of different things, green for example, is often associated with envy. However, one can also be green around the gills, when feeling sick. In Dickenson's poetry, green is typically refering to nature, and growth, maybe rebirth too. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the green is also nature, but not a good pretty nice nature, but rather a magical, somewhat sinister nature. So, what does green mean this time? Who knows? There is evidence to support most of the previous suggestions: the envy of those excluded from the party? the sickness of the red death? rebirth? Evil/magical/sinister nature which disease might be part of? At least the lack of clear answer should provide fodder for literary essays for the next several centuries, or at least a time when they develop the technology necessary to reanimate Poe's corpse and get a straight answer out of him.

This isn't to say that there is anything wrong with it. In fact, the lack of a clear answer makes the reader think...as good literature should.  

Editorial: Stimulating Incumbency

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Just got to mention that I really could not resist writing about an election. Politics is by far my favorite sport as no other so effectively combines the mindless, underhanded brutality of undergound street fighting with the shameless theatrics of professional wrestling. That said: 

The editorial I read was by George Will, entitled Stimulating Incumbency. This link is to my hometown's newspaper's website, but you need a password to get in. However, I think he's syndicated, so you can probably find it somewhere else.

His article is discussing the stimulus packages and their relationship to the upcoming midterm elections. It wasn't quite as witty as others I've read, but it did offer much more structured, and better supported argument than others I've read.

The main idea that it points out is how often arguments tend to hinge on statistics that are completely inquantifiable. The number of jobs that can be considered to have been "created" by the stimulus packages tends to come out as a negative number, since unemployment kept increasing after them. For this reason the statistic that tends to be used, is the number "saved." However, this number, while considered an estimate, is pretty immpossible to determine. As a statistic, it is emensely valuable, as arguing against an estimate is simply fighting shadows. Will's article is effective because he doesn't argue that this statistic is necessarily wrong, but simply points out that no one really knows.

He also suggests that the third stimulus will likely come pretty close to the election, and will mostly be intended to save jobs, within congress. Will is certainly accurate that it'll take some pretty deft manuvering to keep even the slimmest of majorities, let alone attain the  filibuster-proof one they'd always been dreaming of. Polls cited in another article, suggest that only half of the voters who came out for Obama will vote in the midterm, versus 66% of McCain voters. This sort of backlash against the party holding the presidency is pretty typical (Think 2006). While the uninformed of the victorious party rest on their laurels, the uninformed of the other party actually bother to vote in midterm elections. Beyond that, Democrats tend to need help from the young, yet far too busy to vote in boring midterm elections unless they're getting extra credit group, while the Republicans have the advantage of holding on to much of the old, and have nothing better to do group (many of whom have a significant intrest in health care).

Okay, I ended up off topic, but I'm fine with that. (At least I didn't say anything to outrageous, as I tend to when I start writing/talking/thinking about politics...I try to save that for my other blog, which no one reads.) I guess all that really matters is that this next election should be a bit more entertaining than the last, as they wont waste all their coverage on presidential candidates, which became pointless about 4 months prior to the election, as the conclusion got really obvious. Anyway, for now I'll give 100:1 odds to anyone betting the Dems will get that 3/5s (You can count Lieberman, but no other Independants). I'll figure the rest out later.


Sex Addicts can be Christ Figures, too.

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The chapter on Christ figures instantly reminded me of Choke by Chuck Palanuik. The main character, and narrator, is a sex addict (The book is supposed to be a his 4th step, which is an inventory of all your mistakes, in any Alcoholics Anonymous type recovery group) Anyway, this character is interesting because in character he is intentionally un-Christ like but in various other ways, he is. (He makes money by pretending to choke in restaurants, thus getting "ressurected" by whoever saves him, and hitting them up for cash) While this is a scam, the idea that he is unwittingly redeeming these people by giving them confidence and making them feel heroic, later comes up. He also has no Earthly father, and I believe he is 33.  (There is also a bit of plot where he is suspected to be created from cloned DNA from Jesus.) Also, he has a lot of phrases and stories that he repeats (vaguely reminiscent of parables and aphorisms)

While this may be as overt as the Christ symbolism in The Old Man and the Sea, I think this chapter made me notice a lot more of it.  

Tom Sawyer's Degradation of Jim?

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First, I must congratulate myself for avoiding making some reference to that one Foster chapter on Shakespeare as the title "If its not Shakespeare, the bible, Chaucer, or Sophecles....It's Cervantes" would be a touch unwieldy, and launch me further down a slippery slope that would eventually leave me with "If its not Shakespeare, the bible, Chaucer, Sophecles, Cervantes, Dickenson, Poe, Clemens, Joyce, Hardy, Clavell, Hesse, Marlowe, Milton, Thoreau, Orwell, Voltaire, Kerouac, King, Hawthorne, Faulkner, Roseau, Hemmingway, Carver, Kesey, Seuss, Grisham, Lucas, Star Trek, The Simpsons or South Park....it's definately Christopher Moore."

Alright, Tom is definately a little Don Quixotian in the escape plans he comes up with, but I didn't really see it as "degradation" as much as delusion. Don Quixote surely had no special malice toward windmills, but rather required them to play a part in his fantasies. In the same way, Tom Sawyer's torment of Jim isn't due to his race, or status as a slave, but due to Tom's need for adventure. The only way in which this scenerio is affected by Jim's race or status is that he is sort of stuck humoring the boys, as he needs them to escape. Tom is just as willing to torment Huck and himself by climbing up lightening rods, rather than using the stairs, and attempting to dig (with case-knives initially) rather than just steal the key. Based on the fact that Tom only gives up on his "heroic" endeavors once experience (and blistered hands) show them to be impractical (and he rationalizes that he can stretch the truth about them later). Because he doesn't experience the torments he unleashes on Jim during his fantasy, he doesn't realize that they should probably likewise be discarded for fiction. 

For this reason, I feel there isn't really the big change in Huck suggested by the introduction. He has tended to just drift along, and go with the flow (to use some terrible puns) throughout the story, so it would seem uncharacteristic for him to avoid playing the perfect Sancho Panza to Tom's Don Quixote.    

Crossin' Walden on a Raft, while Reading with a Raven

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This semester seems to be flying by, as it is once again time for a quick look back. Anyway, this is my second portfolio for my class, American Literature 1800-1915. The first one explained this next bit, so skip to the next paragraph if you've read it. This class looks at a variety of American literature (obviously from the selected time period), and also looks at techniques for writing about literature. For this reason, the entries that will be referenced here are a blend of responses to text-book chapters, and responses to various works of literature, though a fair portion of it is dominated by The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).This portfolio is designed simply to showcase the work I've done since the last one.

To begin with, I'd like to present a few blogs that I feel are reasonably well written, in terms of addressing the literature, and providing insight about the material. I was particularily pleased with my blog about Thoreau's Walden, ....and if for some reason it's not from Shakespeare, it's from Chaucer, which discusses references to the Canterbury Tales, that I found in Walden. Th title is a reference to a chapter title from Foster's book How To Read Literature Like a Professor entitled "When In Doubt, It's From Shakespeare." How Shiftless! is about Aiken's theatrical adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and offers a detailed analysis of the meaning behind Ophelia's favorite word, as well as including the first ever sentence to illustrate all three possible meanings for the word"shiftless." So, at this point, if it isn't Shakespeare or the Bible, it's Sophocles once again references Foster's chapter title, though it makes more sense to do so as it is actually about a chapter from his book. (Usually my better work isn't about text-books). Anyway, it talks about the common archetype of the blind seer, (Tiresias from Oedipus Rex). I tried to find an unimportant blind literary character and could not (I ran through characters from Bartelby the Scrivener to Geordi LaForge). Sexist Irony...or Ironic Sexism, if you prefer looked at the often overlooked issue of gender in The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn, (people tend to focus on race). It was just in a brief, non-essential scene, but I found the irony amusing.  

 The reason we blog, rather than write lots of little essays, is that they offer a chance for discussion. Blogs are an online conversation, rather than a work of writing. These next few are blogs of mine that show some interaction and discussion with my peers. Which Pallas? is a bit embarassing, as it shows my failure to recognize the connection between "Pallas" and "Pallas Athena" in Edgar Alan Poe's poem "The Raven." Instead I did some heavy research into a minor god and a titon by that name. It did a comment though, as others (who GOT the connection), corrected me. I got some approval in Thoreau: False Romantic when I pointed to a passage in Walden that seemed to contradict some of his main points. In Wow, it STILL might be Shakespeare, which beats the dead horse that is Foster's chapter on the prevalence of Shakespeare references in other works, got some comment as I compared Huck to the wise fool present in much of the bard's work.

With any communication, it is necessary for it to go both ways. Thus, it would be remiss of me to not mention other people's blogs that I participated in discussions on. I, as well as several others, commented on Jeremy Barrick's blog The Fowl's Happiness is Dark, which looked at the raven as a symbol of evil in Poe's poem, "The Raven." I also discussed the role of the bust of Pallas in the same poem on Kayla Lesko's blog, Poe Post 1 as well as my own. On Katie Lantz's blog Tom Sawyer: Holden Caufield? we discussed the similarities between Huck Finn (I think she meant him rather than Tom), and Holden Caufield from J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. I don't have as many good conversations on here as I would like as I seem to have inadvertantly wiped out my draft blog containing a list of comments. (I just went with the first ones I could track down, as it is tedious work.) 

 To increase the chances for communication, it is important that my blogs are done early enough that others get a chance to comment on them.....and if for some reason it's not from Shakespeare, it's from Chaucer  was up a couple days before class, which is kind of dissapointing as it got no comments. The majority (including all of the ones above) of my blogs were posted at least a day before, so in the interest of saving space I will mention only the those that were not previously mentioned. Water = Baptism which refers to a chapter in Foster about Baptism, as well as the baptism of pig's blood that Carrie gets in Stephen King's novel Carrie. Wow, I would never commit a crime with these guys.... discusses the scene with the bandits on the wrecked steamer in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.   

We were asked to pick a favorite blog, and it need not even be related to this class. I selected Sailing From Romanticism to Realism, not because I necessarily consider it better than my other blogs, but because it deals with "Cargoes" by John Masefield, a poem that we never really discussed in my Writing About Literature class. 

To sum everything up, here is a list, in order of every blog required for the class since my last portfolio, Puritans, Vampires and Wallpaper....oh my? :

Thoreau: False Romantic on Walden by Thoreau 

....and if for some reason it's not from Shakespeare, it's from Chaucer  on Walden by Thoreau

Sex Addicts can be Christ Figures, too.  on Choke by Chuck Palanhuik and the idea of the Christ figure from Foster

Which Pallas? on "The Raven" by Edgar Alan Poe

Grim and Ghastly Pun on "Epigram for Wallstreet" by Edgar Alan Poe

High on Life, er Nature on XX: "I taste a liquor never brewed" by Emily Dickinson

This chick likes books  on the frequent theme of reading in Emily Dickinson's poetry

Water = Baptism on the meaning of Baptism discussed from Foster

How Shiftless! on Uncle Tom's Cabin by George Aiken

Wow, it STILL might be Shakespeare on the role of Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Samuel Clemens

So, at this point, if it isn't Shakespeare or the Bible, it's Sophocles on the role of the blind in literature, from Foster

Sexist Irony...or Ironic Sexism, if you prefer on gender in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Wow, I would never commit a crime with these guys.... on humor in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Tom Sawyer's Degradation of Jim? on the "Introduction to Huckleberry Finn" by Henry Nash Smith

Wow, I would never commit a crime with these guys....

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I highly recommend that you NEVER read anything by Clemens when you have a so readily available portal through which to discuss it. (I should really just turn off my laptop or at least leave my blog). There are just so many funny bits to talk about...(Those people who are "lucky" enough to recieve random calls from me talking about different bits of the book I just read are fortunate that I have a blog) Oh, and it's probably a good thing I didn't have this when I read Letters to the Earth, I never would have stopped....

Oh, anyway, a point:

I don't know if anyone caught this, but the thieves on the boat keep calling each other by their FULL NAMES. Smart criminals use aliases, but even AVERAGE ones typically at least have the sense to avoid using last names. I could picture robbing a bank with these guys: "Hurry up, David Wilbanks, we have to get into your Black 2002 Buick LeSabre license number HB2385 and get back to apartment 2 in that blue building accross from the church at the corner of 3rd and Pennsylvania." Just thought that bit was entertaining, and couldn't help myself.

I also really liked the clever morality that both Huck and the gang use. Huck and Jim's plan of taking the middle road, and deciding not to "borrow" a few things is clever, as they're things that they don't want or aren't in season. (I myself have followed their example and given up drinking cheap vodka (which I hate) and real absinthe (which isn't really available here)). I also like the gangs clever "moral judgement" that it's far more nobler to intentionally leave a man to die, than to actually kill him. (Many ancient cultures did the same thing with babies).

Sexist Irony...or Ironic Sexism, if you prefer

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So, I found the scene with Mrs. Judith Loftus to be particularily interesting. When she figures out that Huck's a boy, and rattles off the list of details that made it obvious, I was momentarily reminded of spy novels I've read (far too frequently). The hero always picks up on some subtle detail to pick the assasin out of the crowd, and Mrs. Loftus seemed to do that to Huck. (Though there wasn't a crowd, and she was intent on helping him rather than sneaking up behind him to silently slit his throat).

Anyway, it was interesting because she gives him several sexist stereotypes to follow in order to better fake being a girl. Ironic, because at the same time she tells him his current act is so bad that only a man would fall for it. Through this section Clemens is able to effectively satirize a whole lot of stereotypes. While he may be saying that girls suck at throwing, the main point is that they're smart, and perceptive. The level of detail that Mrs. Loftus picks up on is really quite impressive (Especially for a woman (just kidding)).

Though his satire tends to have a pretty specific target, (in this case slavery), Clemens is ALWAYS ready to take a few subtle shots at any worthy targets that linger in his crosshairs. That is just want makes him so much fun to read.   

Sailing From Romanticism to Realism

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Alright, haven't read the chapter yet, but I prefer to write about the poem without having read what they think it means.

"Cargoes" by John Masefield describes three different ships bearing cargo from three different time periods. Each ship, is used to symbolize a time-period, or the attitudes of that period. Based on the connotation of the words used to describe each, Masefields oppionon of each era is pretty obvious.

The first ship is an ancient Quinquereme, (an massive galley-like ship with oars), sailing in the Medditerainian. It is carrying interesting and exotic cargo, such as "apes and peacocks" and "sweet white wine," and is on its way, to "sunny Palestine." This image is very romantic, and shown in a positive light.

The second is a Spanish galleon in Carribean, carrying all symbols of wealth. It is likewise offered in a positive, somewhat romantic light as it is "dipping through the Tropics by the palm green shores." However, despite the seemingly positive portrayal, the cargo of all valuables might suggest something about greed and commercialism.  

The final image offers a stark contrast. It is a "Dirty British coaster" "Butting through the channel in the mad March days." It's cargo is all symbolic of industry; Coal and various metal. (It also has firewood, which offers a nice contrast against the sandlewood and cedarwood of the first ship).

Based on this, the symbolism I'm getting is that the romantic past was overtaken by commercialism, which lead to the modern, ugly industrialism. (Which is burning former things of beauty, if the wood is a significant symbol) This makes the poem a romantic reaction against realism.

Ah, apparently Roberts didn't pick up on the bit I had about the second stanza's leading to the third. He also missed the bit about the wood. Oh, well, better luck next time.

Arbeit Macht Frei

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Alright, pretty abrupt ending for Vladek's story...you just see the gates of Auschwitz, (including the words from the title of this blog). Despite its suddenness, I really liked it (even before knowing that there is a sequal which tells about the camps). Without knowing about the sequal, I thought it was a good place to end. Almost anyone whose taken some history classes knows a fair amount about Auschwitz. The average educated reader knows even more. There is a great deal of literature written about concentration camps. HOWEVER, there is significantly less about everything leading up to the camps, such as life in the ghettos, etc. It seems that there is far less literature concerning the struggles that many Jews faced before even ending up in concentration camps. By having Maus end with the arrival at Auschwitz, I initially thought he was leaving it out since it is so familiar (though the sequal describes it). Even though there is a sequal, splitting the two books at this point leaves a large emphasis on Vladek's life up until Auschwitz.

It not only makes it more appealing to readers, as it is less redundant, it also highlights the important historical fact that the holocaust was a systematic and far reaching phenomenon, that involved far more than concentration camps alone. The Jews were not simply stripped of their humanity and thrown into camps one day, but rather had it chisselled away slowly. It really helps the reader to understand the uncertainty and disbelief of the time, which helped make the holocaust possible. Jews (as well as bystanders) had the misguided belief that each new affront to their freedom and humanity was the limit, that anything more would be unthinkable in modern, civilized nations. The rumors of worse to come were often dismissed as rumors.

Framed Comic Frames

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I really like the framing used to tell the story in Maus by Art Spiegelman. By having the story be told after the fact, and including the interaction between Artie and his father, it lends the story a very realistic feeling, and more human element.

What I found very interesting is the contrast in tone between the two stories. In the present, Artie's father complains about trivial matters, but in the flashback portion, his narration is direct, to the point and lacks much commentary. On page 44, in one frame Vladek is complaining that the chicken was too dry. In the frame below that he says "We were given army trainings for a few days and then, by the start of September we were on the frontier.." While being sent to war with only a few days training is far worse than eating some dry chicken, Vladek makes no note of it until Artie asks him about. I just felt that this contrast was interesting.

Writing of Rapid Deceased Romantics

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Wierd, it seems like I just wrote one of these. In truth there are probably less blogs for this portfolio than the last. (which may result in a few repeats) Anyway, this is my second portfolio for my class, Writing About Literature, . The first one explained this next bit, so skip to the next paragraph if you've read it. Anyway, the class is pretty much about, as the title suggests, writing about literature. For this reason, the entries that will be referenced here are a blend of responses to text-book chapters, and responses to various works of literature, including a book review, a novel, poetry and even an academic literary article. The collection of literature has been entertaining for the most part, and especially varied, as there is no set genre, form, time period or any other governing factor for the collection, all that matters is that its literature, and can be analyzed, and thus written about.

This portfolio is designed simply to showcase the work I've done since the last one. To begin with, I'd like to present a few blogs that I feel are reasonably well written, in terms of addressing the literature, and providing insight about the material. Ironically, one of the least cleverly titled blogs, Wordsworth and Yeats.....or something more clever than that. discusses, in reasonably decent depth some poems by romantic poets...you can guess which ones. I kind of like this one because I felt I made some unique observations, and got to show off my knowledge of Greek mythology.  I'm going to argue that I thought there was a problem, but that there isn't is actually about a chapter from Edgar Roberts' text Writing About Literature. Usually my better work isn't about text-books. Anyway, I mostly found fault with the thesis in the sample essay. Another good one is a careful analysis of a conversation in The Quick and the Dead, by Joy WIlliams, which seems to include Words You NEVER Hear in Arizona Bars. The last one analyzes the play "Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)" by Ann MacDonald. I included it because it is more of an analysis of drama than literature as it discusses the non-literary elements of the play, primarily the Rapid Cross-Dressing that much of the cast must undergo during this production.

 The reason we blog, rather than write lots of little essays, is that they offer a chance for discussion. Blogs are an online conversation, rather than a work of writing. These next few are blogs of mine that show some interaction and discussion with my peers.Words You NEVER Hear in Arizona Bars, which I already mentioned sparked the most conversation by far.  Rapid Cross-Dressing got a couple of comments regarding the variations in cast with different productions got a few as well. In  Wow, this is Journalism? I wrote about how different the book review style is from the standard AP style used in most journalism, got a couple as well.

With any communication, it is necessary for it to go both ways. Thus, it would be remiss of me to not mention other people's blogs that I participated in discussions on. On Carissa Altizer's blog, Quit Your Books and Grab Your Hippi Skirts! we discussed Wordsworth's poem "The Tables Turned." It seems to resonate with students. On Kayla Lesko's blog Um.......... WHAT?!, several students discussed their confusion at the plot, or lack there of, in The Quick and the Dead. In Dianna Griffin's blog we discussed the idea that Names Can Have Unseen Meanings, in the same book.

 To increase the chances for communication, it is important that my blogs are done early enough that others get a chance to comment on them.Words You NEVER Hear in Arizona Bars  was up the day before it was due, thus all the comments.Rapid Cross-Dressing was up the day it was due, Wordsworth and Yeats.....or something more clever than that. was just a little late. Admittedly, this is where I kind of failed this section. Many of the blogs didn't get posted until the break. I had big assignments for several classes right around midterms, and got behind. That is something I'll have to work on for the rest of the semester.  

We were asked to pick a favorite blog, and it need not even be related to this class. I selected ....and if for some reason it's not from Shakespeare, it's from Chaucer, which actually combined concepts from two other classes. In American Lit. we read Walden, by Thoreau, which this blog is primarily about. We also read How To Read Literature Like A Proffessor by Foster, which had a chapter about how frequently Shakespeare is referenced in other works. In another class I read the Canterbury Tales by Chaucer around the same time, which is probably why I noticed an obscure reference to the Nun's Priest's tale in Walden, which is what I wrote about.   

To sum everything up, here is a list, in order of every blog required for the class since the last portfolio :

Rapid Cross-Dressing On Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann MacDonald

Wordsworth and Yeats.....or something more clever than that. on, well, Wordsworth and Yeats.

I'm going to argue that I thought there was a problem, but that there isn't on Chapter 12 of Roberts' text and "Desert Places" by Robert Frost

Words You NEVER Hear in Arizona Bars on The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

Research Article: Goodnight Desdemona on, obviously, a research article about Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann MacDonald

Kinda Anti-Climactic on The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

At Least I'm on the same page on The Quick and the Dead by Joy Williams

Wow, this is Journalism? on a book review of The World Without End by Ken Follet


In Foster's 20th chapter he talks about the significance of scars and deformities, mentioning Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, and how his damaged feet are significant (and his name). Then in the 21st chapter, about blindness, Sophocles invariably came up again, as you have Oedipus' blinding himself, as well as Tiresias the sooth-sayer. Half-way through the introductory portion of the chapter, I realized that the movie Minority Report, is, essentially the same story, minus the incest and patricide. It's been awhile since I saw it, but there is the element of the hero not knowing he's the murderer (but in a futuristic society where they predict it in advance), The sooth-sayer psychic people who do that predicting (and are deformed...and I think blind), then you also have the constant retinal scanners, which force him as a fugitive to get eye-transplants from a back-room amatuer surgeon (which is close enough to shoving his mom/wife's pins through them).


This said, I'm trying to think of a blindman who is in NO WAY, special or prophetic. It's hard so far. Then you've also got that old Ray Carver story "Cathedral," where the blindman likewise knows a little more than those with senses. LaForge, from Star Trek: the Next Generation can see other useful things with his visor, (plus it negates the blindness more or less, thus cleverly only making him special in episodes where they had it break, get lost, etc.), Bartleby's partial blindness has a point, too. The completely sense-less character in Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo, likewise was important for it ........AH HA. I have it. One solitary case in which blindness doesn't denote some character as special: Jose Saramagoo's novel Blindness. In this book, the person who is the main character, and specially marked is the doctor's wife, because she is the only person who DOES NOT go blind. Then again the fact that blindness is the title, major plot devise, etc. in the novel kind of just makes it the exception that proves the rule.    

How Shiftless!

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Alright, I have to admit that the Ophelia got on my nerves a bit, through her constant use of the word shiftless.....ESPECIALLY when she used it completely out of context. There are somethings that just can't be considered shiftless. Like random occurences i.e. Eva kissing Tom, bits of other people's conversation i.e. when Marie suggests that St. Clare doesn't care about her opinion and thus shouldn't ask it, ideas i.e. Topsy's ignorance of the concept of years, and even, apparently, atheism i.e. when Topsy says that no one made her.

There is really only really three things that can be described by the word shiftless: people, occasions (in some cases) and damaged devices that are meant to have shift buttons. i.e "One shiftless Sunday afternoon, I threw my shiftless laptop at a shiftless Best Buy employee who said that a damaged keyboard was not covered by my warranty."

However, because of this peculiarity, it seems obvious that there is some intent behind it. Shiftless tends to be one of the typical racial stereotypes commonly hurled about, and the person who is ALWAYS saying it is the solitary Northerner in the story. Ophelia, despite being a rather dull person, is interesting in that she opposes (more or less) the cruelty of slavery, despite being extremely racist. She seems to consider blacks to be far less human than any of the slave owners, or former slave owners in the story. She even admits to being repulsed by them, and unable to touch them. This is making an interesting observation about hypocrisy at the time. Even Legree, despite being completely sadistic, sees his slaves as people to a greater degree than Ophelia, just people that he owns, tortures, and must dominate. Based on his other actions, and his general temperment, I feel that if he could have owned some white slaves he would have been just as brutal to them. Then in the story, there were several other masters who, in varying degrees, were kind to their slaves, freeing or attempting to free them in some cases.

This is interesting because it kind of shades the historical black and white image a lot of people get suggesting that Southerners of the time were cruel, slave-owning racists and Northerners were all progressive-thinking people who accepted everyone regardless of race. There was a whole lot more grey area than that, which this play makes you think about more.     

Water = Baptism

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Alright, I've decided that this isn't just about water, but liquids in general. As I read this section of the book (Fosters), I actually first thought of a scene where a non-water baptism occurs. In Stephen King's Carrie, the scene where she gets a bucket of pig's blood poured over her at prom is a baptism of sorts, though a slightly less holy version (Slightly reminiscent of the Cult of Mithra, which was around at the founding of Christianity, but tended to prefer the animal blood baptisms.)

Anyway, this scene is very much a rebirth for Carrie, as it is when she finally accepts the full power of her telekenisis and goes for vengeance. In this case, as in more standard baptism scenes in literature, she completely changes, becoming a whole new person.As much as the stuff before it matters too, the baptism itself tends to offer the reader a clear, sudden action to let the reader know the precise instant when the change occurs.  

This chick likes books

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"A precious, mouldering pleasure 't is

To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore;"

Dickenson's poem "In A Library," once again uses an extended metaphor for a book. (She does the same thing the "There is No Book Like a Frigate" with travel and in "Books" with food). This one is a little different though as she actually personifies the book. Suggesting that reading is a lot like meeting different ancient people.  

High on Life, er Nature

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"Inebriate of air am I,

and debauchee of dew,"

I really liked these images, and honestly wonder if they in anyway lead to cliche phrase "high on life," just because it is essentially what she is saying through out the poem, though most of her examples of life tend to be nature symbols like air, dew, summer days, and bees etc. I also liked the idea that these images were tied to the extended metaphor of inebriation.

Grim and Ghastly Pun

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Alright, "Epigram for Wall Street," just cracked me up. It used the sort of puns that are SO terrible that you groan a bit, before uncontrollably giggling. They're so bad they're good. It makes it even funnier when you reconsider that the poem comes from the master of horror and mystery: Edgar Alan Poe. 

The poem is about folding up your money rather than investing it so that you will see it "in creases." It also uses some other double meanings like, well "double." As it is doubled each time you fold it.

It's just interesting to see Poe show his wit with humor, rather than horror or mystery.

Wow, this is Journalism?

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I checked out this review of Ken Follet's World Without End, which I listened to on CD over the summer, while driving. (It's a ridiculously long book as it lasted slightly longer than the drive from Idaho Falls, Idaho to Greensburg, Pennsylvania). Anyway, it's historical fiction set in the 1400's, in England, mostly. It's a sequel to Pillars of the Earthwhich takes place in the same place a few hundred years earlier, and deals with some of the characters descendents.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about the review is the fact that the writer actually used similes, and flowery language. I took Journalism classes for a couple years, and apparently NOTHING relating to the Associated Press style relates to book reviews....which makes them far more pleasant. The reviewer did do the stuff that we talked about in class. There was a decent amount of detail regarding the first chapter, and virtually no details about anything after the middle. It was noticable how they got more vague as they continued on with the plot summary, causing it to eventually blend with the general description of the book. They left the slight criticism until the end, and more or less refuted or explained each mention of it.  

At Least I'm on the same page

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At least from the class discussions I got the impression that no one else really caught any clear meaning from The Quick and the Dead either. I'm just glad I didn't miss something that no one else missed. Anyway, it seems we're still on the same page. There were vague, symbolic bits, and lots of small parts that had special, specific meanings, but nothing that as a whole really aligned to form the sort of clear, specific meaning you get from other works. Honestly, that was probably not one of my favorite books, and I'm just glad to be done talking about it.  

Kinda Anti-Climactic

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While there was some resolution, in that Annabelle and her dad and Donald moved away, Sherwin died...rather graphically, JC got his balls blown off, etc. There wasn't the sort of concise, "THIS IS WHAT THE BOOK MEANT" sort of ending. Typically, I like a little meaning...but I do enjoy a confusing, subtle and hard to find one. The Quick and the Dead seemed pretty much right up my alley in this way, but sort of lost me at some point. I guess I just got the feeling that the author has no more of an idea of what the story means than I do. I felt like rather than tossing in subtle hints, she just tossed in a collection of oddities so that if one were inclined they could spend much of their life sifting and sorting through the novel coming up with a host of different random, concise meanings, or a few really, really vague ones. (The overall message/meaning that I came up with is "The flying bananas can't talk, they just want you to think they can.") 

Also, a random thought just popped into my head. Based on what the class read in Roberts text, how could you possibly diagram this thing to determine the climax, conflict, etc? Since nothing really happened, I can't think of a way to really begin to do that.  

Wow, it STILL might be Shakespeare

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"Jim said bees wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me." (108)

Alright, so Clemens is suggesting that if Jim's superstitions are accurate, Huck's an idiot. Though they obviously vary some in absolute meaning, idiot seems to be roughly synonymous with fool. Huck may seem a fool to the rest of society, or at very least his ideas are dismissed because he's kid, at the same time this status gives him license to say them. Because the novel is satirical, much of Clemens meaning is revealled through Huck.

Now, who was that one playwright who was always having some licensed fool reveal the truth to the audience?  


Alright, in that sample essay in Roberts Chapter 12, on "Desert Places" by Frost, I had a problem with the thesis. It contended that a line in Frost's poem seemed out of place, and abrupt, but that it actually wasn't. This structure just seems like a weak attempt to make ANY unarguable point arguable, as you make both claims...kind of. It seems that this would only ACTUALLY be arguable if the writer wasn't the only one to ever think that this line seems abrupt. He raises a question only to negate it. I could similarily say "I thought that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, due to its use of racial slurs, was intended to promote racism, but actually it criticises the society in which it takes place." That really is no thesis as I'm raising a weak, ridiculous point, just so I can knock it down. It kind of feels like thats what the sample essay did. While it would be difficult to argue, in the case of both thesises, there would be SOMETHING to argue, if each just stuck to the original suggestion, rather than presenting it, then arguing against it.

That said, I love using this particular setup to present a commonly believed point or one that at least one scholar believes, before crushing it with a brilliant argument and then poking its corpse with the sharp stick of wit. Arguing against a position that you yourself fabricated seems a bit like taking shots at a stationary target. I'll admit, I have picked some rather weak targets to crush....(In STW I argued against essays by Jean Killbourne and Rick Santorum, which is ALMOST dishonorable in its relative ease), but I prefer to avoid arguing against some silly notion that I made up....other people have plenty of silly notions ripe for argument.        

Research Article: Goodnight Desdemona

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I found an article about "Goodnight Desdemona (Goodmorning Juliet)" that was interesting in that it really didn't have an arguable claim...which is something that we AS STUDENTS work hard to avoid. The argument was essentially: "If you analyze the play more closely, you get more meaning from it." That said, it would be extrememly useful for anyone doing litereary research on the play. It provides a really good level of analysis, despite not really arguing anything.

Which Pallas?

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Okay, I wasted an inordinate amount of time looking this up. (I take it as a personal insult when someone uses a reference to Greek or to a lesser degree, Roman mythology that I don't immediately get...yes there is something wrong with me.)

Honestly, you can skip this next block of text, where I get derailed and talk about various Pallases from Greco-Roman mythology:

 Anyway, apparently Pallas was the Greco-Roman version of the name "Steve." There are a couple Titon's named Pallas (likely the same character, but with varied lineages, as they were both killed by Athena.) There's also a king named Pallas, in Greek myth, as well as a Roman one, who is the son of King Evander, from the Aenead. The last one was the daughter of Triton, the Greek Sea God, and foster father of Athena....who also killed this Pallas. (Apparently Athena HATED the name Pallas). Though it has NO bearing on, well, anything at all relating to this class, I found the following interesting: "This story inspired a yearly festival in Libya dedicated to Athena. Girls from the Machlyans and Auseans tribes would fight each other, and those who died were labeled false virgins." Just seemed like a strange ritual, that someone might post on wikipedia for fun, but nope, it is actually from Histories by Herodotus.

OKAY....RESUME READING, so, as it turns out, the Pallas, whom the speaker from "The Raven" most likely means is either Simon Pallas who was one of the great physicians of 18th century, and wrote a great many medical texts, or his son, Peter, who was a famed zoologist/botanist. If THIS is the case, it offers a pretty interesting juxtaposition, by perching a bird that is either a "prophet," a "thing of evil" or a "prophet still," atop the bust of a man who is emblematic of medicine/science/reason etc. This contrast goes well with the rest of the poem, as you have the speaker constantly jumping between, "Wow, a sign from God," "oh cool, a birdy," and "Aaah!, a demon." There is a constant shift between a reliance in reason to explain the situation, and a expectation of the supernatural.   

Words You NEVER Hear in Arizona Bars

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Okay, pages 66-68, the conversation Ray has with the two guys in the bar. It really tripped me out. Initially, through grammatical errors and dropped consonants, it seems like the two guys Ray meets are supposed to be hicks. Understandable, as that comprises a large percentage of the people I've met in bars in Arizona...well, excluding Phoenix. Then the storyteller seem to shift gears and starts using some less standard words, words that just seem out of place, such as the phrases "exhibiting an ethical dimension," or "beyond my wildest dreams of satisfaction." He also casually used "vacate" to describe getting out of a truck. It didn't seem to be the far more standard instance of one constantly using a few big words or complex phrases that they picked up at some point, (a bit like the Summoner in the Canterbury Tales with his two or three Latin phrases) it seemed as though these words were part of his normal vocabulary (uncommon for one who habitually uses the incorrect construction me and so-and-so, rather than so-and-so and I, and forces a man to eat "varmint pellets").

This became even more puzzling when that character questioned Ray for using the word "initiation," as peculiar, or rare. This made it seem as though WIlliams wanted to hint at something about the character. This of course seems wierd as he's not even named, and it doesn't look as though he'll appear again. Also, I really can't imagine what. It could just be accidental, but one would think that, in light of Ray's sudden discomfort at being labelled an outsider for his vocabulary, Williams would take special care that the pointing it out had significantly limited vocabularies. (This is what I caught from the scene anyway. I can comiserate with Ray, as constantly find myself actively censoring my own speech while inebriated to exclude words from my vernacular that may result in persecution on the basis of my verbal acumen) If that's the intent, to just set Ray apart, it comes off wierdly, and seems perhaps, a bit sloppy on the part of Williams. However,  if there is something more behind the scene, it is far too subtle, (or will be explained later), as I didn't really get it.