Sunday, November 25, 2012

The American Dream (Sucks)

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
See the Goodreads page here!
See Shelfari page here!
I've spent a good sixteen years on this Earth. On a count of my downright pitiful social life (insert sad violin solo), I've listened to a few political speeches in this time--but only when I'm really bored, because politics honestly don't interest me much. However, even with this very limited exposure, I've found the repetition of one thing in these speeches to be so repetitive, it's gag-worthy. What is that thing, you ask?
     "The American Dream"
     One could quite possibly play a drinking game centered around every time a politician refers to this wistful, wonderful thing that nobody really knows the definition of. I'm going to stop the war in wherever to preserve the American Dream (take a shot!). I'm going to increase tax cuts on the rich to preserve the American Dream (take a shot!). I'm going to build a moat around the White House to preserve the American Dream (take a shot!). I'm going to wax my eyebrows more frequently to preserve the American Dream (take a shot!). You catch  my drift.
     There's obviously something wrong here. There is also something wrong in Michael Chabon's breathtaking classic The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: from young Czechoslovakian Joe Kavalier not facing the psychological damage wrought by his Jewish family being right in the clutch of Adolf Hitler and eventually becoming a recluse to George Deasy dreaming about becoming a Great American Novelist but stuck in the dregs of American Pulp Fiction to young homosexual Sammy Clay not following his true love, Tracy Bacon, to a permanent settlement in Los Angeles and eventually marrying Joe's ex-girlfriend...things are pretty screwed up, alright. 
     I define the American Dream as what people basically saw as the American way of life in the early twentieth century--a husband with a steady, well-paying day job working for the ever-antagonized "'boss", a wife whom most tasks of home-making and child-rearing fall upon (maybe juggling a job in there, too), and two children. Said two children can include boys who want to be professional baseball players from an early age but sooner or later turn into their fathers, or girls who want to be princesses from an early age but sooner or later turn into their mothers. So if it were in the hands of our deepest, most child-like desires, America would be millions of baseball-player-and-princess couples. Oh right, and there's something about freedom and equality and religion and that guy on the Quaker Oatmeal box in there too. Yeah. That's the image which has been thrown on me since a very early age, and no, I'm sure not everybody thinks that way. The way I've learned to see it, this is the age when everyone's having eternal small-talk about how their families are as different from that American Dream as possible. However, just like the Caucasian who knows that it's wrong but can't help giving a second glance to a young African American walking down his sidewalk, I think I share this personal image of the Dream with most people (including many of those having the aforementioned small-talk), that most people and I in our dirty, prejudiced heart of hearts think that this perfectly unrealistic American Dream is what our country should be composed of.
    And since this image rings true within a great deal of us, we let it limit our productivity and futures. In the 1940s, when this perfect Dream was what people openly thought America should be composed of, Joe Kavalier all but closes the door on his Czechoslovakian family because he is sucked into pursuing the American Dream--he is attempting to attain a well-paying job at Empire Comics as well as pursuing a potential wife, Rosa Saks. He even tries to use the whole freedom and equality thing to attain safe passage for his younger brother, Thomas, into the United States on a charitably-funded chip named The Ark of Miriam. However, classic features of the American Dream--glaring, staggering, belief in its own righteousness and perfection--is what coerces America to enter the war (how can we let Pearl Harbor, a place where people pursued the American Dream in all its righteousness and perfection, fall without retaliation afterwards, retaliation to prove how horrible it is for one to destroy something so righteous and perfect?), and what therefore coerces German submarines to sink American ships like The Ark of Miriam.
     George Deasy wants to be that Great American Novelist, but it is that pursuing of that well-paying day job working for that "boss" which causes him to toil at Empire Comics nevertheless.
     Sammy Clay loves Tracy Bacon with all his heart, and Tracy Bacon loves Sammy Clay with all his heart, but Sammy does not pursue a life with Tracy because of reasons which all stem from America not accepting their relationship--one of the most central tenants of the American Dream is a marital connection between man and woman on which the "perfect" family is based. In pursuit of this Dream, Sammy marries Joe's ex-girlfriend once Joe, driven mad by the death of his brother on the Ark of Miriam, joins the army and cuts all correspondence with his family in the States.
      So here's one of many things which I want to say to politicians: the American Dream is not something to wave around at the American people like a piece of chicken fried steak from the Cracker Barrel. It's not something that will help Americans--actually, it's very much like the kinds of pressures which cause self-conscious teenagers to commit suicide. And the last thing we need is an America rendered suicidal from not believing it's good enough to be America. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We're All Terminal Cases, Bucko

The World According to Garp
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Let's face it--if I wrote a book about happy people living their lives in happiness and loving one another so much and getting married and kissing and aww! and cute!, not a freaking person would read it. The novel would make no appearances on any bestseller list. I would not be conducting any cross-country book tours. And this is because if there's no problem in a book, there's no reason to keep reading--the characters are the same people from cover to cover, and hell no are we the same people from birth until death.
     The World According To Garp by John Irving illustrates the many adventures and misadventures of T.S. Garp, who flagrant feminist Jenny Field conceived by arguably raping a mentally deficient World War II veteran. It is with this onset that Irving's recurring theme is introduced: that, to put it frankly, my dear, life sucks. Garp endures being shot down by his crush, assisting Jenny in a quest to interview prostitutes, dealing with the at times psychopathic feminist cults his mother lends a helping hand to, having his son die indirectly because Garp's wife cheated with a college student, writing books with lackluster popularity, and (spoiler alert!) dealing with the eventual assassination of his mother. As I was reading, The World According To Garp almost seemed to be a list of all negative experiences an everyman endured as narrated by a sarcastic asshole (Irving does have a taste for the satirical). The aforementioned alone would be enough to place the book in the high regards of the literary world, but the next step Irving takes truly makes this author deserve his literary-heavyweight status; what Irving does is, through a mixture of being sarcastic as well as illustrating defining moments in Garp's life as results of those moments which "sucked", teach us that these suckish parts of our existence are those which qualify our lives as parts of reality.
     Think about it in terms of a novel again--if your life was a book, would you buy this book if it only contained happiness, contained no heartache, no fracture in the grand scheme of perfection? I know I wouldn't. One reason why we love books is that they offer alternate realities. And although this reality is alternate, that does not mean this reality is not reality--reality demands that things change, that people change, and alternate realities therefore demand the same. And, as Irving shows us, defining moments in our lives--which usually contribute to changes in our personas--are results of those times when you just want to hunker down and spend the rest of your days with Cherry Garcia ice cream and a season collection of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo."
     Forgive me for going all Dr. Phil on you now, but listen--I know life can suck. I know the ice cream carton and that gay pig named Sparkles (one of many significant cultural contributions the Honey Boo Boo Child has given America) call to you frequently. But understand that it is our hardships which make defining moments in our lives, therefore allowing us to change as people, therefore allowing us to be parts of reality. And even though reality includes so many negatives, are there not enough positives to at least partly compensate? Even if an extended family member commits suicide, a situation I have recently undergone, isn't there a positive in the amount to which this tragedy can teach people how to have sympathy, can bring people closer together?
     Hell to the yeah.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Future of America: Yo Gabba Gabba

Go Tell It on the Mountain
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here. 
  As children, we are always told to follow our consciences. We are told that if something we are doing doesn't "feel" right, the action should be immediately abandoned. However, the root of conscience is truly a human desire to be obedient--our parents lay down the rules of action when we are children, and our following these rules contributes to some kind of prize, some kind of reward. Our minds are as moldable as play dough at this early age, and once the play dough hardens, the shape to which it was molded by our early caretakers guides us through the rest of our days. A lot of psychology, I know. But psychology is really the secret to the workings of humans, not to mention one of the coolest-sounding "-ology's" by far.
     During the first half of the twentieth century and before, early caretakers were first and foremost immediate family members as well as teachers. The media had some influence, but not a lot because there wasn't much media geared towards the early childhood demographic, or  not much media at all for the majority of the time.  However, after about mid-century, media's influence on the early childhood age group increased and increased up to the present day, when shows such as "Yo Gabba Gabba" and "Handy Manny" exist. Such television programs are meant to help teach character traits that parents would normally teach their children, but it can definitely be said that they take this responsibility a little too far. Therefore, the children of today are hit with a nuclear bomb of morals not even the greatest saint could fulfill. Can you live your entire life without lying? Can you never say a mean thing about another person? Can you find the good in everyone you meet?
     Do you think these expectations are a bit too idealistic? Well, that's unfortunate, because such is exactly what children of my generation are being trained to do.
     A very similar phenomenon occurs in Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin. Our main character, John Grimes, is the son of a preacher (the one who doesn't practice what he preaches--I mentioned him in that post about Facebook) . A battle occurs within John, a battle waged against what he learned in childhood and the truth he has come to know as a teenager. You see, his father taught John that  one must  hate all white people and  follow God by never showing pride, but John is quickly discovering that being proud and having respect for certain white people is exactly how he can obtain a better life. The roots of the aforementioned are taught to him when the white principal of his elementary school compliments John on his handwriting at the age of six, making the boy feel almost invincible. Such psychological battle pervades the entire novel.
     Is being proud at times negative? Yes. Were all white people trustworthy in the 1920s? No. However, some pride is necessary for success, and some white people could be trusted, and this trust could launch someone towards success. Likewise, we must recognize that a generation of people whose consciences defile them whenever they hurt someone's feelings or tell a small lie is a generation of people who cannot reach success in the real world.
     I'll give you a final example: you know how both parents and a large majority of children's television focus on the importance of sharing everything? Because keeping things for yourself is very selfish and naughty and will get you coal from Santa Claus. Well, sharing everything has another name in the adult world, and that name concerns something utterly unsuccessful: communism.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Totally Top Ten Tuesday (Numero 6)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wondrous individuals at The Broke and the Bookish and participated in by so many wondrous book bloggers. So with no further ado, I henceforth give you...

Top Five (Yeah...I know...I'm slacking) Books 
That Made Me Think
  1. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan | Oh. My. Goodness. Of all the books that have won the Pulitzer these last few years, this one must be among the most deserving for oodles and oodles of reasons. Among those reasons are the genius narration style (some of the book is told via Powerpoint slides) and the characters, but especially those characters. What moved me was Egan's way of creating a Paradise Lost for each one, then making the reader feel like the character is on his way to finding said paradise once more.
  2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens | Yes, this is a big and at times notoriously (and by "notoriously", I mean "obnoxiously") boring book. But no, it's not only for English literature professors who sit around all day drinking tea and hanging out with their cats. Again, characters are what play the main role here, and Dickens' genius is how he manipulates those characters into showing their true identities. Not to mention the fact that the story line somewhat parallels the Occupy Wall Street saga. Not to mention the fact that Christopher Nolan used it as inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises...yeuh!
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak | I know that I've been raving on and on about this book ever since I finished reading it about one year ago. However, the level of my infatuation only has this novel's deserving of that infatuation to blame--how can a book effectively narrated by Death not deserve it?   
  4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz | Living in a primarily Caucasian community, this novel made me think a hell of a lot about stereotypes. How interesting that its main character is one of the most not-stereotypical Dominicans the literary world has ever known. 
  5. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck | The happenings of a California coastal and industrial town give you more perspectives on the art of human life than you can ever dream of. This is why you are my honorary bro, Mr. Steinbeck.

And now, the philosophy. You are honestly living under a Jupiter-sized rock if you don't know the significance of today. As far as 9/11 goes, it is my true and sincere belief that the time for pure mourning is over--we must never forget those who died on that fateful day, but also know that the significance of this event in World History does not stop at over three hundred casualties and the United States hating Iran who hates America who hates Pakistan who hates America and all the intricacies of international affairs. Instead, there is deep, emotional meaning in this day, like the emotional meaning explored in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Emotional meaning like personal accounts of how the event broke a family apart, pieced a family back together, or made a family in itself. And it is only with the exploration of this emotional meaning, not lists of casualties, that the lives of the lost can be celebrated forever.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Go Tell It On the Facebook

Go Tell It on the Mountain
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here. 
I admit that I am a furious Facebook user. There are times when my one and only goal is to reach home so I can turn on that magical computer and type in  "www.fa" (the site is visited so much, my browser has the URL saved.) Of course, there can definitely be a bunch of professional-sounding excuses for this obsession, such as "A writer is always curious about the lives of others!", "It gives me inspiration for my writing!", "It helps my school club organize meetings!", or even "It's better than committing a crime!" Well, actually doing schoolwork or writing is also a lot better than committing a crime as well. How I frustrate myself sometimes.
     The truth is that I could achieve much more if these frequent visits ceased. What is it about the website, however, that makes its signature shade of blue inspire comfort and excitement within me (yes, I know how creepy that sounds, but it really is true.) The answer, in my opinion, is that Facebook lets individuals lead a double life.
     Now, I'm not talking about one of those "I'm a lawyer by day and stripper by night" kind of double lives. I'm talking about living a double life as Gabriel Grimes does in James Baldwin's classic novel, Go Tell It On the Mountain. This tale uses their relationship with God to depict African Americans experiencing the Great Migration from Jim Crow (oodles and oodles of discrimination) in the South to big business in the North. Grimes's relationship is a deep one, as he is a preacher who was turned away from the whore houses and whiskey bottles of Satan by a holy epiphany when he was but twenty one. Through many troublesome years his mother prayed for this event, but the heartbreaking truth is that said prayers are in vain even after Grimes has been "saved". This is because Preacher Grimes develops the habit of not practicing what he preaches. Gabriel's sister, Florence, realizes this as she learns of her brother abusing his children, abusing his wife, having an affair, and not supporting his illegitimate child. Despite Florence's knowledge, though, most people still are under the impression that this preacher is always guided by the very hand of God, destined to lead those who follow him into eternal glory.
     Gabriel keeps the holy image by painstakingly applying cover-ups to any evidence of Satan in his life. If only he lived in the Information Age--on Facebook, you see, the process of doing this would be as easy as picking what he posts on his profile.
     An inner, psychological reason for my love of facebook is therefore that I can construct a personality I desperately wish was my own. Through the pictures I post, statuses I write, comments I make, and pages I like, a persona of myself is created that is not perfect, but flawed in perfect ways. And I am extremely sure than many more individuals than just myself are guilty of this action.
    An obvious way to improve my own life, then, would be making my persona on Facebook the real me, to think of everything I do as something my three hundred friends could know about with a single click.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Why Politicians Suck: Part One

     It's election year. That means many a debate on the the television, many an argument at the kitchen table, and many a politics-obsessed page in the newspaper. Eventually, the American citizen is surrounded by constant notifications of who their political savior is, who will make their lives great and reduce taxes and reduce debt and stop terrorists and buy you a unicorn that poops diamonds. I, personally, am heavily dreading this time period precisely because unicorns don't poop diamonds, and the other things aren't too probable either. To put it frankly, everyone sucks. Why so? one may ask. It is, the way I see it, because of two heavily interrelated reasons:
  1. To run for any position of high office, you have to be filthy, stinkin' rich. 
  2. We only have two parties with heavy influence. 
Nineteen Eighty-Four
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here.
     And why not look at George Orwell's 1984 for some support on this one, eh?
     Winston Smith is trying to navigate through life in an oppressive, totalitarian government. The oppressive, totalitarian ruler is a figure named Big Brother who controls every aspect of life, as represented in his motto, "Big Brother is Watching You." Winston, being a lower party member--and therefore allowed by Big Brother to have a moderate amount of intelligence--feels trapped in a world with no outlet. He knows how truly twisted Big Brother's government is. He at times feels like screaming profanity at the top of his lungs, but cannot because of the telescreen (or a stalkerish window through which Big Brother can see his every action) remarkably adorned to a wall of his living room. There are also other Big-Brother-enforced social groups in Winston's world, among them proles and Upper Party Members. Proles are the Proletariat, or working class, who are herded into only certain areas of cities and forced to do only the most menial labor. Like animals, which is basically what Big Brother makes them viewed as. On the other hand, Upper Party members are those with the most comfortable houses, those allowed by Big Brother to have the most intelligence, those who can even shut their telescreens off as they desire.
       Talk about stratification, eh? And stratification is exactly we get because politicians suck. It's going to take me a while to tell you why, but stick with me, and we'll get there.
       Since we only have two parties with significant influence, all smaller parties and their candidates--all the Winston Smiths, if Mr. Smith would contemplate entering politics--are swallowed into them. The Republican and Democratic parties in act very similar to the single, ruling party of Winston's world, the party of which Big Brother is the head: Ingsoc. You see, these obnoxiously large parties swallow the smaller ones and force all the smaller candidates into adopting their same old ideals.
     These parties also make the smaller candidates adopt the same old corrupt, money-making practices like lobbyism. What is the goal of this corruption, what is the "greater good" the politicians serve by destroying the integrity of the American system? Accelerating their political careers, of course. If they're running for high office, they need money to pay for career-accelerating phenomena like television advertisements to compete with....
     All the other politicians who are filthy, stinkin' rich and can use it!
      "And can use it" is a huge aspect of the sentence above. For if the wealthy politicians were rich, but could not use their savings funds to ensure publicity, the playing field would be a lot more even. In other words, the need for lobbyism and corrupt, under-the-table deals would decrease significantly. However, this is not the case. This is not the case in the slightest. Instead, the American governmental system has made it so that a person with a lower income must participate in the same old illegal, money-grabbing activities to be considered for a major spot in national politics. And you know what makes it even better? Even better?  The already-wealthy politicians keep participating in the same old illegal, money-grabbing activities to get an edge over their already-wealthy competitors. Excellent!
    So in conclusion, we have a system where there is a huge gap between politicians in high office and the rest of us--politicians in high office are filthy, stinkin' rich whether they started out that way or got that way  through illegal, money-grabbing activities, while the majority of the American population is still middle or lower class. The two parties with heavy influence ensure that gap by being in charge of the American government, with no significant competition but each other--remember, candidates of smaller parties are forced to buddy up with them in order to achieve any high office.
     If a politician is reading this and thinks himself or herself to be an exception to what I'm saying, please comment about how are. It would make my year.     

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Frivolously Follow Me this Friday! (Numero Seis)

"Follow Me Friday" is oh-so-wonderfully hosted by Parajunkie's View and Alison Can Read. So what question is inquired today?

Do your reading habits change based on your mood?

Hell to the yeah. When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, and my reading habits change drastically. The much simpler novels on my bookshelf instantaneously become more attractive, and I  might not even complete them. Although relaxation by cracking open any kind of novel would probably help me calm down, my stress-engulfed mind will probably prioritize the problem at hand over reading. A relaxed mood, on the contrary, makes the more complex reads on my bookshelf seem just dandy. It is during these times that I venture into classic authors as well as longer works by modern authors (such as The World According to Garp by John Irving--a post about that one is in the works, I promise!). 
     Now, let's get funky with this subject; funky meaning philosophical, of course. Moods usually come about because either one sees the events happening to him as similar in nature, or one event is so potent that it overshadows everything else. An unwanted mood can therefore be solved in two ways, the first of which being that if a person has a case of seemingly similar, repeated events, he should attempt to think about how those events are different. Find optimism in some event if you are surrounded by pessimism in most events, for example. The other way by which an unwanted mood can be solved is, if one event is potent enough to overshadow everything else, attempting to think of reasons why that event isn't so potent. Why that event isn't so powerful.
      Because more powerful than any event or series of events is the human mind.

*PS: Please follow by R to the S to the S!  

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dominicans, Scots, and Hipsters

Greetings from the midst of Writerdom, an elite kingdom stationed in between the steep hills of Finalstan and the perilous mountains of JuniorYearia. The weather in this wonderful place is, well, hot, and the neatness of my room isn't so desirable either, so in all truth, my words are becoming the only positive phenomenon about this summer. As it should be, I guess, because I am a writer! Anyways, I hope all of you fine people are having a great time party-hardying with amusement parks and aquatic sports and lawn mowing, and I do hope you have gone to the movies as well. Why, one may ask? Well, I think it is the foremost duty of each and every American to have experienced

Delightfully dramatic, is it not?
     Brave tells the story of medieval Scottish princess Merida, whose adventurous ways are very contrary to the usual habits of a princess. Merida's favorite activities include horseback riding and archery, two activities that are not typical of the typical princess. Actually, they are so contrary to the precedent--the precedent oh-so-annoyingly pressed by Merida's mother--that our main gal starts to want a life away from royalty. Or another drastic change, such as a magical altering of her mother's positive opinion on Merida's wedding (watch the movie to find out how that one works out for her.) 
     We see yet another individual acting against the precedent in

     Not as dramatic, huh? Oh, well...
     Anyway, we see Oscar going against the grain in that while his other male, Dominican counterparts spend most of their time banging girls and talking about banging girls, Oscar is completely dedicated to his life as a writer of Science Fiction. Yes, he wants to bang some girls himself, but he (usually) doesn't let this desire get in the way of his career as a writer. Such a situation makes the young man experience suicide attempts, abductions, and the worsening of his formidable eating disorder. Tough stuff.
     We see yet another example of an individual (supposedly) acting against the precedent in

Yes, I know it's Darren Criss. That's not the point. The point is, in the words of an NYC Fashion Snob, look what he's wearing!
     It's the pure definition of hipster.
     In case you've been living under the Arctic Ocean for the past three years, a hipster is a man or woman who has a distinct hatred for everything "mainstream," what young people are, according to precedents, supposed to like. The precedent is that young people adore any culture that is distinctive to their epoch of entertainment history. Therefore, mainstream music includes Nicki Minaj, mainstream movies Twilight, mainstream books Twilight, and mainstream clothes anything that's not plaid. Their entire dogma is that to live a life in counterculture, to go against the grain, to violate precedents, in itself makes one's life worthwhile. Said dogma encourages the enjoyment of culture that either is not from their epoch in entertainment history or resembles culture from another epoch in entertainment history. However, what I detest about hipsters is that they do not--or most of them do not--act against the precedent for any certain reason. Merida, for example, does not want to be betrothed because it will obligate her to stop being such an outdoorsy type of individual; there would be no more riding horses and archery for hours on end. Oscar goes against precedent because he loves to write so much, and spending more time writing than banging women is a life that he prefers most of the time.
     However, I have found that most hipsters don't even attempt to enjoy anything that has been embraced by pop culture. A single phenomenon that the hipster feels too many people are liking is condemned as unlikable in his mind, which is absolute bogus because, as your mother told you in childhood, one can't know that he doesn't like something if he doesn't try it. Even though I usually prefer music that is not appreciated by pop culture, I have attempted and eventually enjoyed listening to artists like Lady GaGa and Adele.
     And the best part about the Hipster Movement to me is that, as months go on, more and more people are identifying themselves as hipsters. Hipsters are in fact....*gasp* becoming mainstream! But will the thousands of people who have adopted those signature glasses and plaid clothes stop being what is now themselves?

Monday, June 11, 2012

On Our Dignified Doorstep

I found a very intriguing newspaper article the other day, one penned by a woman named Deidra Parish Williams. This is what happened afterwards. 
* * *
To Kill a Mockingbird
This book's Goodreads page
This book's Shelfari page. 
In the United States, there is a wondrous system of pushing our own shit into somebody else’s face to tell ourselves we don’t have it anymore. This phenomenon is seen on a grand scale as societal norms are used to preserve one’s own dignity by crushing that of another, to emphasize that one is superior, whether through use of racism or general bullying. Authors Harper Lee, William Blake, and Deidra Parish Williams have meditated on the aforementioned with their respective pieces, To Kill a Mockingbird, “The Human Abstract,” and “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism.”
            The horrors of racism in American history are filled with friction between societal norms, racism that both To Kill a Mockingbird and “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism” directly express.  The white, American population has historically preserved its sense of superiority by asserting that its societal norm is better than that of the African Americans. In To Kill a Mockingbird, child Scout Finch is continuously faced with this conflict, what with her father’s court case drawing her into direct contact with the Ewell family, some of the most expressively racist people in all of Maycomb. The family thinks racial superiority can reinforce the only small amount of dignity a severely impoverished family can have. Bob Ewell will even falsely charge Tom Robinson with the rape of his eldest daughter, Mayella, to be superior. Similarly, Williams’ husband was asked as a child to leave Garden City Streets because of his apparently inferior skin color—by police, no less. The horrors of how far humans will travel to protect their own dignity cannot be hidden even from innocent childhood; Williams is correct in stating how many whites of this time infer that the educational gap between minority communities-a major part of the African American societal norm- and W.A.S.P.-y areas of Long Island-the Caucasian societal norm- is due to the inferiority of black minds. Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and “Turn the Target in Entrenched Racism” by Deidra Parish Williams show how racism is an example of friction between societal norms, friction whose goal is to maintain dignity. 
William Blake
Mr. Blake's Goodreads page.
            William Blake apparently believes that humans can go as far as forcing poverty on certain individuals in order to protect their dignity. Blake addresses the issue of racism more vaguely in his poem, “The Human Abstract,” starting with a mention of poverty and depression:
            Pity would be no more
            If we did not make somebody Poor;
            And Mercy no more could be.
            If all were as happy as we. (1-4)
Through a statement about the stamping on others to make ourselves superior, to make ourselves the not-pitied individuals of society, we see how every member of the black population can easily be thrown into the traditional norm of African Americans—the dirty, immoral, and inferior nigger. Next, he extends beyond the traditional tensions of the past and into what the majority of Americans feel today: a tree of “humility [taking] its root”, a growth of conviction to ensure that every bit of racism is erased from society.  However, Williams proves in her essay that this desire is unfulfilled. Nevertheless, we can see that William Blake’s “The Human Abstract” depicts both how friction between societal norms is a way of maintaining dignity as well as how people generally exemplify the aforementioned concept. 
            Look in the newspaper. I’m daring you. If you don’t find a single article that concerns one societal norm oppressing another, one societal norm trying to hang onto its dignity by enforcing its superiority, I’d be immensely surprised. The phenomenon is and has always been a prevalent quality of human society, as  
represented by the human racism exemplified in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as well as Deidra Parish Williams’ “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism.” Said phenomenon is also evident in “The Human Abstract” by William Blake, which targets the issue and how people deal with it more generally. Fearing this shit apparently doesn’t work, then, so society might as well just grow a pair and face it. There’s nothing to lose except our dignity.   

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Greatest Diadem

(And why this text is white, I have no idea. Muchas gracias, Blogger.)
These days, I've taken the time to finally realize that there's air in my lungs and a beat in my heart, and that is half of my life right there. Because with that, I can accomplish so much-living through my Advanced Placement Chemistry Exam (I'm now making plans to ceremoniously burn my review book), dealing with people just as stubborn as I am, even perform my All-State oboe solo tomorrow in front of Mr. Judge. Yes, D-Day has come, my friends.

          But oddly, I'm not nearly as nervous as I thought I would be; this poem may be a contributing factor to that phenomenon: 

The sky is low, the clouds are mean,     

A travelling flake of snow

Across a barn or through a rut 

Debates if it will go.  

A narrow wind complains all day     

How some one treated him;

Nature, like us, is sometimes caught     

Without her diadem.

You see, I had a recital last Wednesday night for said oboe solo. Said recital included playing Concerto for Oboe by R. Vaughan Williams in front of people very close to my life. Twenty five people very close to my life. One could naturally guess I was about to flip a shit, but strangely, all thought of scurrying out of the auditorium dissipated once I began reading from a book in my hand, and the words of Miss Dickinson filled the nooks and crannies of space.

          Nature is never perfect, although it does its job perfectly. The phenomenon will consistently complain, debate on whether it should complete its organically assigned task, and show a wide range of emotions throughout its travelling. Nevertheless, nature completes the task perfectly. It needed to shift through imperfections to reach it, but here is perfection. And the next flake travels down. 

Hey, copyright people, I don't own this picture. From!$AE/

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In Memoriam

At this very moment, one hundred years ago, hundreds of people were dying as Titanic sank to its grave. In memoriam, I type this out:

Sometimes I have passed the time,
And sometimes I have thought,
If they truly break away again,
Nothing have I wrought.

But life is a passing iudgement,
A nonchalant turn of the eye,
And when souls are breaking in withered shards,
the king will simply sigh.

And life goes on with a song of silence,
And thought a stream of desire,
for even when Earth is but a humble celibate,
sole is my quagmire.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Imperfect Project Glass

I'm sure a great deal of you have read George Orwell's masterwork, 1984. The novel does an amazing job of scaring the shit out of each one of its readers, whether with a totalitarian government, rampant censorship, or the idea of no privacy. One can specifically remember that said state of privacy is predominantly achieved  through use of the ever-present telescreen, a device that tracks your every action. Our main character, Winston Smith, lives with the constant fear that the police will abduct him after his telescreen senses a rebellious action. Tracks your every action...makes a lack of privacy...well, why doesn't everyone take a look at this.

And I wonder who finds this to be utterly frightening. I see the world as a place of individual existences fragmented by some sense of greater community. When we are lonely or in need of aid is when we reach out to that larger community, but most problems are predominantly solved within the mental realm of oneself-when was the last time you needed help deciding which bathroom stall to use, or even simpler, when to move your head this way or that? At the beginning of evolution, the rudimentary primates we once were fought alone for the existence of their respective selves, and had the sole responsibility of making decisions in the interest of their survival. A wrong decision made the difference between life or death. Were those primates able to automatically ask a gps system where food was located? Did the eventual location of edible grass mean an ecstatic, facebook status?
See Goodreads page here.
See Shelfari page here.
          Previously, I've had absolutely no problem with the Facebook, GPS, Twitter, Drawsomething, Temple Run, Facetime, or whatever services that bless our computers and iPhones. This is because, although these phenomena do encourage a lapse in individual thinking, they are for the most part not as convenient as our own craniums. This new "Project Glass" is the exact opposite-more convenient than our brains. Its creators must reason that there can't be a problem when it will just make all of humanity more efficient. People will have more time to accomplish beneficial tasks such as community service just because more trivial tasks will take less time. 
          Efficiency may increase, but the possibility of technology failing us has too many consequences. If you're convinced that such failure is an impossibility, just think of how the Titanic was an unsinkable, "ship of dreams." Ask the thousands of individuals who perished, and they won't tell you it was so dreamy.
          No doubt is there that the technology insinuated by this video will deform us into beings incapable of complex reasoning. Great ideas are customarily found while searching for something else, but if one finds something else first, that great idea will never have its time in the sun. Should technology fail us, no one will be capable of devising some way to deal with the massive hole in human function. 
          Comparatively, Orwell's dystopia might be desirable. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Educating Less-Than-Humans

Between Shades of Gray
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See the Shelfari page here.
The Holocaust was one of the most despicable incidences in history. An ultimate example of how deep ethnocentrism can come to exist in the minds of humans, we all hold it as a totem of complete hell. Yes, we all hold it, for it is not only the most gruesome, but also one of the most well-remembered events of our past, which is why so many people associate the Nazi regime with such oppression.
          But the Nazis can't take all the credit.
           Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys describes the escapades of Lina Vilkas, a Lithuanian teenager who, along with her entire family, is deported to a Soviet labor camp after Stalin invades the Baltic region.. The NKVD--Soviet police--are absolutely brutal, trying to force able boys away from their families and into the Soviet army. Lina, her mother, and her brother are separated from her father, who is placed in a prison, and experience such ghastly phenomena as living through the Arctic winter with a horrid lack of food, drink, sanitation, and medicine. Children perish every day, parents become mentally unhinged, and all guards are forced to think of the "Fascist swine", as they so lovingly call the prisoners, as, well, swine. Animals. Less-than-humans.
King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
See the Goodreads page here.
See the Shelfari page here. 
          Likewise, the country of Belgium is not just significant for its chocolate. In the late 1800s, the Belgians had a monarch by the name of Leopold II, but that whole monarchy thing was fine because of their parliament, right? Wrong. Leopold wanted one phenomenon more than anything : an African colony. At this time, European interest in the African continent was at an all-time high, especially because the continent could provide those raw materials needed to fuel Europe's highly demanding factories. But Leopold jumped on the bandwagon very early on, and did so ferociously. Under the guise of trying to end slavery in the African interior, he actually enslaved almost every African in the Congo river region (everything from the middle of Africa westward.) These unfortunate souls were forced to grow crops, carry steamboats (yes, carry them) along the Congo river, and act as personal manservants to Europeans living in the region. Most Europeans were encouraged to kill any insubordinate individuals and cut off the hand or foot of a corpse as proof. Adam Hochschild's nonfictional account, King Leopold's Ghost, describes a brutal, African Holocaust.
          And remember that attitude I talked about? The one where other humans are animals, not even worth a glance? Well, as Hochschild states in his book, such an attitude is key to such systems as Leopold's in the Congo and Stalin's in Siberia. Out of respect for themselves, people won't treat other people in such horrible manners because both parties are indeed human. This is because other humans deserving such treatment justifies your deserving of such treatment--you're a human too, are you not?  However, if the victims are inhuman, such as "swine", the treatment can be dished out guilt-free.
          What if a weaker version of this phenomenon is present in the United States?
         One word: education. Standardized tests are being used to determine the futures of teachers in numerous states. Now, it is agreed that no two human beings are the same, yes? Each human, and therefore each student, has different needs and different situations that relate to those needs.  But in this system of adjudication, this quality of students is completely ignored; apparently, the affluence of students in the educational setting is not influenced by anything but the teacher's ability. How hilariously untrue. Imagine: one teacher has a class predominantly composed of privileged  gifted students, and another one has a class of predominantly at-risk children who struggle with the fundamentals of education. Guess which class is going to perform better on standardized examinations.
           And when one says that the fault is with those who organize the classes, I must disagree. Many a time it is that there are only at-risk stragglers in the population (probably because of an impoverished community). In such a situation, the greatest teacher on Earth cannot make three quarters of the class pass. However, she can make one half do so, but in many states, one half isn't good enough. The greatest teacher on Earth gets fired. Now who is being oppressed there?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Frivolously Follow Me this Friday! (Numero Cinco)

"Follow Me Friday" is hosted by Parajunkie's View and Alison Can Read. This week's featured blogs and therefore supreme administers of question are Oh! For the Love of Books and Ezine of a Random Girl, both of which are also composed by immensely interesting people indeed. So what question have they inquired of us today?

Activity: Take a picture or describe where you love to read most...

I actually have a tie. In first place, we have:

The bed in my grandma's guest room. This is the place where I sped through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as well as cried when Mr. Potter waved his children goodbye. It is also a place of immense frustration during the school year...thank you so much for that, AP Chemistry. Really, you're just a doll.

Another favorite spot of mine is right in front of my house. One usually sees me there each morning of the summer, watching the neighbors pass on daily strolls. The breeze on pages of a book is a phenomenon that awes me to this day.

Where we read is as important as what we read, because reading is never simply words on a page. Although said words may be the lead actor, who's to say your environment is not the supporting actor (a category which Max von Sydow should win HANDS DOWN at the Academy Awards this Sunday night) ? If I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the sewage drains of New York City, my mind would probably not associate the book with childhood comforts, as it currently does. Same text, different experience. And it is the reader, not the book, that will affect in the larger scheme of Earth.

All you must to do "follow" me is click on the RSS button above. Thank you, wonderful people!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

French Peasants > Decaying Vegetables

Lately, I've been doing quite a bit of thinking about revolutions. The Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, all that material for AP World History....I am truly surrounded by them. That's partly why, when everyone in my class was crying about A Tale of Two Cities, I found myself famished for more. Bewildered, but famished.
A Tale of Two Cities
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See Shelfari page here.
       If you don't remember from your own high school years: We begin with Lucie Manette as an innocent, English girl. Enter Mr. Jarvis Lorry, a man whose number-crunching world has been disturbed by some fascinating news-his old client, Dr. Manette, was released from the Bastille, a French prison. Lorry knows it is his duty to tell Lucie of the father she always thought was dead, and from an eventual reunion between the Manettes, Father and daughter hit it off like no tomorrow. Even when she is married to the ever-charming Charles Darnay (who is actually the son of a terrible, French aristocrat), the Doctor lives just upstairs. Meanwhile, the Defarges run a wine shop in St. Antoine, a section of Paris that wants to overthrow their oppressive, French monarchy like the Dickens (haha, get what I did there?) Meanwhile, Sydney Carton is a failed man, working as the metaphorical "jackal" of a manipulative lawyer named Mr. Styver. The Defarges' long-desired revolution breaks out, Darnay travels to France only to be imprisoned, the Lucie/Lorry/Manette super trio comes to help, Carton remains miserable, and we've got ourselves one helluva story. 
        A helluva story it is, but Dickens always has some philosophical tricks up his sleeve; he's quite the sly dog. Therefore, let's take a gander into what he says about revolution itself.
        The French revolutionaries think that everyone should enjoy "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity", not the kind of oppression dished out by French aristocrats. A perfect example of said oppression is when Darnay's uncle runs over a peasant child with his carriage. After the deed is done, the aristocrat conveys a face equal to that with which one greets a decaying vegetable. He complains about how poor people can't properly care of their kids, tosses some coins to the crowd as repayment, then drives on into the sunset with his high-and-mighty self. No one should have to endure such an atrocity....except when the good of a new, French Republic is at stake, of course. Once the revolutionaries attain power, you see, they pass a law that requires all individuals suspected of rebellion be slit open by the Guillotine. Sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, mommies, one is safe. Forget Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity-at this point, most Frenchmen consider themselves lucky to be alive. 
         What went wrong, so many ask? Simply, the revolutionaries begin to value ideas that may help the people more than the people themselves. When Darnay is put on trial and Doctor Manette looks upset, the aging man is told that he should in fact be happy to sacrifice his son-in-law to the Republic. 
         Nowadays, everyone is buzzing about November's election. Every candidate is advertising his own brand of political, economic, and social change.  In a time where such emphasis is placed on new ideas, precisely who we change for must be ironed into our minds. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How To Escape the Goon Squad

A Visit from the Goon Squad
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Okay, everyone, I highly apologize for my neglect-those darling midterms, you see. But not to worry, I have survived the emotional breakdowns! Horay!
    We shall get into the thick of things with a single word: time. Time is, according to physicists, one of  the universe's however so many dimensions. But for everyone who's not a physicist (such as moi), it's something we curse at, laugh at...generally must deal with until it brings us to eternal sleep. Now, let's further analyze said time of laughing and cursing-
     The statement that time brings us through different stages of life is indisputably correct. There is childhood, tweenage years, teens, early adulthood, mid-adulthood (home of the ever-so-wonderful, mid-life crisis!), late adulthood, and death. In my opinion, most people tend to consistently think of themselves as early-adults, for this stage is when their bodies are most able, lives most exciting, and abilities most promising. Anticipation is always better than the actual thing, is it not? And although most people identify themselves with early adulthood, the actuality of this identification will vary. Some people are effortlessly optimistic in their twenties only to become Debbie Downers by the time 50 rolls along. Drug dealers might become catechists. Hookers might become anxious mothers, just like Sasha Blake of Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad. A risque figure on the streets of Naples during her late teens, the children Sasha bears in mid-adulthood hate it when she forces them to maintain bedtimes. Other figures do not experience such a change, figures such as Bennie Salazar, a record producer who always stays true to his sense of excellent music. For him, most pop music of the 2000's (boobilicious Katy Perry and Ke$ha come to mind) is nothing more than shit. In fact, when corporate businessmen want him to sell said shit to American listeners, he decides to give them a taste of shit pie in protest.
      But there is also a choice of becoming a Bennie or a Sasha. This choice all has to do with the fact that no matter how old we are, elements of a former self will always be available for use. We see this in Scotty Hausmann, whose years as a divorced custodian living in Manhattan have worn down the astonishing physique he possessed in high school into a flabby, AARP beneficiary. His magnetism on stage, however, is left untouched, as represented by his ability to entertain a crowd of thousands whilst verging on sixty. This quality of magnetism could only present itself, though, after he had been guided through a maze of self-discouragement made only by age; moments before his show, the rock star admits that the goon squad-what a teenage Scotty called "time"- has gotten him. But on a spring day in approximately 2023, Scotty Hausmann kicks that goon squad in the face and becomes a rock and roll legend.
       A reassuring fact is that you have control over the aforementioned choice. Sasha, wanting to leave the Neapolitan hookerdom behind her, chose to let time give her a new life. Bennie, believing that the opinion he forged in adolescence must hold true, embraces his past life and uses it as a building block for whatever amount of  future lay ahead of him. And through all stages of life, elements of their former selves were for hire.
      So now, the true question is how you will treat the goon squad.

Monday, January 30, 2012

A Totally Top-Ten Tuesday! (Numero Cinco)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wondrous individuals at The Broke and the Bookish and participated in by so many wondrous book bloggers. So with no further ado, I henceforth give you...

Top Ten Books (BUT ALL I CAN COME UP WITH IS SIX!) I Think Would Make Great Book Club Picks

1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Book clubs tend to like books that make you want to scream at certain characters for doing certain things, and no book causes more vocal outbursts than Mitchell's account of the delightfully bitchy Scarlett O'Hara, whose gumption makes her a classic of American literature. Said book club can also have the experience of seeing the ever-so-famous movie version of Mitchell's novel. 

2. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
A definite tear-jerker, this one's narrator is a golden retriever named Enzo. Enzo really has a knack for understanding humans, and his thoughts make the book light-hearted and thoughtful simultaneously. This one is especially recommended for those book clubs who have dog lovers in their mix, for anyone who loves a canine will keep raving about Stein's novel years after the final page is turned. 

3. Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
4. His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
These would be fun reads just because of the public debates surrounding them. Not surprisingly, many people have claimed that the at times heartwarming anecdotes recorded in Dreams from My Father were fabricated to promote Obama's political career, while the counterargument has been that Barack wrote this as a senator of Illinois, not a presidential candidate. Such a debate, in my opinion, would be smashing; get a few representatives from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, and you've got yourself a real party.  The same goes for His Dark Materials-the argument over whether the trilogy promotes juvenile atheism gets people steaming in a hurry. 

5. Bossypants by Tina Fey
If anybody in your book club is going through hard times, this is definitely one to read. Up there with Joel Stein on the laugh-o-meter.

6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
The simplicity in this novel is gorgeous-it is the story of a boy and a discovery. Yet in the process of his discovering, you get so much more (including illustrations so ingenious in their angles and detail that your jaw has no choice but to drop.) 

Book groups are one of the greatest institutions humanity has ever known. They are a way in which we can appreciate art not in a formal setting with professors screaming at us to write a dissertation about Shakespeare, but in a casual one, one surrounded by friends we know. The comfort brought on by this setting can allow literature to be interpreted in ways not possible outside the realms of a book group. Pretty chill, huh? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's CHALLENGING Me in 2012

Challenges make you read. That's one of the many pros, and the one most important to me, because I just love to neglect reading as that oh-so-wonderful work load starts to a-pile up on my desk..yikes. And if I don't integrate reading with such work, I'll just become this introverted, unsociable machine who cranks out chem problems like Crispy Cremes cranks out doughnuts. Therefore, challenges for 2012 will include...

Les Mis Mania!!!

First off is Owl Tell You About It's (isn't that blog name a riot?) Les Miserables Reading challenge, hosted by Laura Ashlee of said, riotous blog. I encourage you to find out more about it!

Second is the "Chunkster Readalong-Les Miserables in 2012" challenge hosted by Kate of Kate's Library. And again, please find out more!

How will I be coordinating this? Well, I will write a blog post about what I have read by the end of each month. Said posts will be comprised of the philosophical insights you know and (hopefully) love about this blog. Got it? Good! I'm uber excited! 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Rachel Berry of Mughal India

The Feast of Roses
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See the Shelfari page here.
Arrogance. It's the fallibility many humans admit to, but not one can find the sense of. What is it that makes us want to conquer other humans? What is it that gives us an inherent need to make them feel inferior when, all in all, we will always be inferior ourselves? This exact phenomenon is the source of many tragedies throughout history, tragedies such as the ever-so-famous sinking of Titanic, the fall of Rome, the World Wars....actually, every war, when you think about it.  The figure portraying how much life arrogance has stolen  is a figure bordering on the ridiculous. You would think that, just maybe, we would learn. That humans would eventually have an epiphany of how this accursed phenomenon only leads to other accursed phenomena.
     But we shall never. That is the sorry truth.
     Let's start with some examples of this phenomenon in action from Indu Sundaresan's The Feast of Roses. Sundaresan's piece follows the many escapades of Empress Nur Jahan, who ruled the Mughal Empire (the richest Empire on Earth during the seventeenth century, nowadays located in Pakistan and India) in her husband's name for approximately eighteen years. She faced many trials throughout her period of prominence in the Empire, predominantly men who believed she was not worthy, and at times not capable, of wielding such power over the country. Such an  issue made survival in the cut-throat environment of a royal court quite trying indeed, and just like Ms. Rachel Berry of Glee, Nur Jahan used ruthless techniques to prove those who doubted her utterly wrong. Very funny how power struggles continue to plague politically prominent people today. Why has it continued, asks the inquirer?
   Let's progress with a law of evolution from our good friend, Charles Darwin-"Survival of the Fittest"
    Darwin studied the evolution of animals, specifically finches on the Galapagos Islands (which sound like a pretty nice destination to get some work done indeed), and this was one of several laws concluded from his travels. Scientifically speaking, humans are indeed animals. We have evolved from intellectually inferior apes, and adapted to our world so well that the power alter it is in our very grasp, a power no other species on Earth possesses. But still animals. But still beasts. These rules of evolution, therefore, apply to us as well.
   Since humans followed this law in a most primitive state, it is only natural that we followed them as the species became more complex. It is all we knew concerning how to live, and continues to be so-it is why we go to work each day (one cannot survive if he does not have the money to do so), why every song you hear on the radio these days has to do with break ups, make ups, or make-outs. In all honesty, the Mughal Imperial Court had quite a large resemblance to the animal kingdom-characters rose, fell, conspired, even killed each other to attain dominance over others; for if you have that dominance, you're that much more difficult to conquer. If you're more difficult to conquer, you're that much more likely to become immortal.

In My Neglected Mailbox (Numero Cuatro)

This time around, I tried doing IMNM with my new iPod touch. Fancy, huh?

Dear Viewer Who Has Oh-So-Wonderfully Watched this Cry for Help, 

Just as a prologue to this post...if you don't know what "In My Neglected Mailbox" is, feel free to watch the video posted to the right titled "They Want to Be Heard".

First, of all, "In My Mailbox" is a blog meme hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren ( and Alea at Pop Culture Junkie ( to let all of us book bloggers party on the web.

Second of all, the desperate book here is The Cider House Rules by John Irving. 

Third of all, I was initially attracted to this book because its movie adaption had such a beautiful score, a score so masterfully composed by Rachel Portman. Rachel, kudos to you and your beastly, composing talent! Here is a selection of the aforementioned soundtrack for listening pleasure:

Fourth of all, thank you for giving my boisterous books your precious time. Trust that there will be another one hating on me in the coming weeks.

Best wishes,

Uomo di Speranza

PS: Be sure to check out my funtastic, new post-"The Rachel Berry of Mughal India"-right over here!