Thursday, 21 May 2009

blog for today

So...I can't remember...were we supposed to write about an example where we felt we couldn't be ourselves or whatever as we actually are? Anyway, the best example I have of a time where I felt like that was when I went to Sycamore. Lots of really smart people go there. I never felt very intelligent and in fact pretty much got the idea that I was one of the dumber kids around. My grades were okay, I was terrible at science, was in the lowest math level (and got Cs), and was just average at like everything else. So it was kind of a shock when I went to other schools, like in Hong Kong and here, and kind of found out that apparently I wasn't that dumb after all. This sort of doesn't relate to the poem because the poem talks about how we fear being too good at something more than being terrible at something and that example of mine is more about the other way around. But I've never felt like I was too good at something to the extent that I fear it or whatever, (not that I was ever really afraid of not being intelligent, it wasn't a good feeling, but I wasn't afraid or anything), so oh well.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Veldt

The veldt is more similar to Brave New World than 1984. It has technology and the concept of a house used to increase pleasure and decrease work. However, unlike Brave New World, the people in it still have negative emotions and it is these emotions that control the story. In Brave New World it is the outsider that tries to kill people and feels emotion. In this story, the 'insiders'- the children who embrace the technology- are the ones with the strongest negative emotions and kill people. (Not that the parents don't have 'dark' emotions either- also a difference). Also, the Veldt reads more like an attack on technology rather than a portrayal of a dystopia, since the psychologist and the parents are free to turn off the house and believe that the house is wrong without any negative consequences from outside society. The negative consequences come from their children, who are addicted to the nursery. This is not like a dystopia, where the way of life is a certain way and one isn't able to deviate from it that easily. Also, apart from the fact that the nursery has unleashed the children's darker side (like the Party does in 1984- turning the kids into spies), this is not like 1984 much.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The Lady and the Tiger

The ending is ambiguous. Whether the princess decides to kill her lover or lose him to another woman depends on the woman. I think the author of this story intends for her to tell him to open the door with the tiger because he writes about how the woman is having a crisis of heart and all that and the darkness of the human soul and so on. So if she picked the lady it wouldn’t talk about all that because she would have a good and noble soul and could bear losing her lover and care about making him happy. But he keeps referring to her being ‘semi-barbaric’ and all that so I think he intends for her to tell him to open the door with the tiger. But since whoever wrote this can’t write and is nuts and not subtle at all, it could secretly be the other way around. Personally, I think the ending should go like this:

’Without the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it.’

Immediately there sprung out of the door on the right a tiger of a most ferocious sort. There was a crazed gleam in its eyes and its mouth opened and closed, foam making its way down its jaws. The semi-barbaric princess sat forward on her semi-barbaric parapet and allowed a semi-barbaric smile on her semi-barbaric face. Her bland and genial and truly semi-barbaric father, the king, let forth a furious cry from his parapet in his beloved arena.

The tiger, though most ferocious, was quite small. In fact, its appearance seemed to be that of a cub, not more than a week old at most. Its teeth had been pulled and its claws had been clipped. (and who but a semi-barbaric princess could bear to bribe someone to do such a thing to such an animal?)

The lover, following the instructions the princess had sent him whilst he languished in his damp holding cell, procured a muzzle from within his garments and proceeded to end his peril. However much the small and ferocious tiger leapt at him, he bore no more than a few unimportant bruises at this assault.

But the semi-barbaric king was forced to abide by the terms of his law, as the tiger was ferocious, and the lover had survived, and thus everyone lived happily ever after and ate pheasant.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Act III King Lear

2. Write about the scene in which Gloucester’s eyes are plucked out. Obviously, it serves the symbolic purpose of allowing Gloucester to “see” [the truth] better after he has been blinded. But the scene is also graphically violent. Even when Oedipus gouges out his eyes at the end of Sophocles’ play, it occurs off-stage. Consider the place of graphic violence in art. What purpose does this particular incident serve? Is it gratuitous, or is it necessary for the meaning of the play? What about slasher films? What about Grand Theft Auto? When is there a place for graphic violence? When is there not?

The purpose of gouging out Gloucester’s eyes serves that symbolic purpose. It’s also a plot device that gives a reason for Gloucester’s exile from his home, his attempted suicide and his reconciliation with Edgar, and also for Cornwall’s death (which leads to yet more other things). This act of violence also portrays Regan and Cornwall’s evil more explicitly than all the emotional agony they’ve inflicted on Lear and Kent. Violence shocks and horrifies the viewer and makes them feel sympathy for the victim and dislike the perpetrator of said violence. Violence also brings a darker tone to everything. Unless it is just blood, gore and guts everywhere all the time (in which case the viewer either gets desensitized and bored or extremely freaked out and disgusted by it.) I’ve never seen slasher films or Grand Theft Auto. But violence for the sake of violence has no place in anything. However, when there is a plot-reason for it or when it gives the proper tone or character description, graphic violence can serve a useful purpose. It’s odd that there is more such graphic violence in movies, videogames, plays, etc., and less in literature. (Lear counts as the former category, since it is a play). Perhaps that is because when it is left to the reader’s imagination, people generally can’t, don’t or won’t want to imagine such horror. Also, for many people written stories are just words on a page and violence has much more impact for them when it is seen acted out or something like that actually realistic and visual. Also, I’m not sure whether or not extremely graphic violence in things like videogames is a good thing. Whether it has a point or not, there isn’t really any serious value in such games besides entertainment, and does that justify causing people to watch people being blown to pieces and stuff? Probably, since a lot of other stuff that is entertainment has violence in it (like even Lear for instance, since Shakespeare wrote it to make money and make people enjoy it, not to be some deep genius) and that’s okay because even if the work itself is stupid, to make the plot or something within work is okay.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Act II King Lear Post II

3. If you chose to do question 1 (or even if you didn’t), it is interesting to consider Edgar’s state of mind when he takes on the persona of Tom O’Bedlam. Certainly, he is trying to disguise himself, but this is an extreme disguise indeed. Consider why he chose this particular disguise. What would drive him to this? Again, you can do this as a mini-essay, but it might be more interesting and more informative to write from Edgar’s perspective. Do whatever comes most naturally to you, but don’t write to fill space—be thoughtful.

For one thing, all the people out searching are looking for a fleeing nobleman, not a nutcase beggar. In extremity lies safety- it decreases the chance that anyone will recognize him. Additionally, since Tom O’Bedlam is insane, there is no risk that he will accidentally do something out of character for his chosen disguise. Anything odd about him will simply be attributed to the fact that he’s crazy. Also, ‘Poor Tom’ is a wanderer- Edgar doesn’t have to try to blend into a town or village or anything where he would have to interact with a lot of other people and explain how he got there and what he is doing. In his disguise, he can also figure out what is going on concerning the search for him by wandering around in plain sight.

(note: I have read all the play, so I am going to talk about it because I forget where exactly Act II ends. sorry.) Edgar’s motives probably have nothing more beyond that, but Edgar’s choice of disguise has literary symbolism within the play. (or maybe not symbolism, but interesting whatever). Later in the play, he is with mad King Lear and his pretended madness compares to Lear’s real insanity. This is especially interesting since Edgar survives at the end and reclaims his name and honour, whereas Lear dies crazy. For all that Edgar is tricked by Edmund’s not-so-sneaky manipulation, he takes control of his destiny after he flees- choosing an apt disguise, attempting to save his father and then living (a great feat in Shakespeare’s tragedies). Lear on the other hand, after willingly giving up power, loses control of everything and dies. Miserably. I have no idea if you’re actually supposed to compare Edgar with his fake crazy to Lear with his real crazy, but it just seems interesting.

Act 2 King Lear Post 1

2. What is it—what could it conceivably be—that would make children turn against their parent as completely as Goneril and Regan have turned against Lear? They’ve gone beyond irritation and its consequent neglect to outright cruelty. You may consider this question either specifically in reference to the two women (imagine their backstory the way you did Edgar’s) or consider it in general. Where do the terrible resentments of children for their parents come from? What is so very powerful about that relationship?

I think that in Goneril and Regan’s specific case, Lear’s inability to process love the way he should has a lot to do with how they act towards him. If a parent and a child have a good relationship, they are honest with each other and see each other as more than just a means to an end. Neither of those two elements is present in Lear’s relationship with Goneril and Regan. Lear doesn’t want honesty from his daughters- he wants flattery- and so they probably learned emotional manipulation from him. We never see Lear as being openly power-hungry, apart from his refusal to actually give up his status in more than name, but he strikes me as the sort of person who would be power-hungry, or conscious of retaining his power. Goneril and Regan probably either learned or inherited that trait from him, and combined with his inability to actually have a normal relationship anyway (because he doesn’t understand love), they only see him as a path to power. Lear’s impulsive disowning of Cordelia shows he has the ability to be petty and unkind simply because he feels like it at some small offense. What happened to Cordelia probably wasn’t the first time Lear acted out like that. A lot of little slights like that over a long period of time probably would have contributed to Goneril and Regan’s resentment for Lear. Also, neither of them strikes me as a particularly ‘good’ and moral character on their own, so their own faults definitely contribute to this. This is especially true since Cordelia has a good relationship with Lear (sort of, anyway) and she turns out no to be petty and power-hungry and cruel, so it can’t be all Lear’s fault. So, in Goneril and Regan’s specific case, their lack of a good relationship with Lear is due to bad parenting, a lack of a good role model and Goneril and Regan’s own ambition and innate cruelty. Of course, that is just for Goneril and Regan. Other children have other differences with their parents. Just like in Lear and Goneril and Regan’s case, it is partly the fault of the parent and partly the fault of the child that drives parent and child apart. How much is each depends on the specific situation.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Act I King Lear

2. Consider the character of Goneril or Regan in this first act. Yes, they are monstrous, but what does that monstrosity look like from the inside? What drives them? What does the world inside their heads look like?
To put it in another way…. Jealousy and power-grabbing seem to be as much a part of families as they are of politics and business. Can you relate to either of these two sisters? Have you ever seen a situation similar to the one in the first act of this play? In your opinion, what drives this kind of behavior?

Goneril and Regan both want the same thing- power. They see other people only as a means to an end and use them to get what they want. This is what they do to Lear in the first act- first flattering him in order to get their share of the kingdom, then discarding him when he is no longer useful without any regard whatsoever for his feelings. I can’t relate personally to them- I don’t think I’m that kind of manipulative. However, I know that that kind of thing exists between people as much in real life as it does in the play, even when it is not between families. There are people who think only they matter and that others are only a way to get what they want by being manipulated. I think both an extreme form of ambition and some kind of skewed worldview drives this. There really isn’t any easy way to explain why some people want power so much other than the fact that they just do. (Like in 1984). Regan and Goneril also are extremely self-centered. They don’t care that their sister has been banished, or that they are causing their father misery, or (in Goneril’s case) that her husband does not approve. What matters to them is that they get what they want- and that is ruling their share of the kingdom without interference from Lear (so far in the play, anyway). In their specific case, they also probably did not have a very good role model in their father, either, since he seems to be a shallow, self-centered type as well. I suspect that he probably played other such games as the ‘whoever-loves-me-most-gets-everything’ one he does in the first scene when his children were younger and they got used to using flattery to get what they wanted. It always worked, so it just became their mode of getting what they wanted.

4. Leo Tolstoy tells us in the first line of his great novel Anna Karenina, “All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Lear’s is obviously an unhappy family, as is Gloucester’s. Explore the source of the unhappiness in both of the families. What is it that has torn each one apart? Some sin of the fathers? Or of the children? Human nature? What is wrong here? Are there any similarities between the two, or are they indeed “both unhappy in their own way?”

In the royal family, the source of the unhappiness is equally Lear and his daughters. Lear’s inability to understand love and to know insincere flattery from honesty causes a rift between him and Cordelia. It also probably had something to do with Regan and Goneril’s skewed view of the world and their contempt for their father. Their inability to be kind to him in return causes the rest of the misery.
It is much the same way in Gloucester’s family. Though he claims to love both his sons equally, it is Edgar who has all the advantages, and Gloucester’s early remarks to Kent about Edmund are not anything that would cause Edmund to love him in return. (Especially if Edmund hears them). This lack of a truly good relationship between them is much the same as Lear’s issues with Regan and Goneril: both fathers don’t express their love for their children as much as they could (less so in Gloucester’s case); and the children see their respective fathers only as a means to an end: their expanded power. In Edmund’s case, it is more than Gloucester’s shortcomings as a parent that contribute to his character- it is society’s restrictions that an illegitimate younger son is to get nothing, however.
Therefore, both families are unhappy for basically the same reasons. It is neither solely the father nor solely the children’s fault. It Gloucester and Edmund’s case, society is at fault as well. ‘Human nature’ cannot explain it either, because there isn’t one single character type that defines human nature. However, having the same self-centered type of personality in both father and child(ren) causes issues, since the children never learn to be good and caring. It is not entirely the father’s fault, either, for in both cases he has ‘good’ children (Cordelia and Edgar), proving that it is not entirely his fault that his other children turned out so badly.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Brave New World Blog IV

4) One of the most difficult questions to answer about this book is why all of this is so very bad. Many people have described Huxley’s vision of the future as “horrifying.” However, the fact remains that everyone in the society is really happy, really content, really without war, or pain, or suffering. So what’s so bad about it, “really”? It’s often an easy answer to feel but a difficult one to verbalize. Respond to this issue. If you want to say it’s not so bad, and you really mean it, that is all right, too. Just be specific and thoughtful.

I think it comes down to two things: how shallow you are and the Savage's argument that I explained from the last blog. Really shallow people, who only care about material and physical pleasure wouldn't find this society bad at all. The society offers everything except intellectual freedom, and people who like to think would find it restrictive because of the lack of mental opportunity. Physical pleasure overload is not the same thing as mental happiness. A botanist may feel happier sitting in poison ivy in the middle of some forsaken wilderness without any comforts of civilization than in a luxury hotel with five-course meals and free massages. Sure, the poor dude will get rashes and frostbite and maybe depression from being alone and a sprained ankle or two, but hey, he discovered an all-new species of mushroom, which is worth the world to him much more than any luxury hotel could be. That kind of happiness is what the society of Brave New World lacks, and it is why it is only restrictive to those who are deeper mentally and want something more than just physical/material pleasures. They don't get to think or explore new things or experience intellectual satisfaction, and that is what is restrictive and 'bad' about the society. It's like being shown the cover of a book you think could be really interesting, or a song you think you might like, or a movie you think you want to see, but being denied the chance to ever read it, or listen to it, or see it. Or sometimes you just want to watch any movie, or read any book, or listen to anything, but you can't and you don't know why, and they serve you pie and an aphrodisiac instead. A shallower person might be like, cool, pie and sex! or whatever, but you're not. You're different and want more than physical freedom. (Which they have. Nobody directly tried to stop the Savage from doing whatever he wanted, or tried to make that one girl who was forced to live on the Reservation to come back).

Brave New World Post III

3) In chapter 17, Mustapha Mond and John Savage discuss civilization. John says two startling things: “What you need is something with tears for a change. Nothing costs enough here” and “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.” Read this interchange carefully and then put Mond and Savage’s arguments into your own words.

Mond's argument: There is no need for anything besides the overindulged safety and happiness that people now enjoy. Nobility, heroism, God, stuff like that, has no place because there is no bad thing to be heroic against, no honour to uphold for nobility, no need for a God who punishes and rewards because everyone is rewarded, everyone is the same, everyone knows what to do and how to do it and there is no conflict. Since there is no conflict, everyone is happy. And how can something that makes everyone happy be wrong? Therefore, it must be right and everything else formerly considered to be right is just old-fashioned and obsolete and no longer applies to 'today's' reality.

The Savage's argument: There is a world of quotes, arguments, books and people out there who can support the Savage's argument, but I think that the Savage's argument can be basically summed up in the words of the saying: 'you cannot know happiness until you have known sadness' (or something like that, anyway). Basically, the Savage is saying that nobody is truly happy because they don't appreciate their happiness, they don't have to earn it, they don't understand it and they are missing out on the whole human experience by never being anything but happy. Everything bad has a purpose, even if its only purpose is to make the good seem that much better. How much more would these people enjoy their soma than if they lived today, in an anti-drug culture? How much more would they enjoy their promiscuity than if they lived in a Puritan society? They would love their technology more if they were forced to live in the Middle Ages. They would appreciate much more if they understood and stuff, but they don't. The Savage is saying, sure they're happy, but their happiness is pointless and not as good as it might be.

Brave New World Blog II

2) Comment on the purpose of sex, games, and sayings like “ending is better than mending” in the book. How are all of these things used as a method of control?

The first two are used to keep people happy. If people are happy, then there is no need to think or desire to rebel/attempt reform. Happy people do not want change because there is no need, and change might make things worse. As long as the majority is willing to peacefully abide by the status quo, the people in control can stay in control and the controlled people do their happy things and everyone has a great life. According to their definition of a great life, anyway.

Also, all three are meant to enrich the economy. As long as people want sex, they will also want stuff to go with it, and will go to their version of the movies ('feelies') and stuff to impress possible mates, and so forth. Games involve spectators, transportation, equipment, uniforms, snacks...etc., and that stimulates the economy and keeps the money going in the right direction. Sayings like 'ending is better than mending' help serve the same purpose- they instill in a person the desire (indirectly) to stimulate the economy; by buying new instead of reusing/fixing/mending, etc. A good economy keeps the people happy and the people on top rich...and everyone's still overjoyed and desiring the status quo!

Also, the sayings (obviously) tell people what to do/believe/say so that the society automatically conforms to the Controller's intentions. This is a not-so-subtle and extremely-effective direct form of control- over minds.