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Oct. 28th, 2007

Major Barabra REview

Major Barbara

There are a lot of things about a play that really come out when one views it on stage. The viewer really begins to get a chance to scrutinize the dialog, characters, and flow of the play. When I viewed Major Barbara I noticed a lot of things that I wanted to keep away from in my writings.
The first thing that stunk me was how long the characters talked. This may have stood out more for me because I am often too long winded too. Still, I felt like often the characters went on and on about the same things or things that could have been summarized. Timing is really important, and messing it up is an easy way to turn an audience off to your work.
Even in the first scene between mother and son, there are too many words. Some of this can be excused because it seems the mother is always rather round about, but even then I was watching the first scene wishing it would rap up. I found that after the first minute of this kind of speech between Mom and son I didn't really care what was going on anymore, I just wanted the play to keep going.
Another aspect that would have helped to cut down dialog is all the reexplaining that happened on stage. The son and audience learn that dad is coming home and then the children come on stage and learn, surprise surprise, dad is coming home. Why couldn't those characters have already known dad would be home? Why did we need to see an almost non-response from them over this change of events? Wouldn't their thoughts have been clear based off of how they acted when he arrived? Neither of the characters are very stoic.
Something else that got tired fast of the repetition of how “special” Barbara was. I mean if she's that special how come, I as an audience member can't see that on my own or with little prompting. The play is called Major Barbara, do we really need to beat a dead horse by having a conversation at least once a scene about how special Barbara is. This is especially frustrating to me, because as far as I could tell from what was presented Barbara is the regular humanitarian who is blinded to everything except her cause. Nothing about her naivety or passion seems special, unique, or particularly valuable.
We could have also lost all the scenes where differing characters confront Barbara's fiancée about how much he loves her. He always admits it. He always references a time someone else mentioned it and he admitted it then. Why is this important?
These areas move on to the importance of having interesting and relatable characters. Major Barbara's characters were relatable, but they weren't particularly interesting. Charles is funny, but really straight forward. There is no surprise or mystery there. What is most interesting is that the mother tells her son she likes Charles best, but she is always reprimanding him while complimenting Adolphus. Since this thread never goes anywhere though, and Charles remains a nice but oblivious comic relief guy, thre is little to look at.
I liked Adolphus until he became far too wordy in the second act of the play. Part of what I liked was his brevity. It showed he was a truly intelligent man to sum up so many ideas so succintly, when he got so wordy in the second act I lost a lot of interest. Another aspect I like on him was that he was a little amoral. It was clear in the first act that he'd been part of differing religions, and he also showed acceptance of morality when presented in a logical way. Then suddenly he grows concerned about dawning certain moralities or accepting certain ideas. It isn't the same scholar we saw before and he officially becomes boring.
I didn't like how incredibly convenient it was that Adolphus was technically a bastard child. I don't like how everyone accepted it and I don't like how it was just poof, clean story resolution. To me it reeked of deux ex machina. What would have been interesting would have been the son not only realizing that the father's work is brilliant but wanting the plant. It would have been neat to see him struggle to earn it or to see if the father would reconsider. Since the son is so bumbling and self righteous it would have been interesting to watch him quite likely fail and hate himself for working there.
Something else I noticed about Major Barbara is that the play happened over at least three days. Day one is the father's return, day to is the salvation army, and day three is the gun factory. I'm not sure how I feel about that. As the audience I felt the length. I felt like that play was never going to end. I wonder if some of the perception of length has to do with how many different days were in the play and how it stretched across about half a week.
Something else important to consider is theme. Major Barbara is largely a morality play. Since I wasn't a fan of what was being presented, it made it harder to enjoy the play. There are lots of problems with the Salvation Army besides funding, one of which is my strong anti-proselytizing sentiments. Since this is a period piece I don't really expect them to address this, but I feel like a lot of what is going on is out dated in a lot of ways. Since making guns is necessary, same as a garbage man, or a sewer cleaner, I don't see the big deal. War is part of our life and I can't help but be annoyed at the Victorian righteousness against someone who makes the weapons. Maybe that was a big problem for me on a personal level. I really couldn't stand the self righteous airs of the characters or the presumptuous themes offered to the audience. This probably has less to do with this play and more to do with my personal taste. Themes should be wide and open to a lot of audiences, but it is really difficult to make a play that everyone will enjoy or agree with. There is a fine line between a morality play and an entertaining one, for me this crossed the line, but really the lesson here is just to be very careful. Things can get preachy very quickly.
Over all, Major Barbara probably wasn't my style of play. I still learned a lot about things to watch out for and things I didn't want to do, but as a viewer I have to be careful to walk the line between looking at things that did and didn't work and looking at what I liked or didn't like. In some cases this can be the same thing. In other cases I need to be careful to try and acknowledge other's styles and desires. It is important for play writers to make sure their plays don't become too stylized or stuck up in their own personal meanings.

How I learned to Drive Essay

How I Learned to Drive

One of the more interesting things in How I Learned to Drive is how Paula Vogel takes an unsympathetic character like a child molester and turns him into a character with feelings and thoughts. Uncle Peck is more than just a simple good or bad guy in How I Learned to Drive while one can agrue that we see these sides because the victim is telling the story, it still does not explain how this kind of development came about. Careful tracking through the play though helps to reveal little pieces of who Peck is in an order that make our sympathy grow for him until we see the end scene.
One aspect of Uncle Peck's attract is that he can be kind to Little Bit. Sometimes he looks out for her, stands up for her, and in some perverse ways attempts to give her confidence. This is more than we see anyone else in the play do. Little Bit's mother attempts to give her sex advice, but really it's about the mother continually confronting the Grandmother about how she didn't help her enough in that department. When Little Bit most needs her mother's help and protection from Uncle Peck, Mom turns her back on Little Bit, using the same words her Grandparents used on her “I hold you responsible” (913).
Little Bit's Grandfather is a mean old pervert who endlessly insults Little Bit's body. While Grandma scares her with stories about how much sex will hurt and how “a girl with her skirt up can outrun a man with his pants down” (902). The viewers don't know much about Little Bit's Aunt until her dialog where we learn that she knows Uncle Peck is molesting her niece. Instead of protecting her, she blames Little Bit and wants her husband back from her. Even other strangers in the play always seem to be harassing Little Bit by calling her names, grabbing her breast, or otherwise sexually degrading her. It becomes clear through all these scenes that even though Peck is the worst offender, he's also the only one who treats her somewhat kindly when he isn't fondling her. Peck is also the only one who gives her any “choice” in the matter.
Peck isn't perfect though. The first scene opens to reveal a man and a young woman in a car involved in something nefarious. In the beginning I didn't think very well of the male and I noted that the woman was nervous and didn't seem to want to be there. Still, I reminded myself that the was seventeen and probably getting some kind of compensation if she was out here with this man. I wasn't completely disgusted and outraged with just Uncle Peck until I realized that he was the Uncle of Little Bit. Even though these first moment impressions are brief, Vogel is already leaving an opening for people to give a kinder interpretation of Peck. She hangs out the idea of choice by excluding choice information, and later in the play this scene and the idea of choice will repeatedly reoccur. Depending on the scene we may or may not come to be more sympathetic for Peck.
The second and third scene seem to be dedicated to showing us that Peck can be a good person. In the second he tries to stop the family from teasing Little Bit. They are picking on her breast that he moments ago was pawing up and praising. When she runs out of the house, Peck is the man who talks to here and convinces her to come back in. It seems to me that in that scene Peck took on the role of a mother. In some ways it highlights how disgusting and convoluted their relationship is but in other ways it shows that Peck on some level may care about Little Bit's feelings.
The third scene is a celebration dinner taking place between Peck and Little Bit because she has had her first successful cross country trip. Here we view a lot of conflicting information. He really has thought about where to take Little Bit that she might like. He knows that she is interested in history and places with stories and he knows what to recommend for her to eat that she would enjoy. On the other hand he seems to be getting her drunk. It is hard for the reader to tell Peck's intentions when he gets her drunk. At first we assume Little Bit is getting drunk so Peck can take advantage of her, but he doesn't do that. He insists that nothing will happen if it isn't Little Bit's choice. This is really an odd scene because at this point we've decided that Peck is a molester and can not be a good character. Peck has gotten Little Bit drunk and nothing good can come from that. Still, at the same time, Peck has tried to defend her against taunting. Peck has shown thought and concern towards her likes and dislikes, and even though Peck got her drunk he didn't take advantage of her.
This scene where Peck doesn't abuse Little Bit is starkly contrasted with a monologue where Peck seems to make it clear that he molested Little Bit's cousin. This scene chills readers. It makes us wonder how many children have fallen prey to Peck so far. How many more will? Is all his kindness and thoughtfulness an act? Vogel seems to be intentionally making it hard for us to have strong feelings for Peck one way or the other. He is definitely a child molester and he is taking advantage of children, but is he really any worse than everyone else surrounding them?
Another monologue that is very telling about Peck is Aunt Mary. She obviously lovers her husband. She shows him to be a kind and gentle man who sits with her, listens to her, and helps do the housework. Part of my mind wonders if Aunt Mary is telling the truth, but another part feels bad that she does seem to really feel like she's lost a strong presence in her life. We have seen that Uncle Peck does seem to think about the women around him. He does do the dishes for everyone after Thanksgiving dinner. He does agree to stop drinking because Little Bit doesn't like when he does. That he makes this agreement and sticks to it seems to imply that Peck cares about the people around him and he wants them to be comfortable.
Another interesting aspect of Mary's speech is that she mentions that Peck has done this before. Again Little Bit isn't the first, but everything changes after her. Peck's marriage falls apart and he literally falls apart as a person. He drinks himself to death. It is hard to decide if the drinking or if Little Bit's refusal is what ruins Peck's marriage. One could say that Little Bit's refusal allowed for the drink, but it is hard to decide whether or not he is falling back into addiction or he is drinking just to forget. What is interesting though is in Mary's speech she insists that she has a lot of patience and that she will wait for her husband to come back to her, and then she divorces him. She should have been through this before, since Little Bit is not the first, but somehow it seems she is different. Is all the stress and kindness Peck gave her new and different. Are the feelings Peck claims to have for Bit actually genuine? Does that really matter if he's still abusing and hurting Little Bit?
Perhaps the biggest turn is when we see Peck pining for Bit and Bit being almost cruel to Peck. Peck has showered her with gifts and notes and Little Bit doesn't respond. She avoids him whenever she can. When Bit finally meets him, it is to reject his advances. She goes from being reluctantly uncomfortable with his advances to being creeped out and hostile towards them. It is like those months away finally cleared her head and made her realize what was going on was very wrong.
The other side of this is that Peck becomes the weak and pleading side of their relationship. In some ways the viewer feels like Little Bit should have more consideration for Peck's feelings. He is completely exposed in his “love” for Little Bit and she shoots him down. It made me wonder the age difference between him and Mary. It made me wonder if Peck would do the same to Little Bit later if they got married. Mostly though it made me feel a little bad for Peck. I wondered if he wasn't at least somewhat of a victim too.
That's why the closing scene where we see Peck's first abuse of Little Bit is such a shock. It reminds us that he is a sick man. He terrified a girl who trusted him. Little Bit loved Uncle Peck and she defended him against her mother's accusations. She stood by him when others would not, and Peck took advantage of that young girl's trust and innocence. He hurt Little Bit in a way that she will feel for a long time to come.
Peck's character is complex and hard for the viewer to get any definitive feelings on. One would like to hate him and just dismiss him as evil, but Vogel won't allow for this. She shows us humanity and hurt and possibly some goodness in him. Then we would like to consider him more kindly, but again Vogel doesn't allow this, we see Peck abusing Bit, Bit's cousin, and it is implied that there were others. She takes a monster and makes him a man only to shift him back into the form of a monster.

Sep. 28th, 2007

Oedipyus play production

There are a lot of different things going on in Oedipus Rex that a play production would want to bring to the forefront through different costuming, acting, casting and backdrops. I have never really been part of a play production, so I am not entirely certain how to best put on a play or accent certain themes. Still, there are themes and certain aspects I see a certain way and would like that represented on stage. A production of Oedipus I put on would emphasis a lot of humor and over the top aspects written in the play. I would not attempt to take the play too seriously because in a lot of ways Oedipus seems to have a lot of humorous elements that could be played with.
The setting of Oedipus does not feel to be heavily open to interpretation. There are lots of people who can easily adapt plays or works to be set in modern times or someplace else other than how it is originally intended, but I just see Oedipus happening in ancient Greece. I can't help but picture people wearing togas and some obscure roman columns framing the scene. I wouldn't want the set to be very elaborate at all. Maybe I would just allow the curtain, preferable something either light blue or neutral gray with a roman column or two for the background. I don't think Oedipus was meant to have too much heavy scenery detail. The focus is supposed to be on the actors and the drama they portray, instead of the scenery telling the story.
To that effect, I think that the portrayal of the chorus is very important. How one does or does not work them into the background can do a lot for the scenery. Part of what's always caught my attention about Oedipus is how much he allows to go on in public. To some extent, I think being open and honest with the public is very important, but Oedipus is too open with the public. He releases information and paranoid concerns the the public without any censorship or thought to how that might affect his people. The way he acts in front of his subjects paints a picture of an unstable, though well intentioned king.
To highlight the fact that the play mostly takes place in the public eye I would want the chorus on stage acting like citizens. In the first act Oedipus, the priest and the chorus would be on stage. In this scene the chorus would act like priests or priestess going about in the background lightning incense, or praying and just sitting about to the sides of the action making more quiet gestures of everyday life. I don't want these actions to over shadow the drama and dialog between Oedipus and the priest but I want it to feel like Oedipus is intruding on the temple's routine, and not the other way around.
When Creon enters the scene I want the extras to stop pretending to be involved in their normal tasks and listen to what is going on between Oedipus and Creon. I would like there to be a feeling of the chorus as part of the audience of the drama going on. An “all eyes on Oedipus” sort of feeling to help to accentuate Oedipus' feelings of self importance. The focus on watching and on eyes is also a theme I want to draw out over the play too. We, as the audience, know Oedipus takes out his eyes, and I want to use the visual aspect of the stage to continually draw attention to sight to help to reemphasize the inevitable ending.
I'd like it if the person who played Oedipus was taller than the other actors in the play. It's a small detail, but I want the audience's eyes to constantly be drawn to him. I want there to be an authoritative look that I think having a height advantage might help to get across. I also want Oedipus to be the only person with any color on his costume. Along with a traditional white toga I want him to wear a dark red sash. I like the choice of red because it foreshadows blood, but red also is used to symbolize temper and violence. We know Oedipus is violent because he did kill Laius and five attendants without much provocation, and he later shows these same aspect when he bullies Teiresais. I would like Oedipus to have something in his costume and bearing that echoes this recklessness. I also want the only color on stage continually drawing the audiences' attention to Oedipus. He is the king and the important figure. His sash in some ways also helps to represent this.
At first I wanted to carry the theme of “blindness” and seeing further in Oedipus' wardrobe too, but I was unsure of how to do so without being too obvious. There are a lot of allusions in the script to sight, and I want to compliment these instead of over playing them. At first I though maybe adding some thing that looked like or resembled an eye on Oedipus' clothing might be interesting, but I wasn't sure what I could do that would be subtle and make sense with the Greek costume theme. I considered hiding eyes in the scenery, but then I thought that the combination of the chorus milling around on stage as part of the public and eyes in the backdrop might be too much distracting from what is actually happening in the play. Too much visual is worse than not enough visual.
Instead of altering costumes or backdrops to give more of an eye effect, lighting might be more appropriate. I would see if placing Oedipus in the spotlight when oracles directly address his future or present, might help to drive across both the themes of sight, especially the sight of Divine fates. The spotlight might also be used when Oedipus speaks directly to the chorus in the play to show how he places himself in the public eye.
Another character I would like to have a very specific look is Teiresais. I want him to look very old and frail. If he could be hunched over and heavily leaning on his cane that would be even better. Because he is blind I do want to exaggerate this trait by making the actor look around in different spots when talking or listening. It would be even better if he started forward a few times towards Oedipus, but was moving in slightly the wrong direction. I want him to be exaggeratedly weak to make Oedipus' bullying even more outrageous.
Before Oedipus gouges out his eyes, I want him to remove the red sash. This is symbolic of how he is stepping out of the public eye. The removal of the sash also swaps us over from a symbol of Oedipus' violence to the actuality of it.
When Creon enters and finds Oedipus without his eyes, I want him somewhere in that process to pick up the sash and put it on. This foreshadows the events of Antigone, but it also shows that Creon is taking control and becoming King. Even though earlier in the play he insisted he did not want the scrutiny, he easily subjects himself to it for the good of Thebes, a sentiment that Oedipus claimed to feel earlier in the play.
Over all, one of my main focuses in Oedipus would be to work not to over dramatize what is going on. There is a lot in character and dialog. I would want to draw attention and heighten some aspects, but I would want to leave space for actors, costume designers, and scene artists to do their job and contribute their own parts to what is happening. While I would want these themes and ideas echoed in a production f Oedipus I would put on, I would also rely heavily on other officials to help fill in gapes in my own thoughts and help make my ideas a working success.

Sep. 16th, 2007

Regular OUtdoors sales pitch for North Adams

So for regular PR class. Just a why you should come to North Adams if you like the outdoors sale. (I don't think you should come to North Adams to live, but there are a whole bunch of neat things to visit way more than what I touch on too.

Alright here is my Oedipus paper

Apr. 28th, 2007

Eulogy

Jessica Donegan wasn't the best kind of person, but she wasn't the worst sort of person either. I would like to take this time to sing her praises, but unfortunately I cannot. Jessica Donegan was a stranger to me and to most of us in this room, but most of all she was a stranger to herself. Always a work in progress, each of us was drawn to Jessica at different phases in her life, and each of us were discarded after those phases were done. She ran through personalities the way most of us run through seasonal style. Each was so different and singular that there is little for us to recognize of her former self once she changed.
When Jessica was with us she was dynamic and ever changing. She appreciated each moment and lived in that instant. For those around her, it made us feel particularly special important. We felt as if we were the world to her, and for that instant, we were. She seemed to have an enjoyable life and she brightened the lives of those she interacted with. I sincerely hope her soul is in a better place.

Karma Essay

The misuse of the word karma in the western hemisphere bothers me. Sure many people know that karma originated from the Hindu religion in India, but it seems a precious few people realize that karma has no meaning without the context of the word dharma. Now dharma is a fancy way of saying one's life path. Webster's dictionary pegs it as “an individual's duty fulfilled by observance of custom or law “ or “ a : the basic principles of cosmic or individual existence : divine law b : conformity to one's duty and nature”. Now, a person's life path could be that of a good person or a bad person but dharma is a certain set of rules that apply to how that person interacts with the world. Watch out all you crazy peace loving hippies, because dharma isn't the same as being righteous or living a good life. For example the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu religious text, tells us the story of Arjuna. His dharma was the way of the warrior. He was preparing for a battle when it occurred to him that the fight is was about to start would be a long bloody one where the loss of life would not be worth the potential gains. However, he had the dharma of the warrior and to fulfill this life path he must go into the battle field and destroy the enemy or die trying. His reasons to not fight were pure and just; however, it was not his dharma to follow this. In the end to be a good Hindu and continue on his sacred path he had to fight and slaughter. Oh and get this, those people he slaughtered and brutalized, it was their dharmas to die in such a way. By being what most of us would consider a cruel heartless person, Arjuna not only fulfilled his own life path but is also fulfilled the life paths of those he killed.
Now dharma works particularly well in context of the Hindu religion thanks to the caste system, because people were born into a well mapped out life path with very specific rules. Since in America and other countries a person can grow up to be whatever they want, some people speculate that it is impossible to have dharma or karma. After all if a person isn't born into a dharma then how do they get one? Can a person create their own dharma and can a person's dharma change? I'm not sure how far I want to explore these options, but I do think that even people who aren't born into one specific life path can have some dharma. While in America there is no one life path that is clean cut on exactly how a person should act, we could find our own way. Perhaps there is still a Universal life purpose in store for the average American. Some parts of Arjuna's parable would no longer apply. We aren't forced to do something we don't want to do anymore, but that doesn't mean we don't have a dharma. It also doesn't mean that just because we can choose a job that there aren't parts of a job we don't like to do. There could still be a road we should follow. The lack of caste system would make it harder to appropriately identify it.
Karma is gathered based on one's adherence to one's dharma. It isn't energy. There isn't good karma or bad karma, it is all just karma. You can't stop yourself from gaining karma either...unless you die. I'm pretty sure that while dead a person gathers no karma. Long and short of it is that karma is just like a tally of your life compared to however your dharma said you should have lived your life.
Here's the part that most westerners mess up the worst. Karma doesn't take effect until after you are dead. Adhering to one's life path will have a person be reincarnated into a higher being that is closer to enlightenment while failing one's dharma gets a person reincarnated into a lesser being that will take them longer to achieve enlightenment. It is that simple. There are no cycles where karma is “catching up” to people in this life time or where you are always rewarded for doing good things. Sometimes for some people the good thing is the wrong thing to do in the karmic system.
Since karma can be a brutal as it is kind you can see why it would annoy me that people toss the word around. Karma and dharma don't fit into the same system as good and evil. The words are not meant in these contexts and it bothers me when people bastardize the word, particularly in a western setting.
I know what you are going to say, definitions change over time, why should this karma stuff be any different. I agree, definitions do change over time. Still, we aren't talking about a change in definition with the word karma, we are talking about one culture misunderstanding another's religious beliefs and then popularizing a mistranslation. If I mistranslated “perdo”, the Spanish word for dog, as penis and tried to excuse this mistranslation by telling everyone that the meaning of words change over time, it would be unacceptable. I don't see how the mistranslation of karma is any different. In fact, in some ways our insistence that karma means some sort of “do good things and good things comes to you” catch all is more insulting because in twisting this definition we have twisted and misrepresented the basic principles of the Hindu religion. The west doesn't really know much about Hinduism in general, but we sure don't need to go around spreading a distorted picture of Hinduism to add to the cunfusion.
I know change can be hard for the masses. Especially when shows like “The Life of Earl” preach about karma like it is an extension of the golden rule. Instead of “Do unto others as you would have them do to you” it is “Do good to others and good things will come back at you, do bad and bad will come at you.” It might make an easy sitcom, but it makes for terrible philosophy. After all, how often does doing the “right thing” or the “good thing” put you personally out in the cold? Is the “right thing” really all about a reward or is the “right thing” the right thing to do regardless of the consequences? In my experience things that are in the moral right often take time, effort, and are rarely enjoyable. Where is my medal?
Plus how many of us know that saintly person with the worst luck? They are so good and so wonderful but tragedy after tragedy keeps happening to them. Are they not really doing good works after all or is the system just a stupid one? I mean, we could start rationalizing by putting ludicrous hindrances on the system. Saying things like “If you do good only to get good then you aren't really worthy.” But this only causes more problems. It makes people judge other's intentions. We tell a person that if they really meant their good works then they would benefit, but how can we judge who really means their actions? Likewise, if I commit genocide, as long as I don't mean it, do good things still happen to me or are there some things so terrible that it doesn't matter if you meant it?
Suddenly all these additions not only make karma not karma, but they also make karma something Christians and other followers of YHVH able to understand. We can say that the Hindus really do follow the same rules they do. It proves that God is universal because even though Hindus have many Gods and have a lot of different beliefs, karma is the same as the golden rule.
But karma isn't the same. Hinduism isn't the same as an Abrahamic faith. Even all the different followers of YHVH are vastly different. To mush it all together into a super religion or to try and force the shapes to be the same is insulting and belittling.
So now that we are in this mess where karma has come to signify a lot of mainly Christian influenced garble that is unrelated to karma's actual meaning how do we stop this? The easiest way is to continue to present the truths and facts about karma's true meaning when it comes up. Politely correct people and what not; however, there is a major problem with this. Often, when someone is discussing karma, there is an emotionally charged conversation going on. How can a person interrupt and correct a person without becoming an insensitive listener? I mean they are crying about their mother's death and how their miserable karma must have done it from that time they stole all those cookies. You're just trying to laugh at how ridiculous their pity fest is. Then imagine trying to look for a way good in to explain how even if that were true and you could “energetically” kill people you cared about by stealing cookies that would have nothing to do with karma.
See, writing a paper about karma, while fun, ends up being pointless. I know the meaning of the word. Everyone should, but most westerners don't. There is no doubt someone will be offended by my little lecture that just told some pompous “know it alls” everything they thought about karma is a lie. On the other hand, the majority of people probably find the speech boring. I can see you looking at it now being like “really who cares”? I care and others should too. I know when we talk about faith and I step in and correct people on the definitions they are using they think I'm being offensive. I'm right but I'm still a jerk for “telling them what to believe” or “daring to correct their faith”. After all there “is no one true way” and my “fundamentalist ways” have to go. People forget that we need to adhere to definitions or else words lose meaning. If words lost meaning, we wouldn't be able to communicate at all. It is possible that sometimes I am too stringent in my quest to correct other's words, but it is equally possible that these people just have no idea what they are talking about. No one should throw around words they don't understand. Maybe it's just my dharma to be a pretentious and correct people when they are misusing religious terminology. Maybe its just others' dharma to be emo and easily offended when religious beliefs are addressed. Perhaps like Ajruna through doing an ugly task and I'm totally gaining enlightenment.

Ode To Miller

Perhaps you've been a college student before, but then again maybe not. If you're of the most recent generation, its highly likely you've been to college as about 63% of high school graduates went to college in 2002. However if you're not one of those people let me paint a picture for you. You're a freshman in college, and of course you're highly excited. After all whether or not you're in college for the “Animal House” parties or for the rigorous college academics, this is what your entire life to this point has been leading up to. You are part of the group that made it through some sort of select hoop jumping process to gain a seat in this prestigious class room and all you can say to yourself is something like “hello future”.
So you're waiting and pondering your new life when he walks in. It is exactly ten o’clock, and you think to yourself, “here is a man who will demand excellence from me”. The professor's glasses shine in the window light. The class' nervous laughter and speculation goes silent the minute he enters, a feat not every professor can claim. He takes center stage and places his brief case down on the table before you. It seems the whole class could tell right away that this was a man who takes his profession seriously. You won't be disappointed, as after the basic get to know you information session, the professor hands out a syllabus that included a three page list of his class expectations. Oh and by the way, apparently his name is Mark Miller, that's probably something you should try to remember.
Professor Miller brings a whole new meaning to the word thorough. A lot of people would say that he his so intensely thorough that many fall asleep before he makes his point. This is a most unfortunate situation for those people. Miller might have a dry monotone voice. He might dress in sweater vests. He might mention his beloved Robert Penn Warren so often that it becomes a game for students to count how many references he can make unprompted. However Professor Miller is also a man who takes every student’s opinion on literature and writing seriously. He finds an insightful response to even the most ridiculous of assertions or inquires. He strives to be a teacher who balances his own opinion with those differing opinions of students. When Professor Miller refutes your assertions, it isn't because he doesn't like them, but because the text just won't support them.
Still, it is hard to get through the stereo-typed professor picture. The man comes into class and starts students off writing down their names, hobbies, and lit classes. He goes on to describe his syllabus and expectations in excruciating detail. The next few weeks will be dedicated to a detailed comparative study of Aunt Jeminma to Mrs. Butterworth. Perhaps you can really understand the nuances in the stereo types and their greater meaning in society, and perhaps you can’t. Either way, you’ll know more about a Butterworth bottle than you ever deemed possible. You'll have to wait a bit to see if there are connections to literature or if Professor Miller just likes Mrs. Butterworth.
He may try to lighten things up with his rubber chicken. He will pull that out to explain the light hearted aspect of writing. And he’ll talk about how even this old gag prop has some new uses. Very few people mention the smell of a rubber chicken or the powdery substance someone will have on their hands for weeks after touching on, something you’ll all learn irks Professor Miller to no end. Later you'll find yourself in the bathroom scrubbing the odd powdery substance from the chicken off your own hands. Perhaps its the smell that gets to you. Then again it might just be the way the stuff dries out your hands. Either way, Miller is right, no one writes about that when they speak of rubber chickens.
Perhaps, the rubber chicken will have helped you remain open to Miller’s message. Perhaps it will only confirm his lame and steadily falling value in your eyes. Either way he will carry on and bring up the Dead Poet’s Society. Of course he’ll get the TV with the squeaky wheel. You’ll here him coming long before you see him. It will make his timely appearance less amazing somehow. By now, you’re a quarter of a way through the year and you’re still seeing and getting hands on examples, along with more reading than God can imagine.
When you cover “To His Coy Mistress” by Andrew Marvell, Miller will kindly expound on several little tidbits of information. He will first ask you how hawks mate, to which of course you will not only not have any reply and you will not know how that relates. It will only be after a lesson about the commonality of keeping falcons at the period of time Marvell wrote “To His Coy Mistress” and learning about how falcons mate, that you will realize that “Our sweetness, up into one ball; ” line 43 refers to the sport of falconry and is indeed a raunchy sex reference. Sure there was the line about amorous birds of prey four lines above, but how were you to know to connect the two? You will be stunned by his knowledge and outraged that he expected someone would know this. In fact you will be so busy thinking on this that Miller will make a joke about The Boss and about some show that aired only for a season in the seventies, and you will have no time to make up an odd comeback.
This agitation will lead you to talking about Miller outside of class. You will spread stories far and wide about everything you've heard and read in his class. It won't surprise you when everyone you've talked to has had a Miller class. It won't surprise you that most of them have done at least one of the hands on activities. Of course you'll all decide the activities are lame. This won't stop you from talking endlessly about it anyway.
None of you will realize that in talking ceaselessly about the course material, you are furthering Miller's cause. Whether you like it or not, you are thinking about the literature and you are talking about the literature. Late one night, in honor of Miller you will proclaim “Life friends is boring.” from John Berryman's “Dream Song 14”. Maybe you're mocking how Miller and his grad school buddies did the same thing while drinking, but then again maybe it's because you really mean that life is boring. Perhaps Berryman is just best read drunk and loud. Anyway you put it, your friends will laugh and if you have a particularly good friend with you they will shout out “We must not say so. / After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,/ we ourselves flash and yearn,/ and moreover my mother told me as a boy/ (repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored / means you have no / Inner Resources" (lines1-7).
After that night you will learn there is a facebook group dedicated to Miller. It will surprise you that there is a facebook Miller fan club. You will gossip endlessly about Miller. You and other students will spend forever dying to know what his poetry is like, and you'll probably never read that. Instead you'll all just have to consider Robert Penn Warren, Miller's idol. You'll be the one to mention that due to some club he's in he got himself a Robert Penn Warren tote bag. Everyone else will keep their eyes out for it. No one will be surprised that you must type Robert Penn Warren and not just Warren as you might with other writers and poets.
Finally, you will come to your first Miller test. It will be an in class essay, and you’ll be more nervous than anything else. You’ve memorized a few quotes you think might be helpful, then again you've probably memorized a few quotes that won't be helpful too. Death of a Salesman has sort of consumed your life. At the end of the week you will learn you got a C+. You would be mad, but its the best grade in the class, and he's complimented your essay everywhere. So you don't complain, you go home and work on it, and then you work on it some more. You know you can turn it into an A, Miller said as much.
So who is Mark Miller? Is he a good teacher, a boring teacher, or not a teacher at all. Everyone has something different to say, but at the end, you know the truth. Miller is a brilliant teacher. Its not how he presents the material and its not the kind of material. In the end what makes him brilliant is that inadvertently or intentionally he got you and others to talk about the material amongst yourself outside of class. You know more random information from his class than any other. You have thoughts and opinions about what he's taught. Perhaps most importantly, you care more about reading the literature that the grade you get on the essay, and isn't that what school is supposed to be about?


Biliography
Berryman, John. “Dream Song 14”. <http://homepages.wmich.edu/~cooneys/poems/berryman.14.html>
Henry, Tamara. “Report: Greater percentage of Americans educated”. USA Today. 6 June 2002. <http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2002-06-05-education-census.htm>
Marvell, Andrew. “To His Coy Mistress”. <http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/marvell/coy.htm>

Rasin in the Sun Character Development

One thing that Raisin in the Sun does really well with is building tension within the play to keep the viewer interested in what's going on. There are two main ways tension is built.
One way the play manages this is through maintaining one point all the characters world's revolve around. For Raisin in the Sun the key element is money. Every character, though their drives, desires, and personalities are drastically different find the need for money to be a key motivational tool. That they are all fighting over what to do with a limited amount of money in a time sensitive venture, brings the tension up to full volume. Right away we are thrown into a family situation that is on the edge of having a complete break down.
The second key element in maintaining tension in Raisin in the Sun is having a diverse amount of subplots. Everything might boil down to when the family is getting the money, what the family will do with the money, and what happens when the money is lost, but the distinct feeling of rising need also comes from having several characters with several different motifs running through. From the very beginning of the play it is established that the viewer is seeing a family with tight resources that is about to get a lot of money, but they are also seeing several individuals who all have separate dramas and trials that require vastly different things to get what they want. Each of these characters seems to be at the end of the rope and most of them need not only a chunk of the money Mama is getting but they also need the understanding and acceptance of the rest of the family.
In the beginning of the play, Ruth is exhausted and pinching pennies everywhere she can with the very distant dream that she might one day get to move out of their current home. She is always working at home or out doing the same for other families. She does all this work in the hopes of creating a happy and healthy family. A large part of what hinders Ruth's dreams are the family's lack of funds, but an even greater part of what hinders Ruth is Walter. Ruth can't be happy until Walter settles. She can't understand why he can't just go to work and come home like she does. Ruth sees Walter's friends as loudmouth trouble makers, and Walter's dreams might as well be unicorns to Ruth. She understands his need to have better, but where Ruth is motivated to do better in her relationship with Walter and quality of life at home, Walter wants to do better economically and socially. He wants a better job that can offer his family better things. Really both wants are often close at each other's heels but neither can have the other without the money coming in the mail and without the other's support.
The conflict between Ruth and Walter could be a play all on its own, but there are other people with other connections who also come into play. Benetha also lives with Ruth and Walter, and like them she has some stake in the money that is coming tomorrow. Benetha, much like Walter, wants to better her standing in the world. Unlike Walter she realizes that to move up in the world, she's going to need to know the rules to play and win. Another difference between Walter and Benetha is that Benetha is looking to find herself. Instead of shunning what she feels should be her “blackness” and wanting just to become even with the white people, Benetha wants to reclaim the good things about being black. She wants the African culture and she wants to be a doctor. These differences, rather than Walter and Benetha's similarities are what meet and clash most often between the two. Walter in some ways resents Benetha's school and Benetha looks down on her brother's ideas of escape.
Another part of what Benetha must fight against is how little she can communicate her needs to her family. Part of this is the family's lack of education, but part of this is Benetha allowing herself to get to be pretentious. Benetha sometimes gets carried away in ideas too much to see the reality in front of her. This makes her come off as both pretentious and condescending to Ruth and Mama. Benetha is still looking for the line and there are very few people at home who can help her gauge how far is too far.
To add one more stress to the apartment, Mama lives with them in their rented space where she rules as matriarch. Mama's power over the family keep Walter from taking what he feels is his place as the head of the household and create an immediate conflict. Mama's tendency to align with Ruth as they are both family oriented only make a larger wedge in Ruth and Walter's relationship. Often Mama's alignment to Ruth creates more instead of less work for Ruth because she is the one who has to deal most with both Walter and Benetha's negative reactions. Mama's true aim is to make her children happy and give them a future. Unfortunately she is often so locked into the old way and the old problems she has trouble seeing how her children in front of her struggle with new problems her generation would dream of having the right to fuss over.
The money itself can't actually solve any of these problems, though each character makes the mistake of believing it could. Even after the money is divided and everyone has a bit of what they want, there isn't a lull in the tension until we see that Mama has made efforts to understand what Benetha is looking for in a man and Walter has taken steps to repair his marriage with Ruth. The money made these corrections possible, but the people themselves is what relieves the tension.
The end of Act Two keys the tension up again by making all the money gone. The family's doubts and disapproval of Walter are thrown back onto him. His leadership is undermined by his own poor judgment. Benetha's college efforts are in jeopardy, and the house that Ruth and Mama have waited so long for might have to be sold.
That Act Three ends with the family moving into their new home without any money and with some semblance of unity shows that while money may have been the catalyst what the viewer is waiting for is the end to the individual dramas and not the end to the money.

Nature of Human Nature

My Opinion on the Nature of Man Based Off of Night by Elie Wiesel, an interview with Elie Wiesel , and The Nature of Man section from Can it Happen Again? Chronicles of the Holocaust Edited by Roselle K. Chartock and Jack Spenser

The question of human nature is asked and answered in many different contexts. The view that I can not help but take is a religious and spiritual one. I don't believe in either good or evil, and I believe that these words create false dichotomies in how people view the world. Before we come to earth as people, our souls get together with others who have agreed to incarnate with us and we agree to the major trials and experiences we plan on having on earth. We will not remember these conversations while we are alive, but it is important to know that whatever one is born into, whatever disabilities or abilities on has one chose those for a reason. Certainly a plan we can't even remember may be one we deviate from, but our souls did try to set up everything we needed to have our desired experience. What happens while we are here though, ultimately is for the highest and best intention for one's soul's knowledge, experience, and growth in wisdom.
Now, this kind of life concept is not easy to accept even when one has a relatively easy life. There are so many things that seem bad and wrong with the world, how could any of these things truly be beneficial or chosen by anyone? How does one tell a Holocaust survivor or any person that just because we can not understand how or why, the Holocaust has some purpose? How can one justify a concept that implies on some level that each soul tortured and harmed willingly chose or created that fate?
It is so much easier to take Hobbes' stance that humans are selfish creatures that only work on gaining pleasure and avoiding pain through any means possible unless reined in by the powers of the government. It is preferable to believe Rousseau's theory that humans in their natural state were solitary happy beings and the more art and culture we create the less happy we become and the more likely we are to fight over the materials we've designed. I would find Skinner's model more understandable, where humans are a product of their environment and the desperate environment of post World War I Germany was so desperate for change and a scape goat that the Holocaust became an end result. However, I can't look around the world today and any of these theories holding true. There are too much positive momentum in the world for me to accept a premise of man being born completely without drive fore the better. Too much beauty and good can be seen through art for it to be the root of our woes, and I can not accept the idea that man was ever anything other than a pack animal. Lastly, while environment is by far the most compelling argument, I can only go back to my own experiences where my sister, brother, and I were all raised by my parents in the same circumstances and we are all completely different people, with almost opposite world views. If environment shapes, it doesn't shape us uniformly like a cookie mold would.
While it is difficult to accept the idea that the holocaust could be anything but one massive gate of complete evil, and saying otherwise seems like one of the most traitorous acts one could commit. I still maintain though that souls are consciously aware of what they are incarnating into and choose their basic path. The interview with Elie Wiesel, was one of the first pieces of work involving the holocaust that I thought maybe helped me justify my feeling on one's origin with tragedies like the holocaust. Within the interview, Wiesel states that he doesn't know why the holocaust happened. He tells reader's in his book as well as viewers of the interview that he doesn't know why he survived, there is no reason to who survived and he was an unlikely candidate. Wiesel voices frustration that so many more “deserving” died while he lived. Within Night Wiesel is continually struck by those strong, proud, and of great faith fall while he continued to go on.
Wiesel lost saw unspeakable horrors. He lost his family, he lost his belief in God, but his faith in humanity remains strong. If someone who has seen so many terrors can still believe in people and their core struggle to move towards positive improvement, then who am I to question such. Weisel maintains that his torture makes him want that even less for others and not more. He still insists in forgiveness and releasing anger not for the Nazis sake but the for one's self sake. If people can come out of such a terrible horror with such positive convictions towards others and if they can come out and still want to find meaning and learn, then how can this not be the core element of people? How can anyone argue that positive or negative traits aside, people are looking to learn and understand life and find meaning in new ways?

Apr. 17th, 2007

ES Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and its Effects on the Human Body

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Nov. 28th, 2006

ES Against Atheism

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Nov. 14th, 2006

Olds and Rich Journals

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Nov. 7th, 2006

Rober Lowell and Nye and O'Hara

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Nov. 2nd, 2006

Denise Levertov, Philip Levine, and Li-Young Lee Journal

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Journal for Galway Kinnell and Yusef Komunyaka

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Oct. 22nd, 2006

Kimiko Hahn, Robert Hall, and Michael S. Harper Journal Entries

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Allen Ginsberg and Louise Gluck Journals

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Robert Creeley and Rita Dove Journals

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Oct. 12th, 2006

ES Eighteenth Century Enlightenment Atheistic Writings

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