Tuesday, November 28, 2006




1. Hay dificultades en la investigación sobre el accidente del avión de secretario de comercio de los Estados Unidos Ron Brown. Los investigadores no pueden encontrar la "caja negra" del avión.

2. Oficiales de la seguridad rusos desmienten que un individuo allí disparó tiros contra la residencia de presidente Boris Yeltsin.

3. La policía española descubró una lista de setecientos personas que serían objeto de ataques de un grupo terrorista que se llama ETA.

4. El Ejército Republicano de Irlanda retractó su decisión de llevar a cabo actos de terrorismo contra Gran Bretaña por causa de su dominio sobre Irlanda del norte.

5. Son recapturados en Brazil seis de los cuarenta y dos presos que ayer se fugaron de un carcel en el estado de Goiás. Otros dos fueron abatidos por los fuerzos de seguridad.

6. A pesar de esfuerzos de la comunidad, violencia juvenil en Chicago está creciendo. Expertos citan la abundancia de drogas y armas como un factor principal en el fenómeno.

7. En Chile suben nuevos datos sobre los autores intelectuales del asesinato de senador Jaime Guzman.

8. Las fuerzas militares de Rusia continuan su conflicto con los rebeldes de Chechenia.

9. En los EEUU agentes del FBI encontraron materiales para la fabricación de bombas in la casa de un hombre que podría ser el “Unabomber”.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Snirkles: Is Google Evil?

Here's what my pal Snirkles found on Google-Watch. It is kind of scary, and if you go to www.google-watch.org you'll find all kinds of other scary stuff about Google.

It just goes to show you that when someone tells you how great they are and how they "do no evil," it is a good idea to dig a little deeper.

Snirkles: Is Google Evil?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Made in Taiwam

A few days ago I bought a six-pack of Tsingtao beer at the supermarket. I like Tsingtao better than Taiwan Beer, and it was on sale.

Originally TsingTao was a Chinese beer. The Tsingtao Brewery was founded in 1903 by German settlers in Tsingtao, China. Germans=better beer.

Because of the hostility that exists between mainland China and Taiwan, some Taiwanese people feel that drinking Tsingtao is unpatriotic. However, Taiwanese breweries now have a license to brew and market Tsingtao locally. To make sure that people understand that it isn't mainland Tsingtao, the Taiwanese brewers make a great effort in their labeling to ensure that people know the beer is made in Taiwan. As you can see from the above photo, it says "Taiwan" on the can as well as on the cardboard box that the cans come in.

The problem is, they spelled the name of their own country wrong.

Attention Taiwan: A little thing called "spell checker." Look into it.

Actually, I kind of like "Taiwam" better. It has more of a snap to it. I'd probably spell it "Taiwham," though, just to emphasize the difference from the original "Taiwan."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Character as a Function of Perspective in Modernist Literature

Here is another essay on Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.

Character as a Function of Perspective in Modernist Literature

In Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway, we see the characters from various perspectives, thus allowing for a more dimensional understanding of each character’s personality. Rather than being antagonists or protagonists, Woolf’s characters are more subtle, more complex, and more real than could be described from a single viewpoint. We see Hugh Whitebread as a rather nice chap from Clarissa’s point of view, whereas Peter Walsh cannot bear his presence. Walsh himself is seen differently by Clarissa than by the gentlemen at Lady Bruton’s Luncheon. Part of what defines this novel as “modern” is this fluidity of perspective that allows the reader to arrive, within limits, at his or her own interpretation as to the nature of the characters, and how they function in the work as a whole. In this way modernist literature attempts to present characters in the way that they exist in real life; that is, in the context of the society in which they move.

Although we get various views of each character in the story, the best example of a character as seen from multiple viewpoints is Septimus Warren Smith, the focal character in the novel’s “counter-plot.” He has no overt relationship with the main “plot” of the novel, Clarissa’s party and her relationship with those who attend it, but he helps to define the manner in which we are to evaluate the idea of “viewpoint” in the novel. As the result of the strangeness of his character, the reader may find Septimus to be the easiest of the characters to define. When we look at how he is seen by the other characters in the novel, however, we find that each of them has a different view of who he is and how he should be dealt with.

To the reader it is clear from the earliest encounter with Mr. Smith that things are not as they should be with him. When his wife tries to distract him with the spectacle of the sky-writer spelling the name of some brand of toffee, he begins to cry. Then as a woman near him begins spelling out the name, Septimus goes on what appears to be some crazy acid flash-back. We find out later that he is a veteran of the war and is suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome which may or may not be complicated by some pre-existing emotional problem. At the time the novel takes place he is pretty much around the bend, though it isn’t clear whether those around him have realized this yet.

Lucrezia Warren Smith probably has the most accurate view of her husband, as she spends more time with him than any of the other characters. Indeed, it is this very intimacy which causes her a great deal of anxiety when no one else will believe that the problem she perceives exists. She is the only one to witness his fits of bizarre behavior, to have read his papers, to have heard him describe his hallucinations. Oddly she maintains a kind of hope-beyond-hope that her husband can and will recover. At first she resents him: “He was selfish. So men are. For he was not ill. Dr. Holmes said there was nothing the matter with him” (23). Later, when Septimus experiences a rare moment of clarity, Rezia seems to believe their former life will be restored. She declares her refusal to part with him, and begins to pack their things. Then Dr. Holmes arrives.

According to Dr. Holmes, all Septimus needs is something to take his mind off himself. Stiff upper lip and all that. Nothing a couple of bromides won’t cure. We don’t actually see Dr. Holmes, except in Rezia’s remembering his advice, until near the end of the novel. When he does appear, it is just in time to witness Septimus’ suicide. He makes his opinion of the late Mr. Smith quite clear, referring to him as “The coward” (149).

The other professional to whom the couple go for advice is Sir William Bradshaw. He finds the patient to be deeply disturbed and in need of isolation and rest. He recommends that Septimus go to home where he can rest and avoid excitement. Sir William Bradshaw’s methods are simple: “He shut people up” (102).

Peter Walsh even gets a brief look at Septimus in the park. His view of Septimus is unique. “And that is being young,” he thinks as he sees him apparently arguing with his wife (70).

We also get a fleeting glimpse of Septimus when Maisie Johnson asks him and Rezia the way to Regent’s Park Tube station. Though she only sees the couple for a moment, they make a life-long impression on her, “ . . .this couple gave her quite a turn . . . so that should she be very old she would still remember” (26). Septimus stands out particularly, “ . . . and the man-he seemed awfully odd” (26).

All of these examples show how Woolf uses multiple viewpoints in the creation of a character. In Septimus’ case, the differences in perspective are more pronounced than they are with any other character. This is due in part to the extreme nature of his personality in contrast to the more subtle attitudes of the other characters. The greater the extreme, the greater chance for misinterpretation, as in the case of Peter Walsh’s brush with the Warren Smiths in the park. It is also due in part to the physical circumstances of the other characters’ encounters with him. The scope ranges from a momentary encounter on a street corner or in the park to the intimacy of husband and wife. It is easy to disregard the more fleeting of these observations as trivial when evaluating Septimus’ character. But Woolf included each with the intent of illuminating some aspect of his appearance, his personality, his self.

In the same way she illuminates the characters of the main plot. Clarissa, Richard, Peter, Hugh, and others are all seen through their own and many other eyes. The contrasts are not as drastic as they are in people’s perceptions of Septimus, but they are there. Still, there is a general type that all eyes seem to assign to each character: Hugh is a snob, Richard a rather dull, outdoorish type, Peter is good-natured but incompetent, Clarissa is cold, yet a gifted socialite. By including the seemingly more mundane images her characters project, Woolf makes them more alive and accessible than is possible from single-viewpoint narrative. One of the goals of modernist literature seems to be to depict characters this way: as the amalgamation of many perspectives. This gives an insight into what modernist writers consider to be important in defining the nature of identity. Particularly that they see the self as being largely determined by how it exists in relation to society at large. The character of Septimus Warren Smith is the exception that proves the rule. Unable on a fundamental level to conform to society, Septimus self destructs.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

January 18, 2038

Dear Reader,

On January 18, 2038, the universe as we know it will end. That is the good news. The bad news is no one will come to clean out the Honey Buckets.

On a more serious note, I've been getting a ton of SPAM with the dates spoofed to 2038 (which, by the way is an annoying trick that would easily be defeated by ISPs and web-based email programs if they had the will to do so). It turns out that this is a date similar to the the Y2K date that was supposed to cause so many problems. Whether it will cause problems (with UNIX systems) doesn't matter. Some fool decided it would be cute to pretend to sell viagra and mortgages using this date. Not that he or she is reallying selling anything--as with most SPAM scams, the trick is just to see if your email address is still active, and and if it is it is added to a list which can be sold to someone else who wants a big address list to advertise too.

No one likes SPAM, and even though it is a cheap way to advertise, it isn't really that effective (after all, only the true idiots ever respond to an obvious SPAM email), so why does SPAM keep going on?

SPAMMERS have friends and relatives (despite the fact that they are the foulest sort of human filth short of torturers and Republicans), so why can't these friends and relatives exert some sort of pressure on their SPAMMER relations?

I mean, SPAM affects everyone, and it only benefits a microscopic few. Doesn't it seem like a SPAMMER's mom or uncle would tell him or her to quit it?

It ain't being done by robots!

The Films of Josh Green

My friend Josh has been going to film school in Georgia for a long, long time now. That is him on the far right of the picture. I've included a link on my "friends" list (look to your right) to a few things he's put on YouTube. His films are a bit abstract and might make you feel woozy, but I like them. Here's a link to get to Josh Green's films on YouTube.

A little background: I met Josh in 1997 when we both ended up in a little town in southern Spain called Cádiz. We were roommates for a little while, and generally spent our days and nights making merry with our band of friends, the cruzcampeones (so named after our usual appearance with liter bottles of Cruzcampo clutched in our fists). In the last few years we more or less lost touch (as I have will all of the cruz gang), but I still consider him a good friend.

An Essay on Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway"

Here is a rather informal essay I wrote while reading Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway.

Mrs. Dalloway

It is very difficult for me to characterized Woolf’s style, especially in terms of masculine or feminine. I think that part of my problem is the context that I am reading the novel in, that is, the context of the other things I am reading at the same time. One of the other classes I’m taking is basically just reading, talking, and writing about Tolstoy’s War and Peace. My third class is “The Scope of Literary History”. So far in that class I’ve read some Virgil, some Dante, and some Shakespeare. We also touched on some essays by Mink, Kuhn, and MacIntyre (these last three were way over my head). What I’m trying to say is that Mrs. Dalloway is so different from any of these in its point of view and the sense of the movement of time that I really don’t know how to classify its stylistic characteristics.

The viewpoint is interesting. It seems to flow from one person to another without any particular announcement of a change. Sometimes it even seems to be coming from two directions at once, as in the scene when Peter Walsh pays Clarissa an unexpected visit. Other times it seems to be unattached to any particular person, but comes from some kind of omniscient voice. It is tempting to use the term “stream of consciousness,” but it is not really that. What it seems to be doing is what we talked about in the first few class sessions. Namely, looking at what is going on from many different angles.

In comparison to the other works we’ve looked at, I’d have to say that Mrs. Dalloway comes closest to The Dead in style. The subject matter, at least up to the point I’ve read, is similar. Also the fluidity of the mental and emotional states of the characters is similar. What is different is that in The Dead, things seem to be happening in a linear sequence, all according to how Gabriel perceives it. One thing proceeds from another and so on. In Mrs. Dalloway, things seem to slide together from different times and from different peoples’ perspectives.

The masculine versus feminine question is difficult for me to address. While it is more that obvious that the respective situations of men and women have been and are at great variance, I think that any argument that places any group of people completely in one pigeon-hole has to have some fatal flaw in it somewhere. I do agree with the points made in Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, but I don’t think that what she says means that one way of writing is reserved to one or the other sex, but rather that each writer must find his or her own words rather than trying to copy the arrangement of someone else’s. I have a feeling that a lot of my view comes from the fact that I am a product of my own time period, and to the fact I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of really good books by a lot of different kinds of writers in the last few years (mostly due to all the community college lit. classes I attended). All this aside, I can see a lot of the features that we ascribed in class to female writers in Woolf’s writing. For example: non-linearity, digression (what the heck was that sky-writing part about, anyway?), association, and I guess explorativization (exploratoriness?). The problem is that I’m not sure that these characteristics are really an accurate description of “Feminine Literature.” I’m not sure I know what feminine literature is. Is it women’s literature (and here we run into Woolf’s problem in Room when she tries to define “women and fiction”), or is it a certain style of literature that more often than not is written by women, but that could be written by a man. I don’t know.

I do enjoy the book, I just wish I had more time for a second reading so that I could really get a handle on what is going on. As one of the philosophers I read in “The Scope of Literary History” said in his essay (I’m not sure which one), there is a difference between following a narrative and having followed a narrative that adds a greater depth to one’s understanding of that narrative. I’m sure that if I had the chance (a fat one, at this time) to read this text again, I would have a better grasp on it. And, of course, I still have about two thirds of the novel to go to get my bearings.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Essay on Chapter 23 of Ellison's "The Invisible Man"

I wrote this about Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

Chapter Twenty-Three: Rinehart and the Recognition of Possibility

In chapter twenty-three of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man the narrator takes a major step in understanding the nature of identity and how it can be manipulated to further one’s own needs. Up to this point he has always defined himself narrowly, and by someone else’s standards. As either the dedicated student and later prodigal son figure under Bledsoe, the alienated paint mixer under Emerson, or the figurehead of the Brotherhood’s Harlem franchise under Brother Jack he sought to live up to the identity imposed on him. However, when suddenly forced to disguise himself in order to escape Ras’s thugs, he learns how flexible and subjective a thing identity can be. The events of the chapter combined with the introduction of Rinehart cause the Invisible Man to re-evaluate himself and his relationships with those around him. Instead of defining his identity according to necessity, he begins to define it according to possibility.

It starts out simply enough. The narrator dons a pair of dark sunglasses in pursuit of anonymity. Not only does no one recognize him, but to his surprise he is recognized as someone else, a man named Rinehart. He finds that Rinehart was many things to many people, seemingly all at the same time. “He was a broad man. A man with parts who got around” (498). The realization of Rinehart’s ability to play many roles simultaneously leads the narrator to consider for the first time the idea of the possibilities of life. “His world was possibility and he knew it. . . . The world in which we lived was without boundaries” (498). For the first time he realizes that it is possible to live in more than one reality at a time. He now sees the possibility of saying one thing, and doing another.

This change in the narrator’s attitude is directly related to his “coming-to-know” of Rinehart. By not only witnessing someone who lives in many worlds at once, but by actually being repeatedly mistaken for him, the narrator begins to see the possibilities that exist in his own world. He begins to understand the fluidity of identity. “If dark glasses and a white hat could blot out my identity so quickly, who actually was who?” he asks (493). He realizes that he has been acting foolishly by limiting himself to a narrow self-definition. This new understanding affects not only the way he sees himself, but how he sees himself in relation to other people. When he goes to speak to Hambro he thinks, “I could feel some deep change. It was as though my discovery of Rinehart had opened a gulf between us . . . so great that neither could grasp the emotional tone of the other” (501). Then Brother Hambro tells the narrator that the Harlem district is to be sacrificed in the interest of the greater good of the Brotherhood.

It is at this time that the narrator decides to use Rinehartism to get even. Armed with this new knowledge concerning the possibilities of identity, and faced with the abandonment of his people and himself by the Brotherhood, he sets out to construct himself anew. While pretending to be working for the Brotherhood, he can actually be working to undermine them. “For now I saw that I could agree with Jack without agreeing. . . . I would have to move them [Harlem] without myself being moved . . . I’d have to do a Rinehart” (507). He decides to follow his grandfather’s advice and “ . . . overcome them with yeses, undermine them with grins, . . . agree them to death and destruction” (508). This duplicity is new to the narrator. Though he might not always have been certain of his own motives, he never sought to mislead anyone. Now he plans not only to give false information to the Brotherhood, he plans to spy on them by entering into the confidence of one of the big shots’ wives.

Invisible Man is a novel that is very concerned with the idea of identity. Up to chapter twenty-three the narrator has formed his sense of self around that which was necessary for him to fit in. His single minded desire to succeed, first at college, then in the work force, and finally in the Brotherhood, is reflected by the narrowness of how he defines himself. Though he often questions the roles he is forced to play, play them he does. Until he discovers Rinehart, he does not entertain the idea that he could maintain multiple identities, living in one while projecting another to those around him. When he does learn of “Rinehart the rounder” and his split personalities, he realizes that he has been defining himself in terms of how society, particularly white society, wants to see him (or not see him). He sees that “ . . . Jack and Norton and Emerson . . . were very much the same, each attempting to force his picture of reality upon [him] and neither giving a hoot in hell for how things looked to [him]” (508). What he has learned from Rinehart is that “freedom was not only the recognition of necessity, it was the recognition of possibility” (499). Suddenly he feels a new and frightening sense of this freedom. He realizes that he no longer has to hide his past, nor hide from it, for it is that past which defines him. He begins to see that it is the inability of society to see him as other than a “ . . . material, a natural resource to be used” (508) that has caused his identity crisis. Now that he is aware of how he is “unseen” by society, he embraces his invisibility with the intent of using it against the very forces that made him invisible to begin with.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sutpen and Gatsby: The Tragedy of Self-made Men

This is a comparison of Jay Gatsby, from Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Thomas Sutpen from Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom!.

Sutpen and Gatsby: The Tragedy of Self-made Men

The characters of Thomas Sutpen and Jay Gatsby are both examples of the American myth of the self-made man. Though their stories and their characters differ somewhat, the motif of the determined individual pulling himself up from impoverished obscurity and rising to the highest levels of society is common to both. Both novels suggest that attempting to create one’s own identity according to some kind of plan or design that is based on an idealization can only result in disillusionment and eventual collapse when the designs are corrupted by reality.

In both Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! and Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, we are introduced to characters who feel compelled to “pass” in a higher level of the social hierarchy than the one in which they were born. Both Gatsby and Sutpen believe that the key to achieving this goal is money, and both are successful in obtaining it. The difference between what drives the two characters is that while Gatsby seeks to fulfill some kind of romantic illusion, Sutpen is motivated by vengeance for being slighted as a child. Gatsby’s motivation is to fulfill some idealized version of social grace by entering Daisy’s world through the back door. Sutpen’s is to defeat those who snubbed him by insuring that his own son will never receive the same slight.

The history of the characters is similar. Both come from poor rural backgrounds from which they escaped at an early age in order to pursue some dream or design. Both possess the ability to focus on their design to the exclusion of any other considerations. This ability is manifested in both characters as a kind of innoncence as to the possibility of failure. However, while Gatsby gives the general impression of being a decent, if not entirely honest fellow, Sutpen exudes an aura of evil. Part of this difference comes from his motivations, and part comes from his methods. While Gatsby seems to be content by doing self-improvement exercises and ingratiating himself to people who can help him like Wolfshiem and Dan Cody, Sutpen uses animal agression against people like the schoolmaster, who told him of the riches of the Indies, and the rebellious slaves in Haiti. Also, Gatsby is portrayed as someone who is desperately attempting to conform to some kind of ideal of social grace--that is, he tries to put on a great show of manners in regards to his reintroduction to Daisy, and in his “legitimate” relationships in general. In contrast, Sutpen makes no attempt to adopt the social amenities of upper class society. He still brawls with the slaves and doesn’t even attempt to conceal his contempt for women and people who have “black blood” in their veins, as evidenced by his treatment of Miss Rosa and his first wife and son.

Both characters started out near the bottom of the social hierarchy. They were about as low as a white person could be in their respective time periods. Both rose to the highest levels, at least financially, before coming to their tragic ends. Sutpen’s trajectory was more obtuse than Gatsby’s. He rose more slowly, achieved more, and then began his descent before being murdered. Gatsby, on the other hand rose quickly, peaked early, and was snuffed out before he had a chance to actually establish himself in society. Much of this difference is a function of the time period covered in the novels, that of Absalom being decades while Gatsby takes place in a matter of years.

In both novels, unforeseen events took place that interrupted the designs of the characters. In Gatsby’s case, it was not so much the car accident that destroyed his plans as it was the simple fact that his image of Daisy was inaccurate. Though she was unhappy with Tom, she had no intention of leaving him for Gatsby. It is also doubtful that she had been waiting for Gatsby as he imagined. Gatsby never had the chance to find this out for sure, but Nick saw it. If he hadn’t been killed, Gatsby would have seen it soon enough. His carefully constructed identity would have crumbled when its purpose for being suddenly ceased to exist. Jay Gatsby’s plan allowed for no such contingencies. Even had he lived, the Jay Gatsby that Jimmy Gatz created would no longer have existed.

An integral part of Gatsby’s design was his pursuit of Daisy. His entire identity was created in order to impress her. Having known Daisy for only a brief period of time followed by an abrupt parting, most of Gatsby’s image of her had to be manufactured. His image of her was that she never loved anyone but him and that she only married Tom because Gatsby never returned. In his self-created scheme of things, Gatsby believed that all he had to do was show up and impress Daisy with the fact that he was wealthy enough to support her, and she would leave Tom. He had invested so much in his constructed reality that it was impossible for him not only to deal with any divergence from his plan, but even to accept that such a divergence was possible.

In Sutpen’s case his design fails because he is unwilling to accept any reality that falls short of the one he has created in his mind. Even though no one would ever have known about his first wife’s ancestry he finds it necessary to renounce her and their son. It is at this point that his plan begins to fall apart. Later on this first mistake becomes compounded with the arrival of Bon on the scene. Still Sutpen is unable to allow for this variation from his design and so refuses to aknowledge Bon’s relation to him, even in such a way that only the two of them would know. It is this rigid adherance to the predetermined course of events as set forward by his design that causes the collapse of his dreams.

Originally, Sutpen’s goal was to somehow defeat the caste system that allowed him to be slighted. The only way he knew how to beat someone was by making the playing field even. Following the rifle analogy, he set out to obtain what his betters had in order to overcome them. What he didn’t understand, and what his design did not account for, was that by obtaining all the wealth and power of his enemies, he also became one of them. Without realizing it, he adopted the very values that had caused him to be insulted in the first place, namely racism and classism. These values were what prevented him from being able to accept Bon and his mother.

Faulkner and Fitzgerald both deal with the concept of identity and how it is constructed. In creating the characters of Sutpen and Gatsby they adhere to the modernist idea that identity is in some way the sum of many different and constantly shifting perspectives. What sets up these two characters as being tragic is their own view of themselves and the selves they try to project on the rest of the world. They are both limited in their view of themselves because they can only see themselves in light of their particular design. These designs are flawed because they attempt to control the characters’ worlds in ways that are beyond human ability. They, like everyone else, are subject to the arbitrariness of life, yet their plans do not allow for such arbitrariness. When something unplanned for comes along, they lack the imagination and the flexibility to incorporate it into their design and consequently the design falls apart. In short, since identity is necessarily and inescapably something more than a single-minded idealization, the dedication to a rigid plan for the creation of one’s own identity is a course that is doomed to failure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Sonnet: Syllables, Meter, Rhythm, and Feet

Syllables, Meter, Rhythm, and Feet

Syllables are pieces of sound. All words have at least one syllable. Syllables can be just one letter or a group of letters - it's the sound that matters.

One way to understand what syllables are is to think of a song, like "Happy Birthday." Each syllable is a different beat in the song, i.e: "Hap - py Birth - day to you."

These words have 1 syllable: walk, go, home.
These words have 2 syllables: happy, birthday, because
These words have 3 syllables: September, underneath, Internet

In English, syllables normally have a vowel or the letter 'y' in them.
Mon - day Syl -la - ble

Meter is the rhythm established by a poem. It is dependent on the number of syllables in a line.

In addition to how many syllables are in a poem, its Meter is usually also dependent on the way those syllables are accented. This rhythm is often described as a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.

In English words, some syllables are stressed more than others; We say them more forcefully. Usually, English words stress the first syllable.
Mon - day Jan - u - a - ry

(Be careful though, because the stress on words with a prefix usually changes to the second syllable rather than the first, for example hap - py or un - hap - py.)

What is a foot?

The rhythmic unit is often described as a foot; patterns of feet can be identified and labeled. A foot may be iambic, which follows a pattern of unstressed/stressed syllables.

For example, "The DOG / went WALK/ing DOWN / the ROAD / and BARKED.”

This simple sentence has five feet. “The dog” is one foot. It has two syllables. “The” is unstressed, while “dog” is stressed. You can see from the next foot that sometimes words can be divided between more than one foot. “Went walk” is one foot, while the end of the word walking appears in the next foot: “-ing down.”

Because there are five iambs, or feet, this line follows the conventions of iambic pentameter (pent = five), the common form in Shakespeare's time.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
-From Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 130”

Writing Assignment: The Sonnet

Here is the full text of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130:

1 My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
2 Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
3 If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
4 If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

5 I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
6 But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
7 And in some perfumes is there more delight
8 Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

9 I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
10 That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
11 I grant I never saw a goddess go;
12 My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

13 And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
14 As any she belied with false compare.

Notice how there are fourteen lines that are divided into three groups of four lines (quatrains), and one group of two lines (a couplet).

For your assignment today, you will begin to write your own sonnet. Don’t let Shakespeare’s style of writing scare you. In your poem you won’t have to rhyme or follow a particular rhythm. All you have to do is make sure that each line has ten syllables. Also, for this assignment, you only have to write the first four lines (the first quatrain).

In these four lines you will introduce the theme or main idea of your poem. You can choose any topic, but it is helpful to remember to be as concrete as possible. In other words, it is easier to write about a real-life problem (like your school exams or a bad haircut) than it is to write about an abstract idea (like happiness or love).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Descripción de un animal misterioso

Descripción de un animal misterioso

¿Puede Ud. advinar qué animal soy? Si fuera pescador, lo sabría. No tengo aletas, pero los pescadores tienen que cogerme antes de coger un pez. También si fuera granjero me conocería. Vivo en las granjas con otros animales. No tengo cuernos como una vaca ni alas como un pollo. A mí me gusta el barro, pero no soy un puerco. Ayudo al granjero en el cultivación de la tierra, pero no soy el caballo del arado. Suelo andar siempre por la noche porque tengo miedo de la luz del sol (no, no soy un murciélago). El aspecto irónico de la situación es que aunque nosotros, los de mi especie, casi siempre estamos muy cercanos, normalmente anadamos sin ser vistos.

¿Requiere Ud. de más pistas para comprender quien soy? Pues, bien. Le daré más indirectas. No vivo sólo en las granjas, vivo en muchos otros lugares, también. Vivo en bosques y parques y aún en su propio patio de recreo. Normalmente prefiero vivir en un ambiente húmedo. Me gusta comer las hojas que se caen apartado de los árboles y otros materiales de las plantas. ¿Ha adivinado mi identidad todavía?

Tal vez si le revelo un poquito más sobre mí, entenderá el enigma. Vivo en un túnel, o más bien una serie de túneles subterráneos. Desde el momento en que vivo oscuro, no tengo ojos ni orejas, pero soy muy sensible a las vibraciones de cosas que se mueven cerca de mí. Se puede encontrar mi tipo en todos partes del mundo. En Seattle (y la mayor parte del Hemisferio Occidental) mis parientes son rojizo-castaño en color. Mis primos en Inglaterra son verdes. Yo, como la mayor parte de mis parientes, crecerá ser nada más que diez pulgadas en longitud. Mis parientes en Australia, sin embargo, ¡ puede crecer a diez pies! ¿Sabe ahora lo que soy?

Tengo muchos otros parientes (más o menos distante) que viven en lugares diferentes y que hacen cosas diferentes. Algunos de ellos aun viven dentro de otros animales. En lugar de ser útil, como mis hermanos y yo, ellos están dañosos. Es por éste y por otro razones similares que a casi nadie nos le gustamos.

¿Ya ha descifrado mi seceto? No hay mucho más que puedo decirlo sin revelar mi identidad. Sin embargo, mi secreto no es muy difícil adivinar. De hecho, se ha dicho que mi tipo es tan ordinario como la tierra.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gatsby Chapter Nine: Nick Goes Home

More on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.


In the final chapter of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, two interesting things happen simultaneously. On the one hand, many of the myths that surround Gatsby are dispelled. Gatsby’s father, Mr. Gatz, sheds light on “Jimmy’s” early life. The mysterious call and the revelations of Meyer Wolfsheim help to clarify the nature of Gatsby’s vocation at the time of his death. Missing pieces of the puzzle of the title character’s life fall into place. At the same time Nick is going through a kind of moral transition while doing some myth building of his own.

The first part is Nick, alone with Gatsby and a crowd of strangers. He realizes that he has become responsible for taking care of Gatsby’s affairs “because no one else was interested . . . with that intense personal interest to which everyone has some vague right at the end” (165). Neither Daisy nor Wolfsheim can be reached. Nick searches in vain for some clue as to who he should call. The next day he sends the butler to Wolfsheim, who sends a note in return. He says that he cannot get involved in Gatsby’s death. Nick begins to have “a feeling of defiance, of scornful solidarity between Gatsby and me against them all” (166). It is at this point that Nick’s image of himself as Gatsby’s best and only friend begins to form.

Later, Nick receives a mysterious call from Chicago, apparently from one of Gatsby’s business associates who has not yet heard of his demise. Though it is the shortest section of the chapter, it is very powerful in bringing the character of Gatsby into focus. At this point it is clear that he is involved in extralegal activities. Still, Nick feels compelled to answer for him by informing the caller that Mr. Gatsby is dead. Nick’s perception of Gatsby’s abandonment grows.

Three days after the murder Nick gets a telegram from Gatsby’s father, a Mr. Gatz, asking to hold the funeral until he arrives. Mr. Gatz apparently has his own version of the Gatsby’s myth. All he knows about his son is what is represented on the photograph he has of Gatsby’s house. Nick assures Mr. Gatz that he and Gatsby were close friends, in effect strengthening the image he is forming about their relationship.

After Mr. Gatz falls asleep, “the boarder” calls asking for his shoes. Nick is angered to find out that he doesn’t plan to attend Gatsby’s funeral and hangs up. Then Nick goes to Meyer Wolfsheim’s office to get him to come to the funeral. Wolfsheim reveals another part of Gatsby’s past, but still refuses to get mixed up in the murder by attending the funeral.

By now, Nick’s role as Gatsby’s only true friend is firmly embedded in his mind. He is the only one who really knows this Gatsby character, not his gangster “gonnegtions,” not his hangers-on, not even his father.

When Nick returns from Wolfsheim’s office, he finds Mr. Gatz wandering around Gatsby’s house in awe of his son’s possessions. He shows Nick the plan “Jimmy” wrote in the back of a book. To him, it seems to be clear evidence of the young Gatsby’s potential for success, and it reflects the spirit of distant hope that so impresses Nick.

No one comes to the funeral. At the cemetery, there is only Nick, Mr. Gatz, the minister, five servants, and the postman. At the last minute “Owl Eyes” arrives. Ironically, the only one of the party guests to show up to the burial, he is one of those guests who never actually met Gatsby. All the others are there either out of curiosity or obligation.

In the next part Nick makes a kind of “declaration of self.” He describes what the West means to him, especially what coming home to it means. After the war Nick had been restless, and went to the East in search of excitement. He realizes that he has been led away from the things that are important to him by the glare of big city lights and all that comes with them. He decides to return west. This is an important moment. Nick has decided to reject the world of the East and all the illusions it brings with it.

Before going home, however, Nick has to finish up his business with Jordan. Their last meeting is brief and not without the expression of some hard feelings. Jordan calls into question Nick’s honesty in regard to their relationship. Nick, having realized that his excursion into the East has been illusory, replies that he is “ . . . five years too old to lie to [himself] and call it honor” (179). He seems to be saying, both by breaking with Jordan and by returning home, that he now sees that he was fooling himself in thinking that life in East was right for him.

Nick runs into Tom and confronts him about Wilson. He finds that, indeed, Tom told Wilson that it was Gatsby’s car, that Gatsby had killed his wife. Nick sees the futility of arguing the point with him. He can’t condone what Tom has done, nor admit to liking him, but he still seems to reserve judgment and shakes his hand.

The final part is Nick talking about the cab driver, his spending his Saturday nights in the city to avoid the ghosts of Gatsby’s parties, the obscene word, and his lying on the sand and contemplating the wonder of everything. His mind wanders to the wonder that the first Dutch colonizers must have felt on arriving in the “new world” and the boundless hope that it must have inspired. To Nick the most wondrous thing about Gatsby was his capacity for infinite hope, his single-minded purposefulness. He must feel a certain kinship for someone who seems to have in abundance the quality that he so values in himself. For, as he makes clear, Nicks values the habit of reserving judgment, and as he says early in the novel, “Reserving judgment is a matter of infinite hope” (1).

Chapter Nine reveals that the novel was really about Nick and the journey he has undergone since his return from the war. It shows how he, a restless young man yearning for meaning in life, became caught up in the illusory world of the high-society scene of the early ‘20’s. Led willingly into the intrigues of the people around him, he learns that beneath the surface nothing in this world is real. He reaches thirty as the novel comes to a climax, an age that represents an important transition to him. He can no longer allow himself to be carried away by the mythologies and illusions of others, but must remain true to his own mythology; his Middle West, perhaps his girl back home, and his friend Gatsby, who “ . . . turned out all right at the end” (2).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Something Kind of Creepy

I was looking at the statistics of who has visited my blog again. I'm starting to think that the less I know about who is out there looking at blogs, the better.

Someone from Hong Kong entered a Google search for "punishment stomach burst." Scary, eh? Anyway, because in my fairy tale the troll's stomach bursts, and because another post I have mentions punishment (actually it says that my blog doesn't have any capital punishment pictures), he or she found his or her way to my blog.

Well, I guess I can't complain. At least someone out there is accidentally finding me...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dangerous Scientific Experiments

Some people have been messing around with mentos and coke. Here are the videos on YouTube: mentos and coke.

My friend Bernie did his own experiment with Reeses Pieces and Sierra Mist.

Scary stuff.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Essay on Chapter Four of "The Great Gatsby"

How Do the Parts of Chapter Four Fit Together?

I think that the parts of chapter four serve two purposes. The first purpose is to expand on the myth of Gatsby. The second is to show how Nick is being drawn into the world of illusion that surrounds Gatsby.

The first segment of the chapter is simply Nick listing the quantity and variety of people who take advantage of Gatsby’s parties. Show business people, politicians, high society and low attend, usually without ever actually seeing their host. Nick seems to view all of these people with some measure of contempt, yet he is attracted enough to the phenomena of their revelry to record their presence.

The next part is Gatsby telling Nick his life story. It is so obviously a fabrication that Nick is hard pressed to keep from laughing. He doesn’t laugh, though, nor does he make any attempt to get the truth out of, or even to let Gatsby know that he knows that the story is made up. Nick would probably want us to believe that he is just “reserving judgment,” but it seems more like he is unwilling to pop Gatsby’s--or his own--bubble. In fact, that seems to be the case through most of the novel. As long as things are going well, Nick seems to go along with them.

The next part, lunch with Meyer Wolfsheim, adds another layer to the mystique of Gatsby. Wolfsheim is obviously a shady character, yet Gatsby seems eager for Nick to meet him. I have to admit that the logic of this part eludes me, but I think that Gatsby’s purpose in this chapter is to impress Nick sufficiently that he will go along with the plan to get him and Daisy together. Maybe he intended buy Nick off by making a “gonnegtion” between Nick and Wolfsheim, but aborted the attempt when he saw Nick’s surprise. Or he may just have been trying to impress Nick with how gonnected he himself was. In any case it tends to heighten the mystery of just who this Gatsby fellow really is. When he disappears after being introduced to Tom, this mystery intensifies even more.

The next part is what Joyce might call the epiphany of the chapter. We finally get enough information from Jordan to make sense of Gatsby’s bizarre behavior. The realization that Gatsby was the love of Daisy’s youth brings together all of the seemingly unrelated parts of the novel together. The hidden relationship between Daisy and Gatsby ties all the characters together in a new way, deepening the significance of Nick’s relationships with both the Buchanans and with Daisy. Nick becomes the catalyst for Gatsby’s plan.

The final part of the chapter show us how much Nick has been drawn into the world of New York society in general, and of Gatsby in particular. Not only has he allowed himself to become part of Gatsby’s plan, but he has become involved with Jordan. The romance that surrounds him has swept him away. The fact that it involves infidelity between Daisy and Tom reflects interestingly on Nick’s own predicament with his girl back home.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

John Rogers Elementary School

I went to John Rogers Elementary School when I was a kid. That was sometime around 1971 to 1978, unless my math is worse than I realized.

La poema épica: Un género literario

La poema épica: Un género literario

En la literatura, hay muchos géneros diferentes. Los géneros son clasificaciones de varias formas literarias. Cada forma tiene ciertos aspectos distintos de las otras. La poesía, por ejemplo, tiene el aspecto de un énfasis en la rima y el metro. Usualmente la poesía usa palabras muy figurativas, también. En cambio, la prosa da énfasis a la claridad. Los dos géneros pueden estar divididos en subdivisiones. En la prosa hay obras de ficción no novelesca. Hay novelas, cuentos, libros de texto, y anuncios y letreros. Todos se pueden incluido en el género de la prosa. La poesía tiene ciertos subdivisiones también. Hay poemas cortos como el haiku de Japón, poemas un poco más largos como los sonetos de Shakespeare, y poemas épicas como El Cid o las obras de Homer. En este ensayo quiero hablar un poco sobre estos ultimos poemas.

El término épico (de epos del griego, que significa "palabra" o "cuento") se aplica a una variedad de obras imaginativas, de la poesía oral más antigua como las obras de Homer o ciertas novelas modernas como Cien Años de Soledad por Gabriel García Márquez. Un poema épico es una narrativa larga que describe eventos importantes en la vida de un héroe central. Usualmente este héroe funciona en la obra como una representación de su cultura. Los primeros poemas épicos se compusieron antes de la invención de la escritura. en una forma de verso que desarrolló por muchas generaciones de bardos orales, quienes fusionaron narrativa original con frases tradicionales. Normalmente episódico, estos poemas tratan de personajes muy típicos sin mucha dimensión en lugar de personajes polifacéticos e incluye símiles detallados y digresiones extendidas. Estos primeros poemas orales son depósitos de mito en el que los héroes humanos actúan recíprocamente con los dioses.

La Poema del Cid es el mejor ejemplo de una poema épica, o cantar de gesta, en la lengua española. Fue escrito en 1140 (más o menos), y trata de las hazañas del héroe nacional de España, Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar. Para la mayor parte la obra es realista y tiene una buena base en la historia. La composición evita los elementos fantásticos que se puede encontrar en los poemas épicas de otros países. La trama describe el destierro injusto de El Cid de Castilla, su perdón, el matrimonio y traición de sus hijas por su enemigo, el Leonese arrogante, y la venganza del Cid.

Nosotros podemos aprender mucho de la cultura y historia de un país por su literatura. Un género muy importante en esto es la poema épica porque nos da perspicacia de los personajes y mitos del pasado que tomaron parte in la formación de la mentalidad nacional de hoy día.

Double Ten Day: Taiwan History

This entry is about a month late, but I'm still going to put it in.

October ten is Taiwan's "birthday." Something like American Fourth of July. They do the same kind of stuff we Americans do. Take the day off, have a barbecue, and blow stuff up.

Here is a little background on Ten Ten Day. There are a few typos, but they are not mine.

Quoted from Taiwan Magazine, Oct. 2006 --

Double Ten

On Tuesday, October 10, the Republic of China celebrates Double Ten, its national holiday. There will be festive entertainment throughout the island, the national flag will fly everywhere, and the exterior of public buildings will be lit in brilliant colors. A National Day rally and parade, reviewed by the President, will be held in the morning at the president building square, with a lot of people participating. The president building in Taipei fully lit inside and out, will be particularly beautiful to observe at night.

The significance of October 10th dates from that day in 1911, which is considered to be the date of the establishment of the Republic of China.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, who had been exiled because of his involvement in the anti-Ch'ing movement, organized the Revolutionary Alliance, based in Tokyo. This organization sponsored a network of revolutionaries inside China. On October 10th a popular rebellion broke out in Wuhan on the Yangtze River, in Szechuan province, and within days other provinces, inspired by its success, began declaring their independence also. With the overthrow of the 267-year Ch'ing dynasty of the Manchus, and the abdication of the child Emperor Pu Yi, the revolution ended more than 46 centuries of monarchical rule in China. The first republic in Asia was established.

Chinese revolutionary leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen, 45 years old and the first graduated of Hong Kong's college of Medicine, returned from 16 years of exile and on December 29. he was elected president of the United Provinces of China by a evolutionary provisional assembly at Nani. On January 1, 1912, Dr. Sun Yat-sen assumed the provisional presidency of the new republic. Its foundation would be the Three Principle the People: Nationalism, Democracy and Social Wellbeing.

Northern China continued to be effectively ruled by supporters of the Ch'ing dynasty, however, and many years of civil war ensued between rival militarists and Dr. Sun Yat-republicans. It was not until 1926, following the Northern Expedition led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, that the Chinese nation was united under the central government. The nationalist forces, led by Chiang Kai-shek eventually occupied most of China, setting up a Kuomintang regime. Internal strife continued, however.

With the invasion of Manchuria by the Japanese in the early 1930s and the Japanese efforts t China's northern provinces, the Kuomintang government was forced to retreat first to Hankow and then to Chungking. At the end of the Second World War civil war began again between nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-shek and communist forces under Mao Zedong. The Chiang Kai-shek forces retreated from mainland to Taiwan.

The achievement of the Republic of China onTaiwan since that time, have been truly remarkable, and economic and social progress are continuing without respite. The transformation from poverty to prosperity, from one party rule to multiparty democracy, and from authoritarian rule observance of human rights, stand out as an example to much of Asia and the world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Capital Punishment Pictures?

Okay, this is creepy. I was just looking at the stats of people who have accessed my blog (yes, I can see where you come from, and what page referred you to me), and I saw that one person found my blog--by accident--when he or she was doing a search for capital punishment pictures. Let me assure you my blog is capital punishment picture free.

They were sent to my Cheng Huang Temple post, so maybe those three words appear randomly in that text... yes... I believe they might.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hsinchu Cheng Huang Temple (城隍廟)

These pictures are of the Cheng Huang temple in Hsinchu, Taiwan. I have pedaled, motored, and wandered past this temple scores of times since I started living in Hsinchu, but until recently I'd never been inside. In fact, I didn't even realize that there was a temple there because it is so surrounded by food stands that you can't see its exterior.

An interesting thing about this temple is that it is the main temple of its kind in Taiwan. From what I can tell, and this might be totally wrong so don't quote me on your term papers, but I think that major temples have a geographical hierarchy in which they can be named the official temple of the prefecture, province, or capital in regards to the worship of its particular god. Apparently the religious capitals don't necessarily correspond with the political ones. In the case of Cheng Huang, Hsinchu hosts the capital temple.

Cheng, roughly translated, means "city" or "wall," or "city wall." Huang, as far as I can tell, means "moat" or "ditch with no water." So depending on how you look at it, Cheng Huang is either the city god, or the city wall/moat god, or maybe the god that protects the city. What I've learned that he is more of a god of punishment than anything else.

Cheng Huang's role, or at least one of them, is to protect the social peace. He is the ruler of the Chinese equivalent of Hades, or the underworld. As such, he serves as the punisher of the living or the dead, particularly law breakers (see photos of the policemen below).

This is the angry police officer. He is responsible for the apprehension and punishment of bad people. Note his cranky expression and his lack of a beard. Sometimes he is depicted sporting a set of nasty looking Chinese handcuffs.

This is the happy police officer. He is responsible for finding lost items and solving problems. He has a happy expression, and a beard!

This is professor Chiang explaining the significance of the figures, the offering of food, and the role of the Taoist priest to us.

This is a god whose name escapes me. His two-tone appearance has to do with his connection to both the world of the living, and the world of the dead (sorry, no Star Trek connections).

I don't know the significance of the rest of these pictures, but they give you an idea of what the temple looks like on the inside. I actually tried to take a lot more pictures, but my camera battery was dying, so what you see is what you get.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Bodas de sangre, “la película”

This essay is written about Carlos Saura's

film and dance adaptation of Federico García Lorca's play Bodas de sangre.

Bodas de sangre, “la película”

A algunos de los estudiantes de nuestra clase, la película de Carlos Saura, Bodas de Sangre, no les gustó. Para la mayoría de ellos, el problema fue la primera parte en que podemos ver entre bastidores a los bailes y músicos antes de la danza. Pero, para mí, la primera parte es una parte integrante en lo que hace de la película una obra de arte en sí mismo. Por supuesto, Saura no incluyó la primera parte por casualidad, sino por razones de la “licencia poética.”

Hay mucha evidencia que la película de Saura es una obra en sí misma. Podemos encontrar con la evidencia el hecho de que Saura hiciera ciertas decisiones sobre el contenido de la película. Incluyó e excluyó algunos elementos de las obras de Federico García Lorca y Antonio Gades, y añadió otros elementos nuevos. Por ejemplo, todo el diálogo fue excluído. Por otra parte, las canciones fueron incluidas. En el baile, la escena de la pelea entre Leonardo y el Novio fue añadida a la obra de teatro, y en la película las primeras escenas fueron añadidas al baile. Estos cambios de la obra original dan apoyo al concepto de la película como obra de arte separada de las otras obras.

Es sólo en la última parte, la parte de la danza, que la película se refiere directamente a las otras obras. Aun en esta parte hay diferencias entre la película y la obra de teatro, pero la mayor parte de estas diferencias ocurren porque la película es una interpretación de una interpretación. Los elementos de la obra de García Lorca que Gades no incluyó en su baile son evidentes en la película. Un ejemplo muy obvio es la exclusión de todo el diálogo. En lugar del diálogo, Gades y entonces Saura decidieron usar el baile para expresar las oraciones de los personajes. Pero la película de Saura no es simplemente un recuerdo de una obra de baile.

Hay distinciones entre la película y las otras obras en términos de énfasis, también. De hecho, en la película la danza sirve como el telón de fondo para un drama muy sutil. En el primer nivel, este drama trata de un grupo de artistas - bailes, músicos y cantantes - y su preparación para y ejecución de un ensayo general del baile Bodas de sangre. En otro nivel, el drama trata de los pensamientos introspectivos del coreógrafo. Finalmente, en el tercer nivel la drama trata del nacimiento de una obra maestra de baile.

Hay otras diferencias profundas entre las obras de García Lorca y Saura también. Por ejemplo, en la obra de teatro, el énfasis está en los elementos abstractos como el honor y el destino, y los personajes simbólicos como la Luna y la Mendiga, tanto como en el triángulo de amor o la acción de la trama. En la obra de García Lorca, el autor puede hablar más o menos directamente con su audiencia por el uso del diálogo y del simbolismo de los personajes y sus palabras. Pero en el baile y en la película, el énfasis es por necesidad en cosas más visuales. Es por eso que en el baile podemos ver la lucha entre Leonardo y El Novio, un suceso muy visual. También es porque no necesitamos comprender cosas históricas como los problemas entre las familias de los Félix y del Novio para comprender los sucesos de la danza.

Con su énfasis en la acción como en el baile, y en los otros niveles que no figuran en la obra original, la película hace muy claro que es más que una nueva versión de Bodas de sangre. Al contrario, es una nueva composición sobre un tema familiar. La película no es solamente la versión cinematográfica ni de la obra de teatro de Federico García Lorca, ni del baile flamenco de Antonio Gades, sino que se vale por sí misma como una obra de arte autónoma. La obra de teatro y la danza le dan énfasis al cuento que tuvo su origen en una noticia. La película de Carlos Saura, por otro lado, le da énfasis al drama que ocurre entre bastidores tanto como al cuento. De la misma manera que la obra de teatro tuvo su origen en un periódico pero Lorca la llevó a un nuevo nivel, la película de Carlos Saura tuvo su origen en la versión flamenca de Bodas de sangre y la llevó a un nivel distinto. De la misma manera que Bodas de sangre como obra de teatro es más que la noticia original, y Bodas de sangre como baile es algo más que la obra de teatro (o, de todos modos algo diferente), Bodas de sangre como película es otra vez más. Es el resultado de la visión e interpretación de un artista del cine.

Nathan Hale High School

I went to Nathan Hale High School in Seattle. We were the "Raiders." Our mascot was a revolutionary war minuteman named Randy. I didn't really like high school while it was happening to me, but looking back I guess I had it pretty good.

Here is the Alma Mater:

Through time we'll each go our way,
But still there'll be ties that will stay,
For we'll all remember the years we loved,
And the school our hearts hold dear.

For your pride, for your honor, for truth,
We pledge our full faith in you,
For your spirit true, you've much honor due,
We salute you NATHAN HALE!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another Essay on Joyce's "The Dead"

How Does Joyce Want Us to Evaluate Gabriel?

Throughout the story Joyce gives us an enormous amount of insight into Gabriel’s mind and soul. We see him as a man who is full of apprehensions and flaws. It is easy to take these flaws as evidence to Gabriel’s shallowness and lack of humanity. However, I think that Joyce had more in mind than to paint a portrait of a hollow, “flat” man. The fact is that we see much more of what is going on in Gabriel’s mind than anyone really sees in another person. Maybe even more than we usually see in ourselves. This insight that we have into the turmoil that seems to be going on in our hero’s mind is disquieting. His constant questioning of his own actions and thoughts makes us realize how often we find ourselves unsure and afraid. Luckily for us, mental health-wise, we seem to be able to gloss over moments of extreme self-doubt once the moment is over. The situation for Gabriel is different, though. All of his conscious thoughts are on record for us to review over and over again, unlike the situation in real-life where one moment’s anxiety melds into the next moment’s boredom or joy. In a living person this cycle repeats itself continuously, with the high points and low points having an effect of canceling each other out. We rarely have the opportunity to reflect backwards on what our emotional states were at a particular time in the past. I suppose that if we really knew anyone as intimately as we know Gabriel (at least for the one night), we might not like him. On the other hand, I think we have to admit that the portrayal of Gabriel is one that is very real and completely honest.

The final scene helps to make this all the more clear. Gabriel has had a stressful evening. He has fulfilled his social obligation to his aunts by attending their annual dance (anyone who has had to endure relatives during the holidays--even loved relatives--knows how crazy it can be) during which time he has had to screw up his courage to make a speech, the importance and appropriateness of which are dubious, but which is nonetheless expected as part of the tradition. Old, disturbing memories have been recalled as they often are on such occasions. The emotional chaos of the evening seems to have awakened a spark of love and desire towards his wife, yet even that becomes frustrated in light of the story of Michael Furey. Now Gretta is asleep and Gabriel’s emotions have calmed. He is overtaken by a feeling of detached melancholy. He is aware of his and his loved ones’ frailties and eventual mortality, and is deeply moved. A sense of perspective seems to have moved into his thoughts and he no longer dwells on his own petty failings.

I don’t really think that Gabriel and Gretta’s marriage is going to change significantly because of this episode. Certainly Gretta had no fears in relating the story to Gabriel. Of course it would be difficult for a husband to find out that the only way to outdo his wife’s former suitor would be to die for her. But it seems like Gabriel’s reaction to the revelation about Michael Furey is only seen accurately when looked at in relation to the state of heightened passion that he was in at the time. Considering the intensity of his feelings towards his wife, as well as his expectations, it is easy to see why he crashes so hard upon finding that his wife’s emotions are focused on something completely different.

All in all, I think that Joyce has successfully attempted to depict a real human being, complete with insecurities and faults. It is natural for us to look at this individual critically, to examine his contradictions and complexities. The story could have had a very different effect if it had come from the point of view that saw Gabriel as a pompous fool, or a martyr suffering the indignities of a boorish society. But Joyce chose to show us all sides of Gabriel, even the insides. I am not sure if he wanted us to like Gabriel, and I, for one, reserve judgment. What I think he wanted was to create as honest a portrayal of a person living in that time and place as he could.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Special

The Special

There once was a young student who, though good at heart and quite intelligent, had made many bad decisions about which friends to choose and how to spend his money. Because of this he became quite impoverished and ended up living under a bridge along with the rough sort of people who inhabit such places. Now, for a hobo or ogre, the underside of a bridge is not such a bad place. But for a student it is one of the worst places of all to live. There is little light for studying and the drinking and carousing of the other inhabitants is very distracting.

Despite all of this the student worked hard and impressed his professors as a very able scholar. They also enjoyed his lively wit. Indeed, they often had difficulty maintaining their stuffy countenances when they saw his smiling face peering at them from the back row of the lecture hall. He always sat in the back because he was embarassed of the tattered appearance of his clothing.

One day the young student's professors had a meeting to discuss his case. They knew of his circumstances from overhearing the gossip of the other students who were always eager to insult him in order to make themselves look better.

"He is a intelligent lad and an able scholar." said the first professor. "I believe we should grant him a scholarship so that he might continue his studies in comfort."

"Besides being intelligent and scholarly, he is generous and good at heart." said the second professor. "For this reason I believe we should grant him a scholarship so that he might continue his studies in comfort."

"Not only is he intelligent, scholarly, and good at heart, but he has a lively wit and often makes me laugh with the comments he makes, though of course I must pretend to be stifling a cough as not to appear overly good-natured to the other students. For this reason I believe we should grant him a scholarship so that he might continue his studies in comfort."

Now the last of the young student's professors stepped up. He was the wisest of all the professors at the university. He cared for the student very much, perhaps more than any of the other professors. However, he knew in his heart that although the student was good, intelligent, and witty, he also lacked one characteristic that was as important as all of the others combined. And this was prudence.

"It is true that our young scholar is a good, intelligent, generous, and witty student." he began, "But he lacks one important characteristic that is necessary for him to be successful in the university. Indeed, it is the lack of this characteristic that has caused him to be in his present situation."

"What characteristic is that?" the other professors asked.

"He lacks prudence." replied the wisest professor. "Without it we can be certain that any scholarship we grant him will soon be wasted on merriment and he will once again find himself living under a bridge."

The other professors nodded their heads and stroked their beards in agreement.

"What, then, should we do?" asked the first professor.

"Yes, what should we do?" asked the second professor.

"Tell us what we should do." said the third professor.

"We must go to the dean and explain this student's case. It is clear that the four of us hold him too dear to our hearts to do what is truly good for him."

Now, the professors knew that the dean was a harsh and stupid man who had gained his post not by being a good scholar, but by being very tight-fisted with money. Still, they believed that he would know how to teach the young student prudence because prudence is often confused with stinginess, even by wise ones such as themselves.

When the professors had presented the student's case to the dean he let out a loud snort of contempt.

"He shall not recieve one penny from the university!" He bellowed. "I will not condone the financing of his lifestyle. Imagine granting a scholarsip to one who consorts with hobos and ogres. It is unheard of! It will not be done."

However, the professors pleaded that the student be given a chance to learn prudence. And, since the dean was truly quite stupid, they were able to sway him to their way of thinking.

"All right, all right." he said. "I will give him a chance. As you have pointed out there is no one better to teach prudence than myself. I will propose three tests to this student, and if he passes them all, he shall recieve a scholarship and will continue his studies in comfort."

The next day the student was called before the dean. At first he was quite afraid of the dean and had to wind his legs together to keep his knees from knocking. After a few moments in the dean's presence, however, he saw how stupid he truly was and lost all fear.

"As you may know," the dean began, "you have been recommended for a scholarship by your professors. However, it has been brought to my attention that you are a very imprudent young man and cannot be trusted to spend your disbursment wisely. Still, you are a good student. For this reason I am willing to give you a chance to learn prudence. I will give you one hundred dollars. With this money you must do three things. First, you must find and purchase a book that has the answers to every question in the world. Second, you must prepare a meal that will satisfy the most voracious appetite. Third, you must invest what money is left so that it earns enough that you can return the hundred dollars to the university, plus interest."

The young student took the hundred dollars and headed straight to the bookstore. He already knew which book he would purchase, and soon he was on his way back to the dean's office.

"Your honor," he began,"I have brought you the book that you requested."

"So soon?" the dean asked skeptically. "Show me this wonderous book!"

So the student laid the book before him. It was a large dictionary.

"Ho ho!" the dean laughed. "You are not so smart as your professors believed! This is a simple dictionary like the one I already have on my shelf. I am afraid you have failed your test." The dean was glad of this since nothing pleased his stingy and wicked heart more than to deny someone a scholarship.

"But, sir," the student replied, "this book has every word in the world. Therefore all one need do to answer every question in the world is to arrange the words correctly. Naturally one who is as wise as yourself can see this."

When the dean heard this, he was dumbfounded. He sat silent for a long moment while he tried to think of a flaw in the young student's argument. As he was truly quite stupid he was unable to, so he nodded his head in assent.

"I deem your argument to be valid." he said. "Now, using the money you have left, you must prepare a meal that will satisfy even the most voracious appetite." And in his wicked and stingy heart he was glad because he knew that after buying such a fine dictionary, the student would be hard pressed to do so.

The student left the dean's office unsure of how to proceed. Though he was intelligent enough to be considered crafty, he was above all very honest. He would not lie to himself or to the dean about who had the most voracious appetite. It was beyond a doubt the great evil troll who lived under the same bridge as the young student himself, but on the other side of the river. This troll was known to wade across the river and snatch up a handful of hobos to take home for his dinner. Even the ogres who lived under the bridge feared the troll's evil. He would not eat them, for it disagrees with a troll's digestion to eat another evil being, but he often killed them simply for the sport of it.

The student doubted if he had enough money left to feed this most voracious of appetites, and even if he did there would be none left to invest. He wandered about thinking how he should proceed. He thought he was heading towards his home under the bridge, but suddenly he found himself face to face with the very troll he was thinking about. Lost in his thoughts, he had gone down under the wrong side of the bridge.

"Who is this tasty morsel come to fill my belly?" the troll growled.

Now the student knew he was in grave danger, and the wheels in his brain began to spin faster than ever before.

"I am a waiter." he replied to the troll. "I have come to take your order for dinner."

"My order for dinner?" the troll asked. "I think you yourself will do nicely!"

"Oh, but I am but a tiny and tasteless morsel compared with what our chef can prepare for you. If you order the special, you may never have to eat again!" the student answered, barely holding back his fear.
The troll, being stupid as most trolls are, took a few moments to figure out what it was the student was saying. He scratched his head, squinted his one eye, and rubbed his chin. Finally he decided.

"Okay, then, my little morsel. I will order the special. But if I am still hungry after I have eaten it, you will be my desert."

"Of course, of course." replied the student, "Such is always our policy when serving trolls. There is just one thing more. It is also our policy when serving trolls to ask for payment in advance, for reasons you can no doubt understand."

The troll had to admit that this was a wise policy. He, being unable to count himself, opened his wallet and let the student remove as much money as he saw fit. He took just enough to repay the dean, with interest. Then he promised to return immediately with the troll's order and ran off to the dean's office.

The dean was surprised that the student had been able to return the money so quickly. However he recalled that there was still one requirement that the student had to fulfill before he passed the three tests.

"Now you have brought me the book I asked for, and you have returned the money with interest, but you have yet to feed the most voracious appetite." the dean charged. In his heart he was filled with glee at the prospect of denying the student a scholarship.

"Oh, yes," replied the student. "I had almost forgot. I have prepared a meal for the most voracious appetite I know of. It is that of the evil troll who lives under the bridge. However, in order to prove to you that his appetite has been satisfied, I ask that you return with me to witness the meal first hand. There is just one last thing that I must ask of you. In order to avoid angering the troll, you must refer to yourself as 'the special' when he asks who you are. Then you will be safe."

The dean was not very excited about the prospect of visiting the troll, but he decided that if the young student could do it, so could he. Besides, he thought, as long as he called himself 'the special' he would be safe.

When they reached the troll's side of the bridge, the dean and the young student found the troll wandering around mumbling to himself. He had almost forgotten about the waiter and had to keep reminding himself that he had ordered the special for dinner. When he smelled the two approach he let out a roar.

"I'm hungry!" he growled, "Where is the special?"

Before the young student had the chance to reply, the dean stepped forward and proclaimed in a loud voice, "I am the special!"

At that the troll pounced on him and began to devour him. First of all he bit off his head, then he pulled his arms and legs off and crunched them down, bones and all. He then went to work on the dean's torso and soon finished that, too. He found that, even though the dean had been quite fat, he was still hungry. He was about to eat the young student for desert when suddenly his stomach began to rumble.

"Ooh! My stomach hurts!" he cried. "What have you fed me?"

"Only the dean of the university, my good troll." replied the young student. "Surely a great troll like yourself should have no problem eating one such as him."

"Ooh, ooh, ooh!" cried the troll. "He must have had an evil nature to cause me such pain. I fear you and your special have slain me!"

And with that the trolls stomach burst open and he fell to the ground quite dead.

The student hurried back to the university and reported all that had happened to his professors. With the dean now dead, the wisest of the four professors was made the new dean. He reviewed the student's case, and decided that since he had passed all three of the former dean's tests, he would be granted a scholarship.

The student continued his studies in comfort and after many years eventually became dean himself. And as dean he never denied anyone a scholarship, nor did he ever order “the special.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

M.B.A.? Why?

A while ago my friend Nedra asked me why I had chosen to pursue an MBA degree. To her, it apparently didn’t sound like me. A few other people have also indicated surprise at my following this path, and I’ve been wondering about it myself since before I ever even applied to the program.

This is the list of reasons (slightly edited) that I wrote to Ned:

M.B.A.? Why?


1. (This is the reason I tell most people) I figure that with an MBA after my name, and a few years living in Taiwan (aka "Republic of China"), I'll be able to impress potential employers and get a better job than I would from simply having been an English teacher abroad.

2. The MBA was the only program--other than some techy science/engineering ones for which I don't have the math--custom made for international students (There is a Taiwan studies program that I was interested in, but it was a "non-degree" graduate program, and I want a degree if I'm going to do a bunch of studying. I'm taking one of those courses now--Taiwan Folk Beliefs. It is quite interesting).

3. I got a nice scholarship and will actually be making (i.e. putting in the bank) money while I earn a valuable credential (as opposed to having to go into debt as I would in the US).

4. I've always been a "letters" kind of student. Soft stuff. Literature and languages. I could continue along this path (and remain underemployed), or I could try something outside of my comfort zone. My approach is really a liberal arts one, even though the subject is business. In fact, I find myself looking at the whole experience like a kind of social anthropologist. These business monkeys can use tools!

5. I am tired of teaching but need to stay in the country in order to be with my girlfriend.

6. I heard it was an easy 'A.

7. I'm old and scared of what the future will hold for someone without substantial resources for retirement. I'm hoping having this credential will somehow mitigate this fear and/or its root causes.

8. I want to be able to say that I have at least as much education as our fearless leader, to whom I will refer as "W" (by the way, he finished his undergrad work in 1968, but he didn't get his MBA until 1975. I mean, I hear Harvard is a tough school, but, damn!).

So those are the top eight reasons I’m at NCTU studying for an International MBA.