Monday, December 15, 2008

The Bible Supports Gay Marriage (NewsWeek)

Miller, L. (December 15, 2008). "Our Mutual Joy." Found in Newsweek.

What I love about the gay marriage and religion conflict when it comes to government legislation is that people conveniently forget that by virtue of the first amendment, people are afforded freedom of religion. By making said issue a religious issue, a Christian agenda is being forcibly imposed on a nation that is supposed to be able to believe whatever they want.

The counter argument can be made that the religious folks who speak out against gay marriage are simply exercising their first amendment right to free speech, which I cannot disagree with. However, what I can disagree with is the fact that they want these religious beliefs, a specific set of beliefs that not everyone in the nation is compelled to share, to dictate public policy. They can also argue that the country was founded on Christian values, with the Founding Fathers deliberately invoking God in their writings. Of course, some early American history professors would disagree with this argument, reminding those debaters that not only were the first immigrants fleeing persecution (much like what the LGBT community is fighting now), but the Founding Fathers were not Christians, but in fact deists who believed in a supreme being deemed God, but rejected ideas such as prophecy and miracles in favor of reason.

I think I may have gone off on a tangent there and ceased to effectively convey my train of thought even though it makes sense to me on second read. I also think the argument might be incomplete, but for the moment I have nothing else to add.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Call of the Wild

This is going to be a poor excuse for a post, but I couldn't go without mentioning that I recently finished Call of the Wild. It reminded me of an animalistic version of Lord of the Flies. This connection makes me wonder (since I read during silent reading time in the classes I teach, I didn't look for analyises on the internet) if the novel is a commentary on the regression of human nature.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The title of the post says it all. Grad school's demanding, and there's little time right now for recreational reading. Or recreational writing. Hopefully I'll have some time to post over the weekend, but I can't make promises. For right now, I'm going to have to say that school takes precedence and when the summer session's over, I'll be back.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Red Candle

From The Joy Luck Club

I'm choosing to skip this one if only because there's a recent post about self-awareness, which is also the major thematic idea of this particular short story. I do want to point out the similarities between Lindo and Danny (The Chosen). One, they found themselves in silence: Danny in the silent relationship with his father and Lindo in following the orders of her new family. Additionally, they realized the importance of what their parents asked them to do but did not allow the obedience they were obliged to give to their parents, whether because of the Commandments or because of honor, overwhelm their own sense of self. That's huge. That's saying, I can do what my parents ask of me and still have space left over to be who I am and no one can take that away from me no matter what.


From The Joy Luck Club

I'm sure I mentioned before that The Joy Luck Club is separated into four sections, each with four stories. The first four stories are the stories of the mothers from when they were children in China. In the second story, "Scar," An-mei learns the importance of honor to a family. (I'm not going to summarize what happens this time, and I'm going to make an effort to discontinue that practice.)

My comments for this short story are to do with the fact that I wonder if there is honor in families anymore. I used to be afraid to get into trouble in school because it would reflect poorly upon my mother and I'd get it when I got home. But I see so many people boast about the trouble their kinsmen find themselves in. There was a time when airing ones dirty laundry was a bad thing. But now we have high schoolers boasting that they're pregnant and their future is put on hold to begin a life of child rearing. Where is the honor in that? Why don't we hear about the kids who went out and did something good and brought honor to their family name? Why don't we hear people say, "That's my brother who just got into law school," or "That's my sister who just got her nursing license"?

Maybe honor has a different value for people in the east. Maybe because the United States is such a melting pot or salad or whatever you choose to call it, the eastern ideals, like honor, got lost in the mix.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Joy Luck Club

From The Joy Luck Club

There is one particular passage I wanted to look at from this story. Jing-mei is telling the reader about her Auntie An-mei's trip to China to visit her brother. With her she took a suitcase of goodies (M&Ms and such) and a suitcase of clothes. She was warned by Suyuan that all her family wanted was money, but An-mei paid her no heed.
As my mother told it, "Auntie An-mei had cried before she left for China, thinking she would make her brother very rich an happy by communist standards. But when she got home, she cried to me that everyone had a palm out and she was the only one who left with an empty hand. (36)
This is about appreciation. This is about being grateful for what others are willing to sacrifice for you. This is another one about my students. They're like baby birds that refuse to grow up and attempt to use their wings. Mama has always put the food directly in their mouths, so why should teachers be any different. Except that tabula rasa is a myth and the banking method doesn't work. But they've got their hands out. Give me food; give me paper; give me a pencil. All of these things and expect no consequence. I give you nothing in return.

Give me the answers.

It is not in procuring the answers that learning occurs. It is in the process of finding the answer that we become smarter.
You know Thomas Edison tried and failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton thread filament for the incandescent light bulb... When asked about it he said "I didn't fail. I found out 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb." (National Treasure)
That's what I'm talking about.

National Treasure. Dir. Jon Turteltaub. Perf. Nicholas Cage, Diane Kruger, Justin Bartha, Sean Bean. 2004. DVD. Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 2005.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1989.

The Man in the Black Suit

from Everything's Eventual

This tale was told to King by one of his friends, claiming that it had actually happened. King also said that it was based on the same ideas as Nathanial Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" from Mosses from an Old Manse. "The Man in the Black Suit" is not a Faustian tale, which is what I usually think of when I think of people conversing with the devil.

The only similarity I could really find between the two texts is the devil character. In "Young Goodman Brown" the devil's purpose is to shake the faith (or Faith) of the goodman, whereas in "The Man in the Black Suit" the devil seems to just be hungry. On second thought, however, in both stories the devil does employ the tactic of using someone close to try and sway the protagonist. In "Young Goodman Brown," Brown sees his wife, Faith, among the converts in the woods. In "The Man in the Black Suit," Gary, the protagonist, is told by the devil about the death of his mother.

I remember talking about the symbolism of the name Faith when I studied this story in college. She is not only his wife, but represents his faith in God as well. As he leaves her he says, "My love and my faith...this one night I must tarry from thee." (The link to the ebook is above.) Brown knows with whom he's meeting when he leaves his wife. For so many children, their faith is tied to the faith of their parents. So the supposed death of Gary's mother shakes him as much as seeing Faith in the woods with the devil.

I'm going to have to admit that neither of these stories ranks high on my list of favorites. I also must admit that I bought Everything's Eventual because I wanted to read "1408" before seeing the movie. Since I purchased the entire book, however, I am going to read the entire book from front to back.

Feathers from a Thousand Li Away

Before the stories of the first part begin, there is an anecdote about a woman and a swan and their travels from China to America. She wants to give the swan to her American-born daughter and with it "all [her] good intentions" (18). Her daughter will speak perfect American English and will not be looked down upon and measured by the worth of the man she's attached to.

With "all my good intentions" (18) comes a hope that her child will have a better life than the one she had. I grew up with my father telling me the same thing. Yes, you have to work twice as hard to get half as much, but I want your life to be better than mine. That's what all parents should want for their children.

Unfortunately, such is not the case. During the school year I see so many children whose parents couldn't care less about them. Or I see children who view their parents' lives as satisfactory, so they place no value in their education. These are the children who say that they're only in school because "it's the law." It pains me that there is no hope of better in these children. That's what's hard at the end of the day. The parents who have given up on their children, the parents who have not instilled a want for better in their children, the parents who allow their children to settle for what's already in front of them rather than striving to be something more.

To these children I give my hope. It has come from afar and with it comes all my good intentions. May it be a light to one in darkness who wants to find their way.

Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1989.

Introduction to the Joy Luck Club

Disclaimer: If this post seems a little out of sorts with my other posts it is because I'm going to use it to teach my class about previewing text. Hopefully they'll learn that there are a number of things one can learn about a text before it is actually read.

Before I can even get started with this one, I have to mention that I hear Joy Luck Club and I automatically think Ming Na. How many actors play characters with the same name? I remember watching this movie with my mother multiple times, and never from the beginning long before I found out it was a book. I think I finally made the connection in college; we read either "Two Kinds" or "Rules of the Game" in one of my many literature classes. More than likely it was "Rules of the Game"; I remember something about Waverly and chess. These stories take me back.

In previewing the text (or looking at the table of contents), we find that it's broken up into four parts, each having four stories told by four different people. On the title page we find that there are four mothers and four daughters who are telling these stories, but one name is missing from the narrative. Suyuan Woo doesn't tell any of the stories. Instead, we find that Jing-mei tells stories in all four parts, whereas each of the others (both mothers and daughters) tell two stories each. I can infer from there that something has happened to Jing-mei's mother that caused Jing-mei to take her place.

I wonder in what way Jing-mei has to take the place of her mother.
What is the Joy Luck Club?
What happened to Jing-mei's mom that required Jing-mei to take her place?

The Chosen: Book Three

It took me the entire book, I'm embarrassed to say, to realize that the story was not about Reuven's journey so much as Danny's journey. It is the fact that Reuven does not understand the ways of Danny's people or the methods of Danny's father that make the story really about him.

Reb Saunders, Danny's father, chose to rear Danny in silence. They never spoke unless they were studying Talmud. Rabbi Saunders's goal was to guide his son to find his soul. The only way to discover one's soul is through inner reflection. This statement I can sort-of agree with; in high school I realized my Self through a few years of self-imposed silence. Between that and the philosophical reading I've done since I'm pretty aware of my Self (no, the separation of the two words is not a mistake). I think that is what Reb Saunders wanted for his son, not only to understand the great gift of mind that he'd been given, but to also know his Self so he could better serve his people.

Even Reb Saunders makes a journey through the novel. He is aware that he closes himself off to the world, justifying it by not wanting to be tainted by the outside. When Reuven's father makes a big deal of the need for a Jewish state, Saunders tells Danny he and Reuven are not allowed to see each other anymore. Once Israel is established, the boys renew their friendship. Reb Saunders asks after Reuven. Saunders speaks to his son through Reuven, which I thought was an interesting way to do things, though I do not understand. Saunders uses Reuven to tell Danny that he can become a psychologist. He uses Reuven to tell Danny that "All his life he will be tzaddik. He will be a tzaddik for the world. And the world needs a tzaddik" (287). Saunders has realized the good his son can do for not only his people, but for people outside the Hasidim as well.

What we see here is more of the evolution of religious ideas. The evolution of ideas, like the evolution of any living creature is a slow process. By suggesting that the world could use Danny's mind, we see a tzaddik looking at his son with more than the eyes of his people. With this openness, maybe more tzaddik will be able to affect change and encounter less opposition.

Potok, Chaim. The Chosen. New York: Ballantine Books, 1967.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Journey to the Great Oz

The question guiding this post is this: what significance do Dorothy's "friends" have to the story or the story's thematic ideas?

Each of Dorothy's friends is seeking something from the Wizard of Oz. If you've seen the film at all, you know this. The Scarecrow is seeking brains, the "Cowardly" Lion is seeking courage and the Tin Woodsman is seeking a heart. We know that to find these things, they don't have to go any farther than "their own backyard," but these characters are clearly not self-aware.

As the foursome are traveling to the the Emerald City, they come upon a large ditch. The only one who can actually cross the ditch, after some deliberating, is the lion. This, the lion comes up with after looking at the ditch and calculating how far he can jump in his head. His declaration is the epitome of cowardly behavior. Yes, I'm such a coward that I can jump this large ditch. And to boot, the scarecrow adds that each of the members of the party can ride across on his back. So much for not having any brains.

Then they walk some more and come upon a larger ravine. The lion can't jump this one. Oh, what are they going to do. No, the scarecrow has another idea. Why doesn't the tin man cut down one of the large trees so that it falls across the ravine. Then they can all just walk across. No brains my ass. And they're being followed by these guys who have the body of a bear and the head of a tiger. Our friend the coward staves them off for a moment by growling loudly at them, then scurrying across the log. The brainless one tells the tin man to cut the tree so they fall in the ravine.

Moral more than thematic idea: Being self-aware keeps you from going out of your way to search for something you already have. Then one can argue that the purpose of Dorothy's friends is to show her that she already possesses all the knowledge she needs to accomplish her goal, she just has to look inward to find it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

In L. Frank Baum's introduction to the story, Baum suggests that this story will be different from other fairy tales as it doesn't deal with the grim horrors of life (or contain the gruesome details) of the fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. The purpose of the story, or "wonder tale" is solely entertainment. Any intrinsic moral value, since morality was taught in the schools at the time (I'm not sure it is so much today), is the creation of the reader. And from the reviews I've read, this particular story can be rather gruesome itself.

At the beginning of the story the narrator points out the dreary greyness of Kansas. The house is grey, the fields are grey, even Aunt Em and Uncle Henry possess a grey quality. The greyness comes from the uninterrupted beat-down of the sun, frying everything its rays touch. Odd, though, that dried grass should be grey and not brown. Maybe the grass dries differently in Kansas than it does in Indiana.

Baum is clearly setting up the transition (via the cyclone) from the natural world into the supernatural world (yes, we are back to the Hero Journey once again). What other reason is there to go on at length to make sure readers understand that the setting is only one color? I am going to use my prior knowledge here and say that clearly Dorothy, our heroine, hits her head. You're outside the cellar when the tornado comes by and you get knocked around a bit. How do you not get knocked out. It's the same way I see Alice in Wonderland. Except that I think Alice is suffering from heat stroke when she hallucinates. Or she's high. One of the two. (Please note here that I have not yet finished the book, and am quite aware that there are somewhere around 14 books in the Oz series total and Dorothy does reappear in Oz.)

Nevertheless, Dorothy and her house and dog are dropped in the middle of Munchkinland, the savior to the people over whom the Wicked Witch of the East was tyrant. As a reward, she receives the witch's silver shoes. If I had to guess, and I'll go look it up at some point, I'd guess that they changed the silver shoes to ruby slippers because the red stood out better on film. Gregory Maguire deals with the change from silver shoes to ruby slippers, possibly in an effort to bridge some of the gap from the novel to the film. In Maguire's Oz the silver shoes are given to a crippled (she was born with no arms) Nessarose. When Glinda charms the shoes so that Nessarose will be able to stand on her own, the shoes take on a red hue.

Color symbolism is clearly important in this novel. Baum spends time setting up the color contrast between Kansas and Munchkinland. The good witch from the North (whose name wasn't mentioned) was dressed solely in white, while the Munchkinlanders were dressed in blue. Dorothy chooses a frock, after she washes up and is ready to head to the Emerald City, that has blue and white checks. Boq, a Munchkinlander who is kind enough to put her up for the night comments that she must be an okay person since her frock contains blue, the color of the Munchkins, and white, the color of the good witches. The Wicked Witch of the West is, of course, green. The green of evil, the green of rot, the green of death. Maguire offers reason for the Wicked Witch of the West's hue as well. In the beginning of the story, Elphaba is seen playing with a green glass bottle--
Have another drink my dark-eyed beauty
I've got one more night left here in town
Have another drink of green elixir
And we'll have ourselves a little mixer
Have another little swallow little lady
And follow me down...
--something to do with a tinker who happened across the house of the local minister and his lonely wife. Use your imagination.

That's it for now, back more later. Maybe they'll be more photos in future posts. I believe if you click on the picture, it'll take you to its source page. If it doesn't, at some point I'll come back and fix it so it does.

Librivox & Project Gutenberg

I previously forgot to mention that in my Stumbling that I have also come across Project Gutenberg and Librivox. Project Gutenberg has a larger selection of eBooks than Planet eBook, though they're not all available in PDF format. Personally, I prefer the formatting from Planet eBook, but that's just me. I'm not discriminating against Project Gutenberg for their formatting.

Librivox is literally translated from Latin as "free voice." That being said, it's a catalog of free audio books. The selection is quite varied, but all of the books are, like Planet eBook and Project Gutenberg, those that are in the public domain.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

My Introduction to Oz

In the midst of reading The Chosen, which is a wonderful book, I've decided to attack a Wizard of Oz project as well. I have one week before summer classes begin and I will be bogged down with the reading of educational materials. With this week, I want to examine as much of L. Frank Baum's Oz as I possibly can, ending the week with a rereading of Gregory Maguire's Wicked from a new perspective. It's one thing to read the Maguire and love it, it's another to know the story he draws from. For example, I listened to the first five chapters of the first book this morning only to find that there is a Munchkin character Dorothy stays with for a night called Boq. In the Maguire, Boq was a Munchkin who had a thing for the "Wicked Witch of the East," Nessarose. He was turned into, I believe, the Tinman by the Wicked Witch of the West (fondly called Elphaba... now where did Maguire come up with that name, I wonder).

Now I can't get Kristin Chenoweth's voice out of my head. I've seen the stage version of Wicked and let me tell you that Chenowith and Idina Menzel are mind-blowingly fantastic.


I want to conclude the week with a viewing of The Wizard of Oz (both with and without Pink Floyd, which I've never done before), and a viewing of Tin Man, starring Zooey Deschanel, who I love (her sister, too. Hooray for Bones.)

Love What You Read

Today, I StumbledUpon another possibly helpful website for those people who are struggling with what to read next. It's called Put in a book that you've recently read, review it, and the website will generate a list of books that you might like to read. Or, find the title of a book you've recently read, click on the recommendations button, and the website will generate a list of books that you might be interested in reading. Fairly neat concept, if you ask me. Interestingly, so I could see how it worked, I typed in The Chosen and it generated a list for me. Among those was Flowers for Algernon, which I highly recommend that anyone read. It's one of those heartbreaking books, like Where the Red Fern Grows. That was one of my favorite books as a kid. One that I probably won't read again any time soon since it made me cry. Same thing happened with Million Dollar Baby. I can't imagine seeing that film again, but god, if it wasn't powerful. I digress. Check out if you're looking for something to read.

The Chosen: Book Two

At the beginning of this section of the book, the narrator's father describes the origin of Hasidim. It originated with a guy who walked through the woods and meditated on ideas. He came back, enlightened and taught the people. A cross between Jesus and Buddha. I think Rufus got it right when he said that the problem with religion is that we took a good idea and built a belief structure on it. Generations took Hasidim and it changed. The position of rabbi in the communities is hereditary. But the rabbi is the link between the people and their god. Do they believe that God is such an entity that the lay person, one who has not been to rabbinical school, is not capable of talking to God? It was said that God hears them when they study the Talmud. Maybe the answer to my previous question is the affirmative. I can't imagine being part of a religion where I am not seen as fit to converse with my own deity.

One of the problems, it seems, with being a Hasidim is that while they are experts in the Talmud and it's interpretations, they have little knowledge of anything else. They are pure, in a sense. Danny wants his world to be bigger than just Judaism, which I can understand. And Reuven can't figure out why it's such a bad thing to be worldly. Honestly, I don't understand either why reading is such a bad thing. Although, for many people it's hard to see how religion and science can reside in the same mind and one not take precedence over the other. Since the way people view the Bible and possibly the Torah (I'm not going to make a blanket statement here because I don't know) is as law. One can't believe in science and be religious because the science negates religion. Minus the fact that a myth is a story to explain something that cannot be explained -- and there is scientific evidence that supports the theory of evolution. The book is the end-all-be-all and any other suggestion is sacrilege. Maybe that's why Danny's father is so upset that Danny is reading philosophy.

The Bible is merely a suggestion, a guide if you will. Its word can't be law because then its law is contradictory.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Chosen: Book One

The reputation of this book, and Chaim Potok, should precede this post. All of the reviews scream its praises. Through the first book, it seems to be a fairly easy read. A fair choice for summer vacation. It has piqued my interest in Judaism. It had not occurred to me, rather naively, that Judaism might have factions and religious animosity toward other people of the same faith, just as many other religions do. But then the only Jewish people I ever came in contact with lived in the same community as my best friend, and hung out at the Jewish Community Center along with many of my cousins.

The interaction in Book One of The Chosen that caught my interest, as most likely intended by the author, was that between the narrator, Reuven and a boy of another branch of Judaism called Hasidism, Danny.

As a front, Danny professes religious domination over the Orthodox Jews, calling them apikoros, someone who denies revelation and the prophecy, or someone who's essentially a heretic. The term is meant as an insult as both baseball teams (oh, yeah. They're playing baseball.) come from yeshivas, or Jewish schools. Long story short, Danny hits a baseball at Reuven's head which causes Reuven's glasses to break and a piece of glass to become embedded in his eye. There was already hatred brewing from the name-calling incidents, and the fact that these two teams were rivals. We find out later that Danny's enmity was so strong that he wanted to bash Reuven's head in with his baseball bat.

It is not overly interesting that Danny came to apologize to Reuven in the hospital. And it is not surprising that Reuven gave Danny a tongue lashing for the incident. What did interest me is that Danny came back the next day. His hurt was not in the fact that Reuven was mad at him, but in the fact that Reuven had not given him the opportunity to speak his mind. It is over this that the two boys become friends. The Talmud says that if someone comes to make amends, one must listen and forgive.

I think it is the act of listening that many people have forgotten. Conversation is so much about waiting for ones own turn to speak, that no one hears the entirety of what someone else says. So Danny and Reuven share a special gift in Reuven's misfortune. Danny speaks and Reuven listens and asks questions accordingly. Who does that anymore?

I wanted to say more on this, but since the post was abandoned, then readdressed, I have forgotten the points I waned to make. If I remember, they shall appear in a subsequent post about the book. I promise.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jane Eyre, Chs. 1-3

Right away, instead of filling the role of soothing the savage beast of man, Jane seems to bring out that feeling in her cousin John, who beats her, then throws a book at her. There is no apparent reason for his attack except maybe his resentment that she gets to stay on at Gateshead and he's been sent away to school.

Perhaps she will turn out to be the antithesis of the ideal woman. She isn't completely submissive. Because she's threatened with the poorhouse, she doesn't react to John's tauntings as she would like, but for the first time she struggled against her punishment. The beginnings of stirrings against the station of women? This book was published under a pseudonym...

The discussion of Jane's plight and what happened to her parents reminds me of Burnett's The Secret Garden. In that novel, too, it is suggested that if the girl were better looking or more agreeable that people would take more of a liking to her. Unlike The Secret Garden, however, in Jane Eyre we can't be completely certain that she isn't disagreeable since Jane is the narrator and sometimes narrators are unreliable.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The Ideal Woman

As my next long-term project, I'm going tackle Jane Eyre. I say long term becasue I downloaded the eBook from Planet eBook, and sometimes things take longer to read when they're on the computer. My guess is it has something to do with the chair. I was looking at EDSITEment earlier and one of the lessons talks about Jane Eyre and the ideal woman.

The simple review of Victorian women:

The Victorian ideal woman was domestic and pure. She was motivated to serve others, and her main role was to "soothe the savage beast" within the Victorian man. Victorian society viewed women as "the weaker sex," suggesting that they should be nurturers. In all actuality, women in the Victorian age had few educational opportunities. Women, particularly those who were married, had no rights. Only 1/3 of all workers were women, but women made up 90% of domestic servants.

More to come.

Percy Jackson's Hero Journey Part II: Characteristics of the Hero

So before we can talk about Percy's journey, we also have to talk about what makes Percy the archetypal hero. Now, not all heroes have all the qualities, but many of the heroes have many of the qualities. I used Harry Potter to explain the journey, but I'll use Percy Jackson to explain the qualities of a hero.

And away we go.
  1. The hero has mysterious origins.
    1. In the case of heroes from Greek Mythology, more often than not, one parent is of divine origin. For Percy, his mom is a mortal and his father is Poseidon.
  2. The hero is vulnerable. He can be killed, maimed, wounded, what have you. But he goes anyway.
    1. The camp directors didn't want to give Percy the quest since they knew that he hadn't been trained properly. He also has every monster from Greek mythology coming after him. Oh, no. What if our hero gets killed!?
  3. The path of the hero is dangerous and confusing.
    1. And it doesn't help for Percy that someone stole Zeus's lightening bolt, blamed it on him, and Ares keeps getting in the way.
  4. The hero is essentially solitary, his friends don't share his sense of purpose.
    1. Percy is trying to clear his name. He's also one of the children that's not supposed to be, so his friends can't really identify with the fact that everyone wants to kill him.
  5. Hero has a mentor/teacher/guide
    1. Percy's guide/mentor/teacher is Chiron, the centaur. Unlike other centaurs, who are known for being wild, Chiron is civilized, and works with demigods at Camp Half-Blood.
  6. Hero has a magical weapon that only he or she can use. It is given to the hero by the mentor.
    1. Percy wields a sword given to him by Chiron. The first time Percy uses it, it's to kill his math teacher, one of the Furies. His sword is disguised as an ink pen and returns to his pocket whenever he loses it.
  7. The hero has to go on a journey/quest to find something. He has to complete impossible tasks, battle monsters, etc. in order to either be a role model or save civilization as the people know it.
    1. Percy has to save Camp Half-Blood from the friend that becomes an enemy. In the first book, The Lightning Thief, Percy has to find Zeus's lightning bolt to prove his innocence and to convince the Olympians not to kill him.
There are actually more elements to the hero journey. The most interesting graphic representation of the hero journey is found at the Monmouth Website, ORIAS, UC Berkley. The journey is set up counter clockwise, and if you hover over each element, it explains what each piece means to the hero's journey.

Percy Jackson's Hero Journey Part I: Characteristics of the Journey

The archetypal Hero Journey is one of the most commonly used formulas in both books and movies. After I describe the parts, go back and look at movies like Meet the Robinsons, Cars, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Akeelah and the Bee, Shrek (it's backwards) and many more and you'll see this formula applied to entertain us.

The hero journey is like a 12 step program. A circular 12 step program. I will use the ever familiar Harry Potter for brief examples before I delve into explaining the hero journey in terms of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The 12 steps are as follows:
  1. The hero's journey begins is the NATURAL WORLD. This could be where the hero comes from (e.g. Little Winging in Harry Potter).
  2. The hero receives a CALL TO ADVENTURE (e.g. Harry's letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry).
  3. The hero doesn't want to answer the call (in the case of Harry Potter, he had no idea what the call meant).
  4. The hero meets his MENTOR/TEACHER/GUIDE (we can argue for both Hagrid and Dumbledore in the role of Harry's teacher, but in the case of the journey, let's call this one Hagrid. Hagrid, we meet when Harry's still in the NATURAL WORLD; he knocks down the door of the boat/cabin).
  5. The hero crosses the THRESHOLD into the SUPERNATURAL WORLD. Sometimes something will happen that will move the hero to accept the call. (The THRESHOLD in Harry Potter is the barrier at Platform 9 3/4, at this point, Harry moves from the NATURAL WORLD to the SUPERNATURAL WORLD).
  6. The hero is TESTED. Here he meets both friends and enemies. (This spans a couple of scenes... First Harry meets Ron and Hermione, then Harry meets Draco and rebuffs him.)
  7. The hero enters the INMOST CAVE, the source of the item he seeks. (Harry doesn't know it at the time, but he runs across the Mirror of Erised [interestingly, "desire" spelled backwards] long before he knows it will contain the Philosopher's Stone.)
  8. The hero comes to the HEART OF DARKNESS (no, not the Conrad story). Here, he almost dies, and almost finds what he seeks.
  9. The hero finds what he's looking for. (Harry finds the Philosopher's Stone in his pocket).
  10. The hero embarks on the road back (or wakes up in the hospital wing).
  11. The hero experiences RESURRECTION (this is extremely obvious in the 7th Harry Potter book more than the first).
  12. He returns home, to the NATURAL WORLD with the knowledge that he's saved society.
One of the reasons Harry Potter works so well with the idea of a circular hero journey is because he embarks on this journey multiple times, moving from the NATURAL WORLD of Surrey to the SUPERNATURAL WORLD of Hogwarts. That, and he's continually fighting the bad guy.

The end of the wickedness

I wish I posted more as I read... this is something I must work on. It might come from reading so many books at the same time. I don't know.

Anyway, yesterday I finished Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. I think towards the end I was getting as impatient as I was at the beginning, waiting for the story to end. Personally, I liked Fahrenheit 451 better. That could be because of my enjoyment of Utopia/Dystopia type novels. I will admit, however, that on the heels of seeing the movie The Strangers, this definitely didn't help me sleep at night.

The lesson: don't fear old age and death, and don't want to grow up prematurely. That's what enticed the people to come to the carnival and ride the "free rides". But nothing is free. Didn't they know that? Isn't that something everyone knows? "There's no such thing as a free lunch." At least Will and Charles Halloway got the resolution they were looking for. Bradbury does well at setting up their estrangement at the beginning, using Charles's age as a reason. Everything comes full circle. Charles comes to terms with his age, and strengthens his relationship with his son, using his knowledge of the library and research. What I think is interesting about that particular character is that he didn't recognize that he could have bridged the gap with his son by talking to him about the books that he was reading. Common ground. But who am I to judge?

This one is a solid 7, I think.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Juvenile's Introduction to Greek Mythology

So I could talk about literature with my book buddy, I read Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief. In the phone message he left me, he suggested that I would really like the book, about a pre-teen who finds out he's a demigod, the son of Poseidon and a mortal woman. I have to agree with him; I did very much enjoy the novel. For juvenile readers, it serves as a good introduction to Greek mythology; many characters that appear also appear in the mythological stories we study in school, all with a modern take. The author has made it plausible for the reader to reasonably suspend disbelief saying that the gods move as Western Civilization moves, then offers evidence in the form of Greek gods moved from Greece to Rome, to Europe, and are now taking up residence in America: Olympus being at the top of the Empire State Building, and Hades being in Los Angeles. Interesting commentary on how the author (and possibly the residents of the nation) view the United States.

One of the interesting things that either Chiron or Grover explains to Percy (short for Perseus who was one of the many mortal sons of Zeus) that the Greeks influenced culture all around the world. I remember studying about Greek architecture in 7th grade, Mrs. Greer's class. Doric, Ionian and Corinthian columns, specifically. Look around, though. He's right. Greek influence is everywhere.

The purpose of this post is to outline the juvenile's introduction to Greek mythology as the title suggests, so I'm going to do just that.
  • Demigod: half god, half mortal. The archetypal hero is a demigod. Hercules is the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. Our protagonist, Percy Jackson, is the son of Poseidon (god of the sea) and a mortal woman. One of our protagonist's friends, Annabeth is the daughter of Athena (goddess of wisdom) and a mortal man. These characters are not immortal, but posses powers that normal mortals do not.
  • The Furies: They are the Roman incarnation of the Greek Erinyes. They are thought to dwell in Tartarus, where they torture the souls there when they're not making sure the order of things is just in the world. It is thought that the furies were sprang from the blood of Ouranos (the father of Kronos and the Titans).
  • The three old women knitting socks = the Fates. The fates are three women who control the fate, if you will, of all beings. Gods included. The first sister, Clotho, spins the line. The second sister, Lachesis, measures the line with her rod, and the third sister, Atropos, cuts the line. It is the shearing of the line that causes death. Percy sees these women on the side of the road and witness the cutting of someone's line.
  • Satyr: The satyr has had a few incarnations throughout mythology, but for the purposes of the novel, satyrs are half man, half goat. Traditionally they are followers of Pan (who can be as mischievous as Loki or Kokopelli) and Dionysus (who I've always known better as his Roman counterpart, Bacchus). They are lovers: of women, of boys, of music, of outdoors, and, being followers of Dionysus, wine. Percy's friend Grover is a reed pipe carrying satyr charged with protecting our protagonist from the "Kindly Ones." (a euphemism for the Furies)
  • The Minotaur: part man, part bull, this mythological character dwelt in a labyrinth that belonged to King Minos (see the resemblance in nomenclature?). The maze was built by Daedalus and Icarus to hold the minotaur. In mythological stories, Theseus killed the minotaur. Interestingly, the Minotaur's father, the Cretan bull, appeared in one of the 12 labors of Heracles.
  • Chiron: a centaur--half man, half horse. In the mythology, Chiron is the antithesis of a centaur being a "civilized" creature that didn't indulge in many of the same vices as the satyrs. In The Lightning Thief, Chiron plays his part as the archetypal mentor well. (I'll address archetype at a later date.)
  • Charon, not to be confused with Chiron. Charon is the ferryman of the dead. When our heroes are in Los Angeles, at DOA (which if you didn't know is an acronym for Dead on Arrival, clever, no?) he is who they meet at the desk taking money to ferry people across the River Styx. If a soul came to the underworld without money for the ferry, he or she was left on the banks (or our modern waiting room) for 100 years before he or she could cross to the underworld.
  • Chimera is another one of those mixed-breed animals. According to the Iliad, the Chimera had the head of a lion, the body of a goat and the hind end of a snake. In the incarnation in The Lightning Thief this animal can breathe fire, and has poison in its tail. In mythology it is the sibling of Cerberus, the three headed dog that guards the gates of the underworld, and the Lernaean Hydra (both of whom appear in Heracles's labors).
  • The Underworld. Also known as Hades. It is split into a number of factions. In the novel, Hades says that he's had to expand because of the number of souls he'd been getting. Here is a rough map of the places in the Underworld.
  • Medusa was one of the three Gorgons. They had snakes for hair and turned people to stone by looking at them. Medusa was the only one of the three sisters that was once beautiful. She was turned into the ugly Gorgon we know after she desecrated Athena's temple with Poseidon. In the stories, and in the 1981 movie Clash of the Titans, she was beheaded by Percy's namesake, Perseus.
  • Lotus Casino = the island of the Lotus Eaters, and the casino is rightfully located in Las Vegas. People go and don't want to leave. Hello, Homer. In the novel, the kids go to the Lotus Casino, get LotusCash and play video games forever.
You will notice that I didn't discuss any of the gods here. This was done for a couple of reasons. The gods are easy to find information about. I wanted to discuss the modernization of the mythological elements.

Coming soon, analysis of the archetype of the hero journey in The Lightning Thief.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Something Faster This Way Comes

In retrospect, I forgot to mention that this book is broken up into three parts: Part I, Arrivals; Part II, Pursuits; and Part III, Departures. Since my last reflection, we have found some action. It's interesting to note that Bradbury writes very short chapters in this book, possibly as a way of propelling the reader from one situation into the next. The beginning was mainly exposition--introduction of characters, tendencies, to get us wondering about this out of place carnival.

Since then, we've discovered that the carousel changes the ages of the riders, older or younger, depending upon which way it's running. Age seems to be the recurring symbol throughout the novel so far... The carousel runs backwards and makes people younger, Will threatens Jim with "I'll remember this when" (he's older). The school teacher, Ms. Foley was entranced with herself in the mirror, younger. This is, possibly, what trapped the other woman in the ice, which Charles Halloway found as a puddle on his way home. The only reason I offer this as conjecture is that the mirrors have been previously compared to ice; people felt cold coming out of the maze of mirrors.

The one thing I'm having trouble making out at this point is the reading but not reading, seeing but not seeing, and hearing but not hearing. I think my confusion occurs in the diction. Bradbury chooses to say "seeing but not seeing" instead of saying "looking but not seeing." I don't know if he was going for something specific with the repetition of the words, or if he was simply trying to imply that no one was really paying attention to what was going on around them and I'm reading too much into it. The distinction is not as obvious as in Faulkner's Light in August where he distinguishes by saying a character is thinking something, thinking something else that appears in italics. So I don't know. Perhaps with further reading the understanding will come.

Interestingly, with all this seeing but not seeing, people only briefly questioned the lateness of the carnival, then went blindly on to "enjoy" it. And how many people, like Will, Jim and Miss Foley, took home cards for a free turn on the carousel when it's "fixed"? And what exactly happened to that woman in the ice? Was she real or simply a temptation indudged by the man peddling lightening rods for a storm that didn't come? Of course the storm the lightning-rod-man predicted could be metaphoric, representing the invasion of the carnival.

And in keeping with the discussion of figurative language, at the end of Chapter 13, where the mirror maze is discussed, and Charles Halloway is seeing but choosing not to see the puddle of water on the floor the maze is waiting "for so much as a bird to come look, see, and fly away shrieking. But no bird came" (56). Single bird. Not flock of birds. A flock of birds flying away is symbolic of danger. A single bird, however, is a positive symbol. Here, the lack of the single bird suggests an ominous sense of danger.

Next time: Part II, Pursuit.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Modest Proposal

I recently downloaded a reading of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" from Librivox. When I did, I couldn't help but remembering the modest proposal parody that was published in The Exponent when I was student teaching. The Swift piece is a must read (or hear), and the parody is a must read. It amuses me how much controversy this particular parody caused, and how insane it was that people didn't get it. I suppose one could argue failure of the educational system for those who took the author seriously, not having been familiar with the piece she parodied.

Something Slowly This Way Comes

I started Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes sometime early in the first semester, got 15 pages in and stopped. It just didn't grab my attention right off the bat like Fahrenheit 451 did, which interested me since all over the book, people sang the praises of this "incomparable masterwork." And I, no more than three chapters in, failed to see the brilliance in the piece.

Laundry day rolled around, and not feeling like studying religious text, grabbed Something Wicked This Way Comes off the shelf. I have to admit that there are a few things that drew me to this book in the first place (in no particular order): I loved Fahrenheit 451, the book appears on at least one of my book lists, and the song from one of the Harry Potter movies. Sad, I know.

Needless to say, I'm now about nine chapters in, and still not much has happened. We meet the two main characters, Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade. We know that Will feels sort of estranged and possibly ashamed of his father, who is a janitor at the public library. Will refers to him initially as an "old man" but the tone does not suggest he says this in jest. We find out later that Will was born when his father was 40, and Will's mother is often mistaken for his father's daughter. We know that Jim Nightshade lives with only his mother, is one of three children but the only one still alive, and that his father was abusive. He is enthralled by the fanciful - e.g. the "theatre" on an out of the way street whose plays involve people stripping, then touching each other.

My questions so far:
  1. What is going to come of the lightning rod that Will and Jim put on top of Jim's house?
  2. Why did Will's dad crumple up the flyer for the carnival, then throw it in the fire?
  3. Echoing Will's question: Why didn't Will's father come completely clean about the carnival to his mother? What does he have to hide?
  4. What was the "ice" in the sawhorses in the empty shop where Charles Halloway stood transfixed?
  5. Will Jim loose the lightning rod, thus charring his house and his mother?

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Heart of Darkness" take 10

I must preface this post by saying that it's taken me a decade to read this story. I remember that I was supposed to read it before sophomore year (English 10X, which equates to honors British Literature). I think I spent most of that sumer working in pits for various productions, so I didn't read it. There were two professors in college who assigned the story; I recall becoming bored and stopping before getting too far into it. So this time, we'll try analysis as I go, and maybe that will get me to the end.

The beginning of the story: four men on a boat as the sun is setting. The narrator sets a morose tone, suggesting that the now absent sun was "stricken to death by the touch of that gloom brooding over a crowd of men" (2-3). It's interesting that he chose to use the word "brooding" here. While brooding can mean meditative, which fits with the reflective states of the men on the yacht, it also connotes a pensiveness, suggesting a morbid type reflection on their current state.

The yacht, itself, is an archetype, symbolically a microcosm of the world. The men aboard the boat are from varying walks of life, a Director of Companies, a lawyer and an accountant. We do not yet know the occupations of Marlow and the narrator. They yacht is also symbolic of man's journey, suggesting (minus the fact that there are still about 130 pages left) that the company has quite a task ahead of them reaching the ocean at the end of the Thames, which the narrator calls "an interminable waterway" (1).

Sit back, hold on, and let's see if we can make it all the way to the ocean this time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Final Reflections on Ghetto Nation

I didn't post near as much as I intended on this book. Because I read while my students read during school, I took notes in a notebook so I'd remember what I wanted to talk about when I actually had time to write a post. Unfortunately, that notebook has been lost somewhere in a mound of papers and binders on my desk at school, and is no help to me now, when I have the time to make the post.

I have concluded that I agree with Daniels. Ghetto is a state of mind. One that we, as a nation (not just Black people) seem to be stuck in. I remember hearing in college that if one wanted to be competetive in the workforce, one had to have a masters degree. But I look at my students and think, what is the economy going to be like when I am an elder? These children don't have the drive to pursue a master's degree, and, more often than not, don't give a hoot about the education that is being handed to them now. I can't imagine what our nation would look like if our educational system was put together similar to Mexico's or Japan's. Scary, really.

One of the realizations that stemmed from reading this book is that the deficit theory doesn't solely apply to the students here on the border. The ones who have no aspirations and feel that what was good enough for their parents is good enough for them. That's why "the projects" exist. And people get stuck there. Black, brown, green, yellow... every ethnicity has their own version of the deficit theory. And for some, it's complacency.

I want to call for change. I want to talk to my people, and the people I teach and tell them that there is more to life than "ghetto." I want to tell them that the world is bigger than where you live. There's is life outside the projects. There is live outside BorderTown, New Mexico.

Can you hear me now?

Planet eBook

This isn't a shameless plug, since I have no personal stock in the website, but I recently StumbledUpon this website Planet eBook. Neat website; it has free classic books in PDF format. The books are probably ones, like on the Librivox website, that are currently in the public domain. Planet eBooks houses such titles as Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," Stoker's Dracula, and James Joyce's novel Ulysses. Navigate on over there and check it out!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sex Sells

Which came first? The chicken or the egg? The talk about the commercialization of hip hop reminded me of the Taye Diggs, Sanaa Lathan movie Brown Sugar. Diggs's character had problems staying in the industry after his firm signs a multi-racial group Rin and Tin, the Hip Hop Dalmations. This after finding Mos Def's character, who is a "real" emcee. Daniels talks about the commercialization of hip hop, how it perpetuates the ghetto lifestyle, talking about "babymamas" and having "on the side" relationships, and how that is deemed acceptable more than something to be ashamed of (thank you Usher). It makes emcees like Aesop Rock and Flobots (interestingly, neither group is of African-American heritage).

Hip hop isn't the only music being commercialized. Are there any people dedicated to an art form anymore? Daniels's brother is a jazz musician. If I play Bird or Mingus in my classroom, I usually meet some sort of protest. But its the most exposure many students get to a dying music. Two guys I played with when I was a kid have died already. And as they're dying, the music is dying with them. I've even seen the change in the music. When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to the Jazz Kitchen in Indianapolis. There, I was introduced to some great players -- be bop, latin, big band, vocal. But now, the market has changed, and that's not what people want to hear anymore, and like a good business, it changed its music to cater to what the masses want. "Jazz" now is what I always called "elevator music." You know (or maybe you don't) the saccharine sounds of Candy Dulfer, Dave Koz or Kenny G.

But I teach the mindless youth of America. When they say "Miss, play hip hop," and I play Aesop Rock, they say "Play good hip hop." Of course, I think Aesop Rock is good hip hop. But they want Akon (Konvicked) or Usher (Confessions). Anything that perpetuates the misogynistic ideals of a disintegrating culture of TV raised children. That's ghetto.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Everything Ember

I forgot this was in my header. I guess it's a good thing I look at my own page once in a while.

Since that header has changed, my book buddy and I have read the entire Ember series: City of Ember, People of Sparks and The Prophet of Yonwood. I have to tell you honestly, I loved the first book and the series, and the second all the way up to the end. I mean, hooray for Doon and recreating electricity, it was only a matter of time from the time he found that book on science experiments, but I wanted to know what happened next.

I understand, as a writer and a teacher of reading. The book ended with an air of hope. It made you want to go out and get the third one. Then it left you a little disappointed when you found out that the third was a prequel. Go, DuPrau, though for clearing up that notebook's red herring from the first book. I guess she had that all planned out from the start.

By the way, I forgot to mention that I have a book buddy. My book buddy is my 10 year old cousin. He and I read the same books and talk about them over the phone. It's pretty cool. I'm going to refer to him as The Man.

"Oh, Bootyful for Spacious Thighs"

Now that class is over for all of two weeks, I've got some time to do recreational reading again. Currently, I'm working on Restaurant at the End of the Universe, The Bhagavad-Gita, and I've gone back to Cora Daniels's Ghetto Nation, which is the subject of today's post.

As I probably have said before, the premise of Daniels's book is that "ghetto" is not a class or a place so much anymore as it is a mindset. It is a concept that so many people have internalized that the word doesn't just apply to the neighborhood where the Jews were contained or the run-down place that the Blacks live(d).

The first affirmation of the first chapter is "at it's heart...ghetto is thinking short-term instead of long-term. Today is most important because tomorrow doesn't matter" (28). I remember hearing something like that in church as a kid--live like today may be your last because tomorrow isn't promised. So as I read this section, I think about how I live and how I see my students living (because they are the people in my life right now I have the most contact with). I try my best to show them that there is something to be done after high school. I talk about how I'm in college and the things I have to do in class. And yet, these kids judge status by the size of their cell phone. And "I've got (this many) texts saved in my inbox." But bringing a pencil or pen and some paper to class is out of the question.

They think: I have chosen the path of least resistance. The path that will require me to have to have two minimum wage jobs to make ends meet. And maybe I'll get pregnant. Then I can go on Welfare. There is no Plan B. And they're the victims of their own lives. Of course, they don't realize that they're making a choice. They don't make life, life happens to them. If that's not ghetto, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Ghetto Is a Mindset

One of my many current undertakings is Ghetto Nation by Cora Daniels. Through the introduction and the prologue, she asserts that ghetto has moved from being a place, most notorious for housing Jews during the Holocaust then for being where the poor Blacks lived, to being a mindset - a set of thought processes that cross cultural boundaries and has eeped into the mainstream.

People use the phrase "that's so ghetto" with the same frequency that they use "that's so gay." I think because ghetto doesn't refer to a specific group of people anymore, that it's become part of everyone's everyday, people aren't insulted by they derogatory use of the word as frequently as they are for the other assertion.

When I think "ghetto", I think AAE but it's called Ebonics. I think Kool-Ade on the front steps either in cups or on popsicle sticks. I think streetball and trash talk. When I think "ghetto" I think going to the movies with my sister and my cousin or being in a theatre with a whole slew of Black folk and how they holler at the movie the entire time. I think fried chicken and bar-b-qs.

And it's interesting to live in a small town and hear them talk about ghetto. Daniels says that every area has "ghetto" on lock. Theirs is what ghetto really is. Everywhere, it's the same and it's different, even though Atlanta gave us crunk.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Eli Reader's Confessions

My intention, when I created this blog, was to write every day about the things I have been reading, most notably the books on my long list of things to read. Obviously, I have failed in this endeavor. That isn't to say that I haven't been reading. Quite the contrary. I am currently reading Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver's Travels, and this interesting book that I really want to blog about called Ghetto Nation by Cora Daniels. In addition to that, and what takes up the majority of my reading time, I'm reading about how to best teach reading to students for whom English is not their first language, about language and literacy acquisition (my graduate degree) and educational philosophy. As I was sure these topics would bore whatever readers I actually have, I have decided to post my responses to my master's studies here as well. At least then I will have faster access to these essays than if I have to find them on my external harddrive.

Eli Reader's readers be told, I am going to make a concerted effort to blog about the other things I'm reading, especially this Ghetto Nation. When I finish the introduction, which gives the author's premise for the book, there will be a post from me. Quite possibly this evening. Keep an eye out.

Yours, and attempting to be more faithful,

Eli Reader

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Alice In Wonderland: Down the Rabbit Hole

I read this chapter a couple of days ago and didn't have time to blog about it. Seeing as I'm avoiding both my homework and my grading, I figured now would be the perfect time.

The chapter opens and Alice is lounging outside with her sister, who is reading a book that is thoroughly displeasing to Alice as it has neither pictures nor dialogue. The rabbit runs by, she thinks she hears it talking, all the while mentioning that the heat outside is making her "very sleepy and stupid" (1). Out of curiousity, this genius follows the rabbit down the hole then falls ever so


Slow enough to examine the contents of the shelves along the sides of the hole, pick things up, examine those things, and place them back on other shelves. She then lands on her bum without so much a scratch. There's something rather surreal about this, and I know that I'm supposed to reasonably suspend disbelief, but there's a point where situations become incredibly ridiculous.

Cakes, and potions and poisons, oh, my. Who taught this girl her decision making skills? She says, let me look at this bottle and see if it's marked poison, because if someone wanted to kill me, they'd be sure to mark the bottle containing said elixer, "poison." Genius! And to add to her applicaition for Mensa, she left the key to the door she was shrinking to get to on the table. Agh!

Stay tuned next time for Attack of the Giant Alice.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The End of IT, (or IT Part II)

I have to admit, when my friend told me that the end of the film disappointed him, I was skeptical. I thought, "Usually the book is better than the movie, anyway, so it doesn't matter." Well, while the build-up to the end of the book was fabulous, (no extraneous information, all the details drove the plot along), I felt like the heroes' triumph over the antagonist was, while well deserved, a little juvenile. Yes, they had to revert to their childish selves to "beat the devil" as the last chapter was so aptly named, but a spider? Or a shape roughly resembling a spider? Not only does King contribute to people's fear of clowns, but the fear of spiders as well.

I can't decide whether or not I was set up to be disappointed. If I hadn't discussed the end of the novel with someone else, would I feel the same way I do about the way it ended? Or at least about the defeat of the monster.

I thought how Bill Denborough used Silver to revive his wife was interesting. But then, Big Bill always knew what to do to make things right. Using the bike in the way King did eliminated the red herring I thought the bike was going to be. And just think. At that point in his life, he probably actually fit on it. But what are the odds that bike would have been in that shop after twenty seven years?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Believer Aside

My latest trip down film lane led me to The Believer, a film about a young, Jewish, anti-semitist who was hell-bent on killing all the Jews. He spends the movie trying to reconcile his beliefs with his heritage. It's one of those movies that forces one to examine his or her own conflicting behaviors. Thinking, "I can't believe that guy wants to kill his own people," thinking it makes sense that Blacks end up in jail since I'm preconditioned to think that my own people are no more than less-than.

The film forced me to think about how I am going to teach the atrocities of the Holocaust to my students who have no frame of reference. Shindler's List wouldn't do it. People are so desensitized by film anymore.

What always gets me, and there was a character who said this, is when people say that the Holocaust didn't happen. That there weren''t as many people discovered buried in mass graves in the concentration camps as actually claimed. I've been to the museum in Washington, D.C. On the outside of the building is this poster. I think about it a lot. Maybe because I've got my own string of "other-ness" that is discriminated against. I don't know. Since I saw this movie and since I'm starting Anne Frank next week.

I have to encourage all you (non-existant) readers out there to, "The next time you see injustice... the next time you witness hatred... the next time you hear about genocide... Think about what you saw."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

IT by Stephen King (Part I)

On picking up this book, I'd never read any Stephen King before. At this point, I'm about halfway through. I've never read a book over 1000 pages that I haven't gotten bored with at some point. I have to say, as loquacious as King is, he's held my attention thus far.

As of right now, I don't have many comments on the text. At first, it was a little confusing trying to navigate through the flashbacks, but once the story really gets going, it's an awesome way to present the background information that the reader needs to understand the story.

I also must admit that the whole idea of Pennywise has me a little freaked out. There was one night, after a particularly creepy passage, where I had to go find my dog so I wouldn't be sleeping alone.

I saw this on a shirt once and now it makes sense...

"Can't sleep, the clown will eat me..."

This is Eli, signing off.