Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Bitch Bad"

It has been a year since I've taken English 2200, but today I found this video called "Bitch Bad" by Lupe Fiasco. It absolutely reminds me of the type of issues we used to discuss in our class. I wanted to post it here for others to see, and so I could come back to it in the future.

The video is extremely powerful. Lupe Fiasco seems to be equating the "bad bitch" personas of today's African American icons in the music industry to the demeaning use of "blackface" in the Vaudeville era. Fiasco also talks about the negative influence this image has over children who model their behavior after what they see in the media.

I wont write much more on this, primarily because I think a lot of what you get out of the video comes from your own personal experiences with what Fiasco discusses. Take a look, and see for yourself. If anything I believe this sends a strong message to adults of all races about the image we present to the next generation.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Feed Parts 3&4

             These two sections make up the majority of the novel. After their feeds are turned back on Titus, Violet, and the rest of the teenagers return home to Earth. They go back to school and resume their lives as usual, for the most part. Titus and Violet continue to see one another. Violet reveals a plan to Titus about how she wants to fight the feed. Eventually we learn that the hacker damaged Violet’s feed and there is not much hope of it being repaired. During the time she has left Violet tries to live normally like Titus and the rest of his friends. Unfortunately, Violet’s wisdom about world events and her perspective on the feed make it nearly impossible for her to do so. As Violet’s condition continues to worsen Titus is torn between growing up like Violet and being a normal teenager like his friends. He eventually starts to resent Violet’s condescending attitude, and becomes angry with her. Titus breaks up with Violet and does not see her again until it is too late. Meanwhile people in America are developing lesions so bad that their skin is literally falling off. America is the cause of a global crisis in which the world has turned their weapons on the country for its actions.
            In many ways I see these two sections as a coming of age story for Titus. He starts out as a typical self-entitled teenager, but as life is thrust upon him he must learn to grow up. He resents Violet for wanting him to love her and be with her until the end. As Violet’s condition worsens Titus becomes very selfish. He ignores her messages, deletes her memories, and allows her to think the problems with her feed are worse than they actually are. He enjoys being with Violet while times are easy. After her seizure at the party things get more difficult and Titus struggles with the situation. In the very end he comes back to Violet somewhat. He sits with her and tells her their story, but by that point it is too late. Violet’s condition has completely deteriorated. Violets father lashes out at Titus, and confronts him with the horrific memories of Violet’s final days. These things push Titus close and closer towards adulthood, and accepting that the world is not all about him.
            It is so sad when Violet learns that her feed will not be fixed. She tried so hard to fight for what was right and against the overwhelming consumerism that has engulfed America. In the end her fighting becomes the reason why she does not get her feed fixed. She is not a reliable consumer; therefore the large companies see no use in keeping her alive. After all, why save someone who never buys anything? I see Violet as the true hero of this story. Titus may be the main character, but he is not what makes this novel important. Violet achieved something that people are unable to do even today. She thinks for herself. Rather than let the feed or large corporations do the thinking for her, Violet makes her own decisions.
            It truly amazes me how little M.T. Anderson had to exaggerate current issues to create the dystopian society of Feed. As I read I found that the problems America faced in Feed are all problems people worry about today. Pollution, climate change, international relations, corporate take over, the energy crises these are just a few of the areas Anderson touches on in the novel. Sadly, he does not exaggerate them much further to make them catastrophic to our nations future. It really makes me wonder if what the Coalition of Pity is right. Are we truly entering a time of calamity? 

Feed Blog Parts 1&2

            In parts one and two of Feed by M.T. Anderson we are introduced to the main characters, Violet and Titus, who meet during a trip to the Moon. Titus and a group of his friends meet Violet at a place where you can go to experience “lo-grav/no-grav”. From the first time Titus sees Violet he knows she is different from other girls. The group of teenagers eventually goes to a nightclub on the Moon where their feeds are hacked by an old man working for a group called the Coalition of Pity. Because of the hacker all but one of the friends are sent to the hospital where their feeds are disconnected so they can be checked for viruses. During their stay in the hospital Titus and Violet develop a relationship. At the end of section two the feeds are turned back on, and Titus describes how being reconnected to the feed felt like being in a “spring rain”.
            It is clear from these two sections just how much the feed means to those that have it. They use it to do everything, and do not feel like they can function normally without it. They are continually “bannered” by advertisements, which can sometimes be overwhelming. I think these banners are probably the equivalent to what we would consider pop-ups today. The only difference being that the banner comes directly into your brain. I would imagine these would make functioning normally very difficult.
            All of the issues presented in this novel are based on issues we have today. I think Titus’ character represents the typical American perspective. He finds the incredible places that he goes uninteresting he says that the Moon “sucks” and even gets into an argument with Violet about how the entire planet of Mars was “dumb”. As a people I think we can be very closed minded about other cultures and perspectives much like Titus is. He lives through his feed, and what his feed has to sell him. He doesn’t recognize the possibilities that the world around him has to offer. He is a consumer, and is easily influenced by the feed. This is very similar to how we are influenced by the media today.
            I find it interesting that Anderson chose to tell this story through the eyes of a teenage boy. I think he probably did this for the same types of reasons Mark Twain had for choosing to tell the story of Huck Finn through the eyes of a child. I think teenagers have a unique perspective of the world. They are at a transitioning point in their lives where they go between being children who don’t have to care about anything going on in the world and being adults who must be responsible citizens. Teenagers also tend to be very materialistic and driven by the latest trends or fads. This comes across very strongly especially in the group of girls (Quendy, Calista, and Loga) that Titus hangs out with. They are heavily targeted by advertisers, and live very materialistic lives. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Contemporary Poetry

This website has several examples of contemporary poetry. The one I really found interesting was the very first poem by Robert Pinsky. The poem moves, and words come in and out of view. This is something that could only really be done with modern technology, and it makes reading the poem a little bit of a challenge.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Flash Fiction

The flash fiction story I found is called "The Hole He Left Behind" It's very short, but it left a big impact on me. You really seem to know the main character. You feel her isolation and sadness. I THINK it's about a mother who loses a child, but I imagine it could be read in a number of ways. Also, from what I read the author is American. The little bio on him below the story says he lives in Pennsylvania.  Hope you like it!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Red Convertible- Louise Erdrich

I don’t know if maybe Professor Freeman planned this, but I think it is very ironic that we are discussing “The Red Convertible” on Veteran’s Day of all days. I think it is a very appropriate story for us to discuss because it really brings to light the sacrifice, whether it is mental, physical or emotional, that our soldiers make for us. As a Veteran’s Day “shout out” I have to say that I am so very grateful to all of the men and women who are currently serving or who have served in our armed forces.
            Now, back to “The Red Convertible” by Louise Erdrich. This story is about two brothers Lyman and Henry Lamartine. Lyman is the narrator, and his story revolves around a red convertible Oldsmobile. Lyman discusses the summer he and his brother bought the convertible, how he took care of the car when his brother went off to war, how he tried to use the car to help his brother recover from his extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and finally how he drove the red Olds into a river after his brother commits suicide by drowning himself. Henry commits suicide because he is suffering from what we would now classify as PTSD after being held prisoner during the Vietnam War.
            One major aspect of this story that stuck out to me was the importance the color television played when Henry came back from the war. I have discussed in previous history classes how the Vietnam War was the first war that was ever widely televised. This really changed the dynamics of how the every day American was impacted by the war. For the first time ever people were truly exposed to the horrors of war. I would imagine that the veterans returning home from the war only to find clear pictures of it in their own living rooms were also adversely effected by this change. The new color television seems to have a very negative impact on Henry once he is back from the war. Though the Erdrich never lets the audience know what on the T.V. makes Lyman so irritated, for some reason I imagined it was news coverage of the war efforts during the end of Vietnam. This would certainly not be good for someone who is suffering badly from PTSD. (Here is an article I found that discusses more about the televising of Vietnam)
            I have grown up around military men and women, and I have seen firsthand the horrible things PTSD can do to a person. When you compound that with other psychological issues like survivors guilt it is amazing that anyone who comes back from war can function in their normal lives again. I suppose that is why as I read this story I really focused on Henry. He suffers so much, and in the end he takes the rout that, tragically, many other servicemen have taken. His family is so thrown by his odd behavior that they cannot even think of a way to get him help. The fact that this is a poor Native American family living on a reservation does not help the matter.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charlotte's Web- EB White

 In this excerpt of Charlotte’s Web Wilbur has just won his prize, and he notices that Charlotte is being very quiet. The two have a short discussion, and then Charlotte tells Wilbur that she is dying and that she will not be returning home. Wilbur is deeply saddened, and he comes up with a plan to bring Charlotte’s eggs home with him. After he convinces Templeton to get the egg sack Wilbur is put into his crate, never to see Charlotte again. Charlotte dies by herself in the abandoned fair grounds. Even though all of the other eggs hatch and generations of spiders follow Charlotte none of them ever replace her in Wilbur’s heart. Reading this part of the story in this class really does change the meaning a lot for me.
I have to admit that I still get a lump in my throat every time I have to read about Charlotte dying. It’s so sad and so sweet at the same time. I did look at it a little differently now however, because I tried to place it in the context of this class. I think that helped me to grasp a little more of the deeper meaning behind the words. I used to see this section as just a really sad part in a simple children’s story. Now I see there is much more to it than that. Prior to this I never put much thought into the way Charlotte’s death represents that never ending cycle of life that we all go through. We are born, we live, and we die. When we are gone a new generation replaces us, and the cycle continues. I think this paragraph on the first page of the excerpt is a great representation of what I am talking about:
 ’You have been my friend,’ replied Charlotte. ‘That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.’”
            Templeton and Wilbur also play a much bigger role in this discussion than I previously realized. Templeton seems to show no regard for charlotte. He does not care that she is dying, and is only interested in helping Wilbur when he benefits from it. He is extremely selfish and in many ways is the antithesis of Charlotte’s idea of helping one another. I am still trying to pin down what exactly he is supposed to represent, other than pure egocentrism. Wilbur on the other hand is extremely saddened by the loss of Charlotte. He quickly finds a way to ensure that her eggs survive, and that her children make it home with him. I think Wilbur represents how we all look at death, when a person close to us dies or is close to dying. Once we understand that we will no longer have them in our lives we search for a replacement, but in time we find that they can not be fully replaced.