Monday, March 29, 2010

Vanishing Acts

On my Jodi Picoult binge, I've just finished Vanishing Acts, another one of her works. I wasn't as hooked or impressed with this novel, but I still read because I wanted to see the story unfold. She made me interested in finding out what happened with Delia Hopkins and the aftermath of the trial. (It seems like a lot of these Picoult novels have trials--am I wrong??)

Vanishing Acts centers around Delia Hopkins, a woman who has a search-and-rescue dog and finds missing people. She has a fiance, a lawyer named Eric, who is struggling with staying sober due to his alcoholism, and she has a daughter with Eric named Sophie. They live in New Hampshire (a state normally depicted in Picoult's novels), and they are in close contact with Delia's father, Andrew. Another central figure is Eric and Delia's best friend growing up, Fitz. Fitz is a journalist who has had a crush on Delia forever but never felt that he could intervene in their relationship.

The conflict introduces itself when Andrew is arrested for kidnapping. The irony in Delia's job (searching for lost victims) is that she is a lost victim herself. Andrew used to live in Arizona where he kidnapped his own daughter and moved far, far away. He slowly learn that he does this to protect his daughter from an alcoholic mother, one that the state would give custody to. Andrew feared for his daughter's life (that it would turn her into a rotten person) and he did what he thought best: get the hell away.

Andrew is tried in Arizona which makes Delia and her family follow him down there. Eric takes on the case (which is hard for him because he isn't allowed to dispense too much information to Delia) and he struggles with finding out new information about his wife and soon-to-be inlaw. Delia meets up with her mother and learns of her past alcoholism (something too tied with Andrew). Delia fights with her mother a little bit as she tries to make sense of the incident. She believes she would have done the same thing as her father since she believes if Eric did the same thing, she would take Sophie and run.

Meanwhile, Andrew has a side plot going on inside the prison. He hooks up with a black inmate to be friends (which is unheard of inside the prison because racial lines are not to be crossed), and they get involved in dealing meth. His friend tries to get him out of the business because it would destroy Andrew, and the friend is killed by another inmate. Andrew is sort of set up for it, but he ends up getting out of the incident because of the outcome of his trial.

Fitz also accompanies Delia, but his mission is to write a story about it. Fitz ends up abandoning the assignment which costs him his job, but it eventually gets him the girl. Now, this pairing of two seemed obvious to me that it was going to happen. Eric eventually falls off the wagon which lands Delia is Fitz's arms. They soon become a couple and Eric remains down in Arizona to try his hand at being a lawyer there with some old friends.

Here is the twist in the plot (so look away if you don't want a spoiler): Andrew really took Delia away because his wife was cheating on him with a man named Victor who molested Delia (her old name being Bethany Matthews). This is why Andrew assaulted Victor in a bar and then took off with Delia. He was protecting her from sexual abuse as well. Victor later steals Sophie, which makes things really get creepy. But, fortunately, Delia is able to find them.

Done spoiling. Another side plot was a character named Ruthann who was an Indian friend who looked after Sophie as they lived in the trailer park. She taught her Indian stories and crafts. She seemed to act as the voice of reason within the novel, offering smart anecdotes and sayings every now and then. However, Ruthann did not tell them that she had cancer and was going to die. When she goes missing, Delia follows her to a cliff where Delia debates letting her jump or not. Delia has a difficult decision on her hands, but she lets Ruthann have her way. She lets her jump. If she didn't want to suffer in this life, then that was her decision. Delia has a hard time letting this go, but I think it's a turning point for her character.

Overall, I didn't find myself as hooked to this novel as I normally am with her books. I am normally really drawn into the plot and the characters, but I didn't find myself being invested in the characters this time. They didn't seem to be as real to me as others were. It seemed similar to other books, but the draw and the issue wasn't as interesting to me.

The book touched upon more controversial and/or grey-area issues which could be great points for discussion: alcoholism, sexual abuse, kidnapping, identity theft, secret identities, spirituality (tarot cards), parental neglect or abuse, forbidden romance. I can see why this could lead to good discussion; the plot just wasn't stellar to me as other plots have been.

So what do you think of Vanishing Acts?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Foo Fighters Unplugged

It's about time that Foo Fighters did Unplugged. The show has been allowing artists that are not Unplugged-worthy. They are either too focused on rap and R&B, newer artists that aren't going to last, or older artists that we just don't care about (i.e. Bon Jovi). At least Foo Fighters deserve the spot.

Dave Grohl explained a lot of songs and stories that connect with his music, which added more levels to his music. He talked about how having children impacted his music career. He talked about the trajectory of their career over the past fifteen years. He talked about how unreal it is that this that they have made it this far.

Besides the discussion part, the music was also really good. I was proud that they picked some new songs too since they are a band that can tend to focus on the same old, same old songs. The songs they picked were because of the story. THAT is impressive.

Here are the songs they played with explanation:

"This is a Call"

Dave discussed how he started the band fifteen years ago. He rented an underground studio for five days and recorded their first self-titled album all by himself. He didn't see it as anything serious. He called the band Foo Fighters because he wanted other people to see that it was made by a group--not just him.

"Big Me"

Once the band was formed and their popularity started to grow, they were approached by VH1 and other big-name music corporations to make a music video. They scoffed at the offer at first because they didn't want to become too sucked into the media. But, they soon agreed and had many pitches for music videos. The one that sucked them in first was a Mentos commercial spoof for "Big Me." The guitarist warned Dave, saying that after this, Mentos will be thrown at the stage from now on. Dave brushed that idea aside, but he was wrong. Mentos would POUR onto the stage during this song which became painful for band members.

Ten years later, after they stopped playing the song for fear of injury, they decided to play it. A full pack of Mentos soared onto the stage and right at Dave's face. He stopped playing immediately and decided that it was all end there. Dave made a speech and decided that they would burn the Mentos pack as a rital to bring it all to an end. But when he reached in his pocket, he didn't have a lighter. He asked the audience for once, and instead of Mentos packs raining down on him, lighters were.


"My Hero"

This song was one of the first songs they played on tour. They only had 12 songs to play (from the first album), so they started to play this song. Whenever Grohl hears the melody of this song, he thinks of a "Valley Girl" theme song. He started to list off heroes in his life that influenced him. As a whole, the song embodies how he feels towards all of his heroes.

"Word Forward"

Grohl lost his best friend recently which made him reflect on his past. He was in a really dark period because he discovered a lot of cool things that changed his life, including music. He considered him to be like a brother. He wrote this song about moving on after your best friend passes away and there's only one direction to go--forward.


When they wrote their second album, it was ready to go. But, they recorded one more song and wondered if they should include it. They wrote a demo and realized that it was pretty good--they should include it. Grohl says that without that song, they might not have lasted the 13 extra years.

When they toured with Bob Dylan years later, he asked to speak with Grohl. They discussed other things, but at the end of the conversation, Dylan asked Grohl what the song was with the lines, "will everything feel this good forever..." in which Grohl responded, "Everlong." Dylan suggested that they play that more often. That is a good song. Blown away, Grohl agreed.

So what do you think of Foo Fighters Unplugged?

Memoirs: The Criticism

Memoir is definitely my favorite literary genre. Don't ask me why, but I find something entirely powerful with a person who opens themselves up to a painful and/or troubling situation to try to make sense of it. We discover through their hurt and struggle what they have learned about life through their unfortunate trauma. These are, as we are supposed to believe, real stories, and because of that, I am even more interested.

But, the genre has received a lot of criticism over the past few years, especially when James Frey's book A Million Little Pieces came out. It was found that many parts of his book were either embellished or fictionalized. This takes away from the memoir--a true account. Are memoirsits writing their history the way they want it to be told? Do we tell a story in a certain way to portray ourselves in a certain way? It's like history teachers preach: History is told by those who want to teach it. Consider the point of view.

When I've had students write short memoirs, or this year when they wrote a memory start to finish, most of them wrote about their greatest difficulty afterwards: Getting down EXACTLY what happened and remembering every piece was really hard. Some of them said they even made up some parts because they just didn't remember. Part of what I wanted to show them was that exact issue. Writers do the best they can to remember what happened in each scene, but in the end, it really is just the best that the writer can do to convey what happened. The dialogue isn't verbatim, the characters might be just the perception of the writer, the drama or conflict may impact or be greater than it was because it's coming from the writer's perspective.

But, isn't a memoir really about how one person experiences a problem? I find some merit in the fact that it is the person's experience. How does the person remember and make sense of this problem? How would this person tell the story? What does that tell us about this person and his/her psyche? What is left out? What is overtold? Where do we end and begin? I find it to be a very interesting case study.

Yesterday I read an article in The New Yorker on this very issue. This is why all of these musings and defences are coming to mind. The subtitle of the article, "But Enough about Me" by Daniel Mendelsohn, asks us, What does the popularity of memoirs tell us about ourselves? He connects our love for memoirs almost to be like watching reality television. It's not really reality, but we still love to view it and perceive it as real. I don't know if that close of a connection can be made, but he also has other comments on the memoir that I want to share:

"Unseemingly self-exposures, unpalatable betrayals, unavoidable mendacity, a soupcon of metericiousness,: memoir, for much of its modern history, has been the black sheep of the literary family. Like a drunken guest at a wedding, it is constantly mortifying its soberer relatives (philosophy, history, literary fiction)--spilling family secrets, embarassing old friends--motivated, it would seem, by an overpowering need to be the center of attention."

"Such self-involvement [...] is just one of the charges that have been levelled against memoirs and their authors over the centuries, the others being that Freud was so leery of: indiscretion, betrayal, and outright fraud. But it's the ostensible narcissism that has irritated critics the most."

"Are there any motives for the enterprise that aren't tainted with justification? To halo a sinner's head? To puff an ego already inflated past safety?"

In defense of memoirs: "They accurately reflect a reality present not in the world itself, but in the author's mind."

Writing is therapeutic; it helps the writer cope and survive, to make sense of the incident(s).

The article discussed various memoirs that were claimed to be entirely fictionalized, some that were written about slave life and survival during the Holocaust. Perhaps it's more difficult to debunk those claims, but it is much easier today, especially when this person earns fame and a hefty salary. People are more willing to step forward to disclaim them, especially out of hatred and jealousy, especially if they were portrayed in a way that is not suitable to them (even if most of it is true).

But, I am still a supporter of the genre. I still find myself drawn to reading any memoir I can get my hands on. I feel like I am immersed in a situation or culture entirely foreign to me. Instead of reading a book about the topic, you get the internal narrative of what the person experiencing it feels and believes. Those hooked on drugs, we understand WHY they do what they do. We see WHY they got involved instead of a textbook's classic list of answers. When someone engages in plastic surgery, we read why this person is driven to do this. I find it fascinating to read the true narrative of someone who suffers and what they end up taking and learning from this experience.

I understand the criticism. There is merit to the claim. But with this known, don't we still keep that in the back of our minds when we read? We shouldn't ever read or view something and take it as 100% truth. We should always be questioning small details (or big ones) as good readers and viewers. After all, it is just a text. We can take what we can or need from it. We don't take it as gospel; we extract the lesson we need to learn.

Here are some good memoirs that I have really enjoyed in the past:

Running with Scizzors by Augusten Burroughs
Dry by Augusten Burroughs
Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs
A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
Magical Thinking by Augusten Burroughs
Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis
Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman
I'm Not Myself These Days by Josh Kilmer Purcell
Letters from My Father by Barrack Obama
Broken by William Cope Meyers
Wasted by Marya Hornbacher
Madness by Marya Hornbacher
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M Pirsig
Passing for Normal by Amy Wilenski
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Find Me by Rosie O'Donnell
Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt
Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
The Glass Castle by Jeanneatte Walls
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Naked by David Sedaris
The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy
Marley and Me by Josh Grogan
Woman Warriors by Jennie McCarthy
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
Black Like Me by John Griffin
Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
Tweak by Nic Sheff
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I Was Told There'd Be Cake by Sloan Crosley
Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox
Unraveled by Maria Housden
Hope's Boy by Andrew Bridge
Night by Elie Wiesel
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max
Beautiful Stranger by Hope Donahue
Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther

So what do you think of the memoir?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Dahn Yoga Cult

Yesterday, I read an article in Rolling Stone on the Dahn Yoga Cult. I had never heard of them before, but I was somehow sucked into the article. Whenever the word "cult" follows a phrase, I am always fascinated to see what it is that mass people follow. What is it that sucks people into these cults? What do they have to do? What do they sacrifice? What principles do they follow with all of their hearts, even if they might have a twinge of doubt? How do they recruit followers? How far do they go for these leaders? And what is the leader seeking out of this?

The article, "The Yoga Cult" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, focuses on a young couple who were former cult members. They were recruited in college (like many of this cult are) and were persuaded to continue attending seminars and sessions, dumping thousands and thousands of dollars into this organization to keep themselves connected. The couple, Amy and Ricardo, were sucked in for years and have recently come out of it. They have exposed many of the practices of the cult.

To give a little background on Dahn Yoga, only some refer to it as a cult. It is seen as a cult because of the extensive following and the intense practices of the members. Lawsuits have come out against Dahn Yoga and its leader, Ilchi Lee, for various reasons including sexual charges and deaths associated with intense workouts (similar to hazing). It was founded by Lee in 1985 when he climbed to the top of a mountain and realized that his calling was to lead this Yoga movement. He left his family and started this group. Now, he accumulates millions of dollars, has private jets, multiple properties, and darts lawsuits.

Basic information on Dahn Yoga: "In Korean, dahn means 'primal, vital energy,' and hak means 'study of a particular theory or philosophy.' Dahn teachings are said to place equal emphasis on physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. News sources have described its exercises as 'a blend of yoga, tai chi, and martial arts exercises.'"

Essentially, members go through extreme workouts to aim for spritual perfection. Members are told that, together, they will come together to achieve world peace. Sounds like a lofty goal, eh?

Members keep striving to reach higher levels of their spiritual health. Amy, the focus of the article, was even promoted to become a Dahn instructor where she had to go through rigorous training. These trainings had to be lightened because one victim was killed while carrying too heavy a bag of rocks up a mountain. Members like Amy recruit young twenty-somethings to join. They are on college campuses, they are physcially fit, and they are ready to take out loans to give to Dahn. Some members drop out of college in order to meet the demands (physically, spritually, and financially) to accomodate the needs of Dahn.

Ricardo, one of the former members, said it was difficult to stop being a part of Dahn because they are brainwashed into thinking that if they leave Dahn, their spritual path will be destroyed. Essentially, they will be spiritually lost. And once members leave, they are harassed with phone calls over and over again by leaders trying to get them to come back. Intense. Both Ricardo and Amy went deep into debt paying for all of these sessions and seminars. I can't believe that they suck THIS much money out of these people to stay hooked.

Here are some of the practices retold by Amy that the members were asked to perform:

-Lack of sleep during retreats
-They would have to plunge their heads into the water until they couldn't breathe. When they gasp to the surface, they chant a devotional song to their leader, weeping to prove their sincerity to the cause. Repeat many times.
-In pitch-black darkness, members scream and dance hard for hours. Then they collapse into a "sobbing heap."
-At a retreat, members punch themselves in the stomach while yelling things like "I hate myself!"
-They engage in head-shaking meditation that they call "wave vibration." Members have to purchase "palm-size vibrating brains" which cost $80, and after class they discuss feelings in a sharing circle.
-Hours of loud, fast exercise, trust-building games, and personal confessions.
-To enter, they had to write their most personal account in writing and share it with many, many people. If it wasn't personal enough, that did not show their devotion so they could not participate.
-At retreats, they were taught that their brains were clogged with meaningless information and they would reprogram them together.
-One exercise: Pretend you're looking at your dead body. What do you want to say to your dead body? How did you live your life?
-Candidates for membership must show their devotion to Dahn. This entails a seven-mile hike with up to 40 pounds of rocks on your back.
-Members are required to pull in a certain amount of money into the mission per month, sometimes climbing as high as $20,000.
-They have to wake early in the morning (4AM) to meditate.
-Some have to drink toilet water, lick each other's feet, and fall backwards into a pool screaming their love for Lee to prove themselves to the Dahn.
-At one session, a wet washcloth was said to be their soul, and people fought and scratched to get ahold of their washcloth.

Now, the above practices were communicated by Amy, the subject in the article. Perhaps these are not ALL standard practices, but these are some witnessed by a former member.


-127 fitness centers
-The holiest seminar costs $100,000
-Americans make up 10,000 of the 500,000 members
-Last year, Dahn Yoga pulled in $30 million in the US
-$30 million is only a fraction of what they collected in the nine other countries they are set up in
-They consider themselves a cutting-edge science called "brain education" with "the power to sharpen memory, prevent cancer, and give practitioners extrasensory powers."
-15 American cities have declared Ilchi Lee days.
-PowerBrain Operation is a Dahn-run organization that teaches "brain wave vibration" workshops in 44 different public schools, most in New York City.
-Many members believe he is god, while Lee compares himself to Buddha.

I am merely presenting information. I expect that some people will not like the infomration I present here. I am merely publishing information that I have learned from a magazine. Perhaps there are some small things that are not correct, and that lies in my misinterpretation of the facts. This is what I have read. This is what I think.

What do you think of Dahn Yoga?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

From the Lives of My Friends

The New Yorker has really got me into the twin poets Michael and Matthew Dickman. Every time I see a poem of theirs, I get really excited. I've already written a blog post about them (as they are two average guys making a living while pursuing their poetry), and they continue to prove to me how fabulous their writing is.

From the Lives of My Friends

by Michael Dickman

What are the birds called
in that neighborhood
The dogs

There were dogs flying
from branch to

My friends and I climbed up the telephone poles to sit on the power lines dressed like crows

Their voices sounded like lemons

They were a smooth sheet
They grew

black feathers

Not frightening at all
but beautiful, shiny, and
full of promise

What kind of light

is that?


The lives of my friends spend all of their time dying and coming back and dying and coming back

They take a break in summer
to mow the piss
yellow lawns, blazing
front and

There is no break in winter

I am in love with the sisters of my friends
All that yellow hair!
Their arms

They lick their fingers
to wipe my face

of everything

And I am glad
I am glad
I am

so glad


We will all be shipped away
in an icebox
with one word OYSTERS
painted on the outside

Left alone, for once

None of my friends wrote novels, from the lives of my friends came their lives

Here's what we did
we played in the yard outside
after dinner

and then
we were shipped away

That was fast--



I see this as a coming of age poem. The way I read it, the speaker is reflecting back on his childhood and where he is today. He and his friends perhaps grew apart from their childhoods together, which seemed to be close but now adult life has interjected.

In the first section of the poem, the speaker and his friends are using their imaginations (something that seems to be lost by the end of the poem). It is a pure experience that the children share together. They call birds dogs and watch them fly. Childhood is so simple--they watch birds fly and it's a fun afternoon. They are curious and want to explore. They climb, they pretend, they watch. Their voices sounded like lemons (lemons are bitter, perhaps trying to connect the sound with a taste, and yellow to connect with brightness). These birds eventually grow black feathers (alluding to darkness), but the boys are not frightened. They experience life together.

What kind of light is that? I'm still trying to figure out the significance of that...

In the second section, the speaker has grown up a little bit, at least to the point where he is an adolescent. He is starting to have feelings for the friends' sisters. Another reference to yellow (connecting with lemons and the piss-yellow lawns). Instead of playing all the time--like they used to do as children--they only really hang out for long periods of time during the summer. School is now taking up time in between. Even in the summer they are filled with chores and tasks of mowing lawns and jobs. Licking their fingers is a sexual reference to his connection with these sisters (who seem to be more available to him than the friends) and they wipe his face clean. This implies that it was dirty before (perhaps from mowing lawns and working), almost like their are purifying him (making him cleaner). To me, their relationship seems to be dirtier than it does cleaner. The repetition of "glad" almost connects back to their sexual relationship, especially since it gets shorter and shorter as the stanza goes on.

The third section references the boys going off to college, like they will be shipped off in ice-cold boxes (which sounds quite morbid). They will be labeled OYSTERS which is an organism that looks just like the next one. There is no individuality about them. They are just students, BOY A, BOY B, etc. and they will be shipped off just like it happens each year. At least when they are shipped off they will be left alone, for once. Even the term "shipped off" makes it seem like it's not even their choice. They are doing what is expected of them, and they will follow these commands like obedient, obsequious robots.

At the end of the section, the speaker seems to go back in time to when they used to play outside, and then the rest seems like a blur. Now all of a sudden they are leaving and going off to college. He even mentions how fast it all went. Growing up was bitter and bright, a juxtaposition of good and bad.

The structure of the poem suggests that time is slipping away. Lines go from long to short, suggesting that time is coming to an end, diminishing. Even the fact that there is rarely punctuation (which means the poem is read faster) suggests that these events are happening quickly and you have to keep revisiting it to understand all that has happened in this short time period. But as the poet does, you can even section off a life into parts. This is easy with school years. Childhood. Adolescence. College.

The speaker gives us colors and tastes to connect with his response to growing up. Lemons. Yellow. Black. Crows. Warmth (summer). Oysters (bland, dull, boring is what they have become).

I think it's interesting that he titles it about his friends. Why would he place THEM as the subject of the poem? It seems more to be about his experience growing up, but they seem to be at the center of it. Unless, maybe he's trying to separate himself from them, almost like they had a different experience from him. Perhaps he will not become the oyster (the different one), and his friends will be just like everyone else. While he experiences love and branches out, his friends are living standard lives. This is all just a guess. I need more guidance from a fellow lover of poetry to add some additional input to me.

So what do you think of "From the Lives of My Friends?"

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Have you ever heard of cryonics?

This morning, I read an article in The New Yorker on cryonics. I have heard of it before, but I had never read about it in this much length before. I can't believe that it's really a serious study, practice, and belief that people follow and go along with. But in the meantime, let's discuss what it is.

In plain English, cryonics is when humans literally freeze their bodies after death in the hopes that technology will increase so much that their bodies will be resurrected by newer medicine in future years.

Cryonics was first proposed in 1962. The founder of this movement is Robert Ettinger, the focus of this article. This paragraph will provide some background on Ettinger and cryonics in general from "The Iceman" by Jill Lepore:

"Ettinger is a founder of the cryonics movement. When he dies, the blood will be drained from his body, antifreeze will be pumped into his arteries, and holes will be drilled into his skull, after which he will be stored in a vat of liquid nitrogen at minus three hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit. He expects to be defrosted, somewhere between fifty and two hundred years from now, by scientists who will make him young and strong and tireless. Ettinger has already frozen his mother and his two wives, along with ninety-two other people who await resurrection inside giant freezers in a building five minutes away from his house, in Clinton Township, Michigan."

Ettinger, born in 1918, was inspired by many pop culture texts that made cryonics seem like a plausible idea. The birth of the sci-fi genre, Edgar Allen Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," Jack London's "A Thousand Deaths," Gernsback's "The Corpse That Lived" and "The Ice Man," Dr. Strangelove, and Woody Allen's Sleeper. These texts give him faith in cryonics.

All a person needs is fifteen hundred dollars for the downpayment on preservation, and twenty eight thousand dollars to keep the body for all of that time until the body can be resurrected. Some can use their life insurance or life savings. Unfortunately, they wouldn't leave anything behind for others. They put their money towards their futures, after they're dead.

Ettinger has been on talk shows and published manifestos. A lot of the public has laughed at him for this crazy theory, and I'm presenting it to see what others think about it.

To me, I have a problem with the soul. Where does the soul go, and can it return back to a dead body? How does one restore LIFE into a dead being? That sounds more like a god complex to me. I'm sure that technology is going to increase a lot in the near future--I just don't know HOW far.

I haven't delved into the deeper science involved in cryonics, but even just examining the overall theory makes me hesitant to believe it. Giving new life into a frozen body does sound sci-fi. It does seem like a cheesy movie more than reality. Crazy things do happen every day though (especially connecting with science), things never deemed possible. I just don't think people can be brought back to life--especially two hundred years later. I'm not saying it's IMPOSSIBLE--it just doesn't seem probable to me.

Here are their beliefs or PRO-Cryonics theories:

"A central premise of cryonics is that memory, personality, and identity are stored in durable cell structures and patterns within the brain that do not require continuous brain activity to survive. This premise is generally accepted in medicine; it is known that under certain conditions the brain can stop functioning and still later recover with retention of long-term memory. Additional scientific premises of cryonics are that (1) brain structures encoding memory persist for some period of time after clinical death, (2) brain structures encoding memory can survive cryopreservation, and (3) future technologies that could restore encoded memories to functional expression in a healed person are theoretically possible.

Cryonics is controversial because the technologies of premise (3) are so advanced that premises (1) and (2) are considered irrelevant by most scientists. Whether biological traces of memory or personhood might persist after clinical death is of no interest to medicine once resuscitation becomes impossible by present technology. Similarly, outside of cryonics there is no interest in the question of whether memory encoding might survive cryopreservation because the question is regarded as meaningless until cryopreservation can be reversed. At present only cells, tissues, and some small organs can be reversibly cryopreserved. Medical science is primarily concerned with what is demonstrably achievable, not what is theoretically possible. There are therefore no established scientific specialties or journals directly concerned with the scientific questions posed by cryonics.

Cryonics advocates claim that it is possible to preserve the fine cell structures of the brain in which memory and identity reside with present technology. They say that demonstrably reversible preservation is not necessary to achieve the present-day goal of cryonics, which is preservation of brain information that encodes memory and personal identity. They believe that current cryonics procedures can preserve the anatomical basis of mind, and that this may be sufficient to prevent information-theoretic death until future repairs might be possible.

A moral premise of cryonics is that cryopreserving people when there is no other hope is the right thing to do, sometimes even under poor conditions that make the scientific premises of cryonics highly uncertain. Some cryonicists believe as a matter of principle that anyone who would ordinarily be regarded as dead should instead be made a "permanent patient" subject to whatever future advances might bring. Unlike the scientific premises of cryonics, such moral beliefs are not testable or falsifiable."

So what do you think of Cryonics?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ashes of Roses

In the spirit of the historical fiction research paper my students are writing, I chose to read a popular YA historical fiction title, Ashes of Roses. This novel, by Mary Jane Auch, is about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City, 1911. I hadn't researched the historical topic much before, but this novel provided decent inquiry into the details surrounding the event.

This YA novel could be applicable to students in grades six to eight. It centers around the story of a sixteen year old girl, but it still could be read and enjoyed by a male. I have found that more ladies in my classroom are reading it, but maybe other historical topics are more interesting to them than this one. I found it to be a decent read, but I must admit that I was a tad bit bored at times. I felt like I was waiting for the fire to happen, but it didn't take place until almost the last chapter of that novel. At least it was a good build up, making me wait and read further, anticipating the climax.

The story focuses on Rose Nolan, an Irish immigrant who comes to Ellis Island with her family. Her brother has to return back to Ireland with the baby they bring because he doesn't pass medical inspections. Rose, her sister, and her mother are left in New York City to fend for themselves. They shack up with Rose's father's brother who came over to the states years earlier and established himself with a political career. He lets them live in their small apartment which increases the tension between the wife and daughter living there.

The women become short with them and yell at them for taking up their space, eating their food, and essentially mooching. They act superior which angers Rose to no end. As a result, Rose seeks a job so that they can live on their own. Rose starts to work making paper flowers, and the boss lets her take them home to work on them. Rose and her mother work on the flowers in the house. The women come home angry, saying that they have set up a sweatshop in the house and now the daughter will never be courted. A large fight ensues, and they decide to return to Ireland.

At the docks, Rose and Maureen, the sister, decide to remain in New York City while the mother wants to return home to her husband. New York City has proven to be too much trouble. Rose and Maureen promise to return to their uncle's, but once mother leaves, they go out into the world to start their own life without the pity and assistance of others.

Rose and Maureen try to live in countless apartments but are turned away because they are two young girls without jobs or a lot of money. But, they are accepted into one house because of a nice feminist girl named Gussie. Gussie is a union worker who sets them up with an apartment and jobs at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Gussie also helps Rose earn back the money she was owed from her old boss who tried to cheat Rose out of her money and take advantage of her sexually.

Now working at the Factory, Rose earns some money to live. She visits the Nickelodeon (the "moving pictures" center which plays black and white films) and makes new friends who like to hang out with boys (ooo!). Gussie tries to show her the horrid conditions of the factory--the tight working quarters, the little pay, the long hours, the rapid rise and fall of ranks of workers, etc. Rose just feels lucky to have a job and some money.

Then comes the fire. It happens really fast. The fire breaks out. Women crowd the doors to get downstairs but they are locked. Women jump out windows to escape. Some try to land on firefighters' nets, but they either miss or the nets are not suitable to catch them. Women are burning alive. It's horrible.

Rose escapes but searches to find her sister. Fortunately, she finds her sister after she climbed to the roof and was escorted over to the next building over the rooftops. They try to find Gussie, but Gussie is the casualty that they experience. Rose and her sister mourn the loss of Gussie. The end.

I thought it was kind of lame that they didn't kill either Rose or Maureen. There wasn't really that much loss suffered at the hands of the protagonist. Sure, they lost their friend, but to really feel the tragedy, one of them should have died. It seemed to much of a happy ending when the real event was traumatic. Making us lose one of the main characters would have better mirrored the emotions suffered that day. This seemed like an easy way out for the ending, but that's just me.

This is a YA title, but it did seem pretty simple. It was really a simple story without means for any analysis. It is more a means of retelling a historical event, which in that purpose, it serves its duty. I would recommend it to young readers, especially those who are interested in history, and I'm sure a lot of them would like it. Others would find it kind of boring, so the one recommending would have to gauge the reader to pass this book off to certain readers.

That's my take on Ashes for Roses. What do you think of it?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Live Your Life

This blog post is ENTIRELY NOT MINE. I am copying it over from an issue of The New Yorker. It is written by Dave Cowen, and it is absolutely hilarious. I want other people to enjoy how brilliant and hilarious it is.

This speaks to me as a lover of learning, a lover of reading, a lover of writing. It speaks to the true English teacher in me. And, a dig at Kanye West doesn't hurt either. Enjoy.

Live Your Life

by David Cowen

"I am not a fan of books. I would never want a book's autograph. I am a proud nonreader of books. I like to get information from doing stuff like actually talking to people and living real life."

-Kanye West, promoting his book, Thank You and You're Welcome

Whoever said life is an open book probably didn't have any friends. Sure, he probably liked the people in his book. But did they like him? No. Why? Because they aren't real.

My friends are real. They actually talk to me. Like just the other day my friend Bill said, "I'm not reading your email for you anymore. You need to learn how to read." And I said, "Bill, if you don't read me my email, I won't sign an autograph for your son." And Bill was, like, "Well, go f*** yourself. I'm going back to the hospital." Bill's son, Bill Jr., or Billy Bob, was in the children's unit there. He didn't read the label on the box of his Sticky Stones, and when he swallowed three of the iron-ore magnets they fused into a chain along the wall of his esophagas. Bill, Sr., felt extra bad because he hadn't read that a consumer safety group had placed the Sticky Stones on its annual list of worst toys. I told Bill that's life. That stuff happens when you are doing stuff. In life. Real life. If I told you what happened to Billy Bob had happened in a book, you would have said no way, that would never happen, that's fiction. But it did. Because I told you it did.

Now, don't get me wrong. There are a few books that I am a fan of. Matchbooks are good. A lot of people are under the impression that books burn only at a certain temperature. But it's just not true. I can burn most books at or below 451 degrees Fahrenheit. Sometimes below 300, if I soak the jacket in lighter fluid.

I also like MacBooks. You can really do stuff on them, you know. Like see how many followers you have on Twitter, or take pictures of yourself with Photo Booth, or play Second Life, or check if Bill has checked your e-mail. I miss Bill. He set up my Facebook account on my MacBook. I've got my own page on there now. Do you know how many fans Books have? Twenty-five thousand seven hundred and sixty-four. That's it. So I'm not alone here. You know what else has more fans than Books? The Olive Garden. One hundred and eighty-five thousand nine hundred and eighty-six. What else? Sleep: over three hundred thousand. More people would rather be unconscious than read a book. Now, I'm not condoning sleep. I'm about doing stuff. Living life. But it goes to show that I am in the majority.

Right now you're probably wondering. Hey, why is this guy, a proud non-reader of books, writing this? Isn't this a Catch-22? And I say no, it's not. It's a Catch-23. What's a Catch 23? It's like a Catch-22, except there is no catch. I don't want you to read this. In fact, you should stop reading right now. Seriously. Stop reading this. Start doing stuff. What kind of stuff, you ask? I don't know. Why don't you go to the Olive Garden? But just watch out. They give you the never-ending salad before the never-ending pasta bowl. You wouldn't think so, but the salad fills you right up. The lettuce is mostly iceberg. All water. And the water really makes you feel like shit when you don't make it to the fettucine Alfredo.

Sometimes when I don't know what to do I imagine other people doing stuff. But like people in a different time. Or like people in a different place. And I think of how cool it would be to be that person for awhile. Like to know how other people I don't know talk or do stuff. How they really live, you know? But that's when I'm not doing stuff of my own. Which is all the time anyway.

So what do you think of "Live Your Life?"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Imagery-Rehearsal Therapy

Ever have recurring bad nightmares? Well, according to a study completed by Barry Krakow in 2001 (published in The Journal of the American Medical Association), a practice called imagery-rehearsal therapy could be the answer to your grueling nightmarish problems.

Krakow took 168 women who were sexual assault victims who had recurring nightmares. Half of them were the control group who received no therapy. These women had continued repeating nightmares. The other half of the women received imagery-rehearsal therapy. After six months of this therapy, the majority of the women had significantly fewer recurring nightmares and their post traumatic stress disorder had lessened.

So what is this therapy then? Well, if a women has a recurring nightmare, the woman is to re-write the nightmare but ending it in any different way they wished. Then, women spent about 20 minutes each day envisioning this new ending. When visiting with doctors, these women would repeat the ending aloud with the doctor and even act it out in some cases.

For example, a person envisioned knives falling from the ceiling. To change this, not only did the person envision a different ending, but she changed the physical setting of her bedroom. She hung potted plants from the ceiling and envisioned leaves falling instead of knives. Or, a woman always saw herself at a concentration camp. Instead, she changd her dream to be at a summer camp. Small changes like this would transform the dreams from their scariness to something that is more pleasing and easier to accept. In most cases, it worked.

The article found in a November issue of The New Yorker (entitled "Nightmare Scenario" by Margaret Talbot) explains in great detail the many cases Krakow experienced. More data and facts were given arround the studies of dreams, nightmares, and treatments. What I found interesting was this new study to try to combat dreams. What do you think of them? Does it sound crazy or like something that you might try if you found yourself in the situation?

An opposer believes, "The technique--which is an intellectual cousin of cognitive-behavior therapy--is an insufficient approach, because it does not seek to get at the roots of the disorder it treats. In other words, nightmares may be the least of a patient's problems."

Some doctors prescribe Prazosin, which is said to stop the nightmares completely, but after taking the meds, the nightmares will come right back. Aren't we too drugged up enough anyway? Pills shouldn't always be the right answer!

But, many scientists are taking the view held by the leading dream researcher at the moment, G. William Domhoff which is to support the therapy. He believes this is an advancement, an effective technique, and that dreams center around some of our deepest concerns, so altering their narrative is an effective cure.

On a different note, here are some interesting facts about nightmares that come directly from the article:

-"Less than a quarter of chronic nightmare sufferers report that they are always awakened by their nightmares."

-Fear was the signal emotion in 70% of nightmares. In the remaining 30%, other emotions predominated: sadness, anger, frustration."

-"Between 8 and 30% of adults report that they have nightmares at least once a month. In the course of a lifetime, virtually everyone has them."

-"Nightmares are more common among children than adults and are more common among women than men."

-"The gender difference [as mentioned above] may be explained, in part, by the fact that women are better than men at remembering their dreams, and perhaps more willing to admit they have nightmares."

-"The most common scenario of a nightmare is to be pursued or attacked."

-"In a study published in 2000, when children were asked to attribute their bad dreams to a cause, they did frequently cite something they saw on TV. There is also evidence that dream villains and monsters evolve over time, in response to popular culture. Michael Schredl looked at several nightmare studies from the 20th century, and found that dreams of the bogeyman were common in the twenties; dreams of ghosts, devils, and witches reigned in the fifties and sixties; and those of movie villains dominated the nineties."

-"250 German children between the ages of 9 and 13 were questioned, and it was found that nightmares were not more frequent among the kids who watched more TV or played more video games. So, nightmares can influence nightmares but not necessarily create or increase them."

Interesting, eh?

So what do you think about imagery-rehearsal therapy or any of the studies or statistics presented above?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Change of Heart

On my rampage of reading Jodi Picoult novels, I have just finished reading another one of her novels, Change of Heart. At first, the plot didn't really grab me. It seemed like another one of her novels centering around a controversial topic that just seemed over-the-top (maybe could never happen), but as I kept reading, I got hooked. She definitely has the ability to grab you as a reader!

Even though I didn't feel a strong personal connection or opinion on the topics in this book, I started to become interested in the plot and what happened with these characters. One strength that Picoult has is that she creates in depth characters that readers can connect with. She makes us care about them, so we want to keep reading to see what happens to them.

In Change of Heart, the main premise surrounds a convicted murderer, Shay Bourne, who murdered the husband and daughter of June Nealon. He is sentenced with capital punishment and waits eleven years to receive the death penalty.

During this eleven year lapse of time, June Nealon's other daughter (who was still in her stomach as a fetus when the murders occurred, leaving her alone) develops a heart condition that will kill her if she does not receive a heart transplant. In order to redeem himself, Shay wants to give his heart to Claire, the daughter. But, if he is given a lethal injection, his heart would not be able to be delivered to Claire because the injection stops the heart. He would have to die in a different way (like hanging) to be braindead; then organs could be donated.

This issue then becomes a matter of religious preference--prison inmates are still allowed to practice their religion. Maggie Bloom, Shay's attorney, argues in court that Shay needs to be able to practice his religion freely, and his religion propels him to want to donate his organs so that he can feel redemption and peace within his soul before passing. So, a trial ensues (like a lot of her other novels).

Enter Michael Wright, Shay's spiritual advisor. He is summoned by his church to advise Shay to give up this silly idea of heart donation. Michael has a strange connection to Shay though: he served on the jury that sentenced Shay to death. We eventually find out, in the last section of the book, that Shay knew this all along. But, the whole time, we assume that Michael is waiting to unleash this bombshell of information, which he finally does.

Maggie and Michael become friends, being the only connections Shay has. They discuss religion, or their lack of belief in it. Michael became a priest after Shay's trial, feeling lost and alone, he felt his calling. Maggie used to be Jewish, her father is a rabbi, but now she is atheist. They have many conversations about religion.

And, speaking of religion, Ian Fletcher from Keeping Faith makes an appearance. He consults Michael on the topic of this trial and religion, and he becomes a wtiness at the trial. Since this novel takes place further in time than Keeping Faith, we learn what happens to Ian and Mariah after the novel. The two have twin boys (who he nicknames Cain and Abel), Ian continues to publish his novels in his barn office, and Mariah continues to work on her dollhouses. They live a happy life.

Anyway, twists and turns come in the plot. SPOILER ALERT...

Shay came from a foster family and his sister Grace hated him forever for burning their house and leaving her with nasty scars on her face. Come to find out, once we meet Grace, she actually started the fire. Shay actually saved her but took the blame. This landed him in a juvenile detenetion center, changing the course of his life forever.

This foreshadows his later crime with the Nealons. I figured out what happened once June Nealon and Shay met in jail. June asks Shay, "Why? Why did you do it?" and Shay replies, "She was better off dead." What does that mean? Well, the father was sexually molesting the child. Shay walked in on them, and he tried to save her. Unfortunately, since the husband was a cop, he fired off shots that killed the daughter. However, Shay does kill the husband out of anger. He says, "Some people deserve to die." Since the husband was a cop, Shay had no fighting chance to get out of this. He took the blame and the death sentence. All he wanted was sympathy from June Nealon, but he didn't want to ruin her life again with this disasterous news, even though she does figure it out later which makes her, in turn, receive the heart to save Claire's life.

In the midst of the plot, Maggie researches how to save Shay through a doctor named Christian (ironic name). He and Maggie eventually fall in love. But, Maggie has some serious weight problems which are constantly addressed in the book. Christian helps her overcome this conflict.

Besides Christian's name, other names are significant as well. Michael Wright--he almost feels like he is on his righteous path. He is "right" even though all priests and others think he is wrong. Maggie Bloom--her last name suggests her coming out of her shell with this case. She finally feels alive and has found her niche to make her feel like a real, contributing person of worth and substance. Shay Bourne--his real name creates the phrase I.M. Bourne, which alludes to his questioning position as Jesus Christ reincarnated.

Another HUGE point of the book is the question of Shay being the messiah. While in prison, he creates religious miracles that cannot be explained. On his first night in prison, the water in the pipes turn to wine (a connection to Jesus). He takes a dead bird in the prison and breathes life back into it. He can change the moods of prisoners to act nicer than they would. He revives a dead prison guard when pronounced dead. And, he cures a prisoner, Lucious, of having AIDS.

Lucious is another point of view from within the prison. This is a person who we get to see inside his head. He tells us what goes on with Shay, as we never get to see inside of his head. Lucious eventually dies from complication of AIDS which begs the question--was the initial cure real?

Lucious was an artist who killed his boyfriend Adam (another religious reference) when he cheated on him. He painted lots of tattoos and backed Shay in believing that his supernatural powers might really be connected with a religious purpose.

Both angry and supporting people gather outside the prison on a daily basis to either promote that he IS the messiah or to belittle his "miracles" and say that he deserves to die. The ironic twist is that the trial and conviction IS a lot like Jesus Christ. Wrongfully committed of a crime, dies for others' sins, performs miracles. Kind of interesting.

At the end, Shay says that he will see Michael in three days. In the epilogue, three days later, Claire discovers that her dog is dead. When she picks him up, she holds him to her chest and feels that he has come back alive. Are we to believe that Christ has risen again inside this dog? Is Shay back? What do we think?

End of SPOILER!!

I really liked the writing style of this novel again--switching perspectives from the minds of multiple characters. That must be a very difficult way to write because it's hard to determine who should tell what part of the plot. But in any event, I was very drawn in and interested in the novel and the plot.

What do we think of Change of Heart?

Saturday, March 6, 2010


Here comes another poem from a November 2009 issue of The New Yorker. It's another one that caught my eye and I would like a little bit of space to reflect on what it's trying to say.


by Sarah Arvio

The last thing I ever wanted was to
write again about grief did you think I
would your grief this time not mine oh good

grief enough is enough in my life that is
enough is enough I had all those
grievances all those griefs all engraved

into the wood of my soul but would you
beileve it the wood healed I grew up and
grew out and would you believe it I found

your old woody heart sprouting I thought
good new growth good new luxuriant green
leaves leaves on their woody stalks and I said

I'll stake my life on this old stick I'll stick
and we talked into the morning and night
and laughed green leaves and sometimes a flower

oh bower of good new love I would have it
I would bow to the new and the green
and wouldn't you know it you were a stick

yes I know a good stick so often and then
a stick in my ribs in my heart your old
dark wood your old dark gnarled stalk

sprouting havoc and now I have grief again
and now I've stood for what I never should
green leaves of morning dark leaves of night

Woa. A lot is going on in this poem. You catch yourself reading it the first time because of the lack of punctuation and the constant jumping around of thoughts. Nothing reads fluid--you have to keep stopping to piece together the phrases that are meant to be together. But I think the lack of punctuation is half of the point of this poem (or maybe most of its meaning): Life is unplanned, thoughts can go wild, and the way we read this poem is almost as painful and struggling as the experience of the poet.

Obviously, this is a poem about grief. It is mentioned five times. It is mentioned a whole lot in the beginning of the poem and then once at the end. The speaker deals with the loss (whatever it is to be named) and feels scatterbrained and lost. Repeating it over and over emphasizes how much sorrow the speaker feels. It's ever-present in her life and is difficult to erase. But, it comes back in the end, like it's something that can come and go--we can escape it for a little while, but as life goes, it can and will return.

The other heavily mentioned word in this poem is the title, wood. Sticks are also mentioned which in turn reference wood. Wood is first connected with her soul, "the wood of her soul." As if she is hollow, as if she is the living organism of the tree with deep roots that are planted so indefinitely in something (a person, a feeling) that can never be erased. As long as she is living, she will be feeling this loss, like having a branch chopped off.

Her soul is connected to something living--well, that is arguable. Wood probably connotes more the chopped wood than the living tree. We might call it bark or a tree instead of wood. Wood is the product of the tree. So once she was living and feeling and happy (as aforementioned) but now she feels like wood--as if she has been stripped, violated, and chopped to pieces only to be used as a source for fire. Or her wood could be used for a positive purpose (building a house, etc.) but she seems so disheveled that she doesn't know her path at this point.

I love the image of the "green" that constantly comes up. Green can sprout out of the wooden soul, a good healthy color to emphasize growth and change. She has overcome the dull brown of her life and is sprouting anew.

From this green there comes a no-named person who apparently helps her out of this dark time. This talks with her through days and nights, probably helping her cope and sprout the green to feel better, and he/she even helps a flower sprout which is even better than green! It's colorful! Her life now has color!

This person is a stick. So they're both wood; maybe they both have experienced loss and feel the connection. They have some sort of love between them. But then, in my interpretation, it seems like this person leaves her (either dies or chooses to) and this person's stick jabs right into her ribs and heart now. The grief then returns again, a circuitous motion right back to the beginning. It seems that the speaker has learned something, but that same raw, dark feeling comes back.

The way the poem is written is really smart. It makes us careful to read every word instead of flying through the poem. It almost feels like we're going through the mind of a child--scattered and all over the place--which is what it can feel like when you experience such grief. You feel small and helpless, and your thoughts can replicate a child's. "I don't understand..." "What can I do..." "Someone help..."

Especially when the poet ends on the word night, we are filled again with that sense of darkness creeping over her again. Even when she begins with "the last," the poem has to do with endings and dark periods. But, in the middle, we did have a high point only to drop down and back to the low. But, if this poem is about grief, it's going to be dark. It's going to be fitting. It's going to be appropriate.

The poem works well on many levels: repeating certain phrases, the lack of punctuation, the diction throughout, the images and words used to get the reader to think more in depth (wood, green, etc). Overall, it's a poem that can be dissected, discussed, and argued. Add anything you will if you find more.

And I'm spent on "Wood," but I do think it's a good read.

What do you think of "Wood?"

Friday, March 5, 2010


Pandora Radio fans: I call to you!

If you like listening to music--especially those who stream it online--check out Grooveshark. It combines the best of Pandora but personalizes it. You can create your own playlists by searching their infinite website. You can then create these wonderful playlists, share them with others, and listen to them.

They have EVERYTHING you could look for. It's amazing. You can share your ideas with others, have similar songs on your playlists matched so you can explore new music, you can check out what other people are listening to...

It's a great way to share and listen to music. I'm really into it. Check me out at jibbles02. See what cool songs I'm coming up with...

Any good requests to download if I'm into indie music (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses)?

What do you think of Grooveshark?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Burglary

Back to some poetry: This poem was published in last year's (2009's) New Yorker issed in November. It speaks of a burglary and the aftermath of the crisis.

The Burglary

by Linda Pastan

They stole my mother's silver,
melting it down, perhaps,

into pure mineral, worth
only its own weight.

We must eat with our hands now,
grab for food

in this new place of greed,
our table set

only with memories, tarnishing
even as we speak:

my mother holding a shiny ladle
in her hand,

serving the broth
to children who will forget

to polish her silver, forget even
to lock the house.

While forks and spoons are divided
from all purpose,

patterns are lost like friezes
after centuries of rain,

and every knife is robbed
of its cutting edge.

I've had my car broken into before. I understand what it's like to feel violated and stolen from. It makes you feel stripped and naked, like you are only worth things and those things are not yours anymore. It makes you feel connected to those lost things, like you are now less of a person without them. But when it comes down to it, they are just things. Lost "things" should not be the end of the world. It still doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt like hell though.

This poem really gets the heart of what I'm talking about. It parallels between the purpose and intention of the criminals and the aftermath of what the family thus experiences. The criminals don't think about the other half of the equation, and it's hard for the victim to see the other side as well. The poet (writing on the victim's behalf) also doesn't know what the criminal is doing with the stolen items. She is making an assumption. Who knows what is true. But, it is true that both sides are both disconnected and not understanding of the other party.

Selecting to identify the stolen silver really puts a strong image in the reader's mind. We can now see the effects the family feels when they go to dinner, eating with no utensils. Even the simplest things feel the loss, and you take for granted the small things you have. You don't always see someone stealing from you these items, no pertinent and imminent threats. But alas, the silverware is stolen.

Pastan writes, "Now we must eat with our hands," alluding to the fact that they are now in a more primitive state, as if they have now been reduced to less of people than they were before because of this crime. Or, at least it makes them feel that way. It's as if you walk in the shoes of the criminal, feeling the dirtiness of a dirty job/act. Stealing is primitive, and so are the raw feelings they are now experiencing.

The interesting twist to the poem is that the mother didn't lock the door, so she probably feels extremely guilty for what happened, like she deserved it. She didn't take the precaution she should have, but she probably didn't think she had to. She had too must trust in the world, and can that be a fault? I guess it is in the world we live in. It's sad that we have to question others before immediately accepting them.

I really like the end, concluding with the knife and how it's lost its cutting edge. Clever. End with the hurt (the obvious weapon) when it's such an emotional loss that feels almost like a stabbing pain from a knife.

Even the structure of the poem looks like a utensil. I kind of like that. The lines are also very similar in their structure, alluding to the normalcy of their lives. But now they have been violently thrown off key, off balance. Something like this can definitely do that.

Overall, it's a concise, effective poem. It says a lot with little words. Well done.

So what do you think of "The Burglary?"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cold Souls

Paul Giamatti's latest film was quite out there. I commend him for doing such a different film than he's used to, but it wasn't the most enjoyable film I've seen in a while. It's one of those projects that seems more like a better idea than it is a movie (kind of like Jerry Seinfeld's new show sounds like a better joke than a television show--The Marriage Ref).

Cold Souls is the film I am referencing, and it's quite similar to the name of it: If people want to, they can get rid of their souls and put them in storage. If your soul just weighs you down and you need to feel nothing, you can have your soul sucked out of you and stored in a facility. You might not be overly energetic and excited, but you also won't feel sadness or any other negative feeling you can't get rid of.

See, it's a smart idea. But when it's turned into a film, it's kind of dull and boring. Paul Giamatti plays himself, an actor, who just feels an overall "blah" in his life and thinks that storing his soul will solve his problems. Unfortunately, his soul is stolen (once he wants it back and realizes its worth) by the Russian black market (technically a soul mule--as opposed to a drug mule) who sells it in Russia. He must literally go soul searching to get his soul back, which he eventually does.

I liked their dialogues about souls--what they look and feel like, why people would want to switch them, what it feels like not to have one or to steal someone else's, why someone would want to be rid of it. Those points were very interesting. But, the other parts were sort of dreary and depressing. I know we were trying to mirror Giamatti's dull life, but there weren't really any pick-up points during the movie. It was kind of just as dull as he was feeling with some minor parts of interesting dialogue.

The concept of the movie could strike up good conversation. I just don't know if the film itself would sustain a strong enough audience to sit through it. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that bad. Realistically, I just don't think it's the type of movie that people normally see. The average person likes mindless blockbusters that have major actors and actresses and has happy endings (like some romantic comedy). This is more about the idea than the entertainment value. I respect movies like this (hence one reason I picked it up and watched it), and I'm not unhappy that I saw it, I'm just honestly trying to gauge what others would think. I guess I would say to try it for yourself.

Any thoughts on soul searching or storing souls?

What do you think of Cold Souls?