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Each generation forges new ammunition to be loaded into the literary cannon. Each educator brings his or her own life experience to the educational forum. These experiences shape the materials the teacher chooses to use in his or her classes. As enough female teachers recommend novels by female authors the “feminist” cannonball becomes part of the educational arsenal. As Blacks, Hispanics, Radicals, Asians, and Homosexuals advance academically they supply their own literary ammunition to the next generation. As Gen-Xers become the leaders of academia expect to see movies, television shows, and comic books join the required reading lists.
PICK IT APART
The worst possible reading assignment is a great story. By the time you have read, re-read, and re-re-read the story there is no story left to enjoy. For example, the best part of “Story of an Hour” is the protagonist’s surprise death. After the first reading you already know the ending, but instead of placing this great story onto your mind’s shelf you are forced to read it six more times from six different “Critical Strategies of Reading”. Now the story has lost all of it’s verve and you have lost all of your enjoyment from literature.
MY LATE DUCHESS
The poem, "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning, is not about the Duchess but really about the egotistical Duke. The Duke believes himself to be so powerful that he can brag about his wife's death without any negative repercussions. The reasons he gives for killing his wife (or driving her to suicide) exemplify his power-mongering. The Duke states he was angry because "she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody's gift." To paraphrase: because she was happy without her husband. The Duke believes his wife is his property and should only do as he commands.
Someone in my office keeps leaving religious tracks in the restroom. Since I am stuck in the stall I read these “words of wisdom”. Besides the obvious connection to God, the stories are trite and repetitive. “My life is shit, but then I heard a small child laugh, that laughter reminded me of God, and I smiled, now my life is worth living.” These daily doses of religion remind me of a Karl Marx quote “Religion is the opiate of the masses”. My life is shit but I took a shot of God, now I feel much better.
I hate when one of my favorite writers becomes a television special.
Next on Fox, “When Good Authors Go Bad”.
Mercedes Lackey usually writes inventive fantasy novels with intense characterization. I usually stay up all night reading her stories because I have to know what happens next. I usually remember the people in her novels long after the last page. The emotions of the protagonist are usually compelling enough that I laugh out load or cry real tears.
But not this time. “Joust” is a waste of Lackey’s name. The two main characters have no depth and no personality.
Just because Howard Fast's "Time and the Riddle" deals with telepathy, weird inventions, and Martians librarians instantly relegate this fine literary work to science fiction. But Fast's stories are not about fantastical creations; they are about humans. From the woman who realizes that killing a ½ inch tall man is wrong because we ourselves are specs in the universal cosmos, to an amateur botanist who finds the cure to greed, to a conglomerate of businessmen that create a false Martian threat in order to unify all of earth's nations, these are not science fictions they are Zen fictions.
Even though I don't have a television set I have become addicted to a television program. How? (you may ask) Because the public library allows me to check out DVDs and my new computer has a DVD player. I bumbled across Farscape while searching for Jim Henson movies. I expected Henson's son to have screwed up this show (just like every other Henson endeavor since Jim's death), but I was wrong. Farscape is inventive, and intriguing with big budget special effects, live action puppets, and complex characters. Now if you'll excuse me, I just checked out the next episode.
Smash Mouth is performing at Universal. I know the song they finish the night with will be "All Star". Why? Because it is popular, has limited lyrics, and an easy to remember chorus. I know they won't play my favorite song, "Pet Names". Why? Because it doesn't even have a chorus, every line of the song is unique, and requires concentration to comprehend. Pet Names tells the story of a man's change from "Sweety Pie" to "Your X". As Steve Harwell sings "I used to be your tall dark mystery man, now I'm just straight up history, man".
BATMAN: THE FATHER
The JLA (Junior League of America) is captured and placed in individual stasis bubbles. To occupy the teen superheroes the bubbles produce a reality populated with their heart's greatest desire. The first person to escape is Robin; He immediately realizes his surroundings aren't real because Robin's bubble produces a Batman that hugs him and says "I Love You". Batman's physical display of affection is completely unbelievable to Robin, even though he desires it above all else. The theme of Batman as father is: If you spend time with your kids, they will know that they are loved.
This great work of pornographic literature takes us into the tumultuous mind of a pedophile. What makes this novel acceptable to the public is the "fancy prose style". Instead of saying that the touch of a child gave me an erection, the narrator writes "I managed to attune … my masked lust to her guileless limbs". While contemplating the rape of his step-daughter the protagonist states "My ecstasy would have been all softness, a case of internal combustion of which she would hardly have felt the heat". Couch the worst degradations in intricate words and people will laud pornography.
This novel is a murder mystery. On the first page the narrator tells us "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style." Throughout the rest of the book we are teased with potential victims. Humbert ponders killing Lolita's mother, but she dies in an accident. During his travels, we keep expecting him to kill Lolita in a burst of anger. After Lo's escape, Humbert plans to kill her husband, and doesn't. Finally in chapter 35, he tracks down the man who helped Lolita flee and commits the murder we knew about on page one.
In an effort to enliven staid comic-book characters DC Comics has created the Elseworlds series. In these graphic novels, "heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places". One of the most worthwhile Elseworld novels is "Nine Lives" where Batman becomes a 1920's detective trying to solve the murder of Selina Kyle, a nightclub singer and mistress to many. Batman's description of Selina sums up the novel's style "She played the field, all right. Like a cat with a ball of yarn." The sepia-toned artwork further defines the dark styling of the story.
LORD OF THE WRONGS
The worst ElseWorld novel ever produced is "Riddle of the Beast". This graphic novel tries to build a grand fantasy epic similar in style to the works of Tolkien . But instead of taking 1500 pages to craft an intricate story and build memorable characters, DC Comics allocates only 50 pages to their grand epic. The reader is given scraps of dialogue to piece together a whole story. DC also decides to use multiple artists, giving each only a couple of pages to illustrate. The result is a disjointed unintentional parody of a great fantasy novel.
FIREMEN I HAVE KNOWN
Even though I knew the book of poetry was written by my chief’s son, it was still strange to stumble across a poem about him. “Questions I’ve Yet To Ask My Father, a Fireman” is just that, quick queries into the mind of a firefighter. I work with firefighters every day but I have never pondered their lifestyle as deeply as Jared Keene. Reading his questions makes me want to find the answers. Is “the human heart: tender or tinder?” Do firemen “dream of conflagrations?” Do they repress the urge “to extinguish a fire by urination?”
By Suzanne Vega expresses the shortcomings of words.
“I won’t use words again
They don’t mean what I meant
They don’t say what I said
They’re just the crust of the meaning
With realms underneath
Never even moved through”
The stanza above express how inadequate words really are. Vega’s use of past tense, “meant” and “said”, represents an event that already occurred. But all of the words only present the tip of the iceberg, “the crust”, the outermost or superficial meaning. Language is insufficient to express her real emotions, which lie unexplored beneath the surface.
One of the reasons I love reading Science Fiction is that the stories are often pessimistic and cynical, take "The Star" by Arthur C. Clarke for example.
A group of scientists have traveled to a white dwarf where they discover that an entire race of sentient beings was killed when the star exploded. After careful calculations of time and trajectory the scientists determine that this destruction was visible on earth at the turn of the Common Era over the town of Bethlehem. In order for the three wise men to find Christ, millions of people had to die.
Kurt Busiek has created the world of Astro City. This world is populated with all manner of supercitizens, but one of the most intriguing stories of Astro City is from the perspective of an average man on the street. This every-man moves to the city in order to support his family. While carrying his belongings into his new home a superfight breaks out over the street. As supervillian and superhero battle for supremacy debris starts flying and the man's new home is damaged. Our protoganist is left pondering the safety of having superheroes around ‘to serve and protect'.
TEN REASONS WHY I HATE POETRY
1. Archaic Language (Her mantle laps over my lady’s wrist too much)
2. Dialects (I’se been a-climbin’ on)
3. Incomprehensible Language (yunnuhstan dem doidee)
4. Rhyming (Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just)
5. Nonsensical Nonsense (We Jazz June)
6. Sensical Nonsense (So much depends upon a red wheel barrow)
7. Never-Ending Sentences (While bubbles rose like globs of mercury, blah, blah, blah)
8. One-Sentencer Poems (you fit into me like a hook into an eye, a fish hook, an open eye)
9. Never-Ending Poems (The Iliad)
10. It’s required reading.
THE ORDINARY PRINCESS
by Mary Margaret Kaye will never be made into a Disney film because it teaches young girls about independence. As an infant the princess was “cursed” with being ordinary. She grows up to be clumsy, freckle-nosed, brown-haired, tongue-tied, and awkward. On the night before her pity betrothal, the princess runs away from home. She then leads a happy life as a peasant, away from the impossible demands of her family. When she finds “a man” he does not sweep her away from a life of drudgery but instead becomes her equal and they drudge through life together.
e. e. cummings
By playing with spacing, punctuation and line breaks cummings expresses everyday occurrences in new ways. His poem “dim” can be summarized as follows: A man is alone in an empty park during an autumn rain. However cummings breaks the word rain up into little sections so they drip down the page like drops and finally puddle in the last line as “raintherain”. Additionally with a single word he opens the poem with a sense of being alone in the vast universe. The large word diminutive is broken into very small pieces reinforcing the idea of being minor.
Although many poems are used to express emotions only song allows for the full feeling of rage. Words on a page don’t convey the same jolt as someone’s voice. For example the words “I’d rather die than give you control” do pack a punch on paper, but these same words scream fury when roared from the lips of Trent Reznor. People rarely pull out a book of poetry when they need to vent. I know that ‘Pretty Hate Machine’ lives in my CD changer for those times I need to shout “No you can’t take that away from me.”
Peter Kuper uses the lyrics from “New York, New York” to express a different meaning than the song originally intended. He incorporates unexpected images to alter the perception of New York City. “Start spread – in’ the news” is a bum lying on the ground covered in newspapers. “I’m leav – ing to - day” is a homicide scene. “If I can make it there” is a gang war shoot-out. “I’d make it an – y – where” is a street corner full of prostitutes. Kuper also cut the words directly from a song sheet, leaving a sense of lyricism to the degradation.
THE LADY IS A CAB
Kuper continues to manipulate words and images with “My Checker Past”. In this piece, the narrator first meets her in ’78 while working the night shift. They kept wild hours. She could drive him crazy but he could always depend on her. Even though he picked up a lot of women over the years, she remained his constant companion. At the end he realizes there will never be another like her. Although the words describe a relationship between a man and his woman, the accompanying pictures show a relationship between a man and his cab.
DAREDEVIL: THE MOVIE
Why, oh why did they have to change things? Spiderman: The Movie was kept exactly as the mythos created by the comic books. From the death of Spidey’s uncle to his relationship with Mary Jane, nothing was altered. But no such considerations were taken with Daredevil. Elektra was his ladylove in college, not some random stranger he met in a coffee shop. DD’s father died when he was an adult, not when he was a prepubescent boy. At least they kept him a blind lawyer. Maybe that’s all the information “Hollywood” thought moviegoers would know about Daredevil.
There is a Jewish parable about a debate between Rabbi Eliezer and ten learned sages. After trying all manner of persuasion the Rabbi calls on the carob tree (and the river) to prove his point. The sages respond, “proof can not be had from a carob tree” (or a river either). Finally Rabbi Eliezer calls on God and a divine voice declares, “He [the Rabbi] is right in all circumstances!” The sages retort “Okay, Eliezer, ten to two!” The meaning of this fable and one of the tenets of Judaism is that it is acceptable to argue with God.
EAST vs. WEST
In the western world the eastern religions have often been referred to as fortune cookie religions. Western religion prides itself on the Bible. The Bible is a long, complex, convoluted tale that encompasses ethics, history, and rules. The western way of convoluted thinking makes it difficult to embrace three religions based on clear thought. Buddha, Confucius, and Lao Tzu all wrote complex ideas with very few words. Reading “The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions” compiled by Philip Novak, enabled me to clarify for myself the differences between the eastern and western ways of thought.
ROUND ONE: BUDDHISM
The aspect of Buddhism that has taken on fortune cookie qualities is Zen. The Zen Buddhists are the masters of the one line conundrum. They believe that following the reasoning behind incomprehensible sayings will bring clarity to the mind and spirit. The quote that epitomizes Zen is “There is Buddha for those who don’t know what he is, really. There is no Buddha for those who know what he is, really.” To paraphrase: If you understand god, you have missed the bigger picture; if you are aware that there is an unfathomable bigger picture, you understand god.
ROUND TWO: CONFUCIANISM
Many of the sayings of Confucius were placed in fortune cookies causing westerners to belittle this incredible man. Despite this there is still a similarity between the two philosophies. Confucius says “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” which correlates to the western belief “Love thy neighbor like thyself.” Sound similar, but fundamentally different. Love thy neighbor assumes that your idea of love is the same as your neighbor or that he even wants your love, while never doing hateful things to others is a more universal way of living.
ROUND THREE: TAOISM
The final religion in the eastern grand three is Taoism. Huston Smith’s description of the Tao Te Ching is appropriate “it can be read in a half an hour or a lifetime.” The more I read of the Tao Te Ching, the less I understood. The entire section on Taoism in Novak’s book gave me a blazing headache. I felt like I was trying to read differential equations ... in Latin. Taoism is the final progression from Buddhism through Confucianism. The mind needs to be steeped in these religions before an understanding of the Way can begin.
I want to take this last journal entry to go off the required topic.
I have participated in 100words for two months on the recommendation of my English teacher. My class is finished and there will be no more posting, no more small tidbits, and no more ranting raves. Even though I hate writing, I still enjoyed this forum. Reading back through my entries I am pleased with what I have accomplished. During the term, I have seen my writing improve, I have learned to concisely express my thoughts, and I have realized that I like three-item lists.
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