Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Readings of Grief

From the very start all four of these readings were interesting but I kept my favorites. I found each one of them to be extremely intriguing even though all of them were sad. I believe the overall theme that connected them all was some form of grieving which manifested itself within the readings in different ways. Each step of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance became a part of the characters within the text. I found it very easy to visualize the characters and their unique circumstances in my mind fairly easily. Above all, I did have my favorites.
My absolute favorite one was Strayed because I really found the main character, the wife to be highly complex. Upon the loss of her mother it would seem she immediately skipped a few chapters in the book of grieving and moved right into a bargaining/depression mode. She had a husband who would do anything for her, even get on his knees (haha) if only to make her feel better. Unfortunately while she still thought of her husband the void created by her mother’s death was still not filled, for she was compelled by the insatiable need to lust for others. This however was interesting in that of the countless men none of which could fully sate her. In her mind she thought of her loving husband as she probably looked past the faces of the men and envisioned his face upon the ceiling. Talk about a woman with some acceptance issues. For as appalling as her behavior was I can relate and understand how one could come to use sex as a tool for trying to accept loss. It however is transitory and certainly not a permanent means of solving any problem in the least aside from a brief period of arousal. In actuality through the reading I began to think of why a woman would choose this particular mode of expression to cope with her loss and then I believe I came to a realization. Although she had her more than willing husband she had lost her mother. A mother I believe who held some deeply hidden sexual connotation in the wife’s mind, even at the very slightest subconsciously. This problem of her grieving of course didn’t end happily because she never moved on to accepting the fact that her mother had left and was not coming back, even if she could imagine her in the thralls of all consuming pleasure.
The second story I found to be highly interesting was Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter”. This story above all the rest was the most crafty and intellectually enriching text of the four. Perhaps if you summed up each of the four readings as a state of matter, the fourth as stated in the text would be like saving the best for last. The interrelationship between the characters was exceptionally fascinating in its complexity. We have the main character that has broken up with her insecure husband who still incessantly calls her for his own odd assurance, followed by the dog. The dog I found to be a physical representation of her lifeline. Something she clings to even while everything in her life just seems to pee on her, much like the poor pathetic dog with its health problems and its probable form of Cushing’s disease. We then have the squirrels who wreak havoc upon her upstairs bedroom which seems to be a place she never visits due to the animals. Interestingly enough her life seems to be full of pathetic scared animals, perhaps the upstairs bedroom is a representation of her life, which she is afraid to stumble into. Finally we have her place of work, the nice co-worker Chris and the unassuming suicidal Gang Lu who seem the represent the two extreme sides of her life’s equilibrium; the calm vs. the chaotic. I simply loved how each character has their own unique purpose in unveiling a fuller depiction of this woman’s life. Sadly Gang Lu (name should be changed to Gung Ho for comic effect) won and shot everyone she worked with, leading me to believe that her life will never have a happy ending because her life gave way to the chaos. This can also be understood by her missing the squirrels that did nothing but destroy everything. Again, this was a highly amusing text that in actuality was the most smartly written text of the four.
The other two I am afraid I didn’t enjoy nearly as much as the others, which leaves me with nothing very positive to say about either of them. Although they both coped with forms of loss I was unimpressed by how they represented grief. Both Richards and Sedaris are good writers and that is evident through these texts but it was too easy. Their representations were bland, how many times do we read of cancer striping away a loved one. I’m tired of cancer; I need something more unique to captivate my attention. In terms of Sedaris I felt as though I could have used a good stiff drink upon reading, just to add in that pun. As for Richards, yes it is terrible that people get older and mostly all elders begin to lose their marbles, but again this is the norm. His imagery was very good but I wanted to stay out of the dream world.
All and all these various short works were entertaining yet some were better than others. Grief is something that is unique in that we all experience it as a natural part of life, yet each and every one of us does so completely differently. I am sure my own personal grief cannot be mirrored by another in exactly the same manifesting doppelganger because I am unique, just as everyone else is. Which leads me to believe that although we as a human race all share grief, none of us are really the same.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Push by Sapphire

Although it was a painfully short read, I was so completely enthralled with the story that I finished it in one sitting. This book is without a doubt one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Its subject matter went far beyond popping anyone’s safety bubble, at least in my opinion. It was so raw, and harsh I often found myself thinking huh, what the hell was that only to have to reread a previous statement or paragraph. It was emotionally nerve wrecking to read, and really painted a picture of this poor unfortunate soul’s life. Much of the book centralized on her lack of intelligence and aptitude to “push” which culminated in perfect synchrony to the actual style of writing. The misuse and grammatical errors simply made the book that much more engaging to me. Although obscenely graphic at some points I felt it was used as a tool to give an overall tone to the book. Her level of detailed description, although crude and unpolished, invoked very deep feelings. It was hard to read some parts, yet at the same time I didn’t exactly want to stop. All of the sexual abuse was eerily fascinating in its own right. For someone to tell of such horrors is truly courageous. The difficult part to stomach was the knowledge that during her early years she didn’t have the mental resources to get her messages out there, only prolonging her internal suffering. I also found it a bit astounding to read something that was so unlike the norm when it comes to traditional text. I am always use to the big fancy words usage of well known authors that at times over embellish their writings to the point that their main points are shrouded, making them even harder to comprehend. With this book however, I found that her points were so easily conveyed even if at times I had difficulty reading this book, because of the way it was written. This book was very powerful and it made me think of just how terrible the lives of some people really are, that these people are really out there in the world, right under my nose.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Painful Lyrics

Well first of all I believe that most of the songs that would be categorized as containing so called painful lyrics are mostly ridiculous. To be perfectly honest I really find it distasteful for someone to pour their feelings out to the world like that. Various artists from every conceivable genre of music tend to do this at some point or another. When I turn on the radio to listen to the newest hit, lately it tends end up as me listening to some poor sap of either gender tell me about their tragic love lives or other various issues. Obviously the hit topic of painful lyrical music tends to be love. Now would someone please tell me why I would want to listen to someone carrying on like a baby about their pathetic love stricken lives? I truly don’t find any of it worthy to listen to. Even popular music with lively beats that should make someone wants to get up and dance end up being drowned out by someone’s story. Why does love in particular tend to generate such provocative music lyrics, when in my mind there are so many other things I would rather enjoy listening to. I am in love and I’m sure I will have my hardships just like everyone else; yet that doesn’t mean I believe that everyone else in the world would enjoy listening to whatever is plaguing my mind at the time regarding the subject. For some terrible reason we as a society enjoy listening to such ranting. Take Lincoln Park for instance; even I like most of their songs. However when I listen to “crawling in my skin” I can’t help but question their sanity as individuals. All they seem to do is confuse what is real, so how could their sanity possibly be intact. I think if any one of them would ever lay themselves down in front of a shrink they would find out some highly factual and interesting information regarding their mental stability. Most of the songs I have listened to contain various reasons such as cheating, divorce, and an array of other various relationship problems. Whenever I listen to any of these songs I can’t help but think in my head that’s great, I really couldn’t care less. Also we as a society enjoy this type of music because many of these problems coincide directly and reflect upon the problems of their own lives. However, in my opinion if I were that down in the dumps I wouldn’t want to have any outside factors influence my already saddened state of being. To me if I were to listen to such music while in that fragile state it would probably lead me to even deeper depths of despair. Sadly however this is the music that permeates through my ears as I listen to the radio. I believe that is one reason why our society is chock full of individuals that want to kill themselves or worse, hurt others. It is music like this that drives people to extremes. Whenever someone is constantly subjected to music of pain they in turn create an altered reality for themselves. It is as if they are being brainwashed. At least that’s my opinion. So until the music of today changes we will all simply turn into mindless fools that will be full of sadness and pain.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Torture Porn: Good or Bad?

To begin I personally don’t understand the unquenchable fascination with such graphic displays of grotesqueness. I recently went to the movies to see Saw 5 and was extremely displeased. For some reason or another, low budget movies continue to ransack the box office year after year and continually are a success. Why they continue to be successful I am unsure, but what I can say is that for whatever reason I am drawn to them. It is a fascination that even I don’t understand, because it’s as if I don’t really want to see them yet I do. I have seen all of the Saw movies and yet I don’t find them to be very good. Perhaps what draws me to them are all of my contemporaries asking me if I’ve seen the latest one. This last one in particular I found to be way too predictable. There was almost no suspense during this one, which sadly made me laugh instead of cringe during the scenes that were gruesome. How movies such as Hostel can be made in a basement and cost less than five million to produce, yet make over 50 million is astounding. It’s no wonder that production companies keep making so many of these movies, because for whatever reason they are so profitable. We as a society feed off of others unfortunate events. We are that society that stops whenever there is a horrific accident on the street almost hoping to see the bloody body being carted away. Why that is I really cannot say yet it is true enough. Perhaps we are just all that sick inside, which ultimately makes me question the society I am a part of. How can we possibly get pleasure from watching these sorts of movies? I don’t understand what people see in them, and yet time and time again we go to them, me included. I think our brains are almost hardwired to want to see something that will make us cringe. I read that perhaps this is due to the attacks that have taken place on 9/11 yet I believe that is ridiculous. In my opinion we don’t subconsciously walk around during our daily routines thinking that at any moment we are going to get blown up by a terrorist or worse. I am sure however that there are some who truly believe this and that’s why our society has mental institutions throughout our country. For someone to walk around with such an extreme perpetual fear of their demise they must be a bit insane. I do believe that this is not just related to our current sociological fears, but something else, a fluke perhaps. I certainly think however that these types of movies are here to stay and that they are not going anywhere. If they ever did I would really be surprised, because it would almost be the end of an era, a genre of movies that has caused us so much pleasure and sick mental anguish all at the same time. This is my mind culminates into something beautiful in its own right.

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through His Son's Addictions by David Sheff

First off I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book; finally something with a good story behind it. I love to read and I got through this book in about three days. It basically told the true story of David Sheff and how he coped with his son Nick’s addiction to methamphetamine. The book itself was full of drama, circulating around his family. Every time I thought it was getting better his son Nick would just relapse. Nick went in and out of several rehabilitation centers, and caused irrevocable havoc on the entire family and close friends. It seemed to be a book that I was simply unable to put down, due to the suspense of his addiction. It was very well written and contained actual research from various sources about methamphetamine. I found the extra information to be both interesting and it gave to book more substance. I can only imagine knowing someone on such a hard drug as methamphetamine, because of its ridiculously devastating effects it carries with it. Personally I am thankful that I have never known anyone with such a hardcore drug problem, but I have known several people who do various drugs. I often wonder what it would be like if these individuals ever did really let their recreational habits get their best of them. In relation with the Arthur Frank book that we have read called The Wounded Storyteller, I would say the book really was an account of someone who was wounded. It takes a lot of courage to get out there and actually publish a life story about something this terrible and unfortunate in one’s own family. I feel that often when Nick was in a state of remission that he was most like the mirroring body, consumed by a relentless desire. When he was in rehab he tried his best to be disciplined yet unfortunately his desire took over time and time again. Overall it was a great book and one I will more than likely read again someday on a rainy afternoon, because it was a real story, full of real scenarios.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, Ethics by Arthur W. Frank

The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur Frank was a book that I didn’t particularly enjoy. Sadly there was virtually nothing I agreed with in terms of his thought process and yet I did find his book to be interesting. Many of his concepts relating to categorizing bodies was intriguing and certainly an interesting interpretation of how to perceive people, yet I don’t exactly agree with them. I feel that this book was written by a psychologist, which to my knowledge he is not. When he spoke of chemotherapy I found that to be the only part that really seemed to make logical sense. That part I agreed with at the very end, in fact that’s when I liked the book; at the very end. His writing style was just so all over the place in my opinion, that I often found it hard to follow his train of thought. Through about the first three quarters of the book I would have to say I was absolutely bored with it. It was one of the very few times I have had to stop with such a frequency, because I enjoy reading almost anything; and even at the very least can get through almost any book without a problem. This particular work seemed to give me a problem, which is one of the many reasons I did not care for this book. I think that perhaps if he actually took one of the narrative stories and talked about it in great detail it would have been far easier to get through, and certainly make his analysis a lot more interesting because it would have had something substantial to fall back on. I felt as though most of his claims were empty in the sense that there weren’t any true concrete examples. Sure he spoke of a few patients and their issues but that encompassed about a paragraph of his time. The rest was how he judged them, or more aptly put categorized them based solely on his own interpretation. Unfortunately I can’t say I would recommend this book and it has to be the least favorite of mine that we have read in the class. Hopefully, upon further discussion I will see the light and perhaps find his ideologies to be closer to my own. Until then all I can say is I am certainly not a fan of Arthur Frank.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Possessed Americans Inhabiting Abu Ghraib

First off all I can say is I am not surprised. Watching the documentary titled ghosts of Abu Ghraib really needs a name change, (see title above). Something as outrageous as this ridiculous conspiracy is not the first by our beloved country; in fact it is simply another notch in Uncle Sam’s belt. Sadly isn’t it a cruel world we live in when we are just able to beat the living crap out of anyone. Does the word barbarianism come to mind? It is unbelievably unfortunate just how sick some people in the world are. Would you pose with a smile above a freshly tortured dead man? To be honest I wouldn’t even do that if I had Hitler with his eyes glazed over at my feet, and I’m Jewish. To be that type of person, to degrade there semblance of morality to such an extreme is astounding, and it takes one sick mind to do it. Something like that isn’t easy to do; it takes some serious talent; or perhaps a ridiculous chemical imbalance. We as Americans stand as the strongest militant power in the world, and yet look at who we send off to war. A bunch of drones, merely pawns while the kings and queens remain in their safe zones on the board, while they await a checkmate. Do they ever really take any credit for their actions? No they simply hide behind their lapdogs. I can understand, and try my best to sympathize with the fact that if a person is put into such a situation their minds would become just at frail and unraveled as the tortured inmates, but sadistic torture is at the far end of an extreme.
It was interesting however to take notice to the fact that there was not one shot or photograph of any American soldier actually beating someone. How could there be, isn’t that just so American? That big cedar shack, ever see its inhabitants? Of course you don’t, and why would you? That would give America a bad name, further sullying the red white and blue. Yet another thing that is interesting, does anyone actually know how much control our government has over the media, including but not limited to documentaries? In order to keep a face of perfection, one must also see the flaws prior so they may appreciate that perfection. America is highly controlled by those proverbial kings and queens, yet what’s scariest of all is that not only are our soldier’s pawns, but so are all the rest…

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Reflection of: The 9/11 Report a Graphic Adaptation by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon

This book made me happy, a sad topic no question, but it was a very good book. The 9/11 Report took the painful and tragic event of 9/11 and brought it into a new light, making the understanding of just what happened that day accessible to all. I loved the graphic adaptation, because it reminded me so much of everything I saw on television that very day. Obviously I was there; I lived through the day, making it more personal to me. Our future generations would truly benefit from such a book, because like I said the day after 9/11 happened, yesterday will cause my history book to change. I personally did not have any family lost on that horrific day, yet I did have numerous members of it in New York. 9/11 was a day of pain for so many Americans, and a day that we united in that pain. If asked of a particular event that stands out in my mind that pain was prevalent I would say automatically 9/11. The sheer amount of anguish from around the country resonated for weeks when it happened. I think it is important that everyone knows what happened that day just as my generation learns of the world wars and Pearl Harbor in school. I cannot drive past NY without looking for the twin towers that are no longer there; because it is as if that day is so farfetched to me I still almost can’t believe it.
Reading this book brought me back to my 8th grade science class when I first learned of what happened. Almost anyone I ask can remember exactly where they were on 9/11 when they first learned what was going on in NY. That to me only solidifies just how monumental that painful day is to us. I can still remember vividly as my classmates phoned their families, some were relieved, others hysterically crying. Many of my classmates lost someone dear to them in the attacks. That day to me is remembered by the news I was watching. This book took me behind it, and showed me all the factors leading up to it. I found that to be extremely interesting and beneficial to me.
A unique thing happened while I was reading this book. I had planned to surprise my girlfriend this weekend in Miami and I had to get this book read for class, so I brought it on the airplane flying to Miami. I didn’t even think of the implications that would have. The passengers sitting in my immediate vicinity were mostly shocked and very upset that I could even think to bring such a book on an airplane. I told them all that it was for class and they finally backed off. They told me sarcastically that I obviously had no fear of flying, and that 9/11 didn’t mean anything to me. So that I found to be fascinating, even so many years later, just the thought of someone reading a book about that day bothers people. It pains them in some way, making this book all the more pertinent to this class. It was as if I was holding a weapon and inflicting mental pain on the people around me with it. I believe it is important to remember, after all “we will never forget” is the quote of the day that I can still hear our president uttering.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Reflection of: Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

I happened to find this book to be very interesting, not through its dense amount of examples but for the underlying point that I gathered from it. Is a photograph ever truly an accurate depiction of what occurred in the past? Or like many of the pictures that depict war something else. Not quite hoax, yet not grounded in reality either. I always think the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” to be funny, because I always like to think what someone is really trying to convey is that a picture may very well be worth that many words, yet in such a large number there can be room for just about anything. A picture can in fact capture our past, yet to what accuracy? It cannot convey emotions as well as people think, what if the terror stricken woman was told to pose that way by the photographer? Would a person be angry at the photographer for capturing a lie, or with themselves for the emotion the picture elicited in them? I would be angry at myself, for allowing myself to be subjected to yet another form of media, which coming from my background is almost always rooted in lies. As for the book itself, I really did not personally care for it, perhaps instead of naming countless examples of such photographs; maybe a wiser idea would have been to actually show the examples. Unless you are indeed majoring in photography or mayhap an avid hobbyist, who I am neither, I believe it is safe to suffice that at least for myself I found the book to be a bit hard to follow. Purely through it’s over usage of examples. In a way I believe the sheer amount of them diluted and shrouded the main points that Sontag was trying to convey. Outside of that, I really don’t have much else to say regarding this text because I drew very little from it. I do however agree that photographs are a powerful tool of depiction that can often elicit strange and unexplainable feelings when viewed by an audience. It is true, and intriguing that we as a race find some sort of sadistic pleasure in the pain of others. I personally can’t stand when traffic comes to a turtles pace whenever there happens to be an accident or even a ticketing. We are in some odd way fueled by others misery and pain. I sadly must agree, even I at times stop to stare at the gruesomeness of life.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Spotless Mind

In the film Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, the question of what would happen if you could erase all the pain in your life arises. For anyone who has seen this movie, most would agree that it is rooted in a fallacy, something that simply is not plausible. However, if it were, just how scary a world would we be living in? It is my belief that in this context pain represents experience. One cannot mature and grow without the addition of pain. As Aristotle stated, "We cannot learn without pain." This was thought centuries ago, why now presume to think any differently. If a loved one passed away, who in their right mind would want to forget them entirely? It is essentially what this movie represents; a way to hide oneself from the psychological effects on pain, which in reality only would hinder the cognitive development of that person. All traces of previous endeavors, hardships, joys, and the like would be simply eradicated from our minds with the blink of an eye. Who would we be? Could we essentially tell a doctor the common phrase “I don’t know who I am anymore” and tell him I don’t want to know. Could we forget ourselves?
In the movie Joel wants to forget Clementine because he loved her so much and the pain she caused him because he opened up to her. Did he want to forget the bad things? Or forget love all together? Love to me is like seeing a shooting star, seldom seen and experienced, but when that rare occurrence happens, you always want to remember it, wishing you could capture it. Love is fleeting unless you capture it, so why would you deny yourself the pleasure that love brings.
“I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. Mother Teresa
I think perhaps Joel should have heard this quote, because it rings so true. He was a coward for ever walking into that office along with any of the patients who ever walked in. this is of course my opinion, and everyone would have a different belief. Joel realized about half way through his procedure that he didn’t want to forget the bad, because he would forget the good as well. I believe a person who would want to forget any experience no matter how terrible is weak. As the Marines say “pain is weakness leaving the body.”

"Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain"
William Faulkner

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Reflection of Pain: The Science of Suffering by Patrick Wall

Although a short book, the density of the subject matter is formidable. What is pain? How do we separate the physiological and the psychological aspects of it? What are they? What role does our medical industry play in the ongoing effort to suppress pain? And finally my real question, can it ever truly be extinguished? These are just a few of the questions that began to formulate during my time spent reading this paperback. Patrick Wall is gifted in that the topic of pain is one of hindrance, for within every society including our own it is a topic shrouded in mysticism, mystery, and taboo. Wall attempts to slice the meat from the bone if you will, exposing the raw and often grotesque truths of pain itself. It is a topic that can truly never be measured, because just as each mind is unique to an individual, so is their conception and preconception of their own pain as well as the suffering of others. While reading this book it made me think about exactly what pain is at least in my own world of thought. Yet not long after, I realized I was thinking upon the wrong notion. I don’t necessarily want to understand my pain, but the pain of others. However ridiculous that may sound, it doesn’t benefit me to analyze my pain because it can never truly be expressed. It then made me think of just how many people I know or have seen suffer merely muse upon themselves. Whereas, perhaps a better use of time would be to communicate with another in pain similar to what they are experiencing. Through that, they might actually understand each other better. It in my mind is a better gain to understand another, than to focus solely upon oneself. Pain should not be given any more of an isolating quality than it already inherently possesses.