Friday, April 4, 2008


Explications. One of the many types of writing I improved over the course of this year in English class. This year was truly a productive year because it allowed me to open up my mind, fully redesigning a new thinking architecture to aid my writing. The year started a bit bumpy as I received low, unsatisfactory grades on all of my writing assignments. I simply could not grasp what exactly was required in an explication. Slowly, by reading examples and testing many methods, I improved my writing skills to a noticeable stage beginning in third quarter.

It was the Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man theory paper that invoked this change. The paper had to be quite long in both length and depth. Explications always proved difficult to me. I have tried various ways to improve my skill in writing them. At first all I had was context and a small summary. Then I added some analysis and took away some of the summary, however, the thesis was not good enough. So then when I do have a good topic, I would not be able specific enough about it. My mind thinks extremely logically. Abstract thoughts could never enter into my mind. My strand of Apollo was never mentioned once in the entire book. Not surprisingly, I had a difficult time and received a bad grade for my explication. However, after reading through this novel and the criticisms it contained, I felt as if my mind upgraded. The psychoanalytical criticism particularly helped improve my writing as it mended both logic and abstract ideas. It was able to help form a new module in my mind to be able to see things abstractly.

Writing assignments in English class this year did improve my skills. By being able to read and learn from a fellow student’s essay, I could spot the flaws in my own writing. When the time came to write my Portrait explication, I had to crank out multiple ideas, both logical and abstract. I was forced to integrate both logical and abstract ideas fluently in my essay in order to complete it adequately. I have gained a valuable skill that helped me further improve my writing. Writing explications does not seem as hard as it did earlier in the year. Now, when I do my assignments, it takes a significantly less amount of time to finish.

Throughout the course of the year, I would say that I produced the best results in this final third quarter. My transitions improved greatly compared to my trial products earlier in the year. The recent paper on Tom Phillips’ Humument was one of my better works in class. The assignment was to examine and explicate a picture drawn by Tom Phillips. The initiation of the piece carried on smoother than I thought it would. I used to hesitate and stress before starting essays. I would sit at my desk for minutes, even hours to plan my writing. This time it was different. I looked at the picture for a few minutes and ideas seemed to pop right into my head. Multiple ideas would conflict with each other and I could find a solution to combine both messages in a coherent way. The ability to connect both my logical and abstract thoughts truly does help. And this is when I thought: English is definitely easier now.

From the vocabulary to the class discussions, every aspect of class aided the growth of my writing. I have gained much knowledge and insight through class analysis. By writing more and more, my writing although slowly, has definitely broadened. The class has read a number of novels this year. I learned a lot from both of Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger, A Portrait, and Hamlet. I liked how the teacher tried to portray certain messages by performing amusing acts. The accents always help the mind with memorization. Whenever the teacher spoke in a weird accent, I would remember it later whether it be on a test or in another class. It was great; especially the funny postures actors took during Hamlet. The beginning of the year was a bit crazy. Some of the books I hated. The story line of A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man was good, but the writing style did not interest me. It was difficult. I believe that the more creative assignments were easier to accomplish because of the increased freedom on the subject. There wouldn’t be a fixed topic to stay on—meaning that I would not have to come up with a forced connection. I did not expect my grade to increase at all this quarter, but it did anyway. That just means the class helped me grow. The experience will surely help me in college. One final note I may add: procrastination hurts—especially in an English class. Anyways, thanks so much Mr. G, it’s been a pleasure.

Modernism Test

Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy is “to arouse pity and fear so we may be purged, or cleansed, of these emotions”. Robert Duncan, like Aristotle, Belives that in downfall, meaning is gained. One thought of Modernists is that absurdism and mythology pave the path to truth.

In Camus’ Stranger, the character Meursault finds himself in a moment of truth as he walks down the path towards death. He learns that every person in his life is important. In jail, he says, “Maman was free and ready to begin again”. During his confinement, Meursault learns about his meaning in life. It is his moment of truth that one gains through loss and suffering. Meursault, always rejecting society, finally gave up and accepted the world. Throughout the Modernist age, there were improvements on technology and wars. People of the world experience war over and over again, but at one moment, they accept all of the destruction and death. It can’t be helped; if events such as war occur, one must make the best out of it.

Tragedy is used by Modernists to show that something is gained through loss. In the myth of Daedelus and Icarus, the fall of Icarus teaches Daedelus about karma. Icarus was told to “keep to the middle path”, but he flew too close to the sun and lost his wings. They should have stayed confined on the island of Crete to avoid this death. Icarus would also realize that he should have heeded the wise words of his father. Daedelus’ futile creation of the wings only led to despair, but in return he gains a glimpse of how the world operates and its consequences.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man Journal Entry

"His silent watchful manner had grown upon him and he took little part in he games. The children, wearing the spoils of their crackers, danced and romped noisily and, though he tried to share their merriment, he felt himself a gloomy figure amid the gay cocked hats and sunbonnets." (72)

This is a moment where we first see that Stephen has matured. Well, at least towards other people. His "watchful manner" has now become part of his life. He is mature enough not to scream and romp around the floor like a gorilla. Stephen was too old for for the games now—his mentality has matured. He did not fit in with the children anymore. Stephen is not as pure or playful as he used to be. We also see that "he tried" to join in too, signifying that he may want to be a child again. Children are embraced by warm women—and that is why Stephen wants childhood back.

I also compared Stephen to the sun here. This sun represents the maturity or any loss of Stephen. The sun emits light, but the children have hats and sunbonnets, effectively blocking the light. They are shielded from any influence Stephen may have on them, staying pure. Also, notice that he is a "gloomy figure". I think of gloomy as dark and depressed. Thus, the rays of the dark sun, him, are rejected by the happy innocent children.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

College Essay

Sitting in English class, I was forced to partake in a group seminar. It was called a Socratic seminar, where a small group of students analyze the themes of a piece of literature. The other students scribbled notes down, commenting on the flow of the conversation. Of course, as a reflection of my middle school experience, I was not eager to share just yet. To my surprise, I was selected to discuss. My legs bounced up and down and I fidgeted with my multi-colored pen. My heart rate also jumped up by nearly twenty pulses. I was nervous and did not start the conversation.
The feeling of content that I missed in class was back. Filled with satisfaction, I knew I could do it again. After a session, the class would comment on the productivity of the topics discussed. I would take mental note of my flaws to improve myself. Legs shaking, hands fidgeting, and pencils flinging, it was all conquered due to self control. My English teacher, Ms. Foley, said that practice will always lead to improvement. Thanks to this English class, I was able to come out of the shell of shyness I stuck myself into.
Another part of me that has grown is my computer and my hobby with computers. Seven years have passed since I partnered up with him. I remember when I first received him, he was fast and efficient during the time period. Nowadays, technology expands at a magnificent rate, too fast for my buddy to keep up. It may not run the latest programs or the latest games, but it is enough to do homework on.
Computers have interested me since I was a child. By now, my accumulated knowledge and experience of computers allow me to identify errors a machine may have. Because of malicious binaries, my computer has contracted numerous problems that are easily fixed. Now, I have programs to prevent such occurrences. “Your system is low on virtual memory.” However, one problem that cannot be fixed is memory. My computer was old; it was slow. It cannot even compare to my friends’ mid-end machines. A vast amount of patience was needed to keep up with my partner. Working slow enables for proficiency and accuracy, just like an ink printer. I would persevere. I could still do my essays, research, calculate math problems, and surf the internet efficiently.
My fervor for computers still grows. And so, I finally conjure up the confidence to ask my mom for a new computer. Whatever the assignment may be, if it has to be done, it will be done. I know that experience and perseverance pull through in the end. It is important to learn and integrate that experience into everyday life. Whether I am helping a fellow student or fixing my relative’s computer, I receive gratitude and for me, that is an accomplishment.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 "Aeneas' tale"

In act 2 scene 2, Aeneas’ tale alludes to many aspects in Hamlet’s life. Another interpretation of the tale may resemble the death of King Hamlet.

The player starts off by saying “Anon he finds him//Striking too short at Greeks” (453-454). The player is speaking of Priam at this moment, who resembles King Hamlet. Priam is currently in battle with the Greeks at this moment. King Hamlet also battles against Fortinbras of Norway and manages to kill him. However, that attack is “too short” to reach young Fortinbras, who may come back for vengeance later in the play. Another character Pyrrhus may represent Claudius. In the tale, Pyrrhus slays Priam. As the First Player states, Pyrrhus and Priam are “unequal[ly] matched” (456). A piece of Claudius’ character is revealed by Shakespeare—he is ruthless, savage, and overwhelmingly powerful. Even his “wind of his [missed] sword [attack]” (458) is able to finish off his target.

Denmark is able to feel the loss of their highly-praised King Hamlet as he falls. Denmark seems “to feel this blow, with a flaming top” (460). The loss of the king places a country at risk of revolution and invasions. Without King Hamlet, events in Denmark will blaze up like fire. One example is uncle Fortinbras’ secret army to attack Denmark. Also, with the loss of a king, Claudius assumes the throne “as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus stood” (465). However, Denmark may not benefit at all from this enthronement. The First Player says that Phyrrus “did nothing” (467) indicating that Claudius is not a good king. But this brings up to the point: what Claudius’ goals are. He wants power, fame, glory, and the queen, but all of that will be gone if there is no action done as king. If only the queen were not there, he would stand unchallenged. This could be foreshadowing queen Gertrude’s death and the taking “away [of] her power” (479). The method of this death will be so sudden as if “down the hill of heaven, [plunging] as low as to [hell]” (481). By foreshadowing these events, Shakespeare portrays Claudius as a power hungry fiend.

The resemblances between Aenea’s tale and the world in which Hamlet currently resides in are almost identical. It is almost as if the tale is the path the play of Hamlet will follow.

A Lesson Before Dying Blog Posts

December 8, 2007

Racism does play a major role in the story. I agree that Grant responds in the same way to Dr. Joseph as his students do to him. It is because of authority and race as well. Dr. Joseph becomes angry when Grant requests for supplies. His mood changes from complements to criticism. Then a problem about hygiene is brought up. Grant states that “some of these children have never seen a toothbrush before…” (57). Grant knows how the world works. He knows that whites have more authority than blacks during the time.

I agree with both of the ways you view Jefferson Quan. Because of the way my mind works, I would understand Jefferson not caring more than the religious allusion. Why does Jefferson join the group of robbers anyway? I thought that Jefferson was an obedient and innocent child, and thus having condemned to death, lost any will to fight. Quan, you brought up the image of a hog again with the quote in your last paragraph. Hog is used to both justify and deface Jefferson. Back in the first chapter, Jefferson’s attorney says that he “would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this” (8). Here, the attorney is trying to justify that nothing would come from killing an intelligent man. This comparison at the same time portrays blacks as low, inferior animals.

“He had said the same thing the year before, and he had called me Higgins then too. And the year before that he had said the same thing, but he had called me Washington then. At least he was getting closer to my real name” (56). I believe that this passage foreshadows a change in the respects towards blacks, or at least Grant. He is getting closer to be called by his real name, Wiggins. A name signifies a man, not an animal such as a hog. However Higgins is not Grant’s real name, and therefore he is not a complete man yet.

Jefferson on the other hand, falls to eating like an animal. In a way this can signify man as well as animal. Having not eaten for a period of time, taking food is what both man and animal perform. He does not eat any corn, which Jefferson says that “hogs eat” (82). Grant even says “You’re not a hog, you’re a man” (83). Again here is another comparison between hog and man. Are there any other similarities between them?

Grant’s attitude towards Jefferson seems to have changed from the beginning of the novel. He does not complain as much as he did. Jefferson is more open to others now as well.

December 15, 2007

I agree that they are not the ones disrespecting Jefferson, but it is him that is at fault. As Quan stated, Emma and Tante and Ambrose all treat Jeff with respect; they bring him food, new clothes, and try to cheer him up in various ways. Grant’s reason for visiting Jeff is Vivian too. “It’s she who keeps me coming here. Not your nannan, not my aunt. Vivian. If I didn’t have Vivian, I wouldn’t be in this damn hole” (130). Vivian is a strong driving for Grant to stay in town as well as visit Jefferson. Jefferson is the one who is disrespectful; he doesn’t answer to Miss Emma or even look at her. Matt may have taken the slapping as the disrespect given to him. However, I believe that is justified due to Jeff’s attitude.

Grant and Vivian think of names for their future children, but are Vivian’s current children ever mentioned? I’m guessing that they hold no importance to Grant, as all he wants is Vivian, not her children. Any ideas? As for Quan’s question, I believe that the oppressed black community is what Grant doesn’t want for his children. Having grown up in such an era, maybe he doesn’t want his children to experience the same hardships. He wants to run away to a better community for his future.

In that same chapter, when Grant and Vivian come home, the church ladies arrived too. They question Vivian about her background and religion. Tante Lou asks questions: “How about your own folks?” (114), “You go to church?” (114), or “You go’n leave your church?” (114). Vivian is catholic and a mulatto. Earlier in the book, mulattos were compared to darker skinned people. The mulatto community is supposedly higher ranked than the blacks. This dividing line is also recognized by Tante Lou when she says “they don’t like dark-skin people” (114). After long interrogation, the church ladies conclude that Vivian is a “lady of quality” (116). They constantly repeat that she is a quality woman as she leaves. It is because she is catholic and believes in God, thus sharing many believes with the church ladies. She goes to church every Sunday and earns the respect of fellow religious members.

December 15, 2007

Grant also notices that Jefferson “had lost some weight. What had been a round, smooth face when he first came here was beginning to show some bone structure. His eyes were still bloodshot” (138). This shows that Jefferson has already started his march towards death. Soon after, Grant questions Jefferson about obligation and love. Jeff, however, replies and says that he is not a “youman” (139) –translated into human. I agree with Quan that there is a change in both characters as well as the conversation topics. Jeff is “the one go’n have to sit down” (139). This pun is sarcastic. Grant says that Emma has a place to sit out in the dayroom, and Jeff replies that he is the one that is going to sit—that is, in the electric chair. Grant has also come over a great change since the beginning. He doesn’t “want to hurt those [he loves]. [He] wants to help those people as much as [he] can” (129). In this moment, Grant talks maturely and seems to have learned a bit about living as a man. He knows now, and tells Jeff, “to live as well as I can every day and not hurt people. Especially people who love me, people who have done so much for me, people who have sacrificed for me” (129). Because Grant learns a bit about life, he can teach Jefferson how to live life well, conquering his previous problem of not knowing how to live as a man.

Also, the topic of Jesus comes up within their conversation. The executors were “fattening [Jeff] up for Christmas. Kill him at Christmastime” (140). A while back, Quan brought up the allusion to the Last Supper. Jefferson attempts to teach this to Miss Emma too, on page 112. Jesus eats his last supper before he is crucified. Jeff, a representation of Jesus, knows that when he eats his all, the only thing that follows is death.

In chapter 19, Jefferson’s relationship with Jesus is hinted once again. “After ‘Silent Night,’ the choir sang ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’” (147). This is foreshadowing Jeff’s fate. Jeff’s early stages after conviction are full of silence. He was silent and would barely talk to anyone, including Grant, who he talks most openly to as of right now. Now, after that stage is over, the plot heads to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is the setting of Nativity. Coming out from silence, Jeff will emerge as a savior, one who will represent the black community with pride.

December 16, 2007

I also noticed Jefferson’s moment of happiness. He actually smiled, “and it was not a bitter smile” (170). I agree with Quan that this is his “last supper” as it “would be on that last day” (171). Because Jefferson smiled, it shows that he has undergone a significant change. He is ready to be a savior now. He wants food, human food, not corn or any other food for hogs. It is this small moment when he shows his true feelings because it’s the first good thing that happened to him since he was jailed. Notice that this is happening on Friday, the day he and Jesus die, if that holds any significance.

About Stella’s child, I agree with Quan about Mary and the star in the sky. This can refer back to the statement made earlier about Jefferson’s revival (reborn). Perhaps this child is able to take on Jefferson’s path and continue to help change the community.

The scene in the store of the woman and Grant is a great example of racism. I do not think that the same thing would happen if Grant were to be a white man. After all, the woman paid more attention to the white customer that walks in when Grant was about to pay. I also found something interesting while Grant plays around with the radio on the shelf. He “could only find three, two in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans. But that was normal for this time of day. At night you were able to tune in others. You could get one as far west as Del Rio, Texas, and another as far as Nashville” (175). I related the day-time as the current timeframe of the community right now. As of right now, Grant and Jefferson do not seem to reach many people, but perhaps later in the novel, there will be a change. More people will become influenced and will change. Radios obtain their stations by frequency waves. Getting only three close ones must mean that there is interference in the air blocking father waves. I believe that the interference in Jeff’s case are the white people who look down on him. It foreshadows the weakening of their power. Any ideas?

Gaines spends a paragraph talking about the word “here”. He says that the word “here” was one that an elder would say to someone when handing something precious and hard-earned to him. “When will all this end? When will a man not have to struggle to have money to get what he needs ‘here’? When will a man be able to live without having to kill another man ‘here’?” (174). Grant is still not mature enough to handle his own problems. However, not everyone is able to overcome problems by themselves; friends are there to provide help. Accepting help now is a way to help a man grow. He will learn from it and work until he does not need help. A man does not want to be shamed by pleading to others for aid more than once. Why do you guys think Gaines spends a paragraph on this word?

December 26, 2007

“He needs God in that cell, and not that sin box” (181). Reverend Ambrose yells at Grant saying that Jefferson needs God. It may be a bit late, but I noticed that throughout the novel Reverend Ambrose acts as an opposite of Grant. Ambrose always opposed Grant’s methods. He did not approve of the radio because it entranced Jefferson in sin music. The only music that would be approved is sermon or holy music. Ambrose is always left out; he’s “the one that’s not needed” (183). He feels inferior because Jefferson “he can’t hear [Ambrose] through that wall of sin” (183). “He, the minister, thought that since Jefferson had only a short time left to live, it should be he in control, and not [Grant]” (196). Grant is the only person Jeff is open towards.

The word “hog” shows up again in chapter 23. Grant says that “you can take [the radio] from him. But you won’t reach him if you do” (183). Grant is addressing Ambrose in this sentence, and Ambrose represents God. If God takes away the radio, “the only thing that keeps him from thinking he is not a hog” (183), there will be nothing but a hog. As Jeff would say, ‘music is for youmans’. With the radio, Jefferson is more of a human—he wants ice cream and write in a notebook. I wonder what would happen if he were to return to the hog state. Would Grant’s work be for null?

I also noticed that talk about soul pops out here again. I think that it disappeared throughout the middle of the novel. Why does it appear out again now? Is it because Reverend Ambrose suddenly makes another appearance? God always follows the followers of the church, and thus salvation of the soul comes along with it. I believe this shows that God or Ambrose had little impact on Jeff. Most of the influence was from Grant—not God.

Olson Creative Project

Endless Stops

Trains. In Henry Ferrini’s Polis Is This, the train station scene is an image imprinted in my mind. In the scene, a message scrolled across the digital display on the platform: “You’re your own train. You’re your own tracks. You can go anywhere”. I have not actually been on the commuter rail before. For my project I decided to film a video conveying the possibilities and tracks a typical person can take in life. I decided to work with Quan Tran and Kevin Tang; collaboration was required to meet the deadline in time

While watching the train scene in Polis is This, I wanted to find more about the train that leads into Gloucester, the commuter rail. I started researching the history of the rail found that it traveled in several different directions. With my research information, my partners and I had to think of a way to incorporate parts of it to convey our message of life. It was a difficult process. We decided on the opening scene for quite a while, as it is significant to the video. To the audience, it is what impresses and captures interest. Each scene filmed was just as difficult. They had to have meaning and integrity. The finishing scene needed to achieve our moral of the video. Thus, we ended with the protagonist grasping life and taking control. The next part of production was the scripting. This was slightly easier than filming because we could act more natural. This way, the audience, most likely teenagers, is able to relate to the situation. The final step in processing a video is the editing. The editor has to time each sound as well as check the quality of the video. Adding the finishing touches creates coherency to the video. After all this, the video is completed. Ferrini said in class film production is a difficult process. He was correct.

The internet was the best resource I could afford to use to research about the commuter rail. Observing the actual train itself was not within the limits of my schedule. We combined individual research and then initiated on the project. The general public may call it the purple line because of its color co-ordinance as with the colored subway lines. Well, that’s what I called it. It appears that the MBTA commuter rail started operating in 1974. It runs on tracks from the 19th century owned by the Boston and Maine Railroad, which was later then acquired by the MBTA in the 1970s. Management of Boston’s Commuter Rail has been passed down from Guilford Transportation Industries to Amtrak to the current manager, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company. Transition between management is typically unnoticed by the general public because the MBTA owns the tracks as well as the 465 trains that run on them. Today, the railroad system services 13 lines to 125 stations that extend as far north as Newburyport; as far west as Worcester; and as far south as Providence, Rhode Island. With terminal stations at North Station and South Station, which are close by, I can travel a fair amount of ground for a few dollars.

My group’s video, “Endless Stops” portrays an uncaring eighteen year old, Quan, who learns a life lesson. First, we came up with our title “Endless Stops” because we wanted it to relate to trains. This title is ironic as well, as many teens such as Quan come to certain stops in life. In the first scene, Quan wakes up in a cluttered manner to walk over to the mirror and judge himself. While browsing the web, Quan’s brother, unnamed, yells at Quan to progress in life. Quan is the only character that has a name in this production, as we want the focus on him. Tracking back to the title, people can take many paths in life. Some, like Quan, may take detours and possibly end up at a different destination. Dialogue incorporates train-relevant phrases such as, “Stop being so stationary,” and, “stop being so stationary”. Open to interpretation, the audience may find limitless meanings. The protagonist Quan ultimately comes to an epiphany while waiting for the commuter rail. In the final scene, a mysterious figure, possibly a representation of god or his conscience, lectures Quan about life with an analogy to trains. This figure, me, briefly talks about the commuter rail to Quan, before I slam a newspaper in his face. Almost coincidentally, this newspaper contained an image of a train as with other moments of the film. This figure vanishes after indicating that Quan must “start his engines” and move in life.

Stopping is part of life. Death is ultimately one of the final stops. Our film, “Endless Stops”, was inspired by the message of endless tracks in life and the endless stops there are. As long as one keeps moving onward, a destination will be reached. Quan is inspired by the mysterious figure at the train station, demonstrating how a small event has the power to influence one’s thoughts. A person can choose to stop or continue traveling on the tracks of endless possibilities.