Monday, December 10, 2007

Writing Prompt "Here"

I'm going to break some rules with this one and use the word "I" a little bit. Before I attempt to analyze "Here" by Philip Larkin, I would just like to say that maybe we should go about analyzing poems, the techniques poets use, and the ins and outs of poetry before we do any formal essay on them. Otherwise, I don't see how a well written essay can come out of a subject we have no idea how to tackle. I may as well put on a football helmet and try to bring down Marion Barber. So with that, I'll go ahead and attempt to pick out what the poet used in his work to help express his feelings toward "Here."

The poet of "Here," Philip Larkin, uses grand descriptions of just about every visible object he encounters wherever "Here" is. The suits are cheap, the wheat-fields are high as hedges, and the doors are plate-glass and swinging. There's not a noun in these stanzas that is not coupled with a adjective to help give the reader an image of the place Larkin is describing. You can see, smell, and practically feel this land that is being described. These intimate descriptions have a reason for being in the poem, they're not just for show.

These descriptions appear to paint a picture of an industrial town, right near a river or some body of water. There is not just one word that creates this, it is the work as a whole that gives the impression that this is a factory-laden city with low-yielding fields on its outskirts. The town has blue-collar workers that go to work during the week and hit the downtown's simple shopping district during the weekends. It's a very ordinary town, very little happens here but work and living life, all which is exemplified by the poet's colorful details.

To add on to the descriptions of the town, the poet doesn't go crazy with his rhyme scheme. Rather, he makes the writings seem natural and the rhymes just comes as he goes. It does not seem to be an out and out poem and it ends up coming across as plain man's account of his town, nothing fancy, no frills, just what the place looks like to man who has seen it every day of his life. The man's descriptions show a silent peace with living in the town. As if he smiles on the inside upon gazing at all that surrounds him. Through this viewpoint, the author conveys his own subdued admiration of this town of industry, of hardworking men, and of the isolated lives the lead.

The author feels comforted in the coldness of this town. It is the place he lived in or by, and through his years experiencing everything the town had to offer, realized the beauty that could be found in everything around him. The town is harsh to outsiders, but to the author, it is merely a matter of perception. The descriptions and tone demonstrate a town that can be found everywhere in America, towns that only its residents can love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

'Student Survey' Response

Do you enjoy using blogs in your class?

I do enjoy using these blogs in AP English because it's a far easier way of articulating my opinions and thoughts than an on-the-spot questionnaire. Because I'm on the computer so often anyway, it's more convenient for me as well, and I like when things are more techonological in school, even if it's something as simple as this.

Do you use blogs for any of your other classes? If so, which ones? Are they set up the same as Mr. Hughes' blog?

I do not use blogs for any other class, but if I could, it would be cool to have them for Business Law instead of the Blackboard program we use.

What do you like most about Mr. Hughes' blog? What do you like the least?

The thing I like most about these blogs is that it allows me to process my thoughts, I'm never rushed, and it doesn't involve any handwriting, which is far slower for me and is so last century.

Is the blog easy to use? Was it easy to use from the beginning or did you have problems?

The blog is about as easy to use as toilet paper, and far more comfortable. I never had any problems with it, and I caught on instantly, not to brag.

Do you wish other classes would use blogs for their assignments?

Like I said before, if Business Law were to have it, that would be right proper because I could easily post my answers to all her assignments on their without a hitch. Plus, the class is already fully online.

Do you have internet access at home in order to participate in the blog?

I do have internet access, I also live in the 21st Century.

Do you usually write on the blog at home or at school?

I write my blog from the comfort of my own home, usually when my parents are asleep at around 9 or 10 o'clock. It's very peaceful and my thinking cap is firmly on at that time of night. Except tonight, when I'm writing at nearly one in the morning.

Do you feel you learn better by using the blog or by doing handwritten assignments?

I feel that with handwritten assignments, you get more of the "gut reaction" writings, which can be either very good or very bad. Blogs allow for retrospection, which I personally prefer because I can look over what I have written and rethink my own initial reactions and compare them to how I feel now.

Do you have your own blog on Myspace, Facebook, etc..? If so, where is your blog?

I have both a Facebook and MySpace, both of which I use daily. I use my non-school blog to post my short stories and various writings so my readers can easily access them. This can be found at Personally, this has been the best thing to come from learning of from this AP English class. A simple creative writing medium.

No more questions. This interview's over.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

"Dead Poets" Response

Dead Poets Society (1989).
Directed by Peter Weir. Starring Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard, and Ethan Hawke. Rating = 8/10.

Dead Poets Society is a well told story about a familiar topic, a new teacher comes in and inspires his class. What is different in this take is that not everyone is inspired, and the ending isn't a happy one. While the movie does have its share of cliches, it overcomes this with its fine acting, especially by Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke as two young prep academy students who discover there is more to life than what authority tells them. The two are brought out of their shells in various degrees by the quick-witted and charismatic Mr. Keating (Williams), who tries to show the beauty of poetry to a group who have known nothing but conformity their whole lives.

This sudden introductory lesson to creativity causes Neil (Leonard) to go against his strict father (Kurtwood Smith) and join a local production of "Midsummer Night's Dream," forging his dad's name in the process. Todd (Hawke) is new and very shy, going so far as to lie about not having done an assignment, just so he won't have to talk in front of others. Eventually, he comes so far as to defy the head of the academy, by standing on his desk, and calling out to Mr. Keating, "O Captain! My Captain!" The joy of this film for me was how surprisingly attached I became to the young men inspired by Keating. Neil's death, however, may have affected me more because 1.) I had a Shakespeare play to perform that night myself and 2.) I am a big fan of Robert Sean Leonard's work on the television show House M.D. Even so, such a brilliant young man being driven to suicide by his father's excessive strictness struck an odd cord with me. And the finale, with many of Keating's former students standing on their desks and proclaiming the famous Whitman line previously stated, while somewhat far-fetched, was still an incredibly effective ending to the film.

The reason the movie loses points is the subplot of Knox Overstreet and his attempts to woo a girl in higher social status than him, which seemed out of place and a mere distraction from the heart of the film. The movie also suffered from its amount of cliches and similarities to other "inspirational teacher films" such as Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Also, the teacher who is inspiring all these children is given very little back story or development, coming in only as a plot device to move the students' stories further. Despite these setbacks, Mr. Weir has crafted a wonderful film that catches the feel of the time period and the "go with the herd" mentality that was embedded in it.

The film, though being one that has its students entranced by poetry and even reforming a Dead Poets Society to continue their growing passion for it, does not delve into any of the dead poets. Their lines are merely spewed when necessary or to make a point. What they mean is hardly examined and the poets themselves are given very little literary credit. In relevance to poetry, Dead Poets Society simply uses it as a MacGuffin. It doesn't have much to do with the main action throughout the film, rather it is a device that sets the rest of the story in motion.

So, while the film lacks poetic substance, it does pack enough of a punch to recommend it to AP English classes. Hopefully, the students will hear the lines spoken and be struck by one, and that spark will cause them to go looking into the poets and their poems. Like movies based on books, this movie serves as a leaping off point for some people into the work(s) that the film's story came from. While it may not be perfect, it will definitely help students understand what poetry's effect can have on a person's life, and the bigger things it can drive us to do.

"O Captain! My Captain!"

Monday, November 26, 2007

Writing Prompt - Past Comes Back To Haunt Present

F. Scott’s Fitzgerald’s classic novel, The Great Gatsby, is a perfect example of a man whose past comes colliding into his present day ideal life. Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan, former lovers from down South have been reunited through wealth, high society, and Gatsby’s own dogged pursuits of her. She represents the American Dream to him and it is she who holds the key to his happiness. The wealth he has accumulated, the house he lives in, the people he runs around with, are nothing to him because they are merely obstacles he has to deal with to be with her once more. His past with Daisy leads him into a delusional state about her which he cannot snap out of. His past relationship with her has perverted his idea of who she is now and shows how far a man will go to pursue the American Dream, needless of how unrealistic it is.

Gatsby in the present has endless wealth and numerous contacts with the upper classes. However, it is his humble beginnings that shape this present day thirst for a place and the top of society. Gatsby, formerly known as Jay Gatz, falls in love with the beautiful debutante, Daisy Buchanan, but before the two can get married, he is shipped off to fight in the First World War. He comes back to find she has married a rich, well-to-do fellow, this being the catalyst for his quest to become the richest, most popular man possible, all in the hopes he can win back his love Daisy.

Unfortunately, he holds these preconceived notions of her from the past that she no longer has or ever did have. He sees her as infallible and a caring person, when in fact her high society living has twisted her into a selfish, empty shell of a woman. Gatsby is blind to this, however, due to his obsession with winning her back, she being the pinnacle of all his successes. He believes that she left him not because she stopped loving him but because the other man had money and power. This delusion to the fact that Daisy is far from the fairy tale princess he made her up to be makes his pursuit for more status a pointless venture.

This venture is a representation of the American Dream, and how one can become so delusional in achieving it that they are blind to either the worthlessness or the impossibility in it. Love has made Gatsby a fool, forcing him to believe that the girl of his past can be won back and she would meet all the wild expectations he has built up about her over the years. It is foolishness that leads him into wealth, but also unhappiness, always being dissatisfied with his accomplishments. All of Gatsby’s efforts are for Daisy; his past has corrupted him and his mind, and he is likely to let it continue until a dramatic event shows him who the present Daisy is and always was.

Gatsby’s views on Daisy are completely understandable, as love and obsession can distort the past and present memories about someone. He cannot help but by being caught up in the materialistic times of The Jazz Age, where everyone believed that wealth and the like were the keys to success. Seeing Daisy marrying the rich man rather than him, how else could he have believed he could win her back by anything other than becoming a man of status? His past controls his life, leaving him in an unhappy state and left to chase something that never was what he thought it to be. His former relationship with Daisy can never be regained and it is this sad pursuit of happiness that leads to Gatsby’s death.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

When The Sun Goes Down

by Arctic Monkeys.

Who's that girl there?
I wonder what went wrong
So that she had to roam the streets
She dun't do major credit cards
I doubt she does receipts
It's all not quite legitimate

And what a scummy man
Just give him half a chance
I bet he'll rob you if he can
Can see it in his eyes,
Yeah that he's got a driving ban
Amongst some other offences

And I've seen him with girls of the night
And he told Roxanne to put on her red light
We're all infected but he'll be alright
Cause he's a scumbag, don't you know
I said he's a scumbag, don't you know!

Although you're trying not to listen
Overt your eyes and staring at the ground
She makes a subtle proposition
"Sorry love I'll have to turn you down"
I know he must be up to summat
What are the chances sure it's more than likely
I've got a feeling in my stomach
I start to wonder what his story might be

They said it changes when the sun goes down
They said it changes when the sun goes down
They said it changes when the sun goes down
Around here(Around here)

Look here comes a Ford Mondeo
Isn't he Mister Inconspicuous?

And he don't even have to say 'owt
She's in the stance ready to get picked up
Bet she's delighted when she sees him
Pulling in and giving her the eye
Because she must be f**king freezing
Scantily clad beneath the clear night sky
She doesn't stop in the winter, no

They said it changes when the sun goes down
Yeah they said it changes when the sun goes down
And they said it changes when the sun goes down
Around here
Well they said it changes when the sun goes down
Over the river, going out to town
And they said it changes when the sun goes down
Around here
Around here

What a scummy man
Just give him half a chance
I bet he'll rob you if he can
Can see it in his eyes that he's got a nasty plan
I hope you're not involved at all

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sky Blue Sky Response

Well, my original idea for this response was to listen to the album and give my first impressions, but since this will be the 4th or 5th time listening to it this week, I will be giving my "enough already" response. So let me hit the play button on the other page and begin.

Listening to this album is like hearing a Volkswagon commercial for an hour, since they licensed their songs out to them and are now played constantly. It's a very relaxing music that Wilco brings to the table, reminiscent to pop rock of the 70s and 80s. The second listen through of this Sky Blue Sky was when Tyler and I read our AP books and Becky did her response and we all came to the same conclusion that this music is comforting, and perfect for reading. It isn't overpowering, and the lyrics didn't have us distracted, making for terrific background noise. Because the lyrics have a running theme to them as well, there doesn't seem to be any distinctive breaks between each song either, which reminded me of how first few songs on Beck's Guero CD blended together perfectly. This lack of distinction lends to the feeling that Sky Blue Sky is just one big song.

This is not supposed to be a harsh criticism of of Wilco or their CD, I think they're good and appreciate them and everything they stand for, you might say. The singer sings lyrics that are heartfelt and for the most part straightforward. He doesn't rely too much on metaphors or wordplay, rather he writes how things really are. While they don't do anything groundbreaking with their music either, they do take what has been done before, the sound and feeling, and do it much better than most of their contemporaries.

I know this should be one of the bands that a person like me is supposed to listen to and enjoy, and while I do, it's only to an extent. This is too white bread for me, and while I do listen to this kind of music on occasion, I need to switch styles up frequently. I need some wheat and whole grain too. Perhaps because I was able to listen to this while reading is why I'm not crazy about this album or Wilco as a whole. I like an overpowering element in most of my music. The drum work, guitars, and imagery of Arctic Monkeys, the intensity of 50 Cent or T.I., the metaphorical wonders of Beck, or the emotion from Coldplay. I suppose because Wilco doesn't come at me with something unique in this album is why it's just good music to me, nothing special. Their music on this fits the commercials that feature their songs because the music isn't distracting to the viewer watching the action on screen, but it's of a quality that might stick in your head for the day. This being a good thing for Volkswagon CEOs wanting you to remember their product.

On a more positive note, Sky Blue Sky makes me feel like I'm in a coffee shop listening to a poet sing his work to the patrons. It creates an atmosphere that is, like mentioned before, relaxing and comforting. I can imagine being at Panera with a hot beverage, sitting in the corner with friends, and having Wilco playing a set right next to me. I guess that's all I get from listening to this, a relaxing comfort.

Oh, and need for a cappuccino.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Metamorphosis Essay #2

Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is recognized for its extensive use of symbolism, leading it to have nearly limitless interpretations by its readers. Symbols vary from Gregor's metamorphosis into the creature, to his window, to his fasting. Put together, these symbols give the quick read a great depth to it. Kafka's use of these shows the extent of his talents and ability to put greater meaning behind practically every object and person. Because of this, Kafka was able to show the state of man during his time, and through the use of symbolism, better get his idea across.

Kafka begins the story with what would be the climax in most stories, Gregor transforming into a "monstrous vermin." This shape-shifting is more than a simple plot device though, it is Kafka's critique on 20th century man. the 20th century man wakes up, goes to work, comes home, eats, goes to bed, and does it all again the next day. Modern life and even society itself has come to isolate the individual. Gregor the Roach represents this loneliness and alienation from the world around him as he is stuck in his room for months on end.

While dealing with his situation, Gregor passes the time by staring out the window. Kafka uses this to serve as a representation of the life that was once had by Gregor, and the life he is now cut off from. It is a symbol used in many other works of literature wherein a character is confined in some way to a room or building and can do nothing more than helplessly look out and wish they could be on the other side of the glass. Gregor, due to his hideous form, is forced to live in his room and spend his days wishing he was on the other side again.

These unfulfilled wishes, coupled with his family's straining over money leads Gregor to stop eating his food and fasting instead. Guilt has overcome the creature, still able to think as Gregor, and he can not bear to see his family suffer anymore because of him. The fasting represents Gregor's crushing guilt and wish to escape his fate, eventually leading to his starvation and death. This self-sacrifice unburdens the family of him and acts as a final cleansing of the pain he was feeling from living as the creature.

These symbols work very well to express Kafka's disdain for the isolated lives men are forced to lead in modern times, the world passing them by, and some men's escape from the pain their lives bring them. The fact that all these views are given in just over 50 pages is amazing. The ability to cohesively use these symbols are what give The Metamorphosis its great weight and lasting appeal. Without such brilliant writing and use of symbolism as a further way of getting his point across, Kafka's short story would be nothing more than a man becoming a roach.