Blog 22: Citizen Kane

After watching the movie in class and taking some time to think about it, I’ve decided that I have very mixed feelings about Citizen Kane. I really liked the theme of the film, but I honestly do not think it was executed very well. At the very least, I don’t think that it is the virtually perfect movie that it is hyped up to be.

Though there were many things that I didn’t like about this movie, there were a few things that I did enjoy. The idea to center the film around Kane’s last words was a very smart decision. Because there is not a whole lot of action that takes place, there needed to be something to keep people watching. Charles Kane’s life was interesting, but it was not captivating enough to carry the movie all on its own. That is where the whole “Rosebud” mystery came into play. Wandering exactly what rosebud meant was enough to keep less interested viewers watching until the conclusion. While we are on the topic of “Rosebud,” it is worth mentioning that the big reveal at the end of the movie was worth the wait. It went along perfectly with the themes throughout the rest of the film, and actually made me feel quite sad for Kane, as well as his real life counterpart, William Randolph Hearst. These are men who could have any material thing in the world, yet they died with nothing of real value, as they had lost everything that really mattered. This is what makes “Rosebud” so special. Kane’s last words were him longing for the better days of his life, which in this case, were when he was a child. If he could take all of his fame and fortune away in order to be that boy enjoying the winter weather again, he would. After leaving his family, it was all about him. There was never truly anybody that he loved. He loved that his partners loved him. It certainly was not pretty to realize that he had these regrets, but it had a strong impact on the theme, which was that the “American Dream” shouldn’t necessarily be about amassing wealth or material items. Things like family and love are much more important in the long run.

There were some things that I think could’ve made this film more enjoyable. I think better visuals really would have helped draw more interest. Unfortunately, this isn’t really something that can be helped, considering it was released in 1941, but it’s hard to argue that that movie would not have been better with color and the increased film quality that we enjoy today. No matter how good a movie is, I feel like a lack of color is always a massive let down.

I’ve reserved “the ugly” for things that actually could have been improved, as the visual quality is just an unfortunate liability of the time. The massive plot hole at the beginning of the movie frustrated me to no end. The fact that everybody somehow knew Kane’s last words was ridiculous. I don’t see the problem with having the nurse in the room with Kane when he died. In this scenario, we would know his last words because she was there to hear them. In all honesty, its not that big of a deal, but when your movie lacks action and mass intrigue in favor of a good story and writing, you can’t have gaping holes like this in the main plot line.

Blog 21: The Love Blog of a Pretty Disillusioned Town

I was deeply saddened when I saw several poems in the Google Classroom. Earlier this year, I was thrilled to finally be done with poetry, but it seems as if we have reverted back to our old ways. Luckily, I liked this set of poems more than many of the others we covered before. If I were to rank them, I would put “Disillusionment of 10 o’clock,” followed by “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Personally, I wasn’t the biggest fan of “anyone lived in a pretty how town.” Though none of the three poems have a very happy tone, this one seems to be even more gloomy than the rest. It is pretty tough to understand, but throughout the poem, there is the sense that death is always looming. In spite of this, these people go about their boring days and lives, caring for little except maybe their family. T.S. Eliot’s poem was much more to my liking. Even though it is also sad, by the end, I felt bad for Prufrock. One of the themes in this poem is low self-esteem. Our main character puts himself down much more than the women he is trying to convince himself to talk to. Though Prufrock may not be Hamlet, he ends up worsening his own position because of his own image of himself. The message that we care too much about other’s opinions is also conveyed in Wallace Stephens’ work. Though it is considerably shorter than the previous poem, the lines about the night gowns point out something funny about the article of clothing. Everyone seems to wear white night gowns in order to “conform to reality,” even though no one really sees you when you are wearing a night gown. This also points to the lack of uniqueness that can plague our society, oftentimes in the “pretty how towns’ described by cummings. I also think Stephens’ poem is best suited to today’s society. Both messages, about uniqueness and obsessing over self image, point out problems that are still very relevant in today’s world. The fact that he manages to get across these points in a relatively short poem makes it all the more impressive and adaptable to a modern audience.

A Tiger in Red Weather

Blog 20:

The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was probably my favorite thing that we have read this year. It was entertaining before I figured out the true meaning, but it became even better in my eyes once I realized that it was mocking the narrator’s “high society.” I think the story within the story had the most entertaining parts, since Jim Smiley was this strange sort of “mystery man.” The fact that this story was being told by Simon Wheeler made it even more interesting, as his colloquial language kept things interesting and humorous. Overall, the point it was trying to make was a good one. Twain was correct in that well off and well educated people should not put themselves above people who have been less fortunate.

I’m pretty excited to read Huckleberry Finn. I honestly don’t know too much about the story, but I now have read a little bit of Mark Twain before. I’m hoping that the satire in the book is similar to the amount in the short story that we read. I’m also hoping that he was just as good at writing longer works, since the story we read was obviously pretty short. Luckily, I don’t think I have too much to worry about, since Huckleberry Finn is a very well loved book.

So far, our satire unit is off to a good start, because I also enjoyed watching “iMom.” In this piece, it’s modern day parenting and our increasing reliance on technology that its being satirized. I didn’t think that the visuals themselves were breathtaking, but the message was one of importance. We do need to look at how technology may set us back in the future, or even in the present. Even though the foreshadowing was quite obvious and the visuals were nothing special, I still enjoyed “iMom” as a whole.

Blog 19: Satire

I, like most people, enjoy humor, so I was happy to see that we are getting into the satire unit. Personally, I have found that I enjoy many different types of humor, as long as they are executed correctly. Though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, “Aggressive Humor,” as it is called by Wikipedia, is very entertaining to me. It is oftentimes rude, which means it can hurt people’s feelings, but being sensible is not exactly the point of Aggressive Humor.

A perfect example of this type of humor is found in the famous series Breaking Bad. Hank Schrader uses it relentlessly throughout the series, though it is more commonly found in the earlier seasons. His constant hurling of insults at anyone and everyone is hilarious to the viewer, but it’s purposefully vulgar and over the top. Many of the things he says are not something that should be said in the workplace, yet this is where he makes these jokes the most. This type of humor is oftentimes used by writers to make a character look like an ass. Another popular character who frequently uses Aggressive Humor is Michael Scott from The Office. In this series, the humor is again used to portray the character as a jerk, though Michael Scott is certainly more loved than Hank Schrader. Both Hank and Michael could be described as a “PR Nightmare,” but that is exactly what makes them so funny.

Before looking him up, the only thing I knew about Mark Twain was that he wrote both The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Now that I looked him up, I have very high expectations, mainly because of his looks. Frankly, he looks comical. In all seriousness, my expectations are high because of how often I have heard his name associated with his two most famous books. I have never read Huckleberry Finn, but I’ve certainly heard good things about it, and so far, I have had a good experience with books that are considered “Classics.” Last year, we read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and I really enjoyed that, so I am hoping this book keeps the momentum going.

 

Quarter 3 IR – A Game of Thrones (Book 1) Critique

Over the past thirty years, George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” books have been unparalleled by any book in the epic fantasy genre. The first of the series, “A Game of Thrones,” is no different. The book’s plot, symbolism, and characters are just part of what makes book one a masterpiece.

The book’s plot is based heavily on the intricate fictional world that Martin painstakingly created. The world is extremely divided, with each area tending to have their own values and customs. This was intentionally done, in part so that readers can pick and choose which areas they love and which they despise. Near the beginning of the book, the king of the seven kingdoms dies, which sparks the so called “Game of Thrones.” In the first book alone, three main figures have emerged and claimed that they have the right to the throne. It should be mentioned that these three have vastly different personalities and motives, which keeps things interesting from chapter to chapter. Later on in the book, a war breaks out between possibly the two most prominent houses. Adding yet another major conflict is a strategy the Martin employs very successfully throughout the book. To some, this may seem overly complicated, but to the die hard fans, it creates awesome complexity to give readers something entertaining every page. Sometimes, it seems like he sort of “throws everything at the wall” and waits to see what sticks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because it means that there is at least a plot line or two for everyone. While book one did not really end any story lines, it started many that engross readers with both their individual complexity and inter connectivity.

A Game of Thrones may have some of the best written characters of any book to date. The things that makes them great is that the vast majority of them sit in a moral grey area. There’s Ned, the honorable father and husband with a bastard son. There is also Cersei, the despised queen who may love her children more than anyone else in the realm. Another is Petyr Baelish, who is perhaps the least honorable man in Westeros, yet he has a charming weak spot for his childhood crush, Catelyn Tully/Stark. Of course there are many more, but the point is not to explain every character in the book. The great thing Martin does with these characters is that he shows their thoughts and feelings through the chapters. There are no chapter titles, aside from the names of characters. He calls them “Point of view chapters.” These help readers get closer to each characters thoughts, instead of just describing their actions. While there are obviously some stereotypical character archetypes, most of the characters in “A Game of Thrones” are phenomenal.

The world building that went into Game of Thrones is awe inspiring. More specifically, there is a massive amount of symbolism that can be found in the book. It can be read three times over and some fans still may not catch everything. The most obvious symbolism comes in the form of the house banners, which are essentially coats of arms. Each one does a great job of symbolizing the values and personalities of the corresponding family. For example, the Stark’s banner is a wolf. More specifically, it’s a Direwolf, but the distinction is unimportant for this purpose. The Starks, like wolves, are very loyal, and they do better for themselves when they are together, or in a pack. In the books, the Starks tend to fall apart when the separate. Part of what makes this great is that Martin does not draw attention to these things. It is left as something each reader can find and interpret on their own. The symbolism in “A Game of Thrones” is a big part of what makes it the best epic fantasy book in the past thirty years, and quite possibly the best of all time.

 

Blog 18: Vertigo Review

Overall, I think Vertigo was a pretty enjoyable film. It is certainly not perfect, but I don’t really think any film is. Two whole class periods were essentially Scotty following Madeline around, which got a little boring, but I do understand that it was needed to establish plot. Even then, I don’t think it would hurt to cut down on the amount of time that it is showing Scotty alone in his car as he is tailing the green car. In the moment, it felt as if those scenes took up a good five minutes of time that could have been dedicated to something else. I think the acting in the movie was also very good. James Stewart was especially good at the end, when he was sort of going insane. For a second, it made me think that he was going to toss Judy straight off the top of the bell tower. I also think that I would have enjoyed the movie more if I wasn’t taking notes. I ended up having about six pages of notes, so there was a very considerable amount of time where I wasn’t even looking at the screen. The movie ended up being very different from what I first thought, because the intro really threw me off. The long intro of vertigo inducing images and strange pictures made me think that the whole film was going to be a sort of acid trip, but luckily, it followed a cohesive, yet intriguing story. After thinking about it for a while, I don’t think I would really change all too much, especially for the purpose of suiting to a more modern audience. I would count myself as a part of the modern audience, and I really don’t think that the film’s age deteriorated anything enough to warrant any drastic change. The only thing mentioned that I didn’t like, the long amounts of time with Scotty in the car, don’t really have a way to be changed into a more modern form. I think it would just be better to remove a bit of that altogether.

James Stewart

Blog 17: Song of Myself

So far, I’m not a particularly big fan of Walt Whitman. I’m sure his Blades of Grass has many solid messages in it, but I just wish it were in the form of a standard book. I find it rather tedious and annoying to try and decipher every line before I actually know what he is talking about. But then again, I guess a natural part of being a poem is containing cryptic lines to confuse generations of high school students. My group was assigned sections three and nine. The first thing we noticed was the stark contrast between the two sections in terms of length. Section three may be the longest of the sections that were available, while section nine may be the shortest. We decided to just jump right into analyzing section three. The first stanza made us think the assignment was going to be a breeze. We quickly figured out that Whitman was talking about his focus on the present when he says things such as “But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.” Every sentence after this first stanza seemed to take triple the time to figure out. We have noticed that his basic philosophy made him into a sort of raging optimist. This comes out in some of section three’s lines, like when he says that there “will never be any more perfection than there is now,” though that can also be looked at as a negative statement. Another line that shows this optimism is when he says “Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.” I would say that one of the most important lines in our sections is right at the beginning. The whole first stanza, in which he talks about hearing the talkers talking, sort of sets the tone for the rest of the section, even though it was the easiest to dissect, as mentioned earlier. Some of the hardest lines to figure out are at the end of section three. We have our own ideas about what the bed-fellow line is all about, but we do know that it is not about Walt Whitman having a one night stand. We are hoping that knowing that will help us get questioned a little less by the class when it is time to present. Here’s to hoping we don’t get torn up too much.

Blog 16: Civil Disobedience

After reading Civil Disobedience, I have realized that Thoreau and I have some things in common. I agree with his statement that “government is best which governs least.” In my eyes, government has its main use in basics functions, such as operating courts, and maintaining military and police forces. There are a few other uses that it has, but I am not a huge fan of government interfering in the lives of the people. This also applies to economic issues. In my eyes, we are better off economically when there is less government interference and less regulation. Things like tariffs, high tax rates, and government owned enterprises make the economy as a whole less efficient, which is worse for the people as a whole. Having more government means less freedom and more conformity, something Thoreau and I are not big fans of.

A government that “commands my respect,” as Thoreau says, is one that operates for the good of the people while giving the people enough freedom to make their own choices. This is a somewhat vague description that was off the top of my head, but it sounds like a pretty solid description to me. As I have said before, government allowing freedom is very important to me, but I understand that having a government at all is still integral to a well-functioning society. An overbearing government that impedes on the freedom of its people does not deserve the respect of those people.

Having protest and civil disobedience in today’s society is still very important. Like almost anything, protest in its most radical forms can be detrimental. Using violence in protest is definitely not the way to get things done, but non-violent protests can be a good way to get thoughts out there and kind of “get the pot stirring.” Another form of protest that is sometimes used is to protest the government is to refuse to pay taxes that can be considered unjust. Some people refuse to pay taxes altogether. While I understand the reasoning behind this type of disobedience, it oftentimes just ends in the perpetrator getting arrested for tax evasion. Overall, we must have protest in our society as a way to combat injustices in our world.

 

Blog 15: Thoreau’s Attempt

We are only a few days into our unit on Transcendentalism, and I have already concluded that it is going to be a long couple of weeks. It is not that I find the topic uninteresting, the problem is that it’s a fairly complex thing to think about, which makes some of the work that is associated with it very difficult. The latest works we have read in class have been two excerpts from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” I’ve noticed that many of their ideas are similar, but that should be expected, as they both were considered Transcendentalists. In the first excerpt, “Where I lived, and What I Lived for,” Thoreau talks about his reasoning in his choice to live in the woods. Like Emerson, he liked the idea of “simplifying” his life by reducing it to some of the most basic things there are in this world. By cutting down his priorities and focusing on only a couple things at a time, he was able to ponder more on more important topics, like life’s purpose, nature, and religion. In the second excerpt, titled “The Conclusion,” Thoreau focuses more on his reasoning behind his eventual abandonment of “the woods.” From what I understand, the main reason for this was that he wanted more time to try something new in his life. At first, this came as a surprise to me, since many transcendentalists at the time praised this simple living that he had been embracing. It was at this point that I remembered Emerson’s writings about consistency, more specifically how much he loathed consistency, as it can breed conformity. After remembering this, it no longer surprised me that Thoreau would suddenly walk away in order to find something new to better himself.

In all honesty, I don’t think that I could spend time away in the woods like Thoreau did. It very well may have benefits to it, but it would be tough for me to put down everything that is important to me and everything that I have ever known, especially technology. To be fair, many of the things that Thoreau was eager to escape were things that became commonplace during his lifetime. For me, I grew up with technology and have never lived a second of my life in a world where it wasn’t available. So there is a huge difference there. Nonetheless, I thought it was interesting to read his thoughts on his intellectual journey and I commend his bravery in abandoning the comfort of society in pursuit of self-improvement.

Walden Pond

 

Blog 14: End of Argument

I am very glad to hear that our unit on argument is coming to a close. Normally, I love to argue, but I did not enjoy doing research and putting forward points about the topic I was assigned, which was Pay-to-Play athletics. Even though I enjoy watching sports, I don’t play them, and this topic really did not interest me whatsoever. I also think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had a more well-known topic, because getting information on Pay-to-play was much tougher than I had initially expected. Even though I didn’t like my topic, I still learned a lot of things about debating. I think that if I had to do a formal debate now, I would be much better off than if we had never done this unit in the first place. I likely would have used a lot of logical fallacies, and a lot of my sources would have been considered unreliable. The past few weeks have helped teach the importance of argument, and especially the research that goes on behind it. Without researching and talking about these things with other people, we may become complacent with our opinions and support common fallacies, ones which may have negative results that we wouldn’t support if we knew more of the whole picture. I’ve also realized that many adults today use a lot of logical fallacies in their arguments. From Ad Hominems and Slippery Slopes to outright Red Herrings, modern day political discussions are full of fallacies. I’ve noticed that even non-political arguments are full of these issues I had never noticed. Although developing a valid argument is often difficult and can take a lot of time dedicated to research, it is clearly worth the cost. As a society, it is better off if we are not anarchists, so we have to have debate to help in establishing morals, laws, etc. Once these things are established, we still need to have things that are constantly being looked at in order for improvement to happen. Overall, I’ve learned that our unit on argument was an important one, even though it wasn’t one that I enjoyed all too much.

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