Thursday, June 30, 2005
I've known that Peter Jackson, who did the perfect Lord of the Rings trilogy, wanted to do a remake of King Kong. I always wondered why. Now I see that he had a vision.
I always liked King Kong as a kid. Something about it is just so pure as an adventure story, especially when in 1933 some of the world still hadn't been explored! I always thought of it as a possibility. I would play with my action figures growing up on concepts like King Kong and lost worlds. Looks like Jackson did a fantastic job based on the trailer.
> Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2005 23:28:48 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Ryan
> Subject: Whoa
> To: Matt Butcher <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Dood, I don't know what's going on. First I started
> writing you a letter DEMANDING a reply for the
> previous e-mail I sent you like, a week ago, but the
> window closed. Then something happened and it said
> message sent. So I'm sorry if you're being flooded
> by nothing but you just might wanna keep your eyes
> Anyways if you'd write me back so I could write you
> back then you would write me back and we could start
> a correspondence that would be cool. Because you're
> a cool guy and you influenced me a lot and I think
> it'd be really wild if when I'm like 50 and you'll
> hopefully still be alive we could meet up with each
> other again but you'd be suffering from kidney
> failures left and right so maybe it wouldn't work
> out.. But yea you should definitely write back. Oh,
> and I did feel remarkably special when you posted my
> other e-mail in your way cool super popular
> awesomely rad blog. Way to nice, Mr. B, way to nice.
> Thanks for being such an awesome teacher/friend,
> WRITE BACK DUH
> Sorry for all the typos and lame grammar, it's
> almost 11:30 and I'm tuckered out.
Rekindle the Rivalries. Sign up for Fantasy Football
U2's The Joshua Tree (1986)
Back in 1987, I just graduated eigth grade. I was never much into music by myself. I owe much of the start of my musical taste and appreciation to my eighth grade bud, Eric Reeb. (I have no idea where he is now.) I moved that year too, from Bolingbrook to Somonauk. I spent the last week of eighth grade at Eric's house while my family moved early and settled in at the new house that my parents still live in to this day. (And Morgan's plane just landed a few hours ago and she will be staying a week by herself with Grandma and Grandpa. She'll probably get to sleep in my old room.)
My mom bought me a boom box for eighth grade graduation. All it had on it was a double deck tape player. The first tape I had was a copy of one of Eric's, The Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill. Everybody was listening to that then. If you didn't know all the words, you weren't cool-it was odd. That album and The Violent Femmes song called "Add It Up" you had to know all the words. The first tape I bought, once I moved to Somonauk, at the old Wal-Mart in Plano, Illinois, was U2's The Joshua Tree.
I remember not liking the singles at first. Damn, this is a long time ago that I am trying to remember. I remember turning off the video for "With or Without You." But I did like "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and "Bullet the Blue Sky." Eric played that second one constantly. So I bought the tape.
This album has always been with me. I thought (and still think) that every album should have to open with a song like "Where the Streets Have No Name." That long instrumental to lull you in to just sit down and listen, was fantastic. Then the album moves on, but all the songs flow together, purely, into each other. I remember for years not knowing which song that one refrain belonged to: "Oh, great ocean. Oh, great sea. Run to the ocean, run to the sea." This was before CDs where you knew where each track ended and began. Even the perfect cacophony of "Bullet the Blue Sky" fits exactly where it needs to go, then the album moves on. The most powerful area of the album goes to the last two tracks, "Exit" and "Mothers of the Disappeared." They were the first real poetry I heard in music, the first time I heard music move the lyrics of a song. When that gun goes off in "Exit," I swear I jumped every time. And to finish off the album with that perfectly melancholy track called "Mothers of the Disappeared" just somehow made you appreciate life.
This album changed me. I first of all became a huge U2 fan for a while. I even remember buying the 45 record singles of "With or Without You" and "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" just for the B-sides, two B-sides per 45, what a frickin bargain! (All of these songs were never available again until The Best Of 1980-1990 came out in 1998. Those songs are "The Three Sunrises," "Spanish Eyes," "Luminous Times (Hold On To Love)," and "Walk to the Water." Those four songs will always be a sort of epilogue, an extra chapter if you will, that I cannot completely separate from the album. Those four songs were cut from the final album but they comprise a big feel of it for me. I must have listened to those 45s and that tape a million times.
Mostly, The Joshua Tree caused me to become appreciative of what music could really do. I mean, it was either that or The Beastie Boys, and somehow they don't have quite the poetic impact that this album had. I began to rate albums in comparison to The Joshua Tree, seeing how albums were a perfect little art, not just a random collection of songs. It still beats most as a wholly perfect album. I think that if was going to give my daughters a musical education, I would start with this one. That's how perfect The Joshua Tree is.
Marvin Williams graduated from Bremerton in '04. He went into the draft after one year, and a championship, at North Carolina.
I just don't like going into the draft versus getting his free college education. I just never stop thinking about what happens if there is an injury. I don't know--it's hard because if I were in his shoes, I'd probably do the same thing. His forecast is to become a superstar in the NBA. Future's so bright, he's gotta wear shades.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
That's a big endeavor, 100 Greatest Albums since 1985. It appears they picked titles that changed a genre or really influenced following artists. And that's fine, and I guess that's specifically what the list is supposed to be about the "greatest" albums. But I don't know the criteria and am a little puzzled by some of their choices.
I don't see how Radiohead's OK Computer scored at #1. I don't see how Public Enemy has two albums in the top 21, especially one in the coveted #2 spot. Nirvana's Nevermind only came in at #3, which I thought Spin magazine would be all over. Pearl Jam's Ten only came in at #93, and I bet if this list came out a decade ago that that would have been much higher. I don't see how the Beastie Boys scored #12 for Paul's Boutique when Licensed to Ill only came in at #52. Wilco doesn't rate until #77, and that for the subpar Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (I'm sorry, but that album sucks, especially in comparison with Summerteeth and Being There). And there is a lot of rap and hip hop, which I just cannot attest to at all because they aren't my cup of tea. I want to be fair to those, but I just personally cannot rate those at all in comparison to the others. So I wish Spin had listed exactly how they came up with the list, although they do say, "Each album on the list finds a sweet spot between artistic brilliance, stylistic innovation, and cultural relevance."
So I am going to start listing MY GREATEST ALBUMS. I'm also going to branch off into MY GREATEST MOVIES. These are going to be those things that I have HAD to have with me. My greatest albums are chosen as ones that I had to listen to a million times, or had to have with me on car trips. These albums are also going to be the ones that mean certain things at certain times. For instance, U2's Achtung Baby (which scored at #11 on Spin's list). That's an album that makes you rock out at times, or times driving home late at night where you just have to listen to the B side--the last four tracks--that really mellows you out. Something about that album holds up individually for each song, yet comes together as an inseparable whole. That's an album. Here's my greatest list:
(To be continued...)
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
My mom and Heather called me today with the news. Hannah said into the phone, "Uncle Matt, I'm gonna have a new sister!" So you know which one she wants!
One more grandchild for my folks!
First of all, I am not recommending Barnes & Noble right now. It's the only real bookstore in Silverdale (if you don't count the hole-in-the-wall Waldenbooks in the mall). And I am pissed at them for a recent online order.
I went to order my and Amy's textbooks for our classes next month. Classes start July 5th and here I was ordering two weeks early. The textbooks listed they would ship in a week or so, so that was fine. $173 worth of books. So I submitted it.
After I placed the online order, I was getting messages saying that they wouldn't ship until June 23rd! My class is over by June 30th. Amy can't wait three weeks for her books. So I tried cancelling the order.
Oh my god, you wouldn't believe what this did. I was able to cancel one of the three online but two could not be cancelled. I called the 800# for Barnes & Noble and they told me they could only put in a request to cancel the order, because apparently they order the textbooks through some textbook warehouse. Some system was down ( of course!), and they couldn't put in the request either. So I have been calling everyday to make sure it gets done. I have gotten a bunch of doubletalk actually. I'm giving it one more day and then tomorrow I am talking to this "supervisor" they keep referring to. (Maybe this is why I never really get anywhere in life because I am too nice to people on the phone when I should rant and rave to get my way, but I digress to another time...)
So I went to the bookstore to browse. I ended up picking up three things to read this week. I was looking for a book, you know what I mean? I was looking to read something that would move me again like literature used to. I wanted a book like the first time I read The Catcher in the Rye (I just read it again for my class and reading it for the twelfth time, no matter how good it reads, just isn't the same emotional impact). I wanted something like the first time I read 1984, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Foundation, The Chocolate War, Dune, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby, Jurassic Park (and other Crichton books), and many other choices. Not an easy task.
So I got out of the science fiction-fantasy section. That section hasn't moved me for quite some time. I thought of picking up a Star Trek to read but the section was massive. And every book looked to be part of a twelve-book series, and I didn't want that. So I wandered.
I found the following:
Cold by John Smolens
The Stranger by Albert Camus
and America: The Book by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show (I thought I should have something fun too!)
I'm going to try to finish them this week (before class starts on July 5th) and write reviews. To be continued...
Monday, June 27, 2005
The video blogs by director Bryan Singer are starting to reveal a ton of secrets in the prodcution phase. They do not give too much away, but they sure tease. This photo show Superman hovering above the earth. Remember, in this movie, he returns to earth after a six-year absence.
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Changes. a short essay by Io Blair-Freese One of my friends recently asked me the question over instant messenger, "This year has been a good social year for me. Don't you think?" Normally, people wouldn't ask me to answer things that didn't have to do with boys or drama, but it wasn't an odd question being that it was the last day of school and everyone was asking me those sorts of odd questions. In truth he had gained more friends, but I still didn't think that his social circle was anywhere near impressive. I agreed with him anyway and dimissed the action from the top of my head as quickly as it came. However, it soon returned. "Did I have a good social year? Did anything change for me at all?," I wondered. "I know that I look different. I cut my hair and dyed it a bunch of times." My quick response to the question didn't satisfy me, so I began to search throughout the year tucked into theback of my head and found the amazing things that had changed me. My self confidence level was the biggest change that I could find.
Grr. My last email wasn't complete. Well, after my mini-(not really an)essay I wanted to thank you because your class helped me immensely. Now I feel good acting and speaking up in class. Before I would brag about how confident I was, and over-exaggerate a bit, but now I've caught up with myself. That it partially in part to you. You brought out the best in all of your students and I can't remember any instant where I've heard a complaint about you. (That's a good thing because I don't know of another teacher who's had that yet.) You've become more of a friend and person than a teacher to me. Okay.. I better stop typing now before my mom notices that I've tearing up. Keep in touch, Ms. Blair-Freese (Io)
(This picture is because I wore this shirt that Karen Kinney gave me on the last day of school)
Exploring the Symbols in Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye
Texts are never just random occurrences of words. Authors meticulously and painstakingly choose words to put on the page. Then comes the reader and meaning is produced. It’s the interpretation of meaning that causes the text to come alive. How is meaning interpreted? Different theories tell us how to look at a text in different ways. Looking at J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye in two different perspectives, New Criticism and Reader-Response Criticism, allows us to compare the same text in unusual ways.
New Criticism makes us analyze the text itself. We do not look at the time period or the author for clarification. The text is an autonomous entity that gives clues to its own meaning. If it is not in the text, it cannot be in the analysis. Many of the recurring symbols of the novel can be looked at using New Criticism. We must see how the text helps us interpret these symbols. For instance, one of the recurring images is the ducks of Central Park.
Throughout the novel, Holden Caulfield whines, sounding like a grumpy old man. He punctuates his rants with adult swear words. Several times in the novel he goes away from sounding gruff and asks an innocent question about one of life’s little wonders. He asks about the ducks in Central Park. The first time he thinks about the ducks is when he is talking to Mr. Spencer. He does not want to listen to the “grippy” old man, so he withdraws inwardly and thinks,
The funny thing is, though, I was sort of thinking of something else while I shot the bull. I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go. I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away. (Salinger 13)
He cannot even hold a regular conversation and, like a child, his attention wanders.
The image is progressed in the novel itself when Holden rides in the two cabs. To the first cab driver, he asks, “’You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park?...do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?’” (60). But by the time of the second cab ride, he starts answering his own question, with facts that little kids find out as they grow. “’I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves—go south or something?’” (81-82). The novel is telling us about the progression that Holden is going through. The novel expresses how childish this line of questioning is yet is also showing us how Holden is growing up from this line of questioning. As he grows in the novel, He actually goes out to see about the ducks in person. “So what I did, I started walking over to the park. I figured I’d go by that little lake and see what the hell the ducks were doing, see if they were around or not” (153). He wants to experience more things, just as children grow and experience more things and find out the answers for themselves.
The thing that is important to note is that the text does not come out and tell us what the ducks represent. The reader makes this connection and fills in the gaps. For example, in the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg on the billboard are a recurring image. Only on page 159 of a 180-page novel is the secret revealed.
“and I said ‘God knows what you’ve been doing, everything you’ve been doing. You may fool me, but you can’t fool God!’” (Fitzgerald 159)
The difference between the billboard and the ducks is that the reader is not expressly told in the text of The Catcher in the Rye what to make of the ducks. Readers have to fill that in based on what they know of Holden and themselves. That is Reader-Response Criticism, the fact that the reader makes that connection without being expressly told to do so.
Reader-Response Criticism can result in different interpretations of the same novel, depending on the baggage brought in by the reader, the proclivity of the reader to analyze text and what the reader knows about life. The reader makes the connections. The reader understands that the line of questioning about the ducks reveals the youthful character of Holden. This is based on what the readers know of children, not what is expressed in the text. The ducks are also memorable to the reader because of Holden’s willingness to learn that is nowhere else in the novel. Also, the reader connects the ducks to Holden’s situation. The reader sees Holden as half-frozen, like the pond, after Allie’s death, and understands that Holden will one day let the ducks come back.
The red hunting hat is another symbol in the novel. The novel expands this symbol continually as a symbol of uniqueness and individuality. Holden is always self-conscious about the hat; he mentions it every time he puts it on. When he does put it on, he dons another personality and perspective. One of the first times he plays with the hat, he pretends in front of Ackley that he is “’going blind’” (Salinger 21). He also says, “’This is a people shooting hat,’” (22) clearly showing that he is not himself when he wears it. He changes perspective while wearing that hat, writing Stradlater’s composition while wearing it. However, like a child without too much direction, he does the composition wrong, according to Stradlater. He even blows up with anger wearing that hat, shouting, “’Sleep tight, ya morons!’’” (52) in order to wake up the dorm, clearly not something he would do without the hat.
It is interesting to note here that Holden wore the hat while he was asking the cab driver about the ducks in Central Park. “I’d put on my red hunting cap when I was in the cab, just for the hell of it, but I took it off before I checked in. I didn’t want to look like a screwball or something” (61). He is only comfortable to ask the childish questions while wearing the hat. He eventually gives the hat to his sister Phoebe. “Then I took my hunting hat out of my coat pocket and gave it to her. She likes those kind of crazy hats. She didn't want to take it, but I made her. I'll bet she slept with it on. She really likes those kind of hats” (180). Eventually, he realizes he doesn’t need it anymore, even though “My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way; but I got soaked anyway” (212-213).
The reader puts new meaning onto the images of the red hunting hat. The reader cannot separate the hat from Holden, almost as if they were indelibly linked. It is up to the reader to fill in the gap about the color of the hat in comparison to the hair color of his sister Phoebe and his dead brother Allie. Another gap that is filled in by the reader is the composition Holden wrote for Stradlater. The way Holden talked of that piece of writing it is a shame that the reader never gets to actually read it, although the reader feels as if the text has been clearly expressed. The reader knows it is about the poetry on Allie’s mitt. The reader gets a sense that it is a brilliant composition, without actually ever reading it. The reader notes how Holden seems to be “putting on” innocence every time he puts on the hat. However, Holden still gets “soaked” while wearing it, and the reader realizes that whatever protection you have cannot shield you from growing up and losing innocence. The reader does all of this, not the text. The text advances the image but it is up to the reader to apply this kind of psychoanalytic approach to figuring out Holden.
The most impressionable image in the novel is the one that Salinger titled the book after. The catcher in the rye seems to be a mistake on Holden’s part, but further analysis reveals a new world to Holden’s character. A New Critic will show how the text advances this look into Holden’s character. The first time it is mentioned, it is a little kid that is singing the little ditty. Later, the catcher in the rye becomes Holden’s answer to what he wants to do with his life when asked by his little sister Phoebe. A New Critic an also make the connection between this image and the rude swearing written on the wall at Phoebe’s school.
The reader, though, makes the connections that the New Critic cannot. The novel leaves it to the reader to understand the connotations behind the word “meet” in the song of “Comin Thro’ the Rye” by Robert Burns. The song is truly about a sexual liaison in a field of rye, not the innocent song Holden thinks it is. He doesn’t want to see it as such, and neither does the reader. The reader connects this image to Holden’s character in ways that never leave. We constantly see Holden standing on the side of a cliff in a field of rye protecting the children from the edge. A reader today will also note the possibilities behind the fact that Mark David Chapman, the killer of John Lennon, and John Hinckley, the man who shot President Ronald Reagan, both referred to this book. Those are Reader-Response Criticisms and in order to understand them, we need to understand how to read them.
In deference to critical approaches, they all have new and exciting ways of bringing out new information in the meaning of a literary work. The Catcher in the Rye could easily be analyzed using any of the approaches, and new meanings would crop up. However, New Criticism helps us advance the images portrayed in the text and then Reader-Response Criticism helps us figure out the meaning, not only in what we see in the literary work but what the characters see. All in all, these approaches help us advance what we and others see in a literary work.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner, 2004.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Took some doing, but I found it! Here's the (new!) fourth Sappho poem.
The untitled Sapphic poem(Filed: 25/06/2005)
You for the fragrant-blossomed Muses' lovely gifts
be zealous, girls, and the clear melodious lyre:
but my once tender body old age now
has seized; my hair's turned white instead of dark;
my heart's grown heavy, my knees will not support me,
that once on a time were fleet for the dance as fawns.
This state I oft bemoan; but what's to do?
Not to grow old, being human, there's no way.
Tithonus once, the tale was, rose-armed Dawn,
love-smitten, carried off to the world's end,
handsome and young then, yet in time grey age
o'ertook him, husband of immortal wife.
Friday, June 24, 2005
--- Ryan wrote:
> Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2005 22:25:39 -0700 (PDT)
> From: Ryan
> Subject: You will be missed
> To: email@example.com
> Dear Mr. Butcher,
> So the school year is over. It sure doesn't
> feel like it. It feels like it's just another
> Saturday tomorrow, and then a Sunday, and then back
> to school again on Monday. But it's not. It hasn't
> quite hit me yet, though I think it will sometime
> soon, or never. Well when or if it hits me is
> irrelevant, because summer has started whether I
> like it or not.
> Every year up until this year I've always
> looked forward to summer and enjoyed lazing around
> doing nearly nothing for 3 sunny and sometimes rainy
> months. But this year was much different; everything
> was lathered with emotions and complexity this year,
> from relationships to gpa's to deciding how to spend
> my free time when I got it. I wonder if this is what
> Freshman year is like for students up in Nome?
> This year wouldn't have been half as fun or
> easy without you and your wonderful way of teaching.
> Through the roiling sea of highschool, you and your
> class have remained the constant bright lighthouse
> that kept my vessel on course. Every class was
> always so much fun, it was always so hard to leave.
> I really looked forward to your class every day,
> more than you know I think. I mean seriously, I
> would wake up and think, "OH boy I can't wait for
> Mr. Butcher's class today!" yea kinda lame but
> that's what I did.
> Thanks a lot Mr. Butcher, it was you who really
> confirmed my feelings towards writing. I mean, I had
> always had a little knack for spelling in grade
> school, and I always preferred writing assignments
> and essays over anything else. But this year you
> really opened all the doors for me, and that helped
> me arrive at my decision. Not to mention you made
> writing seem like such fun! Man, I really did enjoy
> writing essays for you. The positive feedback was
> somethin' else, but I really did take pleasure in
> writing for you. I would follow the rubric you gave
> us, which helped fantastically, but at the same time
> I would try and write something that you would enjoy
> reading, it was an extraordinary amount of fun.
> Well I don't want to overwhelm you all at once,
> I've already commented 3 or 4 times on your blog..
> So I'll leave it at this.
> Your friend and student,
> Ryan Selberg
> Oh, btw. <-- That means By the way. I do consider
> you a good friend. I wish we could hang out or
> something, but you're like old and stuff. Maybe you
> could come over for dinner atleast once before you
> move? I think my parents would love to meet you. And
> I would certainly do a great deal to see you one
> more time. :-)
> Love, (heterosexually and in a friend way)
Rekindle the Rivalries. Sign up for Fantasy Football
Thursday, June 23, 2005
I hereby resolve to walk for at least half an hour every morning at 5:30 am. I will feel invigorated and I need the bloody exercise.
I hereby resolve to read at least 50 pages of a novel every day. There are some science fiction books I want to read.
I hereby resolve to watch only two hours or less of TV everyday this summer. I am not wasting my time in front of the TV.
I only did the summary questions over Deconstructive Criticism and New Historical Criticism. That took me five hours. It's hard to summarize 30 pages of text each into 300 words, and then to just try to use new ways of saying things. I swear, I could have quoted the whole summary, but I can't...have to put it into my own words...sonofa...
And so tomorrow I have to do the two Unit 4 (of 4, thank God) test essay questions. Those are the questions that the teacher assigns me a grade, like 18, 14 or 17 on the last three and then never tells me why I got points taken off.
Oh, and I've barely started my 2000-word (8-10 page) essay yet that's due Saturday by midnight. I have my idea though. I am going to apply New Criticism and Reader-Response Criticism to several key symbols in the book The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Guess what? I also found the entire text of the novel online so I can search through it quickly for instances of the Central Park ducks, the red hunting hat, and the ultimate symbol--the catcher in the rye. Now I just have to do the paper.
I don't care anymore about the A. I can't get it now anyway, based on that one 14 out of 20 grade I got on Unit 2 test questions. My tests already put me at -11 out of 100 points. The best I can get now is a B. But I don't care. B is fine. B gets me my Masters degree. It's this teacher that pisses me off...never tells you why the grade is what it is...hardly talks in the discussion room...gives very vague writing prompts for the final essay. I've already written a bad evaluation; maybe I can write to National University straight out and to her (after I get my final grade, of course).
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Ted wrote and read this today in class:
From: Ted and your third period class
To: My Teacher, My Friend Matthew "Buttcheck" Butcher
Mr. Buttcheck is moving to Nome
In Alaska Mr. Buttcheck and his family will roam
He'll have many memories of his 3rd period class
Memories of Alysha's big mouth and the crack in Io's ass...ets
Memories of singing and dancing
And memories of Jeff and Josh prancing
Memories of Kenzie's love for donuts
And how we drove him nuts.
He'll have memories, happy and sad
Hopefully he'll forget all the times I've made him mad
So when you're thinking back, know that we're your biggest fans
To us you're not only our teacher you're our SUPERMAN.
Hey Mr. Butcher,
We've been through trials and tribulations this year, but overall it has been an awesome year. I want you to know that I really appreciate you as a teacher and a friend. I really hope you do well and have fun in Nome. I'll miss you a lot and we need to keep in touch. I love how you teach your class. We have a lot of fun AND learn a lot at the same time. Keep on keeping on and I hope I'll talk to you soon. Don't forget me 'cause I won't forget you, SUPERMAN.
I'm all done now at Bremerton Freshman Academy. It was an emotional day at parts today. I had some wonderful interactions with my students. Tears were shed.
That's the bad thing about being a teacher. I get these kids thrust upon me in the fall with a pat on the back saying, "Go mold them." I get these kids for a year, with all the interaction and life that happens in a school year. Then, at the end of the year, it's goodbye, all at once.
To be honest, this is one of the best years I had teaching. 99% of these kids were phenomenal and I will truly miss them. I definitely threw a couple of starfish back into the sea (if you know the story about saving the starfish--kids--one at a time).
And I will miss the staff too. This is a profession where people change places often. If I could take fellow teachers with me to create the ideal teaching environment, I would have kept Kevin from my first year at South Kitsap; Steve and Roger from last year at the high school; and Oscar, Mary, and Karen from this year. It is very sad to see them go.
We all had breakfast this morning before going to work. Karen made me a T-shirt with a cool iron-on transfer that reads "NO roads lead to Nome" based on a joke we all shared. At the farewell lunch after school, I was roasted as well. Mary gave me a roll of toilet paper "for all the shit" they gave me throughout the year. I also got a coffee mug with reindeer, another reference to Nome, and an alpaca wool hat that is pretty god-awful ugly but pretty funny. And I will really probably wear it this winter!
I also got some notes from students that I will be sharing. I have to type them out, but they are the kind of notes that I will keep forever. They are just a little piece of proof that what I do matters, even more than academically. One girl said I was "like a Dad."
We are all going on the next grand adventure. Life is an adventure. Every single day, you should get up out of bed and bounce on the floor, ready to wrestle the day. Grab life by the horns and wrestle it down. We use the personal interactions and relationships to make us stronger in order to overpower life and make the most of it. We need our past to make us stronger, the good and the bad.
Now get out there.
This blog is going to start concentrating on my family's adventures to and in Nome, Alaska. (Oh, by the way, a really sad way, the teacher's union did their audit of the Bremerton School District budget and their findings are that there was no need for a RIF--Reduction In Force--at all. I have heard that there is no language in the contract that stipulates that the union needs to validate the budget before these announcements are made. I am still glad they told me back when they did--much better than telling me today. However, if the truth is to be told, I wouldn't even have looked had I not gotten RIFed. Bremerton's loss.)
So Nome here I come. I want to concentrate on the similarities and differences, both educationally and socially. Nome is still in America but it is going to be a little different. You can't even drive to Nome, so that has to make it a little different perspective.
I can make a difference in Nome. It's a small town, reminiscent of my high school back in Illinois, Somonauk High School, where my graduating class was only 48 and there were only about 220 kids in the whole 9-12 school. Nome Beltz Jr./Sr. High School has about 300 kids. I am going to be the Drama Club advisor and the girl's volleyball coach.
It's a grand adventure. Life should be full of new things. You have to grab life by the horns and wrestle it down. I'm doing just that.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Monday, June 20, 2005
I have it on tape because my sisters and I used to watch it all the time on cable. Scavenger Hunt from 1979. It is really bad but it seems to be a cult classic. It is not made anymore on VHS and there is no DVD yet.
I just sold my VHS copy for $19.95. No kidding. Somebody bought it.
It's in perfect shape. The only difference between it and a brand new tape is the shrinkwrap. So if they don't make it, and somebody is really looking for it, it's a great deal. I know about cult classics. I actually got all 17 episodes of The Prisoner through Columbia House back when they were doing their classic VHS TV show thing, for about $20 an episode. Hey, that was the going rate back then to collect a TV show on original copy. DVD wasn't yet ubiquitous and didn't have boxed sets.
I can see someone paying $19.95 for this movie. I have fond memories of it. It doesn't hold up to today's stuff but it's a good flick. And there's one that I would buy in a heartbeat if I ever saw an original VHS or DVD (they don't make a DVD of it yet): Yellowbeard.
It's a movie from 1983 that my family still quotes today. "I'll kill anybody that gets in the way of me killing anybody!" I'd buy it for $20 right now. (Luckily, I don't have to. One of Amy's hair clients actually knew some way to "tape" it off Showtime a couple of years ago--it's on cable about once a year, literally--and burn a DVD of it. But shhh! don't tell anyone. Actually, I'd love for that to come out. Why do you have an illegal copy of this movie, sir? Because you idiots won't sell it on VHS or DVD!)
Sunday, June 19, 2005
I can understand paying for the subscription based channels like HBO, Starz, and Showtime. They play full length, uncut movies and completely without commercials. But why do I pay for commercialized channels?
If there are commericials on the channel, the advertisers are paying for that time. So wouldn't they want their ads to be viewed by the widest possible base? Shouldn't the advertisers take up the slack?
Wouldn't it be worth it to the advertisers, considering that my cable bill is about $70 a month, to pay a bit extra to the cable channel (who would then pay the cable provider) to cover the viewers' fees? I know that sounds like a lot of money, but that is also a lot of advertisers to divide it among. And per thirty-second commercial, what is that divided out, like two cents? (Maybe my math skills are lacking here, but I don't think so.)
I also think this every time there is a cool pay-per-view boxing match coming up. I'm not a big fan, but I like a little pugilism and would watch it more if it wasn't $49.95 to watch it (and then you can't even be sure to get enough for your money--remember when Tyson would take guys out in the first minute?). I would watch it, and then I would see the advertisements and the advertisers would be happy. If I had to pay to watch football, or the Superbowl, I probably wouldn't watch anymore. And then advertisers lose.
All I'm saying is that an advertised medium should be free. (Don't get me started on magazines either because I think those should be free as well. Come on, wouldn't you read more magazines then? And then you would see more ads...)
This test is now a graduation requirement. Kids that don't pass the tenth grade WASL, three parts, will be made to take sections again and again until they pass...or no diploma. So how can it be such a secret?
My ninth graders this year will be the first that must pass the three major sections to graduate. The sections are writing, reading, mathematics, and science. They don't have to pass the science one...yet.
No matter what you think of the WASL, it's here. It's an idea, too, to maintain minimum competencies in order to graduate high school. (Why isn't it held senior year then? Does the state think that some need several tests in order to pass? Is then a sophomore level education the acceptable level? If so, why bother having 11th or 12th grade?)
Parents who request to see the test have to make arrangements with Public Instruction. It's not like they can go down to their child's school. And then they are truly only allowed to look at the test...no note-taking, pictures, or anything.
I think we educators need to see those, more than anything. That's the true indicator. Since I know what they are looking for, I try to impart that upon my students as I teach. Especially on the reading section, I have to direct the students to always show evidence from the text in their short answers. Amazingly though, during practice WASL prompts, some still don't list evidence. So if I could actually see how and what a student wrote, I could really work with that. It's mindboggling to me how many leave the short answers blank because it is apparently too much to write.
It's all irrelevant now. I'm moving to Alaska so I won't have to put up with it anymore. However, I also believe that in a few years there will be court battles over a student not graduating due to one stinking test. I think it will get reversed. Give it five years. Also, school districts are going to go crazy offering the WASL remedial classes. Those that don't pass sections of the WASL will be given an extra class to getter better at that section in order to pass. So that'll include a lot of eleventh and twelfth graders, some taking the class two or three times. This is a lot of time and money spent on slackers mostly. There are some kids that will truly need the remediation, but a hell of a lot of slackers that are just too lazy to write a short answer will be in there.
I would hate to teach that class.
Mount Rainier Magnet
The natural beauty of majestic ice-clad Mount Rainier rises to 14,410 feet and is the highest mountain in the state of Washington. Gassy fumes still rise from its great volcanic cone, but its deep cut slopes show that the volcano was largely formed long ago.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Marvel Milestone Edition: The X-Men #1. This is the book that started it all. This is a reprint edition that reproduces the exact comic, ads and all, so it is really cool. It's like having my hands on the original without throwing away $3,000. Amazingly, the whole anti-mutant sentiment is here, loud and clear, a big wake up call in 1963. Magneto is really cool in here too. The great part is that Magneto is morally justified where it is very easy to see his side of things. In today's world, I think it would be really cool to have Magneto's plans be the center of a comic series.
David Fay, executive director of the USGA, said the annual tournament has continued to gain momentum, regardless of venue.
"I'm not going to say if we held the championship in Nome, Alaska, it's going to be a sellout, but I think (it sells itself)," he said.
That's mean. But I see the point. I am going to the middle of nowhere.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
So I have been selling stuff, books, CDs, videos, like crazy through Half.com. (That's part of eBay). It is amazing what sells sometimes, and at what price. Sold an Elvis Costello greatest hits CD for five bucks. Sold a VHS of Star Wars Episode I for $1.00 (and I personally think they got ripped off by that movei, but that's not my decision). Have to sell the stuff. We are looking at our entertainment rack and thinking weight. Weight is the issue since we have to ship it all. Do I really need that VHS of the movie The Haunting? Have I listened to that fourth Pearl Jam CD in three years? No. So we are being practical.
We will be putting ads in the Nickel paper for the washer and dryer, my desk, and some other stuff. We have to eliminate anyway. Why not sell it?
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
"The reporter told of how, a few years ago, over in Egypt, near a place called Oxyrhynchus, archeologists found pieces of ancient manuscripts in what was described as a "historic dump." At the time, no one could read them, but recently, thanks to "new photographic techniques" a bunch of professors in England and Canada have been able to make out the words.
And guess what!
One fragment is from the "Book of Revelations."
Written in ancient Greek, dating from the late third century, it might be the oldest copy we have, the closest we can get to what the writer actually wrote.
And guess what else!
The fragment reveals that the number is NOT 666.
The number is (drum roll please) 616.
Which makes sense, explained David Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham (England’s Birmingham, not ours). 'This is an example of gematria," he told a reporter for The (UK) Independent, 'where numbers are based on the numerical value of letters in people’s names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula.' "
This is an email I got back after my disappointing second unit test in my literary theory class. I still don't know what the heck she wants from me. There is no teaching here, only grading. There's no constructive criticism or feedback. I wouldn't even have gotten this information if I hadn't have asked.
What makes me mad is that she can't specifically say what I forgot to included, just that I "didn't use the tools" or didn't end with a "strong conclusion." (What the hell a strong conclusion has to do with giveing the pertinent information, I have no idea.) Apparently I have to figure all that out. I know it's a graduate level class but I still want some specifics. You can't take off points (I received a 3 out of 5 on each question for a total of 6 out of ten, which is a horrible grade) and not say why. You can't. I can't as a teacher, so why is it ok for a graduate teacher?
--- Helen Louise Bonner wrote:
Date: Tue, 14 Jun 2005 18:29:47 -0700
From: "Helen Louise Bonner "
Subject: Re: Second unit test
---------- Original Message
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 15:14:39 -0700 (PDT)
Hi there--I was just wondering if you could give me
some constructive criticism on my second unit test.
If I received a 3 out of 5 on each question, I
really need to know what I need to do further to get
the job done. I know they might have been brief but
I thought they said the pertinent information. If
not, I need to know.
Matt, it is clear to me that you are bright and
insightful. With question one, the problem was that
although everything you said was interesting, and
relevant to Feminism in general, you did not
specifically answer the questions, using the
terminology and "tools" of Feminist criticism. You
did not show me you had mastered the main terms and
methods of F. criticism. Specifics Specifics,
especially the language. (cost you 4 pts) You did
much better in question 2, the New Critics, until
you got to that last line.
You needed to come to a strong conclusion there
regarding the question, and you didn't. Only lost 2
points on that one though. I'm the first to admit my
standards for a graduate class are quite high. I've
been teaching many years, and find that Literary
theory is a tough course for most students, but the
text is exceptionally easy to follow. Better luck
next time. Dr. Bear Bonner.
Dr (bear) Bonner.
Get your degree online at National University!
Click here for more information: http://www.nu.edu
Matt Butcher (firstname.lastname@example.org) has sent you a news article. (Email address has not been verified.)
New Planet Discovered, Twice Earth's Size - Yahoo! News
WASHINGTON - A planet that may be Earth-like — but too hot for life as we know it — has been discovered orbiting a nearby star. The discovery of the planet, with an estimated radius about twice that of Earth, was announced Monday at the National Science Foundation. "This is the smallest extrasolar planet yet detected and the first of a new class of rocky terrestrial planets," Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution in Washington said in a statement. "It's like Earth's bigger cousin."
Geoffrey Marcy, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, added: "Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Epicurus argued about whether there were other Earth-like planets. Now, for the first time, we have evidence for a rocky planet around a normal star."
Though the researchers have no direct proof that the new planet is rocky, its mass means it is not a giant gas planet like Jupiter, they said. They estimated the planet's mass as 5.9 to 7.5 times that of Earth.
It is orbiting a star called Gliese 876, 15 light years from Earth, with an orbit time of just 1.94 Earth days. They estimated the surface temperature on the new planet at between 400 degrees and 750 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gliese 876 is a small, red star with about one-third the mass of the sun. The researchers said this is the smallest star around which planets have been discovered. In addition to the newly found planet the star has two large gas planets around it.
Butler said the researchers think that the most probable composition of the planet is similar to inner planets of this solar system — a nickel/iron rock.
Gregory Laughlin of the Lick Observatory at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said a planet of this mass could have enough gravity to hold onto an atmosphere. "It would still be considered a rocky planet, probably with an iron core and a silicon mantle. It could even have a dense steamy water layer."
Three other extrasolar planets believed to be of rocky composition have been reported, but they orbit a pulsar — the flashing corpse of an exploded star — rather than a normal type of star.
On the Net:
National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov
One taught a little about symbolism, using Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. I heard some interesting things. For one, most have never seen the original trilogy. I'm not kidding. Most of them like these prequels because for some it is the only Star Wars they know. One girl had never heard the familiar phrase, "Luke, I am your father."
It's always fun this time of year as the students scramble to get late work in to raise their grades. I am still working on my late work policy, but this year it is simply late work coupons. They get 4 for the semester (which magically works out to how many major assignments that I give, basically one a month). I don't care how late they are as long as the bloody work gets in. This way Johnny's mommy can call and ask, "What can Johnny do to raise his grade?" I then say maybe two, and only two, assignments, the big ones. Classwork helps them do better on these major assignments and I really only have to grade one paper. And now the laundry list for Johnny is really short, but still tough because these are major assignments.
So I made a final drop dead due date of Friday, June 10th at 2:30 pm. You should have seen the work pouring in that last week. Even my honors kids were turning stuff in. It's amazing what a deadline does. I told them in class that if they would turn stuff in after 2:30, "I would laugh at them and call them silly names." They got the point.
One boy, actually quite bright but a slacker supreme, tried leaving an essay on my desk after I left on Friday. I returned it with another terse statement about the deadline. He is freaking out because that means he has a 79.3% C+ in the class, not a B (when he could easily get A's if he were to apply himself). I'm going to give him the C too, just to teach him. That's actually the best lesson he'll learn this year.
I have tried making sterner deadlines for items earlier in the semester. Stuff still comes and goes. I have tried taking off points for being late, but they still don't turn stuff in because they figure, "Why bother?" because with points off, they still do terribly. They don't realize that an F+ is better than a ZERO yet. They don't understand the math. This way, when they slack off for the first month or two (or three), there is still a chance. And some take that chance. One regular slacker managed to do enough to pull out his 60.0% D-. It's passing anyway! (Unfortunately, it is the same diploma as a B or A- student, but that's another topic entirely.)
Monday, June 13, 2005
--- BadNews! <email@example.com> wrote:
> Date: Mon, 13 Jun 2005 11:46:00 -0700
> Subject: Re: ArenaBowl
> From: BadNews! <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> To: Matt Butcher <email@example.com>
> do you mean the afl 1/2 time show in vegas? I'm not
> sure what the
> problem was but it wasn't bryan's sound & light
> system used, so maybe
> there were technical problems. sorry for the
> club director
> On Sunday, June 12, 2005, at 05:46 PM, Matt Butcher
> > Hi there--can you just tell me if Bryan Adams was
> > completely plugged in at the ArenaBowl today? The
> > sound was horrible! I have seen him live twice and
> > sound never sounded bad. I think they only had the
> > mike on.
> > Thanks,
> > Matt Butcher
> > __________________________________________________
> > Do You Yahoo!?
> > Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam
> protection around
> > http://mail.yahoo.com
> Michelle Larsen
> Fan Relations Director
Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around
I scheduled these independent lesson presentations the students are doing right now back in mid-May. They go up until June 21, the day before the last day of school. I am keeping them engaged and learning up until the end, right?
Late last week, I got this email telling me they are planning a freshman breakfast in the gym with awards and signing and stuff...for the 21st. They are taking the first half of the day and probably will then shorten the class periods for the rest of the day.
My problem is: what do I do with the students scheduled on the 21st? Their presentations are supposed to be 40 minutes long. If the breakfast replaces first period, those two students won't go at all. So how do I make it fair? Do those students just not present? Do they just turn in a piece of written work, a lesson plan, to show what they would have done? How is this in any way fair to the other students?
The real reason I am miffed is that no one ever told me to not schedule anything on the 21st. How dare they say on June 10th, "Hey, we want to completely take over the day, no matter what you had planned." Aren't I, as the conscientious teacher that I am, supposed to be planning for every day, and in advance? So I get penalized for planning a month ahead of time?
I wouldn't be mad if they had only told me earlier not to schedule anything. I asked the lady in charge and she said they had been trying to get this together for a while. But if they frickin knew something was going on, just say don't plan! I don't know what to do now. Those students have to do something...they aren't getting a free pass.
Sunday, June 12, 2005
Saturday, June 11, 2005
New Criticism focuses fundamentally on the text itself and concentrates on “close reading.” No outside forces or shapers need to be examined. You do not need to know about the history of the author. In fact, New Critics had a term called intentional fallacy to say that the “author’s intention is [not] the same as the meaning of the text.” And affective fallacy does not let a reader’s feeling about the events of a text to interfere with the text itself.
The literary language is the meaning of the work, down to individual words. Changing one word changes the text. There is an organic unity to the text that makes every word play off each other. New Critics laud paradox, irony, and ambiguity in the words of a text. Context allows us to decipher the meaning of a symbol in a text.
Possibly the reason for its “extinction,” as the text by Tyson talks about the fact that this criticism has fallen out of favor, is the reading of a text under this philosophy does allow for outside influences. It is “intrinsic” and “objective.” However, there are many times when background is often necessary for crucial understanding. Langston Hughes poetry, as an example of my own, allows for further beauty and passion on the theme when you realize that he is an African-American author, even though the text of many of his poems leaves us no clues of this. New Critics try to find that “single best interpretation” of a work. However, longer works tended to hurt this theory.
The Great Gatsby has a Universal Theme and when analyzed by New Criticism, a reader can garner a time-capsule image of this theme during a time period of the 1920s. It is the American Dream.
Gatsby as a central character undertakes this theme almost solely. Tom Buchanan never had to work for his money and takes it for granted in the book, seeing the advancement of other races as a threat to his power. Gatsby personifies this American Dream in that he strove to reach it.
There are many parallels here. Gatsby plays the hard-working American with an idea and the guts to go for it. He writes down in his book a schedule that will have him achieve a higher status from his petty beginnings. He works for it, as if the money and status were the only things important, as most Americans have been taught. He throws parties not because he likes them but because he wants others to like him and push him up the social ladder by default. If the rich and famous go to his parties, then he must be rich and famous.
Perhaps the most striking symbol of this American Dream, seen only from the text, is the green light across the bay. This does not represent Daisy; it represents the dream of Daisy. There’s the light, right across the bay. So go and get it—what’s stopping you? There’s the American Dream, son—work hard and it will all be yours. However, as the novel proves, the green light is not Daisy, because once Gatsby has it, it is not everything he thought he desired.
Fundamentally, Feminist Criticism studies how literature analyzes the “oppression of women” in all its myriad forms. This criticism examines how the values of patriarchy govern the characters, thereby showing the values of the author and the times.
Traditionally, these values show men in dominant roles and women in submissive roles. When women try to move into more dominant, or clearly less submissive, roles, this struggle tends to become a focal point of the literature. A man playing less dominant roles in literature is also a concentrating point of the author. Both of these transmutations of gender roles act as the catalyst to the interaction of the characters in a literary work.
Personally, I found the supposition on the Cinderella mystique extremely interesting. Having two daughters, I do not want them growing up where they believe that some man is going to rescue them and provide for them forever. I want them to do what Cinderella never did, stand up on their own two feet and take care of themselves first and foremost. Also, being a man, I grew up with anxiety over the fact that I may not have been the greatest catch for women financially or physically. I always wondered how I would be able to rescue the damsel in distress because that was what I was told to do after reading Cinderella.
Also, feminists have to concern themselves with looking at a text from a multicultural feminist perspective. Dominated mainly by middle class white women, Feminist Criticism first started just examining the female perspective. What Feminist Critics are doing now is showing how female roles within multicultural roles influence a text as well.
While looking at The Great Gatsby, some of the characters typify some of the suppositions made under Feminist Criticism.
Tom Buchanan clearly plays the role of dominant male. He was a prominent college football player, a very manly role. He uses his physique to bully and intimidate other men (George Wilson) and women (Daisy, Myrtle). He slaps women around when it suits him. It is all right for him to see other women, playing rooster in the henhouse, but when he discovers his wife’s infidelity, he is outraged. When Daisy does not declare her love for Gatsby after a small and brief plea from Tom, Tom realizes he is still in control. He feels so in control that he allows Daisy to drive home with Gatsby.
Daisy Buchanan’s role evidences the discomfort of the modern woman in the 1920s. She is seen as heartless in dealings with her daughter. She parties hard and has an extramarital affair. She allows her nurse to watch over her daughter almost exclusively, and in fact, her daughter is seen as an annoyance to Daisy. Even when she does play a feminine role of the time, it is seen as bad to her character. She waits like Cinderella for a man to rescue her from her small home in Kentucky. When her love of Gatsby doesn’t rescue her, she allows her second choice to.
Jordan Baker plays such a woman that is completely against the norms of the submissive woman. She is a liar, improving her ball’s lie (!) in a golf tournament, showing that is supposedly hardened enough like a man to do whatever it takes to win. She is a party-goer, smoking, drinking, and having premarital sex. Feminists point out her lack of family to show how is she is the new modern woman, with a masculine name and profession.
Timeliner by Charles Eric Maine. I love old science fiction books, especially pre-1960. There is such a wonder about the universe. Readers definitely get a pre-Moon landing perspective. This is an old paperback I picked up and loved immensely. It is about a guy that does a Quantum Leap type of experiment and catapults himself forward in time into other people's bodies. Catch is, in order to jump again, the body has to die! He ends up going so far forward he starts to repeat time and ends up solving his own murder back in the present. Excellent story, and I wasn't expecting it to be. I can't find anything else by this author though. Here is the text from the book:
He was catapulted out of his own time into a chain of wondrous futures--a fantastic and compelling adventure in science fiction.
Timeliner! The fascinating and provocative story of Hugh Macklin--an alien lost in endless futures--fighting desperately to return to his own era.
Astonishing X-Men #2. I absolutely love this cover of Emma Frost and Cyclops. Current theory has it that when Jean Great died again recently, Jean Grey is still somehow in Emma Frost's head. This is because that Cyclops and Emma are currently a thing in the comics and Jean Grey actually did a mind-transplant-thing like that around issue #281 of Uncanny. That goes way back but makes sense. Death to Jean Grey is like a revolving door in the Marvel Universe (paraphrasing Peter David there).
Astonishing X-Men #1. This series is a fan favorite right now because of the new writer, Joss Whedon, the creator of that shit-tastic Buffy the Vampire Slayer series. I still have no idea why that show or Charmed is even filmed. This comic series is surprisingly good though. Very interesting, and hearkens back to the pre-issue 200 days, if you ask me.
Frazz by Jef Mallett. This is one of my absolute favorites, especially coming from the English teacher side of myself. The teacher yells, "Humph! Why does a kid have to question a perfectly good rule?" Frazz asks, "Which rule?" The teacher replies, "'I' before 'E' except after 'C' or when sounding like 'A' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh.'" Frazz asks, "Who questioned it?" "That Stein kid," the teacher says. "Oh, good for Keith," says Frazz.
Exploring Culture in Mei Mei Evans’ Gussuk
Culture is the essence of a group of people. Throughout multicultural literature pieces, it has become apparent that culture cannot be transplanted without great hardship. Whether forced or involuntary, one cannot easily drop oneself into the middle of a new alien culture and be expected to survive without purposeful intent. Like a fish out of water, a new environment can be harmful and even constricting. Unlike fish, humans have the mental capacity to handle situations, but only if humans understand their own backgrounds and abilities. In Mei Mei Evans’ short story Gussuk, she shows that a fish out of water and a human out of its own environment can be just about the same thing.[I see you are inspired by the author’s salmon-swimming-into-fresh-water-and-dying imagery. :)]
Evans is the Master of Arts program director at Alaska Pacific University and teaches classes in ecofeminism and other women’s studies classes (Alaska Pacific University). At the age of only 20, she says she hitchhiked from Boston to Alaska and fell in love with the area and that “It was love at first sight; something about the preponderance of wilderness and the open-mindedness of the people I encountered fired my imagination and made me feel that I'd come home” (Evans “Faculty Bio"). She sees a tight connection between culture and nature mixing with a form of national identity. “It has become my labor of love to study, write about, and teach the potential and the peril afforded by the interconnection of these values in American and Alaskan culture” (Evans “Faculty Bio”).
As the short story Gussuk starts, the reader immediately senses an attitude of adventure within a new culture. The protagonist of this story is the new nurse to the Alaskan area of Kigiak, Lucy, a young Eurasian American from Boston, and events are all seen from her eyes in a third person limited perspective. This is important to note because most readers see this story the same way, from the eyes of an outsider gaining access to a new culture. The reader finds that the only way to enter into this new world encircled by mountains is by a small float plane. Immediately, the perspective makes the reader take note that outsiders cannot share the same perspective. This sense of adventure that Lucy has in the beginning is only her sense of adventure. The indigenous population would not say that everyday life is an adventure.[Excellent contrasting cultural and situational perspectives] Lucy is already, even before the plane touches down, the fish out of water. The very fist sentence starts the motif of water and nature because the plane lands “so smoothly that it felt to Lucy as though the surface of the lake had risen to meet it.” The water is already interacting with Lucy.
As she gets off the plane, she notices that the clothes she thought would make a good impression single her out even greater. “Lucy felt conspicuous suddenly in her khaki skirt and tasseled loafers” and when she sees the natives, “All of them wore pants.” When a native man begins to speak to her in Yup’ik over the roar of the plane’s engines, she realizes that she resembles these people in appearance. Her Eurasian blood makes her so similar that the man doesn’t [avoid contractions in formal writing] even realize she doesn’t speak Yup’ik and isn’t Eskimo. On the surface, they are the same. Lucy looks the part enough to fool even a native. Here, though, she realizes that there is an immediate difference, that looks aren’t the only factor. If it were looks, she would be part of the new culture easily. Culture goes deeper than that but as yet, Lucy doesn’t realize it. She straight away realizes she has been thrown into this situation and she must “Sink or swim.”
While Lucy starts to settle in, she wonders why the nurse before her “left so abruptly” and that “no one seemed to know.” If she thought deeper on it, she may have sensed that this happens in this position as if it were the natural way of things. She doesn’t think on it any more than the others do.
The native children that she meets spotlight another simple way that Lucy is different. The simple words that reference blue jeans separate them. She calls them “dungarees” and the children don’t understand until she explains. These simple word differences set them a world apart. It is the children who introduce her to a new word too. Gussuk. The children use this word to describe the white missionaries who live in a separate house from the village. She cannot tell if this word is derogatory or not.
Researching the word Gussuk was not easy. There are not many references to it, almost as if the native culture it comes from has not wanted it to leave their surroundings. In all mentions, it is not a flattering word. The Anchorage Daily News has printed that “Gussuk means gullible” (Toomey). The Alaska Native Foundation has produced material about the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, with the Alaska Department of Education, and defined Gussuk as an “outsider, stranger; often means ‘whites’” (Alaska Native Foundation). In other media, the word is used derogatorily, such as on a comparison to the harshness of the Iditarod dog-sled trail and the strange food prepared on it that if one is “a squeamish Gussuk, the Eskimo of Shaktoolik will magically produce a steak or pork chop to satisfy your palette” (Runyan). Used harshly, it means something akin to intelligence and cultural awareness. One author notes the word used against him as he courts a native woman’s daughter. He realizes that he must prove he is not “a bumbling, incompetent Gussuk” in order to win the mother’s approval (Hammond). Another author states how this word never really hurt him, even though he was separated from the rest of the culture because of it. “They would either call us ‘gussuk’s son’ or ‘downriver woman’s son.’” It was derogatory, but it never bothered me much then” (Huhndorf). Clearly, this word separates any outsider trying to fumble about in the native Alaskan world. [Valuable research]
Lucy does not want to be a Gussuk. She instantaneously wants to be a part of the Eskimo world. She wants to fit in so much that she eats the offered seal oil-dipped fish that inwardly sickens her. She again realizes how much she looks like them as the native Robert is wearing mirror sunglasses. As she looks upon Robert, she looks upon herself, in both the mirror of the glasses and in reality. They are not as far apart as she would like to believe. Lucy however thinks that just eating the fish is enough. She is reminded by Mercy, the woman feeding her the fish that “’You look Eskimo. Now you gotta act Eskimo.’” She says this in almost the same breath that she calls her a Gussuk and, even worse, an Avuk, a halfbreed, clearly putting her down as she tries to size her up, placing Lucy into her position as the “other.” Lucy gets offended but tries not to show it. Lucy does not point out that this native woman is sipping from an aluminum can of Pepsi Light while smoking on a Salem cigarette lit by a disposable lighter. She should have pointed it out to Mercy and the natives instead of just to herself. [Yes, a public health practitioner should take the opportunity to teach a bit.]As she sits there with Mercy, being offended and not standing up for herself, she thinks, “The point was that she was sitting in an Eskimo house, eating real Eskimo food.” She divides herself from these people in her own head, as if this was some great adventure and not her new life.
This sense of adventure is typified in her view of the world around her. As she talks to the native Robert, she speaks of how lovely and peaceful the area is. These mountains and surroundings are alien to her, but they are second nature to Robert. She is telling a native how amazing his normal backyard is. He patronizes her harshly, saying, “’Just like a calendar picture, right?’” as if all these surroundings were from another world. We have calendars of faraway and interesting places, not our own backyards. Lucy even stumbles when she says, “’You’re so lucky to live here,’” but realizes that Robert does not consider himself lucky. He feels “trapped here.” Amazingly, people find elsewhere always alluring until living there. [Depends on the place. I found the Riviera to be divine!]
The recurring motif of nature and water is exemplified in the salmon run. The salmon race for their spawning grounds. But as “she watched the water and felt Robert watching her,” he expresses how the fish depress him. “’I can’t help thinking how they’re all gonna die.’” The fish are going to die simply for coming here. They mill about in the water, waiting to spawn, as Robert mills about Lucy, wearing her down. [Excellent!]
In a moment of weakness during the ironic Independence Day celebration, Lucy and Robert come together. “Lucy sat down and reached for Robert’s hand,” showing that the feelings were at least mutual. “When they made love she had cried out—something she’d never done before,” showing that she wholeheartedly accepted it for that moment in time. However, she doesn’t even hear her own words on the situation as Robert talks to her. Robert says, “’Your world is different from mine.’” And Lucy responds, “’That doesn’t mean it’s better.’” Lucy is Robert’s calendar picture.
Noticeable after she and Robert came together, the salmon thin out in the stream, another image of how nature and humanity merge together. The salmon accomplished their task. Like the salmon, Lucy hangs around the area, “straggling.” She realizes that “she was and always would be a gussuk. She didn’t belong here.” As the dead fish wash ashore, Robert loses his job. As Lucy leaves the area, she watches Robert speed “away across the darkening lake” on a boat.
Two years later, Lucy is in Anchorage, after finishing her American education in Boston. She is in Anchorage with its quarter of a million people and not the bush of Alaska. She is close enough to her calendar picture without being a part of it. She meets again a native, even though she doesn’t remember meeting her in Kigiak. She learns that Robert has died, drowned just like the salmon.
Anna, the native woman remarks twice how much Lucy looks like Robert. Lucy still doesn’t realize that this likeness is not just in physical appearance. Like the mirrored glasses Robert wore, Lucy sees something of herself in Robert. She cries perhaps because she does not understand her own role, caught between two cultures, Eskimo and American, as she is caught between her own ethnic makeup. She does not want to think that she is like the salmon, only once coming together and then dying.
This short story shows the reader the similarities between nature and humanity. Like a fish out of water, humans have trouble understanding other situations. However, humans can accommodate with learning new cultures and understanding their own cultural roots. Humans can learn to swim in a new environment with the knowledge that the new environment is just as good as the calendar pictures that they study.
Beautifully done, Matt. I like the way that you picked up on the imagery and symbolism in this story. In particular you point out that Lucy came into the situation with a completely different mind-set, one of adventure, compared to the mind-set of struggle and hardship that the native people had. She seems not to have been as aware of her overall purpose there, providing health care, as she was of the romance of being in this wild environment with these uniquely different people. 40 points.
Alaska Native Foundation. “ANCSA: Caught in the Act, Teacher’s Guide.” 1987. 27 May 2005 <http://www.ankn.uaf.edu/caught.html>.
Alaska Pacific University. “APU MAP Program Director.” 26 May 2005 <http://www.alaskapacific.edu/graduate/programs/map_director.html>
Evans, Mei Mei. “Faculty Bio.” 26 May 2005
Evans, Mei Mei. “Gussuk.” Imagining America. Eds. Wesley Brown & Amy Ling. New York: Persea Books. 2002: 237-251.
Hammond, Jay. “Ghosts from Christmas’ Past.” Alaska. Anchorage:
Dec 2003. Vol.69, Iss. 10; pg. 80. 26 May 2005
Huhndorf, Roy, as told to Alexandra J. McClanahan. “Native Rights Started in a Freezer.” LitSite Alaska. 26 May 2005 <http://litsite.alaska.edu/aktraditions/huhndorf.html>.
Runyan, Joe. “Shaktoolik: In a word, unforgettable.” Cabela’s Inc website. 2005. 27 May 2005 <http://www.cabelasiditarod.com/coverage_2002/prerace_article0214.html>.
Toomey, Sheila. “Alaska Ear.” Anchorage Daily News. 24 April 2005. 26 May 2005
I found out today that original handwritten letters from Percy Bysshe Shelley went up for auction. I learned a new twist to one of my favorite romantic poets in that he had written a pamphlet on atheism in 1811 and was expelled from Oxford because of it. Now that makes a ton of sense on some of the themes of his poetry, especially one of my very favorites "Ozymandias."
I found out today that one of the plays that is usually debated about its authorship, Edward III, was actually published in a New Cambridge edition of Shakespeare's dramas in 1998. And it fascinates me that there are apparently twleve plays that are considered part of this apocrypha that is deemed attributable and unattributable to Shakespeare. These plays are Locrine; The London Prodigal; The Puritan; Thomas, Lord Cromwell; Sir John Oldcastle; Arden of Feversham; A Yorkshire Tragedy; The Birth of Merlin; Fair Em; Mucedorus; The Merry Devil of Edmonton, and Edward III. I am going to have to see if I can find these at Gutenberg.
I found out today more about the probe smashing into the comet on July 4th. I am excited about this for some reason, excited about the possibilities that this raises not only for finding out more about the primordial universe but that we as humans can DO this.That amazes me. It makes me think that I am just living in the wrong century, that we are at such an infancy as a species and I will never get to see us grow up. It's the science fiction geek in me.
Thursday, June 09, 2005
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
I am looking forward to TNT's Into the West by executive producer Steven Spielberg. I love finite shows.
I'm currently reading a horribly written book called The Ultimate Adventure by Daniel L. Pekarek. It is about a space adventure to colonize an earth-like planet around Alpha Centauri, a la Lost in Space. It has stilted writing and just sound terrible and cliched coming off the tongue. However, it has some interesting, imaginative ideas that are worth reading.
Two of my favorite tv shows right now are BBC's Coupling and Penn & Teller's Bullshit!
Alysha raised her hand to share. Remember, I am just a student here. The guest teacher called on her to share. She talked about her character, some guy that likes moving his mouth and fornicating, as she made chewing motions with her mouth. There was an uproar of laughter.
"Alysha," I interrupted. "That's 'masticating!'" More laughter. "Those aren't exactly the same things."
Embarrassed, she turned red and put her hands over her face. "Well, they could be the same thing!" Uproarious laughter.
I put my head down on my desk and prayed that I would not be sued.