Monday, January 12, 2009

Frustrations on Racism Connected to Caucasia

Technically, I do have a race; I’m white… However, I don’t think of myself as “the white guy.” This is probably because I’ve never been thrown into a situation where I’ve felt out of place due to my skin color. Also, I think that if I were to feel slightly out of place due to my white skin color, I’d just hope that people would look beyond my color and into what truly makes me the person that I am today.

Racism is so frustrating to me. I know that it’s impossible to make it completely disappear, but I know that our country has been improving significantly with racism. We have a black president now; I believe that’s clearly enough proof of the country’s improvement… Yet, we can’t help but still find traces and remnants of racism where we go in life. The main reasons for my mauling over my frustrations with racism is because I can’t stand how certain people have the ability to see the color of somebody’s skin and make an innumerable amount of ignorant judgments about them just from the color of their skin. To say it bluntly, it pisses me off.

As we’ve been reading Caucasia, I decided to actually get a jump on the reading due later this week, and I stumbled across a part of the book that I truly enjoyed that connected to my thoughts on racism. On pages 321-322, Aunt Dot began sharing her soulful theories on life in general. One of which was her theory on people’s “invisible color.”

“It’s the color of your soul, and it rests just beyond the skin.”

How very interesting this idea was to me! @.@ I pictured this “invisible color” to be the color of a person’s “true color,” the synthesized product of all the descriptive adjectives, the actions, and thoughts of that person. This “invisible color” would be the rawest and most pure form of that person.

To further extend off of this idea, Aunt Dot then goes on to describe the “colors” of Birdie’s family. As soon as she said that Cole’s color was purple, I was suddenly struck with this feeling that this “invisible color” was connected to the Christmas where Birdie and Cole were given sweaters on page 270 of the book, where originally Birdie’s was purple and Cole’s was red. They did switch, however, leaving Birdie with red and Cole’s with purple.

Anyways, Aunt Dot later describes Birdie as a “deep, dark red.” This was when I knew for sure that the sweaters and this “invisible color” of the sisters were connected. Thinking about it more thoroughly, I could only wind up at the conclusion that Birdie and Cole aren’t very sure on what their true colors are because they are mixed, which is why they decided to switch sweaters at the time. When imagining a person’s “invisible color” though, I would think that they’d be more mixed or multi-colored than just solid colors. In the end, I absolutely loved Aunt Dot’s theology on this “invisible color” and wish we could be more like Dot and see people’s “invisible color.”

And holy crap! Sorry for the long post! >.<

Monday, January 5, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Caucasia

"Before I ever saw myself, I saw my sister. When I was still too small for mirrors, I saw her as the reflection that proved my own existence.”

And so begins the story of Caucasia written by Danzy Senna, and I have to say that the opening introduction did pull me in enough to grasp my attention. I think that it was the situation that the protagonist, Birdie Lee, was caught in that interested me the most, growing up in a biracial family. Birdie’s mother Sandy, who was white, married a black professor named Deck. This kind of marriage arrangement was greatly looked down upon back in the book’s setting of the 1970s, and it also created a lot of stress on the family’s affairs.

However, it was their kids, Birdie and her sister Cole, that provided a very fascinating dilemma for us readers. Because their parents were white and black, this gave the two sisters different skin tones. Birdie, who was more predominantly white, contrasted greatly with Cole, who was darker like her father. I really enjoyed this creative set up by the author because it was neat to see how other characters in the book would react to the sisters.

One part that really pulled me in was when the two girls had their first day at their new school, which focused on Black Power. Cole, who managed to fit in perfectly due to her skin tone, greatly differed Birdie’s situation, who was having her hair threatened to be cut off in a bathroom by two bullies.

I will say though that at times, the book could seem to slow down, but luckily creepers like Redbone and Hans, the German doll collector, would manage to draw me in with their oddities. I am slightly afraid though that Nicholas will turn out to be a major, drugged-out creeper and drag Birdie into some dangerous trouble… In the end, I’m excited to see how the story will progress; I especially want to figure out what the mom did that pushed her into her paranoid frenzy! O.o

Monday, December 15, 2008


As I dove into the intense reading known as “Speaking in Tongues,” I honestly had no idea what to expect. From the title alone, I personally thought that the story was going to be about some linguist… However, I then recalled Mr. Kunkle warning us about some of the content in this story, and by the end of the story, I think we could all see why.

But before I go into some of the nastier details of this short story, I first must say that I thought it was a very well-written piece. The author really knew how to keep the reader absorbed through clever uses of setting up the story by showing a clear contrast between the two girls, Tia and Marcelle. I especially appreciated the band room scene with Marcelle sharing her hilarious thoughts on the school’s band. Marcelle became one of my heroes after that stunt.

So as the story goes, Tia, quiet and reserved, eventually runs away from her heavily religious family after a series of events concerning a rather “pleasant” nun known as Sister Gwendolyn. I can’t blame her though; with such extreme religious practices like that, I probably would’ve ran away myself. But this is where the story really starts to pick up in a momentum that would eventually end in tragedy.

Alone with little items of her own, Tia eventually stumbles upon Sketchy-Mick-Sketch-Sketch, AKA: Dezi. Of course, this mysterious man helps out Tia with getting food, and later lets Tia into his apartment. It’s there that we find out that this lovely man is actually a drug dealer AND pimp! J (Rather reminiscent of the “good-gone-bad” Tom Shiftlet in one of our previous readings in my opinion.)

Skipping over some details regarding a hooker named Marie, who would later aid Tia in her escape from Dezi, Dezi eventually rapes Tia. It’s also in this event that the author displays one of the most disturbing to read metaphors that I’ve ever encountered in my life, which can be found near the end of page 700. Honestly, it would just feel rather awkward to type it again here. Thank God Tia manages to escape in the end of the story.

Now, one reason why I did find this reading to be so great, aside from the fact that was written so well, is because I believe it really shows a “darker” side of religion. Of course I’m not putting religion down; however, it’s a clear fact that too much forced upon a person can eventually lead he or she to rebel against it. Also, I thought the story was a perfect display of alienation and some of its possible outcomes, shown with Tia. In conclusion, the story of “Speaking in Tongues” truly grasped me with its hardcore writing and sinister themes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Pondering about Censorship...

Something that we’ve all ran into at one point in our lives has definitely been censorship. While some of us can remember specifically when they’ve been censored, others, such as myself, cannot. Personally, I can’t really remember a single instance when another person or thing has censored my thoughts. Perhaps it is because I usually don’t always express my thoughts so often, so when I actually do express my opinions on a subject, people just don’t have time or the necessary ninja-like reflexes to censor anything I say. It’s usually in these kinds of expressive moments that my words just lie out in front of me, naked, blatantly displaying themselves to others nearby. Awkwardness ensues shortly afterwards.

However, there are many times when I feel we’re being prevented from learning something due to censorship, specifically from the news. When I feel like the information we’re receiving from the media has been censored, paranoia usually begins to seep in. What events can we truly believe being reported on the news when the media already censors so much outside of our lives, especially on TV. Visions of vicious curse words being spat at each other by the predictable cast of MTV’s latest rehashed version of The Real World come to mind; however, by no means can a not-so-real MTV reality show be compared to an event being reported by the news.

What I really mean to be getting at are historical events such as the Vietnam war. In AP Composition, we got to read a lot about how the US media would distort much of the information being relayed from the war to United States, so the US would look like they were doing well in the war, when in actuality, they weren’t. It’s acts like this that make me question sometimes what I hear on the news.

Finally, I began to think further about censorship in general, and I soon started thinking about how we censor ourselves many times throughout a single day. Countless times in a day, we won’t like what is happening between our classes, friends, or family, but won’t say anything about it in fear of making matters worse. This greatly reminded me of Mrs. Bartman and how she would teach us about using our “Filters” to block unnecessary or immature thoughts from blurting out of our mouths. Overall, I was just surprised at my own realization of how often we censor ourselves.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts on "Slaughterhouse Five"

As I first began reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, I couldn’t help but be perplexed on the first chapter. I didn’t really mind how it was basically more of a background on Vonnegut, and I also loved reading about the parts pertaining to his friend’s wife Mary and the Gideon Bible. However, I was hoping to get into the story right away, which made me glad when I finally got to chapter two.

But then I became even more perplexed. Had this Billy Pilgrim discovered time travel!? I’m sure Uncle Rico would’ve loved to have known (Kudos if you can figure out that movie reference). However, as strange as the book may be so far, I loved reading about Billy’s aliens: the Tralfamadorians. Their philosophy on death really was interesting and comforting. Although the person who has died may appear dead, he or she is still very much alive in the past. According to the people of Tralfamadore, “all moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist.” Then Vonnegut shows how Earth has the allusion that events and moments play out one after another like “beads on a string.” This was just so ingenious to me, making the Tralfamadore passage my favorite so far in the book.

Another aspect that I really enjoyed about the book so far are some of the descriptions Vonnegut wisely uses. For instance, when Vonnegut describes Billy being shot at from enemy soldiers, he describes the bullet as a “lethal bee buzzing past his ear.” Another simile that I loved from Vonnegut was when he described how he carried “a bottle of Irish whiskey like a dinner bell” in front of his friend O’Hare. It’s creative descriptions like these that really kept my interest while reading the book.

In the end, while I thought the book was oddly strange, it still did manage to capture my attention through Vonnegut’s original writing and imagination. Perhaps the book is meant to be so bizarre that it oddly works?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Looking at Alexie's "Because My Father..."

Sherman Alexie really knows how to create an interesting, although rather awkward at times, piece of writing. The reading that I’m getting at here is “Because My Father…” Reasons for why I loved this reading so much are because there were several distinctive parts in the reading, and there’s one prominent theme that I feel like Alexie really knows how to get across to his readers.

First, I loved the third paragraph of the story. Already, Alexie drew me into his story while writing about the irony with his father’s “Make Love Not War” picture, which was very comical to read. I especially liked one of the captions for the picture created by some editor: “Demonstrator Goes to War for Peace.”

The second part of the story that I thought was excellently written, although rather uncomfortable to read, was when Alexie wrote about how he was “conceived during one of those drunken nights, half of me formed by my father’s whiskey sperm, the other half formed by my mother’s vodka egg.” After getting over the initial shock of the paragraph beforehand, talking about how the father would sometimes pass out during the “middle of it,” I thought to myself how well-written that passage was. The creativity that Alexie brims with really shines here because who would ever think to write about being formed by a drunk sperm and egg?

Finally, one of the last reasons why I loved reading this story was because Alexie really presents readers with the theme of having a close connection to your parents. Now, many stories have this sort of generic theme; however, Alexie really goes the distance with it because he shows this family connection in very… strange ways.

For instance on page. 26, Alexie writes about how Victor would perform a type of “ceremony” where he would wait all night for his father to return home from drinking. Then Victor would wait for him to pass out on the kitchen table, and finally he would fall asleep under the table with his head near his father’s feet so they could “dream together until the sun came up.” It’s really odd passages like this that make the story mesh together really nicely because they show a clear relationship between Victor and his parents. I won’t get into the part though where Victor talks about listening and falling asleep to his parents’ lovemaking; although, I guess I just did. X.x

In the end, Sherman Alexie has really created an awesome piece of writing with “Because my Father…” through his clever use of writing very unique passages. And after getting over the intensely awkward feeling of some of the paragraphs in the story, you can really begin to realize why Alexie put them in there, which I believe was to tie the story together with an unusual family theme.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Nighthawks" Comparison

Throughout reading "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" by Ernest Hemingway, thoughts of the Edward Hopper painting "Nighthawks" raced through my mind, blending the literature and work of art together. Once you compare the two pieces of work, I think you’d definitely agree that they’re both very similar in many aspects.

First, the reading gives off a very clear and gloomy mood. It’s late at night; however, it’s still very bright in the “well-lighted” café. In my eyes, I see the bright café as a beacon for all of the troubled souls wandering the streets in need of a refuge. I could imagine it’d be a nice feeling though, being able to stay somewhere like a café while escaping a painful reality. The older waiter seems to agree with me, which is why he was willing to let the poor, old drunk stay a little bit longer at the café.

As we look at the painting, we can see that the diner is very clean. The people appear to be just thinking about life and all of its complexities. While one of the men may have his back turned towards us, his body language generally gives off a very lonely, depressing vibe. We could also compare the waiter from the painting to the older waiter in the reading as they both look pretty old and mature. Also, the diner waiter could be getting ready to close the diner like the older waiter in the reading, or he could just be working behind the counter.

After comparing the two pieces of work, it’s interesting to see all of the similarities between the two. Perhaps Hemingway became inspired to write “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” from Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks.” The mood and setting given off in both of them are so similar and could possibly reflect each other. In the end though, there is definitely an incontrovertible connection between the two works.