Change or Perish… Literally

October 19, 2010 § 1 Comment

Before global relief efforts, when a country undergoing tragedy just suffered on their own, before the Red Cross flew supplies and aid to victims of natural disasters, before firefighters, when things would just burn to a crisp, everyone seemed to get by.

Before chemotherapy, when cancer patients just died, before vacinations when there were epidemics of polio and having the measles could kill you, before doctors could replace a damaged hip, a shattered knee cap, or even a broken heart – sure, people hobbled along fine. But why let people die when you can save them? Why force something to live with something broken when it can easily be fixed?

The article, Change or Perish by by Rodger Cohen, presents an interesting case for the disadvantages of technological advancements; however, it ignores how the progress in medicine and disaster response have saved the lives of millions. Sure, it’s is unfortunate that people no longer flirt by playing footsie under the table and that almost everything is now made in China, but I think these things are a miniscule price to pay for the lives of all those people who have been saved by recent technology.

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Coming of Age – What does it mean?

October 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Similarly to pervious posts on the blog, I was surprised to read that the Call of Wild was characterized as a coming of age story. In my own mind, coming of age implies a level heroism and maturity that I have yet to see in Buck (I’m only just beginning chapter 5). In order to determine if my surprise was, in fact, warranted, I decided to do a little bit of research on the concept of “coming of age.” According to wikipedia, “Coming of age is a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies in society, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a ritual, as practiced by many societies.” While this fit more into my initial view of the concept as I read further I came across another definition: “The term coming of age is also used in reference to… have[ing] a young character or characters who, by the end of the story, have developed in some way, through the undertaking of responsibility, or by learning a lesson.” I do understand that wikipedia is not the authority on the definition of literary terms by any means, but these two definitions failed to mention any aspect of heroism or morals which I had perviously associated with coming of age.

With a new definition of coming of age, I re-examined what I had read so far and realized that Buck has undergone many of the aspects listed in the definition. When Buck takes over the lead position in the pack could easily be characterized as a transitional ritual, the lesson he learns could be his fear of the club and human authority, and the responsibility that he gains is the leadership of the pack.

Buck’s story is not the stereotypical tale of coming of age. First of all, Buck is not a character that elicited compassion or sympathy from me. I would not call Buck heroic and I might even go as far to say that Buck develops arrogance and a very violent nature over the course of the book. At the beginning of the story Buck cringes when Spitz attacks Curly (pgs. 12 – 13), but by later does a very similar thing to Spitz (pg. 30) . I would argue that this change is not for the better. Buck is not more mature, as exhibited by his childish ploy for the leadership position and his pursuit of power was far from nobel or heroic. This, however, is still a coming of age story.

The coming of age of the unlikely protagonist perhaps reflects the off-beat perspective of Jack London, the author. London himself was not a man who followed societal conventions and perhaps was more primal in his nature than most authors of the time. London’s portrayal of Buck’s coming of age in this manor potentially stems from his own hard childhood and rough transition into adulthood.

Dealing with Loss

October 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

In response to the recent tragedy that struck the Menlo community, I feel it is appropriate to discuss how different characters we have read about deal with loss. In Tom Sawyer, Bambi, and The Lion King death and loss is an very present issue. On more than one occasion, Aunt Polly believes that she has lost her beloved Tom in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer. In the Lion King, Simba and the all of the pride-lands deal with the loss of the great king, Mufasa. Similarly in Bambi, Bambi’s mother is shot and killed by hunters when she is unprotected in the meadow. The differences between how the different age groups are portrayed dealing with loss presents an interesting idea of maturity and adolescence.

In Tom Sawyer, when Tom and his friends decide to run away from home and be pirates on a nearby island, his Aunt Polly is overcome with grief because she believes that Tom has died. When Tom returns home and watches Aunt Polly sobbing, yet does nothing to make her aware of his presence, he demonstrates that he does not fully understand the concept of loss. Similarly when Mufasa dies, Simba repeatedly tells him to “get up,” and refuses to accept that he is gone until Scar explains the situation. Lastly, in Bambi when his mother is shot, Bambi is confused and relies on his fathers explanation that “[his] mother can no longer be with [him].” All three of these examples seem to suggest that children do not fully comprehend the idea of loss.

Conversely, all three have interesting portrayals of adults in tragic situations. Both Sarabi, Simba’s mother, and Bambi’s father are depicted as very strong in the case of the loss of their spouse. We see Sarabi’s overwhelming strength as she approaches her husband’s successor, Scar. Similarly we see Bambi’s father’s strength when he does not display emotion and instead takes Simba under his wing. Both of these characters seem not to display their emotions in a healthy manor. Each character seems weighed down by the responsibility they feel to either their kingdom (Sarabi) or their child (Bambi’s father) and thus deal with loss by just simply moving on. Alternatively, Aunt Polly in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, is petrified by emotion and is unable to do anything productive to help her cope with the loss of Tom. Aunt Polly somehow feels she is responsible for Tom’s death which causes her to deal with her grief in such a unhealthy way. These examples portray adults at one extreme or another in terms of how they deal with losses that they face.

In seems that teenagers seem to deal with loss in the most healthy manor of all of the age groups. They are old enough to understand the concept and comprehend the implications of losing someone that they love, but their emotions are not clouded by their sense of responsibility. Simba fights for revenge to save the kingdom, tom finds a way out of the cave, and Bambi is able to overcome his own gunshot wound. While all three of these stories are consistent in their portrayal of teenagers as dealing with loss in a more balanced manor, I don’t think that there is one “right” way to deal with loss. The teenagers are portrayed as being empowered by loss, but I don’t think that this is necessarily true. Loss brings about such a complicated set of emotions that it upsets me that it seems to be simplified in such a manor in these examples.

Simba: The Archetypical Exiled Child

September 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

I read the article “The Lion King and Hamlet: A Homecoming for the Exiled Child” by Rosemarie Gavin which was published in The English Journal. Ms. Gavin outlined many similarities between Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Disney’s The Lion King and further extended the similarities to many familiar biblical stories and classic myths. Besides the striking similarities between Simba and Hamlet, I was intrigued by the connections to the the religious figures Jesus and Moses. I recall after re-watching The Lion King, I was surprised by the religious allusions presented in the Lion King. Rafiki closely resembles some type of shaman and the presentation of Simba on pride rock seems to represent an initiation ceremony similar to a baptism or naming ceremony. There scenes where Mufasa tells Simba that the past kings are watching him from the sky and when Mufasa appears in the cloud to Simba could both be interpreted as symbolic images of heaven, angles, or even g0d. Not only does the character of Simba resemble Jesus, and the archetypical exiled child, but the idea of the circle of life as addressed in the Lion King can also be traced back to religious doctrine.

When I researched Walt Disney’s religious affiliation, I learned that he was raised  in a very strict Congregationalist household. This suggests that Disney’s religious references were likely not unintentional.  Because of their primal nature and lack of world experience, children can sometimes relate to animals better than to other humans. Because of this, it stands to reason the representing animals as religious was an interesting was to reenforce religious morals to children.

Looking back in the post below me, which responds to the same article, I disagree that the “the author takes it too far though, when he begins to describe how the children in his class too are on a hero’s journey.” While not everyone has to avenge the death of their parent or challenge an evil uncle for the rulership of an entire kingdom, everyone does face their own set of challenges. While I do think that the idea that everyone is a hero might be extreme, we can all draw from the example of Simba and Hamlet in order to help us face our fears and stand up for what we think is right. Because the The Lion King was aimed for an audience of children, Disney clearly intended to set a good example for children. A large message from The Lion King is to continually reevaluate who you are and what you are doing with your life. Considering yourself, your actions, and your identity have applications to everyone, religious or not. While potentially discovering are your responsibilities and true identity are not dramatic stories of heroism worthy of a blockbuster film or the creation of a new religion, bettering yourself and the world around you is not doubt a noble pursuit and an important lesson to teach children.

Walt Disney & Flower

September 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Flower, the skunk, is a very mysterious character throughout Bambi. He has blue eyes, which goes against Disney’s classic portrayal of male characters. In the scene where Flower first meets Bambi he seems very flirty, almost to the point where many of us assumed that he was a girl. Furthermore, Flower names his baby after Bambi, showing his deep feelings and admiration for the prince of the forest. Despite Flower’s relationship with the girl skunk, I think it is possible that Walt Disney portrayed Flower as a homosexual.

As discussed in earlier posts, Disney’s wife was never a portrayed as a large part of his life. This surprised me because almost all of the classic Disney movies have an extremely romantic plotline. Furthermore, it is always the male character that possesses the most dreamlike and charming characteristics. This led me to question Walt Disney’s own sexuality. No doubt a romantic himself, Disney may have used his movies as an escape from the lack of love in his own life. Just as Flower settled down to have a traditional heterosexual family with the girl skunk while he clearly displayed that he still had feelings for Bambi by naming his child after him, perhaps Disney felt societal pressures to take part in a heterosexual marriage. Disney often heavily personified animals in his films, so it seems possible that he created Flower as a reflection of himself. While this is complete speculation, it does seem that Disney had a longing for the fairytale love story so common to his movies.

Rags to Riches – Happily Ever After?

September 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

Something in the reading that really caught my eye was the paragraph about how Walt “learned to detest the burden of poverty.” It discussed how “embarrassed” he was as child because he went to school with kids who were much wealthier than he was. This reminded me of one of my childhood favorite Disney movies, Cinderella. The transformation from rags to riches that Cinderella underwent seems to echo Walt Disney in his transformation from butter-peddler to one of Hollywood’s biggest names.

The thing that baffled me about these two stories, was the quintessential happily ever after that Cinderella and so many other Disney characters seem to end up with. The reading discussed how as an adult Disney loved candy bars, banana splits, and other youthful sweets because “as a kid he couldn’t spend money for ice cream.” This makes me question if Disney in fact feels he achieved the fairy tale happily ever after that Cinderella did.  When considering this, I came across Emily’s post and was very intrigued by her thoughts on Walt Disney’s potentially unhappy marriage. Although we have to assume the Cinderella and Prince Charming live happily ever in the palace, Disney may not have been so lucky. I tried to research Disney’s family life further and could scarcely find anything other than places they lived. While Disney’s imagination of perfect love and happily ever after was alive and well in his movies, I fear that he discovered that the promise of riches wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. From the impressive list of over 700 productions that Disney was a part of, it seems he may have been a bit of a work-a-holic. I was surprised by how few of these titles I recognized, but was happy to find Cinderella (number 186) as one of the few Disney classics, the Walt Disney himself actually was a part of.

Keepin’ it Real

September 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

In our society with plastic surgery, prosthetic limbs, and numerous other amazing technologies, its seems that we can fake just about anything. But does “fake” nature, still count as nature? Can one really experience the Great Outdoors indoors? Either way, it seems a great many people have tried.

Indoor Ski Slope – Dubai

Having actually seen this indoor ski slope with my own two eyes while on a family vacation in Dubai, I must admit it does look very realistic. However, something about above 100 degree weather outside and it’s being inside a shopping mall that really killed the “winter wonderland” mood for me.

Man-Made Waterfall

Would a waterfall be the perfect finishing touch to your serene backyard? Not a problem. Whether using elaborate underground pump systems, or simply changing the course of already existing water, the waterfall of your dreams is finally within reach.

Fake Christmas Trees

Don’t worry, it looks real enough to fool Santa.

Click here for some great decorating ideas.

Palm Island – Dubai

This elaborate set of man made islands was designed in a way to maximize the amount of waterfront property. At least the designers tried to capture the essence of nature by building their islands in the shape of a tree.

Frass

Perhaps it’s a little bit too close to home for me to comment.

Indoor Beach – Japan

Saving my personal favorite for last, Japan’s newest water park offers all the perks of a day at the beach without the risk of sunburn. Unfortunately, no matter how many hours you lay out on this beach, you will not get any tanner. I promise.

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