Watchmen

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In other words…………

Best. Book. Ever. (Okay, maybe not EVER, but you get my drift)

Seriously, not joking, no kidding around, this book was fantastic. The best way to end off the ArtsOne reading list. I couldn’t believe how much emotional complexity there was in the characters. I couldn’t put this book down.

I loved the intertwining of the comic within a comic. It was a bit like a sick twisted Robinson Crusoe, but when you read the dialogue of the city alongside the fictional work, the parallels between the two were phenomenal. I found that although I was so confused with it at points, the image that stuck with me most was the raft made of corpses. The castaway’s descriptions of using dead men as a raft were almost  symbolic of the government using society as their base. In truth, we’re all kind of like those dead corpses, and the political powers are the castaway. Do we actually have a say in government, or are our voices drowned and silent like those of the raft? I believe that, unfortunately, it is the more grim one…

I found Dr. Manhattan to be perhaps the most interesting character. Yes, he was a superhuman creature who, for some reason, never wears clothing, but it wasn’t that which made him fascinate me. It was his seeming incapability to sympathize with humanity, and his omniscent, almost godlike appearance. It brought about a question of religion, especially when the Comedian shoots the pregnant Vietnamese woman. Blake tells Manhattan that he could have stopped him, yet he didn’t. Just like Manhattan really has no concern whatsoever for mankind, it makes us question whether the gods of religion really care about society. So much tragedy occurs in the world, yet no omniscent being tries to stop it. Just as Dr. Manhattan doesn’t care, can we trust a god to as well?

Rorshach broke my heart a little bit. Really, I felt pretty bad for the guy. He’s such an outcast, haunted by memories past. I just wanted to give him a hug, creepy as he was. It was interesting how he referred to his mask as his face. He wanted to exist completely outside the realm of humanity’s corruption, and he also wanted no identity. I think in referring to the mask as his face, it almost represents his inability to acknowledge repressed demons or urges. His mask is almost like a facade of civility, of everything he wants society to be, good and pure. His actual flesh is the seedy underbelly, the horrific actions and thoughts that occur on a day to day basis. He wants to hide everything that’s corrupt within himself, only acknowledging the part he’s proud of.

Literally, this book is just fantastic. I had so many emotions with this book, from wanting to cry to excitement. I just loved it.

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Foe

I’m not really sure how I felt about Foe. Most of the books that we’ve read this year have left a definitive mark in my mind, but I felt rather “eh” about this one. It was definitely interesting and intriguing, but nothing really mindblowing.

I did, however, love the idea of the corruption of truth via media. Obviously, in the day and age where this story takes place, media was mostly in the form of text, but the message still rings true. The complete shift from the truth of Sarah Barton’s story to this great, heroic tale show the importance of the almighty dollar, and how we truly are willing to do anything just for money. I suppose that this story doesn’t just apply to the creative spirit, but to any aspect of life where the truth is altered just for monetary gain. The most prominent image in my mind is the slaughtering of sharks by the Japanese. The Japanese people market their senseless killing of thousands of innocent animals by stating that it is for public safety, yet more people die every year by having vending machines fall on top of them… If we’re really that concerned about public safety, I guess we better torch all vending machines.

I also found Crusoe himself to be a rather intriguing character. I far preferred the Crusoe of Foe to that of Daniel DeFoe’s classic tale. In the original piece, Crusoe appeared far too perfect of a castaway, really. He just didn’t seem plausible. The Crusoe of Foe appeared far more realistic, and he showed this real mental shift from the “civilized” world to complete isolation. After spending however many years on an island all by one’s lonesome, I feel that one would almost become more content in solitude. As well, Crusoe of Foe showed far more mental and emotional complexity. I really could see Crusoe as a human whose lost all sense of authority and structure in life. Daniel DeFoe’s Crusoe just didn’t sit well with me…

 

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Survival in Auschwitz

Like all Holocaust stories, Survival in Auschwitz sparked many emotions within. At times it was shock, others despair, and never really was there a lot of happiness. Many of us are very familiar with the events of the Holocaust, the tragedies and unthinkable cruelties often times being used for film plots. However, when I hear or read written accounts from those who actually were in these prison camps, it really makes you realize that these events aren’t just something that happened in the past. For instance, one of our close family friends told us that if you go to Dachau, one of the concentration camps, you’ll find his name etched into one of the bunks. Hearing this, along with reading Primo Levi’s work kind of take the theatrics out of it. I feel as if we often view events such as the Holocaust as something in the past, distant and far away. However, it really wasn’t that long ago, and many individuals are still dealing with the aftermath.

In terms of the actual work, I looked it up online shortly after reading it and found that it was originally called, If This is a Man. I think it more accurately describes the nature of not only those imprisoned, but those who imprisoned them as well. This work really portrays Hobbes’ state of nature. Theses people were placed in this state of pure survival, and thus, individuals became focused on staying alive. There was no government, it was simply a matter of living. Many of these poor interned individuals lost their civility as they simply attempted to preserve themselves. They did what they had to do essentially. Could we argue that they became monsters, losing their touch with humanity? In truth, I don’t believe so, because I feel that we all have this animal instinct of self-preservation lurking inside. We all fear death, and thus we do whatever necessary to survive. It only takes the right conditions for this nature to emmerge.

The real monsters were the Nazis. This endless tormenting and unnecessary cruelty show the disgusting nature of humanity. How can anyone look at a fellow human and regard him as anything less than a man, simply based on religious and ethnic origins? The fact that these humans were treated as laboratory mice, slaves, and regardewd in a manner far less than even the lowliest of creatures deserve is horrifiying. How can someone sew two people together without anesthesia, force men into hours of slave labour, only allowing them to eat scraps, and even turn humans into soap? What causes this complete lack of compassion in humanity?

All in all, Survival in Auschwitz made me feel the same way I felt when I went to the Holocaust Memorial in DC. No wonder these people became so focused on survival. I just cannot comprehend how no one realizes, or speaks up against, the atrocities being committed against a fellow man.

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Borges, Arlt, and Hernandez

Sorry for the late post, my computer has been prone to random spazzes lately…

Anyways, with regard to the works, my favorites were without a doubt those of Borges. I found that the prose flowed beautifully, and at the end of most I was left with a complete mind f*ck. My favorite of these has to be “The Circular Ruins.” It completely reinvoked in me memories of my childhood, where two of my friends and I would sit and ponder whether or not we were part of some huge cosmic video game. We would ask whether or not everything was planned, and if there was some massive universe out there where we were just pawns in a game of chess. No, I’m not kidding. We were very philosophical eight year olds. The story continues with the classic Borges idea of chance being turned into fate. Everything that the sorcerer dreams of his son has such painstaking detail put into it, taking years to complete. It brings into question our own existence. Were we simply the result of years of evolution, or were we each individdually thought out by a higher power? How can we be sure that what we are experiencing is our own reality, or rather a world dreamed up by our subconcious, or the subconcious of another? In other words, this story tripped me out. It completely fascinated me and bent my mind in a refreshing way that it has not been bent for ten years (like I said, we were really messed up kids).

The story of “Hakim, The Masked Dyer of Merv,” however, was one that just sent shivers up my spine. The moment when the mask is ripped off and the lepersy-ridden face is exposed is the stuff of nightmares. I cannot tell whether or not Hakim was an actual religious figure, or a demon in disguise. Either way, it brought about the question of what we can and cannot believe. So many times, humans are tricked into belief, such as the Jonesboro masacre. What drives us to these people? Is it supposed authority, or just a want for something to believe in? How can we sort out reality from falsehood. In the end, Hakim appeared demonic instead of a religious idol. Was it all a facade, or was it a message regarding the fact that the truth comes from the strangest places? I have no idea, and I realize that I’m kind of rambling, but the fact of the matter is that Borges tripped me up…

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Kafka and Gilman

This past summer, my family and I traversed Eastern Europe for a month. One of our stops was Prague in the Czexh Republic. I’ll never forget when we came across the home of Franz Kafka and my father almost jumped with excitment. I was well aware of who Kafka was, and the fact that he’d written a story, which in my mind, sounded hideous, called The Metamorphisis, but I’d never really given any thought to actually sitting down and reading one of his works until I saw my father’s reaction. When we returned to British Columbia, I grabbed my father’s complete collection of Kafka and began to absorb the words like a sponge. Since then, The Metamorphasis has become one of my all-time favorite pieces. Despite the fact that I have an irrational phobia of all invertebrates, I was completely fascinated with Gregor Samsa’s transformation reflecting his personality. I remember how completely appalled I was by his family’s complete detestation and abandonment of their son, the primary bread winner in the family. It shows just how shallow and petty his family is, how they abuse their own son simply for monetary gain. That last page, where the family is on the train, and Gregor’s mother and father remark at the age of their daughter broke my heart. It shows just how little Gregor’s family cared about him. As soon as he was unable to provide, he was completely outcast. I suppose this speaks volumes about our own society, as we tend to remove people from association once they have lost their use for us. All in all, The Metamorphasis has been the text I have looked forward to reading the most, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

With regards to Gilman’s The Yellow Wall-Paper, this is another piece that I had always heard about, but never read. I was aware of the fact that she sees figures behind the paper, and that in the end, it is actually her who is being constrained and hidden. However, I never really got why the paper was yellow. Upon reading it, I’m still not entirely sure, but I feel as if it may be a reflection upon everything wrong with the society Gilman lived in. Women were still so oppressed, forced into the role of homemaker, as they would be for years to come. The vile, atrocious colour may serve to represent the corruption of such a patriarchal society, how disgusting the world is, and basically everything unpleasant and malodourous in everyday life. As well, the fact that the narrator has no specific name gives the piece a certain universality, making it even more of a feminist piece. Reading The Yellow Wall-Paper in tandem with Kafka’s work show a certain amount of injustice done to the individual in society just because something is abnormal or wrong.

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The Waste Land

This poem confused the Hell out of me when I first read it. The dark depressing imagery had no real rhyme or reason to it, and I found myself floating in a real sea of sad confusion. However, I went back and re-read it, as well as the introduction, Eliot’s notes, and many of the notes on context, and I truly was fascinated by it! The poem paints the dreary picture of life as we know it, and reading it within the context intended truly enlightened me and made me feel so scholarly and intelligent that I actually comprehended what was happening, to an extent. I was still confused at many points, but far less than I was during the first reading.

Perhaps the segment that I loved the most was in “The Fire Sermon.” The connection that Eliot makes to Buddha through this passage really gives one a lot to think about. “The Fire Sermon” discusses humanity’s need to give up earthly pleasures, to turn towards the spiritual. This is seen through this section, where at the beginning, we meet this image of the Earth, rotting, decrepit, and revolting, just as earthly pleasures may rot the soul. However, it ends with religious chants and phrases, symbolizing this turning from Earth to the divine. I suppose that maybe Eliot is trying to urge us to fall from this waste land of ours to turn towards the more idylic spiritual life.

In this passage, Eliot mentions Tiresias as well. At first, I was assuming that he simply meant something regarding Tiresias’ sight, according with the idea of spiritual versus Earthly pleasures. However, I read Eliot’s notes, and he states that Tiresias was actually one of, if not the most, central figures in the entire poem. I read the context, and I learned of Tiresias being forced to live seven years as a woman as a form of punishment. Apparently, Tiresias is supposed to symbol a universal joining of males and females, young and old, and intended to serve as sort of a universal representation of humanity. This fits well into the rest of the imagery of the poem, and I really appreciated that Tiresias serves more as a representation of the human, regardless of gender, forced to live in this waste land.

I know this is kind of a rant about reading context, but holy, I never thought that I would learn so much from a few extra pages of reading.

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Freud

Well, after a bit of stress, I’m finally getting this post up. I almost consider Freud to be in the ranks of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll, or Beowulf. He’s so commonly known and referred to, that it seems impossible that an individual hasn’t at least heard of some of his ideas. In my opinion, while Freud is very interesting to read, I don’t trust anything he says. I’m fascinated by some of his topics and theories, but in the back of my mind, I’m constantly doubting their validity. This is because Freud is unprovable. His theories can’t be tested and I remember while reading this text, I found myself saying, “Prove it.” That being said, I think that despite it’s reliability, Freud offers very important glimpses into human nature.

Unlike Nietzsche, who was rather blunt and unlikeable in his views regarding religion, I found Freud to be a loveable atheist. His ideas regarding religion and the oceanic feeling actually made a lot of sense, and I found myself at points flat out agreeing with him. Religion really does put us back in that infantile state. One of the things I love about religion is that oceanic feeling that Freud speaks of. The idea that you aren’t all alone, but rather part of a larger, more significant community is something very comforting, and may explain the draws of religion to many people. Not sure if I agree with him that it’s a regressive memory, but I do agree that it allows us to lose the pressures of the superego, ego, and id, and just become a part of a seemingly more important moment.

Now, Freud’s views of humanity seem sort of cynical. His discussion of the universal ideal of loving your neighbour was really very depressing in a way. His views that we shouldn’t or can’t love our neighbours out of fear and knowledge that they’re just going to trample on us is rather harsh. Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that not every individual would be willing to harm you just for the sake of it. He’s rather depressing in his views of humanity…

All in all, I’m not the biggest Freud fan. Sure, it’s entertaining to ponder the mysterious motives behind our actions, but in reality, Freud’s theories are write-offs. It’s very easy to say AFTER something happens that that is the cause, but how can you prove it? I can’t really take Freud seriously, because there is no way to prove his theories.

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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has become one of those iconic works that stain the imagination of every individual. Like Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll’s chilling transformations into his malicious alter ego are so engrained in popular culture, that it is not uncommon to hear the characters’ names used in common, everyday speech. Aside from Kafka, this text was one that I was greatly looking forward to working with, simply because it is a work that stuck with me throughout my childhood.

The story delves into some very disturbing ideas regarding our own psychological traits. The complete demonization of seemingly innocent Dr. Jekyll demonstrates a certain monstrosity within each of us. Through simple experimentation, Jekyll releases a beast within him that he realizes will take on a life of its own. How horrifying is it that this beast is lurking within such a humdrum, average individual? This suggests that there is an innate evil within each one of us, just waiting to be released from the prison of our morality. As well, we can see in Jekyll the constraint society places on the individual. Societal norms and our own vanity prevent the majority of us from unleashing our own Mr. Hyde. After all, it was under the cover of secrecy that Jekyll’s Hyde committed these treacherous acts, and the doctor felt contented in knowing that no one would ever discover his dirty little secret. Despite the complaints of Rousseau regarding the negativity of society, this work demonstrates Hobbes’ theory, in that society restrains the beast as we conform to societal ideals. If we were all in a state of nature where no one cared at all about public appearance, then who’s to say that we woudn’t act like Mr. Hyde, contented by the facade we put up.

I completely loved every moment of this book. It dealt with real psychological issues regarding an innate evil within each of us, just waiting to be unleashed. It also demonstrated how, without a strong sense of self, our evil nature can possess and override all emotion, thrusting us into the pits of darkness and despair. How do we not know that our own Mr. Hyde’s are not simply waiting within, lusting after the moment when they can break free of their moral prison and fullfill the evil desires of their hearts?

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Nietzsche

How do I begin to talk about this book? Well, so far, it’s the only book in ArtsOne that has made me physically angry. Just reading this text made my blood boil. I remember one time that I asked Siri on my cousin’s iPhone what the meaning of life was, and her response was, “Nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach you.” Boy… if this text has anything to do with the meaning of life, then I feel like we’re all screwed.

To start off, I completely condemn and cannot begin to appreciate the total and utter ludicracy regarding his opinion on Jewish people. Truthfully, any individual who presents such blatantly biased, horrific views of others offers nothing to me. Stating that the Jewish people created a complete reversal of morals is utterly ridiculous. How on Earth can anyone associate the noble, wealthy, selfish aristocrats with any good qualities? If that is true morality, then life is a sham.

I swear, I almost ripped a page out of the book when he started saying that Christianity was formed from hatred… Normally, I don’t care what people have to say about my religion,  to each their own, right? But this made me furious. Just… just what? It’s the same as the Jewish thing, and like when people criticize the Muslim religion without comprehending it. I seriously couldn’t wrap my head around this… How on Earth can not possessing “noble” warlike traits be grounds for hatred? Just because an individual doesn’t necessarily demonstrate these traits doesn’t mean that he is jealous of them or needs reason to ruin others…. LKJSDHFLKJFKLJHADKJFHAIFOTJALHRFKJASDHFLKJJAS;LFVKJSA;LKTHOIAJREAAHJFLKJADF

Honestly, this book just pissed me off. Not just about religion, but the majority of assumptions he makes about humanity. The only thing I agreed with was his interpretation of science as being its own sort of religion. In trying so hard to be completely based on pure, unadulterated facts, it actually serves as an astetic ideal. In truth, everything that we believe in is nothing more than an interpretation. Nothing can ever be proved as the utter truth.

I’m just done with this book, sorry if this was a little angry and agressive, but it honestly just frusterated me. Honestly, the world would be better off without Nietzsche… No seriously, he was one of Hitler’s inspirations.

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Frankenstein

Frankensteinis one of those books that really just tugs at my heartstrings. It truly makes me upset reading it, almost to the point of tears. I read this a while back, and rereading it left me with the same emotions…

The reason I say this, is because the tale of the monster just is so heartwrenching to me. Although he causes so much destruction and devastation, it does not stem from an innately evil cause. It simply derives from a longing to be loved, to feel that another individual has some remote sense of care for you. I can’t consider the creature to be the true monster in this story, simply because he acts out due to an unsatisfied basic human desire; compassion and social interaction. He’s very comparable to a child, lashing out and misbehaving all to get attention. It actually makes sense, this analogy, as the monster is in his supposed youth when he begins to cause mass chaos, for he can think of no other way to deal with his emotions.

When we hear the creature’s account where he observed that loving family in the mountaintops, it truly evokes a very innate, natural sense of the need for companionship. All Frankenstein’s creature wants is love, yet the world cannot look past his grotesque external characteristics to see the individual inside. It truly portrays the shallow nature of humanity. In fact, it seems that Victor Frankenstein and all the others who abhor the creature are the true monsters. If they had merely put aside their external perceptions and focused on the truth of the matter, that the creature merely longs for affection, then no harm would have come to anyone. It truly speaks about human nature, and our pathetic judgment of others based solely on the most trivial things, such as appearance, religion, gender, etc. Frankenstein isn’t so much a story about monsters, but rather about the shallowness of humanity. I completely sympathize with the creature, although his actions are terrible, because not only is he cast out of society, he is made to feel like a demonic being. Can anyone blame him for reacting?

Although I don’t condone the actions of the creature, they are perfectly understandable, and I will always sympathize with him. He truly wasn’t the demon, but the society that shunned him. How can they blame him for what they started? He merely fought back against their mistreatment.

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