Monthly Archives: November 2016

An Interpretation of My Dream

My friends and I from UBC were partaking in a relay event that involved people from all over, and of all ages. I saw some people I recognized from my hometown, although the location was unclear. We were given packets of food and one of my friends was hungry so she ate one, which ended up disqualifying us. Before we were disqualified, I did not want to participate in the competition so I barely tried. My friend Maddy was furious at me, to the point where I was scared. I was also yelled at by a referee for riding a bike when I shouldn’t have, which made me more upset and eventually run away. In the end, I was sitting with Maddy and we apologized to each other.

Since these are real people, I’m curious as to what this dream means. By applying Freud’s method of dream interpretation this is what I can come up with:

My unconscious is nervous about Maddy being angry at me, as a result of occasional remarks of frustration at me. She is angry at me for not trying my best in the competition; the only thing I can line this anger up with is when I talk or laugh too loudly while watching a movie.

The fact I did not want to participate in the relay race could potentially correlate to my lack of motivation I had in grade school with Physical Education class.

Maddy has also been mad at Brenda before for being too loud, which could explain why she lashed out at her in my dream. Brenda ate something she wasn’t supposed to, whereas she usually is a picky eater and doesn’t eat anything. This must be a fulfillment of my unconscious wish for Brenda to eat everything and not be so picky.

The conversation between Maddy and I at end of my dream resolves our conflict and leads to me changing my attitude and wanting to participate. Perhaps what I need to take away from this dream is that my lack of involvement can be upsetting to other people, and to not break the rules.

Thanks to Freud, I can now interpret all of my dreams.

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Survival of The Fittest

Around the same time that I first understood Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution in my early high school science courses, rapper Eminem came out with the song “Survival.” His song included lyrics that were inspired by Darwinism, the idea that only the strong will survive. Eminem has always been one of my favourite rappers and songwriters and when I realized that this song included Darwin’s ideas on evolution it helped me understand his theory even more as it was musically appealing.

Important related lyrics in “Survival” by Eminem:

THE HOOK: “This is survival of the fittest
This is do or die
This is the winner takes it all
So take it all”

“ why stop when it doesn’t have to end?
It ain’t over ’til I say it’s over – enough when I say enough
Throw me to them wolves and close the gate up
I’m afraid of what’ll happen to them wolves
When the thought of being thrown into an alligator pit, I salivate at it”

“o fill up this last can, man will I survive in this climate or what?
They said I was washed up, and got a blood bath
I’m not a rapper, I’m an adapter, I can adjust
Plus I can just walk up to a mic and just bust
So floor’s open if you’d like to discuss”

“Cause I’m a fight ’til I die or win”


Eminem lyrically agrees with Darwin’s idea of natural selection, that only the strong will continue on while the weaker one’s die. The hook summarizes this idea and is emphasized throughout the entire song to reinforce its importance. At the time that this song was released, Eminem is making his comeback into the music industry after three years. This solo track being the first song out since since his absence, was created to send a message to his listeners that he can do anything and that he will “fight ‘til [he dies] or [will] win” his fans back. I think the line “I’m not a rapper, I’m an adapter” perfectly explains the way in which natural selection can correlate to humans, in this case for Eminem. It shows how even he understand that we must fight to survive by adapting to our environment’s the best we can and by striving to overcome all obstacles that can prevent us from getting what we want.

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Still Not Nasty Enough

Since the dawn of the patriarch women have been misjudged, held back, held down, underestimated, and punished for trying to rise above their station. However, women have had a nasty history of pushing back and fighting for their rights. We know we can shatter that glass ceiling and break the stereotypes placed upon us by the so called ‘superior’ sex. The intellect of women is a power that has been supressed and shoved in a closet because, at least per Darwin’s writings, “the average standard of mental power in man must be above that of woman” (269) as men are larger and must therefore have a larger brain capacity. History will show us however that Darwin was wrong. Man is not superior to woman, but equal. Some major women who have shaped the modern world and inspired girls and women would be: Cleopatra, Gloria Steinman, Harriet Tubman, Jodie Wilson-Raybould, Eleanor Roosevelt, Indira Gandhi, Raicho Hiratsuka, Marie Curie, and Emmeline Pankhurst, just to name a few. These are the women that fought to be equal and for women to be equal to men. They are remembered by history because modern women are still looking to these legendary women for inspiration and strength, especially in times of hardship and struggle. If the world had followed Darwin’s way of thinking, that women are inferior intellectually and would therefore not have as great an impact on society, the worlds societies would not have progressed and work by the likes of Gloria Steinman for the feminist movement would be seen as gibberish women who should be in the kitchen were spewing; Indira Gandhi would not have become the first, and so far, only, female prime minister of India if the world had still thought women couldn’t be as intellectual as men; Emmeline Pankhurst would have been silenced had both men and women not believed she was fighting the good fight and without her, vital moments in Woman’s Suffrage in Britain would not have happened.

Further more, the fact that Darwin has said:

It is generally admitted that with woman the powers of intuition, of rapid perception, and perhaps of imitation, are more strongly marked than in man; but some, at least, of these faculties are characteristic of the lower races, and therefore of a past and lower state of civilization (269).

Saying women’s ability to perceive what is around them and act accordingly is inferior is not only insulting, but untrue. Stating that the practice of imitation is one that belongs to a lower race is also untrue as it is an effective way to survive in a world that can be, at times, dead set against you. The ability to see, understand, and react to an environment is an advantage as it has allowed women to know how to make peace and how to break it. The earliest suffragettes in England saw the discontent amongst their fellow women and reacted in a way that would change the course of history for the better. As for a woman imitating her environment to survive, look back at Elizabeth the First. She was a woman in a powerful position surrounded by men who wanted to control her. She learned early on that the only way to keep her power was to be just cunning and strong as those around her. In order for her to do that she imitated what was before her and became one of the most iconic women in history.

Women are not inferior to men intellectually, or in any way for that matter. Women are strong, intelligent, powerful, and we learn to survive and adapt in world riddled with injustice done unto us simply because of our sex. Women’s intelligence is growing and it is spreading. It’s been a hard battle to be seen as equal to men, and in many countries and in many situations we still aren’t, that doesn’t mean we are going to give up because us nasty women still aren’t nasty enough.

“I think that men and women, shoulder to shoulder, will work together to make this a better world. Just as I don’t think that men are the superior sex, neither do I think women are. I think that it is great that we are beginning to use the talents of all of the people, in all walks of life, and that we not longer have the closed doors that we once had.”

-The notorious RBG

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Stillness and Desolation: Darwin’s Literary Value

Although at times dry and dull, Darwin’s writings also employ a language that is complexly beautiful in both the style and imagery it uses. In St. Cruz, he follows an almost existential slant as he observes the guanaco, a form of camelid, from a chalky plain, describing the guanaco upon “the hilltop [as] a watchful sentinel over its herd”. The personification and literal elevation of the creature evokes a sense of nobility, which Darwin seems to react to with a quiet dread, stating that “all was stillness and desolation”. Cynically, he remarks “one reflected how many ages the plain had lasted, and how many more it was doomed thus to continue.” A couple sentences later however, he returns to the detached narrative of action and observation, abandoning this icy precision for scientific statements and a more banal form of prose.

Earlier, a similar moment of linguistic beauty is shattered by the return to the scientific register, as Darwin describes the phenomenon of oceanic phosphorescence.

The sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spectacle. There was a fresh breeze, and every part of the surface, which during the day is seen as foam, now glowed with pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, and in her wake she was followed by a milky train. As far as the eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from the reflected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure, as over the rest of the heavens.

The spectacle presented by the lovely, bridal metaphor of a “milky train”, the “billow[ing]” of the waves, and the violent image of “the reflected glare of these livid flames”, evokes the Romantic sublime – a paralyzing sense of wonderment at the beauty, and the greatness, of nature. However, Darwin is not paralyzed, and this moment of loveliness is supplanted almost immediately by speculation on the phosphorescence’s cause; electricity, minute organisms of the ocean or otherwise larger, and deeper swimming creatures.

Ironically, later on in Origin of Species, he argues “Natural Selection … is a power incessantly ready for action, and is immeasurably superior to man’s feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art.” Yet throughout the text, he makes use of this flawed art, utilising the metaphor of war and the lexicon of battle – animal’s adaptations for sexual selection are compared to “shield”, “sword”, “weapon” and “spear”. The Struggle for Existence is framed within a narrative of war, with the brutal word “destruction” continually used to express to the reader the vitality of the process of evolution, and the consequences it has for those who can’t adapt. Darwin’s emotive connection with nature and the importance its development, however slowly spread across time it is, is expressed through such emotive language. Although unaware of his own linguistic value, Darwin’s writing nonetheless contains a number of poetic qualities that are well worth analysing.

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When evolution is used to ill effect

When evolution is used wrong:

Evolution, it must be said, is fairly reasonable. The evidence is overwhelming; fossil records, contemporary examples of natural selection (see the black and white spotted moths of post-industrial England), similar structures across species, and gene analysis all add to what seems to be a rational explanation of the origin of species.

HOWEVER, what evolution does not do is devalue every element of religion, or even go any particular way to “disproving god” (obviously an irrational approach, given that God is inherently un-refutable).

This leads me to a whole-hearted criticism of Richard Dawkins latest speech given in Vancouver at the Chan center, and more generally his approach toward religion in the world today.

Dawkins organized the speech, and yet decided, instead of bringing in a debate partner, or some opposition, had another famous internet atheist interview him. The conversation was full of self-congratulatory nonsense, like explaining how great his books were, and that they had impacted so many previously stupid religious people who had converted to “humanism”. Let me be very clear; the speech was anti-intellectual at its very base. They laughed at the straw man arguments they would present on behalf of the religious, then fail to adequately respond to those ideas even in their deliberately weakened state.

One question was on the nature of islamophobia, where Dawkins responded with this:

“Islamophobia doesn’t exist. It is a ridiculous claim. Firstly, Islam is not a race, and secondly, if the fundamentals of a religion are completely evil and the effect is ISIS and terrorism, then we can be entirely critical of it”.

Well Mr Dawkins, let’s not jump to conclusions. Islamophobia is a word describing a phenomenon where people feel a deep antipathy to people who associate, or even simply seem Islamic. It isn’t controversial to say that anti-Semitism exists, and thus neither is it reasonable to claim that islamophobia can’t exist. It indicates a certain approach toward the religion which is reductive and focuses on the violent and awful aspects, as opposed to the large majority of individuals who practice in a similar way to moderate Christians of the developed world. Where there is a genuine link between the religion and violence, I would postulate instead that this is a product of social and economic climates as opposed to vehement religiosity. Given Islam not existing, I think the middle east would likely be still in turmoil based on a lack of redistributive economic policies, corrupt governments, and rather hot weather (only sort of joking when I say that last one).

Also, at a human level, it’s never nice or useful to figurate spit in someone’s face, denying any value in what they find an important aspect of their life. If my roommate wants to go about believing in a God as an invisible means of support, and it stops him doing too many drugs or stealing things, then that sounds great to me. It would be counterproductive and absurd for me to tell him he is an idiot, and I would lose a friend. So, Dawkins, here is my contention; I can have a conversation with my roommate about God- an argument, even- and end it without him hating me. You, Sir, cannot. You are deliberately inflammatory, to the same level as a religious zealot. You create divisions and delineations amongst people, you deny people the ability to govern their own beliefs, and you take away an element of hope and love in their life.

So, evolution is not, indeed, any particular proof against God, and even if it is, let’s try not to be so rude when we use it to debate.





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The Skunk

The Skunk


Once upon a green we spoke,

Beneath the arms of a willow

In the shade of our brethr’n folk,

What we said you now will know


“Black and white makes me see red!

The little fellow begins a funk,

Frankly I’d prefer him dead.

Man, fuck the dreaded skunk”


“Hard to see in blinding light

Their shadow ‘lone gives me the chills,

It comes out every single night

When anger ‘lone drives some to kill”


Countless of them here in this place

Cares on pigment, has not a face

Isms a plenty we oftentimes face

The worst of them all the one about race







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Implications of creation

William Blake’s poem The Tyger depicts the creation of a being that can be considered as both beautiful and horrific, and questions what kind of creator could have made such a being. Blake portrays God as a smith in the poem, using metaphors such as “hammer” and “anvil” to create the image of a smith laboriously working to finish his creation. This metaphor was chosen because a smithy represents a traditional image of artistic creation; and the act of forging is a very physical and deliberate kind of crafting. Which is why Blake’s interpretation of the “Tyger” as a “fearful” creation questions what kind kind of creator could design such a dangerous and terrifying beast. The tiger thus becomes a symbolic representation of the introduction/presence of evil in the world. Replacing “Could” with “Dare” in the last line of the first and last stanza in the question “Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”, challenges the idea that God is a benevolent being because he doesn’t just have the power to potentially create such an evil creature, Blake emphasizes that God “dares” to introduce such beings into our world. God’s creation of the tiger can be seen as a work of art, and Blake uses this concept to lead to the notion that art must display some vague reflection of its creator. Thus, the depiction of the tiger as an evil being questions what kind of God the world has, and directly challenges the religious view that God is benevolent, because the tiger is physical evidence that God has introduced evil into our world.

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The duality of Blake’s ‘Innocence’

One interesting aspect of the Songs of Innocence and Experience that Professor Mota spoke about in lecture was that the anthology cannot be clearly divided into dark and light; good and bad as the innocence vs. experience angle might lead us to do. I therefore set about finding examples of where a dark or sombre note infringes upon the seemingly light and carefree tone of the poems in the Songs of Innocence. One recurring theme is the eventuality of the innocence that Black portrays in his poems. In The Echoing Green for example, the poem’s end carries with it the unavoidable conclusion of childhood: “And sport no more seen / On the darkening green”. A possible reading of some of the poems in this part of the anthology is that Blake is commenting on the dark side of innocence, and the danger of naivety. The Chimney Sweeper acts as an example. Ostensibly, the poem tells the story of a young chimney sweeper who is visited by an angel and reassured in his dreams. Yet Blake could possibly be commenting on the cruel position and exploitation that some children are forced into, suffering until they have no one to turn to but God. Also noticeable was the recurring motif of crying or ‘weeping’ in the poems of Innocence. In A Song, a “mother weeps” over her sleeping child; in The Blossom, we hear the “sobbing, sobbing” of a “pretty robin”. This presence of tear stands juxtaposingly to the joy that Blake expresses through the poems, and indicate that he may have been trying to warn his audiences of the fleeting and superficial nature of innocence and ignorance.

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Romanticism on Caffeine?

Even if you think this blog post is terrible and doesn’t make any sense, please do read A History of the World in Six Glasses if you haven’t already! Tom Standage makes way more sense than I do.

I know you guys probably don’t want even more reading to do, but hear me out. Allow me to introduce you (if you haven’t been acquainted already) to A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage. Standage’s main idea – his thesis, if you will – is that, in pivotal eras in world history, there are certain beverages that have proven to be highly influential in shaping the course of events. One of the eras that Standage covers in his book is none other than the Age of Reason, which spans both the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. The beverage that Standage attributes to that era is coffee. According to Standage, rational thought was emphasized in the time not only because the new scientific method demanded it, but also because people were more able to think rationally thanks to the effects of the caffeine in coffee.

The next era that Standage covers (spoiler alert?) after the Age of Reason is the rise of colonial empires – a time that was shaped by tea. Tea, which came from places further east than coffee (which originated in the Middle East) came to represent the age of expansion. This is the closest Standage gets to Romanticism.

Where does Blake fit into Standage’s timeline? Songs of Innocence and of Experience is interesting in that it straddles both the end of the Age of Reason and the birth of Romanticism. Songs of Innocence was finished in 1789, which just so happened to be the same year that the French Revolution began. Songs of Experience was finished in 1794, which marked the end of The Terror: the period in the French Revolution that saw thousands of people guillotined. The French Revolution was the crash that effectively ended the caffeine high that was known as the Age of Reason. It’s funny how these events coincide with his works.

I wonder if William Blake drank coffee, or if it was too mainstream or unnatural for him. Maybe he didn’t like the way it made him feel and instead preferred some form of alcohol to numb the pain of living in a cold and indifferent world – or maybe he just didn’t have anything else to drink because water was still unsafe. You could really argue both ways. On one hand, you could say his works were fuelled by the same caffeine that powered the Enlightenment, except that energy was redirected towards long walks in nature and writing poems that rhyme. You could say that, because Blake’s romanticism was a response to the Enlightenment, so it must be that his works were not influenced by coffee or caffeine; rather, he looked back on the “good old days” when people drank alcohol, had a little too much, and revealed their true, “natural” selves.

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Was I Happier as a Child?

My life used to revolve around hitting my twin brother when he upset me, eating chicken noodle soup, and playing with stuffed animals. My biggest worry in life was my mom being five minutes late to picking me up. If my few desires for fun, food, and revenge were fulfilled, I was happy. It’s not that there wasn’t corruption around me, it’s just that I was too naive to realize. Being unaware of the world I lived in meant I didn’t have very much to worry about. Did this innocence make me happier than I am now?

Today I wake up to a dark, rainy cloud outside my window, representing the depression at the future of America because we just elected Donald Trump. How can I be happy when I am aware of the fact a racist, sexist, misogynist, criminal is going to be in charge of my home country? Instead of only thinking about chicken noodle soup and Spongebob Squarepants, I’m thinking about chicken noodle soup, Spongebob Squarepants, and the horrific backlash to decades of social progress. Just when gay marriage became legal, planned parenthood was gaining approval, and a qualified woman was actually about to be taken seriously, it all backfired.

As nice as it was to be a little kid who didn’t know what the word corruption meant, I’m grateful to have an understanding of it in this day and age. This means that I can utilize my opportunity to be educated and fight the corrupted authority that is taking over the world. I want to stand up for women’s rights, LGBT rights, disabled rights, immigration rights, and everything in between. Without awareness of how screwed up the world is I would not be able to stand against it. As angry and unhappy and frustrated as I am now, it is worth it if I can contribute even the slightest bit of progress to a society of hatred.

I agree with Rousseau that property and inequality drove us into this deep corruption, but I have trouble figuring out what he would want us to do right now. There is no chance of America returning to our ‘natural state’, just as there is no chance of me returning to my innocent childhood state, instead we must move forward. It is impossible to take away property and dominance and all the factors that contribute to inequality, so it’s time to get creative.

I will use my anger as fuel to change the racist, sexist, and ableist systems that control society. While I may have been ‘happier’ 15 years ago, I would not have been capable of joining the movement against hate and for equality. My awareness of the world grants me the potential to make a difference, and I think that is more satisfying than being a kid who has no worries.

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