From the ear to the heart: Florence + The Machine

All of Florence + The Machine’s songs are perfect, but here’s my favorite, Never Let Me Go. Written by Florence Welch, Paul Epworth and Tom Harpoon, the  song is the third song off of Florence + The Machine’s second studio album, Ceremonial, released in 2011. The song speaks of succumbing to (or maybe being overwhelmed by) an emotion, perhaps passion, love or depression.

The best thing is, not only is Florence an amazing singer, her lyrics are incredibly deep, and even her MVs are so meaningful!

Florence Welch has such a powerful voice, and her ballads truly speak to the soul. Take a listen yourself (and if you have time, check out Cosmic Love, too; it’s another one of my favorite by F+tM).

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not preparation for life, but life itself

I am arguing for the rights of all books in the public education system.

(Okay, maybe except for Fifty Shades of Grey. Or Twilight…like, look at this one paragraph. Look at it and cry. )

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Aro started to laugh. “Ha, ha, ha,” he chuckled. 

Annie agreed this writing was terrible. “I agree this writing is terrible,” she agreed.

Anyways, onto the rest of the post…

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grades are temporary, education is permanent

I follow a lot of blogs from friends who are still in high school and are assigned weekly blog assignments from my former English teachers. Recently, one of their assignments was to react to an article that discussed the perceived differences of a good learner and a good student and that claimed a huge flaw in our education system was this emphasis on grades and standardized testing. I won’t say much on the article itself, but rather, it just got me reflecting on a few things now that I’ve finished taking my first three midterms of the year.

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a woman’s place is in the house & senate

As I was scrolling through my Facebook feed today instead of doing homework (oh man, I feel like too many of my posts are started that way…not too sure if it’s a good or a bad thing, haha), I stumbled upon this picture that someone I knew shared:

this is some bullshit

Oh man, oh man. Yes, I know, every person has their own opinions about different issues, and I entirely respect that. But, but…AHH THIS HURTS ME A LITTLE TOO MUCH. Okay, okay, I’ll calm down now and let’s talk about this. Here’s why I think this post is wrong on so, so many levels.

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Response: 2016 State of the Union

Last night, President Obama gave his final State of the Union address, which Washington Post helped fact-check right here.

2016 is going to be a big year. It’s President Obama’s final year in office; it’s the year of campaigning and promises from almost twenty candidates vying for the presidency. And for the first time in my life, I will be able to vote as a citizen of the United State.

Onto the SOTU address. Essentially a lame duck at this point, President Obama lacks momentum, and with a Republican-controlled Congress basically just waiting for him to leave office, it’s highly unlikely that too many of his proposals will get passed; he’s too busy stopping Congress from trying to overturn everything he’s accomplished this year. Additionally, to improve the association of the current Democratic candidates, Obama instead focuses on the government’s accomplishments during his seven years as president, such as cutting unemployment rates down to 5%.

As for his plans for the future, Obama proposes to offer two-years of community college for free, something he mentioned in his address last year. Sure, nothing’s ever “free,” as my economics teacher will tell us, but certainly, by improving education of our citizens, we do in fact increase our resources — smart and innovative citizens –that will give back immensely to the economy. We want to be “the country that cures cancer,” the country that will forever remain the leader of the world, the country who will fight for its beliefs, the country of citizens who will not be controlled by corporations and banks.

Now, it’s funny to watch some of the presidential candidates tweet their reactions during the speech. Here are couple from the most active tweeter last night, Ben Carson:

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Perhaps you haven’t seen this chart yet, Mr. Carson?141119-dataorders-graphicAnd then this one:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 11.41.29 AMNo, he didn’t every say that. This is what President Obama says: “Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.” Why is it that America is the only country where such a large proportion of its politicians don’t believe in a problem that WILL affect our future generations? And he does talk about ISIL later on for quite a while. America is the strongest nation, he says, and we will root out these terrorists, but we cannot let fear cloud our minds. We cannot be hypocrites, for carpet-bombing cities where innocent people live is absolutely atrocious: “The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.” We need an international coalition behind us, because this is an international problem that we cannot solve by ourselves. If we want to show leadership, we need support.

But more than ever, this address emphasizes our need for a better politics. Partisanship has caused our citizens to lose their trust in the government, one that they see constantly fighting and threatening to defund itself, one entangled within blue and red ropes. Obama looks to the people –both those who agree with his policies and those who don’t — to voice their opinions, because in this country, that’s what provides the fundamental basis for our democracy. His rhetoric echoes that of when he first took office in 2008 — hope and change, except not in the form of a new president, but rather from we the people. By acknowledging the Republican Congress’s “constructive approach” to passing the budget last December, Obama refuses to allow politics to be defined by party lines, to further create chaos by claiming that “the Republicans are at fault.” [Though it did make me kind of sad to see how clear party lines were just by who stood up to clap. C’mon Speaker Ryan (and a good portion of the Republican party), not clapping when Obama talked about some of America’s greatest achievements in the past decade is sort of rude. Just saying.]

Maybe finally we’ll see the respect resurge in politics, because no, we don’t all have to agree with each other, but at least we don’t have to attack each other so loudly that we refuse to hear the other side. And perhaps the Republicans are also changing their rhetoric, for in the response (given by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley), Haley leaves us with these words that everyone can agree upon:

“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it.”

The curtains aren’t blue

John Gardner’s Grendel, which narrates the life of the monster from Beowulf from a first-person point-of-view, is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read: Gardner intricately weaves together philosophy and astronomy to create an engaging and thoughtful novel.

Decades ago, a teacher and three of her students sent Gardner their essays on his novel, and he responded with this sassy letter. Certainly, this letter contains way too many gems for me to cover in just two paragraphs, so I’ll just focus on the two things Gardner touched on that stood out the most to me (+ a little comment about the actual Beowulf epic).

(So here’s the little comment about Beowulf: It’s really interesting that Gardner hints at Beowulf begin pessimistic. Certainly, I’ve only read a section of a mediocre translation, but the way I perceived it, Beowulf was meant to laud the accomplishments of the Anglo-Saxon culture and Beowulf himself was the “perfect human” that everyone should strive to be like (at least, isn’t that what an epic is supposed to be?) Gardner suggests that in Beowulf, the hero “does everything he can to be a perfect hero, and in the end he’s killed, for reasons he doesn’t understand, dies deluded –thinking he has saved his people when in fact the treasure he’s captured is worthless…” I wonder if the scopes who first told Beowulf meant that, but either way, Gardner’s point is very much valid.)

Anyways, on the rest of his letter. The three students who wrote to Gardner apparently all came to the conclusion that his opinions on life echoed that of the dragon (and that he was advocating for only one philosophy of life). But Gardner (the author) disagrees, saying that a “good writer is indeed a careful philosopher; but his method is not to argue for a single position—but rather to explore, with all the care and wisdom he’s capable of mustering, the various implications, contributing factors, etc., that must be considered when any serious philosophical question is raised.” Rather, the author must develop the gift of mimicry and become able to present various points of view on any given question.”  Gardner does exactly that: in twelve chapters, he explores the major perspectives on the biggest question: what is the purpose and meaning of our lives?

Grendel, with his man-eating lifestyle and absolutely terrifying thoughts (especially later in the novel), still serves as a foil against society and its corruption — the making up of noble (or ignoble, as Gardner notes) values that forces Grendel to”give up all hope and faith, becoming a mere enemy, a mere brute.” But neither is the novel a statement about society’s corruption; rather, anything can corrupt, including isolation. And then he adds, “In the long run, I hope, an imperfect society is better than a solitary monster.”

After reading this letter, I’m in awe. A lot of times, I’m guilty of this:
QWGrU

 

 

 

 

 

 

But dang. Gardner is a pure genius, and he wants us to know it (it being that his novel is a masterpiece, that he’s a genius, and that everything in Grendel is EVERYTHING).

The Things They Carried

When I first read Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, I sincerely thought that it was a memoir of some sort; the book was dedicated to the characters, one of the character’s name is Tim O’Brien (who also is a writer in the novel), and the chapter called Notes mentions how Bowker had read Going after Cacciato and responded with a letter.

And it’s interesting that O’Brien said that he did, in some sense,  write the book like a memoir, but only as part of his strategy of adding that element of truth and reality into a work of fiction. By doing so, O’Brien  sought to put his reader into the midst of the experience of the Vietnam War and to use fiction to tell the truth through a different mode – storytelling. Unlike newscasts and reports we see on TV about war, storytelling helps us overcome our insensitivity towards war, painting us a different picture and story, unlike the statistics and constant reports that have numbed us into insouciance. Through fiction, through the stories, the author can “squeeze the human heart,” for literature was never a “happy hour time.”

The end goal, O’Brien says, is to make us — the young people — “understand the complications and the ambiguities of these things, and to hear it from someone who has not only gone to a war, but devoted a lifetime to suffering from it.” This echoes some of what he mentioned in another interview, when he was asked about his opinion on the current wars in the Middle East. He said he was quite surprised at the lack of attention and thought given to these wars by the public. In some ways, these wars are similar, in that the reasons in which we went to war were unclear and obscure. Certainly, there is no draft today, but O’Brien still wants us, as a society, to “move beyond the notion that we can always accomplish what we want through a war,” to see what war forces each and every one of us to carry.

Tet Offensive: Media agenda or true victory?

One of the most unpopular wars in U.S. history, the Vietnam War lasted from 1955 to 1975. The Tet Offensive was a coordinated attack launched by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces on the lunar new year holiday (also known as Tet) in 1968.  They hoped to surprise American forces by choosing this specific date and to force the Americans into negotiations to end the war by attacking major cities. The attack occurred in three phases; during the first two, the Viet Cong directly attacked urban cities, where the U.S. forces were known to be placed. However, by the last phase, the U.S. and its allies managed to take back the territory lost, keeping them Viet Cong on the defense. The Tet Offensive saw the lost of thousands of lives from both sides, and became the turning point of the war — the beginning of the end.

Now, the nature of public response and opinion showcased the clear divide between the administration & the people, the talkers & the fighters, the warhawks & the antiwar movement. The Tet Offensive only served to deepen this divide, with the media playing a major role in instigating criticism of the Johnson administration. The controversy that arose largely came from the perception of the war itself — the administration saw it as a clear victory; the public, a total disaster. Despite the U.S. reclaiming all of its territory, it may have been because of the raw reporting & images transmitted to the public (as the attacks were on major cities, where many reporters stayed) that piqued public support of the anti-war movement. But most importantly, it was the White House’s recent announcement that “victory was in sight” and the administration’s launch of the “success campaign” to convince the media and public that we were winning in Vietnam that allowed the Tet Offensive to become a symbol of the inconclusiveness, futileness and drawn-out war.

Interestingly enough, 200 U.S. colonels went to party in downtown Saigon the night of the attack, despite receiving information of the attacks almost 3 months earlier. The U.S. failed to recognize the flow of intelligence, thinking that the body count was largely in their favor & never once expecting the uprising of over 80,000 troops. That one of the main factors of the U.S.’s failure in Vietnam was largely due to entrenched beliefs, incompetence and the rejection of intel counter to their beliefs is unbelievable; the continual insistence that we were winning, even more so. As the credibility gap grew larger & larger, it finally collapsed at Tet. Still, the role that the media played at Tet — providing momentum for the anti-war movement and forcing Johnson to begin plans for withdrawal — was significant & forced the administration and U.S. army to recognize that public support & expectations were a huge part of strategic thinking.

Eyeless, tongueless, drumless, danceless

In this 1966 interview with Robert Hughes, Ralph Ellison focuses on several aspects that helped him write Invisible Man, a novel that is often labelled “the greatest American novel.”

 Early on in this video, Ellison discusses a few key points that led to his writing of the Invisible Man, noting how black leaders “at that time, seldom really led Negroes, but were usually dependent on the largesse of white supporters” (11:11 – 11:30). This over-dependency is prevalent throughout his novel: from the university’s heavy reliance on its white, rich beneficiaries, Dr. Bledsoe’s kicking out of the narrator to appease the same people (and to save his own reputation) to the narrator’s initial carrying out of the Brotherhood’s mission without questioning his white superiors and without catering to the real desires of the African American community, Ellison sought to incorporate this concept into his novel.

Later, Ellison reads a segment of his unpublished novel (which, 33 years later, was published in a heavily-edited version called Juneteenth.) The eloquence of this section Ellison attributes to his “Negro background, the eloquence which you find within the Negro church, wherein the minister, who might preach variations on the same sermon a hundred times a year or more, but who must at the same time believe that as he is initiated; he is a manipulator of emotions and of eloquence and of sacred vision, so to speak” (24:00 – 24:31). And indeed, his style and flow of words echoes this same sermon-style eloquence: “..Drums that told the news before it happened. Drums that spoke with big voices like big men! Drums like a conscience and a deep heartbeat that knew right from wrong. Drums that told us our time and told us where we were…” (20:45 – 21:17). This powerful paragraph captures the beauty of drums, the beauty of the African American people and culture, for drums are the symbol, the culture, the unity and livelihood of the African American community, and the power, the life, the identity that was stolen from the African-American community.

Thus, this kind of eloquence is particularly valuable to the American writer, this eloquence that was could speak past the barriers of race, of experiences, of similarities and differences and of any possibilities because “it has its own rhetorical shade, it has its own stable cluster of imagery” (26:00 – 26:20). Ellison notes his usage of the label “American writer,” and not “African-American writer,” stating that this type of writing has become integral to the American heritage. As Ellison sees it, the general American literary heritage is a culmination of the diversity and unity of cultures, races and ideas in the American community.