Now that’s what I call Human

If aliens were to land on earth after it has turned into a wasteland and humans have obliterated each other, and decided to conduct a study of humanity hopefully they do not find this first:

or this,

Hopefully not this,

and definitely not most of the videos on this list (although some would not be embarrassing for humanity and entertaining for good reasons).

If these alien anthropologists do find something while browsing through the most popular videos of our culture, I would hope it to be this:

This video conveys the human capacity to love and appreciate nature, as well as a full spectrum of human emotion. This man cherishes and fully respects the wonder of nature. He is also not afraid to cry about it. Now that’s what I call Human.

True war stories and soldiers’ luck

When I read that for our final essay in Literature & Violence one of the prompts was to write an essay “that offers an interpretation of violence based on your analysis of a personal experience,” I immediately connected two things: a story my father told about his time over in Germany as a tanker, and Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”from his novel The Things They Carried. Unfortunately I can not write this essay for the course because the prompt also stipulates that it must make substantial reference to two works from the last fourth of the course and one from the first three sections (The last section is titled “Violent Intimacies” whereas war was towards the beginning of the semester.) In other words, connecting my dad’s story in any logical way to the last section of the course is a stretch.
However, I have this forum.
In “How to Tell a True War Story” the narrator conveys horrific and traumatic experiences of war in a manner that leans toward conveying their normalcy and insignificance. The fact that the events happened and that they are true is something stressed throughout the chapter. It is as if the narrator is saying “shit happens” or “that’s just the way it is.” Well, this struck me as similar to my father’s narration of some tanker stories. He said that he didn’t see much combat while patrolling the border between East and West Germany; furthermore, when he did see combat he did not see much death. Most of the deaths were accidents. Specifically, people getting run over. And to this he said, much like O’Brien’s Narrator, “Can’t dwell on it, move past it.”
The tone of my father’s stories and O’Brien’s are similar: both involve accidents resulting from soldiers fooling around and a death lacking enemy responsibility. In O’Brien’s story, two kids are playing hot potato with a grenade and one accidentally pulls the tab. In my father’s, two guys are horsing around in the back of a jeep, thrown out, and run over. Another story involves a collision between a Gama Goat and a Gore, which my dad was involved in. What is true in all of these cases is that the narrator of the story stresses that these things just happen, and when they do you just don’t think too much about it.
Two last quotes to wrap up. When I asked him about why he told these stories how he told them my father said: “When you tell a story, you tell it not to scare people, and you tell it because you look back and think ‘I was lucky’.” This particularly struck me, and I think it is something that O’Brien would agree with. For his narrator in a true war story, “there is not even a point, or else the point doesn’t hit you until twenty years later, in your sleep”. Well, perhaps the point, which the narrator admits to loosing, is that you were just lucky. Maybe you weren’t playing with a grenade out of boredom or rough-housing in the back of a jeep. Maybe the tire of a Gore didn’t roll over you. Maybe it is as simple as luck or, even more so, believing that it was luck.
Point being: War is a nasty business. Being a soldier is a tough business. These are just two similar takes on those two commonalities and experiences.
Otherwise, I highly recommend clicking on the link to the chapter from O’Brien’s book. I more strongly recommend buying the full text.

Better Late than Never

Alas, my return to blogging. This semester has been very busy and that is my excuse for not posting anything since my travels in London. However, the semester is drawing to an end and I’ve always practiced the slogan: the best procrastination is working to avoid work. To give you an idea of what I’ve been up to, besides not blogging (well, more likely the reason for…), I’ve compiled a list of what I’ve read and written for my academic term. (My favorite readings are starred, but that is not to say that the rest are not good reads.)

Book List:
  1. King Lear, William Shakespeare
  2. The Iliad, Homer
  3. Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut*
  4. Death and the Maiden, Ariel Dorfman*
  5. The Bluest Eye, Tony Morrison*
  6. Dubliners, James Joyce*
  7. How To Do Things With Words, J. L. Austin*
  8. Excitable Speech, Judith Butler
  9. Emma, Jane Austen
  10. Image-Music-Text, Roland Barthes
  11. Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, Robin Dunbar*
  12. The Scandal of the Speaking Body, Shoshana Felman
  13. Forms and Meanings, Roger Chartier
  14. On Rhetoric, Aristotle
  15. With Pen and Voice: Anthology of Nineteenth-Century African American Women*
  16. Britain Yesterday and Today, Walter Arnstien
  17. Eminent Victorians, Lyntton Strachey*
  18. English Culture and the Decline of Industrial Spirit, Martin Wiener
Oh, and there is more in the form of short stories and essays:
  1. Wittgenstein, “Aspect and Image”
  2. J.L. Austin, “A Plea for Excuses”*
  3. Austin, “Three Ways to Spill Ink”
  4. Austin, “Performative Language”
  5. Burke, “Literature as Equipment for Living”
  6. Searle, “Expressions, Meaning and Speech Acts”
  7. Culler, “Convention and Meaning”
  8. Jakobson, “Poetics and Linguistics”
  9. Simon Well, “The Iliad or the Poem of Force”
  10. Wilfred Owen, “Dulce et Decorum Est” and “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young” (Poems)
  11. Paul Fussell, “The Great War and Modern Memory”*
  12. George Orwell, “Shooting an Elephant”
  13. Tim O’Brien, “How to Tell a True War Story” (highly recommend the whole book)*
  14. Primo Levi, “Survival in Auschwitz”
  15. Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves” and “The Tiger’s Bride”*
  16. Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “Berenice” and “Murder in the Rue Morgue”
  17. Ariel Dorfman, “The Tyranny of Terror”
  18. Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony”*
  19. Elaine Scarry, “The Body in Pain”
  20. Michel Foucault, “Discipline and Punish”
  21. Flannery O’Connor, “Revelation” and “A Good Man is Hard To Find”*
  22. Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
  23. Tobias Wolf, “Bullet in the Brain”*
  24. Ernest Hemingway, “A Way You’ll Never Be” and ” The Killers”*
  25. Joyce Carol Oates, “How I Contemplated the World from the Detroit House of Correction”
My semester also features paper writing…

Total Papers: 40
Total Pages: 153
(About 4 pages per paper, however many of them were 2 page assignments, at least 2 were over 10 pages and one was 15.)

This is a semester in the life of an English Major. And to give a further idea of that life: this semester was one of the lighter work loads. Not that I am at all complaining; I love my major and I love reading and writing. It is this fact that perhaps make the semester seem light. Many, well most, of my readings were enjoyable. I actually hope that someone picks off this list and uses it as suggestions. After all, it is my goal to connivence everyone I meet to read at least one Flannery O’Connor story, if not all.