Final Commonplace Book Assessment
Like most things, the commonplace book will be what you make of it. As beneath my ability as it may be to start my final post with a cliche, it doesn’t make it untrue. The majority of my posts are pretty boring to be quite honest. I did them like I did other homework, read, diagnose, summary, quote here, quote there, then maybe end in a question. With those types of responses came the grade that I deserved for the mid term assessment. In my last 6 or 7 posts I started really trying to have fun with it. I added a movie clip from one of my favorites, Good Will Hunting. I compared Will, a gifted young man who can do virtually anything yet chooses to remain stagnant to “I am Waiting” by Fernlingetti. This comparison was a stretch but I needed something to compare it to and it applied enough. Plus, I love the Boston accents and the bromance between Ben Affleck and Matt Damon; it reminds me of my best friend and I.
In my later Commonplace posts I took some more chances. In my first post about This is How You Lose Her, I chose to pick a clip from one of the most hilarious shows on television: Eastbound and Down. The clip is rife with profanity and so is my post but I think I did a really good job on this one. Kenny is like Yunior without really any of Yunior’s redeeming qualities. Unlike Yunior, who understands at least conceptually that he is repeating a pattern and continuing to make the same mistakes, Kenny remains blissfully ignorant to his faults and continues to repeat them. In the post I draw attention to macho locker room culture. Kenny doesn’t “want to look like a bitch in front of Shane,” his bro, catcher, and equally emotionally unavailable “best friend.” The irony here is that Kenny is pouring his heart out about him being nervous to his real side kick, Stevie. The feelings motif is accentuated by Stevie wearing an apron and practically weeping about his feelings before telling Kenny, “Fuck my feelings.” The overall silliness of this scene does not detract from the comparison to Yunior. Eastbound and Down is a tragedy; Kenny continues to mire in the same behavioral patterns becoming more and more miserable. Because Yunior admits at the end that he is basically an asshole, he is redeemed, he can now view things as they are and hopefully change.
The final post I would like you to look at is the one where I compared some of the kids on my team to This is How You Lose Her. I took a real chance here. I almost didn’t add this story to the blog but I figured it applied too well to leave out. I did a really great job of unifying the story to a quote from the novel. I think one place this and really all of my passages may be lacking is a unifying theme. While I do believe it is there, I also never say explicitly what it is. My common theme has a lot to do with identity construction. Part of growing up is deciding what is valuable, what to keep and what to throw out. In this sense I have done that throughout the semester, being super critical of some texts and really championing others. Like me in real life, the final posts will be pretty polarizing. I’m the kind of person where you either really like me (and I believe most do), or you really don’t. I put a lot of me into the final commonplace blog posts and I had a lot of fun doing them. I believe they are well written, funny, and also really insightful.
The speaker of this poem is literally submerging herself into the depths from present day into an long forgotten world. The speaker has gone into a “wreck,” a problem something that was great and can still be salvaged. In this boat there are “treasures that prevail.” Implicit in this poem is the tone that “we” the schooner people of today have messed up. The book of “myths” suggests that these things for which the speaker are looking are not real things. Like any myth, there is a truth that has been warped over time and a legend built around that truth. The truth presented here is the division made between “merman” and “mermaid.” The ladder into the depths allows us access to a new way where the speaker claims, “I am she: I am he” (77). This gender shifting from a divide into a hermaphrodyte is implying that there is no real divide between men and women. Rather we have created this. We have messed this up.
I don’t really get Plath’s appeal. I think that she is clearly very talented but I have a really difficult time understanding “Daddy.” I thought that the lines, “Every woman adores a Fascist/ The boot in the face, the brute/ Brute heart like you” (49-51) are really funny. In the next stanza the speaker comments that her father stands at a “blackboard.” I thought that this was possibly a representation of a passing along of ideas, this terrible father and other fathers are teaching the subsequent generations anti-feminist ideas and that is why they are deemed “vampires.” Only once she vilifies her husband as the blood sucker, can she kill the ideas passed down onto her by her father. I think. I had a difficult time with this one.
As I have stated numerous times, I coach high school baseball. The part of my job I love the most are the times when I get a chance to be a mentor. I always wished there was someone I could talk to (not my parents) about the the hard parts of growing up. Before we move into the story, its worth reiterating that all of them are really sweet, but also very young kids. One day about two weeks ago I was driving three of my players from practice back to school. My starting shortstop says, “Coach, can I ask you something?” “Sure of course Greg.” “I’ve got a friend that I’ve known since Elementary School who just came out and said he’s gay.” “And?” “And its weird I’ve known him my whole life and I never knew?” Before I could say anything another one of my players decided to interject saying, “Dude, think about it. When’s the last time you heard him say. O she’s got a fat ass or big titties. Come on man should’ve seen it coming. Just saying.” As my mind reeled from this staggeringly naive logic, I reassured Greg that his friend was still the same person and that he shouldn’t just stop being friends with him. He left feeling a lot more comfortable with the situation; I left feeling like my players still had so much to learn. The accepted protocol for “being straight” was objectifying women to “big titties” and “fat asses.” While I do think that they are wrong, (obviously) I think that it is important to think about why this has become standard practice. Will brought up an idea in class that I have had for a while now. There are standards set by different external factors, be it familial, societal, friends, or other constructs impinging onto the self. Part of growing up is picking and choosing what is valuable. I guarantee these kids don’t think that women are reduced to butts and boobs but in front of their friends and their coach, an older person they are trying to impress, these tropes are passed on as the standard. We do it because its easy, because we can cover all the pain and insecurity we all feel. Yunior writes, “In another universe I probably came out OK, ended up with mad novias and jobs and a sea of love in which to swim, but in this world I had a brother who was dying of cancer and a long dark patch of life like a mile of black ice waiting for me up ahead.” Faced with this horribly difficult and painful existence, Yunior hides in the comfort of the superficial. His impressions of girls, the quick scans of skin color, hair type, ass size, etc. all serve as buffers to keep him away from the pain he really feels.
Even though the two of these poems were written almost 75 years apart, they both echo the injustice served to black people. Also, both poems have a militant black tone; the major difference being McKay’s very calculated pacing and the feeling of an imminent snap in “Power.” When the speaker tells us that she is, “unable to touch the destruction/ within” her, she is making a powerful revelation to us. Within her, ingrained in her, through years of mistreatment and unfairness lies a “destruction.” One that is ready to go off at any minute if she cannot access it and harness it through writing. The final lines, “Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are,” speak to the poet’s anger in her reality. Inside she is facing extreme turmoil, yet outwardly by the “chorus” here, but really by “society” the speaker will be judged as a beast for releasing the pent up anger inside her.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with HBO’s masterpiece Eastbound and Down, starring the iconic Kenny Fuckin Powers, its about time that changed. In this scene Kenny, a former major league star, is trying to get his career back. Among Kenny’s many many character flaws, is his skewed selfish sense of morality. Shane, played by Jason Sudeikas is also a macho drug abusing locker room bro like Kenny. When Stevie asks Kenny if Shane knows that he’s nervous, Kenny replies, “Of course not. I’m not trying to look like a bitch in front of Shane. He’s my best friend he’s not someone I say things to.” While many laugh at this scene because of its silliness, Kenny’s awesome line about the cabbagepatch dolls, the sad thing is there is a lot of truth to what Kenny is saying. Even though we laugh and roll our eyes at Kenny, many men, myself and Yunior included, have best friends who we “don’t say things to.”
The reason I chose this scene to compare to This is How You Lose Her is because it exemplifies the macho trope of guarding feelings. One of the reasons I like this novel so much is because unlike some other novels that we have read, I had no trouble identifying with Yunior. As I said in class, I don’t want the parallel to be too closely drawn, but the Dominican culture her presents; oversexualizing women and being macho through secluding feelings is representative of virtually every locker room I have ever been in. I spent four years in high school myself and have now coached high school baseball for 5 years. Yunior tries to keep up a veneer pretending that nothing is wrong, when really he is going through emotional turmoil. Most of the time, Yunior’s friends are willing to listen. If he wanted to share how he felt about his brother’s death, the loss of the girl he loved, anything, they would probably be receptive to it. While there is a certain comfortability in keeping everything skin deep, nothing can change as long as he does this. It is in this sense where the story itself becomes important; the narrational differences, the evolving tone from “I’m not really a bad guy” to “I’m kind of a piece of shit” is actually a really good thing. Because Yunior has written all of this down, he is now able to view the many factors influencing his decisions, keep the things he values, and hopefully cut out the destructive patterns governing his decisions. I am optimistic for Yunior going forward.
“Let’s have a party! I got weed I got swishers (echo)” While Rich Homie Quan’s song “party” may represent a 20th century view on what constitutes a party, Ralph Ellison depicts in gruesome detail, what “partying” in the south meant in the 1930’s and 40’s. “A Party Down at the Square” represents an image of the American South founded on racism and violence. The title here is incongruous with the actual event; a title like “Bloodlust down at the Square” or “A Riot down at the Square” are certainly more fitting. While Ellison is certainly playing with the title, I am most interested in the language used when referencing to the airplane. The airplane almost sound like an act of divine intervention. While some focus on the airplane’s physically dominating powers, really they should be focussing on the airplane’s symbolic representations. Because the crash of the airplane will cause “an investigation from the airline,” the airplane is viewed as angelic. Unlike the many other instances of racial violence that have gone uninvestigated, finally because of the crash the airplane company will search for what caused the airline to crash. The intervention of an outside source is elevated here because it is representative of a rebirth for the South. Finally their actions will have ramifications; finally lynching will be stopped.
A good man is hard to find. While this is obviously a relative truth, and certainly not the experience felt by everyone, in O’Connor’s story a good man, woman or even child is hard to find. The convict’s final and hilarious final lines of the story, that the grandmother, “would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life,” (2786) exemplify the ways that O’ Connor uses humor to expose the truth. The Grandmother reminds me of a line from “I am Waiting.” O’Connor’s description of the Grandma is similar to Stevens’ line, “I am waiting for the South to stop reconstructing itself in its own image.” While the Grandmother may claim to want to, “broaden the children’s horizons,” she doesn’t; she is trying to manipulate the situation so that she can go to Tennessee. In this section, “broadening the children’s horizons” means taking them to Tennessee instead of Florida. The obvious irony here is the limited scope of the characters. The family also meet their demise because the grandmother wants to visit a famous plantation, a physical representation of backwards Southern ideas and prosperity.
While there is some dispute about the speaker’s tone in Ferlinghetti’s poem “I am Waiting,” to me the speaker sounds like someone who is finally done being placated. The speaker’s anger is geared towards the numerous sources of pacification that have been appeasing the populous. While some of the speaker’s reasons for anger are clear, I’m uncertain what he’s actually arguing for. At the risk of stating the obvious, clearly, “waiting for” anything is a passive action. With as much as the speaker is waiting for, and as fervently as he is asking, it seems like he is calling for some kind of action to shake up the status quo. I tried to embed a scene from one of my favorite movies, Good Will Hunting. I dont know if its going to work or not, but its from one of the last scenes in the movie where Matt Damon the math prodigy says he’s ok working at the same shitty job as his friends. The reason I use this scene to relate is because throughout Ferlinghetti’s poem I kept thinking of the phrase “good enough.” So many people are content to stand pat and allow themselves to be mollified. Even though Damon is a genius, he wants to stay at his menial construction job because it is comfortable. I think the speaker of “I am Waiting” shows contempt for those who, like Damon, have a real ability to facilitate change and do nothing.
This question is obviously very subjective and like seemingly everything in this book, there are ample reasons to support both sides. The biggest pro to passing is undoubtedly the new level of wealth, social standing, and general clout one can attain in the wealthy white stratosphere. The biggest drawback of choosing to pass is the fact that you give up your family, friends and heritage. Were the terms so definite and final as outlined here, making a decision would be easy. I think one of the reasons Larson writes Clare so seductively is to reflect how seductive her life originally appears. It is not until we learn more about her husband and general unhappiness that we see just how much this decision has affected her negatively. Larson again complicates the issue by showing the very real problems of Irene’s household. Irene, the one who chose not to pass, also lives in a loveless marriage, and while she may still be deeply entrenched in her community, there still seems to be a great amount of sexual and racial ambivalence on her part. Even with all of the negatives of choosing to pass, I think I would be enticed by the allure of the glamorous lifestyle made available to me.