Monday, December 8, 2008

Coping with Essays

At some points, reading the personal essays on loss becomes uncomfortable. Everyone deals with grief and loss in his or her own way because each experience is different. Each person who dies was different, and each person they left behind has his or her own past, and way of coping. Richards' experience with her grandmother, whom she lost before she was actually dead is, of course, quite separate from those who mourned the loss of the victims of the workplace shootings, or the mothers who were taken from their children. While Sedaris' mother is incredibly similar to my grandmother, whom I lost in late October, my experience in having lost her, or anticipating her passing was quite different than his. On the other hand, Strayed's account of allowing loss to ruin her life reveals some of the deepest emotions and indulgences. Loss can change a person so profoundly that they can never regain a sense of self. Fear of loss can be crippling as well. I think that these accounts were far too personal for me to just read and shake off. As I said, I was made incredibly uncomfortable by the honesty of sad, lonely, mourning people. That says something for the way that our culture deals with those who are not up to par with how they "should" feel or cope wih their feelings. It is hard to know what an even so jarring will ilicit. As Sedaris puts it "You can't brace yourself for famine if you've never known hunger" (119). Death isa complex mystery, and its ramifications are equally unknowable.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I enjoyed reading Sapphire's Push because it offered a unique perspective on a very specific type of pain. Pain had a lifelong presence in Precious' life, and overcoming obstacles and taking difficult but necessary actions to overcome that was a turning point for her. Sapphire goes into great detail and makes her readers uncomfortable in general when descibing the pain, but that is what made the book so powerful. The way the book was written, with the language and crudeness that a person in Precious' position uses, makes the pain seem real and relates to the audience just how a person like this, who most of society would turn their noses at, deals with emotions and deals with people who make her feel threatened. It also relates how having support and love can lessen the burden of painful experiences and even turn a person's life around. I particularly loved how, at the end of the book, we the readers learn about the pain in the lives of those around Precious. Throughout, we see those characters merely as support for Precious and as understanding and helpful human beings. When we learn what each of them has gone through to get to where they are in their lives, it becomes even more obvious that overcoming pain and sharing those stories is crucial to being able to relate to and help those around you. The novel illustrates many examples of the Wounded Storyteller, both throughout Precious' experiences and in the short essays describing the hardships of the other students. Rain, though we don't learn her entire story, is the only sympathetic character that we don't fully understand. Her actions indicate that she has the capacity not only to feel and understand pain, but also to reach out to others in pain, which is a remarkable characteristic. In the end what I really took away from the story is that having love, both in the instances of Precious' friends and her own love for her son, is the way to recover from pain, no matter how embedded it may be in your life.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Painful Music

Music is and always been a great outlet for pain. Not only can it make you feel certain ways, with or without lyrics, but for musicians it is the way to describe and deal with the pain that they feel. Curt Cobaine obviously hurt alot and his music is still popular and listened to by angsty teens everywhere. I think this is because it helps to listen to other people who share the same views and can describe the same pain that you feel. Other songs deal with helping those that they love when they experience pain, and still more, like the Eamon and Frankee songs, deal with anger and pain and the sentiments towards those that hurt you. Music is such a universal and diverse tool for pain both on the creating and listening ends, that nearly every song deals with some version of pain. Pain from relationships, especially, is prominent in music and even when music is happy, there is often some conflict that needs to be resolved in order to create happiness, which is ultimately what every person, or at least most people, want. Music made from pain is also much more passionate. For example, Alanis Morisette's You Oughta Know, is one of the most passionate songs to have hit the charts in the last 20 years because you can tell by her voice that she is singing about something very personal and painful. Songs like Apologize are direct messages to those who have hurt the artist and are often powerful to listen to for the reason that many people feel the music says what they'd like to be saying. Other artists, like Bright Eyes try to capture both the pain and the downfalls of how they deal with them, such as drugs. Music is so broad and creative that it becomes a very important tool for anyone who feels pain, whether they make music or enjoy listening.

Sex, Drugs and...well that's it.

Nic Sheff's book was a much better indication of how drugs really work than the glamorized image a lot of people have about rock and roll and the crazy fun lifestyles that rich people on drugs present to the public. The way that he feels things in the book is described in a way that only someone who has experienced drug addiction can explain it. He knows some sense of guilt and remorse, but is so numb that he doesn't actually feel the way that normal people do. He essentially escapes from any emotional pain that may affect him. I know a guy from middle school who grew up and fell in love with oxycontin. He was basically an alright guy, pretty popular, but once he got addicted, he was completely different. If he came over to a friends house they would check if he stole anything after he was gone. One week his aunt went on vacation with her family. While she was gone he broke in her house and stole item after item to sell for money to buy more oxies. At the end of the week he looked around the house and knew that he had taken too many things to get away with it. So he burned down the house. It's not that addicts don't know what they're doing, they just don't feel or understand their own or the pain of others. It's sad, but I think that Nic Sheff's book accurately captured that and I'm really impressed that he managed to get his life back. I have friends who have done the same and to finally see the person you used to know is one of the best feelings you can have in regards to drug addicts.

Seeing Saw

Every year I go see the new Saw movie in theaters and I have no idea why. Not only are they terrible movies with subpar plots and abismal acting, I don't even particularly like the type of violence they show (in a movie-goer sense, not actual violence). I spent the majority of screentime under my jacket, asking for play-by-plays and "Is it over?" The only feasible explanation for why the Saw movies do so well financially has to be the new and creative forms of torture each one gives its audience. As horrific is that is, horror films have gotten old and predictable. The torture porn category of film opens new doors to the industry where any sadist can write a suitable screen-play and have it make a lot of money. Personally, I watch the movies to test how much I can take, and I'm not even feeling any of the pain. How much pain a person can watch is one of those questions everyone likes to answer about themselves. It allows them to get to know themselves better because, as we see from a number of horror and torture porn movies, pain brings people, even strangers, together.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wounded Storytellers

Arthur W. Frank's The Wounded Storyteller really breaks down the experience of telling stories about illness. While I enjoyed the examples and quotations from many of the stories, I thought that sometimes he did not make clear enough the distinctions between the categories of the narratives. I thought that the separation between disciplined, dominating, mirroring and communicative storytellers was the most compelling part of the book. When I was in high school a guy I was dating was diagnosed with cancer, and it was easy to detect his dominating way of coping. I was constantly getting guilt tripped and screamed at until we eventually broke up. Luckily, he is fine now, but knowing people who go through that type of thing makes the idealistic types of ill people more understandable. After that part, however, the terms became mixed up. I honestly could not tell you the difference between stories of restitution and those of the type that Frank labels quest. I think the book ultimately is trying to get at the point that telling stories of illness can be beneficial both to the storyteller and the listener and can be an important part of healing ones self and offering comfort to others. I also agree that it is better to learn from someone who has experienced illness than from those who can diagnose or treat such things. It is also important to acknowledge person experience and pain rather than to think of it in terms of numbers and tests.

Haunting "Ghosts"

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib physically affected me. While I know that horrors like those in the prison occur around the world on a daily basis seeing the victims as well as those who performed acts of torture speaking about it and try to explain why it happens was too much for me to handle. Horror movies often depict acts of torture, painful deaths, and greusome images, but for me that is completely different because those aren't real. Though they may be based on real events, the actual images are not from real life and the actors in the films aren't being harmed. The idea that those actual people performed, created and lived through those actual scenarios is extremely disturbing.
Another thing that really sent me over the edge was the exploitation of humiliation and the use of family members and culture against individuals. Just to have to live through the horror every day of being humiliated would probably kill me, but to also watch the humiliation of those you love and the destruction of the values and ideals that you live by is absolutely horrific.
I agree with Lauren that the military personell that blindly followed orders to torture and humiliate those prisoners is completely unacceptable and outrageous. To see them smiling and recalling events and emotions that compelled them to do unspeakable acts was sickening. Our citizens and our government should have much higher respect for humanity than that, especially since we consider ourselves leaders in democracy and freedom. We criticize and denounce the acts of other countries who perform autrocities but are willing and able to create our own? Something just does not add up. Should we really consider ourselves a role model for other nations if ours is capable of such things? We need to seriously reconsider our military and international policies and take power away from people who are nothing less than blood-hungry elitists who cannot fathom the value of a human life, but rather regard their own positions of power as sacred.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The 9/11 Graphic Adaptation

While the idea of the graphic adaptation intrigued me, I don't think it made the report any more effective than it would have been without the illustrations. I was so interested in the actual content and information in the text that I barely looked at the pictures at all. I found everything else extremely compelling. Everyone has seen the footage and heard general theories and criticisms of the government and Al Qaeda, but I definitely missed over half of the actual facts. It also makes one think of the type of pain that people go through everyday due to the error of others. I cannot imagine being responsible for the kind of oversight our government made in regards to ignoring or underestimating threats from Bin Laden. To be one of those caught in the upper levels, above the crash sights and to be told conflicting things to do before finally realizing that there is no hope is unthinkably frightening. It is also hard to look at the situation from the extremists' point of view. Is anyone really capable of wanting to hurt others so badly that they would sacrifice his or her own life? They spent years planning this attack and had no problem just destroying not only lives but also part of our landscape, a symbol of the American economy. In particular, I am baffled at why the pilot of flight 93 decided just to crash the aircraft even though it would not reach its target. I would think it would be better to be alive and unsuccessful than die for no real purpose, other than failure. Clearly I would make an awful terrorist.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Regarding the Pain of Others

I thought the book was interesting for not putting the actual photographs but rather describing what they depict. After reading each example I wanted badly to see them and judge my own reaction. War images and images of suffering are abundant and the news and media, which is a point that she makes frequently, but actually assessing a reaction and thinking about it rather than changing the channel or looking away (as I usually do) would be an interesting experiment. Sontag makes many good points about diminishing interest or sensitivity to photos that could be considered "harrowing" and I think that blaming the photographer is in no way fair. Shesays that people ask photographers if they sit around waiting for shells to fly; they forget that as troubling as it is to look at a single photo, to be there when it was taken and witness what many of these people have witnessed, must be a much more terrible experience. The helpless feeling that many viewers experience is something I find very familiar. Last year I participated in the construction of an Iraq war memorial near the library. I spent hours looking at and hanging photos of horrifying images from the war. As much as they bothered me I kept thinking that there was really nothing I could do besides what I was already doing, and that feeling is so discouraging that eventually I put it out of my mind completely. I think it is important to document the tragedies that befall humanity in order to keep in mind how fortunate you are, and sensitivity, in this case, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Endless Sunshine

This movie made me very emotional (leave it to me to be the class pansy as usual). Granted, I'd had to much coffee and just went threw some personal things with my own exboyfriend, but I think even if I wasn't a jittery wreck I would have appreciated it just the same. The movie asks the question that comes with all break ups. Is the pain worth all the good times you had? I know that breaking up makes it feel like you can't breathe, eat, sleep, anything. It feels like your chest is caving in. It's amazing that your mind and body can work so in sync when something so horrible happens. And were we meant to feel the pain? I mean, at the end of the movie when Joel and Clementine discover what really happened the only response is "ok". Is it really ok to create amazing memories if they will cause you pain later? I think the answer is yes. Our ability to love makes us just as human as the ability to feel the pain of losing love. I think it makes you even more aware of just how wonderful things can be, even if the moment at hand is miserable. Without those memories, both the good and the bad, our lives would have no meaning and no real relationship would be possible if you were just always able to say "I'll erase this later." The film was amazing both visually and topically. Some people are meant to have a past and to feel the pain of memories, because if they can't then they will never be able to develope their own identity or appreciate the identity of someone else.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

On Pain: The Science of Suffering

I can't say that I enjoyed this book immensely. I thought Wall gave great examples in some areas such as the chapter on placebos, but all of the medical terms, etc. went over my head. I think Wall offers valuable insight and explains some things like phantom limbs very well. I think his analysis of the stages of pain are intelligent, but he leaves a lot of questions still unanswered. For example, he gives discusses the military man in Switzerland who is does not feel his pain until after being rescued. Later he explains that attention can only be focused on one thing at a time, in this case, escaping a dangerous situation, so he could not be aware of his injury. While it makes sense, I don't find his argument particularly convincing. The book was interesting, with the exception of chapter 3 from which I've retained zero information. However, Wall tackles the question of pain from so many different angles that it becomes more confusing than helpful and by the end, I still had not completely figured out the point of the book. If I had to take a stab at it, I would say that Wall is describing how intricate pain is, and that it involves both mental and physical functions, and cannot be fully understood by either individuals or society. From what I read, the book simply explores every minute detail associated with that idea.

Introduction tiiime

Hi, my name is Gigi. I'm a Politics and Government major with a minor in Rhetoric and Professional Writing. I'm originally from Maine, but went to a boarding high school in Wellesley, MA.
I spent a year in New Orleans when I first began college in 2005. Due to Hurricane Katrina, I've been a semester behind for the past few years, but have been taking as many credits as I can to catch up so, if all goes well, I'll be able to graduate this spring.
I like to read alot, and am obsessed with about every television show you can think of. I have irregular sleeping hours and refuse to take classes before 1:30, but usually end up late to those anyway.
I love traveling, but haven't done it enough. Usually if I get the chance to go somewhere I end up back in New Orleans (best city in America) visiting my friends.
Basically that's it. This is kind of impersonal but I'd rather not have too much detail up on a blog. I sound pretty boring but I swear I'm not. ;-)