Thursday, December 13, 2007
The U.S. government has mandated the construction of a 2,000- mile long wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and many Americans sport bumper stickers on their vehicles with slogans like, “Welcome to America, now go home.”
Una Vida Mejor (A Better Life) follows three families, each participating in the American experience, and each searching for their own version of the American dream. Two of the families have crossed the Mexican border illegally, and entered the United States in the midst of this social and political unrest.
The story opens with Javier and Maria crossing the border illegally with their young daughter. The crossing is a frightful and uncertain experience. After crossing, Javier finds work at a farm and things slowly improve for him and his family.
Omar and Sofia are a young couple with two children who have also immigrated illegally to the United States. Omar struggles to provide for his family. His inability to find a job leads to tension in his marriage and he reluctantly agrees to participate in a robbery in an attempt to relieve his financial burdens.
The target of the robbery is a young married couple, Sam and Nancy. Sam is a social worker and Nancy works the graveyard shift as a nurse.
Two worlds collide when the simple robbery planned by Omar and his accomplice goes awry. What ensues is a dynamic series of life-altering events, fueled by cultural misunderstanding and prejudice. As the drama unfolds, the individual humanity behind the stark statistics and political rhetoric of the immigration issue is revealed and we find that the border between “right” and “wrong” is hopelessly blurred.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Eight rules for writing fiction:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
-- Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), 9-10.
- Sit in a straight, comfortable chair in a well lit place in front of your computer.
- Log onto MSN and ICQ (be sure to go on away!). Check your email.
- Read over the assignment carefully, to make certain you understand it.
- Walk down to the vending machines and buy some chocolate to help you concentrate.
- Check your email.
- Call up a friend and ask if he/she wants to go to grab a coffee. Just to get settled down and ready to work.
- When you get back to your room, sit in a straight, comfortable chair in a clean, well lit place.
- Read over the assignment again to make absolutely certain you understand it.
- Check your email.
- You know, you haven’t written to that kid you met at camp since fourth grade. You’d better write that letter now and get it out of the way so you can concentrate.
- Look at your teeth in the bathroom mirror.
- Grab some mp3z off of bit-torrent.
- Check your email. ANY OF THIS SOUND FAMILIAR YET?!
- MSN chat with one of your friends about the future. (ie summer plans).
- Check your email.
- Listen to your new mp3z and download some more.
- Phone your friend on the other floor and ask if she’s started writing yet. Exchange derogatory remarks about your professor, the course, the college, the world at large.
- Walk to the store and buy a pack of gum. You’ve probably run out.
- While you’ve got the gum you may as well buy a magazine and read it.
- Check your email.
- Check the newspaper listings to make sure you aren’t missing something truly worthwhile on TV.
- Play some solitaire (or age of legends!).
- Check out bored.com.
- Wash your hands.
- Call up a friend to see how much they have done, probably haven’t started either.
- Look through your housemate’s book of pictures from home. Ask who everyone is.
- Sit down and do some serious thinking about your plans for the future.
- Check to see if bored.com has been updated yet.
- Check your email and listen to your new mp3z.
- You should be rebooting by now, assuming that windows is crashing on schedule.
- Read over the assignment one more time, just for heck of it.
- Scoot your chair across the room to the window and watch the sunrise.
- Lie face down on the floor and moan.
- Punch the wall and break something.
- Check your email.
- Mumble obscenities.
- 5am - start hacking on the paper without stopping. 6am -paper is finished.
- Complain to everyone that you didn’t get any sleep because you had to write that stupid paper.
- Go to class, hand in paper, and leave right away so you can take a nap.
Saturday, November 03, 2007
This video is interesting to me on a few different levels: One, I'm interested in the ideas contained in the video and, more specifically, in the book. Two, I'm fascinated by the idea of short documentaries to introduce books (this has amazing implications). Is this the way to reach people who need motivation to read? Three, it's amazing to me that Alfonso Cuaron put together this video (the director of Children of Men, Harry Potter 3, Solo Con Tu Pareja, etc). What an interesting way to communicate such important ideas!
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I want my politicians to think like a mountain. I'm not joking. Aldo Leopold, the noted American ecologist who died fighting a bushfire in 1948, wrote an essay called Thinking Like a Mountain. He remembered back to his youth, when everyone killed wolves. So did he.
He felt, like everyone did, that immediate safety was the most important thing. And fewer wolves meant more deer. But after Leopold saw the fierce green fire die in the eyes of a wolf, he sensed that the mountain did not agree with such a view.
Over the next generation, deer ran wild and denuded the ranges. The mountains took years to recover. Leopold learned that "just as a deer lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in fear of its deer".
The short-term answer was worse than the original problem.
"We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life and dullness," Leopold wrote. "The deer strives with its supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes and dollars - but it all comes down to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough - but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau's dictum: in wildness is the salvation of the world."
And to me, in thinking long-term, wildness is the salvation of our society.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sometimes, I would rather punch you
Than have you read my poem
Communication can be so difficult
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
"Picture shows blood stain from an injured monk (not pictured) next to broken bricks after Myanmar security forces stormed a monastery in the eastern part of Yangon, early 26 September 2007. Myanmar security forces raided a monastery and arrested at least 100 Buddhist monks, tightening their grip after a violent crackdown on mass protests that left at least four people dead."
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Ira Glass is the brains, heart and larynx behind the wildly popular program This American Life; each show employs a theatrical, multiple-act structure to carve strange slices of life out of a unique thematic pie. The show began almost 12 years ago as a Chicago public radio program but has since mutated into an Emmy-nominated TV series on Showtime – a leap that prompted Glass and his team to relocate to New York City, bringing the radio version in tow. But Glass still keeps one foot in Chicago; he’s compiled a new book whose proceeds benefit 826CHI, the free writing program open to all students in Chicago. He’ll be appearing at Town Hall Monday night with Susan Orlean, Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman, who have each contributed to the book, called The New Kings of Nonfiction. (Tickets cost $30; all proceeds benefit 826CHI.)
Did you have any dreams of working in radio as a child? No, like most people I had no interest in radio. I only got interested in radio once I talked my way into an internship at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. in 1978, never having heard the network on the air.
You and Todd Haynes both majored in semiotics at Brown. Were you there at the same time? I think we were there at the same time but I didn’t know him.
Perhaps not everyone is familiar with what a degree in semiotics involves. Can you please sum it up for us? Yes. Semiotics is an unfortunately pretentious body of mostly French literary theory. What I liked about it was that it gives you a toolbox of ways to think about how to make a story. Semiotics is uninterested in questions like, “What did the author intend?” Or “What does this story say about the author’s era?” Semiotics is interested in how a story gives us pleasure, how it draws us in, why is it satisfying for there to be suspense and for a story to resolve. It’s all about what makes narrative engage us. And so there are things that I learned as a semiotics major that I use every day on my job.
Can you give us an example of that? One simple thing has to do with something the writer Roland Barthes writes about in his book S/Z. He talks about this thing called the proairetic code, which he cops from Aristotle. It’s a sequence of motions that creates suspense no matter how banal it is. You simply get the action moving. This thing happened, and then this thing and then that led to this next thing and then that next thing. And we inevitably wonder what will happen next. It’s like a striptease; we feel like things are going to be revealed. And we use that in every episode of the show. The reason why this show starts with action instead of starting with a theme song and listing what’s going to come up in this hour is because I think starting with action can just pull you into the show more deeply and then you’re inside the show and inside the story before you have a reason to wonder why.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
By Rick Perlstein
When Ronald Reagan ran against Pat Brown in 1966 for the governorship of California, the defining issue was college. Governor Brown was completing the biggest university expansion in modern history - nine new campuses. California's colleges and universities had been instrumental in turning the nation's biggest state into the world's seventh-biggest economy and an international cultural mecca - and they formed the heart, Brown presumed, of his re-election appeal. Ronald Reagan's advisers agreed and sought to neutralize the higher-ed issue by having the actor announce his candidacy flanked by two Nobel Prize winners. Reagan had other ideas. For months he told campaign-trail audiences horror stories about the building takeovers, antiwar demonstrations and sexual orgies ''so vile that I cannot describe it to you'' at Berkeley, the University of California's flagship campus. Reagan's advisers warned him that disparaging the jewel of California civilization was political suicide. The candidate snapped back, ''Look, I don't care if I'm in the mountains, the desert, the biggest cities of this state, the first question: 'What are you going to do about Berkeley?' And each time the question itself would get applause.''
It's unimaginable now that a gubernatorial race in the nation's largest state would come down to a debate about what was happening on campus. But it seemed perfectly natural then. The nation was obsessed with college and college students. It wasn't just the building takeovers and the generation gap; the obsession was well in gear by the presidency of John F. Kennedy. (In October 1961, Harper's devoted an issue to the subject.) The fascination was rooted in reasons as fresh as yesterday's op-ed pages: in an increasingly knowledge-based economy, good colleges were a social-mobility prerequisite, and between 1957 and 1967, the number of college students doubled. Reagan actually cast himself as this new class's savior, asking whether Californians would allow ''a great university to be brought to its knees by a noisy, dissident minority.'' To that, liberals responded that these communities' unique ability to tolerate noisy, dissident minorities was why universities were great.(More...)
According to my textbook, the problem with defining postmodernism is that it’s impossible. The difficulty is that it is so …. post. It defines itself so negatively against what came before it– naturalism, romanticism and the wild revolution of modernism–that it’s sometimes hard to see what it actually is. It denies that anything can be explained neatly or even at all. It is parodic, detached, strange, and sometimes menacing to traditionalists who do not understand it. Although it arose in the post-war west (the term was coined in 1949), the generation that has witnessed its ascendance has yet to come up with an explanation of what postmodern attitudes mean for the future of culture or society. The subject intrigued me because, in a class otherwise consumed by dead-letter theories, postmodernism remained an open book, tempting to the young and curious. But it also intrigued me because the question of what postmodernism–what a movement so post-everything, so reticent to define itself–is spoke to a larger question about the political and popular culture of today, of the other jaded sophomores sitting around me who had grown up in a postmodern world.(More...)
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
If you've been interested in exploring international cinema, but haven't known where to begin, hang this article on your fridge.
Beginning its second year, the Utah Valley International Cinema is cordially inviting students to attend free monthly screenings of foreign films.
Sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa and Reel Film Series, UVIC's primary purpose is to enable students to experience and enjoy international cinema.
Torben Bernhard, the president of UVIC, explained his motivation for launching the program: "At the time I started the cinema, I was probably watching five to 10 foreign films per week. I suppose I initially just wanted people to see the beautiful things I was seeing, and experience the films in the same way I was experiencing them."
Bernhard said that foreign films have a way of transporting us to a new culture that we know nothing about.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Saddam and a rope
we try to strangle ideas
but pull up
I wish I could punc,tu;ate my thoughts
Give myself a br;eak;
I'm sick of seeking inspiration in nature
I want to seek inspiration in my own nature
Find the valleys within me
Climb the mountains in my chest
Dig out truth from the corners
Of a being less known
Ode To The Beat
I never felt patriotic until I discovered the beat --
My hips possessed, gyrating to its rhythm
The melody could have birthed in my spirit
Fireworks and tired independence celebrations fail to move me --
Nauseated by insincere flag waving and shallow ribbons
Traditions of the past feel awkward
But the beat --
Driving my mind into the center of Miles' trumpet
Climbing out at the end of the 'I have a dream' speech
With enough time to hitchhike with Kerouac to a road of perceived freedom
Speeding on countless highways with jazz and intermissions of crappy rock n' roll blaring
Finding beauty in the grime
Discovering truth in the overlooked crevices of existence
An American spirit; raw and unique in form.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The situation in Burma is pretty terrible right now. More accurately, the situation has been terrible in Burma, but perhaps it has reached its tipping point. The last major protest they had in 1988 resulted in the killing of 3,000 protesters. The government has already reacted violently, throwing citizens in jail (including monks) and shooting a Japanese photographer for the world to see. Yesterday, I went to a presentation on the situation in Burma. Scott Carrier, a freelance journalists who has appeared on This American Life and NPR numerous times, was the presenter. He played YouTube clips for us, and discussed how YouTube has acted as a catalyst to broadcast the atrocities of a country that does not give out journalist visas. I'm sure the government will discover a way to suppress these postings, but hopefully this "glimpse" will spark some kind of reaction from the international community. Of course, Rwanda was broadcast over network television and motivated little assistance. Yesterday, as I was reading The New York Times, my attention was split between the front page article about Burma and the A.O. Scott review of The Darjeeling Limited. That feels so wrong.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Jon Stewart's ('84) Commencement Address
My best to the choir. I have to say, that song never grows old for me. Whenever I hear that song, it reminds me of nothing.
I am honored to be here, I do have a confession to make before we get going that I should explain very quickly. When I am not on television, this is actually how I dress. I apologize, but there’s something very freeing about it. I congratulate the students for being able to walk even a half a mile in this non-breathable fabric in the Williamsburg heat. I am sure the environment that now exists under your robes, are the same conditions that primordial life began on this earth.
I know there were some parents that were concerned about my speech here tonight, and I want to assure you that you will not hear any language that is not common at, say, a dock workers union meeting, or Tourrett’s convention, or profanity seminar. Rest assured.
I’m sure my fellow doctoral graduates—who have spent so long toiling in academia, sinking into debt, sacrificing God knows how many years of what, in truth, is a piece of parchment that in truth has been so devalued by our instant gratification culture as to have been rendered meaningless—will join in congratulating me. Thank you.
Monday, July 30, 2007
Times Online -
Ingmar Bergman, the dark arthouse director considered by many fans to have been the greatest film-maker ever, has died at the age of 89.
Bergman died early this morning at his home on the tiny Baltic island of Faaro, near Gotland. No cause of death was immediately given, but his daughter, Eva, said that he had passed away "peacefully".
Bergman made about 60 movies before retiring from film-making in 2003, including The Seventh Seal (1957), Winter Light (1963) and Fanny and Alexander (1982), which won four Oscars, including for Best Foreign Language Film.
A lot of people have asked me: if you disagree with what BYU or the government does, why don’t you just go someplace else? (A favorite suggested location is Berkeley.) I only know one way to answer them, which is to tell them that I love this place, and want it to be what it can be. After I answer this way, there is always another question: If you love it, why do you criticize it? My answer is the same: because I love it, and because I believe that integrity requires a mix of staying and going, charity and chastisement, and because I want to go to a school and live in a country that let me do all of the above.
I am an English major, and so I have taken the liberty of choosing the most dangerous and endangered word in the English language—integrity. I think it is the most dangerous word because it is one of the few words that requires us to critique everyone and everything equally, including ourselves. So I am here today at commencement to defend an endangered word, and to save a place for it in our political and academic dictionary.
I am certain that integrity requires great vision and great compassion, but I fear that these virtues are often poor friends. It is tempting for people with great vision to leave the places that need them most, and it is tempting for compassionate people to accept places as they are.
I believe that integrity is an ambivalent condition, and that people earning it believe painfully that people and places are good but that both can also be much better. This kind of person has two kinds of vision: one that sees the beauty in what is, and another that sees a beautiful urgency in what could be, the scrutiny of a seer and the prescience of a prophet. This compassion and urgency moves a person to critique herself, and then to critique because she wants them to be as much as they promised that they would be. Integrity requires the creation of community, and that is what we see here today.
Our schools, churches, and political parties are supposed to act like communities, but most usually teach us only how to survive. They might keep us from the worst things, might get us some jobs, pave a street. If they teach us much beyond that, it is a cruel kind of questioning, and interrogation that includes and condemns everybody but ourselves. But if we love what is and what is possible, and if we feel equally responsible to both, than I believe we will start with questions for ourselves and our institutions and our answers will not let us wait to be good. We won’t be content to survive; we will change our surroundings by becoming whatever is missing. But we will not stop there, and can’t. We will go further, because we will not agree to the survival of anything. We will stay and build a community, a place where things we live for—art, expression, beauty, fairness, striving, and giving—will not be eclipsed by the things that get us there. We will stay on as creators and participators amidst other creators and participators, responsible for each other as we are and for what we could be. Any other kind of staying is less of a straight look around and more of a lingering look back or sideways, more salt pillars and less salt of the earth.
Integrity isn’t staying or going, it is staying or going with all our might, without confusing the ugliness inside us for the ugliness outside of us, and trying to fix both. Integrity is not about leaving, surviving, or even questioning, but about giving our abundance to the poverty that we see. Integrity is how you stay or how you go, and a generosity in both.
But having vision means waking to an imperfect world, and what do we do with our dreams after that? Nothing good, until we learn that loving and criticizing amidst imperfection—our own and others—is not a hassle on the way to the point but the point itself. Knowing that, integrity isn’t just a question for people, but a question for politics and religion and heart, a question we must say yes to alone and then yes to together. If there is heart left, I think it would be difficult to stop integrity at the limits of our own body. The body singular would always be the body politic, and all our acts would have the creative motion of bringing, improving, and togethering.
But all is not well at BYU or in America if our fossilized feelings give us the righteousness of the already-finished, the now-to-be-endured, the soon-to-escape.
It is not noble to survive; it is noble to create and revise. Integrity is not smug separation, and it is not the worship of a rhetorical fossil. Integrity requires the ripple of revision, reform, restoration, and recreation. It requires the sacrifice of superiority and the awakening of awe. It reminds us that we should be stunned to be here at all, to be here with others, and to have something to give or restore.
I believe that survival is an insult to human beings. I am told that people need food, and water, and shelter, and that is easy enough to believe. That is what people need. But humans need to create and to be responsible for something, to love it and give back to it. Humans want to participate and, if they are sincere, to leave themselves everywhere.
The above has been my philosophy and my burden. It is my answer to why I have stayed at BYU and why I have organized this alternative commencement. I believe that if we do not shut ourselves against the horror of the modern world—its poverty and its corruption and its cruel economy—we would feel compelled at all moments to be generous so that everyone could be equal. This generosity includes criticism—fundamentally includes it. Criticism is admitting that we are living without eyes, and considering it a surrender to live happily with what gouged them out.
I am part of this commencement because I want people to have the chance to speak, and to speak better because they have had to listen. My school and my country do not allow enough of this, and they hurt themselves for that. I believe that ordinary people know what is best, and I believe that organizations that don’t allow ordinary people to improve them from the inside will be less vibrant, less fair, and less humane.
This requires something. It requires ethics in the present tense. As a nation and as a community we are too comfortable with ethics in the past or future tense. We are comfortable with revolutionaries who no longer threaten us, and with someday-people who will solve the problems that we are unwilling to address. As college students and community members, the best thing we could learn is that change always occurs within a context of cyclical arguments, manufactured virtues, and reasons not to act—not to be shocked or horrified. The barest fact is that everyone has a vested interest, and the barest virtue is to divest ourselves. If we learn this, we will be able to do the right thing at the right time, even when truisms and fallacies are ranged against us.
And so we should get to work, and spare no one our love, our help, or our ideas. We should consider it an honor to work, to sweat for something, and to give a brave offering to the imperfection around us.
Until we do this, we will live, for the most part, under Berger’s sacred canopy of the status quo. If we do not learn to live deliberately, to give a hard look to our institutions and assumptions, and to commend people who look, we will repeat history again and again. We will reinforce survival—unimaginative, task-oriented survival. We need to live looking around, deciding whether our institutions are doing what we designed them to do. Are our schools and our churches and our families places where we learn how to transform ourselves, where we are free to apply the lessons of history in the present, and where we are rewarded for thinking and not merely obeying, where we can be creative and thoughtful and human? If they are not, then we are not finished. We could start finishing by following Auden, who told it to me plain in a poem: “There is no such thing as the State/We must love one another or die.” We could start by using our integrity the way it ought to be used: to evaluate ourselves and others equally, and with love.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Additionally, I found the following article, written by my grandfather's friend, incredibly helpful also: