Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Push by Sapphire

This book absolutely blew my mind. As soon as it started I had to reread the line about having her father's child a couple of times just to make sure I understood it correctly. Needless to say, the book got more intense from there.
The thing I thought was interesting was how Clarice seemed to be able to take control of parts of her life even though she was so hopelessly out of control when the story started. It seemed like her way of dealing with people was almost identical to the way her mom would treat people that she didn't like (for example Clarice), with either threats of violence, acting out and not putting up with anything from any other people, or demeaning people in her head where they can't hear her. I feel like talking to herself is probably one of the first ways she learned how to defend herself from the ritualistic savagery she was dealing with at home.
The way the book is written, oddly enough, is one of the reasons why I feel like I can truly connect with Clarice. Although the things that have happened to her and her general way of life are so completely the opposite of my own, the characterization of her through the writing style allow me to really put a more humanized outlook on what I read. I get the idea that this is someone to whom life has been nothing but abusive, but at the same time she really doesn't understand it because it is all that she knows.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Pain and Music

I feel like the relationship between music and expressing pain is a tough one to boil down. Going by what I get from pop culture nowadays, a lot of the modern artists I feel exploit the idea of "the suffering artist" in order to amass a larger fan base and sell more albums. In some ways, one might say, you have to respect that as well. The artists that do this to make a buck are enough in tune with the pain and suffering some people can go through in order to write a song that everyone can feel related to, so that has to count for something, right?
Not so much, in my personal opinion. Nowadays, in our culture, I would argue that more people know of various types of physical and emotional pain rather than actually feel that way, thanks to various pop culture movements and the art of making cookie cutter movies. In my opinion, it is this knowledge, followed by the "fear of pain" that causes us to relate to the first embodiment of that pain we actually see, and it is that knowledge of how we are supposed to react to pain (thanks to songs, movies, etc) that then dictates how we actually react. Which then, in turn, leads us to buy more albums from that one artist that just totally gets it. This self perpetuating cycle is seemingly endless, and kind of depressing if it is true. But while I am cynical, I also can think of it from the other point of view.
On the flipside, there is no denying that there are artists that use music as a mode of self expression. Hell, they ALL might even do that, but I don't entirely buy that there are no artists out there faking pain to make a buck. Back to the point, though; some people, like Kurt Cobain from Nirvana, were generally messed up. Music then most likely became a way of letting those few people put their experiences and feelings into words; in a way, like the transition from the Chaos Narrative to the Quest Narrative. These songs are essentially the artist's journey through a painful experience, and when they are all put together they seem to provide a self-medicated storyline that almost anyone can listen and connect to.
Clearly the situation changes with the artist, song, and topic, but I feel in general that it is one way or the other.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Nic Sheff's Tweak is a book that is difficult to read. Not because the wording is particularly hard to understand, or because he says things I find it hard to relate to; on the contrary, it is disturbingly easy to follow where he is at in this book and recognize how he got there. It is a fantastic book, and it makes me want to read the one written by his father so I can get a perspective on his story from the man Nic has the utmost respect for.
It is not too difficult to connect with Nic in this story - I haven't gotten to the point he is at and I don't have any issues with addiction, but I see the reasoning behind what started him on that path and I can connect with it. The feelings he had and his life around him resonates a lot with the way I felt growing up and the lives of some of my friends, and it is not difficult to see myself or others in a completely different place and state of mind if we had reacted in the same ways he had.
Nic seems to be a man that is just trying to run from life, and from the normalcy he saw himself heading towards. He talked about wanting to excel at almost anything, and that his desire for attaining perfection drove him to start doing the things he did. It is interesting, because you hear about the stories of addicts a lot nowadays thanks to half the shows on TV and most celebrities being very open with the things they do - a lot of these people seem to do it more because it was convenient, or because they had a really crappy home life and didn't know how to handle it; most of Nic's life growing up, aside from dealing with a strenuous relationship between his birth parents, was spent doing fairly well for himself. Great at school, surrounded by friends and family but still feeling like an outsider, eventually he needed an escape from the life he had built up around himself and it led to to his addiction. This story is, without a doubt, easy to read - this combined with how simple it is to connect to on many levels made it difficult to put the book down.

Saw V

Saw V, the newest movie in the cash-magnet franchise, is not exactly a big deviation from the concepts set forth by its predecessors. While the movie's twists and turns are definitely out there, and in some cases might even be getting a tiny bit redundant, the real draw power of these movies comes from the mind twisting torture scenes and the idea that people could be put through these demented sort of games in order to be taught a lesson.
It is a kind of guilty pleasure for both myself and people I know to go to the movies and see a man being cut into multiple pieces in a sort-of "Pit and the Pendulum" style moment. Granted I wouldn't do this to anybody else, and you can be sure I don't want a draft going through my midsection, but there is without a doubt a sort of perverse fascination with scenes of typical people doing these types of things to each other. I think that the reason people can't get enough of things like this comes from the fact that we really can't see ourselves or other people doing these sorts of things, so when the images are put forward in front of our eyes we are forced to associate with these acts in ways we never really wanted to - essentially it allows us to live vicariously through the movies and characters portrayed on the big screen.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller

I thought this book was extremely interesting; Arthur Frank's explanation of each kind of pain narrative especially struck me as key for understanding how people deal with different kinds of pain.
The example used with Job in particular was very thought provoking. Explaining Job's situation as a puzzle shows a lot about our current culture; certainly it allows us to see that there was a reason for his suffering, that in the end he is happy again and rewarded for his fortitude in that terrible situation. If the story had gone a different way, however, and he was not rewarded, people would not have gotten anything of value from the story. It seems that we are looking more and more for the reason that things happen - because of the story of Job, so many people in desperate times can say "well it is all part of God's plan" and survive day to day. If there had not been any restitution for Job, now people would see it as a mystery. A problem unsolved and not likely to ever be solved, and as such it seems less worthwhile for people to keep faith in hard times and believe in a higher power. I just think it is interesting how so much of people's lives can be explained in that one simple example, that people need to be able to see the good coming out of a situation to deal with it. Granted it isn't like this all across the board, but most people I know, and myself in certain situations, react that way without a second thought.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

9/11 Graphic Novel

I enjoyed this graphic novel a lot; it is common knowledge about what happened on September 11th, 2001, and aside from documentaries, movies, and history books, I had thought that all possible mediums for getting different perspectives on the incident were running out - evidently this is not so. Putting the commission's report into the form of a graphic novel could have been done for more than one reason; whether to allow an artist to take personal liberties in how they want to depict the people in charge, or maybe just to spread the public knowledge on the actual report filed by the commission and what the findings happened to be - it is a lot easier to get a sense of what went wrong when you can combine the words you read with pictures of the situation.
The thing that I thought was most interesting was that it was based off of the actual 9/11 commission reports, and was cleared by the government to be turned into graphic novel form; right when I started reading it I could see how badly the government figures were being depicted, something that struck me as peculiar after how much effort the people in charge put into saving face. Granted they owned up to the fact that things were handled as badly as they could have possibly been handled, but the real extent of how seriously inept the countries leaders are shown to be in this graphic novel caught me by surprise.
Overall I enjoyed the way this was put together, and although the sometimes unfamiliarity and formality of the language made it a bit difficult to read without it seeming like an essay with pictures, I knew since it was based on the official report that I shouldn't expect too much else.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eternal Sunshine

Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind is one of my favorite movies; I've seen it at least ten times and every time I do I manage to get a whole new outlook on almost all aspects of the movie.
The one thing that popped into my head when we saw it in class this time was how ironic the position of the doctor who ran the memory erasing program was. His entire profession seemed to be devoted to the idea that people, wanting to avoid pain, should be able to erase it from their lives. By doing this, however, he only seems to be creating more pain both for himself, his loved ones, and his patients.
A good example of this would have to be when his secretary is on the phone with a woman who had apparently had the memory erasing program happen several times, to the point where she keeps re-enacting the issues that she wants to forget. It comes down to the point that he seems to be living for causing pain to others. Even when what he is doing comes back and bites him in the ass, when he loses his wife and secretary, both of whom he has feelings for, he doesn't cease his work. It is like he accepts it and keeps living his life, like causing pain in everyone else would inevitably lead to pain within himself, something he does not seem to want to lose.
Overall, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" does a fantastic job of opening peoples' eyes up to different sources of pain in our lives, and how we might react to them.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

About Me!

My name is Rich, double majored in both English and Communications at the University of Hartford.  I don't know what else to say about me, so I'll just explain why I picked the title I chose for the blog.  When I think pain throughout history, one of the first things that pops into my head is music.  Grunge music in particular, the steadfast picks like Nirvana are obvious, but I figured I would go in another direction.  Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands, and this is the opening line to one of my favorite songs by them.  Without going too much into it, the song is about someone asking for anybody to feel bad for him even though he is in a situation he put on himself, and the person he is asking is going through pain of their own.  This is a very, very boiled down description, but it also leads me to a thought going through my head when applying for this course.  Why do people bring pain on themselves, and then when they realize they feel bad because of it afterwards, they demand others share their pain, or help them lose it?  It happens all of the time, and seems to be a basic reaction to pain for most people.
Anyway, this was a perfect example of me getting distracted and intensely off topic, which honestly is a pretty darn good way of describing who I am!
I hope this helps!

Response to "PAIN: The Science of Suffering"

All-in-all, I have to say I really did enjoy Patrick Wall's book.  It delved far deeper into the science of, well, suffering, then I have to say I have ever really thought about before.  Possibly one of my favorite parts of the book occured early on, in chapter four.  This chapter, called "The Whole Body" details the various ways that the body may respond to a pain-related stimulus.  It went into a lot of detail regarding the ways that humans and animals would react to pain, throughout several stages.  One of the biggest reasons why this chapter interested me was that it offered a kind of explanation as to why someone that gets badly injured might be able to ignore that pain and focus on ways to get out of the painful situation; I had always assumed that the reason was because of nothing more than a rush of adrenaline, the kind of end-all be-all excuse for action movies and certain situations in real life alike.  To think that the brain is so complex that it can be aware of pain, but at the same time comprehend that there are more important matters at hand not only floors me, but also confuses me.  This idea seems to tie in strongly with the concept that the mind and body are two seperate entities - this is the concept of dualism, an idea that I feel has some merit, but at the same time I am unsure how to feel about the idea that decisions for how I might act in a certain situation are already decided for me.  Granted, it is good to know that I might automatically not feel pain if I am in a situation where I need my wits completely about me, and it is good to know that there is a set of behavior I might automatically follow in order to make sure I heal completely, but I am still unsure of how to feel about the whole concept in general.
Wall's method of writing is certainly very detailed, and I personally liked the fact that he included a chapter about the physical/medical terms regarding the effect of pain on one's body; this helped clear up a lot of issues I had about understanding the specific terminology and the physical way it all worked.