Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Torture Porn"

I really enjoyed reading both of these articles. It is definitely true that people are infatuated with viewing these “torture porn” films. I think this is because like Murray says, we want to feel intensity and fear. We want to be scared and it gives us a feeling of ecstasy and a sensual experience. This is true, watching a scary movie you have such intense fears and your entire body is involved in the process. We have discussed the “dark side of human nature” and I think wanting to view these types of movies goes along with that idea. Although no one likes to admit it, there is a dark side that humans posses and I think that watching these movies is a release. We (most of us) don’t go out and kill people, but we get a weird “pleasure” when we watch a scary movie. I think it goes back to our animalistic qualities, but we are expected to be civilized. As we have seen in our discussions many times what happens in this world is anything but humane. These movies are a way to live out our animalistic instincts that are unacceptable in everyday activity. Movies are a way of escape.

I also found it interesting in this article when Murray discusses how the world views the U.S. as not educated on world events and us thinking that money makes us invincible. She discusses the Hostel movies in showing this perception of Americans. She uses this theme to show how horror movies might at time seem cheesy, but actually include themes that are relevant to the world. Also the question arises, does it take more to shock people our age because we were subjected to the 9/11 tragedy at a young age? Are we numb to viewing these horror movies? I don’t think that this is necessarily the answer, but I do think that violence real and fake being portrayed everywhere in the media has something to do with this. We see violence as an everyday occurrence and it takes more to shock us. My parents always talk about how when they were kids there was far less crime than nowadays. I think people our age are used to hearing, seeing and living with violence so it takes a lot to scare us.

I really found the Rehling article interesting about male heterosexuals in horror films. I think the irony in this article is that the position of power is traditionally a white male. In this article Rehling argues that these characters have lost their identities and are trying to be individuals. I find it interesting that in real life there have not been many women or minority murderers. I would think that white males, traditionally being the most powerful when minorities and women were once viewed inferior, would be the most comfortable in their position. On the other hand, the author discusses how minorities and women have always had specific identities and groups to which they belonged to. Being male and white is seen as very vague and empty. At the end of the article she refers to the white heterosexual male as ordinary, but also extra-ordinary. I think this is very true. We think of being white, male, and heterosexual as ordinary, but the lack of self identity and group identity seems extra-ordinary.

I also liked how Rehling compared the killers to the detectives that are trying to find them. These parallels were very interesting and even made the detective question, how can I be like him? In one of the movies the killer even says to the detective, “We are a lot alike.” There is an obsessive pursuit, for the detective “to get” the killer and for the killer to continue their mission and get away with it. This obsessive need for each other mirrors the issue of finding an identity.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. Frank

This book was difficult to follow. I think Frank had some interesting viewpoints, but it was very hard to see the actual application of these in real life instances. Frank is good about incorporating quotes and attempting to ties people’s experiences into his theories, but nothing hit close to home where I could see his point and definitely agree. Also to make it more difficult, he uses fancy words and makes his points a lot more wordy and spruced up than necessary.

Another thing that I don’t agree with is that this book is precisely what would happen in a perfect world. In a perfect world everyone would tell their experience through their own bodies, effectively communicating with others around us and all understanding one other. Frank emphasizes too much on how people should act, rather than realistically how people have acted and will continue to act. I don’t believe readers of this book are going to have an epiphany and act in different ways than they have been their entire lives. I do not want to be too critical, but I do not see the point of writing a book that does not have any practical purpose, except for entertainment purposes. This book goes on with too many assumptions about human behavior and ignores how humans really act (in dealing with their own illnesses and others). Which is different depending on the individual. Every other book we have read this semester has realistic views that are easily relatable, but this book is a stretch.

I agree with the fact that the medical world needs to take into account people’s personal stories in order to help them, but I thought that Frank was very critical of modern medicine. He seems to undermine its importance in society. One section that caught my attention was when he compared chemotherapy to torture. I understand how going through chemotherapy can seem like torture, but then Frank makes the argument about how useful it really is. He uses an example of a woman that thinks chemotherapy didn’t help her at all. I want to believe that medical treatments such as chemotherapy are necessary with serious illness and that they are somewhat helping to fight the cancer. My grandmother has gone through multiple chemotherapy treatments and has killed all the cancer in her body. She continued to work during her treatments, not that she had to (she is very well off), but out of choice (she said it kept her busy). She never complained and told me that sometimes she was only a little sore. She was extraordinary, her doctors raved about what a miracle patient she was and how she barely had any side effects. This being said, I would hope that the medical treatment and her positive attitude both had to deal with her impressive healing. It just bothered me how Frank seems to denounce modern medicine. As much as I would love to say that people are responsible for healing themselves, I do not think that is entirely true without the help of physicians and medical help.

Also, Frank constantly refers back to stories and terms that he has presented in previous chapters. I found this difficult because sometimes I needed to go back and refresh my memory as to what he was discussing. This became aggravating because it interrupted what I was reading in order to back track. If this was done seldom it wouldn’t be an issue, but I found myself constantly looking back to previous chapters, I don’t think a book should ever make the reader constantly flip back pages.

I might have been a little critical of this book; it’s not a bad book. I just think that it is a book that the reader needs to be highly engaged in to fully understand. Between constantly back tracking and the difficult vocabulary, it is a book that can easily lose the reader. Also, his ideas are very idealistic which conflict with mine that are more realistic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

Wow, I don’t know what else you can say after just watching this movie. During our discussion there was so much to say, but I was speechless at the same time…very weird feeling. I think I was still soaking everything in. I’ve seen most of those pictures before, but seeing it all put together in a documentary with the people involved hits really hard.

We discussed in class about the dark side of human nature and if people can transform in certain situations. I have a hard time sympathizing with the guards because it is difficult for me to kill a fly in my house let alone torture a person until they are practically on the verge of death. I know I haven’t been in the military, but I’m sure I couldn’t “suck it up” and do the job that they were doing. Everything about it just seemed horrible. I was really appalled when the woman would take pictures of the prisoners being tortured or the guy that died with a big smile on her face and thumbs up, it’s like are you serious? Her excuse was they believed he had already died of a heart attack…ok, well whatever she thought he died from, the point is that he is dead and she is smiling; I thought it was absolutely disgusting and disrespectful. Even though all of the prisoners were thought to be enemies (but without any real evidence), I still have a problem with someone being happy and taking pictures of someone dead. Also, one of her excuses was that she smiles and does a thumbs up in all of her pictures…I do not even think I need to comment on that statement, you are probably thinking the same thing as I am… ridiculous.

Anyways, the guards were under the impression that their work would have global implications. But at the end of the day, none of the prisoners were charged and all were released…that makes the whole situation that much worse. I understand the government wanted to find information and the people responsible, I just wonder how could the U.S. have gone about this in such a poor manner?? We are known for treating people humanely and claiming equal rights for everyone. All of the people were released with no charges, that means all of the people in the prison may have been innocent civilians and have been tortured for nothing. That boggles my mind.

I do not think that I would be able to live with myself after treating so many innocent people terribly and also being responsible for some of their deaths. Isn’t it convenient how the number of deceased was never released?? It’s hard to put myself in the shoes of the guards. They are being told to do this by their superiors and believe to be doing a good thing…I just do not understand how no one drew the line and said “this has gone too far”, especially when people were seriously injured and dying. I can never imagine going numb to viewing those types of things and if that is true, if humans are able to go completely numb, I am frightened for humanities sake. Can we as humans become so numb that we are comfortable with anything??? After watching the documentary about Abu Ghraib I would have to say that it seems as if humans can be numb to pretty much anything. I’m not trying to judge because it is a difficult situation, but when I saw those pictures and people smiling as those men were suffering I couldn’t help but to think that everything going on there was just wrong, plain old wrong.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The 9/11 Report Graphic Adaptation

This version of the 9/11 report really kept me interested and I enjoyed it very much. I thought it was organized in a way in which it wasn’t very difficult too understand what was happening and the order of events. At first I was really uncomfortable with the cartoons. I flipped through the pages before I began to read and thought that it was almost disrespectful in a way to portray this in cartoon form. When I saw one of the planes striking with the caption “baaammmm” I was really shocked, taken back and unsure as of what to make of it. After reading the entire book my view has changed. The book states that the goal of the cartoon version is to get more people of different ages and background to read this report. I do believe that more people would rather read a simplified cartoon version than lengthy text that is hard to understand. The pictures and simple captions did make it easier to understand and solved the problem of looking at enormous volumes of text and just thinking to myself “when is this over.” The reading was pretty easy to understand and also went by faster than a traditional book. I understand that the purpose of this was to get more people to read the report; to help people get educated. This is important during these times when many people are not informed as to what is going on in our country and in the world. I won’t be cynical because I along with many other people become too involved in my everyday life and need to take time to see what’s happening around me or “the bigger picture.” Although I have become more comfortable with the use of cartoons, because I know there is a positive purpose behind it, I’m still not sure about other people’s reactions. Someone that has lost a family member or friend in the tragedy may be offended by this depiction of the event. Would I be offended if I lost someone dear to me and then saw it in cartoon form? Quite possibly, the cartoons come off sometimes comical with witty captions, this may be difficult for some to see (and I totally understand). So, although the cartoons make it easier for some to read, I don’t know if everyone would appreciate how the cartoons make the issue seem “light”. My feelings are still mixed on the issue.

I thought I was well educated on the events surrounding 9/11, but this report has taught me a lot to which I was unaware. I was really astonished by all the red alerts that the government had and there was no action taken. Certain lines stood out to me…”The growing threat and capabilities of Bin Ladin were not understood in Congress”…And when Clarke says, “When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them.” Quotes like these really send chills down my spine because it raises the question about “What if” Obviously, no one can tell the future, but there were definite signs that should have been addressed. It is mind boggling when we think of such a small organization with not a lot of technology doing this to a super power as the U.S. The extremists had the organization, funding, planning and execution that should be the characteristics of a super power, but in reality was a small terrorist organization. It should be flipped! We, as hard it is to admit, were not prepared for anything like this. We weren’t as invincible as we thought and we still aren’t…

I think that the commission has a lot of good ideas, but it isn’t that simple. These ideas and such need to be implemented in the correct ways, and carried out thoroughly in order to have a chance. Plus, who even knows if they have not overlooked something else crucial, and possibly be just as vulnerable as we were on 9/11. In politics everything is separated by party and seems almost as a popularity contest. In order for anything constructive to be implemented our nation needs to unite together and put differences aside. At this point in time our country is anything but united… The real scary part is that with all the other commotion I do not think that there are adequate measures for if something of this magnitude happened again.