Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Short Readings

After reading the short stories about different ways of feeling as well as dealing with pain, it was interesting how each one differed. The Beard reading was about a woman who was saddened by the suffering of her dog, along with the departure of her husband. Midway through the reading, the audience discovers that it is truly about a school shooting in which one of her favorite colleagues is shot. Its a very tragic story. Although it is interesting that the writer chose to incorporate the story of her dog and husband along with the shooting, together, I didn't find it effective. The reader was led to believe the story to be about one thing, and completely shifted to another topic. She was very detailed within her writing which I liked.

The Richards story was not my favorite. Although she wrote very eloquently, I thought she could have created a more emotional response to what she was going through. I really liked how she talked about the fishing story. That felt more genuine than words could ever show. It showed the agony of the death her grandmother was forced to accept. I like stories that show deeper meaning and stand back and look at the larger picture about why they feel a certain way. I think she could have done this more within the story. I didn't feel connected to the writer, especially since I have never had to deal with such a thing.

The Strayed story was by far my favorite. Her intense honesty is intriguing. It's compelling that she brings up the idea that in America we go through certain stages of grieving and are only allowed an allotted amount of time to grieve before its considered a disease and we need help. I think she is pretty right about that. When it comes to a loss, it never gets easier to deal with, but you learn to move on. Its unfortunate that such an event has had such a huge impact on her to transform her life from that of a happily married young women pursuing a college degree, to a promiscuous, drug craving woman. Its amazing to examine how different people cope with life experiences quite differently. Why is it that we do that? What makes one method easier to cope with than another? Why is is that some people divulge into sex as a way of filling the void, while others prefer connecting with individuals sharing their pain? These are all interesting questions that we can ask ourselves. And there is no exact answer unfortunately.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


For some reason this book was difficult to get through. Due to the grammatically incorrect layout of the novel, I found it hard to really allow myself to dive in. I was focused more on the grammer rather than the text. Although I know this was the intention of the book, in order to show the reader a more in depth glimpse of what life was like for Precious, I think it took away from the emotional aspect of what she was going through. It was such a shame to hear of such a young girl being sexually abused by her own father, and physically abused by her mother. Both have contributed to her emotional abuse I believe, and her neglect as a human being. It's a shame that she was unable to receive positive reinforcement by her parents, but rather a destructive chain of events.

The worst part is that she is unaware of the full capacity of what is right and wrong. With her fathers sexual abuse, she says she hates it, yet it feels good sometimes. As for her mother, she gets verbally and physically abused, yet she finds similarities of herself with her mother. Overall she has a difficult time in understanding the events that have taken place in her life, and how those events have shaped who she has become. Although she has been faced with a great deal of pain, she learns to overcome some of this pain and this gives the book a sense of hope.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Beautiful Boy by David Sheff

WOW is all I have to say. I thought this book was a joy to read as well as very interesting. I finished the book within two days, and continued by reading the sons book Tweak by Nic Sheff. I think David Sheff did a wonderful job in bringing to life his story about his sons addiction. He frequently questioned himself throughout the novel, yet by the end it seemed as if he learned the painstaking reality that he can not choose what his son chooses for himself. He can wish and hope his son chooses a life that is fulfilling and filled with happiness, but he cannot force this upon him. It seems as though David's hardest thing to cope with was the control of his son's life. He felt he did was he could as a father to provide the necessary tools for a successful life, and he see's his sons addiction to meth as a way of throwing that away. Along with this, I think David feels like he has failed his son in many ways, whether it was the divorce or for causing him to constantly shift from his family during the year, to his mothers over the summer.

One of the most heart wrenching things is the impact his sons addiction had on his life, along with the rest of the family. There were some parts where I could completely empathize with the father. Here he was giving his son so many chances, as I am sure most parents would do, yet each time he was disappointed. Although you root for Nic to get better and overcome his addiction, I felt as if he was very selfish for putting his own needs before anyone else. He would leave for days at a time leaving his family in a panic, while he was carefree. I think David's story was one of a quest because he slowly comes to the realization that he needs to do what's best for himself and the rest of his family, and Nic can choose which life he chooses to live. Although this is very difficult for him, I think he is doing the appropriate thing. It makes me wonder if Jasper and Daisy will grow up and resent their brother for causing so much strife within the family? Will they resent the missed personal time with their parents because they were busy dealing with Nic? Although David touches on the notion that Nic was forbidden to see Jasper and Daisy while he was relapsing, I still feel as though they would have missed out on some things because of their brothers addiction. The one part that made me somewhat emotional was when Nic gave Jasper a letter saying how he was sorry and that " I will be here for you. I will live, and build a life, and be someone that you can depend on" (p. 233). Again he relapsed again...

Another interesting thing is how David always managed to stick up for Nic. He insisted that the Nic off of drugs was not the same Nic who was on drugs. But when I read Nic's book, ironically, he thought the complete opposite. He felt like no one when he wasn't on drugs, and when he took drugs he felt important and carefree. He felt like a completely different person, and although he liked some parts of his life when he was off drugs, he insisted that it was too hard, and he felt too empty to not have drugs. It was more than just the addiction to drugs and the high, but he felt that drugs filled a void. It makes me wonder where exactly this void originated from. Maybe from the divorce? Maybe from his two homes? It's hard to say though. He did well in school, he attended Berkely for at least a year and seemed like an overall good kid. It was sad to think that the father blamed himself somewhat for his sons addiction. He either believed it was caused from a situation that he produced or it was derived from his own experimentation from when he was younger.

The best part about the two books, was how, whether on purpose or accidental, the stories fit together like a puzzle piece. The fathers story layed out the framework for Nic's childhood and his divorce. The father also would speak of days in which Nic was gone for days at a time. Nic's book filled in those gaps. He mentions what he did during those days he was gone. It's amazing how much a drug can effect someones life. He prostituted his body for money. He tried stealing items from his families homes. He was completely desperate and vulnerable. He had a near death experience, yet says how he would wake up from blacking out and do more drugs. Along with that, it is also amazing to see how much a body can handle. The father even mentions a time when he found a journal entry listing a typical days worth of drugs: 1.5 grams speed, 1/8 oz of mushrooms, 2 klonopin, 3 codeine, 2 valium, and 2 hits of e. It's astonishing.

Overall I thought both books were amazing. I read both very intently and quickly. I have even recommended them to my friends and family because I thought they were so good.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

This book was very interesting since it talked about disease in a very different way. It presented the idea of storytelling and the need for an individual to speak about their story in order to cope as well as help shape how stories are told. There are a variety of key ideas he proposes about illness. One being that the main problem the body has regarding illness is that although people tell stories about their bodies, "what is harder to hear in the story is the body creating the person" (p. 27). Frank also proposes four general problems of embodiment including control, body-relatedness, other-relatedness, and desire. Within these four general problems lies four ideal bodies including the disciplined body, mirroring body, dominating body and communicative body. Within these ideal body types, lies the need for stories which can be broken into three different narratives including resitiution, chaos and quest. It is interesting how Frank organizes the process of stories and how they develop from a persons illness. Although I think some of this is acurate, I dislike some of the terms he uses to describe them. For the ideal bodies, for example, he explains each as a way to group an individuals response to illness, and I wouldn't consider this "ideal" but more of a reality of what occurs. He then contradicts this notion, by saying the most ideal body is the communicative body, yet they are all grouped under ideal bodies? Overall I like how he set up the book in terms of sections and information, but he tended to repeat himself and his theories quite often rather than getting to his point.

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

After watching this documentary I was shocked to see the treatment of these prisoners. It reminds me of the first book we read which talked about the the idea that it is hard for people to picture the horrors of war when it is so far away. Although I have heard of similar acts, it is quite different to see the horror first-hand. What I also find quite interesting is how only a few people actually questioned the morality of these inhumane torture techniques. The few who did question this, however, did very little to challenge this treatment.

Besides blaming the prison guards, the government is also to blame because of their ambiguity of what forms of torture are appropriate. I understand the confusion since Iraq was not a part of the torture agreement during war, which makes anything fair game. But isn't American supposed to be advocates of human rights and dignities?

This documentary gave a very insightful look through the eyes of both prisoners and guards in order to show a clear picture of how this came about through certain policies and events. Much of these torture techniques were put into place after 9/11; which was a time of chaos and fear. The biggest question that comes up is if there are other places that partake in this action under American guards and soldiers. Maybe Abu Ghraib is the only place noticed for partaking in these actions because there are pictures and videos to prove the devastation. It leaves us to ponder the idea of how would we handle such a situation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The 9/11 Report

After reading "The 9/11 Report" I was surprised by the format of a graphic novel. I thought it was rather strange that a cartoon format was used for such a historical event. I would have been more impressed if the pictures were real photos that captured the essence of that day more vividly. I understand that the point was to get across to the "general public" but before this class I have never even heard of such a report. Although it is a good substitution for the actual report, I would have liked a different approach rather than the one taken.

While I was in D.C. last semester I was able to go to the newly built newseum which had a section devoted to 9/11. It has various pictures and a video of people's accounts along with footage of that horrible day. It was very effective in showing the emotional and heartfelt aspect of what happened. Again, this reiterates the idea that pictures are much more effective than a cartoon. It makes it as if it's a fairytale of sorts, and odd to combine the two worlds of reality and fiction.

Although I did not like the format, I thought the report was very helpful in the background as well as timeline of events that took place on that fateful day. There were some things I did not know so the book helped me understand those events more thoroughly. I was only in 8th grade when 9/11 occurred. It was actually strange because my school lied to us due to fear of a panic. They told us that there was a plane that hit the Lincoln tunnel and so if our parents worked in NY they would probably be delayed getting home. After coming home and turning on the television I realized the horrible realization that the World Trade Centers were hit. I find it pretty odd that my school didn't tell us what really happened, but I somewhat understand.

The book, however, was an easy read for the most part, but I am somewhat skeptical as to the actual events (in terms of the governments knowledge and lack of interference). The actual events on the day of 9/11 are clearly accurate, but I question what was said and done behind closed doors. It is clear that there are many sectors within the government that need to collaborate in order to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again. Hopefully we don't repeat history.

Overall I liked the report minus a few things. Although I dislike the format, I think it is good in the sense that it is simple and to the point. This helps broaden the spectrum of people who have the opportunity to read it.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag

Although the content of the book was interesting, it was like pulling teeth to finish the mere 125 pages. I have never been a history buff and so a lot of the references were either confusing or not interesting to me. Her analysis, however, was very interesting. It makes you question everything you see pretty much. A photograph, although it can capture an intense war moment, can also have been posed. When we think of photograph's, we think of a moment in time that is captured, but Sontag makes the reader question the validity of a photo we may encounter. But at the same token, a photograph can be very effective in sending a message, whether showing war in a positive light or a negative. Similar to the media, photographs can be biased; the photographer chooses what to take pictures of, and also what they don't want to show. It was also interesting that Sontag discusses the idea of controlling what is shown to the public, and what is not. I feel that it is quite unfair to demand such a thing; America is meant to be a democracy and freedom one of our main attributes. People should be able to decide what they view and what they view with discretion. On the other hand, I agree with the notion of withholding certain photographs if a family member or loved one is shown in a demeaning way. But overall I feel that photographs are important in giving "safe" people a glimpse of the realities of war. It is important for the American people to be informed. But as Sontag states, how much do we need to see in order to do something about it? That's the funny thing, war is like a car crash, you can't help but look, yet you do nothing about it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

After watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I was actually kind of sad. The movie is about a man, Joel who falls in love with a woman named Clementine. After dating for a couple years, Joel discovers that she has erased him from her mind and has no recollection of knowing each other. Saddened by this, Joel goes to the doctor to have the same procedure done, yet realizes halfway through the procedure that he still loves her. The story is about the ability to erase someone from our memory, and the effects that follow that decision.

The movie made me wonder how we would react to such a phenomenon of being able to erase a person out of our lives. Part of me thinks that it would be somewhat freeing, while the other part of me is completely saddened by the idea. I would never have experienced the joys that come with the pain. "Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe you have to let go of who you are to become who you will be." It's interesting to think that because of the past we either hold back more or less. When you get hurt by someone, you build a wall up, as if it's our bodies defense mechanism. This relates back to physical injury brought up by Wall, in the sense that when we injure ourselves our body produces pain and inflammation in order to reduce using the injured area. I believe our minds work in a parallel manner. When we are hurt once, we build up certain mechanisms to prevent it from happening again. Yet the ironic part is that pain is inevitable in most circumstances. Through watching the movie I looked back on my own experiences and although I know some have had a considerable impact on me, part of me doesn't regret the pain. Love, for example, is an amazing experience, and although I suffered from that, I also have some of my best memories. "Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts.Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love, but in reality love is the only thing in this world that covers up all pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in this world that does not hurt."

Overall I think people are willing to sacrifice pain in order to feel the pleasures in life. As they say, you don't know what is good until you have experienced the bad. We wouldn't appreciate the "good" moments if there was nothing for us to compare them to. And most importantly, "although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"Pain: The Science of Suffering"

After reading the book "Pain: The Science of Suffering" by Patrick Wall, I was left with a completely different understanding of pain. When we feel some type of pain throughout our life, the only thing we can think of is how to make it go away. It's amazing to see the physiological aspect of what is actually occurring. It's interesting how the author begins by laying out real-life events and how one reacts.

In the initial time period of an emergency the main focus is survival, escape and rescue, but once this time has elapsed pain sets in. He also points out that pain isn't dependent upon a certain injury. We all feel pain differently in different circumstances. Wall takes what is the general belief, and chapter by chapter, he unravels the old beliefs, with a new way of thinking. Originally it was believed that the body and mind were two separate entities. Wall shows that as pain is encountered, many things happen both in the body and the brain. There's alertness, orientation, attention and exploration. The author then divulges into the idea that each persons experience with pain is different and the amount of pain is effected by both our individual attitudes along with the cultural expectations. Wall believes that the actual feeling of pain is simply the brains reaction to a particular situation in order to find an appropriate action. It is clear that Wall provokes us to question the original beliefs of pain and how to cope successfully with pain.

The most interesting topic throughout the book was definitely the idea of the "Phantom Limb." It's amazing how the body can re-grow nerves, and how this re-growth can cause pain in the limb. It's weird to think that a person can comprehend the message of the brain that is saying you have no arm, yet your body has a sensation in where your arm used to be. This is unfathomable.

Overall, I found most of the book very interesting, but there were some areas that lost my interest. During the chapters in which medical talk was prevalent, it was hard for me to see the bigger picture. I have never been the science fanatic, so those areas lacked my attention. But it was definitely interesting hearing the perspective of a doctor, and how pain is often overlooked or if there is no cure it is considered within the mind of a person. I feel this topic needs more attention and research.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

About Me

So as my first Blog post I figured I would introduce myself. My name is Stephanie, and I am originally from Princeton, New Jersey. I currently attend school at the University of Hartford pursuing an English degree. I hope to attend Law School after my undergraduate studies. Where that may be, I don't know, but I intend on staying on the east coast. I am also involved in the Cheerleading Team as Captain here at UHA. Along with cheerleading I am involved in the Delta Zeta Sorority as well. As an involved student both inside and outside of the classroom, I hope to gain a range of knowledge from this course focusing on pain. I will be analyzing both the physical and emotional aspects of pain, and how they effect each other. Furthermore, I hope to engage myself in an in-depth look at what causes pain, and how each individual may deal with pain. I intend on questioning my current beliefs and compare them to the readings throughout this course in order to have a broader understanding of what pain entails.