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.