Book Discussion (The Importance of being Earnest)

After reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, I could see why Oscar Wilde’s work is still so popular today. His dry and witty humor is still hilarious to this day, and are a main reason why he’s as popular as he is today. But how his humor combines with his underlying messages to create an aspect of social commentary is really what makes his work timeless. It’s exactly this combination that makes The Importance of Being Earnest a lively play with an earnest message at heart.

Unlike The Picture of Dorian Gray, this play is overall much more jolly. Nonetheless, there are important lessons in the play, but I will cover that later. Wilde’s humor is at full display here- quirky one liners, constant irony, and much more to make a 17 year old boy laugh even today. Similar to the aesthetic motto at the time, Wilde truly makes humor for humor sake all throughout this play. However, the way he uses humor to mock the rich furthers this play to make it more than just a comedy. Simply put, Wilde wants all of us to be more honest with ourselves. As a result, we can attract the right people for the right reasons without having to lie. After all, lying is the easiest way to fatigue our creativity- something that Wilde would never want to happen.

Book Discussion (The Metamorphosis)

After reading Franz Kafka’s The Castle, my interest was peaked enough for me to buy The Metamorphosis. I was a ted hesitant at first though- his prose is strange and is hard to read. But his insight was overwhelmingly powerful that I had to read more. What I discovered in The Metamorphosis was a fascinating, somewhat humorous case study of the modern man in more accessible language.

Right away, this story was much easier to read. Nonetheless, the language was profound enough to create complexity. It still has the kafkaesque prose, just offered more clarity. This made Gregor’s case much more easier to analyze. The way Kafka can form the deep human thoughts about what we are doing in this world into this absurd story but still be very relatable is truly moving. He is able to harness these emotions and translate them into a dark yet humorous story that can tell us a lot about we want. He offers a lot of room for personal interpretation, which is an aspect of writing I have learned to appreciate.

While short, there is something to be studied on every page. Kafka writes every detail with purpose, and it just by trying to apply it to your own life leaves you changing, or enter a personal metamorphosis. I think every one should read this book, for it deals with issues we can relate to universally.

Book Discussion (Heart of Darkness)

Right off the bat, this book was very confusing to read. Wether it be the almost kafkaesque prose or the quick switch from flashback to present narration, Jospeh Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a fascinating tale with an experimental take on narration.

Like many of the books I read, my Father recommended this book to me. While I thought I was very unfamiliar with this novel, this was not the case. I realized that this book was extremely related to the movie Apocalypse Now, and then I found out that Apocalypse Now is directly based off Heart of Darkness. And after finishing both, I honestly prefer Apocalypse Now over the book. Nonetheless, I found this novel to be very refreshing. While I was initially bewildered at Conrad’s storytelling, I started to appreciate it for its uniqueness. It’s very abstract and long, yet very thoughtful and vivid. This really allows for him to bring out the struggle and confusion the protagonist faces. But it’s the story itself that is really interesting. Conrad does a really good job of exploiting the unknown fears humans think while in a new, dark place and under mysterious authority. Its suspenseful in a sense, but honestly more of a tale psychology through how the protagonist deals with the “heart of darkness.” I recommend this book if you want something different to read-for it can be hard to read. Yet, I think its worth it.

TV Show Review (Arrested Development)

Comedy shows are very divisive to me; I find many very banal and overall boring. However, this is not the case for Arrested Development. It’s no surprise to me that it has achieved a cult following because of it it’s wit and storyline.

I watched the first three seasons, and enjoyed every second of it. These are the original seasons before the “remix” after Netflix bought the show’s rights. Nonetheless, these three seasons are some of the humorous TV I’ve watched. From a writing standpoint this show is genius. It’s full of extremely witty and dry humor- which is my favorite type. While it has a more linear narrative than Curb, each episode is still somewhat independent, which is a form I tend to like in comedy shows. It’s very creative in how it ties events together and just a very funny and unique plot overall.

It also has some of the funniest characters in a comedy series I’ve seen. Each character is very different, yet the combination of them all is hilarious and they all have really good chemistry together. They kind of exaggerate their already stranger persona, but they pull it of naturally and really enhances the comedic aspect of each scene. I highly recommend this show to really anyone as it is one of my new favorites!

Book Discussion (Silence)

As a big fan of Japanese culture, I found myself having read no books by Japanese Authors. Fortunately, while in Powell’s Books in Portland, there was a table dedicated to Japanese literature. While I was browsing, Shūsaku Endō’s Silence caught my eye. To be fair, it was the foreword by Martin Scorsese that captivated me, but nonetheless I bought the book. When I started it, I was initially turned off- it’s main theme was Christianity. But after finishing it, I concluded that it was a great novel and really changed my perspective on God.

Personally, I’m not a religious man. However, I’m still very open minded and find Christianity to have good lessons and a fascinating story. Still, I didn’t like the idea about reading about priests. But while reading the introduction, a quote by Endō changed my mind. He said something along the lines of “this book is literature, not theology.” And when I finished it, I found it true. It’s a really detailed and insightful story, and I even thought the christian lessons and conflicts are moving.

Endō’s ability to tell this historical drama is truly page turning. The insight he provides based on personal experience translates to a powerful story that is full of emotion. His sombre tone combines with his emotion to create a very dark but inspiring story. In this, I really learned more about faith in God and life in general. One of the struggles I find in being a religious man is having this resolute faith while God is usually silent. The way Endō communicates this in his novel is very relatable to more than just Christians, but to all people who feel the odds are against them. The main lesson that this novel is to remain true to yourself, realize you can’t control everything, and move on from mistakes. Too often in this world we are against odds of authority that limit who we want to become. We shouldn’t bend to it, but also realize there will be a limiting factor in life. However, by finding faith in certain and things and most importantly faith in others, we can overcome anything.

Book Discussion (On the Road)

My Mother recommended this book to me while out in a book store, and I’m really glad she did. After reading Kazin’s A Walker in the City, I thought the “beat” generation was a fascinating movement of American literature. It really is off-beat from our traditional values, and Kerouac does a really good job describing this movement with his storytelling and prose.

Kerouac’s storytelling ability is one to be rivaled. It’s loosely based off a true story, but Kerouac’s ability to form this strange tale into words is really interesting to read. He’s really raw in his narration, describing the hardships Sal faces while meeting new people all over America. This storytelling is also enhanced with Kerouac’s use of imagery. He really makes things come to life with his long sentence and vivid descriptions. It’s truly beautiful to read.

While there are many lessons to be pulled from the book, the most important to me is to be more relaxed and appreciate what you have. Sal is practically homeless most of the novel, but he is able to find beauty in everything. Even when he is at his worse, he always finds a way to have fun. In addition, he heavily relies on other people. Wether it be his friends or family, he couldn’t have done anything in this novel without help from others. We shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for help when we need it.

Album of the Week (Pinkerton)

When I initially heard Weezer, I didn’t like them that much. I listened to them when I really didn’t like rock music much, and just didn’t like their sound. But recently I have been craving hard, upbeat rock- and Weezer’s Pinkerton is a perfect rock album. The heavy bass guitar and drums in this album combine to make my perfect rock album. It’s perfect to mosh and bounce too, but it’s not overwhelming. While you can tell there are many layers to the sound, it honestly sounds quite simple. I mean that in the sense that it’s just pure and fun rock, which is hard to find.

I also really like Cuomo’s voice and lyrics. He has some pretty intense moments where his vocals are very powerful. I really like how collected his voice is throughout the album. I think his lyrics are also a highlight of this album. They’re fun, nerdy and full of personal emotion. I really like how open Cuomo is. Overall, I think this is one of the best rock albums ever. I also really like The Blue album, but I prefer Pinkerton with its harsher tone.

Book Discussion (The Plague)

The Plague is the third book I have read from Albert Camus, and is by far my favorite novel of his. While it is a great book no matter the outside circumstance, reading it while experiencing the COVID-19 plague enhances the reading experience dramatically. There is so much more relatability and understanding for feelings we thought were so alienating from other times. For many, COVID-19 gave way to a massive personal transformation, and the way this novel explores it is fascinating. It puts the complex emotions I experienced during the isolation periods into words and characters, which gives these emotions a set of clarity. Camus uses his creativity to produce a very realistic scenario and set of characters to create a fascinating story. Combined with his philosophical insight, he explores how these characters transform during the plague, thus allowing the reader to transform themselves. It’s incredible how he understands human emotion and is able to form them into sentences.

While the story is the highlight of this novel, Camus’ prose should also be appreciated. His unconventional structure creates a strange, yet mesmerizing effect when read. It’s gloomy and mysterious, which adds effect to the grim narrative. His use of imagery also creates beautiful moments in the novel which are honestly magical to read and imagine. Overall, I really enjoyed this book; it was extremely moving and a true work of art to read.

Anime Review (NGE)

I knew right away Neon Genesis Evangelion was gonna be special; it’s unique characters, problems, action scenes, and overall ideas were powerful in meaning. As I watched it, it got better and better and now that I finished it, it is my favorite anime and one of my favorite pieces of media ever.

The highlight of this show is the narrative and philosophical themes, but I will dive into that later. However, another reason why this show is enjoyable is because of the cinematography and art. Being experimental is something that I really value, and this show executes experimentally to a degree I have yet to see elsewhere. The animation, especially in the latter episodes, are chaotic, trippy, and overall beautiful. They really add to strange nature of show. The overall art style, wether it be in the battles or simple tasks, are really special and deliberate which enhances the provoking emotion within the show.

The relatability of the characters and the philosophical inquiring this show produces are amazing. The way it conveys the darkest of human emotions into these teenage characters come of so naturally, it’s unrivaled. It exposes so many layers to the human psyche, but actually pulls it off in a way that I found fascinating and realistic. Shinji is truly one of the best fictional characters ever created. He is relatable, and the way the show explores his deepest problems really moved me. The way it does this is through deep psychology and philosophy themes. From referencing Jung too many other thoughts and questions, it’s truly engrossing. It’s honestly hard to write this review, this show is so multilayered and amazing it’s hard to put in words. Instead, you need to watch it for yourself.

Movie Review (Full Metal Jacket)

I am a big fan of Stanley Kubrick, so it was only natural when I saw this assignment I would want to watch Full Metal Jacket. I watched Paths of Glory and enjoyed it, so I was excited to watch Kubrick take on another war film. Right away, I understood while still anti-war, this film was more serious than Paths of Glory. In addition, it was overall more accurate. My Father told me that my Uncle, a Marine Corp. verteran, described the first act, the training camp scenes, to be the most realistic portrayal he has seen in film. The Tet Offensive was also a real campaign that is seen in the movie. And the overall attitude of the film is very realistic. Whether it be the Southern Vietnam distrust of the US soldiers, or even the soldiers distrust of the American Government, the actions within this film are mostly accurate. The book itself was based on a real life account from a Vietnam Marine Corp. veteran, there is plenty of realism that translated to the movie.

In this film we follow a young, aloof Marine private, nicknamed Joker, through training camp to the real battlefield of vietnam. His time at training camp is brutal. He has an extremely harsh drill sergeant, and deals with a troubled trainee. To my surprise, when they announce roles when graduating, he gets assigned as a reporter for a Marine newspaper in Vietnam. After a few scenes of Joker reporting and running around Vietnam, he suddenly gets assigned to an infantry squad to be in the field due to a witty comment to his superior. He embarks on a surveillance mission with a former friend from training camp, only to be plunged headfirst in a world of “hell”, as they refer to Vietnam in the movie. Through these vulnerable moments however, we see Joker’s climax as a character. 

A big notion of the Vietnam war is that it was futile, dishumane, and overall stupid. Kubrick does this well by exploring it through different characters and contrasting them. We see characters attacking each other, random citizens, and overall showing how individuals react to fighting in the war. The soldiers themselves often ridicule U.S. involvement in the war. 

While this film overall is anti-war, I see it shedding notions of duality and is just deep dive into Joker’s character. Kubrick also said something similar when he commented on the movie saying “It’s not pro-war or anti-war. It’s just the way things are”. War is a strange creation of the human psyche. We all question what we fight for, why, and against who. These questions were very prominent during the war, and are seen in Joker.

Joker clearly is an example of the Jungian thing, or the duality of man, he even mentions this during a confrontation about his peace sign pin that’s paired along with the writing on his helmet reading “Born to Kill.” Kubrick creates a fascinating example of what many were thinking at the time. Wether you like it or not, humans often think of violent dark thoughts, that we repress and hide away. Instead, we put on a mask of peace, literally seen as Joker’s pin. Other characters do this as well, they put on some kind of act just to get through the war. I think Pyle’s character contradicts this, as he is willing to be vulnerable and let his dark thoughts get to him, which ends tragically. Joker’s character also can be seen as an example of duality in his difference to his fellow soldiers. He is clearly smarter, his glasses being an ode to this, and is very witty and aloof compared to the tough soldiers. But I think Kubrick wanted to destroy this notion or label of conflicting or good vs. evil thoughts, and just have them be human thoughts. This is seen in the climax of the film as Joker acts on a violent thought. He sheds his sympathetic self and becomes this animal (also a name of a character he was extremely different from) he never thought he would become. By doing this, Kubrick kills the sentiment of this movie being anti-war, and just makes it war. 

P.S. It’s also interesting to note that Joker’s violent action may be seen as straight revenge, or by doing the victim. This paradox only adds more to the abstract sensation of what really is a war.