Throughout Marcuse's discussion of language and how it has turned from substantive ideas to taglines and associations, I kept being reminded of a particular George Carlin routine.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miLZZiwOWlUThe routine consists of Carlin discussing the replacement of blunt, straightforward language in American society with long, politically-correct euphemisms that conceal the "essence" of what something particular is because Americans don't want to be reminded of negativity in their lives. He uses the example of post-traumatic stress disorder, which was originally called "shell shock" as his example, and traces how over the years, the original term was corrupted into incomprehensible babble that has nowhere near the same impact.While Carlin blames politics, Marcuse would probably blame advertising and the increasing mechanization of man (which Carlin does detail a bit with his discussion of the term "operational exhaustion") in an inherently contradictory rational world.
The start of Davis's "Life In the Iron Mills" is hands down the most depressing material I've read in months. A memorable passage appears in the beginning: "The long train of mules, dragging masses of pig-iron through the narrow street, have a foul vapor hanging to their reeking sides. Here, inside, is a little broken figure of an angel pointing upward from the mantel-shelf; but even its wings are covered with smoke, clotted and black. Smoke everywhere." This is a horrid image. Everything reeks, smoke clings to everything, and even the angel is not spared that contamination. That being said, after I adjusted to the depression, gloom, and vernacular, I enjoyed the quirky story. What I enjoyed most about it was that, unlike a lot of authors we have read in this class, Davis does not tell the readings her explicit feelings on a subject or topic. This is not a reading that details why Davis does not think laborers are paid enough, or how she thinks the conditions they work in are horrendous.Davis instead gives her view through a memorable narrative, which allows readers to come to their own conclusions, rather than telling them what they should think about something. She shows, versus, tells. An example of this is the absolute hopeless Wolfe feels after the rich men tell him he has talent (his sculpture), but none of them can help him.Wolfe has no reason to live, and the reader understands this.
"Life in the Iron Mills" somewhat reminds me of a George Orwell's book, "The Road to Wigan Pier". Orwell's book is about his first-hand experience of the mines in northern England. He's goes into detail about the terrible quality of the towns the miners inhabit, with smog-filled skies and piles of waste from the mines ever-burning on the surface of the earth. He also mentions the poor conditions the miners must accept, their extremely low wages, and the quality of life they must accept.George Orwell's book had a very similar purpose to that of Rebecca Harding Davis' as it was meant to spark emotions in its readers. The purpose behind Orwell's novel was to support Socialism with impending Fascism surrounding Europe, while Davis' book dealt with forcing its readers to see the truth behind the laborers and the toll that their surroundings takes on them.Having read both of these, Davis certainly impacted me as a reader more emotionally, even if this story is not as factual as Orwell's. Orwell views the situation in more of a political stance, as he more-so states the facts and their implications. Davis, on the other hand, lets the reader in on the character's thoughts and feelings, and focuses on a particularly bad situation, simultaneously criticizing the reader, forcing the reader to seek change in their society.
While I thought that Davis' "Life in the Iron Mills" was a beautiful piece of writing, Gilligan's "Cup of Death" was painful each and every time I read through a different plot line.I think it's something to note that for about the eight or so "adventures" I went on, all of them led to someone's death or a depressing ending. The main character was never the hero. Is that supposed to indicate that reality is rooted in depressing endings. So whenever was told that I could go back and make a different choice, I realized that every choice I made would end in the lady's death or me realizing that the cup was sitting at the original location the entire time.Davis' take on a realistic situation actually provides insight into labor and women's issues, and how greedy capitalism is essentially destroying humanity.
Gilligan's text demonstrates that there is no real emotional attachment involved in a the disembodied experience. Her language, vague and empty, attempts to allow its readers to experience a different culture without having to be physically committed to experiencing that environment:"'The true spirit of tea? What's that?' you press your friend. 'You will have to study the way of the tea to find out.'THE END" (111)The YOU that is experiencing this narrative is actually experiencing a story line in which the author doesn't need to make any real choices. Essentially, the language, Marcuse would say anyway, flattens out any contradictions through operationalism thereby eliminating any emotional resonance. In the same way video games attempt to give you a simulated experience (skinny nerds can jump cliffs on snowboards or shoot terrorists), without even a bit of real commitment or experience. Gilligan's language is obviously aimed toward American youth, but doesn't carry any "authentic linguistic representation," but instead "demonstrates its cultural superiority" (Marcuse). "Cup of Death" sounds like an exotic Japanese mystery, but really it relies on stock caricatures to place us in Japan. Plus, the concept of death loses its meaning when pointless decisions drive a plotline in the same way that freedom and democracy lose their meaning in political and propagandist discourse.
This response is perhaps taking Marcuse’s thinking in the opposite direction, but it made me think. I agree with Brandon’s view relating Marcuse and the Carlin sketch. However, I cannot think about euphemisms without thinking about the Victorians, famed for talking about ‘impolite’ topics while in polite company. For the Victorians, anything involving the body was taboo in polite company, ie with women, so arms were ‘limbs,’ pants were ‘unmentionables,’ when one was pregnant, one was in either a ‘delicate condition’ or an ‘interesting condition,’ a mistress was ‘a convenient’ or a ‘left-handed wife,’ etc. I tend to bring many things back to the Victorians—such an interesting era—but I find it particularly interesting in regard to this class because they were the first technologically advanced era.Marcuse, talking about thought outside of the scientific and technical, says that this ‘shapes the expression of a specific social and political behaviourism,’ an idea that fits in very well with the Victorian era. In fact, this describes prostitution and Victorian culture to a tee. Since one could not come out and call a prostitute a prostitute, one had to do it in a roundabout way. The only documents that referred to prostitutes as prostitutes were the scientific ones. All other mentions of prostitutes had to be done with euphemisms which shaped the political discourse. Even looking into the past, Marcuse’s view that the media influences the use of euphemisms is strong. Just look at The Maiden Tribute to Modern Babylon, a highly sensationalised, and utterly false, depiction of child prostitution, one example being the selling of £5 virgins. This was used as propaganda to influence reforms and eventually led to a law which rose the age of consent from 13 to 16. Without the panic this piece of journalism created, the law would not have been passed when it did. I find it interesting that this writing can be applied equally well to the past as to the present/future.
"Cup of Death" was a very difficult read. I completely agree with Dana about how this "make your own adventure" novel falls far short of just that. The different pathways are full of plot holes: for example, if and when you decide to follow Mr. Hata into the room marked "DANGER: Do Not Enter: Certified Personnel ONLY," (80) you find that even though there is "no other exit" (94) in the room, Mr. Hata, who you witness entering said room, has miraculously disappeared from the room...which, again, has no other possible exit.I felt that the entire book was a classic worst-case scenario expedition, as about 90% of the decisions you make lead to morbid death. Even the "happy" endings are completely ridiculous, as a lovely, dainty tea ceremony is supposedly enough to expel the main characters' curiosity, leading to abrupt forgiveness and the conclusion of the case because "some things are better left unsaid" (111).At least with good, modern role-playing video games you have much more flexibility with your decisions, as well as a more interactive and customizable experience. With the majority of the decisions you make in Gilligan's book, however, you are simply careening towards the predetermined path of death. Well, it's either that, or a completely underwhelming conclusion that makes you regret wasting your time to begin with.
I found that Cup of Death was not as interactive as I thought it would be. The options you recieved for each chapter definitely seemed to be leading you to a serious Moral Lesson ("If you tell Takashi that it's always important to tell the police in cases like this, turn to page 9") and the quickest way to get a happy ending seemed to be to go tell the police, call Takeshi about the car, and then listen to the fortune teller and do literally nothing about the theft of the cup. Bam, cup's back and everything's fine again. Of course on the other hand that's probably pretty boring for a kid who just got the book, so there is some reward in being bold and making unsafe / non-obvious decisions, but in the main those ones seemed to end up with the cup broken or you dead at the bottom of a river.
Like Dana and Pat, I saw many loopholes with Cup of Death. I don't know if it was laziness or the author trying to create more of an intellectual challenge for the reader. I personally read it as laziness, because, as Dana pointed out as well, it was written weakly in comparison to other make your own adventure books I've read. The language was fairly simple, which doesn't make it weak necessarily, but just made it less of a challenging read in that aspect. The plot, on the other hand, had no linearity from section to section, which I felt was the weakest component, and made the book the most confusing. I see this as unclean writing and laziness. I also felt like the culture she was trying to immerse us in was a cliche, overdone perspective of the Japanese culture. My brother has been living there for several years now (and studied outside of Kyoto for a while actually before committing to living there) and everything I've experienced through him, while it does line up with the book's culture in some respects, the book exaggerates it in a very cliche way. I've always enjoyed the choose your own adventure books, but this one did not live up to my expectations.
When I was in grade school we used to read choose your own adventure books, so going into this I was thinking that it would be fun to relive some of my childhood.Well, this wasn't the case. This book was terrible and each ending was incredibly unrealistic and hell bent on teaching either a cultural or moral lesson. Although I will admit, I read most of the endings, just to see if any of them were any better than the last. This book kind of reminded me of this:http://www.homestarrunner.com/dungeonman.htmlexcept Homestar Runner is way better.
Ahh choose your own adventure books, this brings me back to my childhood. After exploring numerous avenues and choices, I was never really satisfied with any of the endings. I also found some of the avenues to be very short, only a total of maybe 7 pages or so. I thought the ending in which you have to wash dishes after being caught as a stowaway. All in all, it was a fun read, just kind of a let down at times. As some mentioned, life in the iron mills was just downright depressing. The description in the first two pages really got you into the world, and how miserable and bleak everything was. It was a good representation of immigrant life though, and seemed historically accurate.
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