martes, 23 de agosto de 2016

AMERICAN BEAUTY...Directed by Sam Mendes

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Happiness exists in American Beauty as a myth, as a goal, and as a disguise. All of the characters are engaged in the pursuit of happiness, although they have very different ideas about what happiness is and how to find it. This is one of the qualities that truly make American Beauty a film about the modern American experience: if being American means having the intrinsic right to the pursuit of happiness, why is the "typical" American so deeply unhappy? At the beginning of the film, Lester Burnham realizes that despite the dire nature of his current state, it is still possible for him to become happy once again. Slowly - and then with growing intensity - he begins to pursue happiness by paying close attention to his true desires, and ignoring the screeching dictates of society (as embodied by his wife, Carolyn). At the close of the film, Lester finally realizes that he has found true happiness...and in the most unlikely way. What makes this film so unique is that Lester pursues happiness in a manner that runs directly counter to the ideals of "respectable" society: he does drugs, takes a meaningless job, and pursues a sexual affair with a fifteen-year-old girl. Lester has become so blinded by his willingness to walk the straight and narrow that he must return to a fundamental - and arguably juvenile - state in order to recapture the happiness that he once enjoyed. Meanwhile, Carolyn Burnham represents the commonly-held belief that happiness is about perception: she is happy if she seems pulled together, confident, and successful - in other words, she is happy if others think that she is happy. She believes that by pursuing success she is pursuing happiness, but in reality she is merely attempting to dampen her own misery over the wreckage of her marriage and the narrowness of her life. Her daughter Jane, in contrast, is completely immersed in her misery. She displays it for all to see, from the clothes she wears to the company she keeps. Jane is so used to living in a state of perpetual unhappiness that when she meets Ricky she continues to obsess about her terrible home life despite the fact that Ricky's situation is clearly far worse.Ultimately, American Beauty endorses the pursuit of happiness as the only thing worth living for. At the end of the film, Lester's murder seems almost inconsequential; how can Lester's end be viewed as a tragedy when he was lucky enough to know true happiness in the months before he died, and when so many others never know it at all?
Many of the characters' problems stem from their failure to develop or maintain a coherent identity. Lester finds happiness by separating his sense of self-worth from his job and his home life. He learns that even though his boss and wife treat him as though he's worthless, that doesn't mean that he is. Angela believes that her identity is founded entirely on her sexuality. She fears being "ordinary" because she has confused ordinariness with physical plainness, and has confused physical plainness with having no identity. Carolyn Burnham is one of the film's most tragic characters because she has literally replaced her identity as a person with a collection of material things. Carolyn Burnham has a perfect suit, an expensive couch, and a new car, but she has lost the vivacious personality that Lester Burnham fell in love with. When he attempts to remind her of how she once was, she viciously defends her current state, thus protecting her belief that her priorities are in order and that she is successful because she possesses the "important" things in life. Ricky is the one character who does not fall victim to this problem of identity: his awe-inspiring strength comes from his ability to retain a clear sense of self despite constant abuse from his father. Even when he discovers that his father's love is truly conditional, Ricky is able to fearlessly pursue Jane's love and acceptance.The power of identity is underscored by Lester Burnham's death. Colonel Fitts kills Lester because he has revealed his true self to him, and cannot bear the idea that some part of himself - a part that he has always tried to keep hidden - has been exposed. In killing Lester, the Colonel preserves an identity that he can live with, albeit a false one.
American Culture

From its title to its allusions to several iconic American texts, American Beauty explores different aspects of American culture and American identity. The title refers to three different symbols of American culture: American Beauty roses (a popular variety), Angela as a representative of youthful, innocent, "American" loveliness, and the American aesthetic of beauty, as represented by Ricky's films. Lester Burnham has distinct similarities to Willy Loman, the everyman protagonist of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. Lester, cognizant of his situation, reinvents his life in order to save himself from a similar end. Carolyn Burnham represents American consumerism and the unfortunate belief that things can replace relationships. Lester's job at a fast-food restaurant and Jane's participation on the cheerleading team (both "typical" American roles) inject a humorous note into Mendes' discussion of American culture. All the same, American Beauty forces the viewer to consider whether there is anything worth saving at the root of this culture. When American Beauty was released abroad, many critics were surprised that Americans responded so positively to a film that seemed so critical of traditional American values. Americans, it seems, were ready to question these values much as Lester does in the film, and move towards a more satisfying, emotionally fulfilling existence.

martes, 16 de agosto de 2016

The freewheeling inputs - August

On this particular assignment, you will be given free reign to write about a topic of interest and, as usual, allowed to react to your classmates' contributions. More care than before should be placed to the way the ideas are comunicated, hence influencing the teacher`s overall assessment.

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2016

It´s a kind of a funny story

Tentacles is the word Craig uses to describe things in his life that seem to hold him down and cause him stress. The most prevalent example is his prestigious but very difficult high school and in particular the homework, reading, etc. that he is always behind on.
Craig uses the word Anchors to describe things in his life that he feels he can hold onto and that ground him. In his childhood, the maps he drew served as Anchors for several years; but, as he became increasingly depressed, he lost all of the Anchors in his life. As he begins to improve, he returns to the maps, and they again begin to serve as Anchors. While people like his parents can be Anchors, Dr. Minerva warns him against thinking of his fellow patients as Anchors because their relationship is temporary and he should be focusing...

1: Craig describes his stressors as “tentacles” and his support as “anchors.” What are your tentacles and anchors? Why?
2: Who is your hero and why?
3: Describe what you define as a healthy relationship. Who is your best friend and why?
4: What do you do to handle your stress?
5: What is an issue that you see today and would like to change? How would you change it?
6: Was there ever a time where you felt helpless, scared, or powerless? Have you ever felt like you couldn't go on? What made you feel that way? What made you change the way you feel? What do you do to avoid feeling like that again?

lunes, 13 de junio de 2016

Escaping from North Korea in search of freedom

Speech from Yeonmi Park telling her story of life in North Korea and calls for action against such human rights violators.

Yeonmi was speaking at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland. The Summit brought together 1,300 young leaders with 194 countries represented to debate and devise solutions to some of the world's most pressing problems. 

Even though some of you shared their feelings after watching the video, I´m kindly inviting you to participate with some more thoughts on today´s entry. Some ideas revolve around:

1) what struck you while watching the video.
2) how tough, sensible must someone be to be able to stand before an audience and pronounce such a speech.
3) if such presentation could produce an effect. Which?
4) which are the lessons we are getting from her.
5) digging deeper into your feelings while watching it.


jueves, 2 de junio de 2016

Reading a book everyday?

Uhmm. Is it feasible?

1. (On a suggestion by Marti Pike) I simply dare you to find one book and find one nugget.  Do something with that nugget.  Set a goal or make a plan.  My favorite way to read books lately is to preview them on my Kindle app.  If I really love the book, I buy it.  In the mean time, I have gleaned some fantastic ideas.  

2. After the video seen in class and the discussion in groups and among them, Where do you go from here with this information about mentors, focus and Stoics and Epicureans? Does this video provide you with an interesting tool or not quite?

miércoles, 25 de mayo de 2016

A touch of sexual assault

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*First impression on both videos 
*Which one did you like the most and why?
*Did the videos change your way of thinking at some level? On which aspect?
*Opinion on final phrase "boys will be boys and us women will never tell" 
*What would you do to change the situation in class among peers? 
*Should authorities get involved? How much?  

viernes, 13 de mayo de 2016

What are we reading, have read or will read in May?

Post your comments as to your impressions gotten from your readings of choice, regarding feelings, plot or vocabulary issues...