Monday, February 23, 2009

Done By Crazy Woman Driver

I highly recommend reading Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates. It is an extremely interesting, well told story that I very much enjoyed. However, if you find you don't have enough time to read the full story here are some basic points and summaries over the story from


The tale of an insecure, romantic teenage girl drawn into a situation of foreboding violence, "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" presents several themes that arise from the interaction of sharply drawn characters engaged in psychological manipulation.

Appearances and Reality

Connie prides herself as a skilled flirt who has never been in a situation she could not handle. She feels confident when Arnold Friend arrives at her door while she is alone in the house: "Who the hell do you think you are?" she asks. Mistaking him for the type of boy she frequently attracts, she thinks she recognizes him from the sound of his car's horn, his clothing and physical appearance, and the line of banter with which he attempts to lure her into his car.


Point of View

The first line of "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? "-"Her name was Connie" - signals that it is being told by a third person narrator. This narrative voice stays closely aligned to Connie's point of view. The reader learns what her thoughts are, but the narrator provides no additional information or judgment of the situation. For instance, Connie's harsh appraisals of her sister and mother are discussed: "now [her mother's] looks were gone and that was why she was always after Connie," but it is clear that this assessment is Connie's and not the narrator's.

Observing the story's events through a narrator who presents things as Connie sees them allows the reader to identify with her terror as she is transformed from a flirt into a victim.

Critical Overview

Oates's novel about urban life and murder, them, had won the 1970 National Book Award, so It was no surprise that her next collection of short stones, The Wheel of Love, which appeared later that year, received much attention. The book was widely reviewed, and "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" was often identified as one of its greatest successes. Some critics were disturbed by the violence that marked the entire collection-a common criticism leveled against many of Oates's works-and by the extreme situations and emotions experienced by a central character in nearly every story. "Joyce Carol Oates," Robert Emmet Long wrote in Saturday Review, "is not really interested in people, only in mental states." Others recognized that disturbing readers was precisely Oates's aim.

Symposium Findings

Dr. Sexson asked us to explore The Symposium online and see what we could come up with because of our lack of a syllabus. This is what I found.

From : symposium (‘drinking-party’, ‘banquet’), the male drinking-party, an important social institution in the life of aristocratic Greek men. It was held in the andrōn, ‘men's apartment’; the (male) guests, their heads garlanded with flowers, reclined on couches (an Eastern practice introduced into Greece before the sixth century BC), usually two, sometimes more, to a couch (klinē), propped on their left arm; low tables to hold food and wine cups were placed in front of the couches. Wine was served from a large mixing-bowl (krātēr) where it was blended with water to make it fairly mild, and poured by young slaves of both sexes, often chosen for their good looks. At least as important as the drinking was the entertainment, sometimes provided by slaves specially hired to sing and dance, but often by the guests themselves and of a rather regularized kind; there were riddles and games, and lyric poems and scolia were sung. Much of the lyric of Alcaeus, Anacreon, and Archilochus, and some of the short elegiac poems of Theognis, for example, were written for this kind of setting. Sometimes guests delivered short speeches on agreed topics (see Plato's SYMPOSIUM below). Homosexuality derived much of its vitality as an institution from the circumstances of the symposium, where freeborn respectable women were absent and male beauty, charm, and wit were highly regarded. In a comic scene in Aristophanes' Wasps, an ‘aristocratic’ son tries to teach acceptable symposiastic behaviour to his embarrassingly boorish father. See also SYMPOSIUM (2) below. Today, a symposium means no more than a discussion-group.

A restaurant in Pennsylvania that sounds very delicious (check out the menu): I wonder if they know where their name comes from much like Bacchus pub?

And finally I looked up the reference to Alcestis that comes from page 7 in Symposium from Wikipedia:

Alcestis (Ἄλκηστις) is a princess in Greek mythology, known for her love of her husband. Her story was popularised in Euripides's tragedy Alcestis. She was the daughter of Pelias, king of Iolcus, and either Anaxibia or Phylomache.

In the story, many suitors appeared before King Pelias, her father, when she became of age to marry. It was declared she would marry the first man to yoke a lion and a boar (or a bear in some cases) to a chariot. The man who would do this, King Admetus, was helped by Apollo, who had been banished from Olympus for 9 years to serve as a shepherd to Admetus. With Apollo's help, Admetus completed the king's task, and was allowed to marry Alcestis. After the wedding, Admetus forgot to make the required sacrifice to Artemis, and found his bed full of snakes. Apollo again helped the newly wed king, this time by making the Fates drunk, extracting from them a promise that if anyone would want to die instead of Admetus, they would allow it. Since no one volunteered, not even his elderly parents, Alcestis stepped forth. Shortly after, Heracles rescued Alcestis from Hades, as a token of appreciation for the hospitality of Admetus. Admetus and Alcestis had a son, Eumelus, a participant in the siege of Troy, and a daughter, Perimele.

Milton's famous sonnet, "Methought I Saw My Late Espoused Saint," references the myth, with the speaker of the poem dreaming of his dead wife being brought to him "like Alcestis." Thornton Wilder wrote A Life in The Sun (1955) based on Euripides' play, later producing an operatic version called The Alcestiad (1962). The American choreographer Martha Graham created a ballet entitled Alcestis in 1960.

A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud.

Beginning my talk about the short story Dr. Sexson asked us to read I'd like to quote a few lines from one of my favorite movies as a young adolescent. It comes from Ten Things I Hate About You and it goes like this:

: There's a difference between like and love. Because, I like my Skechers, but I love my Prada backpack.
Chastity: But I love my Skechers.
Bianca: That's because you don't have a Prada backpack.

Humorous, certainly, but it also shows exactly what the story "A Tree. A Rock. A Cloud." is trying to communicate to us. We as humans do not undertake a task without preparation from learning to crawl and walk, the steps to riding a bike, to learning to swim, and even how to perform our job in a satisfactory manner as we are this very moment. But when it comes to love, we certainly have little to no preparation. We start out with things like "puppy love" when we are near the age of five or so and haven't fully understood the complications that can come from being in contact with the opposite sex, mainly cooties. We then graduate to "crushes" the cute boy in our sixth grade math class that has the best shoes and coolest hair. Again I will borrow a quote from another memorable movie, Sixteen Candles. "That's why they call them crushes if they were easy they'd call them something else." We then move on to our first actual relationships, loves, and heartbreak. But nothing in life prepares us for what we will encounter on the way and nothing in life teaches us how to be good at love.

Some of us may find it hard to express our emotions, while others as shown in the Ten Things I Hate About You quote, find it immensely easy but that doesn't mean they can fully back or understand when they say "I love you." So like the author in order to understand what love means I'd like to go back to the beginning and reference what an eight year old things love means.

"Love is that first feeling you feel before all the bad stuff gets in the way."

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love."

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your french fries without making them give you any of theirs."

"Love is when someone hurts you. And you get so mad but you don’t yell at them because you know it would hurt their feelings."

"Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired."

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."

"Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate."

"When you tell someone something bad about yourself and you’re scared they won’t love you anymore. But then you get surprised because not only do they still love you, they love you even more."

"There are two kinds of love: Our love and God’s love. But God makes both kinds of them."

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore."

"My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."

"Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken."

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."

"I let my big sister pick on me because my Mom says she only picks on me because she loves me. So I pick on my baby sister because I love her."

"Love cards like Valentine’s cards say stuff on them that we’d like to say ourselves, but we wouldn’t be caught dead saying."

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you"

"You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."

"God could have said magic words to make the nails fall off the cross, but He didn’t. That’s love."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


For the most part, I adore Antigone. Surely she is a symbol for feminism in her clash against her misogynist uncle Creon. And certainly, Antigone should be admired for her role in becoming a martyr and giving up her womanly duties to take on a more masculine role, something Creon cannot handle. Plus, the poor girl is giving up her wedding and her wedding night which I think is terribly admirable. However, there is one line in Antigone that absolutely ruins it for me.

As Antigone enters into her great speech of her last goodbye she addresses her brother she is dying for and says, "I would not do [this] for a child, were I a mother, not for a husband either. Let them lie, putrefied, dead; I would not defy the city at such cost for their sake."(905-908). I cannot understand this! Sure, Polyneices is her brother, family, but her husband and child should be considered the same. Furthermore, the child would be born from her, her flesh and blood, and I do not understand this dismissal. I understand it is just one line but one may argue that Socrates' famous "an unexamined life is not worth living" quote is also merely one line when we all know it certainly is not.

This is my one fault with Antigone.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Some of my favorite lines from Steiner:
"For if no human pollution can defile the gods, then the non-burial of Polyneices is a trivial immanent act. And Antigone's agnostic reflex becomes simultaneously excessive and reducible to a wholly private, sentimental impulse. The tragedy need not have been."

I absolutely adore this line and wonder where George Steiner was during the time of Antigone. Steiner has absolutely reasoned out why Antigone should not be sentenced to death for what she has done and had he been around to inform the not so level headed Creon of this he may have avoided his mistake.

"Antigone does not appeal for divine help in the execution of her pious design. No supplication either to Zeus or to the eternal custodians of the dead graces her resolve. The successive innvocations of 'eternally all-seeing Zeus' (line 184) comes from the lips of Creon."

I also like this line from Steiner because I think it shows something very meaningful I observed in the book. Creon is the pious man yet he is not godly by our definition at all. Countless times Creon spits vile on the gender of women and behaves in an extremely ungodly manner. Yet, here is Antigone the one who has been deemed challenging the gods behaving the most godly of anyone. This sums up the entirety of Antigone for me as a reader.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Experience

My first dog came to us when I was just one year old. My father had propositioned my mother; if he received the job he was vying for he would be able to get a dog, she obliged. My father wrote on his application this very thing to try and appease his future boss to hire him. Later in life I would hear from the man that he was in fact completely unimpressed but hired my father anyway for his gumption. So, my mother lived up to her end of the bargain as my father had lived up to his and Willow came to our family the runt of a mutt litter.

Willow’s story reminds me much of Hephaestus which you can find here:, because Willow too was the last of her litter cast aside for her small size and timid approach. But like Hephaestus, Willow turned into something so much more. Willow was with my family until I was almost sixteen years old, and she was fifteen. Not having siblings, I can only relate to the feelings I had for my dog that I feel were probably very much close to those siblings must experience. We fought like siblings, (I was always trying to get her off my trampoline), we protected each other, (she attacked a dog twice her size that had roamed into the yard and got it by the neck), and we loved each other.
Not only was she my faithful companion for most of my natural life thus far, but she was also a survivor. When she was three Willow was bitten by a spider and her head swelled to twice her normal size. When she was four she was one of the first dogs in Montana to get heartworm. She ate plants that had just been sprayed with pesticide and though sick for two weeks, came out better than ever. These factors may have made her death so hard on not just me but all our family, and slightly unbelievable.
I remember my mother was the first to notice Willow’s behavior change. No longer did she happily run through the house, or come to pick up dropped food but moved in a sluggish, tired pace. My mother took her to the vet and was told she had an infection in her teeth, something in her kidney and multitudes of other problems. We tried medicine for awhile but our dog we had loved for so long was no longer the dog we knew; she was miserable.
I went to school the day my mother put her down, I don’t even think I was aware it was happening. I came home to my mother crying and explaining what happened. I froze, I had known Willow my whole life she couldn’t just be gone, she was my dog. My mother, never the one to be coy, told me the full details of what happened and I thought I was going to be sick. I didn’t want to think about it and couldn’t be around my mother so I fled to my room and bawled.
Willow was not my first experience with death nor will she be the last. In fact, I often find myself borderline panic attack if I venture to think of my own death and what will be after. But I take comfort in the cycle that life gives us. Something dies, something is born, life continues. And as Dr. Sexson told us, sarvam dankon sarvam anityan.

Monday, February 9, 2009


In the spirit of Valentine's Day I think it can only be appropriate to tell the story of a young mortal girl named Psyche. Psyche was blessed/cursed with an extraordinary beauty, so much so that even the goddess Aphrodite was jealous of the young girl. As some of us may know, Aphrodite is not one for competition and furthermore is certainly not one to play fair as seen in the story of the golden apple. Therefore, Aphrodite instructs her son Cupid to strike Psyche with his arrows and cause her to fall in love with the most vile creature on Earth.

Now, Cupid agrees to this task but as we have all learned from Dr. Sexson by now, Cupid may be a God but he is still a dumb man. Cupid not only falls in love with Psyche, but he pierces himself with his own arrows like a dolt. An oracle (we know what trouble those are) prophecies that Psyche should be left on a mountain because her beauty is too great for any man. There when night falls Cupid arrives to marry Psyche and consumate their marriage. But, Cupid does not want Psyche to know who he is but he cannot resist seeing her to 'talk' so he insists that she must leave the light off least his identity be discovered. Then something magically happens that I'm sure is no fault of Cupids and Psyche becomes pregnant.

Cupid allows for Psyche to go back to town to visit her jealous sisters whom he advises Psyche to not listen to least she do something regretable. Upon arriving Psyche's sisters inform her that the townspeople are convinced she has married a terrible serpant that will eventually devour both her and her unborn child. Her sisters believe that the only way to stop this is for Psyche to take a knife and lamp to her bed chambers that night and if it is as they say slay the horrible beast. Psyche decides to act like a dolt herself and follows this advice.

Of course Psyche sees that her husband is indeed not a serpant at all but the god Cupid and during her investigation she too pricks herself with an arrow and is overcome with desire. Her actions however, awake the sleeping god and he flies away. Psyche is of course devestated and lovesick and decides she must find her husband. But those meddling gods tell her she must appease Aphrodite who has caused this mess in the first place. So Psyche travels to Aphrodites temple where Aphrodite has her do horrible tasks that Psyche is able to complete with help from ants, talking towers, and so on.

Psyche's final task is to retrieve a box for Aphrodite from the Underworld, which she does, but Psyche cannot resist the boxes temptation and opens it becoming overwhelmed by sleep. Then at the last moment Cupid rushes in, wipes the sleep from her eyes, and saves his beloved Psyche. After all this Zeus decides that Psyche should be made a goddess.

Now, I know that story was long but if you're still with me I think we can all agree how stupidly both Cupid and Psyche acted. Psyche hardly listened to anything anyone had to say yet in the end she was rewarded beyond her wildest dreams, with immortality. Cupid on the other hand disobeys his mother, pricks himself with his own arrows, and must save his wife from death. Certainly they are a disfunctional couple if there ever was. But their dysfunctional story is the basis for many many romantic stories that are told during this time of year and will continue to be told for years to come. Μπορείτε να δοκιμάσετε πάλι.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sticky Fingers

The following statement might shock and amaze you but I solemnly swear it is nothing but true. I did not know what candy was until I was eight years old. Actually, I did not know what Halloween was until I was in about first grade. Sure, I had seen the children come to our house when I was little and I would ask my mother what was going on only to be brushed aside. My mother was sort of a health nut when it came to me. However, when it came to herself she was anything but healthy.

Around the time I was in third grade I realized that though my mother had banned me from eating the wonderful sweets life had to offer, she herself had a secret stash. It was incredibly easy for me to find these treats. Though she placed them in the high cupboards my years of gymnastics were finally paying off and I was able to swing myself onto the counter top and reach my desired prize. Of course, I never took enough for my mother to notice, but there was another dilemma; what would I do with the candy wrappers?

Obviously, I couldn't throw them away knowing very well they would be spotted and my daily candy heaven would be foiled. So I did what any third grader would do, I hid them under the rug. Soon the rug had accumulated over fifty wrappers or so and a huge appreciation for candy. Usually, I was careful when I hid my wrappers making sure they were far enough back that no one would notice but one day my luck ran out. When my mother was vacuuming she lifted up the rug ever so slightly and saw a burnt orange color sticking out from inside. Of course she investigated and my candy stash was finally discovered.

I don't even want to go into how angry my mother was after that discovery, but lets just say it wasn't pretty. If I had been smart however, I could of just told her that Hermes made me do it. One could only imagine he was making up for resisting the cattle he had wanted to taste so badly and decided to try chocolate out instead.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Most Dangerous Place

From reminds me of Demeter and Persephone and gave me a laugh.

Repetitions, Redundancies, and Reverberations

Today as I sat and listened to Dr. Sexson talk about the movie Groundhog Day, regrettably I have never seen this piece, I thought to myself how many years, months, days, would I take to learn the lesson that “one’s life is hardly every lived for oneself but for others…” as Mircea Eliade puts it in The Myth of the Eternal Return. Truthfully, I think it would take me quite a while to come to this conclusion and inevitably I would learn many things along the way.

I think the beginning of the repetitious day would consist of me acting in line with Hermes, mischievous. A world without consequences would be a tempting thing and Zeus knows I, and many other girls I know, would kill to eat whatever they’d like with no worry that it would go “straight to the thighs”. I wonder if in a moral sense I wouldn’t be able to rob a bank. I’d like to think I’m more upstanding than that but again, I think I would succumb to the temptation just to say I could.

Yet, even though all those things sound like they would be an interesting adventure the thought of repeating the same thing over and over again completely petrifies me. But why should it, again according to Eliade we should strive for this repetition. There is nothing in our lives but repetition we just do not have the time to stop and acknowledge it. Furthermore, Eliade goes on to say, “In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythic, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time.” Personally I think I’d like to try out imitating Athena for awhile.