Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Death is not real

In video games death does not seem to be real. It is always present, always a threat as to whether one can complete the task at hand, but it is never final. Every video game that I have played I have died in many times or sometimes only once. The death just means that I must move back a few spaces however, start over, or just try and complete the task at hand again, and again.

In society it is interesting to think of this, since the video game tells you that you are dying. If you take on an avatar, in a sense that becomes you, you are the avatar going through these adventures. I take on the role of Harry Potter, making decisions, casting spells and dying as harry potter. And let me tell you I have died many times in this game, because I was discovered by Voldemort of death eaters or pixies that took me over. It is interesting to think that in this sense where I become my avatar I have died many times.

Death even though it is not a great outcome in this sense is not a terribly bad thing either. I am using an avatar so I have not really died, even though my character has. I am not in any real danger I am still sitting in my townhouse using a game controller, but my alternate reality has died. I have killed my avatar many times, not on purpose, but death is always in my thoughts, and I have not necessarily been able to conquer it, but I have not been able to fully die either.

I find that it is interesting to see a society that can live in violence, and does create these games that ensure so much danger and violence, but there is no consequence. our society does not like to talk about death, it is hard for us to talk about pain and loss and it can be very upsetting. So maybe video games are a good way to see death, and see that it is not that scary and that it is natural. Although death does not seem to be natural in my video game since I have died so many times, but I seem to always come back to life. 

nature in video games

Since playing harry Potter it is weird thinking about the scenery in the game and the environment that surrounds me. Since it is a game that is adapted from a book, one already has images of each place in mind for what grimwauld place, harry's house and the burrow should look like. It is weird when the movie also plays a factor in how the video game tries to create a scenery that is similar to the movie, and it is all things working together to create the world of Harry Potter.

It would not be complete without some nature however, the magical world of course has a few creatures and plants that are not found in our natural world that have to be accounted for. But nature is a big part of life and if there was nature throughout the game, then it would not seem real. So far in the game, I have not encountered too much nature except at the burrow. I had to fight off death eaters at Ron's brothers wedding and we were working through a maze of plants. In that scene nature was scary, all the bushes would not let me find my surroundings and it was hard to figure out where I was going.

There also seem to be so many different scenes, I am not very good at the game so I am still stuck in the urban part of the book. working through the streets of London, and how that type of "nature" or buildings can become a scenery if and of itself. That is scary because of the people that are present and anyone can be a threat to me. And in Grimwauld place itself it is a huge house full of secrets and magical creatures that are out to get me.

It is interesting to me to think of my surroundings in a video game, since they are so important, and yet I am so focused on my task at hand that it is sometimes hard for me to notice the things that the game has surrounded me with. Although the scenery is often a clue as to how I need to go about my quest or adventure or next task, and it is important not only for me to complete the task but look at what is going on around me. 

Death as a sweet release

When our society thinks of death, they think of it in mostly negative terms. It is hard to think of loss in a good way, there is a lot of pain associated with loss, and a mourning for the person that is gone. In Whitman's "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd" poem, he mourns the loss of President Lincoln, but also acknowledges that death is something that can be seen positively. It is a sad poem, a memory of the lost president, but it also calls others to remember him, and to see his death in a positive light.

throughout the poem there is a bird that is singing a mourning song, which can be interpreted as Whitman's voice throughout the poem, or  I think it can be the voice of the people. Some of the good that can come from Lincoln's death is that it will call the people together, to come together and sing together for a common cause. The first bird calls the others to action, "The gray-brown bird i know receiv'd us comrades threee, And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love." It is a song that the nation sang together, it is a sad event, but one that brought people together.

Death is also painted in a almost humanized way, an ideal way, while Whitman describes the song that the birds are singing. Death is talked of as a mother, that soothingly takes in her children, "Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet, Have none chanted for thee a chance of fullest welcome?" The bird is singing a sweet song of death, one where death is something that is a salve, something that is not scary or full of fear, but something that soothes the soul.

I think Whitman is playing with our feelings of death, death is scary, it is unknown but it is also something that is imminent and impending. Everything and everyone dies, it is a part of life, loss is a part of life. one cannot die unless one has sung the song of life. This portrayal of death is looking into how death is a release, something to be striving for in a way because it is escaping life and embracing a relaxing sleep. 

humans as part of nature

One of the things that I really enjoy about reading Whitman is his use of nature as part of our human world. So often today humans don't count themselves as part of nature, or something that comes from nature. Using the term natural ensures this stance even more, since we make a distinction between man made and natural elements. In Whitmans view of nature you can see that he loves nature, but also that he becomes a part of nature. He sees himself in the wind, in the trees, in everything around him.

In Whitman's poem, "I saw a in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing" you can see Whitman's connection to nature. he talks about how one day he sees this Live Oak tree growing outside, and he becomes enthralled with it. He seems sad that he sees it standing alone with no companions since he sees nature as having just as much emotion as we do as people. He describes the joy that he sees in the tree, and how he could not understand that as it had no friends at the moment. The tree also reminded him greatly of himself, he is also alone with no companions in this moment in time.

It is a very sentimental moment for Whitman, he breaks off a twig from the tree, that reminds him so much of himself, and some moss and takes it back to his room so he can see it. I believe that this moment shows Whitman's connection to nature. The branch reminds him so much of he wants to represent, being joyous, his solitude, love among me, "yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;"

The tree seems to also have attained something that Whitman himself is not able to acquire, "Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, I know very well I could not". I am not sure if in this moment Whitman is saying that he cannot be as happy and carefree as this tree that is alone without anyone, or that he is not sure if he could be happy. It seems to be a very nostalgic moment, and he admires the tree.

Woman as mothers

Whitman's portrayal of woman, although he seems to try and treat them as equals, he seems to only see them as mothers. Mother's of this new nation that he is going to father, and it seems that not just anyone can father these children, but Whitman alone. In his poem "A Woman Waits for Me" Whitman talks of the woman that wait for him to come, that he cannot wait to have sex with and deposit his seed in. "I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me". In this part of the poem the act of sex seems to be all about him, "I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you, I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these states,"

This description of woman seems almost insignificant, that woman are only a vessel to him, to do with what he wants, whether they enjoy the act or not seems to not matter. However there is also a part of the poem, where despite all that he is saying, he tries to say that men are no better than woman, "They are not one jot less than I am, They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength". This seems to not coincide with other things that Whitman says about woman, for earlier in the poem he states that they are impassive, wait for him and only some woman are worthy of him.

What seems to interest Whitman the most however is that Woman can be mothers, when he describes them he uses nurturing terms, "health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk". Sex for Whitman is very much centered around the fact that he wants to father children, and woman are the way to get there. Later in the poem he talks about the children that will lead the nation, children that these woman will mother. "In you I wrap a thousand onward years, On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America, The drops I distill upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers"

For Whitman's woman sex is not something that seems to be enjoyable for them, or something they do for fun or for the act of it, as he describes for men. Sex for woman in this world is to mother the nation from the seeds that Whitman and other man plant in them. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Grimwauld Place

Speaking of mazes, I am stuck in the maze known as the Harry Potter video game in a mansion called Grimwauld place. I have yet to be able to move onto the next adventure of Harry Potter since I keep running into obstacles and secret passageways in this place. In each room there seems to be danger, all traps set up so that people would not stay there. It is hard to navigate or know how to move around these obstacles, and death seems to be my only option for many of them. Each time I try and move through the elaborate maze.

Thinking of Mazes makes me think of video games as mazes, for the most part you are being led through them blindly. You can get lost along the way, there are many twists and turns and not knowing what is around the next corner. One can get lost in them, not knowing what to do next, or not being able to play well enough to be able to find a way out. One can also get lost in them in sense that one can be so distracted playing them that they lose all sense of time and what else is going on the world and just keep playing and playing for hours without doing anything else.

Mazes are also sometimes impossible to get out of without the help of others. When following a narrative in a video game sometimes it is hard to be able to make it through without dying without some sort of cheat sheet. Or someone who has played the game before helping them through the maze that is a video game. In Harry Potter I know the story and I am still having trouble. The narrative follows the story from the book, but my challenges that I have to follow are different, and some of the things I have to go through are not completely familiar to me, making this all more of a maze.

For some part of the maze is also learning the language and how to use the controller of a video game. Sometimes it is hard to get the hang of how to navigate around on the screen using something that is in your hands, or knowing how to press certain buttons in order to cast certain spells or to throw certain potions at people, or become invisible. It seems that each time I play I forget everything I had established before, so it becomes all the more confusing. 

Being Stuck in a Maze

Harry Potter is not going well, we are still stuck in Grimwauld place, trying to see if there are still more traps that we can fall into in the house, or pixies that are going to attack us. It is like being lost in a maze, we have made it into the house, but in order to stay there and call it a safe haven, I have to go around and make sure the house is safe and protecting everyone from things that may pop out of no where and attack us. And while I keep dying and this does not seem like a possibility, it reminds me greatly of Monk Hall.

Monk Hall in Quaker City is a huge house/castle/mansion that is full of trap doors, secret doors, many stairways that seem to lead somewhere yet no where. "- it is easy enough for a stranger-that's you my boy-to find his way in, but it would puzzle him like the devil to find his way out. That is without assistance." (page 53). In Lippard's writing it is not only the characters that get lost in Monk hall, but also us as readers, since we descend into the Maze that is Quaker City and get lost trying to find characters as well as the story line and how they are all connected. We jump around to different parts in the story, characters dye, woman are seduced, and it all seems like a scary nightmare that we cannot escape, although we entered quite easily.

Many aspects of Monk hall also seem to not make sense, there is a tower room, false trap doors that one could down and dye, and secret doors. "He opened two folding leaves of a false book-case near the centre of the wall opposite the door, and a small fire-place neatly white washed and free from the ashes or the remains of any former fire, became visible" (page 115). there are secret compartments for everything in this house, and it is hard to even get a grasp for the building and how it is designed. It must be a tall building for there is a tower room, and yet the monks of monk hall descend down to their meetings, and they all take place below ground, it is a giant maze.

Mazes are scary, one seems to panic if they cannot find their way out, much like the girls when they tried to escape and seemed to go in circles. They can also allow for someone to lead you and be in control, if they seem to know the way even if you don't. This book allows us to be lead through a series of events by Lippard, through his version of Philadelphia, he is our only way out of the maze of Monk Hall and Quaker City. 


I believe Quaker City is a grand Manipulation. We as readers are being manipulated in the very way we read. The characters and plots that we are following is constantly switching and changing over time, leaving us not knowing what is coming next and making it hard to follow the story as a whole. While reading this book it was hard to understand if all the characters we were following would ever come together.

This book is also presented as a way to create reform in Philadelphia for all the crime and horrible activities that are taking place in the underworld. And while it does bring these crimes to light, it just seems to me that we are being manipulated to think it is about that, so we read it, but really all we get out of this book is fear, superstition and sensation of being drawn into another world. The horrible events that are described hardly seem to not condone the murder and seduction of these people and woman, they seem to let us see them, and wander why we find this book enjoyable to read.

Lippard uses our fascination with horror, and events so terrible that one cannot look away to hold our attention. We as readers do not want to see and hear these horrible actions, but we cannot seem to not read them and crave more. After Devil bug kills Luke he stand over him, "He drew an old - fashioned spanish knife from the breast of his coarse garment as he spoke. The blade, long, pointed and glittering, flew open with the touch of the spring. Stooping over the form of the insensible Luke, he applied the knife to his unbarred throat, and with a wild grimace distorting his features he moved it gently along the skin." (page 367). It is at one of these moments that it seems gruesome and awful, but alas one must not look away to see what will come next.

I also believe that Ravoni is a great way to see the use of manipulation. He is all powerful man, who is able to raise the dead to life, and he uses this power over others. People are scared of him, and yet they follow him and listen to everything he says. "In order to acquire an influence over the minds of men, which shall be irresistable and eternal, I will appeal to the principle rooted deep in every human heart. I will evoke the love of Mystery! I will awe and terrify by Miracles and Pageants and Shadows!" says Ravoni (page 425). I believe that is exactly what Lippard has done with this book. 

Imagination Running Away with you

Often times my imagination gets the better of me, while reading a book, or watching a movie I suddenly cannot sit alone in my room with the lights off, or run from the bathroom and launch onto my bed for fear that something is following me but if I can get to my bed I may be safe. I know this is irrational, I know that there is nothing in my townhouse that is lurking in dark corners, or around campus at night, but it doesn't make me feel more safe. I find myself often having to stop myself from thinking, take a few breaths, and realize that the movement I saw, was my scarf moving, or a hanging on my wall, or a brach swaying in the wind, and not any sort of demon at all.

The book Quaker City is all about this imagination running away, the villains, and sorcerers, and death all lurking in the dark, the nightmare becoming real. It is in reading a book like this that the sensation of fear, and superstition of what may be lurking around corners becomes real. Once you really let yourself become immersed in the book do you realize that your imagination takes it and runs. The city of Philadelphia takes on a whole new persona, and the furniture and familiar rooms of a place, are no longer comforting or familiar, they are lurking.

Even the characters are not something to be trusted or understood, "The truth is, there were two Lorrimers in one. There was a careless, dashing, handsome fellow ho could kill a basket of champagne with any body. . .And then there was the tall, handsome man, with a thoughtful countenance, and a keep, dark hazel eye, who would sit down by the side of an innocent woman, and whisper in her ear." (page 89). One part of Lorrimer is good and friendly and another aspect of him is seducing woman and appearing in dark shadows, our imagination can just run away with the possibilities of what he is capable of.

It seems as if nothing can be trusted, "One, from the old State House clock, one. There is a wild music in the sound of that old bell. It rings like the voice of a warning spirit, when heard in the silence of the night." (page 346). It is hard to see if this book is so scary and enticing to readers because the clocks and characters here are part of something that is always changing and seems to be evil. Or maybe it is just the characters imaginations running away themselves and us as readers are getting swept up in the whole captivating story letting it take on another quality of fear and suspense. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Avatars are supposed to be a way that we can enter a new world, a new outlet into something, a way to imagine ourselves, or something somewhere else. Avatars although seem to be in this intermediate world, they are just a representation so they are not the really thing, I am not really Harry Potter in this video game, and I cannot actually preform skills, but I am not completely myself either because I am drawn into this new world and become immersed in what I am doing for an hour that has nothing to do with my real world.

It is the same with a book, you can escape for a second into another world that you are reading about, but you are not really there feeling those things or being those people, but you are not yourself either. It is hard to define since you don't exist in either place for the time being, you take on a middle quality and do not know how to define where one is in space.

Avatars seem to have this middle quality, a sense of not belonging and not being completely of one world or the next. They are only a representation of something else, they are not the real thing, although they can fool you for a while and definitely take you outside of yourself. In my video game I am in the world of Harry Potter for an hour each week, but at the end of that hour, I turn off the game, put down the controller, and go back into the real world. I don't have the ability to make potions or spells, and there are no death eaters and voldemort coming after me. The world of the Avatar does not carry into my world, and my world does not exist in the world of the Avatar either.

This in a sense also makes the Avatar world a middle or intermediate world, since it cannot exist or be carried over into the "real" place, such as hogwarts, but it also cannot come back into your own world, such as me going about my normal day as a college student. My video game and Avatar are stuck in this in-between and only exists if I choose to play the game. This is like a lot of things and places in life when one experiences something that does not fully put them in one group or the other, but somewhere in between and they don't know how to act or respond, and at some point they seem to have to choose one or the other, and not stay in between. That is the difference in an Avatar it can move between and stay in the middle, while other things in life have to pick a place to belong. 


Playing a video game each week has become very frustrating for me, I am terrible at it, I struggle finding the time for it, and I seem to forget everything I have learned the week before. I have now only made it through a few missions, because I seem to fail for almost an hour before I can even complete one mission without being found out or dying.

I have now made it past the death eaters, and walking around the streets of London under my invisibility cloak, and have now arrived in Grimwauld place. My next mission is to search the house and kill these terrible pixie things that keep killing me. Ron and Hermione are no help at all, and even though I defeated the ones in the kitchen I seem unable to kill the ones upstairs. I have tried time after time, and I cannot seem to not dye before I am able to kill them all. There is nothing that I can do but try over and over again but it seems to not be yielding much success. I know last week that I learned how to change the spell that I cam casting at them, but I seem unable to remember how to do that, so I keep using the one I have. It almost seems pointless but I know it can be done since it is a game and I am given the chance at life again and trying to conquer evil.

One thing that is fun about the game is that it follows the story of the book really well, there is quite a story line between each mission and the things I am doing are all things that happened either in the book or the movie. In that sense, being Harry is giving me the opportunity to live out the fantasy of actually being a wizard in the magical world of Harry Potter, something I used to only imagine and act out when I was younger and growing up reading the books. It is also interesting to see how they adapt the game to the narrative, having to incorporate things that Harry did and telling a story, and then how they create "activities" or missions for me to complete as well.

I think this game would be almost impossible to play if you didn't know what was going on and had never seen the movies or the books. I guess the skill level could be there, but it is hard to understand your mission or where you should go next without understanding the story first, which could be frustrating in and of itself. 

Monday, March 4, 2013


A large part of Typee, is observation, observation of the people, the landscapes, and cultural traditions of the people. At some points as the book feels more anthropological than like a narrative and it is interesting to see the dichotomy between the two different types. On one hand Tommo is not an anthropologist and seems to be listing the scenery because he enjoys it, and it is supposed to an autobiographical book so it could be something out of a journal, Meliville describing his surroundings.

There are many instances where Melville seems to be observing and almost conducting research on the Natives. When they first see the Natives down in the Valley, they are looking at them from a high vantage point and they are looking down on them. Tommo often describes the Natives from an outsiders perspective, when he describes the woman and how they are swimming and dancing. He often goes into great detail when describing a person such as Fayaway, or Marnoo, "His unclad limbs were beautifully formed; whilst the elegant outline of his figure, together with his beardless cheeks. . . the hair of Marnoo was rich curling brown, and twined about his temples and neck in a little close curling ringlets" (135).

All of these contribute to the novel seeming like Melville is an outsider sitting outside of the Natives and looking in on their life. He doesn't ever seem to assimilate to them, and he often compares them to his home and society. Tommo does seem to idealize the Natives however and talk about them as if they had a wonderful simple nature without conflict that at times seems better than his regular society. "There were none of the thos thousand sources of irritation that the ingenuity of civilized man has created to mar his own felicity. There were no foreclosures of mortagages, no protested notes, no bills payable, no debts of honor in Typee" (126).

Tommo is not wanting to become part of this society he seems to want to make an educated statement about the people and their culture, while also talking about their traditions and how their daily lives take place. he takes time to describe how they prepare food, and tattoo and how they go about their daily lives, but he is never part of these observations. There is something about foreign cultures and foreign ways of doing things that is appealing to someone on the outside. How seeing someone live differently can be a way to learn, or appealing in a way that evokes pleasure. Such as tourism and seeing a different culture because they are so different from theirs, and they want to see how these people live out of curiosity. Meliville is providing an outlook to "look" and observe these people in a way where it seems okay to look at them and wander about their way of life. 


We all have a sense of belonging somewhere, whether it be with a group or a family or in a place. The feeling where one feels comfortable to be themselves, and somewhere or with someone they can identify with, a way to understand who they are in the world. These "feelings" can be general, or very particular, such as belonging to a certain race or country, or having a certain hair color or dressing a certain way. Everyone has a sense of who they are and their place in the world, whether it be a student in college, or a Typee in the jungle.

In Typee looking at the different groups that Tommo comes from puts him in a different group from the Natives, yet while he is there he doesn't seem to fit in with his own country men either. He is being treated well by the Natives, learning about their ways and traditions, he often talks about how peaceful they are and how he enjoys swimming with the woman, and how he plays with them. In some ways he is treated very well, they try and include him in everything, the festivals and rituals they hold, feeding him and keeping him healthy, helping him with his leg.

While Tommo never seems to assimilate completely, there are often moments where he still relates the life he is living now, to the life he had before, such as his description of Fayaway, "the hand s of Fayaway were as soft and delicate as those of any countess. . . her feet, though wholly exposed, were as diminutive and fairly shaped as those which peep from beneath the skirts of a Lima Lady's dress." (86). There is also a moment on page 219 where the Natives try to get him to get a tattoo, and he adamantly refuses, and it seems more that he opposed to the idea of what society will think of him when he returns, "and I now felt convinced that in some luckless hour I should be disfigured in such a manner as never more to have the face to return to my countrymen, even should an opportunity offer." (219).

Tommo is not part of his country at this point, yet he is refusing to wholly take on the body of the Native as well. He is stuck in between two worlds, not being able to fully decide on one or the other. He has lost all sense of belonging, for he is a captive and has lost all sense of belonging and has even portrayed that he is afraid of rejection of both. He doesn't want to become so "Native" that his countrymen will not accept him, yet he wants to please the Natives enough so that they will treat him well. He is lost and not fully in one thing or another, he is stuck in between. 

Lost in Translation

Language is something we all take for granted, something we learn when we are young, and growing up and experiencing life we understand all the intricacies, and challenges and changes of our own language. Once one tries to learn a new language one realizes how difficult it is to try and learn a new language, and that there is a difference from learning a language and learning how people actually communicate and talk to one another in that language. Such as learning how one might say how are you, in Portuguese, a direct translation of that would be "Como Vai Voce?" But if you walk in the streets in Brazil, no one says that, they say, "tudo bom?" or "Tudo bem?" Learning a language involves so much more than direct translation and applying your own language to a new culture.

In Typee Tommo experiences many difficulties in learning and trying to understand the natives. There are many times when he doesn't understand what is going on, or he has trouble understanding what the natives are telling him. How when he first arrives with the tribe he is hand fed by the natives and not allowed to do thing on his own because of his leg. He also is not sure when they first meet, whether they are typee or haapar, and in the end he just ends up spurting out "Typee" and the natives respond to it so believes that is the right answer.

The whole book as well, the narrative, and the way the book flows seem to also indicate a loss of communication. The genre of the book keeps switching, adventure and captivity some of the time, an autobiography some of the time, and at times an anthropological study. Whatever Melville is trying to communicate to the readers seems to be hard to understand, and since we were not there and don't know his language at times it seems that we can not understand what he is trying to say.

This book can also be very frustrating, just like learning a new language. There is one point when Tommo is talking about how he is so frustrated with the definition of the word "Taboo" and how it has many meanings, "The Typee language is one very difficult to be acquired. . . the same word is employed; its various meanings all have a certain connection, which only makes the matter more puzzling" (224). Of course this is true of many languages, his own included, but the foreign nature of this new language and the frustration of communicating draw these intricacies of language forward. It was not until he looked at an unfamiliar language that he was able to see how different and difficult language could be.

maybe we are supposed to take from this that Melville is speaking a new language, a new genre and this book is so frustrating to read at times and understand because we are not familiar with it and his way of speaking. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Avatars and birth order

Avatars allow us a portal to become something new, or express ourselves in a different way. In Little Woman, I believe many young woman reading can identify with at least one of the characters and in a way grow closer to them and become more attached to the book by living vicariously through their character. Looking at Little woman and the three sisters however I think it is interesting to look at their birth order and how that affects them, as well as other people in my life.

I am one of four, I have two older brothers and a younger sister. My eldest brother, Jacob is a lot like Meg. He liked to tell us how things were supposed to be done, much like Meg lecturing the younger girls, or advising them about what is right in life. Jacob also enjoys the nicer things about life and was the first one to marry. He went off to college and came back with a wife. He is very traditional and lives a nice life serving his country and being a family man.

Jonathan second in order was definitely the rebel of the family. He was always butting heads with my parents, as well as Jacob. Much how Jo refuses to be a girl at times, or conform to the traditions and old way of life. He also did not get along well with Jacob for a long time, much how sometimes with all her antics, Jo infuriates Meg or embarrasses her.

I am the third one, and I can identify with Beth and how is more on the outskirts of the family. All three of my siblings are English majors and I am the only science major. I can not relate to my siblings in that way at all. I also was a very complacent child growing up and didn't cause much trouble, much like Beth. I am the housekeeper of my family, often cooking and cleaning when I go home for my mom. Like the jobs that Beth completed and her wish to just stay with her mother and father.

My youngest, Sarah, is a lot like Amy. She is always getting into trouble, but means so well. She is an artist as well and loves a new way of thinking. She is often shocking my parents with her new ideas and way of embracing life, like Amy going off to Europe and wanting to move up in the world through society.

I think it is interesting to look at birth order as an Avatar as well, how people sometimes identify with how they are "the baby" or how the oldest and what that implies.

Video Games and Education

So playing a video game every week, has really been hard for me to set aside time, since I don't watch TV and feel to some extent that besides having fun I am not learning anything. Being a senior in college I sometimes get caught up in thinking of the Homework I need to do and the applications that I should be filling out while walking through the magical world of Harry Potter. It reminds me of the age old question of whether kids should be playing video games or not.

Playing Harry Potter on the Wii, I am not sure if it could be called practical or educational, but the more I played the more I could think of examples. In the game the player learns about a world that is governed by right and wrong. In Harry's world these objects are clear, there is an evil wizard and a good one and the good one ends up winning in the end. There are also clear missions that have to be completed, taking patience, and critical thinking. One could learn how to think the best way to solve a problem and apply it, as well as thinking on your feet. Sometimes things happen without explanation and I have to try and figure the best way out of it, which is important in real life situations as well.

This also got me thinking about other ways that video games are used. People that play video games have better hand eye coordination and reflexes. There have been studies published on the positive effects of playing video games, players also have better spatial reasoning skills, which may be helpful when teaching children or trying to find the best way to teach a child.

I have also used a Wii gaming system myself when I had very bad post concussion syndrome. Wii has balance games that you can play while standing on the balance board. My balance had been affected so badly that my center of gravity was off and my doctor recommended playing these games. It was very hard at first, but definitely worth it, it helped me a lot, and helped me work my brain so that I got healthier each day. Studies have also been published recording the positive effects of using these games with stroke patients.

I volunteered all last year at a nursing home and one of their favorite things to do was play Wii bowling. It was hard for them as well as got them thinking differently and created some friendly competition. It was a way to get them up and moving while still keeping them in a safe environment, it was so much fun.


So playing video games has never been a big part of my life, I have always preferred my own imaginary world or books to a video game world. I remember growing up however, sometimes playing with my brothers, or creating blanket forts in their room and watching them conquer some game. My sister and I loved being able to participate in that part of our older brothers lives, since most of the time we were too young to be able to play with them as well.

So playing Harry Potter has been quite the experience. I chose the game because I love the books, and I knew the story so I thought it may be more interesting and easier to play since I should know what is going on. I also chose a gaming system that I knew how to use. Once I started playing I love the aspect of it following the book so well. There is narrative, and the characters talk, and the story follows the way it should, with little missions in between.

Since it is a story I did not choose my avatar, I had to be Harry Potter, but what little kid wouldn't dream of being Harry? I remember wanting to get my letter from hogwarts, and playing wizards growing up, it was such an enticing world, that I wanted to be real. That part of playing the game is a lot of fun. I am terrible at playing, but I love being able to kill death eaters myself, and fighting off magical creatures, and finding potions, and getting rid of the evil Voldemort.

Playing is also very frustrating, the missions that I have to complete do not seem that hard, like killing off death eaters with spells, or trying to see if an area is safe. Yet, I keep failing time after time, and it repeats the mission and I keep trying and trying. Sometimes I have to stop, because I become to frustrated, but it always that much more rewarding when I do complete the mission fully. Then I go to a new part of the story and complete a new mission.

I think part of the draw is knowing what comes next, and it does make some of the game easier since I know what to expect and the goal overall. I know that death eaters are bad, and why they go certain places, and I recognize all the places in the story since I have already read about them and seen the movies.

Hopefully I get better with time and continue to learn new spells and find more potions!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Playing with my heart

Play is usually seen as something good, a way to have fun, learn, pass the time, but it can be taken in a negative way when someone is seen as "playing" with someone's emotions. Such as telling someone one thing and meaning another, or not telling the truth in order to get a rise out of them or lead them on. It can be fun, flirting can be seen as a game, or teasing when two people play off of each others emotions. It can also be hurtful when someone says something and means another and the other person is not able to read between the lines. People are hardly ever completely honest however, we are always sparing people's feelings, letting people guess how we really feel and participating in the complicated social game of life.

In little woman, this is seen through Meg and Laurie, when Laurie teases her with a note that is supposedly from Mr. Brooke. The letter declares Mr. Brooke's love for Meg, and when Meg writes back politely refusing, Laurie writes another note that tells of Mr. Brooke not being able to wait because he is passionately in love with her. While being a game for Laurie, to get some fire under Meg and see her reaction since he knows that Mr. Brooke actually does love Meg, Meg is mortified when she finds out is Laurie. The whole family is mad at Laurie and he even gets a talking to by Marmee, it is a moment where we see that playing and certain games can be very hurtful. Laurie was messing with Meg's emotions and trying to see if she liked Mr. Brooke, and he hurt her and ashamed her.

Another example is seen with Meg and Mr. Brooke. Mr. Brooke finally gets a moment alone with Meg and is telling her how he really feels, and suddenly Meg feels excited. She has never flirted before, and when she starts refusing him, the power shifts and she loves the feeling of being in control. Meg states, "Don't think of me at all. I'd rather you wouldn't," said Meg, taking a naughty satisfaction in try8ing her lover's patience and her own power" (229). Mr. Brooke wonders if she is playing a game as well, "....Don't play with me, Meg. I didn't think that of you" (229). Another instance where playing is seen as something bad, playing with emotions is not something one should partake in. Meg's character is questioned in this section, the words naughty is used to describe what she is doing and Mr. Brooke did not think her capable of such games.

It is interesting to look at both sides of everything, so often games are seen as something good but sometimes they are bad. Playing with ones emotions, or hurting someone through playing games is not good and will not turn out well. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Play is Children's Work

Growing up I always thought of play as something separate from school, learning or as educational. Play to me was something that I loved to do, alone, or with my siblings and friends. We would play games for hours, using our imaginations and going on all sorts of adventures. Looking back now I can see how important play is, and how much I learned, and how much can be learned through games.

My mother home schooled all four of us and one thing she taught me is that school and learning are everywhere. I didn't realize it at the time but we learned through playing many times. We built a castle, and dressed up and had a huge feast when learning about medieval culture. We made wooden guns, had my brothers dress up as soldiers and the girls sewed skirts and nursing bags, when we learned about the civil war. We got together in a big group, made a bonfire in our friends yard, and ran around in the woods reenacting our own civil war.

In Little woman Marmee often also uses play as a way to learn, she treats it as important aspect of her girls everyday lives. The girls put on a play at the beginning of the book, they had to do all the work, make the costumes, the set and write the play! That is a lot of work, and they had an amazing time doing it, and it also kept them occupied.

There is also a common theme throughout the book of playing Pilgrims Progress. The girls recreate having a burden and carrying their burdens, they go to the top of the house, which represents Heaven. Even though they play at this, the girls also recognize the burdens that they carry, such as Jo's temper, Meg's vanity, and so forth, and they try throughout the book to work through them.

Play in this book also gives the girls a safe place to express themselves, and learn about the world around them. Jo is frustrated by being a girl and having constraints and acting ladylike. Through play, and creating their play, Jo is able to act out all the male characters, and experience new situations that she wouldn't be able to otherwise. Marmee encourages each girl to play and experience what they are passionate about. Beth plays with her dolls, taking care of each one and loving them as if they were her own children. Jo is able to express herself through her writing. Amy is able to pursue her passion for art, playing with all sorts of mediums and landscapes. Meg is able to act like a girl and forget about how she worries about fitting in with society and being ladylike.

Play is an important part of every child's life it is their work in a way because it is how they learn to interact socially, learn about the environment around them, a safe place for them to experience new things and a way for them to use their imagination and be creative. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reveries part II

Reveries of a bachelor is a day dream, a man imaging his life in different situations of enjoying or not enjoying a wife. Almost taking us through a pros and cons of why he is not married, or how it would feel to be married. In a way I see him taking on three different avatars throughout the reverie, living in three different realities.

In the first, he takes on the avatar of himself, but himself in a married life with a wife that he does not like. He makes many complaints about her, she reads too much, she doesn't cook well, she does not wait up for him at work, she does not like him. All these relate to one big theme of she doesn't like him more than she likes all these other things and he wants her full devotion. This avatar he does not enjoy particularly  but it gives him the opportunity to imagine this reality and see how different it is from his natural state.

His next avatar he takes on himself as well, but with a companion that he loves, and that loves him. He sees his wife as loving him and only him, completely attentive to him and he is happy for the company. He remarks that it would be nice to have someone to sit beside the fire with and to talk to about his work and his day. He enjoys this avatar immensely, imagining her there at his death caressing his forehead as he dies, and just enjoying not being alone. This avatar allows him to see himself in a scenario where he would enjoy marriage.

His next avatar he again takes on marriage, and he loves his wife, but his whole family is dying! its awful, first his daughter, and then his son and eventually his beloved wife. He is so distraught losing everything he loves in that that moment and being alone again watching his wife die. However since it just an avatar, a daydream, he is able to wake from it and be sitting next to his fire, petting his dog.

I think it is interesting how once again you must return to reality after all, you cannot stay in that dream world. He was able to experience and live through all those different realities but in the end he is going to stay a bachelor living alone in his big house, because that is his reality and that is what he enjoys. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Yesterday I read reveries of a bachelor, it was very interesting, a man sitting in front of his fire contemplating marriage pros and cons. I think it was very interesting the way the man divided the three sections, smoke, fire and ash. I kind of saw the three parts as very separate, but linked all together in how someone might describe the different feelings, or stages of love.

Smoke was first, and it was the man talking about all the horrors of marriage, the annoying kids, the nagging, the fact that his wife probably doesn't even like him and does not want him to come home. He describes her, "Peggy is rich enough, well enough, mild enough, only she doesn't care a fig for you." He also talks of how terrible the food is, "No matter for cold coffee; you should have been none before. What sad, think poorly cooked chops!" it almost seems comical the way he must act that everything is fine but he hates every minute of it. I would call this stage of love, doubt or fear. Fear of rejection, fear that thing won't work out the way you want them too, and doubt that anything could really be as good as people really say it can. Almost denial in a way, the refusal to look at it from a different perspective.

Next came fire, and this is right in the heat of love. There is a honeymoon phase, desire and only good things related to the significant other. He talks of her, "Her face would make a halo. . .Her smile would illumine the blackest of crowding cares." He loves her so much and she him, that he loves the kids. "Those children, rosy, fair-haired; no, they do not disturb you with their prattle now; they are yours!" He loves her cooking, she helps him with work and waits for him to be home and they couldn't be happier. It shows all the good things about love, they way ones heart can leap and hope and see only good in the world because of how they feel about someone else.

Ash is the pain one feels once one has loved and lost. To love someone is great, the relationship is magical but once you have something like that it also means you can lose it. In this section the man loses his daughter and his son and finally his sweet wife that he loves so much. He talks to his daughter, Bessy, "'Dear Bessy' - and your tones tremble. . .can you pluck her back? Can endearments stay her?" At this point he is desperate to do anything to get her back and that feeling of love. With them he even states that he had the whole world, "Keep your money, old misers, and your palaces, old prices,- the world is mine!" Once he loses all of them however he is so sad and living in so much pain and there seems to be nothing left. The fear or loving, the fact that one can lose it. 

The familar

I think it is interesting that throughout life there have been stories that have transcended time, and despite the changing of characters, some slight changes to plot there remains an outline for some stories. Such as the guy and the girl getting together after the he rescues her from some fate, there are a million ways to tell this story, and once you hear a rendition you are able to guess where the rest of the story is going. Another platform for a story is the one where somebody new has some gift or is special in some way, and they are the ones that save a town, a country or a civilization. They are all the same and yet all so different.

When I watched Avatar it was exciting because it was supposed to be this new world, this groundbreaking work where everything was new. Yet as I sit here and watch it the parts of the plot are easy to pick out and the story goes the way you are pretty much expecting it too, there are no surprises, except that for once an indigenous tribe wins their fight for freedom. Jake Sully, in the form of his avatar comes to these indigenous people. Right away he is picked out by their deity and for reasons they don't understand and he definitely doesn't, they cannot kill him.

So he is taken under their wing and learns their ways and in the end he ends up being their savior. He is the one that is able to bring all the other tribes together and create a war strategy that gives the indigenous people an advantage. This 'savior' character has been seen before, and it wasn't hard to see that even though Jake is not one of their kind and does not even hold the same body that he can save them. It is also clear from the beginning when he ends up with the 'princess' of these people, she is the one who teaches him, she is at his side the whole time and ultimately it becomes clear that they will end up together.

I just find it fascinating that even though this movie is groundbreaking and it introduces this new planet and takes the meaning of Avatar to a new level it is a story that we have seen many times before. It is interesting that even though we have seen it before we still find emotional attachment to the story and find it easier to follow since we know how the story goes. 


Game is a really hard word to define, most people have an idea of what a game is, and many different examples come to mind. However if they had to explain a game to someone who had no prior knowledge or preconceptions about a game it would become a little more difficult. For the most part however games seem to have rules, a narrative or story-line of some sort and players that are working towards a certain goal. When I think of games I usually think of games that I played as a child, mostly make believe, with intricate plot lines about one thing or another.

While reading the story telling animal it was so interesting to see the connection between our need for stories, and narratives aligned with games.  As a kid imaginations run rampant and create all sorts of stories within games, save the princess, playing house, wars against boys and girls. As adults this outlet is exercised as well in the form of video games, and things like dungeons and dragons and Live Action Role Playing (Larping).

I believe that a child's work is play, it is something they need to do to learn their way around the world, and to have the honor of being a kid. I think it is interesting the story telling element, and how important that can be to their play. And even more interesting that humans display this as well, when we play we love telling each stories, and sharing gossip as well as creating our own game of make believe. Video games I think have been so successful because of their narrative. The story draws people in making them forget everything else becoming completely immersed.

I see immersion in my everyday life, the way when I do sports I get caught up in the game and forget what is going on around me. How I can become lost in a game while babysitting, or working with kids. or how when reading a book I become completely lost and will not be able to function until the book is over. If only adults could have play as work as well.

This week I started playing a video game, Harry Potter actually, the beginning of the 7th book. I know how this story goes since I have grown up with the books and have watched all the movies. But now I am taking the adventure as being part of the adventure, playing the game and getting to be the characters and battle their battles. It will be the same story but a whole new adventure. 


Avatar is a new word in today's society, new to me in many ways because I have not participated in many video games, or time online. However Avatar as I have learned recently can have many different meanings, it can have a religious context, the form of a God coming to earth, or really take on any representation of oneself. Such as the picture I have posted on this blog that represents me in some way, that is an avatar. Avatars are interesting, they give one a way to get away from ones self and create any image that they want to display, however some might say that an avatar could also be one's true self.

Watching the movie Avatar I think it is easier to see this dichotomy between a real world, or ones reality, and then the possibility of another reality. Jake Sully gets the chance in one reality to walk, run, and learn about these indigenous people, and their forest and way of life. However in another reality he cannot walk and is wheel chair bound, and is working to not have the indigenous people murdered for the acquirement of some new element.

The fact that Jake ends up becoming a 'hero' or 'savior' for these people and ultimately ends up becoming his avatar in the end and staying on this new world speak to the idea of an avatar being better than his other reality. The world of pandora itself is amazing, beautiful and full of colors and different sounds, while earth as Jake claims has killed its mother. I think it offers little help for true reality, claiming that that reality is only killing and destroying what is in its path while the indigenous people are bringing life and the option for a new start. There is also the idea that this world is better since the people are displayed stronger, fitter, and Jake is able to walk in this world, the other reality in comparison is very weak.

I think this can relate to many people in society today, sometimes it is easier, better, to be someone else when life can be a struggle. It is easier to go online become somebody that is respected and liked, while forgetting about another reality that is so much harder or worse. I can see how people become lost in video games where they can be a hero, or a heroine and not worry about the trivial things in some other reality. Avatars give us the chance to experience something new and usually give us the chance to do something we wouldn't normally be able to do.