April 19, 2005

Mi Cumpleaños

This is my sixth and final paper assignment for SPAN 301. The topic wasn't specified for me. So, since today *is* my birthday (and I'm stuck writing this paper!@#$&) that's what I chose to write about.

Hoy es mi cumpleaños. Ahora tengo veintisiete años de edad, pero no me siento diferente. Es posible que mi novio tenga algunos planes para esta noche, pero que yo sepa no haremos nada especial. Ya recibí algunos regalos. Mi novio me dio dinero para comprar ropa nueva, una tetera y té. Mi tía me dio muchas cosas también: una frazada, una botella de jabón, una botella de perfume, un disco compacto, unos chocolates, unas galletas, un diario y una tarjeta de regalo. Mi amiga me dio una pedicura. Mis uñas del dedo del pie son azules ahora. Soy muy mimada. (Un total de 100 palabras.)

...and the English translation:

Today is my birthday. Now I am twenty-seven years of age, but I don't feel different. It is possible that my boyfriend has plans for this evening, but as far as I know we aren't going to do anything special. I have already received some gifts. My boyfriend gave me money to buy new clothes, a teapot, and tea. My aunt gave me a blanket (for use outdoors), a bottle of soap (cherry blossom scented by Bath and Body Works), a bottle of perfume (cherry blossom scented by Bath and Body Works), a CD (Japanese Jazz - the title of the CD is Cherry Blossom), some chocolate (covered cherries from Harry and David), some cookies (chocochip also from Harry and David), a diary, and a (Target) giftcard. My friend gave me a pedicure. My toenails are blue now. I am very spoiled.

That's all for now.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 07:49 PM

April 15, 2005

Counter Culture

The following is a piece I wrote for HIST 150: America in the 1960s. The date on it is October 27, 2002. I think it is an interesting read, both for the content as well as for a sense of where I was with my writing ability when I first arrived at George Mason University.

The counterculture was an unstructured group, composed primarily of young people, who perceived themselves to be isolated in their search for deeper meaning in life. For a group like the counterculture to be considered revolutionary, it needed to have presented ideas that were fundamentally different from what was readily seen in dominant society at the time. So, was the counterculture revolutionary? The counterculture was very much a part of something larger than itself that, when considered as a whole, was revolutionary. Many movements, including the counterculture, sought to find meaning in their lives in radically different ways from mainstream society. They also experienced a failure to communicate what it was that they were looking for.

Many groups that emerged in the 1960s felt they were somehow left impoverished by society’s great plan for them, most dramatically the counterculture. This empty feeling itself wasn’t anything new if you consider, for example, the existentialists who had long expressed it before the 1960s. The renewed focus on filling the void was at the time revolutionary because it was more widely and overtly acknowledged within these groups as a problem that needed to be dealt with head-on. The varied attempts to deal with it were themselves radically different from the mainstream. The mainstream made a choice to simply ignore its existential responsibility by instead pursuing a life driven by the need for more and more economic security. They saw happiness as something potentially existing in the future, depending on how hard you worked for it. The underlying message of the mainstream was to do what you are told to by society, convention, your peer group, and advertisements. It encouraged these emergent groups to lead a similarly unexamined life. The counterculture strongly rejected the notion that the problem could simply be suppressed.

According to Guy Strait, the hippies felt short-changed by the expectations placed on them by society. These people knew that they didn’t want to sell their souls for material comfort. They challenged mainstream society by not conforming to its values. Through a process of elimination of these values, the counterculture hoped to discover whatever it was they were missing. A mass exodus of youths fled the constraints of structured society for what seemed to Joan Didion as no good reason. The very fact that these people deemed it necessary to give up their security, at a time when blacks were highly disadvantaged in that manner, indicates that they were looking for something that transcended material comfort. They wanted to be exposed to as many new experiences as possible for example by experimenting with drugs and sampling exotic religions. What the counterculture collectively settled on through these different experiences was that it was easier just to try and be happy in the immediate moment. That is pretty much where their search for answers left off. To quote the young man from the documentary, “There’s nothing to climb for, it’s all right here.” What he conveyed was that people who identified with the counterculture had felt lost because they didn’t know how to live.

Betty Friedan explained in the Feminine Mystique that women were also unhappy with conforming to society’s vision for them. They lacked some greater definition beyond having a husband and making babies. These women were no longer content fooling themselves into believing the things society promoted would ever be enough to make them feel fulfilled. The conclusion that a lot of women arrived at was that this fulfillment could be located and had in the things society deprived them of. Betty Friedan explained in The Feminine Mystique that if more women went to college, for the purpose of obtaining an education and afterwards a good job, they might be able to resolve this. In The Graduate, Mrs. Robinson went to college to find herself a husband because that was what society dictated women do. A man she met in college impregnated her. She then married him in order to preserve her social status. Later in life, she felt like something was missing. In her desperate attempt to fill the hollowness she felt, Mrs. Robinson deviated from the mainstream by having an affair with a younger man.

Norman Bowker, a Vietnam veteran and the main character in Speaking of Courage, also couldn’t find a meaningful purpose for his life. After he returned from the war, he tried to integrate back into the mainstream, but he just couldn’t. Having a job and working to secure his future no longer had the same appeal for him. Nothing had the same stakes as war did. He came home to the realization that life is short and that there is emptiness in socially accepted pursuits alone. He inevitably dealt with this by taking his own life.

It has been so far established that several groups, not limited to the counterculture, identified a desire for a greater meaning to their existences that they dealt with in radically different ways from the mainstream. These groups attempted to articulate this desire to others. They found that they couldn’t relate. It was never clearly reestablished that it was a problem everyone experiences. This failure to communicate and relate with others was revolutionary. These groups longed to connect with others on a deeper level than the mainstream sought to and maybe that is why they were met with such difficulty. Even basic connections became complicated and at times an impossibility for them. The song “The Sound of Silence” (Simon, 1964) described “people talking without speaking” and “people hearing without listening.” The people on the receiving end seemed to be so consumed with their own desires to resolve and communicate, that they either ignored or were truly oblivious to what was being said.

Characters in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest had come to believe that the narrator, Chief Bromden was deaf and mute. The truth is that he chose not to speak originally because he was just ignored when he did. He later continued in his silence out of fear of Nurse Ratched. While he remained silent for that last reason, he represented the more passive element of society that submitted to authority (the mainstream).

Ben Braddock and Mrs. Robinson, two characters featured in The Graduate, couldn’t find anything meaningful to talk about. Ben often tried in vain to engage Mrs. Robinson on such topics as art, her major in college, interestingly enough. Their relationship was of a sexual nature. Mrs. Robinson seemed to have sought a physical connection with Ben as the means to resolve her empty feeling, whereas Ben seemed to have sought to connect with her more on a verbal level. It was clearly a desperate attempt on both of their parts to connect somehow with a fellow human being. Ben realized it was futile and gave up trying.

Ben and Mr. Robinson had their own difficulty in communicating. Mr. Robinson called Ben by a different wrong name a few times in their early encounters with one another. He also gave Ben the same wrong drink twice after asking in each instance if it was the right one. Ben had informed him both times that it wasn’t. It seems Mr. Robinson didn’t place a whole lot of value on what Ben had to say before he found out about the affair. When Ben was established as a part of Mr. Robinson’s problem, he began communicate with him differently.

Betty Friedan wrote her book in hopes of communicating the problem that housewives were grappling with mostly in silence. She arrived at a bad conclusion that jobs would liberate these women precisely because she did not bother to concern herself with other women, who at first glance, did not appear to be in the same boat as her.

The female interviewee from the documentary film discussed the sexual freedom of the 1960s, but she didn’t seem to communicate that she was enjoying it. There was no definite emotional conviction coming from her. This indicates that she, like Ben, had an underlying desire to connect with another human being in a more meaningful way beyond sex.

Norman Bowker also wanted to talk about his problems, but nobody in town wanted to listen. Life went on as usual for them. No one really knew what the right thing to say to him was so he was simply ignored. When he finally found someone that was effectively in a position where he had to listen, Norman Bowker found he couldn’t talk.

These groups all shared a common dilemma: finding a greater meaning to their existences. They attempted to address this problem in many unconventional ways and found themselves faced with tremendous difficulty in communicating. The counterculture itself seems to have done the best job in not prematurely eliminating possibilities in trying to answer that question. The counterculture was revolutionary despite seeming unaware that it was part of a larger effort to address this universal problem in radical ways and to somehow communicate with others what it was they were going through.

Vestiges of this problem are still around today. It persists to be an agonizing question that still does not consistently reside at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Is fitting in with the mainstream really all there is to life? Everyone has to address this question when they find themselves confronted with it. Even if you ignore your existentialist responsibility you are still responding to it. As Sartre said, “What is not possible is not to choose…even if I do not choose, I am still choosing.” The best approach is to face this question head-on as these groups have shown us. There may not be a conclusive answer for everyone, but the point the counterculture made is that life is finite and you should not throw it away in the sole pursuit of a meaningless existence.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 06:09 PM

April 07, 2005

Si Yo Ganara la Lotería

This is my fifth paper assignment for SPAN 301.

Si yo ganara la lotería, gritaría y saltaría. Entonces, ahorraría algún del dinero en el banco. Saldaría mis cuentas. Para mi novio, pagaría sus préstamos de escuela también. Daría a mi tía el dinero que necesita. Donaría por lo menos diez por ciento del dinero a unas caridades. Compraría mi primera casa. (Un total de 52 palabras.)

-- CrystalShiloh @ 01:17 AM

April 02, 2005

Busy Bee

I was hoping that the firework display would be postponed due to the rain, but according to the official website of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, it went on as scheduled. I had the livingroom curtains pulled back while I studied geology sprawled out on the couch, but I didn't see or even hear the fireworks going off. Color me disappointed :(. I did make some good headway on my studying, though. I still have quite a ways to go with it and my geology exam is first thing on Tuesday morning. I guess to get everything done I'll need to first replicate myself.

Oh yeah, *and* we are going to lose an hour tonight. That's right folks, it's daylight savings time again. Don't forget to turn your clocks ahead!!

As for tomorrow, I need to write an answer to a take-home exam question for my folklore class. It needs to be a minimum of 500 words, but it shouldn't exceed two pages. I'll have to reread some of the material we covered in class before I can tackle that. Then, I must produce two pages of my semester fieldwork project, also for my folklore class, on objects of memory: charm bracelets. I'll have to transcribe a two-hour interview I conducted with my aunt before I can endeavor to accomplish that assignment. Thankfully, it won't be graded. I'll receive credit for simply completing it.

I can squeeze some time in to work on some of this stuff on Monday before and after my class, if need be. I'm really going to need a break at some point this week *if* I can manage to fit that in to my busy schedule.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 10:16 PM

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The original 3,000 cherry blossom trees came to the people of Washington, DC back in 1912 as a gift from the city of Tokyo. The National Cherry Blossom Festival has been celebrated every year since. This year marks the 93rd celebration.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival began this year on March 26 and it will continue until April 10. Peak blooming period has been predicted to be between April 4 - 9.

Event Highlights This Weekend:
This evening between 5:00 - 8:30 there will be a Musical Prelude and Fireworks along Washington's Southwest Waterfront (nearby the Jefferson Memorial). I wish I could go, but since I have an inordinate amount of homework assigned for this weekend I will likely end up watching the display from our livingroom windows.

Sunday afternoon between 2:30 - 4:30 the Lantern Lighting Ceremony is being held on the North bank of the Tidal Basin. It is interesting to note that the lantern that will be lit is 350 years old. Unfortunately, I'll probably have to forego attending this event, as well.

However, I have made some tentative plans for next weekend to go and see the blooms with a few friends. I hope I can hold out until then.

-- CrystalShiloh @ 10:00 AM

April 01, 2005

Accelerated Masters Degree Program

As you may or may not already know, depending on whether or not you have read my bio (see Snapshot: Zoom in... in the navigation menu to the right), I am majoring in English with a concentration in linguistics at George Mason University. In my undergraduate work, I will have attained senior status upon the completion of the current semester (there is roughly another month left to go). With my concentration in linguistics and through the Accelerated Masters Degree Program, I have an opportunity to take some graduate-level LING classes (9 credits worth in total, six of which I will later be able to transfer into my graduate degree which will also be in English, specifically, linguistics).

I recently signed up for my first grad class, FRLN 573 - Current Trends in Language Pedagogy or Foreign Language Anxiety (the latter seems like it might be an old course title still associated with the course number, but the two aren't mutually exclusive). The class is being offered this summer, in Session C, at the Fairfax campus of George Mason. It will be taught by Dr. Goldin, my current SPAN 301 Spanish Grammar and Syntax prof., and Associate Chair of the Modern and Classical Languages Department.

Feeling somewhat intimidated about taking a grad class at this stage in my education (yes, despite whatever you may have thought, even students with a 3.9 or higher GPA question the extent of their abilities now and again), I decided it might make it easier for me if I planned to take my first class at that level with a professor that I am already familiar with. I like his teaching style. He is himself a linguist and so in SPAN 301 he had been good about defining the patterns for us that he has observed within the language. We have been learning all about the structure of Spanish. There is much that I will take away from this class.

I probably have my association (maybe friendship is better choice, but I wouldn't want to be presumptive) with Dr. Chamberlain, the Chair of Modern and Classical Languages and my former prof. of LING 326 General Linguistics, to thank for assisting me to enroll into Dr. Goldin's SPAN 301 class after registration for it had already closed. At the time, I was busy taking SPAN 209 the intensive Spanish course that combines both SPAN 201 and 202 into six credit hours and the date passed me by. I mentioned to Dr. Chamberlain that I was intending to introduce myself to Dr. Goldin and make my case to him so he would potentially let me in the class anyway. Apparently, he took it upon himself to go to Dr. Goldin before I had a chance to and so when I did get around to seeing him he said he had heard about me. He was already aware that I am good student who is eager to learn and he didn't have a problem with my joining his class. he told me, "We'll find a way to make it happen." And so he did. I have since developed a pleasant relationship with him (again friendship might be the better word, but I don't wish to be presumptive).

I have been keeping both Dr. Chamberlain and Dr. Goldin informed with how my plans for my education have been progressing. They have been very supportive of me, offering whatever advice they can. I went to them this past week to see if they would be willing to each write the two prerequisite letters I will need to make my admission into the Accelerated Masters Degree Program official. Much to my satisfaction, they both happily agreed to it. I think the letters would be best coming from them, even though they are in charge of the Modern and Classical Languages Dept., because they are able to attest to my qualities as a student firsthand and both of their backgrounds are in linguistics.

As far as the other requirements for admission into the Accelerated Masters Program go, I have already or will soon have satisfied all of them. I am no doubt in good academic standing with a GPA that rests at 3.97 and I have completed LING 326 with Dr. Chamberlain and earned an A+ in the class. I have 89 credits currently, but I will have 99 at the end of this semester (they only ask that you have 90 completed to enter the program). Now there just remains the matter of filling out the paperwork and I understand that there will be a lot involved.

According to Dr. Weinberger, the Director of the Linguistics Program, I am the first student to have expressed interest in this program (and it has been in place for over a year now! He and I had discussed this option as a possibility for me back in fall of 03 at the time I was taking ENGL 325). So, he has a few phone calls that he needs to make before we can move further with this and make it official. When we spoke he also agreed to accept FRLN 573 for my undergrad concentration in linguistics, after I explained what the class was, but he did make me aware that any grad classes I may I take without the LING designation would not be transferred into my grad degree. That was fine by me because only six of the nine credits I need for my concentration can count for both undergrad and grad credit. For my other two remaining classes, he insisted I take Phonology and Semantics with him. I had been exposed to both phonology and semantics in the course of taking LING 326. I didn't particularly find either one to be exciting myself, but Dr. Chamberlain was a charming professor.

I had met Dr. Weinberger him this past Wednesday after attending a lecture he gave to an ENGL 325 class (coincidentally enough) on Literary Nonsense: The Linguistics of Neologisms. It became evident to me that he is a phonologist thoroughly excited by his subject material. I found that aspect of him to be very engaging. He also revealed his sense of humor which I "got."

I'm now looking forward to taking my grad-level classes with Dr. Goldin and Dr. Weinberger, two really great professors. And I can't believe how far I have come!

-- CrystalShiloh @ 04:49 PM