29: Holocaust Education Program

I went to the AUM Holocaust Education Program this morning at the AUM Physical Education Complex, and not only was it wonderfully informative and very powerful and moving, but I got credit for three separate classes (out of the five I’m taking this semester). I’m not sure which one I’m more interested in… XD

Here are some pictures that I took at the Program. I apologise for the terrible quality of the photos: I was on the balcony, attempting to zoom in on the main floor with my rather terrible iPod Touch camera. I’ll give you a description of each picture, and hopefully you can figure out which part of the picture I’m talking about. ^_^

K iTouch Pics 04242013 042

This is a picture of the projector board at the Education Program: it says (or should say…) “Auburn University Montgomery Holocaust Education Program April 24, 2013” or something very similar to that… XDK iTouch Pics 04242013 043

This is a picture of some of the posterboards set up around the gym and also the candles that were lit for the Candle-Lighting Remembrance Ceremony (no really… XP).K iTouch Pics 04242013 044

Aaaaaand a random photographer guy taking pictures of the posterboards I was taking pictures of…K iTouch Pics 04242013 045

This is actually a rather good picture… Sorry random person whose head is in the frame. XD This is the candle-lighting ceremony that I mentioned in the previous picture: a reverend from Alabama State University and a rabbi from Montgomery are lighting the candles, while another rabbi from Montgomery is standing at the podium. (I know one of the rabbis is from Montgomery because I’ve sung at Temple Beth Or where he preaches [if that’s the word], but I don’t really know where the other one’s from.)K iTouch Pics 04242013 046

A close up of the same candle-lighting ceremony… K iTouch Pics 04242013 048

This is the director of the History Department at the podium, and a Holocaust survivor and the daughter of a Holocaust survivor sitting at the table. I’m fairly sure that their names are Max Helzer and Denise Roberts.K iTouch Pics 04242013 049

And a close-up…K iTouch Pics 04242013 050

Umm… I think this is someone else on the faculty of AUM at the podium and the two speakers still at the table, but I could be wrong. Sadly, I don’t remember what it actually is… XDK iTouch Pics 04242013 051

This is the dean of the School of Sciences at AUM at the podium, and again the two speakers at the table. This was very near the end of the program.

What I didn’t take pictures of was the part of the Frontline documentary, called “Memory of the Camps”, which is a documentary made out of film taken by film crews who travelled with the American & British liberation troops who went to the Nazi concentration camps. We only were shown the bits on Bergen-Belsen, which was probably sufficient, but very informative and fascinating, though probably because of the sheer number of images from the camp. I am very interested in seeing the rest of it, if I can find it, and I would very highly recommend at least the parts of it that I saw to anyone interested in the Holocaust. Of course, there is a warning for disturbing images, but as this is the Holocaust we’re talking about, it shouldn’t be really a surprise. (I’m sorry, that was rude. … But it is true. XD)

I am very glad that I was able to go to AUM’s Holocaust Education Program, and I’m very grateful that Dr. Woodworth allowed us to go to this Program if we wanted instead of class. (Of course, because she has bronchitis there wouldn’t have been class anyway, but she’d promised to let us go even before she came down with bronchitis. Get better soon Dr. Woodworth!!) I immensely enjoyed every minute of it, which is true, but also sounds like I’m a horrible person because the Holocaust isn’t really something you’d use the word “enjoy” to describe. But the words “interested”, “fascinated”, and “moved by” don’t quite seem like the words to describe my feelings properly. “Enjoyed” isn’t quite it either, but it’ll have to do for now. And with that, I leave you. I fully intend to learn as much about the Holocaust through future programs and memorials as I possibly can, and I hope you will too, as the Holocaust is an event that needs to be remembered.

Remember on.

Henrietta’s Firefly

Henrietta Lacks was born and raised and lived her whole life between Baltimore, Maryland, and Clover, Virginia. She and her family were all poor black tobacco farmers or miners. She married her cousin, and they had 5 children together.

River Tam was born on a planet controlled by the Alliance, which took over when Earth got too crowded, and terraformed new planets to support the ever-growing population. She went to an Alliance school before her brother rescued her, after which they lived on a ship which took on semi-legal jobs around the fringes of the galaxy.

When we meet River Tam in the TV show “Firefly,” she is 17 years old. When we meet Henrietta Lacks in the book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” she is dead. Sort of.

River Tam was a fictional character.

Henrietta Lacks was real.

When you compare River Tam and Henrietta Lacks on the surface, they appear not to have anything in common. But when you dig a little deeper, there are many similarities.

Henrietta and River were both taken advantage of by doctors: Henrietta, because she was poor, black, and uneducated; River because she was young, privileged, and brilliant.

While Henrietta was under anesthesia for surgery to treat her cervical cancer, the surgeon took a sample of the cancer for his lab without Henrietta’s consent. When River went to the Alliance school for gifted children, doctors performed extremely damaging surgery on her brain without her consent.

Henrietta’s cancer cells turned out to be the first immortal cell line ever grown in a lab, and since the 1950s they have been used all over the world in testing vaccines for and doing research on diseases such as polio and HIV/AIDS. We never really find out what the operations on River’s brain did for the Alliance doctors, but the result of those operations proves very important in saving the lives of the crew of Serenity, the ship River and her brother are on.

At first, the families of Henrietta and River had no idea what had happened to them. It took Simon, River’s brother, several months on board Serenity before he was able to get to a place where he could find out what had been done to River. It took years for the children of Henrietta Lacks to even find out that cells had been taken. And even quite a while after both Henrietta’s children and Simon found out what had happened to their mother and sister respectively, they didn’t know why those things had been done, and they didn’t know what to do about them.

I believe Simon never found out why the Alliance doctors had performed the operations on River, and he never found a way to completely reverse the damage. After Henrietta’s children learned that their mother’s cancer cells had become immortal, they tried to get their mother’s name known as the person behind the cells. Years passed before Rebecca Skloot came along and was able to help them.

Henrietta Lacks and River Tam were both taken advantage of by doctors.

They and their families were damaged by their operations.

They were both loved.

Firefly: Serenity

I am very glad that I chose to watch the pilot episode of Firefly. After having seen 3 episodes from the middle of the season, it’s cool to go back and see how things got started. The first scene in the episode depicts Mal and Zoe during the war. In the later episodes, everyone refers back to Mal and Zoe being in the war together, but this is when we get to see them in action. After seeing this scene from the war, we realize how much they are used to relying on each other, because they were the only ones from their squad left alive after a long and intense battle. It really brings new meaning to their relationship.

The next, and main, part of the episode takes place 6 years later, when Mal is the captain of Serenity (the ship). We see how Book, Simon, and River come on to the ship, and for me, having heard all the stories of Simon and River being fugitives, it all makes more sense after seeing this first episode. We see Mal’s utter stubbornness and need to be right and have everything work, but we also see his intense loyalty to his crew and his ship. So much so, that he is willing to make a deal with a woman who shot him once, because he doesn’t want his crew to get captured because of the cargo he decided to pick up.

In this episode, we also get to see more of Jayne’s character. He’s surprisingly loyal to Mal, and he takes pride in his strength and meanness, but he doesn’t use his strength to bully the crew, just to bully the people trying to kill the crew.

My favorite part of this episode has nothing to do with story line, emotion, or character development, but with a t-shirt. One of my favorite websites has a line of geek pop culture shirts, and my favorite was a t-shirt with a stegosaurus saying to a tyrannosaurus rex, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” I found it amusing, because of course, t-rexes eat stegosauri, but I had no idea where the line was from, and I didn’t know the context, so I always felt like I missed some crucial part of the joke. The first time we see Wash in this episode, he’s sitting at the controls, playing with two plastic dinosaurs: a stegosaurus, and a t-rex. He makes the dinosaurs have a dialogue, and they seem to be friends until the t-rex declares that he will eat the stegosaurus, to which the stegosaurus replies, “Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” This line does not in any way help the plot of the story, but I found it quite satisfying to finally see the context of one of my favorite t-shirts.

I am very pleased with the stories in the Firefly episodes that I’ve seen, and I hope that they continue to be just as enjoyable as I continue watching them for my English class. I especially can’t wait to see more of Jayne and Book, and perhaps some more t-shirt ambiguities will be cleared up. I’ll try to keep you posted on what I find most enjoyable about Firefly, but it’s just so much better to watch them yourself.

Tell me what your laugh lines are!

Curse your inevitable betrayal!

The Web Writing Style Guide on WritingSpaces

The Web Writing Style Guide, or WWSG, helped me primarily in understanding the nuances between different web writing possibilities. For example, I had no idea what Reddit and Digg were before reading the chapter on them. I also didn’t realize that Wikipedia is an example of a wiki, not that all wikis are branches of Wikipedia.

The WWSG also explored different ways of writing for different web sources, such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and wikis. There is a very interesting nuance between blogs and Twitter, besides the obvious difference of word limits. They’re both available to the public in general, and you should be careful on both mediums as to what you write about, but in blogs you have slightly more freedom to write about your actual opinions and things you’ve experienced whereas as Twitter seems to be a ground for political exploitation and media comments on statements that were not fully thought through. And telling people who don’t care what you just bought at a store they don’t know about. 😀 Also, on blogs, if you write about something boring all the time, such as what you just ate, people just won’t click on your blog, and they’ll warn people away from your blog. On Twitter, though, if you follow someone, or even just look at the Twitter homepage, you have no choice but to look at what someone just had for a snack, if that’s what has been tweeted most recently.

An interesting concept I intend to pursue, mentioned in the WWSG, is to focus your blog on one subject, and write interesting and well-thought-out stories about that particular topic. My blog at the moment is primarily my Honors English class, but I intend to keep up my blog as a blog about interesting books I read, and good (or bad) music I listen to and/or play.

In the article about wikis, one of the things the author(s) mentioned as critical to a good wiki contribution is that you be considerate in your editing and thoughtful in what you post. For instance, if you come across a political wiki about a politician you strongly disagree with, it’s better to read what is there and move on, rather than deleting much of the pertinent information and writing offensive, untrue comments and rumors about that politician. On the same note, if you create a wiki about a politician that you greatly admire, you should try to present the facts in an orderly, unbiased way rather than uninteresting posts about how that politician is so wonderful and perfect. I doubt that I personally will ever write or contribute to a wiki, but I believe that it is important to write about things thoughtfully and in a way that is not offensive to others who may not believe the same things you do. Especially after reading some things mentioned in my Communications textbook about communicating effectively, I believe it is very important to take your audience into consideration when writing a blog or a wiki.

Plagiarism is another important thing to take in account when writing on the web, or in general, and I found the section on plagiarism in the WWSG to be very informative. For instance, I had no idea that plagiarism is not illegal, but unethical. In my mind, I had always equated plagiarism with copyright infringement. Now, this in no way means that I’m now going to go out on Wikipedia and steal a bunch of other people’s ideas just because I can legally do it. No way! I treat people’s ideas as copyrighted and plagiarism as illegal and paraphrasing as a compliment that you liked their idea. In the same section, though, they mentioned a bunch of ways to cite web sources on a blog, and I’m definitely going to use those. (Speaking of, clicking these words will take you to the Web Writing Style Guide.)

Overall, the Web Writing Style Guide was a very interesting and surprisingly short read, and I really enjoyed what I read. I’m definitely going to keep using it as a resource for what to do and what not to do on my blog. So go read it! And then tell me what you think. On my blog, preferably. 😀

Rube Goldberg and the Art of Writing

A Rube Goldberg machine is a complicated series of steps performed by machines in order to do something very simple, such as an eight-step process so that you don’t have to wipe your mouth with a napkin by yourself. Writing is very similar to a Rube Goldberg machine for several reasons, but primarily in that writing is a very long and complicated series of steps to do something very simple, such as stating an opinion. Depending on what you’re trying to do with a Rube Goldberg machine, the process can be very messy: you can destroy many drafts of the machine before you get it quite right, and also the finished product can be quite messy. Writing also requires several drafts, and the end result is also sometimes messy. But in both cases, if the machine has been well designed and executed, it can be a work of art and the people who view the finished product never need know all the messy work that went into it. The final comparison I will give in this post between Rube Goldberg machines and writing is that you should always be flexible to accepting new ideas, even if they sound horrible at first. The end product may be even more beautiful.

TED Talk (Adam Sadowsky)

I love my English class.

We watch soooooooo much cool stuff.

Today, we watched a talk on ted.com (an awesome website) about the Rube Goldberg video (an awesome video) for OK Go (an awesome band). The talk was by the guy that OK Go went to when they wanted to make a Rube Goldberg machine music video for their song “This Too Shall Pass”. It’s crazy how much work, time, thought, and man-power went into that project.
You can get to Adam Sadowsky’s talk by clicking this. He plays the video at the end of his talk, so don’t worry if you haven’t seen it before. It’s actually quite a short talk, and he’s quite engaging.

I recommend this to everyone. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Off Gallivanting

Today in class we were ordered out of the room to go off gallivanting.

So off we went! Outside, to the cafeteria, no one really cared, so long as we had our laptops. Our quest? Write. About whatever we felt like, so long as it was pertinent to class.

The only problem? The wi-fi wasn’t really cooperating.

So I was unable to gallivant very far before my math class.

And because of that, my gallivanting is taking place, on my couch, in my house, more than 8 hours after class. Ah well. C’est la vie.

Our in-class quest has been varied and fun, talking about TV shows, books, essays, food, and, most importantly, the fun we’re having.

I cannot wait to continue our class of derring-do and discovery in the coming year! 😀


Do you write?

I asked several of my friends this same question, and their answers were interesting and varied. For instance, several of my friends keep journals. Some other of my friends, and I do this as well, come up with seemingly great ideas for stories, but we’re too lazy to write them down. Emails, texts, and Facebook status updates are very prevalent. NaNoWriMo (the National Novel Writing Month) is also a way that some of my friends write.

I personally write blog posts, songs, poems, and attempts at stories.

What do you write?


Writing Spaces

Paul Lynch’s “The Sixth Paragraph” essay taught me a new way of writing, and also of looking at essays. He’s funny and informative, and he draws you into his subject with engaging dialogue, even though it’s technically one-sided.
Of course, I wouldn’t have thought to look at “The Sixth Paragraph” with an eye towards writing my own essays if I hadn’t first read Mike Bunn’s “How to Read Like a Writer” essay.
Bunn is also engaging, if less humorous, and after reading his essay I felt like I could figure out why I like writers I like. And so, in the next essay I read, Catherine Ramsdell’s “Who I Am Story” essay, I read it like a writer, and also noticed that Mike Bunn had started his essay with a Who I Am story. I also began my next essay with a Who I Am story that I think succeeded because I had read those essays like a writer.
I haven’t yet been able to use E. Shelley Reid’s “Ten Ways to Think About Writing” techniques yet, but hopefully I’ll be able to use them in my blog, which I feel more comfortable with now that I’ve read Alex Reid’s “Why Blog?” essay.
So this post is sort of a meandering, “here’s all the essays I’ve read”, not-really-much-of-a-point post. But I enjoyed writing it, and even if this post doesn’t show it, I’ve learned a lot about writing (and reading!) from the essays, and I enjoyed them tremendously. In conclusion, which sadly is part of the usual five-paragraph essay, this post I believe is indicative of Montaigne’s essai-ist style, and I hope you find these WritingSpaces essays as interesting, inspiring, and informative as I did.
And if they inspired you, thank my teacher. She helps edit them.
See you on the “blogosphere”! 😀

War Stories


I know this is an odd way to begin a blog post, but it’s an important, and tragic, part of the world we live in. It’s also a major part of the episode “War Stories” from the TV show Firefly.

In “War Stories”, (pardon if I give a spoiler), two of the crew (one of whom is Mal, the captain) are captured by an old enemy of Mal’s set on revenge. Mal and Wash (the other crew member) are then tortured to the brink of death. I couldn’t quite figure out why, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for information.

Torture is often used as a way of extracting information, usually about troop movements and supply chains in war. Does it actually work though? From what little I know of torture, I think the victim would be more engrossed in trying to block out the pain or prevent the torturer from having the satisfaction of seeing them break than in revealing information. However, there’s also the part of me that thinks, “Duh, if you tell the people what they want to know, they’ll probably stop torturing you!” Unless, of course, you’ve been kidnapped by a sadist, and after finding out what they wanted to know, they send a firing squad at you.

But that still doesn’t answer the question: Does torture work?
I suppose it would depend on what you were trying to do. If you’re trying to find out information, it may work, but I’m sure there are other ways of finding out rather than beating someone bloody. Hypnotism? Psychological torture? (not that either of those are good).
But if you’re trying to revenge yourself upon someone, how do you know when you’re done? When they apologize? When they’re dead? If, say, the victim killed your brother, he can’t exactly bring him back to life, can he? And a death for a death in that situation really serves no purpose. Your brother’s still dead.

So what exactly is the point of torture? Does it ever work?

I say it depends on the person, and it depends on the circumstances, but in general torture is never a good idea.

But I don’t really know. And I’m curious: what do you think?