20: What in the Worlds is Going On?

So in case you haven’t noticed, this Honors Freshman Composition sequence isn’t exactly…typical. XD We’ve done a lot of very strange but very fun things in the past semester and a half, and all of our strange projects and experiments have made us think and have helped us become better writers. For instance, the murder project we did last year: have you ever had to write in a police report style? Or the explorations that we did, also last semester: do you have any idea how much fun it is to stalk people for an assignment, but also how hard it is to write about it afterwards? Goodness I love Dr. Woodworth. XD

(This is the point where I’m supposed to insert a picture that enhances my thinking, so, strangely enough, here you are: from http://www.infinitydish.com/tvblog/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/David-Tennant-Fanpop.com_.jpg)

We’ve made connections between quite a lot of seemingly disparate things in this class, wouldn’t you say? Tapestries, storytelling, a sci-fi/western crossover TV show that’s become a geek cult phenomenon, explorations, murder (rhetorically speaking, of course), open education, social media of all sorts, blogs and the intricacies therein, memory – public and private, memorials and monuments and the things they represent and the differences between them, ourselves and how they relate to the world and storytelling, machines and learning, and of course storytelling and writing in every shape and form. We’ve done some really strange connections, such as the “Bendito Machine” video we wrote about a few weeks ago, and connecting that to memorials and social media. We’ve done some more obvious connections, such as connecting the Explorations projects to the stories they tell about the world about the people we found in a few of the explorations. In fact, now that I think about it, the explorations connect quite well to the monuments and social media that we’ve been talking about this spring semester! And of course, everything can connect back to Firefly. I only just realised that we haven’t done much with Firefly this semester… 🙁 I do hope that in the last six weeks of this semester we’ll be able to do more of Firefly and those Explorations…

I have to admit, even though I was quite puzzled for the first month or so, and I wasn’t sure how the class was going to turn out, all the strange connections and things that we’ve been doing have been some of the most fun I’ve ever had, and I think they can all most definitely connect to each other in wonderful ways that work quite well and actually may be very useful in regular life after college. Because we’ve had to figure out ways in which these different things work together, we’ve done quite a few brain stretching exercises which couldn’t be anything but helpful. Besides, problem solving is a skill that nearly every employer is looking for nowadays, and being able to write about a variety of topics is a useful skill no matter what career field you are planning to go in to. Also, the fact that the entirety of our ‘papers’ are online, on a blog, and that several of our assignments are through Twitter or Facebook, means that we’ll be more computer-literate than we might otherwise have been. And since our world is expanding rapidly through technology and online and social media, being able to use these technologies without fear (or at least with less fear) is a crucial skill to have, and to hone. Some other experiences that emphasize that point are the fact that we are told to use Google on a somewhat regular basis, and the fact that we have all made memes online, and so in order to do that we had to have been exposed to some of the meme norms, and what is expected of a meme, in order to use the meme-generating websites that we discovered. During class, when we’re writing or doing something that’s not discussing or watching a video, our teacher will go onto YouTube and play music for us. Exposure to new music is always good, don’t you think? Actually, exposure to anything new is very helpful. Open learning, which we talked about very briefly, is one of the best ways to learn new things: because it’s free!

So yeah, our class is pretty crazy. Geeks, all of us, and not ashamed of it. We’re all also not afraid of writing, nor of trying new things. Can you imagine if we were? Goodness that would make for some awkward classes… [Dr. Woodworth: “Figure out what you want to write about, then research and write 2000 words about it in the next month.” Student: “Um, I prefer multiple-choice tests…” *horrible silence*] But thankfully none of us are like that, so we all have a tremendous amount of fun, despite how much we may complain about having to write 500 words in a week (terrifying the first few times, but after you’ve been assigned that a good 20 or so times, you get used to it). I love how much our strange and unusual assignments stretch our minds and writing acumen, and I really will miss this class and Dr. Woodworth after the sequence finishes at the end of this semester. And while I can still say it in class without people looking at me funny, “Shiny!”

Write on!

18: Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem is a memorial and museum complex on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel, commemorating and remembering those Jews who died in the concentration camps in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust, and also those whose communities were destroyed during that same period. In the complex are the Yad Vashem museum, the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, the Holocaust Art Museum, the Hall of Remembrance, the Hall of Names, and the Square of Hope, among others. Yad Vashem is Israel’s official site remembering the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, and is the second most visited site in Israel, after the Western Wall, receiving some one million visitors every year.

It was established in 1953, but the modern museum building was dedicated in 2005, replacing the original museum, which was smaller, and less technologically advanced. Inside the Yad Vashem museum, there is a skylight which runs the length of the entire prism-shaped building (all 200 metres of it!), and a series of hallways and passages that guides you through rooms dedicated to different chapters of the Holocaust, accentuating particular points in time, and giving voice to some of the individuals who were killed, not merely numbering them as one of six million. It blends the stories of 90 Holocaust victims and survivors, and presents over 2500 personal items given to the museum by survivors and by others, presumably family members of those killed. Avner Shalev, the curator and chairman of Yad Vashem, said that the museum revolves around “looking into the eyes of the individuals”, and that “there weren’t six million victims [of the Holocaust], there were six million individual murders.”

The Hall of Names, inside the Yad Vashem museum, is a memorial to the 6 million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. It is made up of two cones, each 10 metres in height: One suspended above the platform, covered with the photographs and fragments of “Pages of Testimony” of 600 Holocaust victims; one excavated into the rock beneath the platform with its base filled with water, reflecting the photographs and testimonies of the cone above as a memorial to those Holocaust victims whose names and stories are as yet unknown.  (This is a picture of the Hall of Names to give you an idea of what it looks like, taken from the Yad Vashem website. I actually looked it up to try and figure out how it worked myself, and I figured you’d probably want or need to see it too. The second cone is visible through that hole in the middle of the platform.) The shelves surrounding the platform and cones are filled with the over 2.2 million Pages of Testimony that the museum has collected about the Holocaust victims and survivors.  (Pages of Testimony can be submitted by anyone, and have pretty much any information you can think of about those who were in the Holocaust: genealogical, residential, occupational, and wartime information are just some of the things provided on these pages.)

The Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is a memorial garden dedicated to those non-Jews who risked their lives to help Jews out of the concentration camps during the Holocaust. I believe every tree in the garden was planted in honor of an individual who made a truly incredible effort to save the lives of Jews. Along with the tree planted in their honor, the honorees can be presented with the Title of one of the Righteous Among the Nations – usually by an Israeli ambassador in their own country, a Medal and Diploma with their name on it – awarded in Jerusalem, and every rescuer has their name engraved on the Wall of Honor, in the Garden of the Righteous.

Of all the memorials I’ve read about and seen, this is the memorial that touched me the most and the one that I’d like to visit the most. I’ve always been interested in the Holocaust, but this seems more personal to me, somehow, than all the books I’ve read. I do sincerely hope that I can visit Yad Vashem sometime in the future, and that it will be as truly incredible as the Wikipedia page makes it sound.

Til then, remember on.

9: The Arc de Triomphe

(picture copyright of http://www.travlang.com/blog/an-emblem-of-sacrifice-arc-de-triomphe-in-paris/)

The Arc de Triomphe on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France. One of my favorite names to say, and one of the coolest monuments I’ve ever seen. It stands 162 feet tall (approximately 32 mes!) , 150 feet wide (not going to calculate that one XD), and 72 feet deep (um, probably 72 mes depth-wise). (It’s also known as the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile; the Arc of Triumph of the Star [I believe that’s how it’s translated].)

It was designed in 1806 by Jean Chalgrin, but wasn’t inaugurated until 1836. The design commemorates and honours all those soldiers who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and is inscribed with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces, according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_de_Triomphe). Its engraved pictures are of “heroically nude French youths [pitted] against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail” (also according to Wikipedia). Beneath the arch lie the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, from World War I, and the eternal flame for unknown soldiers who died in both World Wars. The eternal flame was the first eternal flame lit since the fire of the ancient Roman Vestal Virgins was extinguished in the fourth century. The arcades of the Arc are engraved with figures representing characters from classical Roman mythology.

I chose the Arc de Triomphe mostly because it’s one of the few monuments I actually know about. I don’t remember when I learned about it, or what I knew about it before I just researched it, but it’s always been a lot of fun to say, and I’d like to visit it sometime. (Also, it’s on the Champs-Elysees, which is even more fun to say. XD) Somehow I always think of the Arc de Triomphe as a sort of Roman arch that is similar to all the triumphs and arches they had in ancient Rome, which is probably because it’s based on a Roman arch. But whatever subconscious reasons I had for choosing the Arc de Triomphe as my monument to blog about, it’s still one of my favorite monuments, and I really hope to visit it someday.

Remember onward!