Blog Post #5 Conflict

The main conflict within this memoir arises from Norman Ollestad’s feelings of resentment, but also idolization for his father. He feels that his father pushes him too hard to try and become a better surfer, skier and hockey player, which takes away from his time to create friendships and do things that other kids his age do, such as biking or playing ball. Norman looks up to his father’s dare-devil qualities, as he admires his father’s courage. His father would often wake him up as early as 5 am to go surfing, skiing or to play hockey. The conflict in this novel is just as much external as it is internal because Norman is still just a kid, but he’s being pushed to thrill-seeking extremes. However, he is also conflicted on whether he should listen to his father because he loves him and does not want to disobey, but he does not see why he is being pushed so much. Norman loves his father and idolizes him, as aforementioned, so he listens to everything he tells him, but this also has negative effects. After his father dies, Norman has tendencies to put his self-pleasure over others. For example, he rushed to the beach to go surfing and forgot to lock his dog Sunny up, potentially putting her in danger because of the coyotes. This demonstrates that although he loves his dog, he loses sight of those around him because he puts his self pleasure over everything else. This arises from the fact that he rarely had a say in his father’s decisions, as he was always dragged along on trips to go surfing or skiing. So as a result, whenever he has the opportunity to do what he wants, he dives head first into it, without thinking of the consequences.

Norman battles this conflict throughout a large portion of the memoir, however, he begins to realize and appreciate his father’s relentless pressuring of him to become a better skier. He also begins to reminisce about the experiences he had with his father, as he realizes that he is dead. He begins to resolve this conflict on his own, as at the start, he was unsure as to why he was being pressured so much. But once he accepts that his father is truly gone, he cherishes the moments that they spent together, and comes to appreciate that he has been molded into one of the best surfers and skiers in his age group. He realizes that his father pushed him so that he would not “[miss] out on fantastic moments “because you have to “[fight] through things to get to the good stuff.” His father was trying to make him see that “there is more to life than just surviving it. Inside each turbulence there is a calm—a sliver of light buried in the darkness.” Within every problem and crisis in life, there is hope and something that can be learned from it. Through his tireless skiing and surf sessions with his father, Norman matured and clung to the hope that he would survive when the plane crashed.

 

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Blog Post #4: Evaluation

The memoir genre allows for a multitude of ways to effectively connect with the emotions of the reader. All events that occur in a memoir are true stories, and as such, in Crazy for the Storm, the extraordinarily saddening, but also riveting and inspirational story of Norman Ollestad’s childhood touches the hearts of many of its readers. The memoir involves a conflicting relationship between Norman and his father, divorced parents, and eventually, the death of Norman’s father. All these topics can be related to and the non-fictional nature of a memoir strengthens the connection that the reader has with the book as they realize there is another person in the world who has struggled with their exact same problem.

In Night, the topic that the memoir pertains to makes it engrossing. The two books are vastly different, yet surprisingly similar. One deals with the treacherous events of the Holocaust, whereas the other is about a child’s colliding views with his father. However, both memoirs involve the theme of childhood, which seems to be a common age used in books of this genre. The two books provide insight into the stark difference between the childhood of someone in the 1970s versus someone in the 1940s. In comparison to Night by Elie Wiesel, both memoirs touch upon sensitive topics. The genre requires the writer to really open up and share their stories and experiences. If the writer is unable to do this, then the memoir is just bland and uninteresting. In a sense, because of this, memoirs can be extremely boring. However, in the case of Norman Ollestad, he slows down time while describing the plane crash. When he wakes up, he describes that he “quivered like a freight train.” Ollestad gives meticulous attention to detail, taking time to describe the “cold” (22). By doing this, the reader is more immersed into the story. Also, this piece of writing is very effective as it not only slows down time, but it also utilizes a lot of literary techniques such as similes. The use of similes effectively paint a picture for the reader, making it more enjoyable to read.

Although a memoir can provide insight into the author’s life and allow its readers a person to connect with, it also has its flaws. Since most memoirs pertain to the author’s childhood, a lot of the writing is not entirely accurate. The author most likely remembers a few things, however, there are still blanks that need to be filled in. For example, there is no way that Ollestad would be able to remember the exactly what each person said, so the dialogue must have been altered. Although some of the story may not be entirely accurate, it does not take much away from the essence of the memoir, which is conveying his love-hate relationship with his father and the intense and exhilarating experience of being close to death

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Post #3: Fact File

Harlem_Gang_Members

Fact 1: Despite many stereotypical views on gangs and poor black people, the projects are actually home to a large amount of entrepreneurial activity. For example, many women perform sex work, sell candy or various other meals. In addition to the illegal selling and handling of drugs, many men would fix cars, sell scraps, and some would even provide a protection service to other tenants. Although the profits are small, everyone is still making an effort to succeed. This revelation shows that as a society, our views are often clouded by stereotypes. Just because one is black and poor, we assume that they are unemployed and possess no form of income, nor a drive to attain one.

Fact 2: From a financial standpoint, a gang functions similarly to companies like McDonalds. During a conversation between J.T. and Sudhir, J.T. explains to him that the gang business emulates common enterprises such as fast food chains. There are people at the bottom who do the menial tasks, as they are essentially the recruits/newbies. These workers have a very meagre income, and it is nearly impossible for them to climb the ranks. As you progress up the hierarchy and eventually reach the top, you have people like J.T. who effectively take the majority of the profits and can distribute as little as they want to the people at the bottom. This is why the average foot soldier earns a very insignificant amount. However, most people do not view a gang as a business or company because of the illicit transactions that occur in order to earn profit. However, when you disregard this fact, it is very clear that gangs are effectively just like a McDonalds or a Burger King.

Fact 3: Most gang members will never become rich, despite the flashy cars and other expensive accessories that they are shown to possess in movies. Media often adds to the stereotypes about gangs, however, a lot of it is not completely accurate. An average foot soldier earns a wage that is even smaller than the average McDonald’s employee. Also, considering the sheer difficulty of climbing the ranks, most of these gang members will go through the rest of their life with the same income.The only members capable of having flashy cars are people like J.T. This book has shown that a majority of the stereotypes revolving around gangs and black people are completely false, or are very limited. This arises from the fact that we are too afraid to immerse ourselves within their community, resulting in inadequate data, which gives rise to false stereotypical views.

Fact 4: The Black Kings establish order within the projects. In many cases, gangs are a source of terror for the communities that they interact with. However, this is not the case for the Black Kings as they protect the tenants from outsiders and shut down crack dens to keep the people safe. For example, one of the prostitutes living in the projects was assaulted by her boyfriend. As a result, a few members of the gang were dispatched to deal with him and demonstrate that people should not mess with them or the tenants. The gang effectively acts as a policing force within the community, as the actual police try to refrain from involving themselves with the tenants. This ultimately sheds light on the intentions of the gang and demonstrates that they are not all terrible.

Fact 5: The Black Kings highly value education. In many of Sudhir’s conversations with the tenants, he finds out that a large portion of them aspire to go to college and receive an education. Many of them are also interested in subjects such as writing. Contrary to the stereotype that poor people do not value education, the gang’s goal is to keep kids in school. If members are suspended from school, then they receive a punishment. A major incentive for leading a gang life is to earn enough money to be able to afford an education. This fact is often disregarded when the topic of gangs comes up. Everyone has ambitions, but some people are more privileged others. Just because they lack education does not mean that they do not strive to attain one.

References: Harlem Gang Members. Digital Image. Wikia. Wikia, n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

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Post #2: Behaviors

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In Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology student takes it upon himself to investigate the daily lives of people living in the housing projects of Chicago. Initially and evidently, Sudhir is apprehensive about the situation because of the potential danger that could be inflicted on him during his time spent in the projects. He arrives in the projects with a questionnaire, frightened, but at the same time determined to gather as much information as possible.

Sudhir roams around, attempting to find people to interview, but he is immediately confronted by a member of the Black Kings (BK), a gang residing in the projects. At this point in the book, he is undoubtedly fearful for his safety due to the unpredictability of the situation. He has no idea how the gang member will react to his abrupt arrival, nor how he will be treated. Sudhir further demonstrates extreme amounts of fear and anxiety. As he walked up the stairs, “he brushed up against him and nearly lost his balance” (10). He merely grazed the man’s shirt, but spontaneously felt intimidated by him that he momentarily lost his sense of coordination, resulting in a loss of balance. Had this man been anyone besides a gang member, Sudhir would most likely have not felt so anxious and fearful. However, there exist a multitude of stereotypes regarding gangs. Society views gang members as uneducated and poor, and therefore unpredictable and violent towards new faces that appear on their ‘turf.’ As a result, Sudhir felt his security was being jeopardized, thus, he displayed symptoms of fear.

However, luckily for Sudhir, J.T, the leader of the Black Kings arrives just in time to intervene in his interrogation before he could be presumably mauled by the gang members. Sudhir explains his situation to J.T, raising the topic of the questionnaire, which piques not only J.T.’s interest, but also Sudhir’s, as he did not expect a resident of the projects to be so keen on a university student’s survey. As a result, Sudhir’s feeling of fear and insecurity slowly wanes because of J.T.’s welcoming gestures, as well as his own keen interest to learn more about J.T. and the gang’s life. J.T. explains to Sudhir that the gang business functions similarly to many different corporations due to its nature of having a ‘top dog,’ but also numerous rookies at the bottom attempting to work their way up. At this point in the book, Sudhir still demonstrates signs of apprehension, however, his high sense of curiosity leads him to follow J.T. around the housing projects, disregarding his incessant feeling of fear.

Sudhir’s emotions range from apprehension to determination to curiosity, resulting in a desire to learn more about the gang. In essence, his change in behaviour portrays the immensely strong influence that curiosity has on one’s decision. It even overrides his sense of fear and drives him to try and meticulously study the workings of the gang, even disregarding the potential danger that may arise from associating with them.

Gang Leader For A Day. Digital image. Amazon. Amazon, n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

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Blog Post #1: Reactions

I am currently reading The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown, a fast-paced, page-turning thriller that constantly presents intriguing ideas to its readers. This is a fictional novel, however, it discusses a realistic and plausible idea that society’s perception of the Holy Grail and DaVinci’s artwork could just be a misinterpretation. All the while, Brown maintains a narrative tone, questioning the possible controversy surrounding the myth of the Holy Grail and that rather than being a chalice, it is actually something much more farfetched. However, once explained, makes perfect sense. The mysteriousness and intensity of this novel, as well as the compelling ideas that it presents has made this book definitively one of my favourites.

In comparison to my own writing, Brown’s is much more sophisticated, intriguing as well as thought provoking. The ideas he creates and uses seem almost realistic, although they’re just alterations of factual information or current interpretation, such as the Holy Grail and the meaning behind DaVinci’s paintings. My father recommended this book to me, but I’ve heard great reviews about it prior to this. Before reading the book, my father explained to me that Brown often discusses topics of religion in his books, which is definitely evident in The DaVinci Code. Christianity is the prominent religion that is discussed, and Jesus Christ is the figure.

I’ve always been a fan of mystery novels. Agatha Christie, especially, has been one of my all time favourite authors. My brother introduced me to her books, and he, like me, is also a huge mystery fan. Her books kickstarted my interest for murder and detective stories.  The idea of using clues and evidence to ultimately reach a verdict or come to a conclusion has always interested me. In addition, detective stories often involve a twist in the story, which I have tried to incorporate into my own narrative writing.

Great murder stories involve a lot of meticulous detail, which really helps the readers to immerse themselves into the book. This creates an ominous and eerie atmosphere, which, to mystery fans, is one of the many reasons why these types of novels are so enthralling. They also provide thought provoking statements through the voice of the characters. For example, Brown writes, “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books—books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?'” Another intriguing point that Brown makes is that, “Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” He essentially conveys to his readers that by human nature, fear governs our lives and that it is an even greater commanding force than desire.

So far, Dan Brown’s, The DaVinci Code, has been an amazing read because of its fast-paced and intriguing plot, but also because of the different, riveting ideas that he portrays to his readers. I would definitely recommend this book to not only mystery lovers, but just about anyone. The story itself is extremely gripping and you’ll definitely have a hard time putting this book down.

 

 

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Who am I as a Reader?

Who are you as a reader? I wouldn’t consider myself an avid reader, however, I believe that my reading skills are above-average. When I was younger, I had more reading options that appealed to me, however, as I grew up, I found that there weren’t as many books that I enjoyed. I’m more attracted to fiction and mystery novels, rather than non fiction or historical fiction.

What are your goals for this semester? This semester, I hope to read a multitude of genres and more books than I did in the last semester. Also, I hope to increase my reading pace and endurance by reading more often and for longer periods of time.

What books do you want to read? I recently started The Davinci Code over the break and it is a definite page turner. It’s one of the few books that I found myself to enjoy immensely. In addition to finishing this book, I would like to read Dan Brown’s other books, as I really enjoy his writing. In addition to this, I want to read more realistic or non fiction books as my reading last semester was heavily fiction oriented.

How many books will you read? I’m aiming to read at least 4-5 books, hopefully of varying genres, although it may just be books written by Dan Brown as The Davinci Code has really gotten me hooked.

How will you grow as a reader? By reading more books I’ll become more accustomed to it and begin to incorporate it into my daily routine. Reading will no longer be a burden, but rather, an enjoyable part of my day. Also, Dan Brown’s novels are relatively challenging in comparison to other books that I read last semester. By reading more challenging novels, I will expand my vocabulary and reading comprehension.

How will you show this growth? Daily reading will help to improve my vocabulary, as well as my conversational skills. Also, there will be a significant and apparent difference between my daily routine now, and when I begin to grow as a reader.

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