February 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
Northern Lights by Sigurd F. Olson is a fresh breath of clean wholesome visual stimulant! I love the description of the whole story. Though I have never seen the northern lights in person or ice skated at night in the Yukon, but I have been to a place that so far in my travels is the most beautiful place and should be well respected by all of us. It truly may be the last frontier in America; I am talking about Alaska of course. Even though I was in Alaska in the summer, I can really connect on his description of a wide open lake with nothing but wilderness all around. I almost felt like I was skating next to him on the frozen paradise where the ice meets the sky. “I knew, too, the wonderment that only a child can know and a beauty that is enhanced by mystery.” Innocence is bliss. It’s funny how in a child’s mind something so difficult and scientific can easily be summed up in a few simple words, absolutely beautiful. In Northern Lights and Ecology of Magic I found a connection between the two. To me it is just enjoy the simple things in life. In Northern Lights it is skating and looking up at the northern lights. In Ecology of Magic it is when he is in the cave and he sees the spiders making webs.
February 26, 2012 § 4 Comments
E.B White’s Sootfall and Fallout sparks my interest on how easy it is for the human race to simply destroy ourselves and everything with it. It is quite scary to think that with a few commands and a push of a button can send a missile pretty much anywhere in the world armed with nuclear weapons. With the always steady interest in the Middle East and communist countries with nuclear access it raises question on who really has the right to own such destructive inhuman weapons. “Today no nation, whatever its thermonuclear power, is a strong nation in the sense that it is a fully independent nation. All are weak, and all are weak from the same cause: each depends on the others for salvation, yet none admits this dependence, and there is absolutely no machinery for interdependence.” Pg 332. This quote just is the icing on the cake for me on what’s so messed up about the world today. A local economy is in sense directly attached at the hip to the world economy. It is simply a domino effect. When one falls the rest follow. We really should learn to be more independent within our own country. Becoming less dependent on other nations will let us become more in control of our future economical needs. Being fully independent seems farfetched, but producing more American goods, bringing jobs back here and supporting American countries isn’t.
“The magic-carpet ride on the mushroom cloud has left us dazed—we have come so far so fast.” Pg 333
February 26, 2012 § 4 Comments
It is hard for many of us to even hear about the conditions that these immigrants were living and working with. How else are people going to see that there are still people who work like this, who live like this? Even today people of the same caliber work and live the way these immigrants did, and they are not even immigrants. They are American. Those working day and night in the coal mines of NACCO and Peabody industries, those who withstand the awful work of a slaughterhouse, just to bring home enough money to support a family, or even a dream.
The awful truth is that these workers do not decide their own working conditions, the guys in the 3-piece suits with the stogies hanging from their heartless grins do. These people are the ones to blame for this. These people are the ones who are sitting in their leather chairs making money, while these workers are stuck in horrid conditions. It doesn’t have to be this way, yet it is the best way for the rich to get more rich and the poor to stay poor, as I have said in class plenty now. I truly believe that things can be different, but the ones who can change, will not. For now, those who cannot change, are stuck with black lungs and cancerous bodies.
Yet who shall say that this is not the foreordained order of life? Can it be changed? Will it ever
be, permanently? Who is to say? – Theodore Dreiser
February 24, 2012 § 6 Comments
I grew up hearing stories about the New Jersey Zinc Plant in my mother’s hometown DePue, IL. She would tell me about the times when her nylons would disintegrate while she walked to school or how ash would fall from the sky and eat the paint off of cars and houses. As a child I never thought twice about her recounts, but as an adult they give me nightmares. My mother and her family all have serious health concerns and of the eight family members that have passed while I have been alive, six have died of lung cancer. None of them smoked. E.B. White wrote “What good is cheap power of your child already has an incurable cancer?” All I could think about upon reading that small line was my family suffering because of zinc smelting, sulfuric acid manufacturing, refining of metals from zinc ore, ammonium phosphate fertilizer manufacturing, and zinc dust production. Even though the EPA refutes a connection between the plant and high levels of cancer in DePue residents, they have begun a clean-up project.
That line also make me think of my sister and her family who live in-between an ExxonMobil refinery and an Aux Sable gas processing plant because they cannot afford to live anywhere else. I have been at her house when plastic snow has fallen from the sky. I was so scared the first time that I made my five year old niece and two year old nephew run inside and take a bath while I threw away their clothes. I also think of my own hometown where my parents live lit up by an Exelon Nuclear Plant that leaked an “undisclosed amount” of tritium into Braidwood’s groundwater. The amount was enough that Exelon provided residents with free water and advised limiting showers to only when absolutely necessary.
All of these situations that haunt my dreams or keep me up at night reaffirm my chosen field of education.
“Well, I can see the smoky fury of our factories drifting right into this room this very minute; the fury sits in my throat like a bundle of needles…chokes off my breath, and makes my eyes burn.”
No one should ever experience that.
February 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
In reaction to reading “A Certain Oil Refinery” by Theodore Dreiser, two similar words popped into my head.
My words according to Webster:
Dignity: bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect or appreciation of the formality or gravity of an occasion or situation.
Dignified: characterized by dignity of manner or appearance; stately
The two terms seem so close in meaning, but in my mind the idea behind dignity can be viewed in any profession; Where as dignified is much more pompous and elite . Whether someone works in an oil refinery, or as the CEO of a large company, human beings need that feeling of self-respect. Becoming aware of the impact and appreciating the activities that make up a lifetime of experiences is crucial to living a life with dignity. I whole-heartedly agree with Katelin when she spoke to people’s profession not equating to their level of intelligence. Most times attaining a position that comes with rough working conditions comes down to circumstantial events, not their ability to learn. In contrast, the term dignified comes with believing in what you are doing, but is limited to an elite few. Not everyone can be dignified, but everyone can have dignity in their lives.
February 24, 2012 § 1 Comment
“And trusting and strong in faith he had gone about his business, all the while a black shadow hung over him, and a horrid Fate in his pathway. Now suddenly it had swooped upon him, and had seized him by the leg. Relentless, remorseless, all his protests, his screams were nothing to it. It did its cruel will with him, as if his wishes, his feelings, had simply no existence at all; it cut his throat and watched him gasp out his life.”
― Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
Muckraker Upton Sinclair published The Jungle in 1906 to expose the ill conditions and hardships of the Chicago meatpacking industry. And in Theodore Dreiser’s 1919 essay, “A Certain Oil Refinery,” horrid physical and oppressive mental conditions greet the workers in a Standard Oil refinery plant in Bayonne, New Jersey. In his essay Dreiser calls on visual artists and writers to bring to light the darkness of these working conditions – a solemnity, a gloom-filled landscape, specifically the blacks and grays that painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler absorbed in his work in the second half of the 19th century. Or what about Charles Baudelaire, an innovative French poet, friend to Whistler, deeply influencing him in depicting the reality of the times before the Impressionists would embrace color. And photographer Dorothea Lange’s black and white images documented the ongoing struggle of 20th century migrant farm workers.
A muckraker’s job is never done. Dreiser’s essay reminds me of a 2007 National Geographic article, “Curse of the Black Gold,”written by NG writer Tom O’Neill that exposes the extent of the physical, mental and environmental damage done to Nigerians and the Niger Delta. This is another heartbreaking reality of the excesses of big oil.
February 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
“They are not very bright intellectually, of course, or they would not work here.” – Theodore Dreiser
Reading this statement in Theodore Dreiser’s A certain Oil Refinery caused me to have a negative visceral reaction. I had to physically put down the book and take a moment to breath. I do not know if my reaction was a matter of circumstances at the time, or if I would have had the same reaction at any other moment.
I do agree with Dreiser on one point and that is that working in these types of conditions can be a very difficult and “solemn life situation.” I however, one-hundred percent, absolutely do not agree that their occupation reflected their level of intelligence. I also do not believe that their nationality or their native tongues have anything to do with their intelligence.
I believe that these humans took advantage of the opportunities that were available and offered to them. They worked to provide shelter, food and support for their families. I think that the employees of the oil refinery, on the Bayonne peninsula, knew full well what the conditions were doing to their health, their homes and to the environment. They were in no way ignorant of their conditions; I believe that they were the and still are the humans who are the most aware of the conditions. I do not think a person on the outside should have the audacity to judge them, and nonetheless have such an incredibly harsh, negative and demeaning judgment.
February 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
The recent readings, in particular Theodore Dreiser’s segment of” A Certain Oil Refinery”, have sparked my mind into thinking of the vast amount of resource and work that goes into a developed country. His work made me think of a recent encounter; an encounter that showed me just how fast pollution and the filth created by the factories making our material goods can ruin a picturesque landscape. I was on a flight out of Detroit, westbound toward the 3 hour layover in Chicago. Flying has always made me a little uneasy, but sitting at the window always seems to comfort my anxiety. So there I was, window seat isle 28 seat b, gazing out the small circular window watching the ground far below. The best part was the lake, it was so clear you could almost see across it from that high up. The captain came over the speaker to inform us that Chicago was near and that we would be beginning our decent into Midway International Airport. As I bucked my seat belt and put my seat in the full upright position, a faint ghostly shadow caught my eye out of the window. I looked out and focused in on the ground only to stare into the dark sadistic grin of the bastard himself, Gary. The ghostly figure was nothing more than an unnatural colored fog of fumes emitted from Gary’s towering stacks of toxicity. This aqua-brown cloud was the only vaporous mass in the sky, flowing like a disease halfway across the lake. Flowing directly toward a place I know quite well, my house…
February 21, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In ‘Cabin Poem’ by Jim Harrison, I am torn between two worlds. The first portion of the poem feels lighthearted and almost childlike. “The blonde girl with a polka heart” brings out a feeling of longing, possibly for the past, but more for an innocence. The feeling of pure joy when delving into a great lake, endless hours of sunshine with people who you hold closest. Fond memories gurgle up, but are reduced quickly with the second segment of the poem.
guilt & grace
cabin & home
I enjoyed the stark contrast between sides, for it seemed to be growing up and into reality. It gives a feeling of escape into the wilderness, but even more so an escape into an adult mindset. Personally, when I leave the mundane of everyday life to go to a retreat spot I am torn between a feeling of old and young. I wonder what is meant by the trouble times, but can’t help to assume it has to do with the state of the environment.
February 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
I was recently given this imaginative little (literally) book called, The Sound of a Wild Snail Chewing. The author Elisabeth Tova Bailey was confined to bed by illness and wrote a whole book (it’s 170 small pages) on the snail that was living in the plant someone gave her. As I write in my poem, “Wish,” about winter: “We learn to look that closely and who can blame us.” The world seems to demand that we look more and more closely. -Alison S.