English 110

I Love You For You And For Who I Am When I Am With You
December 2, 2010, 3:48 AM
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These signs pop out at me as I leave the elevator.  I put my wet bag on a coat hanger on one of the racks. I cover it with my also soaking jacket. Then I walk in.

Complete silence.The room has 4 other people in it, but no one is talking. They are just slowly looking at the huge quilts. Some are sprawled out on the floor. Others were hanging from the ceiling, bottoms laying on the floor. Each quilt is unique, and yet the same. I don’t know where to begin. I end up walking straight ahead and looking down at the panels on that section of the quilt. Some have pictures; most have names. I don’t linger at this one. I move on. I barely look at the next one. I move on to a third quite. I stop at one panel in particular. It was beautifully done. It had a color scheme of red, black, and gold. It looked as if it was made from leather.

It was very simple, and yet it was speaking volumes to me. This man lost his life. A life that must have been filled with love since some person or persons took so much time and effort into memorializing him. He left behind loved one who made this quilt to keep a part of him alive, to keep his memory alive.

I understood the want and the need to create these things to keep a person’s memory alive. One month and two days ago, my Aunt Anita passed away from lung cancer. She died only two and a half months after being diagnosed. She lived a life rich with love and laughter. No one was ready to say good-bye. We all wanted to hold on to her. For the wakes, my family created collages of her. Similarly to the AIDS Quilt, these collages were meant to memorialize her. Through the pictures, we remember all of the good times spent with Aunt Anita. We remember what she was like, and we remember what we were like when we were with her.

In Daniel Schachter’s Searching For Memory, he talks about memory being a part of a person identity. The ones we love are very much a part of our identity. On a certain level, we lose a part of ourselves when we lose someone close to us. We can never again be who we were when we were with that person. We want to keep memories of these people their lives meant something us, to who we are as individuals. We want to hold on to how they enriched our lives.

We don’t want to forget them. We don’t want to forget who we were when with them. So we surround ourselves with things that we associate with them. ‘Memory fades over time,’ says Schachter. We know this to be true. That’s why we create quilts. That’s why we create collages. That’s why we carry around their picture. That’s why we wear their ring. We don’t want to allow time to take away memories so precious to us.

I can’t remember the man’s name on the leather panel, but I felt a connection to him. In that moment, his memory was precious to me. I was, and am, truly sorry for his untimely death. I knew he had been a wonderful person in spite of have never meeting him.

After a minute of staring at this man’s panel, I suddenly became very much aware of how quiet it was in the room. I turned to look at other parts of the quilt, and I was overwhelmed at the number of other parts. This was only a small part of the quilt! So many loved ones lost. So many lives honored. I felt  the panel makers’ grief. I was reminded of my own grief. It was like I was in a cemetery, like I was surrounded by names on tombstones and invisible mourners.

I had to leave. I was only in there for 5 minutes at most.

I walked to the coat racks. I put on my jacket, grabbed my bag, and headed out. I didn’t mind the rain anymore; I welcomed it. It was washing away the sadness.

Give Thanks We’ve Forgotten Our Past Wrongs
November 30, 2010, 9:11 AM
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Thanksgiving: An American National Holiday

Traditionally, on Thanksgiving day, families gather to express their gratitude for each other and all their other blessings in life. Families eat copious amounts of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce in honor of being thankful for what they have in life.

This communal dining for Thanksgiving is stemmed from the Pilgrims and the Native Americans sharing a meal together to celebrate surviving through the Pilgrims first winter in North American and to thank the Native Americans for teaching the Pilgrims how to grow food, raise animals, and harvest things they had been unfamiliar with.

As a little child, I was taught this image of the first Thanksgiving. I was given pictures of happy Pilgrims eating a fat turkey with happy Native Americans to color. I was given decorations of Native Americans happily holding hands with Pilgrims to hang on classroom and home windows.  I was instilled with this image of Pilgrims and native Americans working together and getting along.

For years and years when learning about thanksgiving, I was not told about how the White European settlers were often cruel to the Native Americans and forcefully took their land, or how the White European settlers brought diseases which infected and killed many Native Americans. These facts were left out. Another fact left out is what they ate  on this ‘first Thanksgiving’ is not what we eat today on the holiday.

These deliberately left out facts and carefully designed teaching methods on Thanksgiving are good examples of Connerton’s first type of forgetting, repressive erasure. Connerton defines repressive erasure as Any fact of our  past brutality towards the Native Americans is consciously tried to stay out of our collective memory. Why? Because it portrays us in a negative light.

This wanting to be portrayed in a positive light in our relations with the Native Americans can be an example of Connerton’s seventh type of forgetting, humiliated silence. Connerton defines humiliated silence as  As a society, we may be ashamed of past actions in regards to the Native Americans, and we may choose to remember our past wrongs. We’d much rather hold on to the image of happy Pilgrims showing kind gratitude for the help of the Native Americans.

How Deep Must It Be To Leave A Lasting Mark?
November 29, 2010, 10:16 PM
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I have three scars on my body, and I remember the moments I received each one.

The first is a crescent cut on my left knee.  I was about four years old when I got it. Wearing these white sandals and bright pink shorts, I tumbled down the cement steps outside my front door. This tumble resulted in a deep scrape on my left knee. It bleed moderately. The last moment I remember of that event is me hugging my leg as my mother ran into the house for Neosporin and Band-Aids.

My second scar goes diagonally across the center back of my right hand. It is the result of a cat scratch from when I was nine.  I was holding my cat, Salem, in the hallway of my home when my sister, Kristina, walked quickly past us. The sudden movements of Kristina startled Salem. He jumped from my arms; his back paws pushed off of my hand and stomach. I received quite a number of scratches, but the one on my hand had been the deepest and the only one to scar.

My last scar is on my right knee. I got it when I was thirteen years old. It was late April, and I was working on a debate project on the death penalty with my friends, Meagan and Erica. We were at my house, sitting in front of the computer. Meagan was on the my left, sitting on the computer chair. Erica was to my right, sitting on the edge of the bed. I was in the middle sitting on a folding chair. I had gotten up to get a pen, and when I knelt back down, my knee went into a staple sticking up from the folding chair. I remember abruptly getting up and freaking out over my knee bleeding so profusely.

My memories of these scarring events are pretty accurate; at least they are according to me. As writes in Searching for Memory, ‘Memories fade’ over time. I received my scars years ago, so my memories of the events aren’t extremely detailed or vivid. I remember some specific details, and not others. I do believe what I do remember to be nearly accurate based on the fact that I seldom recall these memories. As we have learned from the the Radio Lab podcast on Memory and Forgetting, memories are malleable; memories are recreated and altered slightly with each retelling. Because I do not think of when I received my scars very often, my memories of them have not had a lot of opportunity to change.

Then why do I even remember these events at all? Especially the first scar, which I got about fourteen years ago! In ‘Building Memories’ from Daniel Schachter’s Searching For Memory, Schachter describes the process of encoding. Encoding is how the brain associates and connects what we are experiencing to form memories. The more deeply a memory is encoded, the stronger the memory is.  I must have deeply encoded my scarring memories. This then leads to another question; Why have I deeply encoded these memories and not others?

The answer lies in a video on memory we watched in class. From the video, we learn that a stimulated amygdala in the brain, signals the hippocampus, which is responsible for forming the memories, to make the memory it is forming strong. Stress hormones, such as those originating from pain, stimulate the amygdala. I most likely remember how I was scarred because the cuts that caused the scarring were painful. They each stung quite a bit. So the pain from the cuts stimulated stress hormones, which stimulated my amygdala, which signaled to my hippocampus to deeply encode how I had received the cuts during the initial memory creation.

I may have scars etched into my skin, but my memories of my scars are etched into my brain; Figuratively speaking, of course.

Let Bygones be Bygones
November 23, 2010, 7:57 AM
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Connerton names the second type of forgetting as two groups of people in a conflict “consciously forgetting the wrongs of the past” in order to stop fighting and live in peace. I think it is more about deciding to let go of a grudge, and in turn, the actual wrongs are forgotten. Perhaps, even in some cases, the past actions aren’t remembered clearly at all, and all that is remembered is the negative emotions the actions caused; like with the Grangerford and Shepherdson families in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

The Grangerford and Shepherdson families have been having a bloody family feud for generation. Both make attempts to kill every member of the other family they cross paths with. When one family member is killed by the other side, the hatred for each other roots in deeper.  With such ingrained hatred and anger towards one another, you would think they know what is at the heart of their feud, but they don’t.  When Huck asks what started the feud, no one can give him the answer because no one remembers. What they remember is the hatred and the anger, and the belief that the other side started it.

The Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons do not utilize Connerton’s second type of forgetting. Infact, they do the complete opposite of it, but the Grangerford/Shepherdson feud serves as an example as to the benefit of using the second type of forgetting. Both families do not consciously forget the causes of their feud, but both sides consciously decide to remember the resentment and animosity. Because of this, they are still brutally shootings at one another; they are still dying at each other’s hand; they are still losing loved one’s for the sake of pride. If both sides consciously agreed to put the past behind them and let go of the bitterness and grievances, the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons would stop going through the heartache of losing family members and would stop living in fear of being attacked. Both of these are in the best interest of all parties involved. Peace would be achieved. That is the main objective of Prescriptive Forgetting; the past is forgotten for the betterment of both parties.

What does it mean to “attach a cultural memory of a song to a caller or callee”?
November 9, 2010, 10:56 AM
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Ringtones “attach a cultural memory of a song to a caller or callee.” The stereotype that society has placed on the genre of the ringtone, on the actual song, and the artist is projected onto the callee by bystanders. For example, a rap song as a ringtone stimulates  bystanders to assume the callee is a gangster or a hoodlum because these are stereotypes associated with rap music.

The callee usually associates the ringtone to the caller because something about the song relate to the caller. For example, I think of my dad whenever I hear of Beatles ringtone because my dad loves the Beatles. The association the callee has on the ringone and caller is usually personally based rather than culturally.

First Love
November 9, 2010, 10:47 AM
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Nabokov selects to include great detail about the train. He describes the windows, the upholstery, where people are in the car, and the station to Paris. He doesn’t include much on the connection train; one gets the feeling Nabokov found this second train inferior. Nabokov gives great detail of him trying to and falling sleep on the first train. He talks about his dreams. He gives great detail on the process of being at the beach and on Collette. He remembers what made her cry. He creates stories of Colette being mistreated in his head so he can play the hero and rescue her.

Nabokov doesn’t tell why he and his family have been traveling. He doesn’t say much about what his family members are doing; he only mentions them when they are interacting with him. He mentions his mother playing cards with him, and he mentions his brother following him and the tutor, ‘looking like an owl.’

Nabokov uses language throughout the entire story to create detail. His sentences include numerous adjectives to help readers create a specific image in their heads.  He mentions that the lady who gave towels at the beach has gray hairs on her chin. He says “a jagged bit of violet mussel shell” was stepped on by Collette’s “bare sole of her narrow long-toed foot.” Nabokov is very specific. He is giving so much detail to paint a clear picture for the reader to in vision instead of giving few, or vague details, which leave it up to the reader to create the scene visually.

Nabokov seems to be aware of his memory processes. He understands that the penholder and microcosm in its eyelet stimulates memories of Collette. He purposely uses these items to trigger his memory of Collette’s dog’s name. He also aware that he associates the rainbow spiral in a glass marble with what Collette was wearing the last time he saw her.

Ringtones and Madeleines
November 3, 2010, 9:33 PM
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The authors’ thesis is that ringtones, however short,  can unexpectedly trigger past memories as well as cultural biases and associations.

In our culture, the Jonas Brothers are associated with being liked by young teenage girls. It would be odd if a 30 year old man had a Jonas Brothers song as his ringtone. This is because it would go against the cultural norm, or the stereotype associated with that genre or musician.

But, I think a lot of the times the ringtone is more a reflection of who is calling rather than the owner of the phone. I, for instance, have a specific ringtone set for most people in my contacts. A Dirty Diana is set as my sister’s ringtone because she is a Michael Jackson fan. In Her Music Box by Atmosphere is my best friend’s ringtone. I don’t listen to Atmosphere; She does.

November 1, 2010, 10:30 PM
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I have never been a fan of Halloween.

I don’t really have full memories of past Halloweens.

One year, I can’t remember how long ago, I think I had to go to this like Bellerose Village Halloween party. I might have been dressed up as a pirate. My sister was a flapper. My cousin Kelly was Cruella De Vil. The three of us were walking back from the party to my aunt’s house, and Kelly wanted to ring a random doorbell to see if they would answer it and give us candy. It was like almost 10:00pm. They did. My sister and Kelly probably don’t remember this. I’m 100% positive it happened though. I don’t remember vivid details about it.

This Halloween I watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show all day. I went out to Macy’s and bought a coat. It is black and made by American Rag. You’ll will be seeing me wear it. I made egg salad when I came back home. I didn’t over boil the eggs. I didn’t get sick from eating them. I kept getting annoyed at having trick or treaters ring the door bell. I curled my sister’s hair. Then I went to my Uncle Joe’s house. I saw my cousins Kelly, Nancy, Brenda, Erin, and Diedre.  I watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show some more when I came home. Wasn’t the most eventful day. I don’t really like Halloween. I ate candy though. That’s always a plus. This memory is so fresh it is probably 98.9% accurate. This is the like the first time recalling the day. My family can confirm.

There is simply no way to describe the past without lying. Our memories are not like fiction. They are fiction.
October 25, 2010, 5:13 PM
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Memories are a unique blend between reality and illusion.  But I think Lehrer is inaccurate in saying we are “lying” when describing the past. Lying implies that details are  intentionally misrepresented. The inaccuracies of what really happened in the past are fabricated unconsciously. Lehrer is indeed right by saying our memories are fiction. We unintentionally fabricate the majority of details in a memory. The event or past experience may have been a reality, but the way in which the memory of that event is recalled is fabricated. Each recollection of a memory is really a recreation of the memory. We are authors of our pasts, nipping and tucking, expanding and embellishing, the details of our lives to suit our present needs and knowledge.

Proust proves to us that through  intuition and introspection, these facts about memory are true.

However, Science has yet to really grasp why this is. Memory is too intricate of a process. There are differences in how memories are made, how memories are stored, and how memories are recalled.  Different parts of the brain are at work. The way memories are encoded affects how memory is stored and recalled. It all so complex.

I think the important thing to keep in mind is that, even though why and how is still not crystal clear, we remember what important to us, we remember what had a profound effect on us, we remember anything extreme, but we remember all of it according to our own interpretations of these events.

How does Ken Burns’ documentary add to our collective memory of the Civil War?
October 20, 2010, 11:38 AM
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Ken Burns’ documentary of the Civil War uses many primary sources. He uses photos, speeches, and many letters. The way he incorporates them makes the documentary very interesting to watch and listen to. He uses a series of photos as the backdrop as narrators orate letters of soldiers and civilians during the time. All of this gives viewers the sense of credibility and makes it more personal rather than historical facts being spewed.

The documentary also gives the viewers a sense of how vast the death and destruction was and how bloody and horrible the war also was. He uses letters talking about how seeing dead was such a common thing, no one felt much sympathy. There are accounts how those surviving battles describing how many times they got hit with bullets in less than a minute.When describing battles, photos of fighting and photos are many dead soldiers appear with sounds of guns and blasts and shouting and chaos.

Ken Burns’ documentary also clears up a misconception of society’s collective memory. Most of society believes that the main cause of the Civil War was slavery when in fact it was the issue of Union or Disunion.  Burns’ clears this up for viewers by adding a speech by President Lincoln where he states his position and makes it clear his number one priority is saving the Union.

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