Wednesday, September 30, 2009

You're in the Jungle, Baby

(I haven't done my blog about Devil yet, but The Jungle is fresh in my brain, so I'll do this one first.)

I hadn’t read The Jungle before, though of course I’d heard many things about it.  I have to say I wasn’t really looking forward to the grosser parts, having the queasy stomach that I do (and it didn’t help that there’s a big picture of raw steak on the cover of my copy, which made me gag repeatedly).

My husband read this back in high school but didn’t remember too much about it.  He though it was interesting when I was explaining that Sinclair intended for the book to be propaganda.  (I believe his exact words were, “they don’t tell you that in high school!”)  And yes of course propaganda it is.  I get really annoyed with preachy stuff like this, so for me The Jungle wasn’t a very enjoyable read.  I found myself saying, “come on, I get it,” many times.  And the thing is, as horrible as Sinclair made Jurgis’s families lives sound, I didn’t really care because I never could connect with the characters.  So, I’m sticking by what I said in class:  I see Sinclair’s point here, and I see what he’s trying to do.  I also understand that he didn’t want to define Jurgis and his family too much because A) it means they could be anyone, any family and B) his point wasn’t to write a novel with great characters.  But if I would have been able to care about the characters more then maybe I would have cared more in general, and the “propaganda” would have been more effective in winning me over, instead of just making me roll my eyes.  (Like Mary said in class, there should have been one wise-cracking funny guy at the plant that kept everyone going; then at the end Sinclair could've throw him into a pot of sausage and I may have felt bad.)

Because I couldn’t get into the story much, maybe I did focus on the gross-out parts to hold my interest.  The rats in the sausage factory was by far the worst part - dead poisoned rats and rat poo in my sausage.  And the spitting on the floor where the meat is, and the leaking pipes landing on the meat.  And all the chemicals to make the meat seem fresh (it reminds me of the vacuum seals and dyes they put on meat still now, every once in a while you see it on a TV newsmagazine show, meat producers today still use the same tricks!).  I know the one kid in the book died from bad meat, but I wonder if people were dying all the time from this (seems they would be), and if so, why was the population so shocked to find out this was going on when The Jungle came out?  They should have put two and two together by then if they constantly had food poisoning.

I do want to say, regarding the character’s fates, that I don’t think Sinclair should have killed off Jurgis’s son.  By doing that, we sort of don’t have a reason to continually care about what happens next.  Again, maybe this is just because I read for stories, I read novels, I write novels… so for me this just wasn’t my style.  But for historical value, I would still recommend this book.  But yes, I think I’m going to stay away from any type of sausage for a while.  I’m already off hotdogs after watching one of those “How It’s Made” episodes about them on cable television a few months back. 

Historical Value: A+

Story and Plot: C

Aide in Weight Loss Regimen:  A


First Random Blog: Ed Gein

Okay so we’re supposed to have six blogs about “ghosts/mysteries/weirdness/ whatever,” and here’s my first.

I mentioned on the first day of class that my great aunt was visited by Ed Gein.  Ed Gein was the guy who inspired Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and according to Wikipedia Psycho and Silence of the Lambs as well.  He wasn’t a serial killer though, because he only killed two people, and you have to kill three people to be considered a serial killer (fascinating, eh?).  He just liked to dig up graves and do weird things with dead bodies. 

I know all this crap about Mr. Gein because oddly enough, when I was a freshman in my first speech class I decided to do a speech on Ed Gein!  Who knows why on earth I thought that would be a good idea.  I must have looked like a psycho weird girl.  I’m pretty sure everyone else just talked about their dogs or how to knit a scarf, and I get up there and talk about this guy… but anyway, I digress.

So the story of my great aunt goes like this.  She was at home alone one night.  Her and her husband lived out in the boondocks of Wisconsin, near nothing, on a farm.  I forget where her husband was, but he was gone and my aunt was on the phone with her sister, my grandmother.  My grandmother explained that someone came to the door and my great aunt answered, still on the phone with my grandmother.  The guy wanted to know if he could come in and use the phone, saying his car broke down.  My aunt told him that her husband was in the bathtub so he wouldn’t think she was alone, but then told him he couldn’t use the phone because she was on it.  My grandmother was insisting she didn’t hang up.  So, I guess the guy got really upset and looked as if he was about to force his way in, so my aunt shut the door and locked up.  Ed hung around for a while afterwards, though, outside.  The next day my aunt found out from the police that ol’ Ed had been in the area robbing graves.  He liked to dig up women who he thought looked like his dead mother…  Who knows what he wanted with my great aunt, seeing as she was alive, but maybe she looked like the woman, or maybe she didn’t and that’s why Ed finally left.  Either way, creepy.

I’ll leave you with a fun fact.  Here are the things police found in Gein’s home after he was arrested:

- Four noses

- Bone fragments

- Nine death masks

- A bowl made from a skull

- Ten female heads with the tops sawed off

- Human skin covering several chair seats

- Pieces of salted genitalia in a box

- Skulls on his bedposts

- Organs in the refrigerator

- A pair of lips on a string

Hope you aren’t eating while reading this!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Poems of Mr. Sandburg

As I read the poems in this text, I caught myself frequently thinking of all the places I've been around Chicago and the history that occurred at each. Also, I often related the events within the poems to my own life. Here are a few of the more memorable moments...

Mill Doors - As I read this poem, I couldn't help but feel extremely privileged to live the life I have lived. I didn't start working until I was 16 years old and even then, it was my own decision. All of the money I have earned at work has gone to my own personal expenses, and I never had the responsibility of helping support my family. To think of all the young children who were forced to work in such horrible conditions and for such low wages, it's a surprise so many made it out alive. Sandburg captures the loss of youth vividly as he speaks of the "sleepy eyes and fingers" of children being "tapped" and drained of their innocence. Children enter the work field full of life and energy but leave nothing but skeletons of their former selves. The youth of today's society should be very grateful to the previous generations that have changed these horrid conditions.

Fish Crier - This poem caught my eye particularly because it takes place on Maxwell Street, where I currently live. As recent as 10 years ago, Maxwell Street used to function primarily as the historic Maxwell St. Market and was a lively, diverse location within the city. Sandburg provides a brief image of a Jewish fish salesman making a living selling fish to customers in the market. Sandburg illustrates the joys this man experiences while selling his fish and clearly shows that one can be happy in life and full of pride even when one is only a seller of fish. That is essentially the spirit of most of those who came to Chicago. It was viewed as a city of opportunity and, though not entirely true, those who came here still made the best of the new lives they had. It is kind of disappointing that the original Maxwell Street Market no longer exists and that the reason for its removal was for the creation of the building in which I currently live. Having seen several images of the market and the music and life that ran through it, I wish UIC had preserved the historic site.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Chicago Poems

Testing, 1, 2... let's see if this works...

For my blog on Chicago Poems, I’ll just comment on a few of the poems that made an impression with me.

1)  Chicago:  I love how this poem refers to the old Chicago, but still makes sense today.  I especially noted the attitude – the poem talks about Chicago being so violent and dirty, but then turns around, “Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.”  I don’t know why this really seemed to stand out to me, but I feel like we still have that same pride.  Chicago is a lot better now and we have more to be proud of, but Chicago still has that attitude – so what if the Bears suck, they’re the Bears goddammit.  And yeah, it’s a tough city, but if you don’t like that then it’s YOUR problem.  If you can’t hang, get out of town.  We’re Chicago.

2)  Picnic Boat:  I really enjoyed how visual this poem was.  It’s as if you’re looking at the lake, and as you read the poem, your eyes are adjusting to the darkness, and details begin to fill in.  You see the lights, the boat, and it really transports you.

3)  Happiness:  Everyone in class liked this poem and I can see why.  How true of anywhere and any day it is.  Most of all, this poem is just relatable.  It’s makes me think of stupid corporate buzz words from my previous life, like “work-life balance.”  We should all just read this poem once in a while.  How clever.

4)  Mag:  Wow.  That’s all I wrote next to this poem in my book.  It makes me sad, really, to think this is someone’s true feelings (is it?).  I thought that people who messed up and had kids when they didn’t want kids always ended up not regretting it anyway, once they see their babies and all...  but not this guy apparently.  I can’t really imagine someone this miserable writing the rest of these poems.  I feel really sorry for Mag.  Jeesh.

Overall Chicago Poems is 5 Stars for me.  I’m not a poetry person but this was a nice read.


Monday, September 14, 2009

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This is the blog/website for UIC Ghosts of Chicago (ENG428) course, Fall 2009.
We'll use this to discuss, communicate, explore themes of the course.