The Onion Parody

Family Surprisingly Supportive of Kid’s Crack Addiction 

Howell, Michigan is the dream for those who wish for a suburbia in the form of a town. This small town is perfect for raising a family:  amazing house stock, the welcoming Howell City Park, and the crack den on 502 George Street.  

“Bill’s a real entrepreneur,” says Sydneiyeh Jacksonyoga enthusiast and mother of Bill Smith, a sophomore at Howell High. “We couldn’t be prouder.” 

Bill’s father, Richard Smith, was also persuaded by his son’s business acumen: “At first I was skeptical, but then Bill offered to show me how smoke to it, and I’ve been on board ever since.  

Though his business now maintains a profit of five hundred dollars a day, Bill Smith’s enterprise began with humble beginnings  

“Saw off a TikTok say’n that if you just tell your parents what you’re about to do, they won’t believe you and you’re good.”  

After coming back home from his first crack high, Bill was initially met with concern from his parents. 

“I mean, we did not know he was actually off to smoke crack! But when we realized that was the case, we offered him to do it in the basement,” retells Sydneiyah, sitting on a couch with burn patches next to her husband. “I mean, we’d rather have him smoke crack in the house where we can keep an eye on him, isn’t that right sweetie?” Richard is slumped over the back of the couch, groaning in agreement. 

The seedling of his future business took hold after gaining his parents’ seal of approval “I’on know man, just told them I was off to smoke crack, they laughed, and now we’re here man.” Bill Smith, just off his most recent crack high, trembling and pale. 

Bill’s story is just one among many that continue to illuminate the importance of parental support.  

Eventually Bill brought home some of his ‘crack buddies’ to the Smith’s basement, and his ‘crack buddies’ brought more ‘crack buddies’, and they’ve stayed in the basement ever since. In order to continue supplying the amount of crack and snacks the crack den needed, Bill now has an entrance fee of $30 a day. It’s an additional $20 to reserve a mattress.  

While many kids in Howell praise Bill for his ‘dopeness’ and refer to the Smiths as ‘the coolest parents in town,’ there are still critiques to be made. 

Kaitelyun Rosenburyneighbour to the Smiths and Sydneiyah’s rival for the head position in the PTA, calls this “an utter disgrace to our community.” 

“I mean, I was known as ‘the cool mom’ on the block for letting my son Jackson smoke weed in the house. I even made brownies for his friends! But ever since that head position in the PTA opened upSydneiyah has been trying to one up me, knowing that being ‘the cool mom’ was my thing! Everyone knows that to win the hearts of the parents means to win the heart of the teens! Not cool.” 

Kaitelyun’s son, Brandon, often goes over to the crack den, though not to the knowledge of his mother.  

“I mean, man, they really just hatin, dawg,” responds Bill, having just made $40 from his parents who wanted to reserve a crack mattress for later.  

The interview was cut short since Sydneiyah started hallucinating killer butterflies that were threatening to kill her son Bill. 

UP NEXT: Mass Exodus of Minority Families from Howell: “My kid can’t study if he’s on crack.” 

The School of Life– Making a Body of Work

The following list names– in no particular order– the 8 works that make up my “Body of Work” for The School of Life:

  1. What Love Really Is – and Why It Matters
    Since this article deals with a lot of abstract, unquantifiable concepts, it will be interesting to investigate how it builds a compelling, logical argument without succumbing to generalizations.
  2. On Despair and the Imagination
    The title names two very different, disparate concepts of Despair and Imagination. I want to explore how the article builds a compelling case that connects these two concepts.
  3. The Benefits of Provincial Life
    “Provincial” is often characterized as a negatively connoted descriptor. How does the article argue for something that is conventionally shunned? Does the factor of surprise actually contribute to the building of the argument?
  4. On Feeling Offended
    The article connects personal feelings of offense to larger social truths and historical patterns.
  5. A Guide to Good Nationalism
    Again, another case of arguing for something that goes against conventional knowledge.
  6. Nature as a Cure for the Sickness of Modern Times
    Advocation for returning to the “natural way of life” has been ever-present in human history. It will be interesting to look at how this article fits in with the grander scope of related texts.
  7. The Challenges of Modernity
    Similar to the previous article!
  8. Six Ideas from Eastern Philosophy
    The School of Life provides a collection of work that is written by Western authors for Western readers. Some interesting observations can be made from the portrayal of Eastern culture.

Mandarin Oriental Advertisement: Dev Patel “I’m a Fan”

Commercial advertisements for luxury products and services are often difficult to pull off without alienating the viewer. Mandarin Oriental’s “Fan Campaign” is definitely award-worthy in the way it is able to use celebrity endorsement for a luxury service without eliciting distaste from viewers. Evident in the “He’s a Fan” video for Dev Patel, the advertisement campaign is primarily able to achieve this through a strong appeal to ethos by establishing the celebrity as an approachable, friendly figure.

This persona is subtly built through camera movement. Throughout the video, the camera gradually pulls in closer to focus on Patel’s face. As Patel directly looks at and speaks to the viewer, the camera movement heightens the connection between viewer and speaker. Audiences are thus subtly persuaded to believe Patel to be trustworthy and likable, giving more weight to his endorsement of the Mandarin Oriental. A similar effect is achieved through the use of sound, particularly the omission of background music and additional sound effects. In fact, the sound of the video is composed entirely of Patel’s voice, establishing a less polished and more down-to-earth quality to the video. Viewers are convinced to believe that they are having a real conversation with Patel, reinforcing his approachable persona.

The complexity of this dynamic is further built through the use of dialogue. The items that Patel lists he is a fan of gradually increase in depth as the video progresses. In the beginning, he lists that he is a fan of material objects and actions such as “eating out” and “fish and chips.” As he continues, he begins to name more abstract concepts such as “sincerity” and “curiosity.” This structure in dialogue achieves two primary effects. First, Patel is able to efficiently develop his persona as one that is dimensional and realistic. The citing of everyday items like “fish and chips” first establishes him as an approachable, accessible person. However, that is not to say that he is superficial or lacking of substance as he also identifies his admiration for “honesty and sincerity.” By establishing Patel’s persona as one that is dynamic, the advertisement makes a subtle appeal to ethos, increasing the credibility of Patel’s endorsement when he concludes that he is a “fan of the Mandarin Oriental”. Secondly, the use of parallelism– “I’m a fan of…”, “I’m a fan of…”– establishes a logical connection between the Mandarin Oriental and the positive qualities Patel previously mentioned like “sincerity” and “curiosity.” The interview therefore positively characterizes the Mandarin Oriental by implying to viewers that it is unique from other competitors in that it is committed to upholding these values.

 

First Day of School Reflection

The past eight to nine months have been a unique and memorable experience. With all the time spent during social distancing, I’ve come to learn more about myself, my goals, and the conditions that allow me to be most productive. Though we are resuming school on campus, I aim to still carry this self-knowledge in my future activities.

One such instance of self-knowledge would be my reflections of the past year in English Lang & Lit HL. Stepping back, I realize that I have a clear inclination to literary texts and found myself greatly enjoying Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry and Adichie’s short stories the most out of all texts studied. Over the course of building my learner profile and writing informally about these texts, I’ve noticed some profound similarities between the two artworks. Both collections are heavily involved with the concept of identity and perception, with the dissonance between truth and interpretation. Aside from my particular focus on these literary works, my favoring of literature also explains the relative success I had in my HL Essay (when compared with other assessments), where I analyzed the literary text of American Born Chinese.

That said, I’m very excited to start the second year of IB English. I particularly look forward to reading The Odyssey and Frankenstein. Surprisingly, I’ve accumulated a lot of trivia about Frankenstein despite never reading it (e.g., the author Mary Shelly was friends with Lord Byron, who– despite being more popular at the time– she would later eclipse). I look forward to be delving into this horror genre trailblazer.

To ensure this year is fruitful and fun, I would like to particularly focus on developing my analysis skills for non-literary texts (an area that I find myself lacking in). S.M.A.R.T. Goal: Be able to intuitively identify non-literary techniques and relate such techniques to the greater structure of the work and the intended message.

Trying to decipher The Thing Around Your Neck

“The Thing Around Your Neck” took the longest for me to understand out of all the other short stories I read so far from the collection.

Going into the reading, I expected a relatively straightforward story about race that encoded a simple message on the ugliness of racism and a relevant call-to-action. Halfway through the story, however, I suddenly realized how wrong I was. Very much like the main character, I was initially surprised by the unnamed love interest’s expert knowledge in African culture. In the short span of a few pages, Adichie created a white character that, though fallible, was not morally deplorable and possessed many redeemable traits. Expecting a to-the-point statement on white ignorance and racial injustice, the dynamic characterization of the love interest left me at a loss.

I then decided to turn to Adichie herself for answers by watching her TedTalk. In it, she discussed the dangers of having “a single story”: how the Western domination in literature distorts the images of ethnic and racial minorities. Though she does not say it explicitly, Adichie’s actions very much align with a pursuit of truth. In her TedTalk concerned with the distortion of social reality, she consciously refrains from using buzzwords like “stereotypes” and “racism.” Perhaps, she recognizes how these words have long since lost their meaning– suffocated under the heavy social connotations they have accumulated through frequent usage. Once audiences encounter words like “stereotypes,” “racist,” and “prejudice” there is a knee-jerk reaction of “Bad!” or “I’m not like that!” that distract from the message of the speaker, that distract from truth.

With this understanding in mind, I began to look at “The Thing Around Your Neck” in a new light. I realized my initial confusion was testament to my deeply engrained assumptions about literature on the issue of race. I was confused because I expected a black and white picture of racial oppression but was met with none. The white love interest is far from absolutely evil, and the struggles of the main character are no more due to racial oppression than the cultural disconnect that comes with immigration. Instead of opting for the easy route of exaggeration and sensationalism, Adichie chooses honesty and truth.

This is why, despite all her experimentation, Adichie’s storytelling builds palpable, realistic characters. In this way, she is ultimately successful in countering the danger of a single story.

The World’s Wife and Humanizing the Femme Fatale

I just watched a video by TheTake on the “Femme Fatale,” which really got me thinking about Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife collection.

The video discusses some of the most iconic femme fatales in Western culture, including Salome and Delilah (overlapping with The World’s Wife). The core idea of the video, and the point I found the most interesting, was that the femme fatale often depicted the insecurities of society towards women at that period of time. For example, after the first World War ended, noir films that vilified women /depicted women as dangerous began popping up. In these films, the actual changes that women went through (e.g. becoming emotionally and financially independent) were pushed to the extreme: women became murderers and felons for wealth and fame. In these stories, they were only redeemed if 1) they were brought to justice (imprisoned or killed) or 2) their intentions were revealed to be innocent and “womanly” all along. These extreme representations of the changing woman revealed deeper social anxieties. As soldiers returned from war and were met with flappers and the other flamboyant, independent women of the Roaring Twenties, they became insecure about the loyalties of the wives they had left behind, and the male-centric media reflected exactly these insecurities.

Interestingly, two interpretations stem from this historical context: 1) the femme fatale archetype aims to vilify and morally diminish the empowerment of women 2) people also view the same morally degraded women as empowering. I think Carol Anne Duffy’s The World’s Wife sits in the refreshingly authentic middle-ground.

On the one hand, her Salome and Delilah are not the conniving, sly women that mainstream culture depicts them. Their apparently appalling, inhumane actions are fueled by very human emotions: Salome understands what she does is morally incorrect but regretfully continues, because she is self-indulgent and lacks discipline; Delilah does not cut Samson’s hair out of cunning betrayal but rather to help him find peace– she acts out of loyalty and love. On the other hand, Salome and Delilah are also not exalted, their actions not idealized: while we sympathize with their motives, we cannot praise or idolize their actions. In this way, Carol Ann Duffy ultimately humanizes the femme fatale. She stubbornly refuses to cave to the need for spectacle in mainstream media and instead opts for timeless authenticity. Her characters do not serve to appease any sensationalized social movement but are instead authentic and genuine; they are wholly themselves.

The World’s Wife: Reflection

I really enjoyed reading the select works from Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry collection The World’s Wife (including “Medusa,” “Penelope,” “Havisham,” “Anne Hathaway,” “Salome,” and “Delilah”). The collection is aptly named: Duffy dives deep into the psyches of culturally significant female figures (both real and fictional) who share histories of being shrouded by their male counterparts.

Given this premise, it’s easy for poets to slip into the one dimensional “woman good; man bad” mindset. However, what sets Duffy’s literature apart is her nuanced portrayals of these characters. The author does not off-put readers by pushing lazily and superficially “empowering” women but instead acts only to humanize these misunderstood women. Readers are not met with flimsy caricatures but real people of flesh and bone.

In “Penelope,” Duffy develops the titular character in a manner that is nuanced and authentic. The initial characterization of Penelope adheres mostly to the original version in Odysseus, her passive state (indicated by the use of passive verbs) reflects that of a secondary character—an accessory to the hero Odysseus. Still, there are some subtle but significant deviations from the conventional understanding of Penelope’s character. Instead of over-the-top longing as is expected of her archetype, Penelope is mostly emotionally indifferent to her husband’s absence. The only consequence she experiences is a diminishing of purpose as her days begin to bleed together:

“Six months of this

and then I noticed that whole days had passed

without my noticing.”

Duffy’s subversion of the archetype + our traditional understanding of Penelope’s character furthers as she begins to embroider her quilt:

“thinking to amuse myself,

but found a lifetime’s industry instead.

I sewed a girl

under a single star—cross-stich, silver silk—

running after childhood’s bouncing ball.”

Here, the poet fleshes out Penelope’s character by suggesting that her exercise in embroidery was not just intended to ward off suitors (as it was in the Odyssey) but later became a journey of self-discovery. In all, the subversion of the existing understanding of Penelope serves the primary purpose of dynamizing her character and adding complexity to her motives, ultimately humanizing the group of women that she has come to represent. What is worth note of Duffy’s new characterization of Penelope is the careful lack of idealization: the focus is solely on creating an authentic person. This same intent runs throughout the rest of the collection.

In “Havisham,” Duffy makes no move to vindicate or “empower” the jilted Miss Havisham. Instead, we are greeted with a character in poor emotional and mental health and who has lost all power to her bitter emotions. There is a line worth particular notice during Miss Havisham’s lament:

“the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did this

to me? “

The enjambed phrase “who did this/ to me” is very interesting. Due to the large gap between stanzas, readers are likely to read “who did this” with “the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself,” suggesting that Havisham was the primary culprit behind her misery. However, as readers continue to the next stanza, the statement becomes a rhetorical question: “who did this to me?” This clever use of enjambment has important implications about Miss Havisham’s character.

While Miss Havisham miserably, hopelessly begs for an answer, Duffy suggests that Havisham herself is the cause for her pain. Furthermore, this also paints Havisham as an unreliable narrator, so entrenched in her loathing she cannot think clearly (e.g. “b-b-b-breaks.”).

Interestingly enough, though, the lack of idealization actually arouses sympathy in readers. Understanding that Havisham is human and possesses human weaknesses, readers can empathize better with her plight. The same is true with “Medusa,” “Havisham,” and “Salome.”

Pastiche of “Valentine” by Carol Anne Duffy

Not chocolates or flowers.

I gave you a box of matches.
Each slender maiden crowned in red,
patiently quiet with promise and possibility.

Strike it. Fill the air with fiery chatter.
Watch the red lick and curl
like a wicked plaything.

Hold it.
Tenderly, closely,
but never too close.
Away, back again—
your love teasingly turbulent.

You grow used to this warmth.

Suffocate it.
Hold the air from its tongue
and watch it die.
The smoke is silent and bitter. 

Strike. Hold. Suffocate.
Rinse and repeat
Until all that I gave you is cold and empty.

eLearning Reflection

Due to the coronavirus outbreak, schools in China have had to move all learning online. eLearning has some benefits: flexibility of schedule, no time spent in transportation, and freedom to delegate however much time to each class. However, with this increased autonomy, I’ve also become more easily occupied by distractions like social media. Another major challenge is the difficulty involved in tracking assignments down (some teachers like to post in ManageBac while others choose DX).

A specific problem arises when considering English class. While I can now annotate and more deeply understand poems in my own time, I’ve lost the benefit of class discussions. During English classes on campus, I’ve always made full use of group + class discussions to refine my analyses of a text. Talking with my teacher and classmates not only increases the breadth of my understanding of a text but also helps me see what role an authorial choice plays in the overarching themes of the text. Even though we still have that option now with social media apps like Wechat, there is an obvious lack of communication without teacher facilitation. Because of this, I think a lot of classes could benefit from live sessions hosted by apps like Zoom.