"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

Reflection on Writing

Reflection: I think a strength of this writing was the large number of devices: fragments, metaphors, alliteration, etc without it feeling to contrived. I also like the rhythm of the first sentence, though I am a little bit concerned that the pun is off-putting or confusing. I would guess the biggest problem in the writing is the “who cares?” factor. What mean is that because I don’t give a highly positive impression of my break, it seems a little bit like I am just asking for the reader’s pity (which I don’t particularly want) without giving them much in terms of entertainment or knowledge in return. Writing about negative or even just not-positive (as in this case) experiences in an engaging way is something that I need to work on. My preference for long convoluted sentences means that I could do with some more sentence variety, though I don’t think it is too bad at the beginning of the piece.  Overall, I don’t think there is a ton wrong with the writing but I also am not sure there is a lot write either. It looks like what it is: a high school student trying to sound like a good writer.

Plan for my Practice IO

Extracts Grendel: Page 113 -114 “In ratty furs… … your wart-hog son” The Emissary Page 88-89 “Although no one had heard anything… …it to the government”

Global Issue: Totalitarianism

Aspect: The role ignorance and thought control plays in maintaining a totalitarian regime.


Hook: (memorize)
Totalitarian Government. We talk about it like it’s a figment of the past or mirage of the future. We carefully avoid the reality that much of the world is controlled by totalitarian rulers who care little to nothing about their people.

– John Gardener’s novel Grendel and Yoko Tawada’s Novel The Emissary demonstrate government’s where totalitarianism is both present and accepted
– Grendel is a beowulf spinoff and portrays the Hrothgar’s Kingdom of the Danes from Grendel’s perspective
– The Emissary is the story of the life of a man and his disabled great-grandson in post-apocalyptic Orwell-esque Japan
– The extract in Grendel is a poetic soliloquy by Hrothulf on the servitude of the peasants to his Uncle the king as he plans a coup
– The extract in Emissary is the main character Yoshiro reflecting on his memories of the governments decent to totalitarianism

– Both these novels demonstrate that:

Thesis: Thought Control allows totalitarian rulers to maintain power. Thus, it requires an influx of new thoughts to upset totalitarianism.

Part 1:

Idea: Totalitarianism sustains itself through ignorance

Examine: the next generation of farmers are a “mindless hoe”

  • The redundancy of mindless emphasizes tools can’t think only can be wielded de-personification (metaphor)
  • Deliberate slur- makes people upset; supposed to

One manifestation of how the shaper control’s the thoughts of people (even Grendel)

  • Explain

Examine: Japanese in emissary practice self-censoring: “keeping their intuition as sharp as a knife” because they are “afraid of being burned by laws they hadn’t heard of” (simile)

  • Initially hyperbolic example of ignorance enslaving
  • Ironic parallel of household injuries shows futility and ignorance

In the Emissary people can’t tell one thing from another. Hot and cold, light and darkness, can’t even get chronologically straight. Paradoxical how everyone can’t tell apart opposites, but shows that no one can think

Part 2:

Idea: There is a cycle of totalitarianism

Examine “Revolution … is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.” Pg. 119

  • Antithesis shows this cycle EFFECT on READER
  • Contrasts the opposites and declares this opposition faulty—everything is in shades of gray
  • Not only natural but there is nothing wrong with it
  • All the same your supposed to rebel and deny this statement
  • Even repetition in the antithesis shows repetition of cycle of violence

In fact, Gardener chooses to show the falling of Hrothgar’s empire as well as it’s rise. He discusses new King’s with a reputation as terrifying as Hrothgar’s. The forging of such a Kingdom is a repeated event. Hrothgar knows this and sees know way out. Trapped by destiny in totalitarianism.

In the Emissary the elderly people and cannot die. The young people die prematurely. Symbol for how the old ways cannot be changed, all new ways are futile.

Part 3:

Idea: It requires new thoughts, radically outside our current habits, to break free of the cycle of totalitarianism.
Even though the children in the emissary will never be walk and move like their parents, they necessarily don’t need to.

Examine: Yoshiro observes that his son Mumei moves like an octopus and express a desire to move like an octopus. Even suggest that maybe humans are evolving towards the octopus. Symbol

Examine: In the Grendel extract Hrothulf implores the peasants to “Think, sweating beast! Look up and think”
– Switch to 2nd person perspective = emphasis stands out also indent
– Perspective leaves audience vague- also implores reader
– Sweating beast – look up evolution; also look “up” b/c don’t repeat what you see look beyond
In Grendel the cruelest ruler is fate or wyrd. Grendel lashes out in anger against his fate to be the monster. Dying words “Grendel’s had an accident. So may you all” while on one level a curse of a human-hating monster according to destiney there is no accidents. Grendel want’s the cycle of destiny (that is the totalitarianism) to be changed. Hope

Rough Conclusion:

Neither Grendel nor the Emissary are cheerful. They reflect the grim, ignorant, restricted nature of totalitarianism in different ways.

They agree that it is difficult if not impossible to escape the cycle of violence and oppression.

All the same, there is hope and it comes from looking up and not down, past reality and to potential.

Ultimately the message is this: without free thought you cannot be free. (try to say this in a better way) When you are called to ignorance respond by turning around and thinking not in the way you are expected to think but like the octopus—in a new way.

Practice IO Topic

I want to do my practice IO on totalitarianism in Grendel and The Emissary.

According to Oxford Languages (via Google auto-awnser) totalitarianism is defined as a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.

Both the Danes (I think they get called Scyldings) in Grendel and future Japan in The Emissary are totalitarian nations. The Scyldings are totalitarian because they are an absolute monarchy that expects its citizens to die for it and oppresses it’s people putting wealth in the hands of only an elect few. Japan in The Emissary is totalitarian because the government has extensive laws that are arbitrarily enforced putting people in a constant state of fear of being arrested for breaking a law they did not know about. Additionally, it restricts all sorts of basic human rights including freedom of speech.

While both these novels comment on totalitarianism they do so in very different ways and the different societies are fundamentally different. I will be especially looking at the Hrothulf chapter in Grendel, whereas in the The Emissary the totalitarianism is pretty evenly distributed but I don’t think I will have much difficulty in finding an extract. (I find it interesting how this distrbution is similar to how it is protrayed in each novel. The Syldings are bluntly totalitarian and know one questions it whereas Japan is quietly totalitarian and everyone knows it but doesn’t talk about it.)

HL Essay New Idea

I think I might write my HL essay on something in The Emissary.

One possible topic would be the meaning of how eating (or maybe food) is portrayed in the Emissary. I am a little afraid that this would be to broad of a topic but here some ideas I noticed.

When Yoshiro remanences about Amani not wanting to eat healthily she says something about kids that are forced to eat what they are told becoming adults too stupid to do anything. I think that this is a criticism of Japanese culture enforcing beliefs on the younger generation. page 61

Later Yoshiro is mentally encouraging Mumei to eat with his food however he wanted, contrasting it to his traditional upbringing in which he was told the “proper” way to eat. He reflects that the traditional way of living in Japan didn’t account for the present apocalypse and hopes that perhaps Mumei will discover a new way of eating that works better for him. (page 44-45) He says that the traditional way of eating was to help the children ignore the “dangerous” sourness of the fruit. Also on page 55 old people wander like “ghosts” with “bloodshot eyes” looking for fruit. Perhaps the old traditions should be dead like the old people. (“ghosts”)

Page 60 simple pleasures are the most delicious part of the fruit we call everyday life

Yoshiro worries on page 61 that amani’s head is so full of fruit she can think of nothing else.

When Mumei says that he likes worms better than milk (page 22) the doctor tells him that that is because he is a bird instead of a calf. Maybe this means that different diets (and traditions) are better for different people.

The isolation policy means very little different kinds of fruit or even fruit at all makes it to  Tokyo.

Page 75 Tomo is a tree that bears only fruits of anxiety for Yoshiro

Page 100-101 Old people used to eat rock hard rice crackers but children can’t

Maybe the diet is saying something about the need for diversity in traditions in Japan.

I think the author uses the symbol of food to question the validity of traditional Japanese beliefs and imply that a more diverse culture would be healthy for Japan.


Alternate ideas:

Mumei’s Characterization of a bird (everything is a crane)



Political Orientation and Bias Reflection

According to the political orientations tests I am quite moderate. On the economic axis one test put me at slightly left and the other at dead center. The tests put me on opposite sides of moderate on the Authoritarian-Libertarian axis, one test saying I was more Authoritarian and the other saying I was more Libertarian. I mostly agree with the results of the tests. If I had guess I am probably slightly more Libertarian than Authoritarian. While I would agree that my political views are moderate, I think that this is because my different beliefs fall on both sides of the political spectrum rather than because I don’t have strong political opinions. I think it is important to be aware of politics because you frequently have the ability to influence them. This is especially true the more sway your personal opinions have with other people and if you are allowed to vote. I hold this belief because it seems to me that most incompetent decisions come from ignorance and this would include who to vote for. If you don’t know anything about politics yet you vote you just end up throwing a wrench in the system. As a disclaimer, I am not encouraging people to necessarily hold strong opinions in politics but to simply have an understanding of how different people/groups govern and what the effect of different government decisions would be. On the subject of bias and opinions of politics, I also took a political bias test which determined that while I got many of the questions wrong, I am significantly less politically biased than the average person. Since I don’t consider myself to be an expert in most of the issues that were discussed and actually got only 10/18 questions correct I find this disturbing. It implies that peoples political beliefs are very independent of reality and thus people on average, though they may hold strong beliefs are not very politically aware. When we live with access to all sorts of verifiable, reputable information at our fingertips there is, in my opinion little excuse for not availing yourself of the opportunity to educate yourself about politics both to learn new things, but possible more important, find out what you don’t know, and what you believe that is verifiably incorrect, in order to create a more rational and better functioning society.

Reflection on First Semester

During the first semester, we considered knowledge questions related to “Knowledge and the Knower” and “Knowledge and Technology.”  Looking back, what learning engagements stand out to you the most and why?  

I remember most the “Ways of Knowing” station activity. The most memorable was the “baa”/”faa” video because it showed how your brain could trick you even if you knew how the trick worked and were actively working against it. It was also fun because I was able to replicate the trick myself showing how simple it was. I liked those activities because they were more hands on than just watch a video and discuss. Additionally, I liked that we were working from evidence of our own. When we watch a video we often get only one opinion which is difficult to discuss unless we already have the context to form or understand any counter-opinions, which we often don’t. In an activity we have the results of our activities and can draw our own conclusions that we understand.

In what ways, if any, has your perspective shifted as a result of your participation in this course so far?

I am not sure that my perspective has shifted a lot. I was already aware of many of the things that we discussed. We have done a fair amount on the unreliability of information, but since I am slightly paranoid I tend to expect my information to be unreliable. I was actually a little bit surprised to find out how much adults depend on technology relative to people my age. The stereotype is that teenagers are always on the internet and believing whatever they find, but from the data that we looked at, it seems like teenagers actually spend a lot less time on the internet than adults do. Thus, I would expect that adults are also influenced more by media than teenagers are especially since teenagers views are likely to be very dependent on their parents and school.

Looking ahead to the exhibition requirement, what do you want to keep in mind? 

It is important to explain your reasoning clearly and precisely. If an answer seems obvious to me I am probably missing the point of the question.

Thinking back on the writing you have done so far in the course, what can you do to continue to hone your skills?  

I need to cut down on wordiness. (See how I didn’t elaborate) I could  also explore writing a little bit deeper about the questions we get such as exploring the implications as well as answering the question if space permits.

Baby IO (Not the moon) Topic 2.

Okay, it turns out that whatever complicated thing that I said last time is not really a recognised world issue. Fine. I have a new idea for a topic:

Anxiety Disorder as Portrayed in the Emissary.

According to Psychaitry.org (hard to spell), Generalized Anxiety Disorder is described as: “Generalized anxiety disorder involves persistent and excessive worry that interferes with daily activities. This ongoing worry and tension may be accompanied by physical symptoms, such as restlessness, feeling on edge or easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension or problems sleeping. Often the worries focus on everyday things such as job responsibilities, family health or minor matters such as chores, car repairs, or appointments.”

It looks to me like Yoshiro has moderate GAD. (Where his worries focus on Mumei. It is actually possible that he has separation anxiety disorder instead) Yoshiro definantly has difficulty concentrating and is constantly worried about Mumei. He also sweats a lot and has trembling hands despite his perfect health, both signs of anxiety.

My extract might be pages 36-37


IO Topic ideas

I have one idea for a topics (so far).

One is: “the effect belief in eventual doom of humanity has on persons perspective as shown in The Emissary (and Grendel)”. I think that since this is the first time I am doing it might be better not to also try to include Grendel. Maybe I could do one on both in the future? I am not quite sure what the rules on that are. (If this is even a viable topic/ or a good idea)

I think that my passage might be page 36 or maybe page 66-67 (All of 66 and maybe some of 67)




The Dragon– Outline


Absurdism: A philosophy based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that the search for order brings the individual into conflict with the universe. (Merriam Webster)

My Summary: Worrying about things you can’t understand (i.e. the universe) is fruitless and harmful.

Existentialism: a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. (Google Dictionary)

My Summary: The universe is meaningless but we can make our own meaning.

Nihilism: The rejection of all religious and moral principles, in the belief that life is meaningless (Google Dictionary)

My Summary: The universe is meaningless so nothing really matters.


The symbolization of opposite philosophies in the form of Dragons in Grendel promotes an Absurdist view of the Universe: trying to find meaning in a chaotic universe is harmful. (See how I left out Gardener from that thesis)

Paragraphs (not 100% sure how to divide them):

Dragon represents Nihilism: b/c

“all they live by is nonsense” (65) Shows rejection of moral values.

“Its all the same” “Ashes to Ashes” (73) Shows rejection of meaning. Biblical Allusion ironic.


Dragons view is harmful:  b/c

Dragon described as “[h]orrible, debauched” “old drunk” (59). If the dragon is Nihilism then Nihilistic people are horrible. Drunk connotes foolish, unwise, irresponsible.

“Serpent to the core” (61) Connotes Lying, evil. Note both Serpent and Dragon are Biblically symbols for Satan. Suggests nihilism is evil.


Beowulf is also a Dragon: b/c

“great cavernous belly, gold adorned, … lit by the flickering fire in the strangers eyes”(169) Mead-hall not described as dragon until Beowulf comes. Lit by fire shows Beowulf is the cause.

hand is like “dragons jaws” (168) and has “terrible fiery wings”(169). Jaws, fire, wings all related to dragon. Dragon is even mentioned. (reverse anthropomorphism)


Beowulf is Existentialist: b/c

“a meaningless swirl in the stream of time”(170) echos the dragons words about existence being meaningless however you can “make the world by whispers” (171) shows that person has the power to develop their own existence.

“make it a grave or a garden of roses” (171) represents opposite views. Since both can be made people can make their own meaning,


Existentialism is also Harmful: b/c

“his syllables lick at me chilly fire” (170) Both fire and cold is harmful. So thus Beowulf’s speech and thus his Existentialistic ideas are harmful. Further more chilly fire is an oxymoron Opposite characteristics repulsive seem illogical because Beowulf is wrong.

Beowulf has “inhuman indifference”(162) as well as a “murderous tongue”(163) inhuman and indifference both connote lack of sympathy or care for life. Existentialism similarly doesn’t nurture. Tongue is a wretched evil full of deadly poison, Beowulf’s views kill people.

Absurdism is the way to go: b/c

Grendel is literally torn apart (172) after he understand Beowulf’s view. This shows how the opposing dragons philosphies are harming grendel. Furthermore both of the philosophies are harmful. (Previously discussed)

The only thing the two dragons with their “different sort of mind” agree on is the chaotic state of the universe “a meaningless swirl” (170). Since the two opposite “all-knowing” creatures agree on this it’s probably true. However their theories lead to Grendel’s death. Thus Grendel must accept that the universe seems meaningless and it is futile to understand it without trying to either make his own meaning or reject the idea of meaning.



Technology and Knowing

My grandfather did a lot of schooling. He went to High School before computers were used in education, but in while he was getting his bachelor’s degree and PhD, he had access to some of the first computers used in schooling. According to my grandfather, when he was growing up, “books were the fundamental way of learning”. If you wanted to find something out, you went to the library. My grandfather did not have a calculator in high school. Instead, he used a slide rule, which while useful for estimation, did not generally give exact answers to problems. In college, however, my grandfather had access to a computer. His college had a room sized IBM 7090, considered to be cutting edge technology at the time. My grandfather learned to write punch cards in FORTRAN for computers in order to make money. He also used his programming knowledge in order to do research for his university classes. While he was in Graduate school, he got his first electronic calculator— a new invention at the time. By the time my grandfather graduated, the world was well in its way to the Second Information Revolution.

Now we are in a time where the internet is a fundamental way of learning. Instead of going to a library to learn, we can open a computer or take out are phone. The biggest difference between now and then is the speed that we can access and analyze information. While you used to have to use a slide rule to get a ballpark estimate, the calculator on your phone can quickly and easily give you answers of previously undreamt of accuracy. Technology doesn’t make us smarter. Instead it allows us to learn and build on others ideas more easily. It connects us rather than enhances us. The difference between shared knowledge and personal knowledge is now relatively trivial, as we can find it on the internet and learn it ourselves given time. The time we have available to learn has always been the barrier between shared knowledge and personal knowledge. Technology simply lowers this barrier.

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