Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Review of Murder in the First: Too Dramatized to Seem Realistic

For a movie that centered mostly a courtroom setting, Murder in the First seemed fairly unrealistic, even for a dramatic movie, because there were many inaccuracies within the courtroom. I felt as though they really put their artistic license to use and created a movie that seemed overly dramatized. Christian Slater seemed to ask every question by yelling at the witness. He acted as though each question he asked was ground breaking and case-altering. Also, he would lead the witnesses on by asking several questions at once and giving them only a chance to answer the last one. Lawyers are not allowed to do this in court, but the judge only stopped him a few times. The judge and the prosecuting attorney would also yell quite frequently and I felt that it came off as too dramatic.

There were also a lot of scenes that had very dramatic build ups. There were several times that Christian Slater would be running somewhere and it seemed like the scene was just added to build up the following scene; however, it was used too many times so it lost its effect. Also, the scenes following the dramatic runs often seemed anti-climactic after the buildup given for it. I really liked the movie for the most part, but I think they could have played it down a little and it wouldn’t have seemed so “Hollywood.”


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Contrasting Images during the Opening Credits of Murder in the First

There is a significant number of contrasting and graphic images illustrated throughout the opening credits of Murder in the First (1995). The film opens with no images, but rather the chaotic mixture of sounds, including sirens blaring, footsteps running, and voices yelling. The sound of two gunshots is herd, followed by a voice saying, “I give up Mr. Glenn. Please don’t hit me.” This beginning part is ended with “Call the press!” Beginning the film in this manner is impactful and powerful, but it is strange that amid all of the chaos and disorder, the media and the press is on the mind of Mr. Glenn.

The next scene is a very sharp distinction from the opening of the film. The scene shifts dramatically, as it goes from the confusion of the attempted escape to a news report depicting the escape. However, the music accompanying the news report seems inappropriate and unsuitable, as the music sounds triumphant and somewhat cheerful, even though it is describing a very serious event. The news portrays the death of two of the escapees in a very light manner, as he says that those two prisoners were “destined for the morgue.” The news report then shows an image of one of the dead bodies with a guard standing next to it, waving and smiling at the camera. In addition, the news reporter describes the warden as “proud” and explains how he “congratulates” the guards for catching the escapees. This scene seems very unfitting and out-of-place in relation to the seriousness and atrocities that are illustrated throughout the rest of the film.

The following scene switches to a grotesque image of the body of Henry Young huddled on a slab of concrete in his solitary confinement cell. Once again, contrasting images are prevalent throughout this scene. After Young is thrown a small amount of food in his dark, tiny cell, a scenic view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge is presented, then it flashes back to Young attempting to slit his wrists on the brick in his cell. This constant change from Henry Young’s solitary confinement cell to the world outside of Alcatraz creates an emphasis on the horrific treatment of the prisoners of Alcatraz.

Furthermore, the next part of the film shows a prayer being said, but quickly switches to an unsettling image of the associate warden, Mr. Glenn, whipping Henry Young, while a guard stands outside the cell with a neutral and indifferent expression on his face. Moreover, Young is shown eating his measly pieces of bread inside of his dark, filthy cell, while an image of the guards eating sandwiches outside by the water on a bright day is presented immediately after.

These constant opposing images create a strong impact and powerful depiction of the horrifying treatment of the prisoners of Alcatraz and the gruesome conditions that they were forced to endure.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Considering the Media and Alcatraz in Murder in the First

Dateline news segments of today are usually depressing, packed with crime, murder, and economic distress. However, the opening scene of Murder in the First is a rather upbeat Dateline report of a foiled escape attempt from Alcatraz. The guards are congratulated on their excellence in apprehending the escapees instead of being reprimanded for allowing the prisoners to get out in the first place. They are even quoted as being jubilant and showing off their battle scars, all with smiles on their faces. The news reports seem to be disjointed with the rest of the movie. Its peppy tone is very different from the gruesome treatment of the prisoners. This account of success on the guards part is a stark contrast to the following scene and the rest of the movie.

Henry Young stole $5 and tried to escape from Alcatraz, leading him to solitary confinement in the dungeons of the prison, with little human contact and hardly any sight of the outside world. The conditions were horrendous and inhumane. He was also abused in his time there. Young was whipped, clubbed, cut and shackled. His treatment left him both physically and mentally incapacitated. These vile acts committed against Young were very difficult to watch as he screamed in pain and anguish. It is disturbing to think that is the manner in which prisoners of the time were treated. Being isolated and tormented for years caused a significant amount of damage to Young. The film examines how Alcatraz’s inhumane treatment affect their prisoner’s psyches. It is because of his treatment that Young murders Russ McCain, almost immediately after he is released from the dungeon.

The short clips of news reports stand out during the film because they are incongruent with the rest of the movie. They carry a different tone than the subject matter. A reason behind their placement could be to demonstrate for the audience just how little accurate knowledge was presented to the general public at time about the prison. Especially, what is what really like on the island. They saw happy faces of guards and the warden instead of brutally beaten prisoners.

There is no mention of the treatment of the prisoners in the news reports. The dirty details are omitted to make the story have a happy ending. Shielding the public from the actual occurrences on the island. It isn’t until the Alcatraz is put on trial that the prison’s gruesome details get examined. No attention is paid to the to treatment of these prisoners. Much of the general population thinks they are horrible monsters. Little do they know spots in the prison are filled with some petty criminals for budgetary reasons.


From Poetry to Prose to Animation?: A Review of Howl

“You cannot interpret poetry into prose”, this is a key phrase in the movie Howl. This line comes up during the obscenity trial, when the prosecuting lawyer is trying to determine what literary experts think the meaning of the poem is and if it contains any literary value or merit. On the same token, I don’t think you can interpret poetry into illustrations.

In the film, many sections from the poem, were interpreted into animation. I feel this took away from the movie as a whole. I found the images to be distracting from the reading of the poem. I heard many other movie patrons making the same comments as they were shuffling out of the theater. Instead of listening to Ginsberg’s readings, we were distracted by what was going on in the illustrations. Some of the more shocking images seemed to stick in your mind, preventing the viewer from paying attention to the next scene. In my opinion it would have been best to leave some interpretation up to the audience.

Another aspect of the illustration I found distracting, were the images’ computer generation. It seemed to conflict with the other scenes in the film. For a movie set in the 1950s, I felt the technology was out of place and the animations would have been better suited to be drawn by hand. Being drawn by hand could have given the animations a more dated looking, making it coherent with with rest of the film.

Overall I thought the acting in movie was really well done and I that the film was good, seeing as it wasn’t a movie that I would usually strike my eye. Having read Howl, the film helped me to understand the poem better by explaining Allen Ginsberg past in some detail, including the relationships he had with many people. By understanding his past it helped me to better interpret the poetry for myself.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Centrality of Companionship in Murder in the First

It is surprising to see in Murder in the First how Henry Young views his situation. He has just murdered a man in a very brutal way and is going to be sentenced to death. However, the only thing in his mind was that he had gained a friend. He did not care about winning the case, or saving his life, he cared about the company that his lawyer James provided. The relationship between Henry and James is exceedingly moving. In this film one sees how friendship is able to provide comfort, strength, and hope to man that could be viewed as a lost cause.

In one of the first scenes from his time in solitary, Henry Young is shown tenderly and almost lovingly feeding a spider. This is quite surprising since most people are usually inclined to avoid spiders. Nevertheless, an explanation is provided later from Young himself. When speaking to James about his years in the dungeon, Henry highlights the significance of the spider. As he described it, he felt that he had a companion. This demonstrates that he was desperately looking for some sort of company.

Henry Young was tortured and isolated for over three years, and the trauma that this caused surfaced during his interaction with the lawyer. At first, Henry appeared to be mentally incapacitated, speaking no words and showing no signs of comprehension. However, once he familiarized himself with James, he began to talk and insist on playing card games. As his case became more heated, James demanded cooperation from the Young and when he did not obtain it he got furious. Henry responded by saying that he does not care about the trial, “I don’t need a lawyer, I need a friend.” This
indicates that nothing is more important to him than friendship since it was this new bond that allowed him to enjoy life again and transform himself from an emotionally unstable individual to a more jovial and hopeful person.

At the end of the movie, James won the case and Henry was declared not guilty. Nevertheless, what made Henry more happy than anything else was that he would soon be working with James again. Some of his final words to James were “Henry and Jim together again.” Henry was victorious, but not because of the court’s decision, but because of his newly acquired comrade.

Henry Young, a troubled criminal of Alcatraz, barred from any human interaction for over three years, found a companion and with that, a reason to keep fighting.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Reflections on Day of Action: Crying Out to Anyone Who's Listening

As of November of last year, the UC Regents agreed to raise tuition prices over $10,000, a 32% increase to the already expensive price for higher education. I’ve attached a picture that shows the progression of tuition costs over the years; an image quite striking and alarming. Many students and teachers acted out against the fee hike in several protests and demonstrations most notable: the March 4th protest. The October 7th “Day of Action” was another chance for activists to show their support in the fight for public education. The UC system prides itself on being a group of schools that are affordable and accessible to all who want it. However, it is this very increase in tuition that is driving underprivileged minorities out of the UC system.

With the end of affirmative action in the public education system, a specific number of minorities were no longer guaranteed into college. Being part of the Pilipino community here at Cal, I am constantly reminded of our diminishing number and underrepresentation in the greater Berkeley campus. Only a mere 2.9% of the Berkeley population, many of us protested to fight against our dwindling numbers in solidarity with the other minority groups on campus. RAZA, the Chicano/Latino space for recruitment and retention is also seeing a diminishing number in their community. Most unsettling (and perhaps most relevant to our course) is the vanishing number of 0.1% Native Americans represented on campus. The Native American Recruitment and Retention Center is rumored to have a lonely 3 members.

The Pilipino Community made demands during the rally in support of their minority counterparts. The increase in the tuition is making it too expensive for future minorities to make it into the UC system. The people are becoming less diverse and more elite and privileged folk. I admit that I was lucky and privileged to be able to afford the tuition increase but I sympathize with the many that are forced to take out more loans, find more work, and try to graduate early all because of the increasing tuition prices. The demands were simple: expansion of the ethnic studies program at UC Berkeley, and more visibility and representation in our cultures and

I admit, the rally overall was uncoordinated and not very effective. I think I’m only aware of the issues because I chose to be a part of this space, and the struggles of minorities on campus aren’t successfully publicized. The Day of Action was merely an attempt to do something about the issues that need to be addressed, unfortunately in a manner that was unable to reach out to everyone.


Monday, October 18, 2010

A Review of Howl the movie by Stanley Fish

Did you catch Stanley Fish's review of James Franco in Howl? Click here for the link!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day of Action/Reaction: College Athletics Take Note

It was a long day at UC Berkeley on October 7. I did not know what the idea behind the teach out was, but I did know it was about the budgetary problem. Being an rugby athlete, we have gotten a small taste of the budgetary cuts. Because of the budgetary cuts, we will have to pay for all our own medical bills, pay someone to tape our own ankles. I know it does not sound like it would be cheap enough, but medical bills can get very expensive.

The rugby program is trying to save the "tagging" ability for admissions. As a varsity sport we get academic "tags" which are like our scholarships. They allow our recruits to get into the school. This budgetary cut may give us less likely to bring smart student athletes into Cal and be able to compete for a National Championship. It is also a slap in the face to the rugby program. We win 25 national championships, bring a revenue to the school and they still want to cut us as a varsity sport.

The teach out really brings the student uproar and it helps me to sleep at night that the students look out for us. We made an impact on the school and it shows through the action from the students.


A.B's Walk Out

On October 7th, students participated in a campus-wide walkout in an effort to protest the education budget cuts. As a new student at this school, I had little idea as to what was going or why it was happening. I knew that budget cuts and increased fees were posing a major problem for enrolled students, but because I had not been here previously, I did not feel particularly affected. Therefore, I did not feel the need to participate in the rally. That being said, I understand why students are protesting especially because athletic programs are being cut and some students are being forced to withdraw from school because they cannot afford to attend anymore. However, it was disheartening to hear how unorganized the events were especially considering that Berkeley was where the free speech movement began.

We are taught history so that we can learn from our mistakes and continue to improve our lives. However, it appears that the organizers of the walkout slacked off when it came time to do their reading. In all of the novels we have read this year, we have learned the value of organization and protest. In the case of the prisoners, only those who had well thought-out plans had a decent chance of escaping, as opposed to those who just blindly made a run for it. In the Indians’ case, they suffered from many different fragmented groups all fighting for the same cause. Had they joined together and united under a common leader, their movement for increased Indian rights would have been much more effective.

Unfortunately, the student leaders on out campus did not learn the lessons that history has been teaching us for centuries. Had they studied the Indians’ plight, they would have known that organization would have been key to the success of their protest. While they did indeed gather enough attention for it, there was a general lack of organization. The students could have done a much better job of marketing the event and especially its purpose. Had they done so, they would have garnered the support of students such as myself and the event could have been much more successful.

A.R.'s Day of Action

I think that this protest was highly under-publicized and ill-planned.
Prior to the day of the protest, friends of mine were surprised to hear
that one of my classes was going to be cancelled because they weren’t
aware of the protest at all. Even walking through campus didn’t feel
like it was a protest day. Last spring, there were picketers stationed in
numerous locations on campus. Aside from the picketers at Telegraph and
Bancroft, the only similarity I noticed between this fall and last spring
was the pulling of fire alarms in classrooms. I don’t think the
protesters should try to gain support in that way because some students
still go to class and try to get work done on protest days and pulling
the fire alarms inhibits that. Also, the mob of protesters going into
lecture halls during class time and yelling for people to leave bothered
me because if people had wanted to participate in the walkout, they would

I understand the frustration with fee increases, but I feel as
though it is impossible things at Cal to remain the same when the
state of California is disinvesting money in public education. In
order for the school to continue to be the high caliber institution
that it is, money has to come from somewhere. I think it’s strange
that students protest fee increases that will help to keep Cal a
premiere university when the students themselves voted in favor of
the B.E.A.R.S Initiative last spring, as that increased the student
fees as well.

The Shift in Structure and Style of Like a Hurricane

Between the opening chapters and the next part of Like a Hurricane, there is a shift in the structure and the way that the text is presented. In the beginning chapters of Like A Hurricane, the text is written in a very straightforward, factual manner. This part of the book is fragmented and disconnected, as there are many stories that are sporadically placed between historical facts. In addition, these chapters follow a chronological pattern for the most part.

In contrast, starting in chapter four, the text can be classified more as a narrative than a historical account. It begins to shift from an episodic nature to having a storyline. The first several chapters contain various stories without much reflection whereas in these next chapters, the story starts to connect more.

In addition, in this part of the book, the text becomes more descriptive and more dialogue is incorporated into these chapters than in the beginning of the book, as evidenced by the first several pages of chapter five. There are also more side notes included in this section of the text. For instance, when discussing Richard Oakes, the statement, “Where is our leader? Oh he’s too busy partying with celebrities and reading his press clippings to bother with actually showing up here anymore” is in parentheses, which demonstrates the shift of the structure from formal and rigid to more of a narrative.

The change of structure from a historical account to more of a narrative style is observed between the first two sections of the book, and the more descriptive and detailed diction and the addition of dialogue further illustrates this shift.


D. B.'s Reflection on the Day of Action

Taking some time to reflect back on the Oct 7th Walkout, I end up coming to a state of mixed feelings. As far as the protests go, I think it was great that people stood for what they believe in. Especially since there is this portrayal that college aged students often don’t have their voices heard. What drew me to this school were the voices of the students. I remember visiting the campus and seeing so many students running for elections and all of the organizations constantly pushing for new members (although, I actually dislike it now).

There’s a part of me that wants to join in on protests like these but I often feel like the ultimate purpose isn’t completely clear. When asking people why they join in, it seems like some don’t even have a clear purpose. Rather, they seem to just join in because someone told them to. Walking down campus during these protests also gives me a feeling of bitterness. In both protests I heard fire alarms. What this means was that there was an intentional pulling of the fire alarm to gain attention. Ultimately, this disturbs classes and especially for those that were in the middle of examinations. Personally, pulling the fire alarms was simply taking it too far.

To add to the bitterness, I also heard the protesters enter the library. For me, that was actually quite annoying. I had exams during the week of the protest and to have the protesters disturb me during a session of studying was more than I could handle. But this bitterness definitely doesn’t make me want to wish the protest(s) never occurred. It’s nice to have since it makes my experience here at Berkeley much more memorable.


Day of Action Reflection: Resistance is Futile?

In my time at Berkeley thus far, I have seen at least 6 on-campus demonstrations and rallies, some more violent than others, to protest recent tuition hikes and other actions committed by the board of regents and other administrators.

Some of their actions over the course of last year, however, have had a decidedly detrimental effect on the students and the campus in general, only weakening the protestors’ argument. To give a few examples: the occupation of Wheeler Hall and setting off of fire alarms last November prevented over 3800 students from attending classes (I was one of them); the hunger strike in front of California Hall to protest the firing of campus custodial staff, the leaders of which encouraged students to drop trash on the lawn—making more work for the janitors whose rights they were supposedly defending; and numerous acts of vandalism both on- and off-campus.

The most recent Day of Action included a sit-in of over 600 people in the North Reading Room in Doe Library, and the following day, a group gathered to protest the reopening of Blum Hall on the northern edge of campus because the renovations had been partially financed by the husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a regent of the UC system. Because it was also Parents’ Weekend, the protest interrupted an orientation for parents of students in the College of Engineering (and who knows how far they had to travel to get here?).

As a result of these demonstrations, students have been prevented from attending classes, preventing them from learning—which is the reason why they pay tuition to the university in the first place. These protestors, whose desire is ostensibly to regain affordable tuition and benefit the student body as a whole, have thus far failed to achieve their goal—they have failed, even, to articulate one specific goal for all those involved in the movement to support. There is no clear leadership, adding greatly to the failure of Thursday’s protests, but I think one of the biggest contributing problems is the lack of understanding of the underlying causes of the budget cuts and fee increases: California’s own budget crisis and political situation. It is too easy for those ignorant of the real issues to make scapegoats of the nearest authority figures; in this case, Chancellor Birgeneau and the board of regents.

Try as I might, I can’t see how they think their actions will achieve what they want. The leaders of the movement, ostensibly inspired by the legacy of student activism at Berkeley in the 1960s, seem too idealistic for their own good. I have heard demands for “free education for all,” but when has that ever been possible? While I support fewer budget cuts and a greater emphasis on education at the government level, I wish those actively at the head of the movement could find a way to make their point(s) in a way that won’t bring negative publicity to the Berkeley campus.


Day of Action/Reaction: Or, Day of Sleeping-In

I marched in solidarity with hundreds of fellow students on October the 7th. I walked up the marble stairs of the library shouting, (which felt liberating, I have to say). I sat, and I heard the good-intentioned demands that would never be met, that nobody really expected to be met, and I saw the sons and daughters of Middle America gradually lose attention and file out. Off they went, back to business as usual. And why shouldn’t they – after all, it was clear that this movement wasn’t going to accomplish its aims, and probably not even raise much awareness among the outside world.

There is one big reason I can think of: we, ourselves, must know that this great university education matters. People like to say (and I am guilty of all these things too), “oh, the organizers were too disorganized,” and maybe they were, but why should those few people be responsible for getting the masses of students to care about their own education? Brian cancels class in support of the day of action, and most of us are happy not to have to go to school. People like to say, “ oh, the regents and politicians are nasty, greedy people,” and maybe they are, but what else do you expect when only a third of the population votes – and when we do vote, we go and approve Prop 13 and minority rule. I think many people come to Berkeley not to get a fancy diploma, but to get a world-class, eye-opening education, and inherit the culture of the free speech movement – I came here thinking all this – and I think if we’re not awake we might be settling for much less.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day of Action/Reaction: Resistance to Convey a Point

Many people have been greatly affected by the budget cuts and the cuts to the athletic department at UC Berkeley. Students, faculty and other participants hoped to portray a strong message through the October 7th walkout, but unfortunately, the demonstration proved to be disorganized and confusing. Although I personally did not participate in the events of the strike, I heard that it was not nearly as effective as the March 4th protest earlier this year. On October 7th, I had a class in Wheeler Auditorium at 11am and a large group of students that was normally not in the class sat down. They all walked out of the auditorium at 11:30am to show their support for the protest, which, although it made a point, many of them were not clear about the issues that they were protesting. Although the idea of resistance was a prominent way to convey the anger and frustration of the budget cuts, the message would have been expressed in a much stronger manner if the strike had been better organized.

I feel that the outcome of this walkout parallels the occurrence in Like a Hurricane that was planned by Adam Nordwall and Richard Oakes. In Like a Hurricane, the issues that they wanted to address and draw attention to were solid but the planning was not. The actual event consisted of a series of spontaneous actions rather than being conducted in an organized manner.

If the walkout had been more organized and planned in a more effective manner, it probably would have proven to be more successful.


Day of Action/Reaction: A Reflection about Statism

Yesterday at lunch, I had a very interesting discussion about different political parties in the States with my friends. When lunchtime was about to end, a friend suddenly posed the question - "Why do we need a government anyway?"

As we all laughed at the seemingly jocular comment, I could somehow see the reason why my friend would say this. It is the constant disatisfication that people always possess toward their higher authorities. Everyone has his own utopian world in their heart. The mothers want their sons to return home from wars. The immigrants want their citizenship to come earlier. The professors want more budget for their programs. But the higher authorities cannot possibly satisfy everyone's wish. When they fail to make their people content, disagreement and resentment occur. As a result, some want a say for their issues. They want to communicate with their higher authorities to let their voice be heard. So then it comes protests, riots, rebellions or revolutions. These are all means for pressuring the high authorities to make desirable changes.

UC Berkeley is a very liberal school in a very democratic country. On last Thursday, a protest against budget cuts and the UC school system occurred on campus. From what I have heard about this protest, it was chaotic and unorganized. I personally think it was a very unnecessary event that only led to inconvenience for staff and students. In spite of the disorganization of the event, the protest itself is very meaningless. Of course, budget cuts can take away education opportunities for some students and sports teams for some athletes. However, in such a poor economy, almost every individual and every system has to tighten the budget. I truly believe that all of the administrators in UC Berkeley want to provide more fund for their staff and students - they just don't have the resource. A protest is not going to let money fall off from the sky. That is why I think a protest against an issue that the higher authority wants to solve but cannot solve, is totally meaningless.

As for the question my friend poses, I think indeed we need higher authorities. Humans are selfish in nature. So higher authorities make the society safe, organized and fair. Especially when some people have totally wrong moral values, the higher authorities have to take a step in and remove the weed for the common good. Resistance against higher authorities is only meaningful when the issue is addressed by the majority, and only when the higher authorities possess the power the solve it.


Day of Action/Reaction: A Reflection from an Athlete

I think the strikes against the school-wide budget cuts, like the one that took place on October 7th, 2010, are completely necessary. I have been personally affected by these actions, especially recently when they reached the athletic department. Cal instated a department-wide budget cut, and therefore chose to cut five athletic teams. I am a member of the women’s lacrosse team, one of the five teams chosen. The day I was informed was quite possibly one of the hardest days of my life; I felt like my life had been ripped out of me.

I attended the walk out last year, and I was astonished at how many people were affected by the budget cuts. It was a meaningful, but peaceful protest and I was very proud to be a part of it. I heard this year’s rally was not the case, as we people pulled fire alarms and acted in a very angry, immature matter. While it is sad to hear, I can understand the actions taken. Serious budget cuts were made last year, and now apparently have no end in sight; how much more can this University take from us before we start getting angry?

I think after the most recent and drastic cuts, it has brought to light how clueless and ineffective our administration is at Cal. The recent athletic cuts have outrageous amounts of evidence supporting why those are some of the most important sports to keep at Cal, considering those particular five are practically self-funded anyways. But before any sports needed to be cut, why would our administration support the construction of a multi-million dollar athletic facility, when they knew that we were entering a recession and could not afford it? And instead of allocating their resources to fundraise, they would rather find the quickest fix to their problem, regardless of whom it affected. While admittedly we are in a recession and money is tight, I find it extremely surprising that the only things left untouched by these budget cuts are the administrator’s yearly salaries.


Day of Action/Reaction: Drawing a Connection

Many hoped October 7th would be the day that students, faculty, and teachers would unite and speak out against the injustices in the UC system. Nonetheless, it seems that not much was achieved. Even though I did not attend, I heard from several people that the whole thing was unorganized with unclear goals and a low turnout. This made me think about similar attempts that have been described in our readings. The parallel lies in that individuals with clear objectives seem to fail due to a lack of preparation and cooperation.

In Escape from Alcatraz several attempts by inmates were discussed. It seems that only the people who thought things out or worked with others had better chances of escaping. If an inmate simply ran out they would get shot. This is a very uncalculated and impulsive action that led to failure. On the other hand, Frank Morris and other inmates, carried out an intricate plan that might have been successful. This shows the more promising results of time commitment and teamwork.

Likewise, Like a Hurricane discusses the Indian occupation of Alcatraz and how the Indians hoped it would change American policy toward Native Americans. The occupation began with enthusiastic supporters and positive media coverage. However, over time the lack of organization and planning led to several conflicts. Since there were no real leaders, many important tasks were not conducted and there were several cases of misconduct. Also, from the beginning they did not think about provisions and the harsh conditions at Alcatraz complicated their stay. This culminated in poor media coverage and numerously disillusioned people.

In the same way that these events ended poorly, the October 7th call to action was not as impacting as expected. This shows that hopeful causes can end unsuccessfully if they begin without a carefully structured plan.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Review of Howl with James Franco

Howl, starring James Franco as Alan Ginsberg, focuses on the obscenity trial and controversy that surrounded the poem. Using a variety of cinematographic techniques, the film is constructed in a nonlinear fashion. The directors chose to split the movie into four different sections. In one, Franco reads the poem to a passionate and approving young audience in a bar. In another, Franco is interviewed in his home by an unknown journalist. Still another focuses on the actual court case and the cases presented by both sides. The final, and in my opinion, most unusual portion of the film involve animated segments meant to interpret the meaning of the poem.

Although Franco appears to be an unusual choice to play Ginsberg, he does a surprisingly good job in his portrayal of the famous poet. Known for his good looks, Franco’s appearance is not the center of the film’s focus at any point. Rather, he is able to accurately imitate Ginsberg in the personal interviews with the journalist, particularly when talking about his sexuality. In an unusual yet interesting approach, Franco uses analogies relating writing to his love life. Through this, the audience is able to gain a deeper understanding of Ginsberg’s emotional attraction to the same sex and suffers through the ups and downs of his eventful life.

Throughout the trial, we learn that people are afraid of the poem because they do not understand it. In the climax, the prosecuting attorney even admits that he does not understand the poem’s literary meaning. While there are some distractions caused by the star power of Jon Hamm, the trial provides the audience with a brief analysis of the poem and learns some of its true literary merit.


Richard Oakes Hero or Publicity Seeker? in Like a Hurricane

Richard Oakes the "ringleader" of the occupation of Alcatraz went
through great obstacles to gain attention to the cause of Indian
power. Although it's foreboding on page five which reads, "(Richard
Oakes) would be their representative, and through him - in theory -
they would speak in a single, unified, and defiant voice." It becomes
apparent throughout the text that this type of language used by the
authors Smith and Warrior are foreshadowing future events on the
island of Alcatraz. The life of Richard Oakes and his beginnings in
northern New York as a Mohawk express a thread of togetherness among
the Indian movement.

Oakes personal accounts of Native Americans did not match up to what
he was reading about them. Instead of love and friendship for fellow
men, Indians were constantly bickering and drinking. The authors
show us the origins of Oakes belief in a more universal message of
Indian revival and power in the United States. The belief in a
community center for Indians on Alcatraz Island was a crazy yet
ingenious idea that ended up unifying Indians throughout the nation,
but as the authors point out the occupiers turned on the leader

Oakes' bold move to jump out of the boat and to swim the frigid
waters to the shore of Alcatraz seemed to not be thought out, but it
was an idiotic yet brilliant move to start the occupation. The line,
"He was tired of doing things only for publicity," was intriguing
because it seemed the whole occupation could be construed as a
publicity stunt orchestrated by Oakes. All in all Oakes is seen as a
hero to Indians in chapter one in Like A Hurricane.


Monday, October 11, 2010

A Note on the Beginning of Like a Hurricane

In the mid-1960's, everyone was fighting back; African Americans were fighting for civil rights, the a majority of the public was trying to subvert the Vietnam War, and women were fighting for their liberation. Indians were fighting, too, though it's a fight too few have documented, and even fewer remember.

Paul Smith and Robert Warrior, both came out with a bang when they started the book. The Indians, on boat, sneaking onto Alcatraz from all parts of the San Francisco bay. Indians from Sausalito landed on the east side while other coming from San Francisco landed on the other and so forth. It is interesting to see that the Indians did this in the middle of the night when no one could see them. It was if they were doing something illegal, which was not made clear if it was. They were going to the island on their own and I do not understand why they had to do it in the middle of the night.

It is interesting that all these Indians, wanted this land back, this small piece of land, literally in the middle of the bay. I understand that it was a place where the Indians used to live, and it was called Pelican Island, but it was still in the middle of the bay. It is also interesting how a lot of the Indians who came over, were college students and how they wanted to take action. There were 40 Indians that claimed the island on March 8, 1964. It did not take long after the closing of the prison for the Indians to try and claim it for themselves. What was the city thinking about using the island for after the prison closed? Unlike most other books written about American Indians, this book does not look to persuade readers that government polices were cruel and misguided.

Like a Hurricane was a gripping account of how for a brief, but brilliant, season Indians strategized to change the course and tone of American Indian-U.S. government interaction. Unwaveringly honest, it analyzes not only the period's successes but also its failures.


Day of Action/Reaction: A Rally Visit

October Seventh was a day that many I talked to had no idea what
was going on. They hadn't heard about the Protests and Sit Ins
against the increases in fees and defunded of higher education.
Many classes were not cancelled around campus, especially in the
math and science departments. Your English class was the only
class that was cancelled on my schedule. I did skip the other
three classes on my Thursday schedule to attend the major rally on
Sproul Plaza.

My first impression of the Rally was of disappointment because of
it's small showing. The speeches were impassioned but lacking in
any sense of future accomplishment from this Walk-Out. I talked to
a few minority students that thought their enrollment was too low
and should be expanded. It's true that the Hispanic and
African-American populations are sorely lacking from this campus
and I sympathized with his cause.

Shortly after the major gathering I left to meet up with some
friends and went on to have a great day hiking in the hills of
Tilden Park. I am upset at the budget cuts, but it's hard for me to
really feel impassioned and angry when I feel the fees at least for
my family situation is very affordable, especially for the quality
of education for the University of California.


Day of Action/Reaction: STRIKE! and College Athletics

The walkout that took place this past Thursday, October 7, 2010, was confusing for me. All of my classes were canceled and there were lots of angry people when I walked on campus. The sad party about this was that I really did not understand the entire cause. I understand the negative effects of the budget cute because of how awful they are. I personally know people who will not be able to return to UC Berkeley due to the major increase in costs. I do not personally know any faculty and staff that were cut, but I feel for their families and the struggle they must be going through.

I completely support the strike in their opinions, but I like going to school here, and I feel like days like Thursday really don’t show our love for the administration. My understanding is that the University of California at Berkeley and the administration here do not make the budget cuts, but that it is statewide and affects the other UC schools as well. I agree the budget cuts are devastating, but I also believe that the protesters and those that take on the role of representation should explain all their reasoning for what they want, and have signs that say more than “no budget cuts” or “walk out” because there is a lot more to it.

From an athletic perspective I think that the budget sports are taking away opportunities for a lot of student athletes. Yes athletics helped the majority of us get into Cal, but we had 5 teams cut! Those are 5 groups of students who have lost their opportunity to compete collegiality because of these cuts. Walkouts definitely make a difference in the community as some of us witnessed last year, but at the same time they temporarily take away from the learning environment we have come to love at UC Berkeley.


Review: James Franco as Ginsberg in Howl

When Allen Ginsberg’s Howl was made into a movie and produced in 2010 they chose James Franco to play Ginsberg. Although they bare no overwhelming physical similarities, Franco graduated from UCLA with an English major and is currently at Yale getting his masters, so they both share a different passion for English. To my surprise, the movie adaptation of Howl did not go into the details of Ginsberg’s personal life, nor did it show him recite the entire poem. The movie focused on the obscenity trial and whether or not Howl was of any literary value and whether it was too perverse. Ginsberg himself was not involved with the trial because it was the publisher of City Light Books who was the one actually put on trial, even though he didn’t write "Howl," he simply supported it.

The movie jumped around from scenes of the trial, to an interview with Ginsberg, to shots of him typing out Howl on the typewriter, and then scenes of him reciting the poem at clubs. The court deemed that Howl did indeed have literary value, and that just because that some of the language was perverse and not accepted in society, it still was a valuable piece of work. Luckily for us, Howl continued to be published after the trial and continued to be one of the most notable poems written.

I also thought it was very exciting that we go to school in Berkeley, a place where Allen Ginsberg wrote parts of his poetry. I saw the movie at an old movie theater in college and that too gave the movie a more authentic feeling. All in all, the movie artistically provided an accurate portrayal of Howl and I personally believe James Franco did a good job acting as Ginsberg because he tapped into this literary person and the producers did not cast him as a sex symbol.


Day of Action/Reaction: Fiscal Reform and the Penal and Education Systems

The day of action is centered around education and its influence on the lives of many individuals. For many people higher education is not a right but a privilege. Increasing fees makes public higher education less accessible to the masses. Also lay-offs contribute to the exclusiveness of college, making it difficult for families to support their child’s education. Education is a familiar motif to many of the readings on Alcatraz. With a majority of their time spent in isolation, prisoners had the time to educate themselves or take university extension classes. Robert Stroud became incredibly intelligent in the field of aviary diseases and Frank Morris was able to use his above average I.Q. to escape from Alcatraz.Today an increasing amount of our state’s budget is allocated towards the maintenance of the prison system. While a decreasing amount is used for public universities and schools. Education is usually an indicator for future success. Also there is a correlation between lack of education and imprisonment. That doesn’t mean everyone who is uneducated will spend their lives in jail. However most of the incarcerated population is uneducated. If we increased the focus of fund towards education, we might be able to decrease the amount of people in jail and therefore decrease the amount of money spent on prisons. In a time of economic turmoil it is important that we examine the situation and focus our priorities and efforts on the most beneficial cause.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Breaking points

After reading Escape from Alcatraz and viewing the film, it was quite disappointing to see the lack of emphasis on target practice as a reason for a breaking point. From Bruce’s text, we learn of the ill treatment the prisoners endured. Prisoners were not allowed to speak, given a starvation diet when acting up, tortured with target practice, etc. In contrast, the film mainly focuses on individual characters intolerance to deal with Alcatraz.

In Bruce’s text, we learn that target practice was the breaking point for some prisoners. These prisoners would scream “Stop it! Goddamit, stop it!” (70). However, in the film only seven seconds are allocated for a target practice scene. From the text we learn that this caused prisoners to crack, which may also be the reason why some chose to escape. We can imagine what would go on in their minds-maybe one day
they would be the target. It was disappointing to see in the film that there was no emphasis on target practice or a prisoners reaction to it.

However, the film does focus on breaking points for other prisoners. After painting privileges were taken away from Chester Dalton, he decides to cut off his fingers. When the guard takes his paintings we hear Dalton’s trembling voice: “Painting’s all I have,” (38:18). For Dalton, painting was a means of an escape from Alcatraz without physically escaping. Painting broke away from the monotony he had to endure
throughout his time on the rock. When this was taken away, he shares that he has nothing else. In which case, he decides to cut off his fingers. This brutal mutilation really reinforces the statement that he had nothing else. As the viewer, we know that he did nothing to have this privilege taken away from him.

For Charley Butts, his breaking point was when he learned that a guard was listening to his conversation with his wife. Butts learns that his mother is going to die and when he remarks that he cannot make a phone call to his mother, a guard tunes in and says: “You are not allowed to discuss the rules of the institution. Stick to your personal life,” (49: 37). This is Charley’s breaking point since he realizes that even a personal conversation with his wife is still controlled by what a guard says. A small comment assuring that he cannot make a phone call to his mother caused the guard to intervene. What’s surprising is that the guard chose to intervene in the conversation. This is a personal moment for anyone to learn that their mother is dying. What also contributes to Butt’s infuriating reaction was the lack of emotion in the guards comment.

Each prisoner shows a breaking point during their time incarcerated. Each of these scenarios share the dominance that guards have over the prisoners. The guards dictate what the prisoner has to endure and how their lives in prison are run. The lack of living a free life is what causes the prisoners to find some way to escape from Alcatraz.

Day of Action/Reaction: Resisting the Bureaucracy

A common theme I found in the readings and the films we watched in class so far is resistance against bureaucracy. We first read about American Indians taking over Alcatraz as a symbol of Indian resistance against dysfunctional bureaucracy for Native Americans. We read about the prisoners of Alcatraz trying to fight the prison bureaucracy by various means such as studying law, cutting their tendons, appealing to the public through mass media, etc. We see resistance against bureaucracy in Berkeley students as well. In such a big university like Berkeley, it is easy to feel rather lost and powerless in the face of complicated and frustrating bureaucratic mammoth that students have to deal with throughout their college life. On Thursday, October 7th, a group of student demonstrators pulled fire alarms and picketed on the campus in a mass “Walk-Out” to fight fee hikes and lay-offs. Although I did not participate in the demonstration, I was glad-not just because a class was canceled- that Berkeley students are not afraid to fight the bureaucracy and to make their voices heard.


Essay 3 Prompt

Draft Due Date: October 26 (5%)
Final Revisions Due: November 9 (15%)

Description: The Art of the One Liner

Using ONE of the texts we've read thus far: The Alcatraz Proclamation to the Great White Father and His People, Escape From Alcatraz (film), Escape from Alcatraz (book), Howl and Other Poems, The Birdman of Alcatraz) choose ONE line out of the text to conduct a close reading that emphasizes one or two of the types of close readings (linguistic, semantic, structural, and/or cultural readings) that you've practiced in class and in your previous two essays.

You may choose any one line that you see fit, as long as it is 25 words or less. Your primary goal in this essay is to construct an argument about the representation of Alcatraz, using your line as a starting point for analysis.

Also, in choosing your line, look for examples that speak to some of the themes we've discussed in class, examples may include: style and structure, justice and injustice, violence, freedom, torture, incarceration, space and place, gender, masculinity, race, land, narrative framing, to name only a few. Finally, keep in mind these questions to help guide your selection: "How is Alcatraz related/depicted/described in this line?" and "Why is this depiction interesting or worth writing about?"

Your essay must have a clearly stated thesis: don’t be afraid to telegraph this statement by including language like: “This essay argues/examines __________."

Your essay will be evaluated on the clarity or your argument, the soundness of your evidence (which can make reference other lines from you text!), and how well you use the close reading techniques we've discussed in class. Be judicious in your choices, and make sure to select a line you can adequately analyze in 3-4 pages.

This essay should be in 11 or 12 pt Times New Roman font, with conventional margins. For other questions regarding stylistics or formatting, consult the link to Duke University’s MLA Style Guide on the course blog.

For any other questions, please email me.

Good Luck!


Race and Respect in Escape from Alcatraz

As we follow Frank through his discourses and relationships, we see that
interactions the character English always foreground the race issue. In
the library scene, English says he was charged with murder instead of
self-defense because “the dudes were white – just like you [Frank].”
Frank later sits atop English’s and many other Black prisoners’
territory, and declares that he "hates niggers." Clearly there is some
degree of tension. Perhaps because each is so boldly forward, their
relationship soon develops into a silent mutual respect. It starts when
English challenges Frank to a two-person psychological king-of-the-hill
by repeatedly calling him “boy”, an interesting role reversal. Dauntless
Frank calls English “boy” in response, asserting his status relative to
English’s as no less than equal.

We later see a large group of Black people sitting confidently on the stone steps. They seem to own territory. English is at the top of the steps; he plays king of the hill with everyone, it would seem, and he wins among all the Black people. Irreverent Frank walks right through the middle of them. He eventually decides to sit with English, at the same level (he could have hovered above English), and only after being
notified that would be acceptable. So we see respect both ways. Also note how easily White Frank has risen past the vast ranks of Black prisoners. He probably doesn’t see himself as another king among them, though; disdainful Frank only plays that game with English. In his final scene we find (through no cues other than beautiful acting) that “boy” has developed into a sort of nostalgic, personal handshake.

Actually, I might say English is the only person Frank respects out of anyone: he was nice to Doc but perhaps out of pity, and something similar for Litmus; he was leader among the conspirators and would just as easily have left any of them behind. I might also infer that, while he only specifies the group “niggers” as one he hates, he dislikes everyone equally, indiscriminate of such matters as race.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Reflecting on the Day of Action

Dear Comrades:

As today is a "Day of Action," it would seem that might require a moment of reflection. So for your next blog entry, prepare a short reflection on the themes of the course that are most relevant to your own life, and/or to what you've experienced at Berkeley over your time here. Examples of themes might include, resistance, power, bureaucracy, incarceration, space (political or psychological), gender. This is only a list suggestions, you may also chose to use one of the course's texts to construct a personal narrative.

Let me know if you have any questions. The entries are due to me on next Thursday.


The Portrayal of the Guards in "Escape from Alcatraz"

When first think of Alcatraz, it is reasonable that people would associate it with the prisoners it held. True, Alcatraz was "home" to some of the most feared and the most hated people in America. However, the role of guards in this prison should not be overlooked. They spent each day and night with these prisoners. They were a special group of citizens too. In the movie "Escape from Alcatraz", the director shows quite a few interactions between the prisoners and the guards. Through these interactions, the audience acquires an interesting portrayal of the guards.

In order to deal with some of the sliest prisoners in America, it is reasonable to picture the guards as intelligent. However, in this movie the guards seem to be very easily fooled. It might be a result from their arrogance and over-confidence. When Morris is trying to pass the metal detector while carrying two wedges, he brilliantly acts as if his plan is exposed by letting the guard take away the first wedge. Ironically, the guard notes that Morris is stupid from his seemingly simple-minded attempt. Another incidence occurs when a guard stops Morris for a instrument bag check. Morris cleverly dodges the check by tossing the suspicion toward West. From this scene, we see that Morris is the one who is on top of this mental game. He makes the guard think exactly what he wants them to think. He is manipulating the guards.

From the book, we learn that the guards are specially trained to detect any suspicion and see every prisoner as a possible threat. In general, they are still portrayed in the same way in the movie, even though they are fooled by Morris. The guards are shown as very cold-blooded. When a guard shoots a fast stream of cold water through a huge hose to Morris, the word "inhumane" instantly jumps out. Later when another guard takes away Doc's paintings and art equipments, he shows no sign of sympathy. This kind of portrayal is very close to what normal conceptions of the guards would be - cruel and apathetic.

After all, the details the movie adds in addition to the book are very interesting. The additional interactions shown in the movie make the movie much more intense and complex than the original book. The movie "Escape from Alcatraz" does a good job of telling the story of the famous escape and portraying prison life on the island.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Flower in Escape From Alcatraz

At the beginning of the film, through the use of images and limited narration we learn the dreary life on “The Rock.” We learn how prisons dehumanize their inmates and, according to the sadistic warden, why Alcatraz is, “unlike any other prison in the United States.” There is no form of rehabilitation. All that exists is the monotony and discipline of a prisoner’s life.

Yet out of this dreary, dreaded hole from which no man escapes comes a symbol of hope: a flower. We are first exposed to this flower in the yard during the prisoner’s sole hour of recreation each week. Doc, a venerable, old felon, paints a self-portrait with a flower in his breast pocket. Upon probing by Morris, we learn that it is a metaphor for his spirit. While the warden can take away all of his rights, the one thing they cannot take away from him is his flower. As long as he has his flower, his will to live, and, to some extent, to escape, will continue. To some, this symbolizes the never-ending struggle to escape from the island. Yet, to all, it provides them with a symbol of hope that they too will not wilt under the severity of the penal system.

As the film progresses, we learn that Doc’s flower is watered by his passion for painting. As he puts it, “painting is all I have.” In the film’s most dramatic scene, Doc’s spirit is broken. The warden is offended by a portrait Doc made of him and orders his painting privileges revoked. In a cruel twist of fate, Alcatraz succeeded in taking the only thing Doc had and he retaliated by chopping off his fingers.

After the woodshop fiasco, Morris picks up Doc’s fingers, his flower, and, most importantly, Doc’s cause. It is here that he begins to plot his escape. While Doc’s spirit may be broken, Morris’s is just beginning to build in strength. Unlike Doc, whose will to live was symbolized by the flower, to Morris, the flower expresses his intent to be the first to escape from the island.

At the end of the film, as the search is occurring, the warden discovers a yellow chrysanthemum on Angel Island. We learn that this flower does not grow on the island and remember that part of Morris’s plan involved confusing the authorities by swimming to Angle Island rather than to San Francisco. While the filmmakers do not turn fact into Hollywood fiction, the flower serves as a symbolic suggestion that they made it. However, the result of their escape is left open to interpretation and the audience is left with unresolved issues.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Morris’s Arrival

Since we already know of his dramatic exit from Alcatraz, it is fitting to make Frank Morris’s entry to Alcatraz more theatrical. From the novel Escape from Alcatraz, J. Bruce Campbell wrote, “No newspaper had reported his arrival, but he would leave in a blaze of front-page banner lines.” This statement holds true for the film adaptation. The film uses various ways to heighten the drama, employing tactics such as weather and music.

A transfer at night adds a level of secrecy, using the cover of darkness as a way to hid from the press. The dim lit scene causes the viewer to play close attention to the few things in that you can clearly see, like Morris and his escorts’ faces. The first close up we see of Morris’s face coincides with the first close up view of Alcatraz. He stares at the island for a while, making the viewer wonder what he is thinking about, wondering if he could potentially be thinking of a way to escape. When he finally arrives on the island, the darkness gives reason for the guards to turn on the large spot light. From the moment he steps foot on Alcatraz, everyone is watching Frank Morris like a hawk.

The music for the opening scene also adds a heightened sense of suspense. The drumming beats are reminiscent of a solider going off to war, like during the Civil War. In a way, Morris is going off to battle, a fight against the prison its self, some of inmates, the warden, and the guards. The drumming continues until he reaches the insides of the prison, where it is replaced by orders from guards.

Another aspect of drama in these opening scene is the weather. The heavy down pour of rain adds another veil of secrecy to the transfer. For the opening, along with rain comes thunder and lightening. The different claps of thunder and flashes of lightening happen in very prominent instances of his transfer. As he turned the corner to the cell block there is a clap of thunder. The thunder is alerting the other prisoner of the new inmate coming down the cell block. As he makes his way down the corridor, the are shadows moving towards the bars of the cells, trying to catch a glimpse of the new man. The final thunder clap come directly after the guard says, “Welcome to Alcatraz.” The last flash of thunder and lightening are a bit cheesy, however also ominous.

For such a quiet man, soft spoken man, Frank Morris took his peaceful transfer to Alcatraz and turned his exit from the island in to an event that has been talked about for years.