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I'm Ellie, and I'm going to be doing my very first internship this summer. It's pretty exciting. I've never had an office job.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Insignificance of Civilian Life

The graphic novel War is Boring is about one man’s journey to Chad—the author, David Axe. It explains what he was doing before Chad and the reasons he went there. One of the obvious themes in the book is war being boring, but peace being worse. But what makes war so boring? What makes peace boring? Why is being home so great at first, and then, seemingly out of nowhere, worse that being away at war? Lets step back and look at a few things peice by peice. 

In the novel, when David got home from Iraq and Lebanon, he picks a flower and says, “I loved how going to war made me appreciate the little things. Coming home was like popping ecstasy,” (39). This sort of agrees with the title of the book, War is Boring. War is boring, therefore peace must be better? But war portrayed in the novel thus far, actually, seems really exciting. Bombs exploding, danger abound, fighting, action, excitement. What we as readers forget, however, is that these scraps of excitement are just that—scraps. In all of the days, weeks, or months that Axe was overseas, there are two or three scenes in the book from that country. War is, indeed, quite boring. What was he doing the rest of the time? Most likely, he was waiting for the scraps. All of this sets us up for some false pretense that war is boring and peace is somewhat better. Then, just when they thought that they had made sense of this concept, the reader recalls that at the very beginning of the novel Axe says, “I had no choice but to go home… to Columbia, South Carolina… where it took me maybe three days to realize… as boring as war is… peace is much worse,” (15, 16).

This idea of peace being worse make the reader wonder if he has read the ecstasy comment correctly. Coming home is like popping ecstasy? What about peace being worse? It was the everyday people and things that made him hate being home. On the global level of events, small things like ties don't matter and activities like dancing don’t matter. After Axe’s negative experiences with the trade show malfunction and the horrible dance party, we physically see his demeanor decline. This supports his statement that “The ecstasy never lasted long,” (47). It simultaneously supports our conclusion that peace is worse than war. Ecstasy at first, feels great. Everything is happy (emotional warmth), your senses are heightened, and you have a general sense of wellness. Then, once the high is over, it leaves you agitated, anxious, and even reckless. David is obviously agitated and anxious while at home; he is also reckless enough to go quit his job and cancel his credit cards just to stay in Somalia. Axe, literally, could not have used a more perfect metaphor for his theme of peace being worse than war. 

Later in the novel, when Axe returns to his parent's home in Detroit, we see him becoming displeased with the tedious civilian life, as we knew he would; the ecstasy always wore off. Even though he’s with his family, they still don’t have a greater significance to the world. Chad matters. Axe goes to Chad because Chad matters. He is doing something greater than himself and his own wants. Even though it’s foolish and extremely dangerous, he cannot ignore the greater meaning of war, and to stay at home would be to ignore the reasons why people are fighting. We discover that all along, the novel, and the theme “war is boring but peace is worse,” isn't about peace being more boring than war, but about how one person’s tedious civilian life is so insignificant to the world on a global scale. David Axe, I think, could not have lived with himself if he stayed home, because although war can be boring, peace is much worse. And it is worse because living in peace is ignoring the world and the greater good of mankind.

Sources not yet linked:

Friday, November 1, 2013

Telling a True War Story: Movies vs. Truth (A Photo Essay)

We have so many war films that depict it as "cool" or as an adventure packed with excitement. But its not real. 
This is Hollywood.
These are Hollywood.
No. War is not fun. War is not a game. War is serious.
People die. Children die. 
Fathers die.
Its a lot of walking.
Waiting. In the heat.

In the snow.
Soldiers lose friends. 
And so many don't come home.
So let's think before we tell a war story. Is it the truth? Does is honor our soldiers? Or is it a "better version of the story."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Quite the Travesty

For a group project, my group and I came across an article called The Hurt Locker as Propaganda by Tara McKelvey. Now, The American Prospect is a well respected website, and Ms. McKelvey is a senior editor and published writer, however, this post, in absolute terms, is just bad. Her topic isn’t focused, her bias is like a suffocating blanket, and she fails to prove her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda. She starts by summarizing parts of the movie, and how those parts make us empathize with the soldiers when they shoot the Iraqi people--then she refers to an article that explains that there were certain orders to shoot all Iraqi men in certain areas. This is not related to her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. She has merely justified the movie.

McKelvey’s article is almost entirely built on her opinion that The Hurt Locker is an anti-war film. She makes this very clear in her paragraph about the dark things in the movie, such as the “paranoia, rage, and brutal recklessness of soldiers trapped in the downward death spiral.” One of the biggest problems I found, however, is in the next paragraph, which I will quote in just a moment. I realize it is strange to talk about a direct quotation before putting it in the piece writing, however I want you to know what to look for when reading it. Aside from the grueling grammatical error in the first sentence, the biggest issue here is McKelvey’s diction disagreement with her structure. Here is the part of the article I am particularly referring to: “The Hurt Locker sets itself up as am anti-war film. It opens with a quote, "War is a drug," from Chris Hedges, a Nation Institute senior fellow and author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning. Yet for more than two hours, the film imbues Baghdad's combat zone with excitement and drama.” What McKelvey has just said is like saying “War is bad, yet it is horrible and scary.” Does that make grammatical sense? No. Now, that isn't what she is saying--it's just an example. This whole paragraph, however, is a grammatical travesty. It should be noted that McKelvey still has not told us how or why The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. 

McKelvey summarizes the movie some more, but if someone is reading her article, it is most likely they have seen the movie already and they do not need a recapitulation. She closes her post by pointing out the extremely obvious fact that The Hurt Locker makes a great distinction between the excitement of the warfront and the lackluster life back home. This still doesn’t not even remotely prove, or even relate to, her argument that The Hurt Locker is propaganda for military recruitment. Yet she still closes her post by saying, “For all the graphic violence, bloody explosions and, literally, human butchery that is shown in the film, The Hurt Locker is one of the most effective recruiting vehicles for the U.S. Army that I have seen.” She has not told us how or why the film is an “effective recruiting vehicle.” She has two different ideas in her post, but McKelvey fails to prove the one she chose for her title! 

McKelvey’s anti-war bias is so strong throughout this piece of writing, it is almost unbearable. She only has one source, and that is the quote at the beginning of the movie. That makes everything she is saying pure opinion. McKelvey’s thesis is that The Hurt Locker is propaganda. She opens her article by saying, “For a supposedly anti-war film, Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker serves as a remarkably effective military recruiting tool.” Firstly, the movie is The Hurt Locker. Secondly, she says that the film is an effective military recruiting tool. This is all well and good; Uncle Sam posters saying “We want you!” are propaganda and they promote military recruitment. McKelvey has a valid argument. The problem lies in her ability to stay on topic long enough to prove it. In the end, after reading the article several times, I still do not know if the film is actually propaganda or an effective tool for military recruitment.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Children Soldiers Phenomenon

     In the movie Black Hawk Down, we see children fighting in the great (and cinematically pleasing) battle sequences. However, the concept of children as soldiers, like those in Somalia, raises quite a few concerns for Americans. Should American soldiers be able to kill children? When is it deemed acceptable? It is acceptable at all? Is it morally and ethically just to issue and/or follow "kill anything that moves" and "shoot to kill" orders when children are present? Is it okay when they are shooting at American soldiers? All of these are valid questions, and the answer is a difficult one for some to swallow. If the child has a gun, they are no longer a child, but an enemy soldiers. If it comes down to it, they must be killed so that they don't kill American soldiers.

     Marines are prepared in their training to face child soldiers. The article "What Marines Need To Know About Child Soldiers" asks very similar questions. "If a 14-year-old points a weapon at a serviceman, what should he do? No Marine, soldier, sailor, or airman wants to kill a 14-year-old. But a 14-year-old with an AK–47 is just as deadly as a 40-year-old with an AK–47. If the serviceman hesitates, he and others in his unit might be killed; if he shoots, then he might have to deal with the potential psychological consequences of killing a child." The CETO (Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities) has started offering seminars and education classes to educate Marines before they enter the battle field. There are numerous preventative measures that American soldiers can take before resorting to killing children, such as shooting from a distance to scare them and controlling the main recruitment zones for the failed states and totalitarian regimes.

     Children are being robbed of their innocence in more countries than just Somalia. Many sub-Saharan countries in Africa recruit children ages 18 and under to their ranks. The military is doing its best to prepare service men for what they will face, however, this does not make it any less difficult on the battle field. In the end, what has to be done must be done. If a soldier has a weapon aimed at him, it does not matter if the person holding it is 10 or 30 years old. He is the enemy and could potentially hurt American soldiers. The right thing is hard to do, that why it isn't called the easy thing. In war, the lines between right and wrong can become fuzzy, but one thing will always remain. No American soldier wants other Americans to die, therefore he will do what he must to protect his country.

For additional reading on why countries use children as soldiers, check out this very informative and interesting article I found from Oxford Journals.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Memories in the Making

     In the book The Things They Carried, the soldiers of the Alpha company had to carry things that were both tangible and intangible. "Pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent" are a few things that every man had to carry (O'Brien 2). Other things such as the "toothbrush, dental floss, and several hotel sized pars of soap" carried by Dave Jensen weren't necessary, but they say a lot about who he was (O'Brien 2). He practiced good hygiene even if it meant some extra weight. Some of the things carried were not in their rucksacks, but in their hearts, such as the love for Martha carried by Jimmy Cross. What we carry in the physical realm and in the mental realm say a good deal about who we are and what we believe in. It is vital to understand this concept of the things we carry defining us because without some things, we don't know who we are. This is true for at least one thing that everyone carries, memory.

     Memories not only make a person who they are, but our own memories make all the other people around us. How does one know that his mother is really his mother? Memory says that this otherwise random woman is his mother because of things done in the past, i.e. he was told that woman was his mother, she said she was his mother, she took care of him, showed love and affection. Someone would not know these things, however, if they could not remember said past. Tim O'Brien is very aware of this concept of memories building people in our minds and shows his great understanding in his novel The Things They Carried.

     O'Brien has made up the main characters in his novel. He tells us that they did not exist in the chapter "Good Form." This is quite strange considering the book is dedicated to them. Kiowa, Rat Kiley, Jimmy Cross, and friends may or may not have been based on real people, but the most outstanding idea here is that this book is a compilation of O'Brien's memories from Vietnam. Not only that, but it is his memories portrayed in a way that makes his readers feel the same way he did out in Vietnam. This is where his idea of story-truth and happening-truth arises. O'Brien says, "I want you to feel what I felt. I want you to know why story truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth," (171). He then goes on to say that he can give the dead from the war a new life by creating his own memories about them. Is it lying? Maybe, but O'Brien wants those people he was afraid to see then to have meaning now, which is an honorable task.

 O'Brien uses memory to retell his experience in the war and to give life to any of the Vietnam War's victims he came into contact with. Whether it was the man he supposedly killed or Kiowa drowning, O'Brien uses memory to breathe life back into those people, so that they can die a noble death and that we may know they're story. Many soldiers and civilians died in such horrible ways, it is quite wonderful that one person wants to remember them in an honorable way, even if it is "lying". Building people out of memories is something that every one does, but O'Brien does this in a very elegant way. He does it in a manner that makes his imaginary people feel real. His imaginary friends now have immortal stories because he so thoroughly built them with the memories he wished he had.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You Have Just Crossed Into... the Ellie Zone...

Hello, friends! Welcome to the magical and exciting world of Ellie! Where every day is a fun trip through a portal to the realm of crazy and unpredictable. 

The wildlife is mainly consistent of cats 


and all of the plants are flowers in every color 

(except lavender)

 and trees that grow cups of hazelnut coffee and Reese's cups. 

Now, you might be saying, "Jeez, Ellie, that's a lot of pictures for two sentences." And if you are, my response is, "Yes! Yes it is!" That's the point. Its crazy and unpredictable, but I warned you of that, didn't I? 

Now, let's get down to business.

I'm supposed to be telling you about myself, not confusing you with lots of seemingly random pictures. Well my name is Eleanore Grace Kennedy, but y'all can call me Ellie. Yes, I am from the South. About five minutes from Mobile, actually, so farther south than a lot of people probably perusing this page. No, I am not a toothless hick. I am a lady!

This is Marie, from The Aristocats. She is my inspiration, and the ultimate lady.
My major is Mathematics, however it may change because that major requires five calculus based physics classes, which I will undoubtedly fail. Not because I am bad at math, but because I am horrible at physics. I have taken IB Physics

I have also taken AP Physics

And I failed both of them. Well, not failed. C is technically passing. 

But enough about that. No one really cares about my physics problems. On to fun things! because this is the land of Ellie. YAY.

I do aerial silks. Its a circus skill. My friend is going to get me into Barnum and Bailey because he has family in that particular circus.

I can do this

as well other tricks. Yay circus.

I have two cats. I am one of five children, I am the fourth. 

Um, I am running out of things to say. So this must be the end. Well then! This was fun! (for me, probably not you.) Okay bye.

Its only fitting because I lived by the beach.