Tag Archives: high school

Of Mice and Men and Dreams

I’ve been helping a friend’s daughter who is now taking classes in Canada via an online portal. She’s preparing to move there come January. I’ve been helping her with her English and Biology. Recently, I insisted that we start looking at classic books and analyzing them the way high school students do in North America. I didn’t want her to go to Canada and not know books like Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, etc. I also wanted her to familiarize herself with the analytical tradition of studying as well. I notice that most Korean students are trained to memorize and regurgitate facts instead of analyzing them and generating new truths. It was a fortunate if not serendipitous move on my part then that we learned that she’ll be studying Of Mice and Men in a few weeks, a book that we already started discussing.

One of Steinbeck’s themes in the book is the death of a dream and how one becomes part of meaningless cycle of toil and hopelessness. The book was written in 1937, at the height of the Great Depression. In the beginning of the book, it describes itinerant workers toiling during the week and spending all of their money on liquor and women at the local brothels, the cycle continuously repeating, and the men being trapped in the hopeless lifestyle. In contrast, the protagonist of the book, George and Lenny, dream of someday saving up enough money to buy their own farm and raising animals, and most especially, rabbits. By the end of the book, the dream is dashed, and George, not having a dream, presumably becomes just like the other men in the farm, trapped in a cycle of endless labor.

I see where Steinbeck is coming from, but I believe despite his very dour description of life in the 1930s, what he paints is a very idealistic, almost Norman Rockwellian view of how life in America should be, a view that basically hasn’t changed throughout all time. In order to have a successful life, you have to own a home, an idealized home, whatever that means. In George and Lenny’s case, it’s one with animals.

The thing about homes and the dream of homes is that it gives a sense of permanence, literally a shelter that will be there for you and one that will presumably be able to be passed to your children and grandchildren, a legacy that will outlast your very short existence. But how is that dream, or any dream for that matter, any different from the existence of the men in the farm? You work for most of your life, you pay off your mortgage, you spend a few years enjoying retirement, you die. The house and all of your legacy will eventually be whittled away by your descendants until you are but a faded memory. And these descendants will continue on with their own dreams. Maybe all of the work you did made their life a bit better; at least, the house you bought gave them shelter, but you still ended up working everyday and spending most of your life doing something you would rather not do.

Maybe the dream is working in a farm all of your life? Maybe the dream is going to brothels every weekend? That’s not what we have been trained to want all of our lives, but I suspect the dream that Steinbeck envisioned in the book is simply the traditional long-term delayed gratification we’ve all been educated and conditioned to want, as opposed to the short term gratification cycle that the men in the farm enjoy. It’s quite religious almost. Endure the toils and suffering on earth for now; later, you will be rewarded in heaven. Looking back, and since I myself an a recipient of a lifetime of programming and biases, I don’t think I’m qualified to tell which one is better.

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I’ve touched up on the topic of death many times before. I remember one time talking about the all too common and simple way of dying by colliding with a planet (basically jumping to your death) and another time talking about how easy it is to harvest cherry seed pits. Recently, I’ve been thinking that all death comes down to three categories: death by evolution, death by biology, and death by physics. Death by evolution is basically all death that involves being eaten by another animal, basically taking part in the food pyramid. It’s probably the most exotic of all deaths since not many people die from getting eaten by animals compared to other forms of death. Where am I supposed to get eaten by wolves in Seoul?

Death by biology is death caused by the failings of our own physical bodies, be it aging, cancer, or any sort of disease. Looking at statistics, it’s what most deaths are: cancer, heart disease, and in 2020, coronavirus. Death by biology is the slowest of deaths and probably the most natural, but it is far from being kind. The atheist argument to the non-existence of a benevolent God is the fact that he allows the existence of childhood cancer and all sorts of natural and unavoidable maladies to fall onto children.

The last category is death by physics. This is death caused by our bodies’ inability to survive the powers of physics, be it the kinetic force of a bullet, or the marriage of mass and gravity when we fall to our doom. I suppose most homicides, at least violent ones, are death by physics. Most people dream of a slow death by biology. Death by physics are often the most jarring of deaths.

Lenny from Of Mice and Men died from physics. George will probably suffer a long death by biology.

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Did I Help Start a Dumb Porn Site?

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Started making art again. Yay! It’s been a while, a month perhaps, since the last time I made art. I’ve just been sitting in front of my sketch pad not wanting to draw a thing. Artists would know this… wanting to do something but not knowing just what to do… having the television run on the background, watching time waste away. Luckily, I’m now inspired to work and make something. It’s good to finally want something done on paper.

I also started studying again. I always want to be reading something for a purpose. Fiction has its place, but I already flood myself with so much fiction that it’s good to study and perhaps retain something that might be useful at some point. Last time, I took a law and justice course to get myself reading something productive. I like to think that at the end of my studies, despite me not suddenly working in law, it has made me a better Canadian by knowing a little more about the country’s law and history.

This time, I’m trying my hand at html coding and javascript. It’s always been something that I regretted not knowing how to do. People assume that I’m a bit of a nerd and that I know my way around computers. I actually do know my way around computers and electronics, but I have no idea about programming. It was something that I totally missed back in the 90s. It’s time to change that.

Speaking of coding and computers and people assuming that I know how to do things. I remember back in university when I ran into an old high school friend who just disappeared from my life. He ran into some trouble back in high school and became sort of a delinquent. Drugs, break-ins, juvie, etc. Anyway, I was crossing the street on my way home when I suddenly ran into him. He told me he’s trying to do well but he needs some help. I wasn’t about to give him any money, but I told him I’d help him out. He said he wanted to educate himself; that he wanted to learn more about computers, and maybe run a website or something. Maybe I could help him sign up for a course.

Pleased with hearing all of this, we immediately went to a computer college, talked to some advisors, and got him some materials to look through for his courses. I even took him to financial aid, so maybe he could apply for some assistance. All of this in the span of a couple of hours. Pretty efficient.

With my good deed done, I was beat and ready to end the sudden reunion and wish my old friend good luck on his new chapter in life. Before saying goodbye however, I asked him what does he plan to do in the future after learning more about computers.

“You don’t see Native women porn on the Internet. I think I could have the first Website to feature that.”

Disappointed and disgusted, I wished him good luck anyway. I didn’t see him again for seven years.

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Vacation for Once

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Will be going on vacation for a couple of weeks, so The Weekly won’t be quite as weekly. One my oldest friends, someone I’ve know since high school, will be visiting me and we’ll be visiting Tokyo together. Good times to be had!

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