A Summary of “It’s Not Always a Wonderful Life” from Freakonomics

Jarecki, Eugene, written and directed, “It’s Not Always a Wonder Life.” Freakonomics Dir. Chad Troutwine. Magnolia home entertainment

A Summary of “It’s Not Always a Wonderful Life” from Freakonomics

            This segment talks about how when crime rates in America was at their highest, and how the rates dropped sharply and why they dropped.  In New York City, for example, the police became more proactive.  Other reasons were increased incarceration rates.  After the Supreme Court ruled anti-abortion laws unconstitutional in 1973, fewer unwanted babies were born; since unwanted babies are more likely to become criminals due to being taken care of less well, they are more likely to do poorly in school, engage in self-destructive behavior, and engage in anti-social behavior.  The segment is neutral but still shows that abortion does play a role in decreasing crime rates; the question now is whether or not our society should use abortion to help lower crime rates.

“A Roshanda By Any Other Name” Objective Summary Response

The segment “A Roshanda by Any Other Name” in the film Freakonomics talks about what possible effect the name a person is given will have on their lives.  There is also discussion on the types of names that white people and black people tend to name their children.  White people are more likely to give their children European names, while black people tend to give their children names that are Arabic and African in origin or names that sound made-up and are thought of as ghetto.  The segment mentions that people with names that are considered unique, “black-sounding,” or strange will have a harder time in life.  It is mentioned that a study was made where resumes were sent out, and the resumes with so-called white names received more callbacks than identical resumes with black names.  In addition it was mentioned there was a belief that a person with a black name is more likely to have a hard time in life, being poor, being raised without a father, being violent, doing poorly in school and etc.  However, the film showed the types of parents that give their children stereotypically white names will be more likely to be poor, single parents, and unable to give their child an upbringing that is considered “ideal.”  Certain names are favored by certain socioeconomic groups.  The segment ends with the story of a man who named one son Winner and the other Loser.  Loser turned out to be a successful person.  Winner turned out exactly the opposite.  The conclusion is that often it is a person’s actions that make more of a difference in their lives than their names.

`Spurlock, Morgan, “A Roshanda by Any Other Name” from the film Freakonomics. 2010. DVD. Magnolia Pictures, 2011.

“A Roshanda by Any Other Name” Subjective Summary Response

In the segment “A Roshanda by Any Other Name” from the documentary film Freakonomics, there is an investigation of “white names” versus “black names” and how they can affect the life a person leads.  There was a good amount of information in the segment, and it was presented in many ways that I think could help a variety of people could be entertained by while still being able to learn from.  For example, there was information from Roland Fryer, a researcher at Harvard University.  There were scripted examples of the types of lived people might have with different names.  The documentary also asked people on the street what types of names they consider “white” or “black.”  The mix of fictional example, professional opinions, and ordinary people, help to paint a complete picture of this complex issue.

Spurlock, Morgan, “A Roshanda By Any Other Name” from the film Freakonomics. 2010. DVD. Magnolia Pictures, 2011.

Thoughts on the Segment “Can You Bribe a 9th Grader to Succeed?” from the Film Freakonomics

In my English class that I took in the Spring 2012 semester, we viewed three of the four segments of the documentary film Freakonomics, and we wrote several short assignments about them.  This post is my summary of the segment, “Can You Bribe a 9th Grader to Succeed?” as well as my thoughts on the issue at hand.

 

Education has always been very important to ensure financial security.  However, in America there seems to be a crisis of students not doing well enough.  Failing to graduate from high school can be a financial disaster, since most decent playing jobs require at least high school diploma.  (On a side note, nowadays, a high school diploma is not enough to ensure financial security; a Bachelor’s degree is often needed for a good-paying job.)  This essay focuses on a study done by University of Chicago researchers.  The study focuses on 9th graders at Bloom Trail High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, a suburb approximately, a twenty-minute drive south of Chicago; it is attempting to find if students can be bribed into performing better in school.  Students will be paid 50 dollars per month if they can improve their and keep them up.  Presumably, the rationale is that such a program will get students to understand the connection between good grades and financial security by giving them an example of the money they will earn if they do well in school and get a good job.  The segment focused on two students participating in the study Kevin Muncy and Urail King.  Both young men have mediocre grades.  This essay will focus on whether bribing students is a good idea.

Bribing students can have a mixed response.  For some people, money is enough to motivate them.  On the other hand, some people will not change their habits even if they have a motivation.  The documentary showed that the program had a mixed effect on both King and Muncy.  Both of them improved some of their grades, but they also did worse in other classes.  Muncy was shown not changing his work habits very much if at all.  He is shown texting during class and playing a video game while at home.  Bribing might have some positive effect; however, the positive effect may be incomplete at best.

If I was in charge of the study I might do it differently.  First, I would give students money at the start as motivation for their grades.  If they do not keep their grades up, then they lose the money.  If they keep them up, they keep the money and earn more.  It seems to me that being rewarded at the start would make the reward seem more real to the students, and that would encourage them to do better because the reward is physical rather than just an abstract concept that must be made concrete.

In conclusion, bribing students to get them to improve their school performance is at best going to have a mixed response.  Some people will be motivated more than others.  Even those who are motivated may not be completely motivated to change their study habits completely.  To get students to achieve in school much more needs to be done.

Narrative Prose That I Have Written: Jack and Kate

This is second in a series of narratives I have written for an English class.

This narrative focuses on how not respecting the boundaries of the people you are in relationships with can drive them away.

Enjoy.

 

“What’s your problem, Jack?!” shouted Kate.

“You’re the one with the problem!”  Jack snapped back.  He was on talking on his cell phone in an airport waiting for his flight to spend the year studying abroad in Warsaw, Poland

“I can’t believe that you are spending a year studying in Poland and did not even bother to tell me until the day before you left.”

“Well, I knew you would be like this.  You always have to see me.  I never get anytime to myself.”

“You are my boyfriend.  Why be together if we can’t see each other?”

“Kate, you’re suffocating me.  You want us to be together literally every minute of the day.  I moved out of my dorm so that I could move into your apartment because you felt that you could live alone.” That cost me money ‘cause I could not even contractually leave my dorm.”

“Just listen, I need you Jack.

“You need me too much.  We’re over.”  Jack hangs up.

 

Narrative Prose That I Have Written: The Girl in Blue and Her Obsession with Royalty

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone has had a happy holiday season, and I hope that the year 2014 will be miles better than anything they experienced in 2013.

This post is part of a series that will include narratives that I wrote for an English class I took during the Spring 2012 semester.

This was for an English class that specifically focused on composition and rhetoric.  Mainly, the purpose of the class was to refine students’ writing skills with regard to writing about issues, writing narratives and writing descriptively.

Every day at the beginning of class, our instructor would assign a short essay.  Sometimes she would give us a few words, either as part of the assignment at hand or as part of a vocabulary list she had previously given us, and we have to write something around it; if we used words, we were asked to make sure that we give contextual clues to help readers guess the meanings of the words, as the words were not the ones that most people regularly use.  Other times, she would give us a sentence.  In my posts, I will bold, italicize, and underline the words or sentences that she gave us to start the composition.

This one is a short paragraph about a girl who has been accepted to study in a monarchy.

Enjoy.

 

The girl in blue was ebullient with the news she has received.  She had been accepted into a study abroad/foreign student exchange program in a faraway principality.  She was thrilled at the chance of not only getting to live in a foreign country, but also the fact that she would be going to a country that happens to be a monarchy.  Since she was a little girl, the girl in blue was obsessed with royalty.  She considered being plebeian to be boring and would have loved to be a princess and have a more exciting life.  She would collect anything and everything relating to royalty from books about royal families, to Disney Princess merchandise.  On many occasions she used chicanery to get her classmates to believe that she actually was royalty or at the very least related to royalty. The girl in blue knew enough about royalty to know that at certain points in history, some monarchies were not the idyllic, romanticized paradises as portrayed in fantasy movies, TV shows, and books.  Some monarchies would subjugate their people for various reasons such as following certain religious faiths or for protesting laws and policies that were deemed unfair.

 

 

A message to my blog followers

You may have noticed that my posts are not very consistent.  I apologize for that.  First of all, I have had issues with coming up with ideas.  I have literally countless thoughts of what to post about, but there are obviously not enough hours in the day to post all of them.  Second, I have issues with deciding to to blog about.  I have writer’s block.  Third, there is a matter of other obligations and priorities.  I have had college classes to deal with.  Also, on last Sunday, December 15, 2014, I began training for my very first official, formal, paying job at Macy’s.  I am very happy to finally be able to earn money on my own, but of course the job is very demanding and requires a lot of time; at the end of the day, I often have no energy to do much of anything demanding.  All of this has led to a fairly inconsistent blogging schedule. Once again, I apologize, but I do have my own challenges and commitments to deal with.  I will post one or two blog posts after this blog post, but once I can find a workable schedule, which I hope to do soon, I may not be as consistent as I and all of you would like me to.  However, I will try to properly prioritize my blogging.  In the meantime, all of you are welcome to connect with me on my social media profiles.  Thanks to all of my  blog followers and I hope all of you are having a happy holiday season.

Use of Language in Desperate Housewives

This is another assignment for my Concept of Human Communication class.  We had to write about an episode of a TV show and talk about how the characters use language in various aspects such as gender/cultural contexts, wordplay, and so on.

Enjoy.

 

Desperate Housewives is one of my favorite shows because of its interesting characters, intriguing storylines, and its combination of dark, over-the-top melodrama and high, almost campy comedy. For this assignment, I will discuss the use of language in the episode entitled “Mother Said.” The episode has several uses of language that serve the plot through comic effect and the creation of dramatic tension. The main plot of the episode is that everyone has various issues surrounding the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday.
Syntax is a very important part of the show’s comedy. In general, the characters use their words to make a point and sometimes in a clever way.
Several functions and purposes are fulfilled through language. Much of it is comedic. For example, Ellie, the tenant renting one of the rooms in the house owned by Gabrielle and her husband Carlos is actually a drug dealer, but claiming to be a tattoo artist. She walks her client downstairs. Gabrielle asks to see the “tattoo.” Ellie points out that the “tattoo” is “down south.” Gabrielle feels awkward, and the client soon leaves. That was all played for laughs.
With grammar, there does not seem to be a great variety. The grammar is largely and fairly proper, though it does not sound clinical, dry, and to quote someone I heard “like someone reading out of the dictionary.” The only uses of figurative and other non-standard language are the child of one of the characters saying “I call the computer,” and Susan’s mother-in-law Adele (who is a Southerner with a strong Southern accent) using the word “ain’t” and double negatives in her speech.
Semantics is used in a few notable scenes. For instance, Bree is arguing with her husband Orson, a dentist. He wants to take her grandson, Benjamin, whom she and him were raising as their own son before she kicked him out for running over her friend’s husband with a car, to a carnival. She remarks that she wouldn’t want Benjamin to be around while Orson is giving to Edie (a neighbor and a friend of Bree’s with whom he shared a brief, drunken kiss that they immediately regretted) dental exam with his tongue. This use of language is funny because it gives a new meaning to the term dental exam. Later, she tells him that if he wants to take someone to carnival, he should take Edie with him, because she can give him “three throws for a dollar,” an innuendo referring at once to a carnival game and a sexual act.
There is quite a lot of biased language in the episode. Much of it is due to the prejudices and conflicts that the characters have with each other. One example is when Susan’s Southerner mother-in-law refers to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression.” This indicates a bias against the North, and the view that some Southerners have that the Civil War is the fault of the Northerners. Another example of biased language is not said outright, but instead implied. Bree is angry with her friend Edie because Edie kissed Bree’s estranged husband Orson, though they immediately regretted it. Bree talks to one of Edie’s clients (Edie is a real estate agent). The woman and her husband are considering a house and Edie goes inside the house with the husband; Bree is walking buy and strikes up a conversation with the woman who is tending to her baby. The woman asks Bree if the neighborhood is safe, and Bree tells her that although the neighborhood is safe Edie is not; the implication is that Bree told the woman that Edie has reputation and penchant for being promiscuous and making romantic/sexual advances on other women’s boyfriends and husbands. The clients immediately end their business with Edie. Yet another example of bias comes when Adele is confronting Susan about the fact that Susan is not doing much to sustain the household. She makes references to Susan’s “drawings.” Susan has written and illustrated children’s books and claims that she makes money off of them but they apparently have not sold as well as they used to, not to mention the fact that Susan has not published any new ones in the past the few years. Adele asks how much children’s books pay, and Susan sheepishly searches for something in one of her lower cupboards. The scene illustrates how man mothers-in-law are biased against their daughters-in-law. Adele mocks Susan and belittles her good-faith attempts to be good wife to her son; apparently, she believes that that Susan is not quite good enough for him.
Context is always important with language. It tells one a lot about one’s beliefs, attitudes, situations in life, and so on. One example in this episode involves Lynette and her husband Tom and their conflict with Tom’s child from a previous relationship, Kayla (whose existence Tom was unaware of until about two year prior to the events of the episode). Kayla has been doing cruel things to the rest of their children, and showing no remorse for it. A therapist tells them the Kayla’s behavior is because she does not feel loved by Lynette; when asked by the therapist if she loves Kayla, Lynette admits that it is hard for her to love Kayla given how she entered their family. The therapist suggests that Lynette and Kayla forge a bond by spending as much time together as possible. Tom agrees with the advice. Lynette then asks the therapist to ask her if she loves Tom, in the situational context of her thinking that spending time with Kayla is a bad idea. This clearly illustrates Lynette’s contempt for her stepdaughter. She would much rather have as little to do as possible with Kayla, which given how she Kayla as treated her half-siblings is understandable. Another example of context involves Katherine’s interactions with her abusive ex-husband Wayne; this would be relational context. Wayne returned after many years to forge a relationship with their daughter Dylan. However, Katherine is concerned for Dylan’s safety and wants him to be far away from her. Wayne insists that he has changed. Katherine, using her wit and trying to call Wayne’s bluff says that Dylan is not Wayne’s daughter because she cheated on him. Katherine then goes on to say that she was afraid years ago of how he would react to the infidelity; with a smile on her face, Katherine tells him that she is longer afraid because Wayne has “changed.” Clearly, Katherine is being sarcastic about claiming that she believes that Wayne is now a good man. This was an attempt to get Wayne to leave her and Dylan’s life for good. Overall, the context of their conversation was about how despite years of having no contact with each other, Katherine knows that Wayne has not changed at all, and therefore, she mocks his false sentiments.
There is a fair bit of language styles differing based one’s social group. For example, Adele, Susan’s mother-in-law, as mentioned above is heavily influenced by her Southern American heritage. Her She seems to at first conform the stereotype of elderly Southern women being very warm and affectionate, which is evident when she meets Susan for the first time, hugs her, and compliments her appearance. She believes that the Civil War was instigated by the North and calls it “The War of Northern Aggression.” In addition, she also expresses her opinions of what a wife should be: “a maid in the living room, a chef in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom.” This speaks to Adele’s rather old-fashioned views, which are not necessarily uncommon in the Southern United States. Also, as mentioned above, to contrast, Susan is somewhat opposite in personality to Adele. She is more passive and quiet. She is also sensitive to Adele’s abrasive comments about her. Susan does try to defend herself against her mother-in-law’s criticisms, but Adele refuses to accept her daughter-in-law’s excuses and explanations.

Profile on the Character Miss Raine from Dance Academy and Her Skills as a Leader

This is another assignment from a class.  This is for my Concepts of Human Communication class.  For this assignment we had to profile a TV Character who is a leader, evaluate them and suggest how they could be better at what they do.

 

Enjoy.

 

 

The show that I have chosen is Dance Academy.  It is an Australian teen drama television series that focuses on the students who attend a dance school in the city of Sydney called the National Academy of Dance.  A recurring figure of authority in the show is the character Ms. Lucinda Raine, a ballet teacher and later headmaster of the Academy.

Ms. Raine has two types of power: legitimate power and expert power.  Her legitimate power comes from her position as a ballet teacher.  She supervises the the young dancers in order to teach them the skills and techniques they will need to have any hope of becoming professional ballet dancers.  In the second season, she is promoted to headmaster of the Academy   She also has expert power.  She is also a ballet dancer (though the audience never sees her dancing), and therefore, she has plenty of experience and knowledge to train her students.

Ms. Raine is very no-nonsense and strict.  She demands that students follow her rules at all times otherwise, they may not be able to participate in class.  Many of her decision focus on the skills of the students.  One of the characters, Tara is not allowed to dance en pointe near the beginning of the show because her techniques are behind;  Ms. Raine promises to allow her to dance en pointe when she is skilled enough.  A similar case involves the character of Sammy.  At the beginning of the series, he is found to have weak ankles.  Ms. Raine puts him in pointe shoes until they strengthen.  Sammy is embarrassed as generally only female dancers, not male dancers, dance en pointe.

In addition to having special rules for certain students, Ms Raine expects all of her students to follow the rules.  In one episode she bans a student, Abigail from participating in class because Abigail was wearing a sweater over her ballet uniform.  Abigail was secretly embarrassed that her breasts were growing larger and so she was trying to hide them from view.  Abigail lies, saying that she has a cold, and  Ms. Raine gives Abigail a choice to either go to the school doctor or remove the sweater, since Ms Raine needs to be able to see Abigails body so that she can correct her movements.  Abigail returns to class, but refuses to remove the sweater and so Ms. Raine forces her to sit out in class.

Later on, in that same episode, Ms. Raine asks Tara to stand in front of the class, and Tara does so.  She then harshly admonishes Tara for her excessive make up.  (Tara put all that make up on the hide a pimple.)  She reminded the rest of the girls that, make up must be kept tasteful.  Tara tries to reason with Ms. Raine saying that she likes her make up the way it is, Ms. Raine refuses to accept any excuses.

Despite her harshness, Ms. Raine has done several things to support her students.  At the end of the semester, Tara learns that her family is having money troubles and that she will have to move back home. Tara is upset by the news, but she maturely decides to simply give up her dreams of becoming a principal dancer in a ballet company.  Tara tells Ms. Raine that she will leave the Academy because there are more important things to her than becoming a professional dancer.  Ms. Raine knows that Tara does not really want to abandon her dream, and so she awards Tara a scholarship for first-year students.

In the second season, Ms. Raine becomes headmaster of the Academy and becomes more involved in the students’ lives due to her increased role at the school.  Her demeanor changes from stern, harsh and emotionless to more kind, empathetic, and concerned.

While, Ms. Raine is often harsh in personality, she is generally ethical.  However, she has had some question moments.  In the aforementioned scene where she admonishes Tara in front of class for having on too much make up, she is harsh and calls her make up “hideous.”  That seemed like an insult to me.  Later on in a different episode, when Abigail and Sammy are dancing together in class and Sammy accidentally drops Abigail, she tells them to move to the back of the dance room, and says that she is sick of the sight of them.  Later on, Ms. Raine

blames their poor performance partly on Abigail saying that she is “sack of potatoes.”  Abigail blames her weight and eventually developed anorexia, though of course, Ms. Raine cannot be blamed for that?

Nonetheless, Ms. Raine does (deep down) care for her students, and truly wants them to succeed in life as professional dancers  Above all, she is trying instill the values of hard work and determination in her students.

For her class meetings, Ms. Raine demands concentration, organization, proper attire, and obedience.  Most importantly, she expects the students perfect their dancing techniques.  Often Ms. Raine is unwilling to listen to the thoughts of her students; not only that, she feels tries to instill harmony with the students.  She points out that the students have to learn to dance with with others because they are likely to end up working professionally with people they may not like, but will have to get along with in order to make sure they can put on a successful show together.

I think that Ms. Raine is a good character.   Despite her flaws, she is still a caring person, and she wants to help her students become successful as much as she can.

I would recommend that Ms. Raine not insult her students, but over the course of the show, she does improve and becomes much friendlier.