Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wait, I have how many hours to write fifteen pages?

Countdown to when my paper should be finished by:
T minus 48 hours.

And, roughly twenty minutes or so.

I've been working hard on my prosopagnosia paper this morning/afternoon, especially upon the realization that I need to have it emailed out to my class by the Friday before my presentation. Wish me luck, internet!

In case anyone is interested, I found a couple neat videos that explain the topic fairly succinctly. And if anyone is wondering if they or a loved one has the condition, here's a test that you can do to find out:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Long Island, Thanksgiving, and Papers

Firstly, let me say, November is almost over! It's nearly December! The semester is almost over!

What's. Happening.

Secondly, Thanksgiving break! Mine was lovely (I hope yours was, too!). I did absolutely no homework, but I was able to spend a lot of time with family, friends, and cats. I took advantage of Casco Bay Lines and I visited Long Island, Maine for the first time. Here's a picture of my friend Dylan and I walking through a field on the island (photo credit goes to my friend Zach)

Thirdly, schoolwork. Currently I'm working hard on two papers/presentations simultaneously. On Monday I am presenting my fifteen-page paper on Prosopagnosia for my Psychology capstone (PSYC 273). And a week from Wednesday I will be presenting my final research paper for my COPACE course (the paper is regarding suicide & death as a "choice").

But the paper-writing doesn't end there! On Thursday I should receive in class the prompts for my American Jewish Life take-home exam. Additionally, I will likely also be the recipient of the circumcision paper I turned in a couple of weeks ago.

So, how shall my Tuesday afternoon be spent, you may wonder? I'm planning to continue working on my papers until work this evening, where I will dutifully sit in the projection booth during a screening of "The Princess and the Frog".

Happy end of November! Happy belated Thanksgiving!

Until next time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Next Stop on Our Tour of Departed Souls..

Sometimes my life feels overwhelmingly concerned with, well, the not-living. Or at least, involved study with these concepts sometimes makes it difficult to look beyond (ha, what a pun!) the inevitability of death and to slow down, take a deep breath, and remember what is significant, relevant (and alive) in my own life.

This past Wednesday I attended a field trip with my COPACE classmates of The Final Chapter. We went to a funeral home located on Main Street, not too far from Clark. The funeral home was called the Graham, Putnam, and Mahoney Funeral Parlor. At first, it was intriguing. Then, it was intimidating. And finally, upon seeing the shape of a corpse beneath a sheet, noticing the faded pink toes peeking out from where the sheet couldn't quite cover, it was incredibly frightening. Upsetting. The realization of the inevitability of death struck hard, despite my mother's input (as I walked back to my home, exclaiming into the phone through rain (of course it rained while I was visiting a funeral home)) that "bodies are just a vessel".

Right. And though comforted by the sentiment, I came to realize that even if this is so, the body is the image of the person that most represents what we remember. It is striking, and strange, and surprising and unsettling to see a body that is no longer alive.

And then I began to wonder of the morbidity of those who work in a funeral parlor - seeing death so frequently, does it lower their threshold? Do they feel helpless, constantly bombarded by the confirmation, the certainty, of death? They spoke of the topic with such care and compassion, and yet so offhandedly.

The director of the home, Peter, was not hopeless nor helpless in the slightest. In his quirky and somewhat teasing manner, he spoke positively of the importance of making meaning in life; through involvement with social movements, writing, film-making, activism. He said something along the lines of, "you do the best you can today, and if you don't make it tomorrow, then that's that". He expressed disdain towards folks who "spend their days working jobs they can't stand, returning home only to eat ice-cream and popcorn on the couch while they watch television".

It's curious, this pattern emerging, that those who spend their time working with death frequently feel that they are able to contribute so much meaning to life.

Regardless, I started to worry, can I ever be as nonchalant (& still respectful) of death? When I work with death, is my breath going to catch in my throat every time I see a body-no-longer-alive?

Death is a strange concept, but one that is manageable. I remember a discussion in class in which death was compared to any major transition; be it a divorce, a break-up, a relocation, a new job. As a senior I am transitioning. In my social life, larger and less familiar transitions are occurring. As upsetting as they are currently, I know that it's okay. Because transitions, uncomfortable despite, don't last forever.

So: death as a transition. Maybe it becomes more manageable over time. New jobs are always difficult to begin, break-ups are always hard, and forming new friendships can sometimes be equally as stressful as they are fulfilling. Transitions are a significant and necessary part of life, but they do seem to get easier the more practice one has going through a particular one.

I'm not suggesting reincarnation here. But perhaps, the more times I recognize death, the more time spent with the dying, the more fluid the transition will appear. Maybe every instance will be different, but perhaps it won't be such a terrifying thing anymore.

Peter (the director) said that people are afraid of death because they're afraid of the unknown. Maybe it's the familiarity that makes his work able to be done more smoothly, more comfortably, with respect, but without alarm nor terror.

I'm not certain of how my life will be significant yet; which movements I will be involved with, where my passions will take me. But I do know that if I want a fulfilling life, I need to make something of it.

Clark, I must thank you for this. Before coming to college I was somewhat hopeless. Being at Clark opened my eyes to a variety of wonderful things; handing me the ability to connect with other folks, to become involved, to do things, anything, to make meaning in life.

And here, to close out a somewhat heavy entry, is Monty Python presenting you with their meaning of life.

(Or, if you prefer Douglas Adams, 42).

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Circumcision, Courses, The Future, & Ms. Frizzle

So last night (during a screening of King Kong for SCRN 231) I finally finished my paper on circumcision for SOC 203 - American Jewish Life. I ended up writing about circumcision in two forms: that as an (American) societal construct, and as a specific Jewish ritual & meaningful custom. There is overlap between the two, which can be seen through certain actions; Jewish involvement in the anti-circumcision movement, for example, would suggest a rejection of both the societal construct and of the implication of circumcision in Jewish identity. Other actions, such as Jewish parents who choose to circumcise their children in the hospital directly following birth, rather than waiting the traditional eight days to follow through with the brit milah ("covenant of circumcision") custom, are indicating participation with the societal norm, without participating with the aspect of circumcision that ties into Jewish identity.

Upon reflection, having written the paper & turned it in, I do wish I could have managed my time better to work more efficiently in searching for statistics that would have backed up my proposed thesis; the argument would have been much stronger had I found numbers indicating Jews' and Americans' involvement in various aspects of the circumcision (and anti-) movements.

Just as another update: since last writing in this blog, I also switched my courses around. I was sitting in American Jewish Life and realized how fond I am of the professor, her teaching style, and the topics on which she chooses to focus. I switched out of the COPACE course on the Bible (it's possible that I've taken plenty of bible courses already. All were enjoyable, but a break from the Bible might be pleasant). I'm now planning to take instead Women and Jewish Culture - SOC 258 with Professor Tenenbaum.

Currently I'm feeling very conflicted; overwhelmed, excited, and nervous. Thanksgiving break is approaching, which means the end of the semester, which means winter break, which means Spring semester, which means... graduation! Last week one of my senior friends remarked to me that he had just put commencement into his calendar. Jeeeeez! It's crazy to think about.

Lately people have been asking me what my plans are for after Clark. Honestly, I'm not sure yet. I know that I am very interested in palliative, hospice, and chaplaincy care. I know that I am passionate about religion, gender and sexuality, mental health, and maintaining comfort during times of physical affliction. I would love to be able to tie all of these things together, but I know that likely I will end up focusing on one area and maintaining the others as points of interest and passion.

The biggest decision for me now is to figure out where I would like to go - Boston? A small city? A far-away country? I'm not sure yet.

Over winter break I hope to examine my options more clearly; places where work experience could occur, or possible places of employment. But for the time being I am lacking in a gut-feeling as to where I belong. And despite the discomfort drawn from feeling somewhat displaced, it's totally okay for now.

This upcoming week will be a bit on the quiet side, which is nice after struggling to complete papers and projects on time for this past week. Having turned in my circumcision paper, I will now begin to focus on my presentation/paper regarding prosopagnosia for my psychology capstone. Additionally I will begin to work more in-depth on my COPACE research project, regarding mainly the issue of choice in relation to death (specifically, suicide). I'm excited to attend a field trip with my Final Chapter class on Wednesday: we're going to a funeral home!

Generally, when people hear the words "field trip" they don't think of funeral homes. At least, my mind always first goes to Ms. Frizzle.

I think I may take a brief field trip to the library right now - relax a bit while reading Tina Fey's Bossypants (I recommend it). I hope everyone is having a lovely Tuesday!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Quick Update - Spring Semester Registration

I have officially registered for courses for the Spring semester! Hooray!

At first, I was incredibly excited. But then it dawned on me - my last semester at Clark?! Oh, the nearness of the real-world is intimidating.

Here is a summary of my courses for my next (and final undergraduate!) semester:
1. PSYC 201 - Lab in Social Psychology (which will fulfill the Lab/Research requirement for my psychology major)
2. PSYC 249 - Women in Society (which will fulfill the Seminar requirement for my psychology major)
3. JS 299 - Independent Study with Everett Fox (which will fulfill my Capstone requirement for my Jewish Studies concentration)
4. IDND 1630 - World View of the Bible (which is a COPACE course that doesn't fulfill any requirements, but sounds interesting)

And then I'm done! It's hard to believe that I've been here for nearly four years. A wonderful, speedy four years.

I won't write much more because
1. I'm running on a lot of coffee and not much else
and 2. I'm off to work soon (I'm projecting The Little Mermaid for a screen studies class this evening).

I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather! I'll update soon on my class projects.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Circumcision Project Update & Chuck Palahniuk in a Prius

This will be a quick late-night post, mainly because I am feeling guilty due to my lack of updating recently. It's not unexpected, nor entirely unforgivable; senior year has been busy, and my time is spent doing interesting research projects and papers, working as a projectionist in Traina for screen studies courses, and doing club things. In addition to some social college things.

In other news, I presented my slide show on circumcision for my SOC 203 (American Jewish Life) class earlier today and it went very well. Below are some pictures of the slides.

I also have a rough outline set-up for my COPACE (The Final Chapter) course! I am planning to examine choice in relation to death; specifically, does an individual have the right to choose when to die? At what point, if any, is it appropriate for that right to be taken away? For example, when is suicide okay? Should there be preventative measures against suicide? Do murderers have the same rights as other individuals? If someone murders others, is it okay to murder them? Was their right to choose death taken at the moment they captured others' right to do so?

It's complicated, and gets heavily into ethics, and therefore should be very interesting to research. I'm excited to use bits of the Paulo Coehlo novel Veronika Decides to Die within this paper; that book deals extensively with the right to death, the right to choose death, and with suicide in general.

Earlier this evening I was able to travel to Portsmouth, NH to see Chuck Palahniuk (the author! Of Fight Club!) speak as a part of the Writers on a New England Stage program. It was very interesting and inspiring, in addition to the somewhat confusing experience of understanding Chuck Palahniuk as simultaneously tender and a bit grotesque. His newest book, Damned, follows the experiences of a young girl (maybe twelve years of age?) in hell. After reading to the audience a short story titled "Romance", he was interviewed by a woman from NH radio. During the interview the woman likened his new book to Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (yes, the Judy Blume novel) in addition to Dante's Inferno. I hear that there may be a podcast of the interview available later.

My friend and I attempted to meet Palahniuk after the event, but he was rushed from the stage door directly into his Prius. The good news, however, is that Chuck Palahniuk did wave to us from the back of his Prius as he drove by. So not only does Chuck Palahniuk choose to be driven around in a Prius, he is also somewhat friendly when safely tucked away from adoring fans.

So, tomorrow is my day off! I shall likely sleep in for many hours (I'm running mainly on coffee at this point) and then possibly get a head start on my projects to come, in addition to formatting more specifically my paper on circumcision (due now a week from Tuesday). On Saturday I am excited to attend the trip to New York to see a Broadway play about Freud - only forty dollars and sponsored by UPC (Undergraduate Psychology Committee)

I hope that everyone is doing well, and that the storm this past weekend didn't hit anyone too hard. I will hopefully post some pictures of Clark post-storm if I can get a hold of some of the ones my friends have taken.