My blog dashboard shows an unusual proportion of visitors from Brazil. I am really curious about this. I wonder which items they are interested in and why. Brazil is kind of a special place. I taught ESL to a group of high school students visiting here in the USA. They were fun kids. I hope to visit there some day. If you are a visitor, please post a greeting here; where you are from, and what search brought you to this blog.
I have published some of my writings and they are available on my Amazon author page (link below). They are children’s stories under the name Toshiyori. Check out Oh Happy Dog, and Shu Shu’s Bright New Day
Tomorrow Land, by Disney Movies 2015
Director; Brad Bird
Written by; Damon Lindelof, Jeff Jensen, Brad Bird
George Clooney; Frank Walker
Raffey Casidy; Athena
Britt Robertson; Casey Newton
Hugh Laurie; Nix
Tim McGraw; Eddie Newton
Pierce Gagnon; Nate Newton
Alert! I must discuss the end of this movie to address my topic.
Tomorrow Land’s Messiah
By Mark Anderson, 2015
Anyone familiar with Bible themes will easily recognize parallels between Tomorrow Land and Christianity. In Christianity there is a beautiful world, the kingdom of God, which is unseen to the natural eye. In the Tomorrow Land movie there is the place in another dimension unseen to the human eye which is a utopia that appears to be amazing, peaceful and all the people are satisfied. In the movie humans may see and enter the other dimension when given a special pin and in Christianity humans enter the kingdom of God when they believe. In the movie the pin is given by invitation to those who are deemed worthy because they are dreamers; those with a positive attitude and dream of a better world where anything is possible. In Christianity all are invited, worthiness is not the issue, but those with an open heart to trusting God are the ones who choose to receive the gift of Jesus’ free salvation. Here there is a strong, though not identical, correlation between dreamers and believers. To believe one must set aside skepticism and embrace the possibility of a good and gracious God who offers a beautiful land. This is quite similar to the dreamers who are willing to see the possibility of a good and beautiful future. A significant qualification must be made about Christian believers; they are poor in spirit claiming no inherently good quality within themselves that makes them better than others or self-worthy. In the movie there is a messiah figure, Casey Newton, who is referred to as a very “special person” who can “fix the problem” which will save the world. In Christianity there is a special person, Jesus the Messiah, who is special because he is a divine person, the Son of God. Jesus indeed came to “fix the problem” and save the world through his atoning sacrifice. In the movie there is also a sacrificial death. The image of the messiah transfers to Athena who is able to use her self-exploding body to destroy the evil enemy machine. At the end of the movie a new generation robots like Athena are sent out to invite a new generation of human dreamers to the new Tomorrow Land and this is profoundly like Jesus commissioning his disciples to go into the whole earth and preach the good news, or invite people to believe and enter the beautiful kingdom of God.
These types of themes are not unusual. We seem them in literature from most cultures of the world, in ancient and modern writings. It is not demeaning of the movie to make these observations as though the writers plagiarized the plot. These are universal themes. I do not think that the writers were deliberately making a film to advance Christianity or even draw strong allusions to Christ. I do think it shows the universal appeal of the savior archetype and the hunger in the human heart for a better world beyond our corrupted world. I think it is very sad that viewers will be led to embrace an illusion of humans as our own self-messiah. I think it regrettable that when Christians propose a beautiful kingdom that is beyond the veil of human eyes they are mocked but Hollywood still is drawn to the dream. I do agree with the movie that all people should seek to make this world the best that we can. I agree that all people, especially those who embrace the kingdom of God should be leaders in positive attitudes to improve the living conditions of humanity. However, I think the writers of Tomorrow Land are naïve about human nature, proposing that certain creative people are above the greedy corruption that plagues the rest of humanity. Do they think that the great creative minds of human history were exempt from corruption? Even though Tomorrow Land adapts several Biblical archetypes, its premise diverges greatly and does not offer true hope for the desperate situation of humanity.
The Least Likely
The teacher grabbed me by the hair of my head and shook me, lifting me out of my seat. When she let go she had a fist full of blond hair. I was seven years old, in the second grade at Lincoln Elementary school. It is difficult to recall exactly what I did to provoke this teacher. I vaguely remember using my newly acquired cuss words to her, “you ass”, “fuck”, and she just lost it. My cussing really had nothing to do with the teacher. It was a reflection of what was going on at my home. Obviously even at age seven I had some anger issues going on. I do remember what home was like that year, and I was definitely developing a reservoir of juvenile anger.
During the remaining years in elementary school I didn’t get in much trouble. But in 7th and 8th grade the young hormones started to kick in and I started to act out. I seemed to choose friends who also had a large dose of anger. I engaged in various sorts of teenage deviant behavior, some of it self-destructive, like drugs. But my anger at authority probably characterized my attitude the most. The first time I was arrested at age 15 I was breaking into a school to vandalize it. At the time I was not self-conscious about my anger. But many years later looking back I realized it as the source of much of my crazy behavior.
I remember walking up the street and seeing an axe leaning against a wood pile, I grabbed it and went on up the road with no plan for it. But then I saw a beautiful white fence, the kind you might see in a painting, around a grassy field with horses grazing peacefully, and I just tore into that fence knocking it to pieces. It was sick! I didn’t even know that person who owned the fence and they had never done anything wrong to me. But I made a mess of their beautiful fence.
One morning a teacher called my house. She was crying when she talked with my dad. She said that she couldn’t face her class one more day if I was in it. My dad talked with me and straightened me out. I knew the class was a lot of fun because my best buddies were all in it together. But I had never thought of myself as the instigator of trouble.
I and my friends used to skip school and go hang out in Millcreek Canyon. Actually I have good memories of happy times living pretty carefree, kind of like Tom and Huck. We didn’t really cause any trouble, just wanted to hang out by the stream, be outside. But on one of our longer day hikes we started exploring some old mine shafts and I found a stack of dynamite. I took home about 20 sticks. Wow, what a find for a boy, this was big time! Imagine Bart Simpson with dynamite and you can get the idea. I made an attempt at the ultimate signature vandalism that could have been spectacular; blowing up the pedestrian bridge behind the school. One problem, there were no blasting caps with the dynamite so it wouldn’t go off. I tried several methods but always they resulted in the fuse just going fizz. I sincerely wished the stuff would blow, just once, like in the movies. But it did not, THANK GOD!
I got kicked out of that school and was allowed to attend the brand new Cottonwood High School. From the first day there was something good watching over me there. The principal Dr. Wahlquist befriended me. I think he knew I was having problems and he asked if I wanted an afternoon job at the elementary school as janitor assistant. I did it, and it was good for me. I did nothing wrong. I just went to work every day and stayed out of trouble. There were also other adults in the school, teachers, who saw past my attitude, and treated me pretty good. And a neighborhood police officer that was kind and respectable. Sometimes I would get some unexpected praise for something artistic I had done. I got A’s in woodshop; even though I got kicked out of class more than once.
One day Dr. Wahlquist caught me smoking behind the school. He said he would have to suspend me from school. I told him the absolute truth, my father had just left home to move in with his girlfriend and my mother would not be able to take the stress right now. I asked him to consider another option and he found a remedy without involving my mother. A few months later, just before graduation, Dr. Wahlquist called me into his office. He said that the Salt Lake Tribune was coming to take pictures of graduates to be published in the graduation edition. Since my name Anderson placed me near the top of the alphabetical order he asked if I would represent Cottonwood High as the first graduate in the newspaper. I was not the actual first graduate. There were many fine honorable students that Dr. Wahlquist could have chosen to represent the school. But that good man chose me, one of the least likely, least deserving scoundrels, to receive that honor. It reminds me of the saying of Jesus regarding who gets into heaven, “Those who are first will be last but those who are last will be first.”
My life did not change immediately. But within a year I did come to Christ and then life changed a lot. I’ve never been in trouble with the law since. I’ve never vandalized anything since. I quit illegal drugs and I’ve never returned to them. I still get angry, sometimes deeply angry. But I believe I have a place to turn with that now. After 30+ years as a carpenter I’ve returned to school, and I love it! And I always show respect to my teachers. I also tutor kids who are slow readers at an elementary school. I think maybe some may be having some struggles at home.
American Born Chinese; by Gene Luen Yang
Review by Mark Anderson
Yang, Gene L. American Born Chinese. 01st ed. N.p.: New York and London, 2006. Print.
American Born Chinese is a uniquely written illustrated novel. It has three parallel stories: central is the story of Jin Wang the son of Chinese immigrants that has an identity crises and internal conflicts with peer pressure to conform. Second is an allegory of the Monkey King. And third is a story of Danny who has a very strange cousin from China who visits annually. These three stories converge in the final chapter to resolve as Jin matures. The Monkey King allegory teaches the principle upon which true self-acceptance is based and which Jin must learn. The story of Danny shows an alternative life in which Jin gets to be transformed into what he desires, but it cost him his soul, as foretold by the herbalist’s wife. The novel is well crafted and deserves careful thoughtful reading.
The central story of Jin and the peer pressure in school shows that he is stereotyped and oppressed by the Anglo culture. Then the story of cousin Chin Kee uses hyperbolic stereotype to the point that it is kind of repulsive. The issue of racial stereo typing is confronted, but confronted in a sort of backhanded method. At this point we wonder if the author is confronting or encouraging racist stereotyping. We may question if this book is valid for a young audience because they may not understand the sarcastic irony. The key to understanding the author’s intention is the way the Anglo oppressors are portrayed. Their indulgence in racism is portrayed as negative. The teacher who introduces Jin as a new student is portrayed as grossly ignorant. A student comments that his mother has told him that Chinese eat dogs. As Jin is being bullied at lunch the boys say “Let’s leave bucktooth alone so he can enjoy Lassie” (33). Since the author does cast a negative light on stereotyping then we confidently interpret him as being anti-racist, and encourage young readership.
This story can be classified as a didactic-allegory which is the traditional purpose of allegory. It is a classic approach because it teaches in way that we do not realize we’ve been taught until it’s upon us. To varying degrees the struggle for self-identity is universal. As I read this as an adult I still have my own challenges with being secure in my identity. If I had read this and understood it as a teen it may have really helped my growth. The values presented in this book are based upon self-acceptance that is granted to all people by an authority that is greater than the false authority imposed by peer pressure.
The author uses allusion to Biblical literature and symbolism which give it a profound depth. In the second section of the Monkey King story (pg 68 – 71) a wise old sage with a shepherd’s crook appears and asks the Monkey King why he is so angry. The Monkey King resents being called a monkey but the sage claims that he is actually his creator. This infuriates the Monkey King even more and a struggle begins. Several allusions to Psalm 139 of the Bible are made with a quotation that makes an important point, “It was I who formed your inmost being, I who knit you together in the womb of that rock. I made you with awe and wonder, for wonderful are all my works.” (80). Yang teaches us the Biblical principle of self-acceptance that is based upon being accepted by the ultimate authority – our Creator. Psalm 139, especially the first 18 verses, has comforted many people who feel out of place or like a social misfit, or people who are objects of discrimination and oppression from other humans. It has taught many people that there is deep serenity in finding our place as creatures before our Creator.
My best friend in high school was second generation American of Japanese heritage. At that time I didn’t understand the depth of his difficulties in being secure in his identity among the peer pressure of American culture. I wish this book was available for my friend during his teen years. This book can help us all understand the oppressive nature of racism and help those oppressed claim the dignity that is rightfully theirs as bestowed by their Creator.
Copyright; Mark Anderson 2014
Yang, Gene L. American Born Chinese. 01st ed. N.p.: New York and London, 2006. Print.
Link to a PDF of the text of “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker: Everyday Use
Contrast and Irony Used to Reveal Cultural Conflict
In “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker
A mother has two daughters. Fate has dealt them very different cards and choices have been made that have taken them down very different roads. Their characters have changed so much that they are almost not recognizable as sisters. Alice walker tells a story from a mother’s point of view of a visit from her daughter Dee, who moved away to go to school and comes to represent many qualities of another culture foreign to her heritage. These qualities are contrasted with her sister Maggie who has remained at home and represents many enduring qualities of her heritage. The mother represents a rich heritage available to both daughters, but embraced by only one, and cast aside by the other. Walker begins itemizing a list of traits that are associated with one culture; power, privilege, and racism, that are in contrast to another culture; true beauty, sincerity and respect. The contrast between the daughters represents much more than sibling rivalry. The contrast is between two rival world systems.
To read the complete review please see the page with the same title listed in the right hand side bar. It is a bit too long for my main blog and I like the page feature that keeps things in one permanent location.
Symbolism and Natural Reading in Emily Dickinson’s #322
A close reading by Mark Anderson
There came a Day at Summer’s full, 1
Entirely for me – 2
I thought that such were for the Saints, 3
Where Resurrections – be – 4
The Sun, as common, went abroad, 5
The flowers, accustomed, blew, 6
As if no soul the solstice passed 7
That maketh all things new – 8
The time was scarce profaned, by speech – 9
The symbol of a word 10
Was needless, as a Sacrament, 11
The Wardrobe – of our Lord – 12
Each was to each The Sealed Church, 13
Permitted to commune this – time – 14
Lest we too awkward show 15
At Supper of the Lamb. 16
The Hours slid fast – as Hours will, 17
Clutched tight, by greedy hands – 18
So faces on two Decks, look back, 19
Bound to opposing lands – 20
And so when all the time had leaked, 21
Without external sound 22
Each bound the Other’s Crucifix – 23
We gave no other bond – 24
Sufficient troth, that we shall rise – 25
Deposed – at length, the Grave – 26
To that new Marriage, 27
Justified – through Calvaries of Love – 28
(Final Harvest: Emily Dickinson’s Poems reference numbers added)
For a close reading of this poem see the page listed in the right side bar “Eamily Dickinson’s #322; a close reading.”