Monday, June 30, 2014

Let's Be Brutally Honest: Creating "The Jungle Movie" Would Provide An Excellent End To "Hey Arnold"

Last week, the world of cartoons was hit with the tragic death of Steve Viksten, who died at the age of 54. Viksten was a written for Craig Bartlett's Hey Arnold! series, which ran from 1996 to 2004, in addition to providing the voice of Oskar Kakoshka, a resident of the Sunset Arms boarding house operated by Arnold's grandparents and where Arnold himself resides. Oskar was the central character in episodes that included getting a job as a paperboy, not being able to read, and most notably a scene with which he refused to accept his wife, Suzie's, money. This is where the, "you keep the money," phrase comes about. His death sparks a massive gap to the world of cartoons, in addition to bringing Hey Arnold! discussion back into the minds of their many viewers from the golden era of Nickelodeon. The biggest question deals with how the series was left open ended (and no, I am not talking about the eight episodes that came about after the series finale), what really happened to Arnold's parents, and whether or not he goes to San Lorenzo to find out what really happened.

Hey Arnold! was the brainchild of Craig Bartlett, which began with a comic strip before creating sketches using claymation. For those who grew up watching Sesame Street may be familiar with the sketch, "Arnold Rides a Chair," where Arnold uses his imagination to pretend he is riding throughout a jungle and being greeted by the animal residents. In 1996, an animated series was picked up by Nickelodeon and that became its home until wrapping up in 2004. The series had to do with a kind-hearted fourth grader named Arnold who lived with his grandparents and went to school at P.S. 118, which included peers such as Gerald (his best friend), Helga (a girl who pushed him around, but secretly loved him), "tough kids" Harold, Stinky, and Sid, and others ranging from intelligent Phoebe to unlucky Eugene. They were first taught by Miss Slovak, but after season one was replaced by Mr. Simmons, while Principal Wartz served as the school's strict authority. At the same time, he made up for some of the best moments (such as how he was a closeted fan of pop singer Ronnie Matthews).

Arnold was intended to be the average kid that wanted to make everything right in his environment. Several episodes involved his strive to solve the problems around him, such as helping Harold slim down, getting to the root of Chocolate Boy (a character who was obsessed with chocolate)'s addiction, and helping a father that opened up to them after he and his grandfather helped them at a hockey game find a common interest with his son. Arnold was more than just an every man. He was somebody you can connect to and have emotion for, since he did all he could to be kind to all of those around him regardless of what was happening. While much of the series has to do with Arnold, Bartlett did an excellent job placing other characters into the spotlight and giving them an opportunity to shine. The most common was Helga Pataki, who was somewhat of a bully to Arnold, but we would also get a sense of her own personal life. This included her hard-nosed, egotistical, workaholic beeper salesman dad, Bob, her meek (and blah) mother, Miriam, and her overachiever sister, Olga. In addition, we get constant glimpses of her love for Arnold, evident several times in the series with the heart she carries with her at all times (hidden, of course). An episode, "Helga On The Couch," dives in to this even further in one of the most emotional episodes of the series. Aside from Helga, episodes have focused on Gerald, Harold, and even members of the boarding house (and others I did not mention). At the same time, characters such as Brainy (who is known to randomly pop up, primarily when Helga is thinking of Arnold) are strategically placed as side characters. Craig Bartlett has done a brilliant job when it came to orchestrating characterization.

Okay, I have gone quite rampant with explaining the series, but that sets up for the two crucial episodes of the Hey Arnold! series that tell us the important background information of how Arnold came about. These episodes are "Parents Day" and "The Journal." The former is just a single half-hour episode that introduces the subject as to why Arnold is living with his kooky grandparents and his parents are not existent in his life. What we learn is that Arnold's parents spent time in Central America, were adventurous, and helped the people they resided with. From there, when they have Arnold, they settle down with Arnold's grandparents, but are called back for one last mission that they attend, but never return from. The latter digs deeper, almost detail for detail, as to what happens and why. In "The Journal," we learn more about the people they help, how their wedding ceremony went about, how Abner the pig (who resides with Arnold) was a gift from the Green-Eyed people, how Arnold's birth silenced a volcanic eruption, and details about how they decided they needed to settle in a more reasonable environment for their son. When Arnold was one, Eduardo informs them about how the Green-Eyed people (who are very reminiscent to indigenous clans) were dying off and in danger of extinction before promising that this would be their last mission. Arnold's parents believed this would just be temporary, but their plane was never heard from again. While this was a bitter truth to deal with, the episode ends hopefully as Arnold finds a map at the back of the journal.

I have had friends of mine confidently confirm that Arnold's parents were dead. I disagree and from the way signs are pointing, it looks like if The Jungle Movie were to be produced, they would still be alive. When it came to addressing this situation in different Nickelodeon showings (which they have been vague about and it was very much show, don't tell), this is the vaguest of the vague. The Rugrats brought up the death of Chuckie's birth mother in a Mother's Day episode that was caused by some form of illness, but assured us she was now within the sky and clouds. The Wild Thornberrys brought up the mystery of Donnie in "The Origins of Donny" four-part special and it was evident that his parents were killed saving primates from poachers. While one can assume that a plane crash took the lives of Arnold's parents, this is so vague and open-ended that something of this nature cannot be assured. Knowing Arnold's parents and their knack for adventure running through their veins (even though his father, Miles, was a bit clumsy), a plane crash would be a bit of a random death. Possible, but random.

Almie Rose conducted an interview with Craig Bartlett earlier in the year. Bartlett has found success with his PBS series Dinosaur Train and is pitching a series to Nickelodeon about a rat with amnesia who wants to fly among the pigeons in a series known as Sky Rat. In this interview (which I will leave a link to), Bartlett originally pointed out that when he first presented the series to Nickelodeon, his parents were on a missionary trip in Africa and this would explain Arnold's nature and how he always wants to lend a helping hand. As the series progressed, this would need to be addressed even more. This is where their adventures in San Lorenzo and getting lost on their last mission came about. The nature of this is quite saddening, especially how it was presented was almost disheartening, but at the same time it is left so open-ended and vague that what some may assume should second guess.

According to details collected on the Hey Arnold! Wiki page (which should be taken with a grain of salt), Arnold wins an essay contest and gets to take his class (now in fifth grade, but still taught by Mr. Simmons) to the place of their choice. He chooses San Lorenzo, where he hopes they have a fun time, and he could possibly find his parents. The funniest part, in my mind, is how Principal Wartz comes along, because he always wanted to visit Central America. Here, he becomes a subject of worship to the Green-Eyed people and creates an enemy in La Sombra, who is a pirate looking for the deepest treasures (he was also an enemy to Arnold's parents, Miles and Stella). In this movie, a conclusion to the relationship between Arnold and Helga will also be answered. Oh and for those are you who are obsessed with the little details, this site points to how we will learn Arnold's last name. These is somewhat of a background, but take it with a grain of salt.

So if Arnold's parents were gone for nine years, what exactly happened if they were never heard from again? I say, plenty of things. The most likely would be how they were stranded and imprisoned on the island by antagonizing forces at some point within their journey back. While they had their sons and Miles' parents in mind, there was either no attempt to get in contact or every attempt was interrupted. Remember, IF they were stranded (and especially imprisoned), the chances of contact were very unlikely. If the Green-Eyed people are somewhat still active and were not driven into extinction, it means that their is a good chance they were assisted. If Arnold's parents were their best hope, no matter how long it took, they would accomplish their mission. While they believed it would only take a week, something detrimental could have caused it to take much longer and with lack of contact, we have no idea as to what happened. They may have been stranded elsewhere, but if the Green-Eyed people were over their hurdle, this means they returned at some point in time. Until The Jungle Movie answers this question once and for all, the answer to this question will remain in limbo.

Can this movie be launched? If enough people express interest, then the answer would be yes. The downside would be that many of the fans for this program are likely within the 18+ crowd and a very small percentage still watch Nickelodeon on a regular basis. I am not one of Nick's viewers and I believe it has been since the lower years of high school that I willingly turned this channel on. I am, however, optimistic that this idea can be worked out and that Hey Arnold! will spark interest. To dismiss this idea would be the equivalent to dismissing comebacks for the return of the two Muppet movies that came out or the Speed Racer movie (even though the latter was a dud). Coming up with a conclusion cannot be dismissed and should not be dismissed. I do, however, believe that after this movie, the franchise should come to a close. This movie should just about answer every question we have and tie every loose end that needs to be tied. While the first Hey Arnold! film loosened everything that was almost tied, it looks like this one is going to make sure the ends are assured. As much as the enthusiasts for the series are plenty, this film should be satisfying to everyone's tastes. Of course, it will need to market children, but in reality will market younger adults most. This means a reason will be made to release this film, even if that means watching episodes of Sky Rat in order to boost the ratings. This is from someone that has not watched a cartoon that was not TV-14 or more mature since Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. In addition, what do we do about voice actors? This should not be a heavy concern. Arnold has had four different voice actors throughout the show, while most of the others can be approached or others would be found. While this may take work, it is achievable.

I am all for this particular film and I would do what I can to help bring this movie forward. I would encourage my peers that were enthusiasts for this series to do what they can as well. While I was not an active fan, I enjoyed watching what I could. Nevertheless, it is probably the open ending that eggs me on more than any piece of entertainment that I know. THIS is coming from someone who writes horror and speculative fiction and left their college literary magazine submission open-ended to the point that even the author is figuring out what happens next. THIS is the story that boggles me. Either way, I would guarantee that if this movie would come about, I would be a viewer. I speculate different possibilities, but I will just have to see what is said and done in the film. When a call from the Hey Arnold! fans come forward, that is when this will take effect.

Different links of interest will be located at the bottom. For now, RIP Steve Viksten, one of the brilliant minds of animation.!:_The_Jungle_Movie

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: "Jakob von Gunten" by Robert Walser

Robert Walser is an underrated genius in the realm of literature. Walser contributed to the existential movement of the early twentieth century that also featured writers such as Franz Kafka and Albert Camus, providing views that sounded so absurd, but made so much sense. Born in Switzerland, Walser lives in both his home country and in Germany on and off, producing novels, short stories, and poems until being institutionalized for being deemed a Schizophrenic. While he produced writings based off of manuscripts, he assured himself that he was here to be mad and not to write. While the man went on to decay, his work (while not very well known) holds strong. Hermann Hesse rightfully asserted his belief that, "if he [Walser] had a hundred thousand readers, the world would be a better place." While it would take patience, understanding, and a clear mind to agree, the point is one very well taken.

Jakob von Gunten is Walser's most recognizable work. While it is inspired by his time in servant's school, it symbolizes not just a dormant education system, but the entire practice of being an introvert in a world that rotates so abnormally. I will honestly say that to be able to figure this novel out within one attempt is almost impossible, for this novel needs a massive amount of close reading, in addition to rounds of re-reading in order to figure out the meaning of the different characters. The characters that provide the most complexity are Herr Benjamenta, who serves as the principal that oversees the school, but yet does little more than sit in his office, keep track of the finances, and provide his feedback within his own terms. His sister, Fraulein Lisa Benjamenta, is an even more complex character. She is the only adult figure to provide any kind of order or educational authority to the school, in addition to overseeing the only class, "How Should a Boy Behave?" This particular question allows those within the school to work toward their goal of being placed as a servant to their particular environment. We will get back to Fraulein Benjamenta, for her role becomes important as the story progresses.

Jakob runs away from his family in order to seek a life and a name for himself. Despite heading off, he still contemplates about writing to his mother and holds a fondness for his brother. The story is told through submissions within his diary, so the story is written is the order with which the thoughts are recalled within Jakob's mind. With that being said, the story can go from discussing an event that just occurred during the day or earlier on around the time he had first started. Of all of his fellow students, the one he talks about most is Kraus. Kraus is the overachiever of the group and the one Jakob thinks the fondest of. In many ways, Kraus is like the Bert to Jakob's Ernie, though while Ernie comes off as being very carefree, we can easily tell that Jakob thinks highly of the world around him. In fact, the whole story is meant to serve the purpose of how students think about the purposeless world around them. When Jakob demands a refund from Herr Benjamenta, who is described as being a beastly creature with an ugly looking brown beard, the Herr questions Jakob's reasoning for not getting anything out of the school. The Herr points out that he learns from those around him. It takes awhile for a figure with a lot of thought to grasp such an idea, but to be with minds that are either alike, yet not alike, provide a sense of how the world is working around them. The Herr is a complex creature that can go from complimenting Jakob for being a good student that the Herr was fond of to becoming beastly and feeling the need to attack.

Jakob's disposition to relationships comes off as being very much distant. In a cheeky matter, he writes about his encounter with a prostitute. While much of what is being said has to be intended by the reader, Jakob informs us that she performs an act known as "saying hello" and that by the time their visit was done, he had lost a lot of his money. Fraulein Benjamenta eventually expresses her fondness of Jakob, which involves showing him the complexity of the inner chambers, which is more of a vision than a physical area, but yet the character of Fraulein is very much vague.

The final accounts and the ultimate realization deal with a key factor to Jakob's mission. I am not going to tell you what exactly happens, I AM going to point out the message that is being conveyed. Jakob comes to realize that we are not meant to live in a world of thought and that there are some things that should just be left to fate, to a higher being, or to God. The fact that Jakob leaves a life of thought behind to go forward with a life of letting things be as they are (or as Doris Day says, "Que Sera, Sera") IS the conclusion and thus the story he has told is but a contribution to this particular idea. It would take a particular epiphany to reach this particular point, which even the Fraulein could not touch upon when she started to beseech that he just obey and follow her lead. In turn, this means the Benjamenta Institute may have been dormant in how it ran, but stood as an explanation to grab one's attention in how it could change a way of life.

Jakob von Gunten is a novel of enlightenment. What Walser is putting forth is a valuable lesson about not over thinking things that cannot be controlled and allowing life around you to just happen as they may. Jakob was an excellent subject to demonstrate this particular point, for he had a bit of a quirky personality and yet he held a mind of thought that just about anyone would definitely bear in this particular instance. The fact that this is based off an experience in Walser's own life is just a piece of historical information that drove the author to construct the foundation of the story. What really makes this story amazing is that there is a valuable lesson regarding an important piece to moving forward in life. There are plenty of occasions where thought is necessary, but there are also occasions where thought is pointless and burdensome, which is where Walser keeps his concentration.

I am not going to give a numerical verdict. My mind lies somewhere between an eight and a ten. The way this piece was written and the mind behind it would get a ten in my mind and may have a good chance at making my next top ten list. This may, however, be very misleading for one that may come across this novel and think they are in for a fluffy little beach read. This is NOT a fluffy little beach read. This is a novel that takes a lot of thought within the text and beyond the text. Even when all was said and done, pieces had to be put together. If you are up to the task of putting the pieces together, I highly encourage that you indulge in Robert Walser's genius and read this thought changing piece about the meaning of life and how it should be grasped.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Am I Reading & Season 2 Taping For Literary Gladiators

Alrighty! This has been quite an eventful month and quite amazing that the year is halfway finished. Time goes by VERY quickly! Since the semester has ended and just one more semester lies ahead, I am spending this summer working on some projects as best as possible. Much of my reading, I will admit, is being driven by two ideas in mind. First, I am either analyzing or familiarizing myself with the works that we are discussing on Literary Gladiators during the upcoming season. Second, I am analyzing the works I am reading during my free time. The works I will be talking about in this post are those I am reading or plan to read during my free time, but I also want to fill everyone in on some minuscule details about what they should expect during the upcoming season of our web show. Either way, progress on both fronts are going well.

We have had two sessions of filming for Literary Gladiators thus far and have produced twelve episodes. While there are some that are going to not have endings due to technical difficulties, the possibility of having a strong finished product is a positive one for each of these episodes. On good trends, I was able to have Jim and Charlie attend each of the sessions and sit alongside me on the panel. Laney is doing a great job moderator and we have had five rotating guests, two of which are instructors at the colleges we have attended. During the next session, I am going to be splitting the videos by question. This way, we can keep the viewers attention and if they are happy with how the video is going, they can enjoy the next question and do so at their own convenience. I will no longer promise how many episodes will make up the season until we finish up taping in August, but I can promise that there will be at least twelve episodes. They definitely need editing, but the finished product should definitely make for some enjoyable entertainment. In addition, we have taped two of the episodes that were lost from a session back in January. With that being said, Brianna, who was our guest at those sessions, will be sitting on the panel for at least four episodes. We think she is so smart and presents herself so well that she has also been invited to participate in another taping. Preparation for this upcoming season should be quite a thrill! The episodes will be announced after we finish up with taping in August.

As for me and my reading? Much of what I have submitted to my blog covers that material. Since that point in time, I was able to read and complete Jakob von Gunten, a novel written by Swiss author Robert Walser. I will be writing a review, but I will assert my belief that what ever I write the first time around will NOT be my confirmed thoughts. This novel is an enigma onto itself that ponders the way of life and of institutions through the mind of an observant introvert. Walser is quite an underrated author who comes of the absurdist, existential class of Franz Kafka and Albert Camus. I will be exploring this further in an individual review. Right now, when I am not preparing myself for the upcoming session of Literary Gladiators, I am reading Main Street, the novel that brought America's first Nobel Prize in Literature winner Sinclair Lewis to the forefront when it came to producing literature that addressed issues that dealt with that particular era. In addition, I am also reading Joseph Brodsky's poetry and am enjoying a Russian born writer who has America's first amendment flowing through his veins. I definitely plan to discuss more of his work on here and I want to propose having an episode of Literary Gladiators to which we discuss one or more of his poems.

What I choose to read from there remains a mystery. I plan to take a class titled "American Literature Between the Wars" during the fall semester. Technically, this would include literature from 1918 to 1941 and be somewhat of an unofficial prequel to the "World War II Film & Literature" class I took with the same instructor. Our textbook is a Norton anthology of literature that goes up to 1945, but either way, the class should be a thrill. After pushing off for a bit during the last few years, I want to read Stephen King's The Shining. I have owned this novel for seven years and yet so much has been in the way between me and reading this, primarily so many other books and just basic obligations that come with life. Finishing The Shining is very much a goal, especially since it produced a sequel in Doctor Sleep last year. Either way, reading the original novel will come first.

As for my fiction writing, I submitted a short story to a market, which was an ongoing goal of mine that I was finally able to meet. My issue lies in the fact that I am very meticulous with how I submit something, for I want to put the best possible product forward. If you have not bought Speculations From New Jersey, I beseech that you check it out. I read it and with my bias aside, the other works that were featured were very entertaining. The Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers are quite a good cast of entertaining individuals.

That is what is new when all is said and done. I hope to submit some more material to this blog, especially during the next two months. While I have said I wanted to concentrate on submitting material that is about written work, I will definitely release another batch of predictions for the 2014 NFL season. This will be the fourth time I engage in this activity and hold high hope that these predictions stand strong. For now, a summer filled with projects that deal with the written work lie ahead.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poem Review: "Concord Hymn" by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Transcendentalism was a massive topic of interest during my American literature class during high school AND college. This makes plenty of sense, for it introduced a sense of American thought that resurrected the idea that we were a free nation built on the right to speak your mind through speech, the press, and through petition. Of course, much of Transcendentalism is comprised of essays instead of fictional work, thus readers could compare it to the human consumption of grass. What comes out of Transcendentalism is a creative way to convey ideas and Ralph Waldo Emerson did a fine job doing just that. "Concord Hymn" did not follow the tradition of works such as "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," but it did capitalize on his role as a poet. "Concord Hymn" was written as a tribute to the laying of the memorial site in 1837 and captured the honesty that described Emerson's emotions toward these men who fought for and established the foundation of America. This here could be considered the beginning of what Emerson was attempting to establish as a force that spoke of the key American morals.

Emerson begins by giving an appropriate description of the environment that was the start of the American Revolution in Concord, New Hampshire. He describes the bridge as being "rude," but more so in the way that it was an obstacle for the men to head over as oppose to a device that was singing "Yankee Doodle" in a mocking, degrading kind of way. Emerson was on the right track by describing the event as happening in April and that EVERYONE, even the farmers, were involved in the battle in some particular way. The last line of the first stanza introduces a phrase that has been used endlessly to describe the American Revolution and the rise of America: "the shot heard round the world." Why would the shot be heard around the world? Take into consideration that these were the first steps to solidifying America as a nation that could stand on its own and was taking the steps to asserting this. This revolution would become worldly and create a nation that would go on to have the strongest, most powerful voice, way beyond the years that Emerson wrote this.

The second stanza creates a feeling of awakening, where each side sneaks up onto the other with the intent of making the more domineering move. While the battle takes place completely on the American soil, its impact reaches beyond, out into the sea, and throughout the European nation. Britain is not the only country involved by its end in 1783. By the end of the war, Spain and France also have involvement and assist the American colonists in achieving such a victory. In the long run, the French would see some impact, but primarily reside in what is now Canada, while the Spanish would be heavily influential in Mexico.

The third stanza is a confirmation that this poem is, in fact, a dedication. Emerson does a fine job painting a picture of a "green bank" and a "soft stream" and characterizes the stone as being "votive," which means that it was one that was offered. The fact that it was pointed out as being dedicated fulfills its importance and meaning for the occasion, providing Emerson's attendance with even more purpose. From here and into the fourth stanza, he reminds everyone that it was because of these fighters and their sacrifices that our country was built on such a purpose. If it was not for these select individuals and their decision to put their lives on the line because they felt the purpose of America and what it stood for was a far more righteous cause, then America would not be. This message is very much appropriate in this day and age, where the ability to sacrifice your life, reputation, money, and time in order to provide a better life for the greater good will remain an important value, even if such a message becomes blurred throughout time.

"Concord Hymn" delivers strong messages and quotes, but it plays off much more as a statement instead of a tune. What was meant to be a dedication turned into something even greater. To this day, we use the term "shot heard round the world" and equate it to the start of the American Revolution that would in turn become the beginning of America as an independent nation. I would classify this poem as being a beginner for readers of Emerson, who can be very much vague and complicated with what he writes. Emerson is known much more for his essays, such as "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," but his poetry continues to be read and analyzed. "Concord Hymn" is perhaps one of the finest gems that make up American literature that paints of artistic picture of what this country was built on. I feel that it is the rightful decision to use and quote this poem when necessary in order to provide a point or observe country appreciation, so it is rightful that this poem lives on.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 6- The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

Alas, we have reached the finale for the first season of the show. This was a short first season, but in the works is a second season that is more than six times the size. In the works are forty episodes (may be more and less following five summer sessions) with which we discuss and debate the different realms of literature. At the moment we speak, most of us are on board to participating in the upcoming episodes of the series. For the first session, which will occur next Thursday, Jim (from episode 1) and I are definitely on board to return as regulars, along with our new moderator, Laney. I am also almost positive that one of the most acclaimed and respected English instructors from our college will be appearing in a few episodes that will be taped next week. This will definitely be exciting! With that being said, I cannot promise a panel or round table of four on every episode next season, but I will promise that we are going to do our very best to release top quality material.

For now, here is a discussion that revolves around Emily Dickinson. While she is known most for her darkness, we explain why she should be known more for being an innovative mind that made up the American Renaissance and its chief ideas. Quite a way to end the season!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Poem Review: "Homage To Yalta" by Joseph Brodsky

Joseph Brodsky did not hold back any punches. The best way to describe Brodsky and his knack for writing was that there was no boundaries... okay, I guess there were if you considered his motherland, but Brodsky did not give a damn. As a Russian poet, he was active during the reign of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev. While the Khrushchev era provided a bit of flexibility for writers to come out and speak their mind such as that of Solzhenitsyn and his pieces about the Gulag, Brezhnev was much more hesitant about straying away from the denunciation of Joseph Stalin. Brezhnev's reign portrayed the writers as if they were rebels turning against their country and in Brodsky's case, he just did not care. His work exposed the faults of the Soviet Union and touched on graphic areas (politically and sexually). In 1972, after being put away on a handful of occasions, Brodsky was expelled from his country. Perhaps this was the best thing that could have ever happened to him, for he started a new life in America. In America, he became a college professor, he started writing essays and continued to write new poetry while translating his older poems, and would go on to win a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1987 and serve as the United States Poet Laureate in 1991 and 1992.

"Homage to Yalta" is a poem Brodsky wrote in 1969, so he was still in his days as a rebel from the Soviet Union. The initial impression to anybody reading a poem about Yalta would be FDR, Churchill, and Stalin sitting together and having a conversation during World War II. This is surprisingly (or not surprisingly) NOT what this poem is about. There were brief references to the war through discussion with his Granny and Pop and through a scene of scattered dead men during Kosice in 1944, but it does not explore this segment of history. Instead, it explores the situation in a "day in the life" scenario, through various subjects in everyday situations.

The first portion of the poem is clearly an attempt to show the Soviet government as altering the meaning of truth and how the citizens are feeding in quite obediently to the Communist society. In the ninth and tenth lines of the poem, the speaker states that, "but now what's said is 'I agree,' not 'I believe.'" Brodsky is bringing into light that there is a big difference to settle for a preexisting opinion and actually creating the opinions through a process of picking and choosing. He is clearly not fond of the fact that people are starting to settle for less when he feels they are entitled to more leeway. While he brings up the growing opportunity for individuals to take things for what they are, in an act of breaking something down to what it really is, he also feels that some things should just be left to be as they are. He feels that both should and will rely on one another as he provides his analysis.

The first analysis involves two friends and their discussion about chess. Yes, this is where the "day in the life" kind of feeling takes place. It's a thirteen-page poem as well, so you are going to need patience in order to clearly understand the art behind this poetry. The first portion involves the need to study Chigorin's defense, which is a chess strategy that may prove to be dominant unless one is very much aware of what is bound to come. The speaker builds off on this belief and moves on to how one communicates via telephone and the emotion that comes about in this action.

The challenge in grasping the poem does not necessarily have to do with the material, but what lies within the material. Brodsky is describing events going on around him, but it takes the exploration of the world around him to confirm judgments. The second part of the poem involves ideas of struggle, suffering, and disconnection, before transitioning into a third portion that provides a view of intensity. We also learn about a subject being more middle-aged as oppose to a younger individual such as Brodsky. Doing this provides a bit more neutrality to this person and in turn making judgments a bit more challenging. It is assumed that the subject in the fourth portion of the poem is younger. He is staying with his grandparents, no need of doing homework on a Saturday night, and being scolded by his Granny when he goes out to bundle up. His evening walk is cut short by the presence of a suspicious looking man. The only thing we know is that the man is smoking and nothing more. The last portion of the poem brings to view a meaning of the environment around them, which is this case involves an investigation involving a murder. Ideas of inevitability are touched upon, before an exploration of seeing this society as Yalta and seeing Yalta within the world view.

"Homage to Yalta" is NOT for beginners. It may take a 20th Century Russian Literature class to properly probe into the work deeper and deeper, for the idea of its study is quite vague. One will definitely enjoy this poem if they can concur to the idea that Brodsky was a conversational poet. His poetry is equivalent to an educated discussion one may have with a stranger in a coffee shop. In this particular poem, Brodsky starts with an idea, probes into specific points, before slowly zoning back to the point that Yalta is seen as Yalta. The story about the two gentlemen interested in chess and the boy (who I would picture as being a preteen or young teenager) living with his grandparents would be ideas readers can relate most to, but the ideas of sickness and being suspect of murder fall along the same lines. Different types of citizens live in Russia (and in this case Soviet Russia) and this is their story. Brodsky achieves an ability to provide them with a voice.

Literary Gladiators: Episode 5- "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg

In the fifth episode of the first season, Nicole Sandra, Chris Steen, Charlie Gulizia, and I discuss and debate one of the most memorable works from our American Literature II class (even if Chris Steen was not in it). This poem happens to be "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg and brings about his view on society. Ginsberg does not hold back any punches as he expresses his concerns and brings into light topics and ideas that have rarely been discussed and if they were, in a very vague fashion. With almost eleven minutes of conversation, the four of us have quite a time picking this one apart.

I hope you enjoy this episode. The first season finale, where we discuss and debate Emily Dickinson's poetry, will be up within the next week or two. Next Thursday will be our first filming session for the second season and we have our eye on Monday, September 15th as the second season premiere. I will leave you with the link to the video.