Optional Blog: Slaughterhouse-Five Compared to LOST, Back To The Future, and Doctor Who

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

1. Explain at least one idea about time offered by Slaughterhouse-Five. Compare that to the way time works in another piece of fiction (book, movie, etc.) or within a particular philosophical, scientific, or religious system. What do you learn from the comparison?

Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five details the experiences of Billy Pilgrim, a man “unstuck in time,” continuously traveling back and forth through time, experiencing his life in non-chronological order. While the topic itself is unique, time-travel is used heavily throughout popular culture, appearing everywhere from movies, such as Back To The Future, to TV shows, like LOST and Doctor Who. Despite its occurrences in all of these forms of media, time travel is never the same, with each appearance having its own set of rules and features. The four occasions above follow at least one of the following rules: 1. The person, themself, travels through time (Marty McFly in B.T.T.F., The Doctor in Doctor Who, The main characters in LOST), 2. The person’s consciousness travels through time (Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five, Desmond Hume in LOST), 3. Time can be rewritten (B.T.T.F., Doctor Who, LOST), and 4. Time is immutable (Slaughterhouse-Five, LOST (contains both)). Kurt Vonnegut’s usage of Billy’s consciousness traveling and having an unchangeable timeline creates a future that is set in stone, creating a non-paradoxical world, unlike the other above-mentioned usages.
When introducing a world where time travel both exists and can affect the timeline, problems and paradoxes present themselves. In Back To The Future, Marty McFly travels back to 1955, a time where he had never existed prior, and meets his mom who begins to fall in love with him, thus disrupting the timeline. While this is a fantastic plot for a Sci-Fi Comedy movie, it creates an unexplainable, circular paradox: If Marty travels back in time and disrupts the meeting of his parents, he will never be born, which means there will be no Marty to travel back in time to disrupt the meeting of his parents.
Doctor Who prevents paradoxes by describing certain time periods as “fixed points in time.” Some moments in time can be changed if they don’t affect the future greatly, such as the death of an insignificant character. Fixed points, however, include the death of The Doctor, or the destruction of the universe. The Doctor simply cannot travel back in time and change those, as the universe would create a paradox far worse than the occurrence.
LOST explains it as “course correction” and that “Whatever happened, happened.” Despite the efforts of all of the main characters when they travel back in time, they cannot change the timeline, and were always destined to reach the island. The only character that can change his or her own timeline is Desmond Hume, for reasons unknown, other than him being “special.” Rather than time traveling as a person, Desmond’s consciousness moves in time. His mind goes to where his body already exists, allowing him to experience events over, rather than for the first time. Desmond’s ability, however, only allows him to change how something happens, rather than something occurring in general. He decides to buy the ring for his girlfriend after not doing so originally, but his girlfriend still leaves him due to the universe “course correcting” itself.
Slaughterhouse-Five prevents the above problems by creating time traveling more as a “life flashing before your eyes” experience for Billy, rather than actually traveling through time and space. Billy can only react to his life as if he were watching a movie of it; he has no power to affect what happens in the slightest sense. Billy’s time traveling is akin to Desmond’s in the sense that it is his consciousness doing the traveling, and not his body; in essence, he never travels to a time where he didn’t exist. This also creates a paradox-free world where he never has to worry about running into himself in a location, as he is inside of the sole body that existed at the time. No incidents occur in this world that can occur in the worlds of Back To The Future, Doctor Who, or LOST.
In his novel Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut cleverly creates a world where the protagonist can drift freely in a non-chronological world without suffering the paradoxical consequences that come with most time-traveling stories.

“Literally” Podcast

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

Podcast: “Literally”

AUDIO
Parks and Recreation – “Literally”

V.O.
What you’re about to hear are real events that transpire almost everywhere, every minute by our beloved teens of America. These events have not been doctored in any way, and are the actual conversations that occurred. These are their stories:

VALLEY GIRL
Literally last night was crazy.

VALLEY GIRL #2
Oh my god I know! It was literally wild.

VALLEY GIRL
Literally couldn’t even then.

VALLEY GIRL #2
No but actually…. I’m genuinely shocked.

VALLEY GIRL
Legit I did not think that was going to happen.

VALLEY GIRL #2
No but I’m actually serious. That girl is crazy.

VALLEY GIRL
YASS.

VALLEY GIRL #2
Literally genuinely surprised.

[ NEWS SOUND EFFECT]

ERIC
What you’ve overheard is a new epidemic taking over the Internet as young girls across the world continuously to “literally” misuse the word “literally”. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “literal” as “Free from exaggeration or distortion” meaning that the aforementioned teenage girls are saying the exact opposite of the word.

JESSIE

VALLEY GIRL
Omg don’t even talk about last, like literally tm.

JESSIE
Haha, I’m not sure what you’re saying can you elaborate?

VALLEY GIRL
No like actually I cant even. Gen-u-i-n-ley I’ll never be over last.

JESSIE
I saw your instagram yesterday!

VALLEY GIRL
No, but did you see my instagram.

JESSIE
Haha yes I just said that remember…

VALLEY GIRL
Yeah well could you believe he actually posted that snap

JESSIE
Wait who?

VALLEY GIRL
Just stop. As if. It’s a tragesty.

JESSIE
Omg of course I totally feel.

VALLEY GIRL
I know omg. Brianna! Brianna! (I hate her.)

ERIC
What started as just the misuse of “literally” has turned into a complete disregard for the English language. People speak in hardly knowledgeable sentences, coming across as lacking substance and imagination, and essentially saying nothing at all. Here’s what happens when we try to confront someone about this behavior…
We took a previous interviewee and asked them about their opinions of such.
Do you think people use the word “literally” in excess?

VALLEY GIRL
Uhhhh I think its not really a problem, people are only using it when it should be used and is necessary, right? Actually though people don’t speak English at this school.

ERIC
Hahah but do you realize you just used the words “actually though” which is pretty much the same as using literally, but you’re still speaking figuratively.

VALLEY GIRL
Oh well like I mean like I don’t think it’s like a bad thing. Like people don’t even think about it like that. It just natural. Who cares.

ERIC
So you’re saying society has given up on grammar and speaking things with meaning?

VALLEY GIRL
No you don’t understand. Like when I say literally or actually its because im giving things more meaning!!

ERIC
But then everything else in comparison loses meaning. Also it’s a complete misuse of the word….

VALLEY GIRL
Hahah ok. Byeeeee

ERIC
This misuse of “literally” is creating an even more heightened sense of hyperbole in our generation. Soon our generation will stop being able to actually say anything with meaning; everything will be exaggerated, and I know that, personally, I will “literally” not be able to “even” when it does.

Blog 3/18: That’s Quite A Variety

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

Discuss one of the Twine games on the syllabus. What was it like to play? What does the medium allow the creator to do that another genre (say, an essay or short story) might not? What are the drawbacks of Twine as a medium for presenting this particular story?

Literature found a new form with the advent of Choose Your Own Adventure style stories. These stories allow the reader to choose what happens to the protagonist along their “adventure” instead of being planned out by the author. Of course the author writes the multiple scenarios, but Choose Your Own Adventure stories almost get rid of the free will that the worlds of novels have, and replaces it with a domain where the reader can “play god,” so to speak. With the Internet age came games such as those of Twine, where Choose Your Own Adventure can be digitalized allowing more opportunities for control over a narrative.
One of the several Twine games online is The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo. In this game, the reader plays an 11 year old going over to his or hers friend’s (name and gender are chosen by the reader) house to have a sleepover. The premise sounds straightforward, but the reader gets to do so much more. The reader chooses the 11 year-old’s thoughts from being uncomfortable, to being passive, to having no opinion. The game also includes different endings that occur based on the reader’s choices throughout the gameplay. These endings include the 11 year-old getting out of the house safely, getting eaten by the titular “Uncle” at the door, getting eaten in the bathroom, and more. All of these endings come from specific choices the reader makes throughout the game; one move different and the ending would not be the same.
The author of The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo, Michael Lutz, creates a very in-depth world where the reader chooses almost every single thought for the protagonist. This feature differs the game from other Choose Your Own Adventure style stories through its complexity and actual choice-based gameplay. Non-digital stories cannot go as in-depth because they lack the space and attention to detail. Digital stories, however, are practically limitless in space and scope. This fact allows as complex a world as chosen by the author, not bound by any limitations.
The only drawback of using Twine as a medium for this story are the amounts of recursion throughout it. A command, such as “Go To The Kitchen” in the game, brings the protagonist to the place, they look around, and then go right back to where they were. Only 6 endings were made, yet there are so many other details that hardly affect the ending. Had Lutz created even more endings, or had the small details/commands actually changed part of the gameplay, the amount of repetition would have been a lot smaller. Overall, however, Twine is a perfect format for this type of story as it allows the reader to actually live in the world created by the author, and experience as much as the author intends.

The Yellow Wallpaper Revision

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman shares the first-person letters of a woman who spirals into depression and a complete mental breakdown through both her oppression by her husband and her confinement in a room containing the titular wallpaper. Gilman uses the story to clearly state her protestation of the oppression of women, believing that women need to be able to act for themselves, as opposed to constantly getting put down by the others (mainly of the opposite sex) in their lives.
The unnamed protagonist lives an oppressed life, but one in which she does not realize the problems with it. She provides excuses for all of her husband’s actions to her. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” A marriage is not healthy if the husband continues to put down the wife, but the woman allows it. Not only does she allow it, but she realizes that the persecution is actually happening to her. “(I) am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas…But what is one to do?” Gilman creates the character of a conscious yet power-less woman not to support male tyranny, but to oppose it. Gilman realizes the flaws in the hierarchical structure of the world, and wants to make that problem known through the story. The man also constantly corrects her, asserting his dominance, while blaming her thoughts as the stupidity of a woman. “I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a DRAUGHT, and shut the window. I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” The woman does nothing wrong, yet due to her insecurity, she blames herself for her husband’s actions, as if he was correct. This harassment from her husband clearly messes with her mind, stressing herself more than she needs to be, especially if she does, indeed, have a condition. Of course her condition could just be an idea implanted in her by her husband.
The husband uses his job as a physician as a sense of power for himself and over his wife. As a physician, “he knows there is no REASON to suffer, and that satisfies him.” He sees nothing physically wrong with his wife, but his actions clearly have an affect on her mentally. A caring husband would notice this, but he is so busy with his “serious cases,” that he doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that he is turning his wife into a serious case. His wife is now having hallucinations, mental breakdowns, and paranoia, yet he brushes it off as nothing. The woman’s descent into psychosis can only be blamed on the actions of her husband and her inability (or fear) to approach him.
The woman’s deterioration into mental breakdown from her husband’s treatment takes place over the entirety of the story and Gilman’s telling of it clearly demonstrate the power that oppression and tight spaces can have on a healthy, human mind.

The Yellow Wallpaper’s Thoughts About Women

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman chronicles the first-person letters of a woman who spirals into depression and a complete mental breakdown through her oppression and confinement in a room containing the titular wallpaper. Gilman uses the story to clearly state her protestation of the oppression of women, believing that women need to be able to act for themselves, as opposed to constantly getting put down by the others (mainly of the opposite sex) in their lives.
The unnamed protagonist clearly lives an oppressed life, but one in which she does not realize the problems with it. She provides excuses for all of her husband’s actions to her. “John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.” A marriage is not healthy if the husband continues to put down the wife, but the woman allows it. Not only does she allow it, but she realizes that the persecution is actually happening to her. “(I) am absolutely forbidden to ‘work’ until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas…But what is one to do?” Gilman creates the character of a conscious yet power-less woman not to support male tyranny, but to oppose it. The man also constantly corrects her, asserting his dominance, while blaming her thoughts as the stupidity of a woman. “I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a DRAUGHT, and shut the window. I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I’m sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.” The woman does nothing wrong, yet due to her insecurity, she blames herself for her husband’s actions, as if he was correct. This harassment from her husband clearly messes with her mind, putting much more stress on herself than needs to be, especially if she does, indeed, have a condition. Of course her condition could just be an idea implanted in her by her husband.
The husband uses his job as a physician as a sense of power for himself and over his wife. As a physician, “he knows there is no REASON to suffer, and that satisfies him.” He sees nothing physically wrong with his wife, but his actions clearly have affect on her mentally. A caring husband would notice this, but he is so busy with his “serious cases,” that he doesn’t realize (or doesn’t care) that he is turning his wife into a serious case. The woman’s descent into psychosis can only be blamed on the actions of her husband and her inability (or fear) to approach him.
The woman’s deterioration into mental breakdown from her husband’s treatment takes place over the entirety of the story and Gilman’s chronicles of it clearly demonstrate the power that oppression and tight spaces can have on a healthy, human mind.

Remix: The Yellow Wallpaper

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

It is very seldom that a dim, ancestral haunted house has no sense of ghostliness. This house was no different than the others.
At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, shadow would crawl along the bedstead, like a hand that moves closer and closer to those asleep. I felt the hand around my neck and opened my eyes to see two bulbous eyes staring at me. I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk on me. I run away from the figure, only to turn back and see an empty, big, airy room. There is nothing left but that great bedstead, with the canvas mattress we found on it. I tried to creep smoothly on the floor back into the room. I see a shadow woman crawl around fast. More come out of the floor. I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try. Besides I wouldn’t do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued. I don’t like to LOOK out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.
If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.
I leave the room to run to my brother, John. I tell him everything that happened. John laughs at me, of course, You see he believes I am sick! So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again. Personally, I disagree with their ideas. I know what I saw.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Gutenberg.org. 28 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

“Literally Can’t”

By WriteSideUp.org. Originally published at WriteSideUp.org.

If one were to check personal blog websites populated by mostly teenage girls, such as tumblr.com, one would find many girls exclaiming their inability to do things. I am, of course, speaking of their inability to even, or as they might say, they “literally can’t even” in response to ridiculous topics, such as The Bachelor’s pick, Harry Styles’s abs, and their parents taking away their iPhone 6’s. This phenomenon is taking over the Internet as young girls across the world continuously to “literally” misuse the word “literally”.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “literal” as “Free from exaggeration or distortion” meaning that the aforementioned teenage girls are saying the exact opposite of the word. This misuse is not just in relation to being able to “even” it’s an extremely widespread mistake. People will say that a movie was “literally the saddest thing ever” or that they can “literally eat everything in the fridge.” These are actually examples of people speaking figuratively, not literally; it is not possible for someone to literally eat everything in the fridge. This misuse of “literally” is creating an even more heightened sense of hyperbole in our generation. If it continues, our generation could stop being able to actually say anything with meaning; everything will be exaggerated, and I know that, personally, I will “literally” not be able to “even” when it does.