One Last Thing

I was going to bring up a serious and unfortunate event that’s been going on in Libya in class when Professor Oerlemans, or someone else, compared the duties of clones in Never Let Me Go to slavery, but I just didn’t have the courage to raise my hand and speak up about it without cracking my voice.

When we talk about slavery, we talk in past tense because for us, it’s something that we think has been resolved and something that will never happen again. Sad to say, there has been a slave trade going on in Libya, where 400,000 to almost one million refugees and migrants are forcibly kept at detention centers, and have been, are, and will be sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

BSLU put up a bunch of paper posters about this issue around the campus at the start of this week, but because of the crappy weather, a lot of the posters were ruined, therefore a lot of people didn’t get the chance to learn about this grave issue, and why I’m writing this blog post.

Dehumanization is the biggest sin we can commit as human beings! I know we differ in physical features, beliefs, ranks, and in gazillion other ways, but we all have a moral compass inside us that distinguishes between what’s right and wrong.  Slavery is wrong and there is no reason why anyone should argue otherwise.


  1. I urge you all to first educate yourself about this issue and then bring awareness by telling those around you

See this link to get a better understanding:

  1. Write to US ambassador to the UNITED NATIONS/ Libya

  1. Sign a global petition for the U.N Security Council to take immediate action:


Libyan Liberation


A Closer Look at Contagion

If there is one thing I learned from my Introduction History & Theory Film class is that your reaction to a film/movie is never wrong and never relevant to the analysis of the film/movie. So, for this blog post, I’ll try to make my points without emphasizing on whether I liked Contagion or not.

In the first scene, when Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) is on the phone, we see her right hand with a ring, but she is conversing with a guy with whom she had a one night stand with, so this leads us to assume that there is infidelity, the first conflict of the plot. Next, we see a bunch of zoom shots that forces us, audience, to fixate on one object at a time after a character has touched it, signaling that physical contact is crucial to whatever we are about to find out next. We see few individuals around the globe showing symptoms of loss of energy, possibly fever, feeling faint, dizziness, and sweating; when the model, Irina (Daria Strokous), collapses to floor, we now know that all the zoom shots and symptoms were leading up to a fatal epidemic, the main conflict of the plot.

We see several fast-paced scenes with excessive people on the screen, which makes us feel agitated, serving as a perfect metaphor for the virus itself, which is transmitted instantly and causes great discomfort.  The discomfort is also conveyed by several other scenes where the screen seems to shake as the sick people, infected by the virus, struggle to walk or stand, and blurriness as they are about to have a seizure. The epidemic, aside from being a possible reality in the future and an allegory for the outbreaks of the past, touches on the subject of selfishness, an innate quality of humans. When there is a shortage for cures, the crowd goes crazy and acts beastly to show that they are capable of doing anything for their own need. The epidemic also hints at how people in higher rank, in this case Dr. Ellis (Laurence Fishburne), seem to mix up personal priorities with professional duties: Dr. Ellis gives the vaccine to his romantic partner before giving it to the rest of the public.

The virus in Contagion was modeled off a combination of influenza and Nipah, a virus that inflames the brain and causes respiratory difficulties. Interestingly, Nipah outbreak in the past were due to human contact with infected pigs in Malaysia and Singapore, and the pigs were infected from consuming fruits that were contaminated with urine or saliva from infected bats in Bangladesh and India. So, the last scene in the movie, Day 1, was quite realistic. It’s also very clever of the director/producer, Steven Soderbergh, to put Day 1 in the very end because this disables us, audience, from quickly blaming someone or something for the epidemic; the unclarity of who or what the antagonist is a big reason why we keep watching the movie till the end, despite knowing what it’s about from the obvious title.

Check out this article:

Lastly, if any of you are interested in films, I would highly recommend taking Introduction History & Theory Film (ARTH 120) with Professor Scott MacDonald in the Fall semester. There is so much more to the film industry than the commercial movies we love and complain about, and this course will teach you that.


Never Let Me Go and Frankenstein

I found there to be interesting similarities and differences between Never Let Me Go and Frankenstein. Both texts reveal the power of science and medicine, because while both are fictional, the possibilities of life’s creation described is plausible. In both texts, life is created through the exploitation of science; however, in Never Let Me Go, the characters do not rebel or fight back for what has been done to them, yet in Frankenstein, the monster seeks revenge of the hurtful and inconsiderate actions against him.

The striking difference between the two texts is how the victims of scientific creation react to their existence. The children raised for their organs, seemingly oddly as we have discussed, do not rebel, while the monster wants revenge and goes so far as to kill many innocent people in hopes of achieving this revenge. Both societies are afraid of their respective scientific creations, but while the monster was completely abandoned by Frankenstein, the children at Hailsham are treated by the guardians as real people. They are loved, and even while the rest of society dismisses their existence and human qualities, the guardians protect the children to the best of their ability and try to allow them to grow up in a happy, save environment. Even though it still seems odd that the donors and carers in Never Let Me Go do not rebel against their oppressive situation, some of it might be because they feel less angry at society because they have been provided love and acceptance by the guardians. This early childhood care, that the monster in Frankenstein did not receive, provided the children with companionship, allowing them to feel important and worthy to others. Contrastingly, the monster is abandoned by Frankenstein as well as feared by the rest of society. While he starts off caring and kind, as a result of unanimous hatred of society, the monster turns vengeful.

Even though in both cases society fear these medical creations, because some individuals provided love for the cloned children in Never Let Me Go they were far less angry with their creation and therefore were not inspired to rebel. However, the monster in Frankenstein, was abandoned from the moment of his creation leading to spite and the desire to obtain vengeance on his unthoughtful creator.

“Good” & Not “Good”

When I remember sex at the Cottages, I think about doing it in freezing rooms in the pitch dark, unusually under a ton of blankets. And the blankets often werent even blankets, but a really odd assortment—old curtains, even bits of carpet. Sometimes it got so cold you just had to pile anything you could over you, and if you were having sex at the bottom of it, it felt like a mountain of bedding was pounding at you, so that half the time you werent sure if you were doing it with the boy or all that stuff.     –Page 127

This may be the only passage in the entire book that really made me laugh. Who in their right mind thinks about having sex in a dark, freezing place under tons of blankets, and finds pleasure in the idea of not knowing if you were doing it with the person or the mountain of blankets?! I’m guessing Ishiguro wrote this particular passage for comic relief, considering that the mood of the book for the most part was gloomy. It’s no doubt that sex is a big motif in this book, but this passage described sex accompanied by darkness and cold, specifically. If what we refer to as “good” is bright and warm, then sex, in reference to that, is the opposite of “good”. But, wait, the sex that Kathy is describing is done under tons of blankets, under warmth and closeness. So, isn’t that “good”? From this logic, sex is both “good” and not “good”, and Kathy, as a clone, desires this sex, raising the question of how do you decide what to let go off and what to conserve when it’s both “good” and not “good”. I don’t know the answer to that, just like how we don’t know why we haven’t cloned people yet, 21 years after the success of Dolly the sheep, despite knowing how to.


Dismissing Individuality

Even though identical twins have the same genetic makeup, current society views twins as individuals that have their own ideas, beliefs, and opinions. However, in Never Let Me Go the guardians must push back against society who view the cloned children as subhuman and therefore lacking individuality. Even though these children, like identical twins, simply share DNA with another being, they are not viewed as human but rather “shadowy objects in test tubes” (261). Society has allowed the development of children simply for harvesting their organs. It seems, in order to accept these actions, they must dismiss the children’s human qualities. However, not all members of society dismiss these scientific creations. The guardians of Hailsham collect the children’s art work and school work in order to show the world their talents and skills and “to prove [they] had souls” (260). While the deathly fates of the students are inevitable, the guardians allow them to grow and develop in a safe and humane environment. The guardians wanted to prove to the world that these children should not be feared, and while they are clones, if raised “in human, cultivated environments, it was possible for them to grow to be as sensitive and intelligent as any ordinary human being” (261). The societal doubt that these children have emotions and intelligence is shocking, and while the guardians are trying to prove their student’s humanity, in the end their actions are unsuccessful. Society cannot accept the guardian’s argument because if they did, the medical organ harvesting practices would be acknowledged as extremely immoral.

While this text if fictional, the development of the students for their organs seems similar to that of factual historic experiences of prisoners in concentration camps. These individuals are viewed by their captors are subhuman and not worthy of life. However, their existence if often exploited for medical research in hopes it will benefit the “superior” group. If society is able to dismiss human qualities and reject any argument of individuality, they can continue to act superiorly using their subjects for their own benefit. Never Let Me Go raises an interesting moral question regarding the creation of life for medical exploitation and for theoretically benefiting the larger society. While currently this may seem implausible, historical events have occurred where humans are viewed as less than human and used for science. In these historical cases, society has pushed back against these notions, but the book raises the question that there could come a time when the benefits to society seem so large and out way the moral injustice of raising humans for their organs, that this practice becomes accepted.

It is Hard for Work to Stay in the Workplace

Many texts we have read this semester portray a doctor’s career as filled by small fragmented pieces of time. Their days are extremely scheduled and each patient they see gets a few minutes of consultation and then the doctor is on to seeing another patient. Patients typically have varying aliments, so a doctor not only has to be focused on a schedule but also good at quickly transitioning from one task to another. In the story “Before Light” in Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, Dr. Chen is treating patients throughout his night shift in an emergency room. Similar to other texts we have read it is clear that Chen’s night is segmented into many intense small fragments of time. He sees a variety of patients and must act differently depending on his present situation. However, what this story also reveals is the segmentation of time does not stop for doctors, at least not Chen. It seems that his career as a doctor has influences his lifestyle beyond his hours treating in the hospital. Throughout the story Vincent Lam reinforces the time of day by explicitly writing this story as a sort of timeline with the event and its time stated before a greater description of the actual encounter. This style seems like it makes sense to accurately represent how a doctor practices. Before seeing a patient, the doctor likely receives the patients name, maybe a small medical history, and the current ailment. From that point on the doctor delves into the situation to determine a diagnosing and treatment plan. This process is repeated over and over for each patient. However, Lam begins this pattern of time lining before Chen arrives at the hospital, and continues it after he leaves his shift. While it is helpful for the reader to gain a sense of timing it also reveals the overlap of one’s career with their personal life.

The story begins with Chen driving to his shift, where Lam explicitly outlines Chen travel to work. He begins “22:50 – Kitchen” (309) proceeded by “23:20 – Lakeshore Boulevard” (310) and next “23:35 – Toronto South General, emergency loading entrance” (312). “Before Light” is different in that is reflects Chen’s life outside of medicine in the same form as while he is practicing. This representation reveals that maybe the regimented scheduling required for the medical field is not something doctors can leave at work. This one example, the formatting of one’s day, shows how Chen, even outside of work, is consumed by the same thought processes. It is hard to leave one’s work in the workplace, often literally but here Lam shows one’s job may ingrain a task of structure to life so deeply that it influences the rest of that person’s life.

Once Chen becomes a doctor the skills he learns and that are required of him become natural and his life is transformed because of his occupation. Other texts have shown the connection between the private life of a doctor and their practice, as varying aspects of life such as stresses or literal ailments are often interwoven, but this story shows that in some circumstances practice at work may subconsciously extent into private life. Approaching work in small segmented moments, like that of a doctor, may be something that becomes so deeply rooted in one’s habits, that outside of work they continue with the same pattern. This just reinforces how connected one often is from their job, and how hard it can be to obtain separation between a doctor’s life in the office and at home.

Look for horses, not zebras!

Agent? Ah, the poison issue. Dr. Sri, I admire your open-mindedness. Youth, with the magical new experience of clinical pathology. Youve heard that the sound of hoofbeats implies the presence of horses? It is true that we must look carefully for zebras, but for the most part we expect to find horses. A grand smile. –Page 125

When I first read this quote in the story, “Winston,” I didn’t know what the hell Dr. Miniadis was talking about. Why was she bringing up horses and zebras when Sri was trying his best to diagnose Winston? Apparently, it’s an aphorism commonly used by people in the medical field, to remind physicians or any medical workers to think of the likeliest, not unconventional, possibilities when diagnosing patients. When facing a dilemma, the simplest and the most common explanation is the way to go, but so often do we complicate things for ourselves because we fail to trust the easy way out.

Take Ming and Fitzgerald for example. From the very beginning, both knew that their priorities and social situations differed. Ming even explicitly tells Fitzgerald that he will be a distraction for her as she is pursuing medical school. Yet, they give the relationship a shot, which I’m all for because I believe in the case of romance, chances must be taken, but then things fall apart. Ming persistently dissociates herself from Fitzgerald, who in return tails her despite the rejection. They had two easy options. A: Avoid having a romantic relationship knowing the contrast in their life styles, and just remind friends. B: Since emotions sometimes outweigh logic, have a romantic relationship, but when things don’t go as planned, end it with proper closure. Ming and Fitzgerald followed neither of those options thoroughly; they first agreed to stay as study buddies, decided it wouldn’t hurt to have a relationship in the midst of applying for medical schools, and then Ming just separates herself in hopes that Fitzgerald would move on, but Fitzgerald lingers on. I’m not a relationship expert, but theirs was a messy one, partly because they looked for zebras before looking for horses.

This aphorism also applies to major conflicts we discussed in other texts. Victor Frankenstein had the options of either nurturing the monster instead of abandoning him early on or creating a female companion for the monster later on to prevent his disastrous acts. Dr. Iwan James could have just seen a therapist from the beginning to resolve his mental discomfort. And Ivan Ilyich could have asked his servant to arrange the drawing room instead of climbing a ladder, which led to him falling and bruising his side, to do it himself.

I do have to say that I’m making these cases a lot simpler than they may have been in reality; after all, I’m only writing about them and not experiencing them like the characters. Dr. Miniadis’ advise on looking for horses before zebras is easy and effective, but in terms of my personal thoughts, I feel impartial about this advice because I like the easy way out, but I also think that sometimes you have to go through the hard way to be knowledgeable.


Benefits to Graphic Novels

The first graphic novel I read was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi in high school. *If you are thinking about reading more graphic novels, I would recommend this one* Like we discussed in class, some people argue that reading a graphic novel is a less academic form of reading. One can breeze through a text in far less time and some might ask, “How can the author put as much meaning on the page through only pictures and text boxes?” However, there are benefits to reading a graphic novel. One is that pictures are a really effective way to portray a scene. Every day people are observing the world around them, and because humans are visual beings, people pick up on small visual clues in real life and also in pictures. Illustrations in these graphic novels allow the reader to understand the setting as well as the emotions of the characters from their body language and facial expressions. Picking up on these clues is natural for most people, but it’s a visual skill. This makes the images in graphic novels so different to read than a traditional text because one can physically watch the progression of emotions and gestures, rather than read about them.

Additionally, most graphic novels seem to have minimal text; however, the text they do contain is very vivid and thoughtfully used. Because the authors do not have to use paragraphs describing the setting or the gestures of a character (as they use detailed illustrations) their text can be focused on important dialogue or sharing the thoughts of their characters. Lastly, what I found really beneficial to reading graphic novels was that they do read quicker than a novel, but this also allows for more than one read through. I do not often read an entire novel twice or more times through, but this process can be helpful for grasping subtleties or new insights. However, because it typically takes less time to read graphic novels, they can be read multiple times, providing the reader even more insight into their complexities.


I was afraid of the chair. It would indicate I wasn’t going to get better. And my doctors didn’t want to believe that any more than I did. Chair or no chair: a binary relation. Bad or good, sick or well, hopeless or hopeful.                                  -Page 50

In my film class, we recently learned about Stan Brakhage, a non-narrative filmmaker whose works were referred to as ‘visual music’ or ‘moving visual thinking.’ The main goal of his short experimental films was to see more completely, as in to see how we saw the world as infants, before the development of language, before becoming visually restrained. While discussing one of Brakhage’s early films, The Wonder Ring (1955), Professor Macdonald said something that sort of elucidated the passage above from The Two Kinds of Decay: “The process of being cultured is a process of learning to not see.”

If something is bad, it can’t possibly be good. If someone is sick, they can’t possibly be well. There is no such thing as being hopefully hopeless. And a chair? Oh please, it is used only by the weak! We, including the college version of Sarah Manguso, choose to see things in binary relation because that’s how we were cultured. We limit ourselves when we categorize attributes in binary; we become visually restrained and fail to see completely. There is always a grey area and a spectrum, and I believe hardly any subject is ever on the very end. People/things can be bad, yet have good qualities, physically sick and mentally well, hopeless at this moment and hopeful the next hour. We have to learn to see things beyond the binary relation, which of course was created by us, and rewire our brains like a Brakhage film. At this point of my reading, I’m trying to see the narrator of The Two Kinds of Decay as more than a sick person with CIDP, and I encourage you to do the same.