Kazuo Ishiguro “Never Let Me Go”

Never Let me Go Movie Trailer

“The basic idea behind the possibles theory was simple, and didn’t provoke much dispute. It went something like this. Since each of us was copied at some point from a normal person, there must be, for each of us, somewhere out there, a model getting on with his or her life” (Ishiguro 139)

This quote from the novel was one that I found particularly interesting. The idea it presents I feel is simply amazing. To put myself in the characters shoes, I feel this idea would captivate me. To think that there is a double of you out there someone, I wouldnt be able to stop myself from looking. I think it’s such an interesting topic to consider.

I really enjoyed this novel for a variety of reasons. I thought the whole concept of the novel was very interesting. How each of the characters goes on and lives as normal as a life they can is very intriguing. I found it to be a very sad, but also uplifting novel at the same time. Its admirable to watch these characters go through their days, knowing that they have this preordained purpose in life. They all face it in their own way. When they are eventually told by their teacher what their fate is, they all are able to deal with it accordingly.  Kathy I feel deals with the situation the best, and seems the most mature about it.  But each character faces it head on, the best way they can.

I really enjoyed this book, it was my favorite we read this semester. Im planning on watching the film version as well, and I hope it holds up to the novel.

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Contagion

A particularly striking scene in the movie was the scene where Matt Damon goes to a funeral home to attempt to have a service for his wife and step-son, only to be turned away because of the potential risk to the funeral home.  It is such a sad thing to see how he will not even be able to bury his family, because 
People are so scared of catching this disease.  I feel this scene really demonstrated the somber tone of the film.

Contagion is a fast paced and gripping film about the threat of a killer disease.  Watching the film, I got up multiple times to wash my hands.  Seeing the spread of germs, and everything we touch on a daily basis that others touch as well gave me an uneasy feeling.  It’s crazy to think that by simply touching the same objects, the diseases carried through the people in the film so rapidly.  It is frightening to consider an epidemic like this happen to us.  I do think that it could, and it is very worrisome. The statistics in the film were alarming, when they stated that 1/12 people on earth would catch the virus.  I found that to be very shocking.  

It is interesting to see how each character reacts to this epidemic.  The science community seemed to be the most calm, and worked diligently to try to find a cure.  They also seemed genuinely interested in this epidemic.  It was interesting to see how the common people acted as well, chaos ensuing on the streets.  Robbing, setting fires, chaos everywhere you look.  The scene that really bothered me was the woman watching her house be robbed and destroyed as the thieves looked for the vaccine that she didn’t even have.  I admire how Matt Damon’s character responded, I feel he really kept it together the best he could in the situation he was faced with.  I was happy at the end when him and his daughter ended up being okay.

This film is certainly not one to be taken lightly.  It presents a situation which I feel  is a little too real.

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Don Delillo “White Noise”

“No sense of the irony of human existence, that we are the highest for, of life on earth and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die” (Dellilo 99)

“The power of the dead is that we think they see us all the time. The dead have a presence. Is there a level of energy composed solely of the dead? They are also in the ground, of course, asleep and crumbling. Perhaps we are what they dream.” (Dellilo 97)

These particular quotes are two of the many instances where Jack Gladney obsessed over the idea of death. He is constantly plagued with anxiety over when and how he is going to die. This gets in the way of his everyday life. When he is exposed to Nyodene D, he becomes increasingly anxious as to when he is going to die. Even thought it is not certain that he will die from this. I found the second quote to be particularly striking, and really shows Jack’s intense obsession.

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Road to Somewhere

‘The Road’ is a film to be admired, but not enjoyed.  It is difficult to watch.  It is hard to root for characters that don’t exactly root for themselves.  They can’t be blamed for their state of mind.  They are in insurmountable circumstances.  The film is a whisper.  The characters speak and we have to struggle to hear them.  If they survive this, do they win?

As the movie played, I was waiting for it to take out and for the plot to take over, but it never did.  What the film did good was capture that feeling of it really being through the characters’ eyes.  The movie never knows more than the characters do.  It captured it better than a movie like Spielberg’s ‘War of the Worlds’ did.  It was interesting the way the characters talked about death and God, almost as if they were the same thing.  Also, I was reminded of ‘The Book of Eli.’  The way the landscape was really desecrated, with the man and his son walking and trees behind them literally fall as they amble on.  Also in dealing with the cannibalism.  (The old man even identifies himself as Eli!)  Most of that can probably be attributed to that film being influenced by the novel.

The themes in the film are whispered, instead of being as apparent as others, as well.  They toy with the idea of surviving being a bad thing and a good thing.  It’s like vegetarianism: it’s a choice.  Also, they mention a number of times who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.  And how do you know which one you are.  In this case, it comes down to choosing right from wrong (in your eyes).  When the man and his son find the basement filled with canned food and drink, the man has some Jack Daniels.  His son asks him for some.  His dad say no.  It’s little things like that.

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“The Thirteenth Floor”

‘The Thirteenth Floor’ presents the viewer with a circumstance and poses a question based on the reality it establishes.  Subconsciously, the viewers mind assigns the familiar, and more likely existence, reality.  The film is thoughtful, but not complex enough to transcend it’s simple plot, posing good questions but doesn’t explore those possibilities further.

The film is similar to ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Dark City’ in that it takes conventional metropolis life and turns the plane of existence on the hero.  At the end of each of those films and this one, the fabricated existence the main characters live in is revealed, and the person can’t exist like that.  In this case, our main character is a fabrication, as is his environment.  That sets this bit of fiction apart from other films of the genre.  This film takes the “it was all a dream”-world of films one step further and makes the made-up world have their own made-up world.  Like petri dishes with petri dishes inside of them like Russian dolls, or if one sat down to play the Sims who are in the game playing their own Sims.  Descartes’ quote at the start is appropriate because, in this film’s case, it doesn’t make the main character’s plight any less poignant when he discovers his origin.

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Philip K. Dick “Ubik”

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“How did it feel, he wondered, to be in half-life? He could never fathom it from what Ella had told him; the basis of it, the experience of it, couldn’t be transmitted.  Gravity, she had told him, once; it begins not to affect you and you float, more and more.  When half-life is over, she had said, I think you float out of the System, out into the stars.  But she did not know either; she only wondered and conjectured.  She did not, however, seem afraid.  Or unhappy.  He felt glad of that” (Dick 12)

I found this quote from the novel particularly striking.  First off, for its eloquent language.  But mainly, I found the idea of “half-life” and its lush description to be especially captivating.  Upon reading, I saw a parallel to “Dawn”, in which Lillith is placed in a kind of “half-life” as well by the Oankali.  I also found it somewhat similar to “Neuromancer”, in which Linda Lee is brought back from a half alive/half dead state throughout the text.  This seems to be a recurring theme in the texts we have read thus far.  It is certainly an interesting topic to consider, which is why so many of the texts use it.

The fact that Ella is somewhat alive yet at the same time not, as well as other characters in the text makes us question what is “real”.  It is never really set in stone who is really “alive” here, and to what extent they are.  It can be confusing at times, yet leads to an interesting narrative as well.  This novel certainly leaves you pondering the nature of reality.

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“Avatar”

‘Avatar’ is a transhumanist adventure in which a parapalegic soldier regains his lust for life by entering the world of the Na’vi.  When we first meet Jake, he is a broken man.  He drowns himself in alcohol attempting to make his empty life easier.  When given the opportunity to inhabit an alien creature as empty as he is, he responds to it.  He digs his feet into the soil.  He feels the wind in his hair.  Well, it’s technically not “his” feet or “his” hair, but it is his first hand experience, and it is captivating.  He runs so fast and so far he struggles to capture his breath.  Like a dog finally let off his leash, he goes nuts.  After his initial test run, he says “I like it.”

It motivates him to discover that there is still a vigor for life in him that is released through this technological achievement.  Each character, motivations good or bad, uses the technology to achieve something they couldn’t accomplish in their “inadequate” human bodies.  In the film, the technology takes a back seat to the human emotion, but the emotional journey is only taken because of the technology.

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Octavia E. Butler- “Dawn”

Genetic Engineering as seen in the “Oankali-Human Hybrids”

“We do what you would call generic engineering.  We know you had begin to do it yourselves a little, but it’s foreign to you.  We do it naturally. We must do it.  It renews us, enables us to survive as an evolving species instead of specializing ourselves into extinction or stagnation.” (Butler 40)

The situation that Lillith finds herself in is rather horrifying.  Waking up and realizing you are basically held hostage by an unknown species who have had you “asleep” for 250 years is a terrifying thought.  Furthermore, the aspects of Genetic Engineering the Oankali are planning for the future of earths population are disconcerning as well.  The Oankali want to re-populate earth with a new species, a mix between humans and Oankali’s.  As seen in the first quote I have listed, the Oankali see this Genetic engineering as a great thing, which strenthens the species and prolongs the survival of the species.

“Your people will change.  Your young will be more like us and ours more like you.  Your heirarchical tendencies will be modified and if we learn to regenerate limbs and reshape our bodies, we’ll share those abilities with you.” (Butler 42)

The second quote describes what the new species will be like.  The “babies” that are born will be a cross between humans and the Oankali, a strange combination. Lillith seems to be on the fence about this idea throughout the text, but towards the end succumbs to it.

“Your people call it birth control.  You are slightly changed.  It was done while you slept, as it was done to all humans at fist.  It will be undone eventually.” (Butler 98)

As seen in the above quote, the Oankali have modified Lillith so that they are in complete control of her ability to reproduce.  I found this instance in the text particularly disturbing. They say it will be “undone eventually” further emphasizing their complete control over Lillith’s own body.  This is a very scary thought.

This form of Genetic Engineering is different than the type used by humans, but at the same time eerily similar.  In both instances we are altering our existing genetics to make something “superior”.  I’m on the fence as to whether it’s a good thing.  I certainly do not think it’s the right situation in the novel, but I do think in some instances it can be beneficial in humans (like in curing disease).  But with all things, it can be taken way too far.

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William Gibson-“Neuromancer”

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” (Gibson 1).

I’ve always felt that the opening line of a novel tells a lot about what the subsequent pages will bring.  This line is a rather famous one, often quoted.  This simple, yet complex opening line of “Neuromancer” sets the stage for the rest of the novel.  This quote sets a sombre mood right from the beginning of the text.  The reference to “television” draws attention to the heavily technological aspect of this novel.  The fact that the television is on a “dead” channel, can be seen to represent the downside of this technological world.  Picturing television set to a dead channel makes me think of a dull situation, with nothing to satisfy you.  In this I saw a parallel to both “1984” and “The Social Network”.  All of this technology which means to bring us forward and make the world a better place, but do the characters in any of these works really benefit from it?

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“The Social Network”

The link above includes the scene from the movie I feel presents the new community created by Facebook that the creators of Facebook are also experiencing for themselves.  The scene in the movie at the Bill Gates presentation where the two female students ask Eduardo and Mark to meet up later for drinks and the girl says “Facebook Me when you get home” to Eduardo.

This scene was important for a variety of reasons.  First off, this really demonstrates how the social structure in which these individuals live in is drastically changing.  The way in which students communicate with each other is very different now.  Instead of getting a persons phone number or email address, all Eduardo and Mark have to do it “Facebook” the girls to get in touch with them.  The fact that the term “Facebook Me” was coined is another big thing as well.  The terminology becoming as mainstream as “Call Me” proves just how substantial Facebook’s presence is on our lives, even in its early stages.

With the shorthand changing, so did the way people stayed in touch.  People are no longer meeting up to tell each other how their dates went.  Now, with the stroke of a few keys, individuals can tell all the people in their inner circle just what and how they are doing.  Even people “outside their circle” have constant access to this information as well.  Interpersonal communication is no longer an objective.  Passive friendships flourish when it is easier to “Like” a person’s status than it is meeting up for coffee or drinks.

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