Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Novelist, Valerie Laken, in her narrative essay, “Separate Kingdoms,” describes a family looking for a connection to make them whole. They struggle against their isolation to locate a common ground, while torn between to kingdoms, a human kingdom and an animal kingdom. Laken’s purpose is to convey the notion that, despite tragedies in life that can send people scrambling in different directions, reaching beyond the borders of your kingdom to make a connection can be the ultimate sacrifice that can pull a family closer eliminating separation. She uses split columns and column bridges to display separate vantage points and to reveal the divide between each family member, who are in search of a connection and a better life for themselves.

Laken, in her narration, contrasts individual kingdoms within a family who struggle against their isolation with thoughts of money that can make for a better life. “We’d be done with it. Right now. No hassles. Pay off the house and still have a chunk of money” (9). “Tell me, Colt really. What is your plan after that? How long do you think $200,000 will last?” (9) “We could be like those people who take pictures of themselves and hang them up on the walls. If he got that money, we could do all those things, maybe more. It seems like such an easy thing to explain” (16). Laken uses the wanting a better life in order to show that we all have dreams and aspirations of having a better life; and we feel we can only achieve this with vast amounts of money. This connection of money and the search of a good life emphasizes how they’re torn between the wonders of the world and the adventures of the mind.

Laken moves to describe connections made within the separate kingdoms, of Colt, Cheri, and Jack. “Jack is a boy with imagination but he doesn’t understand about the animals, those bumbling, lost-in-the-suburbs moose, or the baby tiger sharks using their fins to walk across the sand. Jack doesn’t understand the envy that swells in Colt every time he watches them” (3). “I go back to the living room and start up the game again. The scientists come out of the mansion, three of them. They need me” (3-4). “From the top of the basement stairs I can hear my mom down there doing exercise. She’s shouting along all cheery with that creepy Tae-Bo guy, calling out all the punches” (3). Laken describes the connection with in each separate kingdom in order to examine choices that reveal the divide between them. In the reject room Colt sympathizing with the animals, in the living room Jack saving the scientists in zombie world, and Cheri in the basement with her Tae-Bo.

Laken points out how Colt is sympathetic to animal life and wishes to defend their kingdom and be one of them. “You know what separates us from the animals?” “Opposable thumbs.” “What occurred to me was, he had crossed over to the other side” (12). “I know why you did it. I think I understand” (17). Jack hearing his father talk about the separation between humans and animals became evident to Jack that his father wanted to be one of them. “The kid was looking at him in a way that burned through the skin. Now he will know. For the rest of his life Jack will know” (17). Colt seems to have more respect for the dogs than his own family. Colt would feel respected by the animals, which widens the divide between them much. “Colt wishes he’d taken the Valium, wishes he were asleep, obliterated, dropped of the edge of the planet so she could make a fresh start without him” (15). He could care less if they took the money and ran. Colt would feel content just laying around on the couch all day collecting disability.

Laken shifts to the dedication shown by Colt’s family to better understand what he’s going through in hopes to find the connection that could bring them together and make them whole again. “The money is your dad’s choice. He’s your dad, and he has his reasons. It really doesn’t matter, the money. Yesterday I tried to do everything all day without my thumbs” (17). Jack bandaged his hands suppressing his thumbs in order to understand what his dad was going through. He really wanted to establish a connection with his father, so he could bond with him.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Class Assignment due 7.22.10 Cory Anderson

1.) Visual strategies

a. Displaying sounds of instruments
b. Mirrored Text and Situations
c. Emotional language expressed in Italic text
d. The use of animal sounds
e. Column bridge used to display real time action

2.) Laken’s Purpose

a. I believe that Valerie Laken’s essay describes a family relationship, forced to deal with tragedy, lack of connection and understanding, and misguided dreams. The pursuit of a better life saturated with happiness and no worries. However, resting on Colt’s shoulders is the ingredient to make this all happen. MONEY! The speculation is, did Colt purposefully remove the safety feature in order to collect disability to provide for his family? Is his story believable? We can sympathize with Cheri and Jack in finding ways to help Colt recover from his ordeal by putting themselves in his shoes; attempting to understand his motives behind his decision and the ultimate sacrifice made for his family.

3.) Visual strategies explained

a. Displaying sounds of instruments - Using your imagination to feel what the characters in the story felt when practice time began.

b. Mirrored Text and Situations - Knowing what teach character felt when different conversations took place in the story.

c. Emotional language expressed in Italic text – Each character expressed what they felt in different ways, but with the italics text you get a sense of frustration and anger with the majority. It also set a certain tone throughout.

d. The use of animal sounds - Possibly to provide a bit of humor. Animal sounds are particularly funny.

e. Column bridge used to display real time action – Again, tone and getting a sense of what the characters were feeling at a particular time in the story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Revised controlling purpose statement 1.3

In Charles Baxter’s “Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age”, he argues how forgetting has become an art form; called strategic amnesia. “. . . the desire to create and destroy personal histories.” He seems convinced that if taken away you are removing a treasured part of their identity. We need that! He then goes on to state where he consistently notices where this anxiety lies. He noticed these signs of anxiety turning up in newspaper ads, commercials, at work, with pop stars, political figures, and even at the office. “People seem to believe that remembering is a matter of willpower.” How do we combat the phobia of forgetting? That is a great question! “Against a shame you cannot bear, your mind detaches itself from its own memory and sails off. . . it is the strategic amnesia of everyday life, both voluntary and willful.” We all have our source of shame about forgetting, it is who we are, and it is what defines us. I think Baxter could have left out the story about his brother to prove his point.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Assignment 1.2

Taking back our minds

In Charles Baxter’s “Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age” seems intent on convincing us on how today we are losing the battle of holding on to our memories. He points out how we resort to hiding behind our weaknesses of losing information or loss of memory. “Forgetting and shame might just serve, under the immediate surface of consciousness, as an escape route of sorts.” Personal anecdotes, contrast, comparison, and persuasion are techniques Baxter uses to create a convincing essay.

Baxter begins his essay with part one, stating a personal anecdote describing the close but difficult relationship with his brother Tom. He uses this technique very well, which captures the reader’s interest. This particular anecdote uses as background information in part three of his essay, quoting Walter Benjamin- “Information – proves incompatible with the spirit of storytelling.” Also in part five, “what help is the data if you don’t-if you can’t and won’t- remember the story.” Using such anecdotes makes it easy for us to relate to personal experience, which draws us in.

At the start of part two, Baxter begins to use contrast, stating the differences between remembering data and remembering experiences. “It is possible that the quantity of data we are supposed to remember has reduced our capacity to remember or even have experiences. . .” What I think Baxter is saying here, is that we could possibly be taking in too much information sometimes that can leave us unable to share personal memories or experiences.

Toward the end of part two, Baxter goes on to compare how two great Presidents used forgetfulness to their advantage. They were both very forgetful at times; Reagan with history and events, and Clinton with he denied he never forgets. “Reagan managed to contradict the principle . . . his forgetfulness made him far incompetent. . .” What I believe Baxter is attempting to express, is that forgetfulness plagues us all in many different ways, but does not have to be our downfall. “With Reagan, forgetting aided and abetted power. On the other-hand, “Clinton seems to be able to bury the past without demonstrating visible shame.” We can hide are shame in so many ways forgetting about the past, because it is in the past.

In part three, it seems Baxter is showing us how the more information dumped on us can take us away from our natural ability to share experiences. “. . . the explosion of information in the Modern Age is denying us something precious: the ability to exchange experiences.” Comparing the two points of the relationship between information and experience, quoting Walter Benjamin, I think he makes a valid argument – “Experience has fallen value. . . Information proves incompatible with the spirit of storytelling.”

In the remaining parts of his essay, Baxter does a lot of narrating and giving somewhat a suggestive remedy. The fact that memoirs can prove to be a valuable in the loss of experiences, I think it is not enough. He could have added more when heading in the direction of how we may be able to save our precious memories and experiences, so that we feel no shame.

In the last part of his essay, Baxter talks about forgetting, our only possible escape. He gives us an example by using the novel In the Lake of the Woods showing us a time when we have no choice to forget. Perhaps there is something so dramatic that we need to forget. “Against a shame that you cannot bear, your mind detaches itself from its own memory and sails off in the direction of a psychic Lake-of-the-Woods. It is the strategic amnesia of every day life, both involuntary and willful. All the computers in the world cannot remedy it.”

Works cited

Baxter, Charles. “Shame and forgetting in the Information Age”, (St Paul, MN: Graywolf, 1999)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Working with Purpose Assignment #1.1

Going back over the Baxter essay I think his purpose might have been to inform us that technology can rule in a way that we could lose ourselves. Maybe using tools like memoirs and journals to preserve memories of our lives that make us who we are as individuals. We can't steer away from that and when we do make the best of it. Turn it into something positive.

I believe it mattered to Baxter, because he experienced it first hand with a loved one - his brother Tom. He wants us to find other ways to deal with the loss of memory and shame and forgetting in an Information Age. Once in a while go back to the old ways of sharing stories with people around you.

1. People he often take considerable pride in their minds and more particularly in their memories. Part II (page 144)

2. We are all computers now. Many of us have to spend the day in front of screens, moving the information around or creating new information. Part II (page 146)

3. Forgetting and shame might just serve, under the immediate surface of consciousness, as an escape route of sorts. Part III (page 150)

4. Every memoir argues that a personal memory is precious. Part IV (page 151)

5. The one story my brother Tom could not tell was the continuing story of why the ate the way he did. Part V (page 156-157)

My thoughts on Charles Baxter's - Shame and Forgetting in the Information Age

I believe Baxter was trying to state that anyone can have some sort of memory loss, whether it be technological or not; we may still be embarrassed by it. It could be you or someone you know and love. I think he wanted to grab the attention of the audience by relaying a personal experience to show how he himself has been affected. Even some of our greatest Presidents had issues, but turned them into an advantage. In some form or another we all deal with the growing need to hold on to a memory or thought. It could be about a friend you met several years ago and said you'd never forget to remembering to pick up the ketchup from the grocery store. But we all find ways to overcome. Keeping in touch with that friend on a weekly basis, or writing down that you need ketchup. I feel it can be that simple. Baxter states his brother dealt with it in ways that were unhealthy, like eating. I think he really admired his brother Tom, despite his short comings. Baxter seemed he incorporated details into the remainder of the text; about how his brother Tom, lead his life. The tools we end up using, so we are not embarrassed dealing with memory loss and the shame and the forgetting.