Captive Bolt I love steak

Captive bolt

 

I love steak. I’ve always loved it. My parents practically put it in a blender and had Gerber slapped on it before I had teeth. My brother never liked it; he thought chewing was overrated. Of course what got him in trouble was thinking that drinking was underrated. I believe I assisted the slaughter of my first bull calf at eight when I was finally man enough to wield a proper boning knife and I had my own sheath on my belt. But watching the slaughters must have started earlier than that. My first memory of the knife’s smooth slicing connection with the jugular and red liquid vomit exploding out from the hanging calf’s chest was actually majestic. The stunning though – I don’t think I really got used to that until maybe ten, two and a quarter years before Jeremy did in his life I might add. Watching the calf flop around on the ground like it was having a seizure just freaked me out until I stunned one myself. Then it was different. Feelings of nerves and power had a brawl in my stomach and the power won. I had life right there in front of me and I could control death. I didn’t think anyone could really control death when it came right down to it. You either held hands with it your whole life and it took its sweet time sitting on your chest, suffocating you, or it was a little bastard and jumped right out and punched you in the face one day, BAM! Then that’s it, no more. I was punching the lives of these calves right in the face. No slow drifting away to nothingness. I wonder if I’ll be smacked in the face or slowly and painfully suffocated. I think I’d rather be smacked. Never have to wait for it, never piss myself in my own bed, needing someone to come in and turn me every few hours so my ass doesn’t rot right out from under me. That’d suck. Dad said I’m going to get to take over the family business. Except I was his second choice. He asked Jeremy first because he’s the oldest and I don’t get squat unless Jeremy doesn’t want it, or he screws it up so bad that Dad takes it away and gives the crap pile to me to deal with. I’ve actually accumulated a good amount of skills in the field of crap-pile management. I guess it at least gets me toughened up for when suddenly I’m in charge of something important and all the old guys who have given their fingers for the business remind me oh so kindly with blood-slimy lunch presents that I am, and always will be, the rookie. Only when I have seven fingers left and have lost my gag reflex to steaming carcasses am I considered a real meat man. Until then I would just be the discarded bloody fat trimming that Dad scraped off his rubber boot and put into the manager’s office. Of course I’ve been helping out for years, but never with something where I’d necessarily lose my fingers. I like my fingers. Missing fingers seems to be very popular among those guys. I just wanted to be the stun man. Spend all day standing just inside one of the two doors to the outside of the main building, watching dirty, hide-covered pumping hearts file in, and flailing seizure-vessels swing out by one hind hoof up along the rail on the ceiling one after another. They don’t even get to see it. I guess that’s the point so they don’t get all freaked out and the meat gets ruined, but it makes the stunning so much more of a surprise to them. I guess it would be more of a punch in the back of the head than the face. My stun man status depends on the fuck-up that is my brother. If he suddenly decides to act on his illusion that he’s some sort of business god, it’ll be a lot of years of ties and white shirts before I get to be in charge of death. I’ve had to fix all sorts of old cars that Jeremy totaled in not-so-accident accidents of the bottle and were given to me by Dad like it was some sort of honor to get the leftovers. I never said anything though, I’ve never really thought about why I didn’t throw Dad the old screw you and got my own car that might be worth a damn and have doors that were the same color. I figured one day my colloquial decking would come and what did it matter anyway. This way the skills of my youth grow. Maybe someday he’ll burn the house down and I’ll be a carpenter too, throwing in some architect and electrician skills for usefulness’ sake. For now I think I’ll just stun. Find a girl who thinks stunning is manly and that complete sets of fingers are sexy. We’ll just up and leave together I think. Maybe a note for mom, but brief. Leave Dad and his liquidated-dung-accumulation of a son to run the family business. I’ll be a travelling stunner for home-slaughterers with my trusty body-sectioning wife with me for the home-slaughterers who don’t really want to slaughter. She’ll be the best steak sequestering knife goddess in three states. We’ll sit around with our own personally cleaned sides of beef slicing up the psoas major (filet mignon for those who insist on using French in random intervals) and eating the raw chunks right off the scrupulously sharpened tip of our knives.

Hyoid Bone

Hyoid Bone

          Starrs, James E. “Foreword” Forensic Science. 2nd ed. New York: Taylor and Francis, 2005.

 

 

All the signs presaged well-

preserved remains.

The soil was sandy

permitting water to drain

 

readily through it.

 The coffin and vault were,

although not impervious

to the intrusion

of water, the highest quality

to predict safely. Water

would not have invaded but

 

a negligible degree.

Embalming remains

adequate, no sources of leakage

 

other than those created.

Such was not to be

the fact. A fair to good

preservation, hair was

 

secured. Presumptive stains,

the result of a plastic bag.

Hot Dog

by my sister

12.3.08

Hot Dog

One time a neighbor boy with disproportionately-sized ears came over and wanted the dog to ride his skateboard, but the dirt-nosed boy screamed and yelled and told the big-eared boy that he was the boy with the skateboarding dog and that’s that. The dirt-nosed boy took the intruder’s skateboard and pushed it down the hill. It went in a crooked way and ran aground ten feet later. Then both of their faces scrunched like people say it’ll get stuck that way if you keep doing it. The big-eared boy grabbed the dog and pulled her leg so hard the bone came out of the socket.

The dog wasn’t usually on the skateboard for very long. Down the sidewalk, run back. The dirt-nosed boy kept microwaved hot dog slices in his pocket which made his pocket slimy and lovely and full. One for me and one for you. His hands were always almost sticky in a way that only pig fat can make them. He always wiped his nose snot off with the palm of his hand. Sticky Hands made friends with Dirt which made friends with the little boy’s face all scrunched. Of course it won’t get stuck that way, but he exercised his flat-face in the mirror at night just in case.

The dirt-nosed boy couldn’t ride the skateboard down the sidewalk, not even for hot dogs. He rewarded himself with snacks for being a good agent and publicist of such a star. He took full credit on his block for the famous skateboarding beast. The dog did not care. Credit is not useful if it is not edible. The boy thought the dog was stupid to work for hot dogs. The dog thought the boy was stupid for leaving hot dogs unattended in his pockets when he went to sleep. The dirt-nosed boy would wake up and find empty pockets and think he must have done a good job managing and publicizing to have paid himself such a high hot-dog-salary.

The boy would ask the grown-up to make more hot dogs to put in his pockets while he paid himself a bonus in cookies. The dog did not get a bonus. I do all the work around here, the boy told himself. But he did not own the skateboard; he did not own the dog. Little boys that say ‘mine, mine, mine’ do so in the most irresponsible way. All they hear is ‘yours, yours, yours’ and so they horde what they can in their closet. What’s he got in his closet? I don’t even know.

The dog’s yelp scared the big-eared boy and he dropped her. The dirty-nosed boy did not believe they made casts for dogs. The dog was not worthy of a manager or publicist anymore. No more hot dogs either. The little boy kept them in his pocket anyway to make a point. The dog went in circles and in circles on the skateboard and never again down the sidewalk. No one was allowed to come see her and be impressed. A new dog came. One with pretty, clean fur, and that dragged a new skateboard with fancy wheels around because grown-ups had tied it to his neck with string. The boy appointed himself the new dog’s agent and waited for fame again. The old dog went in circles, and the new dog just stood still.

Obligate Carnivore

by my sister

 

Obligate Carnivore

 

Stiff cream

and sugar, stale

wafers with paper

dresses that we rip

 

off. It wants some

too. Deficiency

pushes pelvic

spinal and costal

protrusions. Fractured

whiskers reach

out: dead saplings

in winter. Unnatural

yellow coming

out of green

irises hide in black

fur and skin and retractable

claws.

 

White grains of dry

skin collect on dead

hairs and escape

to the ground. It

eats the abandoned

cone-ends and creamy

insides. Soft-

serve rodent

flesh is

better fuel.

 

It was never someone’s

perky spider

plant; instead

an immature musk

thistle tossed out

with other weed-

whacked victims.

 

It showed up,

frequent as good hair

days, then one

day gone

like a father

leaves

a child. We

tried to rescue

it but the ground

froze. It too

became a two-

scoop snack.

Screenplay Structure

8.  Screenwriter William Goldman, a two-time Academy Award winner, has long preached that “screenplays are structure.” What is he talking about? 

A) If he’s referring to a particular story-telling model, describe that in detail.

B) If there are multiple models, what are the most influential ones and how do they differ?

C) And how has story structure evolved through the centuries?

Use examples from the 2008 Oscar nominees to illustrate your points.

 

When William Goldman says that “screenplays are structure” he is talking about how a story is actually put together.  A story may have excellent dialogue, and loveable characters, but if the structure is not fully developed then you may as well forget it. The structure of any story focuses on how beat by beat and scene by scene it is ultimately laid out.  A story can use any type of story-telling model, but focusing on the structure or the foundation of the story is vital. Goldman believes that screenwriting is a lot like carpentry.  If you put together some wood, nails, and glue to build a bookcase, you better have established a sound foundation.  If not, you have might have created something really beautiful, but it won’t work as a bookcase.  As a screenwriter you must first decide what the proper structure should be for the particular screenplay you are writing. To do this you have to know the spine.

Goldman believes that it is absolutely crucial to know the spine of your story above anything else.  A spine can be rather simple such as “boy meets girl, loses girl, finds her again,” or something much more complex.  That spine is then developed further, taking a broad idea and digging deeper into the story scene by scene. After finding exactly what the spine of your story is, a writer must protect it at all costs.  It is easy to lose focus of what is really important in a story when you’re 80 pages in.  Goldman insists that strictly sticking to the ultimate spine of a story will drive that script to success. Without a well-developed spine, a screenplay is pretty much doomed.

-Contributed by Mackenzie G.-

 

 

 

 

Part B

The most influential story structure models include Aristotle’s Three Acts, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Field’s Paradigm, and Daniels’ Sequence.

 

The basic “Three Act” model of a screenplay starts with establishing the setting and characters (Beginning).  At the end of this first act, the introduction of a problem (or inciting incident) makes the story progress to the rising action (The middle or “Second Act”).  During this part of the story, the protagonist attempts to solve the conflict created by the inciting incident.  The second act ends with a climax in which the tension of the rising action reaches its greatest intensity.  Here, the protagonist either wins or loses against the problems he/she faces.  The third act, or denoumenet, is spent showing what has happened to the characters since the climax and ties up all the story’s remaining loose ends.  Though it is part of a larger trilogy of films, The Bourne Ultimatum follows this basic structure.  The inciting incident in the story is when Jason Bourne finds himself tracked by the CIA again after attempting to gain knowledge of a top-secret operation he was once a part of.  The climax arrives when Bourne confronts the members of the CIA he once served under as part of the operation.  Finally, the denoumenet shows Bourne surviving the encounter and escaping.

 

Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey involves a more complicated story structure.  Studying many ancient myths, Campbell constructed the idea of a universal “monomyth” with several common structural features.  The monomyth starts with a “Call to Adventure” – an event that entices the hero to leave all that is familiar to them.  In the film “Across the Universe,” this happens when Jude leaves for the United States in search of his biological father.  The hero then encounters a “Road of Trials” – a series of challenges to which the hero either defeats or succumbs.  For example, Jude’s relationship with Lucy weakens throughout the story.  He later attempts to save her from policemen at an anti-war protest gone violent only to get arrested and deported back to England – separated from her.  The hero’s victory or failure of navigating the Road of Trials leaves him/her with a “boon” or vital new knowledge about the world, leaving the hero a stronger and wiser person than he/she was before the “Call to Adventure.”  Finally, the hero returns to the life they left behind with this new boon.  The hero then has the chance to apply this new boon to the original world from the beginning of the story.  This happens when Jude legally moves to the States and reconciles with Lucy.

 

The Paradigm – as developed by Syd Field – took Aristotle’s Three Acts and divided the middle into two sub-acts – Act 2a and Act 2b.  In addition, it introduced the concept of plot points – important moments that occur around the same time in almost all good screenplays.  These include the opening image at the start of the screenplay (an image believed to sum up the film in one shot) and “pinches” (Scenes occurring halfway through Acts 2a and 2b designed to remind the viewer of the story’s main conflicts).  No Country for Old Men has a great opening image of the desert in Texas, setting the grim, desolate, isolated tone that the story takes.  Two “pinches” that occur in Act 2a and Act 2b also remind us that the hero – Llewelyn Moss – is constantly being pursued by the ruthless antagonist – Anton Chigurh.  The first “pinch” occurs when Chigurh nearly catches up to Moss at a motel.  The second “pinch” comes when Chigurh attempts to call Carson Wells only to find Chigurh on the other end of the line, threatening the life of his wife.

 

Frank Daniel’s Sequence Structure is based off of early film reels only having 10 minutes of film on them.  This limiting factor influenced a style of screenplay structure that still holds up to this very day.  Each 10 minute “sequence” of film was effectively a miniature version of a movie with its own three act structure.  Sequences 1-2 can then come together to form the film’s overaching beginning, 3-6 become the middle, and 7-8 are the end.  In the film adaption of Sweeney Todd, one of the two sequences at the start of the film tells its own self-contained story.  A corrupt judge lusts after Todd’s wife, trumps up false charges against him, rapes his wife, then “adopts” the child.  Though a tragic story, it has its own beginning, middle, and end.

-Contributed by Nick R.-

Part C

 Philosopher Aristotle had his own views on story-telling and story structure, which he exercised in his poems.  He believed that stories should explore choices and moral decisions.  “The development of a fable should arise out of the fable itself, and not depend on machinery.”  He believed that characters are not as important as the story.  One thing that he did think about the protagonist is that he should be flawed.  “In a proper tragedy, the protagonist recognizes that his own error has caused his downfall.”  He was big on writing the plot believing that that characters follow the actions.

                Lagos Egri( 1888-1967), author of “The Art of Dramatic Writing”,  had a different perspective.  He preached that characters were the driving force behind a good story.   He believed that stories were based on human psychology.  “You must have a premise- a premise that which will lead you unmistakably to the goal your play hopes to reach…The premise should be a conviction of your own, so that you may prove it wholeheartedly.”  He thought it was important to focus on character transitions.: define goals, values, and a plan.  Egri believed that actions followed character decisions.

                These two had differing views and Hollywood has seen both.  The only similarity was that the story always had a three-act structure: 1st Act , 2nd, and 3rd Act which were previously described.  Early films were were silent.  The audience did not get a chance to learn the characters on a deep level.  As a result the stories were centered on the plot and actions.  The story structure was very basic.  Once the “silents” became the “talkies”,  plots could no longer be simplistic.  Actors had to talk, which meant that the characters needed to appeal to the audience.   Authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and John Steinbeck were drafted by the studios to write screenplays.    In most novels, the reader gets connected to the book characters and studio execs knew that these authors could translate that to the screen.  This was the beginning of character driven plots. 

                For the most part, story structure in Hollywood has remained faithful to the 3-Act structure.  However, there are small differences  in the story nowadays.  Loglines for story’s are not even the same.  Most stories have a one-sentence logline, which tells what the story is about.  However, in 1937, screenwriter Francis Marion was quoted, “If you cannot state the gist of a play in three lines, it lacks backbone.”  Nowadays three lines is considered to be too long.

                Plots and characters are no longer simplistic.  The characters and the plots are now much more dynamic and interesting than those in earlier days.  There is still some debate over if plot-driven is better than character driven.  For the most part, current screenwriters use both the plot and the characters to drive the story.

-Contributed by Ashleigh-

Irish Famine story–2002

                                                The Blight                                          

 

Arriving in Liverpool in December of 1850, I realized that an objective account of a few Irish emigrants would be impossible, so affected was I by the suffering I saw there.  Nevertheless, a weepy emotional account of the situation there would be of no use to anyone due the already widespread accounts of suffering.  It would be more advantageous to examine the causes of this mass exodus by having a few of the famished recount the path that led them to the docks of Liverpool.  Setting foot on the docks proved to be fruitless in my endeavor because the urgency of the people’s situation was such that conversation was nearly impossible.  When the ship sailed, however, I saw that a few of the people I had previously seen clamoring for a berth remained on land and so I simply captured their attention with an offer of supper. The following accounts show how all levels of society were enormously affected by the famine and the English reaction.

            The first person to relate their story (through my interpreter) was a young woman whose appearance did not have the vestiges of starvation.  It was soon revealed that Siobhan Lawler was a descendant of the middlemen tenants who had previously gone between the landowners and farmers.  One could infer that the young lady’s ancestors once owned their own land in Ireland. Her grandfather was reduced to a tenant farmer around 1817 and was active in the secret agrarian societies thereafter.[1] It was her family’s membership in these societies that instilled a strong anti-English sentiment in Siobhan. 

Siobhan was raised in Westport where her family was relatively well off relative to the majority of Irish society.  In addition to growing potatoes, they raised pigs and sheep and were also involved in the linen trade before the demand for Irish cloth disappeared.[2] Though usually reliant on the potato for daily nourishment, the Lawlers were not hit as hard as most when the first potato crop failed.  Pre famine, the family Lawler had opposed the poor law, citing the conditions of the workhouses as inhumane.  When the famine began to take its toll, however, all efforts were directed towards survival.  This is a common tale among the survivors because when hunger reaches certain intensity, it dominates all other thoughts, save death.  There is generally no will to protest in the face of nature and the most common result is a strong anger towards those who will not help, the English.  A strong undercurrent to Siobhan’s account is a tradition of blaming the English for the Irish plight. 

            The third time the “blight” or decaying smell rose from the ground, Siobhan lost her faith in God to save her and the people she knew.  As more and more neighbors fled to workhouses or for parts unknown, the family had to choose between staying put and hoping for some charitable relief effort to come about before being forced off the land or take a chance on a new location.  Not believing anyone would save them it was decided that two of Siobhan’s brothers would travel to New York and eventually the rest of the family would follow.  This brings to mind the when I first saw Siobhan, kissing her brother as he boarded the ship on the Liverpool dock.  An intelligent girl, Siobhan should get along in England until she can join her brothers in the new world.  Siobhan’s tale in not a common one because the vast majority of rural Irish farmers were not nearly well off enough to survive the famine so unscathed.  Nonetheless, although Siobhan is closemouthed about the death she was undoubtedly witnessed to, one only has to look in her eyes to see that she has suffered greatly along with the rest of the country.

            The other account I shall relate is that of James Conley, a man whose experience of the famine is as disturbing as it is miraculous.  The story does by no means have an optimistic tone to it but his ordeal has convinced him that even the English are powerless to halt the famine. This is not to say James holds the English unaccountable, simply that the magnitude of the disaster precludes salvation by legislation or even direct charity.  This is in contrast to Siobhan who strongly disapproved of English practices in general.  He is the only surviving member of his family and has robbed an Englishman in order to book passage to America.  His appearance is one of a sick man and is unsettling at times to look at, the image of a corpse telling the story of his death.

James was born in county Cork where his family of Mother, Father, three sisters and two brothers, along with a few chickens, lived in a hut on the land where they grew potatoes and some grain. The family’s daily nourishment consisted of little more than

Milk and potatoes and while this diet does provide adequate sustenance, there were no consistent alternatives to this diet available. [3]  When the first crop failed, the Conley family tried to save some of the grain for their own consumption but their actions were discovered and they were kicked off the land.  For the large number of people in similar situations the most hopeful course of action would be to find sanctuary in a workhouse.  Given the general conditions of these workhouses, sanctuary would hardly be a fitting description but the feeling was that it might be better than starving by the side of the road.  When in 1846 the public works were shut down, James left the workhouse after having witnessed the death of his parents and two sisters.  James and the remaining survivors of the workhouse actually found some luck in the form of Quakers.  The Quakers had organized charitable effort that in the county Cork took the form of soup kitchens.[4]  If not for these soup kitchens James would have most likely died because after being released from the workhouse, he contracted yellow fever.  At a time and place where starvation and malnutrition were rampant, a disease like this should have been a death sentence.  He describes how people fled from him and refused to aid him in any attempt at recovery. Fortunately, a priest he had known from childhood agreed to bring him soup while he was still alive.  After his recovery, James was unable to find his remaining siblings and decided based on rumors that moving northeast would yield a better chance for work.[5]  Finding no more legitimate work than in Cork, James joined a gang of thieves who robbed food caravans and farms.  His gang was encouraged to join the Irish confederation fighting the English laws but few joined, hunger being more important than political aims for most peasants.[6]  With growing English reports of food theft and resulting English police presence, James left the gang and was able to survive on turnips stolen from the local farmers still able to plant.  After nearly being killed by angry landowners, he returned to a workhouse in 1850.  Being relatively more fit than most others in the workhouse, he is able to survive and amazingly find his way to the east coast of Ireland.  Stowing away on a ship bound for Liverpool, James arrived a whisper away from death.

            Siobhan and James both tell their stories in what can only be described as shell shock or “post-traumatic stress” despite the differences in their stories.  The important difference between them is their attitudes about what caused the famine.  Siobhan maintains that the situation is the fault of the English who created an oppressive system and then did not take responsibility when that system was damaged.  James, perhaps influenced by the English Quakers, rests most of the blame on God’s shoulders though recognizing insufficient aid on the part of the British.   Despite their different beliefs about the causes of the famine and the comparative harshness of their tales, neither seems able to distance themselves from the disaster.

 


[1] Grey, Peter. The Irish Famine. P.25

[2] Grey p.133

[3] Grey p.130

[4] Grey p.54

[5] Grey p.94

[6] Grey p.75

Silent Hostility

I walked into the house and found an unusual and disquieting silence. There should have been any number of sounds in a house that was supposedly full of people. The courtyard was empty and so was the kitchen. I walked around the house before depositing my belonging in the room and the house was also unusually clean. I walked out unto the back porch and the salty wind was bending the trees back and forth. My uncle was sitting in a single chair a few paces to my left and my father was sitting in a single chair about twenty feet to my right. Considering that the entire porch, at least the part facing the ocean is at least fifty feet long, the placement of the two brothers spoke to some problem. Both adults said hello and welcome and then quickly resumed ignoring each other. It is generally considered bad taste in my family for there to be an open conflict so while I knew there was a serious conflict there; I didn’t have the slightest clue as to its origin.
Feeling very uneasy, I wandered around in search of family who were talking to each other. I found a few cousins at the beach where they were playing soccer and drinking Harpoon beer. When I asked them what the problem was at the big house, they said they didn’t know exactly except that it involved most of the adults in the house. We all sat on the beach for a while until the mosquitoes began to torture us. We decided to go hang out on my uncle’s boat because pretty much anything seemed better than returning to the house with all its silent hostility
Eventually we get a call from my dad asking where we all are and that he is going out for dinner while his brother is cooking something. I managed to ovoid the issue by saying that I already ate and my cousins did the same. Unfortunately for us, none of this was true so we became really hungry as time went on. We were fortunate enough to find some cheese and a few bottles of wine on the boat so that became dinner and everyone was very happy to avoid whatever was going on with the older generation. After all the wine was gone and the waves became rougher, everyone started to feel a little seasick so we rowed back to shore, narrowly missing a large rock as we had forgotten to bring a flashlight.
When we got back to the house the situation was almost exactly like it was that afternoon, except the two brothers were on opposite sides of the house. My cousins and I again took the middle ground by hanging out in the kitchen where we also had access to leftovers. We all avoided whatever the issue was for fear of having to take sides and to this day I have no idea what the fight was about.