The Semester Is Over; Let’s Get Packing.

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My family will be in my backpack.

 

In my journey through life, my family will be in my backpack.  Without my family, the journey would be difficult, if not impossible.    I started keeping a journal when our middle child, Shelby passed away some years ago due to flu-like symptoms.  Along with my journal, I will pack the tools that I learned this year in ENGL 2000 such as developing good topic sentences, avoiding sentence fragments and using correct comma placements.  These tools will help me convey my thoughts.  One day I plan to publish my journal, but right now the journal is for me.  I am not yet ready for the world to enter my thoughts as a grieving father.  One day I will be ready and I hope my journal may help another parent cope with the loss of a child and to understand that they are not alone in having lost a child during their life’s journey.  I will also carry with me the BIBLE, for without God’s help and guidance, the journey would certainly empty and unsatisfying.  Lastly, I will pack a radio to listen to LSU football, as I am a huge fan.  I have already traveled a long road, in having raised two boys with my loving wife of 28 years.  Kenny and Timmy are men now, with life stories of their own, and I hope to see their journey prosper as my journey continues onward.

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Get Hard–Get a Gang

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Prison Gang in “Austin Powers”

When making the movie GET HARD, Will Ferrell probably didn’t expect his movie to be the backdrop for an English essay paper.  Most of Ferrell’s movies are gritty and raunchy, with a lot of off-color comedy.  His movies are made generally for entertainment purposes only and are certainly not meant for Academy Award consideration.  However, this movie emphasizes a national problem of the US prison systems.  Specifically, the power that gangs garnished over the years.  The movie centers on Ferrell, who is set up by his rich and powerful father-in-law and sentenced to jail for fraud and money laundering.  Ferrell believes that prisons are full of gangs, violence, and sexual assault, so he enlists Kevin Hart to teach him how to survive in prison.  And there it is.  Why is it that when the word “prison” is mentioned, images of violence, sexual assault and gangs comes to most people’s minds?  Does the US prison system actually allow a system of gangs to intimidate and assault other prisoners?

In GET HARD, Kevin Hart has Ferrell wear clothes similar to what is worn in San Quentin State Prison during his “training” because that is where Ferrell will be serving his time. Kevin instructs Ferrell that the first thing he needs to do when he gets to prison is to associate himself with a gang and then modify his prison clothes to indicate what gang he belongs to. This is a perfect portrayal of what goes on in prisons across the US.  Graeme Wood is a contributor to “The Atlantic,” a political and social magazine and works as a lecturer in Political Science at Yale University.  Wood writes that there are six major gangs in California: Nuestra Familia, the Mexican Mafia, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Black Guerrilla Family, the Northern Structure, and the Nazi Low riders (48).  Black and white striped clothes were the normal prison attire until the 1950’s, when denim work clothes were incorporated to allow the inmates to feel like a part of society. THOMAS VINCIGUERRA, the founding editor of “The Week” magazine states that wearing striped clothes was like wearing a badge of disgrace (A1).   Changing what clothes they inmates wore because of how they felt psychologically is what paved the way for gang intrusions into the United States prison system.  These inmates are housed according to what gang they are affiliated with.   Wood says that most prisoners have their gang’s symbols tattooed somewhere on their bodies and wear their prison clothes a certain way (48). Both the prison management and the gang leaders understand that having people of different gangs so close in vicinity of each other is like carrying a powder keg around you all the time.   Gang leaders will reprimand one of their own members if that member unnecessarily causes trouble, such as talking at night when the lights are out. This is to minimize the chances of a riot.

 

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Two Men with One Voice, One Goal

 

Two men from different backgrounds speak the same voice.

 

David Henry Thoreau and Martin Luther King Jr. lived in different time periods in American history, but they each proclaimed the same message– human beings should live in a manner they think is right.  In his  “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King makes it a point to show the clergy (his audience), that he is not an outsider that has come to stir up trouble, but a man of spiritual virtues who simply wants unity.  The words he uses are cordial and restrained.  On the other hand, Thoreau’s remarks are blunt and to the point in his essay entitled “Civil Disobedience.” Thoreau emphatically argues that he does not like the government getting involved too much in the affairs of individuals.     The message of individual freedom these men profess may be the same, but each man offers different outside authorities to make their arguments substantiative.  King’s citations of biblical stories excites passion in people and proves somewhat more effective than Thoreau’s use of military figures and Shakespearean characters.

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The “Left” Takes the “Vertical” Down

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In comparing Harry Golden’s “The Vertical Negro Plan,” and Roger Guffey’s “Left Handers,” my humble opinion is that Mr. Guffey offers the more effective ethical appeal.  While there is no doubt that both authors are passionate about their respective subject matter, I must admit that Mr. Golden’s contribution did not appeal to me.  The reason  is solely due to its dated references and terminology.  Having being written in 1958, I felt a disconnect between the meaning of some of the phrases Mr. Golden chose to use in his satire piece on the treatment of black people and the context in which they were presented.  As an example, the use of the phrase “vertical segregation” itself.  In getting a better understanding of its meaning, I looked up the meaning of this phrase and found that most of the references describe the treatment of women in the workplace–whether they were black or white.  Another example was the  phrase “in like Flynn.”  Today it references sexual seduction and the sexual exploits of Errol Flynn.    I’m sure in Mr. Golden’s era, the meaning of these terms and phrases were widely known and readily understood with little effort, but today these phrases have taken on different meanings and contexts and makes an otherwise tremendous writing attempt hard to understand.

Mr. Guffey, on the the other hand does a better job in his satirical appeal about the US Supreme Court’s ruling concerning certain sexual acts.  While he calls their decision “admirable” and “encourages” the court to keep doing good work–by going after and persecuting left-handed people, the rest of his appeal is a witty, satirical diatribe, and he refrains from using demoralizing or inflammatory statements.  I found that although Mr. Guffey’s satirical appeal was not intended to offer praise to the court, his writing flowed much better, allowing the reader to concentrate on the content rather than trying to figure out what the author was trying to say as pointed out in Mr. Golden’s writing.

 

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Will Ferrell Unintentionally Makes Us Think

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Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart inadvertently bring problems associated with the US prison system to the spotlight in their movie, GET HARD.

When making the movie GET HARD, Will Ferrell probably didn’t expect his movie to be the backdrop for an English essay paper.  Most of Ferrell’s movies are gritty and raunchy with a lot of off-color comedy and made for entertainment purposes only and certainly not meant for Academy Award consideration.  However, this movie brings to light a national problem–the plight of the United States prison systems.  The movie centers on Ferrell, who is set up by his rich and powerful father-in-law and sentenced to jail for fraud and money laundering.  Ferrell knows that the inside of prisons are full of hierarchies, violence, and sexual assault, so he enlists Kevin Hart to teach him how to survive in prison.  And there it is.  What many people would consider to be a fun topic for Ferrell to exploit, lies a troublesome fact that is associated with the prison systems in the United States; the most powerful nation on earth.  Why is it that when the word prison is mentioned, images of violence, sexual assault and never being able to get a decent job come to mind?  Is there any way that individuals serving time in prison can close their eyes at night and not have to worry about sexual assault, bodily injury or even death?

Reports from 2014 put the number of people serving time in the US prison system at 2,220,000 people.  Are you kidding me?  This number is astronomical.  Put it this way: it is the populations of Rhode Island, Wyoming and Alaska combined!  The sad thing is that this number will roughly remain the same due to the fact that new prisons just aren’t being built.  Instead, people who are serving time for Schedule I and II narcotics and simple robbery are having their sentences cut to make room for more hard-line offenders.  It fascinates me why there are so many people lined up going to jail.  Jail should be a place that people try to stay away from.

It is my understanding from reading and watching the news, that our jails are overcrowded and many of the inmates are return offenders.  I fail to understand why people who serve time in jail and get out, commit the same crimes again and have no problem returning to jail.  Prisons are supposed to be punishment for people who commit crimes.  Many times when reports from prisons come on the news, we see cable TV, clean clothes, air conditioning, ping pong tables and exercise equipment.  If it weren’t for the bars on the cells, some prisons could pass for low-end motels.  Prisoners have built their own little world around them and have effectively built a hierarchy of leadership and gang memberships that extends beyond the boundaries of prisons.  They form alliances that actually extend out of the prison and into neighborhoods.  Why is this allowed to happen?

I want to learn how hard or soft prisoners have it.  I want to research why prisons did away  with black and white stripe clothes, work details and chain gangs and substituted them for regular clothes, TV lounge areas and gang bangs.  I want to learn why our tax dollars are going to a system that fails to deter people from repeating crimes and cannot protect its prisoners from violent assaults.  I want to learn of any ideas that could improve our prison systems and get 2.2 million people out of jail and into the work force, paying taxes instead of taxes paying for them.

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“A” IS FOR “ABSENT”, by Chris Piper

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South Park’s Mr. Mackey

Chris Piper is a college student and wrote an essay entitled, “‘A’ IS FOR ‘ABSENT.'”  His essay is about how college students should be able to skip class and not be penalized for it.  How absurd.   Attending, participating in classroom discussions, or even just listening to questions asked by other classmates heightens the student’s understanding of the topic at hand.  Classroom discussions and interaction among the professor and the students is what separates a four-year university from an online college course.  Getting different perspectives on a topic enhances a student’s overall learning experience.

In his essay “A” IS FOR “ABSENT”, Chris talks of his disappointment of getting a “C” in a class, due to his class absenteeism record despite his success on all the projects he had turned in.  One of his arguments states that since students pay colleges for their services, they should be able to attend class or skip class as they see fit.  He also goes on to say that he believes some instructors “adopt attendance policies to ensure a crowd is present to hear what the instructor has to say.”

The author does not agree with some professors whose position is that if school were a job and you failed to show up, you would be fired.  I disagree with the author about school not being a “job”.  At a job, people earn money, while people in school earn grades.  Whether it is a job or school, you are still given something in return for your effort.  For many students, college is the first time to be away from home.  While at home, students are mostly awakened by a family member in order to get to school on time.  However, at college it is the student’s responsibility to get to school on time.  This is indeed a test for college students.  If you cannot get out of bed on your own in order to get to class on time, you are not going to be able to get out of bed on your own in order to get to work on time.

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Argument Style

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7lbs 12oz Lake Concordia. Ferriday, Louisiana 4/28/16.

I seldom get into arguments.  I would rather have a discussion about a certain topic.  However, this past presidential election, I found myself making arguments with my dad and father-in-law.  These are two people I admire greatly, but their logic did not match what I was reading and seeing on the news.  We never had a heated argument during the whole election process, but we (or at least I) would bring up certain points and then back up those points with facts.  I tried (but failed) to show them facts and to get them to change their minds about their candidate.

What I just described is my typical argument.  I try to find facts to support my thinking and try to present facts that negate someone else’s thought process.

My mother always told me even at a young age, that I could argue the horns off of a billy goat.  I never knew what that truly meant, but I believe she was trying to say that I loved to engage in conversation by picking a side and holding on to that side with supportive context until the other side got tired of talking to me.  My argumentative side has developed from reading and from life experiences in general.

I never engage in an argument unless I am very confident of my information.  I do not argue just to argue.  If there was one thing I could change about the way I engage in an argument is to be able to recite exact quotes or better recall where I found the information supporting my argument faster.  Many times when a person makes an argument and then stalls when asked to show information to back up that argument, that person doesn’t seem as credible in the eyes of others.

As far as flexibility when engaged in an argument, I can become better by LISTENING to the other point of view.  LISTENING is NOT the same thing as waiting to say something.  When you truly listen to someone, a couple of things can happen.  For instance, you can find flaws in their argument and you can further strengthen your position by bringing the flaws to their attention.  Secondly and most surprisingly, you may find that your argument is flawed and they indeed may be correct.  Then it’s just a matter of which technique you use to take your foot out of your mouth.

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