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Review & Analysis of “Into the Wild”

December 13, 2007 Leave a comment

I. Preview

            I first came across the story of Christopher McCandless when I was required to read Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into the Wild, for my English class at UC Riverside.   I found the novel intriguing and even put it in the category of one of my favorite books, so when I heard that Sean Penn was making the book into a movie, I could not wait to see it.  I found the story and journey of Christopher McCandless to be interesting and a bit crazy, which may have made it so interesting.  The fact that it was a true story also made it all the more intriguing.  It is amazing how someone can disconnect themselves from their everyday life, which did not seem to be a bad life from the outside, and go into, well, the wild.  And the relationships he created along his journey with others were intriguing as well, and how he affected their lives.  It seemed as though Christopher was trying to truly find himself, or thinking he already knew who he was, discovering and exploring that part of himself.  I believe that is a huge part of what this story is about.  But, I also believe it is about human relationships or the lack there of and how one person can affect so many.


II. Content Description

            “Into the Wild” takes place in the early 1990’s, where Christopher McCandless grew up in Washington D.C. suburbs and graduated from Emory University of Atlanta, Georgia.  He had a wealthy family and had quite a bit of money himself but that did not seem important to Chris at all.  He was an intelligent guy and was at the top of his class.  He eventually stopped communicating with his family, moved out of his apartment, and up and gave away twenty four thousand dollars to an organization, OXFAM, and becomes homeless. 

His father, Samuel Walter McCandless, Jr., or Walt, is a wealthy man who works for NASA and Hughes aircraft.  He is first married to a lady named Marcia whom he had five other children with before having Chris and Carine, Chris’ sister, with their mother Billie.  Jon Krakuaer’s idea of, author of Into the Wild, and the way Sean Penn portrays Walt in the film is that Walt is the root to the reason that Chris ran off and left everything behind.  He had learned that his father had been married still to Marcia while beginning a family with Billie and Walt had always pushed Chris to perfection like a father who pushes their son in a sport they do not want to be in.  His mother was also a push that leads him to run away.  Chris held her responsible with what his father did and was a cause of his rejection to society.  Chris found his chance to escape this all by leaving everything behind and running into the wild.  However, despite his despise for his parents, Chris was very close with his sister Carine.  He talks to her a lot and shares his feelings with her, so it is no surprise to her that Chris would up and leave like that, but it is a surprise that he would stop talking to even her.  She becomes a voice throughout the movie commenting here and there on Chris’ character, his actions, and his relationship with the family. 

Taking only his car and some cash, and picking up the name of Alexander Supertramp, Alex travels across the country, picking up small jobs here and there to earn money as he goes along.  One day his car is wiped out by mud in a flash flood.  He leaves the car behind, burns his remaining money and hitch hikes his way around.  He comes across some people in the movie with whom he does not intend on developing relationships with by touches their lives none the less.  Hitch hiking, he comes across a couple, very much hippies, Jan Burres and her boyfriend.  Alex actually stays with them for awhile and comes across them more than once in the film.  They take Alex under their wing and Jan treats Alex as her own son which she had lost.  Her nurturing way shows her belonging needs and need to fulfill an empty spot in her life.  She encourages Alex to live free of society but also advises him to be careful.  During his stay with Jan and her boyfriend, Alex meets a young girl, Tracy, who takes a liking to Alex.  They spend a lot of time together and although she may seem to be fulfilling the love need of Alex, in the end he objects it as she ends up only being sixteen.  Alex also comes across an old widower who at first seems stand-offish but warms up to Alex and is so touched by him considers him like a son and even asks Alex if he can adopt him when he gets back from Alaska.  This man, Ronald Franz, had been a lonely man since his wife died, and Alex fulfilled that belonging need that Ronald had needed.  Alex sees that if he does not change he will become old and lonely like him.  He tries to offer advice to Alex and gives him some items to help aid him on his adventure.

Alex finds his way over to Carthage, South Dakota, where he ends up working for Wayne Westerberg.  Wayne becomes a good friend of Alex’s, and he stays with Wayne for awhile.  He writes him while on his journey.  He shows Alex how a middle class man is in comparison to a materialistic man such as his father.  McCandless finally makes it to Alaska, where he travels across stream and comes across an old bus in the middle of the wilderness.  The bus is set up there for hunters that travel out during hunting season and serves as a rest spot. It has a bed and a stove, perfect camp for Supertramp.  He lives off of a bag of rice, hunts, and gathers, surviving in the wild. He eventually decides to return to society but as the winter had past, the ice had melted and the stream is now a wider river; not to mention Alex is afraid of water.  He is forced to return back to the bus.  He eventually runs out of rice, and can not find anything to hunt.  He begins to gather plants, and thinking that he has gathered a potato plant, finds himself quite ill and discovers in a plant book he has that he actually consumed a sweet pea plant which is highly poisonous.  This ultimately leads to Alex’s death. 


III. Review

            Christopher McCandless, a.k.a Alexander Supertramp, is not only the main character in this film but a key figure of human communication.  Although he tries to isolate himself from society, the events that lead to it were a part of his communication responses.  The people he meets along the way to the wild show different aspects of communication, and even in the end his belonging needs are shown.

            The affect that Christopher’s relationship with his parents had on him lead to a rebellion from the lifestyle he was living.  The interpersonal relationship with his parents was a front as he bottled up what he was really longing for.  His parents had created a meaning of life for Chris transactional by trying to teach him that perfection, success, and money were important parts to it.   He had longed for a life free of society, and was obviously not materialistic like his parents, being able to give his life savings of twenty four thousand dollars and all.  He finds the need to not only completely kill all ties to his life but to change his name along with his lifestyle, to Alexander Supertramp. 

            Alex fits perfectly with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, fulfilling every level in one way or another.  Although he leaves his car behind and burns his money, Alex still works here and there so that he can survive and eat.  He also makes sure he goes into the wild in Alaska with enough food and water to last him for the length of time he plans to live out there.  This fits the first level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as the physiological needs level.  Along the way he finds shelter here and there, and stays with the people he meets along the way for short periods of time.  When he makes his way into the wild he finds an old abandoned bus which conveniently has a bed and stove.  He sets up this as his place to stay in the wild, thus fulfilling the second level of safety and security. 

            Although Alex tries to detach himself from society, he still develops relationships with people he encounters on his journey.  When he comes across Jan Burres, he develops a mother-son relationship with her, perhaps filling in the spot of his own mother whom he was trying to escape. Similarly, Ronald Franz tried taking over as a father figure, but Alex found more of a father figure in Wayne Westerberg.  Tracy, the young sixteen year old, guitar playing girl, was sort of a love figure for Alex, even though he ended up rejecting the chance as she was too young for him, but every story has to have a love story somewhere.  When Alex traveled into the wilderness he later had decided to finally return to society. It goes to show that everyone needs to belong and have some sort of social connection eventually, that they can not completely disconnect themselves forever. This meets the third level which is love and social belonging needs. 

            The next level, self-esteem, is trying to figure out who we are.  Alexander Supertramp began as Christopher McCandless, who although always knew who he wanted to be, was lead to live a life of belief that success and money were who he was supposed to be.  He was well educated and knew this.  But at the same time he was not materialistic.  When he parents had offered to buy him a new car and to get rid of his piece of junk Nisan, he refused the offer, saying that it was just an object and he was fine with it.  Furthermore though he thought going on this adventure would help him become someone he thought he wanted to be. 

            Alex achieved self-actualization in an odd way.  Some would say that he did not perceive reality more efficiently than others, but some would say that he did.  This is one of the debates that lured over the story of Chris McCandless.  He saw that life was so much more than materialistic things and money.  He was very spontaneous in thought and behavior; the act of up and leaving everything behind and journeying to Alaska were spontaneous to say the least. 

            Alex displayed haptics of friendship towards most people he met.  He was very warm to most of them and gave hugs when he departed from them.  Most of his proxemics was of personal space, the 18 inch distance, with which specific interactions between McCandless and others had with one another.  Most of the time he was around people it was either in a vehicle or somewhere where they had to be close to each other, which perhaps caused for the close relationships that formed between Alex and the people he met.  As for his vocal dynamics, Alex spoke like he was well educated; very grown up and mature for the most part.

            Perhaps one could say that Christopher McCandless survived on his own throughout his journey, but up until he reached the wilderness, I do not think he would have survived with the communication and interaction he had with the key figures throughout the film.  Although they came in and out of his life, they helped get him through the detachment from society that he perhaps had not really escaped, but was able to find it on a more personal intimate level with people. 


IV. Recommendation

            Into the Wild was a very well put together novel and film, which Sean Penn did an excellent job of matching to the novel.  The character of Alexander Supertramp, who he became after he left Atlanta, Georgia, was captured and interpreted very well.  The dynamics and behavior of humans was not well interpreted, but presented, as this was a true story.  The events and relationships that were present before McCandless left everything was important in leading up to his decision to detach himself from society, and it is very relatable to many.  Everyday someone has to deal with the pressures of school, work, parents, and life in general.  Some just choose to deal with it differently.  Perhaps Chris just did what most people wish they could do: just up and leave everything and start over.  Although Alexander Supertramp had tried to detach himself from society, he just got to know it on a more personal level.  He may have been trying to survive on his own, but without the interactions he had had with all the key figures he came across in his journey, Alex would not have truly survived.  It was when he was in the wild, although he felt free, he was slowly dying.  He even reached the decision eventually to return to society, showing how every human needs to fulfill that third level of belonging.  Human behavior and the value of which it can have can be seen throughout the film.  The story of Christopher McCandless can teach us as humans to not take certain things or people for granted, and that leading lives of who we are not could lead to our own destruction.  But more importantly the story shows us how the communication or miscommunication between people is a significant part of our lives and how we do what we choose to do.


V. Bibliography

            Into the Wild.  Dir. Sean Penn.  With Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt,
                            Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, and Kristen Stewart, 2007.


            Krakauer, Jon.  Into the Wild.  New York: Anchor Books, 1996.


Literature and the Connection to Our Lives

August 21, 2007 1 comment

Original post: August 21st, 2007

“Where does a story truly begin? In life, there are seldom clear-cut beginnings, those moments when we can, in looking back, say that everything started. Yet there are moments when fate intersects with our daily lives, setting in motion a sequence of events whose outcome we could never have forseen.”

“There are those, I know, who scoff at the idea that real love can exist at such a young age.”

-A Bend in the Road, Nicholas Sparks

Sometimes you can find mind-opening, thought-provoking passages in a good book. Sometimes even in bad ones. Whether by good authors, or by those whose one line in a book put them down in literature history, and whether we all have thought these things, and these ideas have crossed our own minds, sometimes it takes the words of someone else to make us realize it, and put the connection together. Is that not also the reason why we ask others for advice? Is asking for advice sometimes to hear the answer we already know, but we ask anyways because sometimes it takes the words of others for us to truly put two-n-two together? An unknown author put it in these words: “Advice is what we ask for whenwe already know the answer but wish we didn’t.”

“Is it possible, I wonder, for a man to truly change? Or do character and habit form the immovable boundaries of our lives?”
-The Wedding, Nicholas Sparks

In the words of another unknown author, the appreciation for literature can be shown again:
“Books are a separate world from reality that you can use to escape from something for a moment or even a couple of hours. Use your imagination and become a part of your favorite characters’ world. Whether you sail on a raft with Tom Sawyer and Huck FInn or search for treasure with Black Beard, there’s always something for you to do. There’s a separate world for every book written, escape into one. It’s a great experience.”

I really have come to appreciate literature, especially since I first took Mr. Phillips’ (aka Master T. Phillips, or Captain Phillips) language arts class in high school. Often I wonder if this is what I should have majored in instead. I guess upon reading more, I got back into the appreciation of literature. Coming back across those lines and stories in books that have gotten me through life, much like music can do when you’re sad or upset, and the music helps set your mood right.

“People come, people go- they’ll drift in and out of your life, alomst like characters in a favorite book when you finally close the cover, the characters have told their story and you start up again with another book, complete with new characters and adventures. Then you find yourself focusing on the new ones, not the ones from the past.”
-The Rescue, Nicholas Sparks

I’ve always liked this quote. I’ve had many chapters to my life. Many books. With each one, the cover was closed, and new books were open, and there were new characters to focus on.

And what about the wise words that can come from those that you know. They may not be profound authors but in the world we live in together, in their own form of interpretation, whether through a xanga or whatnot, they are authors too.

“Thoughts and emotions come and go unexpectedly…You can never fully know how you’ll feel the next day…things happen, you react, and face whatever consequences you create…You make certain committments or predictions, but how can you really know, when everything around you is bent to change. Nothing is certain. You can never be sentanced to a certain fate. Everything and anything can be changed. Some things that you wish would never change inevitably do. It’s not so much that it’s a bad thing…but sometimes it’s still hard to let go of what once was…we take comfort in that of which we’re familiar with.”
-D. Nugyen.

I could easily connect those words to my own life, as anyone could if they thought about it, however, it’s funny, each time I can it’s been a different situation. That’s another thing. Of all these quotes and words, out of all the words in the world, everybody can interpret them to their own life, and the interpretation can be outrageously different than the way the person next to them interpret it.

Life is a funny thing. And the events that take place in it can be indescribable. Taking time to appreciate the little things can really pay off.

The Better Script, the Better Life: Adaptation

November 22, 2006 Leave a comment

The Better Script, the Better Life: Adaptation

            Life as art, can be viewed as life as a story, or a narrative. The movie Adaptation (directed by Spike Jonze, and screenplay written by Charlie and Donald Kaufman) is a meta-narrative, a sort of “copy and paste” story, where we as the audience have to piece it all together, as there is constantly flashbacks, and returns to the present.  Julia Annas, in her book, The Morality of Happiness, describes “the process of making sense of one’s life…involves reflecting on one’s life story…you need to know if it is coherent – if it makes a story or if it is just random events.”  Adaptation shows life as art through the process of finding it, in this case by composing a script, and agrees with Wayne Booth’s principles that life is a narrative and that some are morally better than others.

            The movie begins with the main character, Charlie Kaufman, asking those common questions that every philosophy class analyzes: “What am I doing here? Why do I even bother to come here today?  Nobody even seems to know my name.  I’ve been on this planet for 40 years, and I’m no closer to understanding a single thing.  Why am I here?  How’d I get here?”  One’s life is like a narrative, and in order to answer these questions one must look back on one’s life to figure them out.  For Charlie Kaufman the answers do not come until the end of the movie.  Self analyzing himself, Charlie clearly does not like who he is, is not self-confident, and is very self-conscious.  He is a tall, pale, balding man, and as a screen writer; his next task is to write a script about orchids, but he is suffering from writer’s block.  Charlie has a twin brother, Donald.  Donald is spunky, talkative, happy, most confident, and has no problem whipping out an action script; quite the opposite of Charlie.  The character of Donald seems to be a sort of counter-character to that of Charlie’s – there to fill in all the personality he does not have.  What Charlie will not recognize until later in the movie, is that Donald will be the answer to his awakening on his own life.  At this point, Charlie’s life seems to have no meaning and no order.

            Then there is the New York Times journalist, Susan Orlean.  The script that Charlie is writing is based on the book she wrote about “the ghost orchid,” and John Laroche.  Her story helps Charlie in the development of his own.  In interviewing John Laroche, Susan says that she wants to see the ghost orchid herself.  Her reasoning for this is that she just wants to see this thing that people are drawn to, if it does indeed exist.  This fits along the lines of understanding theism, or more specifically, God, when you do not understand it yet.  People need to see to believe, even if so many are drawn to something, such as God or religion, if you have never experienced it before, you may need to see it to understand it.  Susan says that plants have no memory, and that for people, adapting is almost shameful, like running away.   This could be said for not only herself, but Charlie as well.  Susan starts to adapt to the life of John Laroche; she develops a secret love life with him when he introduces her to the “high” effect you get from grinding up the ghost orchid.  She of course hides this secret life of hers because it is a shameful one, and she is running away from her regular ordinary life with her husband and her demanding job.  Charlie can not seem to adapt to any life; and in trying to do so he loses what he is doing and struggles with his script, until, with the help of his brother, Donald, finds himself, and when he finds himself, is then able to crank out a script.  

In part of the process of writing his script, Charlie starts to use a voice recorder to collect all his thoughts.  He spews out ideas, such as in one case he says, “Journey of Evolution.  Adaptation.  Journey we all take.”  Here he is comparing the lives of everyone, how we are all linked, and how he can use that to grab people’s attention. Charlie simply needs to tie history together for his script; put it in a narrative, make it a story, and then the meaning and interesting aspect of the script will be brought together.  When Charlie actually goes to Donald about his struggle with the script, Donald tells Charlie that “We all write in our own genre,” and that he would not be able to write the sort of things that Charlie can write, because of this. “Though our stories are unique, they fall into “genres” that are obviously not infinite in number.” (Booth, p.289).  This goes along saying that every character in the movie has their own genre, their own way of writing, but also their own way of writing their life.  Each artist has his own way of painting, the way he strokes his brush is different then any other artist, just like the way we write on a piece of paper, our lettering has a unique trait about it characterized only to ourselves and no one else around us.  The same can be said for how we live our life.

  Charlie, after coming up with different ways of starting his script, ends up writing himself into it; he becomes self-indulgent.  Donald tells Charlie, “You’re an artist,” and indeed Charlie is.  His form of art, his way of interpreting his life, is within a script.  He paints his life in the form of words and story telling. It is all put into perspective for Charlie when Donald and he are stuck in a rut, and everyone’s lives crash together, when Susan and Laroche are hunting them down.  Charlie reminisces to when Donald and he were younger and Donald was chasing this girl that he was in love with, and even though he knew she did not love him, it did not stop him.  Donald said it is because “You are what you love, not what loves you.”  After Donald is killed, remembering this, Charlie is finally inspired to sit down, begin, and finish his script the right, compelling way. 

            In Charlie’s journey to write his script, and in his struggles, he takes his brother’s advice and goes to see this speaker who taught him all he needed to know to write his script.  The speaker, McKee, touches on how to write, and tells Charlie that if you write a screenplay without conflict, that you will lose the audience.  One of Wayne Booth’s ideas is that you sort of take on the character’s perspective, and that you have to have something to grab them to watch and follow.  If the lives of Susan and Laroche, and Charlie and Donald did not eventually collide together, the movie would have been a dull story.  Every story has a motivation and rise, a conflict and climax, and then an outcome and denouement.  Without the conflict it would have nothing to come back down to.  Piecing a few things from Professor McAteer’s lecture:

For Aristotle, the highest potential of a human being is rational action, so true
happiness for a human being is the life lived according to reason.  Aristotle does not separate reason from emotion the way Plato or the Stoics might.  Here we can apply Booth’s idea of “hoping to build a life-plot that will be in one of the better genres.” (Booth p.268).  In other words, we want our life story to be a comedy, not a tragedy.

For Charlie, his life seemed more of a tragedy:  he could not get women or tell them how he felt; he was invisible; he could not write a script, then he follows this journalist, with his brother tagging along; they are being chased by two people who want to kill them, and then in trying to escape, Donald gets killed.  Charlie’s twin brother, Donald, was the complete opposite of Charlie, and his life was more of the comedic type that Charlie wanted to be: he was always happy, had a girlfriend, was able to enjoy a party, wrote an action script and got over a million dollars for it.

            Booth argues that the self is social and is only found in relationship to other. (pp. 235-240).  Charlie was not a very social person.  He often felt invisible, and was not confident when it came to women. It was not until he really started listening to Donald – his later- ego, hits opposite, whom he wants to be more like- that he started to realize certain things about himself and his life.  It was not until this interaction with his brother that he was able to really write his script, and what would be the end product.  If your life is seen as a story, and is coherently structured, then it will aim at a single end, according to teleological action theory.  From reading Booth’s The Company We Keep, you get from it how our lives can be seen as stories and how fictional narratives (also movies) can help us to create better life stories.  When Charlie analyzes his life as a story, it is only then that he is able to successfully write his script, which becomes his own life story. 

            Some stories are morally better than others.  Booth wants to figure out how to judge that one story is better than another; and if so then we can say some life stories are better than others. (Prof. McAteer, Lect. 3).  Coduction, the idea of Wayne Booth, says that we need to accept some values and beliefs in order to critique other values and beliefs.  “You develop these virtues/vices by imitating the narrator’s way of thinking and feeling about the narrator’s way of thinking and feeling about the world until it becomes habitual, even when you’re not reading the book (or watching the movie).” (Prof. John, Lecture 7).  Susan was having an affair with Laroche, and the two of them were doing drugs and out trying to kill people.  All three of these are considered to be immoral in law, society, and rationally.  In order to judge them and their characters as the “bad” guys, I, as the viewer, had to first somewhere in my life accept values that their actions are wrong, and thus can critique them to my values.  The character of Susan could say the same; she hid this lifestyle of hers, because the society she grew up in told her that these were shameful, wrong things to do. 

            Booth says that some life stories are morally better than others, and he wants to figure out how to judge which ones are better.  In Adaptation it may be hard to tell which characters live better lives than other characters. “We have a vision of the good life implicit in the actions that form our lives.  Aristotle calls this highest good happiness.” (Prof. McAteer, Lect. 5).  “Every rational action is aimed at some apparent good, and these goods are hierarchically structured, aiming ultimately at one Final Good (or collection of goods) that constitutes the agent’s conception of happiness.” (Prof. McAteer, Lect.8).  Each character has a different definition of what they think will make them happy, or that will make their life better.  Susan may seem to have it all; she is wealthy, married, she is successful and well-known, has a good career as a New York Times journalist, and as an author.  She is at the top of the chain from all the other characters, but this is only if you were to look at it from a first impression.  Deep down she has a yearning to escape it all; a life most would kill for, she is taking for granted.  She slowly starts to create a “bad” life by having an affair with John Laroche, perhaps implementing that she is not happy with her husband, and then she starts using drugs.  She becomes involved in murder and attempted murder.  Even if there was no God to implement rules or ideas that things such as these were morally bad, we as humans have that moral anyways.  Her break from a moral life causes her to break down at the end, showing what seemed to be a happy life, become a tragic one.  She even cries out later that she wish she could go back to her old life.  What she thought would make her happy in the end, ended up being the destruction of her.  Laroche seemed to be a sort of free spirit, a rogue.  It looked as if he was a bum and did not give a care about much.  But you come to find that he is actually a scientist.  Once specializing with fishes, and then completely forgetting about that, then having a healthy nursery, John does not know how to stick to one thing.  It seems as if he lives his life not caring about much at all, other than doing drugs.  You come to find however that his life was quite the tragic one and that he lives his life because he is probably psychologically torn from the incident when his mother and his wife died in a car accident.  Both Susan and Laroche’s lives clash together to fulfill what each of them are lacking, and fulfilling a longing for another’s intimate company (of course with the help of drugs).  In the end Laroche dies as it all comes back to bite him, metaphorically and literally.

            Then there is Charlie Kaufman; he seems to be a dull person that has nothing going for him; his life is meaningless.  He thinks in order to be happy he has to get a woman to love him, has to be successful in his writing, and be recognized by others.  It is not until he finds happiness and meaning that he can write a successful piece of work.  He actually has a great job but he finds it meaningless.  Lots of people would kill for a job as a screenwriter, yet he does not know why he even bothers to show up for work.  In the end, his life comes together and he ends up living a happy life that he had wanted all along.  His script becomes a great success in the making of the movie on it, and he rides off with the girl he loves right next to him, in the end.  His dull life took him on an adventure, where he learned so many valuable things, and ended up the richest of them all.  As for his brother Donald, although he had the most tragic ending, he had the best life as I could see.  He lived each day happy, confident, and without much worries.  He was always happy and positive, and because of this and his confidence, he became a successful person.  He was able to get a girlfriend, and write an action movie, which gained him wealth.  Again, the twins are being shown as opposites:  Charlie lived a tragic life and in the end gained a happy one; Donald lived a happy life and in the end received a tragic one.  So it would seem that the lives of Laroche and Susan are the opposite of Charlie and Donald.  The first two live an immoral life, which results in the destruction of their lives.  Charlie and Donald end up with the morally better lives, but not just morally, but intrinsically.  Each person had a different genre for what made them happy.

            “Writing is a journey into the unknown.” (Adaptation).  A journey into the unknown can make for a good story and a good story can make for a great work of art. The film’s vision is helpful for living a good, happy, and virtuous life.  Those who decided to live an immoral, “bad”, and what they thought was a happy life, ended up with a tragic ending.  Susan and Laroche thought these virtuously wrong things were making them happy, but it was just a temporary thing.  For Donald and Charlie, they found something to fulfill their lives and make it a good one.  Even though Donald died in the end, he still had a good, happy, and virtuous life, and even up to the end had a good humor about life, even the fact that he was shot.  The movie portrays for the audience a good view of how you should not take life for granted and how you should make the most of it and how living it the “right” way, or the virtuous way, well in the long run prove to be the best option for having a better life. 











Works Cited

Booth, Wayne C.  The Company We Keep: And Ethics of Fiction.  Berkeley and Los Angeles,

            California:  University of California Press, 1988. Pp. 34-37, 70-77, 235-240, 268, 289.

                                    -34-37: Judgment/ ethical criticism

                                    -70-77: coduction

                                    -235-240: The Social Self

                                    -289: life as a genre

Jonze, Spike.  Adaptation.  2002.  Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman. 

            Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. 

McAteer, John.  Philosophy 003-Ethics and the meaning of Life.  Fall 2006.  University of

            California, Riverside, CA.  Lectures 3, 5, and 8.

                                    -Lecture 3: Julia Annas’ quote.

                                    -Lecture 5: Aristotle-happiness.

                                    -Lecture 8: Aristotle and Booth; Booth ideas.

Save the Grunion!..The What?

June 24, 2006 Leave a comment

Save the Grunion!..The What?

            Every year millions of people visit the beaches of California.  Environmental concerns motivate people to clean beaches and create programs for beach clean up days.  Off the beach and into the water other issues concerning the growing kelp depletion and the chain effect it has on its ecosystem is another hot topic.  But a more not hidden, but not popular issue is the events of the grunion season.  Every year for a span over the beginning of spring to the end of summer, these creatures wash ashore to spawn.  This leaves them vulnerable to dangers, including being beached, being trampled on, and most dangerously, being poached.  To protect grunions and a perhaps downfall of their ecosystem, state and federal laws should be created to ensure the safety of this species, and longer closed seasons should be implemented.

            First off, what exactly is a grunion?  A grunion is a marine fish found specifically to the southern Californian coast and the northern coast of Baja California.  They are sleek silvery fish that grow about three to six inches, if not more.  What is special about these creatures is that they immerse completely out of water to spawn.  The female burrow into the sand and lays their eggs.  They only come out at high tide and usually late at night, around 10pm-12:30am, and between the months of March through September.  At times there are thousands upon thousands of grunion dancing about the beach, and at few times there are only tens to hundreds.  During incubation, the eggs remain in the sand for about two weeks and hatch only at full and new moons.

            So what about the dangers?  Washing themselves ashore, grunions are susceptible to beaching themselves.  Often they get caught behind debris or kelp, stranding them on shore.  They end up not being able to spawn or die from being out of water too long.  Although they can not be monitored every minute of their run, steps can be taken to help decrease the number of stranded fish.  For example, during these grunion runs, Pepperdine University Marine Biologists have put together a program to monitor the behavior of the creatures.  Volunteers go out on certain nights, for two nights in a row, and monitor the behavior of the fish, and how many are found on certain nights at certain beaches.  During the programs, tens to hundreds of volunteers watch the beaches, and when any grunion seem to have been washed ashore, or caught behind debris or kelp, the volunteers simply toss the fish back into the ocean.  Hundreds of fish are saved from a simple effort.  As long as people continue the effort, a small step to conserve a species can be possible.

            Another problem is that during spawning when there are thousands upon thousands of grunion on the beach, it is easy to trample on a few.  But with precaution this can easily be avoided.  But the bigger problem is that after the eggs are laid, only a few inches from the surface of the sand, pressure from passer-byers or vehicles, can crush these eggs.  Lifeguard vehicles patrolling the beach could run over the areas where the grunions have spawned.  Imagine the pressure from a truck running over a patch of eggs; they are crushed like a banana ran over by the vehicle.  A simple five minute patrol over a mile or two stretch of beach can destroy thousands upon thousands of grunion larvae, slowly depleting the species.  Measures that may seem to work would be talking to local lifeguard officials and warning them about the grunion season and to be cautious of where they tread.  Grunions come on shore through high tide; you can tell high tides from the kelp lines.  The tide does not reach beyond these lines of kelp, which means beyond these lines there are no grunion eggs.  Advising lifeguard vehicles to only drive past these kelp lines would help protect the grunions while still being able to patrol the beach. 

            Beach grooming is another devastating example of eggs being destroyed.  Beach grooming involves combing the sand, with a large operating machine that look likes a tractor.  If you thought the pressure from the lifeguard vehicle was bad, imagine this machine that is easily two or three times heavier.  If the lifeguard truck did not get all the eggs, this heavy equipment will sure finish the job.  The same solution should be enforced for these machines as lifeguard vehicles.  Signs should be posted on the beach to keep runners or just visitors to the beach to be careful as well. 

Of course lifeguards and, more likely, city officials might have objections.  The city might complain that without beach combing the sand won’t look presentable enough for its summer visitors.  These are the months when the beach is more crowded, and city officials would not want to lose tourists or the profit that can be made by the myriad of visitors.  Many would be deterred from walking or jogging the shoreline, and frankly that would not go over too well.  People want their vacation time, and not have to worry about watching where they step.  This is a problem that is no doubt huge and unavoidable no matter what.  The best that can be done is to make the public aware, whether by announcement or by the use of signs right on those kelp lines, to warn the beach goers right before they cross it.

            Lastly, the biggest problem, and the hardest to maintain, is poaching.  Poachers find this season a valuable opportunity to gather up the vulnerable fish as they gather to spawn.  Knowledgeable about this season, poachers come ready with buckets and gather grunion fish by the handfuls.  There are measures already taken place by local grunion programs.  People such as the Pepperdine University grunion staff and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, warn local officials and lifeguard officials of the poaching problem.  Right now there are only fines to pay if caught poaching.  Through the last three years, the grunion population has inflated its way back up to where it once was and more.  Closed season of April and May have been created, during which these two months no poaching is allowed whatsoever even with licenses.  In order to get the grunion population to flourish even more, and to keep them out of danger, a longer closed season should be enforced, and heavier laws should be laid down.  Heavier fines, or perhaps small prison terms for those caught disobeying the law for their own greed.  Patrols should be created, whether through volunteering or through actual law officials, to look out for and report a poaching problem during the closed seasons.

            The depletion of a species, even one you may have never heard of, can have a huge impact on the environment which it lives in.  In one event, a large number of krill up by the Alaskan coast were wiped out, hurting its ecosystem.  Marine life started to fall for a short time, and marine animals were found in areas where they would not normally be, all because they were looking for food.  Similar to the krill by the Alaskan coast, grunion could equally damage the ecosystem around the southern California coast and the northern coast of the Baja of California. 

            Awareness of these problems as well as implementing the solutions to them, may take time, but steps do need to no doubt be taken.  With help from the government awareness could be more possible; and making suggestions into laws could really lay down the line to saving this species.  Volunteers are also a great way to help protect this species.  Researchers such as Dr. Karen Martin, and Melissa Studer, have started studies on grunion fish, and have created a grunion greeting volunteer program to monitor the behavior and spawning numbers of grunion.  Through a volunteer program, “Grunion Greeter,” volunteers have sheets which they fill out, and they report the area they were in, the time, and the number of grunions they saw.  Through this researchers have been able to more closely study and monitor this behavior of the grunion.  More people are becoming aware of the problem through this, as volunteers pass their knowledge on to the next person, and so on.  More motivation has been created, and with motivation like this, a push toward solutions such as government action and public awareness is very possible.  Although it may not seem at all interesting when you think about grunions, but when you actually see them in motion, it is a spectacular moment.  Fish dancing about the shoreline, gleaming in the moonlight, somehow captivates every seer.  When there are thousands on the beach, it is an unbelievable experience. Nights when you only see a few are disappointing nights compared to this, and boring to monitor.  If actions are not taken, more nights like that may become more and more frequent, and instead of counting from tens to thousands, we may end up counting from zero to tens of grunion fish.  And as time passes we may find ourselves counting less of other species, as every downfall of a species has a chain effect on its ecosystem.  Volunteering is free and easy, and voicing the problem is a challenge that can be overcome.  So do not wait for the total extinction of a species, take action today.  Protect the ocean which we love so much, and protect our grunion friends that are a part of it.







Works Cited List

Pepperdine University.  “What is a grunion?”  May 2006.  Date accessed: 14 May

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Textbooks are a ripoff

June 12, 2006 1 comment

Cell phone, car, car insurance, food, gas, tuition, and textbooks…do the list of bills and spending ever end?  For the average college student, this is where all their (or mommy and daddy’s) money goes to.  But let’s get down to it; we can try to not talk on our cell phones only so much, car payments and car insurance is inevitable once you leave the dealership, food- you got to eat, gas- you can’t control the gas prices, economy or what’s going on in the middle east, tuition- you know what you are getting into as soon as you accept your acceptance into the University, but textbooks however, maybe something can be done about that.  Maybe the load of spending can be lifted off the college student’s shoulders just a bit.  The price of textbooks at the University of California, Riverside, and probable at many other universities, are overly priced.  To reduce the cost of college textbooks, new editions should not come out so often, subsidies should be placed on the textbooks, or digital textbooks should be manufactured instead of hard copy books.

            According to the Highlander Editorial Board, the 2005 report, Ripoff 101, reported that textbooks on average cost students “$900 a year, about one fifth of their fees,” and that $1600 is “spent each year by UCR students for books and supplies,” alone.  The Highlander Editorial Board goes on to say that being a multibillion dollar industry, the publishing of college textbooks has created “earning net sales of $2.7 billion in 2003.”  Furthermore, the bookstores increase the original price of the textbooks 34%.  In a joking, but true voice, a friend of mine was talking about the stock market and how if he were to ever invest into stocks, he would choose the textbook market, because it would never fall;  as long as there are colleges, people will need to buy textbooks.  And of course, students have no choice but to purchase the books needed for their classes.  Sure they could find something like Mark Twain at the nearest bookstore such as Barnes n’ Noble, but as far as textbooks go, they may only be found at the University’s own bookstore.  To add to the frustration, instructors may require students to buy certain books, and they come to find that they are packaged with other material that may never be used in class, but to get the needed textbook, they have to buy the unwanted material as well.  In Sean Redmond’s article in The Highlander, he reports that “More than 65% of the faculty members surveyed…say they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ use the bundled materials in their courses.” 

            And what is with bringing out new editions so often? It seems like every year a new edition is brought out of college textbooks.  For example, this year I am using Silberberg, Chemistry, 4th Ed. (McGraw-Hill) 2006, and just last year a few of my friends were using the third edition.   My friends, who are a year ahead of me, all have taken the same classes as I am now taking or will be taking, but I could not rely on them, nor will I be able to rely on them, to borrow their old textbooks, because the ones I am required to use are new editions!  So now I am in the hole about $300 that I could have saved from the convenience of having friends that would have just lent me their books, for two of my classes.   And get this, Redmond reports in his research that “In addition,..publishers then increase the price of a new textbook edition by an average of 12%, or twice the rate of inflation.”  That is just ridiculous; which is why I say stretch out how many years until the next new edition is brought out.  “Over half of the faculty interviewed said that the new editions they use are ‘rarely to never’ justified.” (Redmond).  The Highlander Editorial Board also suggests that “New information needing to be added to a textbook maybe be done so with supplement materials instead of the publication of an entirely new edition.”

So when they do bring out new editions, there is not even much of a change to it?  This just proves how much students are being ripped-off.          

So other than a solution to reducing spending, how about a solution to affect the direct price on the textbook itself? (Meaning the sticker prices, rather than reducing how often or much a student has to spend).  The government could implement subsidies as a solution.  Students would not have to pay so much on one text book.  By creating subsidies, a certain amount of tax payer’s money would go into paying for books.  Subsidies could be paid for by bond measures.  So, the state sells bonds, citizens buy them, and then the state uses the bond money to subsidize text book prices and then the tax payers will have to worry about the interest on the bonds.  Also, students or parents, could gather up all their receipts at the end of the year, and then write them off as tax-writable. 

            What if the idea of textbooks was scratched for the most part?  Instead of hard-copy textbooks, publishers could manufacture digital textbooks instead.  Reducing textbooks to CD’s would mean that publishers, thus students, do not have to pay for paper, ink, etc.  The price for a writable CD at the UCR bookstore is eighty-nine cents.  So, the costs of an actual hard-copy textbook is taken out and put onto an eighty-nine cent CD.  Prices would be for sure reduced.  Now, some might argue, well what if not everyone has a computer?  Well at the University of California, Riverside, everyone has access to a computer somehow.  It is required that iLearn or Webmail be checked daily, and with similar implementations, the use of digital textbooks should not be a problem.  And if students do need to bring text material to class and they do not have a laptop, then they could simply print out the material they need ahead of time.  This would still be cheaper than buying an overly priced hard copy textbook.  At the Printing and Reprographics store, located right next store to the UCR Bookstore, it costs less than a nickel a page to print out what you need.  Not to mention it would also be a lighter load on your back, literally too.

            When I read that an 870-page hardcover book of the fifth Harry Potter book was only $30.00 compared to a 200-page Calculus 10A book for $120.00, it made me realize just how ridiculously textbooks are inflated.  Some people struggle just to pay for tuition, and every dollar counts.  Sure loans and FAFSA may cover parts of tuition, but textbooks are not really covered.  So every student is pretty much stuck with paying outrageous prices that could be avoided.  The government should offer help with solutions such as subsidies in supporting students of California, let alone America.    Although elementary through high school is covered by the government and taxes and such, and even though college is by choice, higher-learning should and could be encouraged more.  And a lot of the times money stand in the way of that and starting somewhere such as reducing the prices of textbooks could really help out.  New editions so often really are not necessary, and it could really save students a lot of money, whether through borrowing or by actually having used textbooks available to buy.  Digital textbooks could really lighten the load off a student’s shoulders, both literally and financially.  So when it comes down to it, textbook prices should be on the lower list of spending, not at the high point that it is now.

“The Breakfast Club”- A Portrayal of High School Life

June 12, 2006 1 comment

“The Breakfast Club”- A Portrayal of High School Life

                Everyone before high school and after high school has their image of what it is or was. For every high school there is your typical jock, prom queen, weirdo, nerd, trouble maker, and that one teacher or principal that you just hated. In producer and director John Hughes’ 1985 movie, “The Breakfast Club,” an interpretation of what life in high school is like, is presented. He successfully illustrates the typical stereotypes you find in high school. There is Claire “the Princess,” Andrew “the Jock,” Allison “the Nutcase,” Brian “the Brain,” Bender “the Criminal,” and lastly there is Principal Vernon. Through comedy, drama, and intense conversations, it is shown how five completely different people can end up helping each other out, and how those characters represent what high school is truly like.

                    Every school has its prom queens and its jocks; the most popular girl and guy in school. Claire, “the princess” is your perfect example in this movie. She is the pretty rich girl that hangs out with the popular kids. Daddy buys her whatever she wants, and the reason she is in Saturday school, is because she ditched to go shopping. In the group’s little smoke out, Claire even confesses: “Do you know how popular I am? I am so popular, everyone just loves me.” She is dressed in pink like you would expect and brings her fancy sushi lunch to the sitting.

                      Andrew Clark, “the jock,” is the competitive, wrestling-is-his-whole-life type. He walks in wearing a varsity jacket, and has a zip up jacket underneath with a sports tank under that. He is very competitive from the beginning, and his conflicts with Bender prove him to be. He challenges Bender, and threatens to beat him down if he does not stop his shenanigans. His life seems to be revolved around wrestling, and depends on it for an athletic scholarship. His dad is right there cheering him on, but at the same time edging him on, as his own personal, not wanted, coach.

                      “The nutcase,” Allison, is the extreme weirdo. She immediately outcasts herself by walking straight to the back desk and turns her back on everyone else. She shows up with more than enough dark colored articles of clothing on, completely covered up, black hair messed in her pale face. She pretends to be a nymphomaniac, and puts pixie stix and cereal in her sandwich. She hardly talks through half the movie, making nothing but squeaking noises. The reason she is in Saturday school she reveals, is because of nothing. She says she had had nothing better to do. Who goes to Saturday school for no reason? Yes, that is weird.

                    Brian, the “nerd” or “the brain,” is a scrawny, boyish looking, sweater wearing character. He is in all the “nerdy” clubs: the science club, the physics club, the math club, the chess club, etc. He sucks up to Principal Vernon whenever he walks into the room, and his mother worries that Saturday school will mess up his academic career. During his time in detention his mom tells him he better find some way to study, even though all they are provided with is a pencil and paper to write an essay on.

                  Then there is Bender, the most extreme character of them all. John Bender is “the criminal”; the trouble maker that got put in Saturday school for pulling the fire alarm. He numerously back lashes at the principal making smart-ass remarks, pissing the principal off enough to give him detention the rest of the school year. He brings a knife to detention and almost gets into a fight with Andy. He curses and yells and throws things around. He walks in with his leather boots, dirty jeans, jean jacket, and long black trench coat, earring in his ear, and shoulder length tossed to the sides hair. He constantly harasses Claire and pushes Brian around. He is the ultimate badass.

                    Lastly there is Principal Vernon, the tyrant of them all. He tries to present himself in this strong, tough, authoritative way, but really he is just a big laugh to the kids. He wants nothing more than for them to sit and not move an inch during their session. For eight hours all they are to do is think about their errors then write an essay about it. (Talk about boring). He threatens Bender in secret, and lashes out how he has no hope for him. In private with the janitor, he says how he once cared about the kids, but thinks they have turned on him, so in return he just does not give a crap. Behind his back the student talk about him as if he is just a big joke and some sort of wannabe that has nothing better to do with his life.

                    Hughes manages to get away with witty humor throughout the movie, and with remarks that we can all relate to. At the same time he uses the humor, and intense conversations to slowly bring them all together. They learn more and more about each other in unusual ways. The reason that Bender acts so hard, is because that is the way he has it at home. In a mimic of his home life Bender portrays his parents back and forth. His dialogue is too inappropriate to mention here, but let just say his voice of his dad uses every swear word you could think of, in describing his son, and the end of his little act is Bender’s head flying back, mimicking what his father does when he back talks; I think you get the picture. Upset from his own display he out lashes, throwing things around, and runs to the back of the library, heavily breathing and closing his eyes for some sort of comfort.

                       Claire, which you have pictured her to be this rich, popular, perfect, gets everything she wants girl, has a story behind her. Her parents use her to get at each other, and she fears that it will all end in divorce. She says neither one of them “gives a shit” about her. She breaks down after the little smoke out session, crying that she doesn’t like doing everything her friends do, and presents a clear picture of peer pressure. Being the most popular in school, everyone had expected Claire to not be a virgin. After trying to hide whether or not she has, the pressure from the group ranting about it leads Claire to reveal in an out burst that it is not true; she has never done it. The pressure of sex is very real in high school, and is just another aspect of high school life that Hughes is able to incorporate into his movie.

                 Come to find, the jock, whose whole life revolves around wrestling, actually wishes he injured his knee or something, so that he could not compete anymore. His father antagonizes him time after time, and is the main force behind his wrestling. His father is actually living through him, pushing him to win, like he wants. The pressure from his father is just too much and in a monologue of his own, perhaps the longest of the session, he really breaks down on the pressure that a teenager could feel from his or her parents.

                As for Allison, the nutcase, her home life is “unsatisfying” as she puts it. She seems to suffer from neglect, as from the beginning when she is dropped off at the school, you see her get out of the car, and then the car speed off before she even closes the door all the way. She carries around a big bag with junk in it, just in case she ever needs to run away. Her weirdness and reasons for claiming she is a nymphomaniac are clearly her reaching out for attention, due to the neglect she receives at home. It shows that there are people in high school who do not have perfect lives and that these people should be noticed. Of course, her and Claire, total opposites, conflict in the movie.

                      Brian, the nerd that has to be perfect academically, is not perfect at everything. For someone that should have straight A’s, he is failing a class: woodshop. Academics seem to be all he knows, and as a result of his failure, his parents blow up over it. They won’t settle for anything less than an A. Towards the end, in an emotional outburst we find the reason Brian is in detention, is because a gun was found in his locker. He felt the pressure from his parents, and decided that the F he was getting in woodshop was such a failure that he wasn’t good enough; not good enough to live. He reveals that the gun was actually a flare gun, and the group can not help but let out a short spurt of laughter.

                     In the end, what results is a friendship and a life changing experience for all five of these students. Of course, as always in high school, love connections spark, but here in strange ways. Claire gives Allison a little make over, which catches Andrew’s attention. He had been interested in getting to know Allison throughout the movie, and what ended up happening when everyone went on their merry little way, was them kissing. And not to change her weirdness too much, she rips a patch off of Andrew’s jacket before departing each other. As for Bender, he somehow manages to win Claire over (maybe it is that theory that girls like bad boys), and they end up kissing at the end of the day. She places one of her diamond earrings in his hand before she gets in the car and leaves; he ends up putting it on his ear.

               All the problems that are presented in “The Breakfast Club,” are very real to what life in high school can be like. Hughes manages to incorporate all the different kind of pressures there are, from grades, to sports, to sex, and more. The scene after the group’s smoke-out session was the best scene and the perfect setting for bringing them all together and revealing how all the typical stereotypes don’t always show who a person really is. His portrayal of high school is probably an 8.5 from a scale of one to ten. He keeps it realistic while still making it entertaining. And perhaps that is what makes it entertaining and successful, is the little parts that we each individually can relate to. There is one question that I still am not sure about however, and tried figuring out throughout the movie: Why is it called “The Breakfast Club?” They don’t eat breakfast, and they are there for more than just a morning’s length of time. That is probably the hardest thing to relate in this movie, but it certainly does not take anything away from the movie itself. This is a movie for everyone and can certainly be put down on a list of must-see movies.

A New Kind of Addiction: World of Warcraft?

May 1, 2006 Leave a comment

A New Kind of Addiction: World of Warcraft?

            “Play in our world, live in yours,” is the motto for Play Station game systems.  Millions of people around the world indulge themselves in make-believe worlds and adventures.  They are drawn by the game and cannot help but to continually play.  So what is it about video and computer games that cause people to be so addicted or wanting to play?  More specifically and in example, what causes people to play online computer games such as Blizzard’s World of Warcraft?   Perhaps it is the learning through endless quests and options available, the competition, and the online community that is created.

            World of Warcraft, created by Blizzard Entertainment, is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game.  It creates a fantasy world with different races and professions and a number of quests to complete to level in the game.  The main goal is to reach level 60, the highest level you can reach, or to become top tier of your server.  It takes a lot of time and work to get there.  Getting there involves a number of things including questing, running instances, playing battlegrounds, and grinding. Grinding is a term used when someone just kills creeps with out a quest objective, just to receive the experience, in order to level faster.  In the process of leveling you can pick up a number of items that you can use or wear: food, armor, weapons, and trinkets.  You always want to find the best armor you can, and even armor has different levels.  Everyone wants to get the most elite items to not just eventually become level 60, but to be top player of your server.  A whole economic system exists in World of Warcraft which is part of what keeps it interesting.  The currency system is in gold, silver, and copper, and the more you have, the better items you can buy, and the closer you come to being able to get a mount (a pet that you can ride which increases the speed of your movement).  “From level 1 to 40 all I did was farm for gold so that when I reached level forty I would be ready to buy my mount.  For two months straight all I did was get home from school and level, level, level, and collect gold.  When I finally got my mount I felt so accomplished!” said Zork, a player on World of Warcraft.  Playing World of Warcraft myself, I asked one of my guild mates, (guilds will be explained later), Vergaley, what keeps him wanting to play World of Warcraft, or as frequent players call it, WoW, for short.  Vergaley said that “there is always the objective to get to level 60, then there is PVP and high mod armor, and epic mounts and all that stuff….The game never really ends.”  Another guild mate, Tokanara also says it is about “trying to level.”

            Then, as Danface, a WoW friend, says, it is about competition.  He says he “wanted to be better than others.”  Firaley (yet another guild mate) says part of the addiction is “social dominance.  We want to dominate each other.”  Perhaps when in reality people are the weak, the crippled, or just cannot win at anything, in this “World of Warcraft” these people can be the strong and the dominant.  It is sort of like sports; you play for fun but also to compete.  Firaley goes on to say, in an attempt to sound wise, that “it is all about greed and gathering; and has been since the stone ages.”  Perhaps he is right though.  Man has always had a need to compete and a want to dominate and be his best or be better than others.  “I play to beat my friends,” says Tokanara.  Those that ultimately want to compete PVP.  PVP stands for Player Versus Player.  When one PVP’s he or she duels another player and earns honor points for beating the other person if they are on the opposing side.  There is continuous competition between the Horde and the Alliance.  The Horde consists of Orcs, Taurens, Trolls, and the Undead; the Alliance consists of Night Elves, Humans, Gnomes, and Dwarves.  In battlegrounds such as Warsong Gulch, the two forces have a chance to compete against each other in an objective to catch and retrieve flags. 

            A big part of the games is also “the social part of the game,” as Danface puts it.  Within the leveling and the questing, there is a huge social community behind WoW.  While playing, you can also chat with others.  First, there is general talk where you can talk to anybody in the area.  Next there is whisper where you have a private conversation between you and someone else.  Lastly there is guild chat, where you talk amongst a group of people that are in the same guild (a group) as you, and you only become a part of one through invite by guild master.  After questing or helping someone out, if you find you work well with that person, you add them to your friends list.  Then next time your on if the two of you share the same quest you help each other out.  Guilds are tighter circles of friends, and a special sort of friends list.  Guildees trade amongst each other first, give first priority to other guildees, and help each other with quests, raids, instances, and battlegrounds.  Here is where you generally do the majority of your chatting.  Bonds are created with these chats, just like Instant Messaging, or something similar to Myspace (with a substitution of your pictures for pictures of your character).  You can even send each other mail through WoW. 

Some say that WoW has even become a dating service, in a small measure. In one story that I know, a couple met on WoW and the engagement was even WoW-styled.  In World of Warcraft, when you go to accept a quest, there is a gold exclamation mark above a NPC’s (non-playable character’s) head.  A quest scroll pops up and it tells you your objectives.  After completing the quest you go back to that same NPC, and there will be a gold question mark above its head now, which means you can now turn in the quest and receive your reward.  Well when the girlfriend came home one day she saw that there was a stuffed animal with a gold exclamation mark above its head, on her stairs.  She read the quest (more like directions), and when she met her quest objective, she found another stuffed animal with a gold question mark above its head.  She opened the door to collect her reward and found her boyfriend there, on one knee, and he proposed to her.  Romantic? Maybe, but it goes to show how socially people get involved in these games, and how entering this world isn’t just for the fun of playing, but also for the connection that has been made with others.

Bearslaws, a high ranked player on my server, has an interesting story to just how addicted this game has become to him.  He graduated with a Masters in biochemistry, one of the hardest majors, and has been out of school for a year or two now.  He does not have a job right now, and has not used his degree to find a job in biochemistry.  So what has he been doing the last year or two?  He sits at home and plays WoW all day.  Granted he’s almost number one on our server, but it is all because WoW is his life.  When he was not looking for a job he spent his time playing this game on the computer, and slowly began to fall into this world.  He wanted to be number one on his server so he kept on playing, and now he almost is.  His brother, who he also got addicted to the game, has also fallen into an addiction.  Here is someone who graduated valedictorian from high school and is now failing his classes.  He started out college on a good foot, and when his second year came around and he really started playing WoW, he started playing more, and studying less.  He started to fail his classes and even had to drop one.  Whenever I would get on he would tell me, “Get off WoW and go study, it’ll ruin your life, you’ll get addicted like me, I swear! Don’t fail college like me!”

Although it does not come close to an addiction of drugs or alcohol, World of Warcraft can be typed as an internet addiction. The fascinating world that we can not live in, but we can certainly play in, somehow captivates the mind.  Endless possibilities, and to escape reality and be whatever we want to be in an entrancing game keeps us coming back for more.  Blizzard Entertainment has managed to create a series of games, including Warcraft I through Warcraft III (the series before World of Warcraft), and found a way to make them one of the most popular game series out there.  They somehow have managed to create a game that keeps people paying the monthly fees, or selling their accounts on e-bay to other players. The thrill of beating someone else and gaining rank or being beat, the pleasure of chatting with others and making new friends, and the sense of accomplishment, gives reason to want to keep playing.  Perhaps this is all a learning experience as well for real life. 

“Unlike education acquired through textbooks, lectures, and classroom instruction, what takes place in massively multiplayer online games is what we call accidental learning. It’s learning to be – a natural byproduct of adjusting to a new culture – as opposed to learning about. Where traditional learning is based on the execution of carefully graded challenges, accidental learning relies on failure. Virtual environments are safe platforms for trial and error. The chance of failure is high, but the cost is low and the lessons learned are immediate.” (Brown and Thomas).

  These two men have created a job for those who are addicted.  They believe that the economy of WoW prepares you for the economic world we live in, and prepares you for social challenges if you were not socially acceptable before.  Whether it’s the trade and economy, the endless possibilities, the competition, or the social connections behind WoW, the want to learn more and do more all plays a part in keeping the player interested and “addicted” to this wonderful World of Warcraft.


Works Cited List

Brown, John Seely and Douglas Thomas.  “You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired!.”

            Wired. April 2006. Date accessed: 7 May 2006. <

archive/ 14.04/learn.html>

Wikipedia.  “World of Warcraft.”  Wikipedia.  Date accessed:  28 April 2006.