But What Is The Right Thing?

As I was watching Do The Right Thing I couldn’t help but notice the neighborhood stereotypes which crowded the streets of the Brooklyn neighborhood, and I noticed how some of them still exist today. I can relate to some of the experiences that Mookie had, and it’s almost uncanny how much the characters in the movie mirror those in real life.

Living in an apartment complex, I’m exposed to my fair share of characters, and I’ve seen many archetypes that are represented in this movie. There are the kids who rebel against authority, the elders who try to know everyone’s business, the man who relays the news to people, the drunk who tries to look out for people, the well-meaning mentally disabled person, and the opinion leader who supplies everyone with guidance and information. Tensions arise, of course, but they are not as heated as they appear in the movie. Often times there are disputes between different neighbors, but it seldom comes to the point of racial slurs and gang warfare.

This movie, however, does do a good job of showing the unstable nature of the Brooklyn community in the 80’s. The cultural groups are clearly delineated and segregated seemingly by choice, and no one group can seem to peacefully coexist with the other. Mookie presents an interesting character because he seems to be the only one who gets close to being able to interact with more than just his own group. His job as a pizza delivery man allows him access into the different cultural groups of the neighborhood, mainly the Italian-American group, as noted by his friendship with Vito.

Though the movie is only halfway done, I predict that there will be some huge culminating event that will cause the tension between the groups to come to a head, and I’m sure that there can be nothing good to come from it. That being said, I’m sure it will be interesting!

-Jon Farrell

Divine Wrong?

Like many of my fellow classmates, I too found the text difficult to understand, but there was one thing that interested me: the idea of divine right and its effects on the decisions of the characters in the play. Divine right is the idea that certain bloodlines are chosen by God to rule, and this lends itself to allow people to rule who may not be the best choices for the throne. King Richard is an apt example of this, seeing as the choices he and others make in response to him often do not reflect the morality befitting a king.

In Act I, Scene ii, the Duchess of Gloucester approaches Gaunt to avenge the death of her husband, who is also Gaunt’s brother, and it is believed that King Richard secretly has something to do with it. Gaunt says he can not intervene because the king has been appointed by God, and he does not want to have to answer to God for his actions. It seems that he bases his logic solely on this idea of divine right, and this stops him from being able to do what may be right.

What is right, it seems, is not always what this “divinely” appointed king is after. When trying to solve the dispute between Bullingbrook and Mowbray, he originally leaves them to duel. However, on the day in which they have their duel, Richard comes in and decides to banish both of them from England for ten years. Richard’s indecisive nature shows that he may not be the best fit for king. To make it worse, Richard then reduces Bullingbrook’s sentence from ten to six, saying that he takes pity on Bullingbrook’s father, John of Gaunt. As Bullingbrook points out, it doesn’t matter whether the banishment lasts six years or ten, for his father will be dead before he can return. This futile action shows that Richard is not the most thoughtful king.

However, this divine bloodline does lend itself to some interesting effects. In Act II, scene i, shortly after the banishment, John of Gaunt dies. Soon after, in Act II, scene iii, Bullingbrook returns to England to get revenge for the wrong done to him at the hands of King Richard. When chastised by his uncle, The Duke of York, Bullingbrook replies “As I was banished, I was banished Herford; But as I come, I come for Lancaster” (2.3. 112-113), showing that he has taken advantage of his father’s death and circumvented his banishment as Herford, for he has now inherited his father’s title as the Duke of Lancaster.

The same faulty rule that made Richard king allows Bullingbrook to defy the king’s decree and give him a chance to wreak his vengeance. While it may not necessarily be fair, it does make for these interesting dilemmas and moments in the play, creating tension between powerful relatives. Divine right, it seems, hardly leads to positive effects but often leads to interesting situations.

-Jon Farrell

Don Juan: That Guy Your Mother Warned You About

Don Juan is a smooth-talking, sly, never-changing womanizer who believes only in his romantic conquests. His love of romance and his lack of morals make him an unsavory character to all but those who catch his eye. Those who do, however, find him intoxicating, despite his myriad moral shortcomings. In short, Don Juan is that guy that your mother warned you about.

Straight from the beginning of the play, we learn of Don Juan’s philosophy on life, which is basically to love everything (and everyone) that comes his way, and that he has an uncanny ability to make this a reality. This philosophy of freedom may sound appealing, that is, until he reveals that he has married multiple times and once he grows tired of one woman, he moves on to the next one. Act II, Scene IV has a prime example of the man in action, as he convinces both Charlotte and Mathurine–at the same time, mind you–that they are the only one he will marry. While impressive, this shows that Don Juan clearly is not the type to settle down for the long haul.

Another one of Don Juan’s major “bad-boy” traits is his refusal to believe in that which he cannot explain. Throughout the story, Don Juan denies the existence of Heaven and Hell, despite the pleas of his faithful valet. Ever the non-believer, Juan even fails to take the hint that Heaven is trying to warn him to repent when a statue of a man he killed comes to his house for dinner. When a man is so hard-headed as to question a sign as clear as that, he’s clearly the type of guy a girl would want to steer clear of.

What’s more, Don Juan is a bit of a lowlife. Sure, he’ll tell you he loves you and that he will give you the world, but he might have a hard time doing that when he’s in debt to his friend Mr. Dimanche. He may pay the man lip service, but that’s as far as his payment goes, and he uses his smooth talking to constantly quell Dimanche out the door for as long as he can. It seems that Don Juan is not the type to pick up the tab.

On top of that, Don Juan’s father, Don Louis, is ashamed of his son’s life, and only hopes that he will see the error of his ways. So what does Don Juan do? He feigns reform just to get the old man off his back. He may pretend like he’s a changed man, but this is the type of guy who will never change for anyone. He doesn’t own up to his flaws, blaming his hypocrisy on “society,” saying that “hypocrisy is a fashionable vice, and all fashionable vices pass for virtues,” (Act V, Scene II) showing that this is clearly a man who will never learn.

The worst part about Don Juan is that despite all of his flaws, he is an inherently lovable character. His antics delight the reader and his devil-may-care (and indeed he does, as evidenced by the books ending) attitude lends itself to allow a slight overlooking of his flaws. In both his world and to his readers, then, it seems that Don Juan is the Original Player: clearly a despicable dog of a man, but irresistible nonetheless.

-Jon Farrell

Hotels: Best Places for Drama

When I would hang out with my friends in the city, I would often notice the Chelsea Hotel and say to myself, “Man, that place is so beautiful and mysterious. It looks like a great place for something awful and dramatic to happen.” Well, I guess I was right, but not just for the Chelsea Hotel. Hotels in general just seem to be a magnet for the strange, disturbing, mysterious, and interesting.

In Just Kids, Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe end up at the Hotel Allerton after fleeing their house following a shooting in front of it. The hotel was known for it’s “very cheap rooms” and ends up being a haven for the creepy. The imagery was somewhat gruesome, the place was described as “a terrible place, dark and neglected,” the wallpaper was described as “peeling like dead skin in summer,” and Patti compared the atmosphere to the shower scene from the movie Psycho. The rooms were filled with junkies, who were “half-naked guys trying to find a vein in limbs infested with sores” and there was a morphine-addicted ballet dancer mystically dancing in his room. The place had an unnerving characterization, and the unstable state Patti and Robert were in did not help to alleviate this disturbing air. The imagery made me a bit uneasy, and I was relieved when they finally got out of there and took a cab to the Chelsea Hotel, but it seems that the Chelsea Hotel is also a place where strange things happen.

The Chelsea Hotel is a New York Landmark and has housed the likes of Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin, and countless other famous artists at one time or another. However, it turns out that this storied hotel also has an intriguing, mysterious, and unnerving story: the story of Sid and Nancy. Sid Vicious was the bassist of the famous punk band Sex Pistols and in 1977 he began a relationship with a woman named Nancy Spungen. Over 23 months, the two indulged in heavy drug use, specifically heroin, and when the Sex Pistols broke up (largely because of Sid’s addiction and subsequent behavior), the couple moved to the Chelsea Hotel. After living with domestic abuse and increasingly worse drug abuse, Nancy was found dead in her hotel room on October 12, 1978. The killer was never found, and the suspects range from Sid Vicious to two drug dealers who visited the hotel that night. Sid pleaded not guilty to the murder and was put on bail, but died of a drug overdose before the trial could take place.

Therefore, it seems that no matter where you go, hotels are a haven for mysterious happenings, especially in New York. I’m sure most people have stayed in a hotel at least once in their lives, never giving it much thought. After reading about these two occurrences, however, I think I’m going to think twice about staying in one from now on.

-Jon Farrell

Tabula Rasa

When I first started reading Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, I found myself completely lost at times. The narrative was fairly straightforward, but the absence of text and the foreign sights really threw me off a bit as I tried to follow the story. I tried to find symbolism in certain objects, and there were some where I certainly did, but at times I felt hung up on things that I didn’t understand.

But then I realized something. That was the point. The story was one of immigration; being thrown into a world you know little to nothing about and trying to understand as you go along. There were no words because when you’re an immigrant in a new country, you don’t know any words. As an immigrant, you start Tabula rasa: a mind inexperienced to the new culture; a blank slate. You have no common ground other than your humanity and needs. Once I learned to sit back and accept that I wasn’t going to understand everything right away, the story became much more enjoyable.

I soon realized that Tan’s story was just so universally relatable; it pushed past cultural boundaries. No one reader –or, rather, onlooker– really had more of an understanding than the other, because every onlooker, no matter what their ethnicity, started from that same blank slate. As an onlooker, you were learning as the main character was learning. It created a whole new level of investment for the audience as brought us one level closer to the story, and that’s what was so great about it.

From children to adults, immigrants to natives, The Arrival brings a universally accessible story that is applicable to anyone who has felt like they’ve entered a new world. Which, as a college freshman, feels pretty familiar; you might have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into, but you can never comprehend the full picture until you’re immersed.

-Jon Farrell


When I look back, the attacks on September 11th, 2001 seem to be such a trivial tragedy in the mind of a child. I was only 7 years old, and while there is no denying the horror and impact of the event on a large scale, it was just so mind-numbingly foreign that, as a child, I had trouble fully grasping what had actually happened. I remember feeling confused, but no real feelings of dread really hit me. Only after observing my parents’ looks of dismay and uncertainty was I able to try to replicate, understand, and feel those emotions. I saw the need to be scared and sad, but the feelings just weren’t genuinely there.

Now, this isn’t to say that the event is by any means insignificant. When I Iook upon it now, 9/11 was a horrible tragedy that changed a city, a country, a world. With the wisdom and experience that comes from even ten years, I can understand it’s weight more fully now than I did then. It wasn’t just a terrible loss, though.  It was so much more than that. It was a source of national unity, of communal togetherness. Neighbors helping each other cope, separated family members reconnecting with each other, strangers helping other strangers with the simplest of tasks. Everyone was an American, and this unifying characteristic seemed to override the day to day prejudices and preconceptions. While I’m not necessarily convinced, I hope that the unity is what sticks.

Remembrance is a fickle beast, however. Long after the sentiment of 9/11 has worn off, there are few things people remember. And as Rieff talks about in “The Limits of Remembrance,” people tend to remember the bad instead of the good. As time passes, the sense of unity slowly wears away until people only remember the wrong done and harbor animosity and retribution. And eventually, Rieff claims, 9/11 will eventually follow the path of most important events and fade from the collective consciousness of the world altogether.

But is 9/11 an exception to that rule? With the immediacy of it’s coverage and the abundance of pictures and videos, 9/11 is the most well-documented tragedy in American history to date. While that may stand out now, I don’t necessarily know if it’s enough to make 9/11 an outstanding event that will never be forgotten. It may be the first event to gain so much coverage, but if there ever happens to be another huge tragedy in America, (hopefully there won’t be, but these days you never know) it won’t be the last. With the advent of technology and media in our world today, any subsequent events will be documented just as well as–if not better than–9/11. It’s an uncomfortable idea to toy with, especially so early on, but it’s probable that 9/11 will lose it’s significance in this respect.

And maybe that’s for the better. As time goes on, this over abundance of coverage will become the norm, and people will become jaded on it’s novelty. It’s possible that many people will be unable to form their own emotions, the same problem I had as a child, and pick up on the feelings of vengeance referred to by Rieff. While people are supposed to regard and learn form the past, we are also supposed to move on and leave the past behind us for reasons such as this. If the sentiment of unity from 9/11 can’t be relayed through time, it only leaves room to breed hate. All of the animosity can only grow and distort itself into mindless prejudice as time passes, and that would only serve to be detrimental to that ever-important sense of unity. If such is the case, maybe 9/11 would be better left in the past.