About Jessen Thomas

Well aren't you a lucky one? Welcome to my world, a place that can be situated anywhere but rests nowhere. Here you will see things that are sad, happy, and if I'm lucky, even funny. Either way, I hope my sense of style affects you in some positive way. Au revoir!

Poor, Poorer, Dead Broke

From what I’ve seen, Do The Right Thing is an excellent movie that lightly depicts the tense racial conflicts that is prevalent in a poor community. Perhaps the word “community” is important here. In this neighborhood, it is a loosely termed word describing a collection of a band of different identities. For some like, the mayor, the neighborhood is a loose society that barely masks the misery of a broken home and broken dreams. For others, like Mooti, it is an ugly patchwork of different cultures, each clashing with one another for self-establishment. Still, others like Radio Raheem see the neighborhood as a cruel place that demands each individual to competitively exclude another. Perhaps the only thing that ties each culture to one another is the mutual acceptance of their poverty. Perhaps this is why the youth, disgusted by this acceptance, act up. I am interested in seeing how far these tensions will progress. Are there any villains, or are the people all villains to one another? By that same token, if everybody is a villain to one another, can’t everyone be right? Probably not. Then what is the right thing? And if it does exist, will someone do the right thing?

King Richard the homewrecker

             Richard the Second did turn out to be an interesting read. True, it did not have the easiness, or for better lack of word, “readability” of certain other texts, but when is Shakespeare intrinsically easy? Perhaps what makes this book interesting is how one man’s greed can destroy a family. By believing that his power is ultimate, which is a legitimate claim at the time, King Richard only takes it upon himself to enjoy the pleasures that come with kingship. King Richard, in abusing his power exposes his utter dependency on it. This in turn also exposes his fallibility as a king. Because he uses so much of his power, he does not see the repercussions of his actions. Perhaps this is why the common folk do not support King Richard as much as Bolinbroke. His tyrannical nature forces most people who are with him to often be against him, as we see with his uncle, the Duke of Gaunt.

        At the same time, we can also see an pragmatist in King Richard. He does not take the deathbed of his uncle seriously. In a manner similar to Don Juan, King Richard is only concerned about The Duke of Gaunt’s property, which he plans to use to help fund the war. As we clearly see, King Richard does not mourn the loss of a relation. This may be a result of, similar to Don Juan, King Richard being enchanted with his own throne. I believe Shakespeare’s genius is in creating a king who is very eloquent, but crude in action and in creating Bolinbroke, whose words carry much less weight than his actions.

          It’s a tragedy that Shakespearean language is hard to follow and even harder to bind with the rest of the story. That being said, King Richard II is a very well crafted play that reflects much of Shakespeare’s skill as a playwright.

                                                 —Jessen Thomas

Persephone’s Pomegranate

I could say that this is a guy thing; we men love to be stubborn. But in being stubborn, can men admit this trait? Perhaps the greatest exemplar of this stubborn-ness, or rather, a very good “bad example” is Moliere’s “Don Juan” character. In his constant conquests for “beauty”, Don Juan destroys lives as he tries to construct his own. In a sense, Don Juan’s tale is Faustian in that his blinding megalomania prevents him from anticipating his self-wrought undoing. Admittedly, this character cannot, in good conscience, be called a role model. However, it is his rationale and psychology that drew me into his fiendish activities. As shown in his treatment of the beggar in the forest and his valet, Don Juan has an innate tendency to prove himself as omni-potent and dominant. In short, Don Juan suffers from a strong God-complex; that is, he believes that his perspective and rationale is infallible.

Perhaps what is ironic about Don Juan’s character is his dependence on people. Although he claims that he is vastly superior and immune to the ethics of common-folk, he ultimately depends on them for his own mental security. Usually, this audience is satisfied through his valet, Sganarelle, whose pious nature and strong morality highlights the demonic nature of Don Juan. Sganarelle, being Don Juan’s valet, can never have the final say in any of his arguments or chidings. As a result, we are made to strongly dislike Don Juan’s nature as he promptly ends arguments if he is not winning them. This openly displays his stubborn nature to accept what can clearly be seen as sound logic and good sense. However, in denying himself of these, we also can see Don Juan as a man who is perhaps destroying himself consciously to destroy a mentally traumatizing image. Or, more reasonably, it is his inability to see the fallibility of his beliefs (the “God-complex”).

On a side note, it’s interesting to note that Don Juan, who claims to be searching for “beauty”, has a narrow view of it. To him, anything that conveys his superiority or is aesthetically pleasing, is beautiful. By doing so, he fails to incorporate true beauty into his life because his hubris blinds the slow suicide that his actions cost him. Eventually, in being so arrogant and hedonistic, Don Juan foolishly overplays his luck. Not only does he taunt his father, he also becomes a “pious man” to satisfy his impious needs. In searching for “beauty”, Don Juan transforms into something more hideous. His ultimate demise is not a moment of tragedy but rather a profound feeling of satisfaction. I felt happy in knowing that a system of karma exists even in Don Juan’s world. I also laughed at Sganarelle who immediately discards his master after many years of strong loyalty over some unpaid wages.

Perhaps in showing us this challenged character, Moliere is trying to suggest that life should not be a self-appointed quest towards a goal, but rather, a nourishing journey of discovery and understanding.

– Jessen T.

The Highline

Grown from the bosom of Gaia,
Wrapped in nature’s attire,
Filled determination and love,
The Highline is a marvel above.

A world lost in another world.
A frozen space in time whirled.
With much taken, can they forgive
The nothing that I give?

Humbled by the trees and green;
To be alive without the machine.
Truly a capsule of times past,
Yet never too old to not last.

Quiet, like a slumbering leviathan.
Loud, but only within a mind span.
A community in another community,
Flashing nature’s immunity,
The Highline stands.

-Jessen Thomas

Bonnie N’ Clyde

There are few things in this universe that is as beautiful as true love, a type of unconditional relationship that’s independent of any external influence. Patti’s “Just Kids” solidified my beliefs about the beauty of true love. No, I don’t mean the clichéd expression of unrequited infatuation. What I mean by true love is that sensation of finding an indispensable companion that you felt like you’ve known for ages.

Patti, who at an early age was already deemed an outcast, was thrown into a limited reality constrained by the chains of poverty. What she did have, instead, was an almost unlimited thirst to perfect her art and the ability to view the world with the eyes of a child, constantly learning something new. Her reactions to her “hard knock life” had something intrinsic to New York itself; she never gave up on her beliefs and maintained a strong optimism. Her life, however, seem to be dashed to the ground until she meets Robert, a fellow art fanatic.

This meeting becomes the end of Patti’s chapter of poverty. Although she remains poor, Robert gives something that Patti never received; companionship. Robert’s dependent on Patti and Patti’s dependence on Robert exemplifies the coexistence that they can only find in each other. Her relationship with Robert is so uncommonly pure that her success becomes expected.

Furthermore, their relationship is characterized by their lack of interest in what the world thinks of them. Perhaps this intended blinding of perception adds to the depth of their immeasurable love. It can also be pointed out that their relationship is, in itself, “art”. We see the “art” in the journey that Patti takes us; her ups and her downs with Robert shaped the magnificent cultural icon that she is today.

– Jessen Thomas

The Royal Dream

Like a quilt that is patched together by squares of different life experiences and cultures, America often stands as a beacon of hope for the hopeless. Because of this, America’s collective quilt of experiences often has dark patches of pain. It is certain however, that all these painful stories reflect the sanctuary that America is. Perhaps the “free man” idealism that is central to this community is what makes it so bizarre. There is no other place, but America, where you can critique the authority’s policies. Shaun Tan, in “The Arrival” coyly alludes to the strangeness of a world that, to many, is salvation. Tan contrasts the embellished, artistic environment of the “new world” to the mundane, constructions of his previous home. This contrast emphasizes the grandeur that people see in America and reflects the “American Dream”.

Our versions of the “American Dream” are different, and are at the same time the same. We long to achieve with this newfound freedom what we couldn’t achieve without it. Tan uses dark tentacles to personify the persecutions that haunt many of the immigrants who seek a new haven, which for many becomes “the land of the free.”

However, Tan also shows the dark side of the American dream, where the streets aren’t paved gold but are dirty and disease-riddled. Essentially, the author shows us the world of the ordinary immigrant. We soon see that the “New world” was not so lustrous, and underlying the hardships that many of its citizens face come to light.Tan’s use of bizarre symbols and his attention to the intricate details of this world forces us to become the protagonist. We are led to the same line of thought that the protagonist probably had. “Where are we? What is this? How does this work? Cool!”

The lack of words, or better said, the presence of constant silence exemplifies the silent martyr; the protagonist is forced to painfully adapt to an atmosphere that is the mirrored reflection of his previous home for the sake of his family. By doing this, we also see the “silent struggle” — the struggles that many immigrants face in America while trying to make a living.

Although his dream was not completely fulfilled, the protagonist achieves happiness when he reunites with his family. This warm picture speaks voluminously about the heart of America: the family. It is within this community that we are able to forge ourselves to become the individuals that we aspire to be. It is also the place where we take a step back and appreciate our environment and take pride in our accomplishments. Tan forces us to question our version of the “American Dream, Will our aspirations give us a feeling of “wholesome” if achieved? After all, how can we achieve if we have no one to work for? How can we be participants of any community if we do not have a family, our identity?

Why forget?

As members of an international community, us Americans are marred by many tragedies in our lives. But the greatest tragedy of America (or any nation for that matter) would be in forgetting these events. Our “forgetfulness” not only disrespects those that perished untimely but also sugarcoats our fixable weaknesses. In the end, our “forgetfulness” would spell out the untimely fall of our nation.

Although I do agree with Rieff’s assertions that memorials have negative impacts on our society, I see it impossible to try to forget them. It is usually through these hard times, that people become closely bonded. Simply ignoring the reality of these events, entertains the possibility of a weak nation comprised of people who share no kindred. Could there ever be a government (or even a citizen) in such a nation?

At the same time, however, there is also a necessity to view these events with a grain of salt. After 9/11, many innocent immigrants of Indian heritage were often viciously attacked and isolated simply because of a loose similarity (as simple as skin color) to the extremists responsible for the fall of the twin towers. It should be said that this cruelty is also seen in many other occasions, one being the persecution of the Japanese in World War II. Like Rieff, I believe that we lose our rights to democracy once we let ourselves fall victim to the propaganda within memorials because we are compelled to take an act of vengeance to even odds.

Though the clarity of history will often be blurred by influences of different interpretations, the canvas of emotions will always be captured in a memorial. There is no way to comfort someone like Oskar Schell, in Foer’s Incredibly Close & Extremely Loud by telling him that “it never happened.” What Reiff misses is the fact that these events often pull heartstrings that resonate deep within our souls.

Sometimes these strings could vibrate for generations. While it may be true that we are being subliminally bombarded by political mind games, it is also true that we have the option of ignoring these suggestions. This does not take copious amounts of focus; it only takes a shift in how we view things. Instead of the “eye for an eye” style of life, we will be much more productive if we share our pains and seek comfort in the family that America is.