Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Sea Inside Post 3

One scene that I remember fairly well was when Ramon was lying in his bed alone. It was a medium shot of the side of his bed, and I think it was raining outside. I don't remember when in the movie this took place. This creates a miserable scene, which is supposed to show how miserable Ramon was in his current confinement to the room, which he has been in for a very, very long time.

Another scene I remember is when Ramon is talking to Julia. The shots were almost all close-ups of their faces. This was done to show that the two were growing close, which is very apparent later in the film. It also gives you a personal, uncomfortable feeling, like your spying on them while they're getting ready to kiss.

The third scene I remember was at the end. Ramon is in bed, getting ready to drink the water. The scene is almost entirely one shot, and it makes you feel like Ramon is talking to you, giving you his last words before committing suicide. You are also seeing what others saw when the original video was found. This scene raps the movie up well, because the original video was not intended for people who had just watched a full movie about him, so he tells some things that we already know.

The Sea Inside Post 2

The Sea Inside and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly are both about quadriplegics, and yet they are quite different.

The central characters in both stories are only able to do what others do for them, aside from communication. However, Bauby's condition is significantly worse than Ramon's. Bauby can't talk, and he has to communicate only by blinking his left eye. On the other hand, Ramon can talk fluently, and he can even write with a pen in his mouth (somewhat).

Also, Bauby's face is pale, one of his eyes is sewn shut, drool dripping from his mouth, and his mouth and nose damaged. Ramon looks just like he did before his accident besides some balding.
Both Ramon and Bauby have sarcastic personalities. However, Bauby isn't able to crack jokes, because they lose their point after blinking it out.

The purpose of the stories are also quite different. The Sea Inside's point is obviously to convince people that suicide should be legal, at least for quadriplegics. However, the point of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is much harder to understand, as I explained in an earlier post.

In my opinion, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is more powerful than The Sea Inside. It seems more heartfelt than The Sea Inside, as it was Bauby's way of communicating with the outside world. It wasn't necessarily trying to sway the reader's opinion.

The Sea Inside Post 1

It is very hard to say whether I agree with Ramon (sorry, I don't know how to add the accent over the "o"). The characters that were opposed to his suicide seemed very ignorant to his situation, but I mean "characters." It is quite likely that those characters were greatly exaggerated to make them as something like villains, and the same goes to the "heroes" who wanted to help him die. There is obviously a huge bias towards Ramon's decision, and the film is most likely intended to convince the world, or at least Spain, that suicide should be an option.

As I'll discuss in my later post regarding this film, Ramon's disability is much less severe than Jean-Dominique Bauby's. The Ramon's situation fails to make me as sympathetic as the film makers may have hoped. He could have done many things despite his condition, but he just didn't want to.

Ramon just seems depressed (although he always has that same smile on his face). He just sitting in bed, examining the meaning of his life. He is clearly not a religious man, since he doesn't believe in the after life, and he would certainly have been more hopeful if he had been one.

Perhaps it is good that Ramon died, as it put him out of his misery. I think that it should be a person's choice, in this case anyway. Sometimes teenagers suddenly hate their life and end it swiftly, and later regret it most likely. However, Ramon has been in that room for a very, very long time, and this was no spur of the moment decision.

So I don't have a clear cut decision. This is clearly a very large controversy. I'll just wait for a law. I think the decision of the court was fine, as I think it is hard to decide whether someone should die or not.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Week 6, Part 2

This was a rough draft of the essay. I later chose Option 2 instead.

By writing A Walk in the Woods, I think Bill Bryson wanted to increase concerns about our environment. He wrote a very interesting and humorous memoir about his adventure with Katz hiking the Appalachian Trail.

He is clearly very biased toward nature, and he has a negative tone towards the National Park Service. "I am almost certain that if that $200 million a year were restored to the budget, nearly all of it would go into building more parking lots and RV hookups, not into saving trees and certainly not into restoring the precious, lovely grassy balds" (135; ch. 7).

He also chooses long words that I don't hear often. "... with an imposing leonine grandeur... (233; ch. 13) is a good example of the vocabulary he uses regularly. Perhaps he just has a large vocabulary, so he uses it without thinking about it. He may also use them because he enjoys making himself seem more sophisticated than others, although that is not as likely.

Bill also tends to explain some history relating to the section of the book he is writing, both recent and ancient. For example, he explained the history of Harpers Ferry when he was hiking there. "The battle for Harpers Ferry was the finest moment for Stonewall Jackson..." (243; ch. 13). Perhaps Bill does this to show that the Appalachian Trail is full of historic sites, so it should be preserved.

Bill Bryson also complains a lot. Whether it be the poor quality of their maps, the high or low temperature, the people, and everything else. Bill tends to make just about everything seem to be the worst part of his trip so far. "First days are always bad. Tomorrow would be better... Well, we were both wrong" (350; ch. 19).

Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods was made both to make people think about their environment more, and to show that his hike was long and hard enough that he didn't need to finish it. It also made me laugh a lot, so if you're looking for an enjoyable book to read, be sure to pick this one up.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Week 6, Part 1

Katz is back! Bill and Katz came to Maine, and began hiking together again.

Katz had made up his mind that the best way to hike was with newspaper delivery bags, and to hardly pack anything, but Bill finally talked some sense into him, although they took less, and they brought raw food to eat.

Very early on they saw a moose, who was drinking from a stream. He couldn't believe someone would hunt them. "You might as well hunt cows" (349; ch. 19).

Katz started throwing things angrily, in a very similar way to the first day. He had thrown food, clothes, and a water bottle, to Bryson's great surprise.

They came to a stream in the middle of the path, and they tried step over it on stones. Katz fell in, and so did Bill. Both of them nearly drowned. After they got across, two young hikers walked through the water with their packs over their heads with the greatest of ease.

When they came to the town of Monson, Bill Bryson found out that Katz had been drinking. He wanted more money to buy beer, but Bill wouldn't let him. Katz was supposed to have quit drinking a long time ago.

They came to the Hundred Mile Wilderness, which was a dark and long section of the AT. At first they are mad at each other, but eventually Katz returns to his normal self and explains that he enjoys drinking a lot.

Bill goes ahead to fill up their water bottles at the stream. He waits for more than half an hour, and he finally goes back only to find that Katz is gone! Bill starts panicking, and he searches everywhere for him. It was very hot, and if Katz didn't have water he might die!

Eventually, Katz is found. He explained that he had gone off the trail and gotten lost. They both agreed that they wanted to go home.

So they hitchhiked back to civilization. They weren't excited to have the comforts of cities because they know they'll have them for a very long time. Bill and Katz agreed that although they didn't walk the entire trail, they walked enough of it. "So Katz was right after all, and I don't care what anybody says. We hiked the Appalachian Trail" (394; ch. 21).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Week 5, Part 2

First, Bill Bryson described the possibilities of mountain lions living in New England, and how pointless hunting has led to the extinction of many species of birds. Returning to the story, Bill met Chicken John, who was famous for somehow losing the AT. Before separating, Bill reminded Chicken John that he was walking in the wrong direction.

While hiking, Bill became very, very hot, but he finally came to a Burger King, where he bought a very large Coke. Later, he ran into a man with a handheld called "Enviro Monitor," which could measure eighty values, which were mostly useless.

As Bill was hiking the White Mountains, a mist came and it became cold. He realized that he had forgotten his waterproofs, and he began to worry about hypothermia. As he walked, he was getting cold and wet, and every time he looked at his watch, it read the same time! Bill was sure he was losing his mind, and he described several strange effects hypothermia can have on the brain. When he finally got to a lodge, he realized that his watch was stuck.

Then he came to Mount Washington, where it was so windy that you could sometimes get blown into the air! Bill made a long description of the history of hotels at Mount Washington.

A Walk in the Woods has a pattern for each chapter, it seems. Bryson will start by telling a specific story of someone who was in the same area that Bill is in. This expands into a topic spanning about three or four pages long. When the monologue has finally ended, Bill will return to the story and describe his experience hiking this particular area, and will add various facts, figures, and anecdotes. Finally, he will usually start over again with a topic which will continue until the chapter ends.

Now, I have enjoyed this book without a doubt. Bill’s hiking story will span just enough pages to keep me reading. The problem is that now Katz is gone. Since Bill has been day-hiking, he’s been alone for the most part, and the book is starting to get dull. Chapter 17 was an exception, as the story was fairly entertaining, although it made me feel somewhat queazy (I still feel somewhat lightheaded at the moment, so perhaps it wasn’t the book’s fault). I hope that Bill will hurry up and go home, so the time can speed up to a week per page until Katz joins up with him again.

In a way, though, Katz’s absence has been refreshing. His mouth has been the source of the majority of swearing in A Walk in the Woods. But although Katz f-words have been annoying, you’d think I’d be used to it. I’ve heard worse on the random online forums that I sometimes talk on. Also, Katz’s language isn’t usually presented in a positive light, and the author doesn’t ever stoop to his level of language. Bill prefers to use “goodness” instead (which I actually find more offensive than the f-word, but I won’t go into right that now).

So in general, I miss Katz and hope that his personality re-enters the book very soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Week 5, Part 1

I replied to and

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Week 4, Part 2

It was raining outside, and Bill was still worried about bears, so they went to a shelter for the night. However, another group of hikers met up with them, and they were loud and obnoxious:
"I've never done this before."
"What--camp in a shelter?"
"No, look through binoculars with my glasses on."
"Oh, I thought you meant camp in a shelter--ha! ha! ha!"
"No, I meant look through binoculars with my glasses on--ha! ha! ha!" (224-225; ch. 12)
They were so annoying that Katz and Bill left the shelter and camped in the rain!

Bill and Katz were picked up by Bill's family and they went home. When Bill got home, he still wanted to camp. He got in his car and drove along the AT to places they were skipping, and he hiked small portions of it. However, he didn't enjoy it much.

Bill reached Centralia. Because there was so much coal under the town, a fire had been burning under it for the last thirty-four years, and he read that it would continue for a thousand years. The town appeared to be completely abandoned, and steam was rising from the ground. He left.

Later, he went to a zinc mill near Palmerton, Pennsylvania. He wanted to see the mountain which had no vegetation thanks to pollution from the mill. He got into trouble with a security guard, but he eventually got away.

In Chapter 15, Bill goes on and on about how mountains are created, and that we are still in an ice age.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Week 4, Part 1

I think the quote that best explains the tone of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods is, "'... trust is such a kind of bedrock part of hiking the AT, you know? I thru-hiked myself in 1987, so I know how much you come to rely on the goodness of strangers. The trail is really all about that, isn't it?'" (242; ch. 13). Although Bill didn't actually say that quote, I think it's important because throughout the book, Bill has been running into many different people, and it has a large impact on him. Sometimes people give him food, keep him company, and give him rides, while others annoy him so much that he gives up his shelter to get away. Without these people, the trail would be very dull. Although nature is fascinating, you need to have someone to share it with.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

If you ask me, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was a very interesting book. Jean's condition was very stressful to think about, and I was glad when he started turning his head 90 degrees and humming a tune. Every time I put the book down, I felt a great sense of relief. I can move! I don't think I can ever complain about my body again (not that I usually do).

I'm not sure what inspired Jean to write this book. Perhaps he was trying to show that people should be allowed to die if their only other option is to remain in locked-in syndrome. Or the opposite: Jean could be trying to show that no matter how the body is damaged, the human mind is still free.

Whatever the case, the author must have had a very strong will to write the book, because he did so by blinking his eye. It's hard to imagine how frustrating it must have been to blink on the wrong letter, and having no way to say, "Oops!" Even if Claude was reciting the alphabet slowly, I have a feeling that you've blinked a couple times without purposely doing so, and it was most likely the same for Jean. I assume that his eye would start to hurt after a page or two. Also, what if he wanted to go back and change something? Or if he didn't think of an idea instantly, wouldn't Claude just keep on going? "U, L, O, M, D..." Yep. Very frustrating stuff.

I found Jean's dream to be interesting. It's often surprising how much sense dreams make when you remember them. In his dream, Jean was functioning normally, but when the situation became dangerous, he suddenly couldn't move or talk. It really shows that no matter how high the butterfly can fly, it still bangs into the diving bell.

Now that Mr. Hatten has brought up three unimaginably terrible situations, would you rather: a: be stuck on the top floor of a burning skyscraper, b: be stuck in a dark submarine at the bottom of the sea, or c: have locked-in syndrome with an messed-up face?

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Week 3, Part 2

My opinion of Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods has been usually fairly high. Bill has been trying throughout the book to give the message that the beauties of nature are slowly disappearing thanks to Americans. I think he does a good job of conveying that, but at the same time, he tends to go on and on. The story of hiking with Katz has been both interesting and humorous, and it stops you from putting the book down. At the start of most chapters, Bill will explain a specific topic relating to nature, which he will continue monologuing about until you want to skip ahead. His arguments are always convincing, but I think he needs to know his limits.

Another factor worth noting is that Bryson never censors anything. Katz swears to the point that even Mrs. Wangensteen wouldn't read it aloud (Maybe). I find this somewhat strange, because unlike movies or comic books, the author doesn't need to use annoying bleeps or $*@^%$s: "Katz swore." Perhaps Bill just enjoys surprising the reader. Whatever the case, I find many statements in the book offensive, and I wish Bryson would be slightly more omitting.

Similarly, he goes into the most gruesome details of stories that he read, or simply something that Katz added. This goes to the point at which I will avoid providing an example to keep myself from feeling queazy, at the possible risk of Mr. Hatten docking points.

On a more positive note, Bill has a wonderful sense of humor. He is very witty, and he adds comic relief to moments that would otherwise be very depressing. Humor is definitely what sets this book aside from dozens of other hiking books, and what most likely won the title "New York Times Bestseller."

As reassuring as it is to know that this is non-fiction, I have a hard time picturing many of the events in the book occurring in real life. Examples of this are when Stephen Katz was chased by a "600 pound" man, when he and Bill got a ride stuffed in the back of a drunk couple's car, and when Katz stayed completely calm and casual during the night when a bear was staring in their direction. Although all of these occurrences are certainly possible, the events create an atmosphere similar to Seinfeld.

Overall, A Walk in the Woods is a very balanced and interesting book, and I look forward to continue reading it! I think that it is about to get more interesting, as Bryson just spotted the staring bear eyes that had been waiting on the cover up until now.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Week 3, Part 1

1) Bill and Katz were covered in mud, it was raining constantly, and they felt awful. They decided to go to Gatlinburg, which is a city near the Smokey Mountains. There they got clean and they ate good food, although it cost a lot. Bill gave many figures showing how everything in America is new and tacky.

While Katz was buying bootlaces, Bill saw a map of the AT. The map was four feet long, and they had only gone about two inches. Instead of getting upset, they felt happy; if the Appalachian Trail was really that long, they wouldn't need to walk the entire way.

Bill decided that they could skip to Virginia. They called a cab driver, and they rented a car, in which they drove to Virginia.

Throughout Chapter Nine, the author went on and on about all of the people who had walked the entire trail, ranging from an overweight person to a blind man.

2) According to, Bill Bryson was born on December 8, 1951 in Des Moines, Iowa. Starting in 1972, he hiked around Europe, first by himself and later with Stephen Katz (not his real name). He worked at a psychiatric hospital where he met and married a nurse named Cynthia.

He went to the United States to complete his college degree and then returned to England in 1977. He became the chief copy editor of the business section of The Times. His book Notes from a Small Island was voted as the book that best sums up the British identity. He has also written books on science and the English language.