Throwback Thursday: Fences Performance Critique

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


Fences by August Wilson premiered in 1985. The play was adapted into a movie in 2016, with Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reprising their roles, of Troy and Rose respectively, from the 2010 revival of the play on Broadway. The movie adaptation highlights the way Troy is a tragic figure, rather than a merely a sympathetic one. Based on the written play, Troy is a character who has faced a difficult life and perpetuates this in his family life, cheating on his wife and holding his son back from his dreams. Washington’s portrayal highlights the sympathy you could have for Troy more consistently than the play allows, making it a story not only of the way oppression eventually beats a man down, but the way you build a life despite of it. The play leaves it to the audience to decide if Troy can be forgiven or not, determine for themselves if he has truly gone to heaven. However, the movie uses lightening as well as physical cues throughout, to lead us to the interpretation that Troy has gone to heaven, and is ultimately a tragic character, rather than merely a sympathetic but unforgivable one. The film version ultimately gives the ambiguous ending of the play, whether or not Troy could ultimately be forgiven by his family, a definitive interpretation that he would be forgiven, that his faults did not make him irredeemable.

Systematic oppression has put Troy in his position, and though he tries his best, he falls short of living the life he intends. The way in which Troy tries but fails to measure up is clearer in the film, going beyond the stage-directions, which do not indicate Troy is showing emotion his words aren’t conveying. The film shows more humor and kindness in Troy then his stern words alone suggest in the play. Just through reading the play, it is possible to interpret Troy has someone who has lived up to society’s expectation of him, being cruel to his son, and cheating on his wife. The ways in which you can sympathize with him only emerging in specific instances. This is brought out more fully with Washington’s portrayal of the character, shifting the interpretation of Troy’s character and ultimate fate from ambiguous to solidly tragic and forgiven.

Specifically, Troy’s vulnerabilities are clearer in Washington’s portrayal, with soft, sad smiles where the play had no written direction other than stern words – highlighting the way he wasn’t only criticizing Cory, but protecting the only way he knew how. The physicality of Washington’s portrayal of Troy (referring to his facial expressions and tone of voice) leads viewers to a more sympathetic and understanding view of Troy than readers of the script may walk away with. The tone of voice Washington uses in key scenes differs from the tone you would expect from the play-script itself. In his speech to Cory where Troy is lecturing Cory “Who says I have to like you,” (Wilson 37) he is smiling and affectionate, almost joking with his son, there is humor as well as a lecture, rather than just the stern lecture of sacrifice it is in its written form. This interpretation of the play in the movie is further expressed by Cory’s reaction to singing the song with Raynell in the end of the film. While the play never lets us know directly whether Cory himself has forgiven his father for his faults, thus furthering the allowance of the readers to make their own conclusions of his character, the film has Cory crying as he sings, as he takes his mother’s rant about the good and bad parts of his father to heart; Cory accepts Troy as a flawed man, but a man who tried his best nonetheless, and leads the audience to this same interpretation.

Besides physicality, the other major way the film leads to the interpretation of Troy as a tragic character is lightning, most significantly, the lightning in the last scene. Troy’s brother Gabriel believes himself to be the archangel Gabriel, who is the messenger of God, and calls out for St. Peter to open the gates of heaven to let Troy in. The stage directions of the play indicate that the stage lights blackout after Gabriel blows his trumpet and the gates of heaven open to him, but it is ambiguous whether this means Troy has gone to heaven, or it is only a manifestation of Gabriel’s delusion, and could be played either way. The movie has bright gold across the sky, as the clouds part and open up, as the family stares up for several long seconds. The movie ends on golden light streaming through the tree into the backyard, rather than going straight to black after the sound of the trumpet. The end of the movie clearly lets you see that Troy has been forgiven in the eyes of God, rather than leaving it a possible manifestation of Gabriel’s mind.

Personally, my preferred interpretation of the play is to see Troy as a tragic figure, to see him as flawed but sympathetic, rather than irredeemable for his poor choices. Because he is flawed in a lot of ways, but he is human, and no human being has ever not made a mistake, including huge life-changing ones like his affair which results in Raynell. It is far easier to vilify someone, than to forgive them; it is easier to write someone off rather than look deeper into what lead to mistakes being made. Some of Troy’s choices were entirely on him, but others seem almost inevitable. He is harsh on Cory not because he doesn’t love him, but because systematic oppression has beaten his dreams out of him, and he can’t fix that for Cory, so he wants him not to be hurt by the battles Troy was never able to win. You can understand Troy’s behaviors, and forgive them, without excusing them. Troy’s motto seems to be “you gotta take the crookeds with the straights” (Wilson 94) and that is the interpretation of Troy’s character that the film leaves us with, which seems the honest interpretation. You forgive, because it is harder than anger, you take the good and the bad parts of life, and you make the best of the situations you have no power over, because you have power over yourself.


Works Cited

Washington, Denzel, director. Fences. Paramount Pictures, 2016.

Wilson, August. Fences. New Mexico Repertory Theatre, 1989.

Throwback Thursday: Bioethics Debate -Insurance Companies Should Not Have The Right To Request Or Receive Genetic Test Results   

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


(Co-authored with my friend Emilie C.)

Genetic tests are a fairly recent development in the medical, and sadly, despite the phenomenal advancements made each year on the science side of things, the legal side is lacking in keeping pace. For one thing, there are relatively few laws that protect genetic information, and according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only one state of our 50 even considers genetic information to be personal property, this among other things need to be rectified, preferably before a crisis due to the abuse of genetic information.

Insurance companies are some of the most likely to abuse genetic information. Knowledge is power after all, and insurance companies have a vested interest not in patients, but in turning a profit. While the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) passed in 2008 makes it illegal for health insurers and employers to discriminate based on DNA, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute, there is a loophole: the law does not apply to long-term care insurance, disability insurance, or life insurance. In fact, any type of insurance company aside from health care can demand genetic test results before offering coverage. The patients most in need of these insurances are those at risk for genetic diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s, yet, these are the people who find it most difficult to get coverage.

Many people avoid getting genetic tests, even when they have a high risk of inheriting a disorder, and when early diagnoses may lead to better care, because they fear what the insurance companies will do. For instance, because of genetic predispositions, or a family history of a genetic disease that may lead to an early death, a life insurance company can deny coverage. A person’s health care insurance may not be (legally) affected by a company receiving test results, but a patient’s health is still adversely affected. In an ethical dilemma such as this one, a patient’s right health, safety, and peace of mind, are far more important than a company’s right to turn a profit.

The other big ethical issue with insurance companies receiving genetic test results is privacy. The fourth amendment protects us from having to share or give away our personal property, and what is more personal than our genetic code? Aside from an infringement of personal rights, it is an infringement on patient rights, such as patient confidentiality, which is one of the pillars of ethics in medicine. One of the most famous violation of patient confidentiality is the case of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were used for scientific research without her knowledge, who never received compensation despite our cells being some of the most valuable in science today (Rabin Martin, 2013). As are abilities expand, as technology improves, we may face more and more cases like this, some with far worse consequences than that of Henrietta Lacks. It is better to start focusing on how to prevent it as much possible now, than to deal with the fallout later.

By allowing insurance companies to receive genetic results, you violate privacy as well as a long-standing focal point of ethics in medicine. For no reason other than that insurance companies want to us that information to make money. Some companies will claim that they will not use the information against you, but if they aren’t going to use it, then why not eliminate the risk and just deny them access to the information in the first place.

On the topic of using genetic test results against a patient, we are brought to discrimination. Knowledge is power, and those in power always seek to use it, and often, they abuse it. Insurance companies use genetic information to raise rates and deny coverage to individuals who need it. This is a basic definition of discrimination. Even worse, it is discrimination for something as invisible as your DNA. Something you cannot control anymore than you could control your skin color (which is also based in your genes, so I guess genetic discrimination is nothing new). But these days, we don’t allow business to refuse someone based on skin color, that sort of discrimination is illegal. So why is it okay to discriminate based on genes? Something that no one has any control over.

In short, insurance companies shouldn’t have the right to request or receive genetic test results, either from clients or from family members. That way lies violation of privacy and discrimination. We can’t stop the abuse of genetic information unless we control the access of it. We don’t have the proper laws in place to protect us; the legal system cannot keep up with biotechnological advancements. But we can start with this. Chose patient rights over a company’s monetary gain. Make the right choice.

Throwback Thursday: Symbolic Recipe

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

How to Make Sam Soup*

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons: Anxiety

1/2 cup: (What my mother calls) Teen Angst

1 1/4 cups: Clumsiness

3 tablespoons: Babbling

2 cups: Sarcasm (can also substitute backtalk)

1/4 cup: Wit (can also substitute intelligence)

1/2 teaspoon: Manners

1/4 teaspoon: Morals

1.5 ounces: Quick-temper

4 teaspoons: Competitiveness

Instructions:

  1. Combine all ingredients.
  1. Let cook for nine months, give or take a few weeks.
  1. Garnish with black eyeliner.
  2. Optional: Let sit before serving, the teen angst must boil out before it is fit to be part of society.

*WARNING: Will probably be sentient.

Throwback Thursday: Stages of Man Essay – 2014

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

“All the world’s a stage”, this is the opening of the monologue by Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It detailing the seven stages of man. Shakespeare’s seven stages covers the physical aspects of aging, from infancy to the oblivion of death. On the other hand, psychologist Erik Erikson’s eight stages covers the mental progression of age. An argument could be made for any of the stages, mental, physical, or both being the most difficult to live through. In my opinion, the stage of adolescence in Erikson’s stages of psychological development is the most difficult.

Adolescence is the fourth of the mental stages, and if matched to one of Shakespeare’s stages, would be found somewhere between the schoolboy (2) and the lover (3). This is because adolescence is a cross between childhood and adulthood. Adolescence is defined as being the ages between 13-19, also called the teenage years. I believe this is the hardest stage because of the afore mentioned fact that it is the stage in which the transition from child to adult takes place. At this stage, you are expected to act like an adult, but you are treated like a child. You are expected to make decisions that affect your entire future, but you cannot leave your home without your parent’s permission. At this stage, you can clearly remember the hardships of the stages that came before, and are intelligent enough to understand the hardships of the stages ahead. So, at this stage, you must deal with not only the hardship of the present, but you must also think about, and in most cases fret over, the responsibilities and hardships of future stages such as love, a career, and making both your parents and yourself proud.

The existential question attributed to adolescence by Erikson is “Who am I and what can I be?” This I think summarizing teenagers even today in a nutshell, and is why being a teenager is one of the toughest times in someone’s life, perhaps even the most difficult. Because aside from the expectation from parents to succeed in school, and all of societies expectations, teens need to try to stay true to who they are. All the while not knowing who that is. This is the age where you start trying to figure out what you like because the is the last time in your life where your parents are going to by your side, either to support you or to breathe down your neck. This is the time of your life where your real friendships start forming, and when you decide on your future. This is when you start dating. And it’s all the more difficult because the difference between this stage and the ones that comes before and after is so huge. The stage before is full of children, and the difference is very noticeable in interests, attitude, and looks. The stage after and those there after are full of full-fledged adults who have perhaps forgotten what it is to be in high school. The teenage years are when your self-confidence is at it’s lowest, so ridicule and peer-pressure are a large influence. Teens want to find out who they are, without differentiating themselves too much from their friends. All while being expected to prepare for adulthood.

In summary, my opinion on the most difficult stage of life is Erikson’s 4th stage of adolescence. This stage is equivalent to a mix of Shakespeare’s stages of schoolboy and lover, as it has attributes of each. I think it is the most difficult stage because it is the stage that marks the transition from child- to adulthood. Teenagers need to figure out who they are, while they crave to be accepted by society and meet their parents expectations. They are treated like children, just are expected to act like adults. This makes for a very difficult period. As Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage”, and at this stage is when a person does the most acting as someone they aren’t. Adolescence is when you change your role.

Throwback Thursday: Karyotype Letter – 2014

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.

For this particular assignment, we drew chromosomes from a hat to write about the disorder a trisomy of that chromosome would cause.

I originally drew 21 but everyone else reveled, saying it was unfair since I wouldn’t have to research it (my sister has Down’s Syndrome – also known as trisomy 21) so I traded with my best friend for trisomy 15. All the science here is as accurate as a 14 year old could get.


 

Dear Soon-to-be Parents,

I have finished reviewing your child’s karyotype, and I regret to inform you that I found a genetic abnormality.  As you know all human beings have 46 chromosomes. In your son’s case he has 47 chromosomes, an extra chromosome, the 15th to be precise. This is also called trisomy 15. This additional chromosome can cause one of two genetic syndromes.  Trisomy 15 can cause either Prader-Willi’s syndrome (PWS) or Angelman’s Syndrome (AS). PWS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the mother. AS occurs when the extra chromosome comes from the father. Unfortunately a karyotype does not tell us where the extra chromosome came from and thus I cannot tell you which disorder your son will be born with. Both syndromes also result in miscarriages, but at this stage in pregnancy that is highly unlikely.  As you are entering the third trimester, an abortion is also not a viable option so I would like to take this opportunity to provide some education and prognosis so you can help your son grow and develop to the best of his potential.

Some common symptoms to both disorders are: delayed growth and development, mental retardation, hypotonia (weak muscle tone), and characteristic facial features. The severance of these symptoms varies from child to child.. Chromosome 15 codes genetic information used largely by the brain, specifically in muscle movements, as well as, eye and skin color. The maternal chromosome is usually the most active, thus, with Angelman’s syndrome, the extra paternal chromosome manifests in certain symptoms. Angelman’s causes developmental delays, especially physically. Fine motor skills are underdeveloped and they have short attention spans. Those with Angelman’s frequently exhibit hypopigmentation, which causes their skin, eyes, and hair to be significantly lighter than the parents’.  Children with Angelman’s generally have poor verbal skills, though their non-verbal communication is generally better than their peers. They are described as “excessively happy and always smiling”. Children with Angelman’s can live independent, happy lives with the proper assistance and care. They live well into adulthood and can have children of their own, though it is hereditary.

As for Prader-Willi’s syndrome, an extra maternal copy is activated. Common symptoms include: extreme, insatiable appetite (polyphagia), delayed to no pubescent growth (hypogonadism), extremely weak muscles, and hormone imbalances. People with this condition typically find it hard to reproduce. They have distinct facial characteristics, including: thin upper lips, almond shaped eyes, lighter skin, and a downturned mouth. Joints are usually loosely extended and sex organs are slow in development. As with Angelman’s, children with Prader-Willi’s have trouble learning and speaking. Due to their insatiable hunger, they are prone to huger pains, and obesity. This can cause severe sleeping and behavioral problems. Nearly all with Prader-Willi’s live well into adulthood, but many rely on drug therapy to suppress the worst of the symptoms. Both disorders are linked to having a lower than average intelligence.

You may be wondering how this could have happened to your son, wondering how he ended up with three chromosome 15s instead of two. You may want to blame each other. Well don’t. It is just as likely to come from the father than the mother, and vise-versa. It isn’t either of your faults; it is a result of non-disjunction. Non-disjunction is, to put it simply, when in meiosis, the chromosomes that should separate, don’t. Usually, replicated chromosomes split, so each haploid cell/gamete has one copy. Non-disjunction can occur equally in males and females. When non-disjunction occurs, both copies of a chromosome enter one cell, and none enter the other. If this occurs in Meiosis I, then there is a 50% chance of a monosomy (having one copy of a chromosome) and 50% chance of a trisomy (having 3 copies, which is what happened to your son). If non-disjunction happens in meiosis II, then there is a 50% chance of a “normal” baby, 25% chance of monosomy, and 25% chance of trisomy. It is not your fault, and you are not the only parents to go through this, your son is not the only one with this disorder (which ever it may be). About 1 in 1000 pregnancies have chromosomal disorders. And while there isn’t a cure, there are ways to help your son.

Treatments for both Angelman’s and Prader-Willi’s are similar. One noticeable difference is that children with Prader-Willi’s require more hormone and drug treatments. Hormone treatments are used to help the child develop normally, and to trigger puberty if it does not occur naturally. Drug treatments are also used to treat the hunger pains. Many children follow special diets that are “low in calories but high in proteins, fiber, and various essential nutrients” so that they do not become obese. Other treatments for Prader-Willi’s are the same as those for Angelman’s; they focus mainly on making the symptoms caused by the disease manageable.

Early Intervention is the key to minimizing the effects and increasing your son’s chances of success.  Early Intervention programs provide children a mix of speech, occupational, and physical therapies, among other things. This starts in infancy and can help a child with these disorders to develop skills similar to their “normal” peers. This therapies can help a child with a developmental disability reach milestones sooner than they would on their own. Children who go through early intervention are more capable and show less extreme symptoms than those that don’t. Children with chromosomal disorders often require more specialized learning environments than public school can offer, there are special schools these children can attend to aid their education. Here in south Florida, schools such as “The Learning Experience” are specifically for taking care of those children with special needs. And while these schools can be expensive, scholarships and other programs are available such as the McKay Voucher here in Florida. Feel free to contact me, or any of my co-workers for additional information. And remember, your son is special. He’s going to need a little extra help, but he’ll love you the same as any other baby.

Best Wishes,
Dr. Samantha B. (Last name redacted)

 

Throwback Thursday: Research – BioTech Product

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Ibuprofen is an over the counter medication, in the category of NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug) used to treat pain, cramps, fever, and to reduce inflammation. It usually comes in the form of a pill, but does come in liquid form, usually for children. It was developed as a safer alternative to aspirin (though its use has been linked to increased chances of liver and heart diseases). It is manufactured by various companies, under brand names such as “Advil”, “Nurofen”, and “Moltrin”. Some specific companies include: Bayer Healthcare, Johnson and Johnson, and Pfizer Inc.

Ibuprofen is a synthesized compound. The process begins with a compound called “2-methylpropylbenzene” and through a six step process of adding and removing various molecules (a process which has since been reduced in what is called “green” synthesis), you end up with Ibuprofen. The original method was called the “Boot Process” after the company with the original patent, but now the “Hoechst Process” is used (this would be that new “green synthesis”). With the Hoechst process, the original
2-methylpropylbenzene is still used, then a H2 catalyst is added and then a CO catalyst is added. Through this, the proper molecules are added and removed to form Ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen was first developed and patented by the Boot Pure Drug Company in the UK. The research team was led by Stewart Adams. Ibuprofen became available as an over the counter medication in America in 1974 when the American Upjohn Company was given permission to market it as Motrin. Later, the Boots Company also sold it in America under the name Rufen.

Throwback Thursday: Heroes Need Followers Synthesis Essay

Throwback Thursday, where, essentially I post old writing samples, essays and short stories that I dig up from my pile of hoarded papers and school assignments or from the depths of my computer. So everyone can see how my writing has changed/improved over the years.


 

Each of our protagonists are considered the heroes of their stories, though they had similar aims of making their worlds better, and very different methods of achieving their goals (with varying degrees of success), they are all none the less the heroes of their respective stories. However, the heroes are not heroes without their followers. None of the heroes we see in the following novels attained that heroism by standing alone, because they are too easily shunned or dismissed that way. If they stand with others, they are not so easily ignored, and can more likely “enlighten” others or otherwise attain their goal. According to Plato’s definition, enlightenment is achieved by sharing your acquired wisdom with others, to do this, V from V for Vendetta, Harrison from “Harrison Bergeron”, and Jonas from The Giver all need their followers in order to become heroes.

Hero has several definitions with different connotations. Ranging from “the chief main character…” to “a man greatly admired” or “a legendary warrior of great strength”. We can fit some form of this definition to each of our protagonists. Showing they are heroes in terms of the works in which they appear.

Take V from V for Vendetta by Alan Moore for example. He is perhaps a controversial hero, but for his story, he is the hero. He achieves his goals, despite his death, but he only achieves them vicariously through Evey. Without his training and manipulation of Evey his plan of overthrowing the government would not have worked. He needed people on his side, to understand his ideals in order for them to come to life. He is the original “enlightened man” in V for Vendetta, and he becomes “truly enlightened” as per Plato’s definition when he begins to share the art, music, and literature he has saved from destruction. Without Evey, he is a terrorist, trying to change the world for the worst. With her, more citizens are swayed to his view, and despite perhaps being a tragic hero through his death; he becomes a hero nonetheless.

We see this similarly in The Giver by Lois Lowry. Jonas becomes the Receiver of Memory, and with this title becomes “special”, this is of course, a classic hallmark of a hero. But Jonas does not become a hero simply through this. It is The Giver and Gabe that make him a hero from his potential to be one. He gets the memories, as well as strength to carry out his plan from The Giver. The Council assigns him his role as the Receiver. And ultimately, it is the memory of love, The Giver’s love for Jonas, and Jonas’s similar love for Gabe that incites his heroism, stealing himself to make a change, to bring the memories back, all in order to save Gabe’s life. Without Gabe, the entire course of the story is changed. Jonas would not have left the community, or at the very least he would have left much later. Jonas becomes a hero when he decides to make a change for what he believes is the better, and without Gabe, he never would have made the choice at all, for there would have been no choice to make.

Then there are those like the Unknown Citizen, who is not, by any definition of the word, a hero. He stands alone, and does as he is told, and dies without being known. Had he died for a cause, for his cause, he’d have been a tragic hero, much like Harrison Bergeron, but he did not have a cause, or a conflict to solve, or a person to save. He was not special in anyway. He stood alone, and was in no way a hero for his world. And that is exactly the point the poem made. Heroes are known, remembered, praised. And the Unknown Citizen was praised by the government for not trying to be a hero, and his thanks was his name already forgotten.

Heroes need others in order to be heroes. To act as foils to make them better. To incite the heroism they have the potential for. To start the support, because there is power in numbers and multiple voices are harder to ignore. Heroes need others because they are by nature constructed by others, they must be seen as heroes to be heroes. Heroes without others aren’t heroes, they simply are.