Monday, April 30, 2012

A True Labyrinth

This week we watched Pan's Labyrinth. I cannot count the number of times I had been told that Pan's Labyrinth was a fantastic movie, so I went into the experience with high expectations. Big Mistake.  To say I didn't like the movie would not strictly be true - it did keep me entertained for two hours - but I failed to see anything that supposedly made Pan's Labyrinth a memorable movie.  However, it did contain many fairy tale-esque elements that were fun to discuss with Dr. Deveny.

Like a traditional fairy tale, Pan's Labyrinth oversimplified right and wrong. In order to make the fascist Franco regime look bad, the captain not only is a brutal murderer, but an unkind husband and stepfather. By making him "evil" in all aspects of his life, the director was able to push viewers into seeing the captain as a classic fairy tale villain. Similarly, the guerillas were portrayed as very good people. The references to the "left" were not lost on Dr. Deveny, who pointed to Ophelia's birthmark, the door that she opened to find the key, and the hand she held out to the captain as examples of Ophelia's, and therefore the viewer's intended leftist opinion.

Dr. Deveny's lecture, unlike other guest speakers, focused entirely on this one story. That allowed us to look deeper than we otherwise could have. For instance we were able to identify almost all of Vladimir Propp's functions in Pan's Labyrinth.  Because it was so much longer than other fairy tales, Pan's Labyrinth was able to have a much bigger story arc, including an embedded story, than a traditional fairy tale.

We also talked about how the female protagonist broke from the typical fairy tale. Although women are often the title characters in fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, Goldilocks, Beauty and the Beast, etc), they are almost always passive.  Take Cinderella: she goes back home and waits around for the Prince to come find her. Or Snow White: she falls into a coma! It is entirely up to the Prince to come save her. In Pan's Labyrinth, by contrast, it is Ophelia who takes action. She enters the labyrinth, she follows the fairies, and she even goes back to the faun and begs for another chance when he dismisses her as a failure.

There were some elements that Dr. Deveny did not talk about - namely the purpose of the faun and his tasks for Ophelia. While one may take them at face value, a more intellectual approach would suggest that Ophelia makes up these stories to help her cope with the tumultuous events all around her. Between moving, getting a new father, losing attention from a pregnant mother, and hearing about the fighting, Ophelia is overwhelmed and reverts to what she knows best: fairy tales. We know that she loved to read them as a child, so it is logical to assume that she made up her own to distract herself and to indirectly confront her new fears. The discovery of the faun in the labyrinth reflects her curiosity and need to explore her new world. The trip to find the frog in the forest reflects her fear of the forest which, she has been told, is full of dangerous people and things. The pale man story can be used as an explanation for why the house makes noise that is easier for Ophelia to understand than the story her mother told. And ultimately stealing her brother is her way of rebelling against her stepfather and protesting his authority.

Pan's Labyrinth is full of symbolism, motifs, and metaphors that teach lessons about life and emotions. However, I would not recommend it to a friend - despite its many clever symbols, Pan's Labyrinth simply failed to amuse me very much.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"We've Eaten off the Same Plate...We Shared a Bed!"

On Thursday Dr. Alles came in to talk. Dr. Alles is Dr. Esa's old friend, and also the funniest teacher I have ever encountered in my life. He came to give a lecture on Indian Fairy Tales, “Myths and Legends of the Ādivāsīs in India," and ended up providing us with more laughs than we have had all semester.

Dr. Alles was very relaxed, clearly enjoying the class. He was also incredible knowledgeable as far as Adivasis tales, because he has been to India and joined the locals in their traditions. His lecture included lessons in decapitation, all night dance parties, planting trees in cow dung, making houses entirely of gold, finding a location for a gold smithy, distilling liquor, drawing on living room walls, riding motorcycles through cornfields, rerouting live electric wires, and, of course, smoking opium.

One major difference I noticed is that these people not only tell their fairy tales, but they live them. Because their fairy tales involve the Gods, they continue to honor the Gods with ceremonies. The one ceremony which Dr. Alles has taken part in multiple times, involved paintings to honor the gods and the symbolic planting of trees, as well as an all night party to celebrate.

Dr. Alles, in his travels, has been able to experience some incredible things. He has partaken in ceremonies. He has distilled and drank liquor. He has smoked opium (but not gotten high). From his lecture I came to understand that Adivasi folk tale tradition is as much about the experience than anything else. Unlike the West, these stories are meant for people of all ages, and everyone joins in the ceremonies. There is no moral for young children to act a certain way. (OK, maybe there are some morals. But that's not the main component of these stories.) Instead these stories are partly origin stories (why a hill is shaped a certain way, etc), and partly necessary to maintain a culture.

India is a very diverse area. The sub-continent is filled with people from many different areas, whose origins stretch as far apart as Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. In order to have their own culture, the Adivasi must keep telling stories and living them through their ceremonies. In order to continue to exist as a people, and not get lost in the 21st century brouhaha, they have to find a way to strengthen and make necessary the community. And they have chosen to do so with their fairy tales, their ceremonies, and their liquor.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Not a Very Fairy-Tale

This week we read Hans Christian Andersen and Oscar Wilde's "Fairy Tales." I really liked them a lot. They were interesting, funny, and generally enjoyable. However, they were not at all typical of fairy tales as we have studied up to this point.

Firstly, Andersen and Wilde both go into much more description than a typical fairy tale. Most fairy tales comment on a feature or two of the main character, say, flowing blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes. These tales, on the other hand, had much more in depth descriptions of the characters. These stories were also much longer, covering more bases and telling more aspects of the story than a traditional fairy tale would.

Religion is also brought more into these tales than others. The Happy Prince, by Wilde, is one example in which the God of Christianity appears, and, true to Christian tradition, is just and all-knowing. In traditional fairy tales we see much less use of God and much more reliance on the characters to solve their own problems.
"Happily ever after," one of the two most iconic fairy tale phrases (the other being "once upon a time"), does not appear in Andersen's or Wilde's work. In The Happy Prince, for example, the statue of the Prince is torn down and the swallow dies, despite all they have done for the city. Instead it is God who grants them each a wonderful eternal life in heaven, which, as I mentioned above, would not happen in traditional fairy tales.

Andersen and Wilde both tell compelling, interesting stories. Both are clearly good writers, creative and artistic. However, I do not think either can be classified as true fairy tales, because of the depth of description, the use of religion, and the lack of "fairy tale endings."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Origin Tales: Africa

Recently Dr. Ochieng visited our class and gave us some great renditions of African folk tales. Dr. Ochieng made great use of everything in the room: the light switches, the blackboard, the drums he brought, and even a few students.
Turning of the lights each time he told a story set the mood, and he began each story with a call and response typical of Kenyan story-telling. (Yes, this meant that each of us had to memorize a short Kenyan phrase.) In this way, he was able to recreate at least to a small extent the traditions of Kenya; stories there are typically told in the dark because as long as it is light outside, there is work to be done.
As Dr. Ochieng told more and more stories, the theme became very clear: origins. The stories all in some way explained the world, giving clear reasons for why things happen. These explanations focused mostly on animal behaviors, and many ended with the phrase "And that is why you never see a _______ doing _______. The motif that was most prominent throughout was that of wit: one animal tricking another. My favorite example of this was the rabbit that was sentenced to drinking a pot of boiling water. He requests, and is granted permission, to have each of his family members personally inspect the water before he drinks it. Being a rabbit his family is enormous, and by the time he has to drink it, it has cooled off. This motif reveals the cultural emphasis placed on wit and smarts.

By far the best part of Dr. Ocheing's lecture was when he asked us to join him in song and dance. Using a repetitive chorus, we were somewhat able to follow along, and while Dr. Ochieng provided the majority of the singing, two of our own led the dancing. It was very fun and at the same time a great tool for us to learn more about the culture of storytelling in Kenya.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Looking at Some Other Blogs

For those who care, you can access each week's syllabus and blog assignment on Dr. Esa's blog. Dr. Esa is fond of posting cartoons and funny videos, so check his page out.

I also recommend that everyone who is in the least bit interested in fairy tales read Sammi's blog. Sammi is an Honors student and a fellow tutor at the writing center, not to mention a heck of a lot more creative than I am. Her blog is written as if Sammi's life is a fairy tale, and her mission or quest is to follow the instructions of "King Esa." It is truly funny to see how she takes what are typical daily assignments and transforms them with her language into heroic quests.

For a drier, more academic approach, check out my ex-roommate Joel's blog. He follows prompts strictly, answering exactly what is asked in a most direct and efficient way. From an economic point of view, Joel certainly makes the most out of both his time and his words.

If you'd prefer to feel good all the time and smile while being completely unnoticed, check out my favorite softball pitcher Becky's blog. She is insightful and puts more effort into her posts than I ever will. For a more comprehensive review of her blog, check out my earlier post Peer Review.

And of course, if you are obsessed with bees, head on over to Cassie's blog, because she never stops talking about the little flying critters. As one of the more well-read and intelligent students I know, Cassie never ceases to amaze me with her theories and theses which I would never think of in a million years, but which seem to come naturally to her. Cassie's blog is an excellent blend of creativity and downright smarts. Not only do Cassie's posts sound really smart (words like "necromancer," "cinematographic," and "accentuate" are far from rare), but the posts actually are smart.

For a glimpse into the mind of one of the hardest working students I know, take a peek at Jason's blog. His blog combines some nice "boyish attitude" (i.e. poking fun at Joel) with some writing that is incredibly reminiscent of something I would expect to read on a database like JSTOR. That is, his writing has the voice of a professional, or perhaps more accurately an academic. Jason would never forget to mention an angle or an idea that is related to the topic, and does not hesitate to tackle obstacles head on.

This is just a sample of the wonderful blogs in the class, each uniquely different. Click any of the links on the left sidebar and you won't be disappointed. These blogs are great examples of what McDaniel College is all about - each blog carries a distinct voice, but in unison they are all working together, helping each other forward.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cinderella Story in Real Life

Rags to Riches: the American Dream

Is Cinderella's "rags to riches" story possible? Can one go from a truly horrific life to a blessed one? In short, is the American Dream possible? And what roles do magic and marriage have in a rags to riches scenario?

In the various Cinderella stories we have read, the heroine is able to reach a better life using magic and marriage. In each case she is a "good" person: she is patient, kind, and intelligent; she does not disrespect those that treat her terribly, and she longs for a better life. In each case, a helper presents himself to aid the Cinderella character: a fairy godmother, birds, a cow, trees, etc. Each of these helpers uses magic to get the heroine into a good situation.

In real life, this magic cannot happen. The idea that a fairy godmother can turn a pumpkin into a coach is obviously not true. But are there other ways for one to go from rags to riches? I think so.

First of all, marriage is definitely possible as a means to improve quality of life. For an extreme example, look at a country like Haiti. Haitians know that if they can marry an American, they will be able to go live in America. This is not to say all Haitians are desperate to leave, nor that they all dream of marrying Americans; however this is a good example of how a marriage can really and truly take someone from one life into a completely different life. This exists within America too, surely, but we do not typically think Americans can be living as poorly as Cinderella originally lived.

I also think there are other examples of rags to riches that may not be perfect mirrors of Cinderella, but are similar. For example, many athletes can quickly go from being under-appreciated and overlooked to celebrated and famous (see: Jose Bautista, Jeremy Lin, Brady Anderson, Tom Brady, Jacoby Ellsbury, the Miracle on Ice team, etc.).
In Michael Lewis' Moneyball, two players in particular are presented as completely unwanted: Scott Hatteberg and Chad Bradford. Hatteberg, apparently too injured to play, thought his baseball career was over; Bradford, who pitched in a most unconventional style, was never considered a real pitcher. Billy Beane, however, saw through the "outer ugliness" of both players - an ugliness that is comparable to Cinderella's dirty clothes and lack of social position - and signed them to play for his team, where they became, like Cinderella, stars. In order for this comparison to work, Beane would have to be considered both the helper and the Prince.

Cinderella and stories like hers are important because they give people hope. They help people believe that if they keep working hard, pushing through, enduring and persevering, that one day they could be rewarded.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's a Sign!

Last week professor Rust gave a lecture on American Sign Language (ASL) and how it parallels fairy tales. Before his talk, if you had asked me to describe the relationship between fairy tales and sign language in one word, I likely would have said, "non-existent." However, I now know that the two subjects have a great deal in common.

Hopefully you remember me talking about the fluidity of fairy tales - each time someone tells a fairy tale, they are likely to embellish it and fashion it uniquely. In this way, although the story stays basically the same, fairy tales can look very different when conveyed by different people. Well ASL is very much like that. Even though the signs for words are pretty much the same, the attitude and facial expressions of the signer can reveal a lot more emotion. Thus in both fairy tales and in ASL do the "speaker" take the story and tell it as his or her own.

The coolest part of Professor Rust's lecture was the videos that he showed us. I never before realized that ASL could be taken to such an art form. For example, one signer mimed golfing a ball, using four distinct motions - motions, which, in fact, spelled out G-O-L-F. Another signer told a whole story of riding his snowmobile, crashing, recovering and continuing by using 26 signs which were the letters A-Z.

So if i had a thesis to this post, it would be : like fairy tales, ASL is malleable and fluid, allowing the storyteller to add his own ideas and inspiration, while still following the basic structure of the story.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Peer Review

Part of my MidTerm exam is to do a peer review of Becky Kaler's blog:

In my opinion, Becky has mastered the concept of the blog: she seamlessly combines personal knowledge and informal style with intellectual content to create articles that are clearly hers, yet not overly opinionated. For instance, Becky freely admits some faults - her preference of happy endings, for example - yet does not make excuses or avoid them, choosing instead to tackle them head on. While it is impressive that Becky maintains this informal-yet-academic style, what is truly astounding is that her work is so easily readable. Also, Becky's post titles are interesting and often witty.
If I had to criticize Becky's blog I would say that her style does not invite readers in; it assumes that the reader has some prior knowledge in the subject, and she doesn't always take time to explain an assignment before jumping into it. Also, a few of her pictures don't show up, at least on my computer.

In short, Becky's got a great blog, and I would recommend that you all read her at least once.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Polar Opposites

Rammstein is a German heavy metal band. Here is their official video for the song "Sonne."

This version of Snow White is very different from what most people are used to. Where is the Queen? the King? The hunter? The Prince? All are omitted. Instead we are shown only Snow White and her dwarves, who interact very differently than typically. Here, the dwarves seem to fear her, and are pretty much her slaves. She takes the gold they mine and snorts it, forces them to polish her apples, and takes other drugs with capital provided by the dwarves. In the end it is a falling apple, not the Prince, that awakens her from her slumber.

With the absence of the Queen, it falls to Snow herself to provide the masculinity in this tale (in the original, the absence of the King forces the masculinity to the Queen). Instead of doing the housework while the dwarves work, Snow forces the dwarves to do the work and provide her with what she needs. In this way Snow is a much more dominant figure - a fact reinforced by how much bigger she is than her diminutive (Joel-sized, some might say) workers.

However the video keeps many of the images that we associate with Snow White: apples, dwarves, Snow's clothing, a comb, and of course, the glass coffin. The coffin is even placed at the top of a mountain, as it is in the original. In this way, Rammstein is reminding us that it is still the same story; only the interpretation has been changed. Instead of being a completely innocent, perfectly cute, and thoroughly uninteresting character, Snow White has been turned into someone with an almost over-bearing personality. She has presence. She is powerful. In many ways, she is the Queen, despite where she lives.

While I enjoyed watching this video for the experience, I do like the original better if only for the lack of drugs and the clever disguises of the Queen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cupid and Psyche -- Urashima

Cupid - 2 Weeks Too Late for Valentine's Day!

Cupid and Psyche is a Greek a tale about beauty, jealousy, and love. When I read it, it made me think of the story of Urashima. In both cases, a mortal marries a God. In both, the mortal begins to miss their mortal family, and request a chance to see them again. And in both, the mortal is forbidden from doing a very simple task - opening a box - yet both fall into temptation and are punished for their disobedience. In both cases, the mortal is flawed in that they are human, and could never live up to the God-like expectations bestowed upon them. Fortunately, Psyche's story ended much more joyously than Urashima's.

Cupid and Pysche was one of the more different stories that we have read, in that it, like traditional Greek works, included many Gods and interactions with them. Urashima was also different, being a Japanese story, with different motifs and morals than most of the other stories. However there were still many clear similarities between these stories and other "Beauty and the Beast"-type tales. Check them out on the other blogs from the class.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Little Red - Expanding Chests

This assignment was to find a cartoon that included Little Red Riding Hood. Instead of going to Google Images, I went to YouTube, just to see some funny stuff. I came across this video and decided I just had to use it. It's 100%, absolutely, ridiculously unheard of crazy.

This video is an advertisement, so the statement it is making is not social or political, but instead economic. I like that. The company's goal is to sell more products. However, instead of showing how amazing their product is, they go for the humor angle. We see this every day in commercials for Bud Light, Dorito's, etc - every time a certain product with laughter, or another positive emotion, we are more likely to buy that product.
Here, the company uses Little Red as an innocent girl at first. She is wandering through the forest, and she is so kind and gentle that all the animals come out to join her. A song begins, and she dances along with the animals. The overall feeling of the ad is cutesy, and overall not all that interesting.
However, we come to the line which translates roughly to "expanding chests," and we see that the animals that have joined Little Red have incredibly large busts. This is a play on words because "expanding chests" is an expression similar to "warming hearts." The ad is thus making two jokes at once: it is using the expression as a play on words, and it is showing animals with over-sized bosoms.
Then at the end, we see a male animal with equally large testes. This is an attempt to leave the viewer with one last laugh - as much to Red's reaction as to anything else.
This video is effective because it is emotionally stimulating. When one watches this ad one may laugh, or one may shake one's head in disapproval; however one does not watch this ad and not react.

A subtitled version is below. Bet you can't guess what kind of company this is.

English Version

Instead of making things more clear, this version just makes me wonder more about the production of this commercial. The link between Little Red and the company is so weak. This ad relies 100% on the emotional reaction of the viewer.

Expanding, EXPANDING!

Monday, February 13, 2012

For Some Reason

My fonts have gotten all messed up. If only I was a master of html, i could fix it. Perhaps Chops can lend me a hand.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


As we learned this week, psychology can be used to help explain Fairy Tales. (As I learned this week, psychology is an incredibly difficult word to spell correctly). However, not every psychologist agrees on the interpretation.

The two psychologists (I just spelled that correctly on the first try!) that our guest lecturer Dr. Mazeroff focused on were Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Freud and Jung were both very intense and dedicated - apparently when they first met they talked for 13 hours straight! - but their theories were very different.

Jung's ideas centered around the idea of the "collective unconscious" shared between all humans. He theorized that all humans, everywhere, share certain "archetypes" deep within, a sort of memory of the human race as a whole. These archetypes can be anything - the ones I noted include: the Wise Old Man (Dumbledore, Gandalf), the Primeval Forrest (Forbidden Forrest, Fangorn Forrest), the Shadow (parts of oneself that one did not know existed; read: Voldermort's soul inside Harry), the juxtaposition of Two Worlds (Muggle world vs. Wizarding world, the Shire vs. Mordor), and the Shapeshifter (Snape, Gollum), among others. Jung posited that these basic ideas are embedded into each human's DNA, and that Fairy Tales were a way to transcend all races, continents, and time periods. Jung believes that because the elements of a Fairy Tale are so universal, the minute details carry greater importance. For instance the stones that Hansel dropped were white, which may signify a sort of child-like innocence. Jung believed no part of a story was too small to carry some matter of great importance.

Freud, on the other hand, predictably applied his theories of Id, Ego, and Superego, and of consciousness, to Fairy Tales. Each tale contains dilemmas based on each layer: primal desires (Id), rational decisions (Ego), and moral decisions (Superego). Freud linked Fairy Tales to dreams, in that they supposedly reveal the inner workings of our brains - workings that we may not be aware of. (OMG! Prepositions aren't words I end sentences with!) Freud's model of consciousness, when displayed on a PowerPoint by Dr. Mazeroff, most closely resembles an iceberg. At the top, "above sea level," are the thoughts and perceptions we experience, and are aware of (i.e. "psychology" is hard to spell). Just below the "water" are the memories and knowledge that we call upon as we need it (i.e. The number for the Red Sox box office is 877-REDSOX-9; the number for WEEI is 617-779-0850, or toll-free at 1-888-525-0850). The deepest (and largest) part of the iceberg is the unconscious level - things we want or need or feel, but cannot exactly identify (i.e. Harry Potter returns to the Mirror of Erised because he has never known his family and longs to be loved and cared for). According to Freud, Fairy Tales reflect each aspect of our consciousness, revealing truths we cannot consciously identify.


The quotes from my blog last week were from:

1. Little Red Riding Hood

2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What is a Fairy Tale?

This post will serve two very nice functions. First, it is my assigned blog for the week, so doing it will complete my homework. Second, this will allow Nicole to better understand if all of Aliah's favorite stories can be classified as "Fairy Tales" or just plain stories.

The most important element of fairy tales is the magic. All fairy tales have some form of magic, which allows heroes (and villains) to do unexpected things. However unlike legends or myths, fairy tale magic is not the intervention of a God into the world we know. Instead it is set in a place where the magic is taken for granted. For example, when you read Rapunzel, you never say to yourself "now that doesn't make sense! How could she survive so long in the tower without eating anything?" When we read fairy tales we must have a suspension of disbelief that lets us imagine that the stories are possible.

Another extremely important characteristic of fairy tales is the adaptability. Whereas myths and legends are based on true events, fairy tales are not. Whether you believe each fairy tale has a unique birthplace or that fairy tales sprung up in multiple places simultaneously, you cannot deny that they are, at their core, fictional stories. Also, fairy tales do not have authors, because they were exclusively told orally for so long. Because there is no original author nor an original true story to follow, fairy tales can change very easily. In fact, every single person that hears a fairy tale becomes a potential changer.
To illustrate this, imagine you just finished reading The Hunger Games. The movie is due out next month, and your friend wants to know the story before he goes with you, so he asks you to tell it to him (since he has not time to read it). In telling the story to him, a couple times you remembered incorrectly and said something that was not in the story. In this case you made a mistake. You messed up. And if you re-read the books and tell the story again, you'll probably get it right this time.
With Fairy Tales, there is no right or wrong way to tell the story. If my mother tells me the story of Beauty and the Beast, and then I tell it to a friend with some different details, I have not wronged anyone because there is no author. And as long as i kept the main ideas, the archetypes, in place, then I have only adapted the work in my own unique way.

There you go, now you know a bit more about identifying Fairy Tales. I will leave you with one last way of distinguishing between Fairy Tales and other stories: if the culminating scene, the climax, shows a complete lack of emotion and of detail, you are reading a Fairy Tale.
Here are two climaxes from two timeless works - see if you can identify which is a fairy tale (bonus points for naming the books; I omitted the names of any characters):

1) "[the villain] fell upon [the hero], and ate her all up."

2) "[the hero] was upon them, and the terror of his coming filled the enemy with madness. [The enemy] fell on their faces before him...Like a black smoke driven by a mounting wind, they fled."

Note: I will post in a couple days the credit for these quotes, but for now I would like to see if my readers can identify the famous books first.

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Favorite Fairy Tale

The Emperor's New Clothes
This is my favorite fairy tale because it celebrates a childlike innocence, an air not caring what others think. The King, and in turn all of his subjects, believe (or pretend to believe) in the "robes." The King is worried that if he admits he cannot see anything, he will be thought of as unworthy of his crown, while his subjects, all hoping to please him and prove their greatness, claim to see it too. Only a child, who is young enough to not realize the implications of such events, proclaims the obvious: the king is naked. There is a lesson here about group thinking, which, while it may seem impossible, is really not that unheard of (see: Hitler, Kim Jong-il, etc.). When everyone agrees, it can be very dangerous to disagree. But, like any good fairy tale, the astute child is not punished, but lives happily ever after.
Another aspect I like about this story is that the Lake Woebegone effect is present, in a way. By believing that every other person could see the cloak, each individual was falling into the trap that this effect can have. For everyone to be able to see the clothes would be for everyone to be fit for their position (i.e. above average). If the King examined this claim, he would be very happy, because if everyone could actually see these robes, that would mean every single one of his subjects was fit for his position.

Note: Blog posts are due every Sunday night around 9, so check back in each week for something new. Maybe I will put up a schedule sometime. Depends how lazy I am.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Lesson in Basic Economics

Well, I will begin this blog by explaining my motivation for blogging:

Someday, I would like to retire comfortably, while being able to support my children. In order to have enough money to do that, I will need to either a) win the lottery, b) become a lot better at soccer, c) marry rich, or d) get a paying job. Henceforth I will assume that options a) through c) are unattainable, and therefore d) is my best option.

In terms of getting this job, I need to first get hired. While getting hired is a fairly simple process, involving things like applying for jobs, interviewing, speaking English, and not dressing like a homeless man, getting hired for a job that will pay me enough so that I can retire in ease is much more tricky. The majority of these jobs are considered "skilled" jobs, as in "Did you have the skill to sit through four years of classes that didn't interest you very much, without going insane?" That's right, the single most important investment one can make in oneself is to attend college and earn a degree.
(Granted, different degrees often yield very different incomes, as shown here, but overall a college degree boosts one's net worth enormously.)

Based on this premise (and pressure from parents, family, and peers, not to mention an absolute lack of alternate options), I enrolled in college. McDaniel College actually.

Now, one would think, all I have to do is to pass. Do the minimum for four (4) years, and get my diploma. However, more and more people are attending college, rendering degrees less and less useful. One needs ways to distinguish oneself from the pack. I could attend graduate school. I could study a very specific (read boring) subject, like accounting, or organic chemistry. The way I have chosen: the McDaniel College Honors Program.

The Honors Program requires that my GPA stay above a certain level. (3.5, glad you asked.) It requires that I take extra courses, filled with similarly gifted students, which are non-major related. For example, this semester I am taking an Honor's class called:

"Once Upon a Time: Folk and Fairy Tales Around the World."

My professor, Dr. Esa, requires that we all blog. This blog will count for 15% of our final grade. Therefore, I blog, because blogging will help my grade in this one class. Which in turn will help me keep a high GPA, which is one step towards graduating with Honors, and which will give me an edge in any future applications (i.e. getting a job!).

That's right, as long and wordy as this post is, my final point is as follows (see the wordiness?): I participate in the Honors Program now, so that I might make more money in the future. And therein lies the economics. In my mind, giving up some hours of potential fun (leisure) while in college is worth it, given the increase of fun (leisure) and stuff (consumption) that I expect to receive later. Work harder now, get more later. Others might contend that the benefits one gets with an Honors tag is not worth the extra work. And those people did not enroll in Honors.

But why did I choose the Fairy Tale class as my Honor's elective? Why not choose a class that didn't require a blog, and maybe less reading, so that I could save some leisure hours, spend more time playing FIFA and less time on Well, I respond, "How was I to know we would be blogging?" When I registered for the class, it looked very interesting to me: a chance to explore stories that I have been told countless times, and that I will likely tell my children one day. I have a chance to find out the origins, the twists and turns, and Walt Disney's manipulations of a myriad of tales.

Therefore, sign me up: Fairy Tales, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 2:40 to 4:10. Let's go.