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The Finale

The final week of a crazy semester is upon us. As this blog is a place for reflection, I would like to take a moment to look back at how far we have come in these few months. Like I mentioned in my first post in August, I decided to continue my learning career in higher education after about a five year hiatus since getting my associate degree at John Tyler. I used to say to myself that I was done with college and I wouldn’t go back. I was wrong. Something inside me was itching to apply to VCU. Not only would I be increasing my chances of getting into a fulfilling career, earning more money, and finally leaving retail limbo, but I would be gaining knowledge, bettering myself, and growing as a person. It has been a lot of hard work, but I can confidently say that I do not regret my decision in the slightest.

I learned so much in the past fourteen weeks. For instance, after taking Fiction into Film, I probably quadrupled both my understanding and appreciation for the art of cinema. I can now identify different types of edits, transitions, camera angles, and aspects of mise en scene. Class discussions have me now searching for metaphors in just about everything I watch. So much thought goes into creating movies. Where the camera is, how it moves, the lighting, the sound, the props, the costumes, and much more are all carefully thought about by the director and filmmakers. When it comes to Little Women, I know about 1000% more than I did before I took this class. Alcott’s story (both her life and her novel) are fascinating and I enjoyed comparing different adaptations of her work.

Overall, I am immensely satisfied with what I have gained from this semester. Yes, there were challenges that this strange year brought us: a global pandemic, a tense political environment, zoom classes, murderous hornets, and raging wildfires. Call me an optimist, but I don’t think any of these obstacles are unsurmountable. I just got back from the Smoky Mountains and it is 11:50 p.m. right now, so I’ll wrap this up. I am loving my journey of education so far, I have had amazing professors, and I can’t wait to learn even more next semester. I wish everyone reading this well in their goals and hope you all have a great term in the spring (or graduation)!

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Penultimate (?)

Most of what I learned last week consisted of the amount of espresso shots and syrup pumps to put in different sizes of various drinks at Starbucks. If there were an exam on it, I would surely fail. I’m still at training at my new job and it’s much more fun than my previous workplace. I actually interact with my coworkers and we laugh while we drink free coffee. We are coming up with Christmas themed names to put on our nametags. For instance, my girlfriend Megan is Nutmeg and I am going to be Cele-Brady. I also learned a ton about the origins of coffee and the process it goes through. I had no idea that it comes from a cherry seed that grows in three main continents (South America, Africa, and the Asian Pacific).

As far as school, the final stretch is here and there is plenty left to do. I still need to write four papers before the semester ends, and I believe a couple of them are due this week. On top of that, I am scheduled to work my job in the evenings, so time will be a valuable resource that I will try not to squander. I worked hard this semester and my grades are where I want them to be; hopefully I don’t get complacent in these last couple of weeks. All of my professors are being pretty understanding of the stress the students have right now.  Due dates are commonly extended, and in some cases we get lighter alternatives to heavy assignments.

I could be wrong, but I think this is the penultimate blog post. From what my teachers have said, next week will be the last of our zoom meetings. I still have no idea what I’m going to bring for this class as a gift. However, I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with. This semester has been an interesting one. We have one more adaptation of Little Women to cover. I have yet to watch it, but my classmates seem to have nothing but praise for it and someone named Timothy. I hope everyone (including me) can find the motivation and strength to push through this home stretch. The light at the end of the tunnel is in sight!

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New Beginnings

Today I finally put in my two weeks notice to quit a job that I have worked for four years and I feel so good about it. I wanted to leave for a long time, and it’s such a liberating sensation to make it a reality. I’ve talked about Kroger in a earlier blog post, so I don’t want to get too much into it again. I’ll just say they don’t invest in their employees like they should and nobody I know enjoys working there. On a positive note, I got a new job at Starbucks working with my girlfriend, where they get to drink free unlimited coffee on the job! Hopefully now I will have more time to invest in school and be mentally and physically healthier.

Last week we read some more scenes from the 1994 adaptation. I think I’m starting to get a good grasp of what to look for. It is probably about time I start deciding on which scene I want to analyze for my second paper, which I feel more confident going into than the first. The semester is rapidly approaching its end, and I will probably end up writing at least four sizable papers before the month is over. That scares me a little considering it’s already the seventh, but I will do my best during this final stretch. I’m already shopping for new classes for the next term. I’ve never really written poetry before, but I’m pretty excited for the introductory class that I’m likely to take.

Another crazy thing that went on this week was the election. It was insanely close and people on both sides were sweating buckets. Joe Biden is now the president-elect according to the Associated Press, and hopefully everyone can overcome their differences and work together constructively despite their oppositions. I’ve never been a super political person, but this election had me looking into things more closely and learning a lot about how the system works. One thing that I am most optimistic about is the future of education. Overall, this week has been a time for some things to end, and new beginnings to arise.

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“Every Frame a Painting”

It’s now the first of November, which means the semester will be over at the end of this month. Sadly, spooky season is over and I have to shave the pirate mutton chops and mustache I worked so hard on yesterday for my costume. I know a lot of people catch flak for getting hyped about Christmas too early, but I don’t care. I was blasting Spotify’s Christmas Classics playlist first thing this morning in the car. Anyways, last week we went over a few scenes from the 1994 adaptation of Little Women in painstaking detail. I was afraid I might have been overreading in my first analysis paper, but I now realize it is better to do that than to under-read when comes to analyzations.

The phrase “every frame a painting” really stood out to me in class. As we paused in each scene, Dr. C would make points about every little aspect of the frame that otherwise would’ve went completely over my head. For instance, Amy falling in the puddle and dropping her board foreshadowed the way she would later fall in the frozen lake and also burn Jo’s manuscript (which looks like a graphic match). He did also mention that he might be overreading during the frame where some red material is next to Laurie’s chest as he looks like he’s spilling out his heart while he looks up to the girl’s window. Again, I don’t think overreading is nearly as bad as not being able to catch important symbolisms due to not reading enough.

In the frame with the girls looking out the window frame, we got some incredible analysis about how each frame showed something about the character’s personality, which reflects the talent of the director as well as the actors. Meg looked jealous of the luxuries she did not possess, Amy was front and center as the future wife of Laurie, Jo looked curious in the right frame, and Beth was hidden in the shadows behind Jo, possibly foreshadowing her death or highlighting her timid nature. Looking at real time examples like this and being shown all of the hidden gems really help develop my analytical skills, which in turn helps me in other classes as well.

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Wondering what “highty tighty” means

As predicted from last week’s blog post, I was drowning in work. Writing the first analysis paper in our class turned out to be fun and satisfying. I was apprehensive about it in the beginning because I thought it would be difficult to fill five pages with comparisons between a short scene and its novel counterpart. That was not the case! Hours flew by as I watched the scene over and over; I scanned it for details I may have glossed over and read the dialogue in the book to look for contrasts. I decided to go with the scene in the 1949 adaptation where Meg has to make the decision to accept John Brooke or to deny him. This was one of my favorite scenes to read in the novel, but it didn’t really have the same effect on me in the movie.

Papers seem intimidating, but I find that most of them can be fun if you write about what interests you. I have an eight to ten page paper due at the end of one my other classes, but the subject material (what I assumed about language before taking Linguistics and what I now know) is something I’m passionate about. After putting several papers under my belt, I feel more confident with them going forward. If only I could gain that optimism for timed tests, but that’s another blog post.

This semester has felt like a video game, where it starts out kind of easy and then by the end you are surrounded by enemies with the final boss approaching. I was on top of my readings, but I have fallen a bit behind in one of my classes. Hopefully I can spend some time catching up tonight and tomorrow. It always feels relieving to get a paper done, and I don’t think this week will be as stressful as the last (besides a big test). I’m pumped to start watching the next adaptation of Little Women!

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Frankenstein

We’re reading Frankenstein in one of my English classes and it got me thinking of all the many adaptations there are of the 1818 novel. When you think of Frankenstein, you probably imagine a crazed scientist with frazzled hair bringing a green monster strapped to a hospital bed back to life with electricity and maniacally screaming “IT’S ALIVE!” However, that’s not the case at ALL in the original book, where Frankenstein is a young student obsessed with natural science who experiments in his own time and flees in terror when his work comes to life. The way the story has changed in popular culture over the decades seems like a game of “telephone” or “whispers” (whatever the game is called where you whisper in a circle of people and the message changes by the end) was played. I can’t help but wonder if the same thing will happen with Little Women.

Last week went pretty smoothly, but I have a lot of reading to do and I suspect I will be writing next week about how this coming week will have been ridiculously hectic. I enjoyed roasting the 1949 version of Little Women in class and hearing Dr. C pop off on it. I see now why he held such strong opinions about it. It’s pretty gross how Amy is sexualized and the whole thing just feels cartoony. The next adaptation we watch has an easy act to follow. I have yet to choose a section of the novel to compare to one of the films, so I will probably get on that tomorrow.

We are over halfway done with this semester, and I can see the finish line on the distant horizon. So far, I have no regrets about going back to school and I feel like I have gained so much in these past 10(?) weeks. Of course, I will still have three more semesters after this and I will need to get a teaching license before I can start the career I want, but I’m enjoying the ride.

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Tight Spaces and Fireplaces

This past week was pleasant. I celebrated two birthdays and thankfully my workload wasn’t nearly as heavy as it was last week. Going over the 1933 adaptation of Little Women in class helped me understand how to better analyze it. For instance, it completely went over my head that the fireplace between Laurie and Jo was symbolic of a passion or closeness. Picking apart the scene with Beth in the closet also gave me ideas on how to read film. I’m much more confident with the upcoming paper now. Speaking of movies, I watched a great new film on Netflix called Devil All the Time. The cinematography and acting were phenomenal.

I can’t wait to watch the 1949 Little Women and see what’s wrong with it. The first one was enjoyable, but I have a feeling it won’t be my favorite. Too many good scenes were left out and Laurie was giving me Jimmy Fallon vibes. I will go into the second adaptation with an open mind, but my hopes aren’t too high after hearing Dr. C’s opinion on it. There’s a YouTube channel where you can watch movie scenes as the screenplay scrolls on half of the screen. It’s interesting to see how much of the original screenplay gets changed or cut by the end.  Sometimes the actors paraphrase or say completely different lines. I wish I could see Little Women’s original screenplay as I watched so I could see how much was improvised or edited.

My other classes are going well. In one of my many English classes, we are reading Edgar Allan Poe, which is a lot of fun, especially at this time of year. Poe’s language and prose is just amazing. In Medieval Literature, we moved from Old English to Middle English and read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. One of my goals in life is to learn to read Old English fluently. I think we’re about halfway done with this semester and I feel like I have learned so much. Online classes turned out to be pretty nice, even if I blew a nice chunk of change on an obsolete parking pass. I find myself actually enjoying the work and getting lost in it. Some days the time flies by and I have done nothing but schoolwork, but it feels worth it.

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Learning from Amy Cherry

As I lie in bed writing this at 11:00 P.M., I feel relieved that I can finally rest my head after a particularly hectic week. Not only did I have two major papers to write, but I had many readings, assignments, and other obligations, like work. It is a good feeling to see a (mostly) completed checklist. Now I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the first adaptation of Little Women. Speaking of which, we had the awesome Amy Cherry visit our class last Wednesday. Unfortunately, I was so absorbed in writing one of my papers that 4:00 snuck past me, and I was about twenty minutes late to the zoom meeting. However, I plan on going back and watching the recording of what I missed when I have some time.

I learned a lot from Mrs. Cherry’s visit. My favorite thing that she showed us was the page where Jo is trapped on the step ladder with Mr. Laurence at the base. She described how much thought and planning goes into every detail, such as the words mimicking the direction of the steps. When I used to think of editing, I mostly thought they just looked for grammatical errors and ways to make sentences sound better. Now I realize they are almost like the “directors” of the book. This is something that I might even be interested in pursuing as a career, or at least learning more about.

She seems highly passionate about what she does. You could see her light up when she talked about the different kinds of pages and the thought process in making the jacket. I love seeing people who love their job. It’s inspiring. She mentioned how they wanted to make readers question which of the silhouettes on the jacket were which sister, and before she said that, I was literally sitting there trying to figure it out myself. Small things like that show how talented these people are, and how it really is an art. I enjoyed hearing her speak and I am grateful that she gave us her time to talk about her passion.

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Alcott and Writing

Fun fact: Louisa May Alcott and I share a birthday of November 29th. Her father’s birthday was on the same day as well, and my mother’s birthday was one day off (November 28th). I thought this was a cool little coincidence, and if I were one to believe in astrology, I’d say it makes a lot of sense that she’s a Sagittarius. From what I’ve gathered on the internet, we tend to be fun-loving and adventurous, which fits the description of Jo perfectly.

The sixth week of school is now behind us, and I feel good to have gotten some major assignments under my belt. This coming week looks like it will be one of the busiest yet, with two papers due and plenty of reading to do. Talking about Little Women in class has been enjoyable, and I think it’s fascinating to learn about the various ways Alcott puts her life into the book. Chapter 13 does feel like a turning point in the novel, and knowing the story of how the first twelve chapters were tested completely changes how I view it.

Hearing about the life of Alcott and reading the character of Jo makes me want to start writing myself. When I was a kid, I used to make little stories with folded pieces of paper and illustrations. I told myself that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. However, I have never really tried to sit down and actually write a narrative from beginning to end (besides school projects and a couple of short “screenplays”). It is definitely on my bucket list to write something I’m proud of before I die, even if it doesn’t really go anywhere.

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Cut to: Week Five

This week was kind of a whirlwind honestly. Somehow it feels like it simultaneously went by slow and fast. We had our first test in Fiction into Film and I’m partially proud of how I did, but also a little disappointed. I did really well in the watching for transitions part and the definitions part, but I completely overthought the part with still images. My last two brain cells were fighting with each other to determine if an angle was low or straight-on, or if a shot was medium or close distance. However, I enjoyed watching the movie clip and counting the types of edits, and I am proud to have gotten the extra credit question right.

It’s a wrap on the reading film section of the class, and I feel like I learned a lot from it. I know what mise-en-scene means, how to count different edits, the different types of angles, the depths of focus, how sound is incorporated into film, and many more interesting aspects of cinematography. Hopefully now when I watch movies, I will be able to see them through a different lens. Moving into the Little Women portion of the course, I am really excited to dive into discussions about the novel and hearing what the editor of the textbook has to say. I’m also curious to see what’s wrong with the 1949 film adaptation.

In my Medieval Literature class, it was my turn to give a 10-15 minute presentation on the reading of the day to the class. Surprisingly, it was much more fun than I thought it would be. I discussed the Battle of Maldon poem and it made me feel good about my decision to pursue a career in teaching English. I know it was only a small presentation, but I still had a good time with it. My other classes are still going well, but I am just now realizing it is September 20th as I’m writing this, and the due dates on some big papers swiftly approach. I feel motivated to be more productive in this coming week.