Do you ever think about education reform? Continue reading Surfer Rob is just another Brick in the Wall
I made a funny: Continue reading Funny: Inflected Proposal
I used to be a skipping master. When I was younger, I honed my skills by skipping classes in high school. I just didn’t want to do it at the time – it wasn’t fun, it didn’t feel productive; I could do it in my sleep and often did, but I didn’t know or care why I should. So I skipped it as often as I could. It started in eighth grade, when I skipped a single class by reading in a restroom while the Principal searched around town for me, and peaked in the eleventh grade. I skipped about 85% of the eleventh grade, and spent a lot of time either hiding out and playing video games or causing trouble.
These days, I only skip things which are not important, and that is how I game my life. I get a lot of things done while building up a list of things that I would like to get done. They won’t do themselves, but that neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
Let’s make it short and sweet: I love American history classes because the choices our leaders have made enable me to write stuff like this:
Short Essay: The Battle of the Alamo has reached mythic proportions in popular American History. How did the defenders of the Alamo ultimately open the west for American Expansion in their 13 day battle in February and March of 1836?
“Famous last words” is how we like to describe something that seems like the opening salvo of a losing battle.
It’s ironic, then, that “remember the Alamo!!” is an epithet that might cause us to say that – “famous last words”. That’s probably because the average person doesn’t realize that the Alamo was a battle that we lost; likewise, the average person might not realize that the people who held down the fort in that battle were not at all ready for a fight. One day, they were cleaning their guns like good Texans do, every day (note: a Texan cleans his gun like a person brushes their teeth). Then, someone looks over their wall and says “we’ve got company, guys.”
Unfortunately, “company” had the fort surrounded. Whilst nobody was looking, Spanish troops had marched on the Alamo to prevent Mexicans from being independent. However, it’s obvious that nobody informed Jennifer Lopez de Santa Anna that you don’t mess with Texas. Although he ended up taking the Alamo, which makes perfect sense in light of the fact that it was held by like twenty people, he actually ended up losing the fort to people who couldn’t believe that such a douchebag would drive his own men on a death march across hundreds of miles of desert to attack a fort manned by the cast of Sesame Street. In less than half an hour, Sam Houston’s Texian army took back what was lost, and with Mexican Independence came this rush to organize, which opened the way for American expansion that can only happen when people are so confused about who owns what that they’re willing to drop the issue if you just leave them something. And so it went with Texas, and that’s why you don’t mess with them – like a sleeping bear, you may well be able to sneak past, but just by going near them, you risk getting mauled.
Don’t be that guy.
Boy, it’s been a little bit since I’ve posted, even the Meatless Somedays entries fell by the wayside as I have been keeping up with the classmates. But here’s a little something for you: it’s my first educational video, meant as an “anticipatory set” (for you non-teacher types, that’s something to whip the students into a frenzy of desire for knowledge and success – kind of like Hitler-meets-Mister-Rogers).
Here’s the link to the best-res gloriousness:
This is our forum question for the week in Educational Technology:
Q&A Forum: Please reflect on your own experiences as a student from elementary to college on the integration of technology into your learning.
- What were the teachers doing (or not doing) to make technology integration successful (or not)?
- As a students were you actively engaged in the learning and was the focus more on the technology and less on the content or vice-versus?
My classmate Sharla Hoffert wrote this in response:
“When I was in elementary school, there was very little student interaction with technology present. Obviously the teacher used the overheads and we were allowed classroom visits to the computer lab, but none of the tasks we completed were very…worthy of having students spend time on, if you know what I mean. So, to answer the second question, focus was neither on content or technology as we mainly spent free time using technology. The only exception that I can think of would be the research projects that I completed starting in about the fifth grade, I did learn of useful technological tools to help with this area throughout school. Also, in high school I found my Microsoft Office classes to be a useful technological tool that I was introduced to. I know that when I receive my teaching license that I will be able to introduce students to much more beneficial uses of technology than I was ever taught, partially because there is more technology available for teachers to introduce their students to now but also because I believe that teachers are becoming more adept to using technology and sharing useful integration ideas with each other.”
This was my response:
“I really think that the key to the increasingly adept use of technology by teachers, Sharla, is in our very flexibility. And it doesn’t matter how old you are, you can learn to use these things, right? I mean, if I can talk my grandpa through setting up a wireless network in his Florida condo, teachers can do this. But I think that as younger generations step into the mentorship roles that society affords their young, we will see more inherent flexibility that is ingrained by the rapidly evolving nature of technology, the increasing cadence to which we cast off our fickle affairs with our gadgets, our apps and services in favor of newer ones. By this trail of wholesale technological slaughter we can trace the path of our progress to modern man/machine relationships and see how it has made us more accepting, not only of technology itself, but of instruction by others and of the idea that we can use something fancy without breaking it.
Now, the youngest of us not only learns to use these gadgets/apps/services, but they also learn early on where to go when they need to know something and they have the ability to manipulate these technologies according to established rules, or “paradigms“, of interaction and it’s so easy for them. As the new generation of teachers arises from their ranks, it’s natural that they would have access to more technologies not only because it’s available, but because to them, it’s more natural and new features are the free beer of the future.”
Does this sound like a fair assessment of the status quo?
> Over the past decade, Bismarck has made significant advances in energy efficiency: we use wood waste to heat public works facilities that process waste; the airport uses a geothermal system; and waste water is converted into natural gas and fertilizer. The natural gas is reused in the process, while the fertilizer is used on crop land for a ten-mile radius around the city (Eckroth, City officials). There is, however, one major item that remains to be resolved, and that separates Bismarck from other major cities in the nation: landfill sustainability. The Bismarck landfill is a finite space for storing all of our household waste – the constant flow of garbage that urban planners refer to as the “municipal solid waste” (MSW) stream. Considering the rise in the city’s population over the past few years due to economy-driven migration, and Bismarck’s willingness to contract waste containment for outlying towns such as Linton, the size of our landfill is a matter that should be given every consideration. The problem with the landfill is that if it becomes full, the city will have to expand it, or find a location to create a second landfill; either of these solutions would be an unnecessary waste of land and taxpayers’ money, and nobody wants a new garbage dump in their backyard. This means that siting and building a new dump takes years, sometimes more than a decade, as people fight it tooth and nail.
The ideal solution is to enact more legislation and programs that not only reduce the volume of refuse in the landfill, but to prevent that trash from going there in the first place. That way, in the face of growing demand, we can keep the landfill at lower than full capacity for decades to come. We need to ensure that the Bismarck landfill remains our sole garbage dump, and this can be accomplished through the joint use of curbside recycling and volume-based garbage collection fees, and by examining the possibility of expanding the recycling capabilities that are currently available to all of North Dakota.
Bismarck already has a recycling solution in effect; there are eighteen recycling trailers placed throughout the city where people can take their recyclables, and twenty-two yard waste collection trailers where people can get rid of their grass clippings, leaves, and garden trimmings. According to the City of Bismarck’s 2010 Recycling Trailer Map, “[i]tems that may be recycled are aluminum beverage cans and tin cans, corrugated cardboard . . . newspapers, telephone books and plastics. Plastics that will be accepted include plastics that have the recycling symbol #1 thru #7.” (1) The biggest problem with this is that the recycling trailers represent a passive solution. Residents must go to the nearest trailer, which may be quite far from their homes, in order to recycle. For some residents who do not own a vehicle or are unable to drive, the farther away the trailer is, the less likely it is that they will take the effort to recycle, especially in the winter. Some residents will not want to take the extra time to make a trip to the recycling trailer and will throw everything away instead.
The method of collection that people find most convenient is curbside recycling, which is not a new concept for Bismarck. The city tried a test program for curbside recycling in the 1990s on one-third of the city, and at the end of the test they decided to use the recycling trailers instead; at the time, the amount of recyclable material being collected was too low to warrant the cost of curbside recycling. About fifteen years later, Jeff Heintz, the Director of Service Operations for Bismarck, says that “a survey [conducted in January of 2010] showed that less than half the people recycle.” (Eckroth, Relooking) He also says “that by creating a curb-side recycling program, the city could increase the practice by 40 percent. In four years, it may leave 1.2 million more cubic square feet of air space in our landfill.” (Eckroth, City wants) An immediate start in curbside recycling could cut down considerably on a household’s garbage output, as plastic and metal containers move from the trash can to the recycle bin, along with newspapers, magazines, and cardboard.
The city of Grand Forks has a curbside recycling, a program that was enacted while they were trying to find a site for a second landfill, as theirs was nearing maximum capacity. In a 2008 letter to the Bismarck Tribune’s editor, executive director of the North Dakota Solid Waste and Recycling Association Angela Boeshans writes, “[t]he city of Grand Forks has been trying to locate and build a new landfill for more than 12 years” (Boeshans). In 2005, the Associated Press indicates that Grand Forks’ curbside recycling program was beginning to see “an increase in the number of residents who [were] recycling” (Grand Forks). Grand Forks’ curbside recycling program is currently contracted through Waste Management. According to Waste Management’s website, they use “the latest sorting technologies . . . [including] single-stream recycling, which allows . . . residents to put all their recyclables into one bin. These programs can help increase recycling participation by as much as 30%” (Waste management). The best way for Bismarck to implement curbside recycling would be to contract it through Waste Management, paying one bill and letting them sort out the cost components.
The reduction in the volume of garbage produced by a household through recycling becomes instrumental in the “pay-as-you-throw” (PAYT) program. This is a volume-based pricing option that would distribute garbage collection fees more fairly among households. In PAYT, the city would allow each household to select one of three sizes of garbage bins, based on the amount of trash they think they will put out each week, and the cost of their garbage collection will be based upon the size of that bin – i.e., the smallest bin has the lowest cost associated with it, and the largest bin carries the highest cost; there would be the option to switch sizes, if a family’s needs change. If a household needs to get rid of more garbage than they can fit into their can in a week, that garbage would have to be marked with a special tag that would cost a few dollars; this tag tells the garbage men that the trash collection for that bag has been paid for and they can take it away. Rather than being like a tax, this option brings the pricing method for garbage collection more in line with other consumer services that are less transparent, such as wireless telephone service; we pay for a limited amount of service (in this case, garbage collection,) and if we need more, then we must pay extra for it.
PAYT is not a new concept; according to the Associated Press, “[f]our North Dakota cities – Devils Lake, Drayton, Pembina and Wahpeton – have volume-based garbage fees. Fargo is preparing to switch to a volume-based fee system, also known as pay-as-you-throw” (State’s Goal). The PAYT program, if implemented alongside curbside recycling, would be a viable incentive for families to both cut down on their household waste and encourage recycling to reduce costs; these are the major factors in keeping the Bismarck landfill’s growth rate sustainable. In a survey conducted early this year by the Bismarck City Commission, little more than a third of the households whose surveys were returned opposed the idea of curbside recycling. Less than a third – twenty-nine percent – didn’t know what a “pay as you throw” program was. “[T]he survey’s comment section was popular. Many felt the capital city should lead by example and use the system . . . others felt the tags would be confusing and inconvenient.” (Eckroth, Bismarck) While getting used to a new system can undoubtedly be confusing and inconvenient for some who have become comfortable with the existing system, it appears as though the majority of Bismarck’s population is ready to assist the city in making it a greener place.
What happens to the bottles and cans that come out of our trash? They aren’t magically converted into new goods, or reused as they are; the plastic is separated by type and shredded, while the steel and aluminum cans are destined to be melted down and shaped into raw metal stock. Old paper and cardboard get turned into new paper and cardboard. There is a market for recyclable materials – a way for the city to sell them; this brings up the subject of cost, because nothing is free.
“The city’s passive recycling program now generates about $138,000 a year from reusable products. Cost of operating recycle trailers and dumpsters is $265,000” (Eckroth, City wants). In other words, the city recovers over half of the money spent to maintain the recycling program currently in place; an expanded program will certainly change that balance, but we must also consider the money that is saved through waste management. How much has the city saved via the airport’s geothermal system, the natural gas reclaimed from raw sewage, and the wood waste used to heat the waste processing facilities? While it costs money to recycle, a majority of that cost can be offset by both selling the byproducts of waste reclamation and recycling, and by using money-saving green technologies that not only help us save money and energy, but also help keep our landscape beautiful.
If there is an element of Bismarck’s fledgling recycling program that comes close to being as inconvenient as the lack of curbside pickup, it is the amount of material that is yet unable to be recycled. These items include paper cartons and glass containers, which must be thrown away if there is no other use for them. They represent a significant portion of the MSW stream; in order to further reduce the volume of landfilled waste, these options will have to be seriously considered.
Paper cartons – not counting those made of corrugated cardboard, which are already recyclable if not contaminated with grease – represent a significant volume, if not a significant mass, of household waste. In fact, to call the contribution paper cartons make to the MSW stream “significant” is an understatement; these are the boxes that contain our cereal, soap, pasta, oatmeal, popcorn, tea, over-the-counter medicines, and adhesive bandages. They are the waxed cartons that dispense our milk and orange juice, our most expensive soups and our cheapest wines. According to a recent news article, a pilot program in Florence Township, New Jersey “managed to recycle over 2,000 pounds of cartons a month”, with an expectation of “recycling two million pounds of cartons over the course of a year” county-wide(South Jersey Local News).
The problem with paper cartons used to be that some of them are coated with wax, and some of them contain around twenty percent plastic. This used to make them difficult, if not practically impossible to recycle, but that isn’t the case anymore. Whether or not they can be recycled now depends on a city’s capability to recycle them, so it’s understandable why Bismarck can not start recycling all paper cartons right away; however, this ought to be an issue for future deliberation on removing material from the MSW stream.
Another source of currently non-recyclable material in the MSW stream consists of glass containers. Americans generated 12.2 million tons of glass in 2008, but only 23 percent of it was recycled. The largest contributor to all of this glass is containers – those used for soda, alcohol, and food (EPA). The real shame about this is that it costs less to recycle glass than it does to make new glass, both in terms of the energy it takes to melt down the material and the extended life of the furnaces used to do so. The less energy used means that less carbon emissions are produced, which is environmentally responsible. According to the EPA, “Ninety percent of recycled glass is used to make new containers, and the demand for quality [crushed glass] is greater than the supply.” So why doesn’t Bismarck accept glass for recycling?
According to the North Dakota Solid Waste & Recycling Association, “[g]lass in North Dakota is generally not used to make new glass due to the distance to most glass manufacturers and the relatively low value of the commodity.” Is it possible that the value is low because the demand in North Dakota is low, and is it possible that demand is low because the supply in North Dakota is also low? It is, in fact, entirely plausible that a new supply stream of glass cullet (the crushed glass that is used to make new glass) can help bring the glassmaking industry to North Dakota, a state known for its pride in homegrown business and crafts. A high demand would mean a tidy profit to help offset the cost of collecting and processing the glass; but the real value is in the fact that recycling glass will cut down immensely on the volume of waste generated in the home.
Another way to encourage glass recycling, not to mention recycling in general, involves “container deposit laws.” Put simply, these laws would raise the cost of a bottled beverage (most states’ bottle laws only regard carbonated beverages, i.e. soda and beer) by five or ten cents. The consumer gets this money back by returning the container to any store that sells the same product. For example, someone who buys a case of soda in Michigan must pay $2.40 (24 x 10¢) extra for deposit. For each can or bottle they return to a store, they receive the ten cents back. The manufacturer’s driver picks up the collected containers every time they deliver new product, and then the manufacturer recycles them into brand new containers, saving 40-95% of the energy it takes to make the containers from virgin materials. This process “provides a monetary incentive for the public to return their containers for recycling . . . [and] also provide an incentive to the manufacturers to encourage recycling, as they get some money [from] the bottles that are returned . . . states that have [container deposit laws] have higher recovery rates”. Take California, for example: since creating its container deposit legislation in 1986, the state has reached a bottle recycling rate of 85 percent (Fox, 52). Michigan, the state with the highest bottle deposit on carbonated beverages at ten cents, has an impressive overall redemption rate of 96.9 percent (Container Recycling Institute).
Bottle deposit laws not only encourage recycling through a financial incentive, but they prevent litter. Instead of being thrown in the gutter, soda cans and bottles get taken back to the store; even if one does get thrown in the street, someone will come by and pick that container up just to get the nickel or dime from it. Bottle deposit laws create jobs for people who handle, sort, and process recyclable materials. They encourage consumers and beverage producers to be responsible for the waste they generate, and most of all they complement curbside recycling in the effort to cut down on the consumption of landfill space.
It can be argued that considering the relatively small population of North Dakota compared to other states (searching for “population of North Dakota” and “population of Michigan” on Google shows that by comparison, North Dakota’s population is 6.5 percent of Michigan’s population,) the recycling program can be expected to be just as small. But to those who care about North Dakota and the sheer beauty of the landscape, recycling is a very big deal, and an acceptable way to reduce the size of our garbage dumps. Curbside recycling, along with a “pay-as-you-throw” price scale for garbage collection, is the best method currently available for reducing the volume of trash going to the landfill and making it sustainable, thereby preventing the need for an extra landfill. Examining the options for adding on more recycling capability in the future, such as glass and carton recycling, will allow Bismarck to scale to the growing population in the coming decades and to further reduce solid waste. A bottle deposit law would provide a high level of incentive for people to recycle their bottles and cans. It may take time, money, and education to get everyone on board, but there is no doubt that the time has come for public recycling programs, not just for Bismarck’s sake, but for all of North Dakota. These improvements in recycling will help the landfill by reducing the river of garbage going into it to a trickle that can be easily managed at one dump.
Associated Press. “Grand Forks curbside recycling program picks up.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 06 Feb. 2005. Web. 09 Dec. 2010
—. “State’s goal of reducing solid waste was not met.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 20 Apr. 2008. Web. 09 Dec. 2010.
Boeshans, Angela. “Recycling just plain sensible.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 13 Jan. 2008. Web. 09 Dec. 2010.
City of Bismarck. Recycling Trailer Map. Bismarck: City of Bismarck, 2010. Web. http://www.bismarck.org/DocumentView.aspx?DID=2434
Container Recycling Institute. “The Michigan Deposit Law.” BottleBill.org. Container Recycling Institute, 31 Jan. 2010. Web. 29 Nov. 2010. http://www.bottlebill.org/legislation/usa/michigan.htm
Eckroth, LeAnn. “Bismarck City Commission accepts survey results on trash.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 24 Mar. 2010. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.
—. “City officials recap ‘green’ efforts.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 01 Oct. 2009. Web. 09 Nov. 2010.
—. “City wants to boost recycling.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 07 Oct. 2009. Web. 10 Nov. 2010.
—. “Relooking at recycling.” The Bismarck Tribune. The Bismarck Tribune, 25 Nov. 2009. Web. 09 Nov. 2010.
Environmental Protection Agency. “Glass.” EPA.gov. Environmental Protection Agency, 01 Dec. 2010. Web. 02 Dec. 2010. http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/materials/glass.htm
Fox, Michael. “CASH FOR Trash.” Earth Island Journal 25.1 (2010): 49-52. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 29 Nov. 2010.
North Dakota Solid Waste & Recycling Association. Glass Recycling. Bismarck: North Dakota Solid Waste & Recycling Association, 2010. Pamphlet.
South Jersey Local News. “Curbsite paper cart recycling goes county-wide.” South Jersey Local News. South Jersey Local News, 02 Dec. 2010. Web. 03 Dec. 2010. http://www.southjerseylocalnews.com/articles/2010/12/02/community_news/news/doc4cf7f57ba6fdb282004660.prt
Waste Management. “Curbside Recycling Pickup.” Wm.com. Waste Management, 2010. Web. 09 Dec. 2010. http://www.wm.com/enterprise/municipalities/residential-solutions/recycling-pickup.jsp
>I just finished a peer review on a classmate’s paper in Comp III and had this to say about the use of commas:
The one thing I would really pick out is your sentence structure. You are a great writer, but you need to stock up on commas and use them more generously. Heck, buy them in bulk. Whenever you proofread your own work, either say it out loud or try to hear it in your mind as it would be spoken. Whenever the voice pauses, not going immediately on to the next word but stopping just for a heartbeat, ask yourself: could I put a comma here? More often than not, the answer is yes. I like to think that the comma is how we encapsulate ideas for the reader on the phrase level; it gives their brain a half-second to process what they have just read. Without the comma, it requires more effort to understand what we are reading. They can even help us writers judge the best length for each sentence.
I’m going to save that bit for future peer reviews; personally, I think the comma is a commonly underused form of punctuation in personal writing.
>Here is a forum post I made to my Composition III class today, on the poem and analysis we were assigned to post a paragraph on. Obviously, I had a lot to say about it because it literally blew my mind, and this is where the distracting confluence of philosophy and Percy Shelley comes into play. The actual text from the textbook has been copied and pasted from their website below my post, for the purposes of context.
Thesis, organization, the bright man’s dilemma:
Stephanie Huff’s thesis is a strong one. It doesn’t stand alone, but consists of more than the clause pointed out on page 146; the entire introduction paragraph serves as an in-depth analysis of Shelley’s poem, as all good theses are meant to do. It describes in perfect, summary detail the interpretation which Huff has chosen to take away from the poem. She begins by explaining the purpose of the poem: it “introduces us to a bleak world that exists behind veils and shadows.” She then lays out her interpretation in a nutshell in the next sentence. She then points out in the last sentence, the second clause of which is identified as the thesis statement, the purpose and methods which the author employed to bring about this interpretation in her mind. The purpose: to address the absence of truth, to “expose the counterfeit nature of our world.” The means: the use of “metaphors of grim distortion and radiant incandescence” Here, the mechanics of Huff’s analysis are laid bare without the benefit of her philosophical prose – she has chosen to assert that the point of Shelley’s poem was to call out the false nature of the world we perceive through the use of two metaphors which are repeated throughout its scant – yet sufficient – fourteen lines.
The thesis is well-supported as she focuses on the metaphors of grim distortion. The following two paragraphs refer to the “painted veil” and the “unreal shapes” which are seen through it. Then she addresses the function and method of reality, depicted in Shelley’s poem as mimicry using “colours idly spread.” She moves on to the final grim metaphor, the fear and hope that are obscured as mere shadows. Then, in parallel with the poem, Huff addresses the single ray of hope which is threatened with extinguishment in Shelley’s gloomy landscape: the one who “is portrayed with metaphors of light.” She shows how the metaphors of his “lost heart,” his “splendour among shadows,” and his status as “a bright blot. . . [u]pon [a] gloomy scene” are important in the context of the piece. She then describes his position as tenuous, which indeed it seems to be after reading her interpretation. Her final line is, as it should be, a simple restatement of the thesis. One more time, she asserts that these metaphors reveal the counterfeit nature of the world.
As much as a tear-down of Stephanie Huff’s analysis reveals the building-block nature of her organization and how it lends strength to her thesis, these things are not so obvious in a single reading because they’re finished off with the profundity of her philosophical interpretation. She says of the bright man: “[t]his one person, though bright, is not. . . enough to. . . create real change. The light simply confirms the dark falsity that comprises the rest of the world.” Her interpretation of the bright man, then, comes to us in terms of some of the oldest philosophical questions in recorded history: what is good? What is evil? Could evil exist without good? Might it be true to say that there must be at least a grain of goodness which defines the opposite of evil, that we may know evil? This is an old argument, and Huff points out that Shelley has taken it and turned it around, focusing not on the bit of evil that must exist in order for humanity to understand what is good; but, in Shelley’s view, the bit of truth that must exist in order for humanity to understand the chasm of falsity that exists in the world. The bright man’s existence, then, must be guaranteed for the sake of all existence, and yet nonetheless he is always endangered; for him to be swallowed up is the end of existence itself as everything becomes false. The bright man’s death is the death of all.
The following text has been reprinted without permission from the companion website to the Norton Field Guide to Writing, 2nd Edition, at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/write/fieldguide/model_essays.asp#10. Please don’t sue me.
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Sonnet: “Lift Not the Painted Veil
Which Those Who Live”
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave 5
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it—he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve. 10
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.
Metaphor and Society in Shelley’s “Sonnet”
In his sonnet “Lift not the painted veil which those who live,” Percy Bysshe Shelley introduces us to a bleak world that exists behind veils and shadows. We see that although fear and hope both exist, truth is dishearteningly absent. This absence of truth is exactly what Shelley chooses to address as he uses metaphors of grim distortion and radiant incandescence to expose the counterfeit nature of our world.
The speaker of Shelley’s poem presents bold assertions about the nature of our society. In the opening lines of the poem, he warns the reader to “Lift not the painted veil which those who live / Call Life” (1–2). Here, the “painted veil” serves as a grim metaphor for life. More specifically, the speaker equates the veil with what people like to call life. In this sense, the speaker asserts that what we believe to be pure reality is actually nothing more than a covering that masks what really lies beneath. Truth is covered by a veil of falsehood and is made opaque with the paint of people’s lies.
This painted veil does not completely obstruct our view, but rather distorts what we can see. All that can be viewed through it are “unreal shapes” (2) that metaphorically represent the people that make up this counterfeit society. These shapes are not to be taken for truth. They are unreal, twisted, deformed figures of humanity, people full of falsities and misrepresentations.
Most people, however, do not realize that the shapes and images seen through the veil are distorted because all they know of life is the veil—this life we see as reality only “mimic[s] all we would believe” (3), using “colours idly spread” (4) to create pictures that bear little resemblance to that which they claim to portray. All pure truths are covered up and painted over until they are mere mockeries. The lies that cloak the truth are not even carefully constructed, but are created idly, with little attention to detail. The paint is not applied carefully, but merely spread across the top. This idea of spreading brings to mind images of paint slopped on so heavily that the truth beneath becomes nearly impossible to find. Even the metaphor of color suggests only superficial beauty—”idly spread” (4)—rather than any sort of pure beauty that could penetrate the surface of appearances.
What really lies behind this facade are fear and hope, both of which “weave / Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear” (5–6). These two realities are never truly seen or experienced, though. They exist only as shadows. Just as shadows appear only at certain times of day, cast only sham images of what they reflect, and are paid little attention, so too do these emotions of hope and fear appear only as brief, ignored imitations of themselves when they enter the artificiality of this chasmlike world. Peering into a chasm, one cannot hope to make out what lies at the bottom. At best one could perhaps make out shadows and even that cannot be done with any certainty as to true appearance. The world is so large, so caught up in itself and its counterfeit ways, that it can no longer see even the simple truths of hope and fear. Individuals and civilizations have become sightless, dreary, and as enormously empty as a chasm.
This chasm does not include all people, however, as we are introduced to one individual, in line 7, who is trying to bring to light whatever truth may yet remain. This one person, who defies the rest of the world, is portrayed with metaphors of light, clearly standing out among the dark representations of the rest of mankind. He is first presented to us as possessing a “lost heart” (8) and seeking things to love. It is important that the first metaphor applied to him be a heart because this is the organ with which we associate love, passion, and purity. We associate it with brightness of the soul, making it the most radiant spot of the body. He is then described as a “splendour among shadows” (12), his purity and truth brilliantly shining through the darkness of the majority’s falsehood. Finally, he is equated with “a bright blot / Upon this gloomy scene” (12–13), his own bright blaze of authenticity burning in stark contrast to the murky phoniness of the rest of the world.
These metaphors of light are few, however, in comparison to those of grim distortion. So, too, are this one individual’s radiance and zeal too little to alter the warped darkness they temporarily pierce. This one person, though bright, is not bright enough to light up the rest of civilization and create real change. The light simply confirms the dark falsity that comprises the rest of the world. Shelley gives us one flame of hope, only to reveal to us what little chance it has under the suffocating veil. Both the metaphors of grim distortion and those of radiant incandescence work together in this poem to highlight the world’s counterfeit nature.
Huff focuses her analysis on patterns in Shelley’s imagery. In addition, she pays careful attention to individual words and to how, as the poem unfolds, they create a certain meaning. That meaning is her interpretation.
> Well, getting my morning exercise is going well. This morning I went out again, which is great! Coming back from the blue dome (which Karisa says is a water tank – makes sense to put it on a hill, right?) I put my sights on going down 9th Street from Collins to 6th Avenue NW. It was so steep. In fact, it was too steep; I had to go so slowly down that hill, I wasn’t even moving at a walk. Oh well, it was a great workout. I stopped at the store before going home to get soda, mustard, and garlic toast. Gotta keep the supply chain moving!
I had speech class this evening after work. It was the same thing at first; we had to watch examples of persuasive speeches. Sweet. I had a hard time staying awake, thanks to my narcolepsy. Then we had a cool little activity: our teacher – a fun little lady who probably qualifies as a midget in terms of her stature – put us in groups of five and gave each group a little knick-knack. Our job was to make an impromptu infomercial based on that item (which could be anything we wanted it to be – it was an inspirational prop.) We had about ten minutes; the criteria were that everyone had to speak, and there had to be three selling points. We had a little blue disco ball on a keychain.
Disco Flash was born. Have you ever found yourself nervous while walking down the street at night? Have you ever felt like pepper spray just wasn’t enough? Do you wish that you had a way to retreat? Well now, your escape is within reach with Disco Flash!
Just pull the pin and chuck it in! Disco Flash is a military-grade flash-bang grenade in a convenient keychain. This high-speed device looks like an ordinary, el-cheapo keychain; but when you’re looking for that quick exit, you just pull the pin and chuck it in! That’s right, folks: no more lame excuses and victimization! Disco Flash is fashionable, easy to use, and quite affordable. Are you facing the threat of imminent death at the hands of a mugger? Do you feel like telling your boss off, once and for all? How about getting rid of that ultra-clingy girlfriend? The bright flash and loud noise generated by Disco Flash will incapacitate your foe and give you time to make your escape!
If you call now, for the low price of $19.95, you’ll receive not one, not two, but three Disco Flashes, and as a bonus we’ll throw in the patented Disco Flash sunglasses with built-in earplugs!
Pretty cool, right? I’d buy that!