Marxism + Leverage = an interesting essay topic


This is what happens when you teach the Marxist critical reading to a teen whose life revolves around TV shows. While I’m not as big a fan of Leverage as I am, say, Doctor Who, I still follow the show like a bloodhound (which is ironic because I don’t like dogs).

It was a simply task, given by one of my English teachers a couple of weeks ago: apply a Marxist critical reading on any text you choose. I chose a TV show. Frankly, I’m quite proud of it. Read it below and judge for yourself.

Applying a Marxist critical reading on TNT’s Leverage, focusing on the show’s opening introductions: The rich and powerful, they take what they want. We steal it back for you. “Sometimes, bad guys make the best good guys.” We provide… leverage.

One of the main arguments of Marxism is that the consciousness of men does not “determine their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” This is easily applied to the group of five thieves working as ‘good guys’ in the American television series Leverage, primarily on the hacker Alec Hardison, thief Parker and mastermind Nathan Ford. It is a modern spin on the venerable Robin Hood tradition – to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

Alec Hardison is a science fiction fan, a self-proclaimed geek and is readily equipped with a dry sense of humour. Raised by a foster parent, Hardison has honed the exceptional skills needed to hack into any type of electronics and will very rarely get caught. He has led the life of selfish crime until he agreed to work with Nathan Ford, an ex-insurance fraud investigator, and several other members, one of which is the socially awkward Parker.

From a Marxist perspective, it is seems that the lives that Hardison, Parker and Nathan lead are “largely conditioned” by the economy. Hardison’s passion for all things technological undoubtedly paved the way for his interest in hacking security systems, bank accounts and the like. An African American foster child such as Hardison could not have grown up the way most children did – he may not have lived in poverty, but money and the need for worldly possessions would have been a great factor when he became a hacker.

Arguably, Hardison did not necessarily choose the life of a hacker inasmuch as the life of a hacker chose him, as Marxism states, “your social circumstances determine much, if not all, of your life.” You will not see a hardworking, middle class adolescent with a strong, healthy family relationship get arrested for identity theft. No matter what opportunities Hardison was given growing up, he had considered the life of crime as the best option available, which is very similar to Parker’s situation. She experienced an abusive childhood and has lived in several foster homes before finally becoming a professional thief, boasting the ability to pick locks and pockets, crack safes and utilize acrobatics in order to navigate around laser trip wire security systems.

Leverage is based on our current society, meaning our economy is their economy. We live in a capitalist economy, meaning the untitled individual and those who are not in the government can impact our society. Bill Gates, for example, is in the Top 5 of Forbes World’s Most Powerful People of 2012, while Mark Zuckerberg is in the Top 10. It is very rare to find in a first-world country such as America who does not know how to work in a Microsoft OS or run an active Facebook account. It is culturally accepted to know how to use the computer and the Internet, and so people learn to use them. They cannot run away from it: “minds aren’t free at all, they only think they are.”

The concept of the TV show is not to glorify crime by featuring talented criminals as protagonists. On the contrary, it exposes the shortcomings of the law by humanizing the ‘bad guys’ and uncovering the corruption in the ‘good guys’. The rich may take from the weak, but the likes of Hardison, Parker and Nathan steal them back. As the mastermind, it is Nathan’s job to think two steps ahead of the target. With the experience accumulated for being an ex-insurance fraud investigator, Nathan is familiar with all the ploys, cons and scams in the book. He is the only character in the show that did not begin on the wrong side of the law; instead, he was forced to become the leader of a band of thieves due to the circumstances surrounding his young son’s death. The insurance company he used to work for has backed him into a corner where he believed the only way to exact justice was though a con.

Nathan believed it was his choice to turn into a criminal, but because of his situation, the decision was already made for him. The bad guys might make the best good guys (there is nothing like getting to know your enemy by becoming like them), the fact remains that Nathan and his team are still breaking rules. Hardison, Parker and Nathan will constantly be known as the hacker, the thief and the mastermind, no matter the complexity of their characters and personalities. They have been objectified by the society there are set in.

Memoirs of the Physically Ill


Or in other words… I have a cold and I find myself incredibly self-absorbed and wishes to be dramatic about this. Hence and so-forth, I shall treat this like a writing exercise and I apologize in advance is it’s a bit whiny. The thing is, this is how I get when I’m ill and I seriously respect anyone who gets to deal with me when I’m in this mood.

Day 1

It all began on Sunday. Well, technically it must have started on Saturday night, but I woke up Sunday morning feeling like something rotten. I peeled my eyes open and looked blearily around me. The first thing I noticed was the sparse white ceiling, and then I swallowed and it felt like little throat-dwarfs were mining their way from my mouth cavity towards my stomach.

Tonsillitis it the bane of my sorry existence.

Day 2

Monday. The average student would have woken up at a decently early hour, gotten ready for school, traveled to said school and then attended classes. School school school. This was not the case for me. I spent the majority of the day slipping in and out of consciousness; I alternated from the chills and the fevered heat from being wrapped by a fluffy bathrobe and a thick duvet. Somehow, I was conscious enough to cook a lovely stew in which I actually fell asleep halfway through cooking (oops!). This only managed to make the meat softer, however. All the while, to cure boredom during my waking moments, I watched my new favorite TV show of the moment, The IT Crowd.

Richard Ayoade has a strange preference for hairstyles. I don’t get it.

My mother is a godsend.

Day 3

Tuesday signaled the dreaded C3 maths test first thing in the morning, so I dragged my sorry self out of bed and went to school. I felt like a nuisance to my teachers, classmates and friends by my constant complaints, sniffles and gross habits of ‘blowing my nose’ and ‘blowing my nose again’. Suffice to say, I am thankful to my friend Lizzie and her wonderful family because they took care of me that night. Lovely lovely. I drank chai tea for the first time and found that I like it. I ate pancakes with a dash of honey that I shouldn’t really have had. I had a loo roll as an extra limb. Vitamin C was my new pill to take and Lemsip was the suggested solution for my ailments.

We watched Love Actually, a great feel-good film.

Day 4

Wednesday. A cough developed some time during the night. Constant sniffling in class again. I tried to concentrate on the lesson but found myself wishing the hour would just end — give me a reprieve, oh gods of the illnesses! I wished to go home for I felt like I could not perform my best in a classroom environment given the state I was in but the nurse declined by request. I trudged through the day looking like kicked puppy, only not as adorable and definitely more gross ‘blowing of nose’ action going on.

Day 5

I sure hope that there will not be a Day 5. I need to get better. I have coursework to do, tests to revise for and two separate projects to wrap my noggin around. Not a lovely thought, given that I can’t speak louder than a whisper in the wind. Damn my throat.

Over and out.

I Write Like [Insert Computer Generated Comparing Writer Here]


Well, fill it in!

So as part of my procrastination regime, I randomly Googled something up in pursuit of randomness. I saw this picture posted on my Facebook news feed, something about a random person claiming that he — or she — writes like Stephen King. There was a quiz and everything!

(Now, correct me if I wrong but isn’t Stephen King the dude who wrote all those suspense, science fiction-y books? The Shining?)

Anyway, I figured I might as well do this “quiz” myself. Because, you know, I must stick by my procrastination regime. It’s a very strict, very taxing way to live your daily life. I do not recommend it. My result is below.

I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

I have no idea who David Foster Wallace is and yes, I am aware that I should take this result with a grain of salt — that is, I tried the  generator again and got a completely different result. Albeit, I used a different passage… Huh.

*hears school bag huff in annoyance for being ignored*

Oh, I suppose that’s a sign saying I should leave. I’ve got poems to dissect, essays to bugger up and equations to strangle within an inch of their lives. Y’know. Typical student behavior.

Over and out.

First Introductions


I haven’t been writing stories much recently, which is such a shame. It’s not like I’ve been doing this on purpose, but I haven’t been inspired by anything recently. It fell out of habit. So anyway, I figured if I want to make it a habit again, I might as well “exercise” my creativity muscles. Hence, this happened:

Rain flooded from the skies with a melodic stomp. A figure stood in the middle of the square; quite still, quite alone, and very much deep in thought. It was mid-afternoon, yet the typical English weather had turned the usually bright college campus into a dull and dreary location. The occasional student passed by, late for their class and none bothered to spare the figure a second glance. That is, none bothered until –

“Tea or coffee?” the man asked, propping open an umbrella in the garish shade of orange.

There was a snort, either of derision or amusement, the man could not tell. “I’m more of a hot chocolate kind of person, myself.”

“Is that a yes?”

A pause.

“You’re late.”

The man smiled despite himself. “Ah, yes. Terribly sorry about that. My name’s Ian, by the way.”

“Pleasure. Now, how about that hot beverage you offered me…?”

It was raining on and off yesterday and the clouds were very grey, the wind very cold, and the company very cheerful. I was waiting outside a college campus with my friend and her cousin after an orientation we had to attend, which was quite interesting but overall quite dull (the orientation, not the company), when this inspiration slammed into my mind like a freight train. It’s just an exercise, so I’m afraid I’m still rough around the edges. But better a drabble than nothing at all, yeah?

Over and out.

Regrets, Aspirations and Chocolate Smoothies


While not exactly the first of January any more, I’m still pretty much hyped up over the “new year” because I’m weird like that. There’s nothing like the prospect of a fresh start to make my mind wander, and throughout the past couple of days I’ve found myself contemplating my life.

Have I done anything at all that I could be proud of twenty years from now?

What am I going to do for the rest of the year?

That chocolate smoothie I had this afternoon was really nice. When can I have another one?

a Ferrero Rocher flavoured smoothie from Blendini... I swear I'm in love

If I tally up all the things I did in 2011 and assess them one by one by my personal standards, I would have only a few things to be really proud of, a couple of things I’m sorta proud of, and one helluva pile of what was I thinking?! moments.

Thinking about my achievements led to me thinking about what I could have done if I had not quit so easily on some things — because yeah, I’m a quitter. Not in the sense that I just quit on that exact moment I feel like quitting, but it’s more of a gradual thing. Say I’m starting a new project… The first few weeks — months, maybe — I’d be super thrilled. Then as the excitement wears off, I’d begin to get bored before finally I’d decide to quit. That’s what happened to the violin lessons I was taking a couple of years ago, and now I’m getting this itching feeling that I should take it up again.

Maybe it’s fate, or perhaps I’m just inspired by these videos I’ve seen on YouTube today:

(You can’t really tell, but I’m a big fan of Adele’s music.)

Continue reading

You Know When You’re A Writer When…


It’s amazing how much people can change over the course of a few months. The list below is from the Notes section of my Facebook account — yes, Facebook still has Notes. Reading through it, I realise that my mindset now differed from my mindset then. I’m not saying that I’m a completely different person, just that my priorities changed.

I suppose growing up, even the tiniest bit, can alter a person. Nothing drastic, of course… but it’s enough to be felt. Now, I barely have time to write, let alone think about writing, because I’m concentrating on my courses. Ohh, the easiness of youth. *sigh*

Anyway, below is the list. The ones italicised were true of me seven months ago; the ones underlined are still true of me now. Enjoy!

1) you think of your friends as characters

2) you write them into your story

3) you get revenge on people by basing a mean character off of them in your story

4) you have conversations with your characters — the fictional ones, not your friends in the real world — and, most usually, they hate you for making their life miserable (or WAY too exciting for their liking)

5) you have some books you read for enjoyment, some you read for school, and others you read just to get ideas on how to make your stories flow better

6) everyday, you daydream about how to plug today into your story.

7) the end of your pinky is usually stained with ink (if you’re left-handed) or pencil lead.

8) you have way to many saved Word docs in your computer.

9) your drawer is overflowing with copy-paper of your printed stories/filled notebooks.

10) you mentally correct anything you read subconsciously with better words and phrasing.

11) even in the most dire of situations, you’re thinking about how it would be best written

12) you hear a song on the radio and you automatically think ‘Hey that’s a good plot idea…’

13) you constantly play the same song over and over to get into a ‘mood’ for one of the chapters

14) you wake up in the middle of the night to search for a pen/laptop/notebook to write down a story idea because you’re afraid that you’ll forget it by morning  Continue reading

NaNoWriMo Statistics


This does not bode well for me. Apparently, at the rate I’m going with my story writing, I’d be finished by March 26, 2012… that’s four months after November!! There could never be a more appropriate moment to facepalm.

Shame on me.

 

 

 

 

Oh, It’s the 31st of October


You know what that means… *waggles eyebrows*

Happy Halloween!

This day is a very important day because, apart from Halloween, it symbolises a couple more things for me. Take the death of James and Lily Potter. As a Harry Potter fan, I feel obligated to mourn their deaths and celebrate it at the same time, because that led to the inevitability of Harry’s destiny…

On to happier things, October 31st is also the day my friends and I have planned to go bowling. It’s been about four or five months since I went bowling, so yay! for me. Also, it’s been a while since I’ve met up with most of my friends given that it’s currently the half-term holidays for my school. (Don’t get me started on the load of homework I have to do… erg.)

Oh, and I suppose the end of October welcomes the beginning of November… and guess what that means?

NaNoWriMo!!

As of this moment, there are only twelve hours to go before it’s officially time to begin writing my so-called novel. I’m excited and thrilled and all the other words in the thesaurus, but later on I know I’ll be freaking out like a maniac: What on earth convinced me that this was a great idea? What have I gotten myself into?! Things like that ;D

But, oh well. I’ve begun this journey and there’s no stopping me. M’kay?!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Possibility


image

It was three years ago when my old school, Bethel International, installed benches for the students to rest and hang around. The moment I first saw them, I remember thinking that it would be incredible to write a story around those benches.

Years later, I still have not written that story. Now, every time I see a bench, I feel like I’m a disappointment. So yeah, benches, to me, have a lot of possibilities.

Pre-Nano Jitters


After seeing that article on DailyPost, I figured that joining the National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) would be worth my while. I’ve always wanted to write a novel before I hit eighteen and, since I’m well-versed in the arts of procrastinating, I figured NaNoWriMo would be my best bet. If by chance you’re a fellow NaNo writer — or Wrimo, I think we’re called — then awesome! We can panic together!

Since I’m juggling this between my coursework, I’ll have to become a better planner and use my time wisely before November starts. My ‘novel’ is still in its baby years, but I am really psyched about this and I hope beyond hope that I will not disappoint. What I’ve got to show so far is a summary of sorts.

Dorcas Chase and Cyrus Roberg are two very different people and have absolutely nothing in common. She is the sister of the most popular girl in town, and he is the son of a reclusive scientist. However, after a strange phenomenon enabled Dorcas to somehow live in Cyrus’ mind, they find a way to coexist. Can Dorcas look past the surface and see the secret Cyrus is trying to hide? Will Cyrus ever find a way to extract Dorcas from his mind?

The answer is yes… and no.

 

What do you think? Does it have potential? I’m chewing my nails here…