“Grand Torino”

“Grand Torino”is a film telling the story of a retired Polish- American, Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski. An equally important role in the movie have his neighbors, of Hmong decency. They don’t get along too well at first, but the circumstances lead to that the old man gets to know the family, and creates a unique relationship with the children. The film focuses on 5 particular topics, which are: death, family, personal relationships, racism and religion/faith. These points lead to several misunderstandings and also serious conflicts in the movie.  The message is to realize that despite cultural diversities and bigger number of differences than similarities, one is able to offer their life for someone they are fond of.

I have chosen 5 questions to answer in my blogpost:

  • How would you describe Walt’s relationship with his family?  At the start of the movie, Walt is seen at his wife’s funeral. What impression does he have of his son’s family from these scenes?

I would say Walt families behavior is one of the worst that can be found. There is no empathy from his sons’ side, therefore also the grandchildren have no respect for their grandfather. At the funeral, none of them seemed too interested and Ashley, the granddaughter, didn’t even bother to dress appropriately according to the occasion. This says a lot about them, and their relationship with Walt. They only visit him on his birthday, and also they use this occasion to try and talk him into moving to a nursing home and leaving the house in their hands. Therefore, Walt’s relationship with his family is only based on his fortune.

  • Walt states that Thao and Sue will never get away from the gangs that are in the neighborhood. Do you think that is a true statement? Can situations like this change without extreme measures?

I I have to admit that I disagree with Walt’s statement. In my opinion, a situation like this can change in the blink of an eye. All it needs is a little support from a caring and generous person, who wishes to help out and make these children escape the horrific environment they are living in. Usually youth like this is especially ambitious, and due to their cruel past, very successful.

  • At the end of the movie, Walt sacrifices himself for Thao’s family and the neighborhood. Was there any other way to get the same result? Why did Walt do what he did? Would he have done the same for his family? What makes or allows a person to make such a sacrifice for someone else?

There were many other ways to solve the problem, but  this was probably the most dramatic way to make the society aware of how dangerous the issue was. The police might have started a case, but it would take several months, or even years, to work out the connections between the gangs and their victims. Walt offered his life, so that the attackers could be caught red handed, on the eyes of dozens of neighbors. His plan was well thought through, as he didn’t even have a gun on him- this makes him innocent and clears him of all charges. I can’t decide if he would be able to do the same for his family, but I think that if he saw his granddaughter in the same state as Sue was, he would seek revenge no matter how rude or immature the girl is. What Walt did was an act of pure sacrifice for someone he loved, someone he was ready to die for.

  • Walt’s wife had asked the priest to get Walt to confess. Walt is resistant until the end of the movie. Why does he change his position about going to confession? Have you ever been adamant about something and changed your mind or gone through with it because a family member wanted you to? 

Walt realizes that he might not have too much time left of his life, he found out that he was sick, but what he was planning on doing was much more serious. Going to confession wasn’t necessarily a sign of weakness- actually, on the contrary, it was a way to show that he is strong, ready, sure of his decisions and aware of the consequences. We all often do things for our family even if we see no sense in them. Taking action just for the sake of making someone happy is a way to show that we really care, and are ready to do something, even when it doesn’t mean as much to us as it does to them.

  • At the end of the film, Walt bequeaths the car to Thao instead of a family member. Was this unexpected? The last scene shows Thao driving the car down the road. The car has not been modified. What does this scene signify?

I’ve expected Thao to inherit the car, mainly because of how close the young man was with Walt. He knew that the boy had changed and all he wanted was to get a normal job and for his family to be safe. The only condition Walt had, was that Thao wouldn’t modify the Gran Torino, and in the last scene of the film we see that the boy fulfilled the old mans will. The man trusted him unmistakably- when we see Thao driving the car, there isn’t one sign of change in the car. This scene signifies that the boy has respect for the old man, and is mature enough to be in possession of something with such great value.

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“The Joy Luck Club” or “The White Tiger”?

It is the time of the school year when we get the possibility to immerse ourselves into the literary world of the English language. I love English literature, simply because there are so many creative publications to discover, and moreover, we aren’t restricted only to native English-speaking writers. Now that English is commonly known all around the world, anyone with enough enthusiasm, regardless where they come from, can publish their work in English.

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For those of you who might not recognize the first author- Amy Tan is a daughter of American Chinese immigrants, born in California in 1952. She makes an impression of a very wise and intellectual woman. In the interview she speaks about how hard it was for her as a child, to cope with the death of her brother and father within one year. She explains that moving to Switzerland wasn’t just a whim- it was a way to escape the problems and bad memories which were holding them back in California. I like the fact that she included members of her family in her books, she was very open about how they behaved and what their life really looked like.

However, this isn’t the first time I hear about this author. I was introduced to her work in the previous school year. After reading a short story written by her (you can find my blogpost about it here!) my knowledge of what it is like to be an immigrant in America really has expanded. The story we were introduced to last year, really caught my interest and I’ve been coming back to it ever since. In a way, it gave me the confidence to stand up for myself and keep fulfilling my dreams, no matter what others opinions were- just like the girl from the story.

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Therefore, when I found out that Tan’s book was one of the two we can choose, I made up my mind right away. However, I didn’t reject the other choice, without finding out more about the plot in the book. Aravind Adiga, born in 1074, is an Indo-Australian writer and journalist. He received the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his first ever novel, namely “The White Tiger”. His parents, who hailed from Mangalore were of Kannadigian origin, while Aravind was born in Chennai (Madras). He began studying in India, but later emigrated together with his family to Sydney, Australia, where he continued his education.

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His career began as an intern in an English-language international daily newspaper with a special emphasis on business and economic news (Wikipedia), where he published about the stock market and investment. However, he has always wanted to be a writer. In an interview, he mentions that “The White Tiger” is a story “of a man’s quest for freedom”. The story focuses on the social and political situation, but in Adigas view, the main character is trying to understand that all of this is a trap and that he somehow has to escape it.

The plot does sound gripping, especially with what is happening in the political world today. However, my choice lies in “The Joy Luck Club”, mainly because I got really absorbed by the Chinese culture and I want to find out more about the author and her life. I hope this is a good decision and that I will enjoy reading the book.

How do fake news influence our society?

 

Rumors spread in the speed of light, and most of us had probably at least once witnessed that in our lifetime. We expect the media to be a trustworthy source, and yes, there are many reliable newspapers and websites where we can find out about what is happening in the world. However, increasingly more fictitious websites and articles, claiming many untrue things- from small misunderstandings, to deliberate accusations- is being made.

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Fake news made by me in 2 minutes. So easy!

In today’s English lesson, we focused on the negative sides of the media and we talked about how it affects our society. We also discussed how the future president of the United States, Donald Trump, might have misused it to get into power. We have read a few articles that we found truthful, and tried to find conclusions based on the texts. Starting off with the video incident- president-elect forbade Jim Acosta, a CNN journalist to ask him a question, followed by calling the TV station “fake news”. This is an extremely provocative move, and disobeying the station put a lot of criticism on Trump. Without explanation, he accused the journalist, then ignored him for the rest of the video. This happened at Trumps very first press conference, on the 11th of January 2017. Already at the beginning of his presidency, he showed his ability to easily manipulate the crowds of the US.

An article by CJR explains the whole happening in detail. The most shocking fact of this absurd is that no other present TV station showed their support for Acosta, staying speechless throughout the whole conversation between Trump and the correspondent. According to the author of the CJR article I read in class, the rest of the present journalist’s duty was to either “pick up Acosta’s line of questioning, or even refuse to continue asking questions, until the President-elect acknowledges the organization he had earlier attacked.” What he also finds alarming, is that they weren’t ready to stand in Acosta’s defense- especially that this wasn’t the first time that the president-elect had ejected a reporter.

Even Facebook itself is getting involved in a project, with the objective to stop fake news appearing on that social media. On a daily basis, they manage to block some of the click baits, but there are many more that get to see the light of day.

“The Facebook Journalism Project will offer training and tools for journalists in order to assist newsgathering and reporting, as well as provide “new storytelling formats.”

Newsweek, 2017

Fortunately, there is a bright light at the end of this tunnel. Different domains are concerned and therefore finding ways to solve this problem. The platform has planned “a project for stronger detection of misinformation and improved verification methods.” This is meant to help decrease spreading fake news.

In order to minimize the amount of fake news which is being spread on the web, google is being more careful of what is being put out in their search engine. Many different fake news detectors are being established, like for example Hoaxy, which is supposed to help track untrue articles. However, we ourselves can also easily check, if what we are reading is genuine. By controlling other sources, the author and the general reliability of the website, we can easily see if the article can be considered as legitimate. We should also focus on the text as a whole, not only rely on the headline which might me misleading. It might be relevant to mention, that many newspapers and news sites, like eg. The Sun, Daily Mirror or Daily Mail, have a relatively bad reputation. Therefore to confirm the information, we should follow the steps I have mentioned above.

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My teacher created a padlet, where we could give our opinions on fake news and how we can avoid it. We have received feedback from many students and other people interested in the topic. Everyone has similar opinions and I also agree with all the comments. However, there is one entry that specifically caught my attention- from Cayden T Lewis. From his point of view, the real problem isn’t the fake news itself, but it’s the society which isn’t-and should- be able to distinguish the pseudo-news. In his opinion, the people should change their conception on the government and not only keep believing that it wants to hurt us. His solution to this issue is to give better education and increase the public opinion of the government. I feel I do relate with the author of the comment in some way, but I think there is so much more to it, that we could go on discussing the problem for days.

We had the opportunity to talk on Skype with students from South Africa, whom we asked questions regarding the fake news topic. It was a class of 15/16 year olds, all very involved in the topic. We wanted to know their opinions on the situation in North America, and whether fake news is an issue in their country. It turned out that we don’t really differenciate in our conclusions. This entails that regardless which country you live in, you get the same amount of information, as media spreads extremely rapid. On the padlet, we also got answers from students in Australia, USA and Bergen, a city which lies by the west coast of Norway. I reckon that they are in our age group, but I know that students from Bergen are in middle school. They wrote many smart comments, all relevant to the topic.

Staying focused on the fact that fake news is an actual and growing issue, I should also mention it’s affection on democracy and the future. The majority of USAs citizens are second class, working people with average education. Considering this, it is obvious that many of them are dependent on the politicians and their actions. However, due to their fair knowledge, they can be easily manipulated- and this is where fake news come into the picture. This has a massive and very negative impact on the democracy, which has trouble coping with the charges being put against them, and the need to explain every false article. If the society won’t think twice before believing something and is able to accuse without proper argumentation, the future of the world looks very alarming and doesn’t bode the best scenarios. Therefore, we, the people, should ourselves try to make a change to that- before it is too late.

I myself wasn’t aware what big of an issue fake news were until now. I was usually able to differentiate real and false posts on Facebook, but once in a while, I caught myself in believing untrue articles. After so much research on this topic, I am much more informed what kind of damage this issue is doing to our society. From now on, I am definitely going concentrate on being attentive to what I read, and mature in my judgments.