English 11: Writing Portfolio
Catholic Memorial High School
In discovering the past we only have the physical relics to observe. The people and events have come and gone so we must learn from their remaining possetions. Many of the materials lost in time by either war or disaster have been recovered. I myself have even stumbled across an object from very recent history, right in my own home. I found the object while looking for some screws down in my basement. The pure weight of something seemingly small in size was tremendous. I needed to uncover in greater depth what the history of this object was.
As I had dug deeper into its past it was recovered during the conflict with Iraq during Saddams palace sieges. This relic, having a history of terror, is best described as a utensil or tool. Most likely the tool is a spoon or some kind of dinning accessory. Picking the spoon up for the first time I was awestruck by its weight. Another thing that I had noticed was that the spoon gave me an overwhelming sense of despair as I held it in my hands. The uneasy feelings that I experienced while holding the artifact were unexplainable and almost supernatural. Originally the engravings on the spoon have revealed that it was made in France. Foreign trade most likely brought the object to Iraq and into the possession of such a pestilential human being, and later finding its way into my family.
The terrible tool could have spent many days on the table set for some of the worlds most devious minds. It possibly carries a curse being influenced by all of the negative and evil influence the spoon has come to witness. Being a token of all evils the spoons curse could remind its possessor of the haunting deeds it has witnessed. Touching the lips and mouths of such retched human beings it surly has not gained any respectable place in history. Although such an object seems harmless the horrors it has witnessed and the evils it has come to represent give this spoon new meaning.
Acquired only recently, my family most likely received it from relatives in the armed forces. Having two cousins, both privates, and an uncle a superior officer the object may have been obtained by them. It is possible that one of these men brought it home in remembrance of the terrors of their campaign. In its original state Saddams palace was luxurious but when this spoon was retrieved the marble floors would have been littered with bullets and the extravagant rugs stained with blood. Imagine the terror of the siege, rounds going off overhead and men falling all around. The street lights were dim as the sun was going down in Baghdad. The palace raid had to be done that night as a covert mission. The Unknown Soldier peered out from his bunker a few deserted blocks away from his target point, the main palace of Saddam. Although there were palaces scattered all around the city this one was believed to hold the plans of the evil regime. The scene was tense as the Unknown Soldier and his bravo company waited for the orders to head out. The area, although believed to be cleared had been known for local snipers. The call came in telling them to enter the building through the east wing. Staying in tight formation the company made its way down the deserted streets. Blood pooled in the gutters and the medical team had no been in to collect any bodies. Approaching the east wing door the company is forced inside immediately by hostile fire. Once inside they regrouped discovering that they had all company members. The first corridor was all marble and elegant lighting lit the way down to the main lobby. There was pure silence as the company made its way down the hallway. Each of the doors that branched off of the corridor had to be checked for immediate threats. Suddenly the commander halted the advance. One soldier looked down at his feet and saw what seemed to be a trip wire. The company was told to advance by stepping over the wire. Arriving at the opening of the lobby they established a perimeter surrounding the main staircase. Suddenly a voice broke out over the radio ordering the company to clear the palace and establish a stronghold inside. Immediately after the voice subsided gunfire erupted in the lobby. Right away two soldiers went down, followed by a barrage of hostile fire and explosions. The gunfire was coming from the upstairs rooms and the resistance was throwing grenades down the stair case. The Unknown Soldier and the heavy weapons specialist were ordered to load and fire the anti tank rocket launcher. Aimed up the stairs to the source of the gunfire the specialist let off one rocket. One huge explosion sent four bodies toward the soldiers below. The Unknown Soldier knocked over by the falling debris looked around to see what had happened. On the ground stained with blood and littered with bullets one object stood out. A utensil of great elegance lay there alone on the floor. Drawn by the lure of the object the soldier picked it up and examined it. It had strange markings and felt very heavy for its size. Interrupted by this surreal moment the soldier threw it in his side pockets and continued helping the rest of the company with clearing the rooms. Never once did the soldier remove the object while in Iraq. Later after the siege was a distant memory the Unknown Soldier gave it to a family member, never to see it again. To retrieve this simple object one brave solider had to challenge his morals and do his duty as a solider. This unknown solider certainly had seen quite enough destruction to obtain the spoon.
Now covered in a coat of dust and sitting in the dwellings of the basement this tool has now come into my families possession. Marked with an eagle, as a sign of authority, this device was housed in an area of unspeakable evils. The weight of the object seems to increase as time progresses. It may have gained in weight with all of the lives it has witnessed been destroyed. Perhaps the spoon is a reminder, to our country and our American ideals, of what some countries and governments have become. For me, this spoon, an everyday object, has come to represent all evils our country opposes and is fighting against all around the world. In any case the spoon remains, lurking in the basement as an object that will surpass all of its former evil possessors.
It has always been the escape, a place were I could get away from the noise and smog of the urban scene. This place is the closest thing to nature even though it overlooked housing projects and triple Decker homes. Nivas Hill is natural sanctuary that so many in my community have retreated to. Taking time to look closer I now see how this place offers such peace and relief. I now focus in on a place I overlooked so many times simply walking through. This late November day blew brisk winds over the very barren hill. Leaves covered all surfaces, dominating any still surviving forms of life. Their blanket was often disturbed by the frequent winds that passed over the ground. Everything was bare as if the lives these plants once had were scattered all over the ground. All life was barely holding on, even the slightest quake of the ground would uproot all life. Not a drop of moisture was visible as if water did not exist in these barren parts. Amazed that these great oaks have lived through so many harsh transitions I wonder can mankind do the same. In preparing for are lives changes it is best to be as prepared as possible, we must protect ourselves with not bark but knowledge to survive changes.
As the gloomy clouds roll in bringing the beginning of December this place seems to be even more desolate. The long arduous fall has left these great oaks somewhat ravaged by the wind, rain and cold. They know not what to expect for the worse has yet to come. Now a barren place were no one looks to venture it soon will be reborn as a winter wonderland. The call of December is near and frost that coats the ground foreshadows the first snowfall. Crisp air looms overhead giving the senses a lot of work to do. The chill of the wind is overbearing as frosty moisture collects around my ears and nose. The silence of nature is never silent as the leaves rustle over the rocks and grass. The hill that I knew so well now seems empty. I no longer have my frequent visits; in many ways have grown apart from the hill. Much like the transitions of the seasons I now realize I have done the same, moving on from my time spent playing on this hill.
Glaring at me as I trekked up the hill was the arrival of winter. The first snow had discarded the blanket of leaves and replaced it with a new coat of fresh powder. A place undisturbed by the regular crew of kids sledding it looked almost peaceful. Looking back my tracks had ruined this undisturbed section of nature. The weather now much colder had shortened my breaths transforming them into visible puffs of mist. Rocks were caped off with plenty of white giving the deception of being snow banks. One large tree unfazed by the weight of the snow stood in a clearing. There was little that stood out on this tree, with the exception of one branch. This branch was the only limb that held icicles on it. The icicles declined in order from smallest to largest as they progressed to the base of the tree. Small holes were made in the snow as drops fell from the ice. Temperatures dropped and fewer holes appeared because the water started to refreeze as they made there way down the ice spear. Other trees unlike the large massive oak in the clearing were not as alive. Tree carcasses were scattered around as if they had seen too many of these snowfalls. These trees limbs were cracked and bare and seemed to limp under the shadow of the stronger trees. Even so, the snow glorified them as if they were strong trees. This snowfall had made the deadest things seem alive. These trees remind us that the ones that have died in our lives can still be glorified and reborn for us.
Cool brisk air whipped and whirled around me. The snow had returned giving the previous snowfall a new dusting of glittery powder. Few children had come to sled because the snow had not fallen as packed powder. This very light form-discouraged speed on snow tubes and sleds, so the hill remained virtually untouched as it had before. In our lives, maybe we should travel in our own unmanned tracks and decide for ourselves an uncharted route. Small animal tracks lay over the sea of white. So few animals have made it outside, many of them finding refuge for the winter. These creatures have moved on maybe now we should do the same. A tree is overwhelmed by this secession of snowfalls and is buckling under the snows weight. Even in its state of distress, it portrays a great sense of beauty. Every so often snow builds up and falls off the weakling tree giving it relief. These tremendous thuds echo throughout the empty landscape, as piles gather underneath it. If this tree can withstand these savage winter beatings, it will live to see another glorious spring. Much like the snow or difficulties in our lives, we can live through them to see rewards that are more glorious.
This day has been a reminder of the warmer more pleasant seasons. Brisk cold air has been absent and allowed a milder day. This break in such harsh cold is almost like springtime. Rain has come diminishing the once dominate snow. Combining both the rain and warm weather the snow is very rapidly being replaced with streams and small pools. Once again, life is visible, as grass has resurfaced. Even though the grass is much browner than its springtime forms, it remains alive. This brief warmness gives false hope to these plants, for they must endure three more months of harsh weather. Unpredictable weather is difficult for nature to prepare for even if that weather happens to be nice. In the coming weeks these plants will reenter the cold winter. Overcast will reclaim the skies and these blades of now moist grass will be suppressed with piling snow. Even with this change in this winter cycle, these plants will fight to bloom in the upcoming spring. We too have these instincts when things come to living. It is an undying passion to grow and stay alive. Nature tells us so much about ourselves.
The early and mid 19th century in the United States was a melting pot of ideas and emerging out of this was a strong American literature, literature that focused on the way of the American or the American experience. Mark Twain embodied the American style rather than the traditional British orientated style of the time. Twains other works show his commitment to the every day American. One unique thing Twain does with his style in The Life on the Mississippi, The Boys Life is show how technology had such a dramatic impact on a simple area such as the south. Twain does this in such a way to show its true importance to there daily lives, economic growth and their future development.
Technology is shown by Twain as the arrival of the commercial steamboat to the late 18th and early 19th century south. This steam boat is the only view into the future the people in Hannibal Missouri have and they all want to be apart of it. For these people their first glimpse of new technology is so close to their lives. The main ambition of the town is though either be a frequent traveler on this grand ship or become a steam boat man. At the same time it shows the relation of technology and its defined effects on simplistic societies.
The detail Twain uses in describing such a machine takes it to a new level of importance. Twain shows how the steam boat chugs along the river with hefty plooms of thick black smoke trailing the boat and all is fixed in awe at the grand ship. People never would have the hurtful smoke being forced into the air, they were to busy looking at the great machine to recognize such a thing as pollution. Descriptions of people are accounted by the author that all of the towns folk wait for the boat as being the highlight of their day. The residence of Hannibal wait for the boat and after it has passed their day fades. Even the town drunk awoke from his daily snooze to watch the boat come into dock. It is in this unique way that Twain uses a thing of technology to be used as a common bond in southern society torn by war.
The way that is most innovative in the use of technology is the way Twain adopts the idea of the steamboat to fit the culture of the south. During the 18th and 19th centuries the south is seen as farming based community. Twain disassociates technology with the industrial north and gives it an identity in the south, in the form of a steamboat. As the north goes through an industrial golden age the author gives the south a piece of this industrial technology and makes it purely a southern concept. Twains succeeds in a way that fixed the image of a steamboat with the south. This association puts this technology very much apart of the south.
Twain shows that one simple part of the rise of technology during the late 18th and 19th century can change the makeup of a simple society. This is the first time technology is embraced and adopted in such a detailed way in the south.
Man has always had an undying passion for competition, which is why so many sports have been invented or evolved over the span of human history. In modern society sports have become more than a playing event, they have been commercialized and sold as merchandise all across the globe. Even with all of the commercialization some sports have not made it into the mainstream partly because of the wide range of sports out there today and the constant demand for nonstop action. A sport only becomes popular if it is accepted by American culture because America has set the standards for what a modern sport is. Racquetball is one of those sports that have not been absorbed by American culture. It is a sport that is very intense but it’s a sport people in America have little interest in or are even culturally aware of.
There are many things that have defined the American sport; some of them don’t even come on a competing level. For a sport to be popular it must be easy to market and must be able to attract a solid fan base. Most sports remain secluded because fans are not knowledgeable about the way a game is played or even what the action looks like. Racquetball is a game of numerous and specific rules. Racquetball is played between two players using a standard racket, which is not as large and circular as a tennis racket. A small rubber ball similar to a handball or squash ball is used during play. Racquetball is played indoors on a 32ft by 21ft court and the objective is to serve the ball into your opponent’s side of the court having it bounce more than once before it is hit back to score points. To score the ball can be hit off of the ceiling, walls and floor. During a service the ball must not touch the floor until it has already hit the walls or the ceiling. These elaborate rules allow for a best out of five games series with each individual game going up to fifteen points for a win. The rules of racquetball are apart of an intense and often fast paced action seen on a court.
To gain a sense of why people have not embraced racquetball in the U.S you have to examine the source, the fans. In talking with some of the athletes and fans at school its clear to see why the sport has not stepped into the spotlight. One student Mike Casserly clearly had very little knowledge of the sport saying “you can’t jump over the net” in response to a question regarding the rules of the game. Other students had some knowledge of the sport yet had specific reasons why they would neither play nor watch. Steve Pollizzi felt the sport is “too dangerous” while other like Mike Hectervereia believed “it’s for sissies” and proceeded to laugh. Some were convinced that the problem was within the sport not making an effort to spread knowledge of the game. Anthony Fergeson had defined experience within the game as he responded “you hit the ball back and forth between two players” to a question about the rules and went on to say that the reason the sport is not popular is because “there simply are not a lot of racquetball courts around”. All of the people surveyed found it was true that racquetball is an unpopular sport. These first hand accounts give specific reasons for why the sport is not accepted as genuinely American.
Even with the seemingly small fan base there are those who take this sport to the next levels as professionals. Surprisingly the sport has adopted response from upcoming female pros. Rhonda Rajsich one of the women’s professional racquetball organization senior players faced off in the national tournament against the upcoming Cheryl Gudinas, a rising star on the court. (Welsh78) Gadias won the nationals and was launched to the top in the racquetball world. Getting a professional to comment on the sport their views showed how passionate they are, Rhonda Rajsich says “It’s as difficult as any sport. To go out and compete at this level is extremely challenging and takes a lot of determination”. Although racquetball may not be as popular in America the idea of having women being some of the best athletes in the sport is an American concept. If racquetball was a popular sport these women could be as publicized as some athletes like Lisa Leslie, Mia Hamm and Danica Patrick. Racquetball in the U.S is getting a great response from the female athletes and as many see it the female community is the saving force for racquetball in America.
Although women have made many strives in the world of racquetball men still dominate the sport. The new generation of male players show promise in reviving the sport by competing in such tournaments as the thirty four annual U.S.A racquetball local intercollegiate championships held at Arizona State College. The May 29, 2006 games will bring more than four hundred contenders all under twenty four. Racquetball has had great influence on two brothers Bryan and Jason Zaransky expect to represent Craven Community College well along with their hometown of North Carolina. The two hometown kids picked up the sport as only kids and are now the number three spot as a duo in the nation. The brothers along with all of their teammates are also semi pros outside of their school. They believe the sport is misunderstood as bland but Bryan says “Racquetball is a fast paced sport, its simple you want to hit the ball where the other person can’t get it.” For Jason he says “Its going to be crazy (the games), a lot of fun. For us it will be a learning experience as well as entertaining”. (SlaytonA20) Jason feels the sport “brings out aggressiveness”, and hopes the team plays well. There are six teammate s including the brothers and two others hold the number one spot for a duo in the nation. In the game duos have helped newcomers compete at higher levels, while teammates play together they also learn from one another. Most of the competitors are multi sport athletes and like Bryan and Jason they enjoy the typical American sports but feel there is no reason why racquetball can’t gain popularity.
The influence of professional athletes is tremendous on younger players. The movement of women is not seen more clearly than on the courts of racquetball competition. One player that was influenced to play is Katie Fergeson. A senior in high school, Katie has found a love for a new game. She now has a strong passion on the court because of the impact pros like Cheryl Gudinas have had on her. She led her local high school team to their second straight national title at the High School championships. Being from Portland Oregon she plans to one day play in Idaho in the women’s nationals. Her court achievements won her a spot on the U.S junior national team. (Marshall56) Katie’s commitment to the sport has shown how women are doing their part to expand the sport. As Katie sees things she believes that for women “racquetball is slowly gaining ground”. Placing these new faces on an old sport may help it to resurface in Americas eyes.
Racquetball is a sport that has its origins in England but was transformed to conform to American styles of play. The new hybrid of racquetball made the courts larger to allow for a more challenging game, a style that was made in America. It is agreed that racquetball is not as popular in the states as it is in other parts of the globe but it is also true that Americans still play a role in the competition. It is possible that it is not the sport that has to change but Americans, our lust for violence and gore overshadow this simple game of skill. If the hunger for this destructive behavior was subdued maybe, just maybe racquetball could become apart of our national identity.