Bored Shenanigans Podcast – Episode 114


So, Hi! How have you been? It has been a while. Well, this is a month old so Orwell month is a thing again in it. Also a new hectic cake. Let us know how you like the podcast that goes with our blog website because it sure has been some time since we earned the “podcast” part of the domain name.
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Welcome to Bored Shenanigans.

Welcome to Episode 114: We have a podcast?

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1984 Review

1984

If you want a review of George Orwell’s 1984, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.

The setting is of no consequence and the characters are irrelevant. Unless, of course the Party deems it to be.

In that case it would take place in London, England part of Oceania around the year of 1984 roughly 30 to 40 years after, what appears to be, a world wide revolution that followed an atomic war. A world that started diverged from our timeline near WWII. We follow the daily life of Winston Smith who’s job is to rewrite history, a younger girl, Julia, who’s rebellion is purely of self interest, a man of privilege and orthodoxy and both ally and adversary, O’Brien, and finally the true protagonist of the story, Big Brother, the omnipresent embodiment of the world in its totality. Or, if it was recast today, a blogger, a millennial in every hipster of the word, a priest (perhaps either Catholic or Scientology), and Steve Jobs.

People have said that Orwell was afraid of our privacy being taken away by force and had no idea that we would willfully give it away with things like Facebook and other social media sharing platforms or through voting and accepting security measures to “keep us safe” that forfeiting privacy and freedom But, I think, THAT was exactly how he thought it would happen. That they would be tricked and rewarded and scared into giving up what they hold dear and not just by their leaders but also by their friends that were duped as well.

For what I think of it as a book, for a deep subject it should be an easy read but that might be because it repeats it’s self a lot. So, if you don’t understand a concept you will have a second chance to wrap your head around it. But if I had do give any big criticism it is that when talk about Winston’s life as it does not relate directly to the rest of the world, it can drag a bit. Lucky, Orwell is more interested in the world than the characters and almost seems to have wanted to write something akin to Plato’s Republic but did not know how to do that so he did it in a more stranded novel form. Or maybe thought Winston, Julia, and O’Brien would be a guise in which the the message could exhibit itself to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an idea. I personally like the book within a book style of writing. Something about a fictional nonfiction book really appeals to me. It happens in the book version of Starship Troopers, and in a movie called the Confederate States of America (it is done as a BBC documentary about a the south winning the civil war)

This is part review and part analysis because I do tend to ramble on. So if you do not want that here is your jumping of point.


The world of 1984 would be described by us a totalitarian, but by O’Brien as the exact opposite, English Socialism, and by the writer of a book within this book, Emmanuel Goldstein, as Oligarchical Collectivism, which I personally think is the closest. The politics, morality, and economics of Oceania are the main interest of the story of 1984. So much so that it required there to be another books within it; the above mentioned manifesto of Goldstein. One thing to note is that everything in 1984 is unreliable. Winston’s memories of his childhood before the revolution, news broadcast, O’Brien’s speeches on Party doctrine, and Goldstein’s accounts of the rise of the Party and how it appears to function; there is not outside the Party. Even the Victory Gin is not gin; it is Saké! It is also conceivable that Oceania is not bigger than England and the rest of the world is carrying on in the usual manner, similar to the North Korea situation.

There are three levels of society: the Inner Party about 2% of the population, the Outer Party about 13%, and ’the proles’ about 85%. Only Party members have the constant monitoring by the telescreens (a TV that watches back) and the Inner Party are the only ones “permitted” to turn them off for brief moments. The Party views the proles as energy to run society at best or slaves at worst. But it is not the kind of slavery that has chains. Throughout the book it is said if there is any hope to bring down the Party and Big Brother it lies in the proles, but it is also pointed out that the proles are kept too busy or otherwise entertain and preoccupy to revolt. They just don’t want to because from their view nothing is wrong. They go to work and get paid, come home, read a book or go to the bar, go to sleep and do it all again the next day. They live. Sure the conditions are not that great to our modern day western standards, but its seams that they live about an average life for someone in say, the industrial revelation or, well, Europe in the early ’40.

It actually looks like, to me, that the prole are the most free and it is the Outer Party that is the most oppressed and the Inner Party is somewhere in between. If anything can be believed there is no Capital of Oceania, and other than Big Brother (who I doubt is real) there is no true leader, and there are no laws. But as this is a Dystopia, something is wrong with all this freedom. It is an Idea that is in charge. I think at one time the revolution was a good thing and meant a lot of good for the world, a lot like in Animal Farm , it got perverted and out of hand. I think there is not government at all. I think it is everyone collectively, out of an imagined fear made manifest, doing what they think they have been told to do. Like the Borg or ants they do what they do because of the Collectivism part. I think the early years of the Party were so effective that they did away with there own founders and laws and now the Party only exists to exist.

O’Brien said the Party is “interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power.” I don’t think that is true particularly because of what he says later “the individual is only a cell? The weariness of the cell is the vigour of the organism. Do you die when you cut your fingernails?” it exist to exist and power is a byproduct. Your liver does not have high morals of keeping you alive and functions to do that; your lungs aren’t striving to impress your heart. They all are doing their own thing, oblivious to each other, and it happens to keep you alive. In the same way I think the various Ministries and organization do what they do because that is what they do. The Inner Party is no better off than the Outer Party in any meaningful way. And the proles care just as little about the Party members as the Party cares about them. If they are in hell, it is one of the Twilight Zone ironic hells of their own making.

I know this was long winded (this is actually the shorten version) and I apologies for that. Let’s just say that I am overcompensating for the fact that Cody does all the article and political ramblings on the website. I have more I could say, maybe there will be a tie-in segment in an upcoming episode?

I don’t know what all this says about me but I will leave you with a revelation that Winston had about the book he read that is both profound and one of the best and scariest things to think about when you read a book yourself or hear people talk about books they liked:

” The book fascinated him, or more exactly it reassured him. In a sense it told him nothing that was new, but that was part of the attraction. It said what he would have said, if it had been possible for him to set his scattered thoughts in order. It was the product of a mind similar to his own, but enormously more powerful, more systematic, less fear-ridden. The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.”

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Ryan S. Brewer is the co-host and editor of the Bored Shenanigans podcast (when he releases one) available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of Brewer’s Shitty Writing very sporadically here or as episode descriptions. Also he has nothing else to enjoy anywhere else, but you can find Cody’s poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or the Faceyspace. 

Burmese Days Review

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“But the whole expedition -the very notion of wanting to rub shoulders with all those smelly natives -had impressed her badly. She was perfectly certain that that was not how white men ought to behave.”

 

Burmese Days was George Orwell’s first novel, published in 1934. Set in 1920s Burma it follows a timber merchant and the people that ripple in and out of his life. The motivations, while important are far less pertinent to this story than the interactions within it. This story does an excellent job showing what life was like for natives and Europeans living in imperialistic Burma.

The setting that Orwell builds here is fantastic. He goes to great pains to have the reader see what the interactions between the natives and the colonists are. It becomes clear that the colonists do not see the natives as equals, but rather tools and resources to be used to their own end. It also becomes clear as the novel progresses that Orwell loved Burma. His descriptions of the environment and the geography are so vibrant that it becomes clear that he truly loved it there.

The thing that I found most interesting in this novel was it’s ability to highlight the degrading British Empire. In this work it is obvious that years of rule by England have worn down the Burmese people. Corruption exists at a casual level as everyone is vying to gain a little bit more wealth or power. Though subtle and laced throughout, this theme shows early signs of what would become indicative of Orwell’s writing. He does a commendable job showing what a long period of rule from a far away state does to a group of people.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was simple to follow and while a bit dull in parts, the ability it had to keep the reader engaged. The infusion of Burmese culture never let you lose sight of the setting of the story and was tastefully sprinkled throughout. I read this book in about two days and found it to be worth the time spent. For those Orwell enthusiasts like myself, give Burmese Days a try.

 

“It is one of the tragedies of the half-educated that they develop late, when they are already committed to some wrong way of life.”

 

 

Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

George Orwell Complete Poetry Review

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-…Nothing believing, nothing loving,
Not in joy nor in pain, not heeding the stream
Of precious life that flows within us,
But fighting, toiling as in a dream…-

 

I’ll be honest, this collection of poetry wasn’t what I expected. More accurately it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. I desperately wanted left leaning, anti-totalitarian verse draped in social satire. I wanted elegant lines questioning the very intention of imperialism. I wanted first hand experiences of humanity falling into mob mentality. I really wanted to fall in love with this book.  I wanted to be as infatuated by this collection as I’ve become with Orwell’s essays and novels. I wanted this to be the shining gem of Orwell September. I wanted this to be something, it was never going to be.

For a little background, this collection was published in October of 2015 after being withheld for many years by Orwell’s estate. By the author’s own admittance, he never held much fondness for his poetry.  This book gathers some of his earliest writings from his youth  all the way to his later life. It does a commendable job of prefacing them, so the reader can more fully appreciate the events of Orwell’s life. From the standpoint of historical interest and curiosity’s sake, it is fun to see how much his style evolved, but that is about where the fun ends. The poetry just isn’t very good.  In the words of  Dione Venable, the editor of this collection, “Orwell wasn’t a wonderful poet, but in his poetry he’s gloomy, he’s funny, he’s happy, he’s sad, and in the last things he wrote, you feel his pain.” As you read through it, you see him experimenting with  various styles and rhyme schemes but few ever seem to really resonate.

Now that the negatives are out of the way, there are a few pieces in this collection that are quite good.  In particular I enjoyed Ironic Poem About Prostitution and As One Non Combatant to Another. The dark satire that reverberates in these works is familiar to the fans of his writing. They provide a glimmer of what I had hoped for when I found this book. Other than a few lines from a smattering of poems, this entire collection left me feeling a bit flat. It was eighty two pages of mediocrity. I appreciated seeing another side of such a highly exalted author. I enjoyed seeing small shades of his excellent novels in these poems. Unless you’ve read everything else he’s ever written or your inquisitive nature just can’t let this one go, I would suggest you just pass on it. Sadly, this is the first Orwell I’ve ever read that I can’t really recommend.

 

 

Pagan
So here are you, and here am I,
Where we may thank our gods to be;
Above the earth, beneath the sky,
Naked souls alive and free.
The autumn wind goes rustling by
And stirs the stubble at our feet;
Out of the west it whispering blows,
Stops to caress and onward goes,
Bringing its earthy odours sweet.
See with what pride the the setting sun
Kinglike in gold and purple dies,
And like a robe of rainbow spun
Tinges the earth with shades divine.
That mystic light is in your eyes
And ever in your heart will shine.

 

 

Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

Why I Write Review

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This essay is one of George Orwell’s most highly touted. With it, he uses his own evolution as a author to show the reader what makes a good writer.  He analyzes his childhood writings and through a contemplative lens, he shows what motivations shaped him. This essay is a refreshing and interesting look at a person’s journey, laced with excellent insights into one of the greatest writers of all time.

Orwell breaks down all writer’s motives into the following four characteristics; sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse and political purpose.  He states that these four exist with varying degrees of intensity, depending upon the writer’s environment and personality. I rather enjoy the notion that all literature has been penned by people under the influence of the four above ideals. It takes some of the intangible out of writing, while still pushing one to ask even more questions.

More than anything in this essay, Orwell’s discussion of his creative choices made during the process of writing Animal Farm is excellent. He made a conscious effort to blend political ideology into an artistic narrative. For an author to look back objectively at their own works and discuss their merits and failings is valuable. You see how his tastes changed and how fluidly his work reflected the environment he inhabited. This short essay is worth the read, as it provides a fascinating opportunity to see inside the mind of George Orwell and what he felt motivated a writer. 

 

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Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Animal Farm Review

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With Orwell September in full swing, how could we neglect one of his most well known works?  This novella takes place on a rural English farm in which animals begin a revolution to overthrow their oppressive farmer. Deeply symbolic and easy to follow, it is simple to see why Animal Farm is so highly regarded.

This novel was mandatory reading when I was in high school. I didn’t really understand or care for it then. It seemed highly overrated and somewhat stupid. I recall making ignorant, snarky comparisons to the movie Babe. The allegorical use of animals to the 1917 Russian Revolution and the Stalinist era that followed, didn’t do much for me. Looking back I feel this book was mostly presented as anti communist tome and the deeper issues inside it were outright ignored. I remember discussions about who each character represented, but it was taken with a misguided slant toward patriotism and not a study of political structure.

I feel one point my high school literature teacher missed was how good this book is at explaining how the state works to anyone. Written in a direct and easy to follow form, it does an commendable job of illustrating the cycle of tyranny. Showing the reader how honest, well meaning ideas are agreed upon and slowly manipulated by the powerful and intelligent over the less powerful and less intelligent. Good intentions are quickly forgotten when one group can gain at the expense of another. The social and political constructs in this book are so true to life that the reader is forced to draw parallels to the ones that surround them. 

Dystopian novels rarely show the decline and fall, instead you usually see society at the lowest form. Animal Farm takes great pains to highlight multiple instances in which you see the society breaking down. You feel the plight these animals suffer as more and more things are taken from them.Orwell pushes the reader to ask if the revolution was worth it, or if the animals were better off with the farmer in charge. It alludes to a multitude of political theories and schools of thought, plus highlights how many changes a charismatic leader can make.

This book is goddamn great, truly goddamn great. I rediscovered it a few years after high school and it has been one of my favorites since that time. You can read it in an afternoon  without trying too hard, but it is the sort of novel that stays with you. If you didn’t like it when it was a mandatory read, I believe it deserves another chance. With the upcoming election season be political, read some Orwell. I believe that you will truly enjoy the time spent. Animal Farm proves that while all books are equal, some are more equal than others.

 

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Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.

Shooting an Elephant Review

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George Orwell is a titan of literature. He has coined concepts and ideas that are so deeply embedded into popular consciousness we forget they haven’t always been there. Most of us know him as a novelist, but during his life his journalistic writing were his most well known. Around the Bored Shenanigans studio we are rabid Orwell fans and cite his works with far too much regularity. So for no particular reason we present, Orwell September. This month all of our Adult Book Reports will be reviews of Orwell works.

The first work I’m reading this month is one of his highest reviewed essays, Shooting an Elephant. This story follows an English police officer stationed in Burma who is called upon to shoot a mad elephant. While never directly stated, It is assumed the narrator is Orwell speaking from personal experience. That fact is disputed as no provable historical account of these events exist. In my opinion this is written with too much earnestness to be completely fictional.

On of my favorite things about George Orwell’s writing style is the sophisticated simplicity. If ever there was a master of doing more with less, it is him. In this essay, the events are neither complex nor cunning but with precision he shows the tension between the locals and the British occupiers. It forces the reader to examine the two clashing cultures and the results of the British Empire’s seizure of that area. It allows the reader to see the author’s true opinion of the totalitarian rule without ever directly saying it.

The climax of this essay is something to behold. It drives home the themes throughout in both a subtle and substantial way. It cleanly states the essay’s purpose whilst still forcing the reader to ask more questions. It using symbolism in all the best ways and ends with some stellar final lines of dialogue. I highly recommend this and clocking in at less that thirty minutes it is definitely worth your time.

 

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Check back next week as we sink our teeth into more George Orwell.

 

Read Shooting an Elephant free here.

 

 

 

Cody Jemes is the co-host of the Bored Shenanigans podcast available via iTunes and Stitcher. See more of his articles here. Also enjoy his poetry blog here  or download his e-book hereBe sure to follow Bored Shenanigans on Twitter or Facebook.