Friday, April 4, 2008

My Reflection

I can’t believe that an entire school year has passed. I still remember the first thing Mr. Gallagher said to me when I transferred into his class. It went something like, “Get in, Sit down, Hold on, shut up” only in far more eloquent tones. It’s hard to picture not walking into that class 5 seconds before the bell rings and Mr. G tells us for the thousandth time to get our notebooks out and be ready to discuss. Since that first day I’ve felt that I’ve grown more apt where English is concerned.
It was a big change to go from Ms. Halks junior English class, to Mr. Gallagher. I could tell from the start that the year was going to be an interesting one, and I was write. We started off the year by reading “The Stranger” by Camus. I had never heard about authors like Camus or even really considered that literature ahd it’s movements just like art did. Mr. Gallagher’s class really opened my eyes to that. And it showed me how much I needed to learn, namely how to write a decent explication. Admittedly I am still working on that. But Mr. G’s class forced me to start thinking of things in new ways and from different perspectives.
After the first novel we began working with a type of poem I had never seen before. The poem was titled “Red Shift” by Ted Berrigan. In a way the poem reminded me of madlibs. Where you fill in words that have been blanked out, but in the case of “Red Shift” you wanted to get a point across, rather then be funny. When we started trying to find deeper meanings in the things we read, that was when I realized that there was a lot about English I had never considered. Including how much different writers differed from one another.
Like in the case of Jack Kerouac, I had to read “The Town and the City” with another student and write blogs about what we found in the novel. Looking back now,. I realize how much was in that book and how much of it I completely missed out on. The blogs themselves are a great idea for students. It was common for Mr. G to give us an assignment on Thursday and have it due at 11:59 pm on Monday, the trick being, posting the piece on the blog rather then hand it to him in person. The other great thing about the blog was that it let us keep up with what was going on in class, Usually MR. G would post something new that had to do with what we were doing. Like the videos of professional actors playing the parts in different scenes from Hamlet. These scenes gave us a visual version of what is going on in the play, which is very different from the “acted” version we did in class. In fact Hamlet was my favorite piece of literature we worked with this year.
I think the reason I liked working with Hamlet so much, was because there were so many ways to look at a single line of text. It mad DJing and discussing the play very interesting. Considering that we read the entire play in class made my work load at home lighter and let me work on other projects. Acting out the scenes in the play using members of the class was tedious at some points, but when the group was in sync and we kept the flow of the novel moving, it made the unit so fun that it didn’t feel it was work. Wether or not this was Mr. G’s purpose, I don’t know. But it was defiantly a great experience.
I can tell that I’m taking a lot from just one class, and I am going to miss seeing all of my friends and the discussions that we had. But as with all things we must all move on. So Goodbye Mr. Gallagher, and everyone. This is Derek DaSilva signing off.

Cristmas Vacation Reading Testq

Mike Vickers is an integral part of Gust Avrakotas’ operations group that dealt with the CIA operation in Afghanistan. When Gust first met Vickers he described him as “…the only nerdy-looking guy in the whole group; most of those guys are Neanderthals, and he looked like a bookworm.” (pg. 289). Despite his nerdy appearance Mike Vickers, would become an integral part of the Afghan conflict. Before joining the CIA, Vickers already had a distinguished portfolio, he was a Green Beret for 10 years, five of which were spent studying Soviet tactics on the front line, he spent 3 years working counterterrorism in Panama; and multiple citations like Special Forces Soldier of the year. Thanks to this background Vickers became an expert in guerilla warfare and weaponry. “It’s initially disorienting to listen to Vickers talk about guerilla warfare. He makes it sound as if it were a business school course.” (pg.293). Avrakotas describes talking to Vickers in that quote. From that quip during the first interview with Vickers, Gust realizes just how important having a man like Vickers on his staff would be. It it even stated in the novel that “He seemed to have studied guerilla warfare like others study medicine. He seemed to know exactly what to prescribe and in what dose…”

Once Vickers was part of Avrakatos’ “dirty dozen” changes in the plans for Afghanistan be gan immediately. Vickers examined what the CIA had done so far and knew what was needed to give the mujahideen that could defend against the Red Army. Vickers “prescription” for the Soviet infection was a meshing of light and heavy machine guns, surface to air missiles, RPGs, and mortars. Vickers believed that, “the way to defeat the Soviet air power was by introducing a symphony of different weapons, that when put together, would change the balance in favor of the mujahideen. Once the weapons were in the pipeline, Vickers realized his work with the CIA was over and the weapons expert left the agency

Charles Wilson had a habit of always doing something to ruin things, just as everything was going well. In the novel, Charlie Wilson’s war, chapter 12 and chapter 13 are centered on two such actions on Wilson’s part that nearly destroyed his career. At one point Charley Wilson was brought under scrutiny for drug use charges, as depicted in Chapter 12. For his entire career Wilson always had a public image as a playboy. When allegations that Charlie had been using cocaine. These accusations caused Charlie to begin drinking heavily. As the investigation continued and things were getting worse, the people surrounding Wilson rallied to his aide. His “Angels” the group of women working for him began to run the office and many of Charlie’s friends outside of the political world stepped up and defended Wilson from the FBI’s best investigators. Eventually the charges were overturned when no one would come forward to provide testimony.

Soon after Charlie “beat the rap” it was time to accompany Doc Long on a junket to the Middle East to convince the ornery representative to support the CIA. However on his way to the airport “Good Time Charlie” was in an accident where he hit another car into a side rail and fled the scene. Just after he had escaped drug charges, the playboy representative from Texas had to face another potentially career ending event. Lucky for Charlie a loop hole allowed him to slide out of harms way. This loophole was that the site of the accident was under Washington DC jurisdiction and Charlie was a big donator to the DC police, so they helped him out of the problem. By sheer luck Charlie Wilson had dodged another bullet.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Author Mimic

The life of a spy has been romanticized by American films and literature to being a high stakes action filled lifestyle. The reality this is the farthest from the truth a person can get. There are very few instances which come to mind, that are anywhere near this public idea of espionage. However we did have one mole in the CIA who performed above and beyond what I had ever asked of him. His codename was Mr. Adams and he was a mole posing as one of the higher up officials in the CIA’s Western German office. Through him we were able to learn much of what the CIA was planning in terms of the Eastern Block. I remember reading one of his reports where he actually had crawled through a ventilation system to gain access to some private documents belonging to one of his superiors. Although we appreciated his enthusiasm in our Berlin headquarters, we could not have him taking such risks. Mr. Adams never attempted anything quite so drastic up until we had to cut ties with him when he was ordered to return to the states.

Another instance which comes to mind centers on a female operative who worked in Western German Counter Intelligence, transcribing debriefings of enemy operatives. We gave her the code name of Minerva, her information allowed those of us behind the Iron Curtain to root out several moles in our offices and in a few cases feed them information which led to the arrests of certain people in Western Germany under the suspicion of espionage. Of course those westerners who were arrested had nothing to do with Eastern Germany, but the misdirection caused a bit of necessary chaos in the Western State, which allowed for the extraction of several key operatives who were facing possible arrests for actually committing crimes of espionage.

Personally I never faced any very exciting moments while working as the East German Spymaster. I had always worked behind the scenes directing operations but never actually participating, which I believe is in no small part one of the reasons the Westerners could not identify me.

There was one incident shortly after the East German Intelligence service was created where I had to put myself at risk. At the time I was a simple radio personality, I was asked to cross into Western Germany in order to obtain a set of documents that would aid the then new born Stasi program to flourish. My orders were to meet a person in a café in the Western section of Berlin and await my contact: I Was not given a codename, nor was I informed as to what my contact would look like. I waited in the café for 30 minutes before a man in a dark suit came to my table. He told me that the drop had been aborted and that I was to leave immediately. I paid for my unfinished coffee and left the building. I did my best to blend into the crowd, but I was untrained for anything like this. I was beginning to panic and was sure I was being followed. I was stopped only once by a passing police officer, who thought I was in trouble. I stammered out an assurance that I was fine, and made my way to the border. I crossed and was safely back in the Eastern Quarter. I learned after I rose to my position, that there was in fact noone tailing me and that the drop had been aborted because the agent who was meant to gather the documents had been captured in his attempt. It is because of the terror which filled my mind, that I ensured that all of my agents were highly trained and capable of rising under pressure.

4th day

Hey everyone, my name’s Derek DaSilva, and I’m a senior at Malden High school. This talk that I volunteered for is what we call the Fourth Day. It’s a funny thing to call a talk, fourth day… what it means is that we’re here for three days, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This fourth day is the time after the retreat, and it’s not just one day. I really hope that you guys take what you learned on this retreat and let it into your lives. I volunteered for this talk because on my first retreat it was the fourth day talk that really made all the difference for me. Way back before I came to IC, I was a member of a parish in Cambridge. It was a beautifully designed church, but the CCD there didn’t have much to offer an inquisitive young mind. I was there for 7 years. Think of it. Seven years of people force feeding you information. It was not a fun time. At some point my parents realized that it wasn’t worth dealing with the people at the parish, but they still wanted my sister and I to be in some form of religious education. IC turned out to be the answer.

I still remember my reaction when I heard about GOF, it went something like this: ARE YOU SERIOUS???!!!!1 When I finally went to my first GOF session, I couldn’t believe the difference. Scott and the team were welcoming and they encouraged questions. That was something very new to me. So Time passed but I still wasn’t feeling the whole religion thing. Then it came time for the retreat, I didn’t want to go at first, but my parents forced me. I doubt I need to tell you guys what happened on that retreat since we haven’t changed the schedule since. I can tell you thought, the witness talks were my favorite part. The fact that the people giving the talks were so willing to open up and tell the candidates about their own experiences really impressed me. But even more impressive was the faith they all had. Each person worshipped in a different way but it was all for Jesus. At the end of the retreat I wanted to stay active in IC. But I wasn’t sure just what I could do. That’s why the fourth day talk was so important to me. From the talk I gathered that I should bring the retreat to the other people I knew. That’s nother thing that sounds really strange. Bringing a retreat to other people; well I figured that I learned a lot over my retreat weekend, I learned a lot about Jesus and where I stand in my faith. And I wanted to share that with other people. The best way I could do that was work with the youth ministry and with you guys. I think my favorite thing I do other then the retreats is playing with the 5pm youth ensemble at the youth mass. It’s so much fun to be a part of a group made up of such talented people. But you don’t need to be a musician to bring the retreat to others. There is another retreat we go on during the year. That retreat is our Vermont retreat, where we visit the dumanes, at the Melo’s retreat center. Dave and Terri are amazing people. They work at this amazing youth center and it’s also their home. They literally open up their home to all of us and welcome us. Sadly their home burned down last February, but it’s been rebuilt and they moved in the week before Christmas. The next Vermont retreat is coming up in the spring and personally, I’ve been counting the days until then. The retreat itself is for peerleaders. After going on it you can help work on the confirmation retreats and as a peerleader at GOF. Then there’s this funny thing called the W, it’s our weekly highschool youthgroup. We meet at seven o clock on Wednesday nights eat some marvelous cookies that Scott’s mom bakes, play some games, and just chill out. So come on by one of these weeks and check it out, believe me it’s a lot of fun. There’s plenty of stuff to do, heck there’s more then plenty, just talk to any of the leaders if you want to know more.

College Essay

More Than a Retreat

The Candidates and their parents met at the church with the youth leader, Scott Morin and were given a basic run down the itinerary. After the meeting the candidates loaded onto a shuttle bus and an hour and a half later we reached the Craigville retreat center on Cape Cod. We were assigned our rooms and room mates and dispersed. At that moment on Friday we were all strangers, but by Sunday we’d be as close as family. Over the next two days we participated in group activities and listened to “witness talks”.

It has been said that religion is an outdated system to control the masses. But for one young teenager the Catholic Church became a guide and a second family all because of one weekend spent on Cape Cod. I was that teenager, and that weekend changed my life for the better.

The trip itself took place on a weekend in late January of my sophomore year. It is an annual event hosted by the Immaculate Conception Parish in Malden. I had been going to classes at the church for several months in preparation for my conformation. Until that weekend I did not believe in God in a physical sense. I had had discussions of him in a purely metaphorical way but there was no belief in those thoughts. I was under the jaded impression that if there was a god, why he or she didn’t fix the problems with the world. But the retreat was mandatory for confirmation candidates, and my parents forced me to go.

Out of everything that was down that weekend, the witness talks had the biggest impact on me. Each talk was written by people around my age about family and friends, the community and the church itself. The talks were each about the speaker’s life and their faith. Just to here the conviction with which they spoke and the love of god in their voice was enough to make me doubt my previous ideas about religion. By the end of the weekend something had changed; as cliché as it sounds my eyes were finally open. It felt like the world was a new and wonderful place. I began going to the Youth Mass on Sundays at 5pm, and the youth group meetings on Wednesday evenings. The greatest thing was that the people at the church welcomed me with open arms. They treated me as though I had always been there, for the first time I really felt like I was a part of something incredible.

It’s been two years now since that first retreat, and I feel like a completely different person. I’ve become very active in the church itself. I’ve gone on three other retreats since that very first one. One of them was last year’s confirmation retreat. I volunteered to help other people to find their faith, in much the same way I have. The other two retreats were meant to help the youth leaders to develop ties with each other and obtain a team mentality; although it really wasn’t necessary for the team mentality. The youth leaders were already as close as a family, we are all different, from age, to upbringing, and down to the cities we live in. But we are all brought together by our faith in Jesus Christ.

According to Webster, faith is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”. Webster’s definition is a very dry explanation of what faith is. Often that definition is used by religious critics to ascertain their beliefs on the foolishness of religion in. Everyday there are more critics proclaiming atheism, making it difficult to be open about your religion. It has gotten to the point where you cannot publicly mention Christmas, Hanukah, kwanza, or any other holiday affiliated with religion, without being verbally assaulted. Our society has become awash in double standards; Tom Cruise can believe in alien souls trapped in human bodes, but if someone mentions Jesus in a serious tone they are immediately discredited in the public eye. Double standards like this one make it difficult to be open about being Catholic, but thankfully I have the ministry at Immaculate Conception to fall back on. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if not for the IC Youth Ministry. They have taught me that to have faith may not be the easiest path to follow but to lack faith and live in a world without the light and love of God is a far worse fate.

Red Shift Explication

An Examination of Ted Berrigan’s “Red Shift”

In the poem “Red Shift”, the poet Ted Berrigan uses certain forms of diction to express a tangible feeling of regret and a defined hostility towards life. Berrigan goes this extra step to build a feeling of understanding between the speaker and the audience, which then helps the ideas flow from “Red Shift”.

“Red Shift” itself starts off as a series of small thoughts, loosely connected to one another. Such as in the case of lines 4 “I drink some American poison liquid air which bubbles” and 5 “and smoke to have character”. Both lines are open to a wide variety of examination; in the first line, it can be interpreted that the speaker is drink some form of liquor, or perhaps American propaganda, or even air pollution. The second line is rather strait forward; the speaker is most likely smoking, but the point of these lines is that it gives the speaker a more human feel, so it is no longer a disembodied voice. So the first few lines of the poem are used to give the speaker a feeling of humanity.

The Berrigan goes on to have the speaker speak of his own lif within the poem. The speaker says “Who would have thought that I’d be here, nothing wrapped up, nothing buried, everything Love, children, hundreds of them, money, marriage ethics, a politics of grace, Up in the air, swirling, burning even or still, now more then ever before?” The speaker has taken on a much more dark tone of voice. He speaks in the past tense, as if he’s regretting past decisions and situations. Perhaps he even is thinking of the moments in his life when he was far to indecisive. There is obvious regret woven in the prose of this excerpt. Berrigan mentions things “up in the air” as if they had never been solved, or the memories are there but just out of reach. Which is further supported by the next piece, “up in the air, swirling,” if the memories are no longer clear, then they may all be muddled or swirling in his head. The speaker also mentions such things as love, children, and money. But they are not presented as positives, but in a negative tone. Something happened in the speakers past, something he is regrets greatly and can not change. This feeling of regret is another use of diction to tie the speaker to the audience.

Towards the end of the poem, the speaker’s tone takes on a hostile flavor. He begins to rant about death and even suggests that people can not stay faithful to each other in this line, “Not that painter who from very first meeting I would never & never will leave alone until we both vanish into thin air we signed up & so demanded To breathe & who will never leave me, not for sex, nor politics nor even for stupid permanent estrangement which is only our human lot & means nothing.” The way Berrigan wrote this passage, the speaker appears to be spitting out each phrase. His tone has become openly hostile, as though the very thought enrages him. As well as hostility this passage involves a jab towards human nature. When the speaker says “… nor even permanent estrangement which is only our human lot & means nothing.” He is stating that people cannot be with eachother for any prolonged period. Over all he sounds very agitated, but there is still that wisp faint remorseful tinge that has been a major part of the poem till now.

Berrigan has many ideas in his poem “Red Shift” many are difficult to assess the first time it is read. To help his ideas spread to the audience, Berrigan has his speaker connect to the audience, through the words on the page.

Twisted Fate

Twisted Fate

Here I am at the timeless hours of the night, looking through the window frame

The air is still as a crypt, and the scent of the night wafts in, cars flash past

On the way to the dull streetscape

I drink some cold tea which invigorates me in my vigil

And asks me to have the memories and to look again at the decision I made.

The streets look for Tom, Jesus or me Tom


Grown quieter as the last traveler returned home. The memories descend on me. I wade through it, them, as

The fears and rages sipped on the lost dreams now

4 years almost ago, and the man walked in

a forced smile on his face. & telling

Who would have thought I’d be here .nothing

Makes sense, so many questions. Everything

The ideas haunt me, hurt me, rip at me.

They’ll never leave, the scars forever marking the failure.

Up in the shy the moon passes, and questions appear clearer, now

More then ever before.

Not that there will ever be an answer. There’s the man in the black coat

Eyes penetrating, he is me, I am he

& neither knows our place in the world. Not that insecure teen. Who was

going to have to go. Careening into the next life so.

To spiral & to twist out of control and never imagined

So to go. Not that girl who from very first meeting

I would never forgive, nor will I forget, the wound is to fresh to give

Into the ideas of hope and happiness & so demanded

To find someone who will never leave me. Not for money, nor family,

Not even for the blind lust which is

only our human lot & means nothing in the end. No. not that.

There’s a song “Paralyzer” . but no I won’t do that.

I am everything and nothing. When will I die? I will never die. I will live

To be 130. & I will never go away. & you will never escape from me

Who is always & only a pillar. Despite this rage. Spirit

Who lives only to watch and protect

I’m only human, & I am powerful. & I didn’t do this for me.

It was always for you.

I came into your life because I cared. I wanted

To help you.

You & I. entwined in fat. Never the less

I watch.

The world spins, and we are along for the ride.