Episode 58: The 411 for URI 101

Hey there boys and girls, if you think you are getting off from having to endure one of my long lectures this week then you are wrong my young padawans. I am doing this particular form twofold. You get the oddly non Puerto Rican accent emitting from your speakers should you choose to do this via audiofile. Your other option is to read this lecture via my blog, I get no economic or cultural capital through here, at least not for now, but that doesn’t stop me from pushing it towards potential future readers. So feel free to at least go by different blog posts and see if any of them pique your interests. Now time to put all the most important points of your URI 101 training to make sure each of you survive and thrive through finals. As boring as this may seem, please go through the whole thing.

How to study for finals when you know what you are doing:

I assume that all of you have been going to your classes and are keeping up with your assignments.The first thing you need to do is look at the exam schedule each if you have. Finals take place at very different times and classrooms than what you are used to. Some of them are even super early or really late, be prepared and show up before exam time to get yourself psyched up. Exams on average take about two hours, rarely do you need to be there the whole time, but exams are designed with all that time. Hence, these exams are about twice as much things to do than regular ones. Do not panic at this first glance of having so many papers at your hands.

With the schedule, plan out how much time to adequately prepare you have and how much you need. Exams are spaced very randomly so you can get them almost immediately one after another or with a few days in between. There is almost no chance to change exam times unless you have direct overlap between schedules and if you do it’s normally during makeup exam timeslots. Be warned. The best way to prepare in my opinion is to go over the syllabus and really look at the material that should be included. Even with an exam that won’t cover all the material, professors will often include callbacks to previously posted material. Some would even make  pastiche of stuff from previous exams almost directly from previous exams. If you have your earlier exams, pay close attention to the style and types of questions that are typically asked. Never ask your professors directly what is suppossed to come on the final unless the guy (or gal) is a complete douche then go for it. Try and convince your professors to provide a review of the material. Nine times out of ten they will actually give you something that comes word for word in the exam so consider it free points and take a lot of notes. Speaking of, your best form of studying is going over stuff you have written about in notebooks all this time. If you are not a thorough note taker (like me) then try and go over mental flashbacks of important class material. Trying to read over the entirety of the mateial again will take way too much time and might not help as much as you think. Focus on the application of material, ie take the basics and be ready to apply it in different ways. Get decent sleep, avoid partying, and stay cool.

How to study if you have no idea what you are doing. Assuming that you have rarely been present, conscious, paying attention, or whatever there is still a chance you can do well enough in an exam to pass a class. It’s pretty much impossible but it’s still worth a try so you might as well put in maximum effort. Follow the same basic points as the previous part. After that, you officially have no time for fun or sleep from now until exams. Read intros and conclusions to everything since main ideas are summarized in those areas. Try to find summaries online or through friends of big stuff. You still need to be able to  provide specific examples in your answers so try and focus on one or two things that you know super well. Be ready to stretch the hell out of what you do know for every possible scenario.

Critical essays, how the fuck do they work?

If you aren’t taking a final exam, then there’s a good chance you have to make a critical essay of some sort. It takes a different amount of effort but it can be just as difficult as any exam, especially if you leave it for the last minute. The most important part when writing an essay  is sticking to a central theme. Sometimes they tell you what it is that you are suppossed to write about, other times you are told to choose. Here are some pointers if you are given free choice but if you have no idea what to write on or can’t think of something quick enough. THe one thing that grinds a professor’s gears when reading essays is plot summary. They know the story a thousand times better than you and don’t want to hear a crappy bullet point version. What you do need to show is specificity so take your central theme, use a direct example, say why it’s important. That’s going to be your model to follow throughout each paragraph. Depending on how many pages you need you have to provide enough examples. If you need to write essayish answers for a final exam you need three examples minimum on average.

In terms of theme, one of my personal favorites is that of home. Just about every story, film, novel, etc has the concept of home somewhere around its premise if you look hard enough. It’s not just a place to live, it’s the idea of somewhere where you are both safe and comfortable. It is both a place of origin and something you aspire to. It is something we run away from and run towards. Let me give you an example from my favorite movie, tv show, and comic book.

Consider Star Wars, where home is a place of safety but ultimately it is a root that keeps the characters in place. Unfortunately, it means that they cannot go forward without losing their original home, if they lack a place they can go back to then the only option is towards adventure and danger. Luke’s home in Tatooine was destroyed alongside Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, the only family he’s ever known. Leia has her home world obliterated in front of her eyes. Without a home, they can only towards the rebellion as their only cause. It gets even deeper when you consider that thanks to Episode 3 we know that both had a home almost fabricated for them by Obi Wan and Yoda so that they could be safe from the clutches of the Empire.

Dragon Ball Z, not giving a summary if you don’t know the show, has Goku claiming that Earth is his home, even if he is actually an alien. Picollo goes through pretty much a similar identity crisis a few times. It gets more complex once you consider that most characters leave the safety of their homes for constant training and planet endangering battles. Home is a place worth fighting for and because of it they can’t really enjoy it.

Batman has perhaps the best place to live in by far in the form of Wayne Manor and the batcave but none of them are really ever a home. The death of his parents scars him to the point that he can never really feel at home, even if surrounded with luxury and awesome gadgets. Alfred is there to make the place as close to home as possible, acting as surrogate mother and father to Bruce, even with no mention of his native England. Batman tries to provide a vicarious home to others who have suffered a similar sense of loss. All of the Robins have their homes shattered and rebuilt but replaced with one of constant training rather than one of safety and comfort.

There a lot of different themes but home as both origin and destination is always one of my favorites because of versatility. Keep studying, and stay calm because you will do fine. Should you ever panic, believe in the me that believes in you.


Episode 57: Varney the Vampire

The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of everything. Went from critical existence failure to accomplishment and even much earned minor vacation with a hint of hurricane. Now it’s time to read Victorian novels and such like crazy until the new Everest of comps part 2 happen on Nov 15. It’s going to be insane, technically less time and material than the first part but contemporary serials are my thing. I’ve been working on them for years while I’m still relatively new to Victorain culture literature outside of a few classes.It will be hard as Hell but much like that little train said, I think I can to the power of infinity.

In honor of Halloween happening as I am writing this, I am taking another stab at Varney the Vampire, a crazy penny dreadful/serial from a long time ago. I’m going with the Kindle free version via Project Gutenberg until it’s over and then going for another etext that has an extra hundred chapters or so. I originally read like 30 chapters a while ago but Kindle went through an update and I lost all progress and have very little memory of what happened. Tonight I go through a crazy archive binge of reading and putting in a few sentences on reactions and plot points every hour or so. Let’s see how much I can handle before bed time. FYI I am wearing a cape from a costume I had last year to make experience more interesting/keep me warm. Awesome snuggy for the win. Here I go:

Characters as I find them:

Henry, seems like protagonist

George: Henry’s brother, obviously the Luigi of the pair

The mom: not doing much besides screaming and fainting

Mr. Robert. Marchdale: middle aged friend, man of action, possible mentor figure, has guns will fire

Flora: first victim of vampire, typical damsel in distress so far. sister of the other two

Martha: a named female servant, probably no one, let’s see

Sir Runnagate Bannerworth: ancestor of family, everyonr has Bannerworth last name, portrait looks exactly like vampire

Mr. Chillingsworth: town doctor, skeptic. good with sword, curious.

Charles Holland: young man they met in Italy, saved Flora’s life

Observations of chapters 1-7

THe prose is beautiful and the narration is creepy and scenic. The opening of a dark and stormy night is well done.Flora is the first to feel the vampires bite and is scared/unconscious most of the time. George, Henry, and Marchendale follow the beast and shoot it twice before it escapes. The doctor comes the next day and helps. Rumors of vampire range from childish imagination to panic inducing craziness. That night a full moon appears, which apparently gives vampires fast healing, they search for vampire again, shoot it again but it escapes into woods. Flashback to someone trying to buy house but family rejecting offer, mostly because Flora has a love interest whom she met in Italy, Holland, who has this as her residence and may come to find her. The family is relatively poor, even if living in an ancient mansion, Marchendale is mom’s cousin. The men decide to search the family crypt, since portrait of old ancestor looks like vampire. Flora is now badass and stays in bed alone with pistols at the ready to shoot monster if it comes back. The search for the tomb is done stealthily and CHillingsworth has alchemical matches of some sort. They are about to enter crypt.

Chapters 8-14

The band of merrymen make a search check around the area to discern which tomb is that of the specific portrait ancestor. After a bit of puzzle solving, they find the right casket and open it only to find nothing. Both by logic and medical science they determine that no corpse has laid there. Chillingsworth continues with his skeptical atheist mentality and he decides to return to his place while the brothers and Marchdale head back to check on Flora. She and her mom are jumping at every possible sound they hear. The paranoia pays off as the vampire tries to go for them through the window only to get shot, twice. Upon hearing the gunshots the men rush back into the house and find someone holding Flora who has fainted. They are about to beat up this stranger only to find that it is Charles Holland. FOr some reason him and Marchendale don’t like each other. Assumptions that Holland and Flora are in love are made clear and factual. She regains consciousness and proceeds to freak out, even telling Holland to leave forever and forget the love they once had. CHarles is super confused but they explain the scenario to him. Holland is being super manly and insists in staying in the house, specifically in the room with the creepy ancestor/vampire portrait. While Holland is is worrying about whether his beloved might become a vampire herself. He realizes that the portrait had been moved. He enlists Henry to check out the painting but find nothing of interest. While they are talking the vampire appears at the window again and Holland shoots him. (vampire now has six bullets in him by my count). They look in the garden but find no trace. holland and Marchendale get into an argument but resolve to not overreact. The next morning, one of the servants goes to Henry to deliver a letter and say that she is quitting. Henry dismisses her and checks the letter from his new neighbor, Francis Varney. (yes the same name as the titular vampire). A previous letter had been sent basically saying hi and hoping to meet. This one specifically says that if crazy things are happening in the house then he would buy it if available for a fair price. Henry talks it over with the family, since no one would buy a haunted house then this offer seems amazing. Then they consider that the vampire might be stalking the people rather than the place. They decide on getting Varney to rent the house for a year, see how vampire acts and then make or veto the full sale. Henry brings Marchendale as backup/witness to go and meet Varney and present their offer, only to realize that no one has actually seen Varney yet. Servant opens the door, says that his master is not well but will see them. They enter a study and find Varney, who of course looks exactly like the portrait dude/vampire. Henry has a major freak out, Varney kind of eggs him on and Marchendale tries to keep things calm but fails. Henry is very direct with accusations but ultimately accepts that if he sells the house it will be on the condition that Varney never make contact with anyone else in the family.

New Characters:

Admiral Bell: Holland’s uncle and only living relative. Summoned to make sure nephew doesn’t make mistake of marrying Flora. Most cursing by character so far

Jack Pringle: (no relation to the can) under the comman of Admiral Bell. They argue constantly but seem to be best friends. Speak to each other like salty dogs.

Josiah Crinkle: respectable lawyer, sends letter to Bell but turns out it is a forgery. Recounts events so far to new characters.

Chapters 15-21

The above characters show up and start talking. Holland and Flora have a heart to heart talk that basically boils down to Flora loving him so much that he wants to spare the pain so he should leave now. Holland on the other hand insists that he would endure this and much more because he loves her so much. A bit of a storm comes in which they take as an omen and then they see that Mr. Varney the vampyre shows up. He scares everyone even if he is in noble mode at the moment. Flora faints again and is taken to her room. Henry, Marchendale, and Charles confront Varney who is bing smug and courteous about apologizing for weirdness but everyone basically gives him the GTFO sign. Marchendale follows him out to make sure he leaves. From a distance we see that the two get into an argument and Varney does some sort of a chokeslam on Marchendale before disappearing. After the commotion, there is a knocking at the door and with no servants, George is left to nswer. He finds Bell and Pringle being all crazy piratey without making much sense. Eventually they say who they are and we get the family reunion scene. Henry talks to Flora while Holland updates the admiral on what’s going on. Before leaving, Holland gives Henry a book to give to Flora. She admits that she loves Charles enough to stay by his side no matter what. She then reads the story, who I think was written by Charles but I’m not sure. The story is pretty weird and I kinda zoned in and out. The Count and Countesses of Morvel are about to get married and some guy calling himself the doctor is extorting both of them into killing the other through poison and then getting the dead one’s money. Both counts actually talk in private to figure out what’s going on. They decide to trick the doctor into slavework in the mines by making him think to walk into a dark part of the tower where there is gold but in reality it’s a mining press gang. They kind of have a happy ending but a few people end up dead. THe doctor escapes and takes on a protege and they are able to get revenge on everybody. By the time Flora finishes the story, someone knocks at the door and Varney enters. He tries to enter negotiations through being absolutely terrifying. THe short version: I can kill any and all of you easily, sell me the house and I’ll leave you alone, tell no one about this. He goes for some creepy hugs and then screams come again as he jumps through the window and Flora faints again. In the meantime, Charles explains to his Uncle how much he loves Flora but there is all this craziness. The admiral actually respects his nephew’s decision to stick through this as things get rough and promises to help. They hear screams rush in and find the broken window. CHarles and Henry really want to go and kill Varney right now but Flora reminds them that he is a fraking vampire. They can’t are all super angry and again we see this weird arguing tension between Charles and Marchendale. Flora suggests that they just sell Varney the house and be rid of the situation. The brothers decide to bring Chillingsworth in to decide what to do next.

Continued later.