Explication Of Pablo Neruda’s Poem
Listen to a conversation between a student and his creative writing professor.
Professor: John, listen. I can clearly see that you put a lot of time into your response paper.
John: I did! It took me forever. I rewrote it a dozen times.
Professor: And your hard work shows. Unfortunately, it’s a week late.
John: I know. Sorry. I just got a little behind, you know, sports and homework. But I’m on top of things now.
Professor: Glad to hear it! Now, as for our meeting today, I’d like to talk to all of my creative writing students one on one at least once during the term and see how they’re doing.
John: I think I’m doing OK. Busy, you know, but other than that…
Professor: Well, I found through the years that some of my assignments can be pretty tough for first year students like yourself, like the response paper you just did, the explication of a Pablo Neruda poem. Emm…by the way, why did you choose "The Lemon"? It’s an unusual choice.
John: It was my favorite in the book of Neruda’s poems. All the poems are about everyday objects and, you know, simple pleasures.
Professor: Right, Elemental Odes, one of my favorites.
John: I like how Neruda took things like fruit and vegetables and socks, and use metaphors and similes to describe them as these wonderful mysterious things, like in“The Lemon". He describes a lemon falling to Earth from the stars, and he compares a slice of lemon to a stained glass window. It’s so original!
Professor: Beautiful images, aren’t they? Neruda didn’t win the Nobel Prize for literature by accident.
John: No, he didn’t.
Professor: Now, as you know, the paper was only the first half of the assignment, and I’m concerned about your ability to complete the second part on time, considering how much time the first part took you.
John: Actually, I finished it just before I came here.
John: It was tricky, too. You know, having to write a poem inspired by "The Lemon", but in a completely different style.
John: In order to do that, I really had to study Neruda’s style and read a lot of his stuff, which was great, but "The Lemon" is free verse. So to do the assignment, I decided to use a strict meter - iambic pentameter, to be as different as possible.
Professor: So each line of your poem has ten syllables and every other syllableis stressed. Interesting choice! Iambic pentameter is certainly different from free verse.
John: It was hard for me though, because usually when I write a poem, I choose my own topic, and I just write. I don’t worry about counting syllables or anything. So, I’m kind of hoping we won’t have more assignments like this?
Professor: Sorry to disappoint you, but these assignments are designed to get you out of your comfort zone, to get you reading and writing a wide variety of poetic styles.
Listen to part of a lecture in an art class.
Professor:This week you are going to be studying something new, a painting in still-life. First I want to give you a little background that might be helpful when you start working. We spend a lot of time on portrays in this class and moving from painting people to painting objects, might feel like a big shift. But I think it’s important for you to understand that you could pack just as much life and vibrancy and excitement into a painting of a bowl of fruit as you can into something more dynamic.
And, you know, still-lives don’t just need to be straightforward representations. A lot of still-life painters really use the simplicity of the style to send a message or tell a story, even portrays sometimes include elements of still-life paintings. For example, in a portray, there might be a map, hanging on the wall. Or there might be some books on the table next to the subject. These objects tell you something about the subject like maybe that person was well-educated.
A big part of still-life painting is the use of those kinds of symbols. The objects you include can provide more contacts than help convey your message. I’d also like to show everyone an example of still-life that we can talk about a little and use to get some inspiration.
This is by James Peale, one of the true masters of the art of still-life.This piece is called Still-life, bowls, some apples and vegetables. And it’s a really, really great example of what I’m going to be looking forward in your painting.
Now, Peale did his work in the early 19th century. And painters of that period approached still-life painting from a scientific perspective. Let’s look at this painting to help you understand what I mean. See the red tomatoes in the foreground and how vibrate that color is? And if you look at the large heads of cabbage farther back, every detail, every crinkle in each leaf, all the fruits, are so precise. They are almost like a sketch you’d see in a field guide. Peale and other painters of this era used still-life painting as a way of exploring the natural world and satisfying their curiosity about nature.
So now we can take some time to discuss a little more of… more about the… the actual process of still-life painting. Now, before you paint a single stroke, you’ve got to plan the composition of your painting. You know, the arrangement of the objects to make sure everything is set up the way you wanted. I remember a still-life piece I painted when I was in university. It was vegetables I think and I had created scratches of the setting. But then I realized the arrangement of the vegetables in a basket just, just didn’t look right. So I had to start over. So I can say from experiment it’s really important to make sure your arrangement is just right before you even start painting.
Now, what are some ways to make sure the composition of your painting is the way you want it to be? Well, it’s important in the still-life to make sure you’re not overdoing the amount of positive space, the amount of stuff in your piece. The still-life really is not just about the subject matter. If you make a really cluttered composition with too much going on, it can throw off your painting. That’s something you notice in the James Peale painting. Notice how it really… you know it makes great use of negative space, you can see how he sort of embraces those little empty spots on the table. And that adds a really nice sense of balance.
Also, try to make your still-life look natural. If it looks contrived and if it’s obvious a person deliberately arranged everything, it takes away from the simplicity and the natural feel of the work. Basically the best still-life paintings are the ones where the objects don’t look arranged for the painting at all, but that those tomatoes are near that cabbage on a table by accident.
Interactions Within An Ecosystem
Listen to part of a lecture in an environmental science class.
Professor:Today we are going to begin discussing ecosystems. One important point I want to emphasize in the reading is that there are many interactions that take place within an ecosystem, interactions between animals, interactions between living and non-living things and so on. Now these interactions can be fairly simple and straightforward.
Ah, there are certain species of ants and rodents sharing a desert ecosystemin Arizona. And they compete for the same plants to eat. And the competition influence is not only the size of the ant and rodent populations, but also the number of eventual plants. Now, this interaction is easy to see, right? However, there are many other interactions within ecosystems that are not so apparent and require closer examination. And the example from your reading was the forest ecosystem along the Pacific coast of North America. Um, specifically the role of salmon.
Ok, as you probably know, salmon are born in fresh water streams, they might ran to oceans where they spent most of their lives. And then they return to the same streams where they were born to reproduce, or spawn. In order to spawn, salmon need cold, clear streams to ensure the survival of their eggs.And trees in the surrounding forest play an important role here. Their leaves provide shade from the Sun. When logging removes the trees, the streams are open to the Sun and the water becomes warmer. When the water warms up, the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water decreases. And this reduces the chance that the salmon eggs will survive.
And the trees also help keep the soil on the banks of the stream in place. Salmon cannot spawn in streambeds clogged with sediment, dirt, from the surrounding area. They need a clean, graveled streambed.
Bred:I read that salmon also help keep stream healthy.
Professor:Right. Salmon contribute important nutrients like carbon and phosphorus. And these nutrients promote diversity in the stream environment. Ok, um, so salmon need trees to successfully reproduce, but surprisingly trees also need salmon. And bears play an important intermediary role. So in the autumn, bears are busy putting on extra-weight as they prepare to hibernate. Each bear catches an estimated 700 fish during the 45 days that the salmon are spawning.
The bears catch the salmon in the streams and then they carry them back into the forest to eat. Sometimes as much as 800 meters from the streams. And since the bears only eat about half of each fish they catch, other animals like eagles, crows and insects feed on the leftovers.
Maria:Why did the bears bring the salmon so far into the forest? Why not just eat the fish near the streams?
Professor:Well, imagine several hungry bears looking for salmon. When one bear catches a fish, it’s not uncommon for another bear to try stealing it. These confrontations can be pretty intense. So it’s safer to bring it back into the forest, to a place where the bear can eat undisturbed.
Bred:Um, you said that the bears only eat half of each fish they catch? I mean if I were a bear preparing to hibernate, I probably eat everything I can catch.
Professor:Well, certain parts of a salmon are more nourishing, fattier than others. It’s actually more efficient for a bear to only eat some parts of the fish and then try catching another one, instead of eating the whole fish.
Ok. So after the scavengers have eaten the leftovers, only the fish’s skeletonremains. Now, salmon contain nitrogen. So their decomposing bodies as skeletons provide a lot of nitrogen to the surrounding forest. Plants absorb this nitrogen which they need to grow. So the transfer of this nitrogen to the forest is important. Forest near streams with salmon actually reach maturity faster than other forests.
Ok, so, why’s all these important? Well, salmon are in trouble. Some of their populations have gone extinct. And most of the remaining populations have been significantly reduced by overfishing and environmental challenges. Now, conservationists can try to prevent overfishing but, well, I mean you can see the interconnections within this ecosystem. We’ve already talked about the importance of trees to salmon and the negative effect that something like logging can have. So you can see that protecting this ecosystem is going to take a broad effort.
Selling Self-Made Ceramic Bowls
Listen to part of a conversation between a student and an employee at the campus store.
Student:I’d like the ceramic coffee mugs you have on display at the other end of the store. Were they made by students?
Employee:Oh, we only use certain suppliers, wholesalers who’ve been selected by the store manager.
Student:Do you ever sell things made by students?
Employee:We used preferred vendors only because……I mean if we said yes to one student, we’d have to say yes to any student who asks. And this store is only so big.
Student:That’s too bad because I made these pretty ceramic bowls, I designed them myself, I’m a studio art major. Anyway… um… I was hoping I could sell them here. You see I’m taking art 202, marketing your art. And for my final project I need to find a way to sell my own art work.
Employee:Um… what about selling on line? A lot of art and crafts are marketed that way……
Student:I really don’t have the computer skills or the time to manage a website.
Employee:What about the emporium? You know, that gift shop downtown. I’ve seen items by the local artists there.
Student:The emporium buys directly from the artists?
Employee:Well, they sell items on consignment.
Student:Consignment… I think my professor mentioned that.
Employee:Yeah, you give them some items to sell on your behalf and then you and the stores split the purchase price. But they wouldn’t pay you anything up front if that’s what you want. And you might need to provide your own display case.
Student:Oh, I already have a display case, a portable one with three shelves. But aren’t the shops that were… you know, just buy stuff from me outright? Because if not enough bowls were sold, how would I recruit the cost of my materials? They are not cheap and neither was the case.
Employee:All the stores around here that sell craft items are small and independently owned, unlike the emporium. For them, selling on consignment lowers their risk. They don’t get stuck with unsold items. They can return them to the owner. You just have to make sure you set the retail price high enough to make it worth you want. But you’re right, consignment isn’t for everyone. What about the spring craft fair? You know that outdoor market that‘s held on Saturdays? Plenty of local people sell their stuff there, ceramics, jewelry, decorative items. The vendor fee is nominal I believe.
Student:Oh, yeah. I remember seeing that last year. All those tables lined up in that vacant lot on main street, right?
Employee:Right. Since the craft fair’s only a few blocks from campus, it seems like a good place for students to sell things.
Student:Do you know how it works?
Employee:I think you just run to space and set up your table to display your bowls on. You’d set the prices and keep all the profits.
Student:Seems doable. But… um… I don’t have a car to haul everything down there.
Employee:You could take the campus bus. It goes into town on weekends.
Student:True… um… but I’d also have to sit there all day when I should be in the library or the studio… I don’t know, I suppose I could do my reading assignments between customers.
Snowflakes And Ozone
Listen to part of a lecture in a chemistry class.
Professor: Ok, so, today we’re going to talk about the Arctic, ozone depletion and snowflakes. And it’s all related. Let’s start with snowflakes.
Now, I find snowflakes fascinating. To even begin to understand them, you need to understand physics, chemistry, and mathematics.Even though there’s been a lot of research, there’re still actually a lot about snowflakes that we don’t understand yet. Hard to believe, I know.
Anyway, snowflakes have a particular form, there’s a six-sided center with six branches or arms that radiate out from it. But how did they get that way? Well, you start with water vapor. You need a pretty humid atmosphere. And that water vapor condenses directly into ice, into an ice crystal. At this point it looks kind of like a thin dinner plate that rather than being circular, is hexagonal with six flat edges.
It’s at this point in the process were we begin to see why each snowflake is unique. Imagine this dinner plate is floating around in the wind, right? And when it encounters water vapor, molecules from that vapor attached to each of the six sides. You begin this development with six arms or branches radiating out from the center plate. Each time the snowflake encounters water vapor, more molecules attached to it, leading to more and more complex structures. And of course, each snowflake takes unique route through the clouds on its way down. And so the quantity of water vapor that it goes through is going to be unique for each one.
Now one important characteristic of snowflakes is that they have something called a quasi-liquid layer, the QLL. Our snowflake is an ice crystal, right? Well, we find a quasi-liquid layer on the surface of ice is basically a thin layer of water that’s not completely frozen. And the existed temperature is well below freezing, though thickness varies at different temperatures. Now this quasi-liquid layer, it plays an important role on what we are going to talk about next.
Ah, yes, Mary?
Mary:How can liquid exist below freezing? Why doesn’t it freeze?
Professor:Well, when water becomes ice, the molecules bond together and it gets sort of…locked in the place. They can’t move around as much anymore. So each molecule is surrounded by other molecules, and they are all locked together. But what about the exterior of the ice? There is a layer of water molecules on the surface, they attached molecules only on one side. So, they are a bit freer. They can move around a bit more. Think of a… think of a brick wall. The bricks in the wall, they have other bricks above and below them, and they are all locked against each other. But that top layer, it only has a layer below it. Now this can only be taken so far because of course bricks don’t move at all. They are not liquid. But the bricks of water molecules, well, this top layer would be the quasi-liquid layer. And it wouldn’t be completely frozen. Does that make sense?
So, finally we get to the connection between snowflakes and ozone. Ozone is a gas found in the atmosphere of Earth. Now there is the ozone found in the stratosphere which is the layer of the atmosphere from 6 to 30 miles above the Earth. This is considered good ozone, which occurs naturally and helps block harmful radiation from the Sun.
But there is also ground-level ozone. It’s exactly the same gas but it’s found closer to the surface of the Earth. This ground-level ozone results from human activities, at high concentrations it can be a pollutant. Now snowflake’s quasi-liquid layer plays an important role in some complex chemical reactions. We’re going to be looking at these in detail later today. But basically, these reactions cause certain chemicals to be released. And these chemicals reduce the amount of ground-level ozone. So the more branches you have in an ice crystal, the more quasi-liquid layer there is. The more quasi-liquid layer, the more reactions and the more chemicals that reduce ground-level ozone. So you can see why this is such an important system to study and understand.
Listen to part of a lecture in an archeology class. The professor has been discussing ancient Mayan civilization.
Professor: Now, as you remember from your reading, the Maya were an ancient civilization which occupied in area corresponding to parts of modern-day Mexico and Central America. Early Mayan settlements date back over 3,000 years and say from about 600 to 900 C.E. The civilization was in what’s considered a golden age of cultural achievement, what we call the Classic period.
The period after this, after the Classic Period, is called the Postclassic period. Now it’s long been thought that during the PostClassic period, Mayan civilization was in decline. But we’re continuing to find new evidence that in certain areas Mayan civilization flourished right up to the end of the Postclassic period, what we refer to as the late Postclassic period. The late Postclassic corresponds to the period from the 1200s to 1500s, right until the arrival of the Spanish in the mid-1500s. A good example of a site which continued to flourishthrough the late Postclassic is the inland Mayan community of Lamanai, located in what is today the country of Belize in Central America. Now, Lamanai is one of the largest and most prominent archeological sites in Belize. It was occupied for over 3000 years. That makes it the longest continually-occupied site by the ancient Maya. Large-scale excavation at Lamanai began back in 1974 under the leadership of a Canadian archeologist. The first excavation there was on a building that dated back to the late Postclassic period. When the excavation began, we didn’t know much about Mayan life during that time. As I said, most people considered the Postclassic period as a time of decline that came after the so-called golden era. But during the first few years of excavation, the archeological team realized that Lamanai had continued to be an important center of classic Mayan culture, almost right up until the 1500s.
Student: So basically, what you are saying is while other Mayan cities were collapsing or had already collapsed, Lamanai was one of those places that was flourishing?
Professor: Uh huh…exactly! In fact, the evidence shows that one of the greatest periods of construction in the city occurred during the Postclassic. That’s definitely not what was happening at neighboring sites during that time. And consider this, archeologists found ceramic artifacts from Lamanai’s late Postclassic period at a recently-discovered site on an island off the coast of Belize. And in Lamanai they found objects that had been imported from parts of the region which correspond to modern-day Mexico during the late Postclassic. What did those finds tell us?
Female student: eh…the trade was still going on? So you probably still find the same Mayan social structure and economic practices, right?
Professor: Yes. Now, these researchers and subsequent research teams have been helping us see a bigger picture. We now know that there was still a widespread trading network up and down a long portion of the coast of what is modern-day Mexico and Central America for more than two centuries after the golden era ended. Those finds are telling.
Female student: How big is Lamanai overall?
Professor: Well, in all, 700 stone structures have been documented. It takes several life times and lots of funding to uncover all of them. Ok, if that’s not a helpful mental picture…all right here’s another detail that might help. There was once a population between 35 and 55 thousand there. The southernmost end of Lamanai had become the city center by the Postclassic period. It was there at the southern end that people continued to develop technological capabilities, especially in ceramics and eventually in metal work. The center of Lamanai society had previously been in the northern part of the city. We’re not yet sure why the focus of life shifted southward only that it did.
Female student: Was the former center, the one in the north smaller than the new one in the south? Like maybe the population grew so they needed more room and moved?
Professor: Actually, the new city center was smaller. It’s possible that’s because the population had decreased by that point so they actually needed less room. In any case, the restructured community thrived.
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