Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved

Compare the narrator of Thompson's piece with that of Terry Southern's "Twirling at Ole Miss." In what ways are they similar? Dissimilar? Your response is due prior to class on Wed., Nov. 12.

21 comments:

James Nani said...

Right off the top I have to say that their senses of humor are similar. Tongue in cheek and sardonic, both Thompson and Southern use their humor to reveal ironies, shape there imagery, and simply to entertain. The continuing mention of Thompson's mace reveals his restlessness with the assignment and his wish to derive excitement from his journalistic endeavors. Southern also seems impatient with with his assignment, intimidately going off to buy booze. Another similarity is their narrators. Using themselves as central figures in the story, each author decides that what they have to say trumps the reality of the siltation, or reveals more about their assignment. They use their own perspectives to highlight details and observations which wouldn't normally make it into traditional news stories. Where the two authors differ is their demeanors. Thompson comes off as much more eccentric and is less concerned with social deconstruction of the derby, showing human nature by his own use of alcohol and disdeeds. Southern concentrates more on the wider social inequities of the baton twirling institute and seems to have a more mild-mannered approach to the assignment.

Mitchell Epstein said...

Both Thompson's piece and Southern's story use first person narration with a similar sense of humor. Both stories have an unconvential form of humor with Thompson and Southern employing a social satire of life in the South mixed with irony. They mocked certain traditions of the areas they visited. Thompson mocked different aspects of the Kentucky Derby, such as the thousands of people that always get drunk every year. Southern mocked the racist culture and baton twirling at Ole Miss. The narrators in both pieces point out the ironic behaviors of certain characters in the stories, such as Thompson's descriptions of Steadman's sketches, which left many people that he drew unhappy. Both Thompson and Southern also include their opinions in their stories through the narration of them.
One way in which Thompson and Southern differ as narrators is that Thompson's sense of humor is a little more strange. Thompson used extreme adjectives to be overly expressive and he seems like he views reality differently than others. His descriptions of events are very unique and while Southern is very effective as a writer, Thompson is better at grabbing the reader's attention. His off-the-wall descriptions entertained me and caught my attention more than Southern's style.

Denise said...

Well, as we discussed in class, the first similarity between the narrators is that they are both on a journey and they use this journey to frame their stories. They both use cultural traditions, baton twirling and the Derby, to place the context and politics into perspective. Using these traditions as backdrops in their stories, allows both Southern and Thompson to comment on the less attractive aspects of the culture. They both do this using a humorous tone.

While they both have a sense of humor, they use it differently. Southern’s humor is more ironic, while Thompson’s is more aggressive and exaggerated, for example when he uses the phrase “real beasts” to refer to the crowds. But at times, Thompson uses language very subtly and still makes a powerful point. When he picks up the newspaper he states, “There was no mention of any protest action at a small Ohio school called Kent State.” And again, after describing his chat with Jimbo, Thompson simply says, “Money is a good thing to have in these twisted times.” With these examples, it’s his lack of exaggeration and that turns them into powerful statements.

Emmi said...

The Thompson and Southern stories are similar in several ways. They both use themselves as the storyteller, for example. You see the reporter, report. In Thompson and Southern the journalist is on his way to report an article. We read where he goes through and what he experiments during this journey. He gets an assignment, he goes to the place and writes about what he finds there and what he goes trough. It is almost like writing a dairy, especially with the Thompson story, I think. His writing is easy readable and sounds a little like he is just telling you right on the spot what he goes through.
Another similarity is the main subject of the stories. They both write about some sort of culture difference/shock. In Southern is it about the black and white community in the south. In Thompson’s story it is about the Kentucky Derby. The English artist represents the culture difference in Thomson’s story.
I think their way of writing is similar too. They give a personal opinion about the subject, you read from their perspective, but they also include some paragraphs with information. And I think they do that in the same way. Going from personal to information and back to the experience again.
Both of them use humor in their story. I thought Thompson’s story was easier to read and to understand. Southern’s story took me longer.
I think the use of humor is the way the stories are dissimilar. Southern uses the humor to express irony. Maybe that makes it easier to write about the situation that he is in. Thompson is aggressive in his story and uses his humor like that. He uses a lot of extreme words. I think it is about taste what you like best.

mark.schaefer said...

Although there are several similarities between the Thompson and Southern pieces, I think the most notable is that they both ended up writing stories about something other than what they were assigned. Both writers address different aspects of the south and do so with humor but I felt that Thompson's humor was more "over the top" than Southern's.

Overall, Thompson's writing was far more extreme than Southern's. Thompson, especially when he is describing the action on "D-Day", uses short, choppy sentences with very carefully chosen words. This creates a sense of quickness and confusion, giving a great sense of the atmosphere at the derby.

Tiffany R. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tiffany R. said...

I think that the most obvious similarity between Thompson and Southern is their distaste for the events they attend. Thompson is appalled by the Derby and its attendees, and Southern finds the baton twirling competition stupid and unimportant. Another similarity between the two is humor. Just as Southern's first encounter with men in the South is humorous, so is Thompson's first encounter with "Jimbo". Also, both Thompson and Southern have to self-medicate with alcohol to be able to cope with the events they have to write about.

A difference between Southern and Thompson is that Thompson is much more agressive. There is quite a difference between Southern's humor-"...despite the abundance of cutie pieness at hand..." and Thompson's-"If I weren't sick I'd kick your ass all the way to Bowling Green--you scumsucking foreign geek...We can do without your kind in Kentucky."

Alison said...

The narrator in Thompson's piece and in Southern's piece have a very similar sense of humor. Both of these writers tell their journey through their designated events and do so in a truthful, humorous way. The repetition of certain objects like mace, and mint juleps keeps Thompson's piece together and flowing from incident to incident. Southern's piece did a similar thing with the repetition of the drinking fountain at the beginning and the ending of the story. Repetition is a very useful framing device and really gives the reader a sense of place and continuity.
These two pieces are different in that Thompson's piece is split up into different sections with headers, while Southern's piece is all one continuous story with no headers.
Both writers do tell their stories in chronological order, as well through boughts of drunkenness. This further adds to the funny nature of the story, and the ridiculous nature of the scene both writers are witnessing. Strangely enough there are probably more commonalities between the Baton Twirling competition and the Kentucky Derby then you would think. All the fame and glory for something as silly as a title of who is the best.

VEE said...

The most obvious similarity between these stories is that the writers tell them through first person narration. This narration style and the attitude they have towards their assignments really comes out throughout their stories and it allows them to use sarcasm and humor the way they do. Another similarity is that they were both assigned a specific story and ended up writing about something other than that. I also felt like both writer’s repeatedly mentioned how they were trying to focus on what they were assigned but were really distracted by what they thought was more important or interesting.
Although they were both covering events that take place in the south and have a huge social importance I noticed a difference in how much understanding each writer had of the event they were covering. It seemed to me like Thompson knew and understood what the Derby was about. He was prepared for all the liquor and chaos, in fact he wanted to be in the center of all that. In Southern’s story he was clearly surprised by what he saw going on outside of the campus and the competition. As I was reading Thompson’s story it seemed to me that he knew exactly where he was going with it. When I read Southern’s piece it almost sounded as if he was still confused when he put the story together. It came across as if he still couldn’t believe what he had experienced and the bigger story that wasn’t being told. The way Southern talks about the competition and then adds several lines about a conversation showing the racial divide that existed, made me think that he was still trying to figure out how to write about both. In Thompson’s piece he uses his exaggerated humor so often and so bluntly, for that reason I got a sense that he had a “this-is-what-it-is” attitude about the Derby from the beginning. When I read this story I was able to sit back and be told a story about the experience of attending a Kentucky Derby. With Southern I felt like I had to figure out what the bigger picture was as I was reading the story, he takes you on a longer journey and allows you to figure out his point.

Thereal2008 said...

In comparing both pieces and their similarities, many can be seen.

The one if not most important to me is that both writers distinctively use writing techniques and methods to tell a story that was not initially assigned. This in my opinion is something very unique and almost like a two for one! Another similarity is Southern and Thompson both tells the story from first person point of view. I could be mistaken about this but It seems as if Thompson just like Southern’s story is set around tradition, Derby’s and baton twirling. The senses of humor used in both stories are very similar, and a very obvious similarity is both stories are structured scene by scene.

Now the dissimilarities have to be in the harshness of the story. Southern’s story in my opinion doesn’t come off as harsh as Thompson’s does. He reports in a rather intense way, even though both subjects are very sensitive, Thompson’s story tells it exactly the way it is. I think he does this so that the reader can feel a certain way about the story.

nicoLe said...

Southern and Thompson report in a similar fashion as they each explore different aspects of American culture. They both do so in a lax style which emphasizes minor details yet doesn't allow them to overshadow the bigger picture. For example, Thompson's inclusion of the price that Lehman paid for the horse, the amount he won off of it and the fact that he "just retired" are key facts that allow the reader to peer further into the culture surrounding the Kentuck Derby. A similar example in Southern's piece is the description of the fountain that is "still shaded" in the last paragraph. It is a mere description of a water fountain but alludes to a much bigger issue and time period.
While Southern and Thompson share many similarities, their writing is indeed different. I feel as if Southern is a lot more sarcastic while Thompson is more straight forward. He simply accounts for what happens as it occurs and uses dialogue to move his story alone. Southern, on the other hand, uses dialogue to capture the tone of the setting and mock it further.
Readers learn a lot from both stories in a style that would never be used in a history textbook.

Alyssa said...

The first thing the reader notices when comparing the Southern and Thompson pieces is that they are both presented in first person narrative in a journey-style. They are chuck full of personal observations and detailed conversations that give it more of a novel tone than a news story. The next thing the reader might notice is that the writers seem to discover that other aspects of their journey gather more importance than what they initially set out to explore. Southern describes his chance meeting with the men who bring him to get whiskey and Thompson relays his encounter with "Jimbo." Focusing on description of landscapes and people as well as detailing conversations, seemingly word-for-word, it takes longer for the reader to realize exactly what the writer was supposed to be conveying from a traditional journalistic point of view. Southern's assignment was to cover the baton twirling contest and Thompson's was to report on the Kentucky Derby. Bother writers do this, but go about it in a round-about way. They both offer paragraphs and scenes of straight information but offset this with humor and extreme imagery.
"The air was thick and hot, like wandering into a steam bath. Inside, people hugged each other and shook hands..." This is one of the first scenes we get from Thompson's piece that focuses on the surroundings and people and images the author is encountering and experiencing at that moment, instead of introducing the subject of the piece. Another style that is consistent between both pieces is that the authors write as a journey with transitions like " I got out of the car, went to the Hertz desk to pick up my car, went to find another cab, etc."
Both pieces seem to be mockery's of a type of lifestyle they're not used to. Southern depicted the segregation of whites and blacks which was a stark difference from life in the North. He uses the repetition of alcohol as a device to tie the story together. Thompson does a similar thing with repetition of Mace, showing that he clearly feels a difference between where he's reporting from and where he lives. At some points the reader almost feels as if the author is passing judgments. Southern seems to judge the very nature of baton twirling, the fact that blacks aren't allowed to attend the school and the way the young girls portray themselves and handle the situation. Thompson does the same thing when he seems to compare the audience members to animals or "beasts" and realizes the "hideous possibility" that perhaps he would actually have to use the Mace. In both pieces the reader can tell that the authors are unfamiliar and maybe a bit uncomfortable in their surroundings, and the effort to convey this and try to explain their personal experience is more important than what they initially came to do

Julie said...

Southern and Thompson's pieces are very similar in the way that they report the story. They're both reporting on an event that is foreign to them, and they experience a sort of "culture shock." This experience, as we touched on in class, is a journey that they use to frame the whole story. Both of the writers also put themselves into the story, which presents the events from the writer's point of view. Both writers also seemed to dislike the events they attended.

Southern and Thompson's pieces differ because their style of humor is different. Thompson seems more aggressive in his writing in humor, while Southern uses it in a subtle way. Thompson provides a type of humor that really sticks out and grabs the reader, it was easier to understand without having to dig for it. Southern's wasn't as in your face and the reader had to do a little uncovering to understand some of it.

allie duarte said...

Both stories are similar in that they exploit people's behaviors in the South and share the authors' experience with not fitting in the South's culture. Southern uses his piece to show racism, sexism, etc, and I think Thompson focuses more on human behavior. I think they approach the ideas differently. Thompson exploits or characterizes human behavior through his actions of being drunk and belligerent. Southern uses observations of people, dialogue and specific language to convey the deeper meaning. I also think Thompson is upfront with his humor, and Southern does it subtly. Thompson wants to put the aggression and energy in your face. I think Southern's subtly mirrors the culture, how racism and sexism are known, but hidden.

Kaitlyn Linker said...

I found that Thompson’s story was very similar to Southern’s in many ways. To start it off, both tell their story in the same narrative of first person. When telling their story they tell it in the form of a journey where they both took active participation in it, affecting the way the story panned out and what angle it was told from. Embedded into each story was a life of tradition: In Southern’s he explained the life of racism in contrast to the baton twirling life and in Thompson’s piece the life of drunkenness was contrasted against the race. Both use alcohol to cope with the journey they are taking, taking swigs and giving detail into how much is drunk and the other people who participate with them. It becomes a way of life for both authors and shows that sometimes reality isn’t easy to get through sober. I found Southern using alcohol more than Thompson to cope with the situation that he wasn’t very educated on, calming his nerves. Thompson drank to fit in more with his story, being like the thousands at the race, drunk and sloppy. Both authors began their journey with an objective and both ended up writing something better that cam around, a story that exposed what was really going on in the place assigned.
The difference I noticed was the humor used by each of them. I found that Southern’s story was lighthearted and was told in a way to entertain the reader and keep them interested in finishing the story, though it wasn’t “too” long. On the other hand, Thompson wrote with an unsympathetic tone, exposing how unsympathetic the people were around him and how dirty of an experience it really was. It wasn’t all flowers and balloons and angels singling, it was sloppy and out of control, which he represented greatly. Though the story was longer as compared to Southern’s I found that I was pulled more into Thompson's and that I was actually at the race, experiencing the craziness he did.

Melissa said...

The biggest similarity between Thompson and Southern are their voices. Both writers aren't afraid to stray from their original story idea to give their opinions on the real situation at hand. Their ability to look at the bigger picture, and tell a story much more important than a twirling competition or the Kentucky Derby is one of the biggest reasons for their success.

The biggest difference between the two writers is Thompson's ability to go above and beyong. Yes, Southern has a similar cynical style of writing, leaving sarcastic undertones for those who are willing to look at the writing closely enough, but Thompson has no boundaries. He seems fearless, unafraid of any repercussions he might get for his writings. There are no standards for Thompson, there isn't anything he can't or won't say.

Allison said...

As we spoke about in class, Thompson and Southern's style of writing is very similar. Both writers use a very humourous manner throughout their stories. Southern's sense of humor is very satiristic, ironic, and almost dry-like. Thompson uses a comedic sense of humor, almost in an aggrevated way. Thompson uses a lot of adjectives and adverbs to make the reader truely feel his angst as if to scream out to the reader, "This is how im feeling!!! Listen to me!!" With Thompson, you can see his persona; hes probably a cigarette-smoking-hard liquor-drinking-i-dont-care-i-hate-everything kind of person. Both authors speak of their boring assignments; things they are dispassionate and unconcerned about. Southern is clearly more concerned about social mannerisms and the people surrounding him, whereas Thompson is the complete opposite, making clear his disinterest with his assignment and people.
Also, another similarity between the two is that they both write their stories in first person narrative. They write how they feel using very expressive words to describe exactly their feelings towards their assignments and what they are doing throughout the story.

pierce said...

Both Southern's and Thompson's stories use the assignment of getting a story as the story itself. they tell the process of their writing in the stories they write. We get to see their difficulties in getting the subject for their story and we get to experience some of the tangents they go off on while reporting. Both writers use humor as much as ossible too. Thompson insists on mentioning his mace and southern offers children alcohol. But it seems as though Southern is much more concerned with still getting his story than Thompson is. Thompson tries to show human nature through his story while Southern gets the Baton twirling story. Thompson is much more out there.

Casey Q said...

They both do things that mainstream society would consider inappropriate, for instance Southern offers a little girl alcohol and Thompson brings mace with him to the Kentucky Derby. They're both out of place in the scenes they cover. Southern returning to the south and attempting to speak like the men on the bench is an example of that. Thompson buys a margherita at the Kentucky Derby which is clearly not considered a manly drink by "Jimbo". Another similarity is the way both writers show distaste for the subject they're covering and choose to cover the story outside the assignment. They both are in opposition to or least contrast with the good ole'boy values in the South. The difference is that it seems Southern made an effort at times to blend in to his surroundings, where as Thompson doesn't appear to be concerned with that.

Kristen said...

Southern and Thompson's stories are obviously similar in that it is, as we said in class, about a journey. However their real similarity lies in the narrators, the writers themselves. I see Southern and Thompson as similar in two different ways: their sense of humor and their approach to their story and experience. First of all they both have that ironic sarcastic humor. However, Thompson is more obvious to me, mocking people more openly than Southern. Southern is more reserved about his mocking of the culture, only making it obvious at rare moments. They also approach their assignment the same way. They received their assignment, then approached "covering" it as secondary. The story becomes less about the actual event than the environment that surrounds it. Thompson's writing is also much more exaggerated and extreme than Southern, much more obvious and eccentric than Southern's satire, though equally as sarcastic.

Kimmy said...

The main connection between Thompson and Southern is the way in which they reported on an event they were assigned to do. Both, in their quick, sarcastic and passionate voice, were making fun of their own profession. The story that they were assigned to do was in the story, but burried under a bigger issue that they found more important: Segregation for Southern, and the drunken fool for Thompson (thats the best way I could describe it).
Thompson has a much more asshole-like-quality to him. He lies to people, mocks them and purposefully looks for the worse quality in people. (He spends most of his time looking for the one person who is at his worst to document.
Southern on the other hand, illuminates the best in the people he chooses to document. We feel sympathy for his subject choices as opposed to Thompson's who we feel pathetically sorry for, even though in the end it is himself.