Saturday, January 31, 2015

You want a job? We already hired a robot.

So remember when we were talking about science becoming a new sort of religion? Well that time might be approaching us faster than we think (heh, wordplay - you'll get this afterward). Imagine an era when no one needs to work, everything is supplied, and the standard of living is higher. "Communism?" you might ask with your head tilted slightly and looking like a confused puppy. Well no, its not Communism, its technology. In a world dominated by technology, the only thing that truly matters is science, which serves to create more technology and to advance global economy. Even more so, if we create technology which can think and learn to make more improved and creative technology, then we really have nothing left to do besides admire our handy work before a swarm of robots that look like Arnold Schwarzenegger arrive from the future because we messed up or something. Anyway, this focus on technology and what it can do exists in the present. Oh, and guess what? This technology can steal all of our future jobs and perform them with twice the efficiency that we could ever have used EVER!

Here's  a video showing exactly how this will happen. Enjoy!... or tremble, either is fine.

Science, Magic, Religion And Dracula

In 1897, Bram Stoker wrote, subjectively (I don't want to start a fight here), the greatest novel of all time about an age old vampire, whose image and story has been soiled in most movies about him, by the name of Dracula. Interestingly enough, Dracula was written about seven years after Frazer's Golden Bough, which we have read parts of for class, and ties together the ideas of science, magic, and religion into a European setting. I am going to break up how the novel addresses these three factors and then explain what I think the meaning is behind how the novel uses them.

Starting from the most simple item to address, magic is depicted in Dracula in the simplest way possible: there is a immortal, mythical, and, arguably, evil creature as the main topic of the story. Now, if you were to read Dracula, you may first mistake the actions of Count Dracula as closer to Frazer's ideas on religion than that of magic. You may think his deeds seem closer to the Mass of St. Sinclair, which at the surface appears to be religious, but, as we discussed in class, is really a form of magic, or at least a variation of it. Like in the steps Frazer lays out for magic, Dracula follows certain measures in order to "convert" and move forward with his plans. For example, Dracula knows that if he bites (not drink blood) and performs a certain, and almost sexual, ritual, which results in death, on someone, namely the character Lucy, he can change them into a vampire. This only works if he follows the exact steps though, so just biting someone three times will not change them (Looking at you Hollywood). Furthermore, if his little ritual is interrupted, then the transformation still happens but at a much slower pace. Dracula also shows a cognizance in regard to his limitations. He knows that he cannot travel large distances very quickly, so he opts to hide himself in shipping containers or coffins filled with dirt. Why dirt? Your guess is as good as mine.

Most science in the novel is represented through one character that Hollywood also renders poorly: Dr. Van Helsing (That's right DOCTOR not VAMPIRE EXPERT/HUNTER, at least not at first). Dr. Van Helsing is strictly a man of science, when he is introduced anyway, and assists the protagonists in figuring out what is wrong with Lucy, after she and Dracula have been "hanging out". He uses scientific terms, follows ordinary doctoral procedure in diagnosing a patient, to find facts. He mainly acts as a forensic scientist for Lucy's case, his main lead being the bite mark on her lower neck and the blood samples he gets from her, to figure out exactly what made the wound. He does not, however, immediately think "Probably a vampire, that makes the most sense" and has to do a lot of digging in Transylvanian folk lore. Only after Dr. Van Helsing learns of vampires does his character start to take on qualities of the other two factors (magic and religion), but I will get to that later. He does, however, classify vampirism as a disease and not a curse, making it seem more scientific and explainable.

Finally comes the arguably most important factor, for the characters at least, in Dracula. Religion plays an important part in the "curing" of vampirism. After Mina is bitten and Dracula's ritual on her is interrupted, thus making her half dead and fading (the books kind of vague on that part), the only thing the protagonists can think to do for her is pray and produce religious symbols. For example, they use the Communion wafer, or Christ's body, to try to expel the disease form Mina's body. They can not get her to eat it so press it on her forehead, which burns a mark of the same shape into her skin. Furthermore, they use a rosary, a religious item to keep count of one's faith, to ward of Dracula. This almost makes Dracula appear as a sort of Anti-Christ figure, and to be fair he doesn't really help himself out in that regard.

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but when we were talking about science, magic, and religion in class it seemed to me that they were all somewhat combatant with each other (I know today we say that science and religion can both be upheld but that is now, this is then - heh, wordplay). So, branching off of this perspective, having all three present in one literary work in a sort of connected fashion, seems a little bit strange. Having them present in one character, Dr. Van Helsing, seems twice as bizarre. I believe that Dracula's focus on the fusing of these ideas stems from the cultural anxieties it reflects. In the late 19th century, people like Frazer started to question the validity of certain ideas, like religion, by simply studying them in scientific terms as they would anything else they wished to understand completely. With this came a similar denouncement of magic, because, as Frazer says, when magic is correct and not some mistake of association it becomes science. It was hard for some people, so ingrained in past lifestyles, to accept new facts about something they believed to be absolute fact and were appalled by any sort of argument against parts of it. I think Dracula was a response to this, and Bram Stoker focused on the character Dr. Van Helsing to show what he believes a melding of the three ideas would look like. He starts off purely scientific, following those steps necessary for any proper doctor to follow, but then runs into something that he does not expect. Then he learns more about the magical and mythical side of the world, which was previously just written off as dumb folk lore, and finds some shocking similarities. Finally, he uses religion as a means of treatment for a subject of a magical disease called vampirism, which he finds works through the scientific process of trial and error. You may think that these type of mix would create some sort of instability in there person in which they are present, well you would be wrong. Not only is Dr. Van Helsing the smartest character in Dracula but he is also the most mentally stable and has the strongest willpower out of all the characters. To me, Bram Stoker is trying to show his audience that, maybe, Science, Magic, and Religion can coexist naturally (not the best word here, I know), perhaps not in one person but in a society; that people can choose to follow one or more of them without being questioned by others.

If you've read this far, I want to thank you. As many of you know, Bram Stoker's Dracula is my favorite work of literature and one which I believe that I have only scratched the surface of here. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post and feel free to comment on it because I could have always missed something or mistook an idea.

T.S Eliot (short biography)

I found this short biography of T.S. Eliot on Youtube. It's pretty short, but it's really informative especially on his early life. You learn about his marriage, which was unfavored by his family. He worked at bank in London for several years. The video describes The Wasteland as Eliot's most revolutionary work, especially astounding his contemporaries. The meaning is still being debated today; in addition, it is divided into five different parts. He alludes to many writes and includes several different genres. Many suggest it's related to WWI and the proceeding depression it caused. At then of his life, he was the director of a London publishing house and recruited amazing poets. Here's the video!


I'm gonna ask a question that I have had for a long time. I am a Christian and I believe in God, but I have always been confused. If Adam and Eve were the first ones, where do the dinosaurs fit in? Can anyone explain this to me? 

T.S. Eliot's Style

Before reading The Wasteland, I began to research about T.S Eliot and his writing style. I've found that critics generally organize literature into three genres: narrative, lyric, and drama. T.S. Eliot, however, didn't want his work to be categorized into a specific genre; therefore, The Wasteland can fit into all three genres. You can read it as a narrative piece, which this article defines as "a collection of quotations presented by the narrator." You can also read it as if included in the lyric genre, or "a nightmare viewed from the perspective of a single speaker." Finally, you can view it as if considered in the drama genre, or "a collection of voices, with no overarching consciousness holding them together." Either way, I think it's interesting how Eliot wrote in several different genres, and how he wanted the story to be interpreted in different ways.

Babysitting and Angels

I didn't really know what to post but I am currently babysitting. I have never known how hard it was to keep an eye on two boys until today. I've already gotten punched in the eye. Send back up. The military, anyone. But besides that has anyone noticed how weird it is that babies look like cherubs? I mean they legit look like a ranking of angels that people have based Cupid's looks off of. Maybe this is why people fall in love with them so easily. They force us with their bow and arrows of love. 

Friday, January 30, 2015

Faith and Physics

Quantum mechanics: Where religion and science meet.

Izzy said with the Frazer readings that science and religion both require faith. I present to you quantum physics. We can't see orbitals or subatomic particles. We have no affirmation that we are right about how things work within individual particles. So, if we have no proof, why do we have the field of quantum mechanics?

Faith. That's pretty much what it comes down to. I'm not saying that quantum physics is all BS that makes no sense. A lot of the theories we have make sense and work for practical uses. We must have faith in the laws of nature and that they will be consistent even at the subatomic level in order to believe that quantum physics works.

Before y'all call BS, I fully acknowledge that a lot of science does involve a bit of faith. I'm just picking on quantum mechanics because it is probably the most extreme "leap of faith."


Let's Talk about Religion

In case you couldn't tell from the blog title, I'm going to be talking about religion. That being said, time for a Tritico type disclaimer. I respect all of you and your beliefs, so if I in any way offend anyone with anything I write in this post or ever, please tell me.

Mrs. Q's discussion about Frazer's inclusion of Christianity in his assessment of religions got me thinking about the importance of questioning in Christianity. I am an Episcopalian, and, thus, a Christian. It is my personal belief that it is not blasphemous or a sign of weak faith to ask questions about Christianity. I do question the legitimacy of certain parts of the Bible. I don't take a lot of it literally. I believe that discussion and questions are not offensive but are actually means of strengthening one's faith and easing doubts.

In my experience, many of the people I know who refuse to question Church doctrine or biblical teachings are also those who either aren't well educated or who are very insecure in their own faith. I'm not criticizing those people or saying that everyone is like that, but I would really like to hear y'alls thoughts on the subject. Do you think questioning is a necessary part of strong faith or a detractor?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kafka jokes continued

Kafka cartoons are too funny to resist. Here are some more for your studying amusement:

And then a bonus having absolutely nothing to do with Kafka:

Monday, January 26, 2015

Gregor as Jesus and Food for Thought

We mentioned in class the similarities between Gregor Samsa and Jesus Christ. The most notable example to me is his unrelenting selflessness. From time to time, I reflect on the actions of Christ, and how achievable the actions in his life would be. Every time I meditate on this idea, I come to the conclusion that I, along with every human of whom I am aware, would find his struggle immensely difficult and impossible. While Christians strive to emulate Christ in our lives, we break down at some point. As Christ did indeed become man (as stated in the Nicene Creed), he definitely endured a quasi-similar mental struggle (albeit the Will of God is infinitely stronger than the will of man). He even cries out in despair near the hour of his death, quoting a psalm, "God, why have you forsaken me!"

While Gregor's struggle is incomparable to the trials that Jesus endured, he remains selfless and forgiving throughout his entire life, even when he recognizes that his entire family deceived him regarding their finances. He is instead happy that they have more means of living. Very Christlike. Other occurrences happen, like Gregor dying at 3 am (see Jesus's release from Earth at 3 pm) for the salvation of his family (just as Jesus died for our (his brothers and sisters) own salvation).

This blew my mind when I was rereading the material because I wondered how I missed something so big. I primarily got irritated at his push-over, overly selfless behavior. That led me to the question that I am still toying with right now: what would my response to Jesus's actions have been as an unsuspecting Jew during his life time? I may have been apathetic, as many people are when they see someone challenging the status quo. If I still had my same set of morals regarding equality of rights (a societal moral rule which itself was much corroborated by Christian ideology), I would have taken offense to his mistreatment and protested then. But that would only be at the end of his life. Yes, I believe that the apathy which Baudelaire so loathed would have seized hold of me, until the point where I was moved by the morals that Nietzsche explicitly detested.

Would I have followed him? Unfortunately, I am not definitive on this one, but probably not. But, in a time when a king made the streets of a town run wet with the blood of infants upon merely hearing that a "King had been born," would you follow this man claiming to be the Son of God?

Food for thought...

Trapped inside

Hearing how Gregor was trapped inside a bug while he was still completely conscious made me think of this news story I saw a while back. In it, a 12 year old boy fell into a coma, yet remained entirely conscious the whole time. He could see and hear everything around him (including Barney the kids show reruns for 12 years). This kind of torture of being a trapped conscious person while maintaining zero ability to actually do anything but think absolutely frightens me. Here's a link to the guy's story, it's actually pretty incredible on how he learned to tell time using the shadows and so forth.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Late night ramblings

Of course between my youtube, netflix, hulu binges, my brain actually decides to turn on. I was thinking about the comic strip that Iris posted and well, I've been thinking about bugs a lot lately. (In pops the post I made oh about 2 hours ago.) At this time of night I usually get really philosophical with my mug of tea and incense burning, but in all seriousness I thought about butterflies. Now if anyone in our class thinks about butterflies they think about these cute creatures that float gently through the air. To me they are awful spine tingling abominations that must be stopped. (Exhibit A is Bonnie's post of Wormy.) But in all actuality if Gregor had gotten transformed into a butterfly, would his family have treated him the same way? Would they have thought of him as a vile creature they should hide? Or would he be like Joseph and the Technicolor Coat with wings for all to see and revel in his bright designs?

It's Tough to Be a Bug

All the talk about bugs reminded me of this 4D show in Animal Kingdom at Disney World. It takes place in the world of Pixar's A Bug's Life. It basically is a show that is supposed to teach people to appreciate bugs and what they do for us. In class we described bugs as insignificant creatures that we do not think twice about killing, but in actuality bugs do many things for us. Spiders control populations of flies, bees and butterflies pollinate flowers, and even dung beetles recycle waste. I myself am terrified of bugs. I'll crush one in a second, but maybe I should actually think about how that bug may not be the worst thing that walked into my home.

Synesthesia Revisted

I invite you to visit Alex's post and our comment about synesthesia and his skepticism therein. Too long, didn't read version: statistically, over a random sample population there is around a 4% population. Alex claims that there is a statistical unlikelihood that 3 out of the 9 people in our class have synesthesia. I retorted that we are not, statistically speaking, a random sample. We are nine students in the highest echelon of academia at a predominantly white, expensive, private school in Southern Louisiana. We are, as a sample, anything but random. Applying this information to a binary, yes-no hypothesis test, all you will conclude is that we are not a random sample. I also claimed that there might be a correlation between people who have an affinity for mathematics and synesthetes.

My experience with synesthesia is as follows: I have grapheme to color synesthesia, meaning that the numbers 0 through 9 appear to me with shades of distinct colors. Now, when I see a collection of numbers, it certainly does not look like a Jackson-Pollock painting. I'm sure (at least I hope) that's not how synesthesia affects anybody. That would be inhibitive. For most people (myself included), the numbers look a bit like this:

I am not affected regarding letters: just numbers. For me, the effect helps in expediting computation and proofs. During my overnight stay at Harvey Mudd College, I went to a TED talk given by a synesthete that attended HMC. She had been affected much more drastically than I am, for she stated that she saw all letters and numbers in color. She also mentioned something wild: she could train her synesthesia. When she took the SAT for the first time, she associated x, y, and z with different shades of grey. She scored a 480 on the mathematics portion simply because she could hardly see the letters. Fearing for her future, as her dream college HMC accepts very few people with less than perfect mathematics scores, she reassociated the letters with brighter colors, and scored an 800.

Another example is the autistic savant Daniel Tammant. For one, he knows over 10 languages, and he learned Icelandic (notorious for being the most difficult language to learn) in a week. He associates not only color with his numbers, but also personalities, size, formidability, etc. He wrote a book, Thinking in Numbers, which I plan to read when I get the chance. He claims that his synesthesia affects numbers up to the tens of thousands. So, a number like 10,001 would look something like "10,001" to me, the number would have a distinct color/personality than 10 or 101 or 1,001. Here's a video shortly summarizing his brilliance (I still don't fully understand the last example with the hare):

As always, enjoy!

Is Gregor gay?

It struck me as I was reading The Metamorphosis the first time this summer and again as I reread it this past week. Gregor’s narrative has some close parallels to stories I have heard from friends and/or read about the process of realizing you’re gay, accepting yourself, and coming out, especially in a less than accepting family. 

Here are some key points:
  • Gregor transforms into a beetle but doesn't freak out. He’s still himself. He sill thinks the same way, has the same priorities, and feels the same love for his family. 
  • His family freaks out when his new form is revealed. His mother faints, his dad beats him, and his sister doesn’t know how to deal with him. 
  • His family has some recognition that he is still their Gregor but still treat him as if he is something less than human. They resent him. Especially given the context of Kafka’s life and times, Gregor’s homosexuality would have been a stigma that the whole family would face. Think about how the borders reacted when he (literally) came out. They can’t let him be seen or heard by anyone. It’s as if they no longer have a son and brother. They refer to him as “it,” a problem to be gotten rid of. 
  • They drive him to give up on life. In the same way, the incidence of running away and suicide is significantly higher among gay and lesbians teens and young adults more so than any other demographic. Gregor dies in pain and alone. 


Quiz: What do your dreams mean?

I found the exercise that Mrs. Quinet had us perform on Thursday was uniquely ingenious because it made me think about King Cake more than I think I ever had before. I may have never dreamed about one, as far as I know anyway, and I may have not enjoyed it, mostly because I am not a fan of cream cheese, but I did end up feeling something while eating it that I did not realize until I arrived at my house. Since some of the class actually did dream of King Cake, and they immediately had some memory because of eating the sweet, it made me wonder if any of my dreams had any significance. Long story short, I found this quiz on buzzfeed on the topic and I found it fun.

Here is the quiz: It's only one question.

Comment about a dream you dreamt and what the quiz said about it, or even how it made you feel. I am interested to know everyones result.

I also found this short list of what certain types of dreams mean and the personalities of people who dream them that was interesting to read.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kafka in Three Panels

While not anywhere near entirely accurate, this cartoon representation of Kafka's Metamorphosis makes me happy.
However, I think the cartoonist missed a key part of Kafka's point (if there is one). Gregor doesn't react to his transformation with horror or even distaste. He instead only worries about being late for work that day. How do you think the meaning or plot of The Metamorphosis would change if Gregor panicked?

Freud and cocaine

When Freud was a strapping young 28 year old researcher, he did a paper on the medicinal effects of cocaine. He published this paper (the Uber Coca) in 1884. Doing experiments upon himself with cocaine, he found that "a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now busy collecting the literature." He praised the substance, complaining mostly that it was too expensive. He recommended this as a medicinal drug; however, this paper would not help his career seeing as how cocaine would be denounced as a harmful substance within a few years. Later, he gave up giving cocaine to patients and wrote his most influential papers (psychoanalysis). However, it is noted that Freud was addicted to cocaine for 2 years and quit after his health began to deteriorate.

Oh, but what's in a name

Would a Gregor by any other name be just as sweet?

Out of interest, I decided to look up what the name Gregor actually meant, to see if there was any reason in particular Kafka chose the name Gregor. Perhaps there was irony behind it and it actually derived from bug or something like that, so I looked up the name and found this: "Gregor is derived from Gregorius in Latin which comes from Gregorios in Greek which means 'watchful or alert'". Sadly, the name did not come with a hidden pun or something like that; however, I do see a possible meaning with bugs having to constantly be watchful and alert, lest they wish to get smushed by a human. Much like a human must also be vigilant that they do not fall victim to oppression and abuse by others trying to take advantage of them, especially in an age of industrialization. Could this perhaps be a hint at the suppression of the proletariat? Who knows! That's the great thing about literature, 2 + 2 does not equal 4, but it equals what we say it equals.


I don't mean to be a meanyhead/party pooper/jerk, but I'd like to voice healthy skepticism about what is now a solid chunk of our class possessing Synesthesia. While synesthesia used to be thought of as incredibly rare. It is now estimated that 1% of the population has some form of synesthesia. While this is a significant percentage, it is extraordinarily unlikely that three of the people in our class have this fairly rare mental phenomenon. There is a huge difference between an association and actual synesthesia. When you have synesthesia, actual images appear in your head because of sounds, and other sense physically and chemically trigger other senses. This is not the same thing as simply associating things with others. I am by no means telling anyone else they don't have this rare phenomenon; however, statistically it is unlikely that 33% of our class has it, when our grade is small enough that it is not necessarily super likely to have someone with it. So I'd like to ask the question to the synesthesia peoples whether when they do math and stuff with synesthesia if it is a blur of colors - or genders - coming together, or simply an association.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


This won't count as a blog post, but our discussion of Gregor as a big, creepy vermin reminded me of this episode of Spongebob. It used to freak me out as a youngster, so Metamorphasis 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Synesthesia Awareness and My Personal Personifications

I proudly tell the world: I have Synesthesia! Am I dying? No? Am I sick? I feel fine. What's going on? I have a common neurological phenomenon. I specifically have ordinal linguistic personification. Basically I assign gender to colors, numbers, letters, days of the week, and months. The most interesting part about synesthesia is that it's not the same in those affected. Some people see Monday as red, while others feel Monday to be blue.
For me specifically:

1- boy
2- girl
3- girl
4- boy
5- boy
6- boy
7- girl
8- boy
9- boy
0- genderless really
If an number ends with a zero, the gender is determined by the first digit (2450 is a girl). For decimals it is determined by the first digit as well. For multi-digit whole numbers not ending in 0, the last number determines the gender.

a- girl
b- boy
c- girl
d- boy
e- boy
f- boy
g- boy
h- boy
i- boy
j- boy
k- boy
l- boy
m- girl
n- girl
o- boy
p- girl
q- boy
r- boy
s- girl
t- boy
u- girl
v- girl
w- girl
x- boy
y- girl
z- girl

When I fill out Scantron, I ALWAYS see a and b as a couple and c and d as a couple. E is the awkward fifth wheel. I used to be consumed by the letters and coming up with back stories (like a is cheating on b with c so now d is mad and b is sad...) and it was distracting, so now I only fill out scantron at the end so I can focus.

Monday- girl
Tuesday- boy
Wednesday- girl
Thursday- boy
Friday- boy
Saturday- girl
Sunday- girl
Something funny I just noticed, the genders correlate to their first letter, and as I'm reading this sentence, the same is true for words I suppose, but I'm sure there are exceptions.
The same is true of months, with the exception of August, which I see as a boy.

Red- girl
Blue- boy
Yellow- girl
Green- boy
Orange- girl
Purple- girl
Pink- girl
Brown- boy
Black- boy
White- boy
White and Orange are more exceptions to my "first letter" theory

Again, not everyone assigns the same genders to the same objects.
I wonder if you guys have Synesthesia? If so what do you agree and disagree with?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Carcass and The Unbearable Lightness of Being

While reading this stanza in "A Carcass:" "The shapes wore away as if only a dream Like a sketch that is left on the page which the artist forgot and can only complete on the canvas, with memory's aid," I thought of the Unbearable Lightness quote where Kundera also mentions a sketch in relation to a person's life: "That is why life is always like a sketch. No, "sketch" is not quite a world, because a sketch is an an out of something, the groundwork for a picture, whereas the sketch that is our life is a sketch for nothing an outline with no picture."  I find the comparison of how Baudelaire and Kundera relate life to a sketch interesting.. Baudelaire is saying that as times passes, the mark of one's life starts to become like a sketch because it begins to fade because people begin to forget the whole picture or image of someone's life. Kundera however is arguing that life is like a sketch because it doesn't represent a more complete image because, once we die, our lives will be forgotten. Both mention a sketch as having a relationship to life, because a sketch represents something that is fading and not full, which will in the end be forgotten.

The Point of Symbolism

I realize this is kind of long, so if you are short on time but want to read something than read the last paragraph.

Out of all of the art movements that we looked over this week, symbolism struck me the most. I'm going to quote what the Metropolitan Museum of Art says about the movement on their website says about symbolist artwork because I can not find a better way to explain it. The Museum says: 

"Symbolist painters believed that art should reflect an emotion or idea rather than represent the natural world in the objective, quasi-scientific manner embodied by Realism and Impressionism. Returning to the personal expressivity advocated by the Romantics earlier in the nineteenth century, they felt that the symbolic value or meaning of a work of art stemmed from the recreation of emotional experiences in the viewer through color, line, and composition. In painting, Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist's inner subjectivity."

To me, this explanation, or definition if you will, of the symbolist movement details the main focus behind the movement: make the observer think about the piece and analyze it using the feelings and memories that come up while looking at it. The most interesting thing to me about this idea is that some symbolist paintings may have more than one and extremely varied interpretations due to the relative uniqueness of individual emotions and experiences.

The movement actually began as a literary movement in 1880's, when Jean Moreas published his manifesto in Le Figaro, and was influenced by the convictions of poet Stephane Mallarme, which stated that reality was best expressed through poetry (art) because it paralleled nature rather than replicating it. In Mallarme's own words: "To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the enjoyment to be found in the poem... suggestion, that is the dream."

I believe the Mallarme's idea of suggestion rather than categorization is pivotal in understanding the symbolist movement and the art that came from that period. The artists might not have even had a set meaning behind some of their paintings besides some emotion they felt at the time. Their work merely suggests an idea for us to analyze, which is AWSOME! Just like in our dreams, there are no limitations to the subjects of symbolist art. If you do not believe me, then just look at this sculpture by artist Pierre-Adrien Dalpayrat and try to guess the name of the piece and why you thought of that particular name. I will not reveal the true name of the piece because I am interested in what you FEEL it would be called and DON'T LOOK IT UP.

Kafkaesque and Methamphetamine

Kafka's Has clearly made a substantial influence on modern literature. I mean, his name in adjectival form has been incorporated into the accepted English language: Kafkaesque. Something that is Kafkaesque, in the simple sense, has a nightmarish or surreal quality. In season three of Breaking Bad, Jesse (one of the main characters) feels oppressed because the regional distributor, Gus, is making more than $96 million on the methamphetamine* that Walter and he are only earning $3 million from. He feels cheated, but Walter reminds him that he should be happy being a millionaire. Earlier in the series, Jesse's girlfriend died of an overdose-induced asphyxiation. Though he now has money, Jesse does not feel satisfied. At his rehab/therapy session, Jesse describes his situation in vague terms, and his counsellor says his life sounds Kafkaesque. Jesse continues with his life: he can't escape or Gus will kill him. He feels like he's in a nightmare.
     Perhaps staying moderately happy than getting sucked (rather involuntarily) into the world of intense drug trafficking. Similarly, it is evident in Kafka's Metamorphosis that Gregor would prefer to be a human than a vermin (though he does not show that in Part 1).

I neither support nor recommend a job in the drug trade. Carry on now!

It's a monstrous vermon, it's an insect, it's a... cockroach reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

In class, we discussed what Gregor could possibly look like when he wakes up and discovers he's a cockroach. Well, I decided to google it, and I discovered this rough sketch of young Gregor reading One Hundred Years of Solitude! I thought it was ironic, and also suiting, since Kafta influenced Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I thought I would share it with y'all, so here it is!

History of early cameras and Dauguerreotypes

In class this week, Mrs. Quinet discussed the first types of cameras, daguerreotypes. As I mentioned in class, I saw a photography exhibit located in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Here, they had a timeline of the development of the camera, from the earliest rough form until present day. The first cameras were based off the camera obscura, which was essentially a rough camera. It was a dark box with one hole in the side that casted a view of the outside on the opposite wall. The camera obscura flipped the imaged laterally and turned it upside down, which is similar to how cameras function today. As Mrs. Quinet mentioned, the daguerreotype, courtesy Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre and Joseph Niece, was revealed in France around the late 1830s. From there it took off, and other photographers around the world, primarily in Germany at this time, began using daguerreotypes and created their own papers and photographic methods. It wasn't until around 1890 that the first amateur cameras were on the market; however, photography was already thriving and shocking the world. Here, I included some photos from the photography exhibit. I would say go visit, but it's quite a far ways away; however, if you ever find yourself in Germany, it's a must see!

Camera Obscura


Photorealism, what's it all about?

Earlier this week, Mrs. Quinet brought up an exhibit at NOMA about photorealism. Photorealism is defined as"a genre of art that encompasses painting, drawing and other graphic mediums, in which an artist studies a photograph and then attempts to reproduce the image as realistically as possible in another medium."Basically, it''s a painting that looks like a picture. It's really really REALLY cool. The exhibit at NOMA is outstanding, and you honestly can't believe the images aren't photographs. I loved the exhibit so much, I wanted to post some of the images here. Enjoy, and go see more at NOMA! It's on view until January 25th.

I AM A BEAUTIFUL.... cockroach?

One thing that struck me as ironic in The Metamorphosis is that the Gregor becomes a cockroach. I don't know about you guys, but when I imagine metamorphosis, I imagine a caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly like happens in this wonderful scene from A Bug's Life:

Obviously, the book is about, at least so far, Gregor's change from a human to a cockroach. Metamorphosis can be seen as a simile for change, which could be a possible/probable reason behind the title. Do you think there's any deeper meaning or relation between the title and the fact that Gregor becomes a cockroach?


I would just like to share this major throwback of a song with you guys, because every time someone says "metamorphosis" in our class I start to sing this. Enjoy some Hillary Duff!

From venerated ships to radioactive cats: art as an identifier of change

In class, we talked about J.M.W. Turner's Fighting Temeraire as a painting that illustrated either the setting of old age (marked by the presence of the HMS Temeraire) or the dawn of the Industrial Age (marked by the dense, black mass, a chimney stack for a mast). Obviously made well into the Industrial Revolution (1838), his painting still stands out to me as a single painting that was made to convey a simple, direct message: the Industrial Age is here to stay. Even the venerated Temeraire, with its 98 guns and storied military performance (most notably the Battle of Trafalgar: Royal Navy vs. French and Spanish), could not prevent its own demise. Here's the painting:

More recently, Sandy Skoglund created in 1980 one of my favorite pieces of art: Radioactive Cats. The sculpted scene depicts 25 (I believe, unless I counted wrong) cats, all painted with fluorescent paint, perusing the nooks and crannies of a drab, collapsed kitchen. In their presence are two human figures, both of whom wear gray. The man's face looks depressed, and though we cannot see the woman's face, she noticeably slouches. This scene is meant to describe life in the Nuclear Age: Skoglund asserts through the expressions of each species that the animals, who've adapted (highlighted [heh] by the neon paint), fair better than the humans, who are still stuck in their antiquated antics.

The depressed state of the humans echoes the message that Turner implied in his painting: we need to move on and adapt. Whether we like it or not, the interminable wheels of progress will continue to turn.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Science. Van Gogh does it.

The above link is to a Youtube video about Van Gogh's Starry Night. It explains that the painting actually contains patterns of air turbulence that scientists have yet to quantify or identify the origins of. Conclusion: Van Gogh was a wizard. Enjoy.

Let It Gogh!

It's that time for blog posting again. Bad puns and jokes abound. That's right. The Van Gogh jokes are coming...

And also this awesome cake:

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Intrusive Thoughts

One of my scenes from Notes from Underground was when the underground man reflected that there are some secrets that men refuse to admit to their friends, and some that they will not even acknowledge themselves. This quote reminds me the mental phenomenon known as intrusive thoughts. Have you ever been sitting in chapel and just thought, "What if I just stood up and screamed like really loudly?" and then you find yourself thinking, "No brain, why in the world would I do that." Or a more severe one, perhaps you find yourself driving and start thinking, "You know, I could just make a sharp turn here and cause a really severe accident," and then obviously you think you're insane for a few seconds before disregarding the notion. These thoughts are known as intrusive thoughts, and it turns out that approximately 94% of the population experiences them. These might be hard to acknowledge since you wouldn't want to tell your friends. For example, "Hey, the other day I was just thinking about committing triple homicide." isn't a great conversation starter. These thoughts are especially common with people with OCD, depression, BDD, and even ADHD. However, they occur on the vast majority of the population. Thoughts are typically either aggressive, sexual, or blasphemous thoughts, and they cannot be controlled, they just happen.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Alex and Shostakovich

First, Alex scores a 98% on an online communism quiz, then rejects individuality via blog post. Now he's trying to convince me that he's the reincarnation of the 20th century Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. Shostakovich was one of the composers/artists called out by the Zhdanov Doctrine for essentially not being "Russian enough." The government wanted imperialist, pro-communism music to boost morale. He took up the government's "suggestion" and started making music in their way (bye bye, individuality...). Shostakovich also looks exactly like concerned Alex with glasses:
Look at the swoop. Look at the swoop.

Here's Shostakovich's Jazz Suite No. 2. It's not too long. Alex enjoys it: Coincidence?

The Underground Man and Pangloss

While I was reading Notes from the Underground, I reflected on The Underground Man's first encounter with Liza. At first, he is intrigued by her presence and interest in him; however, he soon begins to attempt to "save" her by asserting his philosophies on her. After several paragraphs of useless philosophizing, Liza says, "It sounds just like a book." After this scene, I noticed correlations between Pangloss and the Underground Man's useless philosophizing. Do you think the Underground Man's assertions are necessary? Or do you think they fall in line with Pangloss, who frankly just asserts philosophies at ALL the wrong times. I want y'alls opinions. So, does the Underground Man make necessary philosophies? or useless, inopportune ones like Pangloss?

Candide and Notes from the Underground comparison

A certain quote from Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground reminds me of an overarching theme in Voltaire's Candide. In Candide, The Turkish farmer states, "I have only twenty acres, replied the Turk: I cultivate them with my children, and the work keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty" (245). His advice caused Candide and his crew to settle, in order to "cultivate their garden" and stray from life's evils. Similarly, in Notes from the Underground, the Underground Man says, But sometimes, he [man] may want to swerve aside precisely because he's compelled to build these roads, and perhaps also because, no matter how stupid the spontaneous man of action may generally be, nevertheless it sometimes occurs to him that the road, as it turns out, almost leads somewhere or other, and that the main thing isn't so much where it goes, but the fact that it does, and that the well-behaved child, disregarding the art of engineering, shouldn't yield to pernicious idleness which, as is well known, constitutes the mother of all vices" (558). The Underground Man states that as long as man creates roads, preoccupies himself, and generally keeps moving, it doesn't even matter where it's going. As long as humans are moving, it'll conquer lifelong boredom. This correlates directly to the Turkish farmers quote, because despite his lack of possessions, his preoccupations are enough to keep him moving and out of boredom. Voltaire and Candide accentuate the point that achieving something, despite the lack of planning, will conquer life's evils of boredom, vice and poverty.

Invent Fire. Reject conformity

So guys, I as thinking about writing a post about defying typical constructions, just like Dostoevsky tried to reject the government of his time. Notable authors who have done similar things to the English language include James Joyce (again, check out the last 40 pages of Ulysses). I did like Ulysses but found that the sentences ran on and on and wow Alex is wearing a beanie today He won't take it off, says his hair looks weird, but why worry about looks in the loooooonnnng run right? we should focus more on intellect and augmenting our aptitudes to the extent at which the totality of education possessed by our academic prowess exceeds that of our peers just like the Underground man said  What are aesthetics in the long run why do we care about them so deeply Answer me that Though then again why does intellect matter  in fact what matters at all.. why use punctuation if it doesn't help us survive  and who the hell organized the alphabet  must b always follow a   or can I arrange the alphabet to cater more to my individuality like acdjskfhgriqoxzmn et cetera et cetera or would that bother people like me and Iris.. a precedes b only in our world because we are spoon fed conformity by our pre-K teachers Maybe I'll teach the children that c follows a and independent clauses end in commas,   what if we consider the primary goal of life to survive that's reasonable right    so then we haven't had much human achievement after the invention of fire  and all intelligentsia are full of it  now with that conviction held in mind we must by necessity sluff of the pagedy hoompty doompy of the bourgeoisie and run nekid to the woods to make more fire then we will succeed as people and find place in nature  to that I quote Mrs. Bloom "Yes I say yes I will yes"


In class the other day, Ms. Quinet was telling us about how young Dostoevsky could have been considered a Rasnochintsy (or a intellectual, middle class activist) and that old Dostoevsky would have been extremely apposed to the Rasnochintsy.

The definition of Rasnochintsy reminded me a lot of the White Rose movement in Nazi Germany. I learned about the White Rose movement this summer when Dr. Vaccaro had us watch a movie on it prior to visiting Munich. The White Rose movement was an intellectual resistance group that consisted of students. The students put together anti-Nazi leaflets and graffiti. After we watched the movie, we got to visit the University in which the leaflets were distributed and where some of the members of the White Rose movement were arrested. The movie is called Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. I would highly recommend it, especially to anyone who is really interested in WWII history, like I am.

Russian Identity through Music in the 19th Century

     Though the headnotes to the 19th century in Norton say that music, along with art at the time, suffered a period of stagnation, after which it lists the most well known composers of music. Ever. Sure, while the music "sounds the same" to some people, the artists often used themes in their works to convey meaningful messages. "The Five," or Mighty Handful, for instance, composed a group of excellent Russian nationalist pieces. The strove to make their work Russian, even at a time when Dostoevsky asserted that Russia was becoming less and less "Russian" and rather becoming (to his dismay) Western. They worked primarily in St. Petersburg, the city which Dostoevsky notes as especially artificial and consequently abhorrent. I really find it interesting that, in the city which was non-Russian from its inception, in a time which was noted for the loss of Russian identity, it was the musicians that saved the day and established Russia as a formidable influence on 19th century art.
     The primary identifying feature of most of the Five's music is orientalism, which the American Taruskin defines as "the East as a sign or metaphor, as imaginary geography, as historical fiction, as the reduced and totalized other against which we contract our (not less reduced and totalized) sense of ourselves." This sense of an attempt to define ourselves definitely finds a nice place in the questions Dostoevsky poses in Notes

My favorite work (alas, most people's favorite work) from the Russian romantics is Sheherazade. Rimsky-Korsakov composed it, and its a programmatic piece for One Thousand and One Nights. I recommend giving it a listen, especially after reading a brief synopsis of the vignettes that it covers. Enjoy!

Steve Jobs vs. Big Brother

In 1984 Big Brother is working to stop individuality. They restrict the people living in Oceania on what they say, read, eat, and wear. Everyone basically goes along with it. For those that choose not to conform, they can expect the thought police to take them away and never be seen again. This reminds me of our discussion on individuality. I believe one can not restrict consciousness and require people to think exactly alike because our society will cease to grow and ideas will cease to flow. During the 1984 SuperBowl Apple created an ad based on the ideas of 1984. I think that it is a good representation of breaking out of the restrictions that society places.

What the hell, America?

Yesterday in class when we were talking about Pretty Woman I was honestly getting pretty mad. It infuriates me that in 1990s America, something as sexist and offensive to women still became that popular. The classic story of a white knight saving a down-on-her-luck girl and riding off to a magical castle where they live happily ever after is not in itself offensive. However, the combination of a sleazy businessman who objectifies the protagonist as the knight and a smart, independent woman who willfully gives herself to a man who treats her like trash in a borderline abusive relationship makes Pretty Woman so awful (quick synopsis here - 

Why is it that Richard Gere's character is such a romantic icon when we view UM as a sleaze? Both men hired a prostitute whom he proceeded to emotionally manipulate. Also, why is it that a work from pre-bolshevik Russia is more progressive when it comes to its female characters? Liza doesn't take UM's abuse and walks out, leaving the money. For a single woman in 1860s Russia, that was an incredibly bold and admirable move. She had no guaranteed income so losing a paying client was nothing to sneeze at. In rejecting the UM, she asserts her independence as a woman and denies UM what he wants most: control. Meanwhile, Vivian falls back into Edward's arms as soon as he turns those smoldering eyes on her. He saves her. The real question is, who needed to be redeemed?

So good job, America. Teach our young girls that personal ambition doesn't matter. Just find a rich guy who treats you like crap and turn into whatever he wants you to be. Everything will be like a fairy tale and you'll live happily ever after.


Wednesday, January 7, 2015


What is individuality? As a population, we would like to think we have free will, and that we are all special snowflakes since these thoughts comfort us as we sail our giant rock through the incomprehensibly large oblivion of space. Especially in a country like the United States of America, we especially value our freedom and chances for opportunity very heavily. The real question is the following: how much individuality do we really have. Sooner or later we all become what society tells us to be to an extent. If we took a human and raised said person in a society in which no one ever married each other, and free love was normal, then they would be completely and utterly shocked by our customs. Now I pose the question: what are we other than society's expectations? Sure we have some control along the way (assuming free will over fatalism which is an entirely different debate) seeing as how we can choose which job we want and where to live to an extent, but society's expectations and a majority of peoples lives go like this: birth, lower school, middle school, high school, college, (some like a gap year yet it is fairly uncommon), job, get married, have kids, kids go to college, retire, die. Sure, day to day interactions vary and whatnot, but even where we go to college, what jobs we do in life, and who we would marry is fairly laid out for us. For example - Kowalski is good at science and math, he is now recommended to an engineering school. After having everyone tell him to go study engineering, what a surprise, he goes into engineering. Once he hits age 40, his mother and all of his friends start bothering him to get married and have kids. What a surprise, he does that. Why? Because we have an innate desire to fit to society's standards. It isn't the world that teaches us to fit in, we want to fit in. Sure some might desire success, but they don't want to be weirdly different necessarily. Much like ants follow what they are best at in their careers and daily lives, so do humans. While we might think we have a choice, I challenge you to turn the tide against society without emergency money at your disposal. How are we that much different than the ant? Sure, we have personality and views on issues. However, you are following the same societal expectations that an ant would follow in their respective society. If you wanted to point out a country undergoing a revolution, since surely this embodies an act of individuality. I'd respond no again. We are simply going with a revolutionary society's expectations now, and oftentimes those expectations are based off of other nation's.

In conclusion: Overall, complete individuality is dead

Monday, January 5, 2015


When Tiffany, Bonnie, and I were younger we were watching "A Bug's Life" one day, saw this scene, and nearly died laughing. We still quote it to this day.

Today in class, when we were talking about insects, it popped into my head. Insects have a lack of individuality and an inability to make conscious choices. When the leaf falls in front of the ant's path, he does not know how to go around or over the leaf. He is unable to make a decision because he is programmed to walk in a straight line and bring the food he is carrying to the food pile.

Although the Underground Man argues that being overly conscious is a disease, I think that not being able to make conscious decisions is worse. If we were just programmed to act one way and weren't able to respond to problems or make choices for ourself, like the ant in "A Bug's Life", life would be pretty boring and horrible. One of the things that make people great is our individuality, and if we were all programmed at birth to act the same, stay in a line, and bring our food to the food pile, we would loose all of what makes human-kind great.