Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Evil Areas" in religion

Last Sunday, my priest gave a pretty traditional sermon about Lent, and this time discussed Jesus's healing of the leppers in the desert. The Jewish society of the time had shut these people out from everyday life and, most importantly, the ability to worship in the Temple. They were also cast out to the desert, a place which they regarded as inhabited by feral, insidious creatures. Though I've heard the story a plethora of times before, this time around the resemblance of the desert in the Jewish mind during the New Testament and the Evil Forest in Things Fall Apart struck me. Both have a group of people that have been cast into them, and both are notorious for their wickedness. By offering his hand, Jesus welcomed the cripples into His kingdom, just as the missionaries did with the outcasts and twins.

Silence in Beloved

I've noticed throughout Beloved so far that there are two types of silence: inhibitive and beneficial. For instance, the silence that Shethe and Paul D share after having sex gives them both time to reminisce about their past experiences together, but he silence that Paul D offers to Sethe'a questions about Halle's whereabouts only serves to tear apart the slim, green foundation that they have formed. Just some food for thought while reading this weekend.

Our Country Was Built on the Backs of Slaves

In my comment on Tiffany's blog post "The Founding Fathers and Slavery" I talked about how often times people say that our country was built on the backs of slaves and African Americans. I really wanted to post this picture in the comments, but you can only post pictures in original posts, so I had to make one.

This is a picture of a fountain in the Ministry of Magic in the seventh Harry Potter movie. If you look closely the bottom of the statue, you see people carved to look like they're holding up the statue. The idea behind the statue is that the people at the bottom are Muggles, or non-magic folk, and the huge statue at the top represents magical people. Basically, the Voldemort-approved statue symbolizes Muggle-inferiority and Voldemort's belief that Muggles should be used and abused in order to further the advancement of magical folk.

This reminds me a lot of our country. Our country was built and began to prosper because of slave labor. We cannot forget that. Our founding fathers would have probably had to be back at their houses tending to their crops were it not for slaves. We would not have made money as a country without slaves doing all the hard grunt work for no pay. We cannot forget that slavery was and is integral to our history, and we cannot shy away from the horrible system that our ancestors were a part of.

Heritage, Past, and Identity

As we've talked about in class, Sethe has throughout the book tried to block out her past and all that she has gone throughout because of the tremendous suffering it has brought her. However, Beloved leads Sethe to tell her story and all that she has gone through, and Sethe does not struggle about thinking about the past as much as she usually does because she feels open sharing her past with Beloved. I think that as Sethe's character progresses through the book, we come to see that although her past was full of extreme hardships and suffering, her past is a huge part of who she is. I think that the more Sethe tries to ignore and put aside her past, the more she struggles with her identity. As we've mention in class, sharing a cultural history with others is extremely important and uniting, and most of all, it plays an extremely important role in shaping Sethe's identity. I think one of Beloved's roles in the book is to bring Sethe to confront her past and history, which truly does form her identity. The whole idea of oral tradition shows how the past is carried onto the present, as people tell the stories of their ancestors that influence their lives at that moment; In a similar way, Beloved brings Sethe closer to her past, which helps Sethe understand herself and her present life more.


Memory has been a big theme in many of the books that we've read this year. Morrison's usage of memory in Beloved somewhat reminds me of Marquez's usage of memory in One Hundred Years of Solitude.

In both novels, oral tradition and the background of the characters is very important. Both authors were fascinated by their history being passed down through oral stories. I think that this contributes to the way the two novels are styled. Bonnie mentioned in class that she noticed Morrison will mention a character by name multiple times before she actually explains who they are. This style choice echoes oral story telling because when retelling oral stories, the listeners would be familiar with the stories and characters in them. Beloved is also not written in chronological order, just like One Hundred Years of Solitude. Similarly, when stories are being told orally, they aren't told in perfect chronological order every time. A person may forget a detail and then have to return to the point they were previously making in order to more fully explain.

Although the style of Beloved and One Hundred Years of Solitude are similar, I do think the way the two authors treat memory is quite different. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, memory is revered. The importance of memory is revealed when the town becomes infected with insomnia and the people in it begin to lose their memories. However, in Beloved, people, especially Sethe, try to forget the painful memories of their past as a coping mechanism.

Unfinished Business

The other day in class, we were talking about how ghosts are often perceived as sticking around because they have unfinished business here on earth. For example, the ghost of Hamlet Sr. is still around because his son has not avenged him yet. This is also exemplified in Beloved through the ghost of the baby.

When we were talking about this in class, I got to thinking about a show that some of y'all may have heard of called Long Island Medium. Basically, this woman claims to be able to talk to ghosts, and in her episodes she speaks with the dead and helps those on earth communicate with their loved ones who have passed on.

Here's a link to one of the Medium's readings:

The Great Dress Debate of 2015

So this actually made national news.
The dress is ACTUALLY blue and black, so why do most people see white and gold?
Well the reason is simple. Our brain is good at taking in information and reasoning a bunch of things that aren't there.
Look at this image
Are Squares A and B the same color?
The answer is yes!
But you yell, "they aren't! B looks completely different now!"
Actually, B looks different because your mind sees a contrast with squares next to it and a shadow over it. You think it's lighter because your brain knows that if there was no shadow, then the square would be lighter than A. It processed information that wasn't actually there.

That's what happened in the great dress picture. The lighting and background made it look like it was white and gold to some people because their brains were filling in information that wasn't exactly there.

Source: Buzzfeed Article about this dress.

Founding Fathers and Slavery

In Tuesday's class discussion, the question came up if someone could have been considered a  good person if he or she owned slaves. I think this question is so complicated to answer in that, although owning slaves was a societal norm, that of course, in no way justifies slavery. We often think of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other of our founding father as admirable people that we truly look up to and have utmost respect for. This is always hard for me to think about, since the majority of our founding fathers were slaveowners. The United States was formed and founded based on Christian principles, yet it was also created when slavery was deeply embedded into American society. It makes me wonder whether it can truly be said that our nation was founded on Christian principles and that our country upheld them when many of these so called Christians were slaveholders.

Toni Morrison on The Colbert Report

I found this old clip of The Colbert Report where Toni Morrison talks a little about some of her books, like Beloved and The Bluest Eyes, and her thoughts about race and humanity. I honestly thought that the interview was primarily going to be jokes, as usually is with these comedy news programs, but I was surprised to find that it very insightful. While learning about race and the African American experience from reading Beloved is one thing, it is completely different to hear the author explain her thoughts and feelings. She is incredibly witty and, even when just speaking casually, she transforms regular sentences into works of art. I am going to post the link to the seven minute interview below, and I strongly encourage everyone to watch it.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Tragic and Complete Destruction of Art In Mosul

On February 26, 2015, a group of Islamic state thugs destroyed a collection of priceless statues in Iraq dating back thousands of years. It was an extremely violent destruction, as well, as the vandals used a multitude of power tools and blunt instruments, like sledge hammers, to smash the ancient works in a museum in Mosul, Iraq. Many of these works were over 3,000 years old and represented different aspects of Iraq culture throughout history. One thug stated that the sculptures promoted idolatry and that is why they had to be destroyed. This event occurred recently after thugs destroyed thousands of books at Mosul Public Library. The group of criminals branded themselves and the video with the Isis logo.

Here is a link to the full article:

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gracie's Pulpit

The scene we discussed in class today reminded me greatly of a place in the Smokey Mountains. While hiking the Mt. LeConte trail, I came upon an area known as Gracie's pulpit. Who was Gracie? According to friendly passerby's, they told us that there was a woman named Gracie who climbed to the top of Mt. LeConte every single day during her retirement (making her last trek up at the age of 92). This rock marked 1/4 of the way up to the top. Here, she would sit and meditate and grew into the practice of giving sermons on an actual mountain. They weren't necessarily religious, but they focused on releasing bad energy and finding yourself in nature. She would lead talks upon this rock ledge on the mountain once a week. They apparently became pretty popular and eventually the rock became known as Gracie's pulpit.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Tracy Chapman

I just made a post about folklore. This is a topic I am really interested in. Not only am I interested in folklore, but I also love folk music. One of my favorite singers is Tracy Chapman. Many of you have probably heard of her or at least heard her song "Fast Car".  Her music is all about story telling. In class we talked about memories and many of her songs are based off of memories or stories that others have told her. If you haven't listened to her music I would suggest listening to "Fast Car", "3,000 Miles", "Bang Bang Bang" or "Behind the Wall". I am going to link two of them and would love to hear your feedback. Sometimes she slurs words so it might be helpful to look up the lyrics while watching or listening. 

Toni Morrison Quotes

Hey y'all! I was browsing BuzzFeed books when I came across this really nice list of awesome Toni Morrison quotes. She has such a beautiful way of spinning words and creating such vividly crafted images, as Ms. King was talking about in class. I hope y'all enjoy!

John Henry Where'd You Go?

One of my favorite songs growing up was a song titled "John Henry Where'd You Go" by a man named Don Chaffer. It is a song referencing John Henry who was a hero of African American folklore. A man who worked to drive steel into the ground  in order to make rocks disperse for railroad tracks to be laid down. I think that this relates to the idea of the strong African American instead of the idea that they can only be used for a cheap labor source. He beats the steam machine that was going to take his job, proving that he was good enough. There isn't a link to the music online unless you buy it. If during a break in class one day y'all want to here it I can play it, but I am going to post the lyrics. This song reminds me a lot of what the struggle of slavery and post slavery was about for African Americans. It was and is about making a name for oneself and showing that we are capable of exceeding expectations.

John Henry, where'd you go? 
I wonder every time it snows 
See the hammer and the body in the evening light 
Skin of brown 
under a bed of white 

The cracked mountains of those cold cruel mines 
An elegy under the steam drill's whine 
If you listen right at suppertime 
At sunset 
you can hear it chime 

That ringing sound like silver 
That ringing sound like gold 
That ringing sound like angel choirs 
That never grow old 

His mother hardly speaks 
Her rocking chair just creaks 
I will sit here in the darkness when the sun falls down 
Eat supper cold 
listen for that sound 

That was one hell of a year 
So I'll make my prayer clear 
Let the hammer crack the suffering tree 
And crack the sky 
So everyone can see 

John Henry shines like silver 
John Henry shines like gold 
John Henry's like the angel choirs 
That never grow old 

His mother sings like silver 
His mother shines like gold 
His mother sings That ringing sing sing like angel choirs 
That never grow old

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Traditions and Mardi Gras

Tradition is undeniably one of the primary themes in Achebe's Things Fall Apart. As it is Carnival season, let's take a look at the history and culture that helped establish Mardi Gras. As early as the mid-17th century, the French custom of a "Boeuf Gras" (fattened calf) feast celebration had been integrated into French colonies. In 1703, in what is now Mobile, AL, the first Mardi Gras was held. That festival still runs today (I went to the Mobile parades with some relatives a few years ago). Back then, the celebration entailed 16 men processing throught the streets with a massive, fabricated bull head to urge everyone to feast as Lent approached.
Bienville established New Orleans in 1718, and Mardi Gras (it isn't until 1781 that we can refer to it as "Carnival") solidified itself as a New-Orleans icon by the 1730s. Around 1740, the first of a long history of Mardi-Gras balls and societies appeared. In 1856, the first floats (the Krewe of Comus, named after a Milton character) rode alongside flambeauxes and horses, and they were referred to as "tableaux cars").
In 1872, the Krewe of Rex was established as the king of Carnival, and the colors purple, green, and gold were attached to Carnival as a whole to honor the colors of Grand Duke Alexis Romanoff of Russia. The rest is history!

Have an good Carnival. Stay safe y'all.

Achebe Interview

I found this interview of Achebe on Youtube talking about Things Fall Apart. The link is below. I love how in the beginning of the video, Achebe and the interviewer discss how Achebe did not chose to idealize his society, and he claims that he did not do this in order to make this fictional work have truth and meaning to it. Towards the end of the video, Achebe talks about how his Things Fall Apart has become so popular and read by people all over the world because it is relatable to everyone. He mentions that a college class in Korea read Things Fall Apart, and that they felt connected with Things Fall Apart since Korea had experienced Japan colonizing it. I think that Things Fall Apart is such a good book because there is so much truth and like Achebe mentioned, universality in it that everyone can appreciate. This  reminded me of what we thought about when we read Candide. The whole debate that one does not need historical background to understand Candide shows how Voltaire reveals and shares universal issues that everyone can relate to and apply to their own experiences in life. I think this just shows how powerful the role of literature and fiction is, for in Candide and in Things Fall Apart, so may  readers relate to the themes and issues no matter who they are.

African Composers

With Things Fall Apart now in our rear-view mirrors and Beloved directly ahead, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss a topic that is unfortunately underrepresented: African composers. Given, Africans did not have such early access to Western musical instruments and styles, but even so they have no dearth in creative inspiration. In specific, William Grant Still was born in Mississippi in 1895. While his father had died when Still was a baby, his step-father nurtured his affinity for music. By age 16, according to Wikipedia, he had taught himself the clarinet, bass, cello, viola, saxophone, and oboe. Some would called that musically gifted, and the word savant would also probably be thrown in somewhere. The case being such, he attended college and then an orchestral conservatory. Still has been dubbed "the Dean" of African-American composers, for he was one of the (if not the) first African American composer, and the first to have a symphony of his (the one of which I've included an excerpt), and composed an astounding 150 scores in his life. The excerpt I've included is most identifiable by its reliance on horns rathern than strings, and the blues-esque rhythms therein. These characteristics are a testament to Still's own musical and cultural identity influencing the conservatory teachings he had learned. The triumphant themes (most notably to me around 2:00 and 4:00) with intermittent measures of melancholy indicate to me the potential Still sees in his fell African-Americans that is continuously hampered by societal impressions regarding their race. The overall tone, though, indicates to me that Still believes that African-Americans as a whole would persevere through adversity to achieve success. Here's the first movement of William Grant Still's first symphony, the "African-American Symphony." Enjoy!

Oral Tradition

I know we've already finished Things Fall Apart, but when we began I couldn't help but thing about how the history of Igbo culture was preserved. When I taught The Odyssey for Senior Leadership Day, I taught the Freshman about oral tradition. It's basically catagorized as a group of people who sang and spoke the history of their culture usually in a rhythmic way, so it was easier to remember. They would travel around, passing history on to generations and generations in hopes that their history would stay alive. This is how most scholars believe The Iliad and The Odyssey were preserved over time, or who the believe Homer was. They essentially believe Homer was perhaps a group of people who decided to write down their history. I began to view Chinua Achebe as a sort of Homer. Originally, Igbo culture was passed down via oral tradition, but now, Achebe has captured at least a part of it in Things Fall Apart. Any thoughts?

How have your surroundings influenced you?

One of my college essays asked me how my surroundings and family had influenced me and shaped me into the person I am today. I think this is a great question to ask of both the Underground Man and Okonkwo.

The Underground Man was written to be the hyperbolized example of a person who was a product of the nineteenth century. The ideas of the Enlightenment and rationalism surrounding this time period caused the Underground Man to focus on solely developing his mind and not on his emotions or spirituality.

Similarly, Okonkwo is influenced by the environment he grew up in. Okonkwo's father, who raised Okonkwo, was an embarrassment and lazy. Okonkwo's entire life is based around his fear of becoming like his father.

To cope with his issues, the Underground Man projects his negative feelings about himself onto others and tries to make himself seem superior to them. Similarly, Okonkwo deals with his feelings by projecting masculinity and trying to advance in society.

Now, I ask you, what in your environment/family has influenced you into becoming the person you are today?

You were born in 1998, stop saying you're a "90s kid"

So yesterday while I was out and about, I overheard this group of "young adults" (literally freshmen) talking about how they were 90s kids and remember a bunch of stuff.....that was specifically from the early 2000s. So, I decided to see how much they actually knew and found a convenient quiz on BuzzFeed to test their "skill". Well the guy got  whopping 17 out of 76, receiving a sarcastic comment as an answer. I took the test and got 61 out of 76, giving me the title of "Keanu Reeves showing off his leg hair." Prepare to get hit by a wave of nostalgia.

Here is the quiz:

Anyway, I don't really know why I posted about this topic considering I'm sure we have had a couple of posts about this thing. I think that I wanted to look to the past considering our fast approaching futures and the fact that people are starting to get college decisions back and deciding where they want to spend the next four years. I'm happy knowing that you all have achieved things that others cannot claim they have and have been accepted into great colleges. I am also sad knowing that those days in lower school and even before that are gone and we won't have the opportunities to see each other everyday as we do now. With that being said, I wish you all the best of luck in your decisions and hope to find out that you have succeeded in finding happiness. I realize I may seem like the least likely of our class to say something like this but I'm gonna miss you all very much, that includes you King and Quinet!

Titles from the Perspective of a Ghanaian

I was interested in the idea of titles when we were reading Things Fall Apart and decided to do a little extra research on the topic. What I found was not exactly what I was looking for, but, nonetheless, it still helped me understand the culture better than I did previously. The article was written by a former government minister, Elizabeth Ohene, and details her thoughts on titles in Ghana and Nigeria, which she considers to be the place that titles originated in Africa.

Here is the link:

Friday, February 13, 2015

Twitch plays pokemon

Guys, I will now talk about something very near and dear to my heart: pokemon. As a child, I grew up with amazing creatures and could make them fight with one another to become the champion. Last year, a development came into being called twitch plays pokemon. What is it? It's a server that has a pokemon game running, and everyone can put their own inputs into the game. This means that there can be thousands of people controlling a single game. This marks the one year anniversary of the original journey, and they have recently started a new game in commemoration (I actually just watched them beat Brock). I find it amazing that we have no way of coordinating the game whatsoever, yet somehow, the twitch community completed our goal and became the champion. Inside jokes developed, a minor religion was formed (praise helix), and bonds were made. This is very reminiscent of our democratic society. By all means of logic it should fail entirely, however, we have risen to the call, and for the most part we have succeeded. We have made several mistakes along the way (see the infamous ledge incident), but for the most part we have succeeded in our goal of progress, is it slow? Maybe, but the journey along the way makes it all worth it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

You can't beat a pregnant woman

The other day in class, Iris mentioned something about the societal thought that you can't hit a pregnant woman. That idea rubs me the wrong way because, as usual, it shows that in our society an unborn baby's life is valued way more than a woman is. Shouldn't we just not hit a woman simply because SHE'S A PERSON? Why do we have to wait until she's pregnant to get all bent out of shape about beating her?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Marquez Valentine

Gabriel Garcia Marquez here wishing you a happy Valentine's Day!

Hey What's Your Name?

Since in class today we were talking about the importance of names, I thought it would be cool if I defined everyone's name for them and showed its history. Just to see how interesting each of our names really are.
Isabel- Isabel's name is originally Hebrew, Latin, or Spanish and is derived from the Spanish version of the name Elisabeth. Isabel was imported from Spain to the rest of the world during the middle ages and eventually morphed into Isabelle and Isabella in France and England. Many people of royalty had  this name (She really is a princess). The name's root Elisheba means "God is my Oath" which shows up in Exodus as the wife of Aaron.
Bonnie- Obviously Bonnie's name is Scottish. It is a name that means pretty but is derived from the French word bonne meaning good. The name was given to Bonnie Prince Charles in 18th century Scotland because he was known for his handsome looks.
Iris- Her name is Greek. In mythology Iris is the personification of the rainbow and the messenger between the gods as well as the link between gods and mortals. Also the Iris is a flower that symbolized faith, hope, and wisdom in ancient times. The French monarchy was associated with irises. The name simply means rainbow.
Joseph- Joey's name is English and Hebrew. It is an anglicized form of the Hebrew name Yosef which translated to "God shall add another son". Joseph was also the 11th son of Israel in the book of Genesis. He was Israel's most favored son that he made a robe of colors for.
Alexander- Alex's name is Greek and Latin and is a form of the name Alexandros which is interpreted as alexein meaning to defend plus andros meaning warrior. Common historical use of the name is Alexander the Great. Sadly we only have Alexander the Decent.
Tiffany- Her name is English and Greek and was developed in the middle ages as an English form of the Greek name Theophania meaning epiphany. In the Catholic faith the Feast of Epiphany is celebrated on Jan 6th to commemorate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus.
Ross- This is the second name that is Scottish. It is believed to come form the Gaelic word ros meaning headland. It is the surname of a Norman Frenchmen who came to settle in southern Scotland after the Conquest of 1066. It also may find its roots in the Anglo-Saxon name Rozzo meaning renowned.
Srihari- Well the first part of Sri's name is Indian(shocker). It means diffusing light, radiance or beauty in Sanskrit. The second part of his name means brown(Hari already enjoys this color) and the name is also sometimes the name of Vishnu.
Finally I thought I would do the names of our two teachers. Using their first names, respectfully of course.
Megan- This is a Welsh name which was a pet form form of Meg which is the pet form of the Scottish Margaret. Margaret comes from the Hebrew word for pearl.
Mary- An English name that comes from the Latin Maria by way of the French form of Marie. These names all came from the Hebrew Miriam which is believed to have been an Egyptian name derived from the element mry meaning beloved. One of the most common meanings for the name means drop of the sea from the Latin stilla maris.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ramblings from an airport pt 2

Salutations, I am once again stranded at yes you guessed it, an airport. This time it's a three hour layover in Atlanta. So, I will now go stream of consciousness until I reach some sort of resolution at some point in the near future as I try to productively use time before my flight.

1) Wow, I am like fo' real isolated. Like There's a ton of people just kinda strolling around and I know NONE of them like a dude just passed in a baby blue fedora and a goatee and I have no idea what his story is but I mean it seems interesting. My feelings are also probably amplified by the fact that I haven't had normal social interactions in like days because of the fact that I probably contracted the bubonic plague (only logical conclusion).

2) Have you ever wondered how many people you pass on a daily basis that have their own Wikipedia pages? Like what if a famous-ish business lady just walked by or that guy in the hipsterish garb and his friend with the chain are actually decently recognizable musicians. Wikipedia pages are kinda common I think so I wonder.

3) Awwwwww a little like 5 year old was running down and tripped on his face, he kinda bounced though he's running again, I don't understand little kid physics.

4) ANOTHER GUY IN A DIAMOND PATTERN FEDORA <----- (lol i hit caps lock) just passed like what happened in your life dude

5) I don't know if this happens to y'all but like every time I'm at the airport I always see a traveling basketball team and DANG those guys are huge.

6) In Wastelands fashion, you know what really fragments society but also can really bring us together? Music. Those earbud things have been accepted as the universal standard of "Don't talk to me right now." However, I have to say, last weekend when I went to Michigan, I met someone and I asked her what kind of music she listened to/favorite band. She said Arctic Monkeys, and I was like no way I love them, I actually saw them in concert and it was like boom best friends like that.

7) Sounds are so funny to think about like I can vibrate some vocal chords and air then contracts in a series of longitudinal waves which are ear registers as vibrations which then mean something to the brain and language man, and I'm using millennia of evolution to whisper beep boop to myself repeatedly.

8) Lol this guy just walked by in flannel PJs and a robe, you sir know how to travel.

9) I am so tired right now, I literally slept on a floor last night. I used my coat as my pillow and a towel as a blankie. This is like boys state all over again. I also forgot pajamas.... Whenever you travel, ALWAYS bring sleep gear.

10) Protip: don't be a meany jerk face to airport people, it's a lot more effective in finding stuff out. I just walked in on a shouting match between two people, got my question answered in like ten seconds, and got out. Use the kindly brontosaurus method for maximum efficiency

Well that'll be all for now, stay classy my friends and I'll see y'all tomorrow

In honor of Mrs. Q's art lectures...

As some of y'all may know, UChicago has a bit of a wacky sense of humor (like yours truly...). I found the following link on the UChicago official admissions Tumblr. This is not a student run blog but the actual official face of the school on social media. Please take a break from studying and enjoy :)

25 Famous Paintings Photobombed By A Fat Cat

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Waste Land Illustrations

While reading The Waste Land and then watching Miranda's video, I kept thinking about what I envision a Waste Land as. I think the images that Miranda included at the very beginning of her video really depict The Waste Land that Eliot tried to portray. I google imaged some illustrations of the Waste Land just to better picture and grasp a better understanding of all that the "waste land" would include. I found the first picture below interesting because of the smoke that seems to be present in the sky. This reminds me of the Fire Sermon and idea that everything is "burning." Also it shows just great destruction and decay, empty of life and spirit. I think that this is definitely what Eliot is trying to point out in his poem, the fact that humans feel empty, helpless, and desperate. The second image below shows the great chaos and mess of the Waste Land. In the corner, there are two humans confronting each other and looking to each other for comfort, this shows the idea how human are desperate for contact and want to reach out to each other, but they are disconnected because of society and their ways, which makes human contact and company unfulfillingWa

Item Number 4: The Gnostic Mass

I believe Tiffany's picture didn't come out properly, but I think we chose the same picture; however, we interpreted it in two different ways. I found this picture to be a possible representation of a gnostic mass. In fact, this picture was featured in an invitation to a gnostic mass here: The gnostic mass is pretty strange/creepy to me because of the similarities to a traditional Christian Mass (here are the steps: As such, they still believe in the consecration of a host, which could be depicted here. The reason I am hesitant to say that this is Percival depicted is that he was too blockheaded to inquire about the grail, and he consequently did not achieve it.

Though the gnostic mass has existed for a long time, it was popularized most by Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century. He wrote a book called "Magick," in which he laid the ground rules for Thelema, which is as much a religion as Taoism is. Regardless, he advocated the use of rituals, magic, and mysticism to get a closer connection to "god." He proclaimed himself the prophet of the "Aeon of Horus," and hence Egyptian deities are the predominant symbols in his philosophy. In fact, three Egyptian deities form the primary base.

The word "Thelma" comes from the Greek word "θέλω," which means "I wish." Coincidentally, this is the same word that the Sibyl uses when she wishes to die in the epigraph of The Waste Land.

Percival Grail Dove

This is the image of Percival holding a Holy Grail while a dove descends. When Percival spends the night in the castle of the Fisher King where he witnesses the grail, he later does not ask the right questions so he does not save then Fish king and is expelled. Later on, Percival returns and asks the right questions. This this image depicts Percival taking possession of the grail and a dove flies delivering a heavenly benediction. Percival is depicted as the hero of the Holy grail. I find this image really interesting because of the religious symbolism that this pictures gives off, as we the Holy Grail represents the chalice of blood, where the Holy Spirit (the dove) converts the wine into Christ's blood. Although the grail was not initially a religious symbol, because of Christ's coming, it became one of the greatest symbols of faith.

Fisher King Image Assignment #5

Hey guys, I think I found the image with three people in a boat.
This seems to be related to King Arthur. I suspect that they are The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung Knight.

Parsival and the Fisher King

This picture is a portrayal of Parsival meeting the Fisher King. The Fisher King is portrayed in his bed, which is accurate because he is wounded and inept. He is wounded either in the legs or in the groin, and is not able to move by himself.

One thing that I found interesting about this portrayal is that Parsival seems to be holding the white spear that drips red blood. I found this inaccurate because in the story Parsival fails to ask what the spear is, and therefore I do not think that he would be holding the spear.


In class we talked about regeneration. Some religions believe that we are reincarnated until we achieve Shantih, or ultimate peace. This got me thinking about one of my favorite shows Doctor Who. For almost the last 50 years the Doctor has been regenerating. The most logical explanation for this is so that the show can continue after an actor leaves without just changing actors and telling people to deal with it. Recently however, I thought of it as the Doctor is reincarnated because he has not yet reached peace. There is still something left for him to do and therefore his time is not over. Tennant said, "I don't wanna go", maybe that was because he had not found his peace. He knew that there was still more to be done and still worlds to be saved. 


The youtube clip that Mrs. Quinet sent us about Götterdämmerung depicts women singing about despair. Right off the back the lyrics paint the image of the Fisher King. They sing about the sun's beams and how they once made their father sparkle, but now they do not shine upon him. The fisher king's land was once a fertile place full of abundance, but now the land is sterile. While reading "A Carcass" we saw that the imagery of the sun is used to provoke the thought that the sun is able to produce life in a carcass by "cooking" it, making it attractive to the maggots that will soon inhabit it. If the sun is not shining down on these people then they will not be able to continue the cycle of life and fertility. Then the women ask the sun to send them the hero. This is the hero that is used also in the Fisher King that will liberate them from the bareness that has fallen over them. Once the hero comes, their life will be restored back to its former glory and they will want no more. Now my last statement is interesting considering The Waste Land. Eliot presents the idea that even though we think we need something in this "waste land", whether it be the water to quench our thirst or something else, in the end it will not end all of our troubles. These women in the song may think that the hero will get rid of all of their worries, but maybe he isn't the only savior that they need.

How big and round of a table was it?

Well, considering there were a lot of knights (see list here: )

how big was the round table?

According to wikipedia, almost 60 knights are mentioned explicitly by name somewhere. The table itself was massive. Lore has it that the table was bigger than this though. The common estimate isn't that Arthur would just get a couple of knights at a time in for conference, you go hard or go home. Arthur's table sat 150 knights! This meant he had a LOT of dinner guests and the need for a lot of space for feasts and whatnot. Assuming this table is for hosting dinner, we will give each knight a decent amount (yet not unreasonably large) 3 ft of space at the table per person. By simple multiplication, the circumference would easily have to be around 450 ft. Which would translate to a 143 ft diameter. Now no one ever technically said it was a circle, since as long as the table didn't have points it was round so technically it could have just S curved everywhere, so my specifics might be invalid. However, assuming it isn't a metaphorical "table of allegiance" or something lame like that, it would have been a really big table.

The Fisher King #2

From my research, I have determined that this is a portrait of the fisher king himself. He is clothed in a strange manor, being both fancifully dressed as is clearly visible in the cuffs and collar of the shirt, yet he wears an unadorned dress looking item of clothing. We see him going down to the river in order to fish - because his land won't bear fruit due to the whole genital/leg (depending on the version) injury. This has caused the land to be infertile, so they must fish for food. We can see a clearly marked castle in the background which further tends to indicate a type of royalty. We also see a great deal of plant life, yet it isn't the right type of plants. The ones that are left are the hardier river plants that are made to deal with the floods, and even then the black and the white add  further dimension to the sickly state of the lands. The focal point of the picture - the man - simply looks ill and to me almost looks like Voldemort to an extent. However, the strangest portion of the picture is the very top, where we see a nautilus type creature attached to a man's head. Honestly, I'm not quite sure what to interpret this as, but I like to think the son is in the bottom portion fishing, while his father is enveloped by the grail keeping him alive.

The Red Knight

From my research, i've found that this image depicts Percival meeting the Fisher King. Percival, however, is wearing red armor, something we've never seen him in before. Thus, the story of the Red Knight comes to light! Once, in Camelot, the Knights of the Round Table were meeting for the Autumn Equinox. They were celebrating, drinking, hanging out with beautiful ladies, the usual. A fair maiden brings the Queen a golden grail so she can make a toast. SUDDENLY, A Red Knight barges in, takes the grail, throws its contents on the Queen, and challenges all the knights to come fight him. One will have the chance to fight the Red Knight, and they all scramble to be the first to put on their armor. Percival, however, was already out on an prior quest, and returned right when the Red Knight was leaving. He and the Knight duel, leaving the Red Knight wounded and fleeing into the forest. Percival pursues, and comes across a Red Castle. Upon entering, he sees the Red Knight sprawled on the altar with his wound exposed. A women enters with the grail, and Percival is so stunned he cannot speak. Suddenly, the one candle in the WHOLE CHURCH blows out and Percival's horses freaks out, flees, and causes Percival to flee the church to pursue his horse. Upon recapturing, he can no longer find the Red Church, similar to how the Fisher King's castle was magical and can only be seen by those who need to see it. He goes into town, and comes across his Aunt who agrees to teach him combat and British history. She teaches him that the woman was a Maiden of Wells, and that she was his sister, Dindrane. He learns that the golden chalice was sent to Camelot to find who was worthy of taking the place of the Red Knight as Guardian of the Red Chapel because he was growing too old. By inquiring about the grail, Percival had already passed the first test and could begin training as a Chaplain. He goes back to the Red Chapel, finds the Red Knight healed and begins training. When the time comes, be becomes Chaplain of the Holy Grail and Guardian of the Red Chapel. He gets to wear the Red Armor of the Red Knight, which is why he is depicted here, meeting the Fisher King, in Red Armor. He still goes on occasional quests, but he always returns to the Red Chapel to fulfill his duties. This is why Percival is also the Red Knight, and how this image correlates to the the Tale of the Fisher King. Percival, here, is already Guardian/Chaplain, making him prestigious. Perhaps if he had asked the Fisher King the same questions as his Aunt, he would have saved him too, and fulfilled the quest.

"Life in Death" ft. Kafka,Eliot and Baudelaire

Thought T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, there are several scenes where we view people gaining life from death. In The Burial of the Dead, Eliot writes, "That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year? Or has the sudden frost disturbed it's bed?" The described scenes of dead bodies personified as flowers gives them essentially life once more. The dead are achieving life from death, almost as zombies, in Eliot's last few lines of The Burial of the Dead. More like The Burial of the Dead yet the come back to life like flower zombies. ANYWAYS, this reminded me of "The Carcass" by Baudelaire. The Carcass that he and his lover come across a carcass that serves as a source of nutrition for the forest. Though dead, other animals can feed themselves and their families off of the open resource. Like the dead buried underground who will find life in death in blooming, the carcass found life in death by helping her forest friends. In addition, Kafka's Metamorphosis again reminded me of the life in death theme. When Gregor dies, his family is transformed and given a different kind of life. Gregors selfless death relieves his family of the burden of taking care of a bug son. They decide to focus on the growth of Grete, a new caterpillar emerging, and the growth of the family. All of these examples show that it is possible to receive life after death, whether your a flower, nutritional source, or a new family.

The Fisher King...Fishing

When we read the Fisher King on Monday, we discussed the ambiguity on the fact that he's the same man in the boat and also the king. Being injured, we discussed how it was possible for him to fish, and how he could move from the water to the castle so quickly. I found a depiction of the Fisher King fishing, and it actually made sense. The Fisher King has become weakened by an injury, making his homeland infertile and a Wasteland. He still must occupy his time and rule the land, so he goes fishing; however, he may not want his kingdom to see his weakened state. Therefore, he lays down, casts his line over the ledge, and waits for a bite. His attempt to hide and his hidden castle show that perhaps the infertile king can still rule, but prefer his land remember him how he was before his accident.

I haven't been to class/society in forever so I'm just gonna type (EDIT: One time I went to drive thru Starbucks, does that count?)

Wow, contact with humanity - the outside world - I haven't had this in days. I've been quarantine. Locked in the high tower of London wistfully staring out my window waiting for a savior to come. I am trapped inside by a beast - in fact thousands of them - all suicidal alien single strips of DNA simply waiting to blow me up, so is the life of a virus. As I feel the hordes ramming against the walls surrounding every fiber of my being, I ache as though I have never ached before. My entire body, even the very core of my essence, the brain, shot with pain. My throat had been set ablaze, the barbarian horde seemed quite intent on razing it. Then a miracle came into being, a bright blue translucent glow appeared in the distance, barely peeking over the horizon. The first in a series of saviors. I knew it was time to fight back. My body loaded its bows with a new kind of technology - fire. We set our very own walls ablaze to use them to ward off the foul demons of virus land. We kept the fires at bay using an ancient trick developed by the people who still lived in the land of milk and honey, gatorade. Fierce Blue Gatorade to be exact. More reinforcements arrived, Tamiflu bombs were dropped straight down my gullet into the war scene. Ibuprofen and Tylenol soon followed, yet the fires still raged inside of me, burning at 102 for days. Surrounded by destruction on all sides, I see the barbarians beginning their retreat. I know now is a turning point. Barbarians on all symptom fronts have vacated the front lines. We have turned off the fiery wall for now. However, my people say that if they wander the forest at night, they must still be wary of lone wolf flu-choks. For they will prevent full recovery for a while. The politicians up at the capital of the body wonder though, "how could a group so small take out an organism like us, we have millennia of evolution on our side?" Well so do they, so do we all. The little guy can pack a punch. All it takes is one to spark a revolution and the whole system comes crashing down. Can they suppress it? Sure, but in the end, seeing a god bleed can proves they're human.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Experience at University of Michigan

So, I am currently at a weekend hosted by the University of Michigan for some of the students accepted to the school of engineering (Alex attended a similar one and then contracted influenza: wish me luck). We went to an art museum today, and I overheard some college guy trying to show off to his friends "yeah I took an Art History class one time, these columns are Ionic, I'm sure." I softly chuckled as he gestured at what was clearly a Doric column.

Also, I got asked "hey, you're from the South. Do you drink sweet tea like every day? That's you guys, right?"

I thought the latter example was a nice demonstration of how many cultures we have in the United States, and that we don't normally feel as fragmented as someone like Eliot did when he wrote The Waste Land. In this way, technology can act as a mending/unifying force, for it allows for faster sharing of ideas and increased knowledge of cultures worldwide (even though the sweet tea example is, admittedly, moderately silly).

Other than that, UofM has been pretty great! Go blue.

Obscurity in literature

Fresh off of The Waste Land, I am sure we can all attest to it being one of the more difficult pieces on literature we have had to read at St. Martin's, due to its allusory nature; however, in the context of obscure literature, there is one piece that is the arguably the king of them all: James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Notice even the intentional lack of apostrophe in the title. It's been called the non-homogeneous partial differential equations of literature. Also, if aesthetics were valued as the supreme concern of literary criticism, some speculate that it would be something like the Iliad of our time. I myself have read through approximately the first 90 pages with a guide published by William York Tyndall, who notes that there may only be two characters in the entire story, with the others just as "reflections" of the two. Macroscopically, the book follows a cyclical structure, beginning in the middle of the sentence that the last sentence of the book starts. Even Ezra Pound--who loved Ulysses, and to whom Eliot dedicated The Waste Land--thought the book was nuts. Here's a more readable excerpt. Enjoy, ye masochists!

"The fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonnerronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!) of a once wallstrait older is retaled early in bed and later on life down through all christian minstrelsy. The great fall of the offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Finnegan, ease solid man, that the humptyhillhead of humself prumptly sends an unquiring one well to the west in quest of his tumptytumtoes: and their upturnpikepointandplace is at the knock out in the park where oranges have been laid to rust upon the green since devlinsfirst loved livvy." -Book 1, paragraph 2.

Teenage "Waste Land"?

For y'all who may not have heard yet, The Who will be at Jazz Fest this year. My favorite song by The Who, "Baba O'Riley," happens to relate to the Eliot we've read. The song was originally titled "Teenage Wasteland." Sound familiar? The line "We're all wasted!" directly addressed the teens and young adults of Woodstock but could also be taken as commentary on the society of the times as a whole. Thoughts?

Hope y'all enjoy!

Pidgin v. creole v. patois

Here's an article outlining the difference between the three terms.

Thursday, February 5, 2015



Seriously. Probably the best musical ever. Cats is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, a fantastic little book of wacky poems about Jellicle cats. If you don't know what a Jellicle cat is, great! You are 100% normal! However, if you are at all curious just how weird Eliot can get, watch the clips I've attached below. Each song tells the story of a specific cat and includes fantastic music and dance numbers. Enjoy!

The Fire Sermon at Mardi Gras

Imagine walking down St. Charles after one of the big nighttime parades--Bacchus, Endymion, or that godawful year we had Bacchendymion. Now imagine walking the parade route and seeing no garbage anywhere. Personally, I would be totally freaked out. Garbage is an such an integral part of the Mardi Gras experience that it's absence makes us feel like something isn't entirely right. It makes us uneasy.

When I look at post-parade trash I see vestiges of joy, happiness, merrymaking, and life. When we were talking about "The Fire Sermon" section of The Waste Land in class, someone (sorry, I can't remember whom) said that they thought that the narrator's reaction to the clean river was weird. The narrator seems to feel sad at the absence of trash:

The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, 
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends 
Or other testimony of summer nights.

I think maybe we judged him too quickly. Trash, while symbolic of death and decay, also reminds us of life being lived. What do y’all think? Are you nostalgic about trash?

Ace of... Cups? (Image 10)

I'm here to talk about cups. Not this kind of cup or this kind of cup but this kind of cup:

This picture that Mrs. Q put on the document she sent us is a tarot card, specifically the Ace of Cups. I couldn't find the same one that she had but this one is pretty close and has the same key features. The version Mrs. Q gave us is different than most of the Ace of Cups cards I found using the Google. I'm not sure if she did this on purpose but I'm going to talk about both versions because the meaning of the card depends on the version. 

Most versions of the card have five streams of water issuing from the cup, which is held in the open palm of a hand, like the one pictured on the left. There are five key meanings to the card: abundance, creativity, intense relationship, satisfaction, and success. The five streams also correspond to the five senses. 

Many people think the cup pictured on the card is in fact the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail clearly makes an appearance in version of the Perceval legend that we read. There is also the whole water = baptism that is inverted/played straight in The Waste Land. The version of the Ace at left is much more reminiscent of Christian  doctrine than is the version Mrs. Q gave us. This one has a dove carrying a wafer (communion) that also has a cross on it and the cup is being carried by a hand issuing from an amorphous blob that may or may not be the  Holy Spirit. 

Thoughts? Why do you think there are such distinct differences between the two versions of the cards? Do you think the relative ages if the versions might make a difference?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

What Does It Mean To Be "Cultured" And Why We Should Be Mad

Well, what does it mean to be cultured? I'm not talking about being a bacteria that was grown in a lab. Google defines it as: characterized by refined taste and manners and good education. I feel that this is very vague. What does refined taste and manners mean? What qualifies as a good education?

So you all know my obsession with Nicki Minaj, right? Well I was talking about it one day and someone told me:
"Nicki Minaj is garbage. All she does is twerk. I like more cultured music."
So I asked him, "What do you define as cultured music?"
His response was, "Classical music."

That struck me as ignorant. Why is classical music considered more cultured than Nicki Minaj? It made me a bit mad actually. Why is music of European ancestry considered more classical than, for example, twerking? Twerking's origins come from African dance styles. Nicki Minaj's music is mostly inspired by African rhythms and beats. Subconsciously, society is saying that European culture is better than African culture. One might call ballet (sorry Isabel) to be more cultured than twerking but that's ignorant. Why is European ancestry considered better than African ancestry!?

American society is structured in a way that asserts European-Caucassian culture over others. Why is it that Hinduism is considered a mythology while Christianity is considered to be fact not opinion? In India where the roles are reversed, every religion is considered to be true and equally viable on a spiritual standpoint. Why is it that European history is the most taught out of any world history in an american high-school curriculum? We never even learned about African history in high school. Why is it that the music and art styles of European origin are considered to be more "cultured" than those of other cultures. I feel like to be cultured, one must be aware of many cultures and treat each culture equally. Nicki Minaj and Bach are entirely different cultures, but why are they not equal? Personally I like Nicki's energy, her playful yet sometimes serious lyrics, and also her theatrics much more than the boring music of Bach, but I still respect Bach because he represents a culture different from mine. I don't understand why others don't respect every culture equally.

I have no relation to either European or African culture, so from a third person perspective it's hard to watch one culture claim to be better than another.