Sunday, March 29, 2015

Schoenberg pre-atonality

As I said in class, Schoenberg had a period toward the beginning of his composing career and toward its end in which he composed tonal music. Before researching and really listening to modernist music, I could only stand the music that Schoenberg generated during these two periods; however, some of his modernist pieces strike my fancy having finished the project (hat tip to Mrs. Quinet, thank you!). One aspect that remained constant throughout his career, though, was the source from which he drew inspiration: poems. For instance, we listened to part of Pierrot Lunaire, his Op. 21, which was inspired by the poems of Albert Giraud (link for convenience). Before he jumped ship from the traditions of music to embark on his trailblazing quest for atonal music, he wrote Verklärte Nacht ("Transfigured Night"). It is a work for a string sextet (two cellos, two violins, two violas) and was inspired by the poems of Richard Dehmel. Schoenberg also incorporated his own emotions, as he had just met his soon-to-be wife Mathilde von Zemlinsky. The poem depicts a man and a woman walking through a forest, the woman telling the man that she is pregnant with another man's baby, the man's contemplation, and the man's acceptance. The music reflects these plot points with obvious themes; however, thought these themes seem simple, Schoenberg interweaves chromaticisms (going up and down the chromatic scale) and other complex harmonies and musical metaphors that made the piece controversial when it was released in 1902. Though it is technically written in D minor, even this piece shows the earliest signs of Schoenberg's willing departure from musical tradition. Here's Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Coordination Between Humans and Time

I want you to think about your day. Your week. Your future. More than likely, you have something planned, especially with spring break coming up. When you made those plans you,  human, coordinated with something that cannot be terminated, time. Its almost strange to think about. Almost every action you take is affected by how much time you have and, thus, you must work with, or around, time. For example, you wake up at 7:30 a.m. on a school day and decide to take a shower. You might be accustomed to taking 15 minute showers but, since you are running late, you are only in for 5. Small occurrences like this mark points when humans work with time.

This is why, in my opinion, Hell in No Exit is difficult to accept, even after being there for a while. The characters actually have no idea how long they have been in Hell. They know how much time has passed on earth, but there is no way for them to know about "Hell-time". They don't know if its night time, day time, or even tea time. They're simply stuck in a point that still exists within time but just does not care about it.

Garcin, Inez, and Estelle all had connections with time like other people. For Garcin, there was a time to run. For Inez, there was a time to torture and to hurt. And for Estelle, there was a time to kill. All humans are obsessed with time, most notably THE time. The time to die. So, thinking about this connection, being told to just hang out for no determinable amount of time in a room that has no way of telling the time and is so boring that its nearly impossible to comfortably pass the time would be pretty irritating. And it doesn't help that they're trapped with people they just cannot get along with.

The Gaze

The Gaze is a very interesting topic to me, one that I actually find applicable in my life.

A quote that I have often heard is, "You are who you are when nobody's watching." This idea is interesting because it implies that the gaze of others changes how you act and the way you are. I know that I've experienced this before. If I know that someone I want to impress is watching me, I act differently because I want to seem more impressive than I really am.

Existentialism views the gaze as a reminder that, although we see ourselves subjectively, others objectify us. Usually when I notice people are looking at me, I don't think about subjectivity and objectivity. However, I do when it comes to guys looking at me. I don't really think about it when guys I know/am friends with look at me/talk to me, but when random guys on the street stare at girls, it feels very much like complete objectification. (Mostly because, let's just say, they aren't looking at our faces.) Has anyone else experienced this? (Guys included!)


One of the things that appeared in No Exit were questions. The valet says that Garcin is asking the same questions that everyone else does when they first arrive in hell. This reminded me of a scene in Supernatural. (It always comes back to that for me). Dean is awarded the power to be a reaper for a day. Every time he takes someone they ask the same questions such as Why is this happening?  and What happens now? I just thought the connection was interesting.

Futurist Music

What discussion of futurism would be complete without a discourse on the music of the time? Well actually for once I would prefer to skip it. Futurist music, like all art of the movement, abolished traditional techniques to create a style of music that disturbed the listener and conveyed a notion of speed and chaos. Noah Creshevsky's music definitely attempts to do these, especially succeeding at the former. I can't discuss much regarding tone, pitch, or themes because, well, there are none. Give it a try! I myself am honestly not much of a fan, but for the sake of completeness (and a bit of hilarity), here's Creshevsky's Canto di Malavita (which I am just now realizing means "song of a bad life"):

Futurist Foods

In our class presentations, Alex presented on futurism and its impact on art; however, we did not discuss my favorite subsection of futurist art: food. Along with the Futurist Manifesto, Marinetti wrote his "Futurist Cookbook," which contains suggestions for meals that would "create a harmony between man's palate and his life today and tomorrow." Some of the suggestions include:

1. The abolition of the knife and fork. Because, you know, they're definitely weighing us down in the high-speed society of today. Duh.

2. Food sculptures to get your eyes involved in the consumption process.

3. No "speech making or politics" at the table, along with music in prescribed quantities. Music was only played at times during which they would enhance the consumption process directly.

4. Spraying perfumes on food to include the olfactory nerves more. I am not a fan of this one.

5. Some food is only meant for looking at, not for eating.

6. Many small portions of different tastes that come in quick intervals to go along with the speed of society.

And what of traditional kitchen instruments? Nay, nay! The true futurist cook does not use a baster or a colander, but instead uses scientific instruments like ozonizers, ultra-violet lamps, and centrifugal autoclaves.

Furthermore, perhaps most shockingly, he abolished pasta and spaghetti because it robbed the populace of its creative impulse and replaced it with empty hopes and lethargy.

Read more here:

Love in the Time of Cholera & One Hundred Years of Solitude

I'm reading Love in the Time of Cholera for my independent, and I have seen so many similarities and parallels that between this novel and One Hundred Years of Solitude. At one point in Love in the Time of Cholera, there was a sentenced that said "telegrams were magical." This reminded so much of how in One Hundred Years of Solitude how things that seem "ordinary" in our normal lives can be so magical. We just don't think about it. When I read that sentence, I automatically remembered the discussion we had in class from the beginning of the year about this. Just as in One Hundred Years of Solitude, where the banana massacre is interrupted as something that is so "magical" because it was unbelievable, this idea occurs in Love in the Time of Cholera. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, the "new" and "latest" technologies of the gypsies' are viewed as magical, and in a similar way, the telegram in Love in the Time of Cholera allows, one of the main characters, Fermina, to remain in contact with her love, Florentino, while Fermina's father runs away with his daughter to end their relationship.  Another similarity between the two novels is how the story is told. At the beginning, the story behind Florentino and Fermina's love is unknown, and Florentino comes back to declare his love to Fermina, but their long story of half a century is not explained until later in the novel. Time is another major theme in both novels. Old age and passing time is greatly feared in Love in the Time of Cholera. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, time is cyclical and repeats itself until this ultimately leads to Maconodo's demise. In Love in the Time of Cholera, death is something that is feared, as the characters try to maintain themselves young and are so concerned with getting closer to death.

A picture is worth 1000 words

I found this picture from a production of No Exit and I thought that it was a really good representation of the central interactions in the play. The specific composition of the poster, with the three characters in a triangle type shape and with everyone looking away from each other, communicates the basic inability to truly connect and compromise that the three characters share. Inez looks down on Garcin and Estelle jealously. Estelle avoids facing herself by closing her eyes (figuratively) and focusing on her lust (?) for Garcin. Garcin directs his gaze (the GAZE) away from both women. 

Imagine for a second that you didn't know anything about this play. How effective is the poster at conveying the fundamental themes of the play?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When will my Reflection show who I am inside?

We have been talking a lot about how mirrors are important to Estelle because she defines herself by her looks. I was just thinking about how when I look into a mirror I start to question myself. I wonder if that is really me looking back at myself. Then I start to think how amazing it is that I am who I am, but also how weird it is to actually just be. I know that is probably hard to understand, and I do not believe that I could explain it another way, but I was wondering if anyone else thinks this way.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Ok so the movie I was referencing is named Carnage, starring Jodie Foster, Cate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly.
 In the movie they just argue about random things and constantly switch sides. It reminds me a lot of the situation we see in No Exit between Garcin, Inez, and Estelle and their respective outlooks on life. Christoph Waltz's character, for example, represents a higher, and more educated social class, while Reilly's, who is a plumber guy, represents a lower class. There is also gender tension present in the movie. Here is a clip from the movie:

It is a little more exaggerated than No Exit but I feel it gets across the same point of "there is no point to this argument".

Saturday, March 21, 2015


On Thursday there was a track meet. On Thursday I threw a javelin. In Thursday I felt something snap in my right arm. I was prohibited from throwing on Thursday.

On Friday I received expert advice about the injury. On Friday I found out that, in fact, something in my arm may have actually snapped. On Friday I went home and snapped. I was born on a Friday.

These words don't necessarily mean much. Actually I am not completely sure what they mean. All I know that is that I have never injured myself. Never hurt anything as important as a limb, never even came close to breaking anything, never seriously had to see a doctor. But on Thursday I did, and on Friday I found out. On Friday I thought, and on Saturday I write.

It feels different. I have never before realized how dependent I am on a limb. It made me think of my left. Of my legs and of my neck. It made me think of my body, something I never thought much about before other than "Oh, look. I exist."

I thought of Beloved and of Baby Suggs. I thought of the tooth and of the sermon. I realized the tooth means nothing to me, but the sermon is important.

Sometimes your body is connected to you. Sometimes your body is not. A lot of the time it does not want to listen, but still gives support. A lot of the time it is ignored. It shouldn't be though.

I hurt my right arm, my dominant one. Something inside of it snapped, but not completely. I don't think it is that bad, but I will have to wait. It will heal, it's fine after all.

What's important is that you listen to your right arm, or left, or legs, feet, neck, hands, head, spine, or whatever. Don't ignore them. Don't ignore you.

These words don't necessarily mean much.

WARNING: Feminist (or more broadly equalist) and Expert Writer

"Nicki Minaj is dumb"
"Nicki Minaj is fake"
"Nicki Minaj is trashy and dirty"
"Nicki Minaj knows the English dictionary like an elephant knows its tail"
"Nicki Minaj is not meaningful"

We all know I love Nicki Minaj, but you may wonder why?
Let me go into detail in why she actually is better than any other singer/rapper/writer.

Her Character Use:
Nicki creates characters, "alter egos" to address issues in society. She's upfront about it, but no one sees, mostly because people don't look at Nicki Minaj expecting to be able to form a thesis. That's due to being close-minded *cough cough* @all the Nicki Haters. Honestly, I can't think of any other artist who uses characters to address themes, or can even portray characters at all.

Roman Zolanski:
He looks like an angry monster who shows off to the world why Nicki is crazy.
In reality, this is true. Roman is angry at all the things that drive Nicki Minaj crazy. Roman is mad that we live in a society where blacks are not equal to rights, homosexuals are not equal to heterosexuals, women are not equal to men, "ugly" people are not equal to attractive people, people of different religions are not equal and God forbid someone for not believing at all, Rap is not equal to rock, ect... Nicki purposefully made Roman Zolanski a man because why on earth would society listen to a woman? Roman Zolanski is actually a gay man who raps about his sexuality and sexual life to make people uncomfortable so that they can feel how uncomfortable these "unequal" groups feel.
(+ Martha Zolanski):
Where would someone protesting society's norms be without the personification of society's norms as well? She is the subordinate wife who fights for oppression because God made everyone the right way, but people need to be steered back on track. She's British because the British accent makes someone sound proper and moral. She is Roman's mother who sends Roman off to a rehabilitation facility, has him exorcized, and still acts like she's a fairy God mother.

I could go on about her characters but I have other stuff to say, so here are two more alter egos that spoke to me
- Barbie: Nicki's girly side. This is what society wants Nicki to be, but sometimes Barbie can be dirty and it makes us uncomfortable, especially because she's supposed to be this "perfect girl." Girls aren't supposed to talk about there sexuality right? It's only okay if guys do it, if girls do it, it's just gross.
- Cookie: One of the most least known of Nicki's alter egos. Cookie is a little, african-american girl who deals with the everyday problems of being a female, african-american youth in society. She has issues with her father being abusive and absent, her mother being overworked, her brother joining a gang, and the society's assumptions about her.

Her Lyrics and Songs:

- Roman's Revenge:
It's really not that hard to interpret if you just read what I said about Roman and Martha previously but it has a double meaning past the homosexual vs. traditional values out take. Nicki Minaj is directly addressing the issue of street violence in low-income communities. Roman and Slim-Shady can either be seen as lovers who are hated by society, or gang leaders who are hated by each other. Martha then plays the role of the voice of reason, telling each gang to go home and stop their childish fighting.

- I Get Crazy
The Lyrics in this song are just off the chart. People say Nicki Minaj needs a rhyming dictionary and that she has the most meaningless lyrics ever. The whole point of this song is a contest between her and Lil' Wayne to see who could come up with the best one-liners and who has the best word play. 
Just listen to the lyrics and tell me that Nicki isn't clever. 

- Raining Men (by Rihanna)
Nicki is preaching to all the girls all there that they don't have to settle. No one has to compromise themselves for a man because there are so many other ones out there. Adichie anyone?

Oh, and by the way. Nicki Minaj never got a butt implant unless she did that when she was 13. There are countless pictures of Nicki before her fame and during middle and high school. It was never just BAM BOOTY! The only thing fake about Nicki Minaj is her hair, and that's just a fashion statement.

Again, I could go on and on, but really you get the point and this blog post is long enough. Hopefully none of you will ever tell me that she is dumb and unnecessarily dirty. Unless you find the issues she addresses dumb of course, but then we'd be having an entirely different argument.


I don't know if everyone has heard, but the FBI is investigating a possible lynching in Mississippi. The police found a black man that had been missing for a week in the woods hanging from a tree. I just think how coincidental this is since we were just talking about how horrible it must be to see family members hung during times of slavery. It just baffles me sometimes that people like this are still around.

Ted Talk- Chimamanda Adichie

In class on Thursday, we watched the Ted Talk we had discussed a few weeks before. It's entitled "We should all be feminists", but it's not only about feminism. It's about gender stereotypes in gender, and how we should raise generations not according to predetermined racial stereotypes. One quote that really stuck with me was "People create culture. Culture does not create people." The talk is about 30 minutes long, but it was really fun to watch and extremely moving, so I wanted to share it with y'all!

I Allow Myself To Be Free

Today, we had a Saturday rehearsal for all of the principals in Seussical. Before rehearsal started, we did some warm ups. The last thing Mr. Kirkpatrick had us do was to look into the eyes of another person and say, "You are beautiful. I allow you to be beautiful. I allow you to be free."We said it to each other and meant it. We then laid on the ground, put our hand over our heart, made a wish, and then released the wish to the universe. Mr. Kirkpatrick then told us to tell ourselves that we are beautiful, that we allowed ourselves to be beautiful, and that we allowed ourselves to be free. By the end of the exercise, we were all in tears and felt a huge release.

This exercise that Mr. Kirkpatrick had us do reminded me a lot of the scene in Beloved where Baby Suggs leads a ritual in the clearing that focused on the self, the body, loving oneself, and freedom of the self. It also reminded me of this quote from Beloved: "Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another."

Do Tell

Hey, so I thought it would be interesting to hear what everyone is reading for their independent study project and what the books are about. You do not have to go into incredible detail, I am just interested in finding out a little bit of info. Please tell me if you like it so far because I am looking for books to add to my own reading list. I'll go first:

I have decided to read Nabokov's Pale Fire, which is a 999 line poem in the same kind of broken style as T.S. Elliot's The Waste Land. The poem itself is interesting because the "author" of the poem is said to be this dude Kinbote, but then this other guy, Shade, is all up in it like "I'm here to, yo". The poem itself is very postmodern and really scattered but I really like it so far. It feels like I am trying to unravel some weird mystery between Kinbote and Shade and, since I have to read the poem carefully, I notice tiny things that change the whole meaning of some lines.

Moses und Aron

In perparation for Isabel, Bonnie, and my presentation on modernist music, I'd appreciate it if you all could listen to about 5 minutes of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron and note how it sounds different from traditional operas/music. Thanks!

Perspective WAMUNC 2015

When it comes down to it, the difference between a liberation movement and a terrorist organization is just perspective. What is perspective? Is it how you see things? Is it how you feel about things? Is it a compilation of every sense, thought you've ever had? Yes. Or maybe no. Idk bro. I mean why does it have to mean one thing? Does everyone have an individual perspective on perspective? Is there a cultural value of perspective? Does society determine our perspective? Do we determine our own perspective? I'm not really sure (is what you are thinking about my perspective on this opinion on perspective). From my perspective the book is black, from yours it is red. There is always another side of the argument. Two sides of a coin. I am sure of the definition of perspective. The real question is, from my perspective this is a well written blog post. Would a cubist agree? #solveterrorism #WAMUNClegal2015

The Beetles m8

In class yesterday as we were discussing art (more specifically cubist art I believe), somebody said that a horse is a horse. Whether it is represented by geometric forms, photorealistic tendencies, or an impressionist style, a horse is a horse. Cubists simply wanted to paint what they wanted sometimes, but from a new perspective. In an interview of The Beetles, they were posed a question about what the deeper meaning of their songs were. At this point they simply responded, "we wanted to write a song about drugs and prostitutes." This art style of simply seeing things from a new perspective reminded me of this quote a lot.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sit, Stand, Lie

I know some of you have probably heard of the improv show Whose Line Is It Anyway? before. If you haven't, definitely check it out in any free time (haha funny joke, right?) that you might have. One of the sketches that the brilliant comedians of Whose Line do is called "Sit, Stand, Lie." As we were reading Beloved, something about the relationship between Denver, Sethe, and Beloved reminded me of this sketch. In SSL, one each of the three actors must be sitting, standing, and lying down at any given time. Just like Denver, Sethe, and Beloved, the actors must be totally in tune with whatever the other two are doing and tend to repeat and replace the actions and positions of the other. In the same way that the women from Beloved are incredibly intertwined, so are Wayne, Ryan, and Colin.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Nightingale

The presentation about the Twittering Machine by Klee made me think about the Hans Chrisitian Andersen story "The Nightingale." I have attached a plot summary but basically the important part is that there is a live nightingale that is replaced by a mechanical bird. The emperor that the nightingale used to sing to falls ill when he no longer has the live nightingale and only hears the mechanical bird's song. What do y'all think Andersen and Klee are trying to say by pitting the forces of nature versus the power of machines? Thoughts?

Rejected Princesses: Beloved

To continue our theme of princesses, here is Jason Porath's imagining of "Rejected Princess" Beloved  The above link is to a site where Jason Porath, a former DreamWorks animator (if you have ever seen How to Train Your Dragon 2, yeah, that was his work), illustrates and tells the stories of real and fictional women whom he dubs "Rejected Princesses." According to the blog:

Rejected Princesses is a peek into “what if” alternate realities where unsung women of myth and history got their big, expensive animated movies. Part art project, part history lesson, part standup comedy – and that’s before we even get to the blog!

The specific link I gave you links to his imagining of Beloved. Porath is very good about capturing details from the book and incorporating them into his drawing. He outlines the process near the bottom of the page.

His drawings are beautifully done and I would really encourage you to check out the other stuff on the blog. It's the right combo of informative and hilarious.

Monday, March 16, 2015


Paul D: A character of Toni Morrison's Beloved. A former slave.
Pauly D: A member of the Jersey Shore, a reality television show airing on MTV. Also owner of a huge hairstyle.
They are not the same person.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

What is Memory?

Since one of the largest motif's in Beloved is memory, I decided to look up what a memory actually is and how it works. I found out that there is no one place that our brains will store memory. Instead, the brain tends to divide a "memory" up into separate parts of its system and then put it back together later. For example, if you remember riding a bike then your knowledge of ho to ride a bike may be stored in one part, safety rules (or purposeful disobedience of them) may be in a different part, and the nervous feeling you get when a car veers too close may be stored elsewhere. Each element of a memory is encoded in the original part that created the fragment (visual cortex, language area, etc.). If you want to recall a memory, you need to reactivate the neural patterns created during the original encoding.

However, this kind of broken up storage leads to small alterations in memory and, with time, large changes. In Beloved there is particular emphasis on the infanticide memory, as we see it from the perspective of many different characters. Perhaps the reason Morrison added this was to ensure we did not find that the memory has been subconsciously changed to look far worse than it may have been in reality. After all, how much would you remembered after such a LONG period of time? If you're argument is "its something you would never forget, because of its atrociousness", then I can counter it. Those people who witnessed the events on September 11th, 2001 were very surprised to, years later, learn footage of the event was played on television the day AFTER it happened, not the day of the attack. The reason for this is that they had been going over the memory constantly in their heads so many times that they changed it. Many other witnesses also attested that, after being shown footage of the attack, said that "it didn't happened that way, it happened this way" and proceeded to tell what they remembered, and no too stories were similar.

Memory changes over time, and with it the emotion experienced during the actual events. It may be possible that Morrison wanted to assure the reader that the action they read about was exactly what happened by giving them multiple perspectives. I have seen other writers do the same thing to emphasize "realness". This may also be the reason why the infanticide we see in the book appears in a FLASHBACK and not a memory, further recognizing it as the truth.

Art in QuizBowl

I have grand news, everyone: our QuizBowl team has, for the first time in St. Martin's history, bested Jesuit, Lusher, et al. and won the State QuizBowl competition! Onward to Nationals. Beloved (heh) teammates, I thank you dearly. In the tournament, Iris and I noticed that we answered significantly more art questions correctly than we have in our past games (even I got some! Yay for us STEM folks!). So, I would also like to take a moment to thank Mrs. Quinet and Ms. King for introducing us to these artworks. Not only do they help with competition, but they make us more socialized contributors to society. A lot of renown engineering universities have begun emphasizing precisely this well-rounded approach to learning, as it increases the likelyhood that their graduates will be less socially awkward (I know, I know. Herculean task, Brobdingnagian feat, etc etc). Thanks for making me less geeky! (Though that sounds contradictory).

Marquez and Morrison

In class when we were discussing the chapter that is from Beloved point of view, we discussed how this chapter is formatted very differently from the others. Beloved's thoughts in this chapter allude to the Middle passage, and I brought up in class how Morrison might have chosen to format this chapter in this way to make a statement about how the past often seems fragmented in our minds. Memory is entirely subjective, and we all have a different perspective on how something occurred. When we were discussing this, I immediately thought about one of Marquez's quotes. I thought about using it for my yearbook quote because I truly love it. I think it shows well how Marquez and Morrison have some similarities in the way in which they view the present and the past and the role that they place in people's lives.

"What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it."- Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Be Colorbrave

This is a link to a TED Talk by Mellody Hobson. She is an African American woman who is the President of Ariel, a Chicago investment firm. She is also the Chairwoman of Ariel Mutual Funds and Dreamworks Animation. This is a lovely speech that she gave on diversity and opportunity for African Americans. It's worth the watch!

10 year old... enrolled in college?

Esther Okade, a 10 year old British-Nigerian living in Walsall, has recently enrolled the The Open University. A UK based distance learning college, she recently received a 100% on a recent exam. She's seriously already at the top of her class. She claims math is "super easy" and that "my mom taught me in a nice way." She wants to complete the course in two years and get a PhD in Financial Math by the time she's 13. She dreams of having a bank by the time she's 15, because she loves people and believes banks are a great way to help people. In fact, she wanted to start college when she was 7, but her mom said she was entirely too young, and to take it slow. Yeah, seriously. When I was seven I was just learning multiplication and monkey bars. She took the British Math GSCE Exam, and got an A at the age of 7. When she was younger, she wanted to start school at the age of 3. Her mother began homeschooling her, since school isn't required in Britain until age 5. She was outraged that she was never allowed to talk in school. Her mom began teaching her simple number skills, and by the age of 4 she had moved to algebra and quadratic equations. In addition, he little brother, Isaiah, will be sitting his first A Level Exam in June. He's 6. Esther is also writing a series of books for children called "Yummy Yummy Algebra" to teach others math, because "I want to show other children that they are special too. As long as you can add or subtract, you'll be able to do it." I was going to comment this on Isabel's about Children and Race, because it reminded me of this article from CNN. At age 15, I had achieved a permit; Ester wants to own a bank. I think she's a perfect inspiration for African- American students world-wide. She's one of the most incredible kids I've read about. Go Esther! I'll be buying your book because you're better at Math than I'll ever be.


The concept of time, or the lack thereof, is very important in Morrison's Beloved.

On p. 217 of Beloved, Morrison says, "As Sethe walked to work, late for the first time in sixteen year and wrapped in a timeless present, Stamp Paid fought fatigue and the habit of a lifetime." This quote relates to the Igbo concept of time where the future means "no time". The Igbo put a large emphasis on the present versus the future.

This concept reminded me of a quote from the song Another Day from Rent. The song lyrics are, "There is no future, there is no past. I live this moment as my last." In Rent, a lot of the characters have AIDS. They do not know if they will wake up in the morning or what day is their last day. One of the characters even dies during the show. However, they attempt to not focus on the future, and just live one day at a time.

Recreating Photographs

Janine Harper and her daughter Lily (age 5) decided to recreate photographs of influential black women in order to learn history in a fun, interactive way. She began researching and watching educational videos in order to better understand history. She then began with Bessie Coleman, who became the first African African woman to fly a plane in 1922. She then chose Admiral Michelle Howard who was the first female four star admiral in the Navy and the highest ranking black woman in the military. In addition, she covered musician Grace Jones and he first African American women accepted to NASA's training program and go into space, Mae Jemison. She also learned about Josephine Baker, a dancer who was so popular she demanded the clubs she danced in be segregated. FINALLY, she learned about Toni Morrison! I thought it was so cool when I saw he recreate one of Morrison's photographs. In Beloved, Sethe wants to keep Denver from her past; however, I think it's important that children learn about their past. I like how Lily wanted to learn about the females that came before her, and I just wanted to share these photographs!

Children on Race

These are all links to a study done by CNN on what children think about race. The results of the study are really sad, but unfortunately, are not shocking.

I thought of this study the other day when we were talking in class about how Morrison still uses white as a symbol of purity throughout the novel. In some of these videos, experts give children pictures of children that are identical except for their skin color. When the children were asked questions like, "Which of these children is the pretty child?" and "Which of these is the smart child?" the children pointed to the picture of the white child. When the children were asked, "Which of these is the bad child?" or "Which of these is the dumb child?" they repeatedly pointed to the picture of the black children. These responses are saddening and disheartening. They get right down to the root of racism in America - parents passing their racist ideas down to their children.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Sethe's choice

Personally, I understand Sethe's choice to commit infanticide (or as close as I can come to understanding it since I truly cannot begin to comprehend the horrors of slavery), yet I take a stance similar to Toni Morrison herself. I cannot support a decision like this simply because it isn't Sethe's choice whether to allow her children to live, ultimately it is their choice of whether to live or not, and she is taking away that choice. We talked about this a little in class, but I wanted to hear everyone's opinions on the matter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Bring on the Disney Hate

Continuing from last week's theme of hating on Disney, I thought I might post this fantastic Screen Junkies parody of Cinderella. Basically, these guys outline all the things about the original animated Disney classic that are misogynistic and/or absolutely insane. Since we are talking about the role of women and race in our discussion of Beloved, I think that this week's discussion of the role of women Cinderella and last week's discussion of race in The Princess and the Frog are incredibly appropriate. I hope y'all enjoy the video (especially the part with the mice...).


Across the Universe

Bonnie hates how obsessed I am with this movie, but I had to bring up this song. It is a Beatles song but I think the context that it is used in here is very powerful. Also the difference between the funeral of a white man and a black boy is evident. There is also a connection to what Mrs. Quinet was talking about in class today about how the man that dies on her face keeps himself alive by singing. This is what the boy is trying to do.

Chicken Run

 I know this is a stretch when it comes to relating an animated movie to Beloved, but Chicken Run reminds me a lot of certain elements of Beloved. This movie is about a group of chickens that are stuck on Mrs. Tweedy's farm. Mrs. Tweedy has planned to stop using them to lay eggs for her, and instead she will make them into chicken pot pies.  First of all you are presented with bird imagery. The thing that really connects it to Beloved to me is that the chickens are presented as if they are almost enslaved. They devise a plan to break free from this slavery. Since they cannot fly it will be hard for them to get away. Over the course of the movie they work to get free. Even though this takes place in England, I think if you watch the trailer or the movie you will see my point.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Nabokov's Lolita

Reading Beloved, I am occasionally reminded of a book on my current reading list, Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. In the book, Nabokov explores a hypothetical sexual attraction of an adult man to a 12 year old girl. While the book discusses at length questions of morality regarding the crime of pedophilia (which we in the majority of our society regard as abhorrent), it is praised as a champion of literary progressivism and for its beautiful use of language. Similarly, some of the passages in Beloved--especially the intricate subtlety of her word choice and syntax--just sound nice and carry momentous weight. This aesthetic appeal tied with the importance of the writing aid in driving Morrison's messages home.

Philip Glass... As heard in Ross's video

In Ross's video (amazing job, by the way), Koyaanisqatsi featured the compositions of Philip Glass. He has made compositions for several movies, and he is credited with kick starting the minimalist composition music. The music is characterized by repeated, seemingly basic motifs that change minimally after each repetition, eventually gathering to a climax. The plodding nature of his compositions could be why Reggio used them in his documentary, to signify the monotony of life today and it's severe consequences. My favorite composition of his, "It was Always you, Helen," has appeared in the movie Candyman and American Horror Story. Enjoy!

Toni Morrison's Nobel Lecture

I'm providing at link to Morrison's speech upon receiving her Nobel Prize in Literature. The speech itself contains many of the themes/motifs present in Beloved, such as an old, wise woman (or was it a man?), silence, and cultural struggle/alienation. Worth taking a look at to give you some context for Mortison writing Beloved.

Big Sisters

We talked in class a lot about Denver's obsession with taking care of Beloved. At some points, it seems a bit creepy, but at others it's rather sweet. Denver seems to know the entire time that Beloved is her sister.

The way that Denver dotes on Beloved somewhat reminds me of the stories I've heard of how my older sister reacted when I was born. (Although Beloved is technically the big sister, she is mentally younger than Denver, and Denver takes on the role of big sis.) Before I was born, my sister was so excited. She's the one who named me. Every morning she would kiss my mom's tummy and say "good morning, Isabel Emma". When I was born, my sister was even more excited. She came to the hospital in a shirt that said "I'm a big sister". She brought me a little stuffed animal that I still have to this day. She wanted to hold me. When I came home, she wanted to help with everything. She helped my mom give me my first bath, and so on and so forth.

I think that the some of the ways that Denver dotes on Beloved are natural, big sisterly, and cute. I do think that, however, her desperate need for Beloved's attention is extremely exaggerated because of Denver's isolation and desire for someone to care about/notice/need her.

Rememory at Dachau

When STM Europe went to the Dachau concentration camp over the summer, I experienced something like what Sethe describes as rememory.

The second that you walk into the camp, this feeling hits you. It's something that really can't quite be described. I felt very solemn and alone. The location was filled with memories and events so significant that they could not be separated from the place. The place that this feeling was most prominent was in the crematorium. I could not even bear to be inside of it for too long. I had to step outside because it was too much for me to handle.

These are some pictures from Dachau.

^The gate into the camp 

^^The above three pictures are memorials

^The crematorium sign

^A crematorium

^Another crematorium

^The above two pictures are inside the creamatorium

Quote from Toni Morrison

Whenever we are reading something in AP English/Humanities I like to look up quotes from the authors to see if I can glean anything from their spoken words and relate it to their written ones. For Toni Morrison and Beloved, I found this quote:

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game."

To me, this quote stuck out from the rest, in that it both brings up the idea of a community helping itself succeed and that it degrades the focus on individual wants and selfishness. In Beloved, we see this outlook on life many times. We see it in Sethe, who, as a mother, is focused on improving the lives of her children and helping them learn by telling them stories about her past. We see it in Denver, who tries desperately to keep Beloved away from anything that may, in her mind, corrupt the child-like innocence that is presented in Beloved's character, eve if it means keeping her away from what she wants most, Sethe. We even see it in Paul D, sometimes anyway, who feels suspicion and uncomfortableness about Beloved and thinks that she may harm the family he has come to have at 124. The idea of an interconnected relationship between members of a community even relates back to the traditional African ideals that we learned about in Things Fall Apart.

Toni Morrison has many other enlightening and inspiring quotes, I encourage you all to read some of them. Here's a link to a pretty good  quote website:

"Oh yes, the past can hurt, but you can either run from it or learn from it."

This clip from The Lion King reminds me a lot of Sethe and the issues she faces. The past/running from the past is a key part of Beloved. Sethe is forced to face a literal embodiment of her past when Beloved shows up at her doorstep. Until Beloved forces her to face her past, Sethe spends a large amount of time trying to forget, because the memories are so painful.

Question for the crowd: Do y'all think that Rafiki's advice could pertain to Sethe's situation?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

....Wait who actually is he?

We've all been posting on the blog three times a week since August, and we've become accustomed to seeing this photograph:

But, has anyone ever wondered who this man was? We can finally make a connected with the Toni Morrison quote that's been at the top of the blog for months, now it's time to learn about Gordon. Gordon fled his plantation home in March of 1836 after getting a severe whipping to his back. While he was recovering in bed, he planned his escape. When he left, the plantation owner and some neighbors attempted to trace him with bloodhounds, but Gordon was prepared. He rubbed onions all over his body to throw the dogs off scent. It worked! He escaped and made it to the Union Army in Baton Rouge after traveling over 80 miles. At this time, he was fatigued and badly bruised, but he decided to enlist in the Union Army. At this time, Lincoln had recently decided to allow Blacks to serve in the army in segregated units.  Gordon was one of 200,000 Blacks who were at the front of one movement, and I think that is pretty cool. Now, time to understand the reasoning behind this photo. When Gordon when in for his physical to join the army, he was asked to reveal his wound from his harsh treatment on the plantation. The two men that photographed him, McPherson and Oliver, soon sold mass quantities of the photo in the format of a carte-de-viste, a popular way of formatting at the time. His photograph was a hit with doctors, photographers and abolitionist around the country. Everyone was spreading the image around, and it was featured in Harper's Weekly  on July 4, 1863 along with two other images of Gordon. Records of him during the Civil War are scarce, and what became of him is unknown. We can still appreciate him, his Louisiana roots, and how he served as the truthful image of what slavery was in America at this time. 


Other photographs in Harper's Weekly

 "In his uniform as a U.S. soldier"
 "Gordon As He Entered Uur Lines"

Why I Hate Princess and the Frog

This post is actually a response to Bonnie's post on Disney's the Princess and the Frog. She drew a comparison between Mama Odie and Baby Suggs that I can definitely appreciate, but her post also made me think about Princess and the Frog and race. I love Disney but I've always had some issues with this movie. I think it's great that Disney finally decided to include an African-American princess in its lineup. Seriously, took them long enough. However, it bothers me that the movie, which is set in 1920s New Orleans, entirely glosses over the segregation present in that place and time. Instead, it avoids the issue by substituting sexism and socio-economic discrimination. Both sexism and classism were definitely issues that Tiana would have faced, but it bothers me that race is never mentioned. I realize that it's Disney and that they have to think about little kids, but I'd rather they not do a movie set in the pre-Civil Rights era South than gloss over that nasty part of our history.

What if...

Alex and I we talking at the end of class today and we had both had the same idea. When Paul D tells Sethe how Halle was present when her milk was stolen, she questions why Halle broke and she didn't and wishes that she had lost her mind along with him. What Alex and I were think was what if she did? What if Sethe's mind broke when her milk was taken or when Beloved was killed and the present day events of Beloved are going on in her head? It is possible that the physical and mental trauma she sustained at Sweet Home and after broke her so completely that she no longer truly lives in the "real" world. It would explain the physical manifestation of her immense guilt, Beloved. What do y'all think?

Slave interviews

I found this link on the Library of Congress. It's a collection of audio recordings of interviews conducted with former slaves. Some of the descriptions are haunting; others are terrifying. These acts described first hand really prove to be a powerful, moving experience - at least for me.

Why did he stay in the loft?

Treatment of runaway slaves that were recaptured was absolutely awful. Plantation owners felt the need to use them as an example to show the other slaves that they better not even think about attempting to escape. In Louisiana, all of these actions were even legal due to the "Black Code" put in place. This allowed slave owners to crop the ears, brand them on the shoulder, palms or face, or even cut leg tendons to prevent them from ever walking away again. Whipping slaves was also another common method of punishment - an extremely painful one at that. Slaves could be killed for something as little as saying something disrespectful to a white person. Imagine the punishment they would receive if they did something of this measure. To be a recaptured slave would have been the worst thing imaginable, unless of course you were a recaptured slave with triple manslaughter on your hands. This would have resulted in immediate (or perhaps a prolonged painful) death for the slave, viewed as no better than a pig for slaughter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Beloved & The Princess and the Frog

If you're well educated in your Disney princesses, you'll be familiar with Tiana, the princess from Louisiana. She's from the pretty recent Disney movie "The Princess and the Frog" in which a frog, who ends up being Prince Naveen, kisses Tiana, a small waitress from New Orleans. She turns into a frog, and the two go on an excursion to turn them back into humans. They go to the Bayou and meet Mama Odie, who is supposed to help them turn back. Instead, she tells them that the only way they can become human again is to "dig a little deeper" and find their true selves/ love themselves. This reminded me of the scene with the clearing in Beloved. Mama Odie reminded me of Baby Suggs in her song, especially with digging deeper and finding your true self. I thought I would share the song that she sings to Tiana and Naveen called "Dig a Little Deeper." It's fun and she reminds me of Baby Suggs uniting everyone at the Clearing.