Thursday, April 30, 2009

"Lines of Pain"

This lecture was a great one to end off the semester because it really shows the universality of pain; no matter who you are you experience pain. Pain can be translated into different languages by people of every origin. Although, some translators do a better job than others, it shows that people from all over the world experience pain and it’s no different than anyone else. Also, some can find similarities in their pain to others and relate to people in which they have no other commonalities. For instance, Andromache and Dido were both very different characters, yet their pain on multiple levels show that they may have experienced very similar feelings. Scholars may argue with this, but the lecture made a strong point of conveying both women experiencing multiple levels of pain.

I found it very interesting how the poem about the mother’s son dying sounded so beautiful when read in its original language. It sounded like a beautiful song, so it was weird to think that it was about her child being killed. During the lecture we discussed that the mother was finding comfort in knowing that her son died for a reason during political struggles. Although this may be the case, I found it intriguing that a poem about death could sound so beautiful and songlike. Even though we may not understand the poems in foreign languages, I liked hearing it because it gave the poem something more. The original language that the poems were written in definitely has a sound that cannot be replicated when translated into other languages.

Also, poems are great because you can find multiple meanings in them. There is no right or wrong answer. You are able to interpret what you get out of reading the poem. In novels or short stories there is usually a general theme or something the author wants you to take away from the reading. The same might be true with poems, but there is also a lot of room for self interpretation due to the ambiguous meanings.

This is true in the poem “The Goat.” At first reading through it I wasn’t sure what the author was trying to convey. Then after reading it a few more times some key words hinted me in the right direction (sorrow’s eternal, unchanging voice, Semitic face, creaturely existence). These words helped to convey that there is was something more than just one’s personal pain, it was everyone’s pain, from animal to human. The beauty of poetry is that someone may find a different meaning in the poem and that’s fine.

Poems like “The Goat” are important because they show us that even though we may feel at the time we are the only ones suffering, that’s not the case. All of life suffers and has to deal with life’s struggles at some point or another. Poems may help us to deal with our pain and find refuge in knowing that we are not alone.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Confederate States of America

I expected this movie to be purely a documentary, and not expecting them to use humor in any way…but I was completely incorrect. This movie was genius. We discussed how when a movie makes you laugh then question what you were laughing at, it’s pretty effective. At first, I wasn’t sure what to think, this movie seemed so real that it was frightening. The frightening part was that this is what could have happened because the historical facts seemed on point for the most part. It’s crazy to think how different events could have changed the whole path of history.

At first I thought the commercials were very offensive, yet had a comical element that almost gives you a bad feeling. Some things were completely over the top and not comical to me whatsoever, but there were some things that were humorous (because it makes you think). It was humorous because it was horrible (and you couldn’t believe it), but also because of that element of truth that runs throughout the movie. You don’t know whether to laugh or not and if you cannot help but laugh, you then feel bad. But then at the end they tell us that a lot of these products were actually sold, and in some cases up until the 1980’s, which is mind blowing! The 1980’s were not that long ago and some of these products were very offensive. Throughout the movie I never would have thought that these products were actually on the market, but this movie does twist real things and events and gives us a wakeup call when we’re thinking “oo that would never happen.”

The satire used is important because it really makes us think, what if?? The humor is necessary because otherwise this would look like a historical documentary and not get the audience’s attention. The commercials were necessary in getting our attention, if it was just a documentary the audience would not be forced to think about “the big picture” and would probably miss a lot of the information. They did an excellent way of mixing the documentary style with the commercials to ensure keeping the attention of the audience.

One part of the movie that sticks out in my head was the comment about wasting “human livestock.” As we discussed in class this attitude is extremely American and is scary, but true. Hitler’s character was glorified, as he had the right idea. Then the Americans thinking that since you have all this man power, you should use it!

I thought the ending was perfect. Pretty much just telling us, throughout the movie you may have thought that these commercials were outlandish and sometimes comical, but these things actually existed and even though you may not realize it, things like these still exist today. The perfect ending because, like throughout the movie, it asks the viewer to think about society as we know it today and question beliefs of ours.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Performance of Pain: Women & the Sport of Triathlon

This lecture was very interested and related very well to the lecture the previous week about theatrical performance. The part that captured my attention was physically seeing people struggling to finish the Iron Man Competition and stopping at nothing to do so. I can see how it would be awesome to finish the race and call yourself an Iron Man, but it also looks gruesome as people are injured and crawling past the finish line. It’s frightening seeing people’s bodies just giving out and as hard as they try to pick themselves up cannot do it. I get tired at the gym after one hour; I can’t even imagine training for 8-10 hours a day!!! I think it’s great that these people are battling themselves just to finish the race, and not too interested in “beating” everyone else. I can see the pleasure in all of the pain, being proud and finishing something that you pushed yourself to extreme limits to accomplish. A sense of unity is shown as people help one another and encourage everyone to finish the race, which is very different than most competitive sports.

Also, I thought it was very interesting how women were portrayed very different from the men…they both were in the Iron Man Competition, but the women were seen as smiling and soft and the men were considered rough and all business. Even with the participants that are overcoming adversities, women are portrayed as an emotional story, as males are still seen as more tough. In reality, I think women should get more recognition from being tough because they are finishing an extremely difficult athletic event that no one’s body is supposed to handle, plus they are at a disadvantage because men’s bodies are genetically engineered to be more athletic. Rather than showing them as soft women, these women should be shown as tough warriors. Just because the cameras catch the women smiling doesn’t mean that they should be made to seem less tough than any of the male competitors, when in reality they may be a better athlete than all of the men.

I think the Danskin race is really great because anyone can finish it if they train and put their mind to it. Not everyone can train 8-10 hours a day for the Iron Man Competition, but the Danskin allows middle aged women to show that they can train, finish the competition and show that they are athletes. Also, these women don’t look like bikini supermodels from magazines; they are average and even overweight women that are still showing that they can be athletic and fit. I think races that everyone can accomplish if they work hard are more important than the ridiculously difficult races. I know the more difficult races may help people get personal recognition, but the everyday races help everyone to feel a sense of athletic accomplishment. Not everyone may be an Iron Man, but almost everyone can complete more simple athletic races if they train hard.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Pain, Performance & Identity

This lecture was amazing. So much was said I don’t even know where to begin. In terms of language shaping the individual or the individual creating language, that is an interesting question. The thought that comes to mind is a person that is born deaf. They may not be exposed to any language, but may learn to speak and other ways to communicate, but this doesn’t make them any less of a human. Some argue that we don’t become people unless we process things through language or a narrative, but I think we as people have the ability to create our own narrative from the beginning without any road map telling us our story. I think that saying language itself defines us is giving language too much credit and undermining the individual. Sometimes language does fail us, some pain we cannot put into words.

Wow were those video clips of Bob Flanagan and Ron Athey intense. The concept of acting out your inner anguish makes sense, but it’s a whole different story when you actually see and hear them acting out the self torture and S & M performances. The question that arose in discussion was, is the performance real or theatrical? Was the performance crossing over to the real or just a performance for an intended audience? I think that these performances do show real pain, both physical and mental but also depends on the perception from the audience. On the other hand, one can argue that life itself is a performance and we are just acting for an audience.

One may think that this is an intended performance for an audience, possibly just to seek attention and recognition. Another may believe that this is their true life suffering demonstrated in this real performance. There is no argument that these men and others are suffering from real emotional and physical pain in their everyday lives, but is their performance intended for an audience? Or to help themselves deal with the reality of their illness? I think that these both may be true. They may want their audience to almost in a way feel their pain (watching these performances is “painful” to watch) and also this helps them to “control” or deal with their everyday pain that they must endure with being ill. I think it’s very interesting how Flanagan discusses his excruciating pain towards the end of his life. It seems as though the involuntary pain due to illness is more painful than anything he can voluntarily inflict upon himself. From a man that has voluntarily nailed the head of his penis to a board; the pain from his illness must be absolutely indescribable.

I think that no matter what you may believe, one has to find a way that helps them to deal with their pain in their own personal manner, whether it’s poking yourself with sharp objects or painting in the comfort of your own home. I think it is ridiculous how doctors and others try to deny people’s pain. This may cause people to feel the need to “act out” their actual pain, in order for people to believe they are hurting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Everything is Illuminated

I had no idea what this movie was about before watching it in class. I was extremely tired and in a terrible mood from spending 10 hours in the library and was pleasantly surprised to catch myself laughing throughout this film. I assumed that this film would just have a serious tone, but it caught my attention because of the comedy throughout the movie.

I think that the comedy in this film is very affective at getting the viewer’s attention. I think it is a film with a serious theme, but appeals to our age group because of the brilliant use of humor. There were many parts in the film when everyone couldn’t help but to laugh. I think if the film had no humor than the audience reach would significantly decrease, because people always want to laugh but need to be in the right state of mind to watch a sad and serious movie. “Seeing eye bitch” was just priceless…

Alex and Jonathan were both great characters, opposites, yet so alike in many ways; two adolescent males trying to find their place in the world. When watching both characters you can’t help but to be entertained, Alex in his track suit, gold chains and rap music and Jonathan with his awkward demeanor, oversized glasses and obsession with collecting things in plastic bags.

I also loved the grandfather, because from the start you could tell that something was going on with him. The look in his eyes and his unusual compassion for Jonathan foreshadowed some secret. I guessed his secret was going to be that he was a guard at the camp and was responsible for killing Jonathan’s ancestors, but I was surprised when we found out that he was Jewish because he seemed to poke fun at Jewish people…I guess he didn’t want to associate with being Jewish after almost being killed because of it, makes sense. He seemed like a hard ass at first and then softened up for the audience to really enjoy his character. I think his character was the most touching because of the way he isolated himself from the past.

Although it may not be obvious, each character in the film has to deal with some kind of pain. Jonathan’s pain is in not knowing his past history and being obsessed with not forgetting experiences throughout his life. Alex seems confused, doesn’t seem to get along with his family, and finds out his family history is very different than he has known throughout his life. The grandfather has the most obvious pain, living with a secret that eats away at him.

I think the ending was interesting when the grandfather has passed. Alex says that this was the first time that he has seen his grandfather at peace. I think this is very important because even when he talked to the old woman from Trachimbrod, his character still seemed agitated (one would think he would feel a sense of relief). The grandfather’s traumatic past and living with his secret has taken a toll and his pain was gone as he lay at rest in peace.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"I believe that was some sort of pain cry"

The woman that argued a performance artist staging someone shooting him in the arm, isn’t art was very hypocritical. She didn’t realize that her reaction was something that art tries to do; make people think, get them angry, get them talking. In that instance that piece was more artistic than all the other pieces that we viewed because we were stuck talking about it. She was fulfilling the artists’ whole purpose of their work.

One of my classmates raised an excellent point: “I do not think the question is what is art? but what is good art?” You may not like a piece or understand it, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t art. It’s not art but it’s the piece that got the most discussion, and arts main focus is to get people thinking and talking (hello). Art is about challenging people, not just about being aesthetically beautiful.

My favorite artist from the lecture was Sue Williams. I’ve seen her work a couple times and never realized what the real message was. I got too caught up in the beauty of it, assuming that it was about something beautiful, which it’s not. I like how the artwork contrasts doodles, a fun subject, with painful past experiences. No one would ever expect doodles of that type of subject matter, but it’s very cool that she thought to do this. I also really enjoy Carol Walker’s work. I think twisting situations is a really interesting, brilliant way to depict things. The silhouettes have no color, so the situation can be twisted or taken in original context; the identities are fairly unknown (being silhouettes) so the reader can put themselves in each character’s place.

The piece that had the most effect on me was the photographs of the pregnant mother shooting up and the baby in the coffin. I think these were the most powerful because they were photographs; the picture looked very realistic it wasn’t just a painting. Also, it’s one thing if the woman wanted to hurt herself, but she’s hurting/killing an innocent life. I think everyone was especially reactionary to these pieces because of the child involved in the situation.

I really find all the performance art interesting. I like how artists push boundaries, but it then raises the question when have they gone too far? Will anything ever be too provocative even for artists to depict? Nowadays we see it all, so I don’t know much more that would push limits, but it’s possible. Then when I think about the woman that cut off her cuticles and dipped them in milk, I believe there are countless amounts of things people can do that most others would never think of. I like seeing an idea that I would never think of in a million years carried out in a thoughtful, relevant manner.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

9/11 Literature

This lecture was very interesting and created a great discussion. There is so much to discuss that I don’t even know where to begin. First off, the Esquire article about the falling man was fascinating; I couldn’t turn away from reading it. The part of the article that I couldn’t stop thinking about was the family that instantly rejected the idea of the falling man being related to them, that he couldn’t be their father, brother or husband. That really bothered me that a family would denounce this person that has chosen to die this particular way, compared to possibly being suffocated by smoke. This brings up the point about why suicide is looked down upon in society. I really don’t think anyone has a right to judge these people and their decisions unless they were in their shoes, and we all know that the people judging have no idea what it feels like to be one of the victims in the towers on that day. The “mass suicide” wasn’t a random decision that people decided to make, it was because the extenuating circumstances left them to make a choice: how would you rather die? While I was reading the article I thought to myself, why can’t the choice to jump or fall be seen as heroic? I know traditionally suicide is looked down upon, but how can people be so inhumane. In the Esquire the girl says something along the lines of, “That piece of shit is not my father.” I was appalled that she would talk about an innocent victim in such a horrible manner. I think making the decision to jump is very heroic and brave. How could anyone judge that wasn’t in the towers on 9/11?

I do think that the painting of the twins representing the towers and also the picture of the falling man are aesthetically beautiful; these being denounced by critics for being “too beautiful.” We don’t want to believe that something beautiful can be created out of the tragic event that took place. Literature and art may not be able to accurately depict the trauma of what went on; testimony may be better at this. We have discussed that in times of intense pain words can even fail us. But I do think that literature and art are important pieces to help us reflect on what occurred. As we picked apart pieces of the painting we all saw different things whether it was naivety, blind justice, sacrifice or something else. I think this is important because it helps us cope with what occurred and possibly give some closure.

I really like the ending of the Esquire article, “That we have known who the Falling Man is all along.” This raises a lot of ideas about “the bigger picture.” Has humanity fallen? As we discuss the falling man we isolate it from ourselves, but in reality we are all the falling man. We experienced 9/11 as a national tragedy, whether that brings us together or apart. It’s a fact that we were attacked on our own soil when we believed that we were untouchable. When people criticize the falling man and others for their brave decisions, they are insulting all of humanity because we are all falling and maybe just don’t realize it.