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.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Harold & Maude

I first saw part of this movie in high school. My first impression was that it was weird and I didn’t really understand what was going on. First of all, my teacher only showed us a brief portion of this movie. Second, I don’t think I really paid any attention. Seeing a portion of the movie out of context was really confusing and turned me off from this movie. I didn’t view enough of the film to get the theme or meaning behind what was happening. After seeing it for a second time I absolutely love this movie. For most of the movie we were all hysterically laughing and it really is a “feel good” movie.

I thought the contrast between Harold and Maude was vital to the movie being so good and odd at the same time. Other than the obvious difference in age, Maude loved to live and Harold loved “being dead.” Although he didn’t really love death (especially when Maude decided it was her time to go), but wanted to recreate his mother’s reaction to thinking he had been killed in a tragic chem. lab accident. Harold wanted to feel loved and worthwhile (it was a cry out for attention). Throughout his life he had been given everything (material wise) but his mother never showed him any affection or said that she loved him; she just seemed to enjoy controlling every aspect of his life (the kind of car he drove, who he dated, etc). Maude filled this void and showed Harold attention, affection and love.

This movie absolutely could never be recreated again successfully. Even during the time period it was made I think it would have been extremely difficult to find actors that could make it work, and definitely not today. Between Harold’s priceless facial expressions and Maude’s ability to show how she still thinks she’s hot, (even at 80) I do think it would be nearly impossible to recreate. Harold and Maude is such an odd movie that it teeters between being terrible and extraordinary. One mistake could ruin the entire movie; this movie is so great because it hits every topic just right, whether it is comedy, romance, inspiration, and even the political undertones. When we were discussing in class who would play these characters today, we could only imagine how it would turn out ha!

In the movie Harold says, “I haven’t lived, I’ve died a few times.” I think living with his mother almost made Harold feel as life wasn’t worth living. The poor kid was crying out for attention and to be treated like a normal kid. He could be given anything on a silver platter, and his mother literally suffocated him on a daily basis. Who wants to live by being suffocated? When Harold met Maude he felt as if he had been given life. Maude’s character is everything that Harold’s mother isn’t and Harold loves that aspect. As Harold’s mother is naming off the questions from the dating service and answering them, her answers are very conventional, whereas Maude is very unconventional and free.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Celestina Presentation

I really enjoyed this lecture on human subjectivity. Reading the play Celestina, I was very captivated by the humorous parts. This play differs from the traditional Romeo and Juliet timeless love story by the realistic portrayal of human weakness and longing. Each of the main characters shares the tragic flaw of loving an image. At the end of the lecture we concluded that humans are in love with being in love. Whenever our desires for the time being are fulfilled we may experience instant gratification, but then desire something else. There is a never ending cycle of unfulfilled desires that continues throughout our lives. I like this play because it echoes something that everyone experiences in their loves. Not everyone experiences a timeless love story as Romeo and Juliet, but everyone identifies with desiring something and the search to fulfill those desires.

Also, we discussed the power of the image. The fact that an image has no agency on its own, but is so powerful is a fascinating concept. Calisto and Melibea fall in love with the image of perfection, which they believe the other embodies. When we fall in love we love the image of the person, but this image is not true. We may say that we get caught up in being in love that we reject the imperfections that the person has. We have an idealized image of who we want the person to be and how they will make our lives complete, but we know this isn’t the case. Maybe there is an incompleteness that all humans are looking for another person to fill; we want to believe that this person is the end all and will make us “happy.” “Happiness” being a fleeting emotion until reality sets in. Like when you first begin dating someone it’s all fun and games, but once you’ve established a serious long lasting relationship you begin to have to deal with serious relationship issues. I think it’s interesting how this cycle of desire continues throughout our entire lives. We think we are truly happy with the person that we love, we think that our dream job makes us truly happy, we think that moving will make us happy…all these things can and usually do change in an instant when we least expect it, then we continue looking for the next thing to “really make us happy” and so on.

I like how the end of our discussion tied in together nicely, it’s simply what it means to be human. We are meant to have unfulfilled desires and trying to constantly fill these with whatever will make us “happy” at the time. The journey and learning are the most important part of being human. One thing in our lives is not going to fulfill all of our desires, hope and dreams; it’s more about accepting what actually will happen and learning from the not so perfect things we encounter. How could we appreciate the good if we didn’t have the bad? We must learn that one “thing” cannot make us entirely happy, or even a combination of “things.” Life is guaranteed to throw you curveballs, so you must be prepared to deal with these. As humans we must accept that change will always be consistent and we need to adapt our lives in order to maintain sanity.

And this reminds me of a Grey’s Anatomy quote:
"Maybe we're not supposed to be happy. Maybe gratitude has nothing to do with joy. Maybe being grateful means recognizing what you have for what it is. Appreciating small victories. Admiring the struggle it takes to simply be human. Maybe, we're thankful for the familiar things we know. And maybe we're thankful for the things we'll never know. At the end of the day, the fact that we have the courage to still be standing is reason enough to celebrate"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Rape is Funny" Presentation

I really found this topic interesting and I’m glad that we were able to discuss this topic. As society continues to push the envelope, I think that we become numb to certain things. For instance some rape jokes may not have any humor whatsoever, but do we laugh just because that is the expected response and we’ve been conditioned to thinking things such as rape are funny? I think the major issue about rape jokes is the context in which the joke occurs. If a television show or comedian uses in the joke in a witty, tasteful way than the joke can be genuinely appropriate. These jokes make us think and get us somewhere. When jokes are made in a vile manner, for no constructive purpose than it becomes too much. I think people do use the “it’s not me” card and separate themselves so far from the situation that rape jokes may seem funny in any context. By saying “it’s not me” we draw attention away from the real problem and tastefully done jokes can make us think about the bigger picture.

The quote that got me really thinking was the one about if we aren’t able to control rapes in prison with gates and guards with guns than how will we able to stop it from happening in the outside world? This is so true. There is obviously the stereotype of if you go to prison you will be raped and made “someone’s bitch.” The frightening part is that law enforcement may be able to do more to stop this treatment of prisoners, but they don’t. There is the misconception that all prisoners are low lives and deserve what’s coming to them. As we discussed, there is a difference between a teen caught with marijuana and someone that has murdered and raped. As many believe that all prisoners may deserve this treatment, I think that’s a broad generalization that needs to be reviewed.

The different laws ranging from state to state really gets me angry. It’s so dumb that someone can do something disgusting in one state and get off with a pat on the wrist and in another they would go to jail. This is where I don’t understand the legal system at all. I’m not saying that there needs to be one universal law, but at least some consistency and something that makes sense. The law we discussed in Mass., when a woman has a regret within 24 hrs and can accuse a guy of raping her (or something like that, I don’t know the exact law) got me thinking. Laws like this are frightening because I’m sure people have used it to incriminate innocent people. These types of laws leave gray areas which are tricky.

As far as the South Park episode, I haven’t seen the entire thing and I’m not sure that I want to. From the small clip that we watched I think that they may have went overboard. I like South Park and everything that they do is generally clever. I know that South Park is known for pushing limits, but if there was no point or wit about the rape scenes than I don’t agree that it should have been so graphic and in depth. I would understand the scenes if it raised some relevant questions and got people thinking about issues, but I agree that it might have just been too much and unnecessary…

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Requiem for a Dream

I think this movie is brilliant. I have seen it once many years ago and remember it being very intense. During the movie last night I thought “I remember this being a lot more disturbing”…well I must have thought that too early because then the ending came and was even more intense than I remember. The movie makes my stomach turn, but I think it is reality and necessary for people to see. I like how there is no stereotypical happy ending or even a glimmer of hope…as horrible as that may sound. As we discussed in class we Americans need to have hope at the end of our movies, but this movie broke that stereotype. With a movie that begins with a son stealing his mother’s TV and selling it for drug money and the mom buying back the TV on a routine basis, the ending is going to be anything but “good” or “hopeful.”

The effects really make this movie. Without the visual and audio effects that were used I don’t think the film would be half as powerful. Especially at the end in the midst of all the character’s downward spiraling the images are all meshing together and it just looks and sounds really cool, but super horrible (like it’s supposed to be) at the same time. The characters are all connected but also so disconnected at the same time.

When watching this movie I wrote the word ADDICTION on my paper, I don’t know why I wrote it all in uppercase letters but I just felt compelled. Watching this movie I felt like I was almost experiencing an addiction because of the intensity. The question “how far will people go?” kept lingering in my mind. I love this movie because it almost makes you feel as though you are the character or at least can see things from their perspective and why they would do these things in order to keep living, which contradicts itself because it is causing their downfall and bringing them closer to death.

In class we discussed the question “what is a drug?” Usually we just think of hard drugs, pot and maybe alcohol, but this movie makes us wonder about how dieting and things that we don’t normally associate with being a drug. Sarah was addicted to the thought of being thin and able to fit in her red dress. Also, one could argue that her addiction to the TV and being on TV were also similar to drugs. She had multiple addictions in addition to her diet pills that were a drug in itself. I think that Sarah was the worst off in comparison to all the characters. Tyrone, Marianne and Harry all became addicts in a social group setting. Sarah became addicted to TV, being on TV, diet pills and this combination literally made her go crazy. She was a lonely old woman that got excited about an opportunity to be on television, which turned out pretty much ruining her life…