On Boats and Containment

I have been trying to write this post for a while now, but only recently did Professor McCoy provide me with the lens to critically think about what I am attempting to discuss in this post- containment.

I grew up on boats, yet I am terribly afraid of drowning. Starting at age four, my father and I went on canoe camping trips every year in the Adirondacks. I started sailing with him at age six, and at age ten, I learned to sail on my own. My family vacations always include water, usually going to the Thousand Islands or the Adirondacks and bringing a few of our eleven and a half boats (my dad is currently building one) with us. To add insult to injury, I was a competitive swimmer in high school. What I am trying to say is that I have absolutely no reason to be afraid of drowning. Continue reading “On Boats and Containment”

Monty Python and the Black Plague as a Model for the Zombie Apocalypse

When reading Zone One, the phrase “Bring out your dead.” really stuck out to me for some reason that at first I couldn’t place. Then, it hit me: it reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I have embedded the clip above, but essentially, the person collecting the bodies of those who died from the Black Death calls “bring out your dead!” Eventually, around a minute in, one person tries to drop off a “body” that isn’t dead and hilarity ensues. [Sidenote: if you’ve never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail or the musical version Spamalot, please do.]

Besides the obvious parallel between a not-dead body and the skels of Zone One, Colson Whitehead is clearly referencing the body disposal practices from the Black Death era as performed in this skit, performing a memory of another plague and another time of need for the prevention of the spread of disease. Continue reading “Monty Python and the Black Plague as a Model for the Zombie Apocalypse”

Tarot Cards and Cycles

In class on Monday, we viewed tarot cards made after Hurricane Maria by artist Jo Cosme. Because this class is so much about origins, I, of course, had to look up the history of tarot cards, and what I found was very different than what I thought I would find. Tarot cards are much beloved by people like one of my high school friends, who genuinely believes in astrology and aspires to be a Wiccan. As such, I thought that tarot cards would have their origins in some sort of religious or occult context.

Instead, what I found was that tarot cards originated in Italy as a game for the upper class. At first, tarot cards were simply like a fancy card deck, commissioned by the upper class to play games like bridge. Later versions emerging in the 14th or 15th century were not unlike M*A*S*H*,  the game kids used to play to “predict” their fortune in elementary and middle school. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon. This same article cites artist Bill Wolf, who designed a very popular limited edition tarot deck. Wolf speculates that tarot cards were a sort of “choose-your-own-adventure style card game.”

Continue reading “Tarot Cards and Cycles”

Whatever Happened to Ivor Van Heerden?

When going back over When the Levees Broke for the recently due essay, I remembered a figure that Professor McCoy (quite a while ago) recommended we look further into. This figure is Ivor Van Heerden, formerly the deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, fired after Hurricane Katrina with no reason given.

In Levees, Van Heerden was the one who made the models predicting that the levees would break under the force of Katrina’s flooding. After the storm, he publicly blamed the United States Army Corps of Engineer, saying they were directly to blame for the deaths and damage done by Hurricane Katrina. This drew a lot of fire from Louisiana State University. He even wrote a book about it called The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina-the Inside Story from One Louisiana Scientist, published in 2007. In 2009, LSU chose not to renew his contract (which ended in May 2010). The reason given was that Van Heerden was bringing bad press to the university, which would lead to decreased funding from the state government. Continue reading “Whatever Happened to Ivor Van Heerden?”

A Further Exploration of Names and Hurricanes

Feminine-named hurricanes are more deadly than ones with male names. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and repeated again and again by news sources looking for an easy story, this is because female names create expectations about severity levels and the need for evacuation.

Specifically, feminine-named hurricanes are seen as less likely to be severe and dangerous because of stereotypes around women, the study suggests. As a result, people do not evacuate and there is a higher death rate because of it.

This study has, since its publication in 2014, been questioned due to certain procedures the researchers used, including doing little to control for storm severity, which has nothing to do with the name. These are picked out years in advance. However, the fact remains that male-named storms still do have fewer deaths on average, and it’s an interesting concept to explore in the context of Roach and Blood Dazzler. Continue reading “A Further Exploration of Names and Hurricanes”

Remembrance and Forgetting: Who Benefits?

I first came across the work of Rudyard Kipling as a child. My favorite Disney movie was (and still is) The Jungle Book. You can imagine my surprise when I first encountered Kipling’s other works in a sociology class in relation to colonialism; in that class, we read “The White Man’s Burden” and “Gunga Din.” In this blog post, I will be addressing “The White Man’s Burden,” an 1899 poem encouraging the United States to join in on imperialism. Continue reading “Remembrance and Forgetting: Who Benefits?”

La Vie Bohème

In class, the word bohemian was used to describe New Orleans’ red light district, the origin of the venerated Baby Dolls tradition. The word choice felt a little bit off in context of today’s meaning of bohemian, but historically, this has not been the case.

Part of my discomfort with the use of bohemian in that context comes from my experience working at the mall over the summer. When it came to clothes, we had three “trends” for women: sporty, pretty, and boho. So, I spent my entire summer trying to label people’s style as bohemian or one of the other two. In my mind, bohemian became associated with flowy clothes, floral patterns, and musical festivals.

However, my classmate was right to use bohemian in the context of Storyville in New Orleans. Only recently has bohemian come to have the connotations of young 20-somethings going to Coachella, fairy lights and tapestries in dorms, and a certain style of dress. Continue reading “La Vie Bohème”

Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression

Last semester, I went to the event Professor McCoy and Steve Prince organized on Main Street, where students, faculty, and community members alike were invited to create woodblock prints that were then arranged around one that Prince had created. The focus of the piece was trauma and healing, inspired by the trials and tribulations of Emmeline the bear, who was run into by cars multiple times. As such, I immediately recognized Prince’s art style when confronted with it in class in the piece Katrina’s Veil: Stand at Gretna Bridge, pictured belowPrince Katrina's Veil Stand at the Gretna Bridge .jpgImage Credit

Prince’s work deals with remembrance: in the case of his project at Geneseo, remembering trauma and moving on from it, and in his series done in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, remembering and bearing witness to the atrocities caused by the hurricane, but also by those in power that we are supposed to trust, namely the police and the government.

This brings me to the quote from Roach’s “Echoes in the Bone” that has so vexed and fascinated the class: “Echoes in the bone refer not only to a history of forgetting but to a strategy of empowering the living through the performance of memory” (34). What does it mean to “empower the living?” More importantly, how can we both forget and remember? Continue reading “Art and Empowerment: The Performance of Memory Through Artistic Expression”