Awareness and Responsibility: Final Reflective Essay

To me, Dionne Brand’s epigraph “my job is to notice… and to notice that you can notice” speaks about how actively we must listen and pay attention, both in school and in life. Beyond that, we should use what we have learned to the benefit of ourselves and others. Keeping this epigraph in mind has helped me appreciate more what makes my life comfortable, realize my limitations and my advantages, and learn to be a more respectful person.

Initially, Brand’s quote speaks to an awakening, that realization that you’re noticing something previously in the peripheral vision of your mind. Throughout the course of the semester, there were various times both in and out of class in which I felt awakened, like something finally clicked. One such moment occurred when we took a class trip to the heating plant on campus. As I stood staring at the crisscrossing maze of colored pipes and tubes that covered the walls and ceiling of the plant, it dawned on me that beyond the few janitors and cleaning persons I had met over my time living on campus I had no concept of the complex system of working peoples that sustain SUNY Geneseo. Just like those pipes, every worker was at times alone and at times interacting with each other, but all were part of a greater institution that I have massively underappreciated. Continue reading “Awareness and Responsibility: Final Reflective Essay”

Fly on a Wall

Fly on a Wall film making refers to a style of shooting in which the camera crew is as unobtrusive as possible. The people who are filmed are real people, not actors, and the situations they are put in are also real. As a huge fan of the reality show Survivor, I immediately associated this technique with the show, and as we researched this in class I found I was not alone. Among Survivor were other reality shows like Big Brother, Deadliest Catch, etc. All of these were referred to as using the fly on the wall technique.

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Faith, Doubt, and the Big Machine

Yesterday in class when discussing in groups some of the ways Big Machine connected to large course themes, Andrew Weber brought up an interesting point about the concept of doubt. For me, doubt and faith have always been at odds with each other; however he said the opposite. He viewed doubt as an essential part of faith, stating that without doubt, faith is superficial. Just because we question religion does not mean we lack faith, merely that our faith is deep enough that we can ask ourselves about it without wavering.

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Bloodchild: Master to Slave or Partner to Partner?

After reading Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild and the afterword, controversy was sparked in class over Butler’s dismissal of the reading of her sci-fi short story as alluding to slavery. As I recall, there were a few in class who had interpreted it as such. I’ve written prior blog posts about Bloodchild and really enjoyed the read and how it dealt with Gan’s blooming maturity and the alien (I mean alien in the sense of foreign to me, not extraterrestrial) love shared between him and T’Gatoi.

I don’t agree with Butler that her story can’t be read as alluding to slavery because I feel no right to decide how people interpret something, but at the same time I think there are some key aspects of the story missed by those who read it this way.

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The Face of Goodness May Surprise You

In class discussion yesterday, Maria Papas brought up this passage from Big Machine to support her argument that the book does not glorify substance abuse:

“Go and tell someone the worst thing about yourself. Cheated on a husband. Abused your child. Or, like in my case, that you’ve been addicted to heroin for half your life. Just tell them that and nothing else. You find that people come up with an entire history based on that one fact. They assume the worst about you.” p.95

To me, this quote speaks about perception and first impressions, a topic I’ve written about before and am interested in. Immediately I was reminded of the quote I picked out last Friday from Big Machine

“The face of goodness may surprise you.” p.265

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The Hero’s Journey

I’m currently taking American Visions: The Hero in Film with Professor Gillin. In this class we discussed the classic hero structure presented in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces. This book analyzes in depth fairy tales and folk lore across many cultures, looking for similarities in the stories. Campbell boils down the structure of the classic hero adventure tale into segments.

I thought it would be fun to see if I could fit Ricky Rice’s character arc in LaValle’s big machine into Campbell’s theory. Continue reading “The Hero’s Journey”

The Theme of Outcasts in African American Literature and Societal Views on Persons with Disabilities

Our society rarely recognizes how negatively we view those who are different from us. This motif is rampant in Big Machine as well as present in other works we’ve read throughout the class like “Bloodchild”. We cast out the strange, the weird, in favor of “normal”. We shun people who aren’t like us into groups and labels that keep us further divided. Outcasts, those who don’t conform, who don’t fit, they’re called. Just like the homeless man in the beginning of Big Machine, we cast those who aren’t normal to us off the bus and into the cold.

As was pointed out in The Last Angel of History, people who struggle against the institutions that continue to promote the concept of an in-group versus an out-group are made to feel alien, like they don’t belong. And while we can realize this, it is innate in humans to want to feel accepted, to be normal.

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For Gus (thank you for cleaning our suite sophomore year)

Right now I’m sitting in Newton 213 frantically attempting to finish these blog posts that I so irresponsibly left to the last minute (classic, I beg forgiveness) as maintenance workers mop the floor around me and reorganize the chaotic mess the desks have become from the day of classes back into nice, neat rows, meticulously spraying and wiping each one, save mine. I can’t help but be brought back to our classes trip to the campus heating plant and the ensuing discussion on things we rarely think about or take for granted.

Often I forget it takes a whole team of probably hundreds of humans to maintain this campus. While we sip our Starbucks or coalesce in common rooms or attempt our assignments, they work at all hours to maintain and sustain us. Without them life at SUNY Geneseo would be unsustainable, and yet rarely does their service enter my mind. Everyday at the beginning of class we rearrange our desks into a jumbled ellipse, and miraculously next class period they’re back into rows without us so much as lifting a finger.

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Possession, Interpretation, and Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild

With the development of Ricky Rice’s pregnancy in LaValle’s Big Machine, I thought it the perfect moment to reflect on one of my favorite readings from this semester, Butler’s sci-fi short story “Bloodchild”. If you’ll recall, Butler dismisses the notion that her story alludes to slavery in the afterword, which sparked controversy in the class from those who read it as such.

“It amazes me that some people have seen ‘Bloodchild’ as a story of slavery. It isn’t.”

While I read “Bloodchild” as a love/coming-of-age story, and perhaps I’ll write a blogpost outlining why I agree with her assessment, I’m more interested in an author or artist’s right to control the interpretation of their work post-release. Continue reading “Possession, Interpretation, and Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild”

Circles on Circles on Circles

This class will definitely be the most rigorous English  course I have taken to date my college career,  and as I move towards the culmination of my academia, graduation, I feel encouraged to look behind and contemplate my path; what sort of path is it, what’s it shape? I’ve always thought of college as a line, sloping upward, increasing, and I’d say the large part of the student body would agree with this comparison. But if I seriously look back at the past three years of college and had to assign some sort of shape to all studying, testing, studying, writing, studying, and testing I’ve done, it’s anything but linear.

So, in the interest of ever-evolving my perspective and challenging the viewpoints which ground the base of my character, one of my goals for this class is to challenge my ideas on what college is, and to view my academic career much more holistically instead of something separate from other aspects of my life.

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