Thank You

As we wrap up the semester, our academics and work and lives start to boil over. I am finding solace in our final “Second Line” paper; I am looking forward to my own rebirth and stability after finals. I’m taking an opportunity to squeeze in a “thank you” to everyone in the course as we close up (especially if you are still reading the blog) and I wish you all to find courage and peace during this intense month and academic year; our peers (Alpha and Dr. McKoy included), discussions, readings, and this blog have been inspiring, humbling, and relevant.

Thanks, and happy finals!

Walls and the “Other”

Last week while walking around campus looking for places of shelter, it was obvious that very inadequate structural spaces provide protection from the elements, and all of these are familiar to anyone who has ever seen homelessness is an urban environment; under a bridge, on the front steps of a building with giant doors, next to a heat vent, etc. I live in Rochester and see this everyday, and with our classes’ exercise and the conditions of Butler’s future America fresh in my mind, the rain last week felt heavy.

Most of us are accustomed to preconceived judgments towards homeless people or panhandlers, and when they are in abundance, especially of the latter, we are expected to ignore them. More often than not, we are to view these people as the “other”; drug-addicts, abusers, or “difficult”. I have definitely desensitized myself, as I’m sure most of us have; I am privileged to be a student, but I am not in a position to give away my student loans, and if I let these depressing sights, or the frequently-aggressive panhandling get to me, my fragile financial situation would turn into a dire one.

A city does not want its tourists or workers to experience homelessness, so most of , if not all of it, is pushed out of view. Going eastbound onto I-490 from downtown Rochester, there are dozen of tents in a fenced in area underneath a ramp; loud, smoggy, but away from the city. In my hometown Ithaca, NY, a small city but with a proportionally large heroin epidemic, the homeless live by a water inlet near the industrial parks and Wegmans, a fenced-in area near the railroad tracks that was nicknamed “The Jungle” while I was still in high school, where in recent years was subject to much scrutiny and unsolved arson and murder.

Lauren lives in her gated community, safe from the violence and drugs of from the “outsiders”, Keith’s story arc last week proved the corruptibility of the outside. Do the homeless communities in our own city experience this kind of safety in their literally “gated” communities? To reach even further, are we trapped in the boundaries that we set within a city, a state, or a country? I am interested in how the book will expand upon the people who live outside of the communities it focuses on, and if it will take an empathetic or reflective turn on what we define as “walls”, “freedom”, and “community”.

Anti-Anti-Homeless Activism

I thought I’d share this article for those of us who were affected by our class exercise on Monday- many cities uses their infrastructure and architecture to hide homelessness, rather than combat its roots. Ever wanted to rip the arm out of the middle of an anti-sleeping bench? Ever think that the many homeless-deterring ordinances in your city just make conditions worse? Here is a group of activists getting creative.


found from craigslist

Noa Wesley is a senior at Cornell and an artist who works in multiple platforms, with an especially keen eye for photography.  found from craigslist is a Tumblr blog that Noa created a year ago where she re-posts various craigslist ads; these are absurd (and often hilarious) objects and photos that create a telling portrait of our relationship with our consumer-goods. When viewed altogether on the blog, her gallery is a reflection of our contemporary identity and how it evolves with the internet and social media. Additionally, it has challenged some of my own ideas on what we constitute as “art”.

Noa is an old friend of mine, and a chance encounter with her this weekend led to a discussion about her blog and how it covers themes such as “performance”, “waste”, “origins”, and many others that are prevalent in our classes’ texts and discussions.

One of the things that you notice when looking at Noa’s blog is that the humor derived from the ads comes from the amateur nature of their photographs; while sometimes it is obvious that the seller is trying to be humorous, it is normally ambiguous whether or not the comedy is intentional. This ambiguity is what drew me to her blog; Noa’s selection does not feel mean-spirited because she is not making fun of the sellers or their advertisements. Instead, she is inviting the audience to interpret and relate to the sellers. She told me “These are artifacts that are brought from the private sphere and into the public. I think it’s interesting that the person behind the camera has a relationship with these objects that they don’t want them… at one point they had a use for these objects.”

There is also a sense of primitive and amateur mercantilism on display that I find very interesting “Some of the photos are just so unappealing,” Noa says. “If someone posts a picture of a used makeup brush and it’s in a pile of dirt, who is going to buy it?”

In the texts in class, we explore the ideas and feelings behind homes and property, as well as the often careless swindling that goes into the trade. While I find Noa’s blog intriguing as an extension of both personal and financial performance, I’d love to hear your own thoughts!

King Lear, “How to Harvest a Migrant Worker”, and Batteries

During the lecture on Friday, we discussed our readings of King Lear and The Big Short, by Micheal Lewis, and discussed how we could compare elements of the books and there representations of power to that of how modern society uses batteries.

I do not know much about how batteries work, but I’ve been thinking about how people use batteries everyday and for many uses, and once the batteries are drained, they are disposed of, normally without any thought of it’s environmental impact. We extract it’s energy, and then get rid of it.

There are obvious parallels we can look at when lending “batteries” as metaphors for actual people; King Lear gives away all of his power and is thrown out into the elements, and Wall Street gives away adjustable rate mortgages to impoverished immigrants as they present themselves as an easy target. There is little-to-no thought put into the future of these people by their benefactors; Roach writes in Echoes in the Bone that “violence is the performance of waste.” (Roach, 41), and, oddly enough, thinking about batteries has helped me analyze that quote a little more.

It will be interesting to see how environmentalism will tie into future readings; the transfer of power within the texts have shown that there is frequently little thought put into the future of their actions, and I can see the housing crisis possibly be a model of what happens when issues are left unregulated and ignored, for example, climate change, or capitalism as we know it.