Coagulation from Hurricane Sandy

A few class periods ago, Beth presented us with What We Saw When the Lights Went Out: A Portfolio from Hurricane Sandy  Many of the pictures are moving, both literally and figuratively. Excessive amounts of running water where it doesn’t belong is the subject of the first image, while the following images are more bleak and show stagnant water- the aftermath serving as a memorial to the catastrophic devastation. Some of these images are rendered black and white, perhaps as an artistic gesture towards depicting sorrow and hopelessness while showing contrast. However, other pictures alternatively tell a different, more heart warming story. These images show children huddled up on a couch, neighbors and strangers coming together to eat, and community members cooperating and sharing electricity. These stories are refreshing in that people coagulated and came together to survive and thrive, yet depressing in that people were constantly reminded of the traumatic event that brought them together.

As the forceful, violent process of Hurricane Sandy flooded parts of NYC and the surrounding areas, people coagulated around safe locations away from the water. The moving water, which encompassed the initial violence, became stagnant in flooded streets and basements as an effigy to remember the violent event which preceded it. One image of a flooded basement is particularly striking because of what is unknown. The image simply shows an entrance leading to the basement that is completely filled with stagnant, green water. However, there is no way to know what, or maybe who, was down there when it flooded. There is also a similar image with a couple inches of water coming up on a white door covered with sandbags. Contrasting these images, the first image shows the flooding of an urban center that is so extreme it looks like an ocean with waves. Where many of the other images are black and white, or generally bleak, the first one is entirely blue and almost mystic. It reminds me of “The Day After Tomorrow” in how it pays respect to how awesome (grand and strong, not good!) the storm was in some places. One image shows a helicopter in the air above what looks like a war zone, while several other ones show empty, seemingly abandoned homes and businesses.

Beginning the portfolio collection with an image of the violent storm in all its glory sets the necessary precedent for both the devastation and collective rebuilding efforts depicted in the wallowing images that follow. Based partially on Roach and in class discussions, I believe that remembering and accepting, rather than suppressing, traumatic memories can be cathartic, especially when the ramifications of people’s memories are expressed through art. When theoretically viewing the streets of New York from an aerial view immediately following Hurricane Sandy, the streets would be flooded as barriers and human settlements would coagulate and form as a result. Whether it be people coming together to charge devices, or cook food before it spoils and is wasted, this communal effort to help oneself and others perfectly fits within the conceptual narrative that “violence is the performance of waste” and “care is the antidote to violence.” The other portfolio Beth presented shows this aerial view seen here. The presence, and equal absence, of electricity demonstrates which areas were affected as the lights of cars light up otherwise dark streets, showing the movement of people in a still image.

“When The Levees Broke” Credits

It was about the time right before Spring break when our English 432 course watched the credits for the Hurricane Katrina documentary , When the Levees Broke. It was during this class period that we analyzed each of the credited, there role in the film, and the interesting way they were filmed for their section in the credits. More specifically, we tried to interpret the reasoning behind having each of the interviewees pose behind individualized picture frames. Professor McCoy had told us that Spike Lee is a rather specific director, having reasons behind most if not all of the decisions made for his films. Is there a deeper meaning behind the use of picture frames?  Continue reading ““When The Levees Broke” Credits”

Apocalypse as a catalyst for catharsis

This blog post began, as so many do, with questions of origin. But first, let’s back up. Currently, I am enrolled on Spanish 102 with Dr. Matthews and according to our syllabus, our end goal is to achieve the ACTFL’s Novice High level of proficiency in speaking, writing, listening, and reading. Because of my involvement with Spanish 102, I’ve been actively trying to “think” in Spanish outside of class — whether it’s reading Spanish directions or warning labels instead of the English ones, speaking it with the few friends also enrolled in 102, or looking for Spanish cognates wherever possible.  That’s why the word “catarsis” stuck with me when I read it in Monica Uszerowicz article; first I was genuinely excited that I recognized it as the Spanish word for “catharsis.” In case you’re forgetting, Catarsis is the name of the art exhibit that featured Jo Cosme’s cards. I then remembered something Dr. Matthews has brought to my attention many times, that sometimes even though a word might have the same denotative meaning in Spanish and English, their connotative meaning might be starkly different. I wondered a. if the connotative meaning for catarsis and catharsis aligned and b. what the significance of that name is regarding the art expo. Continue reading “Apocalypse as a catalyst for catharsis”

Eyes of the World – Wake of the Flood

Every decision we make pushes us down a particular path. At each moment, our choices narrow the possible futures to one singular future, and so we must bear the burden that each choice we make shuts the door on an infinite number of possibilities.

Sometimes being given a choice is harder and more damaging than if we’d never had a choice at all. Usually when we decide between options, we must also accept part of the responsibility for not choosing otherwise. This is an expected consequence if we paint humanity as moral.

Often, making a choice relies on morality. For instance, if we’re parallel parking in the city and accidentally dent one of the surrounding vehicles when no one is around, we have a choice. Do we leave a note explaining what happened and our contact info, or do we beat a hasty retreat, reasonably assured that our crime will go unpunished? The moral choice is obviously to leave a note on the dented vehicle. Even though we may not like having to compensate the owner and take responsibility for our actions, it’s infinitely more fulfilling to be able to do the right thing and choose that option as well.

Continue reading “Eyes of the World – Wake of the Flood”

What Do You Do at a Traffic Light?: A Response to “The Conundrum of Color-Blindness” and Self-Proclaimed Racially Colorblind Individuals

After reading Spencer’s blog post, “The Conundrum of Color-Blindness,” and after Beth mentioned the idea of “colorblindness” a couple of classes ago, I was intrigued to go into the topic further. This is especially true when I considered the words of Roach in relation to how Spencer ends his post.

Continue reading “What Do You Do at a Traffic Light?: A Response to “The Conundrum of Color-Blindness” and Self-Proclaimed Racially Colorblind Individuals”

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”

The Hurricane Heist

I’ve been mulling about how to approach this post for a few weeks now and now think that after some helpful re-grounding in our course principles and ideas I feel confident in retuning to the blog with this strand of thinkING.

A while back I started seeing commercials and ads on both television and online for a now in theaters action-heist film, The Hurricane Heist. The trailer especially caught my attention:

With tag-lines/catchphrases such as “#Make It Rain” and “It’s a hell of a day, ain’t it?” complimented by Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane” playing in the background, it is hard to not feel strictly scornful and resentful towards the producers/directors/writers/creators of the film. To resist this purely emotional urge I found that it was important for me to ground myself in our course texts, take a closer look at the film’s surrounding language in its synopsis, and understand the attention that this film has gotten in the public sphere as a performance of memory.

Continue reading “The Hurricane Heist”

The Paradox of American Culture

During our discussion in class on Friday the 30th, I was struck by Matt’s remark about the significance of Louisiana’s largest prison, Angola, having a common nickname that is taken from the slave plantation that formerly existed upon the current grounds of the prison. As Matt pointed out, the naming of the prison after a plantation already speaks to a connection with the institution of slavery in pre-Civil War America and the horrors that were committed in the practice of it, but, in addition to that, the name also calls back to the African nation of Angola, the homeland of many slaves and their ancestors. A commonality that I find exists between these two connections is an apparent lack of awareness of or apathy towards what the origins of that nickname mean for the use of it in the cultural dialogue, and in this sense is the  waste of the cultural and historical context of those names. Continue reading “The Paradox of American Culture”

The Strengths of Abolitionist Rhetoric in 2018

I was particularly interested in the Prison Abolitionist Movement mentioned in Mariame Kaba’s essay “Free Us All” that we read for Friday’s class. I was familiar with the concept of prison reform and even the arguments in decreasing the numbers of prisons across the country, but I had never heard of prison abolitionism. It piqued my interest especially because I’ve taken a lot of history classes here (mostly with Dr. Behrend) where I’ve worked semi-extensively with the eras of slavery, emancipation, and their lingering effects on contemporary American society.

This got me thinking… What were the benefits of speaking the language of abolitionism in 2018? And, how did this engage with course concepts of memory and forgetting? Continue reading “The Strengths of Abolitionist Rhetoric in 2018”