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!

Democracy and Citizenship in Our Time (and in Mr. Blandings’ Time)

On Friday April 7, 2017 I was fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the panels during the Democracy and Citizenship in Our Time teach-in that took place on campus. Topics that were discussed during Panel II included LGBTQIA+, education, economic inequality, immigration, and disabilities. I was particularly intrigued with what Dr. Kathleen Mapes had to say surrounding economic inequality in America and how this problem has been brewing for decades.  After our recent viewing of the 1948 film, “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House”, I felt this topic to be especially relevant to the themes that we have been discussing thus far in this class this semester and I wanted to explore how economic inequality is presented in the film and the effects that it has on the audience’s interpretations of what it means to build your dream home.

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Space in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House

I had never before seen Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House, but after watching it in class I was struck by how much it related to my own upbringing, specifically in the context of space.  In the movie, it is comically shown that the 4 person family does not have enough space in their Manhattan apartment.  Scenes such as Mr. Blandings and his wife fighting over who gets to use the bathroom mirror demonstrate that personal space is definitely an issue for this family, and is ultimately what leads to their moving out of New York City.  Growing up in New York City myself, I can relate to these issues of personal space, and although they are certainly comical in the film does not mean that they are at all an exaggeration.  Sharing a one bedroom apartment with my sister and two parents, personal space always was, and still is a point of contention in our household. Continue reading “Space in Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House”

Just a Bit of Appreciation

I don’t have any ideas on how Dominion might relate to the housing crisis yet, but I’m finding this book to be interesting in other ways. It is certainly a slow read; long and heavy. However, I do enjoy the language. It’s wonderful overall, but every so often there’s a moment when I pause and reread a piece of the language I especially like. It’s like finding little treasures scattered throughout the book.

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The Concept of the “Dream House” in Relation to the “American Dream”

Property ownership has been an overarching theme of the semester thus far. From The Old Man and the Storm, which follows an eighty-two year old man as he rebuilds his home after Hurricane Katrina, to Michael Lewis’ The Big Short, which depicts the build-up of the United States housing bubble in the early 2000’s, to Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House, which tells an account of an African American family living in Detroit struggling to keep their childhood home, the concept of housing is an important element to consider. Furthermore, it is also crucial to keep in mind that in all three of these cases this notion of home is accompanied with sentiments of melancholy.

The idea of a “dream house” juxtaposes the disheartening idea of home seen in the varying art forms aforementioned. This notion of a “dream house” is largely highlighted in mediums such as magazine advertisements and television shows and connects notably to the “American Dream” throughout time. Rather than focusing on compartmentalizing, many times a key component of a “dream house” is expansion, as depicted in Mr. Blandings Dream House. In the film (seen thus far), Jim Blandings and his family are cramped in a New York apartment. After seeing an ad in the paper about new homes in Connecticut, he and his wife decide to purchase what they continuously call their “dream house,” regardless of the apprehensions of their lawyer.

However, Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s lecture “Small is Beautiful” highlights the importance of modesty and ecological efficiency. He calls attention to the contemporary “Tiny House Movement” gaining popularity, as magazines and television shows are beginning to bring this shift into popular culture. An excerpt from the the television show Portlandia, shown during the lecture, exemplifies, in a greatly exaggerated manner, the efficiency and capability of a “tiny house.” Dr. Kenneth Cooper went on to reexamine the notions of the “American Dream,” calling attention to other countries, such as the Netherlands, that use bicycles, drive smaller vehicles, have tinier food portion sizes, and overall have less grandiose ideals within the culture. This sense of more, and bigger and greater has me thinking, when did the “American Dream” begin to constitute gluttony? Or has it always had?

Invisible Privilege: Wealth Gaps

Watching Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House during class yesterday, I found Blandings’s inconveniences and dissatisfactions full of deeply unappreciative and bourgeois undertones. What spoke to me specifically was the casual mention of government bonds as a method of buying their dream house and how the accumulation of wealth is heavily informed by race. The following statistics come from this article.

Continue reading “Invisible Privilege: Wealth Gaps”

“On a Sunday?”

While reading A Mercy, I did not realize the apparent religious undertones until we read it aloud in class last week. Specifically, after reading the line “A trader asked to dine with a gentleman? On a Sunday?” (16). This surprised tone did not strike me as an example of the Catholic vs. Protestant religious war until it was presented in class.

This example reminded me of my father telling me stories of growing up Catholic in Ireland with hostilities both towards and from the British Protestant (symbolic) Monarchy. This line in A Mercy reminds me of the Gentleman representing an Englishman and the trader an Irishman. This prejudice roots back to the early British monarchy having control over Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom. Now, only Northern Ireland is considered a part of the United Kingdom, while the south is The Republic. This allusion shows the intolerances and prejudices within all religions based on the mindsets of people from different regions.

Tiny Houses…Big Deal?

As we saw in class today, Mr. Blanding’s dream house is one that takes him away from his “cramped cracker box” of a Manhattan apartment and into the freedom of 35 acres. However, many Americans’ dream homes have been downsized as part of the social movement surrounding tiny houses. At approximately 100-400 square feet, a regular house is roughly 11 times larger! Families are cramming themselves into these shoebox homes in hopes of combatting the pressures of environmental (the houses use less power) and financial (68% of tiny home owners have no mortgage) issues. In addition to these benefits, there is also the Thoreauvian hope of finding peace and understanding in the separation from the pressures of modern society.  In addition to pursuing the intriguing life of a hermit, the desire that tiny home owners all share is to eliminate waste. By cutting back, they may find what is truly important.


These home owners know what is important. For many, this is family. Tiny houses keep families a lot closer than their regular home-sized counterparts.  Andrew Morrison, a tiny house conference attendee, celebrates that his “family’s level of communication and family relationships are so much closer and deeper than they’re ever been” (X). Families being cramped together in a tiny space brings to mind The Turner House. The Turner children were eager to have their own space, as the oldest children took turns in claiming own room when they were the oldest. Though family bonding is incentive for parents who chose this cramped lifestyle, it is not ideal for the children. A family with teens actually had tiny houses built for each child because they needed their own space!

The fact that many people are experimenting with this lifestyle is intriguing to me. Based on the endless benefits and obvious challenges of downsizing, this movement has also fascinated a larger population and has become a central focus of bloggers, conferences and, of course, HGTV. Google search “Tiny House TV shows” and you’ll have multiple results, from Tiny House, Big Living to Tiny House Builders and Tiny House Hunters. This movement has hit the mainstream, and in a big way.

Though tiny houses have recently blown up, many argue that the original human dwelling of “caves, yurts, tents, wigwams, igloos, grass huts, and so forth” are only natural for humans (X).  Though idealizing getting in touch with early human nature is a pull to tiny homes, tragedy is truly what is at the root of the tiny housing boom. After Katrina in 2005, small houses stood in for trailers. (Take a look at these Katrina Cottages!) After the housing crash in 2008, the aforementioned financial benefits of living tiny brought about more attention to these homes. Despite their tendency to cost more than a regular house per square foot, they do generally cut down on waste.

I am very fascinated by the portrayal of tiny homes due to the omission of their tragic origin story. While researching for this blog post, however, I found countless blogs teaching potential tiny home owners how to build their own tiny house and go about finding materials and land. I found interviews from conferences and statistics about the benefits of this tiny lifestyle. TV shows and media glamorize families looking to become closer with one another, nature, and their passions. These benefits and dreams stem from a desire to gain a more fulfilling life, not survive one where almost everything you know has been lost.

These shows and this lifestyle frustrates me because the people on them have the privilege of choosing to downsize their homes and live a “simpler” life. The definition of the tiny house movement is a “social movement where people are choosing to downsize the space they live in”  (X). Though they are a great choice for the 1% of the population that voluntarily lives in less than 1,000 square foot homes (X), overly romanticizing tiny homes and their ability to “free” people is a way of overlooking people who are confined to smaller housing without a choice.