Wages & Real Estate

I made a few calculations after we watched part of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House on Friday. I was suspicious while we were watching this because there were a few factors that lead us to believe that Mr. Blandings and his family were getting badly ripped off, but the numbers didn’t seem to add up (literally). So we haven’t yet seen the remainder of the movie, and I haven’t attempted to look ahead because I want to make some predictions for the movie, or else point out some inconsistencies in case I’m wrong.

Here are some numbers to consider, with today’s equivalent in parentheses: Continue reading “Wages & Real Estate”

Reinvigorated Revisions: Colonial and Frankenstein-esque Experimentation Upon Economics and Enslaved Peoples

I had planned upon revisiting this abandoned draft after beginning A Mercy and realizing that the novel took place in colonial America, but yesterday’s class reinvigorated my desire to finish the post and push it out, as we have just finished A Mercy and it’s not quite too late to post it.

In my other English class about modern western drama, we had read George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion,” a play that examines a bet between two professors of phonetics, Higgins and Pickering, to produce a civilized woman from the ‘guttersnipe’ Eliza. The play is meant to be a comedy with an underlying social commentary. Continue reading “Reinvigorated Revisions: Colonial and Frankenstein-esque Experimentation Upon Economics and Enslaved Peoples”

How important are specifics?

I think it’s fair to generalize and say that for the most part, people like to know specifics of a situation. Details are used to enhance a narrative and immerse the reader in the story. Specifics in literature allow for plot to move forward and led us to all too familiar, inevitable “have you read quiz?” in English classes throughout middle/high school. Teachers can create questions that ask students to recall details and specifics to show that they are doing the assigned reading for homework and are comprehending the work.

But if we really think about it, how important are specifics? And what does their inclusion/exclusion mean for the bigger picture? Continue reading “How important are specifics?”

“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.

Taking Up Space (Physically & Metaphorically)

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about being more conscious of how much space you take up, physically or metaphorically.  We talked about it through the lens of leadership, and how a mark of maturity is being conscious of how much attention you are putting on yourself, or how much space you take up, and when to shift the attention to others, or when to share space with others.   Continue reading “Taking Up Space (Physically & Metaphorically)”

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.

“Metaphor is Hard Science” by Valerie Prince

As we are listening to the This American Life episode “Toxie” during class, and as I’ve asked you to attend to all the literary concepts roiling and churning through the episode, I invite you to read Dr. Valerie Prince’s brief but important essay “Metaphor is Hard Science.”

A key passage:

Rather than standing around with its lip poked out insisting upon its continued relevance in an increasingly diverse and divergent society, the humanities should orient its curriculum around the study of metaphor. After all, metaphor is central to human cognition. The cognitive psychologists know it. So do advertisement agencies. Folks who are working on prosthetic devices, drones, and robotics rely on metaphorical thinking for innovation. Economists, politicians, information technologists— it seems everyone except the ones specializing in language usage appreciate the value of a good metaphor. And when I say “value” here, I’m not merely being metaphorical. Most of us English majors received that old adage, “You don’t study English for the money” as a virtue. There is a lot of virtue in the study of literary artistry. English majors find benefit in decoding messages, articulating meaning, admiring beauty, balancing design. Metaphor is one, albeit significant, literary device studied among many,treated as an ornamental embellishment that helps us use language to demonstrate wit and craft. The rest of the world— those who majored in finance, physics, biotech fields, for instance — see a good metaphor and know how to turn it into profit.

Continue reading ““Metaphor is Hard Science” by Valerie Prince”