Here comes the Atlantic (again)

Subtitled “Along parts of the East Coast, the entire system of insuring coastal property is beginning to break down,” this new New York Times article examines how rising sea levels are creating another kind of housing crisis, another kind of liquidity trap. You’ll note how the ghosts we’ve examined in the course (e.g., the Zong massacre) haunt the article’s invocation of insurance and risk. The whole thing is worth a read for many reasons, and not least the emergence of metaphor in the quote below:

This is the hardest reality to discuss, Stiles said, and a reason flood insurance is serving as a kind of advance scout into a more difficult future. “When you go out to the end of the century, some of these neighborhoods don’t exist, so it’s hard to get community engagement,” he said. “Nobody wants to talk beyond where the dragons are on the map, into uncharted territory.”

Criminalizing the Homeless

Years ago, I remember hearing about what I now know as hostile architecture. Hostile architecture is when a public space is designed to bar people from using it in ways in which it wasn’t originally intended to be used. It’s associated with a variety of behaviors like skateboarding, littering, loitering, but most notably homelessness.  When I first read about it, I was unsure of its validity as something that actually happens in cities– it seemed so grotesque and unrealistic, especially since I think I first saw it on tumblr (things like this tend to get blown out of proportion on tumblr). But it’s very real. In fact, hostile architecture has gained the nickname “anti-homeless spikes.”

I was reminded of these anti-homeless spikes when I read the section about Amy’s death in Butler’s Parable. Lauren states how Amy’s family wants to “sick” the cops on the homeless in order to find Amy’s killer and she points out, “It’s illegal to cap out on the streets the way they do [the homeless]– the way they must– so the cops knock them around, rob them if they have anything worth stealing, then order them away or jail them. The miserable will be made even more miserable.” I immediately thought of those jarring stories about violent architecture intended to keep away homeless individuals that I read about long ago, so I decided to look into it.

I found a several articles that focused around the homelessness of Sarasota, Florida, dubbed “America’s Meanest City” due to its increasing legislation imposed on homeless people. This article states that the city of Sarasota suffers from chronic homelessness–its average is six times that of the national average.  While many of these individuals suffer from addiction (according to the article, about a quarter to half of them do), many also have been victims of the economy who have families and children to think about.  Instead of creating laws to help the homeless the laws seem more like an attempt to cover it up and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Our conversation about shelter and how we think about it when we don’t have any was on my mind as I did some research. The homeless seek shelter and help where they can find it– public transportation, on a bench under a tree with maybe a real blanket or one made of newspapers, on the sidewalk under an awning, in cars, panhandling on the streets, etc. Legislation in Sarasota has made these exact things– things that people need to do for basic human survival— illegal. Essentially, making it illegal to be homeless. The homelessness are fined, jailed, pushed even further out of the “normal realm” of everyday human existence, quite similar to how the cops in Parable “rob [the homeless] if they have anything worth stealing, then order them away or jail them.”

Two more articles with some interesting information on the anti-homeless legislation in Sarasota that I used for this blog post can be found here and here.

The Fear of Lost History and Ould Lowe’s Place in Stonehouses

For the past several years I’ve been interested in the fear of forgetting history. This was sparked by my father’s hoarding of newspapers, embodying the human hunger for knowledge and unwillingness to let go of history not yet acknowledged. Knowing the amount of information stacked in New York Times piles around our apartment aroused my interest in the hoarding of history, as well as the connection we feel to physically keeping remnants of our personal history and the history unknown. Continue reading “The Fear of Lost History and Ould Lowe’s Place in Stonehouses”

Keeping Philosophy Human

As we begin reading The Parable of the Sower and thinking about the nature of things like safety, or necessity, or violence, or homes, or adequate, some fo the philosophical tools I mentioned in class on Friday might allow us to pursue a more fine-grained analysis of the things that are to come. I also wanted to reflect onFrancesco’s post on the problem with words—and especially words like “necessary.”

The major question Francesco’s post raised for me is, What are words for? These bear on metaphysical issues insofar as we usually want the words we use to track something that is true and real about the world, but words and how we use them also shape and filter our experience of the world. When it comes to thinking about the identity of certain words, there are surely meta-linguistic issues that are salient that I do not have the knowledge to articulate, and thus begins the rabbit hole. And I could go down it, as I have on other posts, but I won’t go down this one today. I want to reiterate the different kinds of conceptual analysis I discussed on Friday while also convincing you that these philosophical tools are useful for what we are doing in this class.

Continue reading “Keeping Philosophy Human”

ENGL 439 Musings after a weekend on LI

I always hate missing this class, but I had to on Friday, so first I’d like to say thanks for everyone who has been writing blog posts! I was happy that I got to see some threads of conversation that I missed (especially because I absolutely loved Dominion).

Even though I went back home this weekend, I was still thinking about this class. Going back to Long Island made me loop back to Emma’s post about Levittown and its history. I researched it a bit, and found this article. I found it really interesting how the creation of this suburb is spoken about in business-like terms, which brings me back to the idea of using financial language as we read the texts in this class.

Also on my plane ride home, I thought about a link that Beth shared with us on the syllabus. It shows some housing projects that were not completed in Florida and we briefly spoke about what those housing projects had, noting the geographic patterns and often their close proximity to water.

I took this picture soon after we took off Thursday night. I have no idea where this was (and I’m guessing most of these houses are occupied) but I found it interesting that it shared many of the characteristics we noticed in class. It reminds me of a both/and concept in that the housing market in the country is both similar in its setup, and yet it differs due to the specific places that were hit harder during the 2008 housing crisis.

What are we Hiding in our Home Decor?

When we had our discussion last week based off the section in Dominion where Libbie decorates her home, Veronica said that she puts a lot of effort into decorating her home to reflect her personality and interests and that when she has people over, it feels somewhat like a performance. I absolutely agree with this and I thought this was very insightful and interesting because not only is playing hostess a performance, but also the inanimate house itself is expected to perform- to have comfortable places to sit, some hot coffee or other beverage to supply, and to have interesting objects to promote conversation are a few examples. But our homes are typically not only functional but also decorated in a unique manner. It’s interesting that we use our home decor not only to project a certain atmosphere but also as an extension of ourselves. Continue reading “What are we Hiding in our Home Decor?”

The Strength of Hyper Empathy

When attempting to finish the reading for the class of April 17th, I kept bursting into tears. I always knew how to separate my emotions as a human from being a student in a classroom. But Butler’s first few chapters of Parable of the Sower quickly seeped into my heart. I was impressed with how relatable the text became to my current personal situation, especially the ‘hyperempathy syndrome’ mentioned a few times in the text. Hyper empathy is a person that will actually mirror the feelings and emotions of another person and feel things to the extreme. “Being the most vulnerable person I know is damned sure not something I want to boast about.” (Butler, 12) By thinking about the significant difference between attachment and investment, I am slowly starting to realize the intensity of hyperempathy.

“I can take a lot of pain without falling apart. I’ve had to learn how to do that. But it was hard, today, to keep peddling and keep up with the others when just about everyone I saw made me feel worse and worse.” (Butler, 11) I’ve always thought of myself as a positive, extroverted person but no so much the past few weeks. By constantly receiving bad news by the people I care about, my ‘hyperempathy syndrome’ came in full swing. I felt weak, a loss of appetite, unable to get out of bed with no motivation to go to class. Something that is stigmatized negatively in today’s current society are mental disorders, such as depression, which I have recently been showing signs of. “A dumb little game of ‘If we don’t talk about bad things, maybe they won’t happen.’ Idiot.” (Butler, 61)

Saturday April 1st, 2017

“Neha…I received by official diagnosis yesterday and I have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” (iMessage, 6:37pm)

Wednesday April 12th, 2017

“Okay so neha I gotta tell I haven’t been feeling this dating thing all that much with us. I think we’re better off as just friends than more than that. Sorry if that’s not what you were hoping for outta this :/ (iMessage, 1:47pm)

Wednesday April 12th, 2017

“I [my friend] was raped last semester…”

Bad things are constantly happening; it’s the question of if you want to listen or not. “I had felt it die, and yet I had not died. I had felt its pain as through it were a human being. I had its life flare and go out, and I was still alive. Pow.” (Butler, 46) Similarly, I felt the pain and fear both my friends are going through but I physically, am healthy and unharmed since I have not experienced a deadly illness or a sexual assault.


“People have had faith through horrible disasters before.” (Butler, 15) The receiving of the bad news stated above completely destroyed me but I realize I need to find the faith somehow someway, which is something that is becoming a slow progression on my end. By constantly bursting into tears getting through the first 6 chapters of Butler’s Parable of the Sowerit made me realize how fantastic and powerful the novel is; how the text written had such a strong pathos appeal that it actually moved and affected me, which I don’t believe is a bad thing. In the song Need You Now, Lady Antebellum states, “I rather hurt than feel nothing at all.” Crying is always seen as sign of weakness but I am slowly realizing it is a sign of humanness. One is human before they drive to be any other title whether it be ‘coordinator,’ ‘student’ or ‘professor.’

By always constantly relying on my resume to prove to others who I am, I am still trying to figure out who and what I am without my involvements listed on a sheet of paper considering I will also be losing my job next semester. “Nothing is going to save us. If we don’t save ourselves, we’re dead.” (Butler, 59) By putting myself first at times is something I am constantly trying to work on, instead of being a ‘people-pleaser’ 24/7. By discussing the distinction between house and shelter in class, I believe I have found shelter within my friends and personal accomplishments, but not with just myself.


Relating back to The Big Short, romantic relationships can very much be seen as an investment. I personally am investing my time and attention into certain people that will eventually be seen as a ‘debt’ instead of an ‘asset.’ I am constantly investing in people that will not give me a ‘decent interest rate’ in the future. They are losing value over time, when investments should be gaining value. Similar to our discussions in class, my romantic interests are cyclic in the sense of continuously making poor choices.

“Live. Hold out. Survive.” (Butler, 76), is not how I expected the reading for the next class period to end. By emphasizing survival, it reiterates the notion of hope; how what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. By holding out, being able to cope with emotions and then eventually help others who go through similar experiences, makes the discussion a cyclic chain.

 

Generational Memory and Property (a story about my grandmother)

I’m never sure how appropriate it is to share personal stories in English classes, but over Easter weekend, something happened that I felt related too deeply to our class not to document in a blog post.

Important context to the story: my grandmother is an 88-year old widow with 8 children and 20 grandchildren (a true generational matriarch). Her role as the leader of the family, however, is complicated by the fact that she lost her husband of 65 (yes!! 65!!) years last summer, and currently suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, which is degenerative in nature. She has, as a result, grown more confused and distanced from reality since her husband’s passing, a trajectory that has been difficult for us to watch.

Over the past weekend, my grandmother told my mother that she was sad her family didn’t come to visit her anymore, and that she wanted to give her children money at her Mother’s Day party. In a state of confusion, she said that she wanted to give each of her 8 children two million dollars so that each of them could buy a house. My mother had to gently explain to my grandmother that she doesn’t have 16 million dollars, and that even if she did, giving her children money wouldn’t make them visit her.

Although this anecdote is personal and sad in nature, it revealed a lot to me about the way the dreams my grandmother had for her children are inextricably linked to home and property. The story reflects a profound nature on my grandmother’s part to occupy the role of a provider as a matriarch in that she wanted to give to her children the finances to create a home for their own immediate families.  It also expressed volumes about the way not only memory, but desires, become distorted through degenerative memory loss, as my grandmother thought she had the money to provide homes for each of her children.

The story reminded me (quite helpfully, l think) of the Turner house as well as Melissa’s family tree. Like the Turner house, my grandparent’s family home in Queens (which was also the home my grandmother grew up in) was once bustling with more family members than I can count on two hands, but is now only inhabited by my grandmother and her caretaker. The house, as a result, feels haunting in the sense that each room (even each object, really) harkens back to a deep history of a family that is no longer present in the home.

Further, my mother’s gentle reminder that money won’t incentivize her siblings to visit their mother circles me back to King Lear, when Lear makes the fatal flaw of allocating his property to his daughters based on how convincingly they can express their love for him. Like Lear, my grandmother made a moving error in judgment by thinking that she could receive love and affection from her children if she offered them money (even though I hesitate to compare my grandmother to Lear any further). Here, the affective desire of a parent trying to provide for their offspring (or kingdom) becomes powerfully complicated by property and money.

I don’t have any clear solutions after hearing this story (other than it inspired me to immediately call my grandmother), but I do feel that the connection between my grandmother’s desire to provide homes for each of her children and the readings/discussions we’ve had in class prompt me to think more carefully about the link between generational memory and affection.

 

Clean water makes houses makes safe communities

If I might take this opportunity to double post, I thought I should leave a citation for something I brought up in class yesterday. It was in response to Beth’s question for the day, “what is necessary for a house?” and she specifically brought up clean water and freedom from lead paint (negative freedom for you there, Jes) as possibilities.

Continue reading “Clean water makes houses makes safe communities”