“What is necessary for a house?”: Conflating Ideas of Home with Cleanliness

These thoughts are a bit delayed, but after reading over my notebook in search of blog post ideas, I was reminded that circling back always allows for more opportunities for reflection. During class last Friday, I was particularly intrigued by a comment Jes made during our discussion of the syllabus question “What is necessary for a house?” Jes detailed that she doesn’t call her apartment at school “home,” but rather reserves that for the house she shares with her family. I have noticed myself doing the same thing – referring to my apartment as “my place” or its nickname among my sorority, “The Coop” (pronounced like “coop” in “chicken coop”… origins unclear). Avoiding the word “home” seems to me an interesting phenomenon. I wonder what constitutes a place vs. a home, and for myself in particular.

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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.


Children of War

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler has been really striking a chord with me and it has proven itself to be quite a powerful journey for myself, and I am sure for many others in this class as well, to have embarked upon. In the section we just read, Chapters 7-12, I found myself paying particular attention to the frequent mentioning of children and bringing new life into what seems to be such a destitute, inhospitable world.

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The Problem With Homeless People

Because I think it hits the nail on the head, I want to respond to Madison’s post on the criminalization of homeless people in Sarasota, FL. Many themes we have discussed this semester appear in her post, as well as many themes that are important to Parable of the Sower. Furthermore, the way people treat each other when housing is genuinely or is constructed to be scarce is a fascinating and powerful window into human nature, which is a primary concern for us as students of the humanities.

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Looking Ahead

We have two weeks and just three classes left in this course before we conclude the semester. Our discussions have been as numerous and varied as our reading list (from Shakespeare to Lewis to Morrison to Butler, with everything else in between). One of our central goals is to figure out how we can connect our texts to our course objectives, and furthermore, how we can apply these connections to our lives outside the course. This is a pretty universal course outcome, and pretty vague in the way I phrased it, too. What I want to focus on is what will stay with me from this course once it’s over. We talked early on in the course about why it took us until now to consider the housing crisis, to look into its causes, and to be curious about our economy. For me, I wanted to believe that the answer to this question was quick and simple: laziness. But it’s not just laziness. I think my lack of willingness to look in to the housing crisis, as well as to the more general umbrella of “bad news” and negative current events (whether they seem to directly impact me or not) is something a little more sinister. Continue reading “Looking Ahead”

(Very) Late Feelings of Home

A late bloomer at this point, but I guess I’m meant for it. I struggled with finding a suitable image when thinking of home back when we shared personal items. Having lived the majority of my life in an apartment building, including scheduled visits to my mother’s house every other weekend made me feel disjointed during class. Toys, posters, even clothes or furniture begin not to mean much when they come, go, or become replaced with similar devices somewhere else – one example being my brother who wanted the exact same set of toys at both of our parents’ homes. It began coincidentally with Power Rangers – it ended with Lego. This relates to class due to how tangible virtually everything can be, and how capable they are in regards to replacement or liquidation. Hell – in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, we see an idea of what a home is in the contrasting views of James and Muriel, and how they eventually build a dream house that is a departure from what the house originally was. We see the former state of the house destroyed and built into something that feels rather hollow – not even when the walls weren’t put up yet, but with how the view of a home can be distinct. A place to live, eat, sleep, or simply just to exist. The regard for home varies on the individual, and I suppose that in itself can be worth writing about under a different setting.

Eventually, marital and financial issues affected our mother and then we were forced to gather what we could before it was to be thrown out. Keep in mind, I said a few. In the efforts to show my excuse relation to the text – anything can be bought or sold – or abandoned. Especially if your home is on mortgage (mom) or on the long-term rent (dad) for several odd years. Let’s not take into consideration for those in military families who move from place to place, natural disasters, or simply getting kicked out. I’m not only considering the property of a home, but property in general – which can relate to financial ownership (or lack thereof in regards to Inside Job or The Big Short), while also that of living property in A Mercy.

Maybe I find my idea of “home” in my journal (the item I chose) as both a shield and of extremely personal value in favor of what can be easily taken away or diminished. Maybe that’s also why I feel a similar resonance in music (cue “Isolation” by John Lennon). It was either gonna be that, or the hat I rarely go anywhere without – be it on my head or tucked within my bag. In my experience being here (e.g. on campus and apparently furthering my education), I feel more “at home” because I can certainly do, decide, and be more of myself. Maybe these aforementioned perceptions have affected the way I view the idea of a home, but it can certainly be anywhere – just as much as it can easily be torn down or unwillingly vacated from our lives.

Authentic Codeswitching and Bilingual Represenation

*Replaced the Skippyjon Jones link. Should be working now*

Last semester, I took a sociolinguistics class called Spanish in America. It was the most tangibly applicable of any classes I’ve taken at Geneseo so far, and it was sincerely enjoyable. One of the concepts that it introduced was Mock Spanish. Mock Spanish was first coined by linguistic anthropologist Jane H. Hill (thanks, wikipedia), and it’s characterized by loan words or phrases from a minority language (Spanish) by monolingual speakers of the majority language (English), often used in a disparaging way. In just a few short weeks, Cinco de Mayo is happening. Just keep your eyes peeled for all the appropriation and Mock Spanish going on up to and during the holiday. For example, Cinco de Drinko. Don’t do it.

Mock Spanish is often seen in advertising, or on fun (content warning: image contains profanity) mustache-themed signs, or even in children’s books (Skippyjon Jones gets roasted here). Unfortunately, it also shows up in our lexicon. This is a wonderful resource from SUNY Binghamton about Mock Spanish if you’re interested in learning about the different types. Even the outline spells out pretty well other kinds if you don’t have a lot of time. Continue reading “Authentic Codeswitching and Bilingual Represenation”

“Is it a Sin Against God to be Poor?”

Professor McCoy concluded yesterday’s class by pointing out that for the past twelve years she has been teaching Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower the book has gradually taken upon a frightening truth within our own reality. Students years ago may have thought this book was rather outlandish and inconceivable within our society, but as time has progressed the resemblance between Butler’s civilization and our own have seemed to merge. Although I have only just begun the novel, the complexity and originality of the work is already grappling and the growing likeness between our reality and Butler’s fiction has me reading for more.

One of the overarching themes in this book so far is based around the complexities of religion. The protagonist of the novel, Lauren, seems to be struggling with her own inner faith as she is pressured by his minister father to assume her rightful duties as a practicing Baptist, which most currently means receiving a proper baptism regardless of the dangerous circumstances. Lauren, in an effort to appease her father, follows through with the baptism although it is quite obvious that the profound and deep spirituality behind the sacrament is absent within her. However, she does explain that the idea of God has been on her mind and the varying kinds of God people believe in perplexes her. Following a hurricane that killed seven hundred people off the Gulf, Lauren contemplates her own skepticism of a higher being. She explains, “Most of the dead are the street poor who have nowhere to go and who don’t hear the warnings until it’s too late for their feet to take them to safety. Where’s safety for them anyway? Is it a sin against God to be poor?” (Butler 15). Immediately after reading this part, the horrors of Hurricane Katrina came straight to mind. Looking back at The Old Man and the Storm, the documentary greatly resembles the hardships of the hurricane that hit New Orleans and its particular effects on the people of the Ninth Ward, a predominantly poor, African American neighborhood. The devastation of the Gulf in Butler’s novel proves to be eerily similar to the devastation Hurricane Katrina caused, and seeing that the poor were the most affected group in both situations, Lauren’s question of God’s disregard, or rather hostility towards the poor seems rather legitimate in reality.  

Additionally, following Professor McCoy’s exercise in class yesterday the concept of impoverishment and homelessness came to mind again. We were assigned to scope around campus for shelter with all academic buildings being locked. One of the most apparent, and rather alarming, realizations was the almost inherent notion to use violence for safety and shelter. My group and I collectively conceded that when faced with danger this innate sense of violence was overtaking. One person in my group explained that he saw a window that would be easy to break into in this situation, something that he did not notice prior to the exercise. Keeping this in mind, the violent overtone in the Parable of the Sower, as exemplified within the walls of the community and even greater outside the walls, calls into play human nature altogether. Returning to Lauren’s questioning of God and His animosity towards the impoverished also is important to consider within the exercise. Assumed in this scenario, or at least I did, was that one was homeless and destitute. It was quickly realized that my previous perception of the campus as open and accessible was replaced with notions of restriction and isolation. Lauren’s question, “Is it a sin against good to be poor?” (Butler 15) once again came to mind. Poverty is closely associated with hardship, danger and misery, and that is just to name a few. Although this exercise was clearly fictitious, these concepts of adversity became actuality when trying to find a sufficient place for shelter. Violence became a means for safety as breaking into academic buildings was deemed acceptable and self guarding one’s own “territory” was a necessity. Similarly,  violence was at a high following Hurricane Katrina which left many homeless, having lost everything. These concepts of vandalism, intrusion, and the need to protect whatever space you have became rampant. However, one does not have to solely look at the victims of Hurricane Katrina to see the effects of human nature at a low point. Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower also manifests violence as a necessary evil in her dystopian society within the novel. In her society, violence is everywhere, so much so that being armed is paramount for example. In my opinion, Lauren’s wariness of God and His almighty protection of His people is quite warranted within the novel so far and more relevantly calls upon the reader to invoke their own opinion of Lauren’s internal dilemma to the troubles of modern reality.


Relevant Silliness and Available Actions

This video crossed my mind in class yesterday, and I giggled at the thought of it on the blog. While Silly Songs with Larry are goofy, Larry’s situation is reminiscent of the conversations we’ve been having. Larry is unable to access something rightfully his because it fell within the boundaries of a space in which he’s not welcome. He didn’t have the means (a key? Status?) to enter the gated community, and the folks on the inside were too self-congratulatory to take any substantive action.


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