Monday, August 16, 2010

"Take The Hammer": The Life of the Negro in SF circa 1963

Ryan Duncan
English 436
Prof. Wexler
12 August 2010
"Take The Hammer": The Life of the Negro in SF circa 1963
            For African-Americans living in the United States during the 1960s, the days were full a myriad of emotions: pain, happiness, suffering, exhilaration, depression. A tough day at work, problems paying for the month’s bills and marital difficulties would consume your being with stress and make life appear hopeless. The society black people lived in were full also populated by the majority of white people, who for the most part didn’t understand and wouldn’t seek to understand their fellow citizens. Racism was explicitly being expressed in the south with lynching, attack dogs on black protestors and other acts advocating hate. Martin Luther King  Jr. and Malcolm X at the time were the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, seeking in their differing ways solution to help African-Americans unite and earn their rights in order to end the separation and hate that was dividing the nation. In the documentary “Take This Hammer”, author and activist James Baldwin visits the African-American community leaders and citizens of San Francisco during the spring of 1963 in order to grasp an understanding of their current situation. More specifically, as the documentary comes to an end, the real questions James Baldwin seeks to answer for himself and African-Americans all over the country is this. How black people will better their situation in the U.S. and why white people feel it was necessary to invent the nigger.
            When thinking up all the ways black and white people could solve their difference, one word consistently arises: responsibility. Either group of people, in striving to solve the problem of inequality and racism in the nation, has a responsibility they must maintain. As Baldwin rides a taxi from the San Francisco airport, joined by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and another gentleman, he speaks on how both the black and white person “is fundamentally capable of paying his dues. But no one pays his due willingly” (Take This Hammer). The white person must come to terms with the fact that there is discrimination and hate being promoted in his country and they must take every action to combat this problem. The black person must understand they aren’t an inferior being but a regular human being like anyone else, capable of doing well in this world. Baldwin, while seated with a few young black men on near the sidewalk, asked them about their aspirations in life. One boy said there would never be a possibility of a black man becoming president in U.S., especially if he himself couldn’t even earn a job. However Baldwin remained optimistic, telling the youth that there in fact be a black president, not in the racially divided country they live in now but in the future. He further states, “But if you say to yourself there will never be a Negro president of this country, then what you’re doing is agreeing with White people who say you are inferior” (Take This Hammer).
            Bell Hooks, a female African-American author and activist, surmises a similar theory to combat racism. One such way, mentioned in her essay, Black Postmodernism, is for African-American’s to “construct self and identity that are oppositional and liberatory” (Hooks 2482-2483). An identity that doesn’t assimilate with the backwards, hateful thoughts of racists who believe that black person is a dumb, lazy, sexually deviant and violence prone animal.  An identity that evolves past the belief that there are only two ways for a black person to go, either in the assimilatory manner where every source of culture in the way you speak, act, furnish your home and so is white washed. In this way, everything unique about the person is lost to purported style of how the All-American, white person is suppose to live. Conversely, sticking to the created stereotype will only pigeon hole the black person, submitting them to the identity and place the white man has created in order inhibit the race of any progress. No progress is made but instead regression has taken place, allowing ignorance and misunderstanding to flourish in the black community. According to Hooks, these two types of African-Americans are created with the belief that there is no room for diversity in the black people. In general, hook’s declaration that there must be a radical postmodernism entails that the majority, white people, must include the opinions of the oppressed minority. An open discourse must occur between white and black people in order for the problems to be thoroughly investigated, understand and eventually solved.
            The problem, however, is not so simply eradicated and resolved, particularly when the voices of the oppressed people aren’t heard. While speaking to various crowds of black youth, ranging from adolescence to early thirties, Baldwin heard much expression of anger and lack of hope. Young men spoke of how in the schools of San Francisco they aren’t taught about the history of their people. Black men and women aren’t given lessons of their past and ideas of how to guide themselves in the future, being taught European history and none of the history of their African ancestors. The people in power aren’t of the same color or culture as them and seek to keep them impoverished economically and psychologically due to their lack of interest and fear. Referring to the conversation with the crowd of black men, Baldwin mentions to Mr. Luster that,  “The country intends to keep him [African-Americans] in his place and it still does” (Take This Hammer). While speaking to a middle-aged black woman, Baldwin is told of her worries about her daughter and the job atmosphere after these kids finish school. These young black men and women go to the same school as white men and women, finish with the same grades and accomplishments, but the young black girl has to wash the house of the white girl once they walk off that graduation stage. The same opportunities aren’t being allotted to each student and this can be demoralizing for a black student who has worked so hard just to see their effort add to nothing. *A young man Baldwin spoke about his lack of ability to earn jobs as not knowing someone with authority, someone who can pull some strings and get you recommended for the job. However, as the young man states, “no colored man got authority” in San Francisco, so if white people govern all the higher positions, surely there will be few if any black people ever hired. As Baldwin states, a black person “would have to despise the [white] people . . . who are able to have such a tremendous gap between their performance and their profession” (Take This Hammer).           
This problem of inequality doesn’t stop at the school but enters into the home of the African-American as well. The prices of homes and of rent in the apartments they live in are rising, driving them out of certain neighborhoods and inevitably sending them into the ghetto of San Francisco. Gentrification wasn’t prevalent only in 1960s San Francisco but every U.S. city, even in present day society. A real estate company at the time, Iklo, is mentioned by Mr. Luster to have increased their mortgages so “houses cost based from $22,000-$30,000” (Take This Hammer) , ruling out about every African-American wanting to return to or move into their homes. Baldwin ostensibly takes on a Marxist view, theorizing that the white man has a “profit motive” when gentrifying. The interviewee’s of Baldwin primarily reside in Hunter Points where, gentrification is currently occurring, driving African-American’s to neighborhoods such in the Haight-Ashbury area, a neighborhood that has presently been gentrified itself, turning into a hip, tourist spot.  Little boys and girls, without knowing why they must move from the one place they’ve known all their life, are forced to move to a considerably worse neighborhood. A ghetto is never a preferred area to live and mostly spells danger for people of any age, especially the people most susceptible to danger, children. During a walk around construction site of project building, Baldwin emphasizes the dangers and harm of living in a project, having experience them in New York. From an outside view the architecture of a project building may look appealing but the actions that occur inside are anything but. The white men in charge of the real estate companies can dress up surrounding area, adding new factories and so on, but as Baldwin adds, “you cannot doing anything about the moral and psychological affects of a ghetto . . . in the playground my boy, my girl will be exposed to the man who sell narcotics . . . to a million forces that are set in motion when a people are despised” (Take This Hammer). These projects in the ghetto are full of lower class, mostly impoverished people with many negative forces of drugs and crime in motion along with oppression by white folks. Therefore, a child growing up in an area of so many bad influences has little chance of surviving since all the ills of the world are at their doorstep, ready to destroy every fiber of their goodwill.
            With so much stress, suffering and fear in the African-American community of San Francisco, the people turn to the church. Life has beat these people down so they seek the comfort of the house of god and the preacher with all his sermons. Promises of better lives, more prosperous, less burdensome, if they live the straight and narrow life and keep faith that the lord will help guide them to the promise land. The majority of black people in U.S. are Christians, taught this religion by the white people who brought them over to the U.S. as slaves on boats from West Africa.  The religion that African-American’s take so eagerly to ease their woes, to guide them towards an enlightened state of mind, has already been corrupted and is continually corrupted by the white folks who treat them as unequal, deny them jobs, spew hatful remarks, and murder under the name of Christianity. People still live by the Christian faith, attending church every week, but for people like Baldwin, he believes the morality of the “Church of Christianity is bankrupt” and if he urged the young black folks he previously spoke to attend church they’d ignore him. They wouldn’t want to be part of a religion when they aren’t accepted, where the supposed white Christians can oppress black Christians, claiming them to be inferior but still regard themselves as good, god fearing Christians. According to Baldwin, “Christianity is some kind of social club, you have to have a membership to get in. And black people can’t have a membership card” (Take This Hammer).
            There are all these forces that weigh down the African-American: the words and visions of hate, expulsion from their neighborhoods, lack of education about of their history, lack of equality in the job market, lack of safety of their children. With all these problems surfacing and rising higher each day, the black person has a need to express him or herself one way or another. As Zora Neal Hurston, an African-American novelist put it, “Every phase of the Negro life is highly dramatized” (1146 Hurston). They need to purge themselves of the frustration and anguish, achieving some form of catharsis by way of dancer, writing, playing an instrument or making love.  Most of this expression has made its way into the homes of American audiences in the form of music, most popularly jazz in the 1960s. Gospel songs are sung thunderously inside churches and a variety of music plays in the clubs, Jook joints, records players and boom boxes blaring from a sidewalk. Others opt to write novels, like Baldwin’s Go Tell It To The Mountain, Richard Wright’s Native Son, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The poetry of black women such as Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez and plays written by Lorraine Hansberry and Amiri Baraka.  Today, the most the prevalent form of artistic African-American expression is still music, hip-hop and R&B, while black literature is hardly spoken of except for the latest Oprah Book Club choice that may profile a rising black female author. Most black literature that accurately presents the idiosyncrasies of black folks are denied by white publishers who, as Hurtson points out, “ will sponsor anything that they believe will sell” (Hurston 1160) but the publishers stay away from the romantic and upper-class stories about black people because of “the public indifference to such works, unless the story or play involves racial tension” (Hurston 1160). These thoughts are similar to that of Baldwin as he spoke to Mr. Luster about the “profit motive” of the white people of power when gentrifying neighborhoods and building cheap project housing. The individual begins to care more about money than they do about the well being of the human race, in pursuit of this so-called American Dream. 
            For all the talk of the evils that white people have befallen onto African-American’s at the time, Baldwin mentions the role of the white liberal, returning once again to the notion of responsibility. *To Mr. Luster, he recited two different stories that involved a conversation with a white male and female liberals, who to claim to have been fighting for the rights of black people across the nation. Questioning the man, Baldwin asked him if knew who Mr. Charlie was and the white man had no idea, surprised when he found out that Mr. Charlie a.k.a. The Man is the white male according to black folks. The impression Baldwin received from this encounter is that the white liberal, however good intentioned they are, are protecting themselves from a variety of facts concerning the people they are trying to help. In his own words, Baldwin claims, “They [white liberals] want to do something to help Negros because it helps them feel better. But the price they’ve paid for this kind of effort is they haven’t discovered who the Negro really is” (Take This Hammer). The second story recounts Baldwin’s visit to a class of twenty students constituting a few white liberal students but mostly black students who were candidly speaking of the black experience in the city, basically telling the liberals that white people say one thing and do another and that “white people don’t know nothing about us to be able to help us” (Take This Hammer). According to Baldwin the white women who was debating with these group of students was hurt by their words, and said she’d done more for Negros than they’ve ever done for themselves. Baldwin was bothered by the comment, informing the women that what the black students meant is they don’t want her to do anything for them but do it for herself. She replied that she didn’t want her child to be harmed and Baldwin told her to “forget it”.  Black children everyday are susceptible to dangers because they’re black in a society who sees their skin color as a threat. Everyday a black mother or father drop their child off at school to work their children unprotected from them world, mentally and physically. While still speaking of the conversation with the liberal white woman, Baldwin tells Mr. Luster “How can you expect me to take seriously somebody who says ‘I’m willing to fight for you but I can’t afford to let my children be damaged’ . . . children are being damaged by this continuation of this system” (Take This Hammer). Children, men and women, black and white, are damaged by the continuation of hate, inequality and violence occurring in cities across the nation when they see an advocated divide between races. Baldwin doesn’t believe the white liberal notice how the segregation and hate affect both white and black children and as long as white liberal continue to overlook this fact they will be inherently unsuccessful in their causes.
            After all his conversations with the leaders of the African-American community in San Francisco and citizens residing in Hunter’s Point, Baldwin ruminated on one question he felt, if answered by white people in the U.S., would help dispel segregation and inequality. While sitting being interviewed, Baldin reflected:
“Well I know this, and anyone who’s ever tried to live know this, that what you say about someone else, anybody else, reveals you. What I think of you as being is dictated by my own necessity, my own psychology, my own fears and desires . . . I’ve always known that I’m not a nigger. But if I am not the nigger, and it’s true that your invention reveals you, then who is the nigger? Well it’s unnecessary to me, so it must be necessary to you” (Take This Hammer)

 The word nigger, it’s origin and white people must know the intention of its invention and they must try to figure why they created and labeled it to black people. Zora Neal Hurston, when speaking of mankind in What White Publishers Won’t Print, said perfectly “Man . . . is repelled by that which he does not understand, and mere difference is apt to connote something malign” (1159 Hurston). In the case of the white person’s oppression of black people, it’s a fear that is maintained, due to ignorance, indifference, and power, as exemplified through rapid gentrification of  their neighborhoods, placement of minorities in ghettos, perpetuation of stereotypes in the media and fear disguised as blind hate. These are many examples of problems that harmed the African-American community of San Francisco in 1963, as well as many other minorities in the U.S. then and now.


Works Cited
Hooks, Bell. “Postmodern Blackness”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 2478-2485. Print.

Hurtson, Zora Neal. “Characteristics of Negro Expression”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 1146-1158. Print.

Hurston, Zora Neal. “What White Publishers Won’t Print”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 1159-1162. Print.

 “Take This Hammer”. National Education Television (NET). KQED, New York. 1964. Television.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mo' Better Blues: An Ethnic View

The scene I highlight from the film “Mo Better Blues” shows the musicians from Jazz band partying after a performance. Amongst all the players and guest, two men have discussed the state of current music. Bleek, the trumpet player and leader of the band, argues that Black people need to support their own musicians since they are the creators of Jazz. He believes too many Black folks are buying music and going to the concerts of cross over musicians who create a cheap replica of authentic Jazz.   It’s a known that many African-American musicians in the Tin Pan Alley days, Jazz age and Rock & Roll had their songs “covered” by White musicians. These covers, the majority of the time, we’re authorized by their original creators of the song. Therefore, when the White musician became popular, when their song went to the top of the music charts and sold greatly, the original creator, the Black musician, earned zero royalties or recognition. Many assumed the cover artist to be the sole creator of the song and people, of all ethnicities, unknowing of the stolen material, enjoyed the watered down music. Bleek want to preserve the art form his ancestors created but he doesn’t see the support of his fellow people. If Black folks don’t attend the concerts and buy the music of the Black jazz artist then they won’t be to create, output from the majority of foresaid artists will dwindle tremendously and the artist who are benefiting are non-Black musicians. Bleek’s necessity for Black people to support and listening to their own people’s music is similar to Henry Louis Gate Jr.’s pleas for Black writers and critics to seek and understand ever nuance of  “our most sublime form of art, black music, where ideology and art are one” (2431 Gates Jr.). Ever since the field of slaves master, music has been the rawest form of art for Black people,  a therapeutic, cathartic form of expression that has become are most popular and valuable outlets to date.
            Conversely, Bleek’s interlocutor, Shadow, believes that they should play whatever the people want to hear. According to him, Bleek’s “vision” isn’t going to be heard, let alone understood by the masses. Shadow figures the only way to get more Black folks into more seats is to play what they want, even if it means sacrificing are unique artistic vision. In this view, Shadow could be seen as an assimilator. Giving up his own identity, he’d rather play for the masses for the sake of pleasing them instead of creating for his own purpose. Bleek, more of a radical postmodernist, seeks to “incorporate the voices of the displaced, marginalized, exploited and oppressed black people” (2480 hook) in his work. Many of his performances in the film include black vernacular and commentary on the current landscape of Black music, containing his own originally written music. Both of these men’s arguments reflect to dichotomy of Black thought of the latter 20th century. A black person seen as an assimilator (white-identified) or nationalist (Black-idenitified) and this train of thought spanned across all areas of life, not just music.

Hooks, Bell. “Postmodern Blackness”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001.2478-2485. Print.

Louis Gates Jr., Henry. “Talking Black: Critical Signs of The Times”. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 2424-2432. Print.

"Mo' Better Blues" 0:00-2:06

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

YVES SAINT LAURENT SPRING/SUMMER 2010 MEN/HOMME: A Beauvoir Criticism

During the brief short film “Collection Homme Printemps/EyĆ© 2010, a young boy, Jules, entertains himself in a strangers hotel room after finding the room key on the sidewalk. After trying on the stranger’s clothes, wandering around the room, and looking through a pile of novels, the young boy begins to read a letter found on the nightstand. Here, Simone de Beauvoir and her feminist criticism comes into play, since Melinda, the letter’s author, is what Beauvoir would claim to be a woman seeking desires constructed and catered to males. As Jules reads the letter, it is revealed that it’s a love letter, written by a woman named Melinda to a man named Juohnny, the absent man who is renting the hotel room. Melinda expresses in the letter how she couldn’t make it to Paris, telling Johnny “As always, I missed you so much I cried.” From this we can suppose Johnny left Melinda on occasion, for work, family, we’re never sure. The date the films takes place and the date of the letter aren’t revealed so there is no way of knowing how long Johnny has been away from Melinda or how long that letter has been sitting on the night-stand.

 Johnny is absent throughout the entire short film so the only yearning that we see is from Melinda. In the letter she recalls intimate moments the couple has had together but that now she’s sadly in “solitude”. She reminds Johnny, “you’ve never said you love me . . . I thought I could teach you.” With this statement, we see can see the woman working for the man’s affection while man, according this letter, is disinterested. The desperation in the letter shows a woman needing a male in order to feel comfort, love and happiness while the man is apparently content, traveling however frequently, away from his partner.
After watching television and reading some poems, Jules falls asleep in the hotel room bed, woken by a phone call from Melinda. The phone conversation is passionate as Jules attempts to mask his young voice, excusing it’s odd sound because he just woke up. Posing as Johnny, Jules professes his love for Melinda, paraphrasing a line from a poem by Romantic poet Alfred de Musset. Melinda immediately accepts his affection, books a flight for Paris, taking the time and money to visit him instead of Jules leaving Paris to return to her. 

As Beauvoir would say, the woman has become the man’s dependent. Throughout the entire short film, with the except of the Jules calling a girl named Lola after reading a Romance poem, there is no reciprocal love from a man to a woman. Jules poses as Johnny but his affection is inherently artificial, placating the conventional feminine woman in Melinda. Johnny is established a role in the short film as the absolute, hierarchal human, opposing Melinda as the other. Her only happiness is at the end of her conversation with Jules/Johnny, after he confirms that her letter made him happy. The only reason is she coming to Paris is because the he allows her. There is no need for the real Johnny to even show up, since he’s given the benefit of the doubt as the superior human that deserves the desperate love of the convention feminine woman, Melinda. Jules leaves the hotel after the phone call, leaving a message on the bathroom for Johnny that “Melinda Is Coming Tonight”., leaving the audience unsure how their relationship will play out when the couple actually speak. However, with what is presented before hand, the stereotypical male and female will probably end up reuniting in love.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"Glengarry Glenross": A Marxist Analysis

In a scene from the film Glengarry Glenross, three salesmen at a real estate office have their workday day interrupted by a higher up employee. Blake, a big time salesman, has visited as the mouthpiece for the large company Mitch & Murray in order to spur some life into the workers (Dave, Levene, George). In a Marxist’s view, Blake can be seen as the bourgeois (modern capitalist) while the workers could be considered the proletariat (modern wage laborer). During his rant and admonishment of their work, Blake, with the exception of a passing mention of Levene’s name, doesn’t address the workers by their real names. Instead he yells various insults at them, comments on their poor work and lack of money. His harsh words emphasize Marx’s view that “People are conditioned to believe . . . themselves to blame for their discontent and failures” (Marx and; Engels 761). If you as a worker don’t succeed in earning money then you’re consider good for nothing. A person’s morals and virtues aren’t welcome in the work place, only an unrelenting necessity to sell the next lead.
            These leads, the most coveted commodity in the at the real estate agency, are presented by Blake as being the most valuable item the worker can own. A lead, a piece of paper with the name and address of a person interested in renting a condo, will allow these workers to gain money, their purport of existence. Therefore, as a result of place these itemize on a pedestal, as the highest form of commodity in their existence, the works develop a fetish for the lead. They yearn for this piece of paper that Blake has mystified; claming that they provide almost guaranteed success. The demand for a lead is made before it is even available to the works, creating desire for worker that drives them towards creating more money.
 During the scene, Blake insisted that his name doesn’t matter but that he earned over nine hundred thousand dollars last year and owns a watch more expensive than Dave’s car. He makes another point, mentioning that people don’t come here to get out of the rain but to buy what you’re selling. The connections people have are created via cash, not emotions. As Marx says, “The industrial capitalist economy alienates individuals from the work that they do, unable to control their won labor . . . they lack control and knowledge” (Marx and Engels 761). These works are eventually presented with the choice of either increasing their work output or being fired. They’re confused why this is happening all of a sudden but they must adhere to the demands from the higher power. The worker’s livelihood depends on earning money to maintain a profit for the company, earn their wage and life in accordance to the life formed by their bourgeois.
Overall, this scene of conflict between Blake against Dave, Levene and George is representation of the conflict between the bourgeois and the proletariat. The former takes advantage over the later, forming a relationship through money. A product of fetish, the lead, is created in order to encourage more production, turn a simple piece of paper into a commodity. Relationships with people outside of the work place, customers, are told to be strictly for sales. An is created of success being attainable only through the accruement of money and soon this idea becomes a culture of it’s own. From there the bourgeois gain their extreme power through  a “manufactured assent to its belief and practices” (Marx and Engels 762)


"Karl Max and Friedrich Engels". The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 759-764. Print.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: A Reader's Response


In ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, a film directed by Michel Gondry and written by Charlie Kaufman, we see the relationship of Joel and Clementine play out in reverse, from their break-up to when they first meet. Joel finds out through a friend that Clementine has erased the memories of their relationship after their last big fight. Overcome by grief, Joel decides to get the same treatment at Lacuna, an agency where they remove the bad memories from the subconscious. 

The first scenes you see of Joel and his encounter portray him to be an introverted, extremely shy guy. He struggles to hold a conversation and express any feelings to the extroverted Clementine while they're aboard a train. This juxtaposition of character seems to be purposely made in order to build sympathy for Joel (who narration we hear at the beginning explains his loneliness and romanticism). When Joel mets Clementine we're already cheering for them to become romantically involved. Therefore, when I found out (at the same time as Joel) that Clementine has erased the memories of their relationship from her mind and is with a new guy, Patrick, I'm just as heart broken and confused about the situation. This parallelism of action between the protagonist and audience helps strengthen the bond of the two and helped draw me emotionally into the film at the very beginning


The rest of the film is the process of Lucana technicians, Stan and Patrick, erasing Joel's memories of Clementine, from the end of the relationship to their first encounter. Revealing the relationship in reverse in a welcome change to the old format of romances where the relationship is told in a linear fashion. Since Joel is asleep, we see glimpses of the memory as the degrade and eventually disappear since they are being deleted. I found it fascinating that earlier into the deletion process Joel become lucid in during the procedure, willingly viewing the angrier events of his relationship. However, Joel become nostalgic and falls back in love with Clementine as the good times they had are being deleted. This scenes play out in greater detail and I felt a happiness as Joel did when as viewed/participated in these past memories. As I saw scenes where Clementine reveals intimate childhood horror or as Joel and her sit on a frozen lake,viewing the stars, Joel falls back in love with Clementine. Joel and the audience regret his decision to delete the memories. 

Iser, Wolfgang. "Interaction Between Text and The Reader” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 1670-1682. Print.
 

Eventually, despite much effort, Joel reconciles with Clementine, revealing his true feelings as they first met. He awakes from the procedure the next morning, eventually meets Clementine again and they try once more at having a relationship together. Together, the film is a hodgepodge of scenes, few of them directly relating to the previous one. As Wolfgang Iser says, a text provides  "sets of instructions" (1671) or "repertoire" (1671) that I, the reader or viewer, must put together. After placing together the images presented to me from the film, along with the sounds, I figured that the second relationship of Joel and Clementine would fail like the first. The saying of "opposites attract" applies here but the lasting bond of that attraction will not be enough since Clementine is far too impulsive and insatiable emotionally for the introverted, cagey, Joel. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"I Gave You My Heart": A Narrative and Structuralist Analysis


Paul-Barnes-I-Gave-You-My-Heart-12x10-1000-Large.jpg



He walked across the barren landscape, the sky a dull pink and ground the color dirt tinged with green. Head down, Bugle, a little fellow with diabolic horns and slits for eyes, moved his legs forward, one after the other, lost in deep thoughts of longing. The object of his affection, wilted away after lack of proper care, failed to escape from the arm of death and succumbed to the pull of the underworld. From then on Bugle mourned the spot where his beloved once stood, for three days remembering times past. The sadness drained the passion from his body and the space the heart occupied was now a hollow void. Vowing never love again, Bugle set off in no particular direction, seeking refuge from everything familiar.  Along the way others sought his company but the memories of his beloved wouldn’t allow him to seek the warmth of another so he continued his march. After two weeks of continual walking a figure became visible in the horizon.  Bugle surmised the object in the distance was a mirage, his lack of sleep and nutrition inviting delusion. However, with each step, the silhouetted figure became illuminated. A crow squawked overhead, landed on the arm of the figure and with several more steps the figure became illuminated. Bugle came to a stop in front of the figure, ceasing to walk for the first time in two weeks. The flower, a type Bugle couldn’t decipher since botany wasn’t his specialty, stood beautifully, with an elegant air and posture. Indifferent to the appearance of Bugle, Flower sustained its rigidity, even as the crow resting on her arm began to voice agitated squawks. The birds incessant noise made no difference to Bugle. He had fallen in love at first sight. With is neck craned to fully view Flower’s face, Bugle saw a flawless pedal without a trace of tear or weather. Timidly, Bugle outstretched his hand, hoping to receive the free hand of Flower. She showed no signs of refusal and although she towered over Bugle, whose arm was far too short to reach her hand, he unknowingly elevated toward the sky. A familiar feeling, a warm, giddy, euphoric passion imbued his chest and suddenly Bugle held hands with Flower. Astounded by change in height, he looked down and found himself sitting on his heart, bigger than ever, waking from a comatose slumber.  Annoyed by the squawking, Bugle hushed the crow, his diabolic stare placing an unimaginable fear into the bird. With silence restored, his heart relieved of its grogginess, Bugle eyed approaching clouds in the distance which carryied sustenance for the Flower. Relieved with the turn of events, he looked to the bird, his stomach growling, and grinned.
            The painting, “I Gave You My Heart” by Paul Barnes is a very simplistic painting. Analyzing it with a Structural lens, I clearly see a distinction between the few subject portrayed in the piece. As Ferdinand De Saussure, a theorist of literature, would say, there exists a "concept add sound image respectively by signified and signifier" (de Saussure 964). In the case of this painting, the image is the signifier which produces the concept or signified. The light pink and red colors of the background emit beauty and calm. The black figures, the devilish looking creature and the crow, although not necessarily evil by their actions or expressions, give off a worrisome vibe. The little creature with horns may signify the devil or evil. The black crow forebodes eminent danger. The sleeping heart may signify a lost or now dormant passion. The flower emits beauty and simplicity. The crow and the creature sit on the elegant flower and sleeping heart respectfully, neither knowing that these creatures are sitting on them. The otherwise empty landscape signifies that no one else is around to witness since the creatures, flower, and heart are occupying an isolated area.  Overall this painting, in the most simple analysis, is a dichotomy  between good/evil, light/dark.

De Saussure, Ferdinand. "Course In General Linguistics."  The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 49-63, 956-974. Print.

image url: http://www.sourharvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Paul-Barnes-I-Gave-You-My-Heart-12x10-1000-Large.jpg

Monday, July 12, 2010

Longinus & Plato's Values of Poetry


For my choice of a Youtube clip, I chose an animation of an animated Wilfred Owen reciting his poem, "Conscious". In Owen's poem, a man wakes in a hospital bed, the room dark. Enjoying his surroundings, he's quickly overcome with anxiety and bewilderment. The great recitation of the poem visually places you in the hospital and after it's done, makes you wonder what accident caused this man to wind up in this bed. After listening to the clips a few times, I was reminded of some points the philosopher Longinus made in reference in sublimity in his essay "On Sublimity".  Longinus mentioned how sublimity can appear in a text through such aspects as hyperbaton, selection and organization of material. He defines hyperbaton as "an arrangement of words or thoughts which differs from normal sequence . . . a very real mark of urgent emotion" (Longinus 147). You can hear the use of this method when the worrisome protagonist asks:

And who's that talking, somewhere out of sight?
Why are they laughing? What's inside that jug?

"Nurse! Doctor!"
The protagonist’s words aren't complete thoughts but a realistic representation of a man, having just awoken in a hospital after an apparent injury, trying to figure out his strange surroundings.  Longinus claims a writer's should capture the reader’s attention by the selection and the detail of that selection. Consistency in picking the most important details to share and organizing them in an effect manner is key to achieving sublimity. Owen is very skilled in this regard. He begins the poem calmly, with the visual of fingers that "flutter up the bed" if he describing a butterfly. Then there is a barrage of worrisome questions as he takes in his surrounding, throwing protagonist into peril. Finally, in the second and final stanza,  there is a balance between the two extremes shown. Owen, in Longinus' eyes, does a good job of ordering the material and exposing enough detail to give off a sense of grandeur in the poem. 
Conversely, Plato's theories in 'Republic' would severely go against this poem. As mentioned in out class discussion, Plato sees the representation of man showing excessive emotion as detrimental to the society of readers. According to Plato, to allow a person to read such a poem as 'Conscious', feel empathy for the man in the bed and witness these emotions would cause them to believe this type of behavior is acceptable. Plato's edit to the text would render the man in the bed emotionless, showing no overt signs of happiness or terror but great indifference in reaction to his condition and location. Plato is more interested in "representers of images of goodness" (Republic 73), an image that cause people, young to old, to be moral and virtuous as a result of reading these texts.  A poem such ‘Conscious’ would be psychologically damaging since Owen uses mimesis (imitation) to create this scene. It’s not really a man in a waking in a hospital being frightened but, as Plato would say, a representation of a man, a hospital bed and so on. As mentioned above, there is a large difference between the viewpoints of Longinus and Plato. The two philosophers respected poetry but in their unique, differing tastes.
Works Cited
Plato. “Republic.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 49-63, 67-80. Print.
Longinus. “On Sublimity.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticsim. Ed. Simon, Peter. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2001. 49-63, 67-80. Print.