Friday, March 27, 2009


First, Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favorite authors. I think that Everything Is Illuminated, as a film, beautifully and accurately captures what the author was trying to give the audience: a shared experience of pain and self-discovery. I think one of the reasons I so love this story is that I have never been aware of my family's own history. Not knowing where you come from and feeling alone is something that is painful, yet full of possibilities. The character who is searching not only shines a light on his own past, but also touches deeply on the past of the Ukranian family that is guiding him. It really shows how the histories of a people, a nation, and even strangers are extremely intertwined and in order to understand yourself you need only to look at those people around you, who have similar stories and similar scars. Jonathan collects all of these and is able to somehow piece them together. I love this film.

Painful Art

Though I wasn't able to attend the lecture, which I've heard was fantastic, I was able to read about and research some of the specific artists and pieces that were to be discussed. I was about 12 when my sister was watching Bully and I, of course, was rushed from the room. The glimpses that I caught, however, left a lasting impression. The roughness and grittiness that Larry Clark poured into his film gave it a very realistic and harsh tone. The fact that he refused to harness the pain that the situation needed, despite conventional film standard showed a true dedication to using his films as art, rather than producing romantic comedies for teen aged girls to throw money at. Films are always considered a form of art, so why should all art be happy, when it is truly meant to be expressive?
The Tracy Emin piece brought up a great deal of questions about the relativity of pain. Obviously the destruction of her art which was a piece of who she was is something very devastating. By comparing it with the Iraq war in her text message she really managed to throw many people's every day painful experiences into a bigger picture. Should we really worry about breaking a necklace or breaking up with a boyfriend when, in the scheme of things, our experiences are relatively pleasant? Is it worth crying over spilt milk?
Finally I read about the art created by Sue Williams. Her art explicitly shows grotesque sexual situations influenced by her experience with rape and abuse. I was shocked to hear some of the criticisms that her work has recieved, both from men and women. While feminism is clearly not a universal sentiment, the female experience, in every form, deserves to be displayed and interpreted. For them to see it as a cry for attention or as an attack on the male gender is an example of people creating excuses for feeling uncomfortable. But the female experience is very uncomfortable and it is refreshing to see art that reflects the reality rather than the fantacized ideals.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lit and Art of 9/11

Originally I was looking forward to the lecure on 9/11. Then, I went to do the readings for preparation and was confronted with the image of the Falling Man. I did not remember seeing that photograph in 2001 when it was published, but looking at it today I was very affected by the photo. After seeing the image I immediately thought "Oh no, I'm going to cry during class again." The photo brings up emotions of hopelessness, tragedy, and loss. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the way the material was presented and handled: from an academic and critical point of view. I liked that the main question presented was how, if at all, the experience of 9/11 should be presented in literature and art. Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was, until tonight, my only encounter with literature or art stemming from the events on 9/11. One of my favorite novels, the book seemed to me to adequately capture many emotions and experiences caused by that day. To discover that critics have condemned and criticized that book as well as all other art and lit that deals with the subject was, to me, stunning. Perhaps it is because I had some degree of separation from the attack itself that I could value and even enjoy the examples shown today. I think that it is important to document such an important and defining event. Culture depends on works of art to demonstrate to posterity the realities and values of each generation. Dismissing those that deal with September 11th as tasteless or vulgar is denying history and preventing Americans in the future from learning about their past and cutting a huge part of modern America out of culture. To ignore 9/11 is the same as denying that it happened. We can only live in denial for so long before it is necessary to come out, embrace what has happened and incorporate it into not only art of the present but also of the future. Each person must interpret the events in their own personal way because it did affect the nation on such a large scale. To denounce or devalue personal interpretations in literature and art is demeaning, not only to those who would create art, but also to those whose deaths would be forgotten without it.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Timeless love?

I'm glad this chance presented me with the opportunity to see Harold and Maude. When I first looked up a description I was still lost as to what the film could be about. Now, I realize that no blurb could possibly do it justice. Let me first say that I found Maude pretty annoying. When she wasn't doing quirky things that made me laugh out loud I secretly cringed everytime she opened her mouth. She loves life, I get it, now chill out. Harold, on the other hand, I couldn't get enough of (and no, it wasn't because of those sexy pants he wore). He was preoccupied with death for a large portion of the film and I think he was searching for a blance somewhere between it and life, which he found in Maude. I think the film showed that love is the midway between life and death. There is pain and sorrow and happiness and a connection in love. The enigmatic ending was also indicative of this balance. He is able to fake his death yet again, but once he deals with that pain he is able to play music and dance because Maude has taught him that life needs to be lived. The film itself is one of those works of art that can never be fully interpreted correctly. There are new meanings in every scene and an understanding of the message is personal rather than universal. The movie was entertianing and meaningful, a rare combination. Although I still think the age difference is really creepy, I think it was Maude's wisdom that ultimately saves Harold.

Inappropriate laughter

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Rape is Funny" lecture, not because I found it amusing, but because Professor Highberg dared to discuss what others typically won't. I think society today is very forgiving. Aside from the media scrutiny and the talk of "politically correct" speech, America is still typically laughing at the taboo. Racist jokes are not a thing of the past, sexism is alive and well, and now we can add a new brand of humor to the mix. We generally laugh because we're shocked or because we cannot relate to those who would be offended, but rape victims commonly do not reveal themselves in relaxed settings. Anyone could be a victim of rape in the past or future, so to show blatant insensitivity to the situation is rather harsh. Personally i don't like the subject of prison rape because it is so common both in life and in humor. "Don't drop the soap" is a phrase that pretty much everyone recognizes and connects to rape. While I think that rape is unacceptable in prisons and think it should be a political and humanitarian priority, I feel like that idea is so common that it would be hard to rub out from conversation and entertainment. This is not just because people think its funny but also because it is something that happens all the's not a made up joke, it's a reference to a real-life occurance. The fact that we use those jokes as a deterrent to crime is repugnant, yet effective. The lecture was thought provoking and will surely spark conversation throughout the campus in the weeks to come.

Requiem for a Dream

This film has always been haunting. I watched it with my sister when I was only 13 and am pretty sure its had something to do with my reluctance to experiment with drugs. The characters are all very easy to sympathize with - the lonely old lady, the two friends who depend on one another, and the couple who just want to create a life for themselves. To witness the devestation that drugs can wreak on these people who don't seem too different from ones self is a terrifying thing. For me the most alarming aspect (besides amputation...!) is the behavior of Harry's mother. She is just someone who has been trying to be extraordinary, happens to be prescribed an addictive pill, and eventually loses her mind. Perhaps its a personal thing, but I really feel as though this could happen to even the most innocent of people. She clearly had an obsessive personality and the fact that doctors are so prescription happy these days creates a dangerous combination that can lead to the downfall of any normal citizen. That is not to say that the other characters did not have a chance to be normal, but it was only their decisions that led them to their downfall. I cannot personally understand how people can learn to depend on things that inflict so much pain on themselves. For Marion to do what she did (and I'd rather not describe it in a blog) just shows how much of herself she lost not only to drugs but to the destructive relationship that she's developed with Harry. The movie is a terrifying account of the way people can lose focus on what's important and dilude themselves into needing pain.