ENG 350 – “The Road”

Last week I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy. To keep with my theme of comparing the novels I read for class to video games, I’d love to compare The Road to The Last Of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013), but I’ve never played the game. I only know its a zombie apocalypse game that focuses on the main character transporting a young girl to a safe location. Its a game I’ve meant to play but never got around to, and like The Road, the narrative is more about the relationships than the state of the world.

Though the class focuses on climate related fiction, I don’t feel that the situation in The Road is strictly climate fiction. It’s about the old fear of nuclear winter rather than the new fear of global warming. It focuses more on the powerlessness of the main characters at the hands of other humans than the uncaring universe. Don’t get me wrong, the uncaring universe is there, but it’s there for everyone. When something is so ever-present, it ceases to be a worry, and more of just a concern. A factor that must be taken into account rather than directly planned for.

In The Road, the man (who is never named, other than “Papa”) is entirely concerned with protecting the boy (his son, who again is never named). This protection ranges from tending to his physical needs (food, water, shelter) as well as his metaphysical ones. The man fosters a kindness in the boy that, even as the boy begins to call out the hypocrisy of the man, the man still insists the boy must adhere to. This echoes much of the world as is—”Do as I say, not as I do”—where people martyr themselves so that others don’t have to. It’s always wishful thinking in my opinion, as everyone must always survive, and protecting people in this way sometimes makes them unable to care for themselves in morally ambiguous situations.

The relationships between the main characters and other characters, however brief, are as important as the relationship between the main characters themselves. When two people have only each other, they can say whatever they want, but when a witness comes around, their attitude changes. The boy hints near the end that the stories the man told him about being the good guys are just that—stories. Lies. A mask the man wants to wear in front of the boy. But when others come around who are just as desperate, the boy wants the man to wear the mask, but the man knows the mask is flimsy and won’t protect them.

The end is “happy” in a sense, in that the boy won’t be alone, but we also don’t know his future. To truly be a dystopic story, though, I think the boy should have suffered alone longer. Not that I would wish that upon anyone, but the boy went from one protection to another—and honestly, when would that ever happen? Does it even happen now?

ENG 363 – Pop Culture & Diversity

The readings for this week were the “Race and Entertainment” section of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and “Moving Beyond Pain” by bell hooks. One of my classmates touched on a point I previously hadn’t considered regarding these two takes on pop culture representations of race and women. There is a lack of diversity while being diverse. Shows with a diverse cast but not diverse roles are often lamented by actors of color.

I am reminded of the plight of new actors, which I’ve seen explained by Carolina Ravassa on her youtube channel Hispanglosaxon. While most of the episodes focus on her issues with being “too white to play Latina, and too ethnic to play white,” she also discusses on, when being cast to play an “ethnic” role she is often expected to play a hyper-sexualized service role (see season 1 episode 9). While shows may be casting people of color, they’re still casting them into the same, tired roles. Though it may be the entire cast (in the case of Lemonade), hooks laments that they are playing a stereotypical role (the body as a commodity in the background). With Orange is the New Black, there is a diverse cast (some latina, some african american, etc) they are all, still, some sort of criminal.

Jonny Cruz, another actor of color, in an interview at a convention was asked what to do when offered a role that perpetuates a stereotype. He admitted that he once took a role of a “thug” or “gangster” early on because he needed the work, but it made him feel awful. He knows he took the role because he needed a job, money, experience, etc, but he’s refused to do similar roles ever again. His advice for other new actors of color is to know that if you don’t feel right about a role, you do not have to take it. If you do choose to take it, you do not need to feel bad about perpetuating a stereotype so that you can eat. It’s a difficult position that the media puts minority actors in, but there is some solidarity and understanding in the actor communities.

BATIM pix. art!!!


BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM BATIM

ENG 350 – Week 2 – Remainder of California

In my previous post regarding Edan Lepucki’s California I mentioned the symbolic “newness” of the turkey baster and the meaning Frida attaches to her other artifacts.  There are several times where objects—possessions—are triggers for memories or behaviors for Frida and Cal. These same objects, when handled by others, affect the characters. The Bee that Frida finds in Micah’s house meant so much to them as children and brings back pleasant memories for her, but to Micah it is just a tool. Micah understands what artifacts mean to Frida, though, and has August bring back her collection from the Miller Estate. But again, to Micah, they are just a tool to control Frida’s reactions. It’s entirely possible he left the Bee out for her to see. Micah uses Cal in the same way, but targets his ego rather than objects. He know Cal will be chuffed to part of the inner circle; to be let into a room that not even other members of the inner circle get to be in. He gives Cal/Gray an assignment on the inside to keep him in line; to make him feel special. He gives Frida/Julie all the objects of a “normal” life she could ask for.

I don’t particularly like that Lepucki echoed the stereotypes of men and women in the Land, especially after deriding such separations in earlier chapters. Frida willfully enters into “women’s work”; baking, cooking, gossiping. Cal continues with manual labor, security, and intellectualism. What does Lepucki mean to say about the end of the world, or the nature of humanity, by having her starring roles be held by such stereotypes? Even with Sandy, a pioneer through and through, she cared for the kids and did laundry and even pressured Frida to have a child. Bo did the hunting. The labor. “It’s about upper body strength” was used more than once in the novel to explain why Men do certain jobs.

While neither Frida nor Cal’s skills are presented as lesser than the other, the Land still has a clear distinction of how women work/behave/think and how men work/behave/think. Cal collected information from discussions. Frida, from gossip. Cal proved his worth by working. Frida, from bribery (with baked goods). While it could be said that these character choices are just these characters and how they would behave, that doesn’t explain the remainder of the population going along with the same ideals. The Men were in charge. The Men did security outside, the Women inside. The Women used sex to persuade Men. There were jobs that were co-ed, such as the construction, but the one woman in it was considered a shrew for wanting things measured. The men in cooking were considered inept.

ENG 363 – “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay (first half of book)

My fear with any feminism class I take and any feminist book I read is that I’ll be beaten with the two-by-four of feminist rhetoric telling me how awful I am for not embracing the gold-star feminism of hairy-pits and man-bashing. It seems Roxane Gay has this same fear. While she starts the book with essays about herself, she goes on to discuss how pop-culture has skewed her view of feminism and how it could (and does) skew others’ views as well.

I am particularly taken with the essay “Garish, Glorious Spectacles.” I’ve long considered gender (masculinity/femininity) to be purely a performance. It’s an act one puts on to get responses. I’ve never been attached to either femininity or masculinity, having spent much of my younger years being told I was a “tomboy” for liking the things I liked and never really having much interest in the script for “girl”. My lovely housemate found that she also didn’t have much interest in the script for “boy” growing up, and now is finding that the script for “girl” doesn’t quite fit either (but moreso than “boy”). She revels in her ambiguity now, and as I told her I love seeing her happy, “You make others as confused about your gender as you are!” Gay’s readings of “Green Girl” et al affirm/confirm our right to be confused about ourselves by showing how the media portrays the “act” of woman. We know what we are, yet here is a popular TV show showing us what we say we are is not the definition they want to portray. The stereotypes of women are entertaining—an actual woman is human, normal.

Gay’s “Not Here To Make Friends” elaborates more on the stereotypes of women in media negatively affecting women in general. A woman who is portrayed as independent and bold is unlikable, but the same for a man is the ideal. Such it is in life – a woman in leader ship is bossy while a man is just the boss. The essay goes on to to say that it’s foolish to thing of a character needing to be likable to be a good character, man or woman, but a man often gets a bye as the “anti-hero”. A woman is just a bitch.

ENG 350 Week 1 – California Chapters 1-7

The opening of California (by Edan Lepucki) has been refreshing. Growing up with media such as Captain Planet and Ferngully, I’ve been inoculated against the over-the-top personal pleas for the average person doing what they can to fix whatever is wrong with the environment that week. If you, average American child, do not recycle that can, you are leading us to the environmental apocalypse! California acknowledges that the problem isn’t the average American—it’s the rich capitalist, the corporation—that’s causing the problems. It is, however, the average American that suffers.

Frida fawns over her artifacts, including the like-new turkey baster, as reminders of what life was before it began to end. Though as the story progresses, we learn that the end was already there. The irreversible causes had already had their effect, and it was just a matter of time before everyone felt them. Resources became more and more scarce, and only the rich could afford them. Frida’s artifacts seem less like symbols of what her life was, but more like what life should have been had humanity cared enough to not destroy itself. It’s more of a hope that they could return to the ideal, should they come across some wonderful fix or some way to get into the Communities.

Naming their plot of land the Afterlife is a bit like holding on to her collection of objects. While the move there was Frida and Cal’s abandonment of the world, they still call it something based on their interpretation of the world. But the name also shows their acceptance that they really can’t salvage the world in any way. To not call it “Eden” is an admission that the move was not for a new beginning; it was for a new ending. Rather than be just another body in an alley outside a hospital, unable to afford care, they chose to be away from everything and care only for themselves. They threw themselves to the wild knowing full well they could not tame anything.

Lepuki’s descriptions of the wilds reclaiming urban centers and man-made objects makes something extremely clear about global warming and its effects on humanity: the world will continue even if we cannot live in it. Super-storms and other “acts of God” are already present and destroying civilization’s mark upon the world; they’re no different in California. Cal’s parents in Cleveland succumbed to harsh blizzards and the west coast is devastated by other natural events. Being able to ignore it is a privilege for the wealthy, but they are only ignoring what will eventually happen to them.

Reading the beginning of this book I was reminded often of the Fallout series; an eternally wasteful USA drains the world of its resources and goodwill, and succumbs to the events they cannot control. Though it is nuclear war in Fallout, the anarchic, community-based societies that follow the destruction are similar. The isolationists, the raiders/pirates, the feral communities are present in both the Fallout games and California.

Frida and Cal’s devotion to each other is not total—while they are clearly not physically unfaithful, they each, for their own reasons, choose to keep their emotions and thoughts from each other. It is strange that they would do so considering a fear of what the other might think (such as with Frida’s drug use) is a product of a society in which they no longer participate. Even marriage is a relic of this society, just as Frida’s artifacts are.

There is so much that can be said even in these first few chapters about Lepucki’s take on what would happen during the social apocalypse, especially since I haven’t even mention Micah yet. Micah (and his supposed death) is a huge catalyst for both Frida and Cal in the story; his return in chapter 8 intrigues me.

English Classes – Summer 2018

I’m enrolled in two English classes this summer that require blog posts for interaction. I’ll be putting them here on SDO with tags for each class—ENG350 for Dystopian Lit and ENG363 for New Feminist Memoir. Use the links here or below the post to find all writings as they are posted for each class.

Memento Mori – parody

spooky!

Some Art 2-16-16

frisk2-16-16-2ibis2-16-16frisk2-16-16 sans2-16-16

someone I follow on tumblr hosted a drawpile so I drew some Undertale stuff.

Jurack Family Game Night

Saturday night, we had my husband’s side of the family over for our bi-monthly family game night. One of the games suggested by Kim has the lovely title of “Eat Poop You Cat” (a name no doubt inspired by results of a round of the game). The basic premise of the game is that you play telephone on a sheet of paper, and in order to garble the message, every other person draws. It starts with a sentence at the top from one person. The next person draws that sentence, and folds the paper so that only the image is visible. The next writes what they think the original message was that produced that image, they then fold the image away. The next draws that sentence, and so on. I think it works best with an odd number of people, so that when your paper gets back to you, it’s a sentence again.

Round one, we passed to the left.  The seating arrangement was me, James to the left, Dan to the left, , then Kim, Sandy, Lindy, Brett, and back to me.

amanda-left

A grown man sobbing into his pizza a midnight.
Being an extremely sad person eating a pizza with your tail.
I’m sorry I stained my pants with pizza.
I spilled pepperoni pizza on my jeans and I’m sad.

james-left

Frodo biting off Gollum’s finger.
3 men in a cave and one is smacking the other guy while he throws up + the other is shocked.
The caveman puked and his friends watched.
Superman vomiting after toking some bad weed while a two-legged horse runs away.

dan-left

An angry old man eating cereal.
There’s a marshmallow in every bite!
Three tanks in a row without cannons from an aerial perspective.
An endless line of Allied tanks rolling into Germany.

kim-left

Nintendo Mario punched a zombie in the back of the head.
Mario slapped the baby and made him cry.
TOAD IS MEAN TO BABY!!
Toadstool shaking a spoon, sadly, at a crying baby in a push-car.

sandy-left

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.
A cat swipes his paws at a dog laying on the ground.
Cat trolls dog and dog doesn’t care.
A spider scared the cat + made him poop while a small dog rode on a big dog that was wagging his tail.

lindy-left

The baby spilled the spaghetti.
A baby spilling food off the high chair, breaking a dish.
A baby crying in his highchair with a sippy cup on it and a broken egg on the floor.
Mama, I dropped my eggs—can I have some more?! PLEASE!

brett-left

Abraham Lincoln loves riding a T-Rex at the moon.
A Victorian gentleman escapes Armageddon by going back in time and riding a a T-Rex to the moon.
The cable man rode a T-Rex through the clouds.
I rode my T-Rex up into the clouds.

Round two, we passed to the right.  The seating arrangement was me, Brett, Lindy, Sandy, Kim, Dan, and James.

amanda-right

I used to be an adventurer like you, then I took an arrow in the knee.
Robin Hood shot his buddy in the leg and smiled about it, while another villager hid behind a tree.
Robin Hood shot the bad guy in the leg while Little Jon hid behind a tree.
The larpers got caught up in a volcanic eruption.

brett-right

The baby feet smell like stinky cheese!
My feet stink as bad as Limburger cheese! Peeuuuuu
OH MY GOD! My stinky feet turned into a pizza-mouse!
Fuck! I have stinky pizza feet again.

lindy-right

Two brothers sporting mustaches rode a whale into town.
Three mustached men rode a whale into a village.
Three mustachioed men ride a blue whale through town.
A mariachi band ride a whale through town.

sandy-right

Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffit, eating some curds + whey.
Little Miss Muffet sat on a mushroom (tuffet?) eating her cereal. While along came a spider…
Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating of curds and whey. The spider like to watch.
Little Miss Muffet dipper her finger in a piece of cake, not giving two shits about the spider that sat down beside her.

kim-right

The elf rode the unicorn as they leapt over a rainbow.
Bird-man was surprised by a noise behind him while jumping over rainbow on unicorn.
An angel cheers on a unicorn jumping over a rainbow.
Somewhere over the rainbow unicorns + angels fly.

dan-right

A man naked from the waist down playing the trombone
A man plays the trombone while pants-less and commando.
The trombonist in the UT marching band forgot his pants and everyone saw his family jewels.
Naked marching band.

james-right

Don’t milk that cow, it’s sick!
Don’t milk the cow yet, son. It just pooped and left a pile on the ground.
Let’s go get some cow poop to fertilize the garden!
A dopey cow pooped all up them flowas.

 

I ended up sleeping until after everyone had left … then going back to sleep again until about 5 pm. I guess I wasn’t feeling well.