Occidentalism

Thinking back to my original blog post on the subject to Orientalism, I come up a bit unsatisfied and bit miffed. I never could figure out until now. Mainly that my exploration into the “Orient”‘s perspective of the west ended during the Second Opium War. With the topic of Orientalism moving on to the modern day I think I should I continue the story. But before I do so I thought I should try to answer why I’m doing this, simply put everybody else is doing their thing on West to East, I thought I might try as well do the other side.

I call this Eastern fascination with the west Occidentalism, from Latin Occiden, meaning west. In my opinion this entire idea can best be embodied in one word, Kare. You know in America how we have faux Chinese instant noodle with flavoring which as Iris points out is basically just sesame oil. Well in Japan the have something called Kare. Kare comes from the English word curry, which comes from the Tamil word Kari. Its nothing like actual Indian curry and you can find it in pre-made cubes in boxes in most grocery stores. That’s right, Japan has its own Orientalism for India.

And its not just that. You know in America how it’s not too uncommon for a person to have a tattoo of a Chinese character, one often drawn incorrectly or taken out of context, well Japan has it as well. Mostly in the form of t-shirts with English writing on it, often times out of context or with incorrect grammar.

Finally this brings me to my main point, isn’t this a good thing? People from all across the world are taking an interest other cultures. Instead of shunning them out they are seeing them as worthy enough to make their own.

How a little at a time can backfire.

Before I begin my blog I would like to put out my feelings on G.O.S.T., mainly that it is a resounding, unadulterated and complete eh. Not great, not terrible. And part of the reason as to why is that it drip feeds information in way as to make it unintresting.

From the very first chapter we know that Sophie dies in December of 1969. We also find out that midway through the book that something bad happend to Velutha. From this we can probably surmise that he gets blamed for her death. But for some reason Roy keeps going thru as if its a mystery. We can already tell what happens and all this serves to do is waist time. You might say that you actually quite like the dialog and the descriptions in the intervining times, but for me I wasn’t in to it. All in all i think that this book would be better if it were more straight foreward with the timeline.

See, I’m Not Crazy

Seeing as to the lack of any actual class time including the promised timeline, I have decided to make my own and prove that there is a discrepancy in the timeline.

As we all well know by now the plot of the book centers around the death of Estha’s and Rahel’s cousin Sophie in December of 1969, and coming together 23 years later. Now, I’m going to warn you, this next part does have math. 1969+23=1992. So the year that the reunion takes place is 1992, this means that because Ammu was 27 in 1969 she was born in 1942 and died at age 31 in 1973. The fact she dies at age 31 is important, for when her children meet all those years later they were also 31. Now, 1992-31=1961. That is the time line as we first see it.

Click here for a visual representation of my timeline.

But then Roy makes an … interesting choice. On page 40 it states that Ammu was 8 months pregnant when the Sino-Indian war broke out, In October of 1962. Meaning they were not born it 1961 as was originally calculated but instead November of 1962. This, for a lack of a better term this monkey head soups this all up. If this were true, then they were 31 between November of 1993 to November of 1994. Meaning, Arundathi Roy made a mistake.

The Barbarians

“Swaying the wide world, I have but one aim in view, namely, to maintain a perfect governance and to fulfil the duties of the State: strange and costly objects do not interest me. If I have commanded that the tribute offerings sent by you, O King, are to be accepted, this was solely in consideration for the spirit which prompted you to dispatch them from afar. Our dynasty’s majestic virtue has penetrated unto every country under Heaven, and Kings of all nations have offered their costly tribute by land and sea. As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures. This then is my answer to your request to appoint a representative at my Court, a request contrary to our dynastic usage, which would only result in inconvenience to yourself. I have expounded my wishes in detail and have commanded your tribute Envoys to leave in peace on their homeward journey. It behoves you, O King, to respect my sentiments and to display even greater devotion and loyalty in future, so that, by perpetual submission to our Throne, you may secure peace and prosperity for your country hereafter.”
-A letter from Emperor Qianlong of China to King George the III of the United Kingdom of England, Whales and Scotland.

By the 1700’s Britain was not in a good place. It had just lost the majority of its New World colonies after the American Revolution and had a ludicrously huge trade deficit to what was then the world’s most powerful economy, China. This was due impart to the various trade restrictions placed on any foreigners attempting to trade. As a result the British government sent a group of men carrying the greatest inventions of the Western World to demonstrate the benefits of trade with Britain. The result of this can be seen in the Emperor’s letter.

In the eyes of the Chinese, China was quite literally the center of the universe. Their name for themselves was Zhong Guo, literally Central Kingdom, as in the center of the world. Any outsider was a barbarian destined to one day be conquered by the emperor. Any arts or sciences from these people was to be ignored. This letter eventually lead to Britain to sell ungodly amounts of opium to the Chinese to make up for the loss. China did not like this and started the Opium Wars as a result, leading to China’s century of humiliation.

The reason as to why I am bringing this up is to Illuminate the fact that the driving reasoning behind what Said calls Orientalism is in fact merely human nature. It is a cross cultural phenomena unique to nobody. We are discussing this from a European perspective, flip it around 180 degrees and we see the the same thing from an Oriental perspective.

Add Title

The 1989 British TV show Blackadder goes forth may not be known to most Americans. But it should be. The 4th installment of the main 4 part series continues the adventures of Edmund Blackadder, (played by Rowan Atkinson) and his idiot manservant Baldrick (played by Tony Robinson) as he is reincarnated into different eras in English history, Starting out in the war of the roses, then the Elizabethan era, then the Regency, and finally in Blackadder goes forth, the First world war.

As you can probably tell this is were the satire comes from. But before we get to that, lets talk about the cast. The cast has the best actors from the previous 3 seasons all playing characters that each perfectly contribute. Theirs Capt. Edmund Blackadder, a career soldier and veteran of numerous colonial African conflicts in which he fought against people of far less technological advancement, once against a women armed with a sharp slice of fruit. Upon fighting against people with actual weapons, he declared it to be stupid and barbaric. Blackadder since then spends his time completely dissalutioned with the war and tries his best to wait out the remainder of the war in his trench. His superior is General Sir Anthony Cecil Melchett VC KCB. He is a complete idiot. Like many Generals at the time he is a boistourous, out of touch arm chair general who’s sheer hubris and unwilling to change to modern battle tactics. He is accompanied by Captain Kevin Darling, Blackadders rival and suck up to Melchett. these 3 are were some of the shows best satire come from.

In the first episode Blackadder is asked to come to Melchett to discuss a planned offensive straight from field marshal Douglass Haig. Their after some talking Blackadder correctly surmises the battle strategy,

"Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy, sir?"

From this Darling is suprised that he guessed correctly. This leads to the following extange.

Blackadder:It’s the same plan that we used last time, and the seventeen times before that.

Melchett: E-e-exactly! And that is what is so brilliant about it! It will catch the watchful Hun totally off-guard! Doing precisely what we have done eighteen times before is exactly the last thing they’ll expect us to do this time! There is, however, one small problem.

Blackadder: That everyone always gets slaughtered in the first ten seconds.

If WWI is known for anything its insainly high numbers of young men slaughtered en mass under the command of idiots for stupid reasons. The mindset of British Generals like Melchett was that the most important factor was not technology or logistics but instead moral. This lead to many failure blamed not on them but their soldiers. The generals were also Extremely over optimistic, used to decisive battles quickly ending the war.

Their are also 2 more characters. Private Baldrick, and Lt. The Hon. George Colthurst St. Barleigh, and over eager and gullible soldier who belives every lie he was told. One originally 10 of a pals brigade called the Trinity college Tiddlywinks. Despite being dumber than somehow both Melchett and Baldrick he is a Lt., probably because he is high born. But he does have an upbeat attitude and has a kind heart. He does however show some awereness. When he is about to go over the top with all the other cast (baring Melchett) he said “I’m scared”. He and the rest died in the battle.

However, it wouldn’t be a satire without an alternative. And it does have it, during one episode he said that it would be more efficient to shoot 3000 of our own men a day back in englang.

What happens when you fail at the American dream.

The show It’s always sunny in Philadelphia is unique among other television show. It is both a beyond pitch black look at the black, disturbed and screaming heart of the American underclass as well as the funniest show on air. To truly understand the demented brilliance we must understand 2 things, its characters and the American dream. Lets start with the former.

The show follows the exploits of 5 people in Philadelphia (called the gang), mostly centered around their bar they own. Theirs Dennis, what would happen if the human embodiment of lust had a baby with the human embodiment of pride. A man who to feed his never ending need for self validation treats manipulating women into sex with him as the ultimate act. As well as being a borderline predator he is also heavily implied to be a serial killer or at the least having the personality of one. Next we have Mac. A self professed body builder and Karate master as well as a Catholic fundamentalist and closeted homosexual. He vehemently denies being gay despite it being obvious to the gang and makes up to it by explosive rage and zealotry. After that is Dennis’s twin sister Deandre, called Dee. She is the target for the gangs collective rage. Don’t feel sorry for her, she is still extremely vindictive, selfish and mean. Then their is Charlie, the semi-illiterate, idiotic, bleach addicted janitor for the bar whose hobbies include sewers, magnets, ghouls, and having tangential grip on the world around him. He lives in squalor with Frank. Frank is the father of Dee and Dennis. He is a multi millionaire who for some reason is content to live in a dilapidated apartment, eat trash and bank role the gangs stupid ideas.

Now lets move on to the American dream. For all the talk about people saying its dead or whatever, we must first ask ourselves, what is the American dream. The way I and many others see it, it the ability to start out any were in America and end up with hard work and dedication any were you want. To follow your dreams, to make your fantasies into reality. But this does not not happen by magic. It takes actual work, effort put into it. nothing comes for free. This flies completely over the head of the gang.

You see, for the gang, hard work for something with no immediate gains is a taboo. what is an even bigger taboo is personal growth and devolopment. Take Mac. He claims to be a body builder and black belt but is in fact over weight. He claims to protect the bar but the bar is infamous for it many stabbings. While he does eventually come out of the closet, he only does so he can have a lottery ticket worth thousands of dollars. The characters all want the benefits of the American dream with none of the work. This is even more pathetic for Dee and Dennis. The were born in the lap of luxury and somehow managed to stuff it all up, landing themselves here. Frank arguably achieved the American dream. Sure the vast majority of his wealth has been aquired through morally dubious means ranging from Vietnamese sweatshops to actual drug trafficing. And after all that wealth he eventually realizes what he secretly wanted to due all along, live as feral human on the fringes of Philadelphia. Sharing a broken pullout couch with Charlie to sleep on after a long day of wading through the sewers naked to find treasure.

In the end the show shows the result of failing at the American dream. To actively shun self betterment in favor of staying in the horrible place you are at. The true satire of it all comes when we see the depths of madness and darkness in each characters lives. mocking them all the down.

Ode to the Golden Past

Ode to the golden past

An era still unknown

But yet, it does not last

When the demons are shown

Mostly all obfuscate

Especially to you

Yet unlike those of late

These have 1 horn, not 2

Please be gentle with the critiques, I wrote this over the span of 3 hours.

To be a Rock

In 1966 as part of their Sophomore album, Sounds of Silence the folk rock band released the song I am a Rock. It is, in every sense of the word, human. It is a hauntingly beautiful song about despair, isolation, and the pain we feel from others. If you want the lyrics to the song simply google the phrase “lyrics to I am a Rock”, it’s the first thing to come up. 

When the ones you love hurt you, all you can do is hide away in solitude. When the first lyrics are sung, a sense a somber austerity arises. The first stanza is a description by the narrator of a dark and dreary December morning sequestered in his abode. Here he stairs out his window and sees the fresh snow. Finalized by the repeated mantra throughout the song, “I am a Rock, I am an Island”. These are the most important lines in the song. The narrator is trying to shut himself off from the world around him. All the while rejecting and throwing away what makes him human. He becomes an inhuman, isolated, a rock, an island. 

The theme of self made isolation continues in the second stanza. It it it states 

“I’ve built walls

A fortress deep and mighty

That none may penetrate

I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain

It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain” 

From this we clearly see that the narrator is done with human interaction after being repeatedly burned one too many times. This doubles back to what it said about the innate humanity in this song. This is a feeling or a since many of us have felt betrayed and alone, we can only lock ourselves away from what hurts us. 

The rest of the poem has many more idiosyncrasies with this, but it’s better for you to listen to yourself. But I would like to talk about the final lines of the song. Out of all of them they are perhaps the most somber and beautiful, “a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries”. This last stinger at the end is like a knife in the heart, bringing together all the song stand for, that if your not human, you can’t be hurt. I am a rock, I am an island. 

Rose Colored Past

I remember there being a massive gas meter or electrical box near my house growing up. It was a colossal eyesore, so the company that owned it painted it blue. A nice shade of blue. This is what some of the characters from Toni Morrison’s Beloved do to their pasts. Paint a pretty color on it.

the earliest example of this starts out in the first chapter of the book. Sethe’s mother in law Baby Suggs spends the final 8 years of her life an invalid staring out the window and looking at the pretty colors that the clouds make. We later discover the person she was before this. She was a strong pillar of the community, even so that everyone envied her. A sacred holy preacher, turned into a shell of her former self following the murder of her granddaughter by Sethe. Unable to understand the horror show that was before her, she gave up. Sat on her bed and looked at the pretty colors.

After Sethe killed her 2 year old daughter to keep her from re-entering slavery, she gave her a tombstone. On it bore the word Beloved, not being able to afford the word dearly, painted pink. A light pastel pink, painted the past away. This white washing of the past ties into the main theme of the story. In the book Beloved comes back reincarnated as what she would be if she survived that day. After integrating herself in Sethe’s family she begins to Isolate Sethe and bleed her dry. Here the books theme of one’s inability to come to terms with the past and let it go is tied with color. In Sethe’s lowest point, practically banishing everyone in her life baring Beloved, she spends what little money she has on candy and pretty yellow ribbons. this is the ultimate expression of the previous two points.

The past of the characters is an eye sore. one that instead of coming to terms with it, they paint it a pretty color.

The vexing and perplexing writing style of Exit West.

I remember a week or so ago we were discussing the first chapter of the book. while discussing the chapter one of my fellow classmates said that he was dissapointed on how it wasn’t “Richly written”. I am reminded of this by pages 109 to 111 in the book in witch to entire pages worth of text is comprised of a sentence. A sentence. One. A sentence that should be at absolute most, two lines. The only logical conclusion I can extraplilate from this is that the student in question wished that the book would become more “Richly written” on a monkey’s paw.

Now you may say that their is nothing wrong with sentences of that length. However, for me at least, I have extreme difficulty reading and engaging with a book like that. Not only that, it makes it hard for me to care about the book. This makes it hard for me and a suspect other students to submerge ourselves in this world. The book won’t let its details be fondled.

This alone would make the book frustrating to read, but their is something that makes it worse. Its plot is flimsy at best and mediocer at worst. It just about the typical two love birds setup along with one of the most hamfisted and lazy atemps at magical realism for the refugee crisis. Not only that but their are glimpses of more interesting stories sprinkled throughout the book, from the old man in San Diego to the Women in Australia. Originally this brought me hope that we would revisit them at some point. But alas, that idea would prove too intresting for this book.

Meursault-Senpai is perfect

The main character in the stranger is a poorly written, author insert character meant to be a mouth piece for Camus to preach his world view.

With cards thrown on the table so hard they are embetted into it, I think it’s a good idea to explain myself. In the novel Meursault is the main character and fits the mold of Camus’s philosophy perfectly, acting as a foil to those who do not. Let’s start at the beginning, in the very first few pages of the book Meursault’s mother dies and he is taken to her funeral. Here he shows very little if any remorse and sadness, a fact that the nursing home director brings up during his homicide trial. Here Camus takes a shot at one of his most hated “social constructs” preventing us from being a “radical subject” and making us “act in bad faith”, family. Meursault is the only one to be above this concept of family and is punished by others for it. the directer is not the only character to be used as a puppet for Camus to sh#t on from on top his high horse. Marie represents the construct of love, the magistrate and the concept of faith, the prosecutor the concept of justice, hell even Meursault’s boss offering him a job in Paris is a shot at power and success. This makes the characters no longer characters, their dolls, puppets, straw man, pieces of notebook paper with faces drawn on them, a real character has a purpose that is driven by themselves, by not including this Camus makes this 100% on his philosophy. Unfourtunatly his philosophy has an extremely smug and self satisfide air to those who are “radical subjects” and as such renders the progatinist to a saintifide status. Below is a simple over view of the book and in my humble opinion equally as valid and good as the original.

Image result for meursault the stranger

Tlic Reproduction makes no Sence

In Bloodchild, the Tlic are stated to need to have humans as birthing vessels for their eggs like Thread waisted wasps, however, if you know a bit about biology then you will know that this makes no sense at all. First things first let’s get the biggest one out of the way, we have more genetic similarity with Bacteria growing on the Marianas trench then we do with any type of alien. You see we and the Bacteria both have DNA and are from earth. The Tlic on the other hand are aliens and originated far from earth. It is incredibly unlikely that out of the 1.3 MILLION recorded species that only homo Erectus actually works with the Tlic. but, okay, suspension of disbelief. If it really is only humans that can work, why raise them with human parents? Imagine this, the Tlic take the humans as a baby and raise them with other babies and tell them that they are the larval forms of the Tlic and need eggs implanted in them to grow up. Or, maybe raise the humans to worship the Tlic as Gods and the eggs are some bizzare communion wafer, better yet just clone humans as brain dead flesh vessels. I’m starting to get the feeling that Butler just wanted to write a story about a pregnant man.