Astrology A Weapon?

 Throughout “Drive Your Plow of the Bones of the Dead” it’s apparent that Janina’s way of thinking is tied to astrology. Astrology symbolizes the human need to form a sense of order from life’s inherent chaos. Janina’s devout belief in astrology conveys how she uses it as a source of comfort and clarity. Despite the fact that other characters make it clear that they believe astrology is arbitrary and continuously allude to how they think it has no real connection to reality, Janina’s belief never wavers. 

The use of Astrology in the novel grasps my interest as Tokarczuk intertwines it on almost every page. Janina connects everything she does back to astrology. Using it as a way to guide her actions and dare I say justify them.

Here is a brief overview of important terms to understand regarding Janina and her love for astrology:

The Houses: There are 12 houses in an astrology chart. Each represents different facets of your life, based on the time and location of birth, and shows the gifts or obstacles you will face in this lifetime.

Pluto as a ruling planet: Pluto is associated with darkness, the subconscious, death, and rebirth. When a person’s ruling planet is pluto, they tend to crave mystery and intensity. Pluto plays a part in one’s never-ending fascination with learning things that will transcend what they know.

Venus as a ruling planet: Venus is all about pleasure, especially pleasure shared with someone else and pleasure derived from possessions. This planet concerns itself with love, romance, and harmony in our emotional attachments, marriages, friendships, etc. It allows one to appreciate the exquisite nature of things.

Why are those terms important? Throughout the novel, Pluto and Venus as ruling planets, and the houses are brought up a lot, especially in regard to the murder victims.

Going back to my main point while most of Janina’s actions were fueled by rage and the need to seek revenge for the murder of her daughters and the other undomesticated animals she humanizes; I believe that ultimately she used her faith in astrology to justify her actions. From the beginning of the novel Janina appears peculiar in her overall nature. From the instant shifts from past and present, fragmented stories, and through misquoting William Blake it becomes apparent that she is an unreliable narrator. With every anecdote, she told she was miraculously always portrayed as either the victim or the heroin. Everything was framed just right.

“Secondly: I decided to examine certain highly distinctive pieces of information to be gained from the victims’ cosmograms (commonly known as Horoscopes), and in both cases it appears obvious that they may have been fatally attacked by Animals. This is a very rare configuration of the planets, and thus I have great confidence in commending it to the attention of the Police. I am taking the liberty of enclosing both Horoscopes, in the expectation that the police Astrologer will consult them, and then support my Hypothesis”

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead, Page 160

Looking at the above excerpt of the letter Janina sends to the police it becomes clear that she rationalizes the deaths and explains how based on the configurations of the victim’s horoscopes that they were meant to die how they died and when they did. While I may be way off in my thinking, the letters written to the police were used as a way to soothe Janinas conscious in the sense that the letters justified her actions by expressing why she felt little remorse. She did what she thought was befitting and what aligned with their fate that had been expressed in their horoscopes, and it helped her get revenge on the people who wronged her.

Love & Basketball

Comedy as defined by Aristotle is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. The movie Love & Basketball (2000) fits within this criteria. You have your stereotypical friends-to-lover trope but with a slight twist. The main characters Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) are both aspiring professional Basketball players. The two grew up together and after finding out they both got into USC to play basketball their relationship progressed from friends to lovers. However, everything can’t be straightforward forward and something needs to provoke conflict between the two.

Midway through the movie is when things start to go awry, Quincy begins to ask Monica to do things that he knows would jeopardize her spot on the team when he needs comfort and when she prioritizes her sport over him their relationship begins to change. Things progress the two break up and Quincy drops out of school to pursue a career in the NBA. In the end, like one would expect from a Romantic Comedy the two find their way back together through the use of a grand gesture.

This movie has the markings of a stereotypical romantic comedy movie, with its cheesy trope, predictable conflict, likable characters, and a feel-good ending that many movie lovers tend to seek. While it loosely fits into the category of a romantic comedy the qualities nevertheless are apparent. With Monica prioritizing her career and Quincy creating unrealistic relationship expectations the two seemed doomed from the start, and yet they find their way back together by the end of the movie. Viewers see a role reversal in the prioritization of a career over a personal relationship adding additional depth to the movie. Both characters ultimately experience fortune in their own ways and coupled with their misfortunes these central characters experience immense development fulfilling Aristotle’s criteria for a comedy.

This movie is arguably extremely influential for its time as is a movie about a woman prioritizing her own needs ahead of her boyfriend’s. A needed change from a generation of movies with female leads who sacrificed their aspirations and needs for love.

While there will always be more meaningful works than a comedy. In my opinion, a comedy’s job isn’t necessarily to be meaningful or life-changing but to act as an escape from the troubles and constraints of today’s life. Comedies tend to be unrealistic, far fetched, and that’s what makes them unique and an escape from reality.

Shrek Satirical?

Satire in simple terms is “A form of literary criticism: that uses irony, sarcasm, etc.” Quite frankly it surrounds us in our everyday life, from television advertisements, books, newspapers, and artwork, to children’s movies. Yes, I did say children’s movie.

Shrek” a staple movie in the early 2000s is a trilogy that follows none other than Shrek an ogre whose life is turned upside down by a series of fairy tale characters trying to save their home.

I know our probably thinking “What is satirical about a children’s movie?” Let me explain.

Overview of the scene: Depicts the capture of Princess Fiona by Robin Hood, who mistakenly thinks that the Princess has been taken against her will by Shrek. After “rescuing” the princess, Robin Hood and his Merry Men pause to introduce themselves by performing a ridiculous song and dance number. In the middle of the routine, Princess Fiona screams, “That’s enough!” and attacks and subdues Robin Hood and all of his Merry Men.

So how is it satirical?

Within the scene, many satirical techniques are being used in this situation such as incongruity, reversal, and parody. You see incongruity within the way Fiona uses her hair to punch one of the Merry Men and when they freeze her in mid-air to fix her disheveled hair. The actions are absurd and unrealistic, and they also show a parody of movies like “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger” which incorporate martial arts styles and special effects as the scene depicts an exaggeration of different fighting styles. The scene also depicts a role reversal; rather than a damsel in distress being saved by the male hero the roles are being reversed and Fiona is saving/standing up for herself.

While not a perfect example nor is it a realistic depiction of modern gender roles; this scene is a piece of satire as it mocks the outdated societal ideology that women are damsels in distress that needs to be saved by a male hero, an idea that is still a prevalent theme within the media. It also can be viewed as a way to hint at the overuse and dramatization of special effects in modern action movies.

Generational Conflicts and Constructs of Families

Through “King Lear” generational conflict is a constant theme within the story. Old vs. Young and New ruling vs. Old ruling are common among Lear and his daughter and Gloucester and Edmund; and between the interactions between these characters, it becomes apparent how much value today’s society has placed on the concept of families and what they mean.

The younger rises when the old doth fall”

“King Lear” Act III.IV.25

 I feel this line is strong as I feel the harsh and plotted tone that it can be read in reveals how Edmund wants more power than he was ‘given’. Now that he knows he is considered the rightful heir to his father he wants that power immediately, and by selling out his father and pledging his allegiance else where it shows how he not only rejects the concept of a family but also how he will not stop until he gets the power he craves. The ease with which Edmund sells out his father is something that would intrigue many. Family in our society as I have mentioned is a construct. However, it’s a construct that we place a great deal of importance on. Many people view family as a lifeline of sorts, the people who are supposed to stand by you without question and support the choices you make. A lot of people see family as a permanent fixture in our lives and not as people who are disposable. Edmund has no attachment to his family in the sense that he views his family as a roadblock to power and gaining what he wants, rather than a tool to help him and loyalty that shouldn’t be broken. I believe the differences in attachment to family in our society and society within the play are why some are scandalized to see family as an arbitrary concept as portrayed in “King Lear.

I feel the way family is viewed within “King Lear” adds to the generational conflict as it appears younger characters feel as if they owe their parents nothing; while older characters believe their children should be in debt to them as they brought them up and gave them the power they now have access to.

Moving on

“Come Back to Earth” is a solid opening for “Swimming” a 13-track album by Mac Miller. While I thoroughly enjoy the album, none of the remaining 12 tracks compare to the rawness and vulnerability conveyed throughout this song. The song starts out strong and provides a refreshing contrast to songs found on prior albums “GO:OD AM” and the “Divine Feminine” which articulates the lust and lavishness of life. The speaker in this piece is the writer himself, however, I do believe that it’s subjective to how you interpret the piece and how/if you relate to it.

The melancholy tone of the song remains stagnant, and when analyzing and listening to the lyrics it served as an aid in understanding the meaning of the piece as a whole. I went back and forth with myself unable to come to a conclusion until finally, I settled upon the speaker not only conveying their want to find peace of mind, but also the struggle that came with it as it caused them to have to accept and move on from the past.

The song opens and closes with statements that I assume many can relate to:

My regrets look just like texts I shouldn’t send
And I got neighbors, they’re more like strangers
We could be friends
I just need a way out
Of my head
I’ll do anything for a way out
Of my head

The syntax of the lyrics while fairly simple conveys an idea that I feel is extremely relatable. That idea being that: Regrets are all consuming they take your choices and make you question the validity of what you’ve done and open the gates for self doubt to set it. Miller comparing regrets to unsent texts articulates how when you have/haven’t done something you know you should/shouldn’t have done (much like texts you want to send but are afraid to) the unknown and the what if’s consume you and leave you unsettled making it harder to move on from the past. Furthermore, Miller’s depiction of neighbors signifies how you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone and out of place. Both constantly causing turmoil as they can lead one to overthink and produce unwanted thoughts they can’t stop.

Miller goes on to speak about the feeling of temporary relief:

And I was drownin’, but now I’m swimmin’
Through stressful waters to relief

The two lines are what I woulds say are the most powerful words sung in this piece. I think they metaphorically represent calm before the storm, the temporary moments of feeling free; like you can finally move on before spiraling and giving into temptation/unwanted thoughts. I overall felt these lines resonated with me the most.

Prior to reiterating the first verse while the tone remains melancholy Miller continues to express his anxiety and internal struggles:

Grey skies are driftin’, not livin’ forever
They told me it only gets better

I think by personifying the sky Miller’s vulnerable state is being articulated as it shows a raw view of how he’s struggling to organize and understand his thoughts. All of which I feel ultimately ties back to wanting to accept the past and use it to move on and grow and the simultaneous struggle there is to find peace with the past.

Thoughts on “Myth of Sisyphus”

I interpreted “Myth of Sisyphus” as Camus stating that the human condition is ever-changing. To be unhappy in a situation like Sisyphus, Camus asserts that one must be conscious of an unfavorable condition and think of things in a negative light. Throughout “Myth of Sisyphus” Camus’ draws parallels to workmen noting how they spend every day doing the same tasks but their fate isn’t considered absurd in turn questioning the validity of Sisyphus’s punishment. Camus then goes on to explain how Sisyphus is in charge of his own destiny and despite being banished to continuously push a rock up a mountain where it will ultimately fall back down, he continues to push it back up. By pushing the rock up the mountain again and again Sisyphus is making his own fate in turn making the action purposeful as he continues to strive to do the impossible. In the end, Camus’ argument is that it’s not about the action it’s about the mindset one holds towards an action that makes it absurd or fulfilling. 

Where do I stand?

I mostly agree with the conclusion Camus’ makes about the human condition. While there are genuinely poor conditions and situations that, no matter how you look at them, are unfavorable there are a lot of situations where the mindset affects the outcome of things. In many aspects of life, you can either give up when something is too complicated or you can preserve and manipulate things so that they are more favorable or attainable to you. 

Uncomfortable Conversations

But in choosing the plural and the first-person plural you’re basically allowing that ‘we’ to work as ‘everyone’

A Conversation About Bread (177)

In “A Conversation About Bread” Nafissa Thompson-Spires brings perspective into conversations about race while simultaneously bringing awareness to biases in conversations. Through the quote it conveyed how wording has the power to convey biases and create false misconceptions. In everyday life your personal biases follow you around and affect how you interact with the world around you. Especially when talking about sensitive/serious topics it’s important to remove your biases and speak objectively. I personally believe that while it’s hard to speak objectively it’s important to make sure you separate and make distinctions between your biases and generalizations as it is extremely harmful to project biases as what is true rather than opinion or fact.

To what extent is domination enabled by both parties?

To understand this obscured question one must understand Jessica Benjamin’s theory on Mutal Respect & Domination. In Bonds of Love, Benjamin proposes a seemingly normal question: Why don’t we have gender equality when society wants it? Benjamin goes on to explain how gender stereotypes, binary norms, and expectations feed into this unnatural dynamic of Domination/Submission. Elaborating that when looking at identity most people look at negotiation and conflict which creates the unnatural power struggle. This idea leads to a controversial take on domination and submission. While it’s noted that this power dynamic is not only unnatural but unhealthy it’s also emphasized how in certain regards it is allowed. Benjamin notates how domination is a two-way street and in some capacity, the one being oppressed is allowing for the dynamic whether it be consciously or unconsciously. However, a possible solution is proposed and that solution is the concept of mutual recognition which essentially moves out of the binaries and deconstructs unnatural power dynamics through connection, understanding, and respect.

Where do I stand?

I feel that Benjamin has a very different and interesting perspective in regard to the power dynamics of society. While I agree to some extent that domination/submission bias is allowed by both parties, I also believe that there are instances where the dynamic is not allowed and happens forcefully. Of the aspects I agree with I have gained an understanding of how certain power dynamics are allowed like teacher/student and parent/child. The respect given to an extent is out of societal expectations, however, part of it is also genuine respect that is constantly changing through experiences. Benjamin’s ideas have led me to contemplate the idea of mutual respect and really work to get rid of those biases I carry whether it is something simple or complex.