Da Mayor Knows

I love the 1989 film, Do the Right Thing. I saw it two years ago in my high school film history class but it’s been on my mind quite a few times since then. Spike Lee somehow captures the worst of prejudices- racial and age-related- and plays them until they peak in grand disaster (which our class hasn’t seen yet so I’ll stop now to avoid too many spoilers). The three bums resent the Koreans for their success. The Italians (namely Vito) hate the African-Americans because they’re trouble. The teens tease Da Mayor for being an alcoholic and putting on airs. The Hispanics hate Radio Rahim because his beats drown out their music. To put the cherry on the sundae, it is the absolute hottest day of the year. It is a straight up recipe for disaster.

In seeing the film for the second time I’m starting to step back and form my own interpretation of Do the Right Thing. Da Mayor, despite his ‘bum’ patterns, is the voice of the film. He asks Mother Sister to love him as he loves her. He wants happiness, not hate. He wants Mookie to ‘do the right thing’, though he isn’t above paying a kid fifty cents to run to the corner and get him another beer. He strolls the block and observes all the passers-by, sharing his wisdom. He is, as we all are, flawed, but his character always shines. Do you remember his response when asked to point to who had damaged the antique car? “Doctor, those that’ll tell don’t know, and those that know won’t tell.”

-Cali Paetow

Richard-Related Ramblings

I’m going to follow a trend here and say that I, too, experience difficulty while reading the works of William Shakespeare. The only difference with me is that I never realized it. I’ve only ever read the convenient copies with translations every couple of pages and other helping tools in the front and/or back of the book. I love Shakespeare’s plays and devoured them in high school, but every time I had those super-books. I never realized how much I needed them. This time I downloaded the play (it’s public domain- totally legal!). My copy is straight Shakespeare. No assistance here. It’s pretty rough.

As for the story, I think I like it. Richard’s sneaky plot with the banishment and Gaunt’s wealth surprised me and increased my interest. As in media, if it bleeds it leads. The story catches your attention first with the pending duel (for honor? really?) and then with the money scheme. The Duke of York was greatly opposed to seizing the wealth, saying: “You pluck a thousand dangers on your head,/ You lose a thousand well-disposed hearts.” This, as well as the Queen’s premonitions, is major foreshadowing indicating the downfall of Richard II.

I also want to put in as a light side note that in the heat of their argument, Bolingbroke and Mowbray threw down their hoods to invite a fight, as opposed to the traditional glove-smack. I would like to see a film in which they throw down their hoods. I think it would be an interesting sight. They also say ‘spake’ instead of ‘spoke’. Thought you ought to know.

Don Juan (or should I say ‘Done’ Juan?)

When I say done, I mean finished. Out. No more. For at the end of Moliere’s play, Don Juan, Juan himself is done for, and all for his own self-absorbed frivolities. An extreme womanizer, Don Juan took pleasure in the conquest of a woman, the breaking down of her strongest defenses until she, succumbed to his guile and charms, agreed to marry him. Once married Don Juan quickly grew bored, leaving the dear dame and riding off to woo and steal away yet another fair lass. Thankfully, Donna Elvire (his latest wife) wises up to his lusty antics, learning of his life as the cheating floozy of a man.

On an entirely different side of the story we have Sganarelle, Don Juan’s assistant. Sganarelle fusses and frets over the impiety of Don Juan’s activities. Sganarelle, though in fear of Don Juan’s wrath, gives a light lecture on heaven and the ultimate penalties that Don Juan will eventually have to face for his actions. However, in a strange turn much later on, Sganarelle, upon hearing of Don Juan’s death, cries for only his own situation (and not the loss of his companion’s soul). He cares only for his wages! Therefore, we see that Sganarelle, while hiding under a veil of piety and religious values, was in actuality only concerned with his salary and his own self.

Moliere’s Don Juan brings to discussion many themes and ideas. Infidelity, divorce/remarriage, religion, wealth, honor, and many other concepts are addressed. I enjoyed reading through Don Juan and appreciated its balance of reality and wit. It was almost a shame that people had to die, but the story taught lessons about morality and religion (one could call themselves religious and still be immoral). The play also highlights for us the absurdity of Don Juan’s sort of flighty self-absorbed attitude towards love. He totally disregarded the feelings of others and ultimately paid for it with his life.

-Cali Paetow

an evening in flatbush

an evening in flatbush

what one doesn’t see
in my brooklyn sky
there are children and dogs
there is you, maybe
i am also here
but you don’t see me
up here

there are bodegas selling vegetables
that i don’t like
but they do have pineapples
that look quite spiffy when
properly attired

there are overpriced books and
there are illusive coffee smoothie drinks
but they cost three dollars

in an image
you can’t hear the sirens
they woop and holler
you can’t hear the creole
blasting from the churches
there are a lot of them
they sound… lively
lively isn’t a good word
i fancy that they sound panicked
or perhaps earnest
they prove their faith by shouting it into the street
like the fellow in port authority
monday night

you can’t hear the couple arguing
on the second floor of that building
down the street

you can’t hear the director’s dog
one floor below
i wonder what it looks like
the rest of us aren’t allowed to have one

you don’t see the parents
towing tiny children
that can barely reach
their parent’s hand

you can’t see the construction
the houses and apt buildings
their faces ever-changing
their roofs never complete

i leave every weekend though
i go home

i wonder what i miss
i wonder what i don’t

i miss the brooklyn sunsets
the early evenings
the sky that robert mapplethorp could be painting

Not Just Kids

The young lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe were anything but normal. As young adults the two braved disease and drugs, madness and starvation… all in the heart of New York City. Lovers and artists and visionaries, the two were anything but ‘Just Kids’.

I am loving reading Just Kids. The world of Patti Smith seems at times almost surreal; the stuff of legends. Her encounters and exploits could fill many different lifetimes and she goes through things that I’ve never imagined having to face. At the same time, though, I feel as if I can relate to her. She moved away from her family, venturing into New York City with very little idea of what her future would hold. I sympathize with her longing for art and her wish to be a creative, creating soul. I feel for her struggle maintaining steady employment. I understand her love for Robert, and their loyalty to eachother through it all.

I think all of us can find part of ourselves in Just Kids. Its events took place years ago in the 60s and 70s, and the music, clothes, and politics were all different. One thing, however, never changes. We are all humans with human faults. We all struggle sometimes. We all face trying times.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

My eyes have been opened, all preconceived notions altered. I always understood the basics of immigration- the people and their bundles tossed onto a ship and deposited on new soil for a new lease on life. I’d heard of grueling journeys and difficulty assimilating to new cultures. Never before, however, had I seen it so clearly.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations in The Arrival speak volumes- more than words themselves could. The faded sepia tone takes the mind into the past, as do stylistic touches like old fashion and luggage. The anonymous subject, a middle-aged man leaving his wife and child to await them in a new country. After a long trip overseas (illustrated with many different images of clouds) he sets foot in his new (nameless) home.

For the first time I understood the confusion and fear felt by immigrants. There was a large hall in which the immigrants were inspected and issued their papers. All of the text was foreign- strange squiggles, lines, dots, and shapes- and it was everywhere. The main character was left nothing but gestures for communication. The landscape of the new city was like no city any of us have seen. It is almost as if Tan wanted us to be the immigrants as well- seeing floating ships, independent elevators, and strange machinery, plants, maps, animals, and buildings. Everything that the main character encounters for the first time has the same effect on the observer. We see him gradually assimilating to his new home, securing an apartment, finding food and employment, meeting other immigrants, and mailing money to his family. In the book we also see illustrated the stories of the other newcomers that the main character comes across. They show the different paths, some more perilous than others, that bring different people together in one place. No matter their origins, they were all in this one city now, all adapting and learning to live a new life. Finally, towards the end of the book, we see him reunited with his family. The final image is of his daughter talking to a new immigrant and showing her the way.

The book teaches us about the hardships and experiences of immigration. By ridding the observer of all written (familiar) word, Tan takes the experience to another level, making it foreign for both the characters involved and for us. I was moved by The Arrival and it’s beautiful poignant images. It shows us how unified we are just in being part of one city together.

Carry On

Through the stories of others we can share the pain of loss and the joy in memories. We can remind each other what it is to cry and grow and ultimately pick up the pieces and move on with our lives, no matter how slowly. Memory is not only a tool of immortalization or honor, but also a retreat and a comfort. In Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2005 book, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he explores the psyche of a young boy, Oscar, whose father was killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center. In the book Oscar struggles to make sense of his life but finds comfort in the memory of his father and does all he can to preserve it. Through the character and his book, Foer asks us deep questions like ‘What was it really like to be there?’, ‘Do we dishonor the dead by moving on?’ and ‘What does one do when they’ve lost everything?’.

Writer David Rieff thinks it’s time to move on. In his article, After 9/11, The Limits of Remembrance he discusses the ignored benefits of forgetfulness. It is his opinion that to forget is to heal and to move on. To put so much energy into memorializing, he says, only prolongs feelings of sadness and resent. Pearl Harbor is an adequate example in that the majority of people have ‘forgotten’ the event (very rarely think of it), allowing for peaceful relations with Japan. Rieff’s point is that we must forget to forgive and to carry on with our own lives.

In my own opinion, I value the keeping of memories over ignoring them. To forget may be easier, but blissful ignorance is ignorance just the same. It is when we remember the mistakes of our past that we learn from them. It is when we look back on the memories of lost loved ones that we can enjoy their warmth again, even if only in our own minds. You can’t fully move past a tragedy without forgiveness, but that doesn’t mean we need to lose our past entirely. The middle ground is the destination- that place where we can honor the fallen and forge on as a nation of peace.

-Cali P