Roots of Racism

The hour we have so far watched of Do the Right Thing seems to be the exposition to the story. We are introduced to the groups of characters and their initial racial tensions on a relatively normal day. However, this day is not normal. It’s the “hottest day of the year.” A higher temperature only means more crankiness, elevating the tensions that already exist. The discomfort from the heat exaggerates people’s emotions and puts them out of control. I predict that more conflicts will arise later into the movie because of the unusually uncomfortable weather.

The temperature has led to many conflicts already, like the incident with the water from fire hydrant destroying the white man’s antique car. So far, the movie has been a collection of such squabbles, resulting in the characters becoming angry at, not just each other, but entire races. In the part of the movie where each person takes a turn at insulting someone else, each character makes a point to mention the others’ race. It’s interesting to see how minor disputes and misunderstandings result in the great issue of racism.

Harmatia of Richard II

I do not know the ending of Richard II, but the play foreshadows a tragic ending, with King Richard as its tragic hero. At the onset of the play, King Richard does not seem to be such a terrible character, and he appears to be rather righteous. (In fact, historically, Richard II was not as bad as Shakespeare later depicts.) But as the story progresses, we begin to notice some things that are off. For one thing, his joyful response to the news of his uncle’s sickness is far to cold to be of a righteous person, let alone a righteous king. His harmatia, or “fatal flaw” is his greed and hunger for power that elicits his response to the news of his uncle.

In many ways, King Richard is comparable to Macbeth, for the two kings share this fatal flaw. Queen Isabel is analogous to Lady Macbeth. Each plays their role as the typical female as emotional characters. Lady Macbeth has a guilty conscious for Macbeth’s deeds similar to how the queen senses that something bad will happen when King Richard leaves for Ireland. Both have a maternal type of paranoia that actually yields wise predictions.

On a side note, Richard II was not an easy read, as is any Shakespeare play. I have not yet ever seen a Shakespeare play performed live, and I am curious to see how the characters are played out, or whether or not I’ll be able to keep up.

How We Overlook Don Juan’s Flaws

Don Juan is a disgusting character. He uses women and discards them, breaking their hearts abusively. He does this all for his own pleasure. Then he dares to make eloquent excuses, expressing his reasoning in a way that puts his horrid actions in a positive light. If we were to meet such a man in the real world, we would detest him and say terrible things about him.

Yet, one cannot help but love the character of Don Juan.

Perhaps its because his aforementioned eloquent excuses capture us. Perhaps its simply because he is so amusing.

How is it that we are able to look past his obvious flaws? Usually, we forgive characters because of the story behind their mistakes. Maybe the character had a rough past, or maybe the character was abused as a child. However, we know of no such thing in the case of Don Juan. In fact, we know very little about his past. There are no reasons for his awful nature; that’s just the way he is.

In this sense, Don Juan is an unrealistic character. He has such strong characteristics of pride and domination, but he is not dynamic. He does not change through the course of the story and he is a flat character, making it difficult for the reader to relate to him.

This may be the very reason we overlook his flaws. He is not a real person, just a character. We do not take him seriously. He is made up to be amusing; thus we find him so.

The High Line QR Collage



The pictures in the collage were all taken by me individually. The original file with the full size images was too large to upload. To see the collage with images in greater detail, as intended to be viewed, view the collage here:

When I was walking the high line I noticed a large QR amongst the many billboards and advertisements lining the streets in the surrounding area. I thought back to the time I first saw a QR code. Unfamiliar with the smartphone world, it only seemed to be a black and white box of random pixels. Now that I know what it is, it amazes me that something so seemingly random was actually intricately planned.

As I walked along the high line, I noticed how spontaneous the plants seemed. All the plants appeared to be wild, like plants that would spring up anywhere. I then took note of the little signs that lined the gardens, crediting those who took care of the plants. It reminded me of the QR code I had just seen- random, yet planned. So, I created a collage of plants in the form of a simple QR code.

The Quick response code also represents the city and its dynamic, ever-expanding nature. The city is not only progressing technologically, but through projects such as the high line as well.

Save Brady’s Pond


This is not your typical NYC scene. Brady's Pond marks the end of my street on Staten Island where I've lived my entire life. Recently, the pond has been threatened by pollution due to construction of a highway expansion. These signs have sprung up in surrounding areas as local residents and environmentalists protest the contamination of this rare environmental resource.

“Transforming Insignificant Bits… Into a Visual Poem”

In the first few chapters of Patti Smith’s memoir, we watch her and Robert Mapplethorpe develop as artists and people. They have not yet even discovered their potential in the fields that would eventually make them famous—Patti in Rock and Roll, and Robert in photography. They go through many different stages in such short time, as represented by the many times Patti would return home to find that Robert had redecorated the apartment. There’s a sense of confusion and even madness in the story at some points as Patti and Robert attempt to find themselves and make sense of the world—as though they are “just kids”. Through all their changes, one thing remains true for Patti and Robert—they are artists. Not only are they artists in their work, but in their mindset and lifestyle as well.

Being starving artists, they are forced to make do with what little resources are available to them. What I found particularly interesting were the descriptions of things they created or put together, not for the purpose of making art, but for everyday life. For example, as a gift for Patti, Robert makes a tambourine and decorates it. Even more practical examples can be seen in their home décor. Along with Robert’s sporadic redecorations of their bedroom, the couple uses random furniture found off the side of the streets to personalize their apartment. They hang drawings and religious artifacts, and Patti has her own study corner with a “frayed magic carpet”. For Christmas time, Robert even makes a wooden manger to be used in place of a tree. Robert also put a lot of effort into making Joseph Cornell boxes that Patti describes as “transforming insignificant bits … into a visual poem.” I see each of these things as art, and, with those words, Patti could not have described them better.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words.

No, this book has shown me that this is an extreme understatement. The pictures in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival hold so much power and emotion that words could never convey. I am lucky to be able to say I did not have to face the hardships that the main character of this graphic novel did. Nevertheless, as I “read” through the pages, I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I could somehow relate to him.

The images are frank and comprehensible.  The emotions the characters displayed were blatant, but still moving to the point of sympathy. The minute details throughout the pages, like the scratches on a wooden table and the crinkle of a piece of paper, added to the realistic nature of the work. I was able to get lost in the story just as I would have for any movie or novel.

I guess its funny that I consider the drawings realistic, because the pictures of monsters and strange creatures and the peculiar depiction of the city surely are not realistic. Tan uses these motifs to add perspective to the story. For example, Tan uses distorted characters instead of real English letters to share with the reader a sensation of foreignness and unfamiliarity. Likewise, the odd city to us is what this new place was to the main character.

This story could not have been told better through any way other than images. We are not given words to be told the story the same way the main character did not have the language he needed as he lived through it. We, like the main character, desperately try to read lips and faces to be able to tell what is going on and what is to happen next. Tan brilliantly crafted these parallels in emotion, creating this remarkable piece.

Defense and Criticism of Rieff

I have found the many responses to Rieff’s work, both in class and on this blog, quite intriguing and intelligent. However, as I go back to his work for my own response, I find that many of the arguments against his opinions have already been mentioned and countered in his lengthy article. For example, Rieff recognizes that his view “is not a view that finds favor anywhere today.” He expects criticism. He acknowledges a point many have mentioned; that “no one in their right minds would expect the loved ones of those who died on 9/11 to forget.” He asserts that the memory that will be lost is not an individual’s memory, but a society’s memory, as the generations pass. He affirms that “remembrance is humanly necessary,” and is not dismissing the idea of having a memorial at all. He is just taking note of a pattern that is likely to repeat itself for this historic event. His argument is not to be taken offensively.

While I appreciate Rieff’s perspective, I do not necessarily agree with it, and I definitely do not agree with his method of delivery. I find it ironic that he admits that “it is too soon” to even consider forgetting, yet he insists on presenting insensitively. I speculate that many miss the point of Rieff’s article because they are distracted by his condescending tone. Such a stance puts readers, especially those who have been affected by 9/11, on the defensive, and they automatically dismiss his ideas. Discussing such a controversial subject, it would make sense for him to be less cynical and pessimistic in his tone. His negativity takes away from his work and its ultimate goal.