In an effort to be more diligent about writing, I am practicing several [new] rituals. One of them is to update this site more regularly. In the next few days I will publish a short essay, but for now I’m going to share five images from my week that I particularly enjoyed. My hope is that they will bring you positive vibes, and maybe a little reflection, as well.
I have recently become obsessed with HBO’s Girls. If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe the name Lena Dunham – belonging to the show’s creator, writer, producer, director and lead actress – will. Within the last few months her popularity has surged dramatically. I wasn’t aware of her existence until this year’s Golden Globes, at which the show won best television series. This spurred my interest enough to purchase season 1 on iTunes, which i devoured in two days. Now, I have [successfully] converted nearly all of my friends into fans.
I could go on explaining different theories behind the show’s success, but I will leave it at this: it is relatable. It’s a show about young ladies (aged 21-25) navigating life at a time that is simultaneously crucial, awkward, and impossible. People of my generation are going through this period of our lives; the older folk reminisce of that period… and praise a higher power that it is over.
Girls follows the lives of recent college graduates (and roommates) Hannah Horvath and Marnie Michaels, college student Shoshanna Shapiro, and resident bohemian Jessa Johansson. The first episode struck an intimate chord with me as I, like Hannah, rely almost completely on my parents in a financial sense. As the episode and the season progresses, i can certainly see characteristics of myself in each character, but only one has stuck with me past Sunday at 9:30.
This clip is my favorite blip from the pilot, but it is here because Shoshanna and I both wear “hats.”
Marnie is a beautiful, driven career-woman, and the only problems she has are ones she seems to create. This plagues her entirely too frequently in season 1, and the audience unfairly doesn’t get to see her in a positive light. Her insecurities are bright and on display and overshadow all of her early success (e.g. doting boyfriend, uber-cool job at an art gallery, financial independence on a Bachelor’s degree). It isn’t until season 2 where her life begins to crumble around her that Marnie is allowed to become a two-dimensional character.
I have loved Marnie from the beginning. Where Hannah was too self-involved (as all of the girls are, but she – unlike the other three – is oblivious), Jessa tried to hard by not trying at all, and Shoshanna only served to make me LOL, Marnie was the only girl who seemed to have it together, and that is wildly encouraging at this point in my life. My love for Marnie comes largely from our similarities that i (and some friends) have noticed. Unfortunately, our shared characteristics are only the negative ones. At least that is how they are portrayed.
What I hate about myself I see in Marnie and she seems to hate as well. As she tells Jessa in multiple episodes, she is not as uptight as she seems.
“That isn’t fun for me. Do you realize that? Being the uptight girl? I hate it. Charlie had to find someone else to go to Rome with. No one ever asks me to get, like, friendship tattoos or whatever. Sometimes being inside my own head is so exhausting that it makes me want to cry.”
While I love that as “grown-up” as Marnie thinks she is, she still uses speech-fillers, her touching monologue brings something else to light. Marnie is aggressive in what she wants and what she thinks, while she is not so forthcoming with feelings. Her way of showing she cares is controlling the situation where her friends are, at the very least, informed of the consequences even if she cannot control their actions.
And Marnie touches on something that I deal with far too often. She comes from a place of love, but her actions are interpreted by those around her as aggressive, uptight, and bitchy. To which I have to ask, when did wanting the best for yourself and others become dishonorable? Why should she feel guilty for upholding standards and pushing friends to their potential?
This is something Marnie struggles with even more throughout season 2, and culminates beautifully in the finale. I don’t want to give anything away for the slew of Girls-aholics that will inevitably result from this post, but trust me. Even as we see problems actually arise and create cracks in Marnie’s previously wonderful life, she evolves into a happier and satisfied young woman. Has she reached the end of this journey? Of course not, but as she accurately puts it, “i’m on a journey. it’s my journey, and i am okay.”
As easy as it would be to argue that Marnie is regressing (or “flailing” as it is frequently put on the show), she is the only character to reach any emotional maturity and find satisfaction in a highly unstable time in her life. That should count for something. And in comparison to the other “girls,” she is doing really good, even if “being really good all the time feels really bad.”
Thank you, Marnie, for your fictional presence. For being the resident bitch. For having a rough year, but not completely losing it like your counterparts (I’m looking at you, Jessa and Hannah). For giving me a little bit of validation. And, most importantly, for being happy. With season 3 currently in the works, I can only hope you are enjoying yourself.
I loved all of these changes, but my parents may have felt differently. We arrived at La Guardia at 8 am Friday morning and headed to Central Park immediately after checking in at our hotel. Our journey, however, was sidetracked as we were famished after walking 20 blocks, so we stopped at Shake Shack. Cheesy? Yes. Delicious? Of course! This was mine and my mother’s second experience at Shake Shack, but my dad’s first! He was sold.
A couple of street shots taken whilst on our lunch break.
We headed to the Delacorte Theatre in CP to wait in line for tickets to see the Public Theater’s summer production of Into the Woods (this being 85% of the reason for our trip). Alas, we were one person away from tickets! We returned Saturday morning and had better luck, but before then…. Our time consisted mostly of food.
From left: artsy lake shot in CP; a small chunk of the line to get into the woods.
That evening I experienced the best margarita of my life at Rosa Mexicano, and also visited the biggest candy store I’ve seen to date – Dylan’s Candy Bar. It was so overwhelming that I did not, in fact, purchase anything.
Saturday morning we returned to CP and received three tickets to that evening’s performance of Into the Woods. We had a few hours to kill before the show, so we visited Chelsea. I was sold the minute we exited the subway, but each additional minute only fostered more love between us. We ate lunch at the Chelsea Market and sat on the High Line, also a first.
An apartment building I was enamored with en route to the market.
Typical High Line shot.
Charleston-style housing, no? No. Okay then…
We took a scenic tour through Chelsea en route to SoHo, bought entirely too many cupcakes from my favorite bakery – Georgetown Cupcake – and headed back to the hotel.
Into the Woods was absolutely amazing. I was in a junior production of the show with the community theater five years ago and did not enjoy it. The only reason I wanted to see it in CP was because Amy Adams is starring as the Baker’s Wife. I was pleasantly surprised again and again after each number how much I enjoyed it. It was fast-paced, witty, and innovative. If you have the opportunity to see it before it closes on September 1, I would highly recommend it; it is certainly worth the five-hour wait.
On Sunday we spent all of our time in the Theatre District perusing the local street festival, where I bought some fun canine-themed NY prints.
The two prints I bought miniatures of. Images courtesy of Pinky Pilots.
We caught the matinée of The Lion King, which my family thoroughly enjoyed. A Broadway classic, if there ever was one. First time picking a Broadway show? You will always be safe with a Disney production. I have seen four musicals now, and each of them has been pure joy to watch, and has encompassed the magical quality that only Disney can provide.
Enough about Disney. Let’s (i.e. let me) write about food. I consumed mass amounts of it while in the city. Most notably, Tony’s DiNapoli. Our family stumbled upon this restaurant per a recommendation from the concierge during our 2007 trip. We have made a point to eat there every trip since then. Sunday night was no exception. We went all out: fried zucchini, sangria, chicken stuffed with all kinds of deliciousness and smothered in mushrooms, with eggplant and mozzarella pasta, and fresh bread. Ciao to my waistline! But, my, oh my, was it worth it.
Monday was our last day in the city, so we took it slow. We headed toward 5th Avenue where we, of course, ate. This occasion brought us to YoArt at the Plaza. I felt rather fancy (said in my best Eloise voice)! It was delicious. I also bought a pair of “Wellies” I’ve had my eye on for about a year at Saks, which is always an overwhelming trip for us commoners. I also grabbed lunch with one of my college friends who is working there for an internship – talk about fancy!
If you’d like to see a photo entry of my trip, please visit my Tumblr. Just be aware that it is under construction and, therefore, will not be very aesthetically pleasing. Also, I plan on composing another post entirely about Into the Woods. I’m not finished gushing quite yet. Finally, here is a link to the Avett Brothers song that inspired this post’s title.
Because I have not blogged in quite a while, with the exception of my last post which was for a school project, I decided to post a brief entry for my readers (i.e. myself). It is the summer season here in South Carolina, and I have the lovely fortune of living mere minutes from the beach. I have only been to said beach twice in the last four weeks. Mostly, I have spent my time running errands, babysitting, and (surprisingly) (thankfully) reading. This post is going to discuss the books I’ve read, I plan to read, and am considering reading. For the last category, I would greatly appreciate your input in the comments and in the fancy poll I’ve installed.
Books I’ve read:
1984 by George Orwell. This one has been a long time coming. See here.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisenberger.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. I still have a few pages left in this one.
In our society, those who have the best knowledge of what is happening are also those who are furthest from seeing the world as it is. In general, the greater the understanding, the greater the delusion: the more intelligent, the less sane (Orwell 221).
This quote exemplifies one of the many reasons I loved reading 1984, even though I took eight months to finish it. The novel is written mostly like prose, frequently appearing as philosophical discourse within Winston’s (the protagonist’s) mind. Winston’s story undoubtedly enchanted me with its illegal sexual escapades and its veracity in its extremities. It is not hard to draw similarities between Orwell’s constructed (and predicted) society and modern society, but it is just as easy to understand the differences.
Before departing Orwell with an compulsory Big Brother reference, I would like to include a final quote from 1984.
Sanity is not statistical (223).
Numbers can be twisted just like words; this type of ignorance is one of my pet peeves and makes all involved sound and feel ridiculous. Ranting stops here.
Last Night at Chateau Marmont does not warrant a memorable quote because it was a particularly dull novel. I am a fan of Weisenberger’s previous works, most notably The Devil Wears Prada, Everyone Worth Knowing and Chasing Harry Winston. I found this book on the bargain table at Barnes and Noble, which should have been my first sign. But I am a faithful fan and an impulsive shopper; one cannot afford to pass up a $5 novel. Honestly, reading Chateau is akin to any of the pitiful clips of text in People magazine.
I tried in all 300 pages to find a redeeming quality in Chateau, but a saviour never came! Save your time from devouring the story about a chubby nutritionist and her rockstar husband like I did. If you are in the market, however, for chick lit invariably set in New York, may I recommend any of Weisenberger’s other works. They are equally light, charming, addictive and wonderful.
After searching extensively for the single missing box from my packed up apartment for my copy of The Great Gatsby, I temporarily gave up and picked up a random book from my mess of a bookshelf to accompany me at the pool. I purchased Into the Wild for a class I later dropped, and it, unfortunately (fortunately?), has no resale value.
The author cites Everett Ruess’s letters, drawing comparisons between his life and Chris McCandless’, at one point in the novel. One sentence stuck out to me:
I had some terrific experiences in the wilderness since I wrote you last – overpowering, overwhelming […] But then I am always being overwhelmed. I require it to sustain life (Ruess; Krakauer 91).
Is this not the case? It is certainly the truth in my life where I define living as action; consistently exercising each of my senses in order to learn, grow, and – most importantly – enjoy my youth. Nothing is more aggravating than lazy young people. I understand not wanting to work or be confined to a schedule, but there is so much to do and so little time to do it. Any experience is a good experience because it either builds character, builds pleasure, or both.
This is the spirit Krakauer captures in searching for answers to McCandless’ actions. He does not merely report facts, but attempts to understand the essence of Chris: what he believed and practiced, where he came from and where he hoped to go.
In traveling the wilderness alone, Krakauer reflects,
Because I was alone, however, even the mundane seemed charged with meaning (138).
While I agree with this statement as well, out of context it does not acknowledge the increased meaning that comes from community. I believe that Krakauer recognizes the value of community, and implicitly implies it within his account of Chris’s life.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to intellectually. Now for the books I plan to read before August 31:
Catching Fire and
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. As much as I despise 1st person narrative, I will suffer through the Hunger Games trilogy, if only to appease my friends.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Do I need a reason? No. I have several though.
I am very excited to get through this list. Past these books, I am unsure of where to go next. Obviously, come September 26, I will be absorbed in J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, but until then, these are the books I’m considering.
Whatever’s on my bookshelf, including essays by Martin Luther and Ralph Waldo Emerson, some flea market finds…
Some of the books on my Amazon list
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I am slightly conflicted about this book due in part to this article, but being told not to do something always forces me to do exactly that. What are your feelings on this?
The Comedians by Graham Greene. Haitian politics, banned in Haiti. What’s not to love?
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbech. After reading the inspirational story behind its publication, am I intrigued enough to read it?
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.
I leave you with Chillmaster Emma.
And now! Here is the poll you all have been waiting for…
Columbia University is not the only ivy league campus to embrace the meme phenomenon. Harvard and Yale are among the others that have gained national recognition. The following is a list of the top 20 campuses taken down by the memes.
I began with my Prezi[tation] in which I defined what a meme was in contemporary terms, and followed the history of them, while providing examples and explanations. The inspiration behind memes and their popularity comes from pop culture and the memories of the creator/user. For example, the Ulmer meme I created will likely not travel past my blog not only because Ulmer is not culturally (and humorously) relevant to the college crowd, but because that meme is too specific to describe many other things.
Memes create a hypermedia memory palace in that they untraditionally call to memory things that are otherwise unconnected, and they also quite literally link to other places on the Web, taking the viewer’s mind on unconventional paths as designed by those responsible for the linking. This type of thinking has very few limitations as its boundaries match those of the Web itself; this is an issue Ulmer introduces and addresses.
The driving force behind memes is transmission through repetition. The sole success of the meme is its ability to circulate. This is why Condescending Wonka, What If Bill, Success Kid (and, therefore, 3rd World Success Kid), Sad Girl, and many, many others have successfully thrived on the Internet. The only way memes gain such popularity is by being culturally relevant, or taking something dated (i.e. childhood memory) and bringing relevance to it.
I purposefully used multiple platforms to address the universality of the meme. I placed them in my Prezi illustrating, created a tumblr, which I then linked to my Pinterest and am wrapping everything up here. The meme allows much freedom: any image with any caption. With web sites that allow users to create their own memes, the possibilities are endless. Where does such possibility lead?…
To answer your question…
On my Prezi I posed the question of whether or not memes could function as something greater than momentary comedic relief. I believe that they can, but that they have not done so yet. By this I mean, memes hold great potential that has either been unrecognized or unaddressed. Though things resembling memes have been around for quite some time, certainly since the creation of the Internet, they are still new. Users continue to figure out how to use and manipulate them, what their capabilities are, and what their future holds.
Memes can be the way of the future. Or, depressingly, a short-lived trend. If users can harness the potential of memes fast enough – which seems highly likely at this point – the future is long and bright. The meme phenomenon can and should spread outside of the college world. This platform fosters creativity and encourages experimentation, so it should not be limited to one age group. In order to determine the limits of the meme, there must be collaboration across all ages and all interests. Academia, corporations, and innovators alike should embrace this culture and learn what can be reaped from it.
See the title? The poetry class is already infiltrating my writing.
The Dresden Codex has long been a source of mystery to its various owners and numerous scholars. It is a pre-Colombian Maya book whose exact origin and journey from the past to modern-day is covered in ambiguity. For example, it is unknown how the codex made its way from Colombia to its current location at the Royal Library at Dresden (Germany). It is thought that the codex was sent to King Charles I of Spain from Hernán Cortés as thanks for being imported as the governor of the freshly attainted Mexican territory before being purchased by the Royal Library from a private seller. Besides the final sale, the rest is speculation.
The Codex itself is an 11-12th century book painted by Maya scribes that is central in deciphering Maya glyphs. The hieroglyphs in question are not similar in the least to Sumerian cuneiform, the Linear B script or Egyptian hieroglyphs. Sir Eric Thompson, the leading Mayanist of his time believed the glyphs were a “source of spiritual values in a modern world that placed farm more importance on material prosperity” (Robinson 121). Even though the Mayan culture has contemporary ties – there are still many Mayans today – today’s generation cannot read the glyphs. Much discovery, however, has led to the conclusion that considerable vocabulary used by Mayans today is the same behind the glyphs.
Some pieces of Maya culture can be understood, like the calendar with its three wheels.
The biggest wheel (to the right) keeps track of something resembling months. The bigger wheel around the smaller wheel together indicate the date. The original calendar only had 260 days per year, but this revised edition qualified 365 days.
“It consisted of 18 named months (…), each of 20 days’ duration, and one month of 5 days […], making altogether a ‘vague year’ […] because the extra one quarter of a day in a solar year, which we solved by adding a leap year, the Maya chose to ignore (Robinson 126).”
The Dresden Codex has many dates in it (mostly pertaining to significant divine dates since it is a semi-religious text), an interpretation that could not have been made without the discovery and correct translation of the calendars.
Arguably the most difficult part of breaking the Maya code was the multiple signifiers for a single signified. The creation of the glyphs was practical, but also artistic and allowed the writer many freedoms in his/her chosen interpretation of the signified. A major step in the decipherment of the glyphs is the realization that they are partially phonetic. “It is no ordinary alphabet, since it contains more than one sign for some letters, as well as syllabic signs” (Robinson 130).
The decipherment was met with two major obstacles: Mayan languages are relatively unknown to Maya scholars, and the combination writing system of phonography (representing vocal sounds) and logography (representing a word or phrase). After much time, a semi-universal syllabic chart was developed that enables the majority of glyphs to be read. Most (likely all) disagreements concerning this chart spawn from the ambiguity caused by the mixed writing system. It is likely, considering the use of glyphs did not carry over to future generations, that many Mayans did not know how to interpret these glyphs. Regional differences and, obviously, the Spanish Inquisition no doubt played a role in the end of this writing system. (Note: this is my opinion and is probably not shared by scholars who would laugh at my ignorance.)
Maya art was covered with equally complicated layers of linguistic clues. Murals, for example, show a single narrative with the image taking first importance, while the glyphs supplement. The 1970s in the New York art world proved lucrative for Mayan research. Michael Coe – leading Mayanist – was organizing a Maya ceramics exhibition when he noticed a trend among the glyphs printed on the utensils. He coined the trend the Primary Standard Sequence and made an intellectual, but ultimately uneducated, guess that they “referred to Maya mythical adventures in the Otherworld,” like the Egyptian book of the Dead (Robinson 143).
He may have been wrong, but his unexpected discovery was valuable (and fun) nonetheless. After additional research, a few of the patterns were deciphered as “to drink” and “cacao.” The cup was sent to Hershey Foods Corporation where it was confirmed the residue from the cup was cacao. The glyphs of the cup identified the owner of the cup and the purpose of the cup. Practical, yet artistic; those Mayans fooled us all.
The Rosetta Stone is iconic, to say the least. Discovered in Egypt in 1799, it is easily one of the top three most valuable excavations in the history of the world. It is the single biggest source of earliest writing and contains three separate scripts, including both alphabet and hieroglyph based, within the pieces that survived. Not only is the stone a landmark historically, but has become something of a pop culture icon. The following will be a brief history of the Rosetta stone and what it means in contemporary society – how it has been revitalized for this generation.
Egypt is credited with the invention of cuneiform and, consequently, the origins of writing. In The Story of Writing David Robinson reports the language founded by the Egyptians seemed to be based on significance rather than syllables, meaning a symbol of a hawk would imply anything of swift movement, including but not limited to a hawk, and rendering the language indecipherable to Greek and Roman scholars of the time (Robinson 21). Most translations of hieroglyphs did not appear until approximately the 15th century. It was not until the 17th century that Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest, began successfully deciphering hieroglyphs.
The heavy interest in linguistically cracking the Rosetta Stone spawned from the Enlightenment, when everything was called into question, even the questions of questions. The conclusion was drawn that hieroglyphs fell into several categories, two of which included signs evolved from pictures and signs representing phonetic sounds (like an alphabet). Shortly after the Rosetta Stone was obtained from the village of Rashid (“Rosetta”) a few miles from the sea (Robinson 24). The simplest discovery upon investigation of the stone was that there were three scripts inscribed on it, each visually distinct from the other.
The top script was Egyptian hieroglyps with cartouches, the middle unknown, and the bottom Greek.
The middle script “clearly did not resemble Greek script, but it seemed to bear some resemblance to the hieroglyphic script above it, without having cartouches” – what is now known as demotic, a cursive form of hieroglyph script (Tobinson 26). A significant discovery in breaking the Rosetta Stone code was that hieroglyphic and demotic names had alphabetical spelling. As time went on, the decipherment achieved several breakthroughs, one of which will (hopefully) be shown below/later.
Clearly, the Rosetta Stone is detrimental to forming any sort of history of writing and the constant research and continual flow of results keep the significance of the project relevant in today’s society. It is no surprise that given the difficulty of interpreting the stone it has become a symbol of breaking the code of any language.
This program, developed in the 1980s and released 1992, is a proprietary computer-assisted language learning (CALL) software that aids users in learning a new language. Most of their publicity comes from television ads (like the one below), but the idea is that the Rosetta Stone is the key to knowledge and it has been unlocked; you [the user] can have the key and can also unlock a world of possibilities with relative fluency in the language of your choice.
While the results of this program will differ from user to user depending on the user’s personal schedule, interest, work ethic and dedication, it is usually a very basic course that allows you to interact with the software as you learn before emptying out that last bit of cash in a last ditch attempt to learn Spanish before traveling to Spain. The Rosetta Stone was and is universally recognized as a key to knowledge and, linguistic efficiency.
Robinson, Andrew.The Story of Writing. 2nd Edition. London: Thames & Hudson, 2007.