About devbelanger

I love music. All kinds, all the time.

This is the End… for now.

It seems many moons ago, that I first set pen to paper (not literally), to write my not-so magnanimous debut in University writing. Alas, time flies faster than the rain falls, and as all things must come to an end, I must sadly bid farewell to ArtsOne (ok we still have finals).

Anyways, ignore that.

Apocalypse Now was an awesome movie. Lots of explosions. But it was also excellent in that it felt like a reward after spending an excruciating (yet rewarding) week attempting to decipher the many messages behind Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. The movie felt like a rewarding explanation that yes, in fact, I did understand what Conrad’s enigmatic book was all about.

However, the differences in the two stories, in my opinion, made Apocalypse Now a much more deep and rewarding film than if it had just been an exact adaptation of the book. I was really able to get a sense of the universality of the themes present in Conrad’s tale because of how they were able to seamlessly translate to other scenarios, time periods and themes, such as war instead of colonialism (even though as Jon mentioned in his lecture it is a form of neo-colonialism).

Finally, I ask the question of whether or not Apocalypse Now would be as impactful to someone who had not read Heart Of Darkness? I understand that the film holds some pretty powerful anti-war messages, although to someone watching casually without the analytical lens present fresh from reading Conrad, many of the films earlier scenes could be viewed as “glorifying war”, similar to the average action movie. I know that many of us (including me) see the movie as a critique of war, but it is always interesting to think about whether or not the message is lost to some…

Either way, I can’t wait to write about this film (even though I wish the essay prompts spoke to me a bit more)! Perhaps I will write another blog post after returning from Asia in July, but until then, peace out ArtsOne Blogs!

Cheers to a good first year 🙂

– Dev, Official ArtsOne essay title winner 2014

Impressions on the Heart Of Darkness

An amusing side note before beginning:
I attempted to read Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness in high school a few years back whilst on a serious reading kick. I was totally excited, went out, bought the book, sat down in the late-spring sunshine in my favourite reclining chair…. and got 3 pages in before giving up because I litterally had no idea what I was reading.

Fast forward nearly 3 years, and while I still don’t really have a clue what Conrad’s well-spoken robots are talking about in this book, I managed to get a bit further than 3 pages in. Woohoo.

No, in all seriousness I have actually really enjoyed this book. I love the existential and almost nihilistic outlook that marlowe has on the mission and basically life in general. One passage, whilst pretty sexist and insulting, really stood out for me if we apply it to more than just women (come on Conrad, stop being so old fashioned). This passage is from the scene where Marlowe visits his aunt for the last time and she has a very ignorant and positive look on imperialism:

“It’s queer how out of touch with truth women (read: most people, not just women) are. They live in a world of their own, and there had never been anything like it, and never can be. It is too beautiful altogether…” (79)

While this quote is obviously not true with regards to women, it did remind me of the old saying ‘ignorance is bliss’. One must wonder, if we still to this day commit ourselves to a certain extent of willful ignorance to what goes on around the world. Maybe not everyone, but there are still a shocking number of people who when asked their opinion on current world affairs will reply in a manner similar to that of Marlowe’s aunt.

Another point on my train of thought with this book is the significant parallel to De Beauvoir’s idea of “the other”. It really clicked with me after Rob Crawford’s lecture today that the concept of the other can be applied to more concepts than that of man & woman.

Anywho, I guess my main question is more along the lines of what aim does Marlowe’s character have by assuming this sardonic point of view on Belgium imperialism? We all know irony-fueled cynics get us nowhere (just look at how useful Hipster’s have been to improving our society), but perhaps Conrad meant to illustrate with this cynical, nihilistic way of writing his character that we, until the end of time are doomed to witness and propagate the evil of human nature, as it is ingrained within us.. I sincerely hope not, for that would be mighty depressing if true.

Finally, continuing with last post’s tradition, here’s what I have been reading to the last few days:

A nice way to lighten up after Heart Of Darkness.. haha.

Wollstonecraft & the Objectification of Women

There is no doubt in my mind that over the course of human history, women have had a significantly harder road to basic human rights then men. Even today, women around the world still continue to fight for what most men have taken for granted for decades: basic human rights, proper education and workplace authority. However, what interests me most about Wollstonecraft’s book The Vindications Of The Rights Of Women, as well as feminism in general, is the role that sexuality has to play.

Many feminists believe that the the objectification of women as “sex objects” is a negative, derogatory way to perceive them — which is most certainly true. However, there are some women who feel empowered by becoming objects of sexual desire. They use their sexuality as a means of having power over men and see no issue with the current hyper-sexual nature of our society. My question is: does this type of “sexual power” truly place women on the equal level to men that they desire and deserve, or is it simply an illusion, creating more inequality between the sexes than not?

My take on it is that for every women, the way she finds “power” and her identity is different; it is unique to each individual. For example, some women may feel pride and power when men at a bar are lining up to compliment them and buy them drinks, whereas another women may feel offended by the very same act, and find her “power” in rejecting the same men and refusing to be sexually objectified.

Also this song is amazing, you should all listen to it:

Hacking re-wrote my perception of memory

This has got to be one of the most interesting books we have read so far this year. Ok, let me re-phrase that: after Jill’s superb lecture that helped me to actually understand “what” exactly I was reading, I then came to the conclusion that Hacking’s “Rewriting the Soul” is one of the most thought-provoking, spot-on books I have had the pleasure of reading in a while. Why, you may ask?

Firstly, the whole insight into dissociative identity disorder is quite fascinating, but even more so than that, I found Hacking’s commentary and the section of Jill’s lecture about memory pretty mind-blowing. I know that I myself am a prime example of remembering things differently, or even re-living past memories in a new. I believe this is why this book & lecture spoke to me so much. Take this for example, and see if you can relate to it as well:

Look into the depths of your memory and pick a time in which you did something you absolutely hated at the time, be it camping in the pouring rain with a camp group, or forcing yourself to wake up at 5am to go jogging in the snow, the examples are endless (for me several memories of my travels alone come to mind). Then, think of how you look back on this memory. Chances are, if you are like me and you agree with what Hacking talks about in his book, you will be remembering this awful memory rather fondly, as if it’s something that falls into the “well it was terrible but it built character” type of category. For me, this is because I am an extremely nostalgic person: I spend most of my time alone dreaming of times long ago, and most of the time with my friends telling stories of the past, usually with a smile on my face, a smile that would have been nowhere to be found at the time of said awful event. I believe that this personal act of romanticizing the past and remembering poor memories more fondly than one should bears much semblance to many of Hacking’s themes in re-writing the soul, and more than anything, made me re-examine my own mind and personality, something that few books have ever managed to do to me.

Fanon: Interesting theories, potential over-simplifications?

While it is impossible to deny that Fanon brings up some compelling points about the impacts of cultural assimilation, I find myself inclined to disagree with some of his generalizing statements. Firstly, when Fanon states that, “a normal Negro child, having grown up in a normal Negro family, will become abnormal on the slightest contact of the white world”, I find myself questioning this statement. This makes a lot of sense in the context of a Negro child being raised by negro parents and then being taken away from them into a white family, but for him to basically imply that it is difficult if not impossible for all Negroes to fully function and thrive in a white-based society because of their collective unconscious is contradictory to human nature itself: things change, and we adapt.

It would have been unthinkably jarring to have been alive during the time in history when the assimilation of black culture was taking place, but I firmly believe that, centuries later, black culture within a “white” society is thriving. While many of the wounds of the time are still fresh and racism still sadly exists, to say that blackness is associated with wrongness is a claim that would only apply to an uneducated population. Much is constantly being done and proven to remove any stigmas and negative stereotypes surrounding “blackness”.

However, where I suddenly become intrigued with Fanon was with his idea of race as having more to do with image than biology or culture. I didn’t fully understand this concept until Jon Beasley-Murrey’s lecture today, but now, it makes a surprising amount of sense to me. If you think about it, race is nothing more than skin pigmentation colouring with increase of paleness from darkness based off of distance from the equator. Think of our modern society today, there are Canadians of all skin colours who identify themselves the same. I am glad this concept was brought up as I hope to one day need not discuss and focus so much on race for in the end, we are all humans and the colour of your skin won’t matter when the aliens invade us. 😉

Freud: Science and Psychology

Last seminar, a heated discussion arose about the nature of psychology, and whether or not it is in fact a science. I called it a pseudo-science, much to the insult of several of my classmates. After many interesting discussions and argumentative statements, the class ended and many felt unconvinced. I also retracted my initial statement, saying that it may have been too harsh. Now, armed with the power of the internet and the dictionary, I will re-state, in a more eloquent manner, my original statement.

“Psychology is NOT an empirical science”. There, I said it.

Empirical science is the branch of science that uses empirical evidence or data. This is defined as: a source of knowledge based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic.

In other words, this is the type of science where you repeat the same mind-numbing experiment 1000’s of times and record every detail, trying to find a consistency that you can call a law by proving that it happens every time. So, now let us return to psychology, and how that is in no way applicable to this criteria. As I am not particularly knowledgeable in the field of psychology, I will apply this statement to Freud and why I disagree with some of what he says.

I think that Freud uses overreaching generalizations and conjectures to understand the human mind. For example, when he states on Page 21 that Dora’s disgusted reaction to Herr K’s unwanted advances was uncharacteristically abnormal and that she should have responded with sexual excitement is completely absurd. By saying this, he is generalizing that every person is sexual in the same way, at the same age, and is attracted to the same things.

Another instance where I disagree with Freud is in his analysis of Dora’s dreams, particularly her dreams of fire. Saying that Dora’s dreaming of fire is akin to bedwetting and sexuality seems to me like a gross conjecture with evidence solely found in Freud’s mind. Once again let us return to the definition of empirical. One can clearly see that Freud is not using any repeatable or provable evidence in his analysis of Dora’s dreams and that, as Christina Hendricks stated in her lecture: “each of Freud’s dream analyses are unique”, there is no way he can apply the same symbols to different patients. That raises a bit of a red flag for me, as how can he be so sure of something which has so many variables IE, the human dream state.

However, I did find Dora overall very fascinating, whether or not it was unethical for him to publish it. I believe that this was a good introduction to psychology for me, because, even through some of Freud’s theories are flawed, he is touching upon some truly valuable, and essential topics towards better understanding the human condition.

P.S. I promise this is the last late blog post from me! 🙂

Better Late Than Never? (Post on Cesaire & Kingdom of This World)

For this blog post, I will comment on not only Kingdom of This World, but Cesaire’s play as well.

Both texts focus on similar subject matter yet manage to leave the reader with entirely different impressions of the, in Cesaire’s case, titular character: Henri Christoph.

I found that in Kingdom of this world, Cristoph was portrayed as completely evil and insane for the amount of time that he was the focus of the book, with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I also found it very strange and somewhat irritable that the book skipped entirely over the story of Henri Christoph’s transition from slave chef to absolute monarch, considering that there was minor foreshadowing of his character in one of the passages about M. Mezy, which led me to expect a more prominent featuring of the character.

 

However, what I wanted to know most of all is the significance of many of the supernatural themes such as voodoo, black magic and reincarnation. Examples range from Macandal’s alleged shapeshifting abilities and escape from his execution, Henri Cristoph’s insanity and Ti Noel’s ascension. My possible idea for the significance and importance that the author places on these themes is that they represent some form of escapism. I mean that in the sense that the the perceived notion of the supernatural let’s characters cope with the otherwise unbearable horror of Haitian plantation life.

Returning to King Cristoph, compared to Alejo’s portrayal of the monarch, Cesaire’s character is written in a completely different light. I believe that the audience is to think that Christoph’s intentions were good in the start, and he later on became evil. Lines such as “under no pretext to suffer a return to slavery or any measure prejudicial to the freedom or to the civil and political rights of the Haitian people” near the beginning of the play are contrasted by lines later of “freedom cannot endure without labour” or the outright killing of peasants for little to no reason. It is in this way that I believe that the play has semblance to classical tragedies. King Christoph, while by no means a likeable character, has some of the main qualities present in the tragic heroes of old. He begins with an idealistic vision, but lets himself be consumed by this ideal and eventually transformed into that which he aspires to save his people from.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: A commentary still relevant today?

Firstly, to all my avid readers, let me apologize for my brief delay in posting this week’s upload. My cousin was over yesterday; she is moving indefinitely to Nicaragua (I am so jealous) and therefore some farewell celebrations were in order.

 

Either way, I digress, now onto the main topic. Rousseau. Some love him, some hate him, I find myself, like many others, stuck in the middle. While I disagree with Rousseau’s idea that the nascent man was superior to the civilised one, I find myself shockingly inclined to agree with him in respect to that many, if not all of the prevalent sins and human vices found today are a direct product of our assimilation into societal life. Take for example, the line: “the body of a savage being the only instrument he knows, he puts it to all sorts of uses of which our bodies, for lack of practice, are incapable; our equipment derives us of that strength and agility which necessity obliges him to acquire.” (82)

Upon initially reading this line, my thoughts instantly turned to our society’s crippling reliance on technology. Escalators and elevators in nearly every building and the notion of driving 5 minutes to buy milk from the corner store amongst other things have rendered many of us incapable of using our bodies physically for longer than several minutes. Being able to hide behind the virtual walls of a computer has led to many members of the younger generation unable to function in a real life conversation. On a psychological level, no longer are people content with what they have. The surplus of information and consumer demand leads companies to upgrade and out date their products almost instantaneously after they are released. Another more personal example, is my need for a calculator to do even the most basic arithmetic, as I have relied on one for so long.

While I am aware that Rousseau’s philosophy goes well beyond this notion of the savage man being more content and more fit to live in this world, I still find it chilling that a line like the one mentioned above, can still hold so much relevance, almost 300 years after it was written. Are we truly changing as a species, or are we stuck in the illusion of change; the same downward spiral that has indeed plagued us since the genesis of society?

The Master & The Margarita & All the Other Strange Guests at Satan’s Ball…

Look at me, getting my blog in on time. (Gives self hi-five) 🙂

So let me begin by saying the last two weeks have been by far the most enjoyable in terms of arts one reading material (thus far!). I am not gonna lie, I found the master & the margarita very difficult to get into at first, what with all the frustratingly similar Russian surnames (Ivan vs. Ivanovich, come on..), but in the end I am glad I stuck it out.

The imagery in this novel is nothing short of astounding. I really found it comparable (and this is just my opinion, so don’t yell at me too much) to Herman Hesse’s Steppenwolf, particularly the famous “magic theater” sequence in Hesse’s novel vs. the theatrical scenes, Satan’s Ball and general supernatural comedy found throughout the Master & the Margarita.

Speaking of Satan’s Ball, I found that to be one of the most interesting sections of the entire book, for several reasons (not only for the copious amount of naked women present in that chapter…):

After attending the lecture today, I finally understand the parallel between Margarita’s character in faust comitting infanticide and the sympathy shown by Margarita in Bulgakov’s book towards the similarly predicamental character of Frieda, which makes for an interesting connection and allusion between the two that I would not have otherwise grasped.

However, the main reason why I am writing my blog post about this particular section of the novel is due to all other characters that Margarita meets at Satan’s Ball and their significance in understanding the play.

I am unclear as to why the author chose these particular people to appear at the ball (there’s always a reason!). Several characters come to mind:

Firstly we have the different orchestras, ranging from “the orchestra of about 150 men” (262) led by the waltz king, to the jazz band in the next room, finally to the orchestra of apes. I assume that the former two symbolize a much longed for artistic freedom in Russia at the time, but I am unclear as to why they are replaced by an orchestra of monkeys. Hmm…

Next  we have Mr Jacques, Earl Robert & Madame Tofana. I am unclear as to why the author chose these particular people for the ball. Perhaps they each symbolize a specific trait of something mocked or forbidden in the Soviet Union at the time?

I could list several more characters that perplex me in the same way, but I believe that they are most likely inserted for similar satirical, allusive or time-period-sensitive reasons.

I have one final question to ask anyone brave enough to read this blog:

Since Margarita sold her soul to the devil in a sense, and at the very least, serves the devil & black magic, can she be viewed as a typical protagonist? I have wondered this for sometime and am interested in hearing opinions in seminar.

– DB out.

Antigone’s Act: A Stand For Justice or Wanton Selfishness?`

Even before Monday’s enlightening lecture, when I had no idea what 80% of Antigone’s claim was about, one point in  particular stood out for me: If, as Butler says, Antigone was not motivated by the household gods, but instead acted out of incestuous love for her brother, then is not her act, by definition, selfish?

Antigone is given such high praise as this martyr for justice and individuality, while ironically, should the above statement be true, her act of defiance was nothing more than an act of passion, blind and unthinking.

This explanation would help to explain her absolute refusal to bend or break, as well as her idiotic (in my opinion) refutation of life. Similar blindness and wanton disregard for the safety of themselves and others around them can be found in many romantics throughout literature’s history.

Finally, as Butler says, this “law” that Antigone invokes, has but one application, and therefore is not universal. This leads to my most perplexing question of all: If Antigone’s act is selfish, careless, motivated by love (lust) & frankly a little crazy, then why does, as Tiresias says on P. 115 (my book is a different edition), “the whole city agree with her” (I’m paraphrasing here to fit the context better, but you get the idea)?

What makes the city side with this woman, who at the time had no right to speak out, who is invoking a non-existent law, which inevitably causes much trouble and bloodshed?