Apocalypse Now in three points:

  1. green
  2. smoke
  3. noise

The green thing was more of a problem with the specific screening. Jon and Jill tried to fix it (thank you), to no avail, but I’m including it in the list of points because it was just so green.

In reference to our discussions about Heart of Darkness and how people become bodies – Apocalypse Now definitely did that too, albeit in a different way. I can’t quite remember, but there’s a scene where the protagonist is met with a huge group of people all standing in boats and looking at him. As far as I can recall, they don’t speak or move at all. They’re just there.

I tried writing about smoke but it didn’t work so I’ll move on.

Noise. This is something that troubled me a little bit: it might not seem like it, but I generally dislike loud noises. In movies and TV, at least. When I turn on the TV and the volume’s above 10 (which happens often, because some members of my family turn up the sound), I literally can’t reach for the remote and turn down the volume fast enough. From about a quarter of the way through to about the end of the second third (my impression), it’s just constant, nonstop noise. It reminded me of this Hayao Miyazaki quote:

“If you just have non-stop action with no breathing space at all, it’s just busyness, But if you take a moment, then the tension building in the film can grow into a wider dimension. If you just have constant tension at 80 degrees all the time you just get numb.” (here)

Maybe an “epic war film” just isn’t for me. I found concentrating on what was going on difficult, too, because (to bring back what I said about Trouillot and Heart of Darkness), I found this movie cacophonus. Not meaningless, but cacophonus. Of course this is in part due to the fact that Apocalypse Now is a movie, and HOD is a book and books don’t have noise (unless it’s an audiobook). Also, it was so green. Jon remarked at the end of the screening that we probably got “the gist” of it. For me that was entirely accurate.

I said in tutorial that HOD is a book that maybe I’d reread a few years down the road, but I’m not sure I’d rewatch Apocalypse Now, for three main reasons: the noise, the violence, and the length. In general I don’t like watching movies, basically due to this:

“Reading a book is this entirely personal endeavor, an experience over which you have a fairly high degree of control. You decide where and when and for how long at a time you will inhabit this world, and while our movie-watching options are certainly expanding, they still don’t match our book-reading options. Plus, of course, books can be hundreds and hundreds of pages long and people will still read them. If a movie’s more than three hours or so, everyone starts getting upset.” (here)

Maybe not so much the part about having more book options than movie options (there are, after all, a lot of different stories that are specific to one medium), but definitely the part about control.

I’ve also been thinking lately about what exactly makes certain texts or stories not more or less interesting, but simply more or less comprehensible, to go back once again to Miranda’s blog post. For instance, a lot of us in LB5 (just my impression, again) didn’t fully understand Leviathan, and a lot of us (I think) didn’t like it a lot or at least didn’t want to touch any of its essay topics with a ten-foot pole. Yet I think a lot of us understood Freud pretty well; it’s just that there was hate for it. Jon told us in seminar that whether we liked the Freud text or not, some of his ideas are still a part of our world. Same deal with Leviathan. What is it that makes certain things easier to understand than others? I know it’s the end of the year and everyone’s tired, but I’d love to hear what the rest of you have to say. Thoughts?

(For your consideration, here is a pertinent tweet I found a little while ago.)

Thanks for reading, everyone, for the last time. More than once I’ve spent Tuesdays wishing it was Wednesday, and glancing at the clock during seminar and being relieved that we were only halfway through. I’d like to think I’ve taken some good notes. You’ve all been great.


Gathered up

I put off this post because I haven’t found anything to say about the book.

Well, I guess I can start with Freud.

“Examine diligently, therefore, all the faculties of your soul: memory, understanding, and will. Examine with precision all your senses as well. . . . Examine, moreover, all your thoughts, every word you speak, and all your actions. Examine even unto your dreams, to know if, once awakened, you did not give them your consent. And finally, do not think that in so sensitive and perilous a matter as this, there is anything trivial or insignificant.” (20)

I tagged it with Freud mostly because the dream-analysis part caught my attention, but in typing out the full quote, I realized it was closer to a description of introspection. Which is weird now, because when I was actually taking PSYC 101 I never really thought about the similarities between Freud and introspection. Probably because I hadn’t read Dora then.

I like how the first part of the book is called “We “Other Victorians”". As in, even though their opinions regarding sexuality are different, they’re still Victorians. The question of what defines an era goes back to what Miranda said about how eras are made sense of in retrospect in the Lyrical Ballads lecture and the ensuing discussion in seminar.

Foucault concerns himself a lot with what I tagged in my notes as a “legislation” of sex (37) – literally, but I was also referring to how he seems to dislike comprehensive descriptions/explanations of sex. He also draws a line between sexuality and sex in his discussion, which I found interesting (54, 114).

I also like that he didn’t use, as I said in my last blog post, the random justification (at least, not to the extent that Rousseau uses it). Maybe just because his discussion is more limited, with a focus on history like the Industrial Revolution, and not Rousseau’s brand of pre-history. Checking against my seminar notes now, we discussed Foucault in our Silencing the Past seminars and how Foucault doesn’t discuss the “provenance of power” and talks about history without being a historian (just like Trouillot). Again, now that I’ve remembered this, it’s weird that the books that have something to do with Silencing the Past are the ones I really am “decidedly neutral” (again) about. Maybe because I haven’t really considered in the past whether or not I’ve liked most of the books, and only recently have I started to do that.

See? Not much to say. Thanks for reading, everyone.


[Edited for spacing.]

Good Queen Margot

Five (seven) questions on The Master and Margarita.

1. Why is the book organized the way it is? (split narration, different stories)

2. Why is Margarita’s second wish (rather than the first) for the Master? (282-284)

3. Archibald Archibaldovich appears once to bail Koroviev and Behemoth out, and then promptly sets the building they were in on fire. What purpose does he serve? (354-358)

4. Why does the novel end with an epilogue? The rest of the book, as novels usually do, shows what happens. The epilogue is a shift to telling. Why does Bulgakov do this?

5. When Margarita’s husband leaves for a business trip, “no one could prevent her from thinking what she like or dreaming what she liked” (220). What prevents her from doing that when anyone else is around? What does that say about what her married life is like?


I wrote these five before today’s (Wednesday’s) seminar. Here are two more that came up today:


6. Why don’t Margarita and her husband have any children?

7. Why doesn’t the master have a name while Margarita does?



Whenever I read I’m often struck by similarities to other things I’ve seen/heard and sometimes I laugh a little bit at these moments. The people around me are usually pretty used to the sight/sound of me laughing randomly and sometimes they ask me what’s up. In the absence of people being around me while I’m at home and insist on reading quietly, here are some random thoughts I had on Antigone and Antigone’s Claim.

1. RECENT: Taylor.

“Indeed, consciousness seeks a retrieval of itself, only to recognize that there is no return from alterity to a former self but only a transfiguration premised on the impossibility of return.” (Butler 14)

On that page of Antigone’s Claim, I have a sticky note reading “TS: ‘I’d like to be my old self again, but I’m still trying to find it’”. The quote is a line from a song, “All Too Well”,  which she wrote about a relationship which, to my best knowledge, lasted about three months. With that in mind, the song sounds very serious and very sad. Under the lyric is an arrow and my own note: “you can never really go back”. This whole discussion in Antigone’s Claim about trying to go back comes out of one of Butler’s commentaries on Hegel’s work, which are always confusing because like a lot of other people (I would think), I’ve never read Hegel’s analysis of Antigone. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I’m reading a critique of something that I never even knew existed.

A little bit of what I remember from our last seminar which reminded me of this note is Miranda talked about splitting and seeing past versions of ourselves as permanent, with reference to post-structuralism. Naturally, having a brain stuffed full of irrelevant bits and bobs, I brought up Horcruxes.

Naturally, since this post is supposed to be about Antigone, how does she relate to all this? Honestly, I don’t know. The idea of going back is the only thing that jumped out to me in a passage that was otherwise bamboozling and more than a little reminiscent of something else that came up during the seminar: the feeling that at points in Antigone’s Claim, Butler (figuratively) pulls aside a group of people with deeper knowledge and goes, “by the way, here’s this little offshoot of interesting stuff”.

So, I guess, a little tip for Taylor (in case that she hasn’t already figured this out for herself, which I doubt): It’s okay. You can’t go back. Things don’t un-happen.


2. ANCIENT: Elizabeth.

Also on page 14 of Antigone’s claim is a sticky note reading “EB Browning poem”. Rather, this poem. This is in reference to the mentions of Lacan’s idea of “pure Being” (Butler 14, 48). Going back to #1, I think the first time I ever saw this poem was in a commentary about how weird the concept of loving someone for no reason is. How do you do that? I guess it’s one of those ideas that I’ve dismissed with, “Give it some time. I’ll understand it when I’m older”. I’ve dismissed a lot of ideas like this. It’s worked before. Still waiting on this poem, though. Maybe I should go outside more often.

Of course, any thoughts about Elizabeth Barrett Browning are probably accompanied with some nod to this poem. I remember reading this for English 10. This poem makes more sense to me now. I also remember our English 10 teacher talking about how every time you go back to this poem, it has some new or deeper meaning. She was right about many things.



The opening of the second chapter discusses the importance of making Kreon’s declaration heard (Butler 27). I thought about this for a bit before adding a note on page 29, in comparatively cramped writing, about something I read once on Joni Mitchell’s Wikipedia page about her writing and giving up her daughter for adoption. I’m not going to quote it, because it doesn’t seem to be cited, but I did just spend some time digging this relevant bit up from one of her interviews:

“When my daughter returned to me, the gift kind of went with it. The songwriting was almost like something I did while I was waiting for my daughter to come back.” (from here)

I think it helped me interpret Antigone’s rash behaviour a little better: she doesn’t have her family to talk to, so she doesn’t mind if everyone knows what she’s doing.


In closing, here’s a music video I like, which is also sort of related to what we’ve been reading lately. Thanks for reading, everyone.


“Gorgias”, apparently

I decided to not delete that first automatic blog post (“Hello, world!”) because in a few years I’ll probably look back on it and remember not really understanding exactly what I was supposed to do with this.

In our last seminar, our professor commented that we preferred syncretic (okay, I just googled that to make sure I spelled it correctly, and I didn’t at first) questions: as she explained it, questions that could be answered with a yes/no. That reminds me of two different memories: the first one being one of my teachers from high school, who would ask us if we had any questions and then pause. He would hold the pause for a while and one time he explained to us (as far as I can remember) that the silence was designed to give us time to formulate our questions and then get over the awkwardness of raising our hands to ask them. The second memory it reminded me of is that one time I was with some friends at a science exhibit and one part had us answer questions on a screen by pressing buttons. A friend of mine laughed when she noticed that I was slapping the buttons and I thought it was kind of funny too, and the best explanation I could come up with was that there are some topics I have very strong opinions on, and that I’m completely comfortable with having those strong opinions. For me, at least, I think the preference for close-ended questions is real. Just telling somebody what you think, without having to explain, without having to let them pick your brain a little, is easy and not as personal. Lately I’ve been wondering if having really strong opinions on something could just mean that I don’t want to consider other perspectives. Is the best opinion one that you’re willing to change? (I’ve thought about this and I’ve concluded there’s some kind of semantic tangle in that question, but I don’t know how to fix it.)

I do think that although yes/no questions are easy to answer, they’re really just good for warming up. If all you can get out of somebody is yes or no, it probably means that they don’t really want to talk to you or that you aren’t asking the right questions.  Sometimes I’m watching an interview and the interviewer asks a question that does more to show what they already think and less to show what the interviewee thinks (and isn’t that really the point of the interview?). The fact that I can’t go through the computer screen and say, “Objection – leading question” saddens me a little.

In the case of the seminar, we were lucky, and the yes/no questions were just a warmup. I remember checking the time on my computer, realizing we were halfway through, and thinking, “This is so great”, despite having trouble in the first bit even getting some thoughts together before somebody made a remark.

Also, thoughts on Gorgias:

Socrates talks so much that I used three different colours of tabs for him and one colour for everyone else. Trying to understand exactly what the other characters think can be a little difficult if a lot of what they express is a yes or a no to Socrates’ paragraphs. (more syncretic questions!) Being able to quote them is far better. The only note I have for Callicles, for example, is that he disagrees with Socrates, which isn’t exactly helpful. And Callicles and Socrates get to converse at length, unlike, for example, Gorgias, who has lines at the beginning but not much otherwise.

More generally, though, “Gorgias”‘ discusses of the exact definition and purpose of oratory extensively, which gets very Abed. Socrates gets the last word but ultimately we have to decide for ourselves and I’m still not sure about what oratory is (but if I hadn’t read “Gorgias”, I don’t think I would have thought about it).

That’s all I have for now. Hopefully I’ll write more soon. Good night, everyone. Thanks for reading.