Keep Fighting!

To go back briefly to the topic of Zombies, as we finish up reviewing those essays; I recently remembered a quote:
E.E. Cummings wrote: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Keep fighting, ARTS ONE!
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Keep Fighting!

To go back briefly to the topic of Zombies, as we finish up reviewing those essays; I recently remembered a quote:
E.E. Cummings wrote: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Keep fighting, ARTS ONE!
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Reading Freud was an interesting journey into the ucs and made it really hard not to apply what he was saying to my own life. Through several sections in the book I found myself analyzing myself, discovering hidden things I didn’t even remember. His techniques on dream analysis are rich and filled with symbolism and hidden meanings. How one could make a compilation of such things and then use that to analyze people, it just baffles my mind. Having so much faith in his own work and believing in what he was doing Sigmund Freud changed how we think of the human mind. Some of his finding one must say are pretty strange, maybe too far fetched, as if trying to make his point by making sexuality over exaggerated. I think that if we were to analyze in ten years the kids who are ten now, we would find that something else is the root of most problems. We have to find the most taboo thing in our time and reapply Freud’s techniques to make a 21st century psychoanalysis.

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Jane Austen and zombies

When I first saw the reading list for Arts One: Remake/Remodel, I was immediately struck by Shaun of the Dead. Having seen this film about a year ago and very much enjoying it, I was thrilled to think we were going to study this zombie comedy… but I was also pretty confused. Why was it on the list, and what on earth could be gleaned from it in connection to whatever book we were going to read alongside it? This book turned out to be Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.

Prior to this, I had never read a novel by Austen. Her books were among the many classics I had written down on a reading list, stuck up on my wall as a constant reminder that I procrastinate even on the things I want to do. (I also have lists of movies, TV series, anime/manga, documentaries, video games… yeah.) In fact, I will bluntly admit that as I type this blog entry, as the only person in this seminar who volunteered to write about Austen and zombies, I have only read about half of Northanger Abbey. (Bad Apsara!) Despite this, something Aja said during seminar yesterday struck me, and after shyly recoiling from expressing my thoughts, I decided to recollect them into this blog entry.

Near the end of yesterday’s seminar, Aja pointed out the scene in Shaun of the Dead where Shaun and co. decide to imitate the behaviour of the zombies in order to pass by them unnoticed. She found it completely ridiculous that the zombies were unable to distinguish the humans from themselves, and that in other zombie films, they may have the ability to make this distinction through smell or other senses. I think she may have mentioned that this was a result of the film’s genre as a parody, and I would like to develop this thought.

Parody films are primarily intended to make fun of a particular genre and its tropes/conventions. Through the use of often clever humor (because let’s admit it, some parodies are downright crude – I’m looking at you, Friedberg and Seltzer…), they point out how ridiculous some of these tropes are, and while this may or may not be their intention, they can also contain a larger message about society.

“Ever felt like you were surrounded by zombies?” – this is the tagline shown in the promotional posters for Shaun of the Dead. It speaks to a phenomenon that can largely be observed inside a public bus. Sit in a bus and observe the people around you. They are most likely staring into space, sleeping, listening to music.. Whatever it is, they are idle, not really aware of anything around them, and may look almost dead if not for a small twitch of the arm or a blink. If you were to suddenly blast some music from a boom box, if you tried to spark conversation with somebody, if you did pretty much anything that defied this zombie-like state, people would probably stare at you and think you very strange. A well known Japanese proverb states that “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” This means that if you stand out, you will be criticized, and in more extreme cases, be hurt or even killed. This is the situation that Shaun and co. find themselves in when trying to walk through a neighborhood filled with zombies that can and will lash out at them for still being human.

This idea of fitting in to avoid conflict can be found in Northanger Abbey.

Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind, is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can.

(Northanger Abbeypage 81.)

Here, Austen is satirizing the concept that ignorance leads to being liked, especially in the case of women, who God forbid should know anything about the world. Indeed, in the first half of the novel, our protagonist Catherine seems to be a pretty weak character, constantly being pulled back and forth by others, and doesn’t seem to have any agency of her own. She doesn’t even seem to realize when her love interest Henry Tilney is insulting her.

“Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much, that they never find it necessary to use more than half.”


It was no effort to Catherine to believe that Henry Tilney could never be wrong. His manner might sometimes surprize, but his meaning must always be just: – and what she did not understand, she was almost as ready to admire, as what she did.

(Northanger Abbey, page 83.)

This reminds me of the scene in Shaun of the Dead, where Shaun goes about his daily routine without noticing the obvious zombie apocalypse that is taking place. While Catherine is probably more a case of naiveté, and  Shaun’s a case of being hungover, they both speak of a larger problem: when you’re conditioned to certain way of life, you cease to notice it. Shaun is used to seeing people walk or sit around looking like they’re dead inside, so why should he notice when a bunch of actual zombies come into the picture? Catherine was likely raised to believe that women hold a very different role in society than men do, and that women exist to please men. It is therefore unsurprising that she latches on to Tilney’s backhanded compliment (which I found both horrid and hilarious), seeing only the compliment and not its problematic second half.

The above may have been a far-fetched link… I dunno.. This entry is kind of a prep for my eventual essay, that will focus on the use of humor in both Northanger Abbey and Shaun of the Dead.

Water, Water everywhere!

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner obviously has a lot of content to analyze, but to do so extensively would take too many hours. So, instead, I will focus on the points which interest me most.

As I was reading the poem, my attention was drawn to the attention Coleridge gives to the Albatross. There is legend that the albatross represents the soul of drowned sailors in addition to being the driving force of the winds. With this in mind, Coleridge’s lines take on a meaning beyond just an anecdote concerning the birds.

“At Length did cross an Albatross,
Thorough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God’s name”

After this point in the poem, the Albatross begins to follow the ship around wherever it sailed, which of course, can be read in such a way that the souls of drowned sailors were haunting the ship. I say “haunting” deliberately because the narrator feels the need to shoot the Albatross at the end of Part 1 of the poem, and once the Albatross is shot, the sun rises, which usually symbolizes positive aspects in poetry:

“The Sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariner’s hollo!”

Immediately after they establish that everything is fine and good after shooting the bird, the narrator makes a confession:

“And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work ‘em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! Said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!
Nor dim nor red, like God’s own head,
The glorious Sun purist:
Then all averred, I had killed the bird
That brought the fog and mist.
‘Twas right, said they, such birds to slay,
That bring the fog and mist.”

Outwardly, and to the other sailors, the death of the Albatross was justified and the proper thing to do, but the narrator’s doubts on the matter, in going with the legend, seem to suggest that by killing the Albatross, he wasn’t paying proper respects to the fallen sailors, and that there would be consequences to his actions, which, of course, there are.  (Also note that the two stanzas where the narrator expresses regret are lengthened by two lines each, giving them emphasis and reiterating their importance – the meter is disrupted here to lengthen these two stanzas, which would not have been done lightly, if meter was indeed so important to these poets!)

After the narrator’s regret is expressed, the second part of the legend takes effect: The Albatross is responsible for providing favourable wind, and the next major event in the poem is that the sails drop, and the ship stops moving for a few days due to lack of wind, which brings me to my favourite lines in this poem, not only for them being part of a lovely little inside joke with my friends, but also because I think they are quite well constructed!

“Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”

Following these beautifully crafted lines, terrible misfortunes continue to befall the crew of the sailing ship, part two ends as follows:

“Ah! well a-day! What evil looks
Had I from old and young!
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.”

Here, read that the sailor feels the weight of all the dead souls of drowned sailors on his shoulders as a burden to bear, taken upon himself for his actions of shooting the albatross. Although, at this point, I should think that he also feels the weight of all the souls of the living on the ship who are probably near death due to the misfortunes that the mariner supposedly caused by shooting the Albatross in the first place… Interestingly enough, once the sailor accepts the responsibility as his metaphorical cross to bear, something else big happens: Death approaches, and my prediction rings true: the living crew begins to drop dead as a consequence of the one sailor’s actions. Interestingly to this particular small analysis, Coleridge notes the following:

“The souls did from their bodies fly, -
They fled to bliss or woe!
And every soul, it passed me by,
Like the whizz of my cross-bow!”

Alone, and feeling bad about his actions, part four ends with the following:

“The self-same moment I could pray;
And from my neck so free
The Albatross fell off, and sank
Like lead into the sea.”

At this point, the Albatross doesn’t only represent the drowned souls and the favourable winds, but it is used by Coleridge to include certain values into the anecdote like religion and forgiveness and regret to keep piling the layers of meaning of the Albatross.

Back to the narrative of the poem though, once the Albatross falls from his neck, the dead sailors start to rise. Here in the poem enters the idea of the savage torpor, which I’m not going to talk about except in terms of my Albatross examination. The image of the dead crew coming back as a ghost crew seems to me to be an attempt to show their souls. In fact, these souls eventually echo back to the sailor his own regret at killing the “harmless Albatross” where the living crew had celebrated it. The sailor’s penance is his regret and the blood on his hands from killing the Albatross, and the idea that he’ll spend the rest of his life trying to make things right again.

Interestingly, the narrator finds his peace in telling the story, which makes the anecdotal nature of this poem quite effective. And the Albatross legend thing is also very cool. 
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