L.A. Girl

My name is Anna. My family lives on a small farm in the rural part of Texas. I grew up surrounded by cows, pigs, and chickens, along with my younger brother. I have just graduated high school and want to explore outside of what I have known my whole life. My parents gifted me a trip to Los Angeles, California for a few days. I pack my bags with essentials and some outfits that I thought would be nice to wear on my trip. I said goodbye to my family as I board my plane. I sat in my seat and looked out the window in excitement as I look at the sky and daydream about all the things I would do and see when I land in California.

I finally arrive to my destination. There are lights shining from all directions and so many tall buildings and so many people walking around in the middle of the night. I take an Uber to my motel room and knock out the moment I touched the bed. Morning comes, and I wake up refreshed and ready to start my day. I look up good restaurants nearby and picked one that I think I would enjoy the most. It was crowded in the restaurant as groups of people wait for a table. As I was being pushed, I took a step back and accidentally bump into the girl that was behind me. As I turned around to apologize, her appearance was blinding. Her face was covered in make-up, her outfit was beautifully revealing, her nails and hair were done, and she was carrying at what looks like a really expensive bag.

I realized that she is someone that is famous. I finally apologized after staring at her for a while. She accepted my apology with a smile. She asked “what is a girl like you doing in a city like this?”. I knew the way I looked and dressed gave me out. I explained to her why I was in L.A. She then invited me to spend the next few days with her. She took me to all of the tourist destinations and took me shopping with her. As we spent the whole day together, a part of me grew envious. I looked up and down at the way I dressed and became embarrassed. I was also embarrassed of the way I talk. I realized how out of place I was in a city of glamour. I want to be like her. I want to live like her. I want to sound like her.

So in the next few days, I tried to hide my accent and only wore clothes that she picked out for me. I think I am doing a good job of trying to hide who I really am. I don’t want to go back home. I don’t want to associate myself as a Southern girl. They’re not pretty, they don’t wear pretty clothes, and they are not glamorous. I want to be an L.A. girl.

I dreaded leaving L.A. and going back home. I still want to stay here but there is no way I can do that. I sadly walked to the plane. When I finally arrived home, I look around and realize how ugly and crummy this place is. My family greeted me at the front door. I looked them up and down and I see how unkempt they are. I was disgusted by the way my family presented themselves and the crappy place I call home. I sit on my bed, staring out the window, dreaming of being in L.A. again.

Review:

I am recreating Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. I am writing a short version of the story with the intention of showing the similarities of Gulliver and Anna. I chose Gulliver’s travels because Jonathan Swift’s writing is plain and simple. He said what he wanted to say and kept it simple for everyone to understand. Gulliver was kicked off of his ship and ended up on the Land of the Houyhnhnms. There, he learns of how “amazing” the Houyhnhnms are. He loses his sense of identity and wanted to be just like them; all so alike without any individuality. I wanted to portray the same thing in my parody. Just like Gulliver, she wants to become something other than who she really is. Gulliver compared the Yahoos as filthy, human-like beings to the majestical horses while she compared her unkempt family to the glamorous girls of L.A. Gulliver thinks that the way to happiness is to be like a Houyhnhnm. He starts talking to horses and associates himself as one of them. My character is a Southern girl trying to hide her accent and wearing nice clothes that looks awkward on her screams desperate. She believed that she was able to hide her identity with material things but doesn’t realize that she looks more like a laughing joke.

-Naomi Van

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The Harp

In the poem, “The Harp of India” by Henry Derozio, the author talks about India through the description of the harp. The first two lines sets the mood of the poem. It goes “Why hang’st thou lonely on yon withered bough?/Unstrung for ever, must thou there remain”. It talks about someone who is put down and doesn’t have a voice for themselves. The unstrung harp is India not having their own unique voice and a loss of identity. India was under the rule of British colonization. The British colonized most of India such like their politics, economy, and culture. A part of their culture is poetry. British imperialism created poets such as Henry Derozio. Their poems are not as lively as they should be and shows despair with the situation their country is facing. Derozio states

“Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain;

Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,

Like ruined monument on a desert plain”

When a harp is not being played, it becomes silent. When India was overtaken by Britain, they were silenced by them. They became like “ruined monument”. Once beautiful and grand, now in ruins. Derozio wants what India once were, “May be by mortal wakened once again/Harp of my country, let me strike the strain!”. He is trying to tell the people of India that they should wake up and realize what is happening to them and fight back. And to not let others take away their identity. They must once again, play their harp.

-Naomi Van

Philadelphia, 2017

For my poem, I will be looking into William Blake’s “London”. I picked this poem because it is the one I understand the best. William Blake looked at the negative side of London and that is something most people overlook because, for many reasons, they would like to believe that they are living in a safe and comfortable neighborhood. The city I choose to write about is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I chose this city because I was born there and raised there until I was 8 years old. There is a negative view on the city I grew up in but in my eyes, I didn’t see it as so.

Walking through the dark, snowy street;

Face and body getting colder,

Racing heartbeat,

Always looking over my shoulder.

 

I walked past a man;

Blackened by darkness

Trying to get home as fast as I can

We are so heartless.

 

We hear what we want to hear,

We all scream “This place is bad!”

We Philadelphians want to be endeared,

It drives us mad.

 

So quick to judge others;

Hear our cries,

We are all brothers;

Let us rise.

-Naomi Van

Looking into the Distance

Caspar David Friedrich, The Monk by the Sea, can be described in the poem “Expostulation and Reply”. In the Monk by the Sea, I see someone standing on a large surface staring off into the distance in a misty, gloomy surrounding. In the background, I see fog or mountains engulfing the man. In a way, this painting shows someone soul-searching by spending time surrounded by nature.

In the first four lines of the poem, it states

“Why William, on that old grey stone,

“Thus for the length of half a day,

“Why William, sit you thus alone,

“And dream your time away?

Here, Matthew can be heard asking William why he is spending all his time outside and day-dreaming all by himself. Matthew does not understand the beauty of nature and doesn’t like that William is just spending his time gazing into the distance. In The Monk by the Sea, we can see that there stands a person looking into the distance; absorbing in the beauty of nature. Matthew continues to question William and asks him “Where are your books? that light bequeath’d”. He questions why he would rather daydream than go read a book and learn something instead. Matthew is expostulating and kept telling William that he shouldn’t be doing what he is doing because he is wasting his time. But, William states that we can all learn something by looking at nature. Going back to the painting, the person staring off into the distance could have been just like William. That person and William was enlightened by the beauty of our surrounding. The fog or whiteness of the painting shows that light is shining on the person and could be foreshadowing of the enlightenment that someone goes through.

William finally replies to Matthew and tells him that “Our bodies feel, where’er they be/Against, or with our will”. We cannot stop ourselves from wanting what our body craves for and that is the knowledge learned from nature not through books.

-Naomi Van

Metal Rock and Poetry

After listening to Iron Maiden’s version of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, I believe that it does a good job at portraying the poetry. At first, I did not enjoy listening to Iron Maiden because I am not into their genre of music. It is difficult to define romantic poetry as one certain thing. Heavy metal can be seen as another form of romantic poetry. It portrays emotions and feelings in a different way.

The heavy metal rock music went along with the poem when it introduced the men and the Mariner to a frigid land that was covered in “mist and snow” where the snow “cracked and growled, and roared and howled”. The music brought to life of the uncertainty the men and the Mariner were going through. The loudness of rock portrayed their surrounding and the environment they were in. The snowy condition was described well because the way the snow roared and howled is paired well with the loudness and heaviness of rock. The transition of heavy metal rock to soft, creepy sounding music led to the slow foreshadowing of the men being cursed.

“One after one, by the star-dogged Moon,

Too quick for groan or sigh,

Each turned his face with a ghastly pang,

And cursed me with his eye.

Four times fifty living men,

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropped down one by one.”

At the 5:52 mark in the song, he goes off course and reads a part of the poem instead. I feel that by doing this, there is a sense of connectivity to the actual poem even if that part lasted for less than a minute. After the two verses were read in the song, there is a two minute gap before the singing starts again. This silence lets us process what has just happened. The men have just been cursed. When the singer said “they dropped down one by one” and leaves us hanging with only music, we wait in anticipation wondering what’s going to happen next. It causes our minds to think of scenarios that are to come after. And when he starts to sing again, we come to realize that the curse still lives on.

-Naomi Van

Extra Credit

After attending “After Sustainability: The Histories of Climate Change” by Robert Markley, I realized that the issue about global warming and climate change is not something our society talks about. Yes, there is a big emphasis on addressing the issue of global warming but no one is taking action in fixing what we have done. People do not care about our planet and what is happening to it because it is not an immediate impact on them. Climate change takes time and does not show its effects easily. There are groups of people out there who care about our planet but they are not taken seriously because a majority of our society believe that they are over-exaggerating climate change and making it more of a big deal than it is.

In our last blog post, we looked at two satirical cartoons that depicted slavery. In a way, both cartoons are addressing the issues of slavery but at the same time, making fun of it. Slavery wasn’t seen as something serious and was not addressed accordingly. In Cruikshank’s cartoon, you can see African slaves dancing and having fun in the background. It is telling us that slavery is not a bad thing and should not be taken seriously. Near the front of the cartoon, there appears to be young children signing the petition to end slavery. It shows that the petition is a joke because there are children signing it who do not understand what they are signing for.

Both of these topics show how humanity does not address issues within our society. Instead, we push it aside and make fun of it.

-Naomi Van

Abolitionist?

In chapter 12 of The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano calls for the abolishment of “tortures, murder, and every other imaginable barbarity and iniquity” against the slaves (234). He was once a slave himself and understands the difficulty they have to go through as a slave. He contradicts every bad thing he has said about slavery when he got his own slaves. Equiano wrote in his narrative that “I went with the doctor on board a Guinea-man, to purchase some slaves to carry with us, and cultivate a plantation and I chose them all my own countrymen” (189). How are we to believe someone who is against slavery yet owns slaves himself?

In Cruikshank’s satirical cartoon, it shows that not everyone agreed with the idea of abolishing slavery. There is an abolitionist holding up a picture of a white man whipping a slave covering the telescope. By doing that, it is showcasing that the abolitionist is exaggerating the way a white man is treating his slave. It is also portraying the abolitionist as someone who cannot be trusted because he is making “false claims” about slavery. It pokes fun at the idea that slavery is not a bad thing but rather a happy thing. You can see African slaves in the background dancing and having a good time. This image shows how anti-abolitionists are twisting what the abolitionists are trying to say and portray. In the cartoon, many people are seen signing a petition that wants to abolish slave grown sugar which in turn would reduce profits that are involved in the usage of slaves to grow sugar. But, there appears to be young children signing the petition. Which shows that the petition itself is not credible and is taken as a joke.

Both Equiano and the cartoon contradicts with what they are trying to say.

-Naomi Van

Full of herself

In Phebe Gibbes’s Hartly House, Sophia refers to Swift within her letters. Just like Gulliver, Sophia does not care about anything or anyone other than herself. They both cannot see the political events that are happening around them. Colonial blindness at its finest. Sophia went to India to meet up with her father and there they were supposed to bring European essence to the country. Instead, Sophia writes to her friend, Arabella, talking about how amazing she is and disregards the country she is in. In letter 5, she said “historical anecdotes are not compatible with either the taste or leisure of a fine lady at Bengal”. Her adventures in India was more important to her than everything else. She also said she will “spare myself the drudgery, as well as the disgrace, of exercising my pen thereon”. The way she talked about history shows that she does not care about it at all. She thought it was too much trouble to write and even harder for Arabella to read. Also at the end of letter 5, Sophia knows that Arabella will “marvel at my reading and literary talents”. What literary talents when all she can talk about is herself?

Sophia and Gulliver are both so into themselves that they do not see the big issues with what they are saying. In letter 37, Sophia calls herself “so brilliant, so divine, a spectacle – am so dazzled, and so captivated” and then goes on to compares herself “like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput, find all the objects around me so diminutive and so mean, that I overlook and disregard them at every point”. They disregard the issues that is surrounding them and make up their own little fantasies. Gulliver denied himself that he was like the Yahoos and then goes on to humanize the Houyhnhnms even though they are not humans. The Houyhnhnms live on an island that isolates them from the rest of the world which caused them to base their society on reasoning. They know of no evils and cannot fathom the meaning of evilness. Also, they do not have any political and/or ethical views because they live in a utopia that overlooks all issues. Gulliver wants a society that has a rational approach to fixing the Yahoos (humanity).

-Naomi Van

Rude much?

Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language is one of the most powerful dictionaries about the English language. What Johnson realized was that the English language is “copious without order”.  He wanted to fix the “improprieties and absurdities”. It seems as if he sees the English language as something that can be fixed and changed, but he realized that it cannot be done. Language is malleable. It has changed and will continue to change through time. Johnson clearly stated his dislike in the way the English language takes bits and pieces from other languages. He called it “weakly followed”. He wanted to ‘get rid of’ what other languages has brought into the English language. Even before Dictionary, there was a sense for standardization of the English language. The Royal Society had a committee that wanted to improve the English language. That was the start and end to their egocentric society.

In Macaulay’s and Ray’s call for English language in India, they stated that the way the Indian natives talked, “contain neither literary nor scientific information, and are moreover so poor and rude”. In lecture, we discussed that Macaulay was not trying to get rid of the Sanscrit or Arabic language but rather trying to push the native people into learning in that language. Macaulay believed that Sanskrit and Arabic was useful in providing education and knowledge. Forcing them to learn in Sanscrit or Arabic leads to oppression. He has only read the translated versions of books and scripts. And based on what he read, he believed that it was of importance for them to learn those works. How was he able to put importance on things that were translated into English? It is not an exact translation and the depth that a certain language provides cannot be felt by another.

I feel as if he is contradicting himself. What he wanted to create was “a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect”. By creating a system that pretty much want to wipe out Indian literature and education, it creates a sense of loss; the loss of native language and heritage.

-Naomi Van

Humans and Animals

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels suggests that we would be happier if we were like the Houyhnhnms. He uses satiric methods to show reasoning and language between the Houyhnhnms and the Yahoos. Houyhnhnms were “endowed by nature with a general disposition to all virtues, and have no conceptions or ideas of what is evil in a rational creature, so their grand maxim is, to cultivate reason, and to be wholly governed by it” (248). The Houyhnhnms live on an island and this kind of isolation from the rest of society helped form their society. And in their society, they use reasoning to evolve themselves. Gulliver states that “I know not whether it may be worth observing, that the Houyhnhnms have no word in their language to express anything that is evil, except what they borrow from the deformities or ill qualities of the Yahoos” (256). In the novel, when Gulliver was trying to explain humans to the Master Horse, he had a difficult time trying to convey us in their language because they cannot grasp the understanding of something their society does not face. He said that there is “no word in their language” which shows that they are all alike without any individuality.

The way the Yahoos are constantly being compared to Houyhnhnms shows how much one group is favored over the other. Gulliver picking a group of horses over a group of filthy, human-like beings shows how much Yahoos are disliked. He viewed the Yahoos as others who “hate one another, more than they did any different species of animals” while he saw the Houyhnhnms as “admirable” (241). Yahoos depict mankind degenerate while the Houyhnhnms have a rational approach to fixing humanity. They lost all language and showed how much the human-like animals are like us. Of course we would expect Gulliver to choose the Houyhnhnms for their ability of reasoning. In chapter IV of part IV, Gulliver said that the Houyhnhnms were “the most generous and comely animals we had; that they excelled in strength and swiftness” (222). His need for a utopia causes him to see the Yahoos in a way that he sees humans, like himself.

Ever since he visited the Land of the Houyhnhnms, his way of viewing humans changed. The Houyhnhnms showed him a society of enlightenment.

-Naomi Van