Monday, May 4, 2009

Oh, but I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now.

^Bob Dylan wrote that. I think the Eagles made it popular, but I forget. Great song.

Also it is 1 am and I accidentally fell asleep at 8 pm or so and completely intended to blog on time. Anyway,

The question of which of our texts will stick was pretty difficult for me. I suspect that the answer is Lolita, but I felt like that was a cop-out because we spent so much time on it. The more I think about it, though, the more I realize I have legit reasons. Nabokov's prose is so rich and beautiful; how could such brilliant imagery NOT remain with me? For the rest of my life, when anything tangentially related comes up, so will pictures in my mind of Humbert and Lo in some random location in the Northeast, him over-protectively watching her by the poolside. Or perhaps Humbert coming into his bathrobe while she sits in his lap, completely unaware. (Ha, I said it. Just try and get that out of your head!)

Additionally, I'm a long time fan of ee cummings, so I'm bound to run into one of his poems we studied again. When I do, I will of course think of the particular analysis that we did to them. I'll probably be with other people and want to sound educated and say something like "you know, this is actually about war... mhm, the unrefined girls are cannons... yup..."

Blue Velvet: I already find myself yelling "Heinekin? FUCK THAT SHIT! PABST BLUE RIBBON!" on occasion. This seems like a pretty juvenile, uninspired thing to take from the movie, but really, every time I yell this and look around for a buddy that got the reference, I won't just remember that line--but many more bits of Blue Velvet. Frank raping Dorothy, Dorothy stark naked and frightened in Jeffrey's lawn, etc. Like Lolita, the imagery in Blue Velvet will remain with me always.

The Wire and NWA have changed my view of inner-city and the ghetto sort of together as one entity (more the Wire than NWA, however). Mentions of drugs, drug dealers, drug wars, ghettos, the projects, and homicide units currently evoke that little false world in false Balitmore. As time passes, my list of "tags" will probably shrink to half of those listed, but that's not bad. Mainly, I (probably incorrectly) feel like I have a handle on such things. I feel more enlightened about how things there "really" are.

Truly, though, I shall never forget the epic set of all-nighters I am about to pull exploring the Wire, and then subsequently arguing for my grade. :P

Last blog post in this blog EVER?,
Deanna Christine Marie Louise Kilgore III Esq.

Fifteen Years

Taking this class made me realize how much I enjoy English. It is a totally different thought process than my major, finance, but there are also similarities. It is more like the speculative aspect of finance-taking the information you are given and analyzing it for a result. Different people will infer different things from the same texts.
I was wondering if I would enjoy a different major more, with more interpretation and less formulas (although Eagleton opened my eyes to literary formulas). I realized that perhaps the fact that this class was not my ultimate major is why I enjoyed it. There is something about having freedom that makes things worthwhile.
From this class, I learned a lot about analyzing everyday texts and literature. I will continue to read for enjoyment, but hopefully I will get more out of what I am reading. Perhaps I will actually take a moment to reflect on things. I am more about reactions than reviewing. That is what I hope to take most from this class, thinking with a purpose. I can learn things without reflecting on them, but maybe wisdom is being able to put the learning into words and pass it on.

fifteen years

In fifteen years assuming I am not dead or worse subsumed into middle class America with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids, I am sure I will still be thinking about the exact same things in merely a different light. There will still be people who can't see the strange beauty and complexities behind something refuse to understand, because it is so important to maintain that train of simpler thought. I am sure I will still be finding broken people and patching them back together as best as I can. I am sure I will still sleep outside just to escape the noise of so many people that I will never know.

Blue Velvet affected me profoundly in that my ideas of right and wrong were completely turned inside out and around. I watched the "Candy Colored Clown" scene numerous times and turned the absurdity about in my mind and still wonder about how David Lynch does it. Blue Velvet was a lovely segue into Lolita another of my pet projects from this class.

Lolita disturbed and excited me. It is certainly a novel that I shan't forget and will definitely reread in order to catch all of Nabokov's nuances. On the surface of this masterpiece one certainly has to admire the incredible wordplay. Deeper one has to admire the mindplay. Kryzs and in turn Lolita taught me one vital thing about becoming a better reader and in turn a better writer, not everything is about you. Sometimes you have to separate yourself from the content in order to get a more (dare I say it) imaginative view. It isn't about the content, it's about using your imagination to delve deeper into something that can be beautiful.

The Wire was another particularly disturbing bit for me as I had a great deal of trouble separating myself from the content. I guess as one who was raped as a child might a bit of difficulty finding sympathy for our beloved Humbert, I had trouble sympathsizing with Omar until anticatharsis where I gathered up all of that baggage and instead looked at the story as it was, real, complicated and accurate. I will carry the moment where I was able to relinquish control and just slip into a story in which I had so much vested with me until I don't remember it anymore.

This class has been for lack of something less cliche, a blessing. Therapeutic and provoking, vicious and strange, but most of all the most useful English class I have ever had. Thanks guys.


If the way I remember the material from this class is anything like the way I remember my high school classes, I think what will stick with me will not be the details of each work, but the general themes that ran throughout the class. So assuming that the Mayans were wrong and time continues beyond December 21, 2012, what big themes will I associate with this class in 15 years?

One theme that really resonated for me was the duality and interdependence of good and evil. This has already been touched on in other blog posts, but this idea was brought up in Areopagitica, and then expanded (much more accessibly, in my opinion) in Blue Velvet. This whole “good cannot exist without evil” thing is hardly a new idea, but our class discussions were the first time I was every really forced to sit down and contemplate and discuss it seriously. Considering it’s one of the loftier metaphysical ideas around, I have no doubt our discussions will serve to enlighten future conversations and add layers of depth to other works and texts. So while I may not remember Frank Booth, Jeffrey, or what’s-her-face in 2024 and I’ve already purged a good portion of Areopagitica from my brain, I’m confident that the ideas about the nature of good and evil that these texts brought up will stick with me nonetheless.

This has also already been expanded on by others, but I’ll definitely think of this class whenever I hear the question “What is Literature?” This question was pervasive throughout the semester, but I’ll especially remember On the Pornographic Imagination’s discussion of the artist as “a freelance explorer of spiritual dangers”, someone “making forays into and taking up positions on the frontiers of consciousness”, not least because it makes being an English major sound really exciting, but also for bringing up the idea that no subject is necessarily unliterary. I’ll even begrudgingly remember Literary Theory, especially since I have a feeling I’ll be referring back to it in semesters to come. The metaphor of the different theories as lenses through which to view a text is a good one, and I definitely added some lenses to my arsenal this semester. This class also definitely helped (read: forced) me to reevaluate my definition of Literature, something that I’ll definitely remember as my personal definition solidifies in years to come. But even more, I’ll now start recognizing literary qualities in many more non-text works, as our work with Blue Velvet, The Wire, Straight Outta Compton, and Highway 61 Revisited, has taught me to do. While the subjectivity of what is considered Literature was a bit scary at first, I now see that it is one of the qualities that makes Literature such a interesting subject to study, and I’m glad that Eagleton left the “what is Literature?” question open, so that we could write the next chapter. (Sorry that was really cheesy, couldn’t resist)

Another theme I noticed was the “everyone’s playing some sort of game” theme that stretched across The Wire, Good Old Neon, and Lolita. What I mean by this is the way all these works focused (some more than others) on the aspect of life that’s just putting on a show for other people or just playing their games. While this is certainly most evident in Good Old Neon, reading that short story sort of opened my eyes to this theme in other works. In Lolita, we really get a personal look in H.H.’s mind, or so he’d like us to think. As we read, we must be wary of H.H.’s game, and keep his motives (to persuade us that he is innocent) in mind. This complicates the novel, and really adds another layer of depth when you realize just how cunning H.H. is being. In The Wire, we must keep track of each character’s motivations and the difference between who they appear to be and who they are. Even though D’Angelo actually wants to get out the drug business and is a pretty softhearted guy, he must play the role of hardcore thug; even though Avon is running the town, he’s still scared when he sees his brother lying in the hospital, etc. etc. The difference between who people are trying to appear to be and who they actually are is an important concept not only in literature but in everyday life. As Krzys brought up, even being a student is just a game, in a way. Throughout our career as students we struggle to get a X on our SAT, or keep a GPA above Y, to show people that we’re good students or smart or whatever. But it’s all just a game we’re playing to get into college or make dean’s list or get a job or whatever, these numbers only have the meaning we give them. Life exists without all these little rules and all this pretending to be something we aren’t, and we’ll be a lot better off if we can know when we need to play the game, and when we need to pull an Omar and play the game by our own rules.

In conclusion, this is by far the most interesting class I took this semester (although there wasn’t much competition) a lot of it thanks to everyone’s good insights in class or on the blog. So whether you said something I hadn’t thought of, showed me a different side to an argument, or even just posted a funny link on twitter, thanks a lot. Seriously (and double thanks to YOU, person who reads to the end of other people’s blogs, even when they’re long and rambling). I’ll see some of you around campus I’m sure, but otherwise, good luck to everyone, in whatever games you choose to play.


I will be thirty-four in fifteen years, which seems closer than I had realized, the more I think about it. The ultimate dream I suppose would be to live in Brussels or Antwerp or somewhere in Belgium, working as a journalist or in international relations. Key word being 'dream'; I kind of have to get through that whole non-fluency in French problem first. We'll see.

It's difficult to pick out a few works from the whole list of things we studied. I feel like everything was so interconnected, as if joined by this invisible network of threads (in good 'ol Post-Structuralist fashion), but some works were more striking than others, especially when side by side.

1. I really think I'll always remember facets of Nabokov's "Good Readers and Good Writers" and Azar Nafisi's lecture. I initially really struggled with the concept of sympathy versus empathy as a reader and how they were different, but I think now I can distinguish the two and use this lesson to improve my skills as a reader and see literature as "the space in which we all recognize each other."

2. Oh, "Areopagitica" and Blue Velvet... Really made me not too fond of Milton for a bit, but when we started talking about Paradise Lost in class, the idea that good cannot exist without evil, although rather simple (and elegant in its simplicity) was actually almost a revelation to me. Then David Lynch and Blue Velvet really helped to embed the idea further in a truly unforgettable fashion.

3. Little Lo and dearest NWA. Just the very fact that both this beautiful, intricate prose by a master of language and this marketable, catchy pop culture product share so much in common really amazes me. Before taking this class, I never would have been able to see the similarities between them. Going beyond just these two works, a foundation has been set in my mind that I think will help me to see the similarities between other seemingly dissimilar works as well.

4. Literary Theory. At times this was so difficult to get through, and it took me a very long time to catch up, but I finally did it, and in the end I was glad for it. It really helped provide a nice historical perspective on how analysis of literature has evolved. It also shows that we should keep our minds open and maybe regard our current way of analyzing literature as just another step toward the "best" way, although how it can evolve further is beyond me.

All right, some massive reading to do on some terribly depressing subjects like Palestinian refugees.

When I'm 64 (minus 28)

Fifteen years from now I'll either be working as a speech therapist somewhere in the US, most likely wherever I end up going to graduate school, or I will have escaped to some other country, either barely scraping by teaching English as a foreign language or maybe fixing people's talking problems in a different language. My father assumes the former. Whatever the case may be, I think the one idea that I will definitely keep with me is one that has been present in most, if not all, of our material this semester. It is the idea that everyone really is always playing his or her own game. It's something we've all probably heard a thousand times: "Don't judge others, you don't know what they are having to deal with in their lives." But all the LITERATURE  we have discussed in this class made that point somewhat less cliché by outlining the presence of both good and evil in everyone. All people have their own agendas, and if you ever want to really understand someone you have to be able to see things from every perspective. 

In Lolita, we read the beautiful prose of a serial child rapist. Humbert's actions are unforgivable, yet we were given the opportunity to hear his side of the story and at least gain a little bit of understanding of his motives. Humbert was a player in the game of love, it was just unfortunate that his particular brand of love is deemed sinful by most societal standards. Can we really blame him for this? 

In Blue Velvet, Dorothy is viewed as a mysterious, dark woman by the whole neighborhood. It isn't until Jeffrey delves into her personal world that we find out about her very real and very serious problems. We see that she isn't just a weird, scary woman, and Jeffrey sees it also. This also leads us to see that Jeffrey isn't just an innocent suburban boy. Things are never what they seem on the surface.

Jimmy McNulty in The Wire is supposed to be the "good cop", and in most cop shows we would probably only see that side of him. However, The Wire does a great job of showing us that McNulty is indeed playing his own games. He is in the middle of a divorce because he cheated on his wife, and he is all about getting some personal recognition. The Wire also shows us that not all of the "bad guys" are completely bad. Omar may be a murderer, but he always obeys his own rules, and we even see a softer side of Wee Bey, who seems to be, in my opinion, the most unfeeling character on the show.

Overall, it is important to remember that every story always has more than one side. Everyone always has his or her own battles to fight and games to play. If anything could ever be "fair", you'd have to look at all situations from every possible angle. This can never be, but perhaps I'll always have that idea in the back of my head.

Over the course of this semester, we’ve read, listened to, and watched a wide range of things. Come fifteen years from now, I won’t remember the texts as much as I will the new perspectives and concepts that they showed me.

Since I started this class, I’ve done a pretty good amount of pleasure reading in my spare time. Nabokov taught me the value of rereading and the importance of reading with an open mind. Most of all, he taught me the power of the imagination with Lolita. The close reading techniques I learned in this class I applied to the books I read in my leisure. From e.e. cummings to The Wire, this class taught me to close read and those skills will stick with me through the years.

Blue Velvet will stick in my mind as the movie that made me distrust movies. I can’t help but overanalyze any movie I see now. All those hours spent watching and re-watching it and constantly thinking about it have just changed the way I watch movies. I certainly drink more Pabst Blue Ribbon than I used to (though I was a fan prior to Blue Velvet).

The details may fade, but the new perspectives and ways of thinking I picked up in this class will stick with my through the years.

If I had Wit it would be used in this Title.

If all goes as planned, then I will have my own production company or be known as one of the most innovative Foley artist/Sound Mixers to come out of this century. But of course I could never hope to have these credits to my name if not for the things I learned in school. 

There are things I will remember simply because they are so entrenched in our culture. Now having experienced them in this class, I'm sure I will associate them in some way back to my sophomore year ( a very historically active year too). Dylan, N.W.A., Nabokov, Lynch, Nafisi, The Wire...all I will know and remember. But what specifically will tie them to this class in my mind's filing system?

1) Anytime I'll hear "The Cheese stands alone" I'll envision Omar. Which will probably link my mind to everyone loving him. 

2) ReReading will forever haunt me. It will serve a good purpose, but at times I may curse my even knowing the idea exists. 

3) As a film student, all I heard in media studies classes was PoMo (Post-Modern). Post-Structuralism is the equivalent for literary theory. Even past 15 years, anything with Post- will conjure up memories of college.

4) Then there's Lolita. Good ol' Hum. Good ol' Lo. I don't think I'll be able to forget the class that really introduced me to Nabokov. 

Of course this is just me speculating about what I'll remember. But I have a suspicion that no matter how much I guess what I'll remember, 15 years from now while cutting carrots in the kitchen I'll suddenly remember Krzys' hat and writing to music played via YouTube; how we all talked about twitter and made references to twitter thru tweets; how ridiculous we found others for banning books; nice 8am jaunts to class; finding the neat little courtyard to red and discuss Nafisi; Reader Response vs. New Criticism vs. Structuralism; and Clint trying to remember everyone's name. 

Literary Theory was terrible to read, but well worth it

Despite the fact that every time questions over Eagleton’s Literary Theory were assigned I waited until the last minute because I dreaded drudging through the book, I still undoubtedly learned a great deal from Eagleton. Prior to reading Terry Eagleton, I knew nothing about literary studies or history. I have always liked literature, but I was completely uneducated in its roots.

I think it is fair to say that almost everyone in the class thought Eagleton was fairly dry and traditional compared to all of the other works we studied; however, reading Literary Theory gave our work a nice, conventional consistency. I really like the structure of this class and how the Learning Record is used, but at times it can be slightly overwhelming. By assigning single chapters of Eagleton’s book over the entire semester, a regular, predictable pattern was established that I thought was very appealing.

Don’t get me wrong, I hated reading Literary Theory, but in retrospect I see that I am much more knowledgeable about basic literary studies of the twentieth century than I was at the beginning of the semester. The concepts of New Criticism, Structuralism, and Post-Structuralism are frequently referred to, even outside of English classes, so having this new understanding is hopefully going to be very beneficial. Grasping the basic components of literary theories is pretty essential for future English classes and general conversations and I feel like I can speak knowledgeably, to a certain extent, about each of the theories mentioned by Eagleton.

In 15 years...

Like many others, I have no idea where I will be in 15 years. But I do know that there are many things that we have discussed in this class that I think I will remember in the future.

Firstly, I think I will remember the unique writing style of ee cummings and the class' bewilderment on his poety. As an English major, I think I might study more of his poetry and I will remember this class as the start of it.

I think reading and learning about Lolita will remain with me throughout the years. First I will remember the first thing I read by Nabokov, which was "Good readers, Good Writers." I think I will always remember Nabokov's insight into what a good rader is, because some of his ideas I didn't agree with at first. Like putting yourself in the shoes of the protagonist is something a bad reader does, when I think that some books are made for you to identify with the main character. They may not be the greatest of literature, but literature still. And oh, how I will remember Humbert. His articulate, playful word flow. His story. Most of all that he was a pedofile/rapist.

I think I will also remember The Wire, because I think it most surprised me. My expectations were that it was going to be just a normal cop show, but it is so much more than that. Its themes, structure and langauge make it unlike any television show that I have seen yet.

Another topic that I KNOW will stick with me is Blue Velvet. The movie came to grow I me I think, but at first I was so weirded out by it, and the fact that we were studying it in this class. Now I can't go anywhere without seeing references to the cult classic. I was watching 30 Rock and Isabella Rossellini was on it, thought of Blue Velvet. She was on a really good episode of friends, and now I can't watch Cassablanca without thinking about BV. (she is Ingrid Bergman's Daughter) Not to mention the othe rnumorous movies the famous co-stars are in, and how different BV is from any of them.

I think there is still so much more I will take away from this class, but I can't know it yet. But I will when I get there in 15 years.

When I'm 35

In 15 years I will be almost 35—that is a truly scary thought. My life plan isn’t too clear post college or grad school, but hopefully then I’ll have a family, secure job, and time to read. English classes in high school kind of turned me off to “literature,” and I have to admit I don’t read as much as I used to. One thing this class has definitely done for me is spark my desire to read again, and not just trashy teen novels. (Though I will never give those up either J)

Reading Lolita and seeing how an author’s mastery of language could turn something so horrible into something beautiful is going to stick with me for a long time. Normally, our feelings are pretty simple cause and effects. Something bad happens, you get sad. Something good happens, you get happy. The fact that Nabokov was able to make the reader go against their natural feelings is truly amazing, and what I want to experience again in the near future.

Also, when we first started this class I was pretty puzzled as to why we were only reading two books, yet watching two movies and one DVD series. I thought, this must be a joke! But now I can see why. From “The Pornographic Imagination” to N.W.A’s “Straight Outta Compton,” I can definitely see the importance in studying (or just reading for fun) things that normally might not be considered “literature.” I’ve learned that even if a piece of work doesn’t have high class vocabulary with flowery sentences, it can still be considered literature. In fact, it might be considered better because it is more authentic—we saw how the crude language in The Wire added to its realism, since it more accurately told the story of the people.

Lastly, the idea that you have to reread a book to get the full experience will stay with me. Whether we were close-reading a scene from Blue Velvet or Lolita, I definitely got more out of it the second time through. I doubt in 15 years I’ll have the time to reread books every time, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind.

In any case, I’m excited to start reading for pleasure again, though I probably won’t start until after school is out. Good luck with finals everyone!


When I leave this class, I think the Idea that will always stick with me is that good and evil cannot exist without each other. They are what they are, only because of what they are not. This Idea will stick with me the most because I had encountered this idea some months before we read Areopagitica. My mom told me to read a passage from the bible, and I flipped it randomly (more out of irritation than anything else) and started reading. The passage was basically about how one who had never encountered evil could not claim to be righteous, because righteousness is when you are aware of the evil, but consciously decide to do what is right. I though this passage was interesting, but I did not think too deeply about until the same Idea arose in Areopagitica, and Blue Velvet.
Something else that will always be in the back (but not super back) of my mind, Is the definition of literature. As much as I disliked reading literary theory, once I was able to understand it, I was able to see why the book had so many good reviews. The Question “What is Literature?” is one that most people will not be able to give a straight forward answer to. Even Eagleton in his infinite wisdom could not give a straight forward answer. Literature for me has always had a narrow definition, but studying all these works, made me think hard. In the past I would not have called a show like The Wire literary. I would have noticed its sophistication compared to other shows, but I would not have called it Literary. This whole Idea is still very new to me, and there is no way I will approve of a high school class studying a “literary show” in place of a book, but I don’t know why not. I guess this change might be too much to swallow in one semester, but it is one of the biggest changes in mindset that I have had in this class, and will not easily forget.
As far as texts, Lolita is defiantly one to remember. I think more than anything, I will remember the way the book felt. The way the language made you go along with the story, and made you feel strangely comfortable with what was going on. You are not fully aware of what you are reading till you are done, and then you have to go back, and say “what?”.
We covered am lot of ideas that I feel we will continue to encounter in life, and not only in our memories when we remember this class.

In 15 years.....

.....I will be old. Damn. I've got a couple years on most of you youngin's so in 15 years I'll be 37, which is practically 40, which is practically the end of my life as I know it. Getting old is my biggest fear, because with age comes responsibility and, worse still, monotony. Ugh. I'll probably be drowning my suburbia soccer-mom sorrows in vodka and botox by the time I'm 37. This is my grim, inescapable future, seeing as how my mother says it is unacceptable for a "lady" to be unmarried past the age of 25. Great.

In the midst of my domestic nightmare, I'm sure that I will frequently look back upon my "glory days" with nostalgia and desire. Amongst my memories of better days, this class will surely have a place. I won't forget our "what is literature?" debate. I won't forget my first time watching Blue Velvet or The Wire. I won't forget our somewhat ironic field trip to the zen garden. And I certainly won't forget Lolita.

Blue Velvet was a trip for me. Watch a movie as an English assignment?! Watching movies is usually a passive activity, so close reading Blue Velvet was especially hard. I will never forget that experience and the observational techniques I picked up. If this movie had never been assigned I probably never would have seen it, and if I had, any literary merit would have been completely lost on me. The recurring idea of the necessary coexistence of good and evil is the major theme/idea that I am taking away from this class, for sure. I never noticed how this idea was laced into so many different texts and commentaries. I know that in the future whenever I recognize it I will be taken back to our circle discussions in our tiny, sad little classroom.

With what I learned from Blue Velvet, I was able to comprehend The Wire that much easier. I really enjoyed the depth of the social commentary and how Simon did not hold anything back. Some may see the content as shocking or a stretch of reality, but I was pleased to see these social justice issues brought to the forefront of television. And again, the coexistence of good and evil and how they melt together in people was one of my favorite discoveries.

Like I said before, our trip to the zen garden was somewhat ironic. There we all were, out in public in a beautiful garden, men and women talking and interacting with one another while discussing a book whose main characters would never have been able to do the same. Now that I think about it, I think Krzys may have done that on purpose. Sneaky.

And finally, Lolita. Light of my life, fire of my loins. Loved this book!! Definitely unforgettable. By far my favorite assignment for so many reasons. The language, the characters, the beauty, the horror, and yes, the story. (Sorry Krzys.) I will never forget my fist time reading Lolita and I will always remember that it was for this class. In fact, I think that it is mostly because of this class that I loved it so much. There is so much depth and richness in this text that my tiny little brain could have never figured all of it out on its own! I will be reading Lolita over and over again for years to come, and every time thinking fondly on the discoveries we made together.

What I'll Remember

One thing that I am sure I will take with me from this class is the Observe, Analyze, Interpret method. I am one of those people who always tries to get meaning first, and this class has shown me that you really get a better idea of what things are about when you don't go about them backwards. 
Another thing I won't forget is "The Sentence is a Lonely Place." Even now, as I read, when I come across a really striking sentence, I notice the physical appearance of the letters and words, as well as alliteration and other, more conventional things.  
Lastly, I will leave this class with a permanently altered perception of the concept of Literature. In this class, we have analyzed many diverse works and come up with valid arguments of literacy for each of them. 

Game Over

Totally felt clever writing that title.

Fifteen years later...
Supposing I don't do anything absolutely stupid to get me killed, Ill be thirty five. Going by how my dad has aged, Ill look the same for the next two decades. Maybe Ill have random gray hairs (already have one!), but Ill still be immature. I have no idea what Ill be doing but Ill probably be doing whatever I feel like doing disregarding repercussions. I don't see myself being married unless someone dares me to do so. Essentially immature and always nerdy, I'm sure I'll be nostalgic for the days in which my future and present characteristics were accepted as normal.

The only question is what I'll vaguely remember but embellish anyway. Judging by the impact these works have on me right now, I would wager on The Wire, Blue Velvet, Straight Outta Compton, Lolita, Highway 61 and The Pornographic Imagination. Its not just the works themselves that have had an impact on me but in the way they have been studied.

The Wire may be the smartest TV show and the best TV I've seen since the "Company Man" episode of Heroes season 1 (believe it or not Heroes was actually good at some point). The way the content is treated with such unflinching maturity will stay with me, and I plan to continue the series all the way up to the end. This may seem easy but the show requires so much time invested and focus that I can't imagine it will be similar at all to when I went through four seasons of scrubs two summers ago.

Blue Velvet blew my mind. Not because I thought it was brilliant, but because I had no clue what was going on and it was the biggest mindfuck since I decided to watch that wretched Neon Genesis Evangelion. Although my personal opinion of Blue Velvet is rather blank, I surprised myself when angered is response to Ebert's inane review of it. I came to appreciate Blue Velvet the more we studied it and that may have to be a method I employ in the future to works I don't have a real reaction to.

I totally brag to my friends I get to study Straight Outta Compton and Highway 61 Revisited in this class. Continuing to challenge the "Literature" label, I'm glad we got to take a good look at these works. I'm especially happy I finally got to hear other students talking about a rap record that doesn't have Lil Wayne in it even if they had to. I only wish we studied Illmatic or a A Tribe Called Quest album as well.

Lolita may be my best remembered work we've done. I can easily see myself rereading Lolita several times in the next few years just like I've done with other novels. I wonder how the experience will differ from reading to reading. I'll continue to explore this work. I think "On The Pornographic Imagination" will be something I'll eventually go back to and read. Maybe it will be this summer. I think some of the arguments made are something to apply to other areas. Also, how can I just forget a long argument for pornography. I'll probably show it to my parents and tell them it was totally okay for me to watch porn in 7th grade because it can be real literature.

Going through these works in a personal way and then discussing them with my peers is what will, in part, keep some of these works memorable. Having to twitter may be selectively forgotten but the blogging won't. I'll definitely remember reading posts by classmates that were often well written. Not sure if I'll be a great reader by then. Maybe I'll be able to read an ee cummings poem and actually know what it is talking about.

Restless Farewell

Fifteen years is a long time from now. I'll be 35 years old, for God's sake, that's borderline on my "die young and leave a pretty corpse" plan, but for the purposes of this blog I'll imagine that I'm still around.

After reading what we were supposed to write about I Lolita immediately came to mind. I learned all kinds of things about language, about the idea of literature, and about how to go about interpreting something as complicated as good literature, that's it would be difficult for me to not have learned anything from our Lolita discussions. I'm sure whenever I see or read anything by Nabokov (is anyone taking that class next semester, by the way? It's a REE class, which is really random) I'll think of Banned Books and Novel Ideas and I'll have to smile.

The Wire will stick with me for a more literal reason. The length of the episodes combined with the fact that there are 4 more seasons and my short attention span seem to imply that I may very well not have finished the Wire in 15 years. I kid, I kid. Seriously though, I think that The Wire will serve as something to compare to any future great TV shows I might see. The idea of the game has also helped me articulate the problems in society that I've been bitching about for the past few years. Maybe now that I'm more aware of "the game" I'll get better at it. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...maybe that's the point.

Blue Velvet is hard to ignore. I'm much less judgmental of seemingly "stupid" movies now. While I still think that a huge portion of "cult-classics" are only popular because people want others to think they are unique, I've come to appreciate the fact that "weird" isn't always "trying too hard."

I'm not sure what I'll be doing, but I do know that I won't forget this class. Despite the hour, I've enjoyed every class we've had, and I'm glad I got to meet you all. The game is over for this year..but for most of us it will start back up in August. Happy playing!

Lolita, forever.

In 15 years from now, I can’t even imagine how my life will be. Probably hectic, because I seem to like to keep it that way. All I know is that I will be out of school and happy with myself and whoever else is in my life. Although I doubt I’ll think about our English class every day, I know I won’t ever completely forget it. I feel like I’ve learned so much more than any other “normal” English class could or has ever tried to teach me. And it wasn’t based all on the main principles of English, it all- or most of it, could relate to real life.
The main thing that will more than likely stick with me is Lolita. I have never read a book anywhere near as horrifying or beautiful as this, and definitely not with the same combination. Nabokov showed me that language can turn anything into what you want. He made me believe that what he thought/did was okay, or made me think it was okay to think it was okay. Sorry if that was hard to follow, but you get what I mean. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine an author forcing me to think the way I thought. It was like he controlled what we liked and if we didn’t let ourselves be completely absorbed by his words, then we would miss the whole point. I’ve always had my own opinions about works of literature, but I felt like even if I did have bad opinions of the story of Lolita, there was no way I could ever criticize the language used. I know many of you had read Lolita before, but I had never even heard of it. I am still amazed how Nabokov controls the reader, it’s like we are his puppets and he just gets to kick back and watch how we react to his plans. Genius.
Nabokov and Lolita have shown me to always expect the unexpected. Although not everything will be that way, you never know when something will be the complete opposite of what you think. I feel that if I keep that mind set, I will be more open minded to the world around me.

what will stay

I'm not sure where I'll be in fifteen years.  At this point, I'm not even sure where I'll be in four years.  But I will definitely always remember the e.e. cummings poems.  I loved "the boys i mean are not refined" even initially, and I loved how the class discussions and blog posts completely changed my impression of the poem's 'deeper meaning.'  The layers of meaning in the poem worked really well, and, weirdly enough, I loved having my initial impression shaken up like that.  And even though I preferred it at first to "next to god of course, america," I came away from the class liking the second one more.  I found it really pertinent to this day and age and political climate, even though it was written in (I think) 1926.  I guess it will always have some social resonance in (next to god of course,) America, whether fifteen or a hundred years from now.  When watching the news (and war coverage) recently, I couldn't help but think of cummings' words: "what could be more beaut/iful than these heroic happy dead/who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter."  I doubt this image will ever leave my mind.  

And Lolita.  I actually just submitted it as my contribution for a summer reading list we had to compile for a class.  I've rambled about the loveliness of Nabokov's language, and how beautifully he presented something so horrifying, and how horrifyingly he presented something so beautiful.  I liked it beyond the aesthetic quality of the language, though, because it challenges and provokes the reader to consider, like Sharee said, what is and isn't okay.  I'll always remember and love Lolita for the "love letter to the English language' that it is.  As with the cummings poems, I am often reminded of little fragments of sentences out of nowhere, and it makes real life a little prettier.

Poems and books are easy, though, because they are little strings of words that get stuck in your head easily, and you pull them out sometimes when it feels like the right time.  The more complex, varied forms of literature that we studied this semester will stay with me as well.  I was pretty strongly affected by The Wire - reminded that there is a Game.  I may not see every day, I may not be directly immersed in it, but it exists and we all have the power to do something about it.  Awareness of this world is a good start - I love how The Wire didn't gloss over anything or use wind machines or overzealous airbrushers in its advertisements, (though I wish it'd been more accessible/on a more-viewed network/basically not on HBO.)  It's a show about real life, and it portrays Baltimore in a real-life way.  In real life, no one is all 'good guy' or all 'bad guy' and The Wire really makes a point to emphasize this duality in every character.  I really hope that in fifteen years, this show still speaks to me and that I still feel compelled to help.  I'm not exactly sure how, but I don't ever want to be the kind of person that pretends that The Game doesn't exist, that people like Wallace don't exist.

Lastly, as much as I don't want to admit it, Eagleton's Literary Theory will remain in my head for a long time, even if just subconsciously.  When I'm reading, my mind can't help but play around with the different theories.  I'll catch myself sometimes being extra-Deconstructionist, or even sometimes too Reader-Response.  I've referenced these concepts in lit classes when people have argued about the 'real meaning' of texts.  I hated reading Eagleton because I found it dry and pretentious, but, I mean, he presents valid ideas that are worth knowing... it's just that the acquisition of said knowledge can sometimes be painful.  When reading, I also remember Nabokov's essay on "Good Readers, Good Writers" and sometimes even ask myself if the metaphorical berries are edible because berries usually are, or because the author has created a world to make me believe this.  Even if a book is enjoyable, the answer is not always the second one.

I was surprised by a few of these (Eagleton? really?) but then again, not really.  At the beginning of the semester, once I saw that the reading list would demand much more than just 'reading,' I realized that I had to shed my preconceived opinions of a lot of these texts and keep my mind completely open to even what I considered the shittiest assignments ever.  That resolution has served me well - I actually disliked some things I expected to love (Funny Games) and found a lot of value in those which I hated from the beginning (yes, Eagleton, The Wire.)  And I don't plan on stopping this 'suspension of judgment' after the class is over :]

what will stick with me

I think that Lolita, Reading Lolita in Tehran, and attending Dr. Nafisi's lecture will really stick with me for a while. Especially the day that we took a field trip outside to discuss Reading Lolita in Tehran; that felt really significant, realizing that we have the ability to live our lives how we want to at least in comparison to people and especially women in Iran. We have so much freedom that we take for granted. Reading Lolita in Tehran and Dr. Nafisi's lecture was kind of eye opening.

I feel like the Wire will also stick with me for a while. It was a really well made television show with some deep insight into how we function as a society. It goes with one of the themes of this class that not everyone is 100% good or 100% bad, which I think is kind of an important realization about life. The David Simon interview we read, and the one on PBS also really gets this point across. It was also really interesting to see how the inspiration of Greek tragedy went into making this show.

Watching this show and the movies and listening to music we have, made me realize that literature is a much broader concept than I originally thought. And that many things can be close read and analyzed, and have more meaning than what's on the surface. I've learned to 'fondle the deatails' in this class.

The Learning Record was kind of eye opening to me. I think I'll always remember what I learned about how I am and how I learn. I've learned to close read and analyze myself in a way that I have never done before, and now I think it's kind of an important thing to do.

And honestly pretty much the only thing that will not stick with me (it's pretty much already gone) is Literary Theory. The only thing about Literary Theory that will stick with me is how much I hate it... Sorry, but it's true.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

residual thoughts on Dylan and Lolita

Also, I was pretty disappointed that Just Like A Woman is on Blonde on Blonde and not Highway 61 Revisited.  It's a pretty great song, and it has some relevance to Lolita, though I think it might have been about Edie Sedgwick.  I know it's not on the 'reading' but I feel like I should post it anyway...?

Ev'rybody knows that baby's got new clothes
But lately I see her ribbons and her bows have fallen from her curls
She takes just like a woman, yes she does
She makes love just like a woman
And she aches just like a woman
But she breaks just like a little girl

I just can't fit
Yes, I believe it's time for us to quit
When we meet as friends, introduced as friends
Please don't let on that you knew me when I was hungry and it was your world
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes you do
You make love just like a woman, yes you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl

What HH failed to remember (or maybe he remembered entirely too well) is that Lolita breaks just like a little girl, and is, in fact, a little girl - even if she fakes and takes and makes love just like a woman.  Once she actually is a woman, he "just can't fit" and it's over.  

(just as an aside, Leonard Cohen seems to be a fan of Dylan's ribbons and bows, which is what reminded me of this song in the first place - Krzys quoted from on Twitter last wee: "Everybody knows the deal is rotten/ Old Black Joe's still pickin cotton for your ribbons and bows/ Everybody knows." But, yeah, definite influence/reference here - Cohen's album (which is great and dark and fantastic) came out in 1967 while Dylan's Blonde on Blonde was released in '66.)

Friday, May 1, 2009

More ideas on the albums

After class today, I was talking with Rachel, and she told me to blog about some interesting points I had made during our conversation.
In the entire N.W.A. album, I felt e most that the powerful and moving song for me was “Fuck the police.” I found it so because the police are supposed to be the good guys, the people you can trust. This song shows the not so glamorous side of the police force, very similarly to the Wire. It breaks that wide spread Idea that the cops are always right, and their actions always justified. The problem is how we get past all of this. After watching the Wire, and listening to N.W.A, when your house gets robbed, you still pick up the phone and call the police. Regardless of what they are doing, there is no way for us to live if we do not have faith that they will do the right thing. It is true that we have seen the dark side of the police force, but after all that we must return to the real world (our world) where we push aside that image and convince ourselves of their complete goodness.
In class, a topic we dwelt on was the authenticity of the image that N.W.A portrayed. Even though many of them were not hardcore gangsters, their songs made it seem that way. I first heard about the N.W.A. album about 2 years ago, I think when VH1 was doing the documentary about them. I was utterly convinced that these people were hard core gangsters. They were the real Avon Barksdale, killing and never looking back. I found it interesting that they were just using their imaginations. I never understood the similarities between the album and Lolita until I got this concept. Finding out that the N.W.A. was not a group of thugs did not make the album any less powerful for me; it just gave me a different way of looking at it. Compared to the Dylan album, I felt straight outta Compton was less layered, and the language although rough was easier to understand. I also felt N.W.A dealt with more simple emotions than the emotions Dylan focused on. While N.W.A focused on anger, Dylan focused on pride, individuality, and a sense of self. I think this might be a reason for the quality difference in their use of language. It seems that It would have been extremely difficult if N.W.A. tried to focus on an issue like the complexity of the human soul, and had to accomplish this with the same level of sophistication used in Straight outta Compton.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Authenticity... again. Now with more historical and cultural context!

I mentioned this briefly in class today, but I've been thinking about it more since then.

Krzys asked us why we thought that middle class white kids liked NWA so much. I said that both Bob Dylan and NWA have an authenticity thing going. I didn't actually mean to answer the question, I just needed a vehicle to say that once I thought of it, so I tied it back in. Ha. In fact, I mostly had stuff to say about Bob Dylan.

But anyway, the extent to which Bob Dylan tried/succeeded in being authentic is pretty impressive. We studied him a lot last semester in history of rock music. Rock'n'Roll was in full force in the late 50's. While a couple folk musicians gained popularity (Guthrie, Pete Seeger) then, it was Bob Dylan that brought folk music to the mainstream in the early 60's. The folk music revival coincided nicely with the civil rights movement in New York at least, Bob Dylan writing about it often.

The authenticity part comes in because of how folk music changed rock music, which is mostly lyrically (at least, that's the relevant part. It worked stylistically also, of course). Folk brought activism and politics into rock music at a time when mainstream music had always had banal lyrics about puppy love and throwing parties. This mingling came later, though. When folk being popular was a new thing, folk musicians sought to separate themselves as much as possible from rock music and it's falseness. Fans and musicians dressed differently and opposed any poisoning of the authenticity of folk with rock influences (why Bob Dylan plugging in at the festival was such a huge disaster at the time).

The ironic bit of all of this, of course, is that stating rules and boundaries for folk music is somewhat contrary to the heart of the genre and rather inauthentic inherently. Theoretically, it would be about pulling influences from wherever felt appropriate, but that attitude in music didn't come until later.

This post seems pretty off-topic, so I'll backtrack to NWA and the Wire:

I see a common thread between the authenticity of Bob Dylan and that of NWA. In both instances, it's a little hypocritical (Bob Dylan will not ever really be on the receiving end of racism; NWA aren't quite as on the streets as you might guess), and in both cases, they were using authenticity to make popular a genre of music which contrasted the current mainstream. Bob Dylan brought folk out against rock, NWA brought gangsta rap out against... well, everything wholesome. AND lyrics/message were a huge factor in both!

As far as the Wire goes, it's not a musical artist of course, so that comparison is out the window. I do think it shares the slight hypocrisy in that any television show created for entertainment isn't going to be totally realistic, much like any real gangsta is not going to be in a recording studio. The idea that it's creators are ex-cops and such lends it some credence, though. The "lyrics" of the show, much like NWA or Bob Dylan, are pretty revolutionary. I think the dialogue is one of the strong points in the Wire, both for authenticity and entertainment.


I wasn't as excited about listening to Hwy 61 as NWA because I've unfairly relegated Dylan to the group of artists that every hipster ever claims to love.  Not fair, I know, and I like him more upon listening, though I still prefer Straight Outta Compton.

I second Rachel's idea that Bob Dylan's somewhat "ugly" reedy voice reflects beauty in ugliness, and I wanted to expand on it a little.  

Bob Dylan conveys beauty and sadness and love and all of that in a decidedly ugly vessel - his voice.
Humbert Humbert/Nabokov communicates horror and shock and ugly, unspeakable things in a really, really beautiful vessel - his words and his prose.
NWA delivers truth and rawness (both good and bad) in a shocking, vulgar, abrasive yet innovative way - their lyrics and beats.
David Simon delivers that same truth and rawness in a packaged-for-HBO-but-not-overly-glossy, realistic TV container - the dialogue and visual effects and cinematography.

So. It's all sort of circular.  Each of these artists, or groups of artists, is innovative in that they present emotions in a different way, or vessel, than is expected.  What is more surprising is that they all do it beautifully, eloquently, perfectly.  No one here matches up subject matter with a corresponding, expected style, and I think that's part of what makes them all so important, and maybe why we're studying them all in tandem.
I had this phase in eighth grade when I was still really into the Sex Pistols and Gang of Four, but I was also starting to get into fashion and wearing skirts and stealing my mom's jewelry.  My art teacher kind of raised his eyebrow at me one day, and was like, "Heels and pearls with a Ramones shirt?  really, Elizabeth?" I mean, he was kind of a dick, and I was pretty embarrassed initially - how do you defend that?  But the more I thought about it, the more okay it seemed.  If I was going to be a cliché by liking outdated punk music that wasn't very relevant to me as an upper-middle-class white girl, I might as well do it in a different way than every other grimy, well-to-do suburban kid in a Clash tshirt.  

Reading/listening/watching these things reminds me of that this overly sentimental anecdote, a little, because the work of these artists is unexpected, but not just for the sake of being unexpected.  Not for shock value.  They do it to highlight the importance of their message, of communicating these things to the general public, Maybe even to garner a bigger audience?  Because you are getting both people that are attracted to the aesthetic value and then people that are attracted to the feeling or meaning behind the work - the lyrics of the song, or the emotions portrayed, or the events written? I just thought of that last question.  I'm not even really sure about it.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The idea of Games

For the past two weeks, we have been talking about the game in the wire, and most recently in N.W.A. and Highway 61 revisited. The game is still something that is on the outside, the cops, drug dealers, the law officials, politicians. I do not see myself as any of these people, so it was interesting when we were asked to write about the games we play in our own lives. This brought the whole idea of the game inside for me. A game that I am deeply involved in and I hate but can’t get out of, is the game of hiding true emotions and intentions. If you say what you are really thinking, you lose, and if you don’t, you still loose. The adults always have the upper hand, but they too are caught in the net of fake smiles and kisses. The more I thought about it, it seemed that all of life was a game. Let’s play a game: Who could eat the most calories and not gain weight, who can make the most money, who can replace The United States as world leader. All of life is one game after another. The Pope himself must play the game every now and then.
Throughout the Wire, there were references to games being associated with children (The Nursery rhymes and the scenes of children playing games.)It seems (let me try to explain this), the idea of a game plays such a big role in our lives, that we begin learning it as children, and perfect it by the time we are adults. At least how good you are at it determines your success. It seems like the concept of games is like the concept of eating. If you can’t eat, you die. There are different ways of eating, different things to eat, and different ways that eating can go wrong. The game, an essential piece of life, but I guess not all games are bad. It is when the games go bad that it become a problem, a cancer that must be removed at all costs.

Studying NWA

This whole semester we have challenged ourselves to come up with a definition and have come up with various clashing definitions as to what may or may not fit under that label. Now we have NWA's Straight Outta Compton to qualify.

I feel this album fits with this class. It is easily the most vulgar and grimy of all the works we've looked at. The Wire is realistic in its crudeness so I hardly find it offensive and I doubt reasonable people would find it so. Banned from the radio and venues, the NWA sound blazed from the streets causing many who do not understand the culture uneasy. The inclusion of this work is only qualified in the sense that it was a hot hot issue about twenty years ago.

If this class was just about what could be considered literature then I would be hesitant to include NWA. Well, maybe just not in the good literature category. Straight Outta Compton's importance stems from its place in hip hop history as an originator. Actually, I've always wondered why every music magazine that made a best albums list since so and so year always placed Straight Outta Compton so highly while hip hop focused magazines never acclaimed it as so.

NWA featured one of the most prominent rappers of the 90s (Ice Cube) and one of the best hip hop producers ever (Dr Dre) but it never seems to exceed exceptional. Ice Cube is easily the best lyricist and his delivery is leagues above anyone else in the group. Dre's work is before it develops until his fantastic G Funk style. If we were to study a truly phenomenal rap album like Illmatic, Ready to Die, Madvillainy, or Reasonable Doubt and numerous others, then I think I would have been more excited when I saw we would study several different works in different mediums at the beginning of the year. As it stands, I think Straight Outta Compton is a fine work to study in this course due to its nature and historical importance

N.W.A and The Game

Like I posted in my other blog, I wasn’t impressed by N.W.A when I first listened to their album. They just sounded like the same ol’ rappers rapping about the same ol’ things. However, just to explore the possibilities I asked my boyfriend about them since he is more knowledgeable about rap in general. He said “I don’t even want to explain N.W.A to you ‘cause you won’t understand. They were the real O.G’s.”

By this he meant that the group members in N.W.A were “real” and what they rapped about they meant and probably had done—unlike most of the rappers today. They were drug dealers in Compton, and not just the kind that sell weed here and there. Basically, they were legit. Knowing that, I can see the value of studying their songs more now. They weren’t rapping about topics that sold, they were expressing their world or at least how they saw it (like Sam commented on my blog). Their raps are a way of reasserting their power—the cops might have the law on their side, but they have the freedom to disregard the law and are willing to suffer the consequences of it. Catchy lyrics like “Everwhere we go they say [damn!]/N W A's fuckin' up tha program” says two things to me: They realized they were rapping about taboo subjects and they played by their own rules. N.W.A’s group members were fearless of the law and it’s consequences. If someone disrespected them and broke their rules, their solution was simple—kill or seriously hurt that person. (“The police are gonna hafta come and get meOff yo ass, that's how I'm goin out”) And even if they did get caught, they wouldn’t be held down for long. (“And if I ever get caught I make bail”) I’m not sure how many people they actually killed, but that’s the message they send. And, they sent this message through catchy songs that had even the white middle class listening to them. Using the police and the illegal activities that they do as topics for their songs is the ultimate slap in the face for the law. It’s almost like they tease the law by confessing to their crimes, knowing that the police wouldn’t be able to arrest them for it. In this sense, N.W.A played by their own rules and won “the game.”

Bob Dylan & The Game

Lolita, Bob Dylan, and NWA all play the game in different ways. They all attempt to play the game by not being mainstream. None of these artists would be considered pop-culture. They all have elements of counterculture. The majority of people in America play the game by being successful, but this group of people does not conform to the usual route of getting successful. An indication of success is making a lot of money. These players of the game have achieved that in an unusual way. On the surface, these artists could be ignored. These artists require a deeper look to be appreciated.

Lolita's subject matter is shocking. It is disgusting, but it is beautiful. It is about a child molester. When we took a closer look, we found molestation is not what the work was about. It is about the way it was written and the prose. Lolita is unusual subject matter that will not produce piles of cash, but did because it was executed perfectly.
Bob Dylan has an unusual voice. Simon Cowell, American Idol Judge and Expert on all things good, said that Dylan has a terrible voice. It is his lyrics that make the music worthwhile. Anyone can have a nice singing voice, but few can create poetry and social commentary in their lyrics. He is a success and is one of the most respected musicians, but for all practical purposes, his voice is not the norm of beautiful. Dylan commanded attention despite his imperfections.
NWA's subject matter and language is offensive. It gave voice to injustices and an underrepresented sector of people. They aren't offensive for the sake of being offensive like so many rappers are. Like the other two, they present their views in a way that is not mainstream. They cannot be compared to their contemporaries only. They have to be examined on thier own merits.

Dylan/The Wire and The Game

I know we've talked The Wire to death, so I'll be brief with this part. The Game in The Wire is all about individuals doing whatever they can to either advance themselves or just prevent themselves from falling into a worse position. McNulty admits after Kima is shot that to him the case is all about making himself look good. Wee Bey does a lot of dirty work to stay on Avon's good side. Bodie agrees to kill Wallace so that Stringer won't see him as weak. Omar kills and steals to make a living. When someone messes up, they have to deal with the consequences. D'Angelo is almost convicted of murder, so he gets bumped down the chain and has to work his way up again. Little Man shoots a cop, so he is killed. Prez is punished for hitting a kid unjustifiably by having his gun taken away and being confined to the office. Basically the game is harsh and it's every man for himself. 

Bob Dylan is completely against this way of playing the game. His game is to speak out against those who are all for themselves. Bob Dylan isn't about money and personal advancement, but rather peace, equality and pretty much making fun of anyone who does care about material things. "Like a Rolling Stone" is a good example of Dylan's lack of respect for people who place too much importance on tangible things. The subject of the song used to have money and dress well, and s/he didn't pay any attention to the misfortunes of others ("You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns when they all come down and did tricks for you"). This person has now fallen- s/he has been taken advantage of, has to compromise with the tramps, and has no place to go. Dylan advises that s/he pawn his/her diamond ring and insists that s/he has nothing to lose and no secrets to hide anymore. Bob Dylan's game is that he won't play the game that Avon and his men play in The Wire. D'Angelo gives up 20 years of his life in prison so that his family can keep living the high life, but here is a quote of Dylan's that I've always really liked: "What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to." There are tons of Dylan songs that express this same sentiment. He is always rooting for the underdogs, those that don't have all the money and power, because he believes the things they do have are much more important. 

Those in Power despise Change (unless you mean Coin).

Bob Dylan is literature. Being a groupie of Milton, N.W.A. is worthy of our contemplation, and therefore literature and appropriate for this class. That out of the way, I want to talk about one of the major similarities of the two.

We are assuming Bob Dylan and N.W.A. acknowledged the existence of everyone else’s “rules” and “game.” What each album drives home to me is that both play by rules in a game of their creation. Neither artist agrees with the Rule imposed on them, so they disrespect these rules and want to implement their own. When something is broke, fix it.

Dylan lyrics and N.W.A. lyrics rebell against their current situation instead of offering Active Ideas for changing this current situation. Both have Anger Igniting lyrics and themes, but few of their songs offer solutions. Season 1 of The Wire similarly failed to offer any proactive solution. I’ve heard rumors there is more hope in Season Three, but we only watched the First.

There’s not a very poetic or exciting way to put “go to Law School and work to enforce anti-corruption legislation” or “work with community organizers to make an alliance with your local police” into a song. Nor are either of these solutions very RocknRoll/Hard or even effective. The music and The Wire are good to get amped up, but their main focus is not on being constructive. They are more instructive; they draw attention to problems and leave the audience searching for the solution.

It is much easier to passively accept the Game and Rules we are dealt. But, shouldn’t we constantly seek the optimal Game? The Rules should be fluid and allow for change. The Wire, Highway 61 Revisited, and Straight Outta Compton all call us to challenge our current Game.

More on White People..

The things Rachael blogged about “defying the status quo” and “the man” are so true. That is hilarious what her friend told her because I’ve seen it firsthand. I even catch myself listening to rap and actually enjoying other things I don’t usually, when I’m drunk. -Lol- And I definitely see it with my hickish friends from my hometown. We seriously grew up listening to country music and that’s pretty much what we all still do, but once the alcohol kicks in and they feel all big and bad, they break out the “bad rap” and sing along with a little more twang than the rappers themselves. As for “defying the man” I feel like we all like to be a little rebellious at times, but N.W.A. and Bob Dylan saw that as a lifestyle. Not saying all they did was try to break “the rules of the game”, but they sure liked to push their limits. We also saw this with the characters in The Wire, they weren’t always the guys causing the trouble, but they weren’t afraid to stand up and do something bad-even when they knew they shouldn’t. The censorship the radios and people put on N.W.A. is something I don’t think can happen in the real world scenarios they sing about. The cops can try and stop them all they want, but if “bad guys” want to start something up, they’re going to do it.

Successfully incorporating F. Scott Fitzgerald is very impressive

By now, it’s old news to say that Bob Dylan is frequently hailed as America’s greatest singer/songwriter. Undoubtedly, on every countdown, Dylan and his work are rated among the very highest. For five decades this guy has been making great music, and yet with this one album, Highway 61 Revisited, all of Bob Dylan’s talent is exhibited. After really listening to Highway 61 Revisited and reading the lyrics, it is pretty clear that the highly revered titles given to the singer have been rightfully earned. This album’s lyrics are very original and the new, different method of songwriting really works.

The first and most striking aspect of Bob Dylan’s lyrics is that they are neither predictable nor typical. In so many songs today, especially popular music, there is a definite conventional formula that is followed and I do not think Bob Dylan ever fell victim to the prescribed formula. However, despite his songs’ originality, they are all still very catchy and gained mainstream success. Dylan is the perfect example of a genuinely talented individual who has fairly earned his title.

Another part of Dylan’s appeal is that the audience can actually feel his brain churning and creating all sorts of innovative and interesting phrases. After reading the lyrics to the album, it undeniable that this is a crazy talented artist and for me, it is difficult not to get caught up in his thought process. In Ballad of a Thin Man, he incorporates “F. Scott Fitzgerald” into the lyrics. Even if Dylan’s lyrics were completely meaningless and unenjoyable, I think people would have still taken note of him, simply because of his novel writing style. Not only does Highway 61 Revisited take on a completely inventive, unpredictable new formula of music writing, but that new formula is amazingly good.

RE: N.W.A and Bob Dylan

I have to agree with Kat completely. I think that we can study these "texts" in class because N.W.A has been censored a lot and their song "Express Yourself" is specifically about being censored.
"Some musicians curse at home
But scared to use profanity
When up on the microphone.
Yeah, they want reality.
But you wont hear none.
Or they ban my group from the radio.
Hear nwa and say hell no!."
N.W.A. makes a point to break the limits of censor ship, and this album changed the way that rappers rapped, as this was one of the first to use a lot of profanity and violent language. So you might say that they had quite a few "novel ideas"

As for Bob Dylan, I would say that you can study almost everyone of his songs as a poem or a piece of literature. I don't think his lyrics were as controversial as N.W.A but his style and music were revolutionary. As for loving him or hating him I don't know why people hate him so much. I have heard a lot of different responses but I don't know, I personally like Bob Dylan a lot. He changed the way people thought of Folk and Rock by combining them, and upsetting a lot of people and I think for that he does plays his own game with his own rules.

N.W.A. and Bob Dylan

Question: Can we justify studying these records in an English class ? Why or why not?

I think we can, but for different reasons.
Since part of the title of this class is 'banned books' I think we have a lot of reason to study N.W.A. Though it's not a book, this album has had a lot of controversy and songs like F--- the Police never even made it onto the radio like Rachel was saying. In this way I think it is beneficial to study something like music that has been banned and be able to compare it to how it is similar/different from banning a book.
The other half of the title of this class is 'novel ideas' and I think Bob Dylan has a lot of these. His material isn't really controversial like N.W.A.'s but I think his ideas are really unique and insightful. His lyrics are read like poems. I don't have to listen to his actual singing to appreciate what he was trying to say. (Though I do enjoy the music quite a bit). I would consider Bob Dylan's songs to be literature.
N.W.A.'s lyrics on the other hand, to me aren't as sophisticated. They are pretty crude and mostly straightforward. I don't read their lyrics as literature. To me one must actually listen to the music to get the effect of N.W.A., without it I don't find any interest in what they are saying. It's just like someone complaining a lot about life.
These artists are different. I think they're both good to study in our class but for these different reasons. They have different aspects that make them good.

White people

"The drunker white people get, the more they want to listen to bad rap." A black friend of mine told me that that was the hard truth. He then laughed and railed a G of coke and pointed with his straw to some drunk white girls who brashly claimed that "Lollipop"was their favorite song. When one is listening to music that ultimately defies the man and bashes authority, it makes one feel like a badass in the abstract. When I listen to Bob Dylan not only do I feel a strong aversion to authority, but also a desire to take up Bob's cause. I have yet to conquer the man. Dex (my friend in the afore mentioned story) told me when he listens to early Snoop or NWA or Dre he feels the exact same way, but he has yet to kill a cop.
I always feel a bit out of place listening to hard rap and Dex always feels a bit out of place listening to folk/blues /Bob Dylan. Essentially, they are both defying authority in a way that is not at all subversive or subtle. This is what makes for FCC panic. I'm not going all conspiracy theory on you but it is so interesting that in the history of censorship and banning, most if not all had some sort of social commentary that defies the status quo. In defying the status quo, those in power are shown in a new light, a light that exposes the game they are playing. Yeah, drug dealers play the game, white suburbia plays the game...oh but politicians that's a whole new ball game. Kryzs told me once that all stories need to be told, otherwise that's where censorship comes from, stifled stories. Never has this statement made more sense than when I listened to Highway 61 revisited and Straigh Outta Compton.

Dangerous Games

Since I didn’t have any immediate ideas on what to blog about, I suppose I’ll just post my initial thoughts on one of the questions Krzyz posed us in his email:

The Wire tells us we are all players in a dangerous Game. Why is it dangerous? Partly because we are not in control of either the rules or the other players. How does N.W.A. play the game? How does Bob Dylan play the game?

Applying the theory that “the game is dangerous because we are not in control of the rules or the other players” to N.W.A., it follows that their game is dangerous because they cannot control the laws that govern their land, the market that sells their music, or the other players: government officials, police, their competitors in the rap game, record label executives, drug dealers, and all the women only interested in them for their money.

So now that we know why N.W.A.’s game is dangerous, how do they respond? They play by their own rules. They sell, use, and rap about drugs, in spite of the rules set out by the law. They rap about fighting back against the police, attempting the redefine the rules on what players of the rap game are allowed to do. Their album was and is very controversial, ignoring the traditional rules on what subjects rap could discuss. They openly criticized the police, drug dealers and users, and the materialistic nature of American society and the music industry. Instead of watering down their music to make it onto a big label or increase sales, instead they recorded tracks about the importance of free expression (“Express Yourself”) and against censorship (“Parental Discretion iz advised”) and formed their own record label to distribute it. N.W.A. are important as artists because of their insistence on saying what they wanted to say, “’Cause [they didn't] give a fuck about radio play”.

[Yeah yeah, I didn’t answer the part of the question about Bob Dylan, but hey this a blog post, not an essay. I play this game by my own rules.]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fronts and beats. re: Emily

Straight Outta Compton is pretty cool so far.  And by the way, Pitchfork gave it a 9.7, and if you know anything about insufferably pretentious, if well-done, music reviews, you know that this is a pretty huge deal.  Like I said, I really like it, but I've only listened to the whole thing once through as of yet.

Emily discussed the weird "front" that is so prevalent in rap culture in last night's post.  In rewatching ep 12 of the Wire last night, my group saw an example of said front.  We were kind of laughing about D'Angelo's weird knit/rugby/zipper concoction of a shirt.  He quickly goes inside to change into it, which is a two-minute endeavor, but ultimately seals his fate.  Had he not been preoccupied with his looks, had he not come out with a slow, exaggerated shoulder-pinch, he would never have gotten caught.  Krzys has alluded to the similarities with Greek tragedy in The Wire, and in a way, D'Angelo's vanity, his 'front', is his Achilles' heel... it ultimately destroys him.

more later

Monday, April 27, 2009

Fuck the Police

Although this is one of the most well-known songs on NWA's album, it was never a single. Unlike many mainstream rap songs, this song has a message. It is about the plight of the black race against the LAPD in the 80's. The song contains many racial slurs toward white police officers, but is also negative to the black officers. It calls them frauds who have to show off to their white counterparts. This song is not about a fight for equality, it is a fight against the injustices of the police force. It is giving a voice to all of those who have been racially profiled. After the song's release, riots continued to ensue in LA.
This song had a huge influence in the 80's after its release, but it continues to thrive. It is covered by Rage Against the Machine, not for racial tensions, but for more police injustice in Philadelphia. The lyrics "a little bit of gold and a pager" show up in The Cool Kids song of the same title, referring to this influential song.
The song came out before illegal downloading of music, so it had to be bought, then shared. It did not appear on the radio, yet its message was heard and influenced a generation of not anti-authority thoughts, but pro-justice.

More NWA

As I was listening to these albums, I realized how old they seemed but they actually aren’t, I feel old now.. Clint wrote about Fuck Da Police and whether it was funny or not, and it really made me think. How can something so very real, be humorous to anyone it actually relates to? I am one of the people it could be funny to, because I have a life completely opposite to those guys and their music, but some live the exact same way. But for the people who live the same lives, it would be like someone rapping about studying for tests at UT for us, (lame compared to NWA, but I know we all have them). Reality isn’t that funny unless it’s someone else’s reality. I know a few others have mentioned how it fits perfectly with The Wire and I completely agree. These guys have lives that are what they are and they either can’t change or don’t really want to, but even if they wanted to, could they ever escape their own reality?

P.S. I blogged a little late because I went to see The Hannah Montana Movie- how far away from NWA and Bob Dylan could I possibly get?? :)

“From a kid to a G it's all about money”

As I sifted through the NWA lyrics I tried to find what about it we should consider useful or literary. While sometimes I went through entire tracks shaking my head (“Ain’t tha 1”? Part hilarious, part just plain horrible) the number of discussable lines exceeded my expectations.

“From a kid to a G it's all about money”

This idea, expressed as a line in “Dope Man”, is a recurring theme in both Straight Outta’ Compton and The Wire, and if you extend it broader, to Highway 61 as well. All three works deal with the idea of people being products of their environments, and America’s material society forcing people into roles. And in Straight Outta Compton and The Wire, we also see how inner city youth are forced into crime because they have no other option.

But to get back to my original intent of focusing on Straight Outta’ Compton, one thing I recurrently noticed was N.W.A.’s rejection of the material splendor that is the subject of so many stupid, stupid, recent rap songs (Let me buy you a drank?). Even in the middle of the brutal objectification that is “Ain’t tha 1” Ice Cube offers “You shouldn't be, so damn material/And try to milk Ice Cube like cereal”. Assuming that the first line wasn’t added solely to rhyme with cereal, Ice cube reveals that he is actually arguing against the material nature of the world he finds himself in. And when Dr. Dre adds “But chu know it ain't all about wealth/As long as you make a note to, express yourself”, we see that indeed, N.W.A. seems to be the antithesis of what much of rap today is about. Sure they’re cocky and seem to have about 15 different words to rhyme with “gat”, but they’re actually trying to send an artistic message, in their own way. They argue against the way our material society puts focus on what makes money rather than what is new and original, which is in itself, a refreshingly new and original topic for rap, even 21 years later.

a brother that'll smother yo' mother

The first NWA song I ever heard was "A Bitch Iz a Bitchh," which was, quite frankly, offensive ("Now, the title bitch don't apply to all women, but all women have a little bitch in 'em."), even if I had to agree with parts of it. So, as you can imagine, I was a little wary about having to analyze this album and consider it in the context of the literary.

As several people have pointed out, there seem to be repetitious themes throughout NWA's songs, such as murder, sex, drugs, and the rest of that good stuff. I haven't closely read the lyrics of even half the album yet, and I'm already a bit tired of this subject monotony.

There is one line in "Straight Outta Compton" that really struck me, though.

In the third verse:
"...straight outta Compton
Is a brother that'll smother yo' mother
And make yo' sister think I love her"

I think it's interesting that Eazy-E compares murdering someone's mother and breaking the heart of someone's sister as if the actions are equally as grave. I sort of have to respect a person who believes that romantically deceiving a naive girl is equal to killing someone. It shows a personal honor code (the Wire!) that, while deviating from the conventional, has no tolerance for deceit and betrayal. While NWA may be involved in drugs and murder, they have a high regard for loyalty and to some extent others' emotions, which is an aspect that I think could easily slip by most listeners.

Little piece of my mind

My favorite song so far, has to be Bob Dylan’s Ballad Of a thin Man. I am not aware what so ever what the real meaning of this song is but it makes you feel. There are times in life when you just have no clue what is going on. It is as if the world is spinning while you’re standing still. There is just this sense of detachment that you can’t seem to do anything about. Most of Dylan’s song I feel have this deep meaning, that allows you to connect with them emotionally weather you understand what is being said or not.
Dylan and the N.W.A. seemed to come from two different angles. Dylan’s songs connected with the human emotion, but its approach was mellow, and I am not sure if it was because of the tone, or the softer language, Dylan made you think, but it did not hurt. N.W.A’s F. The Police for me was the strongest piece in the album. This is what they are going through, but they expressed so much anger through their language and their beats, that I was hard to listen to.
The use of language in Straight outta Compton reminds me of the scene in the Wire were McNulty and Bunk figure out the crime scene just using the F word. It has always been hard for me to see why curse words are necessary. I have always heard that when people curse words, it is because they do not have a good enough vocabulary to express themselves better, but the Wire made me think twice. What if those curse words were precise enough to get the message across? Imagine “F. the police” being played on the radio with all the curse words bleeped out. In this form, I think we can all agree the song would be destroyed. Never the less, I would like to know what exactly makes curse words wrong, and if there are times when their use is acceptable, or if their use will always be a scandalous move.

The first nigga that I saw--hit 'em in the jaw/Re: So Aggressive

I would be lying if I claimed the ability to take NWA's album seriously the first time I heard it. With lines like the title, I was laughing the entire time--no room to be offended or horrified or anything but amused; it sounds like a parody of itself. 

Of, course, once one gets past the incredibly dated early 90's vibe and takes another listen, there's the fact that these lyrics are supposed to represent a real place, real people. I have to agree with Emily post: that in many ways, they've failed at the latter by refusing to acknowledge one side of themselves that surely exists. I would argue (and her post did not negate this) that by hiding it, though, they lend themselves even more credibility by staying within this ridiculous masculinity because it is what is required where they come from. 

What I liked even more, though, was something I noticed in Fuck Tha Police. After MC Ren is entreated to "give his testimony," he says 
 Fuck tha police and Ren said it with authority
because the niggaz on the street is a majority. 

which just brings the whole thing back to this machismo power struggle. More niggaz means they get to say whatever they want, and he's bringing the police into it. He keeps it up by accusing the police of being afraid of him and of having a "fake-assed badgeBasically, I think he's accusing the police of putting up a front when that's exactly what he's doing himself, as Emily so aptly noted. Whether he notices this contradiction is up in the air, but I would guess not. 

Dylan and Nabokov

Bob Dylan's song "Ballad of a Thin Man" is about a man who appears to be really intelligent, but he actually doesn't understand anything that is going on around him. Mr. Jones "walks into the room with a pencil in his hand", ready to take notes and describe everything. He is constantly asking questions and he thinks he is better than everyone around him (it's impossible that he is a freak). Mr. Jones has spent time with intellectuals like professors and lawyers and is "very well read", but despite this all the strange characters around him are insulting him, calling him a freak, a cow, and saying "there ought to be law against him coming around".  Bob Dylan seems to be poking fun at the same kind of person Nabokov was mocking in the introduction to Lolita. John Ray is a person who would seem to be very intelligent; after all, he does have a Ph.D. However, he doesn't really understand anything about the book on which he is claiming to be an expert. Ray reads Lolita as a case history and for a moral lesson, when in fact Nabokov did not intend for the book to be read this way. Both Mr. Jones and John Ray are characters who are definitely real people, out there somewhere, and Dylan and Nabokov have pointed out that while they may find themselves to be superior, they are in reality clueless.