The Queen of The Kitchen

HistoricalObject–AuntJemima (1)

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Cane Camera

At first glance, the Cane camera looks no different than any other metallic cane. It is silver and black, shiny at the top and sleek and smooth at the shaft. It fulfills the purpose of any other walking-aid. A closer look at the details of the cane reveals a small peephole near the handle. It’s easy to miss, and thus successfully fulfills its purpose to observe and conceal. Sara Hendren describes it as “old school private-eye gear, from the 1920s, 30s, 40s. For covert spies.” This lack of background information leaves the object with an air of mystery; it leaves us wondering who exactly used this machine? What were they investigating? How many canes were circulated when it was first created? How many other objects of the Cane Camera’s time were as revolutionary as this one?

No, I don’t like the way it looks. It looks boring to me—two toned and smooth, it’s not appealing to me. I guess that just speaks to its purpose as an undercover object to spy on others—it can’t attract attention. Also, I’m sure it was heavy, and difficult to use under pressure. Contemporaneous technology (i.e. cameras) was bulky and heavy, if it was forced into a small space like the handle of a cane, I’m assuming it couldn’t be very light. Regardless whether I like it aesthetically or not, I think it would be fun to use. I’m not stealthy enough to use it on a daily basis, but when an appropriate time arises it would be cool to spy on people!

The Camera Cane helps a person observe without being noticed, it helps the user see without being seen. Although the object doesn’t really change the way we perceive something, the object changes the way the user is perceived. The Cane Camera can transform any seemingly innocent passerby into a stealthy spy.

Why I no longer consider myself a feminist.

I realized I wasn’t a feminist earlier this year after reading an article by Patricia Hill Collins. The article racked my brain and forced me to give up my previous identity. I prided myself on feminist ideologies: all of my college/common app essays were based on feminism; I was known as the “feminist” of high school; half of my Facebook posts advocated feminism. I WAS a feminist a couple months ago.

At the peak of my period of feminism I got into my first argument with my boyfriend. I started it pretty abruptly:

“You know you’re a feminist, right?” I claimed.

“What are you talking about, I never said that, where are you even coming from with that?” He responded defensively.

At this point I found myself trying to convert everyone. I recalled he previously admitted to believing in the social, political, and economic equality of both genders, but he didn’t (and would never) consider himself an advocate of those beliefs. I thought there was a clear connection between believing and advocating, I thought the definition of feminism should be unanimously agreed upon, and I thought all opposition was primitive and invalid. Clearly, I didn’t understand feminism. I think my research started after he said that. From that moment on, I remained conscious of evolving definitions of feminism and actively tried to define it for myself.

Earlier this year, in my Intro to African American Studies class, I read the Patricia Hill Collins article I mentioned above. It spelled out a new way of thinking I never recognized before: Black feminist thought. It introduced a discussion on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s idea of intersectionality, and made me realized how exclusive and narrow-minded feminism is. Basically three ideas were defined in the article, and the discussion we had in class afterwards:

Black feminist thought: an enduring and shared standpoint among black women about the meaning of oppression and the actions that black women can and should take to resist it. There is an inevitable exclusivity to black feminist thought, in that only black women can produce it, because only black women experience the unique and systematic oppression of simultaneous racism and sexism.

Black feminism: a revision of the overall feminist movement that addresses not only sexism but also racism, and rectifies the struggle faced by black women and their dichotomized identity.

Intersectionality: is the idea that intersections exist between systems of oppression. An example is black feminism, which argues that the experience of being a black female cannot be understood in terms of being black, or of being female, rather, it must be consider the interactions between both, which frequently reinforce each other.

Everything in the article resonated with me and I realized my research was complete.

Is it even literature? #Whyreadit?

The subtle paradigm that has limited the selection of scholarly and teachable literature is discriminatory. Under this framework, it is necessary to exclude multitudes of pieces on the basis of vocabulary, tenacity of plot, and relation to real life/humanity. Students have read books for centuries under this paradigm, which seems to have been exposed and breached only recently. Of course my perception of literature would be influenced by this dominant paradigm, and without an open mind, I probably wouldn’t find “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” appropriate for a college classroom setting.

One of the major problems with extensively limiting what can be accepted as literature is the tendency to consequently and inevitably accept texts that resemble each other. This includes similar authors, plots, and conflicts. Regardless of plot and surface level analyses, these books also offer similar discussion-starters and thus contribute similar revelations to our understanding of humanity and existence as a whole. Recent debates on the significance of diversity in the professional, educational, social, political, and etc. setting have led to unanimous conclusions: it is important. Diversity not only opens minds to understand epistemological standpoints and reevaluate the self, it also forces individuals to recognize the value of “other.” Accepting this as valid, it’s hard to stick within the initial paradigm and exclude “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” as an acceptable piece of literature to be studied. Just because it is different, doesn’t mean it should be immediately written off as invaluable and unhelpful.

Literature is meant to relate to life, and life is multifaceted. There are social, political, religious, financial, etc. aspects that constitute the experiences of daily life. One aspect alone can discredit the use of the tradition paradigm of evaluating literature: historical placement. Regardless the content of literature, its mere placement in history and its reverberating social effects are worth study. Due to this fact, I would easily accept “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” as literature. Doyle’s contributions to his contemporaneous society are indisputable. His work influenced the daily decisions of readers, and they demanded the continuation of his stories. Our class discussions…well, our class lecture…on micro-history also supports my argument that the story “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box” created such social affects, that the story should be accepted as a historical piece, and thus something worth studying.

I wouldn’t say Doyle’s story is limited, or doesn’t meet a standard of literature, but I would rather claim external impositions limit our acceptance of the story as literature.

Her

Immediately after watching Her, viewers are expected to feel conflicted: we are uncomfortable with, yet understanding of, the Beautiful Handwritten Letters Company. Our physical world is changing precipitously; alongside the rapid advancements in technology, there seems to be a simultaneous decline in meaningful connections conceived in inter-personal relationships. Although many viewers may be satisfied with this theme of the movie, I feel the movie is offering a deeper contribution to deconstructing our society. Her questions our understanding and use of words in our society’s period of change.

There are two levels in understanding why Theodore has the job that he does. On an obvious level, he has the job because the technologically advance and emotionally deprived culture demands that someone does. On a personal level, he has the job because it resonates with his consciousness. Theodore deeply identifies with words, both spoken and written, and therefore he finds purpose in words. Although this seems common to all social beings, it is uncommon in his world of dependency on technology. There is a demand for emotional gaps to be filled in his society, and his identification with words fits perfectly. Consequently, his deep need for “words” provides him with a language with which to not only supply the demands of his society but also articulate his standing in the society.

The dynamics of Theodore’s relationships throughout the movie stay constant, and add to our understanding of the framework of the significance of words in our society. In understanding Theodore’s relationships with others throughout the movie we’re able to understand his purpose in the Beautiful Handwritten Letters. Catherine, Theodore’s ex-wife, constantly mentioned his inability to handle human emotions. Yet this is inaccurate and purposely misleading. Theodore expresses his emotions through writing, speaking, and hearing words, he finds fulfillment in his relationship with words. Since the way we, humans, define and fulfill our purpose in life reflects what we hold significant in relationships with others, it makes sense that Theodore felt satisfied with his relationship with his OS.

Words, as fundamental vehicles for communication, have been perverted by two mediums in the movie: the OS system and the Company. Words, sentences, and thoughts are formed in a person’s mind, and the movie plays with this fact. Her has manipulated the origin and agent of words so that they have strayed from deriving from a personal and singular perspective, and have been placed behind perverted identities. Theodore was necessary in the movie’s objective because his complex personality was relatable, reflected the society from which he stood out, and worked perfectly with the Company’s needs.

Her. Dir. Spike Jonze. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson.    Annapurna Pictures, 2013. DVD.

Interior Design Revision

According to Pillow Talk, the most intimate and outward expressions of the self are usually illustrated in two ways: personal style of clothing and the interior design of one’s home. One dresses to achieve a desired persona in the same way the decor of a home reflects the character of the owner. For the sake of the length of this assignment, I will focus on interior design.

One of the clearest examples of outward expression of the self is Brad’s apartment. His bachelor pad is decked out with revolutionary and attractive technology that supports his playa endeavors. Before getting to know Jan, Brad was uninterested in commitment—and his apartment is a clear reflection of that. The customization of space reveals one’s personality, and thus indicative of one’s insecurities. Therefore, even if Brad seems like a perfectly content and confident man, the constant and heavy emphasis on his bachelor characteristics begs the investigation of his flaws. This analysis also holds true for Jan’s apartment.

The color scheme of Jan’s apartment contrasts ironically with her personality. While Jan’s apartment is bubbly and bright, she is portrayed as a sexually frustrated, independent woman. Her apartment is incredibly spacious, every window in her apartment faces an impossibly beautiful view of NYC, and nearly all of her linens are monogramed—it is safe to assume Jan is well off. The sharp juxtapositions between her personality and interior design emphasize not only contemporaneous stereotypes, but also her distinctive identity.

The desk in Jan’s study faces the biggest addition to the ornamentation of her apartment: an outstanding view of NYC—a city that is as congested and conflicted as she is. New York City has always struggled to fulfill a standard of excellence and prestige. The realities of the city’s existence contradict common generalizations just like Jan’s apartment’s décor and her daily life. I’m referring to not only the obvious contrast between Jan’s personality and interior design, but also the contrasts between what is expected of her as a woman and how she chooses to live her life. Societal impositions on Jan are evident in Alma’s commentary on Rex and Brad’s insults. Alma tells Jan she needs to commit to a man in order to be happy, and Brad alludes to her sexual frustration early in the movie. It’s interesting how these contradictions and struggles are reflected in the interior design of her apartment: crowded rooms constantly compete with bright colors.

It’s critical that we, movie watchers, are aware of the emphasis on these stereotypes and how they reflect the social thought dictating our society’s past. As citizens of the modern world, we are existing in the products of a living history; the tendencies of our history (e.g. discrimination and expectations based on stereotypes) still influence people today. Recognizing the emphasis on stereotypes–stereotypes that attack and trap each character–throughout the movie helps us understand the insecurities behind each victim, which in turn helps us understand each character’s standpoint. Whether one is evaluating a modern commercial, advertisement, TV show, or movie, understanding another person’s standpoint proves invaluable to understanding circumstances under which she lives.

Interior Design in Pillow Talk.

According to Pillow Talk, the most intimate and outward expressions of the self are usually illustrated in two ways: personal style of clothing and the interior design of one’s home. One dresses to achieve a desired persona in the same way the decor of a home reflects the character of the owner. For the sake of the length of this assignment, I will focus on interior design.

One of the clearest examples of outward expression of the self is Brad’s apartment. His bachelor pad is decked out with revolutionary and attractive technology that supports his playa endeavors. Before getting to know Jan, Brad was uninterested in commitment—and his apartment is a clear reflection of that. The customization of space reveals one’s personality, and thus indicative of one’s insecurities. Therefore, even if Brad seems like a perfectly content and confident man, the constant and heavy emphasis on his bachelor characteristics begs the investigation of his flaws. This analysis also holds true for Jan’s apartment.

The color scheme of Jan’s apartment contrasts ironically with her personality. While Jan’s apartment is bubbly and bright, she is portrayed as a sexually frustrated, independent woman. Her apartment is incredibly spacious, every window in her apartment faces an impossibly beautiful view of NYC, and nearly all of her linens are monogramed—it is safe to assume Jan is well off. The sharp juxtapositions between her personality and interior design emphasize not only contemporaneous stereotypes, but also her distinctive identity.

The desk in Jan’s study faces the biggest addition to the ornamentation of her apartment: an outstanding view of NYC—a city that is as congested and conflicted as she is. New York City has always struggled to fulfill a standard of excellence and prestige. The realities of the city’s existence contradict common generalizations just like Jan’s apartment’s décor and her daily life. I’m referring to not only the obvious contrast between Jan’s personality and interior design, but also the contrasts between what is expected of her as a woman and how she chooses to live her life.

Societal impositions on Jan are evident in Alma’s commentary on Rex and Brad’s insults. Alma tells Jan she needs to commit to a man in order to be happy, and Brad alludes to her sexual frustration early in the movie. It’s interesting how these contradictions and struggles are reflected in the interior design of her apartment: crowded rooms constantly compete with bright colors.

Jan’s bar is also noteworthy. Unlike Brad’s conveniently placed bars—which are always close enough to entertain guests without losing their interest—Jan’s bar isn’t so accessible. I actually don’t think she has one, and it’s not like she doesn’t drink. This absences highlights the fact that Brad “ends every sentence with a proposition,” while she is expected to play hard to get and stay reserved.

Code-Switching in Harlem

New York City is typically divided into five parts: The Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island—the five boroughs. One would assume a sense of community is fostered within every generation in each borough—a sense of community that transcends attending sports teams’ events. I guess I’m talking about borough pride—a common pride that connects all residents.

Although these sections are standard, I often question the deeper relevance of the divisions besides their roles as simple geographical barriers. Let’s use Manhattan as an example. It is the most famous of all the boroughs, it’s home to Times Square, Broadway theaters, and Fifth Avenue. Yet, you would be surprised to hear there are some people who are from Manhattan, but would rather claim to be from “Harlem,” as if it were a borough of its own. Harlem is a neighborhood in Manhattan—and that’s where I witnessed my best friend code-switch for the first time.

Ayaana attended Trinity for 13 years—she was a survivor. Trinity, a prestigious and rigorous Independent School in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is predominantly white. It’s sometimes hard to “act black” in that type of community. One day during freshman year, I was eating lunch with Ayaana and a few friends from math class on a half-day. I was planning on going to her house after school was over. After lunch we took the train, a 10-minute ride, to her house in Harlem. A few seconds after we got out the station we ran into one of her neighborhood friends.

 

“Yo my n****, wassup bruh?” said Ayaana as she reached to give “bruh” a dap.

“Nun, chillin hard. Tryna make stacks from these bars, you seent that flick I put on the gram o’mah baby girl? She gettin old, come see us sometime.” Said “bruh.”

“I gotchu. Imma stop by soon, lemme put mah bag down first, oh and by the way dis mah boo Sariyah.”

 

….What?

Yeah that’s what was going through my head too. I never witnessed something so flawless in my life. She transitioned from speaking politically correctly with me to a whole other language. I felt bad instantaneously, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t talk much for the rest of the day and I decided to go home before she stopped by “bruh’s” house.      

After spending a little time thinking about it, I realized I was upset because I don’t do the same thing. While Ayaana shamelessly professed her greetings in a casual way, I often kept a single voice, tone and vocabulary for all audiences. I considered staying consistent was a reflection of my true identity; I thought staying constant meant I being honest. Yet repetitively, I subconsciously suppressed awkward feelings when talking to a church friend the same way I would talk to a school friend. Ayaana helped me realize that changing it up isn’t a bad thing, and “code-switching” is natural.