November 15, 2004

Blogging Portfolio #2

THE DEVIL TAKE THE DEVIL’S DICTIONARY – I explored the subject of “body-snatching” and grave-robbers in the context of the times and debated how gender was handled by Bierce with Nabila. (coverage,depth discussion)

HUCK, BE A MAN – discussion on the relationship between Huck, Tom and Jim. (coverage, depth, interaction)

POST-PARTUM DEPRESSION IN “YELLOW WALLPAPER” – an attempt to understand the psychology behind the story and why John acts as he does. (coverage, depth, xenoblogging, discussion)

NATIVE AMERICAN READINGS – seeking to understand historical events from a different cultural perspective. (coverage,xenoblogging, discussion)

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE A HUMAN BEING – my crotchety take on John Henry, technology and nostalgia for a slower, more personal interaction. (coverage, interaction)

ROBINSON’S PEOPLE – I love the people in Robinson’s poems – they remind me of people I’ve know and cared about. I want to gather them in my arms and say “Buck up guys!” (coverage, interaction).

THE LURE OF MELODRAMA – Light and fun, nice break after all the heavy stuff. (coverage)

SYNESTHESIA – Like… I see letters and numbers in color! (wild card)

ERIN MANKO’S BLOG – In “Huck’s Battle Between Himself and Society” I respond by commenting on the relationship between Jim, Huck and Tom. (xenoblogging)

Posted by LindaFondrk at 09:28 AM | Comments (1)

Synesthesia

For as long as I can remember, in my mind’s eye, I have seen letters, numbers, days of the week and months in color. Until I was around 19 or 20, I thought everyone did. When I asked a friend of mine what color her “four” was she just cocked her head and said “Huh?” Years later, I was reading the Nov. 13, 1989 issue of U.S. News and World Report and came across an article that had the lead: “When, at age 7, the writer Vladmir Nabokov told his mother that each letter of the alphabet had its own distinctive hue, she understood perfectly. Like her son, Elena Nabolov was possessed of an odd sensory ability called ‘synesthesia’”. I was floored! There were other people like me!

If you follow the link I posted, you’ll find that there are many different manifestations of this weird “cross-wiring” in the brain. Mine is the most common among synesthetes but others see colors when they hear music or taste flavors or see shapes when they hear sounds or voices.

This kind of perception has given me an uncanny ability to remember number sequences as I memorize the color pattern along with the numbers themselves. I have a strong affinity for the number four because it’s my favorite color: green. I also see my forties as a “green” decade and so feel pretty cool about this time of my life. (Of course that’s not the only reason). Words take on the color of the first letter they begin with and zero is almost always white or cream for most synesthetes; though every synesthete will have a different color scheme for their own letters and numbers. For me, words take on the personality of their color along with their inherent meaning. (This makes good sense to me, but I’m sure sounds a bit weird). The word “Algebra” is red, a color I have always been a bit uncomfortable with. “Calculus” is gold-yellow and I’m not much on that either. It doesn’t mean I hate every word that starts with a or c, but …well…do you get the idea? It’s hard to explain. Also, some letters have a more pronounced color than others.

I haven’t yet met anyone in person that has this. I joined a group online, but lost interest after awhile, after all…how much is there to talk about – it’s just they way we see things. I did meet a woman in one of my classes two years ago that had a son that saw colors when he hears music. No one in my immediate family has it, although I’ve read that it is passed down father to daughter, mother to son. My dad is from Ireland and his family is scattered throughout England, Ireland and Scotland. I was there in my twenties but didn’t think to ask anyone about it. My son could have gotten it from me but he doesn’t seem to have it either.

Posted by LindaFondrk at 08:12 AM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2004

The Lure of melodrama

I enjoyed Belasco’s “Girl of the Golden West” for the same reason I used to love watching “The Brady Bunch”. It’s light, artificial and has a happy ending. I have become so accustomed to more cynical approaches, I fully expected for Johnson to be strung up and hung right in front of Girl. How refreshing that she easily talked them out of it and went off with the man she loved! I can easily understand the appeal of this type of genre to audiences. This kind of literature is a wonderful escape and does not require much of the person absorbing it; sort of like watching Entertainment Tonight instead of Channel 13.
I could handle the cheery optimism and good/bad, male/female stereotypes, but what I found a bit irritating was the prevalence of racial stereotypes. The Native Americans say “ugh and um” a lot. Billy Jackrabbit is described as “a full-blooded Indian, lazy, shifty, and beady eyed” who steals drinks whenever he gets the chance. He has a child out of wedlock with Wowkle who is described as “a lax, uncorseted, voluptuous type of squaw” and “utterly unreliable and without any ideas of morality.” I guess that was the prevailing thought at that time but it’s hard to read in this era. These shows were probably the only exposure to Native Americans many people in the East had and one of the reasons this unflattering image lasted for such a long time. Our views of ourselves and our world are so influenced by our shows, movies etc.

Posted by LindaFondrk at 06:12 PM | Comments (2)

November 07, 2004

Robinson's People

Scattered throughout the log walls of my house are an assortment of pottery faces that I’ve acquired from various artisans over the years. Their slightly exaggerated expressions are alternately sly, bemused, sarcastic, disappointed, ecstatic and guilty. My favorite is a large face that resembles my bespectacled dad (bemused) and presides over my kitchen from its vantage point above my stove. I love them because they so honestly reflect the full range of human emotion and experience. I feel the same way about Robinson’s characters.

The folks in Robinson’s poems have all in some way been beaten down by life. The themes of aging, job displacement, facing one’s own mediocrity, bitterness and regret are something even the most talented and fortunate of us will likely experience at some point in our lives. And it’s our responses to these inevitable setbacks that in part shape who and what we will become. Sadly, these characters seem to have given up.

Miniver Creevy longs for an exiting life that he fancies existed in the “days of old”. He seems to have spent a lot of energy ruminating over it for “He wept that he was ever born”. He fantasizes about bright swords and being “a warrior bold”. He would like to have “sinned incessantly” if only he had been a Medici. Like so many people stuck in a career rut, he “scorned the gold he sought, But sore annoyed was he without it”. He curses his mediocrity and regards his “khaki suit with loathing”. Lacking the vision or courage to change his circumstances, in the end he scratches his head, decides this is his lot in life and keeps on drinking. (Or as many a Leechburger has been heard to say while swilling down an Iron City, “Eh, whaddya gonna do?”)

Richard Corey is so skilled at projecting the image of success and satisfaction that he is admired and envied by all. Yet he has no authentic sense of happiness and inexplicably blows his brains out. How many people who seem to “have it all” are really functioning with “quiet desperation”?

Many of these characters remind me of people I’ve known and cared about; some of them long time customers whose life stories I’ve been privy to for years. In a sense I guess, like my faces, I collect people, or their stories. And there’s so many unhappy ones.

Posted by LindaFondrk at 02:12 PM | Comments (6)

November 02, 2004

Post-Partum Depression in "Yellow Wall-Paper"

I believe the narrator in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wall-Paper” was suffering from post-partum depression, although the condition had not yet been identified back when this story was written. There are only a couple of clues. The first reference occurs in the exposition:

“It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby! And yet I cannot be with him, it makes me so nervous.

And later in the rising action:

“I can stand it (the wall-paper) so much easier than a baby, you see.”

I shared the frustration that Mike expressed on his blog with the condescending treatment of the narrator by her physician husband. It is important to keep in mind however, that this type of “rest cure” was the prevailing wisdom of the age. Though she admits to embellishing some details for the sake of “carrying out the ideal”, Gilman based the story on her own experiences with depression and wrote the story to change physicians minds about the efficacy of this type of therapy.

Although she acquiesces to John and is under his control and supervision, the narrator instinctively knows (as Gilman did) that more stimulation particularly through her writing would do her good. So she writes privately though she acknowledges:

“John would think it absurd. But I must say what I feel and think in someway – it is such a relief!”

Interesting how good her instincts are, “talk therapy” is still considered very therapeutic in conjunction with anti-depressants for post-partum (or any) depression, as is physical exercise which she is also deprived of by her well-intentioned husband.

Posted by LindaFondrk at 02:28 PM | Comments (14)