12:37pm: an eclectic, butter-haired girl stumbles into the paradox classroom of Fluid Reader and Texts; The grainy wood floors, and off-white walls imply that the room is aged. Countering this, Neon blue lights reflect on the elevated parts of each individual’s face; noses, cheeks, and foreheads. In front of each student is a mechanical notebook, that when students habitually tickle, giggle in response with clicks and clacks. The footsteps of the chronically belated girl contribute to this oxymoron. In the quiet room, the embrace of each foot with the floor is an intentional tip-toe, yet inevitably a stomp. She sits and fumbles with her backpack for a minute, searching for necessities, in this case, caffeine and a computer. The song of the day slowly eases her half-asleep brain, oozing with soft-blanket temptations of her bed, into an awakened state. It is difficult to be punctual, and to conform to conventional time standards, with an unconventional internal clock. In all of my past blog posts, I explored the idea of identity, especially those that are seemingly contradictory. In The Landscape of Loneliness, I discussed my identity as an introverted people-lover, whereas in Youth, I discussed being an adult with a youthful mindset. It is only fitting that my final post examines this concept further.
There is a hustle or bustle in modern society. In other words, there is a constructed time pressure in which we must conform. We are constantly living deadline to deadline, rather than experience to experience. In a sense, we are too worried about time, rather than the process in itself. I find myself constantly struggling to find a balance between committing to time and a higher quality of life. In addition, we live in an inherently early-bird world. We are told to wake with the sunrise and, sleep with the sunset. This works with some people, but for others, not so much. I personally find that the best inspiration, and conversations with others, happen beyond the conventional limits, when I’m least expecting it. This usually stems around the hours of 12pm-5am. As a night-owl, sometimes it is hard not to wonder how I would act if this class would have been at 12:30 am, rather than 12:30pm, with Irish coffee, and yellow lightbulbs or candles, or maybe even sunrise, when sunlight would begin to wiggle in-between the cracks and grids of the windows.
Maybe I am a just stickler for aesthetics, or just incredibly environmentally impacted by my surroundings, but I find it hard to believe that at least some others don’t feel the same, or a similar way. Looking around the room, at the vast array of computer screens, it is evident that we as a whole are all distinct individuals, with unique identities. While some listen to lectures, and take notes, others skim blogposts, fiddle around on emails, or even play electronic solitaire. This doesn’t mean that these people are not paying attention, rather feel the need for additional stimulation, or simply to enhance the experience. My preferred method is doodling. As living, breathing creatures, no person is meant to sit still in classroom, after classroom, and then be expected to sit further while doing class-related tasks. Like all other animals, humans always feel the need to explore, but some are better at adapting.
This all may seem irrelevant to the main questions of this post; “What have we been doing in class all semester?” and “what has our class been about?” The easy, surface level answer would be “Analyzing, or comparing and contrasting a variety of texts.” In reality, what we have been working on is much more meta, and abstract. Rather than simply making observations about the texts, we stepped up levels of abstraction. This is evident by simply viewing the syllabus. When reading the list of books, it its inevitable for one to wonder how on earth it is possible to compare such seemingly different texts and genres. In reality, the relationship between these contrasting works are much more fluid than we perceive. In addition, to being related to each other, I think the texts are applicable to reality.
While examining Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, a major theme we discussed was the idea of rooms and private places as a reflection of one’s mind space. This specific case regards the Mrs. Dalloway’s identity as a female. In this context, the room is used to comment upon the inequalities present in society regarding women. In one scene, Peter Walsh barges into Mrs. Dalloway’s writing room. This rash act works not only as an invasion of privacy, but also as commentary on the inability for women in society to have their own private place, or sanctuary. This is idea extends into our lives as students, as many of us have roommates. Like the room in Mrs. Dalloway, there is no such thing as a truly private place, and are constantly surrounded by others. As students, we take both identities as the intruder, and the defenseless dweller. In other words, everyone has been in a situation in which they either have disrupted a roommate’s heartfelt mid-study dance-break, or possibly had a roommate burst into a tranquil environment that you had meticulously created for yourself, and kills the dim ambiance with overhead lighting, with the flick of the light switch. At the end of the day, many of us are forced to deal with it, like Mrs. Dalloway.
This thread intertwines with Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This work also focuses on identity. For this course, we read a well-known scene in which, Alice has an interaction with an arrogant caterpillar. In this work, the caterpillar represents an authoritative demeaning adult-figure. Immediately upon meeting Alice, he tackles the theme of identity with the question, “Who are you?” Due to Alice’s inability to define herself with one concrete identity, she is unable to answer. This section allows the reader to go up a level of abstraction, in order to apply this situation to one’s life. As young adults, or college students with no direct pathway, we are often asked a similar question. Rather than “Who are you,” authority figures in our lives are constantly asking us “What are you going to do,” or “What are you going to be?” In a way, there seems to be a kind of societal caterpillar, constantly pressuring, and asking about our future. Like Alice, many of us, are unsure of the answer to the caterpillar questioning our identity and future. The idea of identity is also evident in Henry David Thoreau’s, Walden, Charles Dickens’s, A Christmas Carol, and in a variety of other works studied in class.
As much as this class has helped improve my ability to think critically about texts, it also has had an impact on the way that I perceive things outside of the classroom. Personally, I think this class has a lot to do with being able to apply theoretical concepts, into everyday life. In other words, this class has helped me become a critic in the real world, allowing me to draw connections between things that don’t necessarily seem comparable.
In class, we discussed whether an eBook is really a book. The answer is kind of gray: yes…and no. As the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover,” or in other words, it’s the content within the work that truly defines something, rather than it’s outward appearance. Despite this idea, there is something truly intimate about being able to caress a concrete object, to feel the pages intertwine with your fingers, and to smell the distinct scent of a novel. I personally love how each book looks, and smells different. Much like people, each book is an individual, and has its own identity; Older books, have yellowed pages, smell like dust, and a flexible spine. New books have yet to be touched, or broken in. They smell fresh and crisp, like newly ironed dress shirts. In a sense, the physical book itself, is capable of being an outward expression or representation of the content within.
This difficult concept and question can be applied to almost everything in life. This is obviously evident with people, but especially in music. Is there really a difference between listening to a song on an iPod, and a vinyl record? Or is watching a live concert different than simply listening to a song?
On the National Public Radio website, there is a section called Tiny Desk. This segment is dedicated to 15 minute performances, of music artists, who vary in age, genre, popularity etc. The concerts vary from prominent hip-hop artists such as the late Mac Miller, to alternative bands like Florence + the Machine, to funky artists like Anderson .Paak, to even underground indie artists like Laura Marling. What really intrigues about, and attracts me to Tiny Desk Concerts, has to do with the setting. These musicians all perform in the same disheveled, book-case filled, eclectic room, oftentimes in mid-day. The website goes as far as saying, “Tiny Desk Concerts are often awkward by nature — bands playing in the middle of an office in the daytime for musicians used to playing in the evening, with stage lighting.” It is interesting being able to see these music artists adapt to such a strange yet societally conventional office setting.
While watching Chance the Rapper’s Tiny Desk Concert, I couldn’t help but connect it to the scene with Peter Walsh, in Mrs. Dalloway. Around halfway through the mini-concert, Chance is in the midst of reciting a poem when he is abruptly interrupted by a building-wide office page. Although it punctured his fluid intimate moment, and essentially was an invasion of his performance, he was able to roll with it and restart. I think this moment is remarkable due to his reaction. While this moment is obtrusive and inconvenient, it allows the viewer to step up a level of abstraction. While watching the show, is easy to forget that the setting of this production is in office building. This conspicuous paging hiccup, ultimately is a test on not only Chance, but also the audience, and their perception of reality.
What I personally like about these mini-concerts is the attention to detail, and the ability to accommodate certain artists, especially those with unique sounds. One of my favorite Tiny Desk concerts features the band, Rhye. To be completely honest, I was unfamiliar with this group until watching this video. Unlike the majority of performances on Tiny Desk, this is filmed in the evening, with an abundance of candles lighting the room. Bob Boilen, a producer states, “It seemed only fitting that when Rhye performed the band’s Tiny Desk Concert that it be at night, illuminated by flickering light.” While listening Rhye’s ‘velvety’ sound, and lead singer Mike Milosh’s melancholy tenor voice, it is easy to understand the importance of this dreamy, evening aura. Unlike many of the others, this Tiny Desk Concert doesn’t have the same awkward office atmosphere, rather a more coffee-shop-esque vibe.
In a sense, these Tiny Desk Concerts remind me of the literary works within the class, and the course itself. Like us as readers/critics, and the texts examined this class, these fluid concerts do not conform with one distinct identity, rather take on a variety. While they aren’t necessarily a conventional “concert,” with bright lights, a large audience, and general spectacle, they don’t really fit under a set category. Although Rhye’s performance was not the norm, in comparison to the other daytime productions, the producers believed that the daytime setting could potentially impact the music itself. Personally, I couldn’t agree more in this case.
There is something truly magical in Rhye’s Tiny Desk Concert, especially the last song in the setlist, “Song for You.” Milosh describes this song, in another video. He states, “To me it’s a really beautiful song about appreciating someone, and appreciating yourself with that person, and having the respect for your past experiences, to know that everything’s okay, because it brought you to this moment that you’re in now.” In addition to being the last song in the set list, it also is the final song created on Rhye’s most recent album. I found this specific version of the song to be almost too fitting to this blogpost, being not only my final assessment for this class, but even my last final for this semester. Whereas the previous songs of the day, began my day, Rhye’s nostalgic, melancholy, wintery performance does the antithesis, and brings closure to the semester.