Cleopatra’s Nose: Our Micro History as a Rube Goldberg Machine

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“Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”-Blaise Pascal

Early in 2017, a friend sent me an article about Egon Schiele. I am not interested in art in most cases but I decided to read the article and it struck me. It was not until the end of the year after reading The Stranger by Albert Camus that I began deeply thinking about the interconnection of everything in our lives with those around us and ultimately the history of our era. 

The article explained that records from Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts show that Egon Schiele was chosen over another candidate. That candidate? Adolf Hitler.

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Egon SchieleFemale Nude on Her Stomach1917Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna

The Stranger begins with a scene in which a son, Meursault, journeys to his mother’s nursing home to attend her wake. The story ends with his behavior at the wake-having a cup of coffee with milk, smoking cigarettes, and dozing off-causing him to be condemned by society.

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These two recollections, one fictional and one actual, show how seemingly innocuous things can lead to grave events.

It is anxiety inducing to think that everything we do (and do not do) and everything going on around us has consequences that we are not in control of nor can foresee. People often ask me why I am serious or why I do not actively participate in things or interact with people beyond the necessary professional obligations I have and this is why. I do not want to be the grain of sand that turns into the snowball rolling down the mountain.

The admissions officer at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts who admitted Schiele had no way of knowing that the rejected candidate would go on to help orchestrate the genocide of over 6 million people. Just as Meursault, nor any of us, would ever imagine that having a cup of coffee or taking a nap could go on to seal our fate.

Blaise Pascal and many other philosopher’s have commented on this phenomenon too. The face of history changed because of the length of Cleopatra’s nose. The size of Cleopatra’s nose was determined by the unique combination of genes produced by her parents and on and on and on. This is an even more interesting example than the previous two because no person had the ability to change the size of Cleopatra’s nose. Chance-the unique pairing of her mother and father’s genes-caused her facial structure. Obviously, this is a simplification-she wasn’t a mute, inactive person who only affected other’s by her looks, but it does spark questions about public perception, attraction, initial actions, and ultimately the level of control we have.

Do the perceptions of and reactions to our looks, words, and actions have more control over circumstances than our looks, words, and actions in and of themselves?

Our lives and all lives are Rube-Goldberg Machines.

Each simple action influences a situation leading to another action. Individually, those actions-a marble rolling down a ramp, a comment to a person on the bus, a cup of coffee, eye contact with a stranger on the street-have no immediate consequences but they lead to other things that impact history, on both the micro and macro level.

This phenomenon can be responsible for good things too, of course. The conundrum is, we do not know how any action, positive or negative, will affect those around us. Of course, there are actions, good and bad, which have immediate consequences but largely our daily actions and conversations do not have immediate consequences. They are pebbles being dropped into a vessel of water, slowly causing the level to rise. However, we have no way of knowing how our actions will land. We are only responsible for ourselves, but even actions and words we perceive as positive and good can be perceived by others as negative and bad therefore leading to negative consequences.

When I was younger, I was much less self-conscious about how my life affected those around me. As I’ve gotten older my consciousness of my presence and the impact I could have has increased exponentially and I am often overwhelmed by the idea that something I do will change the perception others have of me and how it could go on to negatively impact my life or the lives of others. It is quite narcissistic. I know that I am not an admissions officer at a college nor am I on trial, but the fact of the matter is, other’s perceptions of us, our opinions and how we choose to voice them, and the minor choices we make, do in fact affect the world in uncontrollable ways.

I teeter wildly between the realization that my actions will inevitably affect the world beyond my control and therefore I should not fret about them and the idea that I alone am in control of the things I do and therefore am ultimately responsible for the consequences my words and actions have.

This stretches through history. Ignoring Cleopatra, publica fama or reputation and it’s incredibly important role in Medieval law (and therefore current law, as much as we may like to deny it) through the formation of the public sphere in the salons and coffee houses of Enlightenment and Industrial-Revolution era Europe as illuminated by Jürgen Habermas, were each impacted by public perception. Even in today’s formation of virtual reputations online, our words, actions, and demographic categories affect how we are perceived and the amount of power our words and actions have.

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A reading of Molière, Jean François de Troy, about 1728

With one viral video or one popular Tweet or one shitty comment to a coworker or one compliment to a stranger, we each can become Cleopatra’s nose, the acceptance letter, or the cup of coffee with milk.

My question this week is how do you handle this? Are you fearless and indifferent to the perceptions of others? Do you act according to your own personal moral or religious code without worry? Do you stay up at night paralyzed by how your actions or words may have affected others? How do you deal with the Rube-Goldberg Machine that is your daily life?

Talk to y’all next time!

Things Change but Life Remains the Same

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Hey everyone…keeping with tradition I completely abandon this thing when I get busy and boy have I been busy.

Let’s catch up, shall we?

So, if you’ll remember, this time last year I became homeless after my boyfriend’s religious community ousted me. Shortly afterward (like days), I went to Israel for a month before returning to slog through 6 months of unemployment while sharing an apartment with 5 other people in Washington Heights.

Other than a few reviews of Italian History presentations, a response to 13 Reasons Why, and a plea to help a friend in need, I have written nothinggg.

I will say now, this has been the hardest year of my life. No exceptions. Harder than any short stint of annoyance or major life shifting event (and I’ve been through some doozies). Hard. But maybe we always think that? I know during each of the previous difficult times in my life I thought that was definitely what would do me in. There was no way I could survive the hurt or sadness or anger or whatever emotional reaction a situation evoked. I simply wasn’t going to make it. But I did. I am this time too, day by day.

But this year has been such a prolonged state of sadness and anger and confusion and yearning like I haven’t experienced since I was 19. It took me almost 4 years to fix all the different parts of me that were broken that time. This time I really don’t know how long it will take. Certainly, longer than a year.

I keep hoping and being reassured that things can go back to the way they were but I know that’s impossible. And I honestly don’t want to go back because back there I was vulnerable to this pain and now, despite having to endure it, I can’t be surprised again.

cropped-img_2882.jpgI found a new career, I get to use my education daily, I have 3 side jobs (that’s 4 jobs total, hence the lack of writing), I have a safe place to live that’s mine, I have acquaintances, I have a routine and a budget, I am dependent on no one for anything, I’ve matured spiritually. I’ve recovered financially from my stint of unemployment and have been able to keep saving and making progress on my student loans (my biggest accomplishment this year). I found a fun place to hang out once a week after work where I can relax without worrying about spending a million dollars or people being mean to me. I have a lot to be thankful for in the sense that my life right now is calm and the only person who can screw it up is me. I am at the mercy of no one and while that is extremely lonely it is also comforting beyond measure.

My biggest problem and source of discontent this year has been impatience. I’m constantly waiting and wondering if things will return to how they were before the rug was ripped out from under me last year or what direction my new life will take. I know now that I am unwilling to allow myself to be hurt again or hurt anyone else and I certainly, certainly won’t ever depend on someone again, even if I fall in love. So, I’m in a holding pattern just waiting for the universe to push me wherever it wants me to go.

Things are finally turning around and I’ve been able to meet some really cool people and let loose a little bit. I’m excited to have some fun, get to know some new people, have some adventures, experience some romance, improve professionally, learn some new skills, and explore this crazy city some more.

I’m going back to Texas for Thanksgiving and then I have the entire holiday season here in NYC to work and find some cool things to do. I am going to MAKE myself write regularly because I really do miss it and I am planning on starting back up with my movie reviews and I definitely want to go to a few concerts. My resolution for 2018 is to go on another trip overseas, so we shall see! As usual, follow me on allllll the things @thatgingeranna and stay tuned for some upcoming independent lady adventures and less melancholia!

As usual, if you have any recommendations for things to do in NYC, drop them in the comments below! Talk to y’all soon! 😊

Currently Reading: A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Currently Watching: LOVE (for the 3rd time)

Currently Listening To: RAI 2

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Have a wonderful week! ❤

13 Reasons Why: Reality or Glorification?

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I am an avid Netflix binge-watcher and a couple of weeks ago after freshly cleaning out my queue I was looking for something else to watch. Netflix suggested (and I chose) 13 Reasons Why. I haven’t read the book, I didn’t know it was a hit, I had absolutely no preconceived notions or prior information about anything to do with the story. The first episode caught me off guard and I thought perhaps I was too old to enjoy the story, but then I was hooked. I binged it over a two or three day period and absolutely loved it. Loved it in a dark, cathartic, ripping-the-band-aid off way. I posted on Facebook about it and several friends (of various demographics) agreed that they loved it or planned on watching it, and I saw a few articles about school districts suggesting parents and students watch it together. I thought: cool, this was a realistic show and I hope people take some lessons from it and that was that.

Then I started reading posts about people who HATED the show. A friend posted a status about the fact she would never finish it because it glorified suicide. A Catholic magazine I follow posted an article with a warning from clergy stating that people shouldn’t allow their kids to watch it because it glorified suicide. Other viewers and critics said they thought the show was over-dramatic and that high school really isn’t that bad. And I continued to see posts stating the show portrays suicide positively. I thought about it at length and realized it connects to something my last post touched on: the idea that talking about or portraying something in pop-culture dediabolisizes or normalizes it. I talked about my disagreement with this idea in the political arena, but it fits here too.

*SPOILERS*

If you haven’t watched the show or don’t plan to, this might be helpful.

So, I’ll get right to it. I don’t think this show normalizes, glorifies, dediabolisizes, or portrays suicide positively.

I understand why people may think the show portrays suicide as a solution (especially if they didn’t watch the entire series) because in fact, Hannah’s peers only understand how their actions impacted her after she kills herself and they choose to listen to the tapes she leaves behind. But the show does not portray suicide as a solution to Hannah’s problems.

The show never shows that Hannah killing herself or recording the tapes has any effect on she and Jessica’s rapist. Their rapist never hears her tapes. He is not held accountable for his crimes. Her death does not fix Jessica’s pain. Her parents financial problems are not fixed-in fact, her death makes them worse. Her death and her reasons for killing herself do not solve any of the problems she used to justify killing herself. Her death leads directly to another student being shot in the head (we don’t know the details surrounding that situation, yet). Her death allowed her to escape her circumstances as all death does, but the producers and author never even elude to the fact that suicide “fixes” anything. *Her tape to Clay does contribute to him being nice to Skye, buy his tape clearly states he was always nice to Hannah too.

The show also certainlyyy did not portray suicide as the easy way out. If we are to believe the tapes, this was far from an easy choice for Hannah. It took thirteen separate encounters for her to decide to do it. She didn’t get knocked down in the hall one day and decide, “Welp, imma slit my wrists tonight”. Her rape wasn’t even enough to make her kill herself.  She tried-12 times-to move on, to ignore, to make new friends and 13 times her efforts were met with yet another incident. The show does not portray suicide as an easy decision.

I’ve also seen posts stating that the tapes were a way to get revenge. I don’t see it that way at all. She thoroughly and diligently explains how each interaction with these 13 people made her feel. She got revenge in a passive way, of course. Those people will have to live with the knowledge of how their actions (even if they weren’t violent or mean) led to the death of someone, which is definitely some serious baggage to carry around. She uses the tapes as a way to explain why she did what she did, not as a way to seek revenge. Clay seeks revenge on her behalf, but her suicide is portrayed as an escape not as vengeance. The whole point is that she made the tapes so that people would listen to them and understand how their actions contributed to her suicide. It shows that children (and all people, really) just want to be listened to. She could have written notes. She could have left nothing behind. The emphasis is on the tapes for a reason and that reason isn’t to convince victims to kill themselves.

Also, the show explains that a HUGE part of Hannah’s suicide was caused by her OWN actions, not her victimization. Not only does it show that she ultimately chose to end her life, but two or three of the tapes (maybe more, I can’t remember) center around the fact that she did something wrong. She watched her friend be raped and did nothing. Her PTSD caused her to reject Clay and in turn made her blame herself for hurting him. The show made her an active participant in her downfall. While ultimately she was a victim, it did not paint her as someone who just had some bad stuff happen to them and decided to get revenge. If she was seeking vengeance, she was seeking it against herself as well as her peers.

Lastly but most importantly for my defense of the show, throughout the show the counselor and his lack of professionalism are emphasized time and time again. His character’s conscience is burdened from the start because he knows he did not act correctly to prevent Hannah’s death. By the end, we know that Hannah asked for professional help before killing herself! She did the right thing! She did what we are all taught to do! She asked for help. She went to a professional. She dropped her pride and fear and went to an adult. After trying 12 other times to avoid situations, to avoid being antagonized, to ignore her tormentors, to make new friends, to find love, to have fun, to express her pain through art (poetry), to anonymously ask for help (that letter in class), to change her attitude, she asked an adult for help. And that adult could not or would not or did not know how to help so then she took her life.

Bullying is a problem. Sexual assault is a problem. Yes, high school (and college and graduate school and the workplace) is that bad. People are that mean. Bullying often isn’t a singular event. People’s actions impact other’s in ways they never realize. Some children (and adults) kill themselves after they are bullied. This show portrays that in an in-your-face kind of way. Yes, it isn’t perfect. No, you shouldn’t watch it if self harm causes you to act out (although there are trigger warnings for the episode in which she kills herself, so perhaps you could just skip that one). Yes, Bryce avoiding any consequences is problematic. Yes, not addressing mental health is problematic. Yes, it’s painful to watch. I could go on. But if I listed all of the problems this show has, the glorification of suicide would not be one.

 

OSCARS+Lent

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So, I gave up social media and texting (my phone in general except for emails, video+audio, finance stuff, and calls) for Lent.

So far I’ve messed up on the texting thing once when I had to respond to my brother about something, but except for that I have been good. Only about 27 days to go!

I’ve looked at WhatsApp and my texts to make sure anyone who didn’t know hadn’t messaged me…but alas, of course, they hadn’t, HAHA!

I was using my phone as a security blanket at times when I should have just been facing the uncomfortable situations around me and it got to be too much. I was checking my phone constantly and using it for everythinggg.

I chose to give this up a week or so before Lent but I went to my favorite bar on Mardi Gras and some grumpy, drunk old man was loudly making fun of me and this middle-aged lady sitting next to me about being on our phones…she told him off but I just sat there wondering why people have to be assholes–and bathing in the irony of the fact that I was set to give up my phone in a few hours and he had no idea. *I still think people are assholes…

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I’m legit dying tho. It’s super isolating and lonely not being able to reach out to people. I miss Instagram the most, by FAR! I find myself wanting to send people memes so bad 😛 I don’t miss Facebook at all, oddly, although I did realize all of my news was coming from there. Not like, I was reading news from people’s likes or my timeline, but I follow all of my favorite news outlets on there so without that platform I’m not reading any news. I have since fixed that by shifting completely to BBC and radio news shows/podcasts. Also, watching TV without Twitter/IMDb is certainly overrated, tbh…

That said, I have been sleeping better (it’s definitely affected my dreams!) and have been more productive at work. I have been better about getting exercise and grooming too. Not that I wasn’t doing that stuff before but I am more focused and have more energy to dedicate to those things now. I’ve also taught myself some new skills in my free time too: logo making on Adobe Illustrator as well as creating and enabling “canned messages” and filters in Gmail. Worked on more Adobe stuff too. I’ve been reading more as well. I definitely hope to keep my phone usage to a minimum after all this.

I keep forgetting and eating meat on Fridays so I guess it’s all kind of pointless anyway, haha >_<

I’m going to a concert on Friday and that’s probably going to be the most challenging. I will take some pictures to share on IG at Easter.

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As is tradition, here are my picks (first and second) for all of the categories in tonights OSCARS! What are your picks?

BEST PICTURE

  • Call Me by Your Name
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird (1)
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Post
  • Shape of Water (2)
  • Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Timothee Chalamet (2)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (1)
  • Daniel Kaluuya
  • Gary Oldman
  • Denzel Washington

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Sally Hawkins
  • Frances McDormand
  • Margot Robbie (1)
  • Saorise Ronan (2)
  • Meryl Streep

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Willem Dafoe (1)
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Richard Jenkins
  • Christoper Plummer
  • Sam Rockwell (2)

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Mary J. Blige (1)
  • Allison Janney (2)
  • Lesley Manville
  • Laurie Metcalf
  • Octavia Spencer

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

  • The Boss Baby
  • The Breadwinner
  • Coco (1)
  • Ferdinand (2)
  • Loving Vincent

CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Blade Runner 2049 (2)
  • Darkest Hour
  • Dunkirk
  • Mudbound
  • The Shape of Water (1)

COSTUME DESIGN

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Darkest Hour
  • Phantom Thread (1)
  • The Shape of Water
  • Victoria & Abdul (2)

DIRECTING

  • Dunkirk
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird (1)
  • Phantom Thread
  • The Shape of Water (2)

DOCUMENTARY (FEATURE)

  • Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
  • Faces Places (2)
  • Icarus (1)
  • Lost Men in Aleppo
  • Strong Island

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)

  • Edith+Eddie
  • Heaven Is a Traffic Jame on the 405
  • Heroin(e) (1)
  • Knife Skills
  • Traffic Stop (2)

FILM EDITING

  • Baby Driver (1)
  • Dunkirk
  • I, Tonya
  • The Shape of Water (2)
  • Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • A Fantastic Woman (1)
  • The Insult
  • Loveless
  • On Body and Soul (2)
  • The Square

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

  • Darkest Hour (2)
  • Victoria & Abdul (1)
  • Wonder

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

  • Dunkirk
  • Phantom Thread (2)
  • The Shape of Water (1)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Three Billboards outside Ebbing Missouri

MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

  • Mighty River
  • Mystery of Love
  • Remember Me (2)
  • Stand Up For Something
  • This is Me (1)

PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Darkest Hour (2)
  • Dunkirk
  • The Shape of Water (1)

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

  • Dear Basketball
  • Garden Party (1)
  • Lou
  • Negative Space (2)
  • Revolting Rhymes

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

  • DeKalb Elementary (2)
  • The Eleven O’Clock
  • My Nephew Emmett (1)
  • The Silent Child
  • Watu Wote/All of Us

SOUND EDITING

  • Baby Driver (1)
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk (2)
  • The Shape of Water
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

SOUND MIXING

  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Dunkirk (1)
  • The Shape of Water (2)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi

VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Blade Runner 2049 (2)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • War for the Planet of the Apes (1)

WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

  • Call Me by Your Name (1)
  • The Disaster Artist
  • Logan
  • Molly’s Game
  • Mudbound (2)

WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

  • The Big Sick
  • Get Out
  • Lady Bird (1)
  • The Shape of Water (2)
  • Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri

Goals, Goals, Goals

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How is everyone’s 2018 going? Mine is going pretty well so far. I didn’t realize until talking with a friend on Friday night that I haven’t made any resolutions for the year. I jotted a few down on my phone on the 2nd but never made them public or fully developed them.

I accomplished several of my resolutions from last year. This year I only have a few:

Use my phone less. I have turned off all of my notifications which has helped a ton but I’m still really bad about using my phone as a security blanket when I either don’t want to or don’t know how to interact with people. It’s a really bad habit because it’s distracting and takes me out of the present moment.

Exercise more. This is always a given but I’d really like to do it. I walk 40 minutes a day on my journey to and from work, but once it warms up I’d really like to start running and hiking more often.

Read+Write more. Last year one of my goals was to engage in a creative endeavor and failed quite miserably. I have a few episodes of a podcast written out and a few topics I’d like to write about. I also began reading more last year and was able to read some Camus, Jack London, and a few others. I’ve already started another Camus book (The First Man) and have a few others lined up so I’m on the right track. I would really like to get back in to going to see films as well.

Finally, I hope to explore the city more. I take living in NYC for granted and only spend my time in Riverdale and Washington Heights. I really need to get out to Brooklyn, Queens, and lower Manhattan. Again, when it warms up a bit.

This is a short post because I have something a little more philosophical to talk about in my next post.

Do you set resolutions? What would you like to accomplish in 2018?

 

Please, Please Help

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It’s been a while since I’ve written. But please take ten minutes and read this.

First and foremost, I am asking for a favor. A family I greatly respect and who shaped me into the person I am today has been faced with a horrible tragedy. If you are able, I would greatly, greatly appreciate it if you would donate to this GoFundMe cause.

Three members of the family (the mother, younger sister, and niece) were instantly killed in an automobile accident and a fourth (another sister and the mother of the niece) is in critical condition. In the coming weeks, months, and years the surviving siblings, children, and grandchildren will have to bury three people they love and help another recover from the worst thing a mother can experience.

I have written about my experiences in high school and college in Oklahoma before and I always highlight the negative things I went through, but the Alvarado family was a gleaming exception during those years.

Beginning in my 10th grade year, before I could even drive, one of the brothers became one of my best friends. He and his family had a huge impact on my life and I will never be able to repay them for the kindness, hospitality, and friendship they provided. I went to high school with three of the siblings and spent many afternoons and evenings at their house during the early part of my time in high school. Even after high school, when I left Oklahoma, I attempted to remain in touch with them (poorly so, on my part).

I never really ever felt like I fit in in Oklahoma and always had a hard time making friends, but the Alvarado’s embraced me and always made me feel welcome. From going on my first date ever, to learning to play pool and La Loteria, to learning about Vicente Fernandez and Pedro Infante, hearing stories about their time working in the fields in Minnesota, high school parties and car wrecks, barbecues and float trips, hospital visits and joy rides around Tulsa blaring La Camisa Negra and Baby Bash, beer pong and smoking my first cigarette, Pocos Pero Locos and trays of McDonalds fries, and too many more memories to count. My relationship with this family impacted every part of the person I have become academically, politically, socially, emotionally…

If you know me at all, you know my love and appreciation for the history and culture of Mexican and Chicano people runs deep and it all began with this family over twelve years ago. They helped me when I was new to a small rural town, when I was lonely and struggling to fit in, when I felt there was no way to relate to the people surrounding me, when my dad was in Iraq and my mom and I were in a new place alone. They made me feel like I was part of something and taught me so many things that I can’t adequately express in a few paragraphs.

This is not meant to be a verbose story about my experience, but rather I want to express, as clearly as possible, how incredibly appreciative I am of the relationship I had with this family during my formative years and how your donations could really help them through this time.

I can never repay them for what I’ve gained through knowing them, but I would appreciate any help you can provide.

Please, please donate and share this campaign

Rest In Peace

Please donate and share: gf.me/u/x3a5w