Plants are like people

After months of wanting a plant in my room and complaining to my roommate to get me one, I finally got my wish.  His name is Francesco and he is a Wandering Jew.  For those of you who aren’t botanists or who don’t have sacred relations with plants, a Wandering Jew is a plant with long purple and green leaves that grow sporadically.  I like to say Francesco has a mind of his own because of his wild growth patterns.  He is a free man and no mother can constrain him.  He is a rebellious teenager and I just have to let him grow.

Things have really changed since he has come into my life.  First of all, I never feel completely alone anymore now that I have him in my room.  It is a comforting, yet also a weird feeling, like I am always being watched.  He is a living being, so it would make sense that I can feel his presence, right?  He is almost like a child.  I have to water him and tend to him when he is sick (by plucking off his dying leaves).  He would die without me.  He is dependent upon me and I like that feeling.

You know how people say that the elderly live longer when they have plants?  Well, maybe there is a correlation with plants and college students, too?  Maybe they are a stress reducer or a boyfriend reducer…one of the two.

Since he has come into my room he has flourished.  I think I have to repot him soon, he is outgrowing his current one.  I do not know much about plants, but I won’t tell him that.  He thinks I am the best Mom in the world.  He is my first plant child and I look forward to a long relationship with him.

English is Not English is English is Not…

It’s a beloved stereotype of Americans, the idealizing and idolizing of British English (he sounds so smart- he’s got a British accent!). And while we may recognize that this perception exists, it is often hard to see any reason to discontinue it, because it’s not really a negative stereotype, after all, we rationalize. Some Americans see posh and classy; others see presumptuous and ridiculous. But is such conflict really necessary? Is it not possible to simply observe linguistic differences, be aware of them, admire them, be open to the idea of using them interchangeably (or with discretion)? Perhaps it is intriguing to explore similarities and differences for naught but curiosity’s sake.

Sometimes non-American spellings and usages do burrow their way into my writing (perhaps from having read or heard them one time too many), but I don’t see it as putting on airs. Sometimes we’re not pretending to be who we are not, but the awareness of different conventions can be satisfying to know, and irresistible to exercise once in a while. (I prefer grey to gray for aesthetic purposes, but find turning in papers with behaviour a tad excessive.) And however ethnocentric putting British English on a pedestal (or lumping all dialects into one, for that matter) may be, one must admit it can be quite the bit of fun to occasionally pretend at being someone else. Actors can adopt an entirely different set of mannerisms and ways of speaking, often quite well, but it’s not mockery. It’s not pretentious. It’s not ignorance.

Other times, what is interesting is how much English-speaking countries assume each other to be much the same, but for different pronunciations of words. And even then, this can prove a source of surprise and amusement. (“How do you say ‘car’? Oh my gosh, really? How do you say ‘banana’? Say it again! Say it again!”) There are, naturally, usage differences in our vocabularies, and sometimes different vocabularies altogether. More than once I’ve happened upon friends struggling to identify an object because they could not agree upon a mutually understood term. (This is for you.)

Recently, as I was thumbing through one of my textbooks, I came upon a section examining linguistic differences in dialects of English spoken everywhere. While we- or perhaps just I, really- tend to think that most differences in pronunciations lie in vowels (in their roundness or flatness, in length and the position of the tongue, for instance), and perhaps in the treatment of the letter r, it raised other good points. Allophones, sounds that are distinctive to the speakers of a language or dialect and will affect meaning if changed but make no difference to another language or dialect, vary even in English, for instance. What make the sounds of spoken variants of English distinctive from one another are often difficult to pinpoint, but they are there, somewhere.

This has a been a rambling discussion on English. Thank you for following.

Skinny Jeans

This is an amusing video I found on Yahoo news about a new men’s Levi’s jeans cut called the Ex-Girlfriend. The reporter in the video flippantly mocks the new fit and the men who would choose to wear them. I found it quite funny that discussion of the jeans was included in an “odd news” segment. When you consider some of the ensembles seen on high-fashion runways or the outfits worn by celebrities such as Lady GaGa or Helena Bonham Carter, super-skinny jeans are positively tame in the odd fashions department.

Skinny pants for men really aren’t a new phenomenon. In a cursory Google search of men’s fashions in the 1700s and 1800s, you can find multiple examples of “skinny” breeches. The image to the left, for example, is from 1795, and the man’s breeches look at least as tight as the “odd” Ex-Girlfriend jean. So, to lessen the “odd” factor, perhaps we should just think of the skinny jeans fit as an update on antique men’s breeches fashions.

I can’t help but wonder if the writers of this video segment have been hiding under a rock for the past several years. Skinny jeans have been cropping up in men’s fashions for quite a while. I remember seeing guys walking around my high school in skinny cuts (thus my amazement both at this being considered newsworthy and the “odd” label). Now if only the bulbous trunk hose of the Renaissance would come back into fashion, then they would really have a story . . .

On subjectivity versus objectivity

A constant point of contention in the artistic and literary theory realm is the idea of subjectivity versus objectivity. “Who decides whether art is good?” is one of the most basic intellectual queries, yet it is an immortal unknown that staunchly refuses to be resolved. The most remarkable logicians and creative minds can’t agree, and their ancient debates stretch forth to our present and predictably to any time in the future, granted that humans are around to deliberate on it.

It would seem that in our post-modern age, subjectivity looms large, and perhaps, is the only way to describe reality. That is, there is no objective truth, only impressions from our unique interactions with the cold marble, with the spread of colors, emotionless in it of themselves and only forming into coherence when we are places in position to view it. Something occurs as the, we assume, objective piece interacts with our subjective consciousnesses. We dab memories on to the work, our individual life histories, philosophies, viewpoints – all are nearly indiscriminately are thrown forth on to this material object in order for sense to assemble. What is tasteful to my senses may be vulgar to yours may be commonplace and mundane to theirs. The thread of the apparent story surrounding the piece is woven perhaps, slightly differently by every viewer that stands before it. Emotions elicited are as deliberate as reflexes, and the ways in which we choose to methodically reason the aesthetic quality out are influenced by our education in artistic form and theory or our lackthereof. Our reactions to a work of art is the art itself, a Rorschach piece, that we can only be aware of occurring.

Yet, this is not to say that there are no agreements. Hence, the objectivism seems to gain some ground in that there can be standards established. What is good art? Is what defines art as good precisely the fact that it is not subjective? Lessing’s qualifications for visual art is that it ought to be at “a pregnant moment,” — that suspension and enlargement of a moment preceding that of the most extreme of human feelings. But maybe Lessing is wrong. Perhaps good art ought to be propagating maxims about morality, maybe it should be purely aesthetic, striking us visually through our senses, bypassing any reasoning apparatuses. Perhaps the only qualification should be that it is innovative and bold in the sense that we have never seen anything quite like it before. By setting some standard, some theory encompassing our more or less collective agreements, we have turned more to an objective viewpoint. The canons of art and of literature are established because we (or the critics sipping tea in their ivory towers) agree on their relatively grand worthiness.

So what’s your definition of “good” art? Do you agree with the established canon or is it simply hogswash?

Superbowl Madness, Pt. 2

I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed the halftime show last week. It was energetic, brightly lit, surprising (all those guest appearances), and it definitely pumped up the mood. Granted, I didn’t expect the vocals to be amazing or the dancing (the Black Eyed Peas aren’t known for their stellar voices or fantastic choreography) and perhaps I was heavily influenced by the people I was watching the show with who felt energized by the pumping music, but call me crazy and I didn’t mind the show as much as most people did, apparently.

The comments on the performance range from displeased to downright caustic, with every analysis and word meant to indicate a sneer and looking down upon at the pop group.  Take this editorial by an LA Times writer who called the Black Eyed Peas’ Halftime Show “pop absurdity at its finest”.  Ouch.

For me, it’s not so much the overall quality of the performance that caught my attention but rather the striking similarity in concept to that found in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  The use of a large uniform group of people that performs in sync is a concept seen heavily two years ago by the Chinese, not to mention the  similar use of the light suits to create colorful and bright contrasts between the darkly clad BEP and draw attention to the lit elements of the show.

It just goes to show that art can be found everywhere– who would have thought that the world’s biggest sporting event that took place in China could generate subsequent copying and changes in the halftime show for what is now probably America’s greatest pastime event (the Superbowl)?  Did anyone ever imagine that sports would inspire creativity and serve as muses for other artistic endeavors?!  Probably not.  But the halftime show this year was a witness to the fact that art is truly a powerful tool, able to influence the way people think, act, and express themselves.  Even during the Super Bowl.

lab

Today, I finally got to try lab, a coffee, tea, and yogurt shop on E. Liberty. I’m usually more of a tea girl, but I decided to be adventurous and tried a cappuccino. I have to say it was a good choice. It was by far the best cappuccino I’ve ever had  – not too sweet, not too strong, and just the right amount of foam.  To make it all better, the cappuccino was served with a pretty design in the foam, much like that in the image above from lab’s tumblr page.

The atmosphere inside the cafe is very unique. The decorations are mostly white and grey, with some lime green accents, and there is a projector playing silent videos on the wall behind the counter. The baristas are very nice and willing to help customers navigate the menu. The shop has only a few tables and a small bar, so seating is limited, but it gives the place a cozy feel that is very nice.

With midterms coming up, this place is a great option for refueling during a study break.