Choice vs. The Right Things To Do

It’s not easy, to consider every little detail about a character from the very beginning, that much I’m sure anyone who has attempted writing a story would agree with that. But occasionally you run across a moral dilemma, that’s less of a dilemma and more “do I let the character do what I expect them to do, or do I have them do what’s expected of them”?

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For instance, I expect Lawrence Fishburne to only offer me the truth, nothing more.

 As I belt away at my story having completed my literature review, I had experienced this very engagement as I work around the climax of the story. To elaborate at this point, the main character finds the artifact that virtually everyone had been trying to get their hands on for the entire book (and then some). His enemies want it, his companion wants it, and he wants nothing to do with it…..at least he initially thought. However, he slowly begins to witness the impact this artifact could have on society if it’s left in the hands of the enemies, and not the gods who created it. Naturally, he resolves to give it back to the gods……until he finds out that there’s an ancient conspiracy going on with them, and suddenly the villain doesn’t seem so villainous for opposing them. Huh.

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 And I wish it didn’t take 10 straight minutes for the Matrix Reloaded to recognize this.

 But this is where I believe most writing soon becomes organic, depending on the type on the conflict at play. There is an inherent loss I feel, in making a plot revolve around a character acting a certain way. Cause let’s be real, people are people and will make impulsive decisions and regret it immensely. That’s just how life goes at times. I considered that my main character, while not a selfish individual by any means, would rather keep himself out of as much conflict as possible, regardless of the repercussions. That’s not a fatal character flaw, or even a negative trait. It’s simply how I believe the character would respond to a situation, and that makes the story almost as much of a surprise to me as I feel it will a reader, even though I’m the one writing it.

I have an idea of how my story will end, but it’s not necessarily up to me to decide it. Sure, I’m the one writing it and have the most creative control as a result, but the interactions of my characters, including their thoughts and feelings throughout the story, are ultimately the biggest factors behind the things they do, and whether it’s in the name of the right thing, or the freedom of choice, it’s the conflict that’s what makes people keep reading.

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Wouldn’t be much of a writer if I couldn’t.

Back From A Short Break~

Hello from the other side of Spring break ^.^

For those wondering, I had a very relaxing break for the most part. I got to spend some quality time with my family. We went to some museums in the city and out to eat most nights. Because of work and class, I haven’t really had the time to relax and just be with my family and enjoy their company. I think being able to spend this time with my family and with my friends, too, was necessary in order for me to keep moving forward. I don’t think I realized just how stressed I have been until I was spending time away from all the places/things that stress me out.

This break allowed me to reflect on more than just my work thus far and my progress; I reflected on myself as well and on my own goals. I’ve had a lot of setbacks in my personal life that have had a huge impact on my work and how I view myself. It really wasn’t until this break where I didn’t work or go to class that I was able to feel the real gravity of everything I’ve gone through. Honestly, I’ve had a shitty year and a half and the last few months have just been the cherry on top.

Anyway, I reflected on my circumstances over break and came to the conclusion that, regardless of all that nonsense and not despite but because of all the people who didn’t want me in their lives, I’m going to complete my work and live the best life I can. I can’t change anything that’s happened. More, I have so many great opportunities at my fingertips right now. I can miss what I’ve lost but I shouldn’t linger on it. Doing that keeps me from writing, keeps me from what I love and from what loves me.

So, now that the mooshy stuff is out-of-the-way, let’s recap what work I accomplished over break. First and foremost, I completed my section on memes, shitposts, and gifs. Most of the sources I covered in this section are from my independent study I had last semester wherein I researched memes and complexity theory. The bulk of this section focuses on the trajectory of memes and on how they’ve been viewed research vs. how they act in online spaces. I cover some of the more “researchy” angles on memes in the start of this section before delving into more contemporary thought on the medium. Most of this contemporary thought comes from the articles I sourced last semester (in our first thesis course) which identify memes as art objects and connect their creation and propagation to a kind of resurgence of Dadaism in contemporary culture. Essentially, I wanted to first ground memes in theoretical research before exploring some of their, in my opinion, more profound connotations.

Additionally, I touch upon shitposting as well. To be honest, there is not as much research on shitposting as there is on memes. Much of the research focuses on the negatives of shitposting as well, particularly how it has contributed to furthering far right agendas (because it’s a popular kind of posting on sites like 4chan and Reddit). Not really what my work is about. Also, I find the definition of shitposting on Know Your Meme to be a little inaccurate. Outdated, perhaps. More than anything, I found myself kind of making a case for expanding our understanding of shitposting to include more absurdist humor sentiments. Right now, it seems to be understood as more of a nuisance than a statement. That narrow mindset keeps us from exploring possibilities. Also, it frames this new form of expression as inane and meaningless cause it’s “stupid” from the start without proper consideration of other possibilities. The definition becomes a cage. At least, that’s what I believe and what I kind of make a case for in this section of my paper before seguing into the Degenerate Art 2.0 section of my thesis.

So, here’s the part where I tell you I got horribly, disgustingly sick towards the end of spring break which, unfortunately, impeded me from completing the last section of my paper. I did start it (and I am planning to have it completed by this weekend) and I do feel like I have a good direction for it. So far, I’ve started this section off by reiterating how often new forms of digital content creation like memes, digital art, and Eliterature are cast aside, dismissed, or somehow identified as less than traditional mediums. I want to emphasize this lack of recognition and acceptance from authorities before clarifying that I don’t believe there are any specific oppressors other than the state of contemporary culture. I don’t want to compare anyone to or put anyone in the place of the Nazis, who created the term “Degenerate Art” when they first vilified Dada works. Rather, I want to focus on the Dadaist “spirit” of these works themselves and on how, in many ways, these kinds of works are acting as a way for this generation to reclaim a sense of identity–both personal and collective.

These works are our resistance to the powers that be that wish we’d shut up and stand in line. That wish we’d continue to subscribe to ways of thinking and to dreams that are no longer realistic. These often nonsensical, nihilistic, and “absurd” emergent forms of content creation are how we respond to the nonsense, uncertainty, and absurdity of current affairs. “We’re all mad here”, you know? It’s like these new mediums are ways for us to reassert and well as reinforce who we are and where we stand in these times. These mediums are in-temporal, perhaps, but they’re meant to express this moment in time for us. They’re not meant to be these lasting artifacts. Hopefully, they aren’t. Hopefully the world changes. Hopefully we change. Hopefully everything isn’t always going to be so awful and absurd.

While I firmly believe these works are representative of self and of the world we must conceive of ourselves within, I do believe they are just representations. These new forms of representation represent this time now. They represent us how we need to be represented now. But, I don’t know if we’ll always be in these objects or if we always should be. In a recent studio visit with digital artist Alex Saum, she said, “Works of art are always representations. They aren’t me.” Since I heard these words, I’ve been struck. I think I forgot that my thesis is about self-representation. It’s not just about self. Actually, it’s about how we express and convey self in the digital age. It’s about how these new digital artifacts act as conduits for conveying who we are to the world and for ourselves. These works are heavily inspired by us and our experiences but they aren’t us. Dada was a response. What’s happening now is also just that: a response. We embody Dada. We embody resistance. We are what is reclaimed.

From this little spiel, I hope it’s clear that, though I didn’t complete everything I hoped to complete over break, I am certainly reinvigorated and impassioned from break. I didn’t waste my time not thinking about thesis. In fact, I feel like I have more purpose and direction than I’ve had these past few weeks. My thesis adviser is always asking me why is this work important. Well, this work is important because it’s about us and, more, about how we are experiencing this world right now. We are this moment. We are Dada. We are in every meme and shitpost we make but we are also so much more than that and isn’t that absurd?? Isn’t it so absurd and nonsensical to be who we are in this moment? Isn’t the world such a mad place to be a person in right now? What seems to make the most sense is that nothing makes sense. So, why not make a meme?

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~Till next time~

I Ain’t Changin’ Nottin’ Fa Nobody!

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Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

Well, well, welcome back everyone! Spring break was more of a high-speed week instead of a break. But you know what? I’m glad it was. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to give up what I was trying to do for my thesis and start a new topic. I was face to face with an issue that I did not know anything about, the scholars behind it, or the history of it. I was being asked questions from family members that I couldn’t answer and were given answers and opinions from them that I didn’t even ask for. My professor told me to keep going with it. Reluctantly, I did. I doubted myself. Was I smart enough to handle a topic like this? What did I get myself into? Well, this post is to happily tell you that I have hit the jackpot. I opened the door to not only a topic but another world that I can never return back to earth. (Sorry for the mushy-gushy stuff.)

I have gathered so much information and notes from the readings I have been doing that I could not fit it into this post. I would have to make five posts. For time’s sake, I’ll put the links to the different documents of notes I have created for each reading at the end of this blog under the section “Documents: Thesis Notes.” I also have notes on YouTube videos and a documentary as well! I am also proud of myself because it’s been a long time since my mind has been able to think in this way. Creating new ideas and connecting points to readings and my own experiences. After doing some more reading and research, these were the ideas that came to my head, which, I think, is formulating my Burning Question.

  • Why choose between African American Vernacular English and Standard English? Why pick Standard English over African American Vernacular English? What are the benefits (if any)? What’s the consequence?: Losing your identity. (Thought about while reading The Language of Identity by Sonja L. Lanehart)

 

  • White society standard-proper or “Standard English.” Reality: You’ll never reach the white society standard no matter how proper you speak, you’ll always be black. Instead of trying to tear away something that is going to be part of you anyway, just embrace it and learn that there is a deep and enriched history behind it. It’s not just a bunch of words put together that makes no sense. You take away that, you take away a part of not only you but your ancestors and the black community. (Thought about while watching Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin: A Conversation (1971): YouTube Video)

 

  • Sometimes I hear other people speaking “improperly” who are not African American and for the most part, they are not as criticized or ridiculed for it. And if they are, it’s kind of a slap on the wrist, but for black people, it’s a slap in the face.

 

  • Sometimes black English has no words. It’s more than just sounding improper. The way I speak will not be the sole reason or the main reason why I won’t land a job or be successful in the professional world. Hair, skin color, names, money, class, status, all of these other things have more weight to whether or not I am accepted in a particular profession, school, academic setting, etc. than the way I speak. You can’t just say, “Speaking black will not land you a job.” That makes absolutely no sense. I don’t have to open my mouth for a white person to look at me or my name and judge me and not give me whatever they want to give me merely because I am black. People will judge you and automatically think you know less than you do just because of your skin color. So if that is the case, I say accept the way you speak and stop putting down people who do.

 

  • Question: What are the consequences when you remove your language as a black person? My answer: You lose your identity, you lose a part of your history, you lose that sense of community and culture…you lose your blackness. Mind you, my answer is not to say that every single black person in America speaks the same way. However, I am hurt when I hear people say that when black people talk “ghetto” or “improper” then they “make us all look bad,” etc. Even a black person who speaks Standard English will still sing R&B the way it is, which is cutting off the ings at the end of words. That’s not improper, it’s artistic. When you discredit the black language, you are disproving your grandparents, their parents, music, history, art, international connections, movies, television, poetry, literature, and much more! You are cutting the cord to something that belongs to you, and instead of embracing it, you are trying to not only get rid of it, but you’re throwing it in the garbage to be turned into such a negative aspect of the American culture.

Now, I know that Dr. Zamora is going to have my fine tune these ideas more, but I believe I am more grounded with this topic than I was two months ago. After the break, I also had to start thinking about how I am going to put my thesis into a form, which is my methods section. Back in November, when I first started becoming interested in this topic, I was in North Carolina for a funeral. My brother, father, Nana, and Papa stayed with my Aunt Jesse (who is my Papa’s sister). We were sitting around the kitchen table, and I was fascinated with something. I started to pay attention to the way they were speaking. Specifically my grandparents and Aunt Jesse. People who speak Standard English will believe they are not talking correctly. However, putting aside the fact that they all have Southern accents, they were, in fact, speaking African American Vernacular English or Black English.

This is what I heard my entire life. This is how I picked up my own accent and way of speaking. Even the laughs, hand gestures, body movements, all of that is Black English! I want to document or record myself and my family sitting around the table and talking. After church on Sunday at dinner or when we’re all hanging out. There is a very beautiful rhythm when we are speaking together that I want to capture the rawness of that. On the other end of that spectrum, I also want to record myself in a setting outside of the comfort of my home. Such as work, school, or in front of my professors and classmates. I want to capture how wonderful and actually better it is when a person knows how to codeswitch and speak more than one dialect. (Just an idea!)

Last night I was talking to one of my classmates after class, and I asked her how she was doing since we haven’t spoken all semester. The conversation went like this:

Me: “Hey girl, what’s up? How are you doing? We haven’t really talked in a while.

Her: “Girl, I be stressin’!” 

Simple conversation right? We laughed after she said that because I understood her! Now, in Standard or “proper” English, this is what she said, “I am under a lot of stress.” Even while typing her sentence in the blog, a red line came under “I.” The system wanted me to say, “I am stressing” or “I will be stressing.” This was me speaking my dialect to someone else who speaks that dialect. I felt comfortable. I didn’t have to try too hard to think about what I’m going to say next. I also did not have to be concerned about whether or not she understood me or if I understood her. Now, in the classroom setting, we both speak Standard English. (She does more than I do actually.) But the class was over, and we knew that we had the green light to code switch into our natural dialect.

Also, I attempted to write another proposal, which I already sent out. I can’t wait to receive feedback on it because this one is definitely more developed than the first one.

I am still studying and researching, but I am ready for some methods and writing! (I think) Here are the documents of notes and also if you want to listen to the videos from my family in NC, I put a private YouTube link below so you can listen and enjoy!

See you all tomorrow!

Documents: Thesis Notes

Sonja Lanehart: The Language of Identity

Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children

Nikki Giovanni & James Baldwin: A Conversation

Key Words/Phrases/Other Notes

Talking Black in America Documentary Notes

Video Links

Nikki Giovanni and James Baldwin Video

NC Family Conversations 1

NC Family Conversations 2

NC Family Conversations 3

NC Family Conversations 4

NC Family Conversations 5