It seems far more difficult than one first realizes to create incredibly long sentences, while maintaining any logic or understanding, or, indeed, to make an argument. This blog, written by Archie, read by others, will attempt to develop the skill, without undermining the value of the actual argument, which is inherently confused, due to the nature of the argument, which is, that you can make long sentences without losing meaning. That is, I will be trying to push myself, to the best of my ability, to increase the length and complexity of my grammatical structures, without limiting the actual point within the text, which is inherently difficult, but perhaps it will require me to adopt some of Sebald’s other techniques. Namely, the use of the frame narrative, which certainly allows him to have long sentences without contradicting himself, and also allows him to flow forward without losing meaning, or the pace. So, I will try to engage in separate levels of narration, introducing a frame narrative, using… let’s say, my parents, as paradigm cases through which I can attempt to justify my claims. My mother once began a story, on a Tuesday afternoon in the midst of February, where, in Perth, the temperature almost always reaches above 30 degrees, and thus, as my mother knows all too well, one often finds themselves far too hot, even within a house deliberately designed to cool down, without the use of too much energy in air conditioners or fans. The story was complicated, and begins when she met my father in the 1990s in London, as she engaged in a journey of discovery and escape, from both her home and her home country, from which she left some years prior, and found herself in the country of the Queen, her majesty, the majestic, Elizabeth. Matthew, she said, was a bikie, a literal bike courier, who met her on Australia day, which is on February 25th, and spoke, during the first few hours of their conversation, in an American accent, which, as she reminds me, was something of a turn off, given her residual resentment dictated by her Canadian identity, which, of course, she tells me, precludes any positivity toward those south of the border. Matt, she explains, was funny, but boisterous, and had a beard and a sense of frivolity, which I notice even to this day, after he had changed significantly, having become a father, which, she claims, was incredibly endearing, but also slightly worrying. As they caught the same train, he was questioned by her with ferocity, being tested to see how well he would fare as a partner in life, which, she reflects, was a little bit of a funny thing to do, which of course I agree with, as does my father, although, she rightly points out, this did not raise too much of an issue for Matthew, who, at the time, was able to point to not only a degree from a university, which, my mother tells me, was necessary for any boyfriend of hers, but also to a propensity for musical ability, which I know is his most wonderful quality, amongst other things, of course, and thus, he was able to pass the first tests she set for him. My father, mother explains, jumped up at the very last minute, as she exited the train, and lept off onto the platform after her, presumably offering to walk her home, hoping, I can imagine, that she did not say no, which, inevitably, would have caused some issues, given the train doors, my mother notes, had closed rapidly behind him. Ok- that story, which of course eventually leads to my own existence, not, it must be said, on that night, which, my parents agree, would have been something of a mistake, not, it must also be said, because having me would have been an error, but that because they had only just met, it mightn’t be clever to introduce a child to the world, as the future of their relationship was, it seems clear, was not known. Holy shit, this is so difficult, but I think maybe I got there in the end, I think, but with less beauty, clarity, or cleverness as Sebald himself, who, Jason argues, is one of the greatest post-war German authors who ever lived, which, Jade said, was simply inaccurate, as Elizabeth related to me on Tuesday last, as she, that is, Jade, read in an article written by myself, in a magazine that Alex threw at her feet, on Wednesday, which, as we know, cannot be, given the logical necessity of Jade’s and Alex’ movements on those aforementioned days, which leaves us, my mother tells me, with a situation in which, it seems clear, where I have completely failed in my first efforts, which was, I wrote, was to maintain my argument while consistently increasing sentence length and complexity.
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this one won’t be easy to read. sorry.
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An explorative rebuttal to the argument made in the Haussmann seminar about rape vs. killing in virtual reality
The seminar discussion for Riding the Trail of Tears evoked some tension in the group when we began debating whether the actions one performs in a cyberspace relate to the actions one would do in real life. Kids are killing characters in video games all the time, and apparently “studies show” that these kids are not the people who become killers later in life. So what does it mean when a tourist in the Trail of Tears ride attempts to rape a person? People argued that it isn’t necessarily ‘bad’ if somebody tries to rape a character in a virtual game because it isn’t actually harming anyone. It is considered contradictory that it is horrible to rape in a videogame but completely fine to kill. I disagree with that fact but it took me a long time to come up with why. These are the reasons I generated:
- There is something personal about rape; it inflicted by one individual onto another, and cannot be done without thought
- Rape is more common; we hear stories all the time about rape on college campuses, people being harassed on the street, etc, it’s an issue that is close to us
- There is no single method of rape, it can happen on many different levels and in many different ways
- It involves emotion and can scar a person for life
- It is dangerous to normalize that sort of behavior to people because it is more likely to happen than killing somebody
Therefore, I strongly believe that it is worse to rape a character in cyberspace than it is to kill.
To further develop this argument, I will consider this idea in a virtual game I am familiar with, Sims 3. This is a game where you design your own characters and are in charge of their fate. Your Sim’s life involves a career, relationships, and hobbies. I was obsessed with this game when I was younger because I was able to do whatever I wanted without affecting anyone else in real life. I used to take all of my Sims, put them in a pool and watch them drown. Now I know that sounds entirely f*cked, but I guess there was something fun about being able to break the rules in a virtual space without having any consequences. Does that mean I would drown people in real life while I sit back and watch? Definitely not. So why is it that I think rape would be different? Well, first of all, the very idea of rape being an option on a game for kids is indescribably cringeworthy. Yet, for some reason, killing is not. Well, this brings back my arguments above about why rape is worse than killing in a video game. If young people were introduced to the idea of sexual harassment through virtual reality, I do believe it would become more common in real life. Now I do not have any statistical evidence to back this up, but I think I am justified to argue that rape culture presented in movies and tv shows and pornography does normalize the behavior. We are made aware of the fact that people kill other people through the medium of media from a young age, but we always understood that killing is the worst thing you can do. Rape, on the other hand, does not end physically end the other person’s life, thus the effects are hidden and can be looked past. It is something that a person could do, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to face direct consequences if the person chose not to report. An important fact to note is that for cold murder, the victim is never at fault. Let’s say a person goes out on a Friday night to a party and is all of the sudden shot. Next picture that exact scenario, except the person going to the party is raped instead of killed. The first questions to be asked of the person who was raped would be: “What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Were you asking for it?” The problem is that nobody would ever ask those questions for the person who was shot. The murderer would be convicted without question. So why is it for rape that the victim is questioned? Now, this goes into millions of things that are wrong with rape culture and the way it is handled… which ultimately goes to show why rape is worse in virtual reality. As a kid watching movies with my parents, they would cover my eyes whenever a sex scene came on; however, my parents would most likely not cover my eyes if a person was being killed. Rape is emotional and personal, and the idea of it being exploited and made common in a virtual reality when it is something that truly harms people every day is what causes my discomfort.
Wanted: An Explanation of the Nunnerator
In our first seminar, it’s been established that basically no one actually knows who our narrator, or should I say Nunnerator, really is. It describes itself to us, calling its species the “Little Little People” on page 3 and the “real Nunnehi” on page 5. They seem to have their own culture as well, what with the Nunnerator’s friends teasing him for being “asexual” when he wasn’t particularly interested in Tallulah’s genitalia (our narrator refers himself as a “he” on the same page, page 21 as well) and the drummers being the most curious of the bunch. They’re also somehow the cause of some of the biggest problems in the novel, like putting Irma with the Misfits (though it’s never explicitly stated what exactly they did and why they did it).
Their origins are pretty confusing too, with their universe being made barely 6 years ago yet their history preceding the 1400’s. I suppose it could be easily explained with them being sentient digital beings and their backstory made from an exceptionally creative history buff/techie but honestly, it’s would be a boring let down and still won’t explain how literally no one knows of their existence. The idea people came up with in the seminar was that they were like digital fairies floating through TREPP. It can explain a lot of stuff, especially why exactly they are called “Nunnehi”, and get away from the rest of the questions with the simply answer being “magic”.
However, my biggest confusion still cannot be answered. If they are digital, how did the Nunnerator plug into Tallulah, a human being? If she was actually an android all along (maybe like a host #WestWorld) the implication in this novel about the Misfits may actually work with her as well (I mean she’s been stuck in this tour guide job for ages and she clearly wanted to get away for a long time but the money or should I say CAPITALISM held her trapped riding the Trail of Tears #ConspiracyTheory). Unfortunately, as fun as that idea may be, it can’t explain how the Nunnerator was able to unplug from her brain and get out onto her hair. It implies it has a physical body, even though it escaped from the TREPP in the first place digitally from the suit. How was he able to materialize a body for himself? From a human brain no less? As a character it’s got so much potential and questions to be answered yet it is barely recognized and remembered at all throughout the whole novel. Perhaps my brain just isn’t creative enough to imagine its physical transformation, or maybe there is something missing that I must figure out from the subtexts that are given about the Little Little People within the text. Either way, there must always be a reason for why an author put so much effort in creating such a character. Let me know your theories and answers!
Trail of Tears Presentation Questions!
I have a few questions, but I’m really not sure how much discussion they’ll generate- you guys can pick and choose what you want to talk about. I’ll fill in this blog post after seminar on Friday, with sort of a summary of what you said, and also my own thoughts.
- Did any of you watch the Time Traveller series of videos? Did it affect your understanding of the text?
- I was wondering if anyone knows anything about the significance of the infinity sign to Aboriginal Americans/ Canadians. I was looking at the symbol on the front of the book, and initially figured that it was representative of the ‘loop’ which is a recurring theme throughout- but then I remembered that there is actually an infinity symbol on my status card. This isn’t really discussion-y, I was just wondering if anyone knew.
- Do you think there’s any significance in the fact that there are two pairs of twins? They don’t really seem to have any connection/parallels, but I just feel like two pairs of twins is spooky.
- Do you think that something like TREPP would be an effective learning tool (if everything worked the way it was supposed to), you do you think it would be more like “a continuation/amplification of colonial violence” (Gaertner)?
The Hybrid Life (aka the perpetual existential crisis)
I’m not sure if this counts as a blog post, because it’s not really relevant to the book (but I have to do another one for my presentation anyways so I figured may as well). I was looking at essay topic number four “In what ways does the novel address hybridity? For example, you could discuss the significance of having a protagonist for this novel be partly Cherokee, a “hybrid” like her car”, and it made me think about the significance of being a “hybrid” in my own life. I’m half Filipino, part Métis, and part ‘white conglomeration’. I’ve never actually met anyone with my exact mix other than my sister. Being such an unusual mix causes me to think a lot about race and culture, and how they define a person.
I feel like I can’t fully embrace any of my backgrounds because while I did have some Filipino influence from my relatives, and we learned a lot about indigenous people in school, I was raised in a totally ‘westernized’ environment. I never learned to speak Tagalog or cook Filipino foods. I wouldn’t even know where to go to learn anything (other than the Philippines), because it’s pretty irrelevant to the grander Asian history, and isn’t really considered in the department of Asian studies.
I know next to nothing about my Métis side. I mean, I know a little bit of history, and I’ve got a family tree to tell me how I’m related to Louis Riel, but I don’t know anything about their culture or way of life. Having grown up in Squamish, I was very involved in the aboriginal community, but I was only ever able to learn about the Coast Salish people, which is amazing and interesting, but not my history.
Like I mentioned before, I was raised in a very ‘western’ way, and just by looking at me I’m totally “white-passing” even though I’m less than half. This always gets me wondering about white privilege (which I know is a totally different issue) but whenever it comes up I’m confused about whether I benefit from it or not. I still have experienced racism, but only really if I’ve told them that I’m not actually white. But like Tallulah says, “What the hell is whiteness anyway?” (147)
You know, I guess I can connect this to Tallulah after all. When she was a child, her father pretended that she didn’t even have any Cherokee grandparents- so she was probably raised as a ‘white’ kid too. But (even though it’s through TREPP which is a li’l messed up) she does manage to find a connection to that part of her culture- maybe I’ll eventually find the same with all aspects of mine.
While reading Jazz the second time, while writing my essay, I began blowing my own mind by thinking of symbolic reasons behind the character of Alice Manfred. Not only is this woman the guardian of Joe’s young (dead) mistress, she’s also a seamstress. And almost every time Violet goes to her house, she fixes up her clothing, (jacket, dress, etc) and then it hit me, she sews and stitches Violet’s marriage back together. I don’t know why I found this point interesting, but I thought it was neat. Also, I want to discuss why Alice would befriend Violet, is it that she pities her, or because she sympathizes her? When reading through Alice’s section its easy to acknowledge the fact that Alice is not that fond of Violet. In fact, she does not actually let Violet into her house until a month after Violet’s first visit. Then after many mornings of tea and chats they seem to have grown close(r) and as a reader you learn that Alice’s husband left her. Originally I thought he died, but he cheated on her and she told him to choose; her or his tightly dressed friend. Well we know who he chose. However, when it comes to Violet and Joe’s relationship, Alice advises her to hold onto it and make it work, which personally I think is bad advice, but from Alice’s perspective it is likely because she doesn’t want to see Violet go through what she has. In conclusion, I think Alice does not pity Violet, instead I think she sympathizes in the sense that she knows what Violet is going through, and deep down she regrets how she handled her own marriage. To fully clarify, I read the affair with Dorcas as pulling and tearing apart a fraying piece of cloth, which signifies Violet and Joe’s marriage. Then, like the ends of Violet’s dress (82) Alice being a seamstress comes in with her friendship and sews the fraying clothes, and the marriage, back together.
Morrison, Toni. Jazz. New York: Vintage Books, 2004. Print.
Some of the many ways that Riding the Trail of Tears confuses me
I think it is safe to say that Blake Hausman’s Riding the Trail of Tears is not just any ordinary novel you might pick up of the shelves. There are many aspects of this book that confound me, likely intentionally so, that I can barely describe the plot before trying to make sense of its many diversions, quirks and fascinations. So without further ado, here are some of my thoughts on some elements I found particularly intriguing/aggravating:
1. What’s up with the narrator?
The first two chapters establish a narrator that apparently lives inside Tallulah’s head and later crawls into her hair. He (I assume, but I could be wrong) claims to know all about the inner workings of the TREPP, the Misfits, the Little People, the Little Little People and urges us with great warning to turn the page at our own risk, breaking the fourth wall.
And then he (apparently) disappears. While its true that we learn a lot, perhaps too much, about what Tallulah is thinking, almost in a Lieutenant Gustl-esque morality and righteousness only exists outside us way, he does not interject with comments about his own reaction to the events. He seems to fade into the background as a more typical omniscient third-person impartial/invisible narrator takes shape. Perhaps he could have made a witty remark when tour group 5709’s simulation goes off the deep end, or slyly comment on where Irma really is. Off the top of my head, I can offer a couple explanations. One is that Hausman simply decided that this dual-layered narrative/meta-narrative made an already fairly lengthy book too burdensome and only left the first two chapters intact. Or maybe he just forgot to continue it. Second is that the narrator somehow disappears from the narration after the first two chapters, he is only there to serve as an inserted frame, maybe just to explain some of the weird things that happen in the story.
And what about when Tallulah cuts her hair off? Does she know the narrator is there? How much does she know about what is truly happening? The story still continues after she does so, so does the narrator still hang on, or has he long disappeared from the narration?
2. What is the purpose and meaning of using both present and past tense narration?
One thing I noticed is that the chapters where Irma is the POV character are written using past tense and that the chapters where Tallulah is the person of interest use present tense. Considering the importance of time, both linear or circular, within the book, one could assume that this means something.
Chapter 19 ends in past tense. In chapter 20, the prose switches between past and present; it is mostly in past tense, but slips into present briefly on pg 327 and the end of pg 332-333.
It could be two separate narrators, one narrating using the past tense and the other using the present tense. It could also indicate that the scenes using past tense happen in the past and that scenes using present tense happen in the present.
Or the use of present tense could indicate the forward or intended flow of time, simple, at the moment experiences, while past tense, being able to convey feelings and events from the entirety of human history, could evoke a more expansive look at time, considering the eclectic mixture of past and present that embodies the Misfits. Tallulah’s dream is fixed in the past, and when she is jolted back into reality, the prose also jolts back into present tense.
3. The role of the Old Medicine Man and the Chef
In the beginning of the novel, the Old Medicine Man gets a lot of attention as this end-game consolation prize, a wise elder which supplies platitudes of inner strength and finding your calling. Despite talking about him, we never see him. The tourists are seemingly rejuvenated from their traumatic experience inside the Trail by seeing Old Medicine Man, and they act normally as they leave the attraction, even though they have experienced murder, rape and all other crimes that actual American Indians faced during the Removal. There must be something there that releases , that prevents the tourists from being “holed-up” as a couple of the characters end up doing, perhaps as a result of the realistic trauma within the trail. In this way, he can be seen as this connective tissue, absorbing the impact of the muscles on either side, a mediator between reality and virtual reality. The tourists know they are no longer in the game, but are still in virtual space, a kind of liminal, in-between world.
What we do see a lot of however is the Chef. He’s not advertised at all, but he becomes an integral presence. When Irma first disappears, she ends up in the Misfit Stockade and encounters him. In some ways, the Chef could also play an in-between role, breaking the intended structure of the game, slowing it down, creating something that is neither history nor present events, breaking the immersion in a way so that it accesses a new “glitch-space”. He addresses the tourists directly and knows about them, and he operates in a space initially separate (off-the-road, more precisely) from the Trail, just like the space I presume Old Medicine Man is situated within. Maybe he is the demented alter-ego of the Medicine Man, an apparently scrapped or discarded character that once served a similar role.
4. What’s the deal with all the passages about food?
I noticed that Hausman spends an abnormally large amount of time talking about food and its preparation. I think almost half of the scenes involving the Chef involve him preparing food for the other Misfits. It almost serves as the way in which he leads the Misfits. When the Misfits leave the stockade, nearly singular emphasis is focused on providing enough ‘travel rations’ for all of them, and the Chef demonstrates superhuman ability to prepare food for 1000 people within a short amount of time.
One thing to note is that Nell Johnson, one of the tourists, is holed up after being shot while running towards some peach trees. The other characters die without any relation to food, and they all make it out okay. Strange.
Also interesting is that the chicken marsala that the Misfits are serving in chapter 19 basically sparks a chain of memories from Tallulah. It is common to have an object or a concept that triggers certain memories from one’s past, both in narratives and in real life, but here it comes specifically in the form of food.
Something particularly noteworthy is that as a virtual reality platform, the sense of taste, which food revolves around, would be hardest to recreate. Surely the “Realskyn” and the visor, as described in the book would be able to recreate the sense of touch, sight and hearing and perhaps also smell, but the sense of taste . Maybe it is the character’s quite visceral response to food, and the fact that the characters eat the Chef’s food and enjoy it that truly blurs the lines between reality and virtual space.
Even outside of the simulation, the narrator clearly mentions the ‘single kitchen’ reality that connects all the various restaurants in the TREPP, and at the end, Tallulah cuts off her hair in a walk in freezer, using a scissor borrowed from one of the people working in the kitchen. I can’t quite piece together the connection, but I think Hausman definitely intended there to be one.
History and Narrative in Jazz
In Jazz, Toni Morrison ends the novel by asking the reader to “remake” the narrator (229). They directly address the reader, and by doing so aid us to the recognition of a codependence between recorded history and narrative fiction. Through the use of fiction, the reader is engaged with characters and their stories and given insight into the world that shapes them. This adds a new dimension to history, giving personality and humanity to people that would otherwise be seen as statistics by most. Morrison recognizes that a key element in the collective perception of an era is heavily based on story rather than fact, as well as the narrators role in shaping the stories that are seen in the end as being as important as data and numbers.
There are numerous points in the novel in which the narrator ‘breaks out’ of her role, becoming less of a passive omniscient force and more of a creator; they become a storyteller rather than one who regurgitates, weaving the tale as the story progresses, improvising. The narrator is portrayed as an artist them self, and therefore is recognized as a subjective storyteller, one who is not entirely reliable. This allows the reader to recognize that history is not only shaped by fact, but by those who recall the stories, the humanity of events. Due to the unreliability of the human mind, we cannot trust any narrative as entirely objective.
The novel ends with the narrator revealing that they have never had love like that which was described. They ask the reader to “make me, remake me”, then forcing them to recognize the placement of their hands directly on the book. The reader is shown that the novel is in fact a story, historical yes but a work of fiction nonetheless. We can change these people, reinvent them for the sake of anything. They are fluid, just as history is. The storyteller possesses the ability to change recorded history and the responsibility to do so.
With racism everywhere, it’s hard to say that the world has evolved. Not only do we have a president in the USA who actively puts down other races other than whites, but there are also tons of hate crimes that still exist in many areas. In Canada, I can comfortably say that I don’t often feel like the colour of my skin changes the perception people have of me. However, it was during my reading break when I travelled through Washington and Oregon, just like a few others in this class, that I started to feel that the colour of my skin mattered so much more than I thought it did. There were a few times at stores in the malls of Oregon where I realized a security guard was specifically following my cousin and I because we were the only coloured people in the store. Thankfully, there were other places that I visited during my trip that made me feel comfortable again in my own skin. There was a street specifically that I was amazed by in Oregon called Alberta Street. On almost every single store/restaurant’s front display and windows, there would be signs that said “Black Lives Matter”. There was also another sign that I absolutely loved that said, “We welcome ALL races, ALL religions, ALL countries of origin, ALL sexual orientations, ALL genders. We stand with you, you are safe here.” It was reassuring to me that just because the United States may have a misogynist and racist president, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good people around. It was along that street that I felt most safe knowing that whatever I may be is acceptable. Just like the dramatic racism displayed in Toni Morrison’s book Jazz, we can see that having a voice and individuality helps escape overcoming the struggles of stereotypes in racism that many people like myself have experienced.
The Narrator is Confusing!
It appears I have ruined my own blog post by actually speaking up in class for once- I was going to write about the audiobook, and it was going to be interesting (but was it though?). Anyways, I suppose I can still talk about it, though it may be marginally less exciting.
As I was saying in seminar on Wednesday, because I left my book in my dorm room when I went home for break (oops), and my local public library didn’t have it either, I ended up purchasing the audio book on iBooks, and listening to that instead. Like we were talking about earlier today, the chapters aren’t numbered, and the parts of the story are kind of here and there and not at all chronological. This made it feel like I was sitting down with the narrator, and we were just chatting. The structure of this book feels like a natural way of oral storytelling rather than a conventional carefully ordered and edited book. Obviously I know that this too was carefully ordered and edited, but in such a way that it can to an extent disguise itself as natural conversation– but that was only until I thought about the narrator.
There were moments when I found myself questioning who exactly the narrator is. Initially, I thought that I had been missing clear changes of point of view, just from not listening carefully enough, but after having actually looked at the book, there isn’t any explicit reasoning for the shifts in voice. Having the book would have helped, because despite the chapters not being numbered, there is at the very least a clear separation. In the audio book, the shifts in chapters were hardly acknowledged at all. Maybe there was a bit of a pause in between, but not significant enough that I noticed it to be a change in chapter.
Anyways, what I’m trying to say through all my rambling is that I thought there were multiple narrators. Sometimes I thought that Dorcas was speaking- especially at the end. But there are times where it seems like Violet. For example, on page 97(?) the narrator’s “I” is referring to Violet- so is it Violet speaking, or just the narrator giving voice to her? It’s very strange because it changes voices without saying “Violet said/ thought”. I’m pretty sure this happens again, in Joe’s chapter, where the “I” refers to Joe, but I can’t be sure (having not read the physical book, I don’t really have context as to what happens where unless we’ve talked about it). It’s sort of like a collection of bits and pieces of the same story being told by different people.
Additionally, in the audiobook, jazz music played gently in the background, but only in certain parts. I was going to go back and see if there was a theme as to when the music would start to play, but I realized I wouldn’t be able to do that in this blog post’s appropriate time frame- I might still do it later just for fun?