Unit 7 Assignment 1- Jamie Aciukewicz

I decided to read the Anderson translation of Akhmatova. My group agreed that this version flowed better and felt more poetic. I found it to be quite visual in description, allowing the reader to imagine the scene. Anderson uses metaphors well and her work feels more like writing down a thought process. Thomas is more literal in his translation, which takes away from the readability. The differences between these two different versions of the same text interested me as they almost feel like separate translations of two semi-related texts.

!: Crazy how her poems were recorded on paper, memorized and then burned.

?: What was the public reception of the unbanning of Requiem and the erection of Akhmatova’s statue?

Campus commentary #2- Dr. Andreas Resendez – Jamie Aciukewicz

Dr. Andrés Reséndez, a professor visiting from the University of California at Davis, gave a talk summarizing his book, The Other Slavery. The talk was fascinating and I learned a lot about a topic I really had not heard about before. In the United States, we talk a lot about the enslavement of Africans, but I never really realized how widespread and how many people were affected by the enslavement of Native Americans. Most enslaved natives were women and children, with men costing the least out of any group as most Native slaves performed more domestic tasks. This practice began with the Mayas and Aztecs as they needed bodies to sacrifice in religious ceremonies, but soon this procedure covered the whole region. Natives would be taken from their homes, often by deception at a young age, and shipped all over the world. Many ended up in Spain against their will, despite the trade of Native slaves being illegal. Most slaves that made it to Spain were eventually freed by the Spanish Crown. 

One part of his talk that I found to be the most interesting was the role the Mormons played in perpetuating the trade of natives. The Mormons used the same logic as the Spanish Conquistadors in that they were buying slaves in order to “free” them and that they would be saved if they were part of the Mormon church. As the Mormons moved West, this practice became more and more common. I had never heard about the slave history of the Church, but when I did hear it, I was not surprised. This was a great talk about I subject that is not discussed in today’s society and also contributes to how we, as a country, look at Native Americans. 

Campus Commentary Event #1- Bryan Stevenson – Jamie Aciukewicz

Last week in attended the talk Bryan Stevenson gave in the Belk Arena. Mr. Stevenson is a wonderfully engaging speaker, keeping the attention of the audience throughout his hour and fifteen minutes on the stage. He talked about the timeline of slavery to mass incarceration, which was the biggest takeaway from the Legacy Museum that EJI created and that we saw in Montgomery, Alabama. The museum gave a lot of context to what he spoke about, making me quite happy that we had attended the museum prior to his visit. He also talked about the importance of questioning, especially when it comes to narratives fed to us, which I think goes hand in hand with the unit we are wrapping up.  

Community Event #1- Bryan StevensonAfter reading his book and visiting Montgomery, I was very excited about his visit, and it definitely lived up to the hype. Most of the stories he told on stage also appeared in his book, but because he is so engaging, I did not mind hearing the story a second time. The stories are his personal experience and so it is no surprise that he talked about what he knows. A major point in his speech was about getting proximate with those who are suffering as this education allows you to affirm the humanity and dignity of others. He also mentioned hope as an important tool when looking for change and said that hopelessness is part of the problem. He ended his talk with a call to “keep beating the drum for justice” which I think was a hopeful way to end such a talk. Super grateful to have the opportunity to hear him speak in person, especially after reading his book and visiting the sites in Montgomery.  

Unit 6 Assignment 2- Jamie Aciukewicz

!: There is a huge divide between humanities scholars and scientists which often leads to competitiveness about which discipline is more “important”.

“Literary intellectuals at one pole — at the other scientists, and as the most representative, the physical scientists. Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension — sometimes (particularly among the young) hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding.” (4)

?: How has the bridge between the two sectors changed over time?

“Thirty years ago the cultures had long ceased to speak to each other: but at least they managed a kind of frozen smile across the gulf. Now the politeness has gone, and they just make faces.” (17)

Recognized: Mendel, Newton, Curie, Pavlov, plate tectonics, relativity, evolution by natural selection, and heliocentrism. 

Black Girl Linguistic Play Post- Jamie Aciukewicz

What does this work do?

!: This work uses the entirety of the stage very well. This allows the viewer to be able to perceive a few distinct scenes in the work, when the scene switches, usually the dancers locate to a new part of the stage. I thought this made for effective storytelling, even without words. The use of the stage was apparent through the chalk on the floor, which started in one little pile and spread to the rest of the stage relatively quickly. 

?: How would we have interpreted the dance differently had there not been a Q & A session at the end? 

I don’t think that we would have gotten as much out of the performance without the textual explanation to back up the movement. Dance acts as a form of self-expression and a tool used to fight against oppression, but almost always, text is needed to bolster the storytelling ability of the movement. I found it really helpful to have some explanation of certain moves or scenes and the open discussion at the end allowed me to gain new insight into the dance.  

Unit 5 assignment 1- Jamie Aciukewicz

Schneider

!: Memory cannot be housed in a body — oral storytelling is not a practice of telling history (101).

I disagree with this pretty drastically as for thousands of years history was passed down through generations without any writing. While I agree with Schneider that oral performance can be altered each time it is performed, which can make it an unreliable source, how do we inherently know that just because something is written down that is it the truth?   

?: What is the difference between memory and history? (102)

Often I feel like much of history is just how one person or a group of people remember and recount an event. I feel like the two are pretty interconnected, so I’m confused about why the author decides to make the distinction between them. 

Birns

!: Performance, especially dance is more up to the interpretation of the viewer than more traditional forms of media. 

When there are words, people come to an agreement about the meaning whereas, with non-textual items and performance, there can be a wide range in the interpreted meaning. 

?: Birns talks about trying to find a balance and points to giving a name to the woman Emmett Till was supposedly looking at, but why is this change in focus important?

I think this is unnecessary and takes the focus away from the black man who was killed unjustly and turns the narrative to be a white woman who felt uncomfortable around a black man, which resulted in his death. I don’t think this is a balance, but rather a change in the historical narrative.  

Unit 4 Comic Post- Jamie Aciukewicz

This spread intrigued me the first time I read it. It depicts the inauguration of George Wallace, arguably one of the most racist people to ever be elected to a public office. I think the images do a good job of showing the intensity and the anger of Wallace. The bottom left panel especially shows the nature of the man, and he does not look very nice. I also think the images of the crowd effectively show who would probably be at the inauguration of such a hateful, racist man. The crowd is a sea of white, with no women or minorities visible, and a few confederate flags. Despite being almost 100 years after the Civil War, there is a confederate flag, which to me is a pretty racist symbol and one that should not be proudly waved, in every panel except the bottom left. The Alabama state flag also has a pretty strong resemblance to the confederate flag, which I think is an interesting connection.

The spread is laid out in a very logic order, clearly trying to highlight the crowd as well as Wallace. The gutters are all very little, which to me signifies a very brief passage of time in between panels, which would be accurate with the steady flow of a speech. I think the most effective part of the layout is how the speech bubbles are connected, really making the eye flow through the page. With the use of the speech bubbles, Lewis is also able to add a narrator and there is no confusion between the two. I think the text and the images match up well, especially the third box where he talks about the “greatest people that have ever trod this earth” and the crowd is completely white men. Wallace was not shy about his viewpoints, and he clearly was looking at the people he had in mind with this line. I also think the angry look on Wallace’s face in the bottom left panel shows how he feels about blacks, that segregation is a necessity.  

Unit 4 Assignment 1- Jamie Aciukewicz

Women play a crucial role in the works of both Wells and Terrel. In Wells, white women are able to put black men to death just by accusing them of rape. These accusations do not have to have any merit as white women hold the power in the situation and thus the black men are automatically assumed guilty. Women are not the subject of Wells’ writing, but they play a very important part due to the power that they have.

            In Terrel, black women are the subject of her writing. She begins by saying Washington DC is “the colored man’s paradise” but goes to show how far from paradise the city is, especially for black women. Terrel writes about many accounts of black women receiving unfair treatment in the workplace and establishments, solely due to the color of their skin.

            Neither Wells nor Terrel talk about potential solutions to anti-black violence, which I found to be a flaw in both of their works. Wells talks more about physical violence against blacks while Terrel talks more about the systematic oppression of black women. In both works, white people have authority and use their position of power to hurt black people.      

Unit 3 Assignment 3- Jamie Aciukewicz

Connection between Sontag and Gourevitch

I think that these two distinct texts tie in well together. Both examine the role of the outside onlooker, and the absence of action after witnessing atrocities. Sontag focuses more on the role of the individual, pushing people to question their own involvement or lack thereof, after viewing horrific images. She also talks about censorship in images, which usually favors the familiar to us. For example, photos of war that the United States participates in is usually much less gruesome, not depicting the dead or even much blood. However, on the contrary, photos of others tend to focus heavily on these things. Gourevitch focuses more on the role of the collective, the United States, the UN, and France. Despite adopting the genocide convention, designed to stop future Genocides, these groups played a crucial role in allowing the genocide to occur in Rwanda, acting as innocent bystanders in order to “protect” their own troops. The delayed response from nations with power not only enabled a genocide to be carried out but also gave the perpetrators the opportunity to twist the situation to where they became the victims. Once they were victims, world organizations were very quick to help and send support.  

Unit 3 Assignment 2- Jamie Aciukewicz

Chapter 1

Sontag begins her book evaluating Virginia Woolf’s response to a London lawyer who questions the reasons behind war and how we can prevent armed conflict. Woolf points to the difference between men and women, that men start, participate in, and are excited about the idea of war while women (generally) do not enjoy it. Woolf uses photos to be able to have a dialogue with the lawyer about war and the results. Photos from war are generally pretty similar and without captions, it is hard to know what war is depicted in the photo. Some people claim that photos of war are staged, almost propaganda-like. Sontag also brings up the question of what photos are we not being shown, what is missing?

Photos are very powerful and can convey messages, but they can be interpreted differently on a person to person basis and images are deliberate.

Chapter 6

There is a human need to see gruesome things and to take in pain and mutilation of others. Sontag compares this need as just as natural as sympathy. Images of troubling things play different roles depending on the person, a strengthening, an awakening, a sense of numbness. It is hard to be affected by things that are not happening to you, even when they are close. “Wherever people feel safe… they will feel indifferent.” (100)  Conflict is normal in this day and age and as long as we are sympathetic, we do not feel as though we play a part in the suffering of others.

Humans like to take in the painful experiences of others and justify themselves as bystanders as long as they feel some sympathy towards the victims.

Chapter 8

Memory plays an important role in our relation to the dead, as soon as we make peace, the dead our forgotten. Today, we are bombarded with horrific stories on the news, but this does not affect our ability to think about people far away who are suffering. Our complacency and ability to not do anything about foreign situations is why we see the photos from those places as so powerful. But even close by, looking at photos is still just watching. There is nothing wrong with experiencing the pain of others from a distance, it is thought-provoking.

We need to consciously remember atrocities of the past in order to not forget and photos help us do this, especially for things that happen in a very different place than where we live.   

Passport Assignment- Jamie Aciukewicz

I think that there was a lot of room for improvement in this project. To me, this felt more like arts and crafts, with a tiny learning part. I figured that while we make the passport, we would also be learning about our new country, the customs, and the culture. Instead, there was surprisingly little information about my country, only the passport rank and a very brief blurb about Singapore. Even the rank went relatively unexplained, and my tablemates and I needed to search for information about our passports and countries. This was a pretty mindless project and I wish we were pushed more to think about our new role as a citizen of a certain country; what are my rights? Overall, I was disappointed by this project and the lack of learning. I think it would be cool to see some stamps from other countries and be able to get them in your passport, depending on what country you are from.  

Front cover of my Singapore Passport.

Side View of Singapore passport looking at the stiching.

Unit 2 Assignment 3 – Jamie Aciukewicz

On bullshit:

I do not believe there is a way to rid discourse of bullshit on a societal level. When people speak or write, they share their individual truths, however uninformed that notion might be. There is no such thing as a collective truth, as even things with concrete evidence are discredited by some; this devaluing of facts is the root of the concept of bullshit. However, it can be very difficult to change someone’s mind to share your mindset and your truth. To combat bullshit, we need to focus on a personal level. You can only try to negate bullshit in yourself by questioning your truths to see if they are corroborated by facts. This is an interpersonal task, not something you can force on someone else. Now how we can get people to examine their own ideas is the hard part. This action is something that you need to buy into, it will not be very effective if it is forced upon people. But, if everyone bought into the same truth and thus it became capital T Truth, there would be no need for debate. I think bullshit is necessary for public discourse as it leads to better discussions and potential for change.

Question:

Does bullshit harm society? Is it inherently bad? I think bullshit plays an important role in public discourse, especially with our current president. All the talks of fake news show how the population is uninformed, it is hard to tell what is the truth and what is not. I think this also discredits media as it is easy to write something off as fake news. I also think bullshit can be completely harmless and comical. In a lot of interactions with my friends, bullshit plays a part but mostly just for comedic effect.

Unit 2 Assignment 2- Jamie Aciukewicz

Translation has an interesting place in the modern world. Most of the works we have read thus far have been translations, although if I am being completely honest, I never thought about the readings in such a way. I took it for granted that I was able to read and understand the texts, not stopping to think about the original versions. This realization leads me to a question; should the translator set out with a goal of remaining unnoticed or should they change the text enough so that their work is more appreciated? If they are not part of the picture or what you think about as you read, is that a victory or a failure?

As seen in the faculty panel on Thursday, translation is a very difficult task and much time is spent evaluating each word, trying to find the perfect fit. I think for me personally, as selfish as it might be, I would want more credit for my hard work. I would hope to remain undetected, in the sense that the reader does not necessarily know they are working with a translation, but I, and thus my work, would want to be talked about in the conversation about the reading. I think it would be a great victory to have someone read your translated work and not know it differs from the original. But after reading, I hope the reader celebrates the translator and their work.  

Unit 2 assignment 2- Jamie Aciukewicz

Observational data plays a huge role in science and often determines which theories we adopt a true and which we discredit. Unlike in the humanities, there is usually not much room for debate in hard sciences, as there is a lot of data to support or to go against the claim. Sometimes data does not show definitive results either way, but usually, when this happens the theory is not necessarily believed. If there are multiple theories, both with data to support the claim, things can get tricky trying to decide which one to believe. First, I would look at how credible each of the scientists is with past studies and results. The more credible, the apter I am to accept their theory. Next, I would look at how their experiments were conducted and focus on the sample size of participants. Are the results consistent across enough of the people to generalize for the entire population? Lastly, I would look for similarities in the results and if there are any ways to combine them into some sort of mega-theory. Take the best parts of each way of thinking and molding them to create the best possible option.

Often throughout history, the more popular scientist’s theory is believed. Look at Aristotle’s idea that the earth was the center of the universe. This was widely accepted, despite tons of disparities in his findings, based on his reputation. Another Greek philosopher, Aristarchus, hypothesized that the sun was, in fact, the center, not the earth. His theory, while correct, was not universally accepted and thus we hardly hear about Aristarchus today. How would our world look different today had people believed Aristarchus? Are there other examples in history where the truth was denied in lieu of an opposing theory?

Campus Event #3- Jamie Aciukewicz The Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Failed Attempt to Condense

I really did not like the Reduced Shakespeare Company abridged version of all of Shakespeare’s plays. I was really interested in examining what they chose to include and not include in Shakespeare’s work. The results were disappointing, to say the least. Boiling down 37 full length plays into 97 minutes is a very difficult task, and one that I feel like cannot do justice to the work of Shakespeare. Moreover, most of the words said throughout the performance were not Shakespeare’s at all; the company decided to use their own words much more often than Shakespeare’s. It appears they were more concerned with getting laughs from the audience as opposed to representing Shakespeare. The plays functioned more as a starting point for their own comedy as opposed to being the focus of the event. Most of their comedy was slapstick humor that I did not really find funny. They also used a few sensitive topics in a joking manner, which in my opinion, was distasteful. If I were tasked with the goal of reducing his plays into a single sitting, I would focus much more on the messages across the works and use his words to convey the themes. However, I think it is impossible to condense so many stories into one narrative effectively. This ties into what Professor Quillen talked about in her lecture when she examined storytelling and the need for people to tell their own story. As humans, we have a duty to listen to these stories and group them together. The Reduced Shakespeare Company set out with an impossible goal and to no surprise, failed.