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A Re-Write of My Very First Essay

If I’m going to tell you what my definition of what a city is, my personal style dictates that I use a slightly unconventional metaphor for it. This one was thought up today whilst I was burning calories in the pool. 

Imagine a bowl half-filled with water. 

Now imagine this bowl with blue food coloring diffused coloring in it. It’s a pretty shade of lavender. There is no obvious nucleus where the color leaks from because you’ve stirred the bowl to avoid this. 

Next, you carefully place the vial of food coloring into the bowl of water. Being only half-full, it bobs happily on the surface. Since you spilled a little on the vial itself before putting it in, the immediate water enveloping it is a darker shade of lavender. 

The bowl is the border of a country, the vial with the food coloring is the only city, and the water is everything in it. Granted, I can’t think of any country that only has one city in it, save for the Vatican but they don’t count for the purposes of this essay. 

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My Response to Sontag

Sontag's essay was annoyingly hard to follow. If I was a prof. grading on style (not content) it would be lucky to get above a 2.0. That being said, one of her assertions stuck with me. She says "The effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities." (I had to look up what effusion meant) So, wait what? Is she saying that we aren't supposed to be interpreting art or literarture? I would argue that's what makes literature and art art. That it can be seen from so many different angles. It doesn't poison us, it enlargens our minds. Sure it might taint the original work, but it doesn't lose its value because of it. 

I'm also seeing that I didn't post earlier about what my trip into the city was like (sorry Anne). I originally intended to take the one o-clock train into Philly but I lost track of time talking to my folks. So I ended up going an hour later and revelling in the political institution that is Macy's. I had a moment with the big 'Murican eagle in the center of the store. Then I had another moment with the big light show Christmas tree thingy. I think I'll always be blown away by how consumer-oriented the US is. It still blows my mind that you can shop for anything besides gas and coffee on a Sunday. 

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Barnes Foundation Re-Write

When I think of graffiti, I don’t equate it with the same art I saw in the Barnes Foundation. In the eyes of the law, graffiti is a punishable offense. It is “writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.” I believe if the word ‘illicitly’ is omitted from this definition, it would take on a whole new face. Whenever I go to a new city, I always make sure to look at the graffiti because it provides a very public window into the social, political, and economical climate of said city. It can almost be considered a form of propaganda. It is a way of communicating to the Man. There’s an excellent example of graffiti in my new favorite movie. In Catching Fire when Katniss and Peeta are on the train to the Capitol, Katniss’s mockingjay symbol flashes by as they enter a rebelling district. When the train slows, they see more graffiti vehemently declaring “The odds are never in our favor.” 

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I'm Sorry Anne

As Anne mentioned in class last Thursday, I probably did not spend enough time with my painting. I also did not know what Barnes wanted us to experience when we looked at his collection. 

That being said, I’m not very keen on trying to unravel Barnes’s expectations and wishes for us. I am more interested on the history of the collection post-Barnes and how it affected my perception of the works themselves. How did all the tangles of bogus lawsuits, greedy political motives, and Merion station vs. Benjamin Franklin parkway somehow make all the works more profound? 

Use this as a segway to one of my favorite documentaries of all time: The Rape of Europa. It’s a detailed movie of how Hitler purged European art to meet his own standards during WWII and how the works have changed because of it.

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Delphine Legrand and I

I saw Girl with a Jump Rope by Pierre-Auguste Renoir appear from behind a middle-aged art father in a dark brown coat. She was placed above an antique table with two antique vases on the middle of the wall in the gallery. I approached her and was struck the most by a sense of unexplainable familiarity. I swear I had seen her before somewhere. Her eyes were the first to come alive. They were her the only features of the painting that were not crafted from fluttery impressionist brush strokes. They were bright, keen, old and youthful at the same time. Her face followed. Her face, absent of the normal amount of baby fat for an eight/nine year old, is unusually chiseled even though her small mouth and cheekbones are in soft focus. Her dress color is what turned her from a porcelain face to a live creature. It is my favorite color of blue. A lively cornflower blue with strokes of rich green. It brings out the dark red in her dark waves tied with a ribbon. Her navy leg-warmers and striped tights complete the look. 

She looked at me, and I looked back at her. She smiled, I smiled. I noticed her orange necklace then. We had a moment. At least, I had a moment of deep play. 

I sat down next to an elderly couple. They looked sideways at me. I was the only one on the first floor under the age of twenty. 

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My take on 17 Border Crossings

I wish I had remembered to email Thaddeus Phillips about deep play. I will do it before the next class and keep my fingers crossed that he responds. 

The show still stands in my mind as a wonderful testament to serendipity, story-telling, and hope. Hope, because of Pablo and the unidentified Angolan man in the wheel-well. They were so desperate to cross these lines that they risked imprisonment and death for the hope of a better life. The stories that involved the Balkans, however, were so riveting that it discouraged me from going to Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. (I don't think this was the point). His skill with the languages was awe-inspiring. I wish I had gotten a picture with him. 

As for deep play, I know I was experiencing it because I was totally absorbed in the stories. I didn't check the time/my phone once. I felt tired and frustrated as he was on the train to Serbia when nobody would let him sleep. I felt goosebumps when he started his drug-prompted journey into space. Even thinking about it now, I fall halfway into deep play. 

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Deep Dreaming

Tonight, I am fighting for my own life. For some inexplicable reason, my family is trying to kill me. I run from one hiding place to another in my old house back in Switzerland until being cornered by my father. I launch at him and break his collarbone. I spot a broken window and crawl through it, watching the glass claw me but feeling only a tickle. I fall hard on the ground and melt into it. I fall again on my back and somehow I’m staring at a bunch of dark grapes. Guess I’m in a vineyard. I force myself up and start running through things. Through Westfield tube station in London. Through my mother’s office building and down the Rue de Marché in Geneva at Christmas. Nobody is following me. The gut-shrinking fear keeps me pelting through scene after scene until it settles on a damp country road at midnight. Someone is following me about two strides behind. Without looking back, I know it’s an old ex-boyfriend. I consciously think this is someone I should truly be afraid of. But the primal fear has waned into a sense of urgency to just keep going. We keep running. A pair of headlights light the pavement for us. 

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On Isolation and Prison Reform

Eastern State Penitentiary is the most harrowing place I have ever been in. I walk into one of the wings and it’s like I have stepped onto the set of a post-apocalyptic film. The silence is so thick, it’s like pea soup. I could feel my breath whistle through my ears. Tomahawk and I stepped into one of the preserved cells. I trace the lonely bed frame and shiver as I look up to the skylight, aptly named the Eye of God. Steve Buscemi, the narrator of the audio guide we were listening to, tells me that the prison guards wore felt booties over their shoes so the prisoners couldn’t hear them stomp by. I peek out onto the row again and look at the cells with closed doors. Though I am sure my mind is playing tricks with me, I swear I can hear indistinct whispering and shuffles coming from the closed cells. I could feel the mental decay and despair the inmates felt when this place was in operation. I fold my arms over my stomach and shrink back into the cell. 

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Eastern State Draft

But I could feel the misery and insanity of this place and it was suffocating. It's only a place which made people want to keep away from. Eastern State Penitatiary seemed like a place to cause someone to go mad rather than teach them to reflect. 

I see how everyone lived and cannot imagine how they managed to stay alive—the conditions this place holds serves to no ones sustainability to survive. Eastern State Penitentiary now looks the way it made the prisoners feel: empty, broken, and alone. The endless and repeating days are terrible. For prisoners inside, it’s not much different: no freedom, isolated, frustrating, desperate and somehow made the lonely people more aggressive. It seems prisoners became more like objects to be placed somewhere than people who needed reforming.

It is ridiculous and useless. Why are these visitors visiting?

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The Mayhem of our Minds

I was blown away by Zadie Smith when she came to Bryn Mawr in October. She spoke to us about death, a seemingly faraway yet haunting eventuality for us twenty-somethings. She was so regal and so honest and humble that it made me want to be her. I thought that because she was so versed in matters about death, inspiration, ambition, and the hoop-jumping of novel-writing, her book NW would blow my mind. I thought it was going to answer all the awfully grey and misty questions about humankind. I thought I would love Leah or Natalie/Keisha like I love Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. 

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