Eye of the Story

The Evergreen State College

Author: Kathryn Herron

Week 9 Journal Entry

Forgive me for posting this a day late. I’ve kept a journal with me all quarter but I can never remember to type things up on Sunday evening.

I just wanted to thank everyone who came up to help me read my script last Friday. I was fine sitting in front of the class until I had to get up and speak. It was my decision to stand, though. Maybe things would have gone better if I had just stayed in my seat, ha. You guys did a great job with the reading and I really appreciated the support.

I’d also like to thank everyone who handed me feedback. Thank you so much for all your kind words and support! I was worried my rushed delivery of the plot would have made it harder for people to feel engaged with my project, but that didn’t seem to be the case at all.

Finally I’d like to give everyone who presented last week a virtual high-five. There are some seriously talented individuals in this class. Thank you for sharing your work with all of us!

My profile on here links to my Facebook. I’d just like to throw that out there in case anyone would like to keep in touch after this quarter, or if any of you artists would like to collaborate/network/share resources in the future.

Best of luck to everyone presenting this week! I can’t wait to see what you’ve been working on.

Tomorrow I have to present my project. I’m not looking forward to it. It’s not just that I’m anxious (though I really, really am) and it’s not just that my project isn’t finished (and won’t be for a long time), but more the fact that I’m going to have to talk about myself. In order to properly introduce my project, I’m going to have to properly introduce myself.

I don’t speak up often in class. This has less to do with my social anxiety and more to do with how my brain works. I think carefully before I speak. I haven’t contributed to seminar as much as some of my other classmates. Maybe I’m paranoid and projecting my insecurities, but it seems like when I do speak up the rest of the class goes silent. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not a very likable person or if it’s because the things I’ve been waiting to say aren’t as interesting to others are they are to me.

Either way, I don’t think my classmates have gotten to know me very well this quarter. Even Caryn didn’t know as much about me and my work until we met up to talk about my project.

I don’t know if anyone reads these or not (I do – is that weird?) but just in case someone else does make a practice of reading these posts, I’m going to write now what I’ll have to say tomorrow. Hopefully that will make things easier:

In order to understand my project you need to understand a few things about me. So hello, I’m Kathryn. I’m 25 and I’ve been working as a freelance artist for about ten years now. I’ve worked in different mediums and have been moderately successful in each. I’ve been a painter, a musician, a writer, a model, a photographer. I’m glad I’ve stayed in touch with the different artists I’ve worked with over the years because when I first announced that I would be doing this project, a bunch of people volunteered to help. I’ll have professional musicians, actors, designers, and cinematographers working with me on this. 

I’ve also worked as a consulting forensic anthropologist for two different local coroner’s offices – both Lewis County and Thurston County. I have encountered a lot of sexism in my 25 years. I don’t know if that’s because I’m drawn to hobbies/practices that are typically thought of as being “for men” or “a man’s world” or if I just encounter the same amount of sexism as any other woman. Either way, it’s something I’ve noticed. It could be that I’m hypersensitive to it because I’m a survivor of sexual assault, or because of my background in anthropology, or maybe it’s just something about me.

I was going to write a film about my divorce but I scratched that early on and started working on a crime drama. The script I’m writing now tells the story of two detectives that are tracking down a serial killer. It’s going to have the same tropes that we’re all used to seeing, but my victims are all going to be male and my killer is going to be female. The story jumps through time, showing the detectives when they first find the case, to years later when they are retired and tracking down the killer as vigilantes. I’ve got calendars showing the different time lines, sketches of what the crime scenes look like, and photos of the different characters hanging on my wall. My room probably looks a lot like Rhust Chole’s storage unit.

When I worked as a forensic anthropologist I had to deliver a lot of bad news to people. I had to knock on stranger’s doors and tell them their loved one(s) had passed. People react differently to this kind of news. I’ve been yelled at, I’ve held strangers while they’ve cried, I’ve watched people react with complete indifference. When you see enough dead bodies and you witness enough autopsies and you meet enough people something weird happens. You notice the differences between people but you also know the cold, honest truth – we’re all the same. Meat wrapped around skeletons, gifted (or burdened) with consciousness.  It makes seeing/experiencing the hatred humans have for each other all that much harder to understand.

I’m hoping my story will make people think about sexism, guilt/innocence, gender roles and expectations, and what it means to be a victim. I’m trying to get at the heart of humanity – the things that make humans human.

So there we go. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to say all this (or most of it) and read a scene or two without letting my anxiety get in the way.

 

 

 

Sexism and the Female Artist

The past two weeks have been exhausting, incredible, insane, frustrating… (insert more adjectives here).

Let me paint a picture for you. This happened two weeks ago. It was a morning like any other.  I woke up, showered, made some coffee, wished my boyfriend a good day as he walked out the door. Once he left, I decided to check my Instagram. I had a few messages sitting in my inbox that I hadn’t yet replied to. I used to pride myself on my social media management abilities but these days I’m flakier than a croissant. I replied to a few generic requests from other artists that would like to work with me and then found this gem: “Hello, I’m from the future. Future-you asked me to come back in time so I could convince you to fuck me sooner so we can have even more great sex. So let’s meet up.” I recognized the user name. This person had been following my work for a while. He knew I am a rape survivor and that I have a partner, but he chose to send me this message anyway. Oh, the hubris.  I had two options: I could ignore it and go on with my day, or I could respond and tell him what I thought of his message. I went with the latter. He handled the rejection about as well as any overly confident and predatory white male would and things quickly escalated. This was more than just a really bad pick-up line. Plot twist: he had been sending the exact same message to multiple Greener gals, specifically targeting those that live in Rock Maple and Evergreen Gardens. He likes finding the women he messages and following them on their walk to campus. So basically I found out that the creep who was insisting I have sex with him (and has seen me naked, because he follows my work) was a neighbor of mine. Needless to say, I felt even more uncomfortable. I blasted him on social media, shared screenshots of the conversation with my Facebook and Tumblr followers, then went to police services. I was not at all surprised to learn that I was not the first women that had reported his predatory behavior.

But guess what? People got mad at me. “You were too harsh on him.” “You overreacted.” “You shouldn’t be using that app if you don’t want to receive messages like that!” The most frustrating part? It was other women telling me these things.

This is the reality of our world. This is just one example of how prevalent rape culture is in our society. A man stalks me on the Internet, propositions me, asks me my schedule so he can try to follow me to work  and I’m blamed for the situation. Me telling him his behavior is both inappropriate and problematic is seen as an overreaction.

Now, I’ve always been proud to call myself a feminist. I’ve never hid from the label. The word does not scare me. However, I am only just now at a place where I can actually do something to fight the sexism and misogyny I encounter on a daily basis. Over 6,000 people follow my work. I have a smaller audience than most of the people I consider my colleagues, but 6,000 is a LOT of people. That’s 6,000 ears I can speak to. 6,000 minds I can influence. 6,000 people that pay attention to me. I realized I have a responsibility not only to them, but to myself. I’ve always used my voice to stand up for myself and others, but now my voice reaches a much larger audience. As an artist, I’ve always fought to change the narrative about female sexuality, the female body, and female beauty standards. As my audience grows, and as I step into different art mediums (the sexism I’ve experienced as a female musician/painter/writer/photographer/model is completely different than the type of sexism I’ve experiences as a female filmmaker, and I haven’t even finished writing my first film yet), I’m realizing this responsibility more and more. No, not all of my work has a “message”. But I far prefer the pieces that do.

Oscar Wao

Kathryn Herron

Caryn Cline & Sam Schrager

Eye of the Story

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” – Joseph Conrad

“Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us.”  –Milan Kundera

At the time I am writing this I have not yet finished reading Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and so I cannot promise that the connections I am going to try to make in this paper will be of any relevance at all. This book is not an easy read — and I know I’m not the only one that thinks so because as soon as I knew I would be writing my paper on this book I decided to read some spoiler-free reviews on Amazon. Diaz fills this story with a lot of information, he doesn’t care about marking dialogue with punctuation, throws in a lot of obscure references to pop culture, and frequently switches between Spanish and English mid-sentence. Despite all of that the book reads really well. Diaz has an excellent command of voice and his narrators really bring his work to life, managing to push through any potential cultural ignorance and linguistic barriers that may occur.

I don’t know much at this point in the book but here are some things I do know:

1)      The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is so much more than just the story of the character known as Oscar.

2)      Oscar is going to die at some point and while that’s technically true for all of us, it’s a much more pressing matter for Oscar and therefore for us as readers.

3)      This is a story about family, about identity, about chance/coincidence, and about tragedies both big and small, real and imagined.

Before this story even truly begins, one of the narrators tells us that Oscar and his family are cursed. And it’s not just any curse. It’s the fuku and the fuku ain’t something to laugh at. This is how our narrator describes it, “They say is came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that is was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles (1).” So it’s pretty serious. So serious that it’s believed there is only one “counterspell” – the zafa. Yunior (the narrator of this particular passage) hopes that by writing this book (yes, this book, the one we’re reading) he can counter the fuku that has plagued Oscar’s family.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is not a happy book. It is a hilarious and well-written book that made me literally laugh out loud quite a few times, but the humor is mandatory comedic relief. Part of the beauty of this book is in its narrative style. The structure of this book is actually quite complex and by the time we figure out who our first mysterious (and misogynistic) narrator is, we’re unsure if we can even trust his narrative. This reader in particular questioned how he could possibly know everything we end up knowing. We don’t know for sure that the events depicted in this book actually happened (to the characters) but we have good reason to trust that they did happen. However, we have no reason to trust Yunior’s account of these events. The stories that are being recounted by Yunior occurred before he even met Oscar and Lola. He was not there when Oscar was a child and we know for a fact he wasn’t around when Beli was young. Knowing this, we’re forced to question not if the events actually happened, but whether the events depicted actually meant as much to the characters as they do to Yunior. We receive conflicting information from this narrator. On page 6, he tells us that, “I’m not entirely sure Oscar would have liked this designation. Fuku story. (6)” And then on page 194, he recounts a conversation he had with Oscar after his failed suicide attempt. He claims that Oscar told him, “It was the curse that made me do it, you know. (194)”. He tells Oscar he doesn’t believe in that shit, that it’s for their parents. Oscar says it’s theirs, too.

But let’s think about that. Did the fuku really make Oscar jump off that bridge? Or did he choose to? He sees a mongoose (more on that later) a moment before he jumps, and it’s implied that if he had moved at that time he would have been okay.

So we’ve got some magic realism and a narrator that may or may not be reliable. I think it’s worth noting (and remembering) that our narrator is also a writer and, as writers are want to do, may be adding a bit of fiction to his narrative.

This is a story that covers three generations of a family cursed with the fuku. Through its complicated story structure, the use of magical realism, and the story’s complex narrative we see members of this family make the same mistakes over and over again. They are all destined to experience tragedy, especially when it comes to love, though one could also claim the Dominican male’s attitude toward women in this book is a curse of another sort.

 

The fuku and the zafa. That’s what it all boils down to. But what do those two words really mean? If words are just symbols, what are these two words symbols for? I think that the fuku and the zafa represent chance/coincidence and personal responsibility/one’s perception of reality. They are the things we look at to prescribe meaning to our life as well as the things we blame when it feels like everything is going wrong. These two symbols represent life and our reaction to it. We know that the world is a painful place where bad things can happen to good people, but knowing something can only prepare you for it so much. Experience is how you really learn. And boy, do these characters learn a thing or two about pain.

The use of magical realism in this novel makes it that much more challenging to tell if the family is actually cursed or if they are merely the victims of coincidence, a force which at times seems significant when in fact it is not. After all, a coincidence only has power because it is a coincidence. It calls attention to itself. As does the magic realism in this book. On page 152, our narrator goes back to talk about the fuku and the zafa once more. He tells us how others argued over whether or not what happened to Beli was proof that she was cursed, and he presents both sides of the argument without giving us his opinion. All we get are the “facts” and a single quote from Beli, “I met something” (referring to either the mongoose or the faceless man, two other examples of magic realism that come up in this book). Her response is ambivalent. We, the readers, have to make the decision for ourselves. Is this family really cursed? Are they really victims of the fuku? Could this zafa save them? Or is this just the well-written and engaging story of a string of coincidences that led to different members of the same family experiencing different tragedies at different stages in their life, as told by a narrator that has interpreted these events as moments of cosmic significance?

Project Excerpt

INT. WOOLF HOUSEHOLD – BACK PATIO – CONTINUOUS

The two step out onto the back porch, a damp, crowded area that overlooks a patch of mud. Taylor rests her coffee mug on the rail, stares out at the tree line.

Jack, tense, pulls a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket. Offers one to Taylor.

TAYLOR

I’ve given up.

JACK

Thought I had, too. Picked this up on my way over.

TAYLOR

Yeah, I figured.

(beat)

Tell me about your case.

JACK

That obvious, huh?

TAYLOR

It’s been over a year. No calls. No e-mails. Not even a Christmas card. Yet here you are.

Jack lights his cigarette. Takes a drag, begins to pace.

JACK

Dean O’Hara was murdered last night.

TAYLOR

I can’t say I’m too surprised. The guy was an asshole.

JACK

You two used to work together.

There’s weight to that statement.

TAYLOR

We worked the same beat for a while. He liked to leave copies of the Bible on my desk. Sent a few letters to my house explaining the “benefits” of conversion therapy. Got transferred after the situation with Emily.

JACK

I forgot about that.

Jack stops pacing, looks at Emily in the window.

JACK (CONT’D)

You ever meet O’Hara’s wife?

An agitated Taylor turns to face Jack.

TAYLOR

What do you think?

JACK

Sorry, had to ask.

TAYLOR

Am I a suspect, Jack?

JACK

No, no. Nothing like that. Just wanted to pick your brain. I only met Nadine this morning, myself. She’s the one who called it in. Woke up covered in his blood. Someone came in and slit his throat and she claims to have slept right through it. Can you imagine?

Taylor takes a moment to process that.

TAYLOR

If you’re telling me this because you think I’ll be moved by a sudden sympathy for that piece of shit, you’re wrong.

JACK

I don’t need your sympathy. I need your interest.

TAYLOR

Well I’m not interested.

JACK

What about Pete Oscar? He catch your interest?

CUT TO:

A shot of Pete Oscar, a fat balding man from the Internet. He’s sitting on a couch and half his head is gone. He’s got his shriveled dick in one hand and the television remote in the other. On the television, THE HOME SHOPPING NETWORK plays.

The sudden shift in conversation catches Taylor off guard.

TAYLOR

Why are you really here?

JACK

Truth is, I’m not so sure myself. Seen a recent spike in homicides lately. At first glance they look like open and shut cases but something feels off. As of yet there’s no official connection but —

Taylor cuts him off.

TAYLOR

Don’t. Don’t fucking say it. Don’t rope me into this. You’ve got one of your *feelings* again? Take it to Esposito. I’m done, okay? I’m done.

Jack stops pacing. Finally looks Taylor face on.

JACK

I brought the case files with me. If you could just take a look…

He cuts himself off this time. Shakes his head. Taylor sighs, takes a moment, then…

TAYLOR

I’m not a cop anymore, Jack.

JACK

Yeah, I know.

Jack flicks his cigarette butt into a rain filled Folgers bucket. Immediately puts another into his mouth. Taylor walks past him.

TAYLOR

I’ve got to get ready for work. Nice seeing ya.

An Exercise in Dialogue – Week 4 Journal Entry

INT. A BAR – EVENING

Thomas sits down in the only empty seat left in the bar. He turns to attract the bartender’s attention and realizes that Allie is sitting beside him. She’s sitting alone, reading an old paperback copy of Leonard Cohen’s “Beautiful Losers” and smoking a cigarette.

THOMAS

I know you.

Allie glances over at him. Shakes her head and reaches for her beer.

ALLIE

I think you must be mistaken.

She takes a generous swig, sets her glass down and returns her attention to her book, dismissing him.

BARTENDER

(to Thomas)

ID?

Thomas pulls out his wallet and hands over his ID. The bartender gives it a quick glance then hands it back.

BARTENDER

Whatcha havin’?

THOMAS

A whiskey for me and —

Thomas looks at the beer in Allie’s hand.

THOMAS (CONT’D)

And one more of whatever she’s having.

The bartender leaves only to return a moment later. He sets the drinks down.

BARTENDER

$10.00. You wanna start a tab?

Thomas looks at Allie and smiles.

THOMAS

Yeah, may as well.

Thomas passes over his credit card then turns toward Allie and raises his glass for a toast.

THOMAS

Cheers.

With a sigh, Allie sets her book down and turns to face him.

ALLIE

I don’t cheers with strangers.

THOMAS

You’re forgetting that I’m not a stranger. We know each other, you and I.

Thomas sets his drink down. Sighs dramatically.

THOMAS (CONT’D)

But you’re right. We haven’t met before. At least, not officially.

Allie frowns as she taps out her cigarette.

ALLIE

I’m sorry. Have you seen me somewhere before or something?

THOMAS

I’ve seen you several times now but simply saying, “I’ve seen you before” doesn’t exactly do our situation much justice, does it?

ALLIE

Our situation?

THOMAS

I know you! And you know me. No, don’t make that face. You do know me. We know each other. We see each other every Tuesday.

Allie downs the last of her first beer and reaches for the one Thomas bought her. CLOSE ON her fingers wrap around the cool glass. She raises a brow and glances at Thomas. He’s got a big grin on his face. Allie releases her hold on the glass and pulls out another cigarette.

THOMAS

Can I bum one of those?

ALLIE

No.

THOMAS

I just bought you a drink.

ALLIE

We’re in a bar, dumb ass. You can’t smoke in here.

She pulls a matchbook out of her jacket pocket, lights her cigarette, and points to a sign over her shoulder which reads: NO SMOKING.

ALLIE (CONT’D)

And I didn’t ask you to buy me that drink, so I don’t owe you anything. What do you mean, you see me every Tuesday?

THOMAS

I wasn’t trying to imply that I think you owe me anything. I was just hoping you’d be nice. And you’re smoking in here.

ALLIE

I’m special. And I’m not nice. Not to strangers, anyway. Which you still are. You say you see me every Tuesday?

THOMAS

Every Tuesday.

ALLIE

(skeptical)

Where do you think you see me every Tuesday, Thomas?

THOMAS

Ha!

Thomas slams his hand down on the counter and smiles.

THOMAS (CONT’D)

So you finally admit it. You know me.

ALLIE

I never said that.

THOMAS

And I never gave you my name.

Allie shrugs and takes a drag off her cigarette.

ALLIE

I guess the jig is up.

THOMAS

That was no jig. You were just being cheeky. Here.

Thomas slides Allie’s glass closer toward her, then raises his own.

THOMAS (CONT’D)

You don’t have to finish it but considering the fact that I bought you this beer I think the least you could do is cheers with me.

(beat)

Just one cheers. That’s it. One cheers and I’ll leave.

ALLIE

Do you even know my name?

THOMAS

No, but I don’t have some weird rule about cheering with strangers. That’s your deal.

Allie laughs under her breath and shakes her head. She looks at Thomas, as if seeing him clearly for the first time.

ALLIE

Allie. My name is Allie.

Thomas smiles back at her.

THOMAS

Well, Allie. Let’s cheers.

(beat)

To chance encounters prompted by tragic circumstance and our shared inability to make a marriage work.

ALLIE

You know most men typically just say cheers.

THOMAS

I’m not most men.

ALLIE

I’ll cheers to that.

THOMAS

I’ll take it.

They clink glasses and drink.

Journal Entry, Week 3

For the first time in well over a year I have started writing original material again!  I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this feels. I had forgotten what it even felt like. I had forgotten how active my mind gets when I’m working on a story. I’ve missed jotting down ideas on any material possible – I’m back to taking notes in the shower (there is a product called Aqua Notes that you should all look into getting), jotting down ideas in random notebooks and with my class notes, and texting myself ideas and lines of dialogue that I don’t want to forget. Lately I’ve been spending entire days working on my project, talking about my project, and doing research to help me with my project. By the time I’m done with work, school, and working on my project I’m exhausted. But as soon as my head hits the pillow, my brain starts buzzing and I end up reaching for my phone every five minutes to jot something down. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked like this though. It feels strange. I’m thankful that I have a supportive and understanding partner who can recognize that I’m not being distant or deliberately ignoring him – I’m just thinking about ways to improve my story. I didn’t have that support before. It makes the artistic process a lot more bearable, ha.

I used to write novels exclusively but this time I’m trying my hand at writing a screenplay. Back when I was actively writing novels, I had a group of beta-readers that I trusted with my unpolished work. Many of them told me that my work read like a screenplay and they often suggested I give it a try. I never thought I’d be able to do it, though. The formatting intimidated me. I couldn’t imagine myself telling a story that way. Something funny happened the other day, though. I took a look at my old work. The material was maybe four or five years old. It was Bill’s lecture that inspired me to look at my old work. I remember sending off an excerpt from one of my manuscripts to an agent and getting a request for the full. They ultimately turned the work down and that’s for the best, because when I look back at that material now I can see its faults. It was not ready for publication. I don’t even think it was meant to be a book. My old beta-readers were right. It read like I was trying to write a screenplay.

Jump forward in time and here I am, working on the screenplay for my first film, Itch.  I don’t know if it will be any good. It likely won’t be. The first try at anything is always a little sloppy. You get better with time.  All of that is true. But I feel like I’m on the right track. As impractical as it is, this is what I want to do with my life. I want to tell stories. Because if I don’t tell them they’re just going to be floating around in my head and I’m going to be distracted and end up looking like a jerk. 

Do the Right Thing

Kathryn Herron

Eye of the Story

Caryn Cline and Sam Schrager

Close Viewing: Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing

 

                Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is a brilliant film. I was, admittedly, a little intimidated when I found out I was going to be analyzing this film. I am very much aware of my white skin and the privilege it offers me, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do this film justice with my analysis because I am not typically exposed to racism. But then I realized that I should use my position of privilege to talk about this film – this incredible film that dares its audience to address their racist behavior.

                It seems obvious to me that Spike Lee hoped not only to call attention to racial tension in America with this film but that he also hoped to make his audience feel uncomfortable. Lee forces his viewers to address one of the most avoided topics in this country – systematic racism. Lee manages to do this quite expertly with his use of camerawork and the excellent execution of a rebellion against classic Hollywood cinema. Lee isn’t afraid to be aggressive. He isn’t afraid to shove the message of his film down his audience’s throat.

                One thing I particularly enjoy about Do the Right Thing is how unapologetic it is. It’s honest. Lee shows us that racists aren’t all evil cowboys who don white hoods in secret. Rather, he highlights the fact that racism is everywhere. It is persistent. It’s something that people have to deal with on a daily basis – while walking down the street, at work, home, or even at their favorite pizza shop – and that is a fact that Lee knew most of his white audience wouldn’t understand. Racism is commonplace in America and the topic isn’t just black and white.

In Do the Right Thing, Lee shows us that even minorities can believe that their race or ethnic group is superior to others.  We can even see this in how the characters handle themselves. Take Radio for example. Whenever he interacts with someone of another race, he turns the volume on his boom box up with his right hand – the hand of hate. In contrast, he always uses his left hand to adjust the volume when he’s interacting with another black character.  

The movie as a whole does a wonderful job of exploring the topic of racism, but none do so as beautifully as the scene in which Lee aggressively cuts between different point-of-view shots that break the fourth wall while characters deliver a string of racist slurs. Lee shows each of these characters in “their territory” – we see them on their stoops, in their streets, in their shops and restaurants, etc. – which further “others” his audience. It makes it impossible to ignore the tension and viewers are immediately thrown into the headspace of these characters. Lee makes us go to them; he zooms in and brings us face to face. Each of them stands still, which could be interpreted as a visual representation of their stubbornness. Senior Love Daddy eventually breaks this pattern by rolling up to the camera. He comes to the audience and attempts to get into our headspace. Unlike the others, he actually moves in the frame which suggests that he is less stubborn than the others and more likely to be willing to change his point of view. He yells at the audience, gives us a time out and orders us all to chill.

I still don’t know enough about cinema to comment too much on how Lee challenges the classic Hollywood formula with Do the Right Thing, but I did notice some of the various ways he twisted it or did something different. Instead of giving us one clear-cut hero to follow, Lee throws a huge cast at his audience. Most of the background characters in this film have repeats visits and even though we see them time and time again, they don’t tend to stick around long enough to introduce themselves or explain their role in the film. They all have voices and the audience can tell that they’re all going about their own business (for the most part), we never get to know their full story. Often these characters will crowd the frame, making it impossible for white audiences to ignore their black faces. In the scene in which Buggin’ Out and his friends confront the white brownstone owner who messed up his shoes, we see extras literally crowd the white character, trapping him in the frame.

There’s a lot I could say about Do the Right Thing but I think what strikes me most about this film is its lasting power and continued relevance, which is actually somewhat tragic. On first viewing this film, some white viewers are still surprised when Mookie decides to throw a trashcan through the window of Sal’s Pizzeria. Meanwhile the murder of innocent, unarmed black men and children has become so common that when someone asks if you heard about the police shooting that happened you need to ask which one they’re referring to.

Week 1 Journal Entry – Deep Memory

I remember the house on Torrey Lane. I can remember the layout and the surroundings, but I can’t remember the color of it. I think it might have been light blue? Surely I have pictures laying around somewhere. I know for a fact that somewhere there is a photo of my father and I standing beside the house, proudly presenting the massive snowman we had built. Funny enough, I can remember details from that photograph. I know I was wearing a puffy pink coat and my dad was wearing a thin green jacket. The cold has never seemed to bother him.  He walks around in shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops all year.

 

I’m not sure why this house is the one that came to mind for this exercise. It was an odd time in my youth. I have more memories of this place than of any of my other childhood homes, though my memories are fragmented.

 

I have a strong memory of laying on my parent’s bed with my sister. We may have been home sick. Or maybe we were just home alone. I don’t know why we weren’t in the living room. We were laying on their bed watching television. Maybe we were trying to escape our Furbies. They used to turn on by themselves, but only ever at night. We were convinced it was the work of a ghost. Anyway, we were watching TV. Thing Mama was laying on the bed with us. At one point, she turned toward the bathroom and started growling. We tried to calm her down, but she wouldn’t stop. None of the other cats were in the room. We followed her gaze but didn’t see anything. We both started to get scared. We were cold. The hair on our arms started to rise at the same time. Thing’s growling grew more intense. We couldn’t take it anymore. We ran out of there.

 

What else do I remember about my time in this house? I remember the time my grandmother came to visit from Pasco. We used to go visit her every summer, but one time she came to see us. I remember my brother giving her a hard time. My parents used to react differently to my brother. They had their own ways of dealing with him. My dad would shout. My mom would give into his demands and then go cry. My grandma simply refused to play his games. She locked him inside his bedroom and sat on a chair outside his door for hours. He would yell nasty things at her but she just sat there and knitted, only occasionally responding. If I recall correctly, she said more to my sister and I than she did to him. We were both yelling at him, trying to get him to stop and leave her alone. We underestimated her strength, I guess.

 

I got my first blood blister when I was living in this house. I’m very clumsy and I slammed the very heavy garage door shut on one of my fingers.

 

Speaking of the garage door… the mechanical garage door used to open and close by itself. It only ever happened when we kids were alone. We’d always rush to the door, expecting to see our parents, waiting to help them carry in the groceries. But they were never there. We thought for sure it was a ghost (you see there’s a theme here), but our parents insisted it was just because our neighbors were using their remotes to open their garages and somehow it was opening ours, too. I’ve never heard of that happening, but I suppose it’s possible.

 

I used to go out into the woods a lot. The woods were safer than the field (in a way), because there were snakes there. However, there were mountain lions and at one point there had been a string of cougar attacks somewhat near our house. I remember hearing on the news that you could scare away cougars by banging two sticks together while you walked. I remember thinking it was silly for a cat that big to be afraid of sticks banging together but I was sure to grab two before I ever entered the forest, and I smacked them together the whole time. I never did see a cougar while I was living there, but I wanted to. I used to get so excited whenever we’d wake up and find their tracks in our backyard. My parents were never as amused by this.

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The Evergreen State College
Olympia, Washington

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