Posted in Prose

It’s S.P.E.W. NOT Spew!

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Hermione and Crookshanks at the entrance to the kitchens. Tickle the pear.!

‘What’s in the box?’ he asked, pointing at it.

‘Funny you should ask,’ said Hermione, with a nasty look at Ron. She took off the lid, and showed them the contents.

Inside were about fifty badges, all of different colours, but all bearing the same letters: S.P.E.W.

‘“Spew”?’ said Harry, picking up a badge and looking at it. ‘What’s this about?’

‘Not spew,’ said Hermione impatiently. ‘It’s S – P – E – W. Stands for the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare.’

‘Never heard of it,’ said Ron.

‘Well, of course you haven’t,’ said Hermione briskly, ‘I’ve only just started it.’

This little quote is from Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire. From the book of the series where beasts and beings and their treatment, or rather mistreatment, get a little attention. One of the reasons why Hermione Granger is my favourite character is that she takes time to think of others. She was the one who helped Neville look for Trevor the moment she met him, she was the one who adopted the unloved and unwanted cat Crookshanks and the only reason Harry survived to finish off Voldemort was, again, her. So, it is no wonder it was Hermione who took the time to find more about the conditions of house elves. For those who don’t know, there are at least a hundred house elves working in Hogwarts, preparing the feast and cleaning the school-you didn’t think it was Filch who did the all cleaning, did you? They were brought by Helga Hufflepuff and although there is no information, it is suggested that they all sleep in the kitchen or somewhere nearby-close to the Hufflepuff common room. It feels weird to have Helga Hufflepuff, who is the nicest of the founders to allow such a huge amount of slaves in school. The problem with it is that people who grow up in the wizarding world tend to think that house elves like what they are doing and they are, in a way, meant to do chores. I am not talking about Malfoys or Blacks here who do not consider house elves as individuals and constantly abuse them, but regular good guys like Helga Hufflepuff and Ron Weasley. Ron does not question the situation the house elves are in and claims that they like working; until the Battle of Hogwarts, after they are put in almost the same conditions as house elves while they were on the run-plus Hermione’s consistent trials at educating him, Ron realises the problematic position elves are in. This kind of thinking is reinforced in their household, unfortunately. Mrs. Weasley is a traditional old-school house wife and she would like to have a house elf if they could afford to it, they are extremely expensive much like exotic pets and only the upper class can afford to have any. They accept magical beings as they have always been, the common social discourse is what they go with. This acceptance can only be challenged by an outsider, who encounters both the beings and traditions for the first time and that is where Hermione Granger comes in. Being a muggleborn, Hermione faces discrimination early in the series and develops a coping system. This “unwantedness” of Hermione is reflected in the house elves and thus she is more observant and interested. She has a basic understanding of muggle history and that is why she can see elves as enslaved creatures rather than masochistic work-loving “animals.”

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The kitchens as depicted in the old Pottermore

The reason why Ron never heard of S.P.E.W was not because Hermione just founded it, but because it is actually a muggle reference. “The Society for the Promotion of Employment of Women” which also can be abbreviated as S.P.E.W. was a a movement founded in 1859. Back in the Victorian era, women had one major duty: to be a housewife. Some women even fought against the right to vote for women in  “An Appeal Against Female Suffrage” in 1889 and stated that a woman is too delicate to be involved in politics and real world matters. They were seen as pretty objects, in upper class, to possess and to show off. The poor were not that lucky. The more fortunate worked as governesses, the more unfortunate as prostitutes and later on worked in newly rising factories and mines. The working conditions were so harsh and the money they got were so low that a few families had to rent the same room to be able to afford a place to sleep. They worked up to 18 hours and pregnant women had to work until they gave birth and come back when they physically could. Although some acts passed to regulate the working hours and “humanise” the working conditions but they were not nearly enough. So this society was founded to address the urgent need to open up new areas of employment for women and the lack of education available. Another main focus of the society was to make women economically more independent, hence the society offered loans to help cover the costs of their education. You can see the parallelism now, right? The women in Victorian times were oppressed, forced into the house and into two categories; either angel of the house or the loose, sexual women. They were treated badly, didn’t have fundamental rights and suffered under a more dominant power: the men. In Harry Potter, the house elves not only symbolise slavery but also the situation women were in in the past. It is a woman that tries to something for the creatures, the men tagging along unwillingly. And it is a woman, J.K. Rowling who, with a simple abbreviation, reminds the reader of the effort women made to gain, maybe not equal but some footing. It is a nice detail having Hermione, an outsider, a woman, a muggleborn to start a movement to educate the purebloods and help house elves even though they have no conception of fundamental rights and any kind of freedom themselves. This maybe one of the easily missed details hidden in the series, but makes the reader think whether he/she knows the historical context or not.

-For those who are interested, you can check out this website to know more about the Victorian era.

 

Posted in Prose

“It Was A Children’s Book. And That Is How the Trouble Began.”

It has been a while since I’ve posted anything-over two months. At first, I was actually really busy with papers and finals, after that I lost my will to do anything that required any sort of work besides lying in bed and binge watching “The Man In the High Castle” (would recommend by the way). What pushed me into writing was this book I have bought as a gift for one of my close friends. Reading it again after all those years, 14 to be exact, exited me and I just could not contain myself.

Everybody, meet WProcessed with Rookie Caminnie the Witch and her lovely companion Wilbur the Cat. This is the first English “book” that I have ever read like, probably, most of you. In fourth grade, I started learning English and “Winnie the Witch” was the first book I was given besides my usual course pack. I don’t ever remember the process of learning the language and now in retrospect it feels heartwarming to picture my nine year old self reading and trying to understand it-although I still maintain the habit of not understanding things as I read them. Though this was not the only book we read that year, for some reason Winnie stuck with me. Not just as a book series from my childhood but I clearly remember the songs we learnt, especially Winnie and Wilbur Song. I have recently found it on youtube, and every time I listen to it, I immediately return to my childhood. So what made Winnie so special?

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I have always remembered this picture vividly but not the title and hence I went ahead and looked through every Winnie the Witch book I could find until I stumbled upon this. Look how cute the page is-I love the fact that everything Winnie has is black apart from her clothes which are channeling some Dumbledore colouring. And the fact that her nose is red, resembling an alcoholic made me question whether this was all her imagination and that she was not in fact a witch. Well, Dumbledore has a splendid answer for my 14 year later issued questioning: “Of course it is happening inside your head, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real.” With that, it is not hard to see that I am going to end up mentioning Harry Potter yet again. Apart from the fact that Winnie is a witch and Harry is a wizard, there is something both Harry and she share. They, without a doubt, symbolise my childhood.

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Aww look at sad Wilbur 😦

The plot of this story is that everything Winnie has is black, so is her cat Wilbur and Winnie keeps sitting on Wilbur and ends up either hurting herself or him. Hence she recolours Wilbur a few times: first she turns him green but it becomes a problem when he goes outside. Then she makes him colourful but Wilbur gets bullied by the birds and a hurt Wilbur is not something Winnie can handle and she ends up changing the colour of everything she owns and turns Wilbur black again. The pages are really colourful, they are fun to look at even if the child is not old enough to read. But under all that colour and childishness lies the serious messages. The usuals. Like accepting people as they are and not trying to change them, that bullying hurts people and that we need more colour in our boring lives. Simple enough. I am not going to go ahead and outright say that this books make the person that I am today, but certainly it made me like colours, cats and magic.

Similarly, I first read Harry Potter when I was eight. It made an impression on me, however I never got into it until I was in my senior year in high school. All of my friends kinda made, and some still do, fun of me for reading and loving “children’s books.” (I am not even going to give an answer to that.) But when I read the series now I find these easter eggs in them. There are mentionings of very obscure literary characters from canonical works, myths and legends, creatives puns, historical events and figures and their appropriation… And many more! It is a goldmine really. And under all this “childishness” of the narration and fantastic quotes, lie the same warnings; about slavery, racism to corrupt media and government (that seems familiar somehow, hmm.). It is not cool to not read children’s literature guys, really. They are actually more complex than you think, it is really hard for a writer to talk about serious matters in an obscure and fun way as not to scare of nor bore the children who do not seem to like reading anyway (and yeah, those who prefer watching the tv/movie adaptations to reading the books I judge you severely). “Powerful messages can be found, even in the childest of the books, if one remembers to turn on perception.” (yes, this is yet again another Dumbledore quote) I have to say I agree with Mark Gatiss (co-writer of the hit tv series “Sherlock” who also portrayed Mycroft Holmes) on something. After the fans’ negative reaction to Sherlock’s ending, he suggested they read more children’s books. That is exactly our problem. We are so keen on suppressing the child in us, we don’t even enjoy Winnie the Witch anymore. So this post is a shoutout to those who are still children at heart. You are the real mvp!

Posted in Travel

A Walk In A Medieval Village

Last friday evening, I was having a nice cup of coffee with one of my close friends(epkem on here) and we ended up talking about, yet another, one of my trips (I swear, I was not showing off.!). Since I have chosen a text from medieval period to work on for my senior thesis, I have been researching about the era and frankly am quite fascinated by it. When I was in Germany, I visited this open air museum, LWL Freilichtmuseum in Detmold, that contained various buildings from the surrounding area which went back more than 500 years. So, I wanted to write an entry about this awesome place and hopefully some of you will share my enthusiasm.!

A brief video about the museum

This song reminds me of the trip and the era for some reason. You may wanna check it out, it is pretty awesome.!

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There are different little “villages” which are a little bit distanced from one another. They tried to capture the feeling of living in that era and actually they were successful. Every little village has its own trademark: one has a lake, the other animals or shops. That is why you shouldn’t skip any of them and the path through the museum actually makes sure that you go through every single settlement. These are the first buildings you stumble upon in the first village. The one on the right is for carriages and farming tools. The one on the left is the living quarters. It is combined with the barn as horses were valuable to just leave outside and they offered additional heat, which was always nice. You enter the house through the barn, in the back of the building you have the sitting area and some rooms with beds, if you go down a few steps you end up in what is supposed to be the kitchen and if you go upstairs you will find the bedrooms. Almost all the houses were planned in this manner-except for the houses of the rich, they would have more rooms and the barn would be separated from their living quarters with rooms for the stable boys. The one in the back/middle is a pigsty and there were about ten pigs, which you can watch but not feed, living in it.

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This is the toilet just outside that building. I have always known that people used to go outside to do their business, but seeing it like that made my realise how grateful I am to have a toilet inside my apartment.! I am serious. They also had pots in the houses to relive themselves, but the idea of going outside when they didn’t even have proper walkways is really terrifying. There was also an exhibition about the evolution of toilets throughout the centuries (Name of the exhibition: Scheisse Sagt Man Nicht). That was also quite interesting.

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People used to have chair like toilets that were made out of wood and velvet and they could also cover up what was in there and make it look like it was just as ordinary chair or a cupboard. Pretty weird huh?

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This is a pathway that would take you to the next village, passing by the windmill. There were chickens, cows, sheep, horses and donkeys all over the park (you can’t see them in this picture but cows are on the left hand side). The two horses are the last survivors of a specific kind (can’t remember the exact name) of horse that is local to the area. Animal-wise, it is quite rich and you can observe them in their natural environment and the way they have been treated in the middle ages. I went there on a wednesday and sunday; and on sunday there was this event where you could learn how to milk a cow, pet the sheep and have something to eat. It was really cool, there were so many families who had taken their kids as a family activity. The kids got to play in the open air and learn about their culture, animals and farming.

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See, they actually still use some of the barns Processed with Rookie Camfor horses. There is also a house there in which a woman lived until 1920s. So, they are fully function
al. I was a bit concerned with the condition of the horses, but I had the chance to watch the caretaker and he was actually taking good care of them and apart from a few hours, they are usually free to wander around the park and graze-and beg for apples from innocent visitors-to their hearts’ content. They are quite friendly and were not afraid of human contact, so that says a lot about the crew of the museum.

I absolutely loved the experience. It was interesting to experience the life style of the people of the time. There were also artisans who made pottery who displayed the old way of doing things, the mill actually produced flour and there were farmers who worked with the soil. All in all it was a unique experience; going back in time 500 years and walk through the changes occurring in time. I would like to finish off with some photographs that I took and liked, hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did (probably can’t and won’t but still).!

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This is the living quarters of the house in the first photograph. On the right is the barn and the entrance.
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This is one of the houses in a separate village. People still grow vegetables in its garden.
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This is one of the bedrooms in that house. The interesting thing was that the panel behind the beds can be opened into the adjacent bedroom. Everything in here was original, so we were not allowed in.
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This is my favourite photograph. It is from the same house. The idea of having a sink before the invention of plumbing is interesting and most of the houses had that. With a little opening on the wall, they allowed water (probably blood, too) to flow out of the house into the back yard.
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This is a bank from the colonial times. There was also a candy store.
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It was the first time I ever touched a donkey. Who knew donkeys had such soft fur.! She was actually quite friendly, followed us around and brayed when we attempted to leave.
Posted in Art

An Answer to A Woman’s Cry of Help

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Artwork by İlayda Üstel

This awesome piece of artwork belongs to one of my friends from school İlayda. I fell in love with  it the moment I saw it, no exaggerating here (I actually have a print out which is framed and positioned near my favourite books). So I wanted to write an entry about it and hope it will actually live up to her art’s standards! The reason I wanted to write about it now, instead of in october (that’s when she showed me) is that I had this response paper for my Victorian Literature class and I had to write about a decorative item that I had at home and try to look at it the way John Ruskin would have if he were alive to it. I wanted to use something hand-made and perfect in its imperfectness, something Ruskin would definitely love and that inspired me to write a bit about it on here as well.

At first this may not make any sense to the onlooker-and before İlayda told me what it was about I was like “Oh-kay what is this?” Let me give you a hint: this is her take on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” (which is one of my favorites and totally devastated me when I first read it back in high school). Those who have read it, are probably nodding now and realizing what every little detail may symbolize. For those who haven’t read it, well I might as well give a short summary. “The Lottery” is about a tradition of a village to ensure a good harvest although there are communities who have started to stop doing it. Nevertheless, on the day of the lottery people gather around and every head of a household has to draw a piece of paper from a black box. The household of the one who has the paper with a black dot on, has to draw again. So Bill Hutchinson draws the black dotted paper and then his wife Tessie. Then they let the paper fly off in the wind, pick up Tessie and *spoiler alert* stone her to death. I am not going to comment on the story though. There are so many good papers written on what it means, what every individual detail symbolizes. I don’t think that I have something more to add. So now, after the plot summary the painting (is it a painting though İlayda?) makes more sense I believe. That hand that we see there in the middle is clearly Tessie Hutchinson’s (although at first I thought it to be Bill’s, but Tessie makes much more sense) although it is not particularly a feminine hand (don’t really know how would that be but….) so that creates the ambiguity. We could be standing in the shoes of either Bill or Tessie and that fluidity kind of accepts all sorts onlookers, which is nice. Also, if this is Tessie’s hand it looks rough from working and by that I may say that the artist is showing us the hardships of the village, rural life especially on women. The hard work does not differentiate, it is hard for all of the genders. I also love the fact that she chose to focus on Tessie instead of the spectacle. This work is almost a recognition of Tessie’s final cry of help. While her fellow villagers fail to hear her, here the artist hears her weak solitary voice and through her work she keeps Tessie alive (going a bit Sonnet 18 here but isn’t that what art does though?).

I also like the background. It is mainly gray, representing the gloom that is awaiting Tessie, and blue, representing the cheerful summer day (June 27), but I like the addition of pink in the middle. It may represent the life and liveliness of Tessie, but it is a very light shade of red which can mean that her life is fading away. The juxtaposition of warm and cool colors also reflect the mood of the village. First we have children running around, gathering rocks and having fun and then we immediately shift to a scene of death. This sudden and unexpected nature of her death is captured by the (what I consider them to be) shiny blood drips. They also shocking and in your face, the artist here clearly criticized the shocking outcome of the draw and how people just go with it and turn it into a mob violence without even considering. I picture Tessie here as laying on the ground, being stoned to death-because of the stones scattered around the hand-and she is still clutching the piece of paper that changed her life while her life is slipping away. We see her in her last moments and that can be why her hand is see-through and not entirely material.

I have a lot more to say about both the story (if you haven’t read it yet, please go and do so it is not that long) and the art work, but I want to finish of by saying how I love the fact that the painting gives away nothing regarding the plot. This is a simple but thoughtful and brilliant way of picturing the story-it is simply genius. That is why I love it so much, besides the fact that it physically just looks good, you can see new details and make new connections to the story and ask new questions. So I personally thank you İlayda for creating this!

Posted in Movie

Fantastic Spinoffs and Where to Watch Them

BEWARE! FANTASTIC SPOILERS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM (I really don’t know what people consider as spoiler)

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I could only wait for two days before writing about “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” I have to say, I had my prejudices against it way before it was filmed. I felt like (still kinda feel like) Rowling was turning “the world of Harry Potter” into one of those franchises that go on and on for more money. Don’t get me wrong, when I first heard that there was gonna be a spinoff, I was really excited. It could be about the marauders, the rise of Voldemort, the founding of Hogwarts or even next generation. So the idea of Harry’s textbook turning into a whole new series did not really sit well with me. Although I have to say, the atmosphere was awesome, there even were people in cloaks (Me? I wore my Weasley sweater and Gryffindor scarf-the stuff for Fantastic Beast is scarce right now, fingers crossed for upcoming collectibles). The energy was also high, the whole theatre laughed at the same time, everyone was obviously Harry Potter fans (based on their age and accessory) and everyone was discussing and speculating during the ten minute break. At this point I think it is pretty safe to say that the Potter Fandom is back for good!

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I did my homework before watching the movie, that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and the one under The Creature Vault

First of all, let’s get something straight: this is not a prequel to the series but a spinoff. The difference between those is that, prequel tells the story of what had happened previous to the plot whereas spinoff is having another character/story line that was mentioned in the original plot and building upon it. Hence we see Newt Scamander, who was only mentioned as an author in the series, as a fully developed character at the beginning of his real career (he normally works for Ministry of Magic) in 1926. I couldn’t really picture how they could turn the story of a man who dedicated his life to beasts, beings and spirits (oh, believe me there is a difference) into not one, not three but five movies (so my first spoiler: there will be four more movies). There, Rowling as a writer comes into the picture thankfully (she was the one who wrote the screenplay) and you can see her penmanship in some scenes (Newt’s mating dance was certainly one of those. I can picture her writing it down). That also means that we will have a nice plot that does not have various plot holes and stupidity (I am looking at Cursed Child here). Although it is based on Newt’s adventures, the side plot, the rise of Grindelwald to power, is pretty exciting since we haven’t really read much on it. We see him in America, trying to recruit followers slyly (and the symbol for the deathly hallows makes an appearance). I don’t know in which movie it will be, but we will definitely see a showdown between Dumbledore and Grindelwald and from Rowling’s own writing, I am sure that it will be magical. (at this point I may as well admit to it, YES I loved the movie) Untitled.pngBut for now what  I can only say is how awesome Johnny Depp looks as Gellert Grindelwald in his cameo. He is a little bit old for the Grindelwald I had in mind, though it is based on the younger movie version. Considering Dumbledore’s age, Depp’s looks are pretty accurate. He looks like the sophisticated yet murderous villain in the end of the movie (his one and only appearance in the first movie) and adding his acting skills, I am sure that he will create a unique take on Grindelwald and make us love it.

The beasts were simply, for a lack of a better term, magical. When I read Fantastic Beasts at home, I really couldn’t picture them, thank Merlin we have technology! There is nothing I can say against the representation of them-I absolutely especially loved the thunderbird (which happens to be my house in Ilvermorny). There is one inconsistency though, in the preface of his book Scamander states that there are 75 beasts he was able to include in the 52nd edition, however we encounter species in Fantastic Beasts movie that were not listed in the book which were the swooping evil, thunderbird and nundu. And from what I have seen, we will encounter many more that were not originally listed. Let me just mention the first photograph above before I forget. That is the suitcase of Newt which is full of beasts (that part is also problematic. You see he carries their habitats in them. Is that even possible? Sure with an undetectable extension charm you can carry loads of things but isn’t there a limit to it? Add this to the questions I would like to as Rowling if I ever meet her one day) and the whole chaos ensues from there, like the hat of The Cat In the Hat. That claw belongs to a niffler which is a being known for its love for anything shiny (yes kinda like a Tolkienesque dragon) and this one here is particularly mischievous and that one photograph aptly sums up the whole series.

We weren’t able to see anything related to Ilvermorny yet which is the American school of witchcraft and wizardry (you can read its history on Pottermore). Although Newt and Queenie had a punny (see what I did there) dialogue: Queenie claims that Ilvermorny is the best school in the world, Newt as a proud Hufflepuff defends Hogwarts and says it is the best-as all the audience did. Queenie then replies with “Hogwash.” (which means nonsense and is a pun) Ilvermorny was actually modeled on Hogwarts by its founder Isolt Sayre who happens to be a descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself, so get your facts straight first Queenie! I also have to give credit to Newt here, who proudly shows support for his house throughout via his black and yellow scarf (also another question to as Rowling: if Scamander was expelled, how come he still carries his wand with him?) Also he befriends a muggle, Jacob Kowalski, and they have their adventures like an improved version of Sherlock and Watson. (another spoiler: Jacob has a thing with Queenie. I wonder if they’d cause any change in the law in America in upcoming movies.)

Aside from all these entertaining and nice things, we also encounter a harsh, dark counterpart. In 1920s America, it was illegal for a wizard/witch to have any relation with a no-maj (American version of muggle which is abbreviated version of “no magic”). Thus, we see the Salem witch hunting (muggles’ negative fanaticism this time around), direct conflict between magic and non-magic worlds (the death of Senator Shaw) and the unreliableness of people in power-nothing we haven’t seen in the original series. She founded a very solid base in the first movie for the upcoming ones, I don’t think we will ever be bored with them.

All in all, it was really good to be back in the movie theatre watching a Harry Potter movie. I got chills when I first heard “Hedwig’s Theme” and I never realized I have missed hearing in and watching the logo of Warner Bros come into focus slowly. The plot was also good, unsurprisingly really, and I can’t wait to be back in the theatre to watch the second one again! And one final note for those who don’t want to watch the movie, the script was released a book as of yesterday so you may wanna check that out.

Posted in Music

Arnold Long Ago Heard It On the English Channel

For the past few years, I have been almost obsessed with Tom Odell. He is a brilliant artist and if you have not listened to any of his songs, you should go check some of them out (I force my friends to listen to him, who says I can’t do the same to you too?). Lately, I have been constantly listening to “Constellations” and for some reason I got this feeling that the lyrics were quite familiar. Turns out they are not, but a few weeks ago I had to write a response paper on Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and then it dawned on me. The feeling the song has, is kinda similar to Arnold’s. Their approach to love is hopeful and that is something which is hard to find nowadays in our contemporary music industry or in poetry in Victorian era (or in general really. Such powerful poems or songs often tend to be more pessimistic.)

There was this stanza in “Dover Beach” that made me associate it with Odell’s song.

Sophocles long ago

Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought

Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow

Of human misery; we

Find also in the sound a thought,

Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

In the poem, the persona stands by the window looking over the sea (and giving us way too many sea imagery-even when you look at the poem, the form looks like the tides: ebbing and flowing) talks to his lover, who very conveniently silent throughout the poem as if she was a mere object in the room. In the lines above, the persona compares himself, his standing, to that of Sophocles. The sea is the same sea (though they are not looking at the exact same sea) it stays constant but only time and conditions have changed. Arnold has a more pessimistic tone here though, he believes the world to be full of misery and there can be no absolute trust and happiness. This is likened to the sea, these comings and goings of feelings, but the sea is constant (literally and allegorically). Even in Sophocles’ time this sea of misery was there and it will be so in the future (and let’s face it, after almost 150 years, the misery is still present if not entirely turned into an ocean). But in the end, the persona holds on to the love he shares with his lover (I am guessing the persona is meant to be Arnold and the lover his wife as they honeymooned there) in this world of appearances: “a land of dreams, So various, so beautiful, so new, Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light, Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain” and sees love as some higher power that could save him.

Similarly, Odell talks about “the same old constellations” that would “look different” because he is with his lover. The atmosphere is similar to the poem’s; here the candle as the light source “lying low” whereas the starts are the only light sources coming through the windows in Arnold’s poem. This lover is kinda alone (“There’s people all around us but they’re leaving you alone”) and nostalgic (“You’re telling me a story, some lover that you had”) and just like Arnold’s is silent in the song-though she has a name here which is an improvement. Odell also places importance upon love which is so strong a concept that can change how the individual views the world.

I do not have much to say really. These are all minor similarities and they both give me the same vibe, although I am still hoping that maybe, just maybe, Tom Odell read “Dover Beach” because how can he not, and thought: “You know what? These stars can be used in a better way in another context.” Although the personas of the poem and song are in completely different situations, looking at different things in very different eras in time; they have this same trust in love to act as some kind of a shield (so yeah like a patronus) against the world that they are facing. Arnold thought of Sophocles when looking at the sea (although he is supposedly talking to his lover), maybe Odell was thinking of Arnold whilst he was writing this who knows? This can be me reading too much into this, but at least you get to listen to an awesome song and read an awesome poem!

 

Posted in Travel

On and In the Blue Danube

This post will be a lot different from my other posts and probably from my future posts, too. As the cold weather finally arrived, it got me thinking about my previous summer holiday and you guessed it: this will be a huge throwback to my time in lovely Vienna.

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“In Vienna I will dance with you

in a costume with

a river’s head.”

That part from Lorca’s “Little Viennese Waltz” will be used out of context here, (you should definitely check it out though!) but we cannot deny that the river referred here is the Danube (fun fact: Danube is actually not the original name of the river. It is Donau and I’ve learnt it the hard way). My recent fascination with the poem together with the fact that for the past couple of days I cannot seem to stop myself from humming “The Blue Danube” by Strauss (you may want to check that as the video takes place in Schloss Schönbrunn), who happens to be my favorite composer, compelled me to write a piece on how awesome Vienna is with the addition of the photos that I and/or my Queen Biyoncos took as proofs.

Since I have already mentioned Danube, I can perhaps start from there. First of all, my first view of it was a little bit anticlimactic to be frank. I have pictured Danube as something grand, huge and endless, probably because of Strauss and it was actually quite narrow, as you can see in the photo above, and people swam and crossed it. And I was expecting many cafes and restaurants filled with people around it and shocked to find it bare except for that one pub that closed up way early at nights anyway. But, once I sat down by the water and just took in my surroundings as it is, I realized how amazing that fact is. There were no lights and very little voice and I could just sit there and watch the first Vienna (I stayed in the twenty-second and it was neither close nor far away from the center) and have some peace and calm. My days were packed with activities but at nights we went there with some coffee and brownies and talked for hours. Danube is the heart of Vienna, it flows through it and creates a very lively city life, but at the same time it is also the heart of the nature that calms the individual; it’s both very close when you seek some peace and very far away if you prefer the city life.

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This is probably my favorite photograph and aptly sums up all the aspects of Vienna that I have fallen in love with: the beautiful city juxtaposed with beautiful nature. We also rented a boat and went around the river for a bit, the weather was nice so was the rowing team *insert heart-eyed emoji here* and I also actually went into the water with my dress Virginia Woolf style. Although I have visited every available tourist attraction, I can confidently say that Danube is my favourite and this nook particularly.

When Vienna is involved, you cannot not include Schloss Schönbrunn, the fancy palace that you can see in every tourist guide about Vienna that is famous for its Princess Sissi.Processed with Rookie Cam It is absolutely gorgeous on the outside, that’s for sure. The garden, the gloriette, the labyrinth… It reflects the arrogance of the royal family quite well actually. I mean look at that wallpaper and the couch. We went through the grand tour that included 44 rooms. There were some studies and ballrooms and even some maids’ chambers but other than Processed with Rookie Camthat it was basically filled with unnecessary rooms. Literally. Some of them had no purpose, so they decided to give each room a specific color for as a purpose. You know like “This is our cream colored, filled with cream colored expensive furniture room that has four different sets of door that open into it which makes everything pretty much useless.” While the exterior looks kind of humble, the interior makes up for the lost detailing. They even have the gloriette which is an extravagant dining room at the top of a hill that overlooks Vienna and the palace itself (the photo of the palace was actually taken from on our way to the gloriette.) Sure, it would have been really cool to attend a concert in the palace, and aside from the perfect view of the city this place didn’t do it for us. It was too extravagant and arrogant, we couldn’t enjoy it.

Now I want to talk about my favourite building which can almost compete with Schönbrunn in terms of extravagance. I am talking about the National Library. Generally you picture a boring, dull place when somebody mentions libraries, but this is not your average library. I was awestruck and wanted to read the titles of every book and use the ladder to go on to the upper level. Although it was forbidden to extend and use a selfie stick, we became friends with the guard and he let us do as we pleased, so that’s something. It is almost juts like how I have always imagined the library of Hogwarts, with multi layered bookcases and gigantic tomes. So, it was pretty magical for me.

Processed with Rookie CamThis photo is Biyoncos’ favourite and it will give you an idea on why I loved the place. While the idea of having a secret door embedded in your library would be awesome, just the warmth the  overcrowded bookcases give is enough to love it. It has this element of mystery in it as well. We can never know where the door leads to and to what purpose, but I am picturing another room which is filled with very rare pieces, even some first editions or personal belongings of some authors. Or maybe it is like Vatican Archive and has all kinds of secret governmental stuff of Franz Joseph, who knows.                                                           Processed with Rookie Cam

This is the main entrance to it. See how fabulous it is, with its huge columns, various statues and paintings? The main piece on the domed ceiling is my favourite I think.

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Since I have broached the issue of paintings and statues, I may as well continue with the main two museums: Art History and Natural History Museums. The cool thing about them was that they were planned to be museums. At first I thought they were some kind of palaces for the royal family as one cannot have enough palaces, but I was informed that they were meant to be so and their floor plan is actually a proof of that.

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I mean look at this beautiful building. This looks like a place in which a princess could easily live. I actually took this photo inside the Natural History Museum and that building is the Art History Museum. Not only they look dope, they are across one another and it makes it very easy for a tourist to find and visit.  Between the two of them, I like the Natural History Museum a bit more, because it had dinosaurs in it! And they actually had real dinosaur bone and shit in it and I got to  touch them both (maybe this is not something to be proud of).

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Art History Museum had so many things to look at, we actually could not finish it. But the coolest thing happened whilst we were in there: a painter was painting the paintings on the wall and we got to watch him work. The sad thing was, the place was not crowded and we had the opportunity to take stupid selfies with statues without the judgmental looks from strangers.

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There are so many things that I want to write about, but it has gotten quite long already and I realize that no matter how long I write it won’t be long enough. So, I want to end with one of my favourite photos (you may have to disregard the fact that it was taken by a toaster.)

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This was taken in Kahlenberg, a little hill just outside Vienna. It has a panoramic view of the city and it looks breathtaking. I could see every place that I have ever been to in my one week visit, from Danube to Schloss Schönbrunn (the palace is not by the river side, which very curious. Won’t you want to look at the river? It makes a beautiful view.) With the lights on, the city intertwines with nature and creates a magical aura. That is why I fell in love with Vienna (and maybe also for the fact that my best friend lives there). If you ever plan on visiting Vienna, make sure that you book longer than you intend to. Once you arrive there and walk in Stephansplatz or go boat riding on Danube or be a stereotypical tourist and visit all the museums, you’ll realize the reason why there are songs and poems about it.

Posted in Prose

The Witches of Hogwarts

Today, I realized something and although it is not of high importance and relevance, finding it on my own without googling for once was quite awesome if I may say so myself. I have already established how much I love Harry Potter in my first post, but there is something, or rather someone else, I love to the same extent and that is William Shakespeare (may sound a bit shocking but there you go). A few days ago, I was going through “Macbeth” and the song of the Witches sounded peculiarly familiar for some reason. Last night I was watching “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” which happens to be my favourite, and the song (to which I will put a link below the post) that the choir sang sounded, again, peculiarly familiar. Then, it clicked. “Double Trouble” from Harry Potter is actually the slightly altered song of the Witches form Act 4 of  Macbeth.

The intertextual usage of the song is a nice touch considering the nature of the series,we have Alfonso Cuaron and his team to thank for the inclusion, and it is not the only instance where the Three Witches make an appearance. They are also called “The Weird Sisters” and the famous band in the books is also called as such, but what is peculiar is the way the song is altered in the movie.

“Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing.

 

In the cauldron boil and bake

Fillet of a fenny snake

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf”

When compared, the song of the Witches is much longer and it is not surprising that they decided to leave out most of the lyrics (are they still called lyrics when the song occurs in a play?), but their decision to change the sequence of some of them made me think, as there is no apparent reason to do so. Originally, the song goes like this:

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch

Fillet of a fenny snake,

In the cauldron boil and bake;

Eye of newt and toe of frog,

Wool of bat and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,

Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,

Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch

Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,

Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf….(Act4.Sc1.10-23)

 

I would say that the animal imagery is emphasized here to create the atmosphere the book depicts; animals are used in potions, communication and as companions. “Frog” and “owl” can be allusions to the pets of  Harry and Neville and that makes the “dog” Sirius obviously, who gets introduced to us in this very book. Apart from those, the first stanza looks like the instructions to a potion (though I highly doubt that Snape would sing it). The second however, has some details from the previous, current and the next books. The “wolf” seems to be Lupin as the werewolf, who also gets introduced in the third book. The “snake” and “dragon” are part of the first book (the snake Harry sets on Dudley and Norberta who is shipped off to Romania with Charlie) and also the fourth (the fourth book came out in 2000 whereas the third movie did in 2004, so the timeline fits), but in “Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire” these two figures are more integral to the plot. There, we see Harry battling a Hungarian Horntail, which is the first task of the tournament and the reason why Harry and Ron reunite as friends after Ron’s jealousy (in “Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows” it reoccurs: they break out of Azkaban on the back of a dragon after Ron returns to them following a jealousy fit, again) and that makes dragons important in the series, and also they are pretty cool. The snake mentioned in the song is an allusion to Nagini that we see in the fourth book and as she is a  horcrux she is essential to the plot, though at this point we only know that she is essential to Voldemort as she is the only reason that he’s alive. And this whole cauldron boiling, the “scale” and “tooth” reminds me of the rebirth of Voldemort; how he used bones and flesh and blood to beget himself. Here, tooth and scale are bone and flesh substitutes and following those with “witches’ mummy” makes the song a mirror image of what is to come, turns it into almost a foreshadowing.

What is also peculiar here is the end of the song: “Something wicked this way comes.” In the play, after the second witch utters this, Macbeth walks in, making himself the something wicked by himself because of the witches (another post idea right here). At first I took it as a foreshadowing of the arrival of Sirius Black, whom we all thought as guilty criminal, or even Peter Pettigrew and Voldemort, but after the song ends in the movie the camera shows Dumbledore. I don’t want to say that this was certainly intentional, but it probably was. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” had  also been published by the time the third movie was produced and we see the glimpse of how much of a wicked man he was and can be when he wants. He is probably the grayest character of the book-I still cannot decide whether he is good or not, but if this was the movie’s way of showing its take on Dumbledore’s character, then it is darn impressive.

The Song from the Movie

Posted in Poetry

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Prometheus Stout

Since I have started off with my favourite book series, I want to continue with one of my favourite poems: “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout” by Shel Silverstein. It is the first poem written in English that I ever remember reading; I was a nine grader when I first read it (and that may be the reason why I made my nine graders read it too), so it has a pretty special place in my heart. I also realize that this blog is turning into an apology for children’s literature, but someone’s gotta do it, right?

The way the persona tells the story of Sarah to an audience, the constant usage of alliteration, assonance and rhyming reminds me of the oral tradition (plus, Silverstein also recites it himself) of the old and maybe that is the reason why Sarah reminds me of a mythical character. But the main reason behind that association is the way she stands up to an authority figure (which is significantly a father) and cultural norms on her own and gets punished for it in the end. Sure, this poem is a way to get the kids to listen to their parents and be more environmentally conscious, but it is also a way to subtly tell them to conform to the norms of the society or “meet an awful fate” (and that’s why I never be sure of the real intention of Silverstein here).

The first thing that seems odd in the poem is her name, or rather what her name represents. All of the three names have mythical connotations: Sarah is Isaac’s mother and mentioned in the Old Testament, Cynthia is the epithet of Artemis/Diana and Sylvia is the mother of Romulus and Remus. We have three different women with three very different connotations. Whilst Sylvia may represent civilization (as her children lead to the founding of Rome) whereas Artemis represents virginity, innocence and to some extent rebellion (her decision to stay chaste and unmarried). When I read “And though her daddy would scream and shout” with that in mind (and don’t forget that the father of Artemis is Zeus/Jupiter himself), suddenly it got a little more complicated. Here, we have a little disturbing relationship depicted between a father and his little girl that may even suggest domestic violence. He is the authority figure in the poem obviously and that (together with her being an Artemis substitute) turns him into a Zeus figure and what is Zeus doing besides ordering and shouting? Hence, in comes Prometheus-the legendary rebellious titan whose fight against Zeus inspired marvelous works (I am writing that with Lord Byron’s “Prometheus” on mind).

In the myth, Prometheus gives humans fire-which is portrayed and emphasized in the poem as a bad thing through repetitive images of burnt food-as the act of rebellion. In a way, he refuses not sharing such a helpful tool with these incapable beings even though it means for humans to get powerful and possibly become a threat to the gods. Here, Sarah’s defiance is a threat to the order of the house as well as her neighborhood, it makes everything chaotic and the effect of her rebellion (in her case the garbage) spreads across the country. At first I tried to attribute a positive meaning to that, like its effects were so vast and unstoppable so that the rebellion would continue but then I realized that it is literally garbage. Here Silverstein, much like Zeus himself, undermines the power of such disobedience and punishes Sarah secretly, as we don’t get to hear about it, in a way that is unspeakable especially to little children. Her, bonus, total alienation and exclusion from society mirrors that of Prometheus.

But there is a twist here; Sarah breaks down and accepts the enforced norm after her alienation. This break from her Prometheus character is also represented via the break in the rhyming. All of the lines except for “And finally Sarah Cynthia Stout said/OK, I’ll take the garbage out!” are rhymed open couplets and these two stand out. This can be Silverstein’s way of trying to emphasize the fact that the authority eventually prevails over the marginal and he does this ironically, by making those two lines stand up to the ‘norms’ of the rest of the poem.

Although my take on the poem has gotten a bit darker and more pessimistic over the course of years I still enjoy it, it incorporates very different themes and leads to very interesting discussions: one of my students even suggested talking about child labour which was something I have never considered. No matter from which perspective you approach the poem, one thing is certain: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia and her awful fate is as inspiring as the titan that rebelled against the king of gods.

The Poem

The Reading by Shel Silverstein

Posted in Prose

Harry Potter and the Green Voldemort

Okay hold my coffee while I write this, and that is your cue to understand that I am going to write about something I find quite minute and maybe a little bit irrelevant if not outright stupid (and you’ll find out that that is something I usually end up doing). As a huge Harry Potter fan, wanted to elaborate for those who didn’t get the quote “you are just as sane as I am,” I made it my mission to start off with an entry on the series. Hence, this is going to be about Harry Potter and hopefully I can suppress my enthusiasm so that this will not turn into a 100 page piece on how awesome the books are.
What I am about to say will sound so absurd, but hear me out. Isn’t Harry Potter like a modern Arthurian romance? Well, it isn’t actually but I have been finding these elements in the books that made me think about medieval times. Obviously Hogwarts being in Scotland like a Camelot figure (those who think it was in England, shame on you), the names of the Weasleys, the possible brief reference to the Wife of Bath, constant usage of Merlin’s name and various sirs,-Cadogan, for example, was a sworn knight of the Round Table-throughout the plot makes the reader think of the Arthurian times and Arthur directly reminds me of Arthurian romance and hence the code of chivalry. There are some basic rules to be a chivalric knight (and we need one for the sake of the romance): no murder, no treason, no fights over mundane things and always help those in need. Pretty straightforward, right? Let’s see how Harry deals with these.

First of all, his signature spell is “Expelliarmus” rather than a more sinister one, like the killing curse, and it pretty much says it all about the ultimate rule though it is okay for knights to kill monsters. Hence our little knight in shining armor kills Slytherin’s “monster.” Other than that he is pretty harmless except for that one “Sectumsempra,” Harry doesn’t even kill Voldemort, Voldemort kills himself on his own. He may have caused some people’s deaths, but they were never intentional.

Secondly, you cannot betray your king. In the medieval sense, a king is the one who acts as a shepherd to his people and in our case it is Dumbledore. He acts as this wise, old, almighty figure and guides and aids his students throughout his career. Teens even form an army under his name. For the sake of chivalric code, Harry has to be totally loyal to him and he actually is. Remember that one time he managed to call Fawkes to him? Yeah only those that show him real loyalty could summon Fawkes. Even though their relationship is strained in his fifth year, Harry names his extracurricular activity group after him and does not betray him against Rufus Scrimgeour (“Dumbledore’s man through and through, aren’t you, Potter?”).

His main fight in the series is against the darkest wizard of all times-blah blah blah, but he is not the only one. Harry fights various monster like figures (dementors, rogue bludgers, blast-ended skrewts…) but most of all he fights bullying (against himself and others) and peer pressure, corruption of media and government, injustice and eventually death. His literal fight against Voldemort is a representation of the fight put against tyrants and proving that as an insignificant nobody, anybody can stand up to those who oppress them. Also throughout his journey, he seems to be helping those in need; Ginny, Fred and George, Sirius, the entire world.

As you can see, Harry is the idealized modern medieval knight. His very own quest is to conquer death (a very noble and medieval theme) and defeat a dark lord. He is our very own version Sir Gawain. He is also on his way to defeat another powerful knight-also death eventually. The way he accepts death with open arms (like the youngest brother from “The Tale of the Three Brothers”) albeit with some hesitation mirrors the way Harry also accepts death in the forest. Gawain’s causes Green Knight to spare his life whereas Harry’s causes him to reclaim his own. Also the usage of green in both of them (the knight being green and Voldemort’s house color and favourite way of killing being green) ties Voldemort and the Green Knight on another level-though I find the latter more likable and redeemable. Hence, whenever I reread Harry Potter, I can’t stop myself from remembering that particular romance and to some extent picture Harry in a knight’s armor with a wand instead of a sword.