Saturday, October 15, 2016

Day 29: Kicking it into gear

Hi all! This post is a little late--last night I was able to relax a bit and spend some time with my fellow Fulbrighters over an evening/night of coffee/tea/desserts, so I'm just now writing this post on Saturday. Since I'm waking up pretty early for my teaching assistant hours most mornings (before the sun, before seven am... it's like being in high school all over again!), I'm finding myself taking more naps and sleeping more on weekends, so after this post I'm going to make myself leave the apartment and go to the gym. 
Me and a Fulbright friend at the evening gathering! The hat is neither hers nor mine, but looked much better on her than it did on me. I think my head is too big...

As far as exciting news this week goes, not much to report on the teaching or studying side. My classes at the Graphische are still in the stage of me introducing myself to the various students, but I did get to meet with some of the kids in groups and discuss the first chapter of Brave New World with them, which they are reading in English (abridged slightly for length and overall clarity). Since I read Brave New World for the first time in ninth grade (shout-out to Rob Latimer's World History Honors Class) and really enjoyed it, I was able to discuss the chapter with the students and try to get them excited about reading the rest of the book, since the first chapter is admittedly kind of boring and full of scientific jargon about how humans are "decanted" in the Society of Brave New World. But it was a bit challenging to put the arguments of Brave New World into perspective, because none of my students knew about 1984, which is my usual point of comparison for dystopian Western worlds, so I had to improvise and have the kids compare the concerns Aldous Huxley might have been addressing in 1932 with Brave New World with Suzanne Collins' themes in The Hunger Games, which almost all of them had read and/or seen: "Why do people write dystopian fiction? Why have people been writing dystopian fiction for a pretty long time? And what do The Hunger Games and Brave New World have in common even though their respective dystopias are so different?" That kind of thing. I hope my enthusiasm for Brave New World came through, and maybe I'll get to meet with them later this year after they've met Bernard and Mustapha and John and all those great characters...
Spotted in Vienna: a sausage cart to promote the Austrian release of Sausage Party, which I did not have any interest in seeing and still don't. I just thought it was funny how literally they are promoting this movie about talking food. Also the German tagline for the movie is "Es geht um die Wurst," which is a German idiomatic expression meaning "it's now or never," which I think I actually learned in one of my intro German classes at Swarthmore.

My class at the University of Vienna this week focused on depictions of the criminal in British popular media (since our guest lecturer was from the University of Belfast) and mainly addressed how male versus female criminals are portrayed with regards to violent crime, and how programs like Crimewatch manage to titillate, fear, and soothe viewers by re-creating real crimes and then showing how they get solved. What I found kind of missing in the discussion was maybe an America-centric theme: namely, we didn't really talk about the racial divide in how criminality is portrayed in the media even when you take the gender divide into account. In the United States there's absolutely a gap between people of color accused of crimes versus white people accused of crimes and how they are talked about in the media, but maybe it's less of an issue in the UK? I'm not entirely sure that is a satisfying answer.
It's not easy taking a selfie on a bridge...

On the more exciting side, I finally began my research project in earnest: yesterday I visited the home and studio of Eduard Freudmann, an artist of Jewish descent who makes works in a variety of media about anti-Semitism and anti-Romaism in a post-Shoah context. It was a really great conversation: we talked for over ninety minutes and it was very informative, and promises to be extremely fruitful with regards to being able to meet more artists Freudmann has worked with who pertain to my project. He also gave me a free copy of a two-sided poster he made for his work 1st general assembly of the committee for the commemoration of the word that designates the genocide of Roma and Sinti. We also talked a bit about our experiences with anti-Semitism in American versus European contexts, which have some similarities but are also pretty different, owing to Austria's history with the Holocaust. Of course now I have over ninety minutes of audio to transcribe, but it was a pretty great meeting nonetheless.
One side of the poster... but how can I hang a two-sided poster on my wall? I might have to rig it from the ceiling...

Random musings/other events of the week:
  • I found the perfect dress for the TU Ball, which the Fulbrighters all apparently go to in January. I'm not posting a photo of it now because spoilers!! But it made me feel like Cinderella at the ball and it's very shiny and blue and again, perfect.
  • Students at the Graphische have way more leeway than even the most hippie schools I've seen in LA. They can swear in class with no repercussions, they get smoke breaks, they are allowed to draw on the walls, and some of them just show up late. They all seemed to balk when I described the idea of detention in American schools, as well as the idea that swearing can get you sent to the principal's office. I didn't even try to get into the disciplinary measures favored by many charter schools... just a very different kind of learning environment overall, and the Graphische kids are treated like adults.
  • I have to get re-used to layering up to leave the house and then de-layering as soon as I've walked anywhere because you tend to heat up if you're walking quickly... it seemed less of an issue at Swarthmore, but it's definitely not an issue in LA...
(As always, if you want to express your love for me with material goods (or digital books, as the case may be), my Amazon wishlist is here, and if you want to see many, many photographs of me and of Vienna, my Instagram is here.)

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