Seeing is Feeling

Guest’ Post by Julia Tang

tangtang.oucreate.com

 

This past summer, I had the opportunity to venture across the Atlantic to study abroad in Italy. For the first three days in Italy, I, along with my classmates, had the chance to see some of the most fascinating man-built architecture, one of the many wonders of the world: the Roman Colosseum, pantheon. Moreover, we even toured through some of the most prominent museums in Florence (e.i. Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia) perusing through famous renaissance paintings and gawking at the grandeur of talented-hand molded sculptures.

You see many images, sample images using the Colosseum as wallpapers or other ornamental purposes. At some point, when you look at it so many times, you become desensitized to that image. Likewise, I had seen the Colosseum and Pantheon many times before, so I knew what to expect; however, words cannot describe the awestruck feeling I felt when I stepped foot inside the Colosseum and imagined what it felt like standing as a spectator jeering/cheering at the gladiators and slaves who risked their lives for entertainment.

When I first admired the paintings and sculptures in art history class in high school, it fascinating of course, but it’s not the same feeling as seeing/experiencing the live feeling of being there, staring at the real/original sculptures–learning to appreciate the hard work and art work that was able to endure many years of passing through hands of both artists and non-artists alike. Furthermore, once I saw the real, larger-than-life-size sculptures, then leaving and stepping into the markets of sellers coaxing passersby around the town to buy souvenirs of mini duplicates, but none can ever compare to the every meticulous detail the artist once had intended on the original.

With paintings, that were larger than the size of my computer screen, I was able to gaze at the brush stroke–delving in deeper into the meaning of the paintings. Merely looking at them through saturated screens, being present brought about a different feeling (sometimes, words do feelings little justice).

It truly was a “seeing (it in person)to believe” moment that I can never forget.

Othering in Soccer Games

I worked for the Intramural soccer games this semester because of my favoritism of soccer. I’ve seen a lot of bad calls on fouls and before the season started I have a faith that ‘I will be better than those refs who make bad calls.’ I’ve never been so wrong in my entire life. The problem is that you will always have a personal bias and there will be always those some players that hypervisible to you.

Image result for vidal red card madrid

UEFA Champions League quarter final — referee mistakenly gave a second yellow to Vidal, resulting a red. His tackle was in fact, legal and perfect. 

Personally, I am a kinda-harsh ref. I dont call a foul easily. Some supervisors often say to me ‘watch that player number X, he has been rough throughout the first half.’ Well, due to authority, I put my focus on those players. Those players finally become hypervisible to me. Every time they got the ball I started to put my whistle on my mouth. What I have done is that I ‘other’ the rest of the players when it comes to fouls. It makes me easier to call a foul on these hypervisibly-rough players compared to other players, despite they conduct the same fouls.

Same thing goes with a player that is hypervisible because he mesmerizes the spectators with his moves. Here is the thing, refs enjoy soccer games too. These players that are hypervisibly-good induce personal bias to the refs. And refs tend to be very careful to call a foul when it comes to these players.

Hidden Figures: Ending Marginalization All the Way to Space

A lot of my friends suggested this movie. They told me this movie was about three black women working in NASA trying to defeat Russia in the space race. Since then I thought, well, the title ‘Hidden Figures’ might be about some women just brilliantly figured out a variable to be considered in order to send human to space. But it’s more than that.

The movie emphasizes on how black people were marginalized in NASA. I sensed the motive of the movie is to show that no matter how smart or skillful black people are, they would always be stereotyped negatively by white men. In this movie, the super smart black women were called ‘colored computers’. Their task is to perform and confirm calculations, which is a pretty basic job I would say for an institution as ingenious as NASA. However, when one of the super smart black women (I truly apologize I can’t recall what her specialty in geometry is), named Katherine was promoted to Space Task Group, everybody in the room were looking at her differently. She was hyper visible. And the movie does the job well too to strengthen her hypervisibility. She was wearing different fashion all along.

Image result for hidden figures

Everything seems to be against Katherine and all the black women until the moment where Mr. Harrison, Katherine’s director asks her where she has been because he observes that Katherine always disappears for 40mins everyday.  She says she goes to colored bathroom, which only exists a few miles away from the office. Mr. Harrison, touched by Katherine’s response later destroys the sign ‘colored bathroom’ and proudly says “No more colored bathroom. In NASA we are all the same race” The character Mr. Harrison represents the small minority that accepts the integration of black people. I am brave enough to say that Mr. Harrison has an emancipated vision when it comes to the value of employers. He sees skills and mastery of a person, not her race. He discriminates none as long as they work properly as told. Another character who has the same vision as Mr. Harrison is the astronaut (whose name I forget) who greets the group of black people sincerely despite being told not to do so.

Katherine fights against discrimination through her patience and knowledge. One of Katherine’s greatest achievement to achieve this goal is that she determines the misplaced rocket return coordinates under a very short period of time accurately. Another mesmerizing piece of ingenuity she shows is when she solves a projection problem whose none believes solvable because it is believed to require a Math that has not existed. Katherine solves it with the classic Euler’s method. The hypervisibility of Katherine, representing black women in NASA shifts from a negative to positive. From being seen as a deprived, uneducated, and not respected person to being seen as a magisterially valuable and outstandingly smart employee.

Overall, the title ‘Hidden Figures’ is not only about finding the application of the ‘hiding Euler’s method’. The title is saying that the black women are the hidden figure in NASA because they have been so ignored, they have been so underrated, and they have been invisible before some of them got promoted. In fact, nobody knows that the story of Katherine is based on a true story. This fact proves that the presence of Katherine, as a black woman, is hidden in history despite her massive contribution in space programs.

Visibility and Geopolitics

In 1970s, the reliance on global energy gravitates on OPEC, an organization-somewhat-cartel that was constructed by major oil-producing Middle East countries plus Venezuela. Accounting for 1/3 of global oil reserves, OPEC has been ‘worshiped’ by enormous developing countries to allow them access, either for oil or trade. This drove the leaders of OPEC countries, such as the Shah of Iran to maximize wealth by setting a raise in the posted oil price. The US, as the origin of many major oil producers in OPEC countries and major importer, don’t like this decision. The US, as one alternative, tried to establish a deal with the soviet to break free from their reliance on OPEC for oil. One side note, the US was desperate and they couldn’t afford to lose OPEC’s relation when it comes to oil.

I found it interesting how a country can control their visibility to accomplish their political agenda. The evidence can be found in the history of oil, where Daniel Yergin wrote in The Prize,

Kissinger was insisting on maximum publicity [of the deal with Russia] to embarrass OPEC.” (626)

Kissinger, representing the US wants to make the deal to be hypervisible, letting themselves to be seen by OPEC and other oil importers that the US can feed themselves without OPEC’s oil. The publicity conveyed pride and presented a sense that the US is powerful and can maneuver to fulfill its needs –Although they were panicking—. The intention was to convey OPEC members not to raise oil price. This hypervisibility of a contract of oil trade with Russia raised a question across OPEC members, “if the US had been the major importer and if OPEC raised the price which would make the US shifts their import from OPEC to Soviet, what’s the point of the price hike?” It would just decrease developing countries’ purchasing power and hence, shifting their attention to Soviet’s oil. The overall strategy by the US to prevent price hike seems to me a bit childish but it worked. Iran successfully conveyed OPEC not to raise price and the US was happy with it. The US increased the visibility of a contract to threat other nations to satisfy US own desires. This becomes an example how altering visibility can be a very powerful weapon to fake your own situation, to shift focus , and to hide weaknesses.

Freewrite #9

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend” – Robertson Davies.

 

As humans, we have ego and we hate when we fail to understand something or something that we see oppose what our mind dictates us. We tend to see what we understand and what goes along with our stances because this create a sense of satisfactions. Davies expresses his point that our eyes is heavily dependent on our mind. This implies that if our mind that reflects our knowledge on a specific issue is limited, then our vision is also limited which makes us a passive spectator. Likewise, if our mind has the ability to understand an issue from multiple POVs, then our vision becomes broader. This is why experience and knowledge really determine what we see and how we see things.

Hypervisibility Deviates

It is true that hypervisibility scrutinizes. Being hypervisible might make us feel uncomfortable in many cases. Moreover, speaking from a less egoistic point of view, I believe being hypervisible also deviates us to focus more on a relatively less important matter or people. I realized this when I remember one of Barcelona’s matches; it was against Espanyol and Barcelona trashed them 4-1. Watch the highlight and see how hypervisibile Messi is in this [ also see how much more exciting ‘real’ football is compared to American football ;)) ]

The most important thing in football soccer is to score goals. In this highlights, the commentators even barely mention Suarez and Jordi Alba who scored the goals, which are the only things that give you a victory in a soccer game. Even the 98000 spectators inside the stadium worship “messsssiiii, messsssiiiii,…” It seems like nobody care who score the goals. Messi is hypervisible due to his ability to mesmerize the spectators with his movement, making the other player look insignificant. When things attract us, it might become hypervisible because we start to observe it more frequently with more excitement. However, this creates a problem. What if our favoritism to hypervisible objects deviate us from a more important matter? For example, it is known that Muslim communities can be considered as hypervisible in current US political realm due to their stereotype as terrorist (I’m not saying they are but that how many see them as). When we pay too much focus on Muslims regarding to safety, we start to neglect another potential hazard in our society such as political attacks to our basic rights. Same thing applies to Messi. Had the goals after Messi’s dribbles not been scored and Barcelona lost due to the absence of those two goals, I bet the reactions after the game would be the complete opposite.

Everyday’s Art

As someone who studied Design and Technology for two years, dreaming to be the new Johnny Ive -and failed miserably- my definition of art has shifted. I used to think art is something that makes us say “that’s beautiful” but now I consider art to be something that balances its form and function. It is not a machine-aesthetic or complete aesthetically pleasing subject, it is somewhere in between. And one of my favorite work of art is actually, the infamous iPhone 4 (disclaimer: I am not a radical apple fanboy).

http://www.imore.com/iphone-4

I saw this phone a few days after it was launched. I only appreciated its beauty (that means being minimalist and simple) at that time but once I took the Design Technology class it instantaneously became one of my favorite work of art. A phone’s function is to connect people and provide a satisfying UX (user experience). And the fact that this phone achieves these objectives through something that is so simple, so unified, so singular. To me the way this phone accomplishes this objective depicts efficiency, which is something you would greatly appreciate if you’re an engineer or scientist. This efficiency is a great factor that balances how it looks (form) and what it does (function).

One thing I learned from the design of iPhone 4 is that being simple is easy. However, delivering simplicity is another level of difficulty. It is like writing an essay. You, as the writer will definitely understand what you write. But to convey the message of it to someone else will require some creativity and techniques. Just like writing, in art, the creative way the artists use to convey their message is what makes art appreciable.

Free Write #5

“The most political decision you make is where you direct people’s eyes. In other words, what you show people, day in and day out, is political…. And the most politically indoctrinating thing you can do to a human being is to show him, every day, that there can be no change.”

Wim Wenders,

The Act of Seeing

 

I agree that directing a perception of public is often a great political device, showing public what one’s want public to know. This relates to the politician or any individuals need to make his image good in public. However, this is also true for media that has political stances to impair its opponents.

One example is the negative publicity of the use of fossil fuels. I’m not saying that fossil fuels are environmentally sustainable, however some politicians tend to against fossil fuels just to gain reputation, the need of a good image. And public believe in this because they’re only fed by the media of a bad side of fossil fuels. In fact, fossil fuels have been a major contributing factor in many developing countries like China and India.

Does the Center of the Universe Matter?

Short answer: no. Our best explanation that illustrates the birth of the universe -The Theory of Big Bang- suggests the strong presence of singularity before the ‘bang’ happened in split seconds. Singularity is the moment when all the matter that makes up our current astronomical bodies, and the energy they govern were concentrated in a one-dimensional point where the temperature is infinitely hot. As it bangs and expand, the space between two bodies increases too. But, this implies that any point in current space is the center of the universe.

Therefore, I think the Roman Catholics geocentric view has no problem at all. Had Galileo never presented his findings, we will still be able to modify physics so that everything is revolving around us. I believe it’s more about ego and the desire to be seen as a powerful community. It is human nature to desire attention, to be well known for its superiority, and to be seen as the best among its community. It is the same story when we question why Europe is the center in almost all atlas (because Europeans developed early global map and what’s better than being easily recognized?) Some Americans also tried to recreate the atlas and put the entire America in the middle and cut Asia into half, just to gain attention. Fortunately, this version of atlas isn’t widely distributed. It doesn’t matter where the center of Earth surface is. But, the standard that sets the center of it tells a lot about the characters of the standard makers.

Image result for world map with america in the middle

Free Write #2

“All we have to believe is our senses: the tools we use to perceive the world, our sight, our touch, our memory. If they lie to us, then nothing can be trusted.” Neil Gaiman
Indeed, senses are truly the way for us to interact with the surrounding. I recently watched the BBC’s Sherlock and in the last episode it tells a story of Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother manipulating the Holmes family’s memory so that they don’t know about the existence of their sister who had mental disorder. However, throughout the whole series, we can see the brotherhood and the trust shared between Sherlock and Mycroft. The question is, when you trust someone who has admittedly manipulate your sense, who do you trust now? I believe psychological studies in the future will drive and allow human beings to manipulate each others’ senses. When the time comes, we have to improve our ‘tools’, or is it even possible to do so?