Mythology with Erin

Adventures in storytelling

Tag: Week 6

Wikipedia Trails: From Baghdad to Triumph

I started this Wikipedia Trail from something I looked up for my reading this week. The Voyages of Sindbad repeatedly mentioned Baghdad, and I had no idea where Baghdad was! I searched it on Wikipedia, and then followed the trail…

Baghdad

Baghdad is capital of Iraq. It’s the largest city in Iraq, and it has a long history. It’s located on the Tigris River, and it was founded in 762 AD. The city was destroyed by the Mongols in the 1200s, and it’s been plagued by troubles for several centuries. There have been many failed empires as well as literal plagues, and in recent years, the city has been invaded and targeted by insurgents in the area. In its earliest years, though, it was a major center for Islamic culture and was renowned as a Center of Learning.

Victory Arch

The Victory Arch is known by many names: The Hands of Victory, Crossed Swords, Swords of Qadisiyah. It’s a sculpture in Baghdad that features two hands holding swords that are crossed high in the air. There are two of them, and they mark the entrance to a monument ground for the Iran-Iraq War. The sculptures were partially dismantled in 2007 as an effort to get rid of all symbols of the Saddam Hussein era, but the effort was stopped, and the swords have been restored as an act of reconciliation with the past.

Triumphal Arch

The triumphal arch is an architectural monument popularized by the Romans, who built them to commemorate military victories, great leaders, new conquests, and feats of construction. They’re highly decorated and usually span the width of a road that passes under them. These arches have been built in many cities around the world to commemorate their own victories, most notably the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

Roman Triumph

A “triumph” was not just a word for victory in Rome; it was an huge event to celebrate such a victory. Triumphs were awarded to the best generals in the army after great victories, and they were massive. The general would wear the finest purple robes and a laurel wreath while being paraded around Rome in a chariot with his armies, captives, and spoils of war. He would stop at the Temple of Jupiter to make a sacrifice and dedicate his victory to the gods. The city would hold celebratory games and feasting. During the parade, the triumphant general was said to be as close to a god as a man can get (until the emperors started claiming they were gods). Because of this, a companion would often stand behind the general during the festivities, whispering in his ear to remind him that he is only a man and he will die.

Image 1: Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Victory Arch in Baghdad. Source – Wikipedia

Image 3: The Triumphal Arch of Orange, the oldest surviving triple-arched Roman arch. Source – Wikipedia

Famous Last Words: Saxet Week!

This week absolutely flew by! There weren’t any exams this week, but that was only the calm before the storm this coming week. I have two exams on Thursday, which seems like a terrible Texas Week present. 

My work in this class has continued to be enjoyable. I loved reading stories about Sindbad, though I was sad that I couldn’t read all of the options for this unit! Maybe I’ll peek into one for extra credit sometime soon. I had a good time learning more about storytelling for my Story Lab project, and it was a much-needed break. I do like that we still have the option to write a story if we want to, which I think I’ll be taking most often. I had a good time revising my introduction for my project. I’ve been in a drafting phase of several of my personal projects for a long time, and I had forgotten how much I enjoy rewriting and revising!

In my Media Writing class this week, I had to do one of the most challenging assignments I’ve ever done. We had to go around campus and briefly interview random people. I hate disrupting people, and my biggest fear is people thinking that I’m annoying. I’m very shy around strangers. To make matters worse, we had to record these interviews and then transcribe them, which meant I had to listen to my voice on recording. Ugh. I went at the project with a growth mindset (and a promise to reward myself with a  Cherry Dr. Pepper after I finished) and saw it as an opportunity to get better at talking to strangers. Of course, I found out that all of my fears were unfounded, and everyone I asked talked with me gladly. Still, I’m an introvert, and I was mentally drained for the rest of the day from so much interaction!

The question that I asked people for the assignment was “Do you think college athletes should be paid?” I was very surprised when everyone I asked said no. I tried to ask a lot of different people, from freshman girls to guys who were obviously interested in sports. Each of them believed that college athletes should not be paid, and mostly, their reasoning was that they already get a scholarship. I wasn’t allowed to share my own opinion for the assignment, so I’m going to now. I also think college athletes should not be paid, but I do think they deserve to be very well taken care of. They should get those scholarships and many of the benefits that come with it–merchandise, meal plans, personal tutors/trainers, etc. The only reason I’m opposed to them getting a salary is because it would make college recruiting a nightmarish game of “who will pay me more?” Students may transfer schools just to get a higher salary, and that would ruin so much of the spirit of college football. They should be taken care of, though, because enormous empires are being built on the backs of these 19-23 year-olds. Just think about how much OU Athletics makes every year! The athletes deserve to see a share of that so they’re not exploited.

The Baylor game was fun this weekend, and I like that we perfectly doubled their score 66-33. I’m a little upset that Oklahoma is getting spurned by the polls and sports analysts (We dropped to #7 this week!) but as long as we keep winning, we’ll be fine.

It’s Texas Week! As a member of the Pride, it’s going to be a busy but fun week. We have a lot of things going on! I can’t wait for the game because it’s supposed to be a nail-biter, and it was chosen to be the ESPN College GameDay location! I hope we get to do a pep gig on the set. Most of all, I hope the weather has mercy on us. Last year it was unbearably hot, and I don’t think I can survive another one of those games. 

Texas sucks. Horns down. Boomer Sooner. Let’s beat saxeT!

Image 1: OU Drumline Rookie Class of 2017 flashing horns down at the Texas game. From personal photos.

Image 2: Texas Longhorns logo. Source – Wikipedia.

Week 6 Story Lab: The Power of Stories

Ted Talks: 

“The Danger of a Single Story” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Imaginary Friends and Real-World Consequences: Parasocial Relationships” Jennifer Barnes

I really enjoyed watching these two Ted Talks because although they are about different subjects, they made me think a lot about how and why we write. As a writer myself, I was especially intrigued and inspired by many of the points they made. 

In “The Danger of a Single Story,” the speaker says that we are very impressionable and vulnerable to stories, especially as children. In her case, the white British and American characters she read about as a child made her believe that all stories needed to be about these types of characters. I definitely agree with this psychological phenomenon, and I’ve experienced it myself, though not on nearly a sad and unfortunate level as this speaker. Jennifer Barnes asks in her talk how dangerous it is if there are a disproportionate number of stories about boys/men in our world, and this reminded me a lot of my childhood. I read a lot of “boy books” (fantasy, sword-fighting, science fiction, etc.) growing up, and it led me to believe, in a childlike way, that people who were strong, courageous, fighters, and “cool” had to be boys. Because of this, I would always pick the male avatar in video games, and when my friend–who was very similar to me in this way–and I would go on pretend adventures, we would pretend to be boy characters. I’m so glad I eventually grew out of that, and similarly to Adichie, found books that were able to broaden my mind by depicting strong and well-developed female characters.

The gist of this is that while we sometimes say we read to experience new ideas, places, fantasies, etc, we are drawn to stories with people and situations that we can identify with. There’s a huge movement within the YA (young adult) fiction world where women, people of color, international authors, etc. are having huge success and support because people have finally realized that diversity is what we need and want in stories: so we can see ourselves in our stories. This is why Black Panther was so enormous. It’s why The Hate U Give by Angie Miller has built a brick-and-mortar home at the top of the NYT Bestseller List and ALREADY has a movie coming out. And–my personal favorite–it’s why Nigerian author Tomi Adeyemi’s book based on Nigerian myth and culture, Children of Blood Bone has been so successful that Jimmy Fallon picked it as his summer reading book. (I highly recommend this book, and if you want a more in-depth discussion of why I love it and why you should read it, check out my review of it over here!)

I laughed out loud when Adichie said that she thought writers had to have a terrible childhood, so she started inventing horrible things her parents did to her. It was funny because as a writer myself, I’ve experienced that stereotype and that bit of angst when you realize that your childhood was actually quite wonderful. 

Jennifer Barnes’ talk was fascinating because I’ve always been interested in the psychological reasons behind storytelling. After all, writing and becoming invested in fiction doesn’t make much sense when you really think about it. In fact, there are a lot of people who think it is a waste of time. I was interested to learn about parasocial relationships, and I was shocked by my own reaction to her thought experiment: Do you feel more grief for the death of a fictional character or an acquaintance? I was also surprised to see the stark difference between males and females in her results. I wonder why we see such differences–is it caused by an inherent difference between men and women, or is it something conditioned?

Overall, these Ted Talks really made me think about why we tell stories and why those stories are important. I can’t wait to apply this knowledge within my own writing, to ensure that I’m not just writing a “single story.”

Image 1: Girl reading a book. Source – Pixabay.

Image 2: Girl reading a book with a blindfold. Source – Pxhere.

Tech Tip: Twine

I was fascinated when Laura introduced me to Twine, a free online program for creating nonlinear, choose-your-own stories. I immediately downloaded the application, but I could not figure out how to make it work. I was so excited to see this tech tip get added with clear instructions!

To get familiar with Twine, I created a number guessing game kind of like 20 questions where my game will figure out what number the player is thinking of. It’s super simple, but it was a great experiment because I started to understand the program more and could see how the game can loop back onto itself and create new paths. 

I’m 100% interested in writing a Twine story or two for this class because I love choose-your-adventure stories, and it’s a unique challenge to write it and get it posted. I think it will be especially nice for an interactive, spooky Halloween themed story in October.

I do wish the colors/text of the published Twine game could be customized to be less dark or add pictures. Maybe those things are possible with a little bit of coding, and I’ll see if I can figure it out. If not, it’s still a fun application, and I’m excited for my next Tech Tip, where I’ll learn how to publish my Twine file online.

Image 1: Backlit keyboard. Source – Pixabay.

Image 2: Kitten playing with yarn. Source – Public Domain Pictures

Reading Notes: The Voyages of Sindbad, Part B

Fifth Voyage:

“Not even all that I had gone through could make me contented with a quiet life. I soon wearied of its pleasures and longed for change and adventure.” What is it that makes Sindbad so restless? Is this a positive attribute or a negative one? It could be said that he’s reckless, or maybe it’s good that he refuses to be lazy and complacent. He definitely has a level of complexity about him.

Sindbad is shocked that the merchants kill the baby roc. He must have an appreciation for nature, even scary, dangerous nature. Or maybe he just knows that the mother roc is nearby.

In the other voyages, the crewmembers who die seem almost innocent and undeserving of that fate, but in this voyage, they’re symbolically getting paid back for killing the baby roc.

It’s interesting that the sailors Sindbad finds know that it is the island of the Old Man of the Sea, but Sindbad has not been able to identify it as such. I think this is a clue that Sindbad is not a good mariner; he’s just lucky enough and clever enough to survive these encounters.

Sixth Voyage:

It mentions “friends and relations,” and I would be very interested to see more from these characters and what they thought of Sindbad’s adventures.

Maybe it is Sindbad that is causing the bad luck to befall all of these ships. Maybe he’s cursed by some god or doesn’t follow the superstitions of sailing and is somehow bringing all of this doom upon himself and his fellow sailors.

It turns very suddenly from all the sailors being alive to all of them being dead. Why doesn’t Sindbad try to save them all? And Sindbad never seems to mourn much for these deaths. In fact, he shows little emotion at all. The prose is very clinical and factual as he plainly relates what happened to him.

You would think that by this point Sindbad wouldn’t be so worried about amassing treasure since he has so much money at home already.

“Close thine eyes, and while thou sleepest Heaven will change thy fortune from evil to good.” Is this a religious proverb? We haven’t seen much evidence of a religious disposition from Sindbad in any of these stories, but it would make sense if he was.

Seventh Voyage:

This one is different because Sindbad does not choose to go. I wonder if this will mean things will not follow the same pattern that they did in the previous voyages.

“…those who were prudent enough to submit at once, of whom I was one.” Sindbad is not a warrior, and while he likes sailing and adventure, he doesn’t seek danger. In fact, he seems weary of it at this point. I wouldn’t say he is cowardly, but he’s certainly not actively courageous. Rather, he does what is necessary to survive.

Bibliography:

The Voyages of Sindbad from The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Lang. Web source.

Image 1: Indian elephant. Source – Wikipedia.

Image 2: Sindbad on the raft by Rene Bull. Source – Wikipedia.

Reading Notes: The Voyages of Sindbad, Part A

First Voyage:

I like the first person point of view and wonder how it will effect the story’s portrayal of Sindbad. I am also interested in seeing how Sindbad changes throughout the story since he begins “young and foolish”

“…and since that hour have been no more plagued by sea-sickness.” The prose here sounds a lot like a journal, almost a “Captain’s Log” sort of thing.

The island being a sleeping whale is very interesting and unexpected. The ocean in this story seems like a vast place full of mysterious things.

“The cliffs were high and steep, but luckily for me some tree-roots protruded in places, and by their aid I climbed up at last, and stretched myself upon the turf at the top, where I lay, more dead than alive, till the sun was high in the heavens.” What a classic adventure story scene. I think you could also say it symbolizes Sindbad rising from his reckless youth to his exciting and wealthy adulthood. 

Where is Baghdad? Iran

What are timbals? They might be like timbales, which are high pitched drums typically used in Latin music. 

How long is a cubit? Since it’s an ancient measurement, it varies, but it’s about the length of a forearm from fingertip to elbow.

It’s interesting how the First Voyage ends with Sindbad seeming to give up the life of sailing and wandering, but obviously things are not going to go as he plans once again.

Second Voyage:

It’s interesting that Sindbad is not the captain of the ship because I always thought he was. Maybe he gets there eventually.

Sindbad’s situations seem to be primarily caused by bad luck. He’s not actively seeking out adventure or trouble, but it happens to him because he happens to be in the wrong places at the wrong times. It’s good that he’s clever enough to keep himself alive!

The settings of these islands are so fascinating, from a whale island, to the roc island, to the snake and diamond island. 

If I’m still looking for themes and symbolism here, I think there’s definitely something about the valley of diamonds also being guarded by giant snakes. Something about greed.

Wow, I wouldn’t have thought to grab diamonds to make friends with the merchants at the top of the cliff; that was very smart of Sindbad to do.

“This doubtless astonishes you, but if you do not believe my tale go to Rohat and see for yourself.” So Sindbad is telling this story to an audience that he addresses. This is a common narrative technique in oral storytelling as well as a popular metafictional “breaking the fourth wall” element.

“I settled down to enjoy tranquilly the riches I had gained with so much toil and pain.” Prosperity only comes after hard work, and there’s a certain amount of luck behind it.

Third Voyage:

It’s interesting that Sindbad seems to always end up alone. He’s loses all of his crew members and is forced to rely on himself to get to safety. 

Bibliography:

The Voyages of Sindbad from The Arabian Nights Entertainments by Lang. Web source.

Image 1: Sailboat sunset. Source – Max Pixel

Image 2: Collage of attractions from around Baghdad. Source – Wikipedia.

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