“Mythical State”

 

Mythical State

I had the privilege of attending Dr. Nathaniel Greenberg’s iteration of the “Lunch and Lecture” series hosted by the Arabic Flagship Program. While I’m not a member of the program itself, the prospect of analyzing the communications and aesthetics utilizes by the Islamic state instantly piqued my interest. Throw in the fact that the event was catered by Panera and the deal was sealed.

Dr. Greenberg’s lecture focused heavily on what he referred to as the “digital caliphate”–that is, the new format that Islamic communication and counter-communication have taken over the past few years. For example, it is reported that ISIS generates tens of thousands of tweets every day. That’s a staggering amount of web presence. However, it’s also estimated that the terror organization fields somewhere between 500-2,000 social media operatives. Most of those tweet are coming from bots, spewing their content into the void and hoping that something takes root.

As ISIS grows in presence online, so do those who satirize their message. Macabre “parody” videos that make mockery of ISIS actions, proclamations and media have begun to surface. Most famous is the Iraqi TV program ‘Dawlat al-Khurafa’ (State of Myths). The show aims to diffuse the aura of fear created by ISIS through sketch comedy; an approach that not everyone found appropriate. Dr. Greenberg stated that the show was received poorly by Iraqi citizens who felt that it made light of the situation and legitimized the terrorist group by further acknowledging their presence. The show’s trailer is certainly polarizing: It portrays the wedding of the devil and a Jewish woman, overseen by a whiskey-swilling cowboy. A fledging ISIS member is shown hatching from an egg a short time later and the trailer ends as divisively as it began.

 

12/14/17: Yes We Cannes

In 2012, the University of Oklahoma offered to teach the course FVS 3843: Topics in National Cinemas: French Film at the Université Blaise-Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand, France. The class, which covers the cultural influences and implications of the cinema throughout French history, possesses another selling point that seems to be entirely overlooked by the University–it’s only six hours away from Cannes, France, the home of the annual International Film Festival.

Neat stuff.

The festival–which runs from May 8-19 this spring–and the French Film course–which began in late May–would coincide perfectly with each other and serve to expose the pupils to a taste of real-world cinema and modern implications of the course material. What better way to excite students than by immersing them in what is widely regarded as the one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world?

The French-Film-Course-and-Cannes-Experience travel abroad package sounds almost too good to be true and it very well might be. Costs of such an excursion would be high and the entirety of the trip would hinge on OU offering the same course in the future. Other film-related courses are offered in Arezzo, Italy–which would be a fantastic experience, don’t get me wrong–but for now, this is my “study abroad dream”. I’ll talk with my advisors about looking into how feasible the package would be and if there’s interest among other OU students in such a program.

[Updates to come]

Update: Un Miembro Nuevo del Club Español

¡Hola! Though the title of the blog post here speaks for itself pretty well, I’ve recently joined the Spanish Club here at OU! This will provide a wonderful opportunity to practice my speaking skills (I’m a decent enough writer and reader but my speaking no es tan bueno) with someone other than my roommate Emilio–something he’ll probably be thankful for.

Making sugar skulls at Spanish Club.

From my understanding, I might even get a chance to help out with the Día de los Muertos celebrations held every year at Lloyd Noble. I’ve always enjoyed cooking and I would love to be able to help prepare the some of the food that’s served during the festivities–prepping some delicious food and learning about some fantastic traditions sounds like a great way to get involved on campus.

10/5/17: “Poems and Picasso”

 

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend the “Poems and Picasso” dinner party hosted by the HASA board of executives in the engineering quad. Being my first cultural event that I had attended at OU, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect–let it be known that HASA set the bar pretty high.

Though I didn’t know anyone else at the event, it was no problem to slip into conversation with the other students over rice and fajitas. I met Jose and Maria–two representatives from the HASA board of executives and got to practice my conversational Spanish with the people sitting around my table.

As the name suggests, the purpose of the night was to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic artists in their respective fields, be it poetry, painting, literature, etc. Our first homage was paid to Picasso; we painted abstract cubist portraits alongside a video tutorial that outlined the steps to creating your own Picasso-esque masterpiece. My portrait now hangs in my dorm above my desk, providing a cultural bright spot in a room that is otherwise far-too-beige.

She’s a beaut.

As canvases were set aside to dry, the night came to its second phase–poetry. As Jose narrated, we were led down the harrowing path of Hispanic folk-hero Emilio Zapata’s childhood and eventual rise to power as the champion of the Spanish everyman. His tale was followed by the recitation of an anonymously-submitted composition, detailing the trials and trepidations of a Puerto Rican student, both in the classroom and in our nation itself.

Emilio Zapata

The experience was powerful and exciting in ways I didn’t entirely expect–sitting down at a table where 1. I didn’t know anyone else and 2. English was not the primary language being spoken took me well outside my comfort zone. That being said, I left the engineering quad that night having gained a handful of friends, a new perspective on the tribulations of immigrant students and one heck of a cubist Picasso portrait.

8/27/17: Bachata and Barbecue–Not Your Average Dinner Party

Tonight marked the first all-college dinner party hosted in the Dunham Residential Dining Hall and boy, was it something. Despite being the most recent addition to the list of student residences, the Residential Colleges already boast the highest proportion of international students of any of the lodgings on campus. I live on the fourth floor with my roommate Emilio who is also an international student. Suffice it to say that Emilio’s resume abroad would make even the most seasoned traveler jealous: born in León, Mexico, he spent eight years studying at a boarding school in Germany (UWC, an institution that many other international Sooners claim as their alma mater) and has spent time in Italy, France, Belgium and–so it seems–practically everywhere else.

 

Emilio on the right. A rare photograph of our dorm before it looked like a tornado blew through.

The majority of Floor 4 is also comprised of international students, so the dinner’s constituents were nothing if not a melting pot. I met students from around the world–Kazunori from Japan, Anna from Norway, Chenxin from China–all of whom shared stories and experiences from home and gave me entirely new points of view over a family-style plate of barbecue chicken. Afterwards, Emilio even showed me some of the basic steps of Bachata, a traditional style of dance in Hispanic culture and, while I’m not a pro by any means, I am considering going out for the Latin Dance Club next week.

I’m sitting in a dorm room nearly six hours from my home in Kansas City and, for the first few weeks here, that thought had been weighing pretty heavily on my mind. I felt alienated, a state away from my family and two from my best friend. It’s hard to throw that same pity party for yourself when you’re sitting at a table full of students who are separated from their loved ones by an ocean or a continent. Suddenly, your six-hour drive home over break becomes enviable to the girl who’s staying in Norman over Christmas because the plane ticket home is too expensive. I don’t mean to end this post on a somber note because it shouldn’t. Meeting these international students has been a boon for this homesick freshman. Sure, getting Baked Bear with a guy from Sudan won’t change the distance to KCMO, but it helps everything seem smaller and makes home feel just a little closer to Norman.

A picture of the fam. Mostly for homesickness reasons.
My cat, Charlie. Entirely for homesickness reasons.