Showing 141 - 150 of 367 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

The Fisherman's Son

Köepf, Michael

Last Updated: May-22-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel of a commercial fisherman's family centers on the son, Neil Kruger, as he struggles to survive on a life raft after a comber, a huge wave, sinks his boat. The book combines his memories of growing up at Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco--the harsh lessons of the sea, his laconic father Ernie, and a disintegrating family--with the story of the illegal activities that led to this last run and his efforts to live.

Death is ever-present for fishermen. Throughout the book, the intimate killing of fish caught one by one is juxtaposed with the constant threat of human loss due to wind, storm, fog, rock, cold and waves. It is a hard-scrabble existence, as over-fishing, pollution, and price control by a few influential merchants combine to depress the fishing business.

As a boy, Neil is told by his mother not to become a fisherman. But then it is she who commands him to join his father one night. This conflict of loyalties, to the land and the sea, to his mother and his father, to religion with its hope of divine intervention and nature with its insensate brutality, cause a tension in Neil that leads him to reflect on his roles as dutiful son, eldest brother and future fisherman.

Neil's memories contain many traumatic events: the rescue of survivors from a hospital ship sunk in a collision with a tanker, the immigration tales of the tightly knit group of Half Moon Bay fishermen, the attempted rescue of one of these men during a storm, and the misadventure during a fishing escapade with his friends, including a wheelchair bound boy with polio. In addition, Neil recalls his father's worsening debility and subsequent post-operative and post-anesthetic problems. By the end of the book, the time frame of Neil's memories converges with his current crisis and time itself becomes as vast and unknowable as the sea.

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In the Springtime of the Year

Hill, Susan

Last Updated: May-18-2007
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the Springtime of the Year opens with the death of Ben Bryce, a young man in his 20's whom we only get to know posthumously but one who has clearly left his imprint on all who knew him. Dying as a result of a freak accident--an apparently healthy tree suddenly falling on him--Ben, as a friend notes, "had been at one with things" (62). The death, happening so unexpectedly and to such a young man of promise, leaves his small rural English community eerily stunned. "People felt changed, as by war or earthquake or fire, even those who lived closest to death and knew its face" (56). As Moony, the same friend, remarks to himself, "it was no ordinary death" (63). Ruth--his young wife--she is 7 or 8 years younger--begins a grieving process that occupies the rest of the novel, beginning with the news of her husband's death in early March until the last page in December.

Although the attention the author pays to Ruth's grief is extraordinarily close, there are other events external to her grief that occupy her and the reader's gaze. Ben's family is equally devastated but hampered in their effort to perform grief work by an egoistically blinkered and unimaginative, selfish mother who has ruined her grown daughter's life, stultified her husband's, and only failed to affect her two sons, Ben and Jo, by dint of their physical and mental exodus, respectively, from the household. Jo, at fourteen (he was exactly half Ben's age at the time of the accident) is precociously generous, supportive of Ruth, and self-sufficient. Indeed, he is the most wise character in the book.

Ruth's attempt to make sense of her husband's tragic death; the usual small town happenings in the village; and Ruth's eventual emergence from her grief, partly as a result of her helping others suffering these small town hardships--all form a tightly knit story that centers around grief, tragedy, and humans' attempt to impose meaning on life's often unfairly dealt hand.

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Dax's Case

Burton, Keith

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Jones, Therese

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Video

Summary:

In the fall of 1979, Keith Burton, a free-lance journalist, saw the videotape 0105 in a bioethics seminar at Southern Methodist University (see annotation in this database). The structural centerpiece of this 1974 documentary is the interview of a burn patient, Donald "Dax" Cowart, by psychiatrist Dr. Robert B. White at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Dr. White had been called in to determine the patient’s competency because of his persistent requests to end the painful treatments, to go home, and to die.

Similar to most viewers of Please Let Me Die, Burton was intrigued by the unanswered questions and the uncertain outcome of the case and ultimately contacted Dax Cowart and his mother, Ada Cowart. Burton invited their collaboration on a follow-up videotape to Please Let Me Die, with the intention of providing "a living record of this man’s struggle for release from pain and despair." [see Keith Burton, "A Chronicle: Dax’s Case As It Happened." In Dax’s Case: Essays In Medical Ethics And Human Meaning, ed. Lonnie D. Kliever. (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press) 1989: 1].

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An Uncertain Grace

Salgado, Sebastiao

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Photography

Genre: Photography

Summary:

This powerful book of black and white photographs contains four sections labeled: I. The End of Manual Labor, 1986-, II. Diverse Images 1974-87, III. Famine in the Sahel, 1984-85, and IV. Latin America, 1977-84. In addition, photographs accompany the prose-poetry opening essay, "Salgado, 17 Times," by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and the concluding essay, "The Lyric Documentarian," by former New York Times picture editor Fred Ritchin. This oversize book concludes with a list of captions for the photographs and a detailed two-page biography of Salgado. Essentially the photographs cover Salgado’s impressive work from 1974-89.

Every image is of a person or people. Many are suffering, many are starving, grieving, keening, dying, displaced. Many are children. Many are laboring under impossibly harsh conditions such as the teeming, mud-coated manual laborers of the Brazilian Serra Pelada gold mine. An Ethiopian father anoints the corpse of his famine starved, skin and bone child with oil. An old man, squinting in the sun, leans over to touch the arm of an equally thin and weak man in a Sudanese refugee camp. Rarely, the people are smiling or celebrating.

The photographs are global: Angola, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Chad, Cuba, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Sudan, Thailand, and more. As Galeano notes, "This much is certain: it would be difficult to look at these figures and remain unaffected. I cannot imagine anyone shrugging his shoulder, turning away unseeing, and sauntering off, whistling." (p. 7) [156 pp.]

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

Dominating this picture are five brown-skinned, black-haired babies clad only in diapers, who are sitting or standing on a white sheet. Remarkably, the babies are featureless, although one appears to be crying. Another is standing, waving a tiny American flag. Looming in the lower left of the picture is an MP (military police), also brown-skinned, but with Caucasian features. He stands guard, not facing the children, and prominently holding a rifle to which a bayonet is attached.

Separating the babies from the MP is the barbed wire fence that stretches along the painting's foreground. In the background is the watch tower often depicted in Sugimoto's paintings, more barbed wire fences that enclose the children, and a menacing dark brown sky.

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Jerome Camp

Sugimoto, Henry

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist, Henry Sugimoto, depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

This painting is bleak, almost colorless, with its shades of gray and beige; the sky is cloudy. In the foreground there appears to be a marshy area, with water, wooden boards strewn about, and tall grass at the water's edge. Barracks stretch behind the marsh, on either side of a narrow road, the repetitive monotony reinforced by telegraph poles that line one side of the road. There are no people or animals in sight and the only vegetation detectable, besides marsh grass, is the sketchy outline of tree tops in the distance.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

In the foreground of this painting, her back to the viewer, a woman waves a handkerchief in farewell to her husband, who wears an army uniform. The children wave goodbye with her as their father turns around to wave back. The road on which the soldier walks is flanked by the barbed wire of the camp, and in the distance stands a watch tower. The woman and her children are separated from the husband/father by a sign that seems suspended in front of them and says in large letters, "STOP." A guard soldier with bayonet stands next to the woman and children, facing them and the viewer with a stern expression on his gray-white face.

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When Can We Go Home?

Sugimoto, Henry

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Japanese American artist Henry Sugimoto depicted life in the Arkansas internment camps into which he and his entire family (including wife and child) and many others of Japanese descent were forced, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Sugimoto's life and his painting were profoundly influenced by his incarceration experience during World War II. During and after this period his subject changed from landscapes to scenes of camp life and the Japanese emigration/immigration experience; these works often had social and political purpose.

In the center of this painting stands a woman bending down toward a young girl who is facing her. Both are wearing colorful (yellow and red, respectively) dresses and the girl is wearing boots. The child stretches her right arm toward the woman while her left arm points upward toward structures --a suspension bridge, parts of buildings --that are angled, overlap each other, and are placed within a light blue background.

What appear to be two transparent light beams emanate at an acute angle from the right vertical border of the painting. The angled beams and the angled overlapping buildings simultaneously break up the picture and unite its various elements. In the lower left corner a coiled rattlesnake stretches its head toward the child, while in the lower right corner, a squirrel is sitting on a log viewed end on, an ax resting propped up against the log. A large sunflower stretches along the right vertical border of the picture toward the triangle of the upper right hand corner. In this triangle is the ubiquitous watch tower of Sugimoto's camp paintings, tilted (see "Send Off Husband at Jerome Camp" and "Nisei Babies in Concentration Camp" in this database); a camp building, green trees, and a dark blue-black sky through which a lightning bolts tears vertically.

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Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

A man wearing a dark suit and shirt with clerical collar, his head bowed, knees buckling, his forehead and cheek dripping blood, is being held from behind by a young man whose arms reach under the cleric's shoulders to restrain him. To the left of these two men, and moving into the center of the picture with his lifted outstretched leg, a third man, his sleeves rolled up to reveal his muscular arms, punches and kicks the cleric. All three have Asiatic features.

In the background is a drab gray wooden building that says "Mess" while in the foreground a small wooden stake carries a sign saying "Block." The cleric's hat and glasses have tumbled to the ground next to his feet, and a book that appears to be a bible also lies there. The ground, like the Mess Hall, is drab and colorless; the sky is a bleak darkish brown.

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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In October, 1939, Josef Kavalier arrives at the New York City apartment of his cousin Sammy Klayman after an arduous escape from Prague and the Nazi invasion. Kavalier’s escape involved hiding in the casket of the oversized Golem of Prague, and was possible due to his training with Bernard Kornblum, one of the premier illusionists in Europe. Kavalier, the son of two physicians, and older brother to young Thomas, struggles to secure the freedom of his family, and to adapt to his adopted country.

His cousin, Sammy, however, is a first generation New York City Jew, the son of a psychiatric nurse at Bellevue and a fly-by-night vaudeville actor called the Mighty Molecule. Sammy was afflicted with polio as a child, with resultant spindly but usable legs--this later prevents his entry into the armed services after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Sammy, who changes his name to Sam Clay, forms a partnership with his cousin to create a new kind of comic book, The Escapist, with innovations such as the Luna Moth, a female superhero. Much of the book follows their energies in the comic book industry in mid-twentieth century New York.

Rosa Luxemburg Saks, Sammy and Joe form an unusual love triangle. Rosa is an artist who introduces the cousins to the art culture of NYC, including a visit from Salvador Dalí, whom Joe rescues from asphyxiation in a diving suit during a Greenwich Village party. Joe and Rosa’s relationship, however, is interrupted by World War II, when Joe, devastated by news of his family in Europe, enlists, only to survive again--this time from carbon monoxide poisoning in an Antarctic Kelvinator Naval station.

Meanwhile Sam and Rosa marry to raise her son. Sam, a homosexual at a time when such a designation was largely viewed as a disease and as Un-American, spends much of his life in denial of his yearnings. Nonetheless he is eventually forced to testify to a Senate Judiciary Committee in 1954 on the role of the comic book industry in the trumpeting of male-male relationships.

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