Showing 141 - 150 of 360 annotations tagged with the keyword "Catastrophe"

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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Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: History

Summary:

In this account of early practitioners and advocates of 'inoculation,' or the use of tiny amounts of smallpox contagion to induce a mild case of smallpox and immunity, author Carrell weaves prodigious historical research with fictionalized dialogue to create a tale of two prominent figures: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu of London and Dr. Zabdiel Boylston of Boston. Both Lady Mary and Boylston suffered scarring from smallpox, and, by living in the early 18th century, both witnessed the devastation of epidemics in terms of public health and private loss.

Both were also aware of the use of inoculation to prevent severe disease in Turkey (Lady Mary visited with her ambassador husband) and in Africa (on the advice of Cotton Mather, Boylston interviewed Africans, slave and freemen, living in Boston). Both faced formidable challenges and risked personal security to promote the use of this technique. Both proved their belief in the technique by the inoculation of their own children. And both, perhaps, met. At the behest of the Royal Society, Boylston traveled to London, witnessed numerous inoculations, and presented his Boston experience to the Society.

The book also chronicles the natural course of the disease, its various symptoms, forms and popular treatments, and the political impact of smallpox on the royal families of Europe and business interests in Boston. The medical research of various doctors is detailed. In particular, selected Newgate prisoners were offered pardon in return for participation in an experiment conducted by Mr. Maitland, who also inoculated Lady Mary's children. These experiments were used to test the safety and efficacy of inoculation prior to royal inoculation.

Ultimately, detractors of inoculation ceased their vitriolic attacks, as the risks of inoculation were proven to be far lower than exposure without such protection. The success of inoculation paved the way for Edward Jenner, often called 'the father of immunology,' to successfully use cowpox to induce smallpox immunity later in the 18th century.

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Painting

Bacon, Francis

Last Updated: May-17-2007
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Summary:

The foreground of Painting features a man dressed in a black suit and holding an umbrella. His face, hoary and grotesque, is obscured above his moustache by the shadow of an umbrella. A yellow flower attached to the lapel of the man's jacket stands out clearly against the black of his clothing, and is the only yellow used in the painting.

The man sits or stands inside a round enclosure made either of white metal or wood. Around the perimeter of these circular bars, two pieces of meat--what appear to be shanks of beef--are penetrated and supported by the enclosure. In front of the man, a platform of some sort extends toward the viewer. Behind him hangs a massive carcass, its limbs suspended outwards to expose the ribcage.

Three rectangular shapes that seem to be window blinds hang with cords behind the suspended meat. In the middle of the painting, in the deep background, abstract shapes that may or may not be human forms stand around on a catwalk.

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The Killing Sea

Lewis, Richard

Last Updated: May-13-2007
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Sarah and Peter Bedford are sailing with their parents off the coast of Indonesia when the tsunami strikes. As they attempt to escape, their father breaks his leg. Their mother insists the children run ahead, so they do, up the hills into the jungle. Sarah later finds her mother, dead, on the beach, but not her father. Peter is soon running a fever and Sarah embarks on an arduous overland journey to try to get him help. At the same time Ruslan, an Indonesian boy, has taken his own escape route out of his village, and is looking for his father, along with many who are searching for missing relatives. Ruslan and Sarah recognize one another when their paths cross, as he had waited on her family on an earlier stop in his village. Together, with a few other refugees, they make their way to another village where Peter may be able to receive help in a makeshift hospital. Ruslan is threatened by an additional danger, since his family are partisans in a local conflict, and he is suspected of activity on behalf of the rebels.

At the hospital, lack of personnel and supplies throws Peter's survival into doubt, as well as the prospect of finding the children's father. Eventually Ruslan finds his own father, and Sarah and Peter are rescued by the military and taken to a base where more adequate care may be provided. Once there, Sarah finds herself swarmed by journalists, but realizes that the international attention their own case has incited is lopsided, given the many locals whose stories of loss and suffering are not being told. The story ends with the fates of Peter and their father unresolved; clearly part of the story is that no "end" is in sight, and that it will be a long, long time before anything that looks like "normality" will be restored.

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Summary:

On Friday the 13th of October of 1972, a Fairchild F-227, a twin engine turbo prop carrying the Old Christians Rugby Club from Montevideo, Uruguay, to an exhibition match in Chile, crashed in the Andes with 45 people aboard, including the four crew members. The players were mostly young men in their early 20's accompanied by several adults, including the mother and sister of the author of Miracle in the Andes, Nando Parrado. They had the good fortune to have a relatively soft crash with 40 survivors after impact, which dwindled to 16 by the time of the dramatic rescue two months later. This book recounts the incredible tribulations of the survivors, the escape of two of them over the Andes with warm weather clothing to a small farm community in rural Chile, and the author's reflections on this experience.

The young men were quick to learn basic survival tricks at altitude including keeping each other warm, devising an apparatus to keep themselves hydrated, and trying to maintain optimistic spirits. Although they were sure of a rescue mission, as the days passed it became clear this was increasingly unlikely. They eventually came to the dilemma of all such cornered and secluded survivors, i.e., eat human flesh or die of starvation. Unlike the sailors in the story of the whaleship Essex, and more akin to the saga of the Donner Party, there were corpses available already refrigerated by nature with no need for drawing straws for sacrifice. Despite their staunch Catholicism - their team was, after all, a team sponsored by the Irish Christian Brothers of the Stella Maris School - all the survivors finally agreed it was necessary.

Although there were a few initial attempts to escape, they were futile until the author and one of the three medical students, Roberto Canessa, were successful in climbing over the peaks, finally encountering peasant farmers after a ten day trek to Los Maitenes, a region in Colchagua, Chile. Helicopters then returned to the crash site and successfully rescued the remaining members of this small band of young men.

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Incomplete Knowledge

Harrison, Jeffrey

Last Updated: Apr-26-2007
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

The author dedicates this collection to "my brother Andy, in memory." Indeed, the second half of the book (Part II) contains 22 poems that concern the brother's suicide at age 47. Although two poems in Part I are in memory of recently deceased poet-friends, most of Part I handles a variety of experiences, memories, and reflections, all written with self-deprecating humor. There is "My Worst Job Interview"; a poem about a writing class in which the instructor repeatedly announced to the class that Harrison was "hopeless" ("Fork"); a riff on being one of those "who know something about the world / but not a whole lot" ("Incomplete Knowledge"); a poem about a disastrous breakfast with a friend who is said to have Asperger's syndrome ("Breakfast with Dan"); and in a more serious vein, "My Personal Tornado," in which Harrison presciently speculates about "the maelstrom" that is bound to hit him, just as all lives undergo "this beast of wind that sucks you into / the updraft of its hungry funnel."

Part II begins with a museum visit in which the poet speaks to a 15th century statue of a saint: "Now I want to tell you everything / that has happened to me since I last saw you" ("Saint"). There follows the 12 part poem, "An Undertaking," which begins with "The Call" from Harrison's father in the middle of the night, and moves through the family entering the dead brother's apartment, packing his belongings, telling the poet's children, and above all, trying to understand: "I weighed possibilities, made lists, wrote memos / to myself: was it spontaneous or planned -- / and for how long? I couldn't let it go" ("The Investigation"). Attempts to understand continue in "Confession" in which Harrison retrospectively acknowledges "your small odd habits // that were probably symptoms / but which I chose to see as harmless quirks." This long poem sequence ends with a "Plea" to be forgiven for preoccupation with self, for not recognizing a brother in need of help, yet: "No one can forgive me but myself . . . but I can forgive you for killing yourself."

The remainder of Part II includes a poem about the poet's senile grandmother who nevertheless notices at Thanksgiving that "Someone's missing" ("Happiness"); poems about joy and renewed loss when his brother appears in dreams ("The Return," "Not Waking Up," "Visitation Rights"); anniversaries of the death ("Anniversary," "Fall Truce"); memories.

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Holy the Firm

Dillard, Annie

Last Updated: Apr-23-2007
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Essay

Summary:

The narrator is a woman who lives alone in a rural area of Puget Sound. She is a writer, an observer, a spiritual thinker. "Each day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time" begins her musings about the first of three days. But on day two, a catastrophe occurs: a small plane crashes and a seven-year-old girl’s face is "burned off" as she is carried away from the explosion in her father’s arms.

The narrator had met the girl once before, at a neighbor’s farm, and had formed a connection--they looked alike and the girl playfully tormented the narrator’s cat with a dress-up game. The narrator imagines the girl in the hospital, imagines her future life as a nun with no face, and ultimately imagines a gentler future in which the girl’s face is restored, she is married and the narrator has assumed the function of the nun for her.

Throughout, the narrator wrestles with the hard questions of life: why are we here; why do horrible things happen; what is the relationship of God and the world; where is God and what is he doing? She is angry: "Do we need blind men stumbling about, and little flamefaced children, to remind us what God can--and will--do?"

A Christian, she seeks answers in her wide-ranging theology, and seems to find an inroad in the idea of "Holy the Firm"--a substance lower than salts and minerals, below the earth’s crust, in touch with "the Absolute." The narrator hence posits that "Holy the Firm" allows for an unbroken circle between God, Christ, and the created world.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

The book opens with a thought "exercise": thirteen short essays, each in a different national voice and beginning "We, the people of a nation . . . " The honest, intelligent "speakers" love their countries and traditions; however, they try to express the ugly truths about their homelands as challenges for the future.

For example, American smugness over its know-how and wealth combines with American failure to recognize the resentment sparked elsewhere by these same attributes. Similarly, the mutual intolerance of Canada's linguistic and religious duality is portrayed as a grotesque irony. The U.S.S.R. has exchanged an old tyranny for a new; Japan must face the issue of controlling its population, if it is to control its impulse to aggression.

Chisholm then returns to his role as a socially committed psychiatrist who hopes to avert a war that could annihilate the human species. World aggression, he writes, is caused by the "anxiety" that emerges from intolerance typifying narrow parental guidance and even narrower systems of education and religion. People must learn to be comfortable with differences in population, race, language, and wealth. The message is simple: "anxiety" leads to "aggression." The book ends with a ideal curriculum for "world citizenship," surprisingly different from any currently in use.

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