Ça va . . . (part 2) — Ethan

I’ve written about twelve more pages (bringing the total to 35) summarizing the eleven front-page articles published by the NYT over the course of one month about the Six-Days’ War, while following some crucial themes throughout them all. This section of writing ended up being written differently than the historical section: I wrote for one to two hours each day that I worked on it, as opposed to one long burst of 4-5 hours, and I had it finished in three days

As they are now, I’m not 100% happy with the article summaries. Though I followed through with my intention to go through them one by one, in the order they were published, with a general discussion at the end about what they left the reader with, right now the summaries feel a bit repetitive and clunky. However, it’s difficult to weave too much connection into them because that material would be better suited for the discussion.

In this situation, the first-draft mentality prioritizes creating more content as opposed to refining existing content — for a woodworking analogy, perfecting the article summaries now, in the first draft, would be like fully sanding a piece of wood before I made all the cuts and carved my joints. What that means is I can’t be too attached to perfection at this stage — perfection, or as close as I can get to it, will come on its own in later drafts.

My progress is much the same as it was at the time of my last blog post. I’m still pulling from my outline, which has been incredibly helpful, as all outlines should be, still writing my first draft, and still enjoying the process. One difference is that now I’m beginning to consider options for publishing this paper, which T. Olga and I talked about at the beginning of the semester.

Well, so far, so good, I just need to keep writing — first the discussion on the articles and then the fun part: my very own argument that links the history and media together.



Installing TensorFlow on Windows 10

It has been quite a while since I last wrote about machine learning. During the first week after spring break, I finally got a chance to take a closer look at TensorFlow, a software library designed for machine learning applications by Google. It was originally used by the Google Brain team and was later made open-source to the public. In this week’s blog post, I will discuss the installation of TensorFlow on PCs.

Continue reading

Marilyn Monroe: Fissures and Rebellion Under Resurgent Norms in the 50s – Tony

Marilyn Monroe: Fissures and Rebellion Under Resurgent Norms in the 50s


In the past weeks I studied Niagara (1952) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and  Marilyn Monroe as a case study of the 50s’ gender dynamics.


A top-billing actress and sexual icon, Monroe was arguably the most influential American actress in the 50s. Her films and private life alike are still fervently discussed today by fans and researchers. Major social trends and changes in gender dynamics were all presented in the films she acted.


The 50s is often seen as an era of optimism in norms and resurgence of conservatism. American males, self-assuringly viewing themselves as the saviors of democracy, victoriously returned home, drove the women back home again and took charge themselves. Victory in the international arena and memory of the throes from the Great Recession generated a strong desire within them for a stable traditional family life. As Elaine Tyler May noted, the wartime independence of women gave way to “female subordination and domesticity” (Wandersee 499). However, this resurgence of idyllic middle-class values, as framed by a house, a family and children, enshrouded some more profound undercurrents that ultimately led to the feminist awakening in the 60s.


It is undisputed that many women were driven back to households again, yet many remained single or continued to work outside of the home long after marriage. In the household, the paterfamilia no longer dominated in the same manner. Instead, the new emphasis on sexual pleasure for both genders and sacrifice for the family (and economic success) on both sides created new fissures within the family.

Ray Cutler in Niagara, a florid, energetic and economically well-off personification of middle-class success, experiences this conflict between familial relationships and stress for success. The first belonging that we see he brings to his honeymoon with his wife is an importune book by Winston Churchill. Immediately upon his arrival, he calls the headquarters of his company to arrange a meeting with his boss —– while leaving his wife Polly in their cabin alone. When Polly is terrified by the “resurrected” George, the husband of Monroe in the film, Ray responds to a dining invitation by his boss as follows:

“Well, it, it’s out. The way you feel. The whole idea is silly…

Still, we have to eat somewhere. Uh, just a bite maybe” (Hathaway, Niagara).

These scenes reveal the fissures in the relationship between Ray and Polly and reflect those in American middle-class families in the 50s as a whole. The prosperous economy enabled many families to acquire material well-being, yet this often came at the cost of men’s neglect of family relationships. As Allan Carlson points out, this separation of job and family destabilized the family life in the 50s significantly (). In addition, May’s survey shows that a large number of women in the 50s were dissatisfied with their marriage life (Wandersee 498).

Another prevailing issue of the time is the intrusion of politics into private life. As the American government was increasingly threatened by the Communist expansion across the globe, its containment policy, originally designed to contain the expansion of Communist regime, applied to American families as well with a goal to stabilize the public. In Niagara, Monroe’s husband George suffers a serious post-war trauma as a veteran from the Korean War. His intention in participating in the war was to “prove his virility” to Monroe, yet this masculinity is wounded even more when he comes back. His occupation is reduced to building a model car as a psychiatric treatment to stabilize his psychological condition, which is scoffed at by Monroe for its triviality (Schleiler 51). This weakened position of George makes him passive to Monroe, who deliberately insults him with two tickets she and her lover have used. This inverse in power, as opposed to Dietrich’s deviation, was more prevalent in the 50s than in the 30s. Even though many women were drive back home and men resumed their domination, yet this relationship no longer remained the same. Men came home, desperately trying to exert their virility, yet the women were no longer willing to submit.

Monroe’s characterization in this film, as befitting the formula of the film noir, resembles more closely the “femme fatale” prototype. Only this time, this femme fatale is an American within a family. Monroe’s image, presented as pretentious, deceitful and dishonorable, exposes the then contemporary anxiety of American males. Even though several initial close-ups of her make us recall her stereotypical image as the “dumb blonde,” we soon find out that she outwits her husband while carrying on her romantic affairs. Her presence in the family, as her husband George recalls, ruins his business and ultimately his life. However, at the same time, he feels deeply attached to her, which reveals the dilemma that American men in the 50s faced. The film presents her wit as a destructive force to the relationship, which leads to George’s and eventually her own demise. Meanwhile, Ray’s wife Polly, a traditional conforming woman, is saved from a critical situation by George, who in an act of redemption sacrifices himself to save her. This highly symbolic contrast is very likely a representation of American men’s longing for returning to the old gender norm.

On the other hand, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, despite being a musical comedy, reveals another aspect that impacted the gender relationship during this era —– consumerism and individualism. A important line repeatedly sang by Monroe in this musical film goes as:

“A kiss on the hand might be the Continental.

But Diamonds are a girl’s best friends” (Hawks, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).

Meanwhile in another scene, Dorothy, Monroe’s friend in the movie, sings a number about her desire for a romantic affair in a gym with dozens of Olympic athletes. Even though Monroe’s longing for wealth contrasts sharply with Dorothy’s emphasis on personality, and their obsession do have an ironical tone against that era, this story is presented entirely from the female perspective. It should be admitted that the musical numbers, in which Monroe dances and sings seductively, were made to appeal to male audiences. However, the plot line favors the women’s choice, ending in a romantic consummation, in which both of the girls marry the ones they have pursued. The girls actively engaged in relationships with the men they had a crush on. Monroe prefers money, and Dorothy prefers handsomeness, yet it is they themselves who makes the choice as to which type of men they would like to pursue. They are no longer the passive receivers, but active agents who have control over their own relationships.

The prevailing consumerism and rising individualism in this era, despite being criticized for complicating family relationship, did give females a chance to work in the city and pursue an alternative path of relationships.

It is noteworthy that the resurgence of norms in this era mainly comes in the form of family life, which is supported both by the socio-economic environment and by the government deliberately. Yet under this surface, many complex undercurrents, both on the side of men and women, were flowing that ultimately led to the greater changes in the 60s.


Works Cited


Christensen, Bryce J. “Two and a Half Cheers for the 1950s! Rediscovering the Virtues of a Maligned Decade.” The Natural Family, familyinamerica.org/journals/summer-2012/two-and-half-cheers-1950s-rediscovering-virtues-maligned-decade/#.WsaISNPOXzI.


Hawks, Howard, director. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Amazon, 20th Century Fox, 1953, http://www.amazon.com/Gentlemen-Prefer-Blondes-Jane-Russell/dp/B004FWRLMY/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.


Hathaway, Henry, director. Niagara. Amazon, 20th Century Fox, http://www.amazon.com/Niagara-Colorized-Marilyn-Monroe/dp/B004GV0GQC/ref=tmm_aiv_swatch_1?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.


Schleier, Merrill. “Fatal Attractions: ‘Place,” the Korean War, and Gender in ‘Niagara.’” Cinema Journal, vol. 51, no. 4, 2012, pp. 26–43. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23253575.
Wandersee, Winifred D. “History of Education Quarterly.” History of Education Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 3, 1989, pp. 498–500. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/368925.

Creating a Thesis – Bella

     I have shifted some aspects of my timeline, but I still have kept up fairly well with what my goal was. I haven’t started Greece yet, but instead have extended my research in religion in Ancient Egypt so I can cover more provide more  depth experience for the reader as well as myself. I never planned to write nearly 30 pages on religion in Ancient Egypt, but I continued to compile notes. I have come up with a method that suits me rather well, which is taking a multitude of notes, printing out sources, highlighting and taking notes on those, and then typing it all up once I have  compiled everything. I do a lot at once so I can get more work done that way, though I save my opinions for the actual writing. It has been difficult writing my opinions without directly saying “I” or coming off too strong about them, I have to more or less incorporate them and not just focus on my perception, but every other one. I am doing just as well as I hoped I would. I am almost done with Ancient Egypt, all I have to do is another page or so of marriage and then I go right to Nefertiti, and then I’m done Egypt until I go back and edit. I have to repeat this whole process with Greece, and given that I wrote 50 pages for Ancient Egypt within two weeks, I am confident about Greece. I have already begun research on it. I just have to go back and do the very general introduction on the progression of women in society. Specifically I need to look at my notes from The Creation of Patriarchy to set the tone for the rest of my book.  I have also been developing an underlying thesis for my whole book, and it is essentially that women have been persecuted despite being pillars of society through the development and ultimate triumph of patriarchy as the organizing power structure. Women have been needed, but overlooked to support the male need for society and civilization, especially in these Ancient Societies.

Reflection and Plan – Tony

Reflection and Plan

For the last quarter, I have looked at the gender dynamics that various American films from the 20s to the 50s exhibit through individual film studies and reading. In particular, I have looked at various films by Ingrid Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. My analysis includes both how their films reflect the gender norm of the American societies in that era and how they might have demonstrated gender nonconformity through their acting. So far, I think I have done a good job analyzing and deconstructing the films in an academic way. Now I have a good idea about what gender norms were in place in the American society from the 20s to the 50s.

In this semester, I will spend about two more weeks with American films, focusing on films from the 60s to the 80s. Starting from there, I will shift to analyzing Chinese films from the same era, especially the 40s, 60s and 90s, as a comparison and contrast with the American films. Some of the Chinese films that I will look at include New Women (1935), To Live (set in from the 60s to the 90s) and Farewell, My Concubine (1993).

My final goal will be to produce an essay about how certain films reflect important trends in the gender norms of the American and Chinese society in a given time period. I will select a certain time period (80s and 90s preferably) and use the knowledge I have accumulated throughout the semester to write this essay. The focus will be to show a sense of continuity as in how the gender norm in the films from this recent time period is an accumulation of those in the past decades and how it leads up to the gender norms we have in today’s society. It will show that gender norms, rather than a human instinct, are products of various artificial cultural trends that are subjects to change.

For the most part, my original schedule has worked well. The only adjustment that I need to make is to focus more on Chinese films from the time periods relevant to my final essay (a little bit of 40s and focus on 60s and 90s) so that I will have enough materials to finish my essay.

Images Cited

“Farewell My Concubine (1993).” Letterbox, letterboxd.com/film/farewell-my-concubine/.
“New Women.” Alchetron.com, alchetron.com/New-Women.

Assistant Teaching- Alec B.

Within these last two months of the school year, I can see the anxiety in both students and teachers. With this said however, the class remains grounded quite well and focusing on their work just as much as ever. Now that the eighth grade class is reading Persepolis, I can start forming my chapter discussions for them. Continue reading

Semester Two: My Work So Far – Gwyneth

So far this semester, I have been dedicating most of my time to primary sources. To begin with, I researched the nature of medieval chronicle sources, which provide the most abundant material for the reign of Richard II, and then examined some of the principle chroniclers in more depth. My analyses can be found in my last few blog posts (here, here, and here). Over spring break, I worked on reading many of the sources complied in A. K McHardy’s The Reign of Richard II: From Minority to Tyranny, 1377-97. This book has been something of a godsend for my project, since it offers an extensive collection of the most important primary sources from the reign translated from the original Latin, French, and Middle English into modern English. Needless to say, McHardy’s efforts have made my work significantly easier.

Reading the many chronicle excerpts, correspondences, parliamentary petitions, etc. included in the book could certainly be tedious at times. My purpose in this task was to identify any mention of Richard’s royal affinity, since this is the focus of my research. However, since these sources tend to bounce between many different goings-on in the political world, it is quite difficult to tell if any given source will mention the affinity or not. Therefore, my only option was to examine them all. This task was made less daunting by concentrating on the period after 1387, when it is likely that Richard first began directly seeking out the loyalty of prominent men in the localities. In the future, I may need to go back to some earlier sources in order to obtain a reference for the nature of the king’s affinity at the beginning of the reign.

Digging into the primary sources made me realize that I need to obtain some more information about political society in general at the time of Richard’s reign. For the most part, I have only looked at the medieval concept of the affinity in the context of the king, when it was in fact of great importance to the magnates as well and was a crucial component of feudal society in the localities. Interestingly, it is often pointed out that while completely novel for a king, the locally focused approach to retaining pursued by Richard in the 1390s was very similar to that typically used by magnates. Therefore, I feel that in order to understand the significance and logic of Richard’s policy, it is important to familiarize myself with the way in which magnate affinities were organized and operated during this time. Thus, my next task will be to step back momentarily from the lens of Richard II and focus on some readings pertaining to local political structures in the late medieval period more generally. After doing this and perhaps examining some more primary sources, it is my hope that I will have gained enough direction to begin drafting my final paper.


Image: http://www.medievalists.net/2016/02/a-quick-guide-to-medieval-monastic-orders/


Don’t Blame the Girls – Liv

One paragraph reads:

         “The girls themselves are conflicted about social media.  They possess a critical attitude towards it but often seem un-self-reflective in their own practices.  Girls, they acknowledge, post pictures of their assets because they get more “likes” that way.  And if the boys like you, the girls at school will, too.  However, many feel that the girls posting cleavage are insecure and doing it for attention.  Many feel uncomfortable because they feel like girls are in competition with each other to look the most attractive.  And yet most of these same girls admit that they participate in similar behavior because they want attention, too.  And they say they can’t give up social media because they would then “have no lives”–even though the lives they describe seem stressful and isolating.  These young teenage girls then grow into college students who mourn the hookup culture, feeling compelled to participate even though they say it makes them unhappy and they despair of ever finding a man who is truly interested in them and not their bodies.”

– Nancy Jo Sales, author of ‘American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

        The author of the blog post, which is a reflection of this book, then goes on to discuss how ‘one-sided’ the book seems- and I agree. The biggest issue with this post is the extreme generalizations going on here; the author simply refers to these people as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’, which does not specify even an age or any other specifics. This leads me to believe that this author is extremely biased towards the negativity of social media on all young boys and girls, believing that it is creating a generation of attention-seeking girls who will do just about anything to appeal to the masses. Also, notice the lack of attention on the male perspective. Just as the author discusses the hyper-sexualization of girls, she also easily dismisses young men as disrespectful and objectifying misogynists. What is this saying about our society? Even if the moral of the story is focused on the destructiveness of social media on young girls, why is the author portraying these girls as if they are unable to resist harmful new trends? We should not be focusing on the girls’ inability to resist but why they feel as though it is necessary for them to take part in destructive behavior such as sending explicit photos to other young boys. The author of the book later discusses how worrying this is for parents; they believe that any teenager with a cellphone will automatically use it to expose themselves or others. Even this statement suggests that angsty, curious, and rebellious teenagers are indeed the root of the problem here, when that is not the case. This type of language possibly even supports a culture of victim-blaming, body shaming, and oppression of female sexuality.

        On the other hand, a part of me does understand where the author is coming from. Any adult looking in on the world of social media and hearing horror stories of girls who expose themselves on the internet would assume that our generation of young women aren’t anything admirable. However, it is absolutely wrong of us to believe that statement comes solely from a young woman’s own inability to make good decisions. Our generation is dealing with a completely new aspect of society: constant connection. And although that comes with many benefits, it also allows young people very easy access to negative things such as expectations of beauty or ability to immediately make absolutely anything known to the world. But when adults and authors like Nancy Jo Sales make the decision to break down the girls instead of the horrendously toxic circumstances they are under, young girls themselves will continue to shame each other and believe that blaming one another is the path they should take. If that’s all they know, why wouldn’t they?

        Perhaps one of the first steps towards a better understanding is for adults assessing the topic to change their tone of voice- instead of criticizing an entire generation of girls and discrediting their abilities to make logical choices, ask, how can we help? Where are you coming from? How do you think your experience is different than mine, and how can I better understand? If, as a society, we can offer alternative interpretations of young female behavior instead of shaming or demeaning them, and if we further our research in this area to assure accurate causality, we will be uplifting an entire generation and defining appropriate next steps.


quoted blog:



The Countdown Begins… – Sabrina

IMG_9168.jpgProject G.I.R.L launches May 1st at 11:00pm……that means I have 29 days, 2 hours, 40 minutes and 38 seconds (and counting) until it launches and all of my focus is targeted towards doing whatever I need to do to allow it to launch on time.

My graphic designer has begun to polish the design, my web designer has the formatting complete and is beginning to set up the website, and I am transferring story after story into article form.

It is hard to not look down at my countdown and not immediately drop whatever I am doing and begin working on my project yet again. I find myself always wanting to go back to it… I always want to develop it and I never want to stop working on it.

It is now 29 days, 2 hours, 35 minutes and 58 seconds until Project G.I.R.L launches (yes….this is how I have been since April 1st).

I am both elated and utterly terrified. I am constantly going through the list of things that could go wrong, and the thought of someone being inspired by this organization.

So I put my focus forward for the week:

  • I have two interviews this week (One of which is Gauri Kapoor, Founder and CEO of The Girl and I)
  • I am transferring all of my interviews from audio to text (using Transcribe)
  • I am setting up social media platforms (a Facebook, an Instagram, and a Twitter)
  • I am having my web designer set up the basics of the website
  • And…I am remembering to breathe.

So I breathe and always keep going forward. Through lists and baby steps comes the bigger picture. Just because the finish line is getting closer, doesn’t mean I lose my pace.

Inspired by staying calm,

Sabrina Schoenborn

Founder and CEO of Project G.I.R.L

Countdown image courtesy of Countdown!! Developed by Sevenlogics, Inc.


“Start the Countdown.” Shutterstock, 2015, http://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/start-countdown-356844833

Ça va . . . – Ethan

Just a simple post for this week. The title captures it pretty well — ‘it goes’ . . .

Today I finished up the history section of the first draft, and it stands at 21 pages, which is . . . a bit longer than I expected, and also a bit longer than I would like. I suppose it is better to have more material and need to whittle it down than it is to have too little material and to add fluff to make your desired length. Judging from how much of my outline is taken up by history, I’m estimating the first draft will end up being somewhere around 50 pages long — far longer than I want. The following drafts, then, will exercise my ability to condense and simplify while maintaining structure and not losing meaning.

I have an interesting relationship with this paper — it seems to want to be written in fits and spurts. I spent about four and a half hours today writing roughly six pages of text — my first writing session in nearly a week — which took most of the afternoon, and now I’m content to leave it for a few days before diving into the next section: the narrative set by the NYT’s coverage of the war. I’ll mull over how to attack it over the next few days, and probably later this week I’ll sit down and hammer out a course of action. I’m grateful that I left myself this luxury of time to be able to think about how I’ll formulate my writing. . .

Long research papers all have different characters, but I think I’m figuring this one out — how it behaves, how it wants to be written — and I’m learning to work with it, one section at a time.

So for now, ça va.