Monday, April 3, 2017

A Comprehensive Guide to Interior Decorating

                In the spirit of humor incorporated into art, I decided to share an image that has made me laugh in the past week.  It is a fine example of the interior decorating in my apartment. After a string
Al shines like a god looking down on mere mortals
of late night dance rehearsals and getting a total seven hours of sleep over two days, I was a bit delirious.  Despite the exhaustion, I convinced myself that it was a good idea to wake up at 5:15 AM so I could see Al Roker during Rokerthon.  I waited in the freezing morning air, pushed up against the barrier for a clear view of Al.  As the weather broadcast drew closer, the television crew started handing out free things to make it look like we were all really excited to be there.  I got a foam finger, a pompom, and, the greatest gift of all time: a two-foot high cardboard cutout of Al Roker’s face.  I clutched it carefully for the next two hours, hoping I wouldn’t drop this precious object into the mud. I got back to my apartment after four hours of standing, and my sleep deprivation was taking over my thoughts.  I looked at the wall above the television, and thought that it was looking particularly bare that morning.  After a few moments of hazy thought, I went to my desk, pulled out a roll of tape that’s safe to use on walls, and placed Al Roker’s head directly above the television.  At this point in the morning, I was the only one home in the apartment because my roommates all have early classes.  No one was around to appreciate my gift for interior decorating, but that did not stop me from enjoying it.  I sat on the couch for a few minutes, facing my masterpiece, before bursting out into laughter.  I was completely alone in my apartment, but I was sitting on my couch, cackling.  One of the reasons I found the Al Roker head so funny may have been the fact that I was sleep deprived and therefore not thinking as clearly as I usually do.  Another reason was the overall incongruity of the situation.  Having a national news broadcast on campus is very unusual, and I was not expecting to get free stuff for standing outside at dawn; but, a cardboard cutout of the weatherman’s head is truly a shock.  The juxtaposing of a large cardboard head at the focal point of my common room added to the incongruity of the whole situation.  I do not think the producers of the Today Show intended for students to use Al Roker as a decoration, but if you walk past any residence hall on campus, you are likely to find the disembodied head of Al Roker following you with his eyes.  Many students have placed his head into their windows, as if displaying some distinguished trophy that they want all of their classmates to see.        
            I think the Al Roker heads provide a great connection to the work of Maira Kalman.  Admittedly, I did not really “get” Principles of Uncertainty.  With the recurring fixation on death and the elderly, I expected there to be some sort of tragic ending, or at least some personal, in depth story in the middle.  Kalman, though she wrote this book as part of a blog mentioning her travel and life over time, does not utilize a linear structure in her story telling.  She jumps all over the place, with topics changing before I could even turn the page.  I only found myself laugh at very small parts, like her discussions of historical figures and her infatuation with the elderly. When she mentions Johannes Kepler and his discoveries, she adds, "He also wrote about celestial harmony but domestic harmony eluded him.  He confided in his friend Robert DeFluctibus and wrote in his diary 'My wife is fat, confused, and simple minded.' It makes me sad that he thought that.  After all she had to wash that crazy collar.  But then she died" (Kalman 22).  This instance of humor focuses heavily on the image attached to it. She has a fixation on the large collar that Kepler would wear, so she makes a painting of it the focus of the page.  Kalman’s book is driven by her paintings and drawings, not a narrative structure.  She shows what is funny rather than just telling it.  In the case of Kepler and his collar, she tells a short story that is somewhat humorous, but not directly related to the image; by doing so, she is reinforcing the lack of logical and linear structure of her book.  This makes her work much different than any of the other instances of comedy that we have observed in this class thus far.  Her work connects to my Al Roker head because the humor in both of them are rooted in extreme incongruity.  I put a random piece of cardboard at the focal point of my apartment, and Kalman constructed a portrait of a year in her life through paintings, photographs, and newspaper clippings.  Many of Kalman’s observations about life are completely unexpected for the reader, and because of this, some readers may not find her work funny.  She utilizes whimsy to an extreme degree, where there is very little connection between her topics.  I often felt lost while reading because the connections between topics were so loose; however, the book provided a great example of how humor is not always received the same way by everyone, and the presentation can have an impact on that.

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