Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: details, faces, maps, neighborhood, observations, pumpkins, symbols
oh, ira glass. i could listen to your voice forever. i’ve listened to the mapping episode of this american life a few times and each time it is different. it’s interesting how certain things can change meaning depending on when it is they find you again in life.
this time around, i really enjoyed listening to ira talk about what maps are. essentially they are one person obsessively paying attention to one specific thing and ignoring everything else around them. this can be seen with ralph, the new york city worker who has to check the status of every sidewalk in the whole city. which seems incredibly tedious. but eventually becomes second nature to him. and then there is my favorite person in this episode, denis wood, who creates maps of his neighborhood.
what i found to be the most interesting part of the episode was during his interview, when he says that he is trying to write a novel but only by using symbols. which got me thinking, isn’t that what all artists are trying to do? we could just write, but instead we use visual and performance elements to explain our ideas. though the above image just looks like a cluster of jack-o-lantern’s they have much more meaning then that. dennis goes on to explain that the pumpkins are more then what appears to just be an aesthetic look at his neighborhood, but more a socio-economic study.
with these pumpkins, he did a study comparing the people who were more active in the neighborhood association and those who were not. the pumpkins can be seen as signifiers of those who were more respected in the community as the people who are more renown had more pumpkins on their porch then their neighbors who were not involved, and also happened to live in the less wealthy portions of the neighborhood.
its interesting to think that something as seemingly as simple as a carved pumpkin can say so much about the standing of an individual within their own neighborhood. but it certainly does make sense. it made me think back to the neighborhood in which i grew up, we didn’t have any kind of neighborhood association and we only knew three or four of our neighbors. during halloween, we’d never actually trick-or-treat around my house because there were never any pumpkins out, aside from the people we already knew.
ironically, once i moved out i actually ended up in areas of town that have neighborhood associations which are very active within their community. even though i don’t attend the meetings or vote for new presidents of the association or anything, it’s nice to know that its around and that more jack-o-lanterns can be found throughout iron horse because of them.
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