Author Archive
Folk Beliefs
general
Signs

EVKitty

Informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is well-aware of most USC folklore and he describes a very peculiar one to me (AK).

In this piece, DP describes the folklore surrounding a very special cat that hangs around a dining hall at USC named Everybody’s Kitchen or EVK for short.

EVKitty

DP: So I actually found out about this cat my first time at EVK freshman year. Basically it’s this regular cat but it just hangs right outside EVK by the outdoor seating. I’m not really sure whose cat it is, but I just know it’s been there for a while.

AK: So you have no idea where it came from?

DP: Well there’s rumors that it’s Stan Rosen’s cat. He’s the faculty master for the Birnkrant Dorm. I should probably know this cause I lived there but oh well haha.

AK: Sounds interesting is there anything else I should know about EVKitty?

DP: Yeah there’s actually a facebook page dedicated to her. It’s legendary.

This was another piece of USC folklore, but I especially enjoyed this one because it is so specific and probably unknown to a lot of students. For those that have no idea, they would be thoroughly confused to see a cat roaming around the outside seating of a dining hall. However, for those who are aware of this folklore, they have really done their part to help spread it to the larger USC community. I found out about EVKitty through word of mouth, and I’m sure many other students have also found out from their fellow friends and peers.

Digital
general
Humor

Pointy Thing Meme

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about a very popular meme regarding the recent construction on USC’s campus.

SM: Let me tell you about this new meme, it’s called the “Pointy Thing” meme (shows picture on phone). pointythingmeme

AK: I actually haven’t seen this one, can you explain a little about how this started?

SM: You know, I’m actually not sure. I just remember seeing someone post about it on the USC meme page and it kind of took off from there.

AK: Do you think this says anything about our student body?

SM: I think it’s a great thing that we’re all able to make jokes about something like this. You know, even Nikias posted about these “pointy things” on his Instagram, so it just seems like something everyone can laugh about.

I found this piece to be incredibly interesting because not only did it feature a very modern form of media, but also because it referenced the specific folklore of a college. In today’s day and age, people are always in search of a form of immediate gratification. Memes are the perfect outlet for quick jokes or puns because they feature a short amount of text that highlight a funny or playful picture. For this reason, memes are the perfect way for something like this to spread quickly across a college campus to the point where even the president hears about it. The other thing that made this so interesting to hear about is the fact that it is relevant only to USC. Any group, large or small can have folklore, and this piece is a testament to that fact.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Dance Proverb

My informant SS is a 20-year-old girl of Jewish descent. She is very passionate about dance and participated on a dance team all throughout high school. In this piece, she describes a common saying to me (AK) that her dance coach attempted to instill in the minds of each girl on the team.

SS: From dance team we had the saying of: “Early is on time and on time is late.”

AK: So does this just mean you always had to be early?

SS: Kind of. At first it was annoying, but I got used to it pretty quickly.

AK: Does it have any significance to you or does it still apply to your life today?

SS: Definitely. It really sticks with me now. It’s a good life skill and saying I guess.

I found this proverb to be quite applicable to pretty much every facet of life. For me, this proverb is most applicable to things from my everyday life. For important events like interviews and tests, it is very easy to find the motivation to be on time because a lot is dependent on the event itself. However, for things like class and other day to day tasks, it is way harder to have the motivation to always be on time. For this reason, I try to abide by this proverb. It is certainly very difficult, but just the mindset of needing to be early allows me to show up on time. In a way, I still am “late”, but just this shift in mindset allows me to be traditionally “on time”.

Customs
general

Lil B NBA Curse

The informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He has recently become a huge fan of the NBA and he describes something that the casual NBA fan would not know much about. In this piece, he talks about the “The BasedGod’s” curse to me (AK) which was popularized over five years ago by a rapper by the name of Lil B.

For some context, Lil B became a viral sensation with many provocative rap videos and tweets. He refers to himself as the “Based God” and he has drawn a very loyal fan following due to the hilarity of his tweets and rap videos. He is also known for the “Based God” curse which he has given to star athletes who have disrespected his rapping ability.

DP: So I don’t know the entire story, but I do know that Lil B and Kevin Durant (famous basketball player) had beef a few years ago.

AK: What exactly caused the beef?

DP: Well … KD basically said that Lil B is a wack rapper and that his music sucks. Lil B responded to this by dropping a video titled F*** KD and giving him the “Based God” curse.

AK: What does this curse entail? Is there any way to become uncursed?

DP: In this context, he meant that KD would never win a championship. Also, KD was recently lifted of the curse because he decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors and Lil B is a huge Warriors fan.

I found this entire piece to be hilarious. After some further research, I found Lil B to be very outspoken on twitter and most of his fans simply quote him out of the absurdity and comedy of some of his proclamations. Most of his songs have a comedic element to them and in his F*** KD song he states that he could beat Kevin Durant in a one on one game of basketball. For some NBA fans, however, the curse does hold some merit as Kevin Durant is perennially one of the best players in the league, yet he has never won a championship. While most rational fans scoff at the claim that the curse is the reason why, a small but significant subset of fans contend that the curse is the sole reason why. I’m not sure which side of the argument I’m on, but I do find humor in the fact that Lil B has gained so much fame over a simple tweet and video.

Game
general

5 Gods of Smash

Informant DP is a 19-year-old male studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He thoroughly enjoys playing video games, specifically the Nintendo series Super Smash Brothers.

In this piece, the informant tells me about the “5 Gods of Smash” who are known as by far the 5 best players in competitive Super Smash Brothers Melee tournaments. They are aptly known as Gods because these five players are so much better than the rest of the competition that one of these players always wins the competitive tournaments. For more context, the competitive gaming scene around Super Smash Brothers Melee has grown substantially over the last decade. Although the game released nearly 15 years ago, the game is still being played competitively today.

DP: A God of Smash is considered someone who loses to no one else in tournament, other than other gods. Currently there are only 5 in the history of Smash. So I wanna say Mew2King or M2K was considered the first god of Smash. The reason he does so well in tournaments is because before computers were coded to count frame data for melee, Mew2King developed his own methods for counting the frames for moves. And he was able to precisely determine the lengths for which moves were out for. He memorized this data and he was able to play optimally and back then if you played optimally there’s no way you could lose. So he began to be known as a robot because he had so much data memorized. The way he learned all this data is by doing certain moves with a character and he’d keep pausing the game in between the move. If he could draw out the moves into 9 distinct pictures, then he knew that move took exactly 9 frames.

Moving on to the next god, Mango, he came out from SoCal and at an extremely young age he was very good at the game. He was known for using a very gimmicky character, jigglypuff. Even though he performed very well, people were chalking up his wins to gimmicks or not playing a fair game. So for a while, he got actually banned from playing in Southern California all together which kind of pissed him off but didn’t stop him from playing the game. Eventually, he decided to just change his appearance by growing a beard. He adopted a new tag called Scorpion Master so he would be unrecognizable.  His whole purpose of this was just to play a joke on Southern California because he was so upset that he was banned. He actually ended up winning with a lesser character, like a D-tier character. People eventually found out it was him, so he picked up two of the hardest characters in the game, Fox and Falco, and since then has remained a God of the game.

Now it makes the most logical sense to talk about HungryBox. HungryBox saw the way Mango used jigglypuff, and even though he knew jigglypuff was gimmicky, he adopted him as his new character. So HungryBox looked at all of Mango’s weaknesses, he actually corrected for this and made jigglypuff tournament viable. Hungrybox is also another God of melee.

Now we can talk about PPMD, he was the 4th god to come around. He noticed that HungryBox was kind of on a tear in the South Eastern part of the US. In Florida and Georgia and those states. And HungryBox would win everyone of those tournaments if he entered them. So PPMD picked up two characters, Falco and Marth, both were considered to have highly losing matchups to Jigglypuff at the time. He ended up creating the modern metagames for Falco and Marth as they are played today just to combat HungryBox’s jigglypuff. Even though it took 4 tournaments of them meeting in grand finals, once PPMD started to win with both falco and marth, HungryBox wasn’t able to win with the frequency he could before PPMD came around.

The last God is Armada. I guess all I have to say about him is that Armada. Let’s put it this way, Melee didn’t just arise in AMerica. Europe was also interested in Melee, but it wasn’t until Armada until a unified European champion was coined. Once Armada started playing, he almost never lost a set. He might have lost just 1 set in his 4 years of playing in Europe. He was undoubtedly the best in Europe so he decided to play in America. In America he got beat pretty frequently using what Americans thought was an inferior character. So in order to combat this, he picked up a better character. So he ended up developing the European style for playing Fox, which every other Fox player in Europe adopted the strategy for. Now not only is he the best in Europe, he’s also the best in the world by a fair margin. He hasn’t been knocked to the losers bracket in 3 years!

It was really interesting to hear about the folklore of a video game. My informant was clearly very knowledgeable about the folklore surrounding Super Smash Brothers, and it appears as though the community is actively creating its own folklore. It was really interesting to see that these 5 players had risen to god status within the game’s community for their incredible skill. In the gaming community, the word god is thrown around a lot, but it appears as though there is a significant meaning behind coining someone a god in this particular game.

Adulthood
Earth cycle
Festival
general
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Karva Chauth

My informant M is my 49-year-old mother. She follows many Hindu traditions and religious holidays even though she lives in America. She has found a community of friends who also celebrate many of the same traditions as well.

In this piece, my informant goes into great detail about the history of a one-day festival called Karva Chauth. She also explains her extensive experience celebrating the tradition with it to me (AK).

M: (Reading this from a website) Karva Chauth is a one-day festival celebrated by Hindu women in many countries in which married women fast from sunrise to moonrise for the safety and longevity of their husbands. … The festival falls on the fourth day after the full moon.

M: Well this is correct, I just fast until I can see the moon.

AK: Do you remember how long ago you started doing this?

M: I have done it ever since I was married because this tradition is for married women and done for their husbands.

AK: Can you tell me anything about how this tradition started or was created?

M: Sorry I don’t know the story that well. I can try though. It’s about a woman named Karva who was devoted to her husband. The husband was killed by a crocodile and after the wife threatened Yama, the God of Death … I think he sent the crocodile to hell and brought the husband back to life. That’s all if I remember it correctly.

AK: Wow, that’s a really great story.

I distinctly remember this tradition because I remember as a child I would love to help my mom look for the moon. Some years, if the sky was especially cloudy, it would be very difficult to locate the moon, and I remember feeling like it was my duty to seek out and find the moon.

Festival
general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Navratri

My informant M is my 49-year-old mother. She follows many Hindu traditions even though she lives in America. She has found a community of friends who also celebrate many of the same traditions as well.

In this piece, my informant explains to me (AK) a Hindu tradition called Navratri. She also goes into detail about how this tradition has adapted over time into the form that she practices today.

M: So most North Indians fast for the first seven days of the Navratri…. Every night, jagrans take place, where devotees gather to sing religious songs. On the Ashtami or the Navami, fasts are broken by inviting nine young girls from the neighborhood, who are honored with gifts including money, food, etc. These girls, known as ‘kanjak’, are considered to be representations of the nine different avatars (forms) of Maa Durga.

AK: So this definitely isn’t the way you celebrate Navratri now right?

M: (Laughs) Oh no… this was the original tradition. Now you practice it by being vegetarian for the day. I actually fast for the day.

AK: Oh yeah.. I remember, I’m glad I understand where this tradition came from though!

For some reason, I had never really asked my mom where this tradition came from and just blindly practiced it my whole life. I distinctly remember my mom telling me to be vegetarian for the day but never questioned why. It was really nice to hear of this tradition, and I sure am glad we do not practice it as it was originally outlined!

general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

An Indian Christmas

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is 20 years old and originally from India. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor.

The informant tells me(AK) about how his Indian family celebrates Christmas and the winter time as a whole. He is very happy to share this and it seems as though talking about the Christmas time reminds him of very fond memories.

SM: I don’t celebrate Christmas in the traditional religious manner. It’s all about the gift exchange and just spending time with family for us.

AK: Do you have you any other traditions that are related to Christmas?

SM: We always put out stockings and because we have a younger cousin, we always put out milk and cookies to kind of show the fact that Santa may be real.

AK: Do you think the way you celebrate Christmas is very similar to the way other Indian people celebrate it?

SM: To some extent yes, but I know of a lot of Indian families that don’t even exchange gifts. Of course there are some Christian Indian families who definitely celebrate Christmas much more religiously than we do. But I think Christmas is just all about spending time with family and being around family. Everyone has Christmas off, so no matter how you celebrate, it’s the time of year where you can just be around family. I think that’s the biggest thing about Christmas, and everyone regardless of how they celebrate can take solace in the fact that they can be around their family. This is really important to me also because now that I’m in college, I’m not able to see my family as much as I used to.

AK: Yeah, I totally agree. Thanks for sharing with me man.

I found the informant’s experience with Christmas to be very similar to my own. Although my family does not always explicitly exchange gifts or put up stockings, we always celebrate the festivities together. For example, we have gone on day trips together to nearby beaches or unexplored cities. Other times we simply spend time together during the day, then watch a movie we all have not seen at night. I will say that as a child, my family definitely celebrated Christmas more traditionally. We would purchase a tree and put gifts under the tree.

Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Stereotype Encounter

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is 20 years old and originally from India. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor.

The informant tells me(AK) about a moment in which he felt like he was racially profiled. This incident took place around 9:00 pm on a weekday night as he was coming back to his apartment complex after studying at the library.

SM: I was walking back to my apartment complex at night, and as me and my friend were entering the gate, this couple came out of the gate and refused to hold the gate open for us. They came out and said they had to close the gate because they were afraid that we actually didn’t live there. So they caused us some mild inconvenience because I had to open the gate myself. It felt like a form of racial profiling because my friend is African American, and I also have a dark complexion.

AK: What do you think caused the couple to act in this way?

SM: They were probably conditioned to respond this way because it was late at night and they felt protective over their children.

AK: How did this incident affect you emotionally, were you angry or upset?

SM: I was a little disappointed because there was no way I could have posed a threat to anyone. I was carrying a backpack, so I was clearly a student. I felt like they were being immature.

AK: Have you ever experienced anything like this before or since?

SM: No, this was the first time.

After hearing this piece, I was really shocked to have heard my informant get racially profiled. My thoughts went directly to the Trump presidency, and I felt anger for how his administration was letting incidents far worse than this one go by without even a statement. But then, I realized that this couple likely held these stereotypes about darker skinned people well before the Trump administration. It is very likely that they grew up surrounded by these stereotypes and were conditioned to feel danger. Either way, it represented a sad reality for me, and it was hard to hear the informant have to go through this.

general
Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Cremation Ritual

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about an Indian tradition centered around cremation he is fond of and believes many Indian people practice.

SM: It is customary in Indian tradition to cremate someone’s body after they die. And then you take the ashes, and you put it in a place that’s very special to this person.

AK: Wow I think I’ve heard of something similar. What does this ritual mean to you?

SM: It’s a way of celebrating someone even after they have died.

AK: Where did you learn this ritual, and does your family practice it?

SM: I didn’t learn it from a specific person, but it’s just part of Indian culture. I haven’t had a chance to experience it because none of my relatives have died in my lifetime.

AK: Where would you want your ashes to be placed?

SM: Oh wow, that is a tough question (laughs). I guess I’d pick Mount Tambora, you can call it Mount Tam — in San Francisco because it’s this really beautiful hike, and it’s kind of the first hike I went on with my family. Yeah, I guess that’s where I would put mine.

I was definitely familiar with this ritual, but I had never heard the part about placing the ashes in the person’s favorite place. As I asked the question to my informant about where he would like his ashes placed, I began to think about how I would answer that question. It certainly is a very difficult question because it’s so difficult to determine someone’s favorite place. I feel like at this point in my life, I don’t really have a favorite place, but if I had to choose, I think I’d just pick my room in the house I grew up in.

 

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