August 19, 2006

Surprises at SHU for me and for you

There was hay everywhere. Seton Hill University seems to have finally gotten in touch with its agricultural side or its refurbishing one. For those who have not returned yet to SHU, you are in for a surprise. Grass growing techniques aside, I was amazed at what I found on campus last night.

  • A new parking lot. There are actual walkways for the pedestrians to stroll upon. Two of them line the main A-Lot--one down the center and another positioned on the hillside above the other parking lots. As a commuter I was almost counting the spots in A-Lot, making sure that we didn't lose any parking, but it doesn't seem that we have. In fact, the lot looks bigger with its straight parking spaces and two-way drives. There are more stop signs across the lot, however, but that, I'm sure is to reduce the chances of pedestrian and car crashes that may result from the changed traffic pattern. What does that mean? The shuttle may take a half an hour, rather than fifteen minutes.
  • New lounges. In Sullivan Hall's old, nasty weight room, I was surprised to find a lounge full of furniture fit for a coffee house. The seating can move, but it is all pieced together like a jigsaw. The effect is pretty groovy, yet with its clean lines, very organized.

    The old commuter lounge in Maura Hall with its huge big screen television has been upgraded very nicely. The big screen with non-functional buttons has been replaced by a widescreen and its own stand with DVD capabilities underneath. The furniture is a la coffeehouse again, but cozy. I know--I watched a movie in there and didn't have to reposition once.

    The billard table has a stained-glass lamp dangling from the ceiling and real cues and racks. The lamps, which are secured to the walls, have ivy draped around them, and there is a gorgeous Victorian-style lamp where the flag mural used to be.

    New computer seating and a new television are featured in the extension of the commuter lounge, along with, for the first time, a remote control on a cord. I noticed more beige commuter lockers in that area, as well.

  • Varnished wood. The entire school looks like it has been polished to a spit shine. You know those ugly outdoor stairs leading into the Canevin/Lowe buildings? They are beautiful wood; I guess we didn't notice underneath all the mud we tracked in.
  • Missing hedges. Those hedges that I always had to walk around when I was dead tired are miraculously gone. Clipper, a hedge-gnawing fairy, finally took mercy on us and they are gone.
  • Televisions in the weight room. I can't say that I have used the weight room in the past year that it has been open, but I'm planning to now. Looking out over Greensburg is only interesting for a while. I would much rather catch up on the news while running or walking on a treadmill. And the Setonian/EC office is so close...
  • The NEW SETONIAN/EYE CONTACT OFFICE. The two-level space is beginning to come together. We have comfortable lounge couches, lamps and end tables thanks to Karissa and her divine mother. Diana and I did a little work last night, putting things in their place and moving some furniture. We just need hooked up, decorated and the staff to come back with their summer-tanned smiling faces and we'll be back to it. :-)

With lighter workload and these improvements to the happening spots at SHU, I am excited about another year back. I never was one for the senioritis bug. Let's just hope when students return, these spaces will remain the eye-catching areas I saw last night--or at least a remnant of them.

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May 4, 2005

A Final Aesthetic Collection

The final leg of the aesthetics relay is now coming to completion. Although I'm sure my audience has been bored by these entries, I hope to have sparked some intellectual thought and/or shown that I do more at SHU than just stick my head in a book and spew forth facts.

So here they are, my final aesthetics entries and their counterparts, the collections of this semester:

Concerning natural aesthetic appreciation, I assess the critic and why this person or group is qualified to do say what is beauty in natural surroundings. As a novice critic of my peers' work in my Digital Imaging course, I began to see the point that the author makes: all people can have a general sense of what looks good and what does not, but it takes a standard and the terminology to assess that artwork that is aquired with experience and study.

In Taking a Scholarly Spin-student-assigned texts, I assessed my peers' selections that contribute to their overall final projects. From Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to architechtural design in theme park rides and body image and the media, I indicate, not only my enthusiasm, but ability to assess source material and scholarly texts which address such immediate topics.

In this entry, I discuss my topic for my Media Aesthetics final research project. While this blog is rough, it indicates where I wanted to go with my project. I have decided to address the masculine and feminine tellings of the Titanic tragedy in terms of plot, dialogue, characterization. While I tried to address realism, this idea sort of did not work, so I have changed my direction; I wanted to write about this anyway. I still have time, and more than enough sources to really go in-depth in my position that Titanic by James Cameron is a feminine and masculine telling and A Night to Remember is a predominantly masculine telling. Although this thesis has a lot more clarifications that must be made, I have pages to do it, right? I think it is much more interesting than realism in film, anyway. Just some fine-tuning in the thesis...I'll be all right.

Second Aesthetics Portfolio: Scrapbooking Spring: 2005 Aesthetics: Highlights contemporary works in light of my newfound knowledge of classical aesthetics.

First Aesthetics Portfolio: Aesthetically-pleasing scrapbook: This portfolio demonstrates my growing knowledge of predominantly classical understanding of aesthetic appreciation and analysis.

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April 26, 2005

Natural aesthetic appreciation

Are natural aesthetics both objective and intrinsic? According to "Aesthetic Judgements of the Natural Environment," the affirmative is the argued position.

In studying western cultures, I am learning that some of the "intrinsic" credited characteristics of human beings are really just proliferations of past experience or generational influence. We are, as Eliot implies, the product of past generations: "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists" (From "Tradition and the Individual Talent").

However, I do see his point that intrinsic is present. Just as Hume assigns the "ideal critic" status to literary and art critics, the author recognizes that this selection should not be exclusive, extending the status to "include other appreciators with relevant sensibility and experience" (193). However, it is the qualifications of that experience and relevant sensibility that may exclude that trounces upon the author's own point that the intrinsic is present. At one point, the author mentions that if "the appreciator, or critic, if sensitive enough, is able to point out where aesthetic and non-aesthetic qualities lie and why the object has the aesthetic character that it does" (203). But who is to be the judge? A majority? What is aesthetically-pleasing is again "in the eye of the beholder". It seems to always turn around to that same point--the judges of those judging are the only factor changing. A displacement of the power.

I am sliding from one side of the issue to the other, but I can see how aesthetic value should not be assessed by an unpracticed mind, unknowledgeable of the rules that are followed or are broken by artists or writers.

Throughout the article, a differentiation is made between the various types of aesthetic appreciation, and I value these divisions (even though some divisions have an overlap, which may confuse). I can begin to assess in certain terms, the work I am doing on Titanic with some guideline to this appreciation. Although I am not a literary or art critic, I am practicing the basics, with both ideas--the practiced and amateur-wannabe--in mind.

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April 25, 2005

Taking a scholarly spin:
student-assigned reading material

For my Media Aesthetics course, Dr. Jerz assigned the task of assigning texts to our peers. This is difficult for two reasons: a) you want to assign something that is worthwhile to your overall cause a.k.a. your term project and b) you don't want to get the class annoyed with you by the length of your article(s) you assign.

With all of that in mind, we generally did assign lengthy articles--mine was 20 pages alone. Needless to say, I am probably one of the more hated in the group. hehe.

Dr. Jerz gets off the hook, though. We can't blame him for lengthy scholarly readings anymore; we are the culprits now. Smooth professorial move. :-)

I can honestly say, though, that I have enjoyed this assignment--especially reading things that my peers deem credible and interesting information for the class.

The first of Johanna's articles, "Staking Her Claim: Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Transgressive Woman Warrior," for example, is a great big bag of feminist Twizzlers.

I was, and still am, a fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. It was my Tuesday night treat in high school. I remember many-a-night, when I would re-enact Buffy's fight scenes, doing high kicks in my living room. I think what drew me to Buffy is that she is the approachable, witty, smart blond, that can also seriously kick some arse.

According to Whedon, creator of the show, quoted in Early's article, "he has 'always found strong women interesting because they are not overly represented in the cinema'" (12). That is the case on television, as well--at least when I watched. I watched two shows in high school unfailingly: Buffy and Dawson's Creek, primarily for their strong female characters, specifically Willow and Buffy and Joey on the Creek.

That is not the only reason, of course. I continued to watch Buffy long after Dawson's Creek turned into college mush. Why? Because she still was strong; she still worked cooperatively with her pals, and the show kept its "witty, wildly dark camp action and adventure" with Buffy, the "improbable hero in a a program that underneath the fantasy, horror, and humor offers a fresh version of the classic quest myth in Western culture" (13). Okay, so maybe I tuned in to see David Boreanaz, too.

Overall, I look at this article and I do see the empowering girls issue, but I also mark that this wasn't the only thing drawing me to the show. As Early notes, "Viewers revel in the unfolding quest narrative that atypically finds a personable and responsible young woman cast as hero"(16-17). Throughout the show, however, Buffy isn't comfortable as the hero, never wearing the cape--well, except when she dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood in that Halloween episode. She wears her title lightly, as Early states, "maintain[ing] an ironic distance from her warrior role even as she embraces it" (19). It seems as if she wants to be just one of the gang--a part of something in her high school hell, rather than the "Chosen One," which she is labeled.

Buffy, even with her faults, is a role model for girls; she was a role model for me--I watched her make decisions, and regardless of her decision, I knew if it was wrong or right by the musical accompaniment and by the amount of people or demons that died in that episode. All very simple... Buffy is transgressive; she set the standard for "modern" females on television, such as Sydney Bristow on Alias. For those gals that are longing for a hero after the series finale of Buffy, Sydney's your new arse-kicking sister, minus her co-workers' fangs and occasional prosthetic ears.

Johanna's second article, "Complexity of Desire: Janeway/Chakotay Fan Fiction" by Victoria Somogyi brought me out of fan euphoria, and into a more scholarly approach, since I do not know these characters.

One interesting concept is that "fans are attracted only to the male/female pairings in which the woman is of greater or arguably greater power...Janeway is powerful, and she outranks Chakotay, a fact which fanfic writers, and their characters, rarely forget" (Somogyi 400).

As an occasional reader of romance and friend of a romance author, I know what women want (or what the publishers think women want) in a female character. A strong woman who may be subdued by a stronger, male, and in effect of this male-female relationship or "taming" as many novels call it, eventually submit to love. Female fanfic writers are probably writing what they like to read, and so, this should not be surprising.

A woman is placed in a position of importance and she must chose, if the episode or story calls for it, a choice between her personal relationship and her job, and the effects of such a choice on either world.

Moving on to Denishia's article, "Body Image and Advertising" is full of polls, which I question. The associations within the Mediascope article--all of them--contribute to the opinion of the article and the ".org" company that transmits the information, probably with their own agenda.

Some statistics demonstrated in the article are really questionable to me, such as "Boys ages 9 to 14 who thought they were overweight were65% more likely to think about or try smoking than their peers, and boys who worked out every day in order to lose weight were twice as likely to experiment with tobacco." I know that the sources are all cited, but many of the citations refer to newspapers and magazines--sources which have already been filtered once, or even twice from the original statistical information.

The statistics throughout the article are so drastic in support of "the cause" against the media's interference in a viewer's perception of self, that I hesitate to trust it. No contradictory opinions are demonstrated here.

Another issue is that the sources indicated by name, such as Dr. Harrison Pope is mentioned as a "researcher". A researcher of what? Denishia, I really would not go with this source. It is an option to go with some of the sources listed on the works cited list, though.

Anne's article in Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition, "Architectures of the the Senses: Neo-Baroque Entertainment Spectacles" near the conclusion focuses around a ride I did get to go on at Orlando's Islands of Adventure theme park: The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Throughout the entire article, I weaved in and out of consciousness, but when this ride is mentioned, I perked up.

The ride consists of a multi-media experience. Akin to many rides at theme parks, particularly at Disney World, such as the Aerosmith rollercoaster at Disney's MGM and the Terminator, as well as my favorite: E.T., the experience of a ride intermingles many media: film, ride, film about film, extending the story and the experience beyond the initial experience in whatever original medium the characters and setting were initially expressed.

The creators of these rides have a lot on their shoulders--they must create an experience that goes beyond the original medium, but still remains true to the original with an "improved" and "advanced" awareness of the "older media experiences" (Ndalianis 368). While some rides at theme parks are not as advanced as others, such as E.T. I will admit, they do become part of the spectacle nevertheless, "one space extend[ing] into another, one medium into the next, the spectator into the spectacle, and the spectacle into the spectator" (367), in, for instance, a brochure or television advertisement for the theme park, showing the people have a good time on their multi-media ride. As Ndalianis states, the "motion of the fold" becomes a "fluid media" (367), extending one media into another without skipping a beat, now moving into architectural designs.

As for my own reading, Peter Middleton and Tim Woods' article, "Textual Memory: the Making of the Titanic's Literary Archive," I chose this article to give a basic idea of the mediums I will be presenting in class.

I have read excerpts from the novel A Night to Remember by Walter Lord and have watched the film A Night to Remember. I am focusing on the 1997 Titanic by James Cameron, however. There is just so much about Titanic that I cannot encapsulate into this paper and presentation. I will mention them, of course, but I cannot directly associate it all and assess every aspect in this paper. Instead, in the fashion of Middleton and Woods, I will mention them briefly.

This article gives an excellent example of how I will begin to assess the pieces I have selected. From this article and another, I have reached a starting point in the storytelling aesthetic (particularly in a masculine and feminine context) of the Titanic film and literary worlds.

As Middleton and Woods express, Titanic is comprised of memories, reminiscent of other "feminine" films, such as Fried Green Tomatoes. Is memory a storytelling method that is most associated with films that target female audiences? What characterizes Titanic as a feminine film or a masculine film or both? What aesthetic qualities are associated with each gender?

In short...what makes a "chick flick" a chick-ish? or is that a label that is stereotypically slapped onto a film when someone doesn't like to delve beneath the surface or is surface something that is characteristic of a male-oriented film?

Or am I going to get myself in trouble with all of this gender aesthetic language... :-) I'm loving this project!

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April 18, 2005

Shipping out: Titanic w/ Leo and Kate

Titanic just didn't do it for me this time around. I usually skip the second installment of my VHS version because I don't like to think of the ship and all of those people dying (I used to cry), but somehow I was desensitized to the entire experience, probably because I was taking mental notes of elements addressed in this specific film, which may not have been portrayed in other works.

Analyzing can really sap the life out of a work, but it helped point out some potentially important remediation elements consistent with current (well, 1997) culture:

--The feminist character of Rose. She mentions Freud, smokes, drinks, and talks back to her fiance. She saves Jack by chopping off his handcuffs.
--The ship's sinking motion. Breaking apart and detaching. New knowledge acquired by virtual reality and technological advancement.
--Portrayal of various notable characters: Ismay as heartless, Captain Smith as the proud, yet heartened tragic character, and Andrews as the benevolent friend of Rose and pawn of Ismay
--Facts vs. Historical Fiction: How well does the story match the facts, and what is given up by the romantic drive of the film?

Okay, that's a start. I've ordered A Night to Remember, a multi-media CD, and the made-for-television flick from other libraries, so I should have something to compare all this to soon.

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April 13, 2005

Scrapbooking Spring: 2005 Aesthetics

  • When considering ideas for my paper on A Picture of Dorian Gray, I outlined my paper ideas in this entry, specifically relating that the old and new should coalesce into an abounding knowledge of the ideals in attaining an ideal aesthetic.

  • In this entry, I highlight the impact of Metropolis, RUR, Eugene O'Neill's 'Dynamo' and the Federal Theatre Project's 'Altars of steel', Antheil's Ballet Mechanique, and a Wikipedia article on Dr. Caligari. Perhaps the longest and most media-diverse of my blog entries, I hesitate to try to bring it all together with one phrase, but I come close with this statement: "I have a new appreciation for the expressions of actors and actresses, sound, and finally the portrayal of technology in film, whether real or imagined."

  • Thoreau's chapters from Walden "Sound" and "Solitude", the poem, "The Great Figure" and the painting The Figure 5 in Gold, the journal article: "Skyscraper Geography", the poem "To Brooklyn Bridge", and finally, Dr. Jerz's WTC page, make me realize that we read a lot for this section, but I am happy that we did. My trip to NYC was filled with a new appreciation for the aesthetics of skyscraper and urban architecture, and in the case of some absent buildings, the lack there of.

  • IF games and ELIZA are the main focus of this blog. While I had some contact with these mediums in Writing for the Internet, learning about them in a different capacity (of studying their attractiveness on various levels), helped me look beyond the what and how they function to the why people like them and to whom do they appeal.

  • While reading part I of Galatea 2.2 and Dr. Jerz's article on Will Crowther's "Adventure" I mentioned several things.
    No. 1: "Wumpus" is a word, a rather humorous one, but nevertheless, a word that can, and will be, used in a scholarly article.
    No. 2: A draft of a scholarly article may look like something from The Onion.
    No. 3: A good piece of cover art can create some great connections to the literary work (hmmm. Maybe something to research. Perhaps the origins of how Power (the author) received that cover... Did he pick it? The book editors?).

    I also address the character of Richard Powers, specifically relating that his attempt to "make his robot function as closely to human English analytical processes as possible makes his real life existence all the more sympathetic in his need to capture real human feeling." This, the reader discovers, is the key to unlocking Powers' character and the dealings behind who and what the contest is truly about.

  • During the second leg of the Galatea 2.2 relay, I focus on the main characters, Lentz and Powers, assessing their shifting characteristics from unfeeling to emotional and vice-versa as the novel progresses.

  • After finishing Galatea 2.2, I took a ste back and made some connections to other works we have read, and some I have on my own, such as Aristotelian works and The Secret Life of Bees.

  • We move onto Pick Up Ax, where I compare and contrast the work as a piece of writing and as a play (which I have not seen performed). Though I did get some slack for my views, I stand behind them still, now knowledgeable of my audience-driven view of aesthetics; I am not an "art for art's sake" type, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a journalism major.

  • When blogging about Utopian Entrepreneur, I intimated my response to the work, the relationship of a transmedia culture to my upcoming project, and where the feminist question is glossed over in her analysis of her company, Purple Moon, in the book.

  • Concerning Star Wars, this blog is a mock-up for an in-class presentation. Giving notes, guidlelines, and a few tips on Star Wars for non-enthusiasts, I assess through this blog, and in my presentation, the "transmedia culture" (Laurel), which is mainstream today.

There they are--my lovelies of aesthetic academic endeavor.

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April 12, 2005

Media tour de FORCE: Star Wars

Not everyone is a fan, but the Star Wars conglomerate of George Lucas does exemplify the transmedia culture which is consistently marking the new media market. From comics, movies, books, film, action figures, interactive fiction, etc. the creative teams for Lucasfilm, Ltd. have gone far beyond the limitations of a Hollywood galaxy. Excuse the cheesiness.

While similarities still exist in the packaging of the product: fonts, characters, settings, and overall culture of the Force-driven worlds of Lucas, the contrasts in new media lie in the varying complexity of visual effects, the authors, and, of course, the various mediums which distribute the information.

Okay, a few Star Wars basics:

Episode I--new movie Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor
Episode II--new movie Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman
Episode III--to be released soon

Episode IV a.k.a. Star Wars:older flick Harrison Ford
Episode V a.k.a. The Empire Strikes back:older same cast YODA!!
Episode VI a.k.a. Return of the Jedi: last movie

Independent fan films:


Annual fan film awards 2005 finalists.

When cinema is not enough, Star Wars enthusiasts continue the story after and before George Lucas's cinematic timeline. Books and interactive fiction.

Interactive Fiction:

Star Wars IF gaming

Star Wars Chicks IF for gals

Download a fan fiction zip file

Example of transmedia culture (Laurel).

From Remediation: Understanding New Media

Star Wars, which was ahead of its time, still employed puppetry (Yoda and Jabba's animals) and models to create scenery. Later, in the new episodes I and II, however, computer graphics took precedence, creating a photorealistic world that the audience may begin to believe (Bolter and Grusin 153-154). The Episodes I and II, however, are arguably more realistic with visual effects. They "create a sense of[ing] as close as possible to our daily visual experience" (Bolter and Grusin 22).

Other mediums: books. If I could, I would show you them, but I don't have my digital camera; I have new and old versions of Star Wars books. I plan on assessing their book covers with a focus in the enhanced graphic design as the series develops.

This is a stepping stone presentation for my final, which will be on Titanic--all forms.

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Over the moon

About a chapter into Utopian Entrepreneur by Brenda Laurel, I was struck by a terrible, shortsighted, yet ironic, thought: How could someone who had failed in her own entrepreneurial pursuits (Purple Moon gaming industry) give any valid interpretations on how to conduct business in the emerging media culture?

I quickly dismissed this thought after reading her work. She learned from her entrepreneurial mistakes, and imparts this wisdom to us as readers, unabashedly citing her flaws:
"Later in the game, my sense of inferiority in business led me to ignore precious insights and to accede to bad business decisions."

One section on a transmedia culture is of particular interest to me right now. In class today, I will be discussing remediation, or what Laurel relates to current society as "transmedia" (84).

She cites the fact that "people have an enduring interest in content and a continuing propensity to be fans of content properties. But they will access the content they want witht the device that is appropriate for them at the moment" (84).

I plan on associating this principle to the Star Wars conglomerate. I have books, movies, and a CD-ROM (both old and new) that demonstrate the media that befits a certain generation in the most expedient form.

In any case, back to Laurel. This is my favorite book I have read in Media Aesthetics. Everything about it screams, READ ME; for example, the small size, the page development with computerized text and varying fonts, even the smooth pages (which are all assessed in the final pages of the book), contribute to this slick design concept. The company, Mediawork, sell me on this book and on their knowledge of what an audience wants by their medium. In fact, they address this very idea in that they want their book (they call it a pamphlet--sneaky way to make it seem even smaller) to go in "sling packs, messenger bags, and attaches that both men and women now shoulder to hold thier pens, pads, pagers, phones, PDAs, and, of course, laptop computers" (112). They know their audience. Smooth.

While reading, I could not shake the depression associated with Purple Moon falling apart. While she doesn't dwell on the failure for very long throughout the chapters, when it is mentioned her upbeat attitude make the reader even more sympathetic to her successful, went caput, supposedly anti-feminism company. In addition to citing good business practices for an entrepreneur, Laurel also argues that her games were not anti-feminism, but rather what little girls want based on how they play. She also mentions that she did this with tons of research on her side.

After looking at this Stanford site, however, I am not sure how I feel about Purple Moon. I mean, there is definitive racial stereotyping demonstrated here. Not seeing the Purple Moon software or the original website, however (because it has been shut down), I cannot make an accurate judgment. Instead, Mattel's Barbie site loads first in association with Purple Moon on Google. Ironic again, when Laurel considers Barbie her nemesis, "[attempting to lower] her bust line by holding a match under the indicated area...produc[ing] only melting, not sagging." I mean, "i hate barbie" is the title of one of her chapters. We definitely have something in common. :-) I find it is easier to believe her, speaking as an entrepreneurial businesswoman (who is out of business) than some panties-in-a-twist Stanford feminist--even worse than I. :-D

The most powerful chapter was the last one. She got a computer while being an ear of corn. It is so human a narrative in contrast to the primitive computer in the Ace Hardware store with cards. Her writing skills come through soon after when she states, "Although it [a computer] can speak with a human voice or display a human face, we know it is not human. it is a brain in a box, without body, a soul, intuition, passion, or morality."

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April 7, 2005

Axed and Taxed

Throughout Pick Up Ax by Anthony Clarvoe, I got the sensation I was leading a team of huskies...whoops--I was just thinking about a peppermint patty.

Back to Ax, back to Ax. Anyway, I got the sensation throughout the play that all of the characters had contention between one another. The ending, the ruthlessness of it, does not surprise. Cain and Abel-like.

In Literary Studies last year, Dr. Jerz instructed us to look beyond the lines and see the scene before us as depicted in the stage directions. In Pick up Ax, the mood room, is of great value to the reader/audience's perception of the events taking place. It is just as alive as the characters in it, the audience discovers. If you don't read the directions, you miss an entire element of the plot. At the conclusion, for example, a powerful image surfaces:

(KEITH slams his fist onto his desk. Rolling Stones's "Jumping Jack Flash" starts up. The walls go blood red. Through the window streams a sunset like fire. KEITH considers what his room is telling him. He punches numbers.)

This isn't limited to this section, however; it is just the most powerful. I don't know a lot of the songs included in the stage directions--I am a young'n, but it really makes me want to listen to get a better physical association with the play.

I think that is one of the most noticeable lacking elements of this play in written form. There are thousands of songs and pinpointing one, while great with the 80s theme, is problematic for the reader. It is also an easy mood-setter for Clarvoe; rather than letting other elements of the set speak, he instead inserts a song to speak for his scene. He permits another writer to take advantage of his creation. This is a bad move. The audience members may have their own interpretations of the songs (lost loves, bad days, deaths, etc.) which each person may associate with the song. He loses creative control in this medium inclusion.

However, this section also makes me think that Clarvoe wrote this for readers in mind, rather than audiences, but I may be limiting Clarvoe in saying that he can only write dialogue well. That is not my intention at all. Just surprised that similies can come as easily as a phrase turn. Great versatility on his part.

With all of the images and allusions to IF gaming (i.e. Adventure), I can see where we are going with this now.


As for the article "Adventure" by Martin Heller, it was, as Jerz said, "jumbled." At the beginning of the article, I got the hang of the switching from the IF game "Adventure" to the narrator's life, and then back again. However, when another plot line entered, I did not know what was going on, but I did know that it had a purpose.

The story portrays what we go through in our lives. It is an adventure. Sometimes we don't know if we are coming and going, which path to take, but we eventually find our way--make connections. Things are a jumbled mess, and only by stepping back from this article and life, and viewing the overall theme, can we understand the adventure as an entity quite apart from our own limited view.

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April 5, 2005

Final pages: Galatea 2.2

Though Galatea 2.2 does not live up to this description:

"Dazzling...A cerebral thriller that's both intellectually engagin and emotionally compelling, a lively tour de force."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

it does have some redeeming qualities. However, I am not judging the "goodness" of the novel here. I am supposed to get something out of it aesthetically-speaking, right?


Everything in this course was put together in this novel. From Engine No. 9 to Eliza (274) to various philosophies of imitation vs. reality, they are all represented in this novel. If anything, it is a media tour de force.

One ideology that I would like to focus on is the imitationvs. reality concept throughout the novel. Lentz is the empiricist (inductive thinker), an Aristotle of the day. He is, at times, "fail[ing] to get away cleanly [from his belief that Helen is just a machine]" (260), but he invariably returns to statements, such as, "That's not consciousness. Trust me. I built her" (274).

Powers, on the other hand, begins to believe that Helen is conscious of her surroundings, of him... Lentz compares him to the student who thinks he is talking to a human, but instead reaches ELIZA. Nice comparison, although Powers disagrees with the apt assumption.

I really do not know. Helen is a bit of a whiz. I think I may be fooled by her synapses on anything BUT English composition.

Really, I couldn't help it. I thought, for the first 250 pages or so that this was a wonderful sleeping aid. However, when you hit the next remaining 130 pages+ the reader is brought more characters--more life--than Lentz and Richard Powers, and all of their overwrought banter.

As for the conclusion (there is a spoiler here), I think Powers champions humanity, stating that there is something in a human being, which cannot be attributed to a machine. Still, after Powers gives her the newspaper clippings and such--the real life; she is debilitated by this knowledge. People can cope with this, we are seasoned to grow numb to our world and accept, to a certain degree, the negative things.

I am reminded of May from The Secret Life of Bees. She, like Helen, cannot let the weight slide off of her. Instead, the dire state of humanity hits her and she cannot function under the weight of the world's pain.

The news clippings are my medium, and I think that it reinforces the idea that some mediums are more difficult to function in than others. Photography, journalism, film: they can all convey messages, which are not so pleasing to the eye, but some, such as the news in written and visual formatting can be lacking in optimism. A truism, I know.

Stepping away from Galatea 2.2, I see valid connections surfacing, but I think I need a little more time to wrestle with these ideas.

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March 31, 2005

Implementation B: Second look at Galatea

I am beginning to disagree with the labels I have placed upon the characters in Galatea 2.2.

Lentz, for example, the technologically advanced, and hence stereotypical character of numbness, is not that label at all. Upon discovering Richard looking at a photograph of he and his wife, taken by his son, he responds to him rather poetically:

"Lentz I knew could never have posed for such a shot...'And you're still...?' I didn't know what I was asking. 'There is no 'still,' Marcel. 'Still' is for unravished brides of quietness."

Powers is maintaining his touchy-feeling outlook on events, but there is a hardness creeping in (or was it already there?).

In this section, for example, his sentimentality takes center stage, but with a pessimistic air:

Richard Powers:"It could bump up against word lists forever and never have more than a collection of arbitrary, differentiated markers...We take in the world continuously. It presses against us. It burns and freezes."

While he is constantly reminiscing about his love lost C., he is reaching a new level of pessimism with the rejected experimentations through the alphabet. They are now on G.

Continuing work in mixed mediums. I may work on this for my final project. Hm. Something with film.

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March 26, 2005

Shifting realities: Fiction and Fact,
Gaming and Pseudo-AI

I don't think I have had so much fun with a scholarly article before. Whoa--never thought that sentence would come out of me.

But this article is not published yet. Dr. Jerz's "You Are Standing at the Beginning of a Road: Examining Will Crowther's 'Advent'" (c. 1975)" is still in the draft stage.

Missing the top line: [Draft, 22 Mar 2005], I silently commended the publishing journal for eing open-minded enough to accept some question marks in the dates displayed. That is, for example, when Eliza was published. However, when I read "by contract" instead of "by contrast" I thought something was wrong. Don't get me wrong, it is a very good draft. Entertaining, especially when talking about the "wumpus". I had to laugh at the irony of talking about a "wumpus" in a scholarly article:

"I smell a wumpus"

Respectfully, I want to note, the entire article style reminds me of something I would read in the Onion, but that is the nature of the study--a serious analytical look at a fun industry.

In any case, draft or final product, I am finally seeing where all of this is going. The description passages, for instance, really helped me hone in on what we are studying.

Interactive Fiction (IF) games do make a player give up the realities of what is there on the screen, and press one to use one's imagination, a quite different medium than television, movies, or video games. It is true that as an IF player, a need for "multiple [sense appeal]" is needed to "intensify the player's collaboration in creating [a] world." I think that is why I like the newer IF games. The descriptions are lengthy of the world, while still permitting the player to think like a reader, rather than a viewer.

As for the format of the IF games, as Jerz notes, "Will was very proud--or more accurately amused--of how well he could fool people into thinking that there was some very complex AI [Artificial Intelligence] behind the game," says Mike Kraler.

It is easy in the newer games to be fooled into thinking there is something amazing at work behind these lines of coding. And there is--in the coding. I am not a professional coder, and I am in awe of the thought behind each line. In Writing for the Internet, I could not believe that some of the students were actually going to take on an IF game. I have it on good authority that it is a very difficult, but rewarding undertaking.

And now for the connections, I have been reading Galatea 2.2. While I do think that it is a bit egotistical and confusing (authobiographical) for the author and the protagonist of the story to have the same name: Richard Powers, I am getting into the story.

The cover art by Michael Ian Kaye is really intriguing. Once side is a clear image of the subject (Galatea?, not really sure, but probably--I tried finding the original--to no avail) and the other a pixelated version of the same image flipped on the horizontal axis. How appropriate for the storyline. Switching from personal aesthetic reflections on his life to his current anesthetic existence at the Center where he works, Richard attempts to bring both worlds together, but one, I predict will prevail. His robot coming to life bodes well for the anesthetic. This attempt to make his robot function as closely to human English analytical processes as possible makes his real life existence all the more sympathetic in his need to capture real human feeling.

While I do know what happens to a point, I will not spoil the story, as I have before. I would like to see who wins out, though--the portrait or pixels.

The mixture of mediums is great in Galatea: English texts-personal (as in Powers), computer dynamics-impersonal (Lentz), the cover art-computerized pixelation of a classic artwork--the original, like Powers' life, is somewhat damaged. It is all coming together in my head.

See what a little Easter Break can do? :-)

Oh yeah, I have time to watch Blade Runner, too. I'll be watching for Metropolis-inspired settings. :-)

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March 21, 2005

Chatting with familiars


I met Eliza last semester during my Writing for the Internet independent study, but chatting once again was lovely. I kept writing, "I am tired" and I got the typical "Why are you tired? Did you come to me because you are tired?" responses.

However, for this class, I am a bit puzzled as to what I am supposed to be studying. Is it the interactive gaming format aspect? If so, I would have to say that the limited nature of Eliza, though a marvel of early code (created in 1966), does have much to learn from the chatbots of today. I mean, I got my sister thinking that she was actually talking to a person when I showed her some of the bots on IM.

On Adventure:

Adventure looks at the world with technical eyes. "There is a rock with a slit." "There is a forest." The story is not setting based in the fact that it is not the most descriptive in beauty, as a novel would be, but rather, plot based with the idea that the setting is the plot.

Adventure is a starting point for interactive games, and I am happy to see that things have progressed further, though I have issues with interactive fiction altogether.

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March 17, 2005

Metropolis and Aesthetic Mediation


When watching Metropolis, I could not stop myself from thinking how great it would be if everything would burst into Wizard of Oz-type technicolor when the workers unite and begin to destroy the machines. However, in the beginning, I thought it was very appropriate the film to be in black-and-white, and it lends an even more monotonous feel to the film's technology, enhancing the plight of the workers.

Machinery dominates, of course. The workers in the film walk around for the majority of the movie with heads down, walking slowly toward their tasks. This seems to reinforce the idea that in an era of machines, human beings are expendable commodities that may work as interchangeable parts, just as the machine does.

While I was disappointed to find that titles in this silent film were few and far between, I began to really appreciate the actors' expressions, and even black-lipped beauty, as the movie progressed. The aesthetic beauty of the people, albeit 1920's style, made me realize that the same classic features are still sought after; for example, as in The Aviator, Cate Blanchett--a carbon copy of Katharine Hepburn.

The experimental seduction of mechanistic modernism in Eugene O'Neill's 'Dynamo' and the Federal Theatre Project's 'Altars of steel':

A nice long name for an article. Although I had issues understanding the majority of this article, this struck me:

These lavishly illustrated works show the influence of Lang's film 'Metropolis'...not just in the design of urban skyscrapers but also in the manner in which they emphasised teeming masses of humanity moving through the streets--less like blood through networks of veins, and more like a viscous fluid pressed nto tightly regulated streams, lubricating a great urban machine.

I had never thought about this, but it is true that the current skyscrapers of New York and even Hartford (yes, I've been there now), look a lot like the ones in Metropolis. The lines of windows, stretching up in grays and blacks into the sky are very reminiscent of those in the imagined film work of Lang.

The Americanization of Expressionism: The Hairy Ape (1922) and The Adding Machine (1923):

Before reading the Wikipedia entry on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, I really did not have any idea of what expressionism is. I mean, it does have "expression" in the title, but what is it expressing? The audience....the artist? After reading up, I found that the artist is just expressing one's self without thought to the audience who will (probably?) view it.

I really want to kick myself, because if I had known this concept before my last paper, I could have gone beyond Freud vs. New Criticism.

In this article, Jerz characterizes The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, as

"An unrealistic, nightmarish setting, [with] the director employ[ing] painted cutouts for interior and exterior sets, arranging them asymmetrically, skewing all the horizontal and vertical lines. The misshapen angles, grotesque make-up, and striking lighting effects defin[ing] a visual standard for German expressionism."

When thinking of the scenery in Metropolis, the stages were as real to life as they possibly could be (that is, without special effects). The lab scene, for example, is startlingly well done, considering the minimal film technology for the time. The ellipticals around Robot Maria, for example, could only be achieved by some creative visual effects--revolutionary.

These effects were, according to Wikipedia, achieved with the artist's expression in mind, rather than the audience (relationship to expressionism); but isn't it lucky for the director that the audiences also enjoys scenes like this?

I am not entirely sure that expression in film is a not an oxymoron, especially in the current industry. The almighty dollar takes away from the possibility for the odd, unique, and artsy.

While this film did get really slow toward the end, and the credits were sadly minimal, I have a new appreciation for the expressions of actors and actresses, sound, and finally the portrayal of technology in film, whether real or imagined.

And finally an analysis of the thematic quote:

There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.

Hands: workers, Brain: Federson (big business--man), and Mediator: Federson's son who gets the girl: Maria. What a lovely shot at the end when the white-clad Federson's son holds hands between his father and the worker. If only we all could just get along like that...:-)

On the Ballet (?):
The question mark is to indicate confusion... Though I like the idea behind this musical score (using many instruments in synchronization and it finally being accomplished), I think it sounds a bit more like Daffy Duck falling down a flight of stairs. Sorry--not my ears' cup-o-tea.

I read the background before actually hearing it, and it is a lovely story of overcoming technological medium obstacles and finally realizing a dream, but only twenty-first century creators could put something like this together for real.

I remember in Writing for the Internet my first year, that one of our first assignments was to research the origins of the smiley. I had no idea what a smiley was back then.

However, in RUR, Jerz notes that this is the place where the word "robot" was coined.

Robots now have connotations with them, as do smileys, but this play made me think twice about the clunky piece of machinery image I have in my head:

DOMAIN: Have you ever seen what a Robot looks like

HELENA: Good gracious, no!

DOMAIN: Very neat, very simple. Really a beautiful piece of work.

Aesthetically-pleasing Just screwed up that stereotype. Sheesh I really have to work on this animating the inanimate habit I have developed. Robot oppression--I am becoming Helena--the robot freedom fighter. :-D

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March 14, 2005

Aethetics and Urbanization: from Walden Pond to Skyscrapers

So many flavors of aesthetic beauty--I felt like I was eating rainbow sherbet on a hot day when I read these:

From Walden: "Sounds" and "Solitude"

Thoreau is one of my favorites. I mean, how can you not love a reclusive who lives by a pond and reflects upon his quiet existence? As a summer lover, I spent my afternoon reading away in dare I say, pleasure? at assigned readings. I think it has me entrance with the beauties to come in a couple of months, in Solitude, for example, images like, "the bullfrogs trump[ing] to usher in the night" or "the gentle rain," I daydream on this frosty night.

In "Sounds," however, I caught on to where the lesson is headed. Media, technology, of course. I think what hinged my mind to this was the placement of predators of nature in conjunction with technology:

Hawks are circling about my clearing; the tantivy of wild pigeons, flying by two and threes athwart my view, or perching restless on the white pine boughs behind my house, gives a voice to the air; a fish hawk dimples the glassy surface of the pond and brings up a fish; a mink steals out of the marsh before my door and seizes a frog by the shore; the sedge is bending under the weight of the reed-birds flitting hither and thither; and for the last half-hour I have heard the rattle of railroad cars, now dying away and then reviving like the beat of a partridge, conveying travellers from Boston to the country.

Through this placement of detail, one may see that his peaceful little world on Walden Pond is being intruded upon by the progress of the era, albeit distant in his time.

And then the urban...this weekend I am visiting NYC again--how appropriate to appreciate the aesthetics of the city before I actually visit. Great timing on this one, Dr. Jerz. Unintentional, probably, but nevertheless, perfect.

Concerning the poem: "The Great Figure" and the painting: The Figure 5 in Gold:
I love looking at artwork, but sometimes I cannot articulate what I see, so I really enjoy it when the written word inspires art.

In many ways the poem, with its sharp lines and lack of punctuation reflects the staccato beat of the city. In the same manner, the painting also indicates this no-nonsense attitude with sharp lines, some confusion--but still orderly composition of Demuth's painting.

McNeill's "Skyscraper Geography":
In this journal article, I was surprised at the timeliness of the information. Not only was Freedom Tower--the new building to replace the Trade Towers mentioned--but also relatively current films, such as Die Hard.

His ideas concerning skyscrapers as both a part of the surrounding area, the skyline of the city, and also an individual mark of human achievement, take on a new aesthetic value.

I always viewed New York City as a skyline, until I visited. When I did walk around, I noted, as McNeill states, these "gargantuan footprints on the urban geography of the city" and stood in awe at their individual demonstration of power. However, McNeill does not demote the skyline; in fact, he states, "Impossible to ever inhabit in its totality, existent in full dramatic form only from a relatively distant perspective, the skyline is nonetheless the most frequently invoked image when considering the impact of skyscrapers on cities."

I have much more to say about this article, specifically concerning these areas, but I will condense:

"Within a lot of architectural discourse, the rather crude 'global-local' construct recurs frequently...This presents particular challenges in the developmental states of southeast Asia that have explicitly adopted skyscrapers and infastructure projects as symbols of national modernization."--I have many, many things to say about this orientalist view of the "Eastern" (?) world. Let's just say Islam with Dr. Dardery has opened my eyes.

As for the cinematic understanding of McNeill, he is sorely lacking in chick flick knowledge. What about An Affair to Remember or Sleepless in Seattle? Hmm. I'll have to say something about that in class...

I particularly enjoyed it when McNeill cited Donald Trump in association with the egotistical and/or phallic. I could not have stated it better. :-)

His quote reeks of the typical egoism that makes me cringe when I see his image: "I like thinking big. I always have."

So much to say about this article, but I really must move on for now.

The poem: "To Brooklyn Bridge":

Dr. Jerz describes this poem as an "urban poem," but it sounds more like a nineteenth century work with anachronistic elements, such as traffic lights and subways, inserted. The combination adds an air of romantic mysticism to the urban life; for example, details such as, "immaculate sigh of stars/ Beading thy path--condense eternity" or "how could mere toil align thy choiring strings!" take the reader into an almost dreamlike state. How easily Crane makes the reader forget the litter and noise of the city.

The aesthetics of urban life can really be appreciated by an outsider from a small town, but to really study and live in NYC (perhaps, I haven't done a bio on Crane) and appreciate it still for its lovely scope is something to read with interest.

Dr. Jerz's WTC page:
One poem struck me:

David Lehman "The World Trade Center" (1996) I never liked the World Trade Center. When it went up I talked it down As did many other New Yorkers. The twin towers were ugly monoliths That lacked the details the ornament the character Of the Empire State Building and especially The Chrysler Building, everyone's favorite, With its scalloped top, so noble. The World Trade Center was an example of what was wrong With American architecture, And it stayed that way for twenty-five years Until that Friday afternoon in February When the bomb went off and the buildings became A great symbol of America, like the Statue Of Liberty at the end of Hitchcock's Saboteur. My whole attitude toward the World Trade Center Changed overnight. I began to like the way It comes into view as you reach Sixth Avenue From any side street, the way the tops Of the towers dissolve into white skies In the east when you cross the Hudson Into the city across the George Washington Bridge.

(From "Valentine Place" [Scribner, 1996]. Originally published in "The Paris Review." [source -- text not verified] )

Perception changes, this poem demonstrates when something monumental happens. The ugly finds its swan within. The towers found their swan, ironically, through tragedy. They reached a new standard of beauty--loaded with meaning of American ingenuity and strength, and finally after the collapse, the ability for America to persevere and save one another. But isn't that the best kind of beauty--when meaning and aesthetic standards finally find a medium?

It's lovely to think that from even ashes beautiful things may come.

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March 1, 2005

Shelton coincidence

After reading the excerpt from Shelton Waldrep's "The Aesthetic Realism of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray" and the entire work while writing my paper, I noticed the idealistic manner in which Wilde approaches his current society.

In this excerpt, for example, Shelton relates that the Hellenic ideal was to be strived for in Wilde's present day in connection to the new aesthetic.

I like his compilation of the two worlds--the old and new; it is perhaps what we should strive to achieve today, that understanding that the old should be just as appreciated as the "new" ideal.

In my paper, I quoted Shelton in relation to the spectator in art. Yes, I finally found a topic for my paper: the importance of the spectator in the communication of art.

While I was a bit rushed in compiling my work for this paper, after reading the text assigned, I will make sure to reread Mr. Shelton, perhaps expanding my topic to the role of Hellenic ideals in Dorian's response to his painting, and in Lord Henry's influence upon Dorian's artful life.

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February 26, 2005

Aesthetically-pleasing scrapbook

Bringing together blog entries together is turning into an artform in itself. How appropriate for my current course: Media Aesthetics with Dr. Jerz.

So without further ado, this is a collection of it all: my aesthetic blogs. How much better I feel about having a beautiful blog when I am writing about aesthetics! Sorry, tangent...

Concerning a Certain Beauty
  • In this blog, I introduce to my blogging audience that I am again academically blogging, and to not be afraid that Pygmalion is being mentioned. I related that I liked the feminist version listed better than the classical ones. What a hullabaloo I caused in class! Aesthetics can be very serious, I've learned.
  • Flattered that I was mentioned on a syllabus, I blogged about being cited for my work on academic blogging, which was done in Writing for the Internet this past semester. I mentioned in this entry that for taste purposes, the guidelines Julie and I set were for all blogs, and not specifically academic ones.
  • Though writing about blindness is sometimes a difficult topic, in this entry I discussed the amazing story of Mike's Journal, and the amazing recovery the author experiences, specifically concerning the world of sight and the things we take for granted.
  • Some short stories can really touch my heart. I am a softy, and "Cathedral" is one of them. In this entry, I discuss my impressions of being blind and the jerky narrator's point-of-view and his transformation throughout the short story.
  • Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic is seen in a rather religious context in this blog entry. I associate the beliefs of Islam (a class I am currently taking), which believes in a universal understanding of God, to that of the Greek perpective--or at least Socrates.
  • In discussing Ion, Phaedrus, and Churchill I mentioned that I liked the steady contemplation of the Socratic dialogues. When discussing Churchill, I brought in the ideas of journalistic integrity concerning facts, information, knowledge and wisdom.
  • After reading Plato for a while, I got tired of it. This rant on Poetics was the spawn of that frustration. Throughout this blog, I pulled out quotations concerning certain books, and gave a commentary on my understanding of each point: hating the poet and virtue.
  • After our class without Dr. Jerz, I reflected on our experience as students leading a class. Reminiscent of a coffeehouse, we chitchatted about Aristotle's strictures concerning tragedy and comedy.
  • Perhaps my favorite blog in aesthetics so far was on Pope and Eliot. In this blog, I became Journalist Amanda, complete with quotes. I consider this an editorial, however--I wouldn't want a hard news reporter writing, "he captures the human condition with truisms that still capture the modern reader." I connected Pope to movies and Eliot to teenager angst poetry in a modern application of some rather older writers.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray preface blog presents the opinion that the audience plays an active role in deciding what is good and bad art or immoral or moral art. In the comments section, I was held under fire for saying that the audience can ruin art, but this, I maintain is still true--the critic looks beneath the layers at their own peril, and sometimes make incorrect assumptions (Wilde).
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray is a layered text, and I decided to delve a bit deeper into Dorian's layers here. Starting out as an innocent, beautiful character, I mark, primarily through descriptive sections the progressive decay of his impression of his beauty, and Wilde's use of the flower image as Dorian.
  • In my blog about the remaining chapters of The Picture of Dorian Gray, I pitched some research paper ideas. I think I am going to write my paper on Wilde's assumption that when beauty is taken away, it may never be recaptured, and sin may never be reversed. This may be a tough topic because I cannot crawl into the heart of Dorian Gray and discover if he was really trying to be "good" at the end of the novel, I may perhaps connect this to original sin. Who knows? I am really in the draft stage now.
  • In "Shelton Coincidence," I assess the Hellenic ideal in relationship to Wilde and his compilation of the old and new. In this entry, I note that we are to compile the past and present together to create a respectful work which spotlights all eras.

Well, there they are--my first round of Aesthetics blogs. I hope I am getting better at writing academic blogs. It is becoming rather formulaic really--dash of quotes here, a movie reference there...

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Into Gray: Concluding Dorian

I did get the library copy of Dorian, but I am not writing in the margins, but rather on scrap paper with the page number beside my note. I don't write in library books. This library book is quite extraordinary actually, but I am not sure how I feel about having a book about aesthetics being illustrated for me in cartoons...

This is the final illustration by Tony Ross in my edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray.


Quite disturbing for a cartoon...

I finally finished this novel, and I am intrigued, not only by the aesthetic conclusions of the novel, but also by Wilde himself as a writer and character in history.

As for the ending, I was a bit uncomfortable with the assumption that one cannot be saved from an "evil" lifestyle, as Wilde implies by the painting not reversing the stains of sin upon the canvas. This assumption seems to limit the human spirit; it limits Dorian's soul, which was originally described as just as beautiful as his outward appearance. I would describe a beautiful soul as a resilient one--a soul that can withstand mistakes and turn around despite the trials that Life, or the character, inflicts upon one's self.

I loved the variance of Wilde's aesthetic taste toward description. The novel, imitating Dorian's progression, begins with beautiful images of summer and flowers, specifically roses (indicative of romance) to the cold of winter, the last few scenes being characterized by coats on the characters.

I am not sure what I would like to address specifically in my paper yet. I have been dabbling with this idea of imagery in relation to Wilde's writing style (i.e. how the dialogue contrasts with the imagery and later how it meshes with the dialogue, enhancing the cold effect of Dorian's transformation).

Another idea I have been working with is that of symbolism. Bees, flowers, colors (or colours) are all symbolic of characters and their current situation at different stages of the plot. At the start of the novel, for instance, Dorian is looked upon as having the blush of youth, but later having pallor and whiteness with fainting fits.

I'm not quite sure if I like that idea very much now that I have written it out.

Yet another idea has sparked. Lord Henry is the most prolific speaker of aesthetics in the novel. When one character is speaking about the considerations of reality, Lord Henry always finds a way to turn to art and the manner in which we are imitating or being imitated by artists. He seems to go in either direction, as suits his conversation point needs.

Hm. Not quite sure what to do. At least I have options.

First impressions all my own. Now onto scholarly peer-reviewed sources. Wahoo. :-\ :-D

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February 24, 2005

Chickens and Eggs in the Wilde

I am reminded of this old question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" when I read Wilde's "The Decay of Lying".

So what came first in the art context? The art or the imitations of art? Wilde seems to think art came first: "Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life."

As Dr. Jerz said in class, human beings have an inate response to mimic others, so I would have to say that the art would have to have come first, or the egg, if you will. I am taking this metaphor too far...

Art is the airbrushed form of Life. And Life provides a setting in which art may be imagined. Our imaginations as artists take that reality and transform it into art. I stand with Wilde completely on this assumption.

So now, instead of looking stupidly at the lines on the page, searching for an answer on my thoughts on this piece (which awkwardly happened), I have now formed an opinion.

**Note to self: Print out texts so that you may highlight. Trees beware.

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In pinks and red: Dorian Gray

About two years ago, I was part of a writing group at the Mount Pleasant Library. We were to create a story from the ground up with the idea that our story should focus on one element: plot, character or point-of-view. In any case, I thought back to these elements while reading The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Wilde's plot, though important in the development of the story--because it is a novel, is not the driving force behind the work. Instead, the character study of Dorian Gray and his supporting characters, Basil and Lord Henry (as of chapters 1-4), jeopardize the scenes.

The beautiful surroundings:

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind strred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

...high pannelled wainscoting of olive-stained oak, its cream coloured frize and celing of raised platerwork, and its brickdust felt carpet strewn with silk, long-fringed Persian rugs.

set an amiable scene, but the dialogue, full of dark and satirical comments about human beings and their nature are enough to spoil the outward beauty of the pretty setting. This is perhaps Wilde's intention--to make the reader appreciate what lies beneath a pretty scene, and discover the layers beneath.

Dorian's layers are the subject of study. His attitude toward his own beauty goes from a sort of understated understanding that he is attractive to an outward understanding that he is a beautiful creature, but in the same instant, a beautiful creature who will fall apart. This assumption, is due in large part to Basil's, and especially Lord Henry's, views concerning his appearance. Is there something beneath this attractive exterior, or is it simply a young man wrestling with the loss of his youth?

Wilde foreshadows, quite sneakily, I might add, to the demise of Dorian's beauty through a beautiful image:

"The spray of lilac [Dorian] fell from his hand upon the gravel. A furry bee came and buzzed round it for a moment. Then it began to scramble all over the oval stellate globe of the tiny blossoms."

Later Wilde describes Dorian again as a flower, "bear[ing] blossoms of scarlet flame."

Flowers are an extended metaphor throughout the work; however, one stands out as not fitting appropriately with the character. Basil describes his relationship to Dorian as rather superficial stating, "I have given away my whole soul to some one who treats it as if it were a flower to put in his coat, a bit of decoration to charm his vanity, an ornament for a summer's day."

Dorian is a more apt person to say something like this. He is the ornament who will most likely fade away as time passes. Dorian, in relationship to Basil, is a muse and perhaps a friend, but will his image not fade, as Dorian mentions? Yes, and he will lose his usefulness, tossed aside when his youth or his petals fade in the heat of the day.

As for the stance of Wilde, I think that the dialogue of Lord Henry and Dorian and Basil are a sort of direct discourse on artwork. The artist, Basil, for example, stands behind Eliot that "an artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them." Though Eliot does not say that one should keep all f one's self out of their work, there is a definite differentiation between personal work for catharsis and professional.

That is the reason Basil has such difficulty giving up this work to the masses: "I will not bare my soul to their shallow prying eyes." He has "shown in it [the painting of Dorian Gray] the secret of [his] soul."

He has broken the artist impersonality rule, but luckily, at least from Lord Henry's view, "It is the finest portrait of modern times."

But the portrait is going to Dorian. Maybe the scarlet will turn to crimson.

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February 22, 2005

To Pre-face the face:
The Picture of Dorian Gray preface analysis

Have you ever read something and you are not really sure if the writer's intent is to be sarcastic or serious? I am questioning my impressions of Oscar Wilde's preface in The Picture of Dorian Gray in exactly this manner.

Though I am swaying toward the serious assumption, I think the sarcastic tinge that accompanies this start, comes from the way it is written; strict statements, such as "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book" remind me of Aristotle's strictures, which I think are pompous.

The style harkens back to Aristotle. However, this preface goes beyond Aristotle's foundation laying of what is good artwork.

Instead, it poignantly expresses generalizations concerning the audience's role in artwork. The people surveying beauty: critics, specifically, are the subject of Wilde's preface. Critics are what make books "moral or...immoral", and the statement that "No artist is ever morbid" makes me think of a namecalling critic, to whom Wilde indirectly refers.

Wilde echoes Eliot in separating the artist from the work, but as Wilde mentions, "To reveal art and conceal the artists is art's aim"--a sort of enactment of Eliot's understanding that one should create by "conscious and deliberate [thought]".

I also appreciate Wilde's warning that "all art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril". What messes up art in any form are the viewer's impressions.

As Wilde states, "It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors." This sentence reminds me of the "If You Know What I Mean" improv game from Whose Line is It Anyway? As an audience member, one can take whatever one wants from a statement. While Colin or Ryan may be implying much more than the traditional artist, the implication is not only factor in the equation.

**I killed a tree. I printed out half of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I swear, treehuggers are going to chase me down someday.

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February 21, 2005

Approaching criticism: Pope and Eliot

I have a plant in my room. It is overall a nice shade of green, but it is speckled because it cannot get enough light through my lacey curtains. (It is doing better than when my mom had it out in the hallway, getting no better light than the hallway could provide.)

Anyway, my point is that the plant is overall nice looking, pleasing to the eye, and it is also--and Aristotle would be proud--functional--for providing some nice oxygen in my pretty shut-up abode.

I could labor on the fact that it is speckled and that it does need some new dirt, and perhaps some Miracle Gro, but instead, I just water it, hoping that it will reach its full potential one of these days. It is still pretty. I am a critic of my plant, but a critic that hopefully aligns with Pope's standards of admiring "not th' exactness of peculiar parts;/...But the joint force and full result of all" (Part 2).

There is more to this than plants, however. T.S. Eliot is even in the mix.

Alexander Pope is a pretty old writer (1688-1744), but he captures the human condition with truisms that still capture the modern reader; when considering a youth's view toward the world, for example, he says that when we do conquer our first height, we think it is the end, but no, "Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise!"

But back to criticism. It is true, as Eliot mentions, that "criticism is as inevitable as breathing" and that is what Pope is upset about. Instead of the thoughtful criticism that Eliot implies, Pope characterizes criticism in a negative light that "make the whole [of the artwork] depend upon a part" (Part 2).

Though I do like Pope's belief that a critic should not do this to a work, because we all "err [as humans]" (Part 2)--even in our artwork, but I do think that some nasty lines of dialogue, or a crappy cameraperson can ruin a production for the audience. It really depends on what the "err" is.

But what about the material itself? I enjoyed reading Eliot's explanation that art is not new in the sense that it is completely revolutionary, but rather the culmination of the past "dead poets", the current society, and the individual's "own private mind".

Every book one reads, every film viewed, video game played, imprints a distinct impression upon the audience member, which is echoed in new works. I guess I am reasserting the 'nothing is new under the sun' view, but Eliot is qualifying that statement by saying that the components are not new but the combination is; the work by the modern artist "forms a new compound".

In the realm specific to writers, Eliot outlines what emotions are within the jurisdiction of a poet: "human emotions", not new emotions. I like this view. By trying to twist emotion into some cataclysmic butter churn, poets sometimes give mental indigestion rather than smooth lines. In working with one emotion, I've found, layers of meaning, perhaps indicating other emotions may be discerned beneath. That is what is attractive--not the blatant "I feel so sad" telling phrases in some poetry offer--well, I don't buy it.

Eliot also says that "the bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be consious, and coscious where he out to be unconscious". I think he is referring to the showing vs. telling argument here.

Shortly after he says, "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion." When I write my 'good' stuff, I am not crying or feeling sorry for myself; instead, I am clear-headed and cool, completely in tune with what I want to say, "conscious and deliberate". This is what makes writing attractive to me, I think. I don't want to read some lines of teenage angst, the pages crinkled from tears, but I am interested in reading a teen's reflective poem on how one copes with being a teen in current culture, devoid of lines like, "I thought it was going to be forever."

My favorite line of Eliot's essay is "the poet has, not a 'personality' to express, but a particular medium, which is only a medium and not a personality, in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways". The medium is what a poet/artist should hone, not necessarily the personality behind the craft.

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February 19, 2005

Open season: class w/o prof

On Thursday in my Media Aesthetics course with Dr. Jerz, or more accurately without Dr. Jerz that day, my classmates, Anne Stadler and Johanna Dreyfuss sat down to discuss a little Aristotle.

We started out by reading our blogs aloud, because, we usually don't have time to read them out of class. We are all pretty busy gals. It was lovely just to listen to someone read, and interject my comments. Sometimes when I am reading a blog, I think of something and want to comment on it, but unlike a book, a blog doesn't have margins to write in, so I sometimes lose the spontaneity of that idea.

We discussed the hierarchal manner in which Aristotle approaches tragedy and comedy--tragedy above comedy. We thought that it would be better if he approached the subject with guidelines, rather than strict statements of "This is better than that."

That is not to say that I don't like what he has to say about tragedy--his ideas concerning length of a production are great, as I previously mentioned in a blog.

In our discussion, I complimented Johanna on her comparison between Aristotle and Plato. These works are lengthy, and to bring them together is quite an acomplishment. She said that she did it all the time in her philosophy class, so it was nothing new.

One SHU student, Trisha, who was quietly tapping away at her keyboard, turned around during our discussion, and said we sounded like we belonged in a coffeehouse. Next time we should bring bongos and snap our fingers after we read each other's blogs.

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February 17, 2005

Aristotle and I fight: I win

I, like Anne, was a bit ticked off at Aristotle and his editorial comments about what beauty is and is not.

His separations, for example, of what is and what is not draw a line that I think should not exist. His own good opinion of himself and his judgment of artwork: "Polygnotus depicted men as nobler than they are, Pauson as less noble, Dionysius drew them true to life", as one being real, another better or worse reminds me of an article that I have to scratch opinion out of for the Setonian.

If Aristotle is so into observations and empirical evidence, why can he not provide some conclusions of his own? Instead, he stipulates at the reason we find pleasure in seeing nasty images:

"We have evidence of this in the facts of experience. Objects which in themselves we view with pain, we delight to contemplate when reproduced with minute fidelity: such as the forms of the most ignoble animals and of dead bodies. The cause of this again is, that to learn gives the liveliest pleasure, not only to philosophers but to men in general; whose capacity, however, of learning is more limited."

His opinion concerning tragedy and comedy struck me, as well. According to Aristotle, tragedy is a higher form than comedy. I have heard it said by many actors and writers that to perform or write comedy is the most difficult of tasks. Getting the timing down correctly, especially. Both forms of drama are beautiful in different ways, and saying that one is superior to another is pretentious.

I do, however, agree with Aristotle in that drama "a certain length is necessary, and a length which can be easily embraced by the memory" is essential. Artwork, should be 'just enough' that the viewer, listener...whatever can be reinspired by it through memory.

I don't exactly understand what Aristotle means by:

"A very small animal organism cannot be beautiful; for the view of it is confused, the object being seen in an almost imperceptible moment of time. Nor, again, can one of vast size be beautiful; for as the eye cannot take it all in at once, the unity and sense of the whole is lost for the spectator; as for instance if there were one a thousand miles long."

I can't say that I have classified art in this manner before, or thought I needed to do so. Beauty can be overwhelming in many formats--it is not the format or size of the beauty that matters, but rather the thing itself.

When discussing history and poetry, Aristotle does the same thing, "Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history"; he qualifies what is a higher thing, making a generalization about the written word--an artform, which I find, cannot be pinned down by one perspective, especially in history.

When he mentions poetry again, I found truth in his statement that, "fear and pity may be aroused by spectacular means; but they may also result from the inner structure of the piece, which is the better way, and indicates a superior poet." Poetry, as I have discovered is better when the showing happens rather than the telling, and the format, whether in verse or prose-like style adds to the piece. Every line of poetry, if it is good poetry (in my opinion), offers nuanced layers of meaning. In this, Aristotle and I agree.

Maybe I am being overly critical of this work. I mean, his intent was to be instructive (I guess?: "We must proceed to consider what the poet should aim at, and what he should avoid, in constructing his plots; and by what means the specific effect of Tragedy will be produced"--sounds pretty instructional to me). While reading, I just got more and more angry at his distinctions of what is good and what is not--that's the kind of thing that messes kids up. :-D

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February 15, 2005

More play dough?

Oh, Plato. Not as much fun as I thought.

The same themes of the "ideal" of "bedness" and the hatred for the "honeyed" muse-inspired works appear here, just as it does here.

Socrates was really into repitition....repeat questions....repeat themes...maybe I am just kind of ticked off that he can't figure out other end punctuation marks.

In any case, throughout this rather lengthy Book X of probably 98 or so, I did discover a few high points.

On stoicism:
"The law would say that to be patient under suffering is best, and that we should not give way to impatience, as there is no knowing whether such things are good or evil; and nothing is gained by impatience; also, because no human thing is of serious importance, and grief stands in the way of that which at the moment is most required."

This school of thought is still perpetuated in Christian thought from the Roman Hellenistic influence. I guess in the influence you get "imitations" (as Socrates loves to put it), but when coming straight from the first thinkers, I am awed by the frankness of the words. This statement intimates that it is honorable, virtuous, and attractive, above all to stand firm amid disaster.

On hating the poet:

"For if you go beyond this and allow the honeyed muse to enter, either in epic or lyric verse, not law and the reason of mankind, which by common consent have ever been deemed best, but pleasure and pain will be the rulers in our State."

And this is where Socrates gets in trouble with me. I love poetry, and I do not think that it has a negative influence on people's lives and their perception of the world around them--unless they permit it to. While I will probably get the "it can be a sub-conscious response," I will retort, "When has your sub-conscious smacked anyone?" Never mind.

And then he bashes some more...and let's add in some metaphors about women to enhance the effect.

"We too are inspired by that love of poetry which the education of noble States has implanted in us, and therefore we would have her appear at her best and truest; but so long as she is unable to make good her defence, this argument of ours shall be a charm to us, which we will repeat to ourselves while we listen to her strains; that we may not fall away into the childish love of her which captivates the many. At all events we are well aware that poetry being such as we have described is not to be regarded seriously as attaining to the truth; and he who listens to her, fearing for the safety of the city which is within him, should be on his guard against her seductions and make our words his law."

The application of a feminine in this negative context is rather offensive to the modern reader, but I am comforted in the fact that beautiful ships are also referred to in this same manner.

On the virtuous:

"He should consider the bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all the soul, and the operation of them when conjoined."

I am still struggling with this one. Does he mean that beauty corrupts the lower classes because they do not see much of it? Or that the upper-classes will be corrupted by overindulgence in the beautiful things life has to offer?

As I read over all of the Plato writings, I realize the irony that his rhetoric is just as "honeyed" as the muses'. His speeches, filled with design for the other speaker, are just as inspired as the next poet on the curbside of Athens. Did they have curbs?

Anyway...that is why we still esteem his work--because it isn't jibberish. It is inspired, perhaps by Socrates himself, but perhaps by a belligerent muse who wishes to be heard, so he creates this amazing vessel that believes the exact opposite of the common consensus to get his message out.

*falls asleep on desktop*

Oh yeah. And that is my cue to stop writing.

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February 10, 2005

Footnotes to Plato

After reading "Ion", an excerpt from "Phaedrus" and an article concerning "Phaedrus", I must say that I understand Socrates little better than when I had in philosophy class, but understand to a better degree the range of topics that he discusses with his sorry group of saps that he trounces upon.

I admire his method. Asking questions. Asking the opponent to concede something, anything in argument, and later using the content of their answers against them. I studied this method in high school with mock trial, and I think that given the right set of questions, one can make anyone concede to anything, by giving the particulars rather than generalizations.

While I enjoyed "Ion" much better than "Phaedrus" in content, I came to respect the format of Socrates' argument much better in "Phaedrus." As Churchhill states in his neat-o article, "Phaedrus had in mind for their outing a discussion of a speech...[but] the fact that this dialogue is itself a pice of writing masquerading as a living conversation is an irony Plato understands and uses in the dialogue itself."

Heck, I came to appreciate Socrates/Plato more period. People do not have dialogues anymore. As Churchill mentions, "Much of modern life has been accelerated and made more crowded by technological advances." Though I am going against some of the opinions I have previously held on the blogs, I think that we are missing something in our society, but the benefits usually outweigh the drawbacks. Sweeping generalization, I know, but still usually true. I hate using such qualifiers, but what can I say? I like political-correctness--usually. :-)

In any case, Churchill's article was the best part of my readings. In one section he defines a fact, information, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom, and though I had never thought about these words as being progressive of one another, I like the breakdown.

As a journalist one Churchill quote ran me over,

"It is not that facts are not valuable. It is that in addition to possession of them, which is information, we need a sense of how they are connected, which is knowledge, a sense of how they came to be and how we came to know them, which is understanding, and a sense of what they mean for us, which is wisdom."

How applicable to the field of journalism. If only the facts alone would not carry so much weight, but also the factors involved in the attribution of those facts and the process which makes it common knowledge.


I know, I just went off on a journalism rant, but let me make an example. Islam in the media. When I told my Islam class that I was studying in a media field, I became a literal center of attention. People look at me when we talk about the media. I know that they are careful about what they say. The media has been biased and confused in the case of Muslim culture, but that is not to say that they are completely wrong.

They receive facts, and something may happen to that fact over time, which alters the perception of the audience consuming that fact. Thinking themselves wise in their factual knowledge, they forget that something has gone wrong in the process of conveying that message. In this Churchill, like Jerz, stands behind the peer-review: "There are large and important issues concerning the validation of sources and the acculturation of users to critical techniques for sorting the chaff from the wheat."

I stand behind the peer-review mentality, but the news is important, and to wait for it to pass through many people (beyond a newspaper editorial staff) is to deny the public that timely information.

However, we must remember, as Churchill concludes, to "embrace the technology, but in so doing we need to remember that the trail from data to wisdom is long and full of subtle turns."

As a journalist, I hope to make the road a little less sporadic.

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February 9, 2005

Well, it was allegorical...

To see the light, quite literally in Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave" from The Republic, is to be transformed. Not a big leap in current culture, but one that is well worth reading and revisiting, despite the sometimes circular language, which Plato's master, Socrates, is known.

Like Johanna, I also had a philosophy course last semester, and I did bring with me a similar knowledge of Plato. In my class, we did not discuss this particular section, but I knew the language of Plato, and was ready for a sometimes awkward, read-me-five-times-over selection.

The best part of the entire set-up of the dialogues is the insertion of another person, just to make the title of "dialogue" applicable. The other speaker, Glaucon, in this instance, has lines like "I see" and "I agree, he said, as far as I am able to understand you."

The dialogue format of this entire work is all wrong. I would rather read all of Socrates' work together, rather than the choppy nature of Glaucon's interruptions.

On the other hand, this format does offer the reader a chance to settle into the rhetoric of Plato/Socrates, which permits the concept of truth to shine through the sometimes difficult language.

This concept of truth/learning is inherent to Plato:

"The power and capacity of learning exists in the soul already;...the instrument of knowledge can only by the movement of the whole soul...and learn by degrees to endure the sight of being."

The inherent nature of truth confounds me. I am not sure if it is possible to make that kind of generalization. Can the people down in the cave think that there must be something grander than the shadows that they perceive? Is it possible for them to believe? And if so, why do they turn the seer away?

In my Islam course with a visiting professor, Abdul Dardery on Wednesday nights for 4.5 hours. We have lots of time to discuss, and last night, we went into dialogue on the supposed inherent understanding of God that functions in every human being. The author of the book we are reading, Faruqi, states that it is a sixth sense that enables all of humanity to perceive God.

Socrates also believes this statement, but perhaps in his Greek cultural context:

In a world of knowledge the idea of good apears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual."

In this understanding of truth/the divine...whatever you wish to call it, we are confused, with the "bewilderments of the eyes...coming out of the light or from going into the light." That is the manner in which we live our lives; using our senses, and through experience, one either retreats into shadow, or advances into light. To be entirely in darkness or entirely in the light are extremes that I am not sure are possible.

In another of Plato's works that I did read last semester, "The Apology", Socrates knows that he does not know, and that his wisdom is meaningless, and is found to be the "none wiser" when he sees others thinking that they are in the light. I would classify these people as "fancying that they are already dwelling apart in the islands of the blest" that he mentions in the allegory. Blinded by their senses, by what others say, they cannot see past the shadows--do not want to see beyond the vanities of their comfortable lives.

Anyway, that's my understanding, but sometimes Socrates runs circles around me, too.

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February 2, 2005

Impediment as gift: "Cathedral"

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" Ugh. Nasty cliche, but accepted as truth in certain circles. What happens if the beholder is blind? Is the beholder beholding?

What about people with sight? Are we really seeing beauty for what it is? What makes a beautiful thing beautiful?

The last question is linked to sensory impressions, but in "Cathedral" by Carver, one sensory impression is not when a blind man visits a couple. The wife has been in contact with him over the years through taped conversations, and her new husband isn't enthused about the blind man's presence in his home.

However, instead of focusing on the blind man, the wife, and the situation at hand, I was pulled to the narrator: his racial prejudices, illegal smoking habits, and bitter sarcasm.

With responses to the blind man's marriage, such as, "All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like," the reader knows that, as he directly states, "it [a blind man's life] was beyond [his] understanding."

Throughout the story, the narrator consistently relates that Robert is "the blind man," never permitting him to have an identity outside of his supposed impediment. In fact, this impediment may even be construed as a gift when the narrator discovers, to a certain degree, what freedom one may find:

"Well? he said. "Are you looking?"
My eyes were still closed. I was in my house. I knew that. But I didn't feel like I was inside anything.
"It's really something," I said.

While the reader does not know if he has a positive or negative lilt in his voice, from the previous indications of drawing a cathedral with fluidity and grace: "His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing else in my life up to now," I inferred that this was a positive experience. From the short, choppy sentences to this rather long description, the reader knows that something has changed.

Perhaps now the narrator will understand his wife's poetry attempts.

As the narrator discovered from Robert, beauty may be discerned from all the senses, and by impairing one sense, we may heighten our reactions in the remaining ones. Though beauty is usually associated with sight impressions, there is much more to it than that; in breaking that restraint, beauty or ugliness can be seen everywhere, in the eye, or ear, or nose, or hand, or tongue, or heart (a sixth sense, if you will) of the beholder.

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February 1, 2005

A Site of Sight

From Sendero Group: Mike's Journal

On the one hand it felt odd that I was crying over the Cal Aggie marching band while on the other hand it was wonderful that it didn't make sense, just like having sight or not having sight doesn't make sense, it's just the way it is. Of course, it was the combination of feelings which contributed to this "goose bump" moment; happy to be with my boys, friends and to be in a cohesive energetic community. What a moment, what a day!

With Mike being blind since age three, I can hardly fathom the depth of his descriptions. I really don't want to say, "Look at all the things people with vision do not appreciate", but it seems that is the message.

Mike's descriptions put into words the beauty that many writers do not even approach. Consider his first sight experience of fireworks:

There can't be any better contrast than flashing lights against a black sky. The bursting patterns were challenging at first to understand but with some explanation from my friends, I began to see the star patterns, the changing colors, the raining lights, the columns and the bursts overlaying each other. It looked like the circles of color were coming to embrace us.

This scene is common in our lives--going to the fireworks at the fair, but with his sensitized, at times, poetic view of the event, the reader also appreciates the beauty of the scene and the circumstances which accompany the telling.

Throughout the journal, I read in awe. The normal occurrences that I and everyone take for granted, were precious, lovely, and exciting. He is, as Anne says, "still astonished by what he sees...[having] new experiences everyday."

The fact that he could even cope with the alterations in his environment are amazing. I attribute some of that okay-ness to his previous vision. However, there are people that have never seen or heard or spoken before. How would they react to the change in their surroundings? Would they attribute pleasure or pain to the newfound environment?

Discuss... :-)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 6:23 PM | Comments (7)

January 31, 2005

Flattered: I am reading material

Imagine my pride when I saw myself cited as reading material on a syllabus. Drawback: I have to reread myself.

While rereading, I realized that my entry and Julie's aren't just for academic weblogs, but rather for weblogs in general. What is described in these blogs is a matter of class and subjective taste, rather than strict guidelines. I am reminded of a Pirates of the Caribbean line...but I digress.

I also noticed that some elements of blogging effectively in a classroom setting may be added to this mini-handbook of weblog instruction, such as a small tutorial on appropriate citation of sources in a weblog. I still struggle with that, especially in the photo realm after being reamed out recently.

After finishing my lil' ol' project this past semester, I think that revamping that blog and perhaps adding it to my pages would be a good idea.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 12:22 AM | Comments (4)

January 25, 2005

Facing facts of new blogging semester

Back to SHU means back to academic blogging...So what does that mean for you, my lovely audience? You may become irritated with me, my subject matter, or the occasional six-syllable word I insert, but the new design of my page will make up for it, right? RIGHT?!

No, really, this semester, though I will be dealing with academic infamous forced blogs, I hope to write with the same voice that I have in blogs mentioning adventures an/or bats. I am faced with an all-too common dilemma on the blogosphere, but hopefully I can overcome those pesky barriers, and create blogs that people actually want to read. I said hopefully.

Keep reading if you are ready for my reading challenge:

As for my first trick, I just read "Pygmalion" in the several formats listed.

I know I just said Pygmalion. Don't run away. I will give very abridged version.

In short, a guy (Pygmalion) doesn't want wife, but he loves to sculpt, so he does, and he makes a beautiful maiden, which he lavishes both gifts and physical affection upon. In doing so, he falls in love and then asks the goddess (Miss Venus) to give him the likeness of his sculpture, not wanting to say that he wants her. When he gets home, he kisses the statue and touches it, and it feels warm and alive, he continues to touch it and finds that it is alive. They have a child together.

I would have to say my favorite representation is in feminist prose. I mean, I can really relate to this viewpoint. Working at a library where primarily guys (at least on my watch) look up pornography, I was repulsed. The traditional versions of the story, with images like this one:
"The flesh, or what so seems, he touches oft,
Which feels so smooth, that he believes it soft.
Fir'd with this thought, at once he strain'd the breast,
And on the lips a burning kiss impress'd"

made me a bit queasy. The poetic language is appealing, but the scene taking place reminds me more of the "balding pate,... weak, petulant mouth[ed],...soft second chin[ned],...dirty hands,... greedy eyes and...stained pants" type that I sometimes deal with at work. This version sort of mimics my interpretation of the events.
As the Jerz-described "feminist" version, which I think is more aptly described as modern, plot and descriptions are indeed altered by the writer of 2001.

I especially enjoyed the reference to the gods "as giv[ing] in to his pleas, one of them [finally] descend[ing] from the heavens (where he had been losing at his poker game." This gods reference, in addition to the earlier reference of divinity as "actually listen[ing] to their people" indicate a difference in the way humans perceive the divine. In the classic interpretation of the text, Venus is benevolent and kind, whereas in the modern version, the goddess image is replaced by a "he" playing poker.

But isn't that the modern way of looking at religion? As a guy with a beard that you go to when you need something, and when "he" is finally fed up with hearing your pleas, he gives in? Such a narrow-minded and limiting perception of the divine, but nevertheless true of our culture. In addition, feminine images in relationship to divinity are void in some faiths. Through this absence of a female goddess, as in thee classic telling, the author reinforces the power of men in both heaven and earth, and the effect is brutish--the gods being "annoyed enough."

Okay, I concede. This is predominantly a feminist retelling, but there are more things at work in this version than the standard bra-burner's male bashing.

With the reference to Pygmalion's fame, which earned him praise all over the world "(except for the areas that hadn't been "discovered" by white people yet,"
Modi is making a statement about the western world and what we thought, and still perhaps think, as the civilized world. This statement goes beyond the feminist fray of insults upon a masculine world, and looks more closely at what we believe is good and acceptable.

Some other mentionable differences that I hope to expand upon in class are:

  • Historical references: "his buggy or chariot (whatever vehicle they had back then)"--the lack of historical reverence in current culture

  • Sarcastic approach: "For weeks, he didn't move from that position (not even to go to the bathroom.)"--differs from the respectful classic view of Pygmalion

  • Ending: She doesn't accept him. "Moral of the story: Be sure you are worthy of your own ideals."

Posted by Amanda Cochran at 10:06 PM | Comments (2)