Ready, Reader One.

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

I try to keep in mind that this article was extremely long, and it was difficult to find something to latch onto as far as a blog post would be concerned. This is a topic that I’m very, very interested in, and I would have loved to have seen Hayles engage with it a bit more. However, after reading through Katheryn Hayles’ “The Future of Literature,” I couldn’t help but notice that video games in particular were really getting the short end of the stick. She mentions them a total of three times:

  • Contemporary cultures in developed countries are currently in a period of active transition in which the cognitive mode of deep attention is still being fostered by formal education, especially humanities courses, and by parents who want their children to read books rather than surf the World Wide Web and play video games. (94)
  • Print’s engagement with technical media has been accompanied by a persistent anxiety among print authors that the novel is in danger of being superseded, with readers seduced away from books by television, blockbuster films, video games, and the vast mediascape of the World Wide Web. (95)
  • Empirical data indicate that young people are spending less time reading print books and more time surfing the Web, playing video games, and listening to M3P files. (96)

None of these mentions even entertain the idea that video games are a more realistically accessible form of story-telling than the CAVE system she spent pages upon pages extolling the virtues of. This is particularly entertaining because what she’s talking about is essentially virtual realty, or VR, technology. Even now, through the efforts of new tech like the Oculus Rift, these experiences don’t need a full room to experience, all you need is a headset. The Oculus Rift is already being integrated into video games, and this before it’s official release.

She’s already talking about digital interaction. Why isn’t she engaging with the interactive, haptic narrative we already have at our fingertips?

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First off, I want to say that this book makes me think of David Wong and his novel John Dies at the End, a book I am currently enjoying in whatever spurts of free-time I get. Just thought I’d get that off my chest.

In reviews I read about this book, the words I most gratefully latched onto were “feverish” and “exuberant.” I have to agree. The veneer of psychedelic insanity that covers this narrative hides this crazily frantic homosocial tale really causes me a few problems. The almost excessively metaphorical tone of the given narrator makes me feel like I’m tripping out. In order to get myself into the mood, I sat down with a non-tobacco shisha hookah and let the story take me where it would.

And, boy, did I go everywhere.

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So far, I’ve come to the basic conclusion of the following characteristics of post-cinema:

  1. The film is made with recent, advanced, low-cost, generally accessible digital technology,
  2. integrates these technologies into active narrative,
  3. explore formal possibilities afforded by these technologies,
  4. was produced sometime in the early 2000s and on,
  5. is at once both symptomatic and productive in regards to complex social processes,
  6. follows an entrepreneurial effort,
  7. provides a haptic experience through both imagery and audio,
  8. defamiliarizes and disconnects environments.

With these in mind, I have to consider what films I want to be looking at, and most importantly, why.

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There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham

Quote  —  Posted: April 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

Defining Shaviro

Posted: April 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

So I’ve been reading The Post-Cinematic Affect by Shaviro, and I’m coming up with more questions than answers. Let’s see if a little brain vomit can fix that.

The major problem I’ve been facing is coming up with what I believe to be a concise list of characteristics I can then apply to films and discover what they say about post-cinematic affect.

Characteristics of the post-cinematic

In his blog post titled (appropriately) “What is the post-cinematic?” and using Paranormal Activity and Paranormal Activity 2, Shaviro seems to be defining post-cinema as being:

  • made with recent, advanced, but low-cost and generally accessible digital technology,
  • integrating these technologies into the active narrative, and
  • exploring formal possibilities afforded by these technologies.

Really, it’s the last one that’s hanging me up the most. How does PA/PA2 explore formal possibilities? Once I figure that out, I can move on to applying these characteristics to other films that should fit into this era of post-cinema cinema.

Other films that Shaviro considers to have the “structure of feeling” defined as the post-cinematic affect are: Boarding Gate (2007), Southland Tales (2007), and Gamer (2009). He also considers a music video, but I’m going to attempt to stick with full-length feature films for the sake of uniformity over the playing field. To compare, the Paranormal Activity movies that he uses were made in 2007 and 2010.

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In an earlier post concerning Melancholia, I used an article by Jessica Green that joined in the academic discussion about the role of sound in the cinematic experience. The biggest quote that I latched onto was her engagement with multiple scholars on the idea that the “formulaic view of the cinema [was] an ‘essentially visual’ medium which was ‘seen’ (not heard) by ‘spectators’ (not auditors)” (qtd. 82). I believe the argument also applies to the creative use of image and sound replacement in Beginners.

Sound is very important in entertainment. As listeners, we are able to immediately tell if a smartphone that the main character is using is an iPhone or not by the sound cue played when they unlock the screen. We are able to identify the size and ferocity of an unseen guard dog by the depth and volume of the growls and barks. When a character onscreen looks upwards in surprise, we hear the unexpectedly creaking floorboards just as they did. The same rule applies to Beginners as well, especially considering so much of the dialogue and ambient noise is replaced my specific music choices.

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I’m not sure what to say about Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman, and maybe that’s the magic of it. As a work that demands interpretation through its own, outspoken text, Seven Types is what it claims to be, drawn from the original work sharing the same name. At times, it’s also just too clever for it’s own good or at least tries to be.

There simply isn’t much floating around academia that deals with the Perlman book (at least, as far as searches on JSTOR, Project Muse, and Google Scholar are concerned). A few articles talk about the parallels between sex and greed, others focus on the portrayal of post-economic depression life. For a book that begs to be interpreted, Seven Types doesn’t seem to be getting much love since its publishing in 2004. William Empson, on the other hand, has his own constellation in the sky, with seven stars in it.

am·bi·gu·i·ty /ˌambiˈgyo͞o-itē/(n.): Uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language.

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Melancholia was kind of a crazy movie. It opens with a surrealistic montage backed with Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde opera prelude (if that wasn’t a clue, I don’t know what is). As the movie continues with momentous crescendos and low-lying titters of orchestral emotion, the viewer can’t help but notice another sound in the background. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s the rumble of a celestial body with a grudge.*

“And when I say we’re alone, we’re alone. Life is only on earth, and not for long.”

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Oscar Whoa

Posted: February 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was very unique in my reading experience. I’ve read short stories that interwove English and a foreign language before, but never so completely or so flawlessly as Junot Diaz. Choices made in regards to dialect are integral to an author’s storytelling, and in Oscar Wao, the dialect is one of the most important choices that Diaz makes. The almost seamless shift between English and Spanish occurs in every part of the book at one point or another, as does the switch between both Casual English and Formal English, even English and Sindarin. These shifts function in service to both characterization and setting.

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We are the biggest Sherlock Holmes geeks in the world. This has become such an enormous international hit, it’s sort of preposterous, it’s like our vanity project, it’s our hobby. And yet everybody has joined in!
Steven Moffat, on he and Mark Gatiss’ creation of Sherlock

This week has been a whirlwind of input, interpretation, and intrigue. Our research has covered the gamut from posthumanism to paratext and the history of the term and beyond, all in the context of BBC’s Sherlock. Our earlier readings, especially The Uses of Enchantment, embrace the idea of intertext, a text either fully formed within the text or an outside text that is integrated deeply within the text. So, at this point we have paratext and intertext. What room is there for hypotext?

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