Tuesday, April 21, 2009

CSA: The Confederate States of America

This movie was simply brilliant. When the menu first appeared I admit I was skeptical and not quite sure what to expect. When that first commercial came on however I realized what kind of a movie they were aiming for and that it was definitely going to be an experience. That quote by George Bernard Shaw was perfect for this film, "If you are going to tell the truth, you better make them laugh: or they'll kill you." This movie, at least to me, paints an all too real picture of what would have happened and almost did in some ways if the south won the civil war.

It is the perfect mix of offensive and humorous content. I think when you tell a joke about something offensive the best reaction is to have half the audience laugh and the other half gasp in shock...and then have them exchange roles. If they can all realize it is offensive, shocking, and still funny then you succeeded. That is one problem we have today, we are way too uptight. Some really horrible things happen and have happened in history. Whether you want to admit it or not there are plenty of people who can take these horrible things and make them funny. What is so wrong in essence of turning pain into humor. That is my position on what it is more people should do. It is therapeutic. I can't help but think of the South Park episode when a certain amount of time has passed, i think it was twenty years, and now aids has finally become funny.

The subject matter and overall scary realism to the documentary parts made the ridiculous, and also sadly true in some parts, commercials to balance it out. When you have a black face Lincoln being led around by Harriet Tubman and a British black face butler named Poppsy trying to downplay his British accent and put on a black slave one how can you not laugh. The Jewish reservation on Long Island was another thing that slipped in that was hilarious. The way they talked seriously about these things are what helped to really sell the joke.

CSA reminded me very much of Idiocracy because of the scary realism in it. When I saw Idiocracy I immediately thought, "Oh crap. This very likely could happen." I think it might not have worked but seeing the material in Idiocracy through the same format as CSA would be very interesting. The last thing I'll mention is how I loved that they kept the #1 top selling item online as porn and slaves as #2...Even with slaves our country is still obsessed with sex.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pain, Performativity, Performance

I found Ryan Claycomb's lecture to be fascinating, especially the concept of identity. This started with the idea that we are made of the series of stories we tell or think about ourselves. He said that most might find that remark unsettling but for some strange reason it made perfect sense to me and didn't disturb me at all. Then again I a writer and a firm believer of Mel Brooks' quote, "Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities and have them relate to other characters living with him."

This quote came to mind during the lecture and made me realize why I wasn't surprised that I found so much of the identity concept interesting. Another such idea was that there is no authentic self just different characters or selves that we take on in different situations. This is actually similar to something I was learning in my Psychology class about the idea of congruence. Where a person is psychologically healthier the more the different sides of themselves, real self/ideal self/ feared self/ social self etc., are consistent or similar. Ideally one should be the same person no matter who they are around. However most of us act differently around friends, parents, and teachers.

The other part that really interested me was Antonio Demasio's three tiers of identity the proto-identity, core identity, and meta-identity. People in general fascinate me, which is probably why I keep taking random psychology or sociology courses. I like to see why people do what they do and who they are. While I have had the idea of people h acing different identities and "masks" that they were, it was interesting to see it sorted out like that and elaborated on.

One thing that stuck out especially was the mention of someone who had a PHD in both Math and English or Literature. Those two subjects take two different sides of the brain and I was extremely surprised that one person could achieve that level in both. I know people that are in school for math and computer programming and those in school for writing and English. Both people seem to be lacking in their opposite field; math majors misspeak or say the wrong things and English majors take minutes to add numbers. That is why I find it so strange and remarkable that one person could have a PHD in both.

Art Lecture

At Mark Snyder's lecture I was happy to hear that other people had my inclination towards annoyance at the art world. For a while now I have always hated the way that anything can and sometimes is considered art regardless of skill, talent, or effort. I know that since I have not studied art I wouldn't understand certain styles or the subtle meanings of paintings, but I still can't help but think a painting of a soup can is stupid and so is a print of someone's face. I just feel that art should be more than that. I'll say right now that I do in fact despise Andy Warhol. I'm not a fan of art in general but the thing I have problems with is not art itself but the art world. This is mainly because of the difficulty in defining what exactly art is.

Other people brought this up also. One person, using the definition of art presented, compared it to a little kid eating worms as the same form of display to a particular audience. It was met with the acceptance that it is very hard to define art. I remember being at an art museum and noticing that there was a section with spin art in it. That really solidified my position against the art world. When spin art is in a museum and considered art I give up on the art world. I admit that it is not the only art form with the same problem. Music and even the field I intend to go into film both have the same problem where plenty of that which is presented to people is terrible and not worthy of being called art but because some pretentious people call it that it is seen as such.

Enough of ranting. An interesting thing was mentioned that brought up another annoyance of mine having nothing to do with art. A black woman artist, whose name i cannot recall, made many paintings dealing with oppression and such. When it was revealed that she was from an upper middle class family people claimed that because she was privileged she didn't have the right to deal with oppression. I love the way people see the world sometimes. All black people regardless of actual race or ethnicity are oppressed and were directly hurt by slavery, unless of course they have money. Then they weren't and are posing if they claim the same heritage as those less fortunate.

Representations of 9/11

Aimee Pozorski's lecture on representations of 9/11 brought up a lot of thought provoking ideas about the way people view and react to literature and art depicting that day. The two main images talked about were the "falling man" and a painting I cannot remember the name of. The painting was seen as too beautiful or too polished to portray the event. That was a common idea that 9/11 art couldn't deal with aesthetics because it can't make us feel better. The idea is that it has to be raw, gritty, and emotional. Making the painting beautiful somehow lessens the meaning or in some way dishonors the actuality of that day. There is also the idea that by making a representation of 9/11 that is beautiful and is open to interpretation it takes away from what happened where simple testimony and actual pictures are the only true view of what happened. It seems the truth is more important than art.

I think the reason that people are so obsessed with the truth when it comes to 9/11 is because it is an event that is highly obscured in mystery. Even today, so many years after, we still don't know for certain exactly what happened that day. There are so many discrepancies and differing claims about that day that there is no way to be 100% sure what exactly happens. In general it seems Americans tend to be against art about tragedies that happen on our soil or that involve our citizens. I don't think many people would disagree that the "American" attitude has an overt sense of pride that may be the reason for this. In the painting the two men portraying the twin towers are blindfolded. I think that is another part that people dislike. The idea that we as a country could have been blind or naive.

I liked the painting it was interesting and had a lot of possible interpretations dealing with naivety or innocence and possibly being blind and pride. The falling man brought up similar interpretations of what is essentially a picture of a man jumping to his death. As a society we have a severe aversion to the topic of suicide. We see suicide as horrible and something that should never be done. Other cultures see it as acceptable and even righteous in certain situations. This brought up the idea of why it is said he looks like he is flying and falling not jumping. It seems we try to say anything except that he jumped out of a burning building. I think there is nothing wrong with that personally. If I had to chose between burning to death or jumping to my death I would chose the latter. I would imagine burning would be a horrible way to go and I find no shame in that choice. Suicide in other cultures is thought highly of if done for an honorable purpose.

The other interesting correlation was that of the myth of Icarus. The story of Icarus flying too close to the sun and melting his wings causing him to fall. This story can correlate to both the falling man image and the painting. In my opinion it seems to fit perfectly as the idea that America naively flew too close to the sun got too proud and were unprepared for and unaware of the threats to our country until that day when they were shattered.