Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics: London 2012

Okay, so I seriously should be writing my cinema and ideology paper on Atonement right now but it's a little hard to concentrate on classes because it's:


Sorry, I'm far too excited about it. But they're in LONDON and I'm loving the images of Westminster and Big Ben and the Thames popping up everywhere.

But, I do have a serious reason for bringing the Olympics up. Other than my fangirling over London, there are several other things that make it somewhat related to this general weirdness.


1) Danny Boyle and the Opening Ceremony: I'm a Danny Boyle fangirl. Seriously; I have a poster of Trainspotting in my apartment (it was a birthday gift a few years back :D). So when I heard Boyle was the director for the Opening Ceremony, I was pretty pumped. And I was certainly not disappointed. There were enough fandom references in it to make Tumblr content for the rest of the year. It was well-executed and beautifully done.


Except the New York Times apparently doesn't agree. They called it a three-ring circus. And thought it was weird. My Anglophilia was rather peeved at this and I ranted about how they probably thing calling the television "the telly" is weird and exotic too. Of course the Opening Ceremony was unique and eclectic to express Britain's identity; it was in Britain. It's also, as my father aptly pointed out, as if the writer of this article merely watched the American NBC broadcast of the ceremony. Which brings me to...

2) NBC: Okay, so generally I have no serious issues against American's basic broadcasting networks (except for CBS, but it's all in good humor. Most of the time). But NBC was seriously pissing me off with their coverage. Mainly because of Matt Lauer.

Matt Lauer is the host of NBC's Today show, a morning news program. And while my personal opinion of Matt Lauer is a total moot point, I do not like being told by him (or probably more accurately his writers) during the Parade of Nations that Brazil is a country in South American. REALLY? I HAD NO IDEA. PLEASE TELL ME MORE. The commentary throughout the coverage was lame at best and I was pissed that NBC apparently thinks their average viewer has the knowledge span of a head of lettuce. Please. Tell me where the small, unique countries are and don't skim over them just because you think we've never heard of them. And don't think I won't notice when you mispronounce country names.

Also, I was beyond upset that I missed out on this, the TARDIS noise that was apparently present during the Opening Ceremony. But, it was unnoticed by me because it apparently occurred right before NBC cut to a commercial break. Typical.

3) More ranting about NBC's coverage: So, apparently if you're not a big major country, you don't get serious credit on-air for showing up at the Parade of Nations. Even if you've got women in the Olympics for the FIRST TIME EVER. Seriously, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei have women competing for the first time. I only remember this briefly being mentioned for Saudi Arabia and that was it. No deeper insight about why, how, the fact that this is a big damn deal for women in these countries; nothing. And it's not as if its without issues - there's talk that female competitors from Saudi Arabia may have to withdraw. Sure, we have plenty of time to show Lebron James over and over again during the ceremony and spend an embarrassing amount of time on the US teams entrance in their (yes, I'm saying it) kind of pretentious uniforms. But we didn't have time to take a moment and think about what big changes are occurring around the world for fellow Olympians.

4) Two of my favorite actors doing the same thing (I think): So, I keep seeing this set of gifs on Tumblr (or some variation thereof) of Benedict Cumberbatch. And it's related to Olympics. And from what I've gleaned, it seems he did an introduction of some kind, I'm assuming for the Opening Ceremony but I seriously have no idea - there's no explanation and I certainly didn't see whatever this was. If I had seen it, this is how it would have gone down (as I watched the ceremony with my parents because they, unlike me, actually get TV reception):
Mom: Ooh, look who it is, Gina!
Me: You have got to be kidding me.
Dad: Hey, isn't that Cumberdoodle... or Cumberbund...
Me: CUMBERBATCH. You had one job, Dad. One job.
Dad: Hehehehe.
(Trust me, this is exactly how it would have unfolded. My father cannot remember Cumberbatch's name. I'm certain he does it on purpose because he knows I care far too much.)
However, the introduction to the Opening Ceremony on NBC positive featured the voice of Ewan McGregor. Though the intro video never exactly said WHO was speaking, I'm enough of a fangirl to trust my ears when I think I hear McGregor's voice. Plus my friend Ashley agreed with me. (And I just fact checked it - it was Ewan McGregor, along with Emily Blunt.)

So how about that; some how my two favorite actors in the entire universe were involved in the Olympics in some aspect. Nice work, guys.

Um... right. I'll just stop here then...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Nerd Songs

In between finishing up another post and trying to write a paper on Atonement for my cinema class, I thought I'd give you this little tidbit until I can get back to the longer post I'm writing. Generally I try to avoid late-night blogging as very bizarre things can happen. But this was too good to pass up.

I was scrolling through Tumblr tonight when this image caught my eye:

The text under the post informed me that the words were lyrics from "The Traveler's Song" by Caitlin Obom. Wondering if this was a Doctor Who-inspired piece or perhaps a cool Celtic song I was missing out on, I clicked the link.

And I founds this:

OH. MY. GOD. NERD SONGS. I'd heard about such wonders, but had never actually stumbled across them myself. And, because it was recommended in the video and mentioned on the right on Youtube, I found the purple shirt song:

Which I still have stuck in my head (witty lyrics for the win).

I find this really, really brilliant. Really. I'm going to try not to fangirl over... well, fangirls - because that sounds complicated and painful for my already over-analyzing brain. BUT THIS IS SO COOL. So if you like this, check out her Youtube channel (and this one too) (and she has a Tumblr) (and I found that all in a matter of like three minutes... the Internet is a great and kinda creepy thing... but then I'm in a generally weird mood. I mean, I had to watch both Atonement and The Silence of the Lambs in the last 48 hours for class. That does not do good things for my brain).

So... yeah, there's really no point to this post, just me sharing something cool I found. Because nerds are awesome.

I mean, Jane Austen and Doctor Who; what more could you want?

Shut up.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Peanut Gallery: Kavalier and Clay

Well, after my brief soliloquy on escapism, it's funny that this should be my following post. However, this post is going to be difficult to formulate coherently because I've not been able to do anything on this topic but form half-finished gushing sentences.

I recently finished the novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. In the aftermath of finishing it, there's only one way I can describe my feelings:

(This is brilliant. I've already begun using the term book hangover and gotten some weird looks from my friends for it. Thanks for your judgement, Zach :P)

But truly, I cannot stop thinking about this book. It's become my new favorite. Yes, you heard me right; it's replaced Jane Eyre which is kind of crazy because I've been in love with that book since I was fourteen or fifteen. But this book is just that amazing (plus, I loved every part of it, even if it made me feel like I'd just been run over by a tank. However, every time I get to St. John's portion of Jane Eyre, I loathe it. I have even, on occasion, skipped it on my re-reads (*gasp!*)).

Here's my attempt at a brief summary of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: Joe Kavalier, a young escape artist, flees Nazi-occupied Prague to live with his cousin, Sammy Klayman. Sammy discovers Joe is a skilled artist and the two of them endeavor to start a series of comic books. That's the bare basics. Very bare basics (like, literally the first chapter and that's it). But I hate it when I read a book and already know half of the plot (especially when the description on the back gives everything away, which this book very wonderfully did not) so I'm not going to give any spoilers. But trust me I say it's the most bloody brilliant novel I've ever read.  It's so well-written that it makes me want to crawl into a dark hole and bemoan the fact that I will never, ever be able to write like Chabon. Example:
As he watched Joe stand, blazing, on the fire escape, Sammy felt an ache in his chest that turned out to be, as so often occurs when memory and desire conjoin with a transient effect of weather, the pang of creation. The desire he felt, watching Joe, was unquestionably physical, but in the sense that Sammy wanted to inhabit the body of his cousin, not possess it. It was, in part, a longing - common enough among the inventors of heroes - to be someone else; to be more than the result of two hundred regimens and scenarios and self-improvement campaigns that always ran afoul of his perennial inability to locate an actual self to be improved. Joe Kavalier had an air of competence, of faith in his own abilities, that Sammy, by means of constant effort over the whole of his life, had finally learned only how to fake (113).
This book is such a masterpiece. Every word is perfectly selected and the flow of the sentences... it's like eating fine chocolate or gazing at a Bernini sculpture. 

It's so encompassing as well. From Houdini to Nazis to Dali to famous superheroes to Jewish Culture to New York City, this book is so... broad. I don't know how else to describe it. I feel a bit like most of the things I'm interested in or find provoking are prominent parts of this book (there's even, I kid you not, a reference to Sherlock Holmes at one point). I am in utter fangirly awe of this book. Michael Chabon, you are amazing (now I've definitely got to read The Yiddish Policemen's Union, which I've only wanted to read for three years. And I've just found his autobiography, Manhood for Amateurs which I've read the first few pages of and it's AMAZING. So yes, I've become an total Chabon fangirl).

Perhaps most of all in what I love about this book is its way of talking about comic books. I grew up in a mindset that comic books were either rude and violent or cheap and for kids. Which is a goddamn shame because it's take me far too long to actually start reading them (of which I have actually read a pathetically, pathetically low amount). But comics are so, so brilliant. Visual and verbal and complex, utterly influenced by the era in which they were written, full of kick-ass superheros and interesting, complex characters. Fortunately, I started gaining an interest in comic books in high school in part because my friends read manga and I read a few of those and though, "Um... why didn't I pay attention to this stuff before?" And then I started hearing about graphic novels and read Maus and Persepolis. And now, knowing people who are interested in comic books and after watching too many Marvel movies (which is funny, because I was biased towards DC in my youth because I like Batman - at least until George Clooney played Batman. Sorry, Mr. Clooney - you are a very talented man. But that Batman movie... yeah, you know where I'm going with this), I myself have finally realized how much I love comic books. Or at least the idea of them. The only ones I've really read were Scooby Doo ones the grocery store in Warsaw (Indiana, I should emphasize that's Warsaw, INDIANA not Poland. Fun fact - all my family live in exotic-sounding towns in Indiana that when mentioned, sound way cool than the actually are. They all live in Warsaw, Kokomo, and Peru. Name-dropping those make people really excited until you explain that they're towns in the northern part of a boot-shaped state). And I recently read V for Vendetta after wanting to read it since seeing the movie when I was sixteen (fun fact number 2: I saw that film shortly before going to London for the first time ever (and only time, so far). It was really interesting how that played with my perception of the city). So, I have some serious learning to do when it comes to comic books. Fortunately for me, there's so many books that talk about comic books and movies about comic books that I know a bit about them already. So when I saw this photo on Facebook, it made me laugh as I instantly connected it back to a part of Kavalier and Clay:

And to finally round out my love of comic books is the link they have with film. Chabon goes into this great description of how comic books are influenced by the style of storytelling in narrative films like Citizen Kane (I think I'm honestly one of the few people who actually enjoy this film for both its filming techniques and its story; so many people think it's boring!) and I absolutely loved this. There is this brilliant sort of parallel between film and comic books and I love how much this has reemerged with all the superhero movies being made.

The more I write this post, the more I realize I simply can't do this book justice. I could prattle on about how much I loved the character development (I'm a sucker for really interesting character development), how much I loved the romances attached to Joe and Sammy's lives, how much I loved the inclusion of the Golem throughout the narrative, how wonderful it was to actually have to look up words once in a while because the vocabulary of this book is so beautiful and extensive, how brilliant I thought it was to express American society through the growth of the comic book industry, how I wish every book I ever read could be this perfect, how I actually enjoy having my emotions being wrecked with in a story (but don't tell Steven Moffat that). But it simply can't encompass how truly marvelous this book is. It's just that amazing.

One last note and fangirl confession and I'll let you go on your merry way: I should admit where I heard about this book. One evening in May while watching a live stream for a Q and A about Sherlock on Facebook, the lovely Benedict Cumberbatch recommended this fine book whilst discussing projects he'd like to work on. Yes, I read this book because Mr. Cumberbatch recommended it. But I love book recommendations. I'll read anything, recommended by anyone (well, almost anyone). I did however wait a while to buy the book because, as I could tell from Tumblr, everyone and their mother was buying it then and I was sort of embarrassed to be part of that trend (but hey, it's good for Michael Chabon; I'm sure he wasn't complaining :D) But then I found the book at a display table in the Mall of America Barnes and Noble when I was trying to find The Elegance of the Hedgehog and decided it must be fate or something so I bought that book (along with Hedgehog and Monstrous Regiment, which are up next on my reading queue). Yes, I'm a Minnesotan who occasionally shops at the Mall of America. No, I do not think the Mall is the coolest place on the face of the earth. Yes, it is actually the biggest tourist hot spot in the state. Which is lame (downtown Minneapolis, the state parks, and the Guthrie Theater are about a trillion times cooler, just so you know). Anyway, tangents aside (which there have been many of in this post; terribly sorry about that) I'm inclined to think that Mr. Cumberbatch has brilliant good taste in books. So read this one. Seriously. Do it. It's long (wonderfully long; I adore long books) but it's worth it. Trust me.

PS: Reason #204 I love this book -Joe Kavalier creates a female superhero named Luna Moth. Do I think this is the coolest thing ever? Hell yeah.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Merits of Escapism

I don't talk much about my personal life too much on this blog, though I do talk about it way more than I generally intend or realize. Generally it's not my focus here (mainly because I run a separate, infrequently updated personal blog for that sort of thing) but tonight I'm feeling the desire to do so. Mainly because I had an epiphany, a catharsis, a... something today during yoga.

Yes, I do yoga. It adds to my hipsterness, I'm sure. Can't care, won't care - I've never felt better than I have since starting it. I'm less stressed, more relaxed, happier. I feel better about my body. And it's just a ton of fun to do.

I did yoga a bit before now, but never in a professional class with an instructor. I totally love it as I'm learning way more than I could from a book or DVD and just being around other people doing yoga creates a really cool atmosphere. Plus, I feel like I'm getting to know myself better through this both physical and mental practice. I mean, I spent 55 minutes meditating in class today, the longest I'd ever done. It's long in general; most people don't have the time to do that very often. But it was AMAZING. It wasn't easy; the first fifteen minutes are always tough as the mind rebels so much. But once you get into it... wow. Just wow. I don't even know how to describe it. It's just totally brilliant.

I promise this IS related to fandoms in some way, not just me blabbering on about how great meditation is. However, like most things in my life, it's going to take a long, tangent-filled explanation to get there. Which begins... now.

I had this really turbulent friendship that has basically ended over the course of this year and has plagued me with guilt and self-depreciation. I blame myself for what happened even though it wasn't my fault; I'm not blameless but what happened happened and I've finally gotten away from punishing myself for it. Mainly because no matter what, I still believe I acted in the right. The particulars of what happened don't really matter here - it's too much information as it is and it's rather hard to explain (we'll be here for the next three days in order for me to tell the whole story) but it involved a lot of secret-telling, a lot of talking behinds people's backs, and a lot of dangerous assumptions. It's cost me the the person who once was my best friend (more than that really, more like a sister), understanding from several of my other high school friends, and loss of sleep more than once. However, the confidence and self-esteem I've gained from disassociating myself from someone who always made me feel lesser than I am has been priceless. Not that the acquisition of it has been at all easy.

It's been a lingering issue in my head for the past... well, the past year really, as it was last summer things changed for good. At the time, it was about a boy. In the end, it was about honesty and trust. I realized that in the course of describing what happened repeatedly on my other blog, it sounded like I was describing a romantic break-up. Well, it was a breaking of a friendship, and that shares certain similarities. We expect heartbreak in relationships, but we don't think about it in terms of friendships. Though it's not the same sort of heartbreak, there is certainly a sense of loss and isolation. But for the most part I'd gotten over it; it wasn't bothering me. I had other things to occupy my mind - namely fangirling over various British actors.

And then something in the last month changed. I began thinking about the situation again and feeling guilty. I found myself defensively talking about what happened once again. I thought that a friend of mine was going through a similar issue as I had (nope; turns out his friend was just being emotional and judgmental because he was afraid to tell him that he thought my friend was super hot. Yep, definitely NOT my experiences at all. Or my life :P). And then today in meditation I was sitting there, trying to get Maroon 5's stupid "Payphone" song out of my head (why, Minnesota radio stations, do you feel the need to play this song EVERY MORNING when my alarm goes off?) when my brain finally started unwinding and somehow I ended up at this statement: I obsess over actors and fandoms and things because it allows an escape from the pain that people have caused me in everyday life. I come up with all of these fantastical, wonderful scenarios for my mind to mull over instead of it obsessing over all the terrible things people have done to me and making the pain worse. I pretty much already knew this but for some reason, in light of recent events, it made it easier to see what sort of pain I was escaping from.

Now in Cultural Studies, they don't take too fondly to escapism. They prefer to deal with problems "head on" and not delude oneself with impossible things instead of dealing with real-life problems. Generally this is in regards to things like poverty, racism, sexism, and their overarching assumption that capitalism totally sucks.

I, however, see escapism in a far different light. Mainly because the issues I'm dealing with do not involve things that affect the world large-scale or at all changeable. I can't change what happened. But I can at least slip away from the residual pain I'm still feeling. I've mulled over and worked out my feelings plenty; now it's time for things to work themselves out on their own accord. The least I can do is give my mind a reprieve, something else to occupy it so it doesn't burn itself out over an issue it may never be able to solve.

The nice thing about meditation I realized as well, is that it also functions as a sort of escapism, but one that also keeps me firmly rooted in the now, with the focus on the breath and the body.  So, between fangirling and yoga, my brain is doing pretty well. Wait, did I just imply that fangirling is beneficial for my brain? Yes, yes I did.

While fangirls and critics may say that fandoms are insane and bizarre (some validity to this - Martin Freeman being called a hedgehog will always be bizarre to me. And was anyone around for that period on Tumblr when suddenly all these quotes from Sherlock referred to pancakes? Like what the hell was that?)

Yes, this. I'm with you, John. I don't understand.

Okay, so fandoms do really weird stuff. But I do weird stuff all the time. I do at least five weird things before breakfast (sorry, a botched Lewis Carroll quote there, but point made). And weird can be good.

Well, that's definitely weird. Oh God, I'm going to regret my previous remarks...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hipsters United

So not even two hours after admitting I like bowler hats, I see this on the Doctor Who Facebook page:

I see what you did there, Matt. I approve :D

Oh, and then there's this from Mr. Martin Freeman:

 Oh my God, I love you all.

Watching You Watch Him, Part II

I was so hoping that I could just casually mention voyeurism and then back away from it and run as far away as possible. But that of course isn't the case. Even though it's really mind-boggling and uncomfortable to discuss, I can't not discuss it. Because: 1) I just read Laura Mulvey. And 2) I found this post.

First on Mulvey. You can't study film theory without studying her. She's huge in feminist theories. And a bit controversial. And by a bit I mean she wants to do away with mainstream Hollywood cinema. (Yeah. Shit just hit the fan.) However, she brings up some legit points (and Freud. Always f-ing Freud).

Here's the deal: There are two forms of viewing in her book: scopophila (pleasure in viewing) and narcissistic identification. Lemme break it down for you: Scopophila is essentially voyeurism as discussed before, producing "an illusion of voyeuristic separation" (9) (the whole idea of being able to watch without being seen in a movie theater).  Narcissistic identification focuses more with the ego (hence the Freud) and on identifying with characters in the film. We see aspects of our personalities in the protagonists onscreen and relate to them, thus reinforcing ourselves as individuals. As Mulvey says, "...the cinema has structures of fascination strong enough to allow temporary loss of ego while simultaneously reinforcing the ego" (10). It's this complicated link between separation and distance - we want to watch, to not be seen, to gain pleasure from observing, to escape and view the story of someone else. But we also identify with those we are watching (in cinema, the protagonist and the "male gaze" on the heroine, Mulvey argues). All of this, of course, refers to gender and film viewing. But I'd like to take Mulvey's ideas and make a different argument: namely, that when we watch actors in everyday life, we're watching them as if they were still onscreen at the cinema.

Which brings me to 2), that Tumblr post. It comes from a blog called What are you wearing, Benedict?, a photo blog and conglomeration of critiques of his attire and awing over his "perfect" moments and what he should "always wear." I've known about it and ignored it even though it kind of grates on me for reasons I can't exactly describe (why do I care about people critiquing Cumberbatch's clothes? Why do I care when people I don't even know criticize U2 and Adele and Ellie Goulding and Florence and the Machine and [insert musician that I listen to here]? Why do I take something that has nothing to do with me so personally? I seriously cannot explain it in words. Really. I spent a semester studying music and discourse, and after all that time, it became no easier to explain why I - and others - react this way. (And in my mind, my interest in music and my fascination with certain actors affect the same general emotions so I'm categorizing them together)).

Anyway, the website bothered me but I never paid much attention to it and besides; it's the internet - people can say whatever they want. But the text accompanied with the above photo was a weird tipping point for me. The text is this:
I like the denim shirt, I like it open, I like your hair, I love Cabin Pressure and I love you. But why would you wear that tee underneath? And I know the fashion Mafia might disagree with me this season, but I really cant stand blue denim tops to blue denim bottoms. Maybe next time wear grey or black trousers and a tee without a pattern so psychedelic I just craved Pink Floyd really bad…
And then I started feeling that little bubble of: "Are we really upset about denim on denim? Oh my God I have opinions about this and I HAVE TO STATE THEM" (always a bad idea, but then I do it anyway). And of course I'd just read Mulvey. And because I have a blog, this post happened.

This is something I have wondered about for years. Why do we care what celebrities wear? I'm not saying this to be unkind; I just don't understand why the first question celebrities get at an event (especially female celebrities) is "What are you wearing?" I'll admit, I read fashion magazines (Lucky and Glamour, in case you're wondering (FYI, Glamour is much morel like Cosmo than I anticipated. Which means it makes me laugh and cry with its ridiculous sex advice). I like clothes (most of the time. When they aren't utterly impractical and impossible to figure out how to put on. (I sadistically enjoy those moments when I walk into a changing room with an article of clothing that looks great on a hanger and the moment I pull it off, I realize, "Wait... how the hell am I supposed to get this on my body?" It has happened more than once.)) I occasionally like shopping for clothes (when I am looking for something in particular, I can find exactly what I want in five minutes, and I can leave a store without having a fit about cloth sizing (which is different FOR EVERY SINGLE BRAND). Needless to say, I am not much for browsing and window shopping).

But when it comes to other people's clothes... I know what styles I like but I feel I have no right to tell someone they should or shouldn't dress a certain way (unless they ask my opinion). I take my clothes rather personally (maybe because wore school uniforms for just long enough that it affected my whole clothes psyche as I find the ability to choose what I wear some liberating, expressive freedom. But that's my psycho-analytical side speaking). I don't know... the whole "what are you wearing" blog makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe because it brings my attention to something I never really concerned myself with before. Namely what Benedict Cumberbatch is wearing, be it "50 shades of grey" (their words, not mine!), a leather jacket, his shoes, hats, scarfs, etc, etc, etc.

OH MY GOD I AM SERIOUSLY DISCUSSING BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH'S WARDROBE. HELP ME.  This is clearly a new level of fangirl creeping or something.

Max Bialystock: Remember when I told you I'd tell you when we were in too deep?
Leo Bloom: Yeah...
Max Bialystock: We're in too deep.
 (God, I love The Producers. I swear it has a quote for everything.)

This is kind of weird. I mean, other people talk about celebrity's clothes all the time. I do it and feel like a total creep. I could wax poetic about this disparity in my mind, but if I do this post will NEVER END. So, back to business. If I'm at this weird level of... whatever, I might as well make something of it. I can understand ideas of wanting to be well-dressed (for job interviews, nice events, and because sometimes wearing dressy clothes can be fun. On that note: KEVIN IF YOU ARE READING THIS, WEAR DRESS CLOTHES TO JESS' WEDDING RECEPTION OR ELSE. I AM WEARING A DRESS AND HEELS AND YOU WILL SUFFER IN THE HEAT WITH ME). I enjoy dressing up - and often turn up to events over dressed. Can you say every Christmas party ever? :( But I feel bad judging other people's clothing choices because, simply, I'm not them. Also, I wore a bad 80s headband for two years of my life just because I thought it was cool even though it was terribly hideous. I am far more about comfort and happiness than looking chic. (But if you can get both together - then bingo.)

See what I mean? Bad 80s headband. I have no shame.
I don't want to personally critique the person's "What are you wearing?" blog because obviously it's the blogger's opinion but at the same time... the idea of it bugs me. (Wow, that seems tremendously backhanded and catty of me. Reminds me of this:

Yeah, pretty much.) But talking about a someone you don't know this way... I know it's meant to be fun and endearing but would I do this to my friends? Would I want this done to myself? (Well, I just did with the headband incident but because I'm complicated and human, making fun of myself feels far different than when someone does it for me.)

Not that there's anything wrong with your suits there, Peter.
And then the Laura Mulvey stuff starts brewing around in my head, about how we identify with characters onscreen and how at the same time we voyeur them. Though she's talking in terms of gender, I still think this is pertinent. Besides, I feel male celebrities are beginning to be examined under a similar gaze as women. And I have this feeling that in culture we tend to forget that the people we see onscreen are not exactly the people who are walking around in our "objective reality" (aka everyday life. Cultural theory buzzwords, everyone - they're great). While it's all fine and well to comment on how Cumberbatch looked at Peter Guillam in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, it wouldn't hurt to remember that he was wearing clothes based on a wardrobe department and costume designer. It's perhaps a tad much to expect him to dress like that every day of his life. So when you're commenting on his attire, you're really talking about costume design. I know, I know, I'm ruining the beauty of films by reminding you there is a costume designer/team. It comes with the territory. Here is a run-down of a conversation that recently occurred in my film class:
*watching The Lady From Shanghai; a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge appears onscreen*
Instructor: Where is this?
Student: Brooklyn Bridge, New York
*Next scene; a carriage in a park*
Instructor: Where is this?
Student: Central Park.
Instructor: WRONG! It's a sound stage in Burbank!
Get it? The film wasn't actually shot in New York; it was of course shot in Burbank like other film noir of its time. But we accept it as Central Park because we see the shot of Brooklyn Bridge and assume the next shot is naturally in Central Park (which, narratively, it is but it, in actuality, is not). The point is, what we see on film isn't real. But begin to treat it as if it is. And we begin to treat actors as if they were their characters. We identify with them as characters and that beings to influence in how we view them. And, because we're used to looking at them in the theater, that carries over into everyday life. We care about what they look like because we care about how they look onscreen. And we continue to view them as we do in the cinema. Case and point: this post. Apparently people actually kind of ship (once again: ship: verb. To wish for and desire a relationship between two people in which said relationship does not actually exist) Martin and Benedict. Which I find undeniably bizarre. Shipping Johnlock is one thing. Shipping the actors that play them: too far, guys and gals. Too far.

Am I even making any sense? Unlike when I bather on with my opinions in discussions, people can't point out when I'm confusing on a blog. Well, they could... but maybe they don't because this posts are just so bloody long most of the time. Sigh...

But here's the thing: I don't understand the need to go over every photo of Cumberbatch to comment on his clothes, be it complementary or sarcastically critical. I can't say that all the blogger cares about is his appearance because she often makes comments about his talents as an actor and the contributions he makes to charities and awareness programs. So really, all it comes down to is subjective opinions (just like musical taste! See why these two things are categorically the same in my absurd mind?) This is just all my opinion, just like the creator of the "What are you wearing" blog is all her's. The fact that our two opinions can coexist in the world just goes to show how complex and wonderful the universe is. There is no right answer. Especially because I war with myself about clothes/materialism/fashion perpetually because (in case there was any doubt):

I am a fucking hipster (I took a quiz on the internet, it's definitely true :P). But remember this post? So hipster. No, really - it's like a thing where we have to contradict mainstream opinion because we can. Basically: this entire post as well. And hipsters of course have their own particular fashion tastes (I happen to like bowler hats. And fedoras. I realize this puts me in a minority, because I can count on one hand the number of people I see in fedoras each day. Oops).

So feel free to lambaste my opinion. It is just an opinion, after all :D


Note: All citations from "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." by Laura Mulvey. Screen. Vol. 16 No. 3 (Autumn 1975) pg 6-18.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Some Shameless Self-Promoting

As of Sunday, I have a FanFiction.net account. Mostly because I really need to read more fan fiction and this is the easiest way of doing it.

Also because I've started writing fan fiction myself.

As of now, I've posted a short story based on The Hobbit  (no inter-species hobbit-dragon romance, I promise). So if you're interested, check it out here.

So yeah... trying out fan fiction. I'll see how that goes :D


Chick Lit

Loyal reader Paulina (who provided this wonderful response on melancholia and nihilsm) sent me this fantastic translation of an article from the Spiegel discussing Chick Lit - as read by a male reader. Take a look at it; it's really interesting piece (the original article, in German, can be found here: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/kulturspiegel/d-86519339.html).
How do I become a dream guy?
A man spies in women’s novels

Happy End
Don’t write yourself off! Start on a new chapter of your love life! Our author has read women’s novels – and reveals to you how to become a manipulating macho.

Dating classes, flirt workshops, single coachings – you can do without that, gentlemen. Whoever wants to understand women has to read. Not the “Playboy”, not “Men’s Health”, not “GQ”. He has to read what women read.

Novels as “Der letzte Single fängt den Mann”, “Payoff” and “Mit Skalpell und Lippenstift” belong to so-called “Frauenliteratur” (= women’s literature), a label that writer and presenter Amelie Fried feels to be the “worst label” you can inflict upon a book: “The subtext to it is “rubbish for the feeble-minded”. It’s discriminating and it’s meant to be.” Well, there’s certainly no Männerliteratur (=men’s literature).
Women’s literature however takes up “at least 30%, depending on definition almost 40%” of the German paperback-market”, estimates Nicola Bartels, head of publishers Blanvalet, Limes and Penhaligon at Random House.

This may, of course, be because men in general read less, but prefer picking up the remote control for diversion. Or beer. “Men don’t have fun dealing with their own shortcomings by identifying with chaotic novel heroes” Bartels guesses. They have “less love for self-analysis”. And no love for love-analysis. At least not when it’s presented the way it is in novels. Without pictures.

There are five subgenres to women’s literature: Liebesschmöker à la Rosamunde Pilcher (cheesy sort of romance novel), historische Frauenromane (historical women’s novels), Romantic Crime, erotic novels called “Nackenbeißer” (= neck biter) because the covers often show women with off-the-shoulder clothing, clinging to strong men. And Chick Lit. It’s a term young men should memorize before entering a bookshop. Because the (female) protagonists usually are urban-living academics, age 25-35, searching for Mr. Right. And because the readers correspond to the protagonists. The ideal target group.

For some time German publishers used the synonym “freche Frauenromane” (=cheeky women’s novels) for Chick Lit, Blanvalet now prefers the term “romantic comedies”, mockers speak of “Hühnergeschreibsel, Püppchenprosa oder Tussiliteratur” (= Chick writ, Poppet prose or Bimbo literature). Pastel shades and pink colour ranges dominate the book covers, preferably furnished with drawn stilettos, lipsticks, handbags. They’re usually written from first-person perspective in that self-ironic and colloquial prosecco-tone that imitates the confidential chat with the best (girl) friend. And what man never wished to be a fly on the wall close to such a conversation?

The protagonists are objectively privileged: good looking, good wage, good friends. But something’s missing: the perfect partner. They are successful in business, but fail in private life, as if the one were a consequence of the other – the old conflict between the wish for a career and the wish for children. Indeed, more than that: As long as they’re singles, they regard themselves as big girls, coquette with their scattiness and clumsiness as in “Mit Skalpell und Lippenstift”, smoke and drink too much as in “Ganz entschieden unentschieden”. “When the right man pops up order is restored” says Bartels. Personal fulfillment by way of Mr. Right.

Well-intentioned critics see the characters as emancipated and call them post-feministic. They were claiming the achievements of feminism for themselves, they say, but at the same time living out their femininity extremely, for example by being fixated on pretty clothes; they were allowed to be tough in business and simultaneously sexy. On the other hand: When the romantic partner relationship is the most important goal in life, one is one thing rather not – emancipated.

Literary scholar Annette Peitz has addressed this in her doctoral dissertation: “Chick Lit thematises the situation of young, single women, “lost girls”, who, in the face of a host of possible life designs and achievements, have to decide for the first time in history entirely independently what they want to do with their lives”, she writes. And what do they want to do with their lives? Marry and have babies. Which can be shocking, not only when you’re a feminist. Also to a man.

The search for Mr. Right proves to be complicated for the characters, but not devoid of fun and sex. Lots of sex. “The Chicks don’t suffer from privations or prohibitions, but from excess” writes Peitz. The consequence of this post-modern dilemma, the multi-option-society:

Women are on a quest for meaning, women who don’t always know what to make of their independence – and so yearn for dependence. Viewed like that, marrying and having babies are an escapist fantasy, similar to the flight into the great city in earlier times. The Chicks’ life is already glamorous, and so they wish to stay at home on a Sunday, put a roast in the oven, bake a cake, watch “Tatort” (a Sunday evening German crime show, extremely popular) while snuggling. All of that, of course, with the perfect partner. Which you probably shouldn’t even condemn. Which you should only know. As a man.

The Chick Lit prototypes are Helen Fielding’s “Schokolade zum Frühstück” and Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City”, and, the German classic: Ildikó von Kürthy’s “Mondscheintarif”.

As of late their model is often modified, reports Blanvalet-publisher Bartels. The settings are sometimes rural, the characters don’t stem only from the culture- and media-scene any longer, the tone is becoming less ironic, female friendships gain even more importance, Mr. Right is allowed to be less perfect. That’s good news for once.

Bartels’ s explanation though is less than positive: It’s the economic crisis. It increases the longing for safe circumstances, both career- and family-wise. “It’s (the book settings) becoming more conventional”.

A second trend, seemingly contradictory: Sex is becoming “salonfähig” (=acceptable in polite society). “Right now we are discussing five erotic novels every week in our editorial conferences” says Bartels. “They’re shooting up from the ground”. Explicit sex-scenes are wrapped up in love stories – a paradox phenomenon that can be described as “romantic porn”. As Rosamunde Pilcher (origin of veeery cheesy harmless predictable romance stories) for raunchy city dwellers. As Twilight for grown-ups.

In her dissertation Peitz labels this as the “Trend zum Raunch”. A Genre related to Chick Lit and occasionally called Clit Lit in the USA. So, on the 9th of July Goldmann will publish the first part of the erotic-trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey” in German, which has sold more than 10 million copies in the USA. “Smut for the educated classes” “Die Welt” (a newspaper) called the Sado-Maso-novel; it’s about the pleasure derived from female submission – now, of all times, when women have more power than ever before and confidently shout for a female quota in management positions.
The publishing house Schwarzkopf&Schwarzkopf even dedicated an entire line to erotica, called Anais. Just recently, the autobiographical novel “Unanständig” (=naughty) was published there, in which a 23-year-old Berlin girl savours the benefits of single life; she’s not looking for Mr. Right, she’s looking for “Mr. Right Now”. And that one can be dominant.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” and “Unanständig” are texts by women about women for women, just like the tamer books “Mädchen in Weiß” and “Himmel über der Hallig”. But they are also an Ego-course for men. Because it’s only about them. And they are also a manual to women.
http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=311 (Many thanks to Paulina for bringing this website to my attention!)

Yes, of course, chauvinist-alert, ladies. But whoever wants to increase his chances, gentlemen, can give it a try, can leave the blood-dripping thriller at home for his holidays – and read, what usually only women read at the beach. To avoid confused, amused and pitying looks, the self-experiment shows, one should cover the women’s literature with men’s literature. With “Frau – Deutsch/ Deutsch – Frau” by Mario Barth (= “Woman – German/ German – Woman”, a mock-dictionary by an incredibly popular German comedian of dubious comedic value). Or with “Sportbild” (= a sports magazine). Or, well, with the SPIEGEL. Something by real blokes for real blokes.

Now, that’ll do for theory, into the field: When’s a man a man? A man the way women want him?

For once, he has manners, he’s an old-school guy. On a date he’s polite to the waitress, after the date he helps the woman into her coat, pays the bill, flags down the cab for her, puts an arm around her shoulder when she’s feeling chilly, he’s nice to his own mother, he’s best pals with the woman’s father, he offers his seat up to the elderly on the train, he’s “a knight in white armour”.

On the other hand the ideal man is masculine. Very masculine. He has tousled hair and a stubble that chafes the woman’s face when snogging. He puts five fruit chews into his mouth at once. He smokes Gauloises, liberté toujours. He has no night-blue satin bed sheets. At a date in a bar he orders for the woman without asking her what she wants. To a sex-date at hers he brings a bottle of vodka, not prosecco. When he strips down tight black pants emerge, not checkered boxers “with 19 men stop with that”. And: He never, never, never wears a jeans size smaller than the woman’s.

In short: The ideal man has manners, but he’s a man. Not flawless, neither in appearance nor in habits. No woman wants to be with an etiquette guide, as Isabella says in “Mädchen in Weiß”.

The ideal man knows what he wants, he is arrogant, even a little dominant. And in no case he is nice. “Nice men are just, how can I say, it’s simply not envisaged by evolution”, says Sophie in “Die emotionale Obdachlosigkeit männlicher Singles”. And further: “I want the male that screams loudest and not the one that wants to delouse me all the time”. A lousy phrase, not entirely serious, of course, but one that, in variations, appears in many novels. “With coffee, alcohol and men there’s only one thing that counts: the stronger, the more appealing”. “What we women really want are attractive men with cash. We are fond of children ourselves”. “I love polite men! Courteous in public and filthy in bed. Perfect mix!” In “Eigentlich bin ich eine Traumfrau” (girl) friends compare natural cosmetics to chemical ones. It’s about the choice between “respectable, but useless, or nasty and potent”, they say – and add: “We face the same choice with men all the time”.

Who can’t or won’t offer that, for instance because he thinks that sort of role outdated, can resort to tricks. He can appear aloof: “When he reveals something then, one feels like a winner”. He can pretend to be unable to love or at least not admit his love to her, because women (this isn’t from me, dear (female) readers) derive their self-esteem from men’s acknowledgement: “The harder they seem to crack open, the bigger the reward”. Or he can go out with beautiful friends as a disguise: “We always fall for the guy that has won the alpha-female. What better self-affirmation could there be than being desired by her man.”

Not agreeable either? Well, then there’s only the roundabout way of winning her (girl) friends over. Or of a friendship. Women in these novels often have sex with their best friend – apparently a widely spread fantasy. As widely spread as the longing after a culturally educated man, a writer, publisher, scientist, journalist, interpreter, video game inventor, organ (the instrument) maker. So: Eyes open in choosing a job. If it’s too late for that, one should at least read or go to the museum instead of talking about boxing or GPS treasure hunts. Which the arts editor enjoyed to read.

When nothing seems to help men can still let themselves go to appear “schmuddelsexy” (=scruffy-sexy), for which, according to “Mädchen in Weiß”, every woman will fall at some point: greasy hair, scar on the chin, dull stare, “as if he were thinking of smut all the time”. Or he could count on the “Cutest boy in class-Syndrome”: When girls are bored in school they quickly develop a crush on the one guy who appears hot in comparison to the subject and all the other idiots in class, but really isn’t. A mechanism that should function equally well at work.

Oh yes, one more thing: The ideal man is neither called Henrik nor Hendrik, and if he is, he will think up a different date-name. Because who is called Henrik or Hendrik will be left, in “Unanständig” as well as in “Die emotionale Obdachlosigkeit männlicher Singles”.

Would you have known, gentlemen? Well, Chick Lit, that is literature for the chicken in the woman – and for the fox in the man.

Women’s novels:
Jana Seidel: “Eigentlich bin ich eine Traumfrau”, Goldmann, 288 pages, 8,99€
Michaela Möller: „Die emotionale Obdachlosigkeit männlicher Singles“, Bastei Lübbe, 352 p., 7,99€
Gemma Burgess: „Der letzte Single fängt den Mann“, Blanvalet, 542 p., 8,99€
Alessia Gazzola: „Mit Skalpell und Lippenstift“, Carl’s Books, 400 p., 14,99€
Lena Johannson: „Himmel über der Hallig“, Rütten&Loening, 176 p., 9,99€
Jennifer Close: „Mädchen in Weiß“, Berlin Verlag, 336 p., 19,90€
Simone Bauer: „Ganz entschieden unentschieden“, Schwarzkopf&Schwarzkopf, 240 p., 9,95€
Christina Haubold: „Payoff“, Schwarzkopf&Schwarzkopf, 304 p., 9,95€
Rosa Sophie Mai: „Unanständig“, Schwarzkopf&Schwarzkopf, 272 p., 9,95€
E. L. James: „Shades of Grey. Geheimes Verlangen”, Goldmann, 608 p., 12,99€ (9th of July)
Annette Peitz: “Chick Lit. Genrekonstituierende Untersuchungen unter anglo-amerikanischem Einfluss”, Peter Lang Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 292 p., 49,95€
Needless to say, I really like this article. I can only imagine what it would be like if more men read romance novels - and read them critically. I think there'd be a lot more understanding between the sexes. Although, apparently men are reading chick lit - but not in the way that Mr. Becker is. Check this out and I'll be back to talk about it later :D

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lyra, age 6: Best Sherlock Fan Ever

I came across this post a matter of minutes ago on Tumblr and raced to find the video on Youtube because this is literally the cutest thing I have ever seen.

The darling sincerity of this video truly brought tears to my eyes and utterly made my day - and it has absolutely nothing to do with me. Imagine how Mr. Cumberbatch will feel when he gets her letter :) (Also, she's very good artist for age 6. I was still drawing stick figures. Never mind - I'm STILL drawing stick figures).  Lyra, age 6: you are brilliant :)

Watching You Watch Him

So Entertainment Weekly did a special on The Hobbit for the upcoming Comic Con.

My reaction, in short?

Yeah, exactly. So I am now dealing (again) with my excitement for a movie that doesn't come out until December. And feeling very weird about it after reading the article and seeing this tidbit from Martin Freeman at the end of it:

At first I was kind of freaked out. "Oh my God," I thought. "People who are talking about this movie who live in Wisconsin. That's really close to Minnesota. WHAT IF HE'S FOUND MY BLOG?" (as this came to mind). Because, you know, for as much of a liberal arts education as I've had and as much Sherlock Holmes as I've read, I have the most illogical brain in the universe. I then reminded myself that the spotlight effect is just an illusion and that maybe this comment was more of a reference to "a magical place called Wisconsin" (ala Love Actually) (because Wisconsin is pretty magical).

Sorry, can't seem to find any gifs of this line being said. So this pic will have to do.
Or maybe Wisconsin has a lot of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit fans. Or a lot of Martin Freeman fans. But none of this was helping the fact that I might have still potentially terrified Martin Freeman.

Which brings me to another topic - the strange power of fandoms. I mean, it's nothing new; I've discussed it before. However, I just happen to have a different line of sight on it this time around. Literally.

We were discussing voyeurism in my film class this week after watching Rear Window (which, if you've happened to have seen it, is a gigantic allegory for voyeurism and cinema) and I started thinking about Tumblr. A lot. Tumblr, as I've said before, is this strange little creature that I don't think the cyberworld and (especially) the world of academia knows how to peg. It includes fine art/drawings, videos, gifs, photographs, text posts, sound clips, and all of the above combined. Basically, it contains nearly every visual/aural medium on the internet in one place. Unlike Facebook, you don't have to have an account to access the material. I feel like there should be academics all over this shit (and maybe there are) but it seems to be rather quiet on the Tumblr study front. There's still this sense that things like blogs and certain internet sources that don't end in .edu or .org are not legitimate. And there's still this lingering assumption that, like video games and comic books, the internet is kind of frivolous and not worth the time and effort to study.

I happen to be in the camp that greatly disagrees with this idea. Because anything that causes me to spend so much time on it when I have serious homework I should be doing or books to read or novels to write, or causes people to want to censor it, or can make or ruin someone's career must have some importance.

A pictorial representation of he internet. WOW. (from: http://www.nd.edu/~networks)
And thus, I ended up connecting voyeurism and the internet. Which is kind of unfortunate. But then again, we described film viewing as a voyeuristic habit, so it comes with the territory. Here's how this works: voyeurism is described as taking pleasure from watching someone without them knowing you can see them. The cinema is the epitome of this because you're watching something on film where the people viewing have no ability to catch you in the act because... well, because it's a film. Even the theater is constructed for optimal voyeurism with the lights turned off and seats that are getting ever more reclined and cushioned. But I digress... The internet is kind of like the theater, in that you are completely separated from what you are viewing and we may not even be around other people whilst viewing it.

The thing about watching from the internet, like the theater, is that you are completely separated from these representations on screen. We but a lot of faith in cameras and images, feeling they capture "objective reality" but that, of course, is not the case. This famous painting by Magritte comes to mind:

The whole point of this piece is that this is not a pipe - it's a painting of a thing that we label a pipe, only a representation. In fact, how you're looking at it now, it isn't even a painting. It's an image of a painting of a thing that looks like a pipe. But in our everyday lives, we don't think about images this way - we look at an ad for a car and say it's a car, not that it's an image of a car. We even find photography and camera work to be a more valid representation than a book or a painting, even though its still presenting things through a medium. We look at celebrity images on TV and say we're looking at Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise, not that we're looking at camera footage or photographs of said celebrities. Images are powerful - even in how we talk about them.

Which is what makes fandoms really, really weird. So much of was I/we/they do is image-based. Tumblr is chock-full of images - fan-created art, snapshots of celebrities, shots from films, on and on and on. Post-modern philosophy (which I've accidentally ended up studying loads of) likes to think of our obsession with images in reference to hyperreality, as media changes our ways of looking at reality and we can no longer tell the difference between the real and the simulation of the real. And we're back to Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra/Simulation stuff. Although Tumblr users like to see things a little differently:
However, unlike in the theater, fandoms can interact with what they are viewing in some ways. With fan fiction sites and fan art forums and Twitter and take your pick of whatever social networking site you want, they can express their appreciation for whatever film/show/etc they desire, talk to other fans, and even possibly chat (or tweet, if you prefer) with their favorite celeb. And, with Tumblr being accessible to anyone, said celebs might just stumble across the fan art, videos, posts, etc fandoms generate, as described in this article about Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch discovering fandom devotion (and slash fiction). So we've got this interesting sort of "watching you watch him" scenario going on with celebs being aware of fandoms.

(Okay, so I like this song (and I saw Eric Hutchinson perform this live like two months ago so I'm being a bit nostalgic). And it's another one of those songs I see as a thematic for fandoms, a number for "Fandom - the Musical" so to speak. I'm kidding, that's not a legit thing. Well, now someone IS going to make it a legit thing. Whoops.)

Anyway, we've got that. And now we've got fandoms watching celebrities watch them fan. And then you've got me watching fandoms watching celebrities watching fandoms fan.

Brain hurting yet?


(Thank you, Michael Cronenburg, for your slightly tacky but ever disgusting 80s horror gore.)

Other than the fact that I appear to be a voyeur watching other voyeurs, this whole thing is now rather strange and weird an complex. But it gets even weirder and more complex. Why does Martin Freeman find it hard to act when there's people anticipating The Hobbit in Wisconsin? I imagine it's rather tough to focus when you're wondering what people are expecting (and already talking about and anticipating it and making strange fan art of your character dressed like another character you play having inter-species relations with a dragon in scarf. Yep, I'd be thrown off my game too). What's more, all this looking at celebrities makes it hard for them to have a life out of the limelight, to distinguish between public and private. I came across this Tumblr post last night that had a really interesting quote from Benedict Cumberbatch on, what else, watching:
One of the fears of having too much work is not having time to observe. And once you get recognized, there is nowhere for you to look any more. You can’t sit on a night bus and watch it all happen.
And we're back to Cumberbatch saying things that once again I find relevant to my aimless meandering. (How does this keep happening?) With us watching them, celebrities have nowhere to look without being seen and studied and wondered at what they're looking at.

And to top it all off, my contacts have gotten weird and uncomfortable and I can't wear them without my left eye twitching and aching. The coincidence of all this is just a little too much, so I'm going to stop thinking about eyes and seeing and minds exploding and end right... about... now.