Friday, May 1, 2009

Prof Frank's lecture

Professor Frank's lecture regarding pain within a literary context was something I considered extremely interesting. For one thing, I have always enjoyed Homer's "Iliad" but never have looked at parts of it in the mindset that the concept of pain is used within the work.
One of the ideas that she brought up was regarding Hector's commitment to "Heroic Code" within the Iliad, where he felt the urge to fight and to die in the glory of battle rather than stay within the city, protected and with his family. This idea that one must earn their place in society through physical accomplishments is something that people would look at now and laugh at. The funny thing is, though, that our society is still very much focused on this part of life; seizing the moment all for the idea that one might win (it is never a sure thing) is still something that people see happening all around us, often without even realizing it.
Erin Striff mentioned it in her lecture as well, dealing with the idea of pain within sports. Fighting through the pain to win becomes important, and so does the idea that one must prove they deserve the victory through blood, sweat and tears. One of the differences, though, is that while most people back in the day (and in famous literature) used this pain and the glory to better themselves physically - whether it is for earning more power, land, or "the girl" - nowadays there is much more of a focus on bettering oneself emotionally. If someone is dealing with loss in their family, or if they are having a rough time coping with failure or disappointing things, now most people might do something like fight, run, or compete, and in the end they don't see their pay increase or have a better job, but they feel more control in their lives.
This topic of pain within literature, then, is more than just an interesting conversation starter. It is a sort-of timeline that documents how the idea of pain has changed with society, how the reasons and desires for putting themselves through that amount of effort and suffering can shift and yet still be just as popular.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Confederate States of America

This movie was simultaneously funny, enlightening, and a little scary. For one thing, straight off the bat, the entire movie is put together in such a way that you are thinking that it is eerily possible things could have come out in that timeline of events if the South had gotten international support for the civil war. At the same time, though, you see commercials and parts that are more funny than informative, and you think "hey, there's no need to take this THAT seriously." Things for items like "N*ggerhair Cigarettes" (I don't know if Blogspot is going to take down the blog or anything if I say the whole thing) and a smorgasbord of other racist paraphernalia make you laugh at the absurdity of such items being advertised nowadays. At the end of the movie, though, when you find out most if not all of the items advertised were actually real products, some of which lasted until the late 1900's then your mind is blown and many preconditioned feelings towards society are overturned.
I cannot even comprehend a situation where we would be that intolerant of African American people; I guess that is just a testament to where we are as a society now in comparison to where we would presumably be had the North lost the civil war.
I also wanted to say that Canada beating everyone in the Olympics because they had free black citizens is hilarious, and I couldn't stop laughing when the narrator mentioned that.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

How women are viewed in sports

I feel like Erin Striff's lecture on pain throughout sports was extremely interesting. The focus on how women are portrayed actually struck me as the most interesting part, because I honestly had no idea (even as a communication student) that the depiction of women in situations like sports had been taken to such a level of flagrant sexism. The double standards in society are despicable, and there have been times in my life where I have noticed them and times in my life where I have not.
Seeing the women modeling the triathlon clothing made me laugh, because it seemed like an ad designed for men even though it was a woman's product. Granted I can see the whole "look how beautiful you'll be when you buy our product" angle, but I can't help but think that most women are smart enough to see right through the blatant manipulation. When you have a woman standing in front of a screen with her ass sticking straight out at the camera, I don't think to myself "oh ok she's clearly about to run/swim/bike a million miles."
The other stuff I hadn't really noticed was how much women are portrayed as the maternal figure, even in moments where they are victorious in some kind of monumental sporting event. Like the woman who won the olympic triathlon, and the most popular picture they had of her was of her holding her daughter after she won, not during and not immediately after the race, but only after enough time had gone by so they had a shot set up. Whereas with Michael Phelps, it was nonstop focus on him when he was in and out of the pool, and they would shoot the camera over to his parents but they didn't really depict him with any emotion other than happiness after he won all of his Olympic medals.
Sometimes the double standards aren't as obvious, but hopefully as they become more and more noticeable then the stereotypes and the different gender roles will be fully flexible.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Everything Is Illuminated

I have seen this movie a few times now, and every time I see it I can't help but be amazed. It is impossibly difficult to allow comedy into a Holocaust related movie, for several obvious reasons; not only does director Liev Schriber accomplish this, and accomplish it well, but he uses the humor within the movie to move the audience rather than just make them giggle.
The fact of the matter is, the reason this movie hits me as profound is the juxtaposition of the humor vs the tragedy. In essence, this is a sad movie. It's really difficult to make a funny movie when it somehow relates to the Holocaust, and although this is definitely not Schindler's List, the fact of the matter is that it truly and profoundly is a sad movie. The way Liev Schriber takes that sadness, though, and places it next to ridiculousness, adds a lot of depth to the story. It basically allows you to feel humor, and the absurd ways people from two entirely different cultures clash, while you are experiencing the subtext of tragic loss and profound sadness. This new way of feeling when one is experiencing a movie about WWII does more than just make people laugh and cry, it lets individuals feel something atypical from other experiences of watching similar movies. Because you are feeling something entirely new, also, I think it adds to the layers of the movie. Not just about laughing, not just about crying, but about feeling something in a situation that doesn't seem normal, or natural, makes the entire situation more profound.
Overall I think this movie is fantastic, and it certainly fits withing the context of the Pain Seminar in more than one way.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Falling Man

This picture has haunted the minds of most Americans just as frequently as have the other images associated with September 11th, 2001. It is iconic of the despair felt by the nation; the image of the lone man leaving behind one terrible fate only in order to embrace another one. The picture stirs up all kinds of feelings for myself as well as most others that witness it; even those few people that weren't in either tower at the time of the attacks tend to feel the vibes of helplessness and sheer desperation that most of those trapped inside surely felt. This picture, like others of its kind that represent the largest times of suffering for humanity, inspires plenty of emotions and feelings that one can't help but endure. The feelings and thoughts running through my mind, however, are clearly different compared to those voiced by Esquire magazine.
While Esquire doesn't hesitate to paint this man as something more than he is, as a sort of symbol of American freedom, I have to point out some obvious facts. According to Tom Junod, the writer of the article, this man didn't choose his fate- but at the last moment he clearly "embraced it." Junod also doesn't hesitate to mention that at the last minute this man epitomizes the spirit of rebelliousness. The man is fighting physics, a law that can't be broken, in a fight he is destined to fail, but damn it he is still doing it.
After a bunch of fancy wordplay and imagery, I have to call shenanigans. While this image is certainly iconic, and represents the attitudes and sheer chaos and destruction that walks hand-in-hand with the attacks committed on September 11th, I feel like the writer of the article for Esquire is tarnishing this man's image. He is being painted to be some kind of American hero, as some kind of rebel-without-a-cause. James Dean meets world tragedy. In all honesty, all the writer seems to do for me is demean the man's memory by building him up to be something he is not. He is a man that jumped off of the WTC building to die in a preferable way to the alternative. He isn't someone who found himself where he was and decided to accept his fate while still not giving in. "Arms cocked rebelliously" turns into a man plummeting towards the ground in the last seconds of his life. He wasn't trying to make a statement, so why turn him into one?
No wonder the family responded so angrily. Because the writer tried to turn this man into something more than what he was, the last image and memory anyone has of him is false. Not only is it false, but it is a country-wide lie. While I do agree that the American people needed a hero to turn to during this time, changing a man's final memory to fit other purposes isn't right.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Harold and Maude

Harold and Maude is a movie for the ages. Typically when I think of seeing old movies, I tend to immediately expect disappointment. I do not know where the bias came from, but for some reason there it is. This time, much like the other times I watch older movies, I was pleasantly surprised. Harold and Maude set out to teach the audience the things they are missing about their life. Watching this movie is meant to allow people to acknowledge everything about their lives and embrace them. Pain should be embraced, as well as pleasure. Death isn't the end, and nobody should let it be that for them.
The biggest thing that caught my eye was the different scenes with the various authority figures in his life, with pictures of THEIR authority figures behind them. The reasoning for this was as clear as day to me. This movie had a political message, there was no denying it. The fact that this movie was made in the seventies makes it even more obvious, when every time anyone did almost anything it was supposedly representing some "higher message"- which at that decade meant it was against whatever politics were going on. The crippled uncle who makes a fool out of himself every time he tries to salute and be patriotic had a picture of Nixon on the wall behind him; the creepy and overly sarcastic Priest had a picture of the Pope behind him, and Harold's overbearing psychiatrist had a picture of Freud behind him. The reason for each of these is to accomplish multiple things. First of all, it gives the impression that this boy - this young, free spirit - is stacked up vs the rest of the world. He is alone, overwhelmed, and outnumbered six to one. The other reason is because it is meant to show how different Harold is. While each of these three people are spouting the belief system of the people more powerful than they are, Harold bows down to nobody. He makes his own decision. And finally it comes down to the final thing; the depiction of how each of these men has one father figure who they embraced, and as such believe that Harold will embrace them as his missing father figure. Clearly we see that it doesn't happen, so the pictures are there to show, again, the big difference between Harold and society.
This movie was funny, deep, and quick witted. It was well done overall, and it went ahead and showed the way of life followed by many back then. Live life, don't fear death, and grow from the pain you experience.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Requiem for a Dream

Requiem for a dream is one of my favorite movies of all time. It bring the issues related to drug and alcohol abuse to light in more of an intense way than movies had done before this. I think that is one of the more interesting aspects of the movie, aside from the whole flick itself; the fact that it was willing to push the envelope in order to get a statement across.

That's the other thing I noticed about this movie: it is very rare nowadays that a movie comes out that has an explicit moral or lesson. When movies like Superbad/Pineapple Express/Tropic Thunder are some of the biggest and most popular films it seems like the audience wants fewer and fewer lessons to be preached at them through their method of big screen entertainment, and more and more random laughs.

While I did enjoy the hell out of those movies, it really is kind of refreshing to get hit with a healthy dose of "here's something to take away from watching this" without having to resort to "survivorman" or "dirty jobs". The message in this movie is, to my understanding, do not lose sight of what is important whatever you do. The drugs they use throughout the movie do nothing other than provide a new focus for these peoples' lives to go on, or they make it so the people get so dependent that they can't even experience what they want to experience without the assistance of medication. Do not lose sight of what is important in life, and live every moment like it's your last. That's what I got from this movie anyway.

It's weird, but before I took this class I would not have thought that the utter abuse of alcohol and drugs could even get to the extent that the movie depicted; after reading about some of the things people have done, though, and after watching and talking about some of the things we've gone over in class my eyes have been opened, so to speak. The fact that people can get to that extent is now definitely something I'm more adjusted to, even though I haven't necessarily experienced it myself.