‘ahems and ahahs’

Literature, & Etc.

Posts Tagged ‘media

Reflections:

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Ted Kennedy died last night and while I recognize the passing of a significant political figure and legislator I find myself fairly apathetic towards his death.

I think I feel this way towards most politicians. A couple of months back when President Barack Obama was inaugurated I watched coverage of people who were swept up by all of the emotion and energy of this figure. And as I said above about Ted Kennedy, I recognize the significance of someone like President Obama, but I have never been moved to tears or to such a degree that I feel the need to attend a speech or a rally.

I think that I am much too jaded for the world of politics and I distrust the politicians that represent me. Do not misjudge me, I vote and pay attention to the news and listen to the topics and issues that affect me. But I find myself unable to be moved emotionally in any way by most politicians.

Writers and authors are figures in our culture that inspire me. The deaths of David Foster Wallace, Susan Sontag, Arthur C. Clarke; these are the types of figures I tend to feel great emotion for, frequently because their passing is often overlooked or quickly forgotten and so too their contributions to literature, media, and culture.

But this should not be surprising as my blog focuses primarily on authors and writers that I’ve read and that I find inspiring. I have devoted my life towards English Literature and so I focus more on these figures.

Still, there is something very uninspiring to me about so many of the politicians I see before me. I will note their significant contributions towards society and history, but I have not been moved by such figures, at least not yet.

It is easy to fixate on Michael Jackson’s passing or Ted Kennedy when there is 24/7 news cycle of these figures, but a writer like Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn gets a few days and then the world moves on.

I figure Ted Kennedy should last towards the week’s end. Hmm, how sad that the media coverage a person receives reflects our current societies value of that person in our culture.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 26, 2009 at 9:02 am

‘Smoking Martyr’

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I do not personally smoke cigarettes. But let me be clear, I have no problem with people that do smoke as long as it does not get in my face as I hate the smell and would rather not breathe it in.

The following article is interesting though: ‘Smoking Martyr’ Lynn Barber pulls out of festival.

Barber, who writes for the Observer, was due to appear at Richmond’s Book Now festival in November to discuss her memoir, An Education, which tells of the destructive affair she began as a teenager with an older man who picked her up at a bus stop. Her publisher Penguin had supplied a black and white photograph of Barber for inclusion in the festival’s brochure, embroidered scarf around her neck, head thrown back, cigarette in mouth.

But Richmond council deemed that using a picture of an author smoking went against its responsibility to encourage “good health habits”, and asked Barber to provide another. She declined and pulled out of the festival, saying that she had “always wanted to be a Smoking Martyr and obviously this is my opportunity”.

“If a pic of me smoking is such a threat to the good burghers of Richmond, imagine what my presence would do,” she said this morning. Barber, winner of five British Press awards, is also the author of a study of Victorian naturalists, The Heyday of Natural History, along with How to Improve Your Man in Bed and The Single Woman’s Sex Book.

I believe that this festival has every right to deny access or limit the types of people that attend and this includes the type of documentation that they publish (advertising, etc). But even though they have every right to do this it seems a bit much to ask that a photograph of an author be replaced because deemed unworthy of the “good health habits’ that the festival wished to promote.

Lynn-Barber-001This is a book festival not a health fair. I could understand if the primary sponsors of this festival was an organization that was about lung cancer or something of that nature, but this is a festival. Should the festival censor the types of writing that authors and publishers are promoting. God forbid an author have a character that smokes or does drugs or dare I even think it: have sex.

The festival responds as follows:

“A Richmond council spokesman said: “We don’t like to use images of people smoking in our promotional material. As a local authority we are responsible for encouraging good health habits in the area, and to be seen to be endorsing smoking, no matter how unintentional, doesn’t complement this.”

What do you think? Is it out a bit much for the festival to demand this photo be changed? I think that she was right to pull out of the festival. I’m sure that if other authors were scrutinized along with their photographs someone, anyone, would find  a reason to object.

I am going to hold a Literary Festival of my own and invite famous authors and publishers but I swear to God if I see one photograph of an author sitting in an armchair it’s off with your damn head.

Your thoughts and commentary?

Written by thebeliever07

August 24, 2009 at 2:49 pm

A book should be a book, right?

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I’ve read two recent articles over at the Guardian and it has made me reflect on a trend that seems to be occurring at the moment, the blending of mixed media when it comes to the book form.

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Nick Cave, a musician, poet, artist, actor, dare I say it: renaissance man recently released: “Nick Cave’s new novel The Death of Bunny Munro – the story of a sex-maniac travelling salesman taking his last road trip – goes to market through the iPhone App Store, in an enhanced edition that is being launched before the print version.”

The enhanced app has the following advantages:

you can faff with fonts, change colour, bookmark it, and so on; and there’s some smart social networking stuff attached. But it also includes enhancements that could have a noticeable effect on the experience of reading. Instead of paginating the book conventionally, it’s presented as a continuous vertical scroll (one geek-pleasing trick is that you can adjust the scrolling speed with the angle of tilt of the phone), and the App includes an audiobook that syncs with the written text. Pop on the headphones, thumb the screen and Cave’s voice picks up where you left off.

So the question is? Is all of that necessary for the enjoyment of a book? Thomas Pynchon’s latest release Inherent Vice now has an added feature to “enhance” the reading. Pynchon has released a playlist to accompany the reading:

a list of the songs which feature in Inherent Vice, which follows the story of pot-smoking private eye Larry “Doc” Sportello. From The Beach Boys (God Only Knows and Help Me, Rhonda) to The Beatles (Can’t Buy Me Love), Frank Sinatra (Fly Me to the Moon) and Pink Floyd (Interstellar Overdrive), the soundtrack, whichhe designed for Amazon.com, is a journey through the music of the 1960s, the setting for his new novel.

It also includes a few fictional tunes: a song “performed” by Doc himself, Skyful of Hearts, as well as providing a nod to Scott Oof of Vineland fame, whose band Beer “performs” the theme song from The Big Valley.

Again, I have to ask if all of this is necessary for the reading of a book? I guess on the one hand I can understand that in today’s modern world with all of the distractions that are constantly around us, I can understand the desire to add some pizzazz and punch to a work of art in any medium to attract people so that they generate some interest and passion for the work. But it is also sad that it takes this much excess to draw the eye.

A book cannot be a book anymore, it must have a playlist, it must be read to us, it must glow in the dark and be downloaded instantly into our minds.

The fact that books now have “trailers” astounds me and I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not? Good in catching the eye, but as I’ve said, bad because this signifies that we are too caught up in the light-show and that these works cannot simply stand on their own now.

I enjoy mixed media and I support the arts in all of its forms, but still, sometimes a book should just be a book. Maybe I’m turning into a curmudgeon (I can hear Erin saying outloud, “turning into….” with a very particular tone).

Your thoughts?

Written by thebeliever07

August 12, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Crappy Taxidermy

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Words fail me….I mean just look at….ok….you see the thing about this site that blows me away is……ok…just look at the photo below and click on it for more.

Enjoy…..as much as you can enjoy something like this. Again…words fail me.

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Written by thebeliever07

August 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Independent Safeguarding Authority

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I used to think that the United States was pretty intense in its fear mongering of all those “what if” scenarios… What if 9/11 were to happen again? What if we ignore the threat to our security and Al-Queda sneaks into the country and kidnaps your children and brainwashes them into zombie sleeper agents?

But the more I read the Guardian and the more I look at the politics of Great Britain, the happier I am to be in Canada.

There has been some concern of a recent proposal put forth by the “Independent Safeguarding Authority”:

Set up in response to the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by school caretaker Ian Huntley in 2002, the Independent Safeguarding Authority will vet all individuals who work with children from October this year, requiring them to register with a national database for a fee of £64.

The Vetting and Barring Scheme is managed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which was set up in response to the 2002 Soham murders, committed by former school caretaker Ian Huntley. It kicks off this October, requiring the 11.3m people across the education, care and health industries who work with children to register – for a £64 fee – on a national database.

Guardian

Philip Pullman, noted children’s author, has stated that he will not comply with any such requests and I think that he hit it right on the head.

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There are several reasons why this form of “security” or “vetting” is ridiculous. First off, when you invite someone to speak at your school, for the most part they are people of some importance: scholars or academics, writers, film-makers, actors, people who have a name. I mean why else would they be invited there. So I’m thinking that most of these types of people are not going to be doing things that are harmful towards children.

Secondly, if these noted persons who are invited into the school are being left in a position where they are on a one on one basis with a child, then your concern should not be directed towards the person who has been invited into the school but the school administration itself and the way they handle your children and their safety.

Third, I am not saying that we should not inspect people who come into schools. This whole issue is in response to a murder that took place after a caretaker at a school attacked two students. If the schools want to require a mandatory check of all bags and/or some kind of metal detection, whatever, by all means go for it.

But to require people to pay money to enter a database, hmm, why not ask them to wear some kind of insignia on their sleeve so that we can identify these persons.

Think about it, what if this starts a precedent where Academics are singled out. It’s a slippery and scary slope.

I’m glad that people like Philip Pullman are speaking out against this type of inane fear mongering. I’m inclined to agree with him as he asked why he:  “should have to pay £64 to a government agency to be given a certificate saying ‘I’m not a paedophile’. It’s so ludicrous that it’s almost funny, but it’s not funny, it’s actually rather dispiriting and sinister.”

What’s scary though is that the current “Children’s Laureate” thinks that writers should comply.

I’m all for the safety of children, nothing is more important. But, this seems like a bit much.

Interested in your thoughts?

*EDIT/UPDATE

Anyone who has “regular” or “intense” contact with children or vulnerable adults will by law have to sign up to the Vetting and Barring Scheme from November 2010.

“Regular” is defined as more than once a month and “intense” as three times a month or more, the Home Office says. BBC.com

Ok, so this seems a bit more reasonable as people who have authority and are likely to be models for students to look up to should be held under a more rigorous standard, as we expect the same checks on our teachers and principals.

I still see this as a bit scary though. At what point do we say enough is enough, should are children be locked up at home and only taught by parents, because no matter how much they vett and interogate there will always be an element that gets through, its horrid to envision, but its true.

Just had a very intense discussion with Mrs. Karriana about how far is too far when it comes to this issue. As much as I respect these types of policies and laws to keep children safe, I worry about the precedent it sets. How much “Think of the children…..” fear mongering can we have and at what civil cost? Something I want people to consider before they attack me for letting the pedophiles into the school system. The Government does not discriminate. It is often very much black/white. Suppose you commit a minor offense as a young adult, you get caught with some pot or something like that, and now you have a record. If policies like the one set above in UK are put forth it sets a precedent that allows for legislation to be passed that prevents anyone with a record from entering school grounds. So now you’re screwed for something early on in life, as if people do not grow up or change or sometimes shit just happens. What if you get caught with a bag that is not your own and heaven forbid the police mess up with evidence, b/c we know that doesn’t happen, what then, you’re punished for life. It’s all or none when it comes to children. Parents are fallible and I’m not saying let rapists into the school, but things happen in life, we have to be weary that in the name of the children, our own civil liberties are not lost. Something to consider.

Written by thebeliever07

July 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

For Worse

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Ok, here goes. I have a long history with this comic strip. For those unaware For Better of For Worse is a long running family comic by Lynne Johnston. The comic ran for 28 years and one of its signature elements is that it aged the characters in “real” time. So as time progressed in our world, so too did it in the characters, a young couple whose family grows and passes through various generations. Her comic is noted for tackling tough issues: marriage, parenthood, homosexuality, death, birth, etc. [ How well it tackles these issues is another matter all together. ]

The comic runs very much like a family sitcom. I think I noticed this comic in my newspaper back when I was a young adult and I would glance at the panels and usually would move on. It never struck me as anything significant, as a child I preferred Peanuts & Marmaduke. About 5 or 6 years ago I was sitting at Chapters during one of my breaks and I picked up a massive anthology of her work, a compendium of 20 years of strips and it somehow infected me. I found myself pouring through the various collections she had released throughout the history of the strip. I found myself looking forward to the events of the family. “Farley is getting old, what’s up with that?” … “Wow, he just came out to his friend, interesting.” … “She’s working with Native Americans up north, didn’t realize they had it so poor.” While the strip is not always politically correct, I mean lets face it, who among us is without a single prejudice or bias; still Lynn Johnston tackled some fairly heavy subjects and it is nice to see a Canadian work of art so popular throughout the world examining the minutia of small town family life.

Recently though, the strip has changed and is not as “progressive” as it once claimed to be.

The comic began in September 1979, and ended the main story on August 30, 2008, with a postscript epilogue the following day. The various family members, all grown up and with children of their own was given some closure. Then, beginning on September 3, 2007,[3] For Better or For Worse changed to a format featuring a mixture of new, old and retouched work, which allowed Johnston to “keep alive her partly autobiographical comic while not having to devote as much time to it.”[1] On September 1, 2008, Johnston began what she calls “new-runs”, restarting her storyline with new art and jokes. The time frame appears to be 26 years before the present day.

Stephen Pastis comic artist and writer of one of the best strips ever made: Pearls Before Swine [ Which I urge you to seek out and enjoy. comics.com & gocomics.com ] made this joke about the new format: In the strip, Pig referred to For Better or For Worse as “that great strip that was gonna retire, but then didn’t, then started running repeats, then didn’t, then ran new ones, but then fixed up the old ones, and now is gonna run new old un-new new ones”.

Ok, so why this blog post on FBoFW you ask? With the new format I and I am sure a few others thought, this will be nice. Her character who started off as a young 20 something wife/mother ended up as a retired book seller, so this “reboot” of her strip into the “classic” era would put Elly back in a more youthful place, providing some more commentary on young women who juggle family and work.

This is not what has happened. One thing that I have noticed throughout this strip is the firm adherence to the “nuclear family” model. Yes, yes, fans will cite the those historic panels and moments where she did tackle issues: homosexuality with Lawrence a friend of Elly’s eldest child Michael who came out to his mother:

week1

I’ll let you reflect on the way that Mrs. Johnston tackles this issue yet still conforms to basic stereotypes of how heterosexuals view homosexuality. Look at the last strip, oh you’re so witty Michael 😦 Ugh!

Anyways, you can see from this series of panels that she does indeed bring up subjects that people encounter every day and for the most part it is done well. I’m not saying it’s perfect but there you go.

Now with this reboot, she was afforded the opportunity to go back and let a whole new generation see how Elly transformed herself from a young house wife whose sole occupation was the household, to a woman who balanced a hectic lifestyle of work (at a bookstore, and subsequently bookstore owner), along with her husband, and children, and grand-children. It was a nice thing to watch her character grow and as much as the Nuclear Model was still emphasized, it did show a woman in the work force and not simply in a domestic capacity.

This “reboot” is what pisses me off. I think Mrs. Johnston has gone senile in her old age and has reverted back to a 1950’s Ward & June Cleaver idealization of the home. Her current strips reflect the standard: HUSBAND WORKS, WOMAN CLEANS AND COOKS model. Let me post a few strips from the past few months and you reflect on what kind of a message she sends to readers and young adults everywhere. Please, post some commentary and lets get some discussion going, it pisses me off so much. Cheers.

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Why work when you can clean and cook, forget your dreams...right?

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You can't be married and feel beautiful about yourself.

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I just sign shit, I cannot think or read or pay bills, I'm only a housewife."

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You know it's your fault for not keeping yourself pretty for me.

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Housewives are desperate and lonely.

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Translation: You're good enough to be a hooker tonight.

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Having a good education and career are nothing unless you're a MRS.

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I think your friends are hot and I've missed the point of this conversation. I'm an idiot husband/man.

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I'm the provider, just ask for your allowance and I'll consider it, now back into the cage with you.

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Cook, Clean, Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

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I think your son might be gay. He's crying a lot, so not manish, he's what 7 or 8 now, shouldn't he be out working and womanizing by now.

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(Loss for words and caption for this one.)

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This one is interesting. In the original series, Michael meets a girl in university who he falls in love with, they end up married and having kids. Lynn has seen fit to go back and rewrite Michael's childhood so that they once encountered each other and "liked" each other, completing that fantasy of the childhood sweetheart, it's nice when things fit into neat little boxes and packages, life is just this simple and uncomplicated isn't it.

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Don't ask me, I'm just a man and can't possibly understand "womanish" feelings and junk.

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You're doing that "thinking" business again, what have I told you about that.

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Your mom was ugly, and not tv ugly, but ugly ugly.

Written by thebeliever07

July 10, 2009 at 9:14 am

Jodi Picoult and the Tragic:

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reynold47Reading an article in the New York Times about Jodi Picoult and the Anxious Parent, a look at a recent book trend:

THE ENDANGERED OR ruined child has emerged as a media entity within a culture that has idealized the responsibilities of parenthood to a degree, as has been exhaustively noted, unprecedented in human history. The more we seek to protect our children, the more we fear the consequences of an inability to do so. Increasingly over the past decade, writers of crime fiction — Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane among many others — have made a recurring subject of children violated by predation, abandonment, neglect.” […] ““I think I gravitate toward these subjects because I’m looking for answers and I don’t have them,” Picoult told me. “But mostly I think it is superstition. There is a part of me that believes that if I think about these issues, if I put myself through the emotional ringer, I somehow develop an immunity for my own family.”

Picoult’s thoughts on putting herself “through the emotional ringer” is something that I often think about when reading literature. I’ve had many different discussions with my friends, most of whom are as passionate as I am about literature and one thing that consistently comes up is how the stories that resonate the most with us, as people, are the ones that are often the most violent, most emotionally crippling, or tragic.

There is no doubt that we all enjoy light comic reads from time to time, but personally, the stories that I re-read over and over again center on the tragedy. Two books that I can read over and over again, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien both rely heavily on tragic and often destructive story lines that take characters into intense and often destructive places. Yet, I turn to these books whenever I seek comfort because I take comfort in these characters and their ability to face these situations, whether they win or lose.

It seems that literature often depends on the Tragic, a way of working through these issues. Random thoughts.

Written by thebeliever07

June 23, 2009 at 8:48 am