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Someday, maybe I'll be an Adorable Rodent... Someday...




Movie Reviews:

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Well, I'm glad that's over

Just got back from finishing my last exam; what a relief it is to be done.

This was a pretty difficult term, in part because whereas I normally need to use Christmas break to rejuvenate after busting my ass all Fall, I didn't get that chance this time around. As a result I was pretty burnt-out by mid-January. Come March I was starting to feel like I was going insane.

But I'm done now, and although it hasn't quite sunk in yet, I've now got four months to relax before getting back on the beast once again.

Although, now that I'm done exams I have to clean up my post-exam bedroom/study area; a task worthy of Heracles, if such a thing can be found on this plane of existence. (My God I'm a slob around this time of year...)


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 10:27 PM
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Friday, April 22, 2005

Another exam down, and this time it went swimmingly well. It was almost, dare I say it, fun...

See, throughout the course we had to write (in addition to the main paper) five short, two-page essays in which we take a quote from a secondary text and pull it through a critical analysis of a primary text (this is a lot more work than it sounds, particularly with the way I write essays). During this exam, we were allowed to bring anything we liked -- study notes, essays, anything (even, at first, other people to write our essays for us, though this was later ruled out).

Well, just so happens that three of the four exam questions directly related to the theses of my short papers. Most of my time writing the exam was just paraphrasing (or even copying, in some cases) the material I'd already written in my short essay booklet. I daresay that makes this exam the smoothest I'd ever written, though judging by the disbelieving chuckles elicited from my fellow students when I went to collect a second exam booklet with which to finish writing the feeling was far from universal.

So, that's over with, and it went much better than I thought it would given I didn't get any sleep last night. In fact, sleeping is what I should probably be doing right now, rather than writing this blog.

Can't sleep, though. Clown'll eat me.

As an aside, I'm shocked -- shocked, I say! -- at the fact that nobody's commented on either of my previous two posts. Okay, sure, maybe you don't feel like tackling a heavy issue such as the new pope being a former Hitler Youth... But superhero penises? What isn't there to love about a discussion about superhero penii? (That link, by the way, is progressively un-work safe. And in spanish. But worth the look-see, especially if you're at all familiar with the atrocious works of Rob Liefeld.)

C'mon, people, get with the program.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 11:02 AM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

My stress levels are way up, and my appetite's way down as a result, and I haven't been getting enough sleep (but then, when do I ever get enough sleep?), but that's two of four exams done and over with.

And now for some very brief commentary about the new Pope, Benedict the BigNumberedth.

I'm not Catholic and I never have been. But I don't enjoy disliking the Catholic Church as an institution. Seriously, I don't get any gratification out of bitching about them; I'd much rather be able to see the Catholic church as a positive influence in the world, as it has been on many occasions in the past.

Unfortunately, they had to go and put this guy in charge. Never mind catching up with the 21st century, the Catholic church is now going to have to work hard just to stay in the 20th with this guy in charge. (Ratzinger... Honestly, I'm still having trouble swallowing the idea that a FORMER NAZI is the NEW POPE. Sure, he was a kid at the time, but who the hell thought this was a good idea?! Cognitive dissonance, where are you when I need you?)

The good news: The guy's really old. Chances are he won't hang on as long as JP2 did. Also, just because the church leadership is screwed up doesn't mean the rest of the Catholic world has to be; the Catholic churches of Latin America, f'rinstance, have had a long history of ignoring Italy when deciding their stance on things.

The bad news: It doesn't take someone all that long to screw something up when he's got enough power. (See Bush II, to beat a dead horse a little further.) Also, having this guy at the head will just end up pushing the institution further away from the rest of the world, which will limit the potential good that could come from such a powerful and influential organization.

Anyway, for something a little more lighthearted, if you've got some time to waste (in other words, if you're not currently studying for exams), you might want to take a look at XGenStudio's free online flash game, Motherload. As addictive as it is simple.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 10:06 PM
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+++++


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Incredible Moments in Comic Books

I don't think any commentary is necessary. These images speak for themselves.





And for something a little more freudian...



This last one isn't technically from a comic book, though it is tangentially related. I just couldn't resist including a pic...



A Ratboy's Notebook, now with 80% more penile humour.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 5:29 AM
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+++++


Thursday, April 14, 2005

One exam down, three to go.

Here's some filler-fluff to take up space until I can think of something brilliant to say.

Your
Ultimate Roleplaying Purity Score
CategoryYour ScoreAverage
Hacklust54.72%
Will kill for XP
53.5%
Sensitive Roleplaying15.19%
There is no player. There is only.... Zuul.
54.4%
GM Experience16.67%
Worldbuilder, storyteller... Master.
69.4%
Systems Knowledge71.15%
Local rules guru
90.3%
Livin' La Vida Dorka33.33%
Carries dice in pocket 'just in case'
63%
You are 40.86% pure
Average Score: 68.7%


Frankly, I'm rather disappointed in my Systems Knowledge score... But then, the quiz was unfairly biased toward printed (that is, paper&binding) RPGs. I mean, what about Wushu? Paladin? Dead Inside? Donjon? Vs. Monsters? Or any one of the many other award-winning electronic-published RPGs available? Frankly, if the quiz had been more fair in its coverage, I think my score would have been better (that is, lower).


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 11:15 AM
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+++++


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Playing Catch-up: Woolf's Very Own Room

May the real Judith Shakespeare please stand up!

Reading Woolf's A Room of One's Own (for the second time) had special resonance with me this time around. Specifically because of the section on Judith Shakespeare.

Hmm... On second thought, resonance isn't the right word. Significance would perhaps be better. Or possibly magnitude. No, no, not magnitude. Feh, I don't like Significance, but I'll use that anyway. ("Oh, I wish there were some words in the world that were not the words I always hear!" Snow White exclaimed loudly.)

Anyway, the reason for the special significance this time around is because of my Later Ren. Lit. class. I'll assume that anyone who's read this far is familiar with the story of Woolf's fictional Judith Shakespeare.

Ah, hell, I'll tell the story anyway, albeit in a dangerously pithy form: Woolf muses on the possibility that Shakespeare had a sister, gifted in the same ways as he, but who was prevented from following her calling. In this tale, Judith's interest in the stage, unlike her brother's, faces powerful obstacles in the form of men and family who refuse her access into the world of theatre. The theatre manager's pity results in her pregnancy and her life ends, as it inevitably must, in suicide.

Her point here is that women were, in Shakespeare's day as well as her own, silenced and stifled by society on both macro and microcosmic scale. Women, just like Judith, are held firmly within their roles of a woman as child bearer, wife and property, so that creative expression is a difficult thing to achieve.

Well, here's the interesting thing; as I discovered this term in Dr. Bell's class, there really was a Judith Shakespeare. Sort of. (And no, I'm not referring to Shakespeare's daughter.) Only her name was Aemelia Lanyer.

Lanyer's own real-life tale is as follows:
-Lanyer is born in 1569. As an Italian Jew, her genealogy was not particularly popular in England at the time.
-She became the mistress of Lord Hunsdon, Queen Elizabeth's Lord Chamberlain and patron of Shakespeare's acting company.
-Much like Judith, Lanyer became pregnant at the age of twenty-three with Hunsdon's child. However, rather than Hunsdon, she marries the Queen's musician, Alphonso Lanyer, in 1592. He was Catholic, incidentally, which made her the Italian-Jewish wife of a Catholic -- an almost (but not entirely) fool-proof recipe for marginalization.
-Although the Queen enjoys her poetry and she manages to eke a meagre living as a writer in the court, her husband loses all of her money in a series of foolish investments. The Queen does little to help her, and in fact Lanyer's most famous work (Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum) is written ten years after Elizabeth's death. Lanyer was forty at the time.

Lanyer follows Judith's story pretty closely; she knew everyone as both a court figure and an artist, and managed to ply her writing craft despite pregnancy and losing pretty much everything. Rather than kill herself, however, she forged on, crafting herself as a friend of the labourers, writing for her entire life.

None of this changes the importance of the message of Woolf's manifesto: namely, the constant calling into question of literary history, and the aggressive quest to ensure maginalized groups have a fair share of it. Nevertheless, I found Lanyer's story, when paralleled with the fictional Judith's, to be enlightening and even somewhat heartening.

Though I suppose your mileage may vary.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 2:19 PM
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+++++


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Playing Catch-up: Of Suffragettes and Plays

Everyone else has made comments about the play, so I guess I'll follow suit. Personally, I think the reading went quite well; it certainly attracted a lot more attention than I'd been expecting. (Still waiting on that review you promised, Dr. J...) I'm still not too keen on the whole idea of "performing" plays with script in hand -- something about that just rubs my inner thespian (or what's left of him after all these years of neglect) the wrong way -- but for what it was I was pretty satisfied with how it all turned out. Save for my mark, which was, in my not-so-humble opinion, about three points less than it should have been. Still, I shouldn't complain too much, since it was still a lot more appealing than doing an exam.

Remarking on the play itself... Was this a typical example of the Suffragette plays? The entire thing seemed somewhat... well, overblown and unsubtle. Of course, most of this can be attributed to the fact that it's a comedy, but it nevertheless struck me as a tad unsophisticated as far as drama is concerned. Perhaps I'm being uncharitable.

A word on the comedy itself. The fact that it was a comedy was pretty obvious to me, but reading it through it didn't strike me as very funny. I mean, I've read funny plays before (I've even written them), but while reading this it, at most, managed to provoke a slight chuckle or wry grin. Watching it being performed, though, was different -- as we rehearsed the humour became much more apparent. We still should have had a loaf of bread, though.

As for next year, and Dr. Jones's idea about doing an actual production... Hmm... Right now, I'm inclined to say that I'd be willing to return to playing Horace (and actually memorize the lines this time... even that god-awfully long speech at the end), though really the only way to know for sure is to wait and see how busy I am next year. I have a nasty habit of putting more on my plate than I can handle.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 1:31 PM
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+++++


(I tried to post this earlier today, but blogger was being uncooperative.)

Playing Catch-Up 2: Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale is a very convincing tale. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Atwood is definitely my favourite of the authors we’ve read in this class. Her prose is largely flawless and her mosaic-style narrative is quite immersive. She manages to write her novel as a dire warning, scathing satire, and tour de force at the same time, without having any of these aspects of the novel damage any others.

From a reader’s standpoint, this makes the novel quite delightful. From the perspective of Jesse the Lit. Critic, this is somewhat problematic; I find the critic in me drawn most to narrative discord, pieces that don’t quite mesh together and are compelling as a result. (One example would be the way in which genres are mixed, and the results that this has, such as the mixing of realist and mythic narratives in Tay John, or the samurai and western film in The Magnificent Seven. Another example is when a narrative consciously or unconsciously contradicts itself, or has conflicting ideologies battling against one another within the subtext of a narrative, such as with Barthelme’s Snow White or the comic book Kingdom Come). Of course, this is only really a problem when I have to come up with an essay topic, since it means I usually end up having to deal with the manifest rather than the latent content of a text. Which is what I did when I wrote my essay on this novel. But I’m getting way off on a tangent here.

Ahem.

One of the things that I found very chilling was the reflective, lethargic voice Atwood usually uses for Offred, such as that she uses when she describes the commander fucking the “lower part” of her body, rather than her. We want her to display bitterness and rage against the system that oppresses her, but in her situation (even we as readers are forced to admit) such emotions are self-destructive, and the only avenue left to her is this detachment and alienation from her own body, from her circumstances.

It’s interesting to put the novel back into the context it was written (back in the ominous year of 1984!!!!). The debates within the feminist movement(s) at the time were, I must admit, not something I paid much attention to – being all of, oh, 8 at the time, my interests were mainly He-Man and ninja battles. However, my mother’s own ideas on the subject were crystallized in that period, and it’s through her I received my introduction to feminism in later years.

Though I’ve since left many of her ideas on feminism, like on most things, long behind – she’s quite intelligent, but much more conservative than myself. Not that any of you would care, I’m sure. I’m just trying to build context. And I’m getting off topic again – I really need more sleep, I think. Anyway, the point is that I’ve witnessed the mentality that would lead to an individual allying her own feminist ideals with highly conservative ideals that are largely incompatible with feminism save for their views on pornography, at least to a certain extent; while the comparison must necessarily remain qualified, I saw a lot of my own mother in Offred’s.

I think Atwood’s main point here is that a movement must never get complacent. History tends to move in cycles, and when one group lobbies for social change, hard-fought ground earned is never entirely safe. Progressive moments are usually followed by regressive tides as the opposition attempts to take back ground that it sees as having lost; the current conservative tide in the States is a good example, and one that makes the novel feel very relevant today.

Two additional comments:
1. I’ve read elsewhere some criticism levelled by certain that the 10 years given for the rise of Gilead is too narrow a period of time for such radical changes. In my own humble opinion, poppycock. For one thing, the novel assumes that certain changes had already been taking place prior to these 10 years – pollution nearing a critical mass stage, for example. Beyond that, if you want to find tremendous social change occurring in a short period of time, look no further than the French, Russian, American, etc. (really any country’s) Revolution. Admittedly, in each case these changes require groups and ideas to exist and be in circulation within the culture for some time prior, but then the religious ultra-right have been around for a while too, haven’t they?
2. As someone from a Baptist family, I find the idea of “militant Baptist cells” downright hilarious. Right up there with the scrabble fetish.


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 12:40 AM
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+++++


Monday, April 04, 2005

Playing Catch-up: George Eliot's Adam Bede

It's been way too long since I last posted here. I've been distracted by personal issues, et al. I'll be spending the next couple of days playing catch-up and covering some of the works dealt with in my Women's Writing class that have, alas, been thus far neglected here.

I'll start with Adam Bede.

In class, I made a comment about how this was not a complex novel, and I was promptly shot down for it. (Those from the class reading this may not remember this; understandable, given how much time has since passed.) I'd like to take a few moments to clarify exactly what I meant by this.

I was here referring to the narrative scheme Eliot employs in writing the novel. See, prior to the 19th century, the very idea of what constituted a novel was still in a great deal of negotiation, so that many authors used innovative narrative techniques in telling their story. One 18th-C. novel whose title currently escapes me, for example, has a character die and then the novel itself goes into mourning, so to speak, by following the death with an entirely black page. Episodic techniques were experimented with as well, such as Johnson's Rasselas. Yet another example would be the web-narrative/unreliable narrator combo employed in Castle Rackrent, which I've brought up already in a previous blog entry. Some of these techniques proved successful, others not so much, but the point is that there was a great deal of experimentation going on.

By the time of the Romantics the novel as a concept and medium has become largely stratified, and the only noteworthy experimentation I can think of is done in terms of genre, rather than narrative structure. Realism and the third-person narrative were the name of the game. This stayed pretty firmly in place until the modernists, and particularly Joyce, made their way to the fore in the early 20th-C, and things like stream-of-consciousness and a-linear plotlines became popular methods of experimenting with narrative voice.

When Eliot wrote Adam Bede, she wasn't trying to push the envelope on the form; she uses a pretty-typical-for-the-time "dear reader" technique that attempts to make the novel feel like a story being told to someone, rather than a world unto itself. She also attempts to present the story as something that is literally true, by occasionally injecting the narrative with her own authorial voice ("But I gathered from Adam Bede, to whom I talked of these matters in his old age"), which is another popular technique of the time (due, at least in part, to the prevalent belief in the 17th and early 18th C. that novelized fiction was morally unhealthy, being base deception.) The way she builds her characters, though she adds typically Eliotonian flourishes, follow the usual strategies found in Realist narratives: central characters are, with the exception of Dinah, quite well-rounded, while marginal characters are flat and one-dimensional. (A counter-example would be the technique, often employed in post-modern fiction, of presenting an event/chapter through the eyes of an otherwise marginal/background character who becomes rounded through the voicing of his or her perspective.)

None of this means that Adam Bede isn't a good book, or Eliot a good author. I wasn't trying to say that enjoying it is BadWrongFun. I enjoy Eliot myself, though I prefer Silas Marner to this book. I was merely saying Eliot was a pretty typical 19th-Century author, so one shouldn't expect much by way of radical experimentation in authorial techniques. Just like every other 18th-Century author I can think of.

So...

Complex = alinear, non-realist narrative.
Simple = linear, realist narrative.
Complex != the only kind of good fiction.
Simple != BadWrongFun.

I hope I've made myself clear. Should any of you still be reading this, you may now feel free to shoot me down again. :)


Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 9:24 PM
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