Saturday, October 31, 2009

Against all odds...

Co-written by Mike Paradiso
Although the reaction to Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane were overwhelmingly negative, and most of the responses we received in our book reviews reflected fervent abhorration of the book and its characters, there were a couple of cheerful optimists to help us see the sunny side of Donaldson.

One student writes, "I think Donaldson's 'Lord Fould's Bane' is, while not the best example of fantasy writing, an interesting addition to the genre." I'm going to go out on a limb and take "interesting" to mean "wonderful", thus transforming this review into a positive one! This student goes on to write, "Gone are the all-knowing, majestic, woodland elves, mystical wizards running around with, at best, ambiguous motives fueling their journeys. The Covenant series fills the fantasy genre, or at least adds to it, with a sense of darkness, a sense that challenges the norms of the genre". Is this cup half full or what?!

Another student writes, "... there are many uncanny similarities between Donaldson's 'Land' and Tolkien's Middle Earth.... The parallels are so pervasive as to seem almost like plagiarism at times, though it seems to me more in the spirit of a homage to Tolkien's epic." I admire this student's positive thinking, however, Donaldson denies ANY influence by Tolkien. He says he writes after the style of Faulkner, which is CLEARLY reflected in his books... NOT!

Mixed with negative comments, one student finds some of Donaldson's writing agreeable saying, "As I began reading Lord Foul's Bane, I was very interested because it was new and different from wat I normally read. The first chapter grabbed my interest with its suspense. But as I..." and that is as positive as that review got... giving Donaldson a shining 2 1/2 stars.

The final positive note comes from an optimistic reader who writes, "I actually liked the ending of Lord Foul's Bane. At first it really did annoy me. I felt like it was just an easy way to end the novel and confirmed every one of my thoughts about Donaldson being a terrible writer. However, the more I thought about it, the more it interested me. I like that it is still unclear if 'The Land' is real or just a part of some vivid dream Covenant had. It makes me want to continue reading his other novels in order to find out the truth about 'The Land'. I also liked that Donaldson makes it seem like Covenant was slipping OUT of consciousness as he goes back into reality. Normally, we would watch he main character WAKE UP... not the other way around. After re-thinking the ending, I've developed a small hope for the next two novels in the chronicles."

As it is clearly shown, positive reviews, being few and far between, were generally tinged with a bit of negativity as well. Readers keep going... it HAS to get better... right?

Tolkien and Pedagogy

As a future teacher and a fan of Tolkien, it would be amazing to teach LOTR in a class. Although it may be unrealistic to teach all three books in one school year, I think that this book affords ample opportunity for great activities and active learning.
One thing that I would love to do with students while reading this trilogy would be to have students map character's progress. Tolkien provides maps of middle earth with these works, and I think it would be fun to have students map all of the characters progress during reading. I think that this would make the work more solid for many students by having a visual representation of the characters journey.
Another fun project would be to have wall text, which are visual representations of various characters in the novels. In order to remember people, students would take butcher paper and outline a person. They would then color it in with appropriate characteristics of the character and write in key quotes and features of the person. If the person had a big heart, like Samwise, they might make a large heart on the character. This is just one example of how a wall text might look.
If a student wanted to represent a place, such as Lothlorien, a student might draw a picture of what Lothlorien might look like. The trees and boats might be present in the picture.
Wall text is a great idea for longer works like LOTR so that students can remember people and places that they might easily forget, as Tolkien's works are incredibly detailed and long. These would be on the wall, and would serve as reminders to students when they have quizzes or writing projects about the novels.
These are just a couple of ideas that I have concerning pedagogy and LOTR. I hope to further elaborate on this subject further when I do my final paper.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Benny Goodman's Adventures in Comics did happen

from left to right: Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman




The comic strip about the adventures of Benny Goodman's rise to fame did in fact actually happen in real life. There are a few aspects of the comic that did not really happen at all in Benny Goodman's life, of which I will touch upon and give some insight into.


Benny Goodman, who is known both as a great jazz musician and as the "King of Swing" did not become known as that overnight. In the first panel of the comic (copyright restictions prevent me from posting the actual comic), Benny Goodman and his Orchestra are shown during 1934 at a concert at the Broadway Music Hall. As it appears, it seems the people who are watching are very disgusted by the music, as from the grotesque looks on a few of the audience's faces. One woman, who probably seems sympathetic, says it is musician's music, called "swing." When Benny Goodman first started playing as a leader with his own orchestra, the popular music of the time was very romantic music, sweet, sugary love songs (ie. Bing Crosby). This was something out of the ordinary to play this type of music in public. Black bands had been playing it for years, but because of the discrimination of the time, they did not get their due for many years. The second panel also shows the same confrontation that Goodman and his Orchestra encountered. To the romantic music lovers, they hated this music because you couldn't dance to it.

By 1935, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra headed out for a tour that would lead him and his band to the West Coast of the United States. The band was exhausted, tired and ready to give up playing the music they loved to play. That all changed, because the kids in Los Angeles were buying Goodman's records and listening to his radio shows. By the time they went back to New York later in the year, as depicted in the third panel, Benny Goodman became a huge star. Almost every concert they went to, the kids would be standing outside in line waiting to get in. Once they got inside wherever the concert was being held, they would be dancing in the aisles while people would be watching the dancers from their seats. It was truly a "madhouse," as one of the young kids says in the third panel.

The fourth and last panel is dedicated to Benny Goodman's small groups, of which will be forever noted in history books. Benny Goodman, although not one of the first white musicians to play with black musicians, was one of the first to present them in public. The certain lineup of the small group in the last panel did not actually exist in real life, although all of these musicians did play with Goodman at one time or another. Even the musicians in this particular lineup are actually caricatures of their original selves. In reality, Count Basie, who was somewhat a bit overweight in real life, is depicted as thin. Only Lionel Hampton's and Benny Goodman's caricatures are anything what they looked like in real life. I can't say about the other men in the band, as I have seen only a few pictures of what they looked like.
Anyways, this comic I think was meant to perserve Goodman and his real life adventures. It was released in an edition of either a magazine or comic book called "Picture News" in 1946, of which would mark the 10th anniversary of Benny Goodman's popularity in the music world. I am glad that such a comic was perserved for future generations who may want to learn about Benny Goodman or vintage jazz music in particular.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

fantasy/armitt

Even though “The Fellowship of the Rings” was a fantasy novel I felt as if there was a lot of a “real world” tendency in it. Such as how everything is all well and good in the shire until somebody is given a ring which holds a lot of power. People (hobbits) are taken over by the power that the ring holds. Also the way Tolkien put so much effort in the history and the background of the book it was as if I was reading about a story in a real place and time. Having their own language and land with troubles and success like the real world made it very interesting for me to read.
At first I did not appreciate the details that were put into the novel, but as the story unfolded I realized how important they were. The details also helped me visualize each part of the story much more efficiently.
The ending of the story was unique in the way that it ends on a sad note. This also shows real world facts, ending in life are normally not fun or happy. When the fellowship splits up in the end it left me surprised and wondering what would happen next in the trilogy with just the two of them.
I just wanted to throw in the main difference that I saw between the movie and novel. This difference was the lack of detail in the movie in order to shorten it a great deal, but I feel as if it was for the best so the people watching it would not get bored and the main idea of the book was still the main idea of the movie and the director did not stray from it in my opinion.

Growing up I was never forced to read and take books seriously. Normally I would spend time outside playing and then eventually doing some indoor activities during winter time. So when asked about authors and books I never really have a good answer or background to go on. Armitt did a descent job in my opinion introducing the general idea of fantasy. At our age or generation I did not really know much about some of the books or authors she was talking about. This was mainly because what she was talking about happened in the 19th century and early to mid 20th century, I am too young to know any references from that era and nr do I really care about the in-depth detail of what they were writing about. She did well at trying to give the roots and definition of the topic but it was still hard for me to understand it all.
Aritt did talk about Harry Potter which made me a little happier since this was one of the series that I have actually read and understood. It would have been nice if she used more examples from the past twenty years or so that maybe we would know something about.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Super Hero Syndrome

Comics have been around for a while, a very long time in one way or another. However, they seem to be most popular in a time of great strife or of war. It is during these times that people need a form of escapism.

Superman came around following World War I and the Great Depression, a time in which Americans were dealing with horrible circumstances. It is during this time that Superman had the perfect entrance; people needed a hero, someone to make their problems disappear for even just a moment.

Also at this time, there was a portion of the Work Projects Administration that was dedicated to the arts: the Federal Arts Project. Part of the Federal Arts Project was dedicated to artists that did comics. Later, as the nation approached World War II, those artists were used to create propaganda. By the time that was necessary, people were hooked by the comics they were reading.

Superman was an All American hero who represented everything the government wished its citizens to covet; physical fitness, self supported, a problem solver, and a Robin Hood of the people.

Now America is at war with the Middle East (though I cannot really fathom why we are still at it, but that is beside the point) and both D.C. and Marvel comics are taking their 'old' comics and making them into movies; Watchmen, Xmen, Spiderman, the Hulk, Ironman, and so many others. The same principle applies now as it did in the Great Depression; we need escapism and hero stories to help us deal with the terrors of war and the economy.

My opinion on the "Second Skin" Movie

To me, this movie felt very doom-and-gloom about the whole gaming community. No example could explain this better than the mother who started the 12-step program for 'addicted' gamers. She asserted that excessive gaming was equal to excessive drinking and that nearly all gamers play games too much, saying that the only way to get out of it is to go through the same 12-step program as an alcoholic. Mind you, she was a 'recovered' alcoholic herself.

Needless to say, I was absolutely horrified, especially as she talked about her son who committed suicide. I have always been interested in medicine and as I listened to her talk more, the itching in the back of my mind increased. It wasn't until after class did I realize that she was a nearly classical example of Munchhausen Syndrome, a disease in which the caretaker ends up making their patient sick. In the case of this woman, she wanted the doctors to say that the gaming was the cause of her sons manic depression. She dragged him from doctor to doctor to doctor, further upsetting him, until she found the answer she wanted to hear.

Put yourself in her sons shoes for a moment: your mother is insisting that something you take pleasure in (could be games, movies, books, music, etc) is causing your supposed mental illness and is relentless in finding someone who agrees with her, successfully further alienating you from your own family.

I hate to say it, but the woman smothering her grown child like that was more likely the cause of his suicide. Perhaps she should have backed off, realized that she, in fact, was mentally ill as well. Instead, she now is asserting her will on other gamers who (by their own testament) could have done far better on their own, not being insulted and belittled by that mentally ill woman.
Perhaps this woman needs to take a step back, adjust her focus, and see who she is and where her mental state is. It saddens me that people like that can go so long without assessing their place in the world.

Monday, October 26, 2009

There and Back Again: An Addict's Tale

The Lord of the Rings covers many various themes throughout the trilogy: brotherhood, spirituality, good vs. evil. In class we covered many of these themes and beat them to death in discussion and in-class writings. We never really touched on a theme that I found to be prominent throughout the three books: addiction. Tolkien claims to not have any sort of premeditated social comentaries inserted into the books but I don't know if I can possibly ignore the fact that the Hobbits are definitely going through problems that seem like drug addiction.

Bilbo's reaction to Gandalf's taking of the Ring and making sure it goes to Frodo is one of the most prominent parts of the series that touches on addiction. According to helpguide.org , a non-profit health website, some mental and emotional signs of addiction include "increased irritability, agitation and anger, paranoia, delusions, and lowered threshold for violence." During the scene I've chosen from The Fellowship of the Ring Bilbo seems to have many if not all of these symptoms towards Gandalf. He becomes suspicious and annoyed of Gandalf even suggesting leaving the Ring behind for Frodo to watch over.

The more the Ring is put on Frodo it seems to consume him more and more. The burden becomes heavier both mentally and physically. Gollum is a character that seems to be the user so consumed by his addiction that it is all he cares about. He killed for it and is willing to do anything for it, much like an avid drug addict.

This theme never deteriorates but is prominent even to the destruction of the Ring. Frodo journeys for three books to destroy his addiction, but in the end he seems to "relapse". He does not let go of the Ring even when he's about to finish his task and can't bear to part with it. It is only Gollum's strong lust for the Ring that destroys it.

I may be going out on a limb with this blog, but I've always felt this theme was not only prominent but also one of the stronger themes of the story. Tolkien may claim to have no premeditated themes or societal reflections but I don't know if I completely believe him.

You Can't Force Fantasy

I took this the major author’s course attempting to expand my reading interests. I’ve always picked up The Hobbit by Tolkien but as soon as I’d get to check it out, I would decide to put it back. I just wasn’t sure if I had the time to read it or if I was ready for it. I just really never had much of an interest in Tolkien or his writing. I wanted to change that. I thought that maybe if I was graded on reading, then it would actually motivate me to try fantasy. I mean I have read Harry Potter’s series but I wanted to go beyond the adolescent reading level. I’ve always just seen fantasy in the form of its stereotype: knights, a journey, dragons, and a great battle scene. None of that stuff really interested me too much, but something still made me want to try it.
I walked into the classroom without any prior experience. I have never seen any of The Lord of the Rings movies and I definitely have never read the novels. I struggled a lot with the readings. Some days I would sit in class and listen to the discussions without being able to follow everything. There is so much meticulous detail in his writing that it was very difficult for me to get through. It wasn’t like reading a Shakespeare play or anything but it certainly wasn’t easy. I think that it was especially hard to get into such a heavy series, in a short amount of time. I began to realize that you can’t force fantasy. I wasn’t sure how interested in the genre I was and I still don’t know. I have wondered that if I read The Lord of The Rings series at my own pace, I would be able to enjoy it better.
It was suggested in class and by a few people on the discussion board, to try watching the movies. I watched The Fellowship of The Ring, after only reading halfway through the novel. To my surprise, I loved it! I wanted to get back to read the book immediately. It was kind of like reinforcement for me. I’m usually not the kind of reader that uses spark notes or watches a movie to help me get through a book but it was actually very helpful.
There are a lot of things that I did enjoy about The Lord of The Rings. I thought that Middle Earth was such a fascinating place. It’s incredible that an author can create entire cultures, new creatures, and a completely different world all together. As a new reader of Tolkien and of fantasy in general, I would have to say that I am going to continue reading the genre.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Games in the Palm of Your Hand- good or bad?

In class today, Professor Simon mentioned iPhones and other cellphones that now have video games on them at a person can play without the use of a console or outlet.

I too once thought about buying games for my phone, then realized that the $7.99 Verizon wanted to charge me to have unlimited use of Tetris on my phone was just ridiculous. I can go to the video game shop in Dunkirk, (Gamerz Haven) and possibly spend $5 on a cartridge for my original NES. This made me think why people would need games on their phones anyway.

Yes, I'm sure having those time consumer right at your finger tips is an easy way to pass the time while traveling, but increasingly, people are using them at times when they should be doing something else. For example, I have a friend who has Guitar Hero on her phone and usually only played it while she was at work in a retail store. Working in retail myself, I know there are times when you don't have customers or work to be done, but I know if I was ever caught playing a game on my cellphone, or using my cellphone at all, my job would be on the line.

The question that I have is then: Why do people need constant entertaining with moving objects, noises and flashing lights? Have the whole world developed ADD?

I believe Americans, I can't lump the rest of the world in this, are so used to being business all the time, the idea of having a chance for pure relaxation and turning one's brain off may be kind of scary. We must be constantly thinking and doing something.

This may not be true to all cellphone game users. May be it is more of the need to have the hands busy. We are a country of figit-ers! When I quit smoking cigarettes, the one problem I had most was figuring out what to do with my hands. The motion of my arm bringing my hand, holding a cigarette, to my lips and repeat became second nature and stopping this motion seemed unnatural. I believe this is the direction that cellphones are going. You can ask young adults now and they will tell you how lost they would be without their cellphone. We depend on a small, handheld device so so much, the concept must be to see how much of a consumer;s life can be packed into its programming. The next thing you know, you'll be able to file your taxes through text messages.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fantasy Fiction: "An Introduction"

After reading Armitt's book on fantasy fiction, I felt about as knowledgeable in the subject as I was before reading it. While her writing seems full of information and insight, I feel some of it is opinionated, unresearched, and really scattered. While reading the book, not only was I confused as to her logic in the order of explaination, but also did not know alot of the material she was rattling off. I just don't understand how I am supposed to pick anything up from a book full of examples that I can't relate to. As a book about introducing someone to fanrasy fiction, Armitt seems to be "swimming in the deep end" without giving myself a chance to learn how to swim.



I am not against Fantasy Fiction, I actually find it to be quite interesting some times, such as Lord of the Rings, but this book made the topic really frustrating. I can't say that I actually have learned anything about Fantasy Fiction, because in order for me to learn about something, personally, it has to be presented in an interesting way. Also with the examples she uses, it seems that I should already have a basic understanding of fantasy fiction in order to get..... a basic understanding of fantasy fiction....



Even looking past the fact that she chooses in depth subject matter, there is still the fact that Armitt is all over the place in her presentation of knowledge. From guessing hidden themes in Lord of the Rings, to explaining how Frankenstein is actually fantasy fiction she jumps back and forth between novels and ideas so quickly that it becomes hard to follow very fast.



This post may not be exactly about Fantasy Fiction itself, but it definitely will save those who are looking for some good information on the subject from a bad read.

Armitt & Fantasy

Prior to reading Lord of the Rings and Armitt’s novel on Fantasy Fiction, I had read a few fantasy books myself, mostly in middle and high school (Harry Potter, Series of Unfortunate Events, Chronicles of Narnia, Nancy Drew, etc.). However, while reading her book, I wasn’t able to relate to many of the novels Armitt discussed like Paradise Lost, Animal Farm, The Grass is Singing, Utopia, Gulliver’s Travels, and several more. Because of this, I didn’t have too much of a background about them therefore, I wasn’t really able to agree or disagree with some of the points she was trying to make about fantasy fiction. Of course I think Armitt should receive credit for her work, but in my opinion, this book was extremely hard to get through and I couldn’t read more than five pages at a time without wanting to put the book down.

Although Armitt stated many valid points throughout her book, and used many examples of other novels to provide us with several definitions of fantasy (like utopia, allegory fable, space opera, magic realism), my own views on it haven’t really changed. I do enjoy reading some fantasy fiction novels but I feel like my interest in them declined right around the time film makers started transforming these books into movies. It’s funny because I just noticed that every book mentioned above has also been made into a film. It’s a faster and easier way to learn what the story’s about. You pay nine buck to sit in a movie theater for a couple of hours versus spending a week of your time reading a book. But as we all know, the books are always better. Out of the different kinds of genres to choose from though, I probably wouldn’t grab the one located on the fantasy shelf. I am more interested in literature that applies to everyday life, that contains factual knowledge about the world, and that I’m able relate to with my own experiences.

Oh Stephen Donaldson, you slay me (and my class)

The course of this blog is to be co-written by myself and Jessica Shaffer.

Let's face reality, Stephen Donaldson is to writing as the Guillotine was to Marie Antoinette. That is to say he isn't necessarily bad at what he does, but it tends to kill the spirit of whoever is reading it. We the readers see a wildly despicable anti-hero, being, well, wildly despicable. Jessica and I gathered a series of reviews, in an exercise that mirrored Amazon's book review feature. Here are some inklings of thought from the readers.

One reader states " There is no way around it, Donaldson's first Thomas Convenent book is terrible." Firstly, Covenant + Convent ( a living place for nuns) yields the spelling error of Convenent, as well as a funny mental image. My aim however, is not to belittle my peers, but more so to give their opinions a home. And what a way to start a process, the reader goes on to say "the first 30 pages read in one sitting gave me a headache, because I was forcing myself to move foreword." Doesn't that just sound like a book that you would recommend to all of your friends? "Oh I read this book the other day, the main character is a pessimistic leper with a serious tendency to swear hellfire and other sorts of balderdash!"... Oprah would be proud of these book reviews.

Alex L, another reviewer states "this book was not worth it. In the amount of time I spent reading it, I could have been ironing my socks or spending time at Jo-Ann Fabrics." I also often find myself at Jo-Ann fabrics when a poor book presents itself to be read. I hope you're sensing a pattern in the book reviews. (get it, pattern, Jo-Ann fabrics, hmm? hmm? yes you know its clever.)

Paul B loves Donaldson like Alex Rodriguez loves drug tests. In an emotionally evocative review, he accuses Donaldson of "poorly mimicking Tolkien." However, I feel as if Tolkien himself would roll in his grave had he heard His name and Donaldson's in the same sentence. Tolkien created a world, in every sense of the word. Donaldson crapped out the Land, and it's a steamer. When the stimulating force of your book relies on secondary characters to progress the story, you've got more issues than the economy.

The last of these glowing reviews is beautifully satirical. "In a bland setting with one dimensional characters, uninspired names, Dark Lords who seriously need to fire their speech writers ( be dismayed!) and a hero who is anything but heroic, Stephen Donaldson crafts '"one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time.'" This review made me emotional, the the authors verbiage was as potent as onions. He couldn't be more correct. Donaldson uses unclear and unimaginative compound names, Foamfollower and CaveWight are an example, as well as High Lord Kevin, the desecrator. I mean lets be serious, if someone were to ask you to perform a "Ritual of Desecration" how quick would you be to find anything else to do. Painting my cat or bathing my ceilings comes to mind.

So yes, almost 75% of my class submitted negative reviews, but were they really in err? Desperate Times may call for desperate measures, but the group consensus is that the times are not this desperate for a novel this disparaging.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Lost and SyFy

My experience with Science Fiction literature is very sparse. My knowledge pretty much ends with some novels read in high school. I enjoy reading, but reading a science fiction novel isn't as appealing to me as watching a SF movie or TV show.

As someone stated in an earlier blog the SyFy channel is mostly low budget (and let's face it) crappy made for TV movies, such as Mosquito Man and The Gingerdead Man. While these movies are painful to watch and predictable, there are many interesting SF movies and shows out there.

The SyFy channel airs re-runs of the TV show Lost. Lost is one of my favorite shows of all-time, so I'm mostly biased, but this show does a great job at entertaining and intriguing it's audience, while making you think at the same time. Yes, the show can become very confusing, frustrating, and complex, but isn't that what SF is supposed to be? If Lost was a book series instead of a television show I don't think it would be as big as it is today because it would be even harder to follow. Visually watching something commits it to memory better. It's much easier to misinterpret something you read than something you watch.

Lost has brought back an interest in SF TV shows that we haven't seen since the Twilight Zone. More shows like Lost are popping up, such as Flash Forward and V. Finally, taking the spotlight and audiences away from all the endless (and pointless) Crime/FBI shows and reality TV that are turning our brains into mush. Of course, much of the plot is far-fetched and impossible to believe, but it intellectually challenges the audience and stimulates our mind and I feel that its about time.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

World Building and Imagination

In Armitt's book, she mentioned the idea of world building, especially in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Armitt however mentions how there were always be generic limitations. World building is something that comes straight from the imagination, whether it be from the author or reader.

Saying there is limitations of world building, in my opinion, is incorrect. It would be saying there is limitations on the imagination. Mo matter how much detail one can put into a story, there will always be some sort of gap or space for more development.

Armitt stated: " there is nothing beyond Middle Earth because Middle Earth is nowhere." Though Middle Earth may not exist in terms of human reality, it does not mean it doesn't have a substantial history and exist in one form or the other. At risk of sounding cliche, the world only exist in the heart and mind of the person enjoying the book at that time. The world building gives the Middle Earth a place, even if it was in the imagination. Giving history, giving a name to something gives it purpose and placement within the lives of people.

Armitt's Text and Magical Realism

To say that I was less than impressed with Armitt’s text would probably be an understatement. I think she tried to do too much with not nearly enough space and came out severely lacking in both depth and context. Her desire to drag as many forms of literature into the genre of fantasy felt rushed and uninspired and she seemed to enjoy tweaking traditional definitions of other forms of literature, rather than eliminating them from her book and working with understood and accepted fantasy novels. My own knowledge of fantasy literature was limited before opening this text and, rather than having that knowledge enhanced, I’m left feeling both confused and disappointed.

I’m speaking primarily of her flaky examination of magic realism as merely having a “fascination for ghosts” (174).and her lack of insight in either its history or relevance. Speaking from a (learning) writer’s perspective whose spent a lot of time reading magical realism I can say that, while there are ghost stories that fall within the label, by no means are they in the majority. By providing such a cloudy example it places her own validity as a researcher under question. She should have devoted more time to back up her claim or dropped it entirely from her text. What does the reader gain from her analysis other than a confused and vague (mis)understanding of a topic that, if he had no other background of the subject, would probably take a face value without even thinking to question?

Yes there are elements of the fantastic within magical realism—of course there are—however I don’t think I would ever call it fantasy, or even try to squeeze it into that genre. The magic realist story is usually written from a realistic approach with a tweak of the fantastic that should disrupt the world subtly. Any more than that and it is no longer magic realism. There have been stories about ghosts within magic realism but certainly that can’t be all there is to it, and regardless of where it got its start, Armitt should have examined what it’s doing today. I wonder how much she actually read before setting down such a lukewarm template.

Does Armitt need to be an expert on every topic related to fantastic fiction? No, but she should be informed on the elements of the genre that she is exploring. Her biggest failure is trying to do too much with too little. Her goal in this book seems to entail a huge reworking of the genre itself by legitimizing it—trying to make people see that there’s more to fantasy than meets the eye which is great, but what we’re given is a sloppily concocted mishmash of misinformation that points more to her own flaws as a researcher than to her perceived flaws of the topic she is writing on. Rather than attempting to rework fantasy from the ground up by eliminating the majority of actual fantasy writers, she should have tried providing insight into what is already considered fantasy. There are hundreds of things she could have chosen to examine, but she limits herself almost entirely to Tolkein and Rowling and other, murkier examples that shouldn’t have even been mentioned, such as magical realism.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Art in Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes

Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes is most famous for its hilarity. However, the more one reads the strip, it is noticed that Watterson is fascinated with the art in his strips. The artwork is most prevelant in the Sunday strips he did, as he was alloted more space and time to meet deadlines. Some of the work he does in his Sunday strips is not only funny, but a very serious piece of artwork from a somewhat hidden artist!

This strip focuses on the artwork more than the punchline. Aside from kazam, only three things total are said in the strip. This gives the reader no choice but to derive his ideas about the strip from the artwork. Ending the strip with the huge landscape of something from another planet is very atypical in Sunday comic strips, and leaves the reader sort of gazing into Watterson's art

The realism in this strip is what makes the art noticeable. Calvin and Hobbes is a cartoon comic, with generally no realism in the usual characters. Watterson again stresses the art over Calvin and Hobbes, only including them in one panel of the strip. This forces the reader to recognize and somewhat appreciate the art.
The gothic artwork in this strip is pretty impressive. Shows what Calvin is really thinking when playing with his tinkertoys. He has his parents fooled, as they think he is going to grow up to be an architect. According to the strip he would rather grow up to be a dictator of some sort, or more preferably an ancient god... who demands sacrifice. Again, the sketches in this strip must have taken quite some time, and for Watterson to still not lose his excellent sense of humor is awesome.
This strip, aside from being amazingly clever in Wattersons ability to write poetry, has some interesting art in it. Its quite scientific, with the Earth being drawn well in the first panel, the draining of the ocean, and the futuristic space ship. Watterson dumbs this down in the last panel, showing the old fashioned megaphone that comes from the spaceship. Funny. Notice the "end is nigh" character in the third panel! Priceless.
In Watterson's tenth anniversary book, he talks about a comic strip this is based on. I cannot recall which it is based on, but it is supposed to be a parody of it. According to Watterson, the other strip is extremely boring, which made his parody an easy one. The strip is quite funny, i love how the irony progresses until the end of the strip. The art in this one goes without saying, the realism is there. The angles of the artwork would make for a difficult draw, but Watterson does a good job for being someone who primarily writes comics.
The art in this strip speaks for itself. Only three panels are devoted to the punchline, and even those three panels are a quarter of the size of the ones Watterson devotes to the artwork. It seems it would be difficult to fit the scene to the panel size, but Watterson does it perfectly and makes it look easy. The punch line is in and out, and not to mention quite funy.I put these two strips in here to really show how much Watterson knows about art. In his tenth anniversary book he really shows how wrapped up he is with art, even though he does not express it too much in his strips. I think the second strip here is just to blow the reader away with a bunch of nonsensical art vocabulary, which is intended to confuse, thus making it funny. I could be wrong, perhaps if I understood the vocabulary it would be even funnier. Feel free to comment if you understand it!

My experiences with Science Fiction

After reading the James Gunn book, "Reading Science Fiction," I found myself thinking about my experiences with science fiction in my life during the past 15 years. I will discuss my fascination with time travel in science fiction films and television, during 1994-98, and also what has happened since that time.

In 1994, when I was 10 years old, I started to watch fictional time travel films. I still do not know how I became interested in this particular sub-genre of SF, but it may have had to do with my love of ancient history that I was learning about on my own. The first film I ever watched that dealt specifically with time travel was "Back to the Future," and it was soon after that I started to watch more and more time travel films. I mostly watched them on videotapes either I had rented, or bought. Some of the names bring back memories: "Time Sliders" (a television show), "Time Bandits," "Bill and Ted," and "The Time Machine" (the 1960 film). The last film is the most memorable in my life, as when I first watched it in 1997, I couldn't believe what I had watched. Rod Taylor, the actor who played the time traveler, had a time machine with a big wheel at the rear, and travelled through time at lightning speed, from 1900 to 1966 (an atomic bomb destroys most of everything) and thousands of years into the future, all without leaving London. After watching this movie over and over again for about a year, I grew tired of the time travel films, and until about 2002, did not return to watching them at all.

In 2002, almost 5 years after watching "The Time Machine," a new film version of "The Time Machine" came out. I was so anxious to watch this one and compare it with the 1960 version. After I watched it, I was very disappointed. Some of the reasons for my disappointment was the time traveler did too much hopping around through time to save his girlfriend who would be killed anyway (you can't change time), and also, the moon being destroyed in 2037. This was an awful remake, and it wasn't for almost a year I watched the last time travel movie I have seen to date, "Clockstoppers." Although "Clockstoppers" wasn't technically a time travel movie, I found it neat that three teenagers were able to stop time with a wrist-watch. This film was on the same par as the 1960 Time Machine movie.

After 2003, I did not and still haven't watched any time travel films since that time. I agreed with one of the essay writers in the James Gunn book that time travel in television and films was a fad, and was soon exhausted. Maybe I became exhausted by "too much time travel" in science fiction television and films after a while.

Escapism and Fantasy

In discussing Fanatasy I've come across a lot of claims that the genre promotes escapism. This seems to be sort of a heated debate surrounding the genre. In one camp you have the people that say all fantasy is escapist and therefore worthless. It rots the supple minds of young children and corrupts otherwise normal productive adults and we should probably just burn all works of fantasy in a giant communal bonfire. In the other camp are those who think that there are important lessons and themes addressed in works of fantasy that are applicable to everyday life and real life situations. These individuals read works like Tolkein, become well versed in the Elvish languages and the lore of Middle Earth and often become so delusional that they end up convincing themselves that they must go on quests of some kind. These quests typically involve roaming around inner city neighborhoods and dark alleyways dressed as Wizards and Elves searching for discarded cans and placing them in old rickety shopping carts that they believe possess magical powers.




I think that there are some problems with both sides of this argument. First of all I have a hard time with claims that fantasy is less legitimate then other genres because it promotes escapism. Escapism as I understand it and as defined by the Compact OED is "the seeking of distraction from reality by engaging in entertainment or fantasy" (http://www.askoxford.com/). According to this definition all fiction promotes escapism to some extent because it engages the reader in an imagined set of circumstances often for the purpose of entertainment. Even in the most staunchly realist fiction the reader is creating a world out of the text that is seperate from the real world. This argument can even be extended into the realm of non fiction. History and Biography texts use techniques and structures akin to fiction writing in order to construct and interesting and comprehensable story. This allows readers who are interested in the subject matter to immerse themselves in the stories that are created and temporarily escape the circumstances of their everyday reality. Escapism is something that readers can concievably do with any kind of text so to say that the promotion of this act devalues the genre is to devalue all coherent forms of narrative.



If escapism is an act that a reader can do with any text then the claim that fantasy promotes that act more than other genres becomes increasingly complicated. I've seen first hand that fantasy does not promote escapism for everyone. Since I am in both the American Studies course and the Major Authors course I got to see a wide range of reactions to Tolkien's Fellowship of the Ring. In the Major Authors course it is safe to say that at least some of us were able to temporarily escape from reality through Tolkien's elaborate flowing prose into the world that it constructs. It's a class full of English Majors, thats pretty much expected. In the American Studies class it seemed that the only escapism that Tolkien promoted was the escape from reality through dreams after the book's painfully long descriptions put everyone to sleep. So the so called escapist literature worked well with one group but not another. In order to press the connection between the fantasy genre and escapism it seems you would have to make the claim that the genre attracts a readership that is more inclined towards escapism. There could be some truth to this claim and to similar claims that some fans of fantasy tend to over-indulge in escapism to the point where they become detatched from reality. There could be interesting work to be done here but it seems to fully support these claims there would need to be some extensive research that is more focused on the psychology of individual readers and the culture of the general readership of fantasy.



It seems to me that there are also some problems with arguments in defense of fantasy. When faced with a claim that fantasy is illegitimate because it is escapist, advocates of the genre quickly point out all of its other redeeming qualities. It may be escapist but it is legitimate because it is well written or influential or because (as Armitt suggests) it is really a part of an elaborate and long standing literary tradition. All the while the actual question of escapism is largely ignored. I think a stronger argument would be that all texts perform the function of escapism to some degree and that fantasy does it exceedingly well for certain types of readers. Escapism does not make the genre illigitimate but is instead just one way in which the text functions. This among other functions make fantasy intersting to read and worthy of study.

Grandfather of Fantasy

Whenever I think of the genre of fantasy, the first thing that I think of is the Lord Of The Rings series and the Hobbit. This series that was created by J. R. R. Tolkien sets the bar for the entire genre. A great way to judge new fantasy would be to compare it to Tolkiens stories. If they can hold their own, then chances are they will last generations. Im not saying that each new story should replicate the LOTR series, but if they book can compete with it, then chances are its a good story.

Good fantasy fiction creates a world where the reader does not question the world and the rules that exist within it. In the LOTR, the reader does not question that there are elves, dwarves, or even hobbits; the reader understands that this works for middle earth. The reader may question why it takes so long for the fellowship to progress or why Tolkien decides to spend an entire chapter on Frodo and Sam climbing some stairs, but never about the world.

Perhaps it was stylistic of Tolkien to write very long narratives, but in doing so he creates this fantasy land of Middle Earth that makes sense in its own wierd way. The reader does not question the world or its inhabitants because Tolkien so carefully created this universe. Everything belongs and has its own purpose.

Perhaps I am just being biased about the genre, maybe nothing can compare to the triology for me, but I do stand firm and believe that Tolkien is the grandfather of the genre. He set the bar high for others to compete with. There are several great fantasy writers in the genre, they just have big shoes to fill.

If all authors thought out their worlds and myths that they are creating as delicately as Tolkien has done, hopefully they will be able to hook readers. The story should be able to hold its own and be able to answer any questions that the reader may have while reading. "Why are there elves, dwarves, and hobbits living in Middle Earth?", "Oh yeah, duh! Its because thats their home and they have to live there because they dont live in our world!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Comics Do Not Equal Sub Standard Visual Art

I find the idea that all comics are nothing but sub standard visual art ludicrous. First off there are many different styles of comics from the simple "meat and potatoes" art style of well known and loved comics like Peanuts and Dilbert. To the surprisingly detailed work of artists like Jim Lee of Batman. And who are we to judge what art is sub standard and what is a masterpiece. Just because some comics have simplified images or caricatures does not mean that the artwork is any better or worse than pieces done by artists in other genre's of art.
A lot of the art found in comics and graphic novels can often be surprisingly detailed and masterful pieces of art, some examples include as i mentioned above the work of Jim Lee on batman and superman comics and Alex Ross who has done work for both Marvel DC and his own original comics.
Of course there are comic books that have been made that you wouldn't consider to have especially impressive images in them. But putting down the entire genre because some of the comics don't have amazingly detailed painted images in them is ridiculous.

The Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

For my birthday this past weekend, my girlfriend and I went to New York City to have some fun. I figured we'd do the standard clothes shopping, pick up a fake Rolex in Battery Park, pay respects at Ground Zero, and see a show on Broadway, you know, the usual NYC experience. But my girlfriend gave me a surprise present; she bought us tickets to go see Howard Shore's score to Fellowship of the Ring performed live at Radio City Music Hall. Pretty sweet, right? Well that's not all, because the score is performed live while the film is being played on a huge movie screen behind the musicians!

This really was the ultimate performance for any Lord of the Rings fan, especially those who have a large interest in music. Maestro Ludwig Wicki lead Switzerland’s 21st Century Orchestra, the Collegiate Chorale and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus wonderfully. The kind of sound you get when you have musicians of this caliber combined with a legendary venue like Radio City Music Hall is almost indescribable. From the moment the opening note was struck until the conductor set down his baton, it was truly incredible. The mix that was used for the film was done specially for this concert. All dialogue is still intact, and the sound effects are muted slightly. This allows the music to take center stage, and boy did it.

The silences were more pregnant, the strings more playful, and the brass section, oh MAN! The brass section was absolutely ridiculous! Most of the fight scenes while the fellowship is in Moria relies on strong, thunderous trumpets, trombones, and percussion to really get your blood pumping; I don't think I've ever been so psyched up because of music in my life. I swear I could feel the Orcs nipping at my heels and sense the heat from the Balrog!

It is unfortunate that this was only a one weekend event, because I would love for more people to be able to experience this film as we were able to this past weekend. However, when the credits finished rolling and the screen went black, the audience was greeted with this advertisement: "Howard Shore's score for The Two Towers, performed live October 10th and 11th, at Radio City Music Hall. Come join us next year and continue the journey!" So if this is something you'd be interested in, keep an eye out for when tickets go on sale! I think I know what one of my birthday presents will be next year.

More information:
The Official Lord of the Rings Concert Website


The view from our seats (slightly zoomed in):


The marquee:


-Andrew Garvey

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gender and Sexuality in Science Fiction

Jane Donawerth’s essay “Gender is a Problem That Can Be Solved” is a very clever analysis of gender in science fiction, once you take out the extreme feminine undertones. The first paragraph annoyed me greatly, with its talk of woman being more susceptible to poverty and lack of equal representation. I am in no way a feminist. I have found that whining about rights that we already have and things that are in our control to be obnoxious and unnecessary. But I digress..

          The specific part of the essay that I found to be extremely irritating was when Donawerth talks about Joanna Russ’ “What Can a Heroine Do?”. Russ says that women have less to write about than men, that they’re stuck with “the marriage plot or the mad woman plot”. Seriously? Give your imagination more credit than that. Russ is essentially saying that women know only how to write about marriage and going crazy, both of which coincide, normally. Haaa.

          Yet, once I looked past the feminine undertones and the slighting of the female sex by females themselves, I was delighted at the innovations that many of the authors presented to the science fiction genre. I liked the whole idea of gender neutrality and non-conforming sexual futuristic societies. Donawerth talks about novels by Melissa Scott, in which “woman can do all men can do because the gender catagories “woman” and “man” have been transmuted, no longer constraining future humans”. I also liked the idea of a future “where humans can change bodies and sexualities”.

          I think this essay is good because it shows how science fiction can have gender/sexual issues and not just technology and aliens. Once female authors “ignore gender roles and are not culture-bound”, they are able to create new alternate realities that haven’t been discussed before in science fiction. Gender is a catalyst to better literature, not a hindrance.

Why Stereotypes Suck Through All Genre

In A Comics Studies Reader, we read an article that listed four main misconceptions, a stereotypes if you will, of all comics. One of which I can agree with to a certain level but, most I must disagree with.

The first Thierry Groensteen listed of these stereotypes is that "It is a hybrid, the result of crossbreeding between text and image." This makes comics sound like a science experiment gone array. Yes, comics do have the characteristics of text and images but, so do many other genres of literature. This is one of the aspects I at times struggle with while understanding comics. However, it is the use of the text in correlation with the image that will help the reader understand. With any piece of prose, it is good writing that allows the reader to follow along.

This is why I think the second stereotype: "its storytelling ambitions seen to remain on the level of a subliterature" is absolutely wrong. Just because it isn't in the technical vein of a novel, does not mean it is a lower class genre. Breaking conventions does not necessarily mean crude language structure or intellectually inferior.

The third stereotype is that comics are a "inferior branch of visual art, that of a caricature." Though comic books aren't my first choice for visual art, it is still art. Someone who can do something better than me and do it well, I give respect too. It not only involves drawing characters and action sequences, you also have to fill in the gaps of the story that the text does not provide. The sheer design of colors and patterns will effect the mood the whole tone of a scene and convey some emotions a lot better than a limited vocabulary of words.

And the last stereotype that "even though they are now frequently intended for adults, comics propose nothing other than a return to childhood" is not exactly correct. There are comics that are directed towards younger children and adults who read these may from time to time feel nostalgic but, the reader is still able to distinguish himself from the former child he once was. Most comics, in my limited experience with them, contain a lot of violence and ideas that more than likely aren't suitable for younger children. In group discussion today, someone mentioned the use of political cartoons and the messages they convey. Those are a perfect example of why a adult mentality is needed while reading most comic books. Children would not have the knowledge to know political reference or the association of some images.


In a social atmosphere, in my opinion I don't think children today would even have the imagination to be able to fill in the gaps, to figure out what is waiting in the gutter. With kids learning to use computers at the age of 3, numerous social network and media sites and the mass consumption of cartoons, how many kids do you know who still go outside and pretend in general? It's hard to have someone use their mind while a solution can just be laid out in front of them.

In my opinion, then people put a stereotype of something, it usually means they do not understand it in some way and this usually leads to distaste for it. Like comic books in general. I have always heard they were for the dorks and nerds who all they do is sit with they couple of friends, having "nerd-versations" and conceptualizing. my friend would call it "traveling into the Dork Forest." I do not know much about comic books, even having doing the reading but, I am not going to discount it's credibility or integrity because I do not get it. Once I actually read some comics, maybe that will change. It certainly did for fantasy.

Science Fiction

I find that Science Fiction is a very under recognized and under respected genre. I personally love Science Fiction and read it for fun outside of school work. It is an enjoyable genre that requires scientific reasoning and fantastical imagination.

The genre, to me, is a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction. It is nonfiction because it is based, generally speaking, on a form of science, be it currently existing or an idea that is based on a well founded theory. The science of it all appeals to the more literal thinkers and those who need the books they are reading to have some base in reality.

In terms of fiction, it is very obvious: the stories being told are a bit far fetched and highly unlikely to occur. Often, these books will be based on a world that does not exist, meaning that the author is world building. Also, the book is based on a science that does not currently exist or is in its very early days of development, allowing the author to really become creative and make something fantastic to give the reader something to imagine and form within their minds.

Science Fiction is a great genre that should be included in more english and culture classes because it is all about technology that may not affect us now, but has the potential to in the future, be it near or far.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Much like everyone else on this board I too had a problem with Armitts book an introduction to fantasy fiction. I found the way she jumped back and forth between topics and rarely had a straightforward concrete definition of anything to be a bit annoying.

Before reading this book all my prior knowledge about fantasy fiction came from the books that I had read mostly as a pre-teen. Books like the Harry Potter series, Tamora Pierce and other books that one would find in the “young adult” section of a library. So perhaps my view of fantasy fiction is skewed since I am used to fantasy with dragons and magic and such things.

But my problem was mostly with her choices of example texts. The genera of fantasy has been around for ages and has produced many novels of varying scholarly worth. While some books most defiantly fit the profile of being stereotypically fantasy they don’t seem to merit much worth and will most likely be forgotten about within a few years. But still there are books that are clear in everyone’s mind as being a part of the fantasy genera. Books like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter the first thing that comes into your head is usually fantasy, and so yes, those are good choices to write about when writing an introduction to fantasy fiction book. Yet some the other choices such as Thomas Moors Utopia, I had never really thought of as a fantasy book, I had always just thought of it as a politically theory book like Machiavelli’s The Prince. Or even her choice of using H.G. Well’s The Time Machine and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, novels I have previously only thought of as Sci-Fi.

It seems that she was looking for novels that would lend legitimacy to her theories, so she used books that were widely regarded by the literary world to be well-respected novels, but therein bends the definition of fantasy. I can see how you would want to avoid using books that may quickly become irrelevant in an introduction. Yet she overlooks well regarded novels that fit well the definition of Fantasy that don’t bleed into the genera of sci-fi such as Mitch Alboms The Five People You Meet in Heaven or a perfect example of magic realism Garbiel Garcia Marque’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Really my problem with her is that she seems to have spent so much effort trying to make her book seem legitimate to hardcore literary scholars that she seems to have forgotten that she is writing an introduction to fantasy and should therefore be using books that can be clearly defined as fantasy. Maybe I’m being a bit too closed minded about her use of texts.

I would really not recommend this book to anyone who wanted an introduction to fantasy fiction because I don’t really think I walked away from it with any useful new knowledge.

Why Charlie Brown is the Greatest American Superhero.

This weekend, while searching for ways to connect with our text, a fantastic opportunity presented itself on campus. An unauthorized parody of the Peanuts comic strip entitiled Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead debuted. (http://tada.fredonia.edu/ for more details) .

I do not normally get the opportunity to attend school functions, but since another one of america's greatest heroes (the grandmother) has whisked one of my children away to Disney for the week while I get to sit here with you because I'm behind in school work, I was down one child. ...By the way..you know that whole "you can't go outside and play until your homework is done" thing your parents used to pull?? Yeah...WHOLE NEW LEVEL


So, anyway..I had some company in from Pittsburgh this weekend as well, so considering I needed to entertain him, and I needed to get work done, when I heard about this "production" I was elated. Luckily yet another of America's greatest superheros "The Poor College Student (I'm an Early Ed Major and Need Cash) babysitter" answered the call. (By the way..casting for this part is done on a regular basis. See me. I'm ALWAYS on the look out for next semesters star player since mine seem to keep graduating..)


I digress....in a discussion with Christine in class we were talking about the definition of superhero and one opinion was that a superhero helps us to relate to issues and events that are going on around us. In Dog Sees God "CB" and pals are teenagers in all of their dysfunctional glory dealing with, among other things, repressed homosexuality, suicide, eating disorders, drug use, "the Meaning of Life", teen violence and rebellion and most importantly rabies. I'm totally not making this shit up...It's TO GOOD for me to have made up.


"CB" is MY hero however because this play, other than providing me the ever illusive muse, served serveral other purposes. As it turns out my company had NEVER been to a play. Not only that but he is a (gasp) homophobe..probably why he had never been to a play. We were doing great with Linus being a Stoner, PigPen now a Jock with OCD, Peppermint Patty and Marcie getting drunk at the lunch table (and by the way running threesomes on Pigpen..REALLY NOT MAKING THIS UP) and Lucy safely tucked away in an insane asylum after setting "the red headed girls" hair on fire ,when a little ways into the production there was some hot man love action between CB and "Beethoven". I thought for sure I was never gonna hear the end of it. Well guess what? He laughed. Maybe it was the Budweiser we were drinking before, or the fact that in Bartlett Theater there is no where to run, or just shock, but he laughed. Afterwords at BJs when we discovered too late it was Alumni weekend and women buying drinks with their first Social Security Check were hitting on him, he also didn't freak out.


I think Good Ole Charlie Brown put everything in perspective for a sheltered guy from Butler PA. I definately think Charlie Saved the day and is therefore at least My Greatest American Hero.


P.S. GOOD GRIEF WRITERS FOR TADA a "little" warning on the man love next time so I can bring some ladies with me who might enjoy it..haha


Comics

As a child growing up I grew up with the love for the comics "Peanuts". I enjoyed watching movies such as The Great Pumpkin and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I loved being able to read the comics on Sundays with my mom. We grew a bond to the comics and movies and I have loved them ever since.
Wikipedia explains them as "the most shining example of the American success story in the comic strip field" which was brought about by "the great American unsuccess story". I think this is extremely true. Charles M. Schulz became an extremely popular household name. He was known for his comics, and they quickly grew into more than just a comic. They grew into books, movies, toys, and other products. The extreme fad that grew of this has become something known for many kids still today. This is not just a single generation kind of comic. They have been around and will continue to be around.
The Peanuts comic is continuing fight against life for a group of kids. There is a kid who can basically represent every kind of student you had in your class. They are a representation of every ones childhood. This is still true for todays life. This is why it will live on and on.
I wish they would produce more comics. When he died they decided they were just going to run the old ones and not produce new. It is hard to say what will happen with Peanuts. I love the movies and feel they should be run when their holidays happen. I love the Peanuts and feel that they should be carried into the future with us!!!

syfy channel

In our recent discussions of science fiction I feel that it is imparative that I talk about the science fiction channel. They have recently changed their name to syfy. This however does not make me believe that they are doing any better in the action of making movies.

The movies shown on the syfy channel were never really great but at least they were movies that most people would watch. Lately however I feel that the movies have been lacking greatly in thier appeal. They keep getting worse in their production and have become extremely predictable in their plot. The movies obviously are low budget but that doesnt mean they have to lack completely in the movies. There are things that happen in these new movies that I am just like what the heck is that?!? They show these creatures that are supposed to be scary and to me look like my dog dressed up for halloween.

Now dont get me wrong some of the movies are good and I do watch. The movies that are traditional such as any good vampire movie or movies about what bumps in the night. Even some of thier alien movies are decent. It is the recent rise to movies that have creatures taking over the earth that I find most lacking. These movies have creatures that seem to be scary then once you see them it is just a complete let down.

I also find that movies of these sorts are also very predictable in thier plot. They show different movies that have the same outcome. I am not surprised because it is hard to come up with things that are new. There are many different things that could happen but it ushally turns out that everyone except are select few die. This leaves little for me to imagine. For once it wouldnt be half bad if they either all lived or all died. I know there are some movies that this happens but after the recent trend I refuse to watch anymore.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Realism in Films Based on Graphic Mediums

I agree with the view that comics and graphic novels are not being overlooked in today's society and are even flourishing. The rise of films based on comics has steadily risen, perhaps with the introduction of films portraying these stories as gritty and real, even though they are fantastic in nature.

Take for example the new films based on Spiderman, Iron Man, and especially Batman. While Spiderman deals with fantastic scientific non-sense to explain Peter Parker's condition, it still at least tries to explain it beyond having radioactive blood from a spider bite.

Iron Man takes explores the tale of billionaire Tony Stark being captured by enemies overseas and transfers the already pseudo-realistic portrayal of the hero to the Middle East, no doubt in order to update the series' relevance with today's audience.

And the newest incarnation of Batman, from Memento director Christopher Nolan is the quintessential example of a fantastic story being described through pseudo-realistic means. Batman, or Bruce Wayne, in the films Batman Begins and the wildly popular The Dark Knight is portrayed as the wealthy heir to his parents' multi-billion dollar industry. After his parents are killed in a botched mugging, Wayne trains with a martial arts master Ra's al Ghul in order to become a crime-fighter.

Wayne, like Stark, is a normal, albeit wealthy and incredibly smart man. Being that they are so wealthy, they are able to fund their crime-fighting ways, purchasing materials to create technologically advanced suits of armor and weaponry to bring crime in their respective homes to an end.

And yet another example of this is the recent adaptation of the graphic novel Watchmen. None of the heroes (sans the incredible Dr. Manhattan) have actual superpowers. They have come to be heroes through realistic means. The brutal and cold Rorschach was the child of a neglectful and criminal mother, who would often beat him. After a rough childhood, he began his vigilante ways upon hearing of the notorious murder case of Kitty Genovese. He eventually became Rorschach when he discovered a strange fabric as a tailor that allowed blobs of black ink to shift in the fabric depending on heat from the body. He fashioned the mask and thus the black on white blobs earned him the avatar of Rorschach. The second version of the Night Owl came with a young man emulating an earlier masked vigilante whose avatar was chosen as the original Night Owl was a bird-lover. The second Silk Spectre came out of relation, as she was the daughter of the original Silk Spectre, one of the original superheroes of the 1950s and 60s. And like both Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, the vastly wealthy and intelligent Adrian Veidt became Ozymandias in order to rid the world of evil (and perhaps become evil himself in the process.) The only hero in the story that possesses any sort of supernatural power is Dr. Manhattan. Even his powers do not come from an alien planet or any such supernatural means. Rather, he is the product of an unfortunate accident relating to his scientific studies. Each of these characters has root in real-life means for vigilantism, which help to explain their quest for justice in the nearly unrecognizable alternative universe of New York City.

These examples from Watchmen, Iron Man and Batman, perhaps excluding Dr. Manhattan and Spiderman, are proof that sometimes heroes from these mediums can have at least plausible origins. This change in the normally supernatural and fantastic stories of comic books from the early days of the medium may be a contributing factor in the rise of popularity in late years. At the very least it can be seen as a trend in the medium, one which will hopefully continue to bring to life a once dry genre to a newer audience.