Thursday, April 30, 2009

Animal Farm.... Oh, wait this was Fight Club

Fight Club is a wonderful film, probably the best film we could watch to bring this course to a close. It reminded me quite a bit of the novel Animal Farm. Mainly because slowly but surely the fight club was becoming an organization similar to the farm that Napoleon was creating in the novel. The people bleated Napoleon’s message without thinking or questioning, just performing. An example of this is when the narrator‘s, the character played by Edward Norton, friend, Robert Paulson, is killed doing work for Project Mayhem. The narrator tells everyone that his friend wasn’t just a person giving himself up for the overall cause, but that he had a name, history, and life. He was a person that deserved more respect than the work they were doing allowed him. Consequently when he says his name, Robert Paulson, the people act as though they understand the situation but really they understand nothing, and are only able to repeat what they have been told, bleating incessantly like Napoleon’s sheep.

To me the movie represented two very different things. The first point it made was that you shouldn’t let anything hold you back. Every person should be true to themselves no matter what the circumstances may be, there is no reason to live life as a group rather than as an individual. The narrator learned this lesson the hard way. His body subconsciously morphed him into the person he wanted to become in order to pursue a more fulfilling life as compared to the standard complacency his life was previously. However at the same time it also says to watch out for things that are overwhelmingly cool or popular. The fight club the narrator invents becomes too popular. His involvement in the club ultimately leads to massive problems that he created for himself. His alter ego, Tyler Durden, becomes a god-like figure to himself. The only way to overcome his predicament was to destroy his alter ego and kill the thing he had come to worship. In the end I think the narrator realized that it doesn’t matter what his life is like so long as he is happy with the way it proceeds. He doesn’t need to be hip or cool in order to have a fulfilling life. All he needed was to be happy with himself

Ultimately Fight Club deals with the idea of breaking away from the normal. Lives are not meant to be trapped. They are supposed to be concrete situations that can be altered by want or necessity of change. Edward Norton’s character effectively demonstrates how one can be unhappy with his or her life and want change. Even more importantly though he shows the stupidity of becoming sucked into some flashy trend, realizing that it is not at all what your life should be, and escaping.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Smart People are Cool Too.

Many times you’d think literacy wouldn’t be something that is described by the word cool. To be literate is to be competent in a particular subject. Normally people who are seen to be literate are considered nerds or dorks or something derogatory. However, the film Reservoir Dogs glorified literacy in a way that it could be understood. All the men that were seen in the movie were intelligent crooks. They were all criminals that had been around the block, knew what to expect, and were ideal candidates to be a part of the diamond heist. Even Mr. Orange, the cop, was literate in the attitude of being a crook. He had to practice and shape himself into that character, but he ultimately displayed that practice and the right mindset can make any undercover cop seem like a ruthless criminal. But where can we see cool literacy in places that aren’t glorified for their violence and bad behavior? The Discovery Channel!!!!

Mythbusters is one of my most favorite shows on television. What’s cooler than cracking all the hokey stories that can’t possibly be true? The kind of stories that when you hear them you have to say “No way!” or “I don’t believe that!” Well, Adam Savage and Jamie Heineman live their life doing just that. They exemplify cool literacy to the utmost extent. In order to do their job they must be trained in hundreds of aspects of science, whether it is constructing a lead balloon, throwing a penny off of the empire state building, or building a suction machine that can be used to scale walls they use physics, mechanics, and any other type of physical science to devise a failsafe plan. Although sometimes the plans don’t go quite right, and they end up resorting to methods far more barbaric to achieve the desired goal. However, at the end of the day there are not people more literate is a cooler way than Adam Savage and Jamie Heineman.

Another show that I enjoy, which involves cool literacy is The Boondocks. Although on the surface it appears to be a cartoon, when you begin to listen to the ideas and conversations that evolve throughout the show it is easy to realize that the show is truly a social satire commenting on many of the various stereotypes we place on societal groups. This is cool literacy because in order see the social commentary one must be aware of the ignorance of our society. Aaron McGruder, the developer of the show (and comic strip which the show is based upon) pokes fun at the “gangsta” stereotype in the African American culture. Generating characters such as Gangstalicious to demonstrate the ludicrous behavior and stupidity of rappers and rap culture. But he goes beyond that by bringing back Martin Luther King Jr. in one episode to truly demonstrate the stupidity that is scene in the black community.

All in all I think cool literacy may be my favorite type of cool because in order for it to work one must be educated. The subject is irrelevant. The mere fact that we have to deal with literate people is cause for celebration. More and more people feel as though literacy doesn’t matter. Why learn it because we’ll never use it. Well, I think literacy is the most important aspect of society, and it’s a crime that more people don’t think like I do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why are We Unique?

Hollister/Abercrombie & Fitch__________Route 66 clothing
Will Smith________________________Bruce Willis
Harry Potter______________________For Whom the Bell Tolls
The Real World____________________Growing Pains
Xbox 360________________________SNES
Avenged Sevenfold__________________Metallica
Fun____________________________Hard work

The biggest trend that can be seen from the chart is that we value things that are new and expensive. We have no respect for things that are old. Even though they may be cheap or used they still carry a significance through their previous value. The best example of this is the Harry Potter series of novels as compared to For Whom the Bell Tolls. When reading the novels they both display similar themes throughout. However, Harry Potter is new and popular so it is much more widespread than For Whom the Bell Tolls. Honestly, if I had not been assigned to read the novel in high school I would have never read it. So, it can be concluded that our society is much more materialistic than previous generations. We’ve come to expect the biggest and the best wrapped up in the prettiest packages. We are a culture of shallow and hollow people. My mom always used to tell me this sort of thing and I never really believed her, but it turns out she was right. Once something becomes the slightest bit worn and faded it loses the appeal it held.

We are also an indulgent society. We don’t value those that work hard, we put stock in people who can just get by doing the bare minimum. I know this hasn’t changed much over time, but I think it’s odd how so many people place value in having fun over working hard and succeeding. Why does it seem that success is overrated? It’s hard for me to understand that some people can be happy not being the best that they could possibly be. It almost reminds me of a form of self-mutilation. To not live up to your potential may be one of the saddest sights the world has to offer. Many of my friends from Lonoke will never live up to their potential because they don’t expect anything from themselves and would rather coast through life living up to the expectations that Lonoke has to offer, which is none.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This week in class we watched the film Paris is Burning. It was about a bunch of trans-gender people that were obsessed with the fashion and culture that they so desperately wanted to be involved. I came to the conclusion earlier in my blog that these people are not cool. Throughout this entry I will continue to point out the failures that come with cool obsession.

One group of people that sticks out like a sore thumb in my mind is Trekkies. Trekkies, if you don’t already know, are people who are obsessed with the show Star Trek. It isn’t even so much the fact that the thing they are obsessed with is Star Trek, however when you begin to base all of your knowledge off of the idea of Star Trek then you have truly become deluded by your obsession. One of my friends at one point was deluded such as many of these people are. He was no longer thinking as he usually did, instead he focused specifically on what the character he was emulating would think and say. He, just as these people, forfeited his personality and self-consciousness to become what he had been so obsessed with. Obsession is altogether a bad thing. Whether it’s drugs, school, work, or even God. There are always things that people become obsessed with and it always ends in idiocy.

One example that we see relativity often on campus is a man I like to call “Big Sign Guy.” This guy is significant to me because he is so obsessed with the eternal salvation of every student on campus that he completely overlooks his judgmental ways. He forgets that what he should be preaching is why you should think like he does and instead points out the flaws of every single person that he sees. He tells us all to repent for the sins we have committed. He is a hypocrite on top of the fact that he is obsessed with our “eternal salvation.” In my opinion Big Sign Guy is a failure. He ignores the goodness in people and only points out flaws. He forgets that everyone makes mistakes and we all know we need to repent. His incessant yelling and screaming at those who are not right with the lord only portrays his true ignorance. He exhibits the same qualities as all the other people who become obsessed. They can no longer focus on anything except for which the thing they have become obsessed.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What was that?

This week in class we watched the film Paris is Burning. I didn’t really understand the film because of the unique perspective through which it was presented. The culture we saw in the video was so foreign to me that I was incapable of connecting with them on a human level. It almost seemed like these people were trying to seclude themselves from the reality of the world. I thought it was weird that they seemed almost incapable of living a real life. I know many gay people and none of them try to be “real,” as the video portrayed it.

The type of cool we are seeing through this film is cool obsession. My thought really is: Can obsession be cool? When people become so enamored by an idea or the thought of an idea that they do nothing to stop themselves from indulging it can be a little frightening. Unfortunately I have to say that these people do frighten me. Not because they are gay or trans-gendered but because of the emphasis they placed on the leading the lifestyle they were discussing. Not only was it so far from the norm that no normal person could relate to them, but they were also subjugated to torment because of the life they were living. You shouldn’t have to feel sympathy for a group of people as I did for them. The fact that people can look past a person to see a stereotype is disgusting. What are you going to get from life with an attitude like that? Nothing. You will just end up being a close-minded asshole. Most of the greatest people you will meet in life will be different in some way or another. However many times this difference will be a source of inspiration and encouragement. In my opinion this was not the case in this group of people.

These individuals in my opinion hurt the idea of acceptance. The idea of achieving acceptance shouldn’t be based on how well you can blend in to society, but in the case of these trans-gendered individuals it was all about how well they were able to blend. They weren’t. Consequently they were shunned. They reveled in being different. They wanted their success to be based on their differences. They failed to realize that if they were going to be successful for their differences they would also be judged by their differences. Normal trans-gendered people who didn’t have the same obsession of the ones we saw in the film would resent the eccentric behavior of them. No one wants to be biased based on the behavior of someone else and that is exactly what would be occurring. Judgment is a bad thing, but obsession is worse. Judgment at least requires logical reasoning and deduction to occur. Obsession only requires a lack of self-control.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Happens when Things mean other Things?

Robocop wasn’t the only action story that I’d seen used to depict a satire. The two other satires that I specifically remember come from many high schools throughout the United States. Both The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, as well as Gulliver’s Travels represent something more than the actual story they are presenting. Just as Robocop warns against the events that are ruining society in the time the film took place so are these two novels.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is satirical in its attitude towards southern antebellum society. Throughout the novel Huckleberry Finn fights the moral standards which are thrust upon him by the society in which he lives. He knows his friend, Jim, is a runaway slave but he refuses to sell Jim out because he knows that deep down Jim is a wonderful person that only wants to see his family. Huck has to make the conscious decision to condemn himself for doing something that he sees as horribly wrong and more than likely the largest sin he could commit. However, upon further inspection it can be concluded that what Huck does is morally courageous and upstanding. Huck helps the reader see that it isn’t the fact that everyone else thinks an idea is right that makes it right, but the fact that in the deepest part of his soul he knows what he is doing is right. Huck Finn demonstrates that a sound heart is a surer guide than an ill-trained conscience. Just as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn criticized the antebellum south, Gulliver’s Travels focuses on the human self, and man’s inescapable need for vice.

Gulliver first travels to the kingdom of Lilliput. Lilliput is supposed to satirize King George I and his court. The feuding between the Lilliputians and the Blefuscudians is meant to represent the feuding countries of England and France, but the reason for the war – a disagreement over how to crack their eggs – is meant to satirize the absurdity and differences of the feud between Catholics and Protestants. Here, Gulliver is charged with treason and sentenced to be blinded. With the assistance of a kind friend, Gulliver escapes to Blefuscu, where he spots and retrieves an abandoned boat and sails out to be rescued by a passing ship which takes him back home. Gulliver, throughout the novel, travels to other countries just like Lilliput in the fact that there is something highly wrong with the state of the country. Ultimately Gulliver’s Travels is a play on the idea of humanity. As the novel progresses Gulliver becomes disheartened by the state of the world around him. Ultimately arriving at the home of the Houyhnhnms. These creatures are significant because they are horses that rule humans. The humans are vice-stricken creatures that are made to be chained to stop them from harming themselves in their own stupidity. Gulliver is destroyed as a person after meeting the Houyhnhnms because he can no longer look at the human race without seeing a disgusting animal incapable of self-control.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Robocop was a surprise hit for myself personally. I remember watching the movie as a child and not really liking it. This was more than likely due to all the explosions and weird mechanical monsters. However now that I’ve seen it as an older, more mature person I truly believe it is a special movie. Robocop is able to incorporate a political satire into a movie overflowing with action and excitement. To me this really seems like a hard goal to accomplish because action movies normally grab the attention of those looking for just that, action. Sometimes it is possible for action to overshadow satire. Another problem with the movie is that it is time oriented. You had to understand the context of what was occurring politically to understand the events in the movie. Consequently their initial target audience, the people who normally come to see action movies, may not be the best group to understand the satire because they are just their for the action, and not so much the satire. In Robocop they are successfully capable of incorporating satire because there is no need for consistent plot. All you really need are explosions to hold the attention and a good medium to convey the message.

Social trends in this movie are also very significant. The evils of corporations and privatization in general are largely played up by the film. The problem with privatization is that when you start to worry about making more money rather than the well-being of the public corruption occurs. This was seen all throughout our movie. The creation of Robocop was just a politically charged effort to become a larger part of a corporation. Without the corrupt individuals we saw in the movie, Robocop, would not exist. Another significant idea to the movie was that as everything turned to corporations they all lost their sense of what was good for the population. The news had turned into garbage. It was very commercialized, constantly juxtaposing serious topics, such as war with light and funny topics like the president floating in space. Just as news was commercialized T.V. has also become fake and insubstantial. The only show they depict is an idiotic comedy that repeats the same catch phrase over and over, “I’d buy that for a dollar.” Corporations were concluded to be a harsh element that only degrades societal expectations.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Escaping Your Fate, or Allowing Yourself to become Trapped....

This week in class we watched the film Saturday Night Fever. The film represented a type of cool escapism in the way the main character, Tony, played by John Travolta escaped his problems by living on the dance floor. Tony’s life was very boring throughout the week. He had a dead-end job, he had a stereotypical group of friends, and he still lived under the rules of his parents. To put it plainly throughout the week Tony was a nobody. However, every Saturday night when he hit the dance floor he became Mr. Big Shot. People revered Tony on the dance floor. This is seen when a woman he kisses at the club refers to him as Al Pacino. Tony was the boss at the disco, and he lived his life for every Saturday night. Cool escapism can still be largely seen in pop culture today.

One example of this is teenagers and music. I don’t know if I can strictly say this for everyone, but throughout the ages of 15, 16, and 17 I found my escape in music. I liked music loud, I liked music fun, I liked music all the time. I found myself always doing everything with music; homework, videogames, driving, cleaning, and pretty much any other time I could get away with wearing my headphones. I’m not sure what I found so particularly great about music. I liked everything ranging from Blink -182 to Linkin Park to AFI. Rock music set me in motion. It gave me motivation to do things. It made it easier to do things. It also gave me an excuse to ignore people, namely my parents. When my headphones were on I always had an excuse for why I didn’t answer, although many of the times I heard them just fine, but I always had an excuse. Again, I don’t strictly know if this is largely apparent in pop culture so much as it is in real life, but an example that I can specifically recall is Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It’s really a very stereotypical adolescent love story that unites two kids through their love of music, but it’s a good example because music was so very significant to the two characters, Nick and Norah. Without their love for music they would have never been in the situation they were so as to meet.

Another example of cool escapism is far more depressing. It’s drugs!!! Drugs are always seen as a sort of escape. Although it’s far different from the two other types of escape because it begins to alter lives, it is still a good example of escape. People use drugs to forget about their problems. Drugs are just how they deal with life. When things get too heavy they can always just have an instant fix. An example of this sort of escape can be seen in the movie Knocked Up. Although the movie is not directly about the escapism drugs can embody, it is a sort of method to depict the main character, Ben Stone, and his arrival at becoming a mature adult. His girlfriend/baby’s mama, Allison Scott, helps Ben to realize that there is more to life than getting high. He sees that he now has a responsibility to take care of in his unborn child and willingly accepts the responsibility of adulthood in order to be a more well-suited father and boyfriend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In Defence of.... Gaming? (He can't be Serious)

Gamers are stereotypically looked down upon as social outcasts who must look to something beyond the realm of human stimulation. They are people who are no longer relevant to the real world. Gamers always catch a bad reputation because their brain functions differently from those of other people. They get caught up in something that isn’t reality in the real world, but what’s so bad about that? Women love to shop. Are they ever given the reputation that gamers are as devoid human beings? What about people who are social butterflies, always looking for the next party to fuel their addiction to human socialization? The fact of the matter is that any type of person that excessively does one thing is unhealthy. Life takes balance and gamers should only be frowned upon when they no longer function in reality and are only a part of virtual reality.

People say games are addictive. Well, to be honest games are addictive. Some games are always on your mind, but only people who have no self-control can be sucked into a pit of no social interaction. People say games end relationships, but again it only occurs in the most extreme cases. Many people who play video games do not play it as if it is their life, but when they are seen playing it they are automatically stereotyped as “that” (please watch this) guy. However, these people are just different. They find something stimulating about video games and where the games they play take them. Ultimately, they find their escape in video games. Video games to gamers are like sports to athletes. Games can be a source of conversation, something to invest time into, and a reason to become the very best at something. It’s like dancing was to Tony. It gave him a reason to look to the future. He always had Saturday night, and no one could take away his time to shine. His investment in the sport was his motivation. Gaming can be viewed in the same way. Some people don’t have a lot to look forward to in life because they have already screwed up a lot, but to condemn them further for turning to the one place where they can escape the fate they know is inevitable is like punching a pregnant woman. It’s just wrong. Sure, you can encourage them to better themselves, but ultimately no one deserves unjust judgment.

Gaming is even thought to be good in some situations. RPGs are good sources of stories for children. If you have a child that is struggling to learn to read and despises books, give him or her a video game that has text. If you read them the story to begin with eventually they will want to be able to read the story by themselves, which will drive them to want to know how to read. Gaming also improves reflexes, as well as eyesight. It was determined in a study that people who play video games can see and react up to 43% faster than people who don’t. Gaming isn’t all bad, it only becomes a problem when excess is involved, much like many other habits.