Saturday, November 29, 2014

Last Blog

In the past class, we started About Time and Stepford Wives (2004). I really liked them both so I decided to finish them. I really enjoyed About Time a lot. It seemed like it just got better and better as it went on. The cinematography felt really fresh and pretty and clean to me. I am a fan of Bill Nighy so I enjoyed his presence in the movie. The story kind of reminded me of a movie called Expiration Date, in which a Native American man finds out about his family curse where the men of the family always die on their 25th birthdays from getting hit by milk trucks. I also thought the movie had a good soundtrack; Ben Folds, yay! I always seem to like these romantic comedies that have just a bit of a twist to them, like Stranger Than Fiction. To me, the most touching part of the movie was definitely when the main character's wife was about to give birth and the main character went back to see his father one last time. I was crying SO HARD during that scene! Later my roommate and I were making Thanksgiving curry, I told her about that part of the story and I started crying again! Man, so touching! Another part that really tugged my heartstrings was when the main character's sister was confessing her fear that she was the failure in the family who would never amount to anything. I related to her because everyone else in my family seems so smart and talented compared with me. I was glad that her life got back on track. It seems like things always work out for people in these movies; I wish real life were like that. Lastly, I liked when the main character's mother was first meeting his fiancée, and she said, "You have a really pretty face," and the fiancée said, "No, I just am wearing a lot of mascara and lipstick," and the mother said, "Oh, yes. Good. It's very bad for a girl to be too pretty. It stops her developing a sense of humor. Or a personality." I thought that was pretty funny, and honestly it seems like it's often true! Even though it was a bit weird since that actress really had perfect facial proportions that you couldn't fake with mascara and lipstick.

Stepford Wives on the other hand seemed to get a little worse as it went on from the point at which we stopped watching it in class. The beginning was so hilarious, and so was the part when the family first arrived in Stepford and were getting shown around, but I felt that it lost its sparkle from there. I liked that part where the lady in "I Can Do Better" said, "Before this show, I only slept with one man. And that was usually Hank." It was sad how this seems like it could almost be a real reality TV show. It reminded me of an ad campaign on PBS where they made funny fake commercials for extremely mindless reality TV shows. For example:

It was a bit confusing how in the beginning, the main character seemed to really love her job and be super into it. She seemed like she really fit into that world. But then when she went to Stepford, she seemed more counterculturey, which seemed to contradict her persona from before a little. I know that her brain was zapped before she got to Stepford, but later when she meets the short Jewish lady, she says something like, "OMG I LOVE your work, the one about your mother? What was that called again? Oh right, I Love You But Please Die." The lady in the beginning of the movie didn't seem like the kind of lady who would be a big fan of the works of a sassy dorky feminist lady. One question I was left with in the end of the movie was I wondered what would happen to the Stepford wives after they stopped being controlled robots. Because if all of them are like that lady who kept saying "Do-si-do" over and over, then they all have a good amount of robotic machinery in their brains. The Do-Si-Do lady stopped going haywire when the mayor came and kind of snapped her neck a bit, causing her robotic machinery to spark. Is all of that sparky metal stuff just going to stay inside the Stepford wives' heads for the rest of their lives?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Number of absences: 1

Blog post count: 14 (not including this post of course...)

Word count: 11,216

Average word count per post: 801.14

Short stories finished: 8
Novels finished: 9
Novels unfinished: 3
Movies finished: 22
Radio episodes finished: 12

Numbers in parentheses are week numbers

Short stories finished: 8
  • (3) The Story of Mimi-Hashi-Hoichi
  • (3) Diplomacy
  • (3) Of a Mirror and a Bell
  • (3) Jikininki
  • (3) Mujina
  • (3) Rokura-Kubi
  • (12) Bloodchild
  • (13) The Aquatic Uncle

Novels finished: 9
  • (1) Frankenstein
  • (2) Twilight
  • (4) Lullaby 
  • (5) Aunt Maria
  • (6) The Hobbit
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • (8) Anansi Boys
  • (11) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Novels unfinished: 3
  • (2) Interview with the Vampire
  • (2) Let the Right One In
  • (7) Magician's Guild

Movies finished: 22
  • (1) Young Frankenstein
  • (1) Frankenstein
  • (2) Let the Right One In
  • (2) Byzantium
  • (4) Cabin in the Woods
  • (4) Under the Skin
  • (4) Donnie Darko
  • (5) Kiki's Delivery Service
  • (6) The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • (7) City of Lost Children
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • (7) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • (8) Coraline
  • (10) A Scanner Darkly
  • (11) Blade Runner
  • (11) Paprika
  • (12) Attack the Block
  • (14) About Time
  • (14) Stepford Wives

Radio play episodes finished: 12
  • (14) Episodes 1-12 of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Science Fiction Parody and Satire Response

This week, I listened to all of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy audio recordings. Just an FYI, the file for episode four in the website resources cuts off halfway through the episode. Anyway, I really enjoyed this series a lot. I didn't realize it was a radio show before, but I really liked it. It kind of reminded me of the Nightvale podcasts because of the dry humor and some similar themes, but I liked Hitchhiker's Guide better because it had more of a story to it. It also kind of reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket because of the writing style and humor. The authors had a funny tendency to put ridiculous things very matter-of-factly. These were some of my favorite quotes from Hitchhiker's Guide:
VROOMFONDEL: That’s right. You’ll have a national philosophers strike on your hands!
DEEP THOUGHT: Who will that inconvenience?
MAJIKTHISE: Never you mind who it’ll inconvenience, you box of black-legging binary bits! It’ll hurt, Buster! It’ll hurt! 
--This quote was funnier to hear than to read, but it's still really funny to read.

...they discovered only a small asteroid inhabited by a solitary old man who claimed repeatedly that nothing was true, though he was later discovered to be lying.
--Hehehe. The paradox!

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of a summary, people are a problem.
--I found this quote really funny too, but also so, so true! It reminded me of Plato's Republic, in which Plato said that the leader of a government should be a philosopher, but that people would never vote for a person like that:
They don’t understand that a true captain must pay attention to the seasons of the year, the sky, the stars, the winds, and all that pertains to his craft, if he’s really to be the ruler of a ship. And they don’t believe that there is any craft that would enable him to determine how he should steer the ship, whether the others want him to or not, or any possibility of mastering this alleged craft or of practicing it at the same time as the craft of navigation. Don’t you think that the true captain will be called a real stargazer, a babbler, and a good-for-nothing by those who sail in ships governed in that way?
I don't know if the Hitchhiker's Guide people would want a philosopher for a leader, but probably! Man. This radio show was just hilarious. Also, I now know where Radiohead got the name of "Paranoid Android" from. I wish there were more than 12 episodes; I could listen to these forever. Maybe I'll also give Starship Titanic and Firesign Theater a try if I have time...

Monday, November 17, 2014

"The Aquatic Uncle" Response

1) Are there any prominent symbols in the story--what are they and how are they used?

The main symbols in "The Aquatic Uncle" were land and sea. Land represented modernity and evolution. Sea symbolized tradition and simplicity. These symbols worked to build up the theme of identity, because throughout the story, Qfwfq and other characters are either grappling with or accepting their identities. Qfwfq idolized the animals who grew up on land, because they were so new and different to him. Lll was interested in Uncle N'ba N'ga because he was so different because what she was used to. This is pretty similar to most younger people; they want to be different from what they're used to and be rebellious. The author also did an accurate portrayal of a lot of old people, who are the opposite: they don't want to change, even a little; they're very set in their ways. In some ways they are wise (like when the uncle was predicting how land animals would have to experience a lot of natural disasters and the natural disasters would possibly strip them of what originally made life worth living) and in other ways they seem a bit crazy... (like when he said random phrases such as "Lower your fins there, youngster!"). The author seemed to really understand humanity and portray it in this story, even though it took place thousands of years ago with fish and evolving fish. Oftentimes, in our society, we think that finding a gray area is what will make us happiest. For example, a lot of people believe that it's not healthy to spend all of one's time in a city, constantly surrounded by technology, but they also don't want to live completely off the grid and fully embrace nature. This contradicts what happens in "The Aquatic Uncle," where the uncle fish is happy to spend his life as a fish, and Lll is happy to "convert" to fishdom, but Qfwfq is never happy in the end because he doesn't feel like he's found his "thing;" he doesn't have a strong sense of identity because he is kind of anti-fish but the character he cares about most is a fish, and his ancestors were fish, so he doesn't feel quite right as a land animal either. In the last paragraph, he says,
It was a hard blow for me. But, after all, what could I do about it? I went on my way, in
the midst of the world's transformations, being transformed myself. Every now and then, among the many forms of living beings, I encountered one who "was somebody" more than I was: one who announced the future, the duck-billed platypus who nurses its young, just hatched from the egg; or I might encounter another who bore witness to a past beyond all return, a dinosaur who had survived into the beginning of the Cenozoic, or else -- a crocodile -- part of the past that had discovered a way to remain immobile through the centuries. They all had something, I know, that made them somehow superior to me, sublime, something that made me, compared to them, mediocre. And yet I wouldn't have traded places with any of them. 
To me, this is the part of the book that illustrates this point most strongly--he talks about other types of animals that he says "were somebody." He says, "And yet I wouldn't have traded places with any of them," but to me this kind of sounds like denial. Even though he claims he's happy the way he is, he doesn't seem as happy as Lll or the fish uncle. In a way, he's as stubborn as the fish uncle is, just in a different way... so stubborn that he loses his fiancé. Maybe becoming more fishy wasn't the answer for him, but I think he needed to find a way to feel that he "was somebody."

2) What connections did you make with the story? Discuss elements of the story with which you were able to connect.

The story reminded me of some other stories and articles I had read previously. Have you seen the movie Big Fish? In this movie, three of the main characters were an old dying grandpa, his son, and the son's wife, who he had recently married. The grandpa is really chatty and grates on the son's nerves because he's always trying to tell stories from his past. At the son's wedding, the grandpa tells a story that annoys the son because 1) he's already heard it 50 times, 2) it feels like his dad is trying to steal the attention from his son at his son's own wedding, 3) it's not a true story. The wife is much more open to the grandpa's stories; she is really patient and appears interested in what he has to say. Lll reminded me of the wife, Uncle N'ba N'ga reminded me of the grandpa, and Qfwfq reminded me of the son. Lll was much more open than Qfwfq to what Uncle N'ba N'ga said, which really surprised Qfwfq, who was expecting her to be appalled. This could be because she hadn't had to put up with him all her life, so she wasn't embarrassed or tired of him. On the contrary, she found what he had to say new and interesting, the opposite of how Qfwfq saw it, similar to the characters in Big Fish. Coincidentally, at the end of Big Fish, the grandpa turns into a fish and swims away; he identifies with fish. It feels very natural for him to do this, as opposed to dying on a hospital bed, which is similar to the difference between fish and non-fish in "The Aquatic Uncle." In the end of Big Fish, the son starts to see things his dad's way, and in the end helps him and accepts him, so it's different from the ending in "The Aquatic Uncle."

3) What changes would you make to adapt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?

I would adapt this story into a short computer-animated film about 20 minutes long with a team of about 15 people to work on it. I have chosen this because I don't think the story is detailed enough to make a full-length movie out of, or simple enough to make a really short film, but 20 minutes seems about right. I chose computer animation over another type of animation because I think if it were done really well as a computer animation, there could be really nice lighting and texturing and effects that would enhance people's appreciation for the story that you couldn't have in another medium. It seems like a story that would do well with a stylized realism look like the look of The Croods perhaps. I would leave the title the same. Though I could also see this story being adapted into a folk song. The benefits of folk songs over animations is that it's easier to incorporate internal dialogue into folk songs because you can just sing your internal dialogue. I can see this being a super long folk song that's around 15 minutes in length and has banjos. This adaptation might give it a bit of a bias towards the uncle fish's side, since banjo folk music has an earthy, traditional feeling, much like the uncle fish. With computer animation, I don't think there'd be as much of a bias towards either side, especially since as I said, there'd be less internal dialogue in favor of the main character.

Uncle N'ba N'ga also kinda reminded me of Kapp'n from Animal Crossing!
Don't ask me why... I guess it was because they were both aquatic and said weird things...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Reality in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

This week I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick. It was really interesting! I got through the whole book in a day because it was such a page-turner... even though I was listening to the audiobook... The main theme in this book was empathy and what it means to be human: where the line between human and nonhuman was drawn, and how it blurred. This is a really common theme in science fiction about artificial intelligence. It brought up memories of the movie AI and the book I, Robot because they shared this theme. It also made me think about Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World because of the weird futuristic settings and strange human behavior.

One of the main similarities I saw between Brave New World and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which I am going to start calling Androids because that title is kind of long...) was the religions present in the books. In BNW, everyone worshipped Ford as their god. In Androids, people followed Mercerism. The big difference was that in BNW this was seen as a bad thing. It was the brainwashed people who followed the religion, and they did lots of weird things as parts of the religion. In Androids, it was more complicated, and it was kind of like Life of Pi where religion was shown as good, but may or may not be real, but still may be good despite not being real.

The way that some of the characters acted kind of reminded me of Fahrenheit 451, thought I read that book four years ago so I don't remember it super well anymore. However, the wives in both books were kind of similar, because they were both kind of dumb and lost in the futuristic world. Actually, I think the lady in BNW who the main character had a crush on was kind of like this too, if I'm remembering right. For the wife in Fahrenheit 451, I just remember her using the seashells a lot, which were like little earbuds that spewed government propaganda. The wife in Androids wasn't quite this dumb, but it bothered me that she was purposely getting depressed using the mood organ. Perhaps I was interpreting her motives wrong, but to me it just seemed kind of childish and irresponsible to purposely get depressed. It seemed like she was taking shallow amusement out of a real problem that seriously plagues some people, but again, maybe I was not interpreting this right; I wasn't totally sure why this was something she wanted.

I kind of wondered when I was reading this if Phillip K. Dick was a vegetarian or something. He seemed to really like animals. From the start, Rick really wanted an animal, a real animal, not a fake sheep android. He was hoping that his neighbor would give him one of his horses (get it? NEIGHbor!?), but the neighbor said no, even though the main character tried to use Mercerism to convince the neighbor to give him one so it would be fair. Animals were highly valued by all of this society. Later, Rick got some money from killing a bunch of androids, and immediately he wanted to spend it on an animal, so he got a goat--this was the first priority he had to spend his extra money on. Towards the end of the book, Isadore finds a spider, and one of the androids wonders why spiders need so many legs, so she decides that she wants to cut off four of its legs and see how it does. This was one example of how androids don't have empathy, but humans do. Isadore was really freaked out by the android cutting the spider's legs off, but the android was completely unbothered by it. The weird thing about this though is that in today's world, there are TONS of humans who torture animals in some way. In comparison to some things that humans put animals through in today's world, cutting four of a spider's legs off seems very tame. So is this Phillip K. Dick's way of saying that anyone who tortures animals isn't really human? The humans in this book viewed animals very differently than the humans do in our world; they gave them a lot more respect and value. It could be his way of saying this should be part of what makes us human.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Fiction of Ideas

I really enjoyed learning about the "fiction of ideas." I think it would be really cool to do a thesis that toys with the fiction of ideas. It would be so hard to do it successfully and convey a whole new idea about the world within a minute-long film, but it's something I'll consider.

I didn't get a chance to read a full novel for this week, but I will talk about the short story "Aye and Gomorrah" by Samuel R. Delany. In class, a few people said that they thought that frelks might not be human or have something weird about them... I found that interesting because for some reason when I was reading it, that thought just didn't really cross my mind. I assumed that frelks were completely normal humans who just happened to have a fetish for spacers, like how it's really common in real life for people who act completely normally to have a weird fetish. I guess the main reason I assumed they weren't aliens was that people couldn't tell who the frelks were so obviously there was nothing about their appearance that people were able to tell. I don't know. I thought it was kind of sad how "frelk" was a really derogatory term for people who seemed to be perfectly normal in the story. They consider being in love with something unattainable to be a perversion, but I think almost everyone has been in love with something unattainable so that's actually really normal.. Maybe that was the point of the story, for the reader to empathize with the frelks. It was kind of hard to tell exactly what the point of the story was but it was still pretty interesting. I read that the author of the story was gay, so maybe he was using the story as a bit of a metaphor on his love life. Being a frelk is kind of like being gay in a way, since there's not really anything bad about them but society can be super judgmental of them anyway.

I also thought the movie A Scanner Darkly was really interesting. I liked the style of animation. Have you heard of the movie Waking Life? As I was watching A Scanner Darkly, I thought, Wow, this looks just like Waking Life, and lo-and-behind, the animation stuff was done by the same people. Waking Life was a philosophy-themed movie and it was really good! I saw it for the first time my junior year of high school and I don't think I've made it through one English class since then without bringing it up at least once; I didn't really realize I did this till now.

Waking Life

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Reinvention of Myth in Anansi Boys

I was able to find a few people on Youtube who put up the audiobook of Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, so that was nice. I was happy to see that this was basically Neil Gaiman week because I had been meaning to read a book by him for a while now, and finally I had a good excuse to do so! Over the summer, I'd also started Stardust and I really liked it, but I didn't have time to finish it... maybe someday. I also remember when Neil Gaiman came to our school during the spring of my freshman year and read some of his work. I really liked it, which is what initially made me want to read more of his stories. I really like him because he seems like a really smart person who has a great mind for fantasy and creativity, plus a true understanding of humanity. So obviously I really enjoyed Anansi Boys... I could relate to Fat Charlie because Fat Charlie is like super uptight and awkward and bad in social situations, and sadly I am very similar. However, I think my favorite character was Daisy. It seemed like whenever they were together, interesting/funny things happened and cute dialogue ensued. She kind of reminds me of Lucy from Despicable Me 2 because they unsuccessfully try to be kind of badass authority figures and are both super lovable. I liked the little injections of humor in the story. They were really funny to me. They seemed like British humor, which makes sense I guess since Neil is English. It helped that the guy doing the recording for the audiobook did great voices for the characters.

I found it interesting that the story was based on the Anansi stories. I remember seeing a play and reading stories about Anansi when I was in elementary school, but it wasn't something I had thought about since then, so as I was reading Anansi Boys, it slowly came back to me. The story of the book is based on the Anansi stories, fables about a prankster spider/god in Africa who played tricks on the other animals. Anansi is represented as Fat Charlie's dad. When their father dies, Fat Charlie and Spider come together and craziness ensues. Spider is also a god, so basically he is super cool and can do some amount of magic. He is really good at picking up studs, whereas Fat Charlie is as hopeless as a leftover piece of blubber when it comes to picking up studs. The worst happens when Spider, posing as Charlie, manages to have sex with Fat Charlie's fiancé, who was previously a virgin who kept insisting to Fat Charlie that she wanted to wait until marriage. Spider again posed as Fat Charlie when he went to work in his place, and was again completely convincing, which shows his power. As the story goes on, the ties to the original fables get stronger. Bird Woman is after Spider, and eventually gives him to Tiger, who cuts out Spider's tongue, and Charlie has to negotiate with Bird Woman in a very supernatural, mystical landscape. Even though I could see that the story was based heavily on the old Anansi stories, it didn't really hurt my experience reading the book that I am not really well-versed on those stories at this point because here and there they were retold throughout Anansi Boys.