Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 14: Science Fiction Parody and Satire

     This week in class we watched "The Stepford Wives". I loved it and definitely want to finish it outside of class. Honestly, I've been enjoying parodies of genres a lot more than I've been enjoying the actual genres lately. I think I've been doing so much art lately that my IQ has gone down a little bit to the point where I can only really understand humor and nothing else (just joking). In all honesty though, I love a quality funny movie.  And most people do; why else would so many song and movie parodies posted on youtube and other social media sites get so many views?
     The list of recommended reads this week was interesting to say the least. Some of the titles actually had me laughing out loud! As I began looking up some of the books on the list and having shocking images pop up on the screen of my laptop, I quickly realized I *probably* shouldn't be looking around this genre while in public, but they were interesting nonetheless. After ruling out "The Haunted Vagina" and "Satan Burger", I decided to settle on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".
     I definitely did not get as far as I would have liked. I found Adams' humor hilarious and I want to continue reading (or listening to the radio drama version of it) over Christmas break. I also find it intriguing that if you dig deeper and look beneath all the jokes and irony, you'll find a complex social commentary by the author. Adams' can take humanity's problems and wrap them up in just a few seemingly humorous sentences, which occurs multiple times throughout the book. I can't wait to keep reading!

Week 13: Literary Speculation

     This week in class we read "The Aquatic Uncle". It was quite a strange little story, but I enjoyed reading it. There are just about a million symbols within this short tale but one of the most prominent ones is the land and water. The water, of course, represents the old ways and traditions of the creatures who live here. The uncle still lives in the water and, therefore, is still stuck in the past. Qfwfq and his family live on the land; this represents a new era of exploration and new ways of living. Qfwfq wants to move into the new age and begin a life with Lll. His uncle, still bogged down by the ways the old times, doesn't support this by any means. Lll is curious though and eventually begins to accept N'ba n'ga's wisdom and life lessons.
     N'ba n'ga's character reminds me of the elderly people of today. Many people dismiss what older people have to say because they "don't know what they're talking about" or they're "starting to lose it". This has always made me sort of sad. While it is true that elderly people may not be able to understand what goes on in today's modern world and adapt to it as deftly as a younger generation can, it in no way means that we should dismiss the things that they try to tell us. I work at a cookie shop in the mall so I see all kinds of people on a daily basis. I can't count the number of times I've seen a group of middle schoolers running around with the grandmother or grandfather that drove them to the mall. In most of these situations, every time the grandparents tries to speak up and join in on the conversation, the kids kind of roll their eyes and say something like "no, Grandma, that's not how it works anymore" or "you don't understand, Grandpa". Even my coworkers roll their eyes when an elderly man or woman comes to the counter and strikes up a conversation whilst paying ("I remember when . . . "). Although I do understand that these conversations can get boring after a while, there's still a lot of valuable life lessons we can learn talking with an older person; after all, it was a lot harder for people back then. If we just take a moment to listen to what someone's saying and have an open mind, like Lll did while listening to N'ba n'ga's rants ad stories, we could learn some pretty priceless things.

Week 11: Cyberpunk and Steam Punk

     To be honest, before this week I didn't know much about the actual literary/cinematic genre of steam punk. Of course, everybody knows the steam punk aesthetic; gears, clocks, Victorian style clothes. I had seen people dress like this, but I never knew what exactly it stemmed from. It was interesting to listen to the "cyberpunk/steam punk" genre described during class since I have never had any real exposure to it previously.
     I ended up watching "Tank Girl" over the weekend. It was quite an interesting film and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. Although I personally found Tank Girl rather annoying, I did appreciate her obsession with weaponry. My favorite scene has to be the part where she discovers the tank and seems to fall in love. Our heroine, as I discussed last post, isn't helpless like many of the female characters in older movies. She has a strong personality; she's brave, independent, and ready to kick some butt. She knows what she wants. She fights and isn't afraid to take on enemies and situations that most would find quite dangerous.
     It's always refreshing to see a strong female heroine rather than a damsel in distress simply placed in a novel or movie as eye candy. Though this film isn't necessarily what I imagined steam punk to look like (i.e. her outfit . . . she almost appears to be more on the punk side of steam punk), it was still and interesting film to watch and a nice change from what I'm used to.

Week 10: The Fiction of Ideas

     I think one of the coolest things about science fiction movies is the way they attempt to predict the future. If you take a look back at a lot of old science fiction movies from the 50's and 60's, many of them make predictions about things that could exist in the future; some are spot on and some are way off. For example, "The Jetsons" television series follows a family in the year 2000. In this futuristic world, everyone owns a flying car and employs a robot maid. Well, the year is now 2015 and this couldn't be further from the truth (although I do wish my car could fly; Sarasota drivers are incredibly slow . . . ). In contrast, Ray Bradbury imagines up a handful of inventions in "Fahrenheit 451", many of which have come to life in some form or another.
     When reading this novel back in the day, many people probably didn't think that many of Ray Bradbury's predictions would come true. For example, the "shells" and "thimble radios" that people use throughout the books to communicate sound eerily similar to the bluetooth headsets that people wear today. In addition to this, Ray talks about a gigantic, flat screen the size of a wall that people are obsessed with and can't stop watching; sounds an awful lot the huge flat screen televisions that we have today. He also discusses people communicating with each other through "the wall" which can be connected with social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, etc. A few other topics Ray discusses are artificial intelligence (I can't count the number of times I've read about some sort of new form of AI, from robots to military drones), self-driving cars (which is currently being worked on . . . this idea terrifies me, and surveillance of the general public (you can't go anywhere without seeing  security camera staring you down).
     One of the most prevalent themes within "Fahrenheit 451" is the loneliness that comes from being obsessed with technology rather than spending time with the people you love. I can't go through a single day without seeing a person glued to their phone, blissfully unaware of their surroundings. I see students on campus almost run into each other or trip over something on a daily basis because they are so enveloped in their iPhones or iPads. This prediction is the most eerie and sad of them all.

Week 9: Space Opera

     Besides "Star Wars", I've never really been a fan of space-themed science fiction movies. Though some boast stunning visual effects while others present their audience with unbelievably intricate story lines, I've come to realize that I'm definitely more of a fantasy person. That being said, I'll never pass up the opportunity to watch a space film. But space opera is a little bit different from just the average science fiction movie. Wikipedia defines space opera as "a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, and often risk-taking as well as chivalric; usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons and other sophisticated technology." 

     Space Opera brings a whole new set of "issues" to the table. There is commonly a damsel in distress during wartime and an intergalactic hero sent to save her. One thing I love about “Star Wars” is the fact that Princess Leia isn’t just some wimpy princess who gets kidnapped and can’t fend for herself. Though she is kidnapped, she’s very “girl powery”, something that I always appreciate in a female character. Many of the women in several of the movies we viewed in class were sort of helpless. Their only purpose seemed to be acting as eye candy for the men both in the audience and on screen. For example, in the film “Forbidden Planet” that we viewed during class, the girl is only there to serve as a sexual object; she’s only a romantic target for the men in the film. The entire film she’s clad in tight-fitting or short clothes. She’s very innocent and doesn’t seem to know the power she has over the space men. Throughout the film, she doesn’t really do anything of much importance; she’s very dependent on the males in the movie. This is a stark contrast to Princess Leia, who grabs a weapon, gets out there, and fights in the battles right alongside the boys. She knows what she wants and she goes after it, a quality that used to be rare in female heroines. Anyhow, Princess Leia serves as an awesome role model as well as my favorite character in the series.  She’s really out of this world! :) 

Week 8: Mythic Fiction and Contemporary Urban Fantasy

     Urban fantasy and mythic fiction are subgenres of fantasy, but equally as immersive and entertaining. In my last blog post, I talked about how easy it was to be pulled into a fantasy story; the author’s world quickly becomes our world. Unlike many fantasy books, urban fantasy is a bit more “realistic”. I mean, not that any fantasy story is necessarily realistic by any means, but urban fantasy makes the ideas within the story seem more tangible; it’s almost as if something like this could happen to you or me. These stories take ordinary people in ordinary places and throw them into extraordinary situations. The stories slowly begin to grow into something fantastic and almost dreamlike.
      Though I never really got far into the book series, I did very much enjoy the “Percy Jackson” series. This example of mythic fiction presented us with lovable characters thrown into fantastic situations. Percy was an easy character to connect with since he’s just a normal kid like I was. He seems confused in the beginning and unsure of himself and his purpose throughout the story, which makes him an easy character to connect with. The moment you open a “Percy Jackson” novel, you just get sucked right in; before you know it, hours have passed. This is what makes these books so popular among young adults. It’s easy to escape from this, at times, rather dreary world we live in and enter a magical world where almost anything is possible, especially when it’s common for the impossible to happen to normal people.  Take, for example, Harry Potter (who just so happens to be the main character of my all time favorite book series): he’s an average boy with a drab life whose life is flipped upside down on his eleventh birthday when he discovers his lineage (“yer a wizard, ‘arry”).  It would be a lie to say that you never secretly looked forward to  receiving a letter from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on your eleventh birthday, your name written in Dumbledore’s whimsical handwriting. Urban fantasy stories are all part of a complete childhood; without them, I don’t know if I’d be the same person and have the same interests that I do today.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Week 7: The Novel of Spiritual Education

     This week was most definitely my favorite. The fantasy genre has always been an interest of mine from a young age. I can recall many snowy winter days curled up in a blanket beside the window, watching the snowflakes and reading "Chronicles of Narnia" or breezy summer nights spent outside reading "Harry Potter" using the moon as my only source of light. Fantasy novels hold the most pleasant of childhood memories when compared to other books. They transport you to amazing places that inspire you to create fantastical places of your own. In fact, the fantasy genre has influenced a lot when it comes to my writing style and my artwork; the books I've read throughout my childhood make me think in whole new ways.
     I can still remember the days before I became a fan of the fantasy genre (what dark days those were). Every time a trailer for a new "Harry Potter" movie would pop up during a commercial break, I would openly mock the wizards in a high pitched voice. Coming from a small, Christian school, not many of my classmates and friends were allowed to read "Harry Potter" since it involved sorcery which apparently may "put dangerous thoughts in the children's heads" (ha). I was surprised when my mother came home from the library one day and put "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" down in front of me. I can clearly remember asking "are you serious? These books are so stupid" so she put it back beside her purse to take back to the library the following day. Curiosity eventually took over and I grabbed the book and began reading. One sentence in, I was hooked and as I turned the last page of the book, I realized I had been reading all day.
     I think that's what's so impressive about the fantasy genre; people yearn to get away from day-to-day life so that moment something unusual is presented to them, they let themselves become immersed into it. Why else would all these giant fantasy novel fan bases exist? These stories also leave a lot up to interpretation when it comes to meaning which makes them easily applicable to anyone reading. Fantasy stories are timeless and will continue to entertain masses of people for generations to come.