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Donnie Darko

I’m working through some ideas about what I find to be one of the more striking films of the last couple of years, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. It’s a visually compelling film, beautifully filmed, with great performances. Kelly also uses music very effectively, evoking the John Hughes films of the 1980s with songs by The Thompson Twins, Joy Division, and a cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” This post may be a little disjointed as I’m still thinking through the film.

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SCMS Panel Proposal

I just submitted the following panel proposal for the upcoming Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference in Atlanta in March 2003. If anyone is interested in submitting an abstract, feel free to contact me by email. Other proposed panels are available here.

This panel explores how digitization transforms our understanding of moving images, producing what Lev Manovich refers to as a “‘crisis’ of cinema’s identity.” Possible questions may include: How does digitization transform cinematic montage? How does the apparent malleability of the digital image transform cinematic perception? How has cinema’s “identity crisis” been displaced onto the “identity crisis” associated with discussions of the “posthuman?”

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Indy Media Reminder

Just wanted remind Atlanta readers about tomorrow night’s media forum and celebration of WRFG’s (Radio Free Georgia) 30th anniversary. I’m looking forward to going and meeting with others who support or participate in the independent media.

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Turning Tables

In the original incarnation of the chutry experiment, I reflected (scroll down to March 16 and 17) on what I found to be a fascinating use of blogs, the first hand accounts from journalists, soldiers, and civilians on the war in Iraq, the most famous of which is, of course, Salam Pax. I was struck by the fact that the immediate publication associated with blogging seemed perfectly fit to the immediacy of first-person narratives about the war. I’m less wide-eyed about the medium now, but I have recently come across a blog published by a U.S. soldier that struck me as particularly fascinating. The soldier, who publishes under the identity “moja,” is frequently critical of U.S. policy and in many of his posts carefully weighs the consequences of our actions in Iraq, while often expressing sympathy with the Iraqi citizens (including Salam Pax). Perhpas most interesting is his reflection on what is permissible for him to say, a question that comes across in an exchange with an ex-Navy Seal. Moja writes that the ex-Seal

feels that as a soldier i should keep quite about all of my political beliefs…i, as a soldier, feel that i do have the right of free speech with in the realm of the army…there are things that i can not speak about…my chain of command…the president…their decisions…and the like…
These questions frequently come to the surface in Moja’s blog, and through his ambivalence about U.S. policy, he provides an intriguing perspective on the situation in Iraq. As with other “front bloggers” (I prefer that term to “warbloggers”), there has been some debate about the authenticity of <...turning tables...>, but it’s still an interesting read.

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Steal a Little…

Interesting controversy brewing around the discovery that Bob Dylan may have borrowed lines from a 1991 Japanese book, Confessions of a Yakuza, by Junichi Saga. The discovery was made by an American English teacher living in Japan, and looking at the lyrics listed at the end of The Guardian article, there are some strong similarities, but I think accusations of plagiarism are vastly overstated. I don’t see Dylan’s actions as simply “stealing” the words of another artist as the Globe and Mail editorial implies; Dylan’s incorporation of the references to Saga’s book (if that is really what is happening) is much more complicated than that. I certainly don’t see Dylan’s actions as “tarnishing” his career (Globe and Mail again).

Saga has graciously claimed in interviews that he has no plans to sue Dylan, and news of the connection has considerably increased sales of his book. In fact he claimed to be flattered by the attention of an artist of Dylan’s caliber, and I generally share the suggestion that credit in future copies of the album might be a reasonable solution.

This criticism of Dylan certainly belongs in the current discussion of intellectual property, and in general, it feels a bit too policing for my tastes in that it takes focus away from the wrong targets (the way that copyright law is constructed). Of course, there are other people who are much more prepared to talk about this issue than I am.

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Ramesses I

Had lunch with S who is working at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University this summer. Before lunch, S gave me an excellent tour of the museum’s special exhibit on Ramesses I, who is the grandfather of Ramesses II, famous for being the pharaoh during the time of Moses. The exhibit and the history of this particular mummy were both pretty interesting.

Ramasses I succeeded two other generals who had fulfilled the role of pharaoh after Tutankhamen’s early death. The mummy was only recently identified as Ramesses I after being purchased by the museum in 1999, and there is still wide debate as to the accuracy of these claims. The identification process itself is pretty trippy (click on the appropraite link of the Ramesses website), with the use of X-rays, DNA, the placement of the mummy’s arms, the mummification process, and other forms of testing.

The story of the mummy itself (and how it came to be lost) is fascinating, but I won’t go into too much detail for fear of getting facts wrong, but apparently many mummies were reburied in a well-hidden cave because of tomb robbers during a period of economic and political turmoil during the Egyptian dynasty around 1000 BCE. However, Ramesses’ mummy disappeared during the late nineteenth century, and it is implied that the Abd el-Rassul family who discovered the cache may have been selling off bits and pieces of the collection to dealers (including the mummy in question) who would, in turn, sell them to (usually Western) collectors, such as the Niagara Falls Museum and Daredevil Hall of Fame where this piece resided.

One of the artifacts that I found most interesting was a stereoscope image of the mummy that dated from the 19th century. I don’t know that I have a clear interpretation here, but the novelty of stereoscopes in the nineteenth century, the association between photography and death, and the mummy as the object of the image was pretty cool.

The Carlos Museum itself is well worth checking out if you’re in Atlanta. It has a nice collection of Egyptian and South American antiquities, all of which are very well-contextualized. Cool stuff.

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Blogathon Revisited

One of my former students is participating in Blogathon 2003 for a cause that he is deeply passionate about. My financial situation is a little rough right now, but I thought I’d give him (and his cause) a little free publicity. I can’t state the value of his goals nearly as eloquently as he can, so please take a look.

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The Animatrix

After Jason’s discussion of “bridging worlds,” I was inspired to check out The Animatrix, which is a collection of nine animated segments that provide us with more background into the world of the Matrix films (and provide another outlet for lining Warner Bros’ pockets). For the most part, I enjoyed The Animatrix and felt that it extended some of the “universe building” that Jason describes in his post. In general, I enjoyed most of the segments, even though they often resorted to generic Matrixian platitudes (some of which reminded me of TV shrink, Dr. Phil) about perception and reality. The animation was generally inventive, and each segment had its own “signature” animation style, which added considerably to the film.

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Forum on Independent Media

FYI Atlanta readers: A follow-up event to the FCC town hall meeting is scheduled for July 15 from 7-10 PM at the Auburn Avenue Research Library. The event is also a celebration of community radio station WRFG’s 30th anniversary. Full text of the announcement follows.

[By the way, the reason for the light (non)blogging the last few days: I’ve been fighting a cold (I finally won).]

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Blogging and Research Revisited

Richard McManus offers a compelling argument for privileging “topics” rather than authorship as a key term in organizing the blogosphere. McManus is responding to an assertion by Clay Shirky that favors authorship as the key term for organizing blogs:

The weblog world has taken the 4 elements of organization from mailing lists and usenet — overall topic, time of post, post title, author — and rearranged them in order of importance as author, time, and title, dispensing with topics altogether.

One of McManus’s strongest arguments is that organizing blogs by authorship can be “elitist,” with the potential to exclude alternative voices. I think he’s certainly right, and, as the disussion earlier this week implies, we need more flexible ways of “mapping” the blogosphere. But I am also well aware of the fact that authorship is an important factor in my interpretation of any text (written, musical, filmic, bloggish), so I absolutely do not want to dispense with the category altogether, and I think that McManus’s emphasis on content (“I’d rather just read and write about topics that are of interest to me, thanks”) elides this fact. Of course my blogroll, which is organized by author/title, reproduces the logic of authorship. But because we’ve been discussing similar issues the last few days, I thought I’d bring up this point as well.

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Salsa Recipe(s)

I thought George’s “distributed recipe book” was a great idea, so here is my contribution, a salsa recipe given to me by some friends from my days in grad school at Purdue.

Red Salsa:

  • 7 Roma tomatos (chopped)
  • 3-4 jalapeno peppers (chopped, remove seeds)
  • 1/4 vidalia onion (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • pinch of salt, black pepper
  • (optional) juice of one lime

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and mix (I usually use the “blend” or “chop” settings) to ensure the flavors mix nicely. The salsa usually tastes better if you refrigerate it for a couple of hours before serving, but it’s ready to eat right away. You can also substitute tomatilloes for the roma tomatoes for a nice, mellow salsa. The amount of jalapenos is, of course, optional depending on your tolerance for spiciness, but I usually find that using four works best.

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Blogathon 2003

I’m probably not going to participate, because I don’t like asking friends for money, even if I believe it’s for a good cause (plus I just found out I can make some money that day), but I found the concept of a “Blogathon” too intriguing not to mention:

Remember when you were in school and you would bowl for charity? And for every pin you knocked down you got, say, ten cents? Or run for a dollar a mile? During the Blogathon, people update their websites every 30 minutes for 24 hours straight. For this, they collect sponsorships. Pledges can be a flat donation, or a certain amount for every hour the blogger manages to stay awake.

Many of the suggested charities (Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders) are doing important work, and I have to admit, the experiment of tracing the course of an entire day is enticing, especially given my interest in blogging and temporality. Last year’s Blogathon also appears to have inspired several creative approaches tailored to the concept of a blog marathon, including one blogger who posted in haiku and another who wrote a blog novel. Of course, when I participated in these activities as a teenager, including a Rockathon, which required me to sit in a rocking chair all night, they (or at least I) usually faded pretty quickly. Still, I’ll be interested to see what kinds of “gimmicks” this year’s Blogathon produces.

Update: Earlier today, I was stumbling over what made this sound so interesting, and I think it has something to do with what Dave called the “blog’s illusion of immediacy,” and a Blogathon seems to play off that illusion, or perhaps better, that desire.

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Blogging Abstract

Here is my abstract for the Into the Blogosphere CFP:

Writing to the Moment: Blogging and the Everyday

One of the primary features of weblogs is that they allow the writer to instantly publish his or her thoughts. This sense of immediacy is, to my mind, the crucial characteristic of blogging, with this instantaneity often resulting in a focus on the contemporary, the ephemeral, although the archives allow this everyday content to be placed into a larger narrative. Blogs are also characterized by their privileging of the most recent post, usually placing it at the front or top of the page, creating a medium characterized by linear, sequential organization. Finally, blogs frequently contain multiple links, both within blogrolls of blogs that the writer regularly visits, and within the posts themselves. Each of these qualities contributes to the ways in which blogs organize our thinking while also providing insight into the way our thinking about time might inform the tools that we create. Linearity and discrete posts may produce a segmentation of thinking that is rather artificial; however, they also provide a means for working through everyday experience, specifically through the heavy linking associated with the weblog medium.

This paper will discuss the temporal dynamics of blogging, specifically the role of the medium’s chronological organization and frequent updates, in order to consider how the medium organizes thought. I will consider how weblogs function as a means for organizing and assimilating experience. In this sense, my argument will draw from Walter Benjamin’s concept of experience, specifically as Peter Osborne has reworked it in The Politics of Time. Blogs provide their writers a key means for sifting through the detritus of everyday life, and by extension, offer digital studies a crucial means for thinking about how we define the everyday. In this context, I find it useful to draw from a variety of blogs that engage with the everyday in different, often contradictory ways, in order to understand how writers approach and seek to understand their everyday experience.

I found it very difficult to limit myself to 250 words, and I’m not sure that I gave myself enough space to explain how I’ll be engaging with Benjamin (especially his two distinct concepts of experience, Erlebnis and Erfahrung) in terms of blogging. Hopefully what I’ve submitted will be evocative (provocative?) enough. Other cool proposals: Anne Galloway’s discussion of blogs as liminal spaces and Grumpygirl’s Web Studio Abstract.

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Lawrence v. Texas

Via Jennifer Klyse, (scroll down to June 26) more information about the recent SCOTUS decision overturning Texas’ law banning same-sex sodomy, including the majority opinion (PDF), Justice O’Connor’s separate ruling (PDF), and dissenting opinions by Justices Scalia and Thomas (both PDF).

In addition, a nice editorial from DailyKos arguing that this decision opens up the possibility for legalizing gay marriage. The reading of Scalia’s emotional rant (about the “homosexual agenda”), er decision, helps illuminate this point nicely.

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Weekend Update

Nope, I’m not talking about my weekend (although I should have some good news on a car soon), but I just wanted to do a little housecleaning with some recent political events that have been on my mind.

  • The Results are In: The winner of the Moveon.org virtual primary is (no surprise) Howard Dean. MoveOn’s analysis of the voting and their assertions of fairness are quite interesting. What strikes me is how poorly Joe Lieberman performed in the voting. I’m no Lieberman fan, but he fared little better than Al Sharpton. I realize that MoveOn skews liberal-left, and I am aware of the criticisms (Salon link, sorry to non-subscribers) of Dean’s campaign, but at the very least, I think it illustrates the difficulty of getting the more liberal-leaning Dems enthusiastically behind Lieberman.
  • The SCOTUS scores a point: As George reported (via the Washington Post), the Supreme Court rules Texas’s anti-sodomy law unconstitutional, generally on “privacy” grounds (although Sandra O’Connor notably used “equal protection” as her basis in a spearately written opinion). George offers an insightful observation that Kennedy’s belief that future generations will seek “greater freedom” runs the risk of seeing freedom redefined in dangerous ways, others have argued that this decision might be a positive belwhether for preserving Roe v. Wade (actually, I’m not so sure the CSM is enthusiastic about the precedent, but I am). Like George, though, I am concerned about how broad concpets such as freedom and privacy will be interpreted by future SCOTUSes.
  • “Even the Dead Will Not be Safe:” Interesting times in Georgia this week as two of the state’s most charismatic politicians passed away, Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, and Lester Maddox, a segregationist governor from the late 1960s. One interesting detail is current governor, Sonny Perdue’s choice to lower state flags to half-mast to honor Maddox but not for Jackson. I’ll refrain from speaking ill of the so-called “colorful” segregationist Maddox, but for someone who contributed so much to the city and the state (promoting minority business ownership and building Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport), Jackson deserves a lot better. Check out Andrew Young’s wonderful column.
  • Shut the F*** Up: Via Invisible Adjunct, I learned that Liz Lawley’s blog was blocked by the filtering software being used in a bar where she checked her blog. In both cases, an interesting discussion of SCOTUS’s decision to uphold the Children’s Internet Protection Act ensues. As Liz puts it, “Scary stuff, isn’t it?”

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