Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Protest, Degrees, Byatt

“The work is horrible, Dr. Himmelblau. It digusts. It desecrates. Her studio—in which the poor creature also eats and sleeps—is papered with posters of Matisse’s work. La Rêve. Le Nu rose. Le Nu bleu. Grande Robe bleue. La Musique. L’Artiste et son modèle. Zorba sure la terasse. And they have all been smeared and defaced. With what look like organic matter—blood, Dr. Himmelblau, beef stew or feces—I incline toward the latter since I cannot imagine good daube finding its way into that miserable tenement. Some of the daubing are deliberate reworkings of bodies or faces—changes of outlines—some are like thrown tomatoes—probably are thrown tomatoes—and eggs, yes—and some are great swastikas of shit. It is appalling. It is pathetic.”

“It is no doubt meant to disgust and desecrate,’ states Dr. Himmelblau, neutrally.

“And what does that matter? How can that excuse it?’ roars Perry Diss, startling the young Chinese woman, who is lighting the wax lamps under the plate warmer, so that she jumps back.

“In recent times,” says Dr. Himmelblau, “art has traditionally had an element of protest.”

Traditional protest, hmph,” shouts Perry Diss, his neck reddening. “Nobody minds protests, I’ve protested in my time, we all have, you aren’t the real thing if you don’t have a go at being shocking, protest is de rigeur, I know. But what I object to here, is the shoddiness, the laziness. It seems to me—forgive me, Dr. Himmelblau—but this—this caca offends something I do hold sacred, a word that would make that little bitch snigger, no doubt, but sacred, yet—it seems to me, that if she could have produced worked copies of those—those masterpieces—those shining—never mind—if she could have done some work—understood the blues, and the pinks, and the whites, and the oranges, yes, and the blacks too—and if she could still have brought herself to feel she must—must savage them—then I would have had to feel some respect.”

“You have to be careful about the word masterpieces,” murmurs Dr. Himmelblau.

“Oh, I know all that stuff, I know it well. But you have got to listen to me. It can have taken at the maximum half an hour—and there’s no evidence anywhere in the silly girl’s work that she’s ever spent more than that actually looking at Matisse—she has no accurate memory of one when we talk, none, she amalgamates them all in her mind into one monstrous female corpse bursting with male aggression—she can’t see, can’t you see? And for half an hour’s shit-spreading we must give her a degree?”

Byatt, A. S. “The Chinese Lobster.” The Matisse Stories. New York: Vintage, 1993. 106-108.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Persepolis, Satrapi, The Veil

Things have just sort of fortuitously happened that we read Marjane Satrapi’s “The Veil” in my class this summer. I happen to have a female student from Saudi Arabia, and it has been really interesting to get her own perspective on issues in the Middle East that I remain uninformed of or that I have been taught to think of a certain way. One of these issues is the veil.

Satrapi is the graphic novelist whose biographical work, Persepolis, was recently turned into a film and nominated for an academy award. She is of Iranian heritage, so it has been interesting to read about her responses and reaction to the Iranian Revolution from a couple decades ago and then compare them from what I have been absorbing from today’s events in Iran.

Below is a trailer of the film. I recently watched it on Netflix, and I have to admit it is quite the gem. I really think her animation is great, and the story itself is very interesting. I like how I could identify with her so much, even though I didn’t actually experience what she did.

We read this chapter of Satrapi’s Persepolis that is in our textbook, Seeing and Writing. I have been getting students to think about visual culture this semester, and one of the units is on gender. One of the things that I think about the veil is that it so clearly marks the gender of the woman. It is the woman that wears the veil. So, it made sense to me to include this on the course schedule. At the time, I had no idea that I was going to have a Saudi Arabian female in my class, but I am so happy I did because she able to enliven our discussion of the veil and gender issues from her own experiences. I have included some images for your consideration.

My Saudi Arabian student chose to write about this chapter. Her paper was really interesting. It was basically a response paper in which she talked about things she agreed and disagreed with in the chapter. I remember in class, she couldn’t understand why the children were so angry about having to wear the veil. I had to explain that one interpretation (at least the one that I was thinking of) was that it forced these children to lose their individuality. By all looking the same, they aren’t able to be unique, which can be a big deal to children. Granted this is my own interpretation, but it was about all I had to answer her.

I just purchased the book today at the bookstore because someone used it in a 1063, advanced writing class in the spring. I would like to start reading it this weekend on vacation as soon as I finish this other short-ish novel that I have been reading rather slowly this week.

Movie Trailers

IMDB had this awesome link on the other day that I just need to write about.

IFC.com released a list of the 50 greatest film trailers of all time. Seeing this, I couldn’t help but be completely impressed by the list. I am such of fan of movie trailers. I have this idea that I think could be great, but I really don’t have enough energy to make it happen. So, here goes. I think movie theatres should have a theatre open just to show trailers. Think about it. At any given time there is about somewhere around 50-ish trailers for upcoming features circulating on the Internet. We can then suppose 2 minutes for each trailers, which would put us around 100 minutes, give or take—the same time that is the length of a typical, average movie. They could play these trailers in a loop, and you could walk in and out whenever you wanted. I think it’s genius! But that is just because I love movie trailers so much. I’m telling you, like I’ve said before, I just feed off of the anticipation.

So, out of their list of 50 movies, I have seen 36 of them (I couldn’t count one of them because it’s not out yet, but I do plan on seeing it as soon as it comes out. Trailer for it below.), and I definitely agree with a lot of their choices. Here are some of the trailers via YouTube.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009) [This is the movie that is not out yet, and I am dying to see it. The song in the trailer is the bomb. “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire. It’s making its way up my play count on my iTunes.]

Cloverfield (2008) [J. J. Abrams. Need I say more.]

Sleeper (1973) [A Woody Allen trailer. Okay, so not my favorite film of all time, but I totally understand why this made IFC’s list. Plus, it’s just interesting to talk about.]

Pyscho (1960 ) [Hitchcock spills all here.]

[This was not on the list, but I think it is so funny that in Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse film they included fake trailers to play off of what their own films were doing. Here’s the trailer for Machete.]