Sunday, December 15, 2013

Final Blog Reflection - English 495

            I looked over this blog today, starting from the bottom (poetry essay) and then working my way up towards my final draft for our final essay project. It was an interesting experience to say the least, mostly due to the fact that prior to this assignment (blog creation) I didn’t know exactly what a blog was or more accurately, what was the point. Writing in a journal has always been an assignment I never completed or simply dismissed because the actual action of writing down my thoughts and/or experiences has never interested me.

            This isn’t to say that I don’t like writing. Far from it as I am a creative writing major, it’s been more of a problem of finding what to say that would intrigue or entertain someone. I write because I enjoy the reaction and the praise from people who genuinely enjoyed reading my story. And when I thought about it, what satisfaction could one derive from reading about my thoughts on buttered toast when they could be more entertained reading how I think a story about a Genie and a selfish man would play out? 

            As such, when I looked over my blog this morning to begin my refection, I began to notice a story that intermingled and weaved between each post. My first post of the semester was my poetry essay about A.E. Housman’s poem, “To an Athlete Dying Young.” Although I find myself confused and irritated with poetry, I have always remembered this poem because of what I originally assumed was a tragic ending and ultimately morbid stance on death. However, thanks to the research I did, I discovered a different take on Housman’s view of life and success and found myself for once, enjoying the process of poetry dissection.

            The second blog post I posted was my two poetry writing assignments. As stated, I dislike poetry but as a writing major, I looked forward to doing something creative. While I do not think these poems will win any prizes anytime soon, I am ultimately happy with what I created; additionally, these poems will always stand out to me because of where I was when I wrote them. Though the concept and the ideas had been established for a long time, the writing didn’t happen until I found myself in Hawaii, watching the sun rise as I typed them out. Though these poems have nothing to do with that setting, it is impossible to reflect on them without remembering the adventure I had around them.

            My final blog posts were two different group projects and an essay. And although my blog does not mention names or have any pictures of my group, simply reading them brings them all back to light. From several scattered emails to sharing picture to collaborating on direction and presentation, it is impossible to think of these assignments without remembering the jokes, the conversations and the friends that I made this semester.

             Looking back over this blog is like seeing a slice of my history. Though the details are invisible to the casual observer, what I see is a record of my past that I would have otherwise forgotten. And seeing my writing cooperating with the pictures I inserted brings me to discover an intermingling of technologies that although common in my day-to-day life, seemed inclusive to as a medium I could use. As such, my blog reflection boils down to this; I wish I had down more with it because of I am proud of what I have created here. While I do not think I have discovered the universal appeal and purpose of a blog, I do feel that I have discovered the personal appeal for myself. Though the causal visitor may stumble across this page and only take a moderate interest, I myself will always remember it more for the stories that sprang up around every post. 

*Except for the Hawaii photo, all other images are courtesy of random Google searches :)

World Text Analysis Essay - Final Draft

Christian Murillo
Professor Wexler
English 495
December 15, 2013
Lost between Public and Private Translation

            David Harvey’s, “Cultural Space and Urban Place: The New World Disorder,” seemed to resonate in-conjunction with the film “Lost in Translation,” partly due to the concept of Public and Private spaces. Sophia Coppola’s film is about a middle-aged man named Bob, played by Bill Murray. Bob is an accomplished actor past his prime and supremely dissatisfied with his life and with his current lack of a career. Faced with monetary problems and few choices for alleviation, he takes a job in Japan reading lines for a whiskey commercial. While some people would see this as an unforgettable opportunity to dive into a new culture and climate, Bob sees this as a mockery of his profession and at worst, as an absolute waste of his time. His indifference changes however upon meeting Charlotte, played by Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett is a young woman who, like Bob, also finds herself in Japan under unfavorable circumstances; but more importantly, she also discovers that she and Bob are occupying the same lonely place within a city filled people. As a result of mutual isolation, Bob and Charlotte spark a close and intimate friendship that shelters them from the outside world. What’s interesting about them however, is that Bob and Charlotte, despite their similarities, represent a key concept from Harvey’s “Cultural Space and Urban place;” the idea of the public and the private space which are traditionally applied to men and women respectively, but which Sophia Copella has altered to represent the role of women in the modern world. 

When we first meet Charlotte, she is isolated from Japan and from society; she exists primarily in the Private space. Her husband however, is working as a photographer that caters to celebrities. As such, he is pivotally placed within the Public sphere. The Public and the Private spheres are concepts that exist in nearly every culture around the world. This is what turns this film from an American story to a Multinational text. Charlotte represents the Private Sphere which Harvey notes is representative of the “Home” and the “Feminine,” both of which apply to Charlotte. However, Charlotte is not content to remain at “home;” as the film progresses, Charlotte leaves her room and engages in primarily Japanese activities. This is a stark contrast to her husband who within the Public sphere is unable to disengage himself from his American “hobbies” such as drinking in a bar and focusing on work, and as a result does not engage with the true Public sphere. This is a reversal of the traditionally dominate public role that men have occupied; throughout the course of the film, Charlotte is the one who demonstrates how comfortable she is in the Public sphere by leaving the room and trying different experiences.

To expand upon this further, we must look at the role of Bob and his interactions with the Public Sphere, which as Harvey notes is considered masculine due to its association with work. Bob however, is uncomfortable within the traditionally male Public sphere due to his inability to understand the language and because of his initially blatant refusal to compromise to Japan’s cultural norms. As such, Bob is dissatisfied with work and thus spends much of his time in Japan (whether within the Public or Private realms) visibly uncomfortable; from trying to stand underneath a shorter shower head, to mocking Japanese accents and tastes (Roger Moore) to even turning down a very coveted chance to appear on Japan’s version of the Johnny Carson show. He is determined to leave the country as soon as he collects a paycheck, up until he meets Charlotte. This is where the film really begins the redefine the role of the Public and Private spheres; Charlotte who started in the Private domestic sphere, is the traveler and the adventurer who unlocks Bob’s innate desire to interact with those around him. Because of Charlotte, Bob discovers the joy of Karaoke and spends more than one night partying with a group of Japanese strangers (Charlotte’s friends). Bob also tries new restaurants and remarkably, despite his initial mockery of Japanese accents, he fully and completely engages with an elderly Japanese man at the hospital, completely bypassing the language barrier to have a conversation (even though he doesn’t understand anything). He even takes the “Johnny Carson” job in order to spend an extra day with Charlotte. As such, Charlotte has redefined the gender norms of Public and Private spheres by not only successfully navigating the Public sphere but also by dragging Bob back into the Public sphere as well and strengthening his relationship with it.

 Although “Lost in Translation” starts with the traditional Public and Private spheres, the film focuses on the growing relationship between Bob and Charlotte. As two lonely people who come together in mutual isolation, the film is a bit of a tragic love story and because of that, it is able to successfully flip the gender roles. Charlotte should be in the domestic sphere while Bob focuses on the Public and yet it is only because of Charlotte’s desire to leave the domestic space that Bob is able to gradually become comfortable with his role and even desire to be in it longer. This makes the film into a multinational text as the Public and Private are well-known through most patriarchal societies; but by changing and combining the roles (Charlotte and Bob helping each other cope with the loneliness of the Public sphere), “Lost in Translation” is able to successfully show women not only adapting but defining new roles with men who are no longer seen not just as leaders but as followers and ultimately as partners.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

First Draft of "Lost in Translation" final paper

Christian Murillo
Professor Wexler
English 495
December 8, 2013
Lost in Harvey
            Of the three pieces of assigned reading, it felt that Harvey’s “Cultural Space and Urban Place: The New World Disorder,” resonated the most in regards to the film, “Lost in Translation.” Sophia Copolla’s masterpiece is about a man named Bob who is an actor that is dissatisfied with his life and career. For money, he takes a job in Japan reading lines for a commercial. While some might see this as an unforgettable opportunity to dive into a new culture, Bob sees this as a mockery of his profession and worse, as a waste of his time. His tone changes however, upon meeting Charlotte, a young woman who like Bob, finds herself in Japan; but even more like Bob, she soon discovers that they are occupying the same lonely place in time and space, and that together they create a whole that cannot be matched by the outside world. This is in part because despite being surrounded by millions of people and lights, the city itself is too big, too sharp and as such, too stifling and blinding. These themes come together notably in two key concepts of Harvey’s work; the idea of the public and the private space and the Chicago school’s definition of Urbanism.  
            When we first meet Charlotte, she is presented as a lonely housewife, occupying a nice hotel room with a beautiful vista of Japan. Her husband is a photographer that caters to celebrities and as a consequence, is consistently busy. His image is of a frail, forgetful but loyal husband who is too busy to pay attention to his wife who is finding herself wallowing in self misery. Charlotte does not have a job nor does she have any prospects other than existing in a city she doesn’t understand; a jab by her husband indicates that she went to Harvard and from that we can deduce that a woman with such distinct intelligence must be going insane in this situation. As such, Charlotte thus represents the Private Space which Harvey defines as the “Home” and the “Feminine” both of which apply to Charlotte. In this case, Bob would thus represent the “Public Sphere” which as Harvey notes is considered masculine due to its association with work, however, the film takes these concepts and redefines the roles. Bob is uncomfortable in his sphere due to his inability to understand the language and his refusal to compromise to their cultural norms. As such, it is interesting to see Charlotte take the lead in branching out from the domestic sphere and taking Bob with her; through her, she introduces him to Karaoke, Sushi, and even Japanese people Bob would have otherwise never met, despite his role as the masculine public figure.  

            As much as Charlotte and Bob are the main characters, it can be argued that the city of Tokyo, and by associated Japan itself, is also a character. The sprawling urban jungle is rife with experiences, amusements, and sensations that must be experienced in order to be remembered, and as stated above, Bob only gets to experience these things because of Charlotte. Given how the city is portrayed throughout the film, Harvey’s research of the “Chicago School’s” thoughts on Urbanization, seem to resonate well with the films portrayal of Japan. Ernest Burgess’ quote, “Urbanism is a way of life, social existence” (Harvey) is presented by the film as Tokyo itself; it is a massive urban complex that at times depicts a veritable sea of people crossing the street as a dinosaur crosses the window of a building. Automobiles (taxis in particular) and people seem to fill every shot as almost every scene is filled with residents living their lives with almost every person (whether playing games or working) given a purpose. This also explains why Charlotte and Bob feel so out of place; they have undefined roles in this city due to the language and cultural barriers. In addition, Chicago’s Louis Wirth’s definition is given more prominence when considering the portrayal of Tokyo; “Urbanism is large number of people in close proximity w/out knowing each other. City dwellers form associations bases on lifestyle, culture, and ethnicity” (Harvey). This is arguably one of the most strongest and enduring themes of the film; that you can be standing on the street in one of the busiest cities in the world and be utterly, devastatingly alone. While Charlotte has used this as an excuse to explore and gradually build an open-mind for cultural differences, Bob has used this as a reason to perpetuate his negative emotions from his career towards the Japanese people. We can see this by the way he mocks their pronunciation and the indifference he displayed in going on their talk show. 

            “Lost in Translation” is a masterpiece of cinema; it features a man and a woman so vastly different, yet so complete in their desolation of spirit and isolation of mind and body that their coming together is itself a miracle. This miracle is recognized by both of them in the way that they appreciate that their friendship is lingering only on a matter of a few days before they are torn apart and sucked back into the drain of their lives. It is only through Charlotte that Bob is able to feel comfortable in his Public Sphere and accept that Tokyo is a city with its own way of life that cannot be ignored or misinformed; it is a vital, living breathing creature that must be recognized and understood in order to appreciate what it has to offer, which is this case was a friendship that was the only thing not lost in translation.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Video Games as Media Education

Here are some of the notes I took for our presentation of Video Games as tools for Media Education.

Video games have been around for years but their conception goes all the way back to the late 1940s when several patents for interactive media began to spring up. However, I would argue that this generations collective video game history begins with Intellivision and is succeeded by Nintendo, who with their console and Mario Bros., brought the industry back from the brink of extinction. To date there have been eight generations of video game consoles.

Cultural Impact

Up until recently (I'd say with the advent of better graphics) video games fell into their own demographic, first emerging as a children's toy and eventually evolving into a culture of "gaming." While some negative connotations do exist (children's toys) the average gamer is now between 18-35 and ranges from children to both adult men and woman. In addition, there have been multiple movie based on games, and South Park even did an entire episode, watched by millions, that place in the World of Warcarft video game. Warcraft itself was (and can be argued) and still is a juggernaut of digital entertainment, once having as many as 12-13 million players that ranged between teenagers, to professionals (doctors and lawyers for instance) and people to work from home.

Benefits of Gaming
While the negative aspects of consistently on display in the Media, it is often the benefits of gaming that are consistently and sadly overlooked. From an article from "The Week" magazine, there are seven distinct benefits that are excelusively derived from video games.

Therapeutic: They are often used to help sick children cope with their illness.

Mental improvements such as increased Motor Skills: stronger decision making skills, and increased vision and hand-eye coordination. It was also found that surgeons who played video games prior to surgery would perform better as well.

Better Mood: Video games have also been shown to distract people from pain (soldiers needed less pain medication while playing games), and they have also show signs of reducing symptoms of depression and stress. In addition, they have also led to an increased rate of happiness among the elderly, meaning those that played games regularly were noticeably happier than those who didn't.

Areca Tree Myth

Here are some of the notes I took for our presentation on the Areca Tree Myth, or, Sacred Place myths:

Sacred places serve to teach and remind people who they are and how we should behave on a daily basis.
  1. “Whether they are the repositories of national or ethnic identity or the site of supernatural revelation or visitation, whether they are actual places where we can stand…or imaginary places shaped by…mythic vision, sacred places serve to teach and remind us of who we are and how we ought to behave in our day-to-day lives” (320).
  2. The Bethel leaves and the areca nut juice symbolize love, brotherhood, family, loyalty, and happiness. Bethel leaves and the areca nut are are traditionally used for starting conversations and marital exchanges, or acting as an act or gift of faith
  3. Sacred places embody the identity of a nation and influence/effect the people who live in it.
Sacred Place myths also help people determine the values of a culture and/or nation.

In the U.S. for instance, some of our historic battlefields such as Gettysburg, and places of rest for soldiers such as the National Cemetery, are examples of Sacred Places (320).

While some sacred places are physically myth, they still exist as a symbol for meanings beyond the surface of a story.

We like to think of ourselves as “down-to-earth” but how down-to-earth are we when we live our lives in cyberspace? Sacred Myths, in particular to “the various senses” that Native Americans use the term, call out to us to become down to earth, to remember and honor and revitalize our essential connections to the earth and the natural world, to the sacred all around us” rather than what’s on a screen in our hands (320).

Sacred Myths also “…invite us to associate the spiritual with such natural phenomena as mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, and caves” (320).

As for our places of reverance, "...Vine Deloria points out, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with its battlefield and national cemetery, serves as a sacred place in our creation of national identity” (320).

However, beyond a location, there does exist “…something deeper that makes such sites sacred. What makes them important is that they embody and provide a location that dramatizes complex notions about nationhood and individual identity as well as the various contradictions that constitute the human condition such as bravery, fear, aggression and altruism” (321).

Andrew Gulliford completed an analysis of Native American sites which he then broke down into his Nine Categories of Sacred Places:

  1. Sites associated with emergence and migration tales
  2. Sites of trails and pilgrimage routes
  3. Places essential to cultural survival
  4. Altars
  5. Vision quest sites
  6. Ceremonial dance sites
  7. Ancestral ruins
  8. Petroglyphs and pictographs
  9. Burial or massacre site
Of these Nine, I believe that the following pertain most closely to the Areca Tree Myth:

1. Sites associated to emergence and migration
The Areca Tree myth brought about the emergence of the new marriage tradition, and the migration to reach the river, represents a journey to their final resting place and ultimately, love (love shared between the brothers and the wife).

2. Places essential to cultural survival
Chewing betel leaves and the name of the plant itself can also be derived from this myth. The abundance of the trees throughout the land is explained as well. And as such, any place with this tree would thus be a sacred site by association; this I feel can be related to our culture as how people won’t curse in front of a church or a picture of Jesus.

3. Altar
Although there are no sacrifices, people do go to the site of Tan, Lang and Thao to light incense and honor their memory.

4. Ancestral Ruins
Maybe, and this may be a kind of stretch but if we consider that Tan, Lang and Thao really “died” at the site of the first Area Tree, then the shrine would eventually constitute a ruin.

5. Burial Site
 Although there is no tomb or grave, there is an altar and it was the last place the trio spent on earth before they transcended from life to death.

Gulliford’s categories refer to actual iden-
-tifiable locations that have mythological dimension. These final quotes sum up his ideas and the idea of sacred places rather well.

“Such sites are of course, actual places…Yet at the same time, these actual places are mythic because they embody meanings far beyond the scope of the events that happened and even beyond the limits of the physical locations themselves” (321).

 “These real world locations were made sacred by events that happened in the mythic, rather than the historical past. Therefore, what is needed is a typology of sacred places that describes all the possible associations that make a place holy” (322).