Where does it hurt?

November 20, 2007

Probably my favorite scene from the book is when our narrator meets Albie.  Our first introduction to Albie is him pulling up in his Bentley, leading us to believe that he is still living the sweet life from all that barbed wire money.  But the narrator enters the car to find it filled with groceries and a make shift cup holder.  Albie’s house is nothing but emptiness; a place left with nothing but animal heads and plenty of hot dogs.  We learn this comes from his divorce, after which his wife made off with most everything.  Like Albie’s ex-wife, the town has taken and used his name, Winthrop, but now the town is leaving him too.  Soon the name will be changed and he will be left with nothing.  He’ll just be the crazy guy in town who walks around in a sweat-suit who thinks he’s everybody’s friend. 

The part where the narrator is describing the scene at the awards ceremony at which all those in attendance are constantly looking at each others name tags so that they may engage in useless chit chat with their new friend.  I likened this to a particular episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine is going out with Lloyd Braun, who is an adviser to Dinkins, a man who is running for mayor of New York.  While in  casual conversation with Lloyd, Elaine mentions that she always thought the citizens of New York should have name tags, that way everybody would know everybody and it would be a friendlier place.  Lloyd passes the idea along to Dinkins, who puts it on his mayoral platform.  This move makes Dinkins a laughing stock and costs him the election.  While at the awards ceremony, the narrator believes that the name tags should be labeled with what people really are, and not their names, which is what they want people to think they are. 

The two defeats the narrator suffers the night of the barbecue are interesting.  The first coming at the Border Cafe which is “a Mexican joint that belonged to that robust tradition of lone ethnic restaurants in the middle of nowhere, beloved by the natives in direct proportion to the lack of competition.”  I love that description.  The narrator feels a sense of belonging among the help tourists, he equates to the giddiness that goes along with the last day of anything.  The final sense of connection seems to come with the party-wide recognition of the song “Peep This”.  The narrator is so moved that he jumps atop a table and is about to announce his new name for the town when his leg gives out and the whole moment is ruined. 

The second defeat comes when upon returning to the hotel after the embarrassment, the narrator finds that the cleaning woman finally forced her way into his room and organized it.  The narrator also finds his “do not disturb” sign neatly torn and placed on his bed.  The privacy the narrator has sought to keep since his injury is now gone. 

The fate of Winthrop is similar to that of the narrator’s toe.  Lucky is well on his way to making the new Winthrop into a haven for commercialism and yuppies who wear their college sweatshirts on the weekends and drink too many half-priced margaritas and sing karaoke.  But along the way there is some stubbing.  The first came in Regina’s surprise vote against him, thus putting on hold their coup of Albie.  Then there are people like Muttonchops and all those others who do not want the name of the town to change and do not like the direction Lucky is taking their home.  There are little bumps along the way, little stubs on the way to New Prospera.  Each time, a band-aid is placed over the wound.  But it doesn’t hide the hurt in the town, there are infections festering underneath that band-aid; eventually something is going to have to be amputated from Winthrop.  And it would seem that Lucky is the one holding the scissors.

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Apex Hides the Hurt

November 13, 2007

Just to get this out of the way, when I was reading the first section of this book and we get the description of our narrator as a man who not only isolates himself from other people but also walks with a limp as a result of an unfortunate incident, I mean is there any other connection that can be made there except for this?

Aside from that, I didn’t see a whole lot else in the first fifty-three pages of this book.  We learn that the narrator has a job as a nomenclature consultant, which as a profession is probably even cooler than it sounds.  In talking about his job, the narrator hits on just how important names are to products.  No matter what the product is, a bad name could kill it commercially.  He also mentions how he has names for things that don’t even exist yet, but when the time comes, he’ll have to perfect name for it.  This notion kind of brings back a little bit of Saussure and Baudrillard.  With Saussure, there is the whole sign, signifier thing.  The names which he creates become more important than the products they represent.  Baudrillard comes in with the mention of having names for things which don’t exist yet.  According to Baudrillard, the creation of simulacra and hyper-reality comes from the creation of needs for things which we don’t actually need but are made to think we can’t live without.  So the narrator already has a named stored away for something that doesn’t exist, but when it does come to be, it will have a fancy name to help persuade the public that it is the next great thing they couldn’t possibly live without. 

The situation the narrator finds himself in is something new to him, is not being asked to come up with a new for the newest anti-depressant or sure fire cure for natural male enhancement, he is being summoned out of his seclusion to rename a town.  The once quaint little town of Winthrop is looking to become more modern and there are some who feel the town needs a new name to go with its corporate face-lift.  There are those who see no problem with it, the couple the narrator meets in the hotel bar; but then there are those like old Muttonchops, who have a long history in Winthrop and don’t want to see any changes to the town’s moniker.  So we wait for the rest of the novel to unfold to find out what new name the narrator will come up with for Winthrop.  If I had any say in the matter, I would probably rename my town Fort Awesome.

What paper?

November 12, 2007

So last Thursday maybe I was a little less than prepared when it came to a possible post modern paper idea. 

So here’s what I got so far; it only seem fitting that to go along with this paper I bring back an old friend from days past, Mr. Baudrillard.  In reading up on Baudrillard, I came across some interesting stuff on opinion polls, media, and politics.  I was thinking taking those ideas and writing my paper about today’s society and how even with the influx of new forms of technology which should make access to information easier, we are still left in the dark on most important of things.  For the text to go along with this idea, I plan on using the film V for Vendetta.  I know this seems a little scrambled and the idea needs a lot of polishing, but at least it’s a start.

The Rest of Galatea

November 1, 2007

It seems we get a different side of Lentz when he and Powers go to visit Audrey.  We see that he is capable of caring for another person.  We also get the idea that this experiment may have some implications in regards to Audrey and her deteriorating mental status.  On page 170 it reads, “We could eliminate death.  That was the long-term idea.  We might freeze the temperament of our choice.  Suspend it painlessly above experience.  Hold it forever at twenty-two.”  It would appear that Lentz is much like Dr. Freeze (from Batman), in that while both may not seem to be nice guys, all that they do, they do in an attempt to help their wives, both of whom are severely sick.  But as we later learn, that is merely a side effect of this experiment, and was never the desired outcome.

In Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, there is a scene where Mr. Ramsay equates his life’s accomplishment with letters in the alphabet.  Mr. Ramsay feels that he has reached Q, which apparently is pretty good because, “Very few people in the whole of England reach Q.”  And as far as completing the alphabet, “Z is only reached by one man in a generation.” (on a personal note, I would probably put myself at about L for my life thus far)  There’s a connection to Galatea, I swear.  I connected this to the different imps that Powers and Lentz are going through.  Each ascending lettered imp is more advanced than the one before it.  I find it interesting that it was imp H, that was the one they felt was the most advanced and suitable for use in the competition.  Had they kept going and developing new imps, how advanced would imps T or W have been?  And it seems like to keep going forward, imp Z would have to be a human.

And it’s gotta make you feel at least a little proud that when Powers feeds Helen info from the nightly news that this absolutely horrifies the machine and Helen shuts herself off from people for a few days.  It’s nice to know the human touch can have that effect on something.  And I think I finally get a chance to break out transhistorical party.  Powers was constantly feeding Helen literature, some of which had to contain tragedy of some sort.  But this has no effect on Helen, this is the brand of transhistorical party which is contained by some sort of literary device, thus making it more acceptable.  However, when Helen gets fed the stories of actual human behavior, like the road rage incident, this horrifies her because it is not contained in a story, but is actual human behavior.

I think my favorite piece from the text comes on page 317 when Diana’s son William comes home and is feeling a bit distraught about school, “‘First grade,’ he choked.  ‘Done.  Perfect.’  He swept his palm in an arc through the air.  ‘Everything they wanted.  Now I’m supposed to do second.  There’s another one after that, Mom.  I can’t.  It’s never-ending.'”  He has no idea how right he actually is.  This idea of never-ending relates back to something which Powers discusses with Helen on page 291 about literature, “Always more books, each one read less.’  She thought.  ‘The world will fill with unread print.  Unless print dies.'”  So it would appear that in the world of academics and literature there is no end.  Literature will continue to be printed, and as long as that is happening, scholars will be forced to analyze it and decide what it means and whether or not they hate it.  And in the end, Powers makes this all the more true by saying that he has some more fiction left in him, and goes off to write another novel.

Galatea 2.2 Pages 1-138

October 25, 2007

Alright, I’ve been a bit tardy on my blog posts, so here is an extended post about our latest text.  So with this book, I’m not of the constituency in the class who utterly despises the text.  However, I’m not in love with it either.  It’s kind of like when you eat something, and it doesn’t taste bad per-say, but you probably won’t eat it again.

To start off, I mentioned this in class, but the fact that the building Powers goes to everyday, and which contains all of these different sciences and advancements, is called simply The Center.  And for the rest of my days, when someone says the center, I say Derrida.  I think this book does note shift in the center.  That shift being from literature to technology.  For Powers, this would be a shift back to science for him.  With his first book being heavy on the science, then shifting to literature; but has now seemingly abandoned literature in his pursuit of helping Lentz.  When Powers attempts to go back to literature and write the novel which he is supposed to be writing with his time off, he cannot get further than his opening image of the train.  There are several instances where Powers notes how he feels he has nothing in terms of writing his novel, and we get further proof on page 138 when he says, “I went home to chosen loneliness.  To the book I would never be able to write.”  So for Powers, his center has shifted away from writing, and he will be stuck until the center shifts again.

As for this machine that Powers and Lentz are supposed to be making, I can’t say that I fully understand the technical terms; but I do grasp that they are attempting to make a device that would be able to understand and interpret literature as well as a college educated person.  The machine could probably do more with Mrs. Dalloway or Robert Frost than I ever could.  In trying to understand how their machine would work, I kind of got the impression that it’s heading into Terminator 3 territory, where the machines have finally become self aware and decide to wipe out people.  I didn’t mention this in class because, well, just didn’t seem like a Terminator 3 kind of crowd. 

Finally, I’m starting to notice what could be described as a softening in Lentz.  He really seems to have taken a liking to Powers, and enjoys his company.  When the 2 first met, Lentz made a concentrated effort to put Powers down every chance he got, but now it’s almost like Lentz considers Powers a friend.  It was a little creepy when Diana asks Powers if he’s ever been in the office with Lentz when he has the door closed.  And she doesn’t give him an answer as to why, leaving Powers to figure that out when the time comes. 

So we march onward through the text, eagerly waiting to see if Powers and Lentz can devise a machine which can give you an in-depth analysis of Shakespeare, and maybe attempt to wipe out the human race and travel through time.

Self Evaluation

October 16, 2007

I feel kind of the same way writing this evaluation as I did when writing the evaluation for theory.  In the course so far, the things I get, I get and can apply.  The things I don’t get, good luck.  One of the things that will always get me about postmodernism is that there is no set and accepted definition, as any introductory reading on postmodernism will be sure to tell you.  There are times in the reading when it feels like I’m trying to pin the tail on a donkey that has no back side. 

There are, however, some on going themes that I am noticing in the works.  One is the idea of going against the established norm and what is readily accepted by society.  An example of this is in Written on the Body; as I wrote in my blog post, (eloquently titled, “Written on the Body”): “Postmodernism is a moving away from old standards and rigid structures, and it seems that this guy is moving away from what we would consider the norm when it comes to love and relationships.”  The narrator from the text, who I have since realized could be either male orfemale, begins the story firmly against the preconceived notions of love and relationships.  Throughout the text, the narrator debunks the institution of marriage and dismisses the phrase “I love you”.  But as the book progresses, the narrator falls into the cliches of love with their relationship to Louise.  So even the most ardent against the establishments of love isn’t immune to  falling into the stereotypes.

The theme of going  against the grain is also in Fight Club.  In both film and text versions, Tyler’s mission is to disrupt the natural order of things and to start a new order.  In the film, he plans to erase everyone’s credit debt making all people equal; and in the novel,  he plans to disrupt the social class order as well as eliminate evidence of the oppressive past, done by destroying the museum.  As I wrote in my award winning blog “Fight Club 6-19”, “The repeated mantra in the text about how the best and strongest of the generation are serving food and pumping gas, shows Tyler’s belief that society is built upon the backs of the working class and they should no longer be taken advantage of.”  In the text, the antics of Project Mayhem were meant to be attacks on the upper class; altering the movies, tampering with the food, vandalizing corporate symbols, and the soap.  It is interesting that while Tyler succeeds in the film of destroying his primary target, he is unsuccessful in the novel.  In both texts, Fight Club and Written on the Body, the characters do not succeed in their attempts to get as far away from established norms as they can.  I don’t know what, if anything, that says about postmodernism as a whole.

Another reoccurring theme I continue to find is how most things we read have a relationship to Baudrillard.  I almost feel like it’s my job to find connections to Baudrillard in everything we do, as I wrote in my blog on Cindy Sherman, “it almost seems like it’s my job to find the connections to Baudrillard in everything we do.”  Pithy.  For example, Baudrillard’s idea of society needing a visible past is shown in Fight Club (book), in Tyler wanting to destroy the museum, the place where we keep all our mummies.  Tyler wants to get rid of our visual representation of the past so that we are finally able to move forward.  Most recently, there is a connection to Baudrillard in the works of Cindy Sherman and Nikki Lee.  As I wrote in my blog on Sherman, “she had “nothing more to say,” and it seemed like in painting she was simply “copying other art.”  And in speaking of photography, Sherman said, “I appreciate the idea that the images can be reproduced and seen anytime, anywhere, by anyone.”  It is the same with Nikki Lee, her photographs are based on assumed stereotypes of how we think certain groups should act and look like.  These two are simply contributing to the simulacra.

As far as choosing my 2 best blog posts, I guess my post on Jameson was pretty good.  In this post I was able to tie several different things together from the Jameson reading.  I was able to bring in Fight Club, Baudrillard, and what we had discussed in class earlier that day.  I think the class discussion on Titanic helped me to grasp what Jameson was saying about history being represented in fiction; “And on page 25, “The historical novel can no longer set out to represent the historical past; it can only ‘represent’ our ideas and stereotypes about the past.”  We don’t know what happened on that boat, all we know for sure is that it went down.  We have an idea of how people dressed in that era and how they talked.  We put all of our preconceived notions of that time period together, put them on a boat, add a Celine Deion song, and there is Titanic.”  I think what made this post was that I was able to bring in several sources to aid in my understanding on this particular text.

I consider the blog I wrote on masculinity in Fight Club also to be one of my better posts.  In it, I was able to pick one particular topic and trace it throughout an entire text.  I felt that this post was focused and using the examples I was able to make a pretty strong point, ” The novel gives no set definition for masculinity.  What it does present is a notion that masculinity/manliness is its own underground society, bordering on cult-like status.  And men must seek out these underground groups, such as the cancer support group and fight club, and join in an attempt to be around other men and discover what it is to be a man.”

One of my better comments was on Marina’s post on the film Fight Club.  In her post, Marina presents an idea that I had not previously considered, ” like your comment that maybe it was Marla, who helped with the creation of Tyler. The narrator’s life has no freedom and none of the characteristics which Tyler and Marla posses. And while the narrator had the notions of what he wanted his life to be like, it wasn’t until he met Marla that he was able to externalize those thoughts and feelings, and this maybe is what helped him to create Tyler.”  In this comment, I was able to expand upon an idea that was new to me, and I was also able to elaborate off of other points she had made in the post. 

Sticking to Fight Club, I was fond of my comment on one of Esther’s post on the novel.  In the post, Esther writes on Tyler’s contradiction of himself in terms of being a legend and the notion of perfection.  In my comment, I was able to continue with her original ideas, she also picked up on the notion of masculinity in the text, something I also commented on, “As you wrote, this speaks to the idea of manliness and a man feeling that he isn’t enough of a man to attract a woman, so he acts the part of what he considers to be a man in order to win her affections” 

A post which I found to be very well written was Christine’s on the film version of Fight Club.  In it, Christine picks out several different vantage points from which to view the film.  There is masculinity, capitalism, and how parts of the film can be related to what we had discussed so far on what it means to be post modern.  To me, this seems like a complete post, and one to model future posts after. 

I feel that to improve my own posts, I could use Christine’s as a model.  I feel that sometimes I get tunnel vision and focus merely on the text at hand.  I should be attempting to bring in as many other texts as I can in relation to the current text, in the past this has greatly enhanced my understanding of certain topics.  I also find that sometimes I get discouraged when I am unable to completely understand a text, I think I would benefit more from not feeling the need to understand everything, but try to understand certain parts as much as I can.

So that’s how postmodernism is going for me so far, I can’t wait for the exciting conclusion.

Nikki Lee

October 15, 2007

The photography of Nikki Lee and Cindy Sherman look different, but both contain much attention to detail.  The major difference being that Nikki Lee’s photos look like anything you would find on some-body’s myspace page or any family photo album ever. 

In her photography, Lee ingrains herself in a different sub group of culture.  She does a very convincing job of this, blending is extremely well.  A common criticism of her work is that is doesn’t look like what we would perceive to be art, her photos look like “drug store prints push pinned to the wall” as described in one of the background pieces.  Another criticism of her work could be that she simply plays off of preconceived stereotypes of what we think all these groups would look like.  Her Yuppie Project involves, 2 well dressed women standing in front a department store, holding shopping bags with one of those ridiculous little dogs.  The Tourist Project involves cheesy poses made by people in cheesy clothes.  And the Oklahoma Project plays off our visions of the red-neck.  Jameson would argue that Lee’s pictures don’t represent the real past, but only “our ideas and stereotypes about the past.”  *[Obligatory Baudrillard reference] *  Baudrillard would argue that Lee is simply taking those old stereotypes and reproducing them, thus losing touch with the original idea.

However, you could argue that the point of Lee using those stereotypes is to expose them as being ridiculous and foolish; and that we shouldn’t judge people based on preconceived notions going along with a particular group they are associated with. 

Cindy Sherman

October 15, 2007

I will start with the background information we read on Sherman.  I her reason for giving painting to be interesting.  According to her, she had “nothing more to say,” and it seemed like in painting she was simply “copying other art.”  And in speaking of photography, Sherman said, “I appreciate the idea that the images can be reproduced and seen anytime, anywhere, by anyone.”  Now it almost seems like it’s my job to find the connections to Baudrillard in everything we do; but this time, it’s right there in Sherman’s words.  In speaking about painting and photography, Sherman may as well have been saying a copy of a copy of a copy….

Sherman also has something in common with Tyler Durden in that they share a dislike for museums.  According to the background information Sherman did not appreciate museums, “I worked out of books and reproductions.”  Jameson would probably have a little something to say about that,”it can only ‘represent’ our ideas and stereotypes abut the past (which thereby at once becomes ‘pop history'”)  It seems neither Baudrillard nor Jameson would be fans of Sherman’s work.  Baudrillard would have to point out how it simply contributes to the simulacra; and Jameson would chime in by saying he’s not too keen on her not sticking to historical accuracies.

Another thing Sherman has in common with Tyler, her use of dolls and prosthetics for the purpose of exposure is very similar to Tyler using movies as a way of exposing a large audience to the same type of usually censored material.  I can’t really form more of a connection beyond that, but I’m sure there’s something to be found.

Masculinity in Fight Club

October 3, 2007

This blog post is brought to you courtesy of Tammy, Zena, Misti, and Ryan

The treatment of masculinity and manliness is a major theme throughout Fight Club. 

The first passage from the book we chose is on page 17, and takes place while the narrator is at the support group for testicular cancer, and is in the clutches of Bob:

“You cry,”  Bob says and inhales and sob, sob, sobs.  “Go on now and cry.”  The big wet face settles down on top of my head, and I am lost inside.  This is when I’d cry.  Crying is right at hand in the smothering dark, closed inside someone else, when you see how everything you can ever accomplish will end up as trash.”

There is the obvious significance of the fact this is a group for men with testicular cancer, many of whom have lost their testicles.  This leaves them feeling empty, and without their manhood and what it is that defines them as men.  The male organ is featured prominently throughout the text; in the testicular cancer group, in the pieces of film Tyler splices into family movies, and threat of castration, which is the strongest weapon project mayhem uses.  Whenever someone poses a threat to project mayhem, they are not killed, they are simply held down and shown a rubber band and a rather large knife.  This is a bigger threat to most men than even death.  Because if any man were to suffer this fate, they would end up in that same church basement locked in a big wet hug with Bob.

The second piece from the novel we used is on page 141:

The mechanic says, “If you’re male and you’re Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God.  And if you never know your father, if your father bails out or dies or is never at home, what do you believe about God?… “What you end up doing,” the mechanic says, “is you spend your life searching for a father and God.” 

In this example, God is a symbol of masculinity, and another father figure.  A boy’s father is his example and role-model for what manliness is supposed to be; and when a boy is without a father and without God, they have no model for manliness and spend their life searching.  It is also worth noting that the person delivering this speech is known as the mechanic.  The mechanic is regarded as a manly profession, with the cars and working with your hands. 

The novel gives no set definition for masculinity.  What it does present is a notion that masculinity/manliness is its own underground society, bordering on cult-like status.  And men must seek out these underground groups, such as the cancer support group and fight club, and join in an attempt to be around other men and discover what it is to be a man.  

   

This notion of masculinity is the opposite of what we saw when we read Written on the Body.  In that text, the use of the ambigious narrator illustrates how gender does not matter and either sex is capable of acting in such a way.  This goes against what we see in Fight Club, which is an attempt to discovery the exact meaning of what it is to be a man.  Switching to Jameson, we could say that the historical image of masculinity does not exist, and what we have is only a representation of what we think manliness is supposed to be.

In this last section of the novel we are made aware of the 2 casualties of project mayhem, Bob and Patrick Madden.  We learn that Bob was killed by the police while out on a mission for project mayhem.  And no matter how many times you see the movie or read the book, you cannot help but feel sorry for Big Bob.  I thought it was interesting that Patrick Madden was murdered.  We learn that he worked for the mayor and was compiling a list of all the fight club locations and was most likely going to make an attempt at shutting them down.  When it looked like this was happening in Seattle, the space monkeys got to the judge and with the help of a rubber band and a large knife, got him to back off.  I am curious why the same tactics were not used on Patrick Madden, why he instead was murdered.  This is the first outright violent act of project mayhem, instead of an act of vandalism to make a point.

The end of the novel is quite different from that of the film.  The narrator still shoots off part of his own face to try and get rid of Tyler, but the building does not explode and destroy the museum beneath it, as was the original goal.  It’s interesting that in the end it is Marla, along with the others from the support group, who show up and save the narrator. 

“‘We followed you,” Marla yells.  ‘All the people from the support group.  You don’t have to do this.  Put the gun down.’  Behind Marla, all the bowel cancers, the brain parasites, the melanoma people, the tuberculosis people are walking, limping, wheeling toward me.  They’re saying ‘Wait.’  Their voices come to me on the cold wind, saying, ‘Stop.’  And, ‘We can help you.’  ‘Let us help you'”

These are the same people who the narrator who has been lying to each night for the past two years.  He made them all think he was dying like they were; he even cried with them.  And it is even revealed to these people that he has been lying to them, this occurs during his argument with Marla.  But for some reason these people show up anyway.  It seems to again prove the narrator’s notion that when people think you’re dying, they will do anything for you.  And even though he is not dying in the same way they are, he is still dying.

There seems to be no real end however.  The narrator is in the hospital, which is filled with the disciples of Tyler Durden.  Fight club has become able to function on its own and seems to be thriving, even without the creator/leader.  It would seem as if the center has shifted, and fight club/project mayhem now has a new center.  As the hospital employee whispers, “Everything’s going according to plan,”  “We’re going to break up civilization so we can make something better out of the world,”  and “We look forward to getting you back.”