Final post

Hey guys,

I just wanted to say that I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. You each had unique perspectives to the topics, even the textbook chapters. At some point I’ll be removing the links to your blogs unless you want to continue posting on topics that interest you and you’d still like me to follow you. This is your blog address, so you can do with it as you like.*

Today you have one final blog post to make. Before you leave, please add a final blog post that addresses the concept of “analytical writing.”

Some ideas:

  • How does analytical writing differ from research writing, report/essay writing, or creative writing?
  • What is your approach to writing an analytical piece?
  • Which assignment(s) did you enjoy the most – the movie review, the story, the poetry analysis, reading and discussing Kindred, the theme based essay, the museum visit/art analysis, or the blog posts – and why?
  • Can analytical writing be useful to you in the writings you may do for your career field?

You don’t have to write on all of these or just answer the questions; discuss one or more of the areas or something else related to what we’ve been doing this quarter.

I’ve enjoyed the class. Have a good break, and I’ll see you in the halls…

A Writer’s World

I was thinking about the question of what would call me away from my time and place. In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the main character, Dana, gets pulled into the past to rescue her own ancestor. Obviously, if he were to die, she would never have been born, so that sets up an interesting connection. In other time travel stories, the characters have been sent back to their own pasts to rectify a mistake that sent them down an alternative path, or they have been propelled into the future to convey some missing knowledge from their time.

There are many scenarios.bridge over jakeys fork But what would pull me away? Because I’m a writer, I create a strong bond with my characters and their world. When I am writing, I am often sucked into their world. I’m oblivious to time or even distractions in my everyday reality. Since I generally write contemporary stories, I wouldn’t be going into the past or the future, so my call wouldn’t be time travel but rather an escape to an alternative reality.

Since it’s a reality of my own making, I could operate freely with a lot of confidence. I picture the setting in sensory detail as I write, so I’d be familiar with the sights and the sounds. I could walk among the people who inhabit my stories and know everyone I see. I know how they talk and how they react. I know who I like and who’s not so nice.

CMMy worlds are not without danger; in fact, I deliberately put my characters in danger. If they have a fear or a weakness, you can be sure I’ll make them face it, and I can imagine that I would also be put to the test there as well. My heroes and heroines face their trials with strength and integrity. I hope I would fare as well.

 

bridge photo by Ellen Vance, the road photo by Johnny Lucas

 

Seattle’s Art Museums

Your assignment for a blog post this week is to write a review of Kindred, but I’ve already reviewed it several times, so I’m taking off on a different subject. Museums. I love museums. I like historical museums, cultural museums, natural science museums, but most of all, I love art museums. I have never been to an art museum and not found something to fall in love with.

The-Seattle-Art-Museum-310x412We have some amazing museums here in Seattle. The main public museum is the Seattle Art Museum, or the SAM. It’s located on 1st Ave. between Union St. and University St. I like the Seattle Art Museum, but it is not my favorite. It has a broad collection of periods and regions represented, but the focus is on modern works. The museum often hosts amazing temporary exhibitions.

IMAG0805My favorite museum is the Frye. It is tucked away on the corner of Cherry and Terry on First Hill. It’s a small  museum; you can see every piece of art on display in one trip. The permanent collection, mostly amassed by the original founders – the Fryes – is amazing but traditional. There are a few pieces that are usually on display that have become old favorites to me, and I always look for them whenever I go. But next to the traditional art, the curators at the Frye bring in amazing exhibits, often featuring artists who I had never heard of but came to love. I’ve seen some great things at the Frye, and it’s always free to the public.

1I also love the Seattle Asian Art Museum. Located in Volunteer Park up on Capitol Hill. It has a great setting, wonderful views of Seattle, and magnificent Art Deco architecture. This was the site of the original Seattle Art Museum, which was founded on the collection of the Fullers, local collectors who primarily collected Asian art although they also had modernist and post-modernist pieces. When the SAM outgrew the space, they moved downtown and left the Capitol Hill site as the SAAM, the Seattle Asian Art Museum. I’ve seen some amazing exhibits there, and I’m always impressed by the ages of some of the pieces.

untitledThe Henry Art Museum is located at the edge of the UW campus on 15th street at 41st. The Henry is free to all student with an ID, even if you don’t go to UW. They often feature contemporary art, so you can get an idea of what is going on in the art world. They also have an amazing photography collection. Every major photographer is represented and then some.

Here are links to the local museums’ websites so you can see what’s currently on view. Don’t forget to check out the hours/days they are open before you go.

http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/; http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/visitSAAM.asp; http://fryemuseum.org/;                                                               http://www.henryart.org/;                                                       http://www.bellevuearts.org/;                           http://www.tacomaartmuseum.org/

Remember that the SAM and the SAAM (Asian Art Museum) are free on the first Thursday of each month. The Frye and the Henry are always free, and the Bellevue Art Museum is free on the first Friday of the month, and the Tacoma Art Museum is free on the 3rd Thursday of the month.

I can’t wait to read your impressions of your museum visit next week. I hope you enjoy your visit to an art museum as much as I always do.

Story Structure

 

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Structure is an important part of any story, especially a novel. In Octavia Butler’s Kindred, Butler uses structure cleverly to create tension and manage her character’s episodes of time travel.
Prologues are most often used to provide previous or background information that the reader may need to understand the situation or the character’s motives. Unfortunately, readers sometimes skip over the prologue in order to get to the action of the story. Butler, however, uses a prologue as a hook to throw you immediately into the action of the story. Rather than providing background, this prologue covers events from late in the story and gives you a tantalizing taste of what is to come.
The main body of Kindred is episodic with numbered chapters within each named episode. As this is a time travel story, each named section relates to the main character’s time jumps, generally ending with a sudden jump back from the past to the present. This serves as a cliff-hanger, since the jumps back to the main character’s own time coincide with the main character’s life being threatened. The next section begins with the character’s arrival back in her present and serves as a transition until she jumps again.
Butler also uses an epilogue. This short chapter covers some unfinished business, answers some questions, and provides closure (a phrase I hate) on the main character’s journey.
The structure keeps the story moving, creates suspense, and provides great breaks for reading assignments, which as a teacher, I appreciate!

Fairy Tales Still Fascinate

DC Comics "Fables" by Bill WillinghamIn the narratives chapter of the Convergences text, I was drawn to the section on fairy tales and urban legends.
Fairy tales and urban legends are both popular and prevalent in contemporary culture. Folk tales and fairy tales date back to early pre-literate cultures and used the narrative structure to convey cultural history and moral lessons in a memorable way. Many of these stories have persisted and been adapted to fit the needs of the culture, especially as teaching/entertainment tools for children. Originally told, then published and read, and finally, brought to film, we embrace the simple lessons at the heart of those stories: don’t be greedy or selfish, be resourceful, love and obey your parents, don’t go into the woods alone!

The Bloody Chamber, Angela CarterOf course, urban legends make great horror movies, and the more the audience is familiar with the legend, the greater the engagement. Have you been out parking or camping and told or been told “The Hook”? That one was even around in my day.
I always find it interesting to think about the roles that the arts play in culture, and in the case of legends and tales, I wondered about why we have this recent resurgence of fairy tales in the arts. Disney and others made a killing by producing modern adaptations of fairy tales, especially during the ’50s and again in the ’80s and ’90s, and some of the recent crop of fairy tale arts may just be a nostalgia play or even cost-cutting by saving the cost of an original script, but I think the recent reworkings of fairy tales reflect contemporary sensibilities.

GrimmBoth original and adaptations of traditional fairy tales have emerged in a variety of artistic media. There are graphic novels and comics, novels and short stories, Broadway plays, animations and live-action movies, games, and television shows.

Snow White and the HuntsmanThe new retellings are more adult-audience oriented, the settings are darker and grittier, the girls are more assertive, and the morals are more compromised. This new crop of stories may be addressing contemporary disillusionments about moral truths or redressing previous stereotypes (the female victim/male hero). Or maybe it’s a cash cow fad and I’m reading too much into it. What do you think?

Image credits:
Fables #53 comic cover, http://www.thesnipenews.com
The Bloody Chamber cover, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter, http://www.amazon.com
Grimm wallpaper by George Spigot, https://georgespigot.wordpress.com/tag/grimm/
Snow White and the Huntsman movie poster, http://www.amazon.com

Cult Classics

There’s so much to say about cult classic films. In the early 90’s, my neighbor and I sat down late one night and made up a list of favorite/must-see films. The list finally totaled above 50 films, many of which are considered cult classics today. We proceeded to find, borrow or rent them (in the pre-streaming/Netflix days), going straight down the list. As we watched, we added to the list, so it was a never-ending process, and we had some great movie nights that included a range of movies from Freaks to Eraserhead to Surf Nazi’s Must Die. I had the original list for a long time, but I think it’s wandered away somewhere. I was reminded of that list when I read the articles in the “Stories on Film: What Makes a Cult Classic?” in Chapter 2 of Robert Atwan’s Convergences.

In a review of 2001: A Space Odyssey, noted film critic Roger Ebert discusses director Stanley Kubrick’s slow and almost silent use of imagery as metaphor: “What he had actually done was make a philosophical statement about man’s place in the universe, using images as those before him had used words, music or prayer.”

In his essay “Out of Kansas,” author Salman Rushdie details the use of metaphoric imagery in The Wizard of Oz to define a cult classic.

shawshank1

For me, a classic metaphoric image is that of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) emerging from the sewers into the pouring rain in The Shawshank Redemption. Dufresne’s Christ-like pose as the cleansing rain washes away his sins and the stains of his incarceration while it literally washes away the filth of the sewers marks his redemption and rebirth. (Rushdie is a fan of metaphor in both film and literature. I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post to a beautiful article he wrote on the passing of Nobel Laureate author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a master of magical imagery.)

Both 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shawshank Redemption were box-office flops, and while Shawshank generally received good reviews, critics were not as kind to 2001, some even questioning if Kubrick had lost his mind. Poor critical reviews and weak showings at the box office are often attributes of cult classic films. For some people it’s the so-bad-it’s-good aspect that draws them to turn wretched films into cult classics. This is often the case with horror films like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series or monster movies with cheesy special effects. Indy or limited releases can drive films into cult status, as can early films by directors/writers who later hit it big like Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, or Kevin Smith’s Clerks. Sometimes it’s the artsy production, edgy theme or dark nature of a film that attracts a cult following like Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, or David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

big-trouble-in-little-china-originalI think the main element determining a cult classic film is its limited appeal to a select group of passionate followers. For some it may be any film that has Danny Trejo or Tom Savini. For me, it’d be a long list, but I’d have to throw in George Romero, Tobe Hooper and Joss Whedon with a topper of John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China.

What’s on the top of your classic list?

Ebert, Roger. “2001: A Space Odyssey Movie Review (1968).” Rogerebert.com, 27 Mar 1997. Web. 27 Apr 2014. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-2001-a-space-odyssey-1968&gt;.

Rushdie, Salman. “Salman Rushdie on Gabriel Garcia Marquez: His World Was Mine.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 25 Apr 2014. Web. 27 Apr 2014. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10787739/Salman-Rushdie-on-Gabriel-Garcia-Marquez-His-world-was-mine.html&gt;.

Space – the final frontier

Space – uncharted regions, alien races and settings, new technologies and gimmicks. What ultimately was the appeal of shows like Star Trek? The very real human stories of coming together, learning tolerance, overcoming obstacles, and drawing on the best of our human characteristics. That was in the 60s and things have changed. So what about today? What better space than cyberspace, a seemingly unlimited frontier of imagination and technology, for our final frontier?
cyberspace_theme_by_NantiaReading some of your blog posts got me to thinking about how we act/react as citizens of cyberspace. Much contemporary social critique addresses how technology separates us, desensitizes us, and obsesses us. How much time do we spend as our real selves? How do we represent ourselves to others? When do we come together face-to-face and touch? Where is the payoff?
For me, it comes down to management options. It is a world, like any other, where videogames or social media can become obsessions, just as anything from hockey to antique buttons can become obsessions in our real world. As creators and navigators of cyberspace, we can make it what we want, and at the risk of sounding too trekky, I think those human values of connection, authentic representation, and integrity are important to hold on to, especially in the nebulous anonymity of cyberspace.

Wonderful art by Nantia from DeviantArt. “Cyberspace Theme” http://nantia.deviantart.com/art/cyberspace-theme-73069201