Saturday, August 30, 2008

hey, a woman! . . . hey. waaaayyyytttaminute . . .

the minute i heard . . .

INT. OFFICE - DAY

ME
(ScoobyDoo-type double-take,
w/ scrambling wheely-legs sound effects)
Well, now, that's offensive.

BRAIN-DEAD ME
(aka THE ME THEY FORECASTED)
Hooray! A woman VP!
Wow, that McCain has sure
surprised the heckouttame.
Whatta guy!

the McCain camp must have imagined a country of women who are brain-dead . . . but! . . . oh yeah. the McCain camp belongs to the radical Republican Right . . . so, yeah,

INT. McCAIN HEADQUARTERS - DEEP NIGHT

ANONYMOUS McCAIN STRATEGIST
(struggling. brain hurts)
Come on!
(a beat)
. . .wait . . .
(an e-vile beat)
. . . I've got it!
Women = brain dead!
(a gleefully e-vile beat)
Hello, promotion!


it's all so embarrassing. and so ridiculous that my friends and i have speculated that it's a strategy sim-puh-ly designed to pull press coverage away from Obama's sparkling rhetorical moment in Denver and that Palin will sooner or later drop out for something or other. investigations into troopergate? too much AquaNet?

ooooohhhh, but, pulling out the AquaNet. now it's on. i'd better stop. besides, as Jim points out at the Blogora, Andrew Sullivan really has said it best.

Friday, August 29, 2008

persepolis

i finally saw Persepolis (based upon Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel) last night at a campus screening. so much to say, but for a now, a few comments on the film's visual rhetoric:

the visual rhetorical elements are simple and masterful at the same time. like, Marjane's hairline. the hairline is key -- women are required to keep it covered and when it isn't, as when M pulls her scarf just a bit back, she is/the women are challenged and sometimes threatened. so the hairline is key. in the Iran of Satrapi's story, the hairline marks a place on a woman's body where power disputes are foregrounded, where they play out visually and display (or conceal) a woman's identity and her power(lessness).

M's hairline shape-shifts, surfacing her interior state of being within the context of her momentary life situation. when young and in love w/ her life in Iran (including her romantic views of the revolutionary characters she encounters), her hairline appears to mimic the shape of the onion-domed mosques, her widow's peak, the topmost architectural element and her round face similar to the round dome. for example, see the dome of Dome of Masjid al-Nabawi, or "Mosque of the Prophet,"which is a good choice, as M is portrayed as an emerging "prophet."

this trailer provides several examples of the visual rhetoric of Marjane's hairline (the onion-dome version featured at 00:24 - 00:31 and 00:36 - 00:42):



later, when Marjane suffers severe depression, she sits, head-in-hands, on a headstone-shaped chair, her hairline tracing the same 2-humped headstone shape. these moves work at integrating form and content in ways that cleverly articulate how/that our life experiences resonate in/on/through and radiate from our bodies -- we inhabit affectively-oriented bodies as we adapt to our surroundings, however idyllic or horrific. we inhabit our situations fully, holistically, *and* . . . we can use our bodies to alter (certain) scenarios. for example, see this "Eye of the Tiger" sequence for inspiration at overcoming depression (notice the headstone hairline contour as she lays in bed, depressed -- one might also call it a heart, but earlier sequences align the contour more clearly with the gravesite. also, notice here other ways in which hair -- appearance, concealment, revealing --features throughout her resurfacing):



and, . . . FABULOUS from the feminist perspective is when M marries. the visual apparatus used to create the narrative structure shifts from moving animation to a series of static, framed photo album shots, as if to foreground the constructed nature of the conventional rituals of marriage rather than to "animate" them.

so much more . . .

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

beyond words (the book)


i give you a little progress report on the book, for which i have this here fall sabbatical. i'd have gone for a full year's sabbatical, but my institution traditionally grants a full sabbatical at only 80% of the sabbaticaleer's* annual salary, and i could not afford a cut. so, at 100% salary, i get one semester. wish me luck. i will, of course, also apply for some Spring reassigned time in order to extend the project. however, i feel pretty confident about what i'm doing - my plan - and i'm incredibly motivated just now.

so then, working title:

Beyond Words:
Film-Composition's 'Invisible Galleries'**

(note: the remove to dispense image is keeping my affective intensity for film-composition alive as i scan this history, remove to dispense being a film i very much luuuhhhhved making).

i've been patching away at this for a couple of years, sort of ethnographically working out my theses as a filmmaker and writing/reflecting as i go. today, i reviewed earlier versions of my introduction as well as drafts of the proposal i hope to complete soon. both the intros and the proposals seem fairly useful; i won't be deleting much, more like refining. generally, i'm tracing a history of discourses on film in Composition. i am creating a dialogue between these historical discourses and more contemporary discourses and practices.

central to the dialogue are a few key concepts:

1.) most of our historical engagment w/ film has emerged from our hermeneutic traditions (analysis trumps production; here, i have to note that i just came across a 1970 annual "roundup"-type College English piece ("Counciletter: Charting Our Course") within which, in the notes section, we find this:

Canadian Council of Teachers of English
The third annual conference of CCTE will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, August 19 to 22, 1970 at the Fort Garry Hotel. Along with Canadian scholars and educators, speakers will include former NCTE Executive Secretary, Dr. James Squire. Topics of discussion: film-making and the classroom, children's literature, sensitivity training and the teaching of English, teacher training in film education, drama in the classroom, and mixing media in the classroom. (emphasis mine!!)

but we were still debating taste, how to teach morals, values, taste (did i mention taste?), narrative, and other analytical practices. go figure.

2.) our discourses on film register powerful affective engagements with/distancing from film. that is to say, few are "neutral" in their linguistic attempts to register readings of, pedagogies involving, . . . really, any and everything to do with film. this notion supports work i want to do with contemporary theories of affect. i am especially eager to explore "the primacy of affect in image reception" (Massumi), theories on affect and/vs. emotion, etc.

3.) they seem to connect us to existing academic discourses (i.e., taste, morals, narrative, gender). i see very little in the earlier discourses on film that is ideationally speculative or rhetorically generative (beyond said ties -- so, yes, speculation on how film V teaches narrative strategy X, but not so much on how we might make film Y say Z).

currently, i've done most of my research on early discourses, beginning in the late 1930's and up until 1970. i'll update as i go (and as i can imagine taking breaks to do so or if some Genius New Idea presents itself. wait! they are all Genius ideas. right. remember that).


* we sing and dance and drink mead
** a term i've borrowed from André Bazin

documentary's affects

Re: Durakovo: Village of Fools, which screened at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival (see SFF synopsis), for which filmmaker Nino Kirtadze won the 2008 Sundance Directing Award in the World Cinema - Documentary category (i had the pleasure of introducing Kirtadze for her film's intro and q & a, and we had a chance to chat a bit about her experience in some screening down time. fascinating). But so i never imagined that my brief review of this or any documentary could create the kind of engaging international exchange as mine has generated (see comments section at the "review" link). In a very general sense, this is simply a (continuing) lesson for me regarding potential readerships for (my) published web texts.

i'm always a little shocked to learn that i have an audience beyond my particular circle of friends, family, and academics. And i am especially delighted to hear from readers beyond that circle, readers who comment, agree, disagree, and in some way perhaps take issue with my comments, coming as they are from my limited perspective. More specifically, though, i'm happy that we're talking about this documentary because i am currently planning a course in documentary filmmaking; i find this recent exchange incredibly telling regarding the always already complicated nature and fluidity of documentary films, the various ways of reading them. i mean, as a rhetorician, it's all the usual suspects -- purpose, audience, context . . . and but then, in a more cultural studies-oriented rhetorical triangle pentad matrix, questions about production and circulation, uptake, and, especially in terms of the international market, questions about translation and experience, allegiances, current affairs, and the various affects that many documentary films work through/over, (re)activate, and provoke.

i am grateful to Vladimir and Marika for engaging with me in this conversation. i encourage you to see the film and join us. below are a few clips, serializing bits of the film. YouTube user, "DAXUREvsPUTIN," who appears to be Georgian, posted several, under the heading "Why Democracy -- Russia's Village of Fools"; i will post the first 2 (with brief comments) .

clip #1. i love seeing Morozov swimming (one lap) and enjoying zucchini (cucumbers?) and the whole morning ritual, all presumable just before we meet Oleg. i find Oleg's arrival and the story that evolves around it it especially moving. as a filmmaker, i can't imagine how honored Kirtadze must have felt for being able to capture that footage. she and i discussed it. it was not planned; she was simply there at the time, the documentarian's good fortune. also, if i recall correctly, Kirtadze said that Oleg later left the village. In my attempts to confirm this memory, i searched for information on Oleg and found at least 3 different livejournal pages from what appear to be his account. i get the following message:

Error

This journal has been suspended.


clip #2. Here, i am especially interested in the attempt at establishing of authority through images -- Morozov proudly shares pictures of himself and his colleagues on the Board of Trustees. We witness/hear a phone call in which a member of Parliament proudly reminds Morozov of the very same pictures. In many ways beyond but including studies in the use of visual rhetoric toward establishing and maintaing authority, the scenes are priceless, if unnerving. Later in this clip, toward the end of the featured meeting, Morozov instructs the people on the kinds of questions they should be asking, given his authority (i.e., "have i understood this correctly?" which obviously leads to a "yes" or "no" answer from the authority figure and then possibly a corrective lecture -- watch until the end for just such a lecture on hierarchical authority vs. democracy). After Morozov offers his corrective advice on the nature of acceptable inquiry, he "invites" more questions. an unbearably tense silence follows until

MAN:
Mikhail Fedorovich, i'd like to know
what you think - do we really need
western-style democracy in Russia?


MOROZOV
(takes a drink of tea,
swirls it around in his mouth,
and, pensively - frustrated? -
rubs his hand over and down his lower face)
Let me speak seriously of my vision of the world . . .

See for yourself the description of his vision; i can't say it any more clearly than Morozov does. but so, . . . tension, anyone? oboy.

This post began as a comment on comments, but i'm certain that i have nothing definitive to say. i'm still talking with Vladimir and Marika, and, for now, i wanted to share this with my more familiar audience, just in case they/you hadn't been aware that we were back on the subject.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

actual message to all faculty (verbatim)

"[c]ome and learn more about how to effectively use Engaged Teaching methods in *your* classroom!"

i hear that they've also recently discovered fire.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

at the grocery store

INT GROCERY STORE. DAY

LADY IN LINE
(visibly upset, squinting at the People magazine cover
and making sure that everyone sees her grand gestures,
which indicate her extreme disapproval)
Tsk, Tsk . . .
harumph . . .
my, my . . .

ME
(quietly watching)

LADY IN LINE
Oh, my, my, my . . .

OTHER LADY IN LINE
(leans back from her position as
first in line, stops unloading cart,
and has a look. engages in gestures
similar to LADY IN LINE's)
Well, . . . tsk, tsk . . .

ME
(a long, deep-breathing beat,
smiling hopefully)
Portia's dress is beautiful.

Both ladies look at me in horror.

ME
Really, you should see it.
(i gesture toward the magazine, inviting . . .)
I wish my dress had been
that pretty.

LADY IN LINE
(laughs nervously)

ME
Ii mean, whatever you think of it,
you gotta love that dress.

both ladies finish checking out
(duh, in more ways than one).

Monday, August 11, 2008

hi, my name is bonnie . . .

and i am the only academic who doesn't grow a thriving garden and can my fruits and vegetables. i am certainly the only Utahan who doesn't.

how did this happen, you wonder? i'm not sure. first, came the switch from fresh to frozen. next, it was Prego instead of fresh. soon, it was Lean Cuisine paninis and me, too busy attempting to keep up with "my career." but it wasn't always like this . . .

growing up, i imagined that i would be that woman, growing her own veggies and toasting her own oats and whatnot for her beloved vats of multidimensional granola. i would have already received my gold medal for swimming, and i would "keep up" -- she says, having never actually arrived -- with daily yoga, running, and other athletic feats, for whenever i could not get to the pool. actually, by now, i would have had my own pool in my backyard. enclosed, heated, private. with lush deck chairs and a steam sauna off to one side of the pristine white deck, never itself absent a lush pile of delicious white towels the size of king bedsheets. everything would smell of fresh linens, even if it was in part the chlorine making that crisp impression.

oh right. vegetables . . . i know. i too was rather enjoying the scenery, but so . . .

i b*tch about these things, but i don't do so to bash my veggie-growing/canning colleagues. i am, instead, inspired. or maybe it's more accurate to say that i admire you.

what?
why don't i simply . . .

oh, right. it is true, i have a massive yard, which i had hoped to fashion into a magical wonderland for my loveable dogs and my angelic children. but i have neither dogs nor children. so. a garden? maybe it's time (i don't even know when people plant, so there's that to figure out).

maybe best, for now (one day at a time-style), to liberate my impossible garden and continue to enjoy the vicarious pleasures of seeing what my colleagues have produced; it's a habit, a professional inevitability, watching everyone grow and evolve and write amazing things and make stuff and *produce*. as Chauncy Gardener says, "i like to watch."

Sunday, August 10, 2008

tsk . . . semantics.

i'm no expert on international affairs, but i do worry the reportage thereof.

there was the "lovely" moment when the NBC commentators described one passage in the opening ceremonies of The 2008 Olympic Games (©?) -- lovely though it was, still, a disturbing political/propaganda spectacle -- where a group of superhappy Chinese children handed over the flag to black-clad soldiers who then goosestepped their way toward a sort of flag altar, and so but Brian or Matt or Bob told us (thanks, guys!) that "see, here, the children metaphorically hand themselves over to the care of the state . . . " as if we were superlucky to witness a "live cinema" (Bob's refrain) version of the happy ending to an enchanting bedtime story.

there is so much to say about the visual rhetoric at play in the opening ceremonies. i couldn't possibly know where to begin. i long to be able to say that it was simply lovely, but the images, especially coupled with the commentators' scripted banter that served to scaffold the propaganda . . . well. i'm not sure i have the energy to take it all on.

and why the head-exploding repetition of "8/8/08"? . . . we get it. it's magical. The Olympics is happening on a date in which a number repeats THREE TIMES! must be a Christian Olympics, after all! seriously. just go to YouTube to see the tortured interpretations and predictions (some, based on "the prophecies of Nostradamus") [long, heavy sigh].

what prompts me to write, which is to say, what prompts the evolution of these tangents on media reporting, rhetoric, ethics trance-inducing numbness of mind, spirit, and will (all just so much, too much, and so you rarely see me take any of this on; i leave it to the good, smart writers at the blogora) is the headline over at the New York Times, "Georgia and Russia Nearing All-Out War."

huh. now it's a "war." damn.

but so, when do we call a war a war? i hate to sound naïve (and maybe someone will correct me with a matrix of linguistic markers that create a spectrum maybe starting with taunting and moving on to the use of something more overtly damaging). but so while it's not the first time that worries of this kind have surfaced in/for me, i am especially sensitized following my decision to watch the taped opening ceremonies of The 2008 Olympic Games (©?) (see above). but so, as for the rhetoric of "nearing war," when does the hurling of bombs at and use of weaponry against one another not constitute war? the opening paragraph of the piece, written by Anne Barnard, explains that

The conflict between Russia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia moved toward full-scale war on Saturday, as Russia sent warships to land ground troops in the disputed territory of Abkhazia and broadened its bombing campaign across Georgia. (Barnard)

so maybe the entrance of "warships" confers upon the tussle the far more emphatic terms? and sure, the descriptive terms "full-scale" and even (in the title) "all-out" serve to qualify "war," as though perhaps war is already in effect, but i can't help seeing the language as just a little bit kinked.

maybe i get it. people need to care, and perhaps the news on the "conflict" to date has not sufficiently outraged the people. still.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

initial states

these phantom splits. Karen Kopelson argues (can i just pause here to thank god for the online version of CCC because the print journal's print is too small for my 45 year-old eyes!), based upon surveys of graduate students and faculty, that these splits define our field. possibly. but not necessarily, and maybe not on as grand a scale as we've created for our "battles" (god, we really must do away with the militaristic metaphors. really. now. okay?).

composition -- humanistic, humane, (read Mike Rose) pragmatic, sometimes vital, and culturally relevant (read Mike Rose), drew from many fields as a way of shaping its theories of writing. that made sense, especially if we agree that composition is/has been interdisciplinary and if we concur with ID scholar Julie Thompson Klein that interdisciplinary projects work toward solving problems that have not been or cannot be adequately addressed using the theoretical and methodological apparatus of a single discipline. writing fit here. why were Harvard students underprepared? if "top-tier" students weren't writing well, what might we do to help all students, even or especially those who were/are less-than-ideally ready for academic life/work? big, troubling (ID) problem. [i love that an interdisciplinary -- ID -- problem is also an ID problem].

so we labored to find ways. intedisciplinarity made/makes sense. rhetoric made sense. rhetoric is everything, at least ID. so, where are the limits?

that teaching formed our initial or emerging states of coherence meant that our evolution would seem to be contingent upon work that focused upon teaching, or, say, work that was contextualized by teaching, or work that gestured toward teaching. funny, rhetoric was historically about teaching. teaching to live in the world (not just the classroom). teaching effective language/communication skills. teaching ethics, etc. so too, today. so but i keep hearing about the "constraints" and "limits" that are so "crippling" and otherwise frustrating, but, well, turning to teaching makes sense (to me) -- we do teach writing as context-specific; we teach and maybe practice an awareness of rhetorical efficacy that is contingent upon contextualizing discourse. that we've "used" the classroom seems to me not so much a limitation but a kind of (at times) liberating move. in early stages of my dissertation, i was just wandering like a madwoman (sorry, Joe), vibing out in the heavy, polymorphic theoretical universe i'd discovered. but why write that thing? why share my vibe? to what end?

(dissertating)
BONNIE
what do you mean,
you don't follow?
it's all there.

OBLIGING COLLEAGUE
bonnie, you have no method.
you have no context.

BONNIE
(totally embarrassed and ashamed
and feeling reallyreallysmall)
ouch . . .
(a beat)
okay. well, . . .
(a seriously uncomfortable beat)
um . . .
please, help me shape my context.
because i have all these things to say
and it all feels so important
and urgent and necessary
and maybe you, my colleagues
(many of you, teachers)
and maybe my students
(you have some too, right?)
feel/think/want to argue (about)
these things as well, and . . .
well, help me to find my context, okay?

of course, i'm thinking through Karen's piece by recalling my own experience of that resistance to the pedagogical imperative, to the "limits" of disciplinary discourse. and what i'm writing here is simply my initial response to Karen's piece, so i hope you'll indulge a bit of play. i don't want to treat her work as anything other than seriously useful in that her work provides context for a sense of a series of discipline-specific (and surely extradisciplinary) problems. situating and resituating these problems is in part what we do, so i appreciate what Karen has done to help us think openly about these histories, myths, and problems. i am especially interested to hear how many graduate students perceive these constructs. i do wish the "splits" could be perceived as ghosts, that we could choose to believe or not, that the material conditions of our work enabled us to dismiss the need for relative clarity and purpose and that we could all vibe out together blissfully. maybe i can choose to believe that we are [some of us, sometimes, somewhere(s)] already there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

editing = revision = filmmaking/composing/writing

i dare say that in the popular imagination, editing is considered nothing more than simple "cutting." perhaps too, revision is equated with "cutting," or "cutting down." i want to spend some time thinking about and researching these claims because i wonder about the extent to which they (incorrectly) radiate assumptions about writing/composing/filmmaking. in general, this project seems massive, and it is informed by my thinking about new media technologies, how they enable us (all) to be "filmmakers," which is actually the name that was given to editors once editing became more noticeably valuable to film in the early part of the 20th century, especially with the evolution of sound, the integration of video and audio.

as i explore the history of our scholarly discourses on film, i see a missing consideration of editing and/as revision, and i will surely take up the call to explore it in the final chapter(s) of the book on which i've been slowly making progress. if my earlier thesis holds, then this absent element from our talk on film's uses in the composition classroom seems reasonable; why talk about film editing in a class on written discourse, and especially in a class on written discourse posing as "correct," "clear" and "graceful"? ... artists!

borrowing the term from André Bazin, film-composition's "invisible galleries" (i'll explain my use of the term in my book ... and now. you. cannot. wait) intimate a more powerful role for editing/revision/composition, and currently we are in a position to be making films rather than merely studying, talking, or writing about them.

ever since i've been making films, the relationship between revision and filmmaking -- revision as writing, revision as composing/filmmaking -- has fascinated me. editing is, for me, the place of (film)writing, and i find that when i start, i don't want to stop. the sports analogy is the "zone." i'm often there when i'm editing. and even if the film is ultimately special only for me -- even if the response at the screening is less than WOW -- i still have that time, that experience of having made it, of having figured out how to (begin to) create the e/affects i'm after. and there is learning and all kinds of groovy self-actualization and discovery and intervention (into clichéd ways of thinking/being) happening there.

last night, i watched a documentary on editing. many Big Hollywood Directors talked about their work with their editors, and it was magically revealing to see the extent to which they realized that the editors were, as the early 20th C. had it, the filmmakers. i felt a little a.v. girl/geek pride for my editing comrades (hear that, Brad? Josh? Matt?). i see from my list there that those names are all male; the early 20th C. editors were almost exclusively female, until sound came along and men began to see the tech-y cool factor as opposed to the allegedly simple cut-and-paste labor that they'd considered "women's work," a kind of weaving or knitting project for the little ladies. grr.

Friday, August 1, 2008

headshots


Once, while visiting the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, i had the pleasure of seeing David Robbins' "Talent" (1986), a collection of 18 "headshots" of artists emerging in and through the 1980's. i did not know if these were "actual" headshots (one features Cindy Sherman, looking strangely eager and fresh, much less so than the fierce Sherman i knew as an artist).

Today, my photographer and i were contemplating the headshot and what it is/does/means. in the course of our chat -- i don't think she intended to offend, and i was not offended -- she said, "famous people don't need head shots," and it recalled Robbins' piece for me, Sherman's freshy newness . . . a kind of desperation, a tragic desire . . . it seems impossible to elide these implicit readings within the constraints of the genre.

... and i hadn't known this, but a little research reveals that the headshots were staged, that Sherman, Jeff Koons, and others pictured had posed for the piece that Robbins, their friend, assembled. so that's interesting.

In a 1989 New York Times piece, Andy Grundberg wrote disparangingly of what Robbins' "Talent," and other self-conscious art/photography projects implied for the status of (ostensibly "real" or "superior") photography as art by artists who "go out into the world to find their subject matter", art that radiates "emotional credibility." Huh. Grundberg explains: 

The message of this new approach is significant, albeit disconcerting. It suggests that we live in a society thoroughly encoded by photographic images. And it suggests that these images are not the innocent, natural products of an objective lens but vestiges of human consciousness. As such, they can be exhumed and examined like archeological shards - ''appropriated'' is the art-world term - to yield evidence of the culture from which they come. For today's artists, the ever-expanding world of photographic images is a more important subject, and a more meaningful one, than the world we experience first hand.

Grundberg goes on to argue that

Given the current fascination with mass-media photographs as cultural signs, and the widespread dissatisfaction with the traditions of fine-art photography inherited from 50 years ago, one has to wonder whether the celebration of the medium's sesquicentennial might better have been conceived as a wake. For if photography survives into the next century, it will be as something more overtly fabricated, manipulative, artifactual and self-conscious than the photography we have come to know. It will, in short, look less like the world and more like art.

So, images are fabricated and this is what makes them art, but it is also what makes them "look less like the world." There are so many questions. One involves the question of just how much "fabrication" is required to create the uncanny "pop" of a headshot (said "pop" ostensibly a sign of some "real" quality the "talent" possesses).