Archive by Author

Under Milk Wood (Makeup)

1 Jun

I have not personally been a big fan of Dylan Thomas’ genius and after reading about the fictitious characters of Llareggub, in Under Milk Wood, my disposition on Thomas remains unchanged. I understand that Dylan Thomas is essentially deified in the minds of literary scholars for his past works, intricate phrasing and love of alliteration, but if any of his other works are like the radio play Under Milk Wood, I have a hard time seeing how he became so renowned for his poetical potential. I did not like the radio play because it was extremely random and many characters were introduced only to have one line or very few lines. Juxtaposing Dylan Thoma’s Under Milk Wood to how I would conceive a play, Under Milk Wood lacks a true plot that is developed with significant characters dispersed throughout and integral to the story being told.

The plot of Under Milk Wood, or purpose, if one exists, is to showcase a small Welsh village, characterized by overtly dramatic, hypersexual, and interesting individuals that tie in to the 3rd Programme’s ideals of “high-brow” entertainment. We are brought into the world of Llareggub via a ship captain who goes by the name of Cat. He is a blind man, and he serves as a vehicle to the audience to help “transport” the listener into the Welsh ways of the town. Captain Cat has a very keen memory and hypersensitive senses because of his lack of sight, thus, he describes his world to the listener through the best faculty for a radio, sound. Captain Cat knows who is arriving at what time and for who based on daily routines of the mailman and his close neighbors (p47). Because he is blind, the audience automatically establishes a connection between themselves and the Captain because neither one can see the world of Llareggub, accordingly it must be described via sound.

One thing that did catch my eye and alleviate the stress of such a play was the interesting names and personalities Thomas gave to the characters of the city. Dylan Thomas, for some but not all characters, named the individual by their disposition or demeanor in the story. For instance, Polly Garter is an extremely promiscuous woman. She sings about “Tom, Dick, And Harry” whom she has had relations with all, and uses evocative phrases such as “Two yards long, three feet thick… and as sweet as a cherry” to describe their sexual abilities and endowments (p60). She even expresses that she will “never have such loving again” (p73). Another interesting case occurred through the clean freak Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. She is so obsessed with cleanliness because one of her husbands died from bacteria. She thinks of her dead husband and has conversations with him. The list of interesting characters goes on from Gossamer Beynon, the beautiful schoolteacher and Nogood Boyo the adolescent menace, to Miss Price who sells her “sweets” to men of all ages.

Dylan Thomas uses the convention of making people’s names fit how they act in the radio play for two reasons. The first reason is to make it easier for the audience to follow along at home. If someone was not carefully paying attention but heard a song about many men and their abilities, one could easily deduce that Miss Garter was speaking. Or if the listener simply hears a lot of sounds and a man describing what he is hearing, one can relay the information said back to Captain Cat. Another reason for this is because it makes the story flow a lot easier by giving the characters trivial names than actual surnames and histories. This allows the listener to take in information without extra mental activity to decode whom this person is, where they are coming from, and why they are important to the story. Dylan Thomas incorporates a multitude of characters into this work and not all of them have important dialogue, so attributing them a full name would only complicate the fairly straightforward but somewhat confusing story even more.

Death was also a prevalent motif in Under Milk Wood. Captain Cat dreams of his dead sailors who were at sea with him once upon a time, Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard thinks about her dead husbands constantly and Polly Garter also thinks of a past lover, Willy Wee who died. The play begins and ends at night and the references to death could represent the full circle of life that each member of the play has come in contact with at one point of their life or another. 

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Blog 4

27 Apr

     Overall, the main view on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, from literary contemporaries, is one of unprecedented authorship in reconstructing the horrors of modern day mystery, myth, and superstition via captivating literature around the subject of Dracula and his followers.

     In the first review, The Daily Mail, the author notes that while reading Dracula we tend to think of other powerfully suspenseful or horrifying literature from past legends such as Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein or Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. However, when objectively juxtaposing those books with Dracula, the reader does not noticeably receive the same physical or mental reaction, or stimulation, as they did while perusing Dracula. This is due in part to the intersecting segments of the same story, knitted together by Stoker’s genius, to form an enchanting novel that I personally could not put down once the story began. From the very beginning, detecting that the same entity was the cab driver and homeowner, the servant yet master of the castle, placed an unequivocal fascination with the Transylvanian host and his operations. What made him even more mysterious is that he never says anything directly from his own journal, logbook, or record keeping but rather expresses himself through the mediation of the main characters’ journals, logbooks, and record keeping. Also, they express in The Daily Mail that reading Dracula absorbed the reader’s daily life so much that they could no longer “pause even to light our pipes” (Review 364). I found myself cooking meals hours late because of Renfield’s abnormal condition and skipping daily exercise routines to find out if the others will ever notice Mina is getting the life sucked out of her. The author of this review highly reveres Bram Stoker’s “unmistakable literary power” and he even restricts the reading of the book for the weak nerved audience to the hours when the sun is out (Review 364).

     In the San Francisco Chronicle Review of Dracula, the author notes that Stoker’s novel is one of a kind because of his “originality… [and] treatment of Dracula,” and creativity in exploring with literary form through several media. He continues to say that other author’s who have attempted to make Dracula their own by personalizing him, or her, have not lived up to the paragon of parasitic mystery that Stoker has created in his original. This has implications that no matter how great the remake is, it will never be better than the original. We can look at modern remakes such as Twilight the movie and book series, or Johny Depp’s yet to be released movie Dark Shadows, as Dracula reconstructs, but nothing approaches the intrapersonal feelings of uneasiness, discomfort, and skepticism Stoker raises about the entire realm of the “Un-Dead” in his novel. Specifically, the scene of Dracula commandeering the natural forces, Lucy’s murder, Renfield’s murder, the three vampire sisters, and Dracula’s murder, all raise adequate questions about the nature of vampires; Stoker cleverly lays out the answers as the novel progresses. However, there is an element of predictability simply from all the reconstructions and recent cultural fascination with vampires but one can perceptibly see why such a novel had a profound impact on those who chose to read it during the 19th and 20th centuries. A man like Dracula has never before been created, wrote about, or perceived in the way Stoker depicts him as.

     One problem, I agree with, that the Spectator initiates with Dracula is that the “up-to-dateness of the book…hardly fits in with the mediaeval methods which…secure the victory for Count Dracula’s foes” because of all the technology Stoker uses throughout the book (Review 365). Alongside of that, the protagonists of the story do not even kill Dracula the way Dr. Van Helsing prescribed. Instead of a steak through the heart or cutting off the head, they simply slice his throat and stab him in the chest, which apparently does the job considering he disintegrates into dust. However, we cannot reprimand Stoker for minor inconsistencies in the novel nor admonish him for mixing modern and medieval elements because, one, the world was entering a new technological era that ultimately was reflected in the literary arena and two, its a fictional novel. Stoker did a great job in his composition and i really enjoyed the book to say the least. 

Blog #2..

13 Apr

Kittler’s suggestion that media are either storage or transmission devices is an extremely powerful statement. When objectively looking at specific media, such as writing, phonographs, and cinema, one can clearly derive that either a message is attempting to be transmitted or historically stored information is being presented to the individual without additional training outside of natural enculturation. Examples of transmission and storage media are seen all throughout institutions like Universities and newspapers, entertainment devices such as television and radio, and in politics through advertisements, infomercials, columns in newspapers, etc. In terms of media being a storage device, media has the special characteristic, according to Kittler, of “storing time” in the realm of eternity (Kittler 34). This has implications, which Kittler brings up, that because media can essentially take away the humanistic characteristic of mortality, media in some sense is connected to the dead, or more religiously, the soul. He makes a strong argument by linking various religious texts with God’s instructions to write or with a story where God actively inspires an author to transcribe His words (Kittler 36-37). Also, before the technological era was in full swing, “texts and scores were [the] only means to store time” and “as long as the book had to take care of all serial data flows…words trembled with sensuality and memory “ (Kittler 33, 30). Therefore, Kittler proposes that books accomplished, in the imaginary, the work that sights and sounds do, created from the cinematograph and phonograph, through the typewriter. However, the phonograph and cinematograph were “new” because they could store time in unprecedented ways through audible and visual procedures.

Kittler’s discussion of the transmission of media is more theoretical than concrete in the excerpt from Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. In books, the words of a story create no more of a meaning than the reader ascribes to it in his imagination. More formally, the “letters do not transmit a beyond which could be hallucinated by perfect alphabets as meaning” (Kittler 44) because books do not carry audible, and more or less, visual representation. Books have power because they evoke this imaginative sense in the reader and it loses this transmission when books become available via other media sources, such as movies or television shows. The reader loses the power to shape the story him or herself because images of how the producer, or author, shaped it are replacing the readers’. Unlike writing, other media are capable of restructuring people and stories beyond structure and form, natural colors and shapes, and most importantly, words originally ascribed to them. In the case of photography and photographs, which Balzac calls “the shady trick” because of its ability to eternalize a mortal, software has been developed to alter any imperfection the subject may posses, to create digitized perfection (Kittler 41). We can generalize this to all mass media because editing can be a high paying occupation if working in the right field of media, for the right company. Moving to radio, a “Jürgenson wave” refers to the white noise, or background noise, transmitted through the receiver when tuned in to certain channels with almost untraceable wavelengths (Kittler 42).  These are supposedly the channels upon which the dead can communicate over. Moreover, books are not capable of transmitting anything but words and “writing, no more, no less” because other media has stripped the psychologically imaginative powers of reading, debasing a books uniqueness to merely its composition (Kittler 26).

Blog #1..Cameron Stagg

6 Apr

The McGurk Effect and Edison’s Realism test conspicuously shows the interdependence of our sensory apparatus, mainly between sight and hearing, when actively listening to music. Edison’s Realism test specifically exemplifies how important the visual aspect of music is by asking the listener to literally imagine a concert experience (Katz 23). Early music lovers typically went to an opera, concert, or other performance to satiate their thirst for music and at these shows the surrounding environment is impressing upon all five senses simultaneously. However, as the phonograph became of increasing popularity and more people began to purchase it, the social event of attending large concerts began to dwindle as music became more readily accessible to home audiences or individual listeners. Also, the visual aspect of all musical performance literally disappeared as the phonograph allowed mostly anything to be recorded calling for composers to “add something” audibly to their performance to give a sense of spontaneity and life and for producers and inventors to make special machines adding a visual element to recordings (Katz 27).

The Stereophone and Illustrated Song Machine of the early 20th century are examples of these special machines created to offer visual stimuli. Typically these machines worked by attaching a rotating set of pictures to the disc on the gramophone displaying images concurrently with the music giving the public “just what they wanted since the first automatic machine” (Katz 24). These machines made an attempt to unify the disconnect audiences felt when listening to recordings “making the process of music making visible to the imaginations of listeners” (Katz 27). Moreover, anxieties arose when performers added extra emotion and facial expression in their live performances because recordings, as well as the illustrations, could not capture such dimensions in its composition. On the other hand, the lack of visual representation of recordings did offer to lackluster composers, such as Jascha Heifetz, a way for audiences to enjoy and add their own meaning to his “cold, calm, and dispassionate” performances (Katz 25).

Authenticity of work has also become a major problem associated with invisible voices through voice theft, commonly known as lip-synching, in the cases of Milli Vanilli and the nine year old Chinese girl in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In both cases, because the original composer or performer was not visually representative of success or cultural perfection, a new figurehead was introduced to accomplish those goals. Some would say that because of recording technology the human element of music, encompassing imperfections and all, has been stripped. This essentially strips the essence of the art away from musical expression and instead places increasing power in the hands of producers, sound engineers, and editors to create music for consumers rather than the composer of the song.