Archive by Author

Makeup blog: Blog 1: Edison’s Phonograph

31 May

In Thomas Edison’s “The Phonograph and its future” he makes predictions of the effects the phonograph will have on the future society. In fact, as he was writing it, he was still tinkering with the phonoautograph, an earlier version of the phonograph although he already announced the news of the phonograph. Since this article, the phonoautograph did become the phonograph, which led way to telephones, radios, voice recorders (on the telephone), “talkies”, to more modern technologies such as walkmans and cassettes. When he wrote the article, Edison claimed that the then current uses of the phonograph were so closely tied to the possibilities of future use that he put them all under one section which included: letter writing and other forms of dictation written word, books, musical boxes, toys, clocks, advertising, signaling apparatus, speeches, etc. (Edison) He also included a basic FAQ section regarding how the phonograph ‘currently’ worked in its most elementary form.

With these “actualities” of the phonograph listed in his article, he also closely tied in the “probabilities” for his invention. The characteristics of the phonograph which Edison listed as indefinite repetition of data, economically cheap medium, easily transported, useful for communications, easy identification of tone, easy duplication, privatization, rapid dictation, and easily stored and filed was the basis that Edison foresaw the future “probabilities”. (Edison) Edison had high expectations for this invention, such as becoming part of people’s daily lives, having voice boxes for toys, most of which came true that would revolutionize the storage of time, space, and information in media.

The telephone and radio, two progressive inventions which stemmed from the phonograph have met and probably exceeded Edison’s high expectations. Edison, as he writes in his “The Phonograph and its Future”, believed that the “captivity of all manner of sound waves heretofore designated as “fugitive” and their permanent retention.” The creation of records from the medium of the phonograph fulfilled that expectation, allowing the permanence and repeatability of sound to be stored. The radio and telephone shifted ideas of time and space that sound was once limited by. The record allowed that sound liberated from time and space to be forever still- kept and used at a future time. Furthermore, the invention of the phonograph and its future probabilities that Edison foresaw not only changed the technology of sound, but expanded it above and beyond what Edison predicted. In Katz’s “Capturing Sound: How Technology has Changed Music”, we see the listed effects of the phonograph that were the basic foundations of the revolution in sound technology: tangibility, portability, invisibility, repeatability, temporality, receptivity, and manipulability. These characteristics were all addressed by Edison in his “The Phonograph and its Future” when Edison had not even fully perfected the phonograph and was still working on its predecessor invention, the phonoautograph. That he was so confident that his sound invention would revolutionize the world shows the importance of sound and the ear itself, which was often an overlooked sense and organ.

Ann Chan


Blog 5

11 May

As sound production technology progressed, the radio was introduced to the public and became part of the daily household culture. This allowed for the public and private domestic spheres to merge in ways that were strange and unfamiliar to society. Over the radio, residents at home could hear news broadcasted across the nation. However, the popularization of the radio did not keep the problem of disembodied voices from prevailing. When the Hinderburg disaster occurred, Herb Morrison made a recorded broadcast that was not meant to be broadcasted to the public until the very next day. As he saw the airship crash and burn, he had to keep on broadcasting amidst the smoke and panic. Over the recording, the audience could hear the heart broken voice of Morrison as he frantically reports, saying, “Oh the Humanity!”

However, because this was a recording and not a live broadcast, the public could not hear Morrison’s account of the disaster until the next day. This caused the public to feel a strange feeling of depersonalization with the time lag. Although the public panicked along with Morrison, they also knew that it was irrational for them to panic at that moment, the disaster was already over, and they already knew the outcome- how many died, how many lived, what became of the airship. Despite the uncanny feeling that Morrison’s broadcast produced amongst the public, it was still a wonder what the radio provided the public in the first place. The public was able to hear an actual account of what had happened across the nation while sitting in their living rooms.

Another account of where the disembodied voices provided a problem to the public, was when Orson Welles broadcasted a live version of “War of the Worlds.” The broadcast even included breaks and such that were staged to integrate into the theme of the “War of the Worlds”. The broadcast was also formatted to sound like news bulletins. However, because the audience were not aware that everything was staged, and still not used to the ideas of the radio and its uses for entertainment, there was a widespread panic across the nation for everyone believed that the Germans had invaded America. Mixed with a high anxiety regarding the likely invasion from the Germans, the newly popularized radio, and Orson Welles somewhat realistic reading of “War of the Worlds,” the panic that the broadcast produced was a disaster. It was likely that many listeners did not tune in until after the beginning and so unaware that it was a drama, took the news bulletins seriously- a problem of the disembodied voice and how the public’s trust and strange feelings towards it. Because of the panic that this radio drama created, the golden age of the radio rapidly followed.

Morrison’s lagged account, although extremely professional and became part of radio history due to his professionalism during a tragedy, and Welles staged radio drama are both examples of how the disembodied voices that became of problem of sound production technologies still prevailed even as these technologies became more and more prevalent in society.

Blog 3 Stoker’s Dracula and Sexuality

20 Apr

The undertones of Stoker’s Dracula is very sexual not only apparent in Dracula and his vampires themselves but also in the themes surrounding blood, death, and lust. The vampire superstition as a whole is a very sexy one; dealing with penetration with teeth, stakes, and the intermingling of blood, which is perhaps the most intimate one can get with another. However, looking aside from the vampire creatures and their practices aside, the reader can also find strong sexual undertones when analyzing the humans. In fact, since the whole novel is written in mediums from the human’s perspectives, the reader finds the sexuality only through the human characters.

All sorts of scenes with obvious sexuality are apparent in this book from gang rape, fellatio, pedophilia to aggressive females which were certainly looked down upon during the context of the novel. Early on in the novel, we already see three vampire women who are full of lust who attempt to seduce and almost rape Jonathon Harker. However at Dracula’s fury, they settle to feast upon a child instead. If vampires were the image of ‘evil’ then the women vampires fulfill all the characteristics for they were ‘evil’ women voluptuous, sensuous, lusty and lacked all sense of gentleness and motherhood. And if these lusty women were perfect to be portrayed as the evil vampire, then it is really no surprise that Lucy became a vampire as well. Before she dies, we see her vampiric self emerge and attempt to seduce her fiancee with a sexy voice, that surprised and, no doubt, turned the men on.She has already been portrayed as somewhat promiscuous, having three suitors at once, since the beginning of the book. During the context of this novel, Lucy’s behavior would have been considered horrid, the opposite of sweet and gentle Mina, whose sole wish was to help her husband. Almost as a punishment for being this sort of character, Stoker had Dracula transform her into a vampire very much like the weird sisters that we encounter in the beginning.

Besides the obvious scenes of sexuality, there are also undertones of sexuality in the theme of blood and death. Blood, the most intimate and personal part of a human being’s existence, is thrown around a lot in this novel. Blood transfusion, blood exchange, drinking of blood, spilling of blood, yearning for blood appear over and over again. In the case of the vampires, their tactic to obtain blood, which is necessary for their survival, is often one of seduction. In both Lucy and the weird sister’s encounters with men, they instantly become irresistible and sexual, the men are drawn to them against their will and would most likely bare their necks to them if asked. When Lucy was alive, the blood transfusions that she got from three different men, was a ridiculous amount. She in a sense became sexual with each of those men (and of course they would not have relinquished their blood to her had they not had strong sexual feelings for her anyway). When the reader finally sees her interaction with Dracula, and we must remember that Dracula needs to be invited in, another clue to her ‘wantonness’ and inevitable transformation to a lusty vampire, we see them exchanging blood. Although Dracula has already drank from her, taking not only her blood but all three men’s as well, he now offers her his blood as if it were a sexual ritual. Killing the vampires also carries a sexual undertone. When we see the men kill Vampire Lucy, we see her penetrated over and over again with a wooden stake, at the submission of the men.

The question of female sexuality is a main theme in this novel. The reader is aware that the characteristics of Lucy and the weird sisters are evil, they deserve to be punished and turned into vampires. The characteristics of sweet Mina are that of the ideal woman in that time period. The vampiric women deserved to be controlled and penetrated horribly with stakes over and over again until they are dead, or returned to their ‘gentle ideal woman’ state. The men fight furiously to protect the sweet Mina, and fight furiously to destroy lusty vampire women until they are no longer lusty. Although there are few moments of possible feminism apparent in this book, as a whole Stoker seems to be oppressing female sexuality greatly in his novel.