Girl Convergence Talk Culture

September 19, 2010

In his work entitled Convergence Culture Henry Jenkins writes “Welcome to convergence culture, where old and new media collide, where grassroots and corporate media intersect, and the power of the media producer and the power of the media consumer interact in unpredictable ways.”

Now welcome to Girl Talk, the stage name of Greg Gillis, where funk from the 70s, pop from the 80s, grunge from the 90s, and the newest rap song on the radio are all combined together to form a mash-up. Copyright infringement? Controversy? Certainly. There is much more to Girl Talk, however, than simply labeling it a form of “Illegal Art” (the aptly titled record label to which Girl Talk belongs).

Greg Gillis has made the transformation from once being the “media consumer” to now being a “media producer.” One part of convergence that Jenkins explores is the fusion of old and new media—Girl Talk is the epitome of this combination. Gillis demonstrates a vast amount of knowledge regarding the intricacies of different sounds across multiple genres of music. Combining the music of Salt N Pepa, Nirvana, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and the Beach Boys requires a musical mind with a lot of talent. Such is the case in the song ““In Step.”

Girl Talk is also able to convey another aspect of Jenkins idea of convergence—participatory culture. His music allows fans to actively participate through his interactive concerts in which the audience is invited on stage with Gillis to dance to the mash-ups. The creation of fan-made videos for songs such as ““Play Your Part (Part 1)” conveys participatory culture as well.

Girl Talk illustrates convergence and is a perfect representation of how a creative mind with access to new technologies can create these brilliant mash-ups. According to an article published on the reputable music website “Pitchfork,” during Ryan Dombal’s interview with Greg Gillis back in 2008 Greg says “The whole basis of the music is that people have these emotional attachments to these songs. Being able to manipulate that is a really easy way to connect with people.” This quotation straight from the man behind the fourteen-songs-in-one mash-up conveys that the old music coupled with new music creates an experience for the ear that cannot be compared with anything else. These songs have a wide appeal can be enjoyed by a variety of consumers. Discussing the song “Minute by Minute” from Girl Talk’s third album “Night Ripper“, Sean Fennessey’s of Pitchfork writes “There are no ties, other than the miracle of chopping and looping” describing the pairing of the grassroots band Neutral Milk Hotel with mainstream artist Juelz Santana. Now that is convergence.

Digital Natives:OK Computer

September 8, 2010

“Digital Natives”-OK Computer

In their book Born Digital, Palfrey and Gasser discuss the term “Digital Natives” and say that “they were all born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as Usenet and bulletin board systems, came online. They all have access to networked digital technologies. And they all have the skills to use those technologies” (Palfrey and Gasser, 1). This is a significant key term because it is highly relevant to the world in which we live today. It is important to realize the impact that technology has not only had upon us as individuals but also as a society when looking at the bigger picture. The album OK Computer by the band Radiohead came out in 1997 and is regarded as one of the greatest records of the 1990s and even of the last twenty years. Through this album the band was able to illustrate the fears of a society becoming too technological; that is, too much exposure to the internet (which had been created around that time) would lead to a monotonous society in which humans allowed themselves to be controlled and thus inhibit them to think for themselves.

Some of these “Digital Natives” who are able to operate a computer (as well as other technological forms) at such a young age are susceptible to this negative aspect because it is all that they know. As “Digital Natives” if we are not able to question why we need to be on the internet 24/7, then we allow ourselves to become these robots. This is not to say that the internet is detrimental or unnecessary in this day and age, so to speak, however the implications of OK Computer are that technology sometimes can hold us back from having real feelings when we can simply express our feelings through the computer screen (using Facebook as the medium, for instance). It is a feeling of disconnection; illustrated perfectly through OK Computer.

To support this claim, an example of this struggle between the “Digital Natives” versus those who fear rapidly evolving technology is illustrated through one of the songs on Radiohead’s album entitled “Fitter Happier.” The irony of the song (probably committed on purpose) is that the voice is listing off certain things to do so that one can live a healthy, successful life and thus become “fitter, happier, and more productive” yet the song itself would not have been created if the technology used to produce it was not available.

Included here is a fan-created video for “Fitter Happier” in addition to the album cover.

Radiohead-OK_Computer-Frontal.jpg

Poets In the Kitchen

December 1, 2009

My inspirations as a writer, or, my “poets in the kitchen” were and continue to be the people around me (mainly my family, friends and general surroundings) because they inspire me to compose various pieces of writing as well as some of my favorite musicians because I love writing about music.

It is incredible when I think about how I have become inspired to write at the most random times. My mom, for the past few years, has continuously told me to carry around a notepad and paper in case I notice something that makes me think of a quirky opening line for an album review or a tongue-and-cheek idea for a story. In Marshall’s essay, Grace Paley is right on point when she says “If you say what’s on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and friends you’ll probably say something beautiful” (Marshall, 1). This is a practice that I try to do myself—sometimes if one of my friends says something humorous or profound I will write it down (even if it is just one sentence) and it will lead to more creative ideas that enhance what ever it is I am writing. Simply observing people in their natural environment can make for a great story. Grace Paley also says “This training, the best of it, often takes place in as unglamorous a setting as the kitchen” (Marshall, 2). This perfectly illustrates that inspiration can come from the most unlikely of places. One does not have to live in a huge city where there are constant fluxes of people shuffling to where ever they need to be nor do they need to be located permanently in an impoverished area in order to write a great story.

When I listen to a great song, by one of my favorite artists or even by someone new that I am becoming exposed to, I get inspired to write. For example, when I went to Lollapalooza this past summer (a music festival in Chicago) I was so moved by all of the performances I witnessed that I decided to write an article about the three-day festival and what my experience was like with it. Also, my mom tells me that every time I come home from a concert I should write a review about it while the elements of the performance are still fresh in my mind. Also, even if I am sitting in my dorm or room at home listening to musicians such as Bob Dylan or The Beatles, some of the political aspects of their music makes me think about history and occasionally if I have just watched the domestic or world news it sirs up something inside of me that makes me want to write about my own political beliefs.

This essay is extremely relatable because of its explanation of how our “poets in the kitchen” can come from anywhere. Inspiration is not narrowed down or reduced to a certain environment and the fact that it varies depending on the person shows that anyone can become inspired.

 

 

O Pioneers!

November 30, 2009

“Classics that are still relevant in the Twenty-First Century”-O Pioneers!

The idea of achieving the ultimate “American Dream” is not obsolete—on the contrary, it is still as relevant as ever in today’s society.  Willa Cather’s novel O Pioneers! reigns true in the modern world of the twenty-first century because of its core character, Alexandra Bergson, and her unflinching efforts to be a mature, responsible, and hard-working role model for the rest of her family.

The idea that if one works hard, then she will succeed has always been the goal for people living in America. If success is not achieved; however, the general notion is that she must not have worked hard enough. In Alexandra’s case, she had to achieve this by taking on the roles of her father, who passes away early in the novel. It is especially an interesting case because Alexandra is still young when this happens so she is forced to take on the responsibilities while still being an adolescent herself. The narrator says “There is often a good deal of the child left in people who have had to grow up too soon” (Cather, 13). Alexandra is the embodiment of this—many children in today’s society have also had to deal with the death of a parent and have had to become the sole provider for the rest of their family and the caretaker. “Alexandra watched the shimmering pool dreamily, but eventually her eyes went back to the sorghum patch south of the barn, where she was planning to make her new pig corral” (Cather, 35). This line is an indication of how Alexandra cannot fully enjoy her childhood because she has to do chores outside of the home. She dreams of having fun like other people her age but is inhibited by having to tend to the farm. When the drought hits, it is a very depressing time for the people of the town trying to cultivate their land. Alexandra does not let this stop her from keeping her father’s promise that their farm will continue to grow. Because of her hard work, her land becomes the most prosperous.

Willa Cather’s novel can be applied to American society of the twenty-first century in terms of conveying the idea of working hard. People are able to come to America with nothing and then prosper through willpower despite obstacles that may come about. This idea may seem cliché, but because Alexandra can be compared to many hard working individuals today, it is relevant. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

White Noise

November 29, 2009

According to Dr. Mary Klages, associate Professor of the English Department at University of Colorado, Boulder, “In postmodern societies, anything which is not able to be translated into a form recognizable and storable by a computer–i.e. anything that’s not digitizable–will cease to be knowledge. In this paradigm, the opposite of ‘knowledge’ is not ‘ignorance,’ as it is the modern/humanist paradigm, but rather “noise.” Anything that doesn’t qualify as a kind of knowledge is ‘noise,’ is something that is not recognizable as anything within this system” (Klages). Using her explanation as a foundation, White Noise is the idea of something bland, ordinary, useless, and unnecessary.

White Noise is not merely the title of a novel—it is a symbol for the lack of knowledge in the consumerist and materialist world that DeLillo is attempting to showcase through the eyes of the main character, Jack Gladney. Jack is a chairman of the department of Hitler Studies at a local university who observes his students and family going through life attaching importance to material things. He does not criticize this postmodern society; however, but rather observes it while living through it himself. The opening page is evidence of this when he observes the students moving back on campus after each summer. He says “As cars slowed to a crawl and stopped, students sprang out and raced to the rear doors to begin removing objects inside; the stereo sets, radios, personal computers; small refrigerators and table ranges” and as the list of items goes on they become more and more insignificant (DeLillo, 3). These items are not our life support; we can live without most of them yet somehow we manage to attach value to them. When Jack says “I’ve witnessed this spectacle every September for twenty-one years” it indicates the cyclical nature of the people who are living in the twenty-first century in terms of living our mundane and predictable lives without questioning what we are doing (DeLillo, 3).

When Jack goes to the Supermarket with Babette he runs into Murray Jay Siskind, a professor at the College-On-The-Hill. Jack observes the items in Murray’s shopping cart and how all of his products are white. Murray says “This is the new austerity. Flavorless packaging. It appeals to me. I feel I’m not only saving money but contributing to some kind of spiritual consensus. It’s like World War III. Everything is white. They’ll take our bright colors away and use them in the war effort” (DeLillo, 18). The significance of white ties into the title of the novel. If our knowledge turns into White Noise then we will all be the same carbon copies of one another much like the brainwashed people of Hitler’s fascist system during WWII.

The novel begins in a supermarket and ends there as well, indicating that Jack ended up where he started—just another man buying his groceries and standing in the checkout line. He says “This is the language of waves and radiation, or how the dead speak to the living. And this is where we wait together, regardless of age, our carts stocked with brightly colored goods. A slowly moving line, satisfying, giving us time to glance at the tabloids in the racks. Everything that we need that is not food or love is here in the tabloid racks” (DeLillo, 326). In essence, this is what we all have in common. When do we realize that we are turning into the products that we are buying? This question is what makes White Noise, our replacement for knowledge, a pervasive theme throughout the novel—and our lives.

Works Cited

http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html

Dr. Mary Klages, Associated Professor of the English Department, University of Colorado, Boulder

The Poisonwood Bible

October 30, 2009

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible there are characters that transform their opinions while they reside in the Congo—a place far different from their little town of Bethlehem, Georgia. Though this is true, one character that remains a flat character throughout the course of the novel is Nathan Price. He is a dislikeable character who is given no sympathy because of his views of the people of the Congo and his arrogance.

Nathan Price holds the belief that he is superior to people who are not just like him. He takes his wife and four daughters on a tumultuous journey into the Congo so that he can save the people in the villages and push his religious beliefs on them. He is an evangelical Baptist who is ignorant about the world outside of his bubble in Bethlehem and he believes he can be the savior of the people of the Congo. He says “Heavenly Father please make me a powerful instrument of Thy perfect will here in the Belgian Congo. Amen.”(Kingsolver, 18). This is significant because it represents how he wants to be in complete control of the Congolese people.

Since Africa was believed to be the “dark continent” and the Congo was supposedly a representation of the “heart of darkness” Nathan believes that it is his biblical duty to bring light into the darkness, and his version of light is religion. He believes that the Congolese need to be tamed and that they are inferiors. He says “And Lot said unto them ‘Up! Get ye out of this place of darkness! Arise and come forward into a brighter land!” (Kingsolver, 28). The irony of his belief system, though, is that the darkness of the Congo is something that he creates in his head and because of this he is not able to realize that the people of the Congo are perfectly civilized without him. He does not realize that they are capable of handling things themselves and even if they did need help, religion would not do anything for them. They need a person who is compassionate and caring and Nathan Price is not this person.

In the beginning, Leah is the one character who fully supports and looks up to her father. She says “My Father, of course, was bringing the Word of God—which fortunately weighs nothing at all” (Kingsolver, 19). This is significant because there is a weight limit on what the family could carry into the Congo and Leah values religion like her father because she is glad that it does not take up any space. Eventually, however, she has a change of heart realizing that the Congo has an affect on her but her father still remains the same as he always was. Later in the novel Leah says “For the first time ever I felt a stirring of anger against my father for making me a white preacher’s child from Georgia” (Kingsolver, 115). It is at this point that she begins to become resentful of her father. Nathan never questions his religion and does his best to try to brainwash other people, even his children.

Nathan Price does not have any sort of epiphany when he is in the Congo at all. It is as though being in a drastically different environment does not move him in any sort of way because he cannot accept the Congo for the place it really is. He feels the need to brainwash the Congolese rather than have them teach him anything about a different way of life—this makes him a dislikeable character throughout the novel.

The Color Purple

October 24, 2009

Rather than ending up where they started, Janie, from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Celie, the protagonist of The Color Purple, manage to free themselves from the men in their lives that they were bound by throughout each novel and, in turn, find happiness within themselves.

Both Janie and Celie show a tremendous amount of growth and development. Janie begins as a naïve girl who wants to explore her sexuality. She does this by kissing boys, an experimentation upon which her grandmother disapproves. Her grandmother continuously tells her that she needs a husband who will secure her financially, even if she is not in love with him. Because of this, Janie struggles to find a man who she will truly fall in love with. She begins with Logan, the man that Janie’s grandmother sets her up with. After realizing that there is no passion in a marriage of convenience, she divorces him and marries Jody. Once again, this marriage fails and she finally marries Tea Cake, and falls in love. Eventually, however, after Tea Cake goes crazy and their relationship crumbles, Janie murders him. By the end of the novel, she has come to terms with her independence and is a self-satisfied woman.

Much like Janie, Celie also grows into an independent woman at the conclusion of The Color Purple. She begins as a young girl at the start of the novel who is continuously sexually abused by her father (who later turns out to be her stepfather) as well as physically beaten.  Because she suffered abuse when she was younger, she ends up marrying a man who also physically beats her because her mindset was to never fight back or stand up for herself. Even when she talks to Sofia, a woman who, despite her husband physically beating her, manages to fight back every time, Celie still is unable to counteract the beatings from Mr._____. Eventually, however, she speaks up and tells Mr.____ how much hell he really put her through all these years. Her decision to denounce Mr._____ stems from Celie’s discovery of the letters from Nettie that he had been hiding from Celie for years. Since she is able to tell him how she feels, they eventually become friends with one another. Celie says “But I don’t think us feel old at all. And us so happy. Matter of fact, I think this is the youngest us ever felt” (Walker, pg. 295). This is all significant because it represents how she fought her way through all of these obstacles and turns out to be happy and self-confident.

Upon the analysis of each novel, it is not difficult to see Hurston’s influence upon Walker. Hurston conveys the idea that happiness and peace must come from within oneself and this is reflected through Janie’s character because through her experiences she is able to learn this lesson. This can be paralleled with Walker because Celie goes through, arguably, more difficult and harmful experiences however, once she is finally reunited with Nettie, she realizes that everyone ends up being happy in the end.

Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan

October 16, 2009

Upon reading the poem “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg and being an avid fan of Bob Dylan and his music, it is not difficult to see his influence upon the musician.

According to the article Father and Son: Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan by David Willis, “Dylan certainly viewed Ginsberg as a father figure” and he “Cited Ginsberg as a massive influence on his life and work” (Willis). Bob Dylan is considered to be one of the best (if not the best) lyricists of all time partly because most of his lyrics read like poetry but also because he is considered to be one of the voices of his generation. This can be paralleled with Allen Ginsberg who many consider to be one of the best and most influential poets of all time. They wrote about the happenings of their respective generations; Allen Ginsberg discussed his observations in the 1950s whereas Dylan spoke for the people of the 1960s.

Both Ginsberg and Dylan criticized the government; Ginsberg spoke mostly about a post WWII environment whereas Dylan spoke out against the Vietnam War. In Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times they Are a-Changin,’” he says “Come mothers and fathers throughout the land/and don’t criticize what you can’t understand/your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/your old road is rapidly agin’/please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand/for the times they are a-changin.’” These lines illustrate the nature of the people (specifically the hippies) in the 1960s. They were rebellious against their parents and authority and realized that unless their parents (or the government) could help out with the peace movement and speak out against the war, they should stay out of their lives and let them be free and have a political voice. This ties in with the other subjects that both Ginsberg and Dylan discussed such as materialism, consumerism, and money itself. In Howl Ginsberg says “ who burned cigarette holes in their arms protesting the narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism” and “who distributed Supercommunist pamphlets in Union Square” (Howl, pg. 13). Around that time, in the 1950s, because of McCarthyism, America dealt with a communist, or “red” scare. China had fallen to communism in 1949 and the Americans were in fear of communism spreading throughout the world.  Eisenhower developed his foreign policy known as “Containment” in order to stop other countries from becoming taken over by communist regimes. This is significant because it relates to Ginsberg’s poem and in turn rolls over into the next decade, the 60s, because of the Vietnam War and American becoming involved in a country where the battle between democracy and communism was taking place. In one of Bob Dylan’s most political songs “Masters of War” he says “Let me ask you one question/is your money that good/will it buy you forgiveness/do you think that it could/I think you will find/when your death takes its toll/all the money you made/will never buy back your soul.” These lines convey his political beliefs about the war and how he felt it was unnecessary. The government spent a ludicrous amount of money on a war that most people, at the time, felt was completely unjust and unwarranted.

Allen Ginsberg was a huge influence on Dylan because of his ability to be brutally honest about what he observed and how wrong he felt things were. Dylan learned from Ginsberg, specifically from “Howl” that speaking out against the government through artistic means was necessary to get their points across. They each spoke to their generations and had an importance in political as well as artistic history.

Works Cited: http://www.beatdom.com/Father_and_son_allen_ginsberg_and_bob_dylan.htm

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/masters-war

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/times-they-are-changin

Their Eyes Were Watching God

October 9, 2009

Their Eyes Were Watching God-The Evolution of Janie

Janie is a headstrong woman who is the epitome of the African-American heroine in literature. Her character is innocent in the beginning, however, throughout the course of the novel she evolves into a powerful woman who is able to be independent and make her own decisions.

The narrator says “Janie saw her life like a great tree in leaf with things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches” (Hurston, pg. 8). Janie realizes that not everything is perfect; there are nice experiences and bad ones as well. She views her life as being a combination of everything, which is neither one hundred percent positive nor is it entirely negative. She is able to realize, early on, that maturing as a person is what is important even if she has to suffer or be unhappy for a while in order to reach a state of happiness. This is illustrated through her marriages. For example, when she marries her first husband Logan Killicks, she does so only because her grandmother wants her to marry him for status reasons; their marriage is not bound by love but instead financial security. Her grandma says, “So you don’t want to marry off decent like, do yuh? You just wants to hug and kiss and feel around with first one man and then another, huh?” (Hurston, page 13). Her grandmother does not believe Janie should marry based on emotional feelings and because of this Janie begins her marital life with someone where there is no passion. She eventually learns from this mistake and leaves Logan for Jody. Her relationship with Jody is dysfunctional—he does not treat her well and her second marriage, much like the first, is in shambles. Janie then decides to marry Tea Cake who is much younger than her but is a marriage of actual love unlike the other two. He genuinely cares for her and treats her as a human being. He allows her to simply be Janie and accepts her for her qualities even if they are not perfect. At the end of the novel, the narrator says “This kiss of his memory made pictures of love and light against the wall” (Hurston, page 193). Even after Janie shot Teacake, she still is able to realize that they had been in love. He was the best man for her and this represents how much she has matured throughout their Their Eyes Were Watching God. These three marriages show her growth throughout the entire novel as she progresses from one to the next.

By the end of the novel, Janie has reached a good place in her life. She ends up being alone, but she is content. She has experienced love, heartbreak, and gone through many struggles, but in the end, all of these happenings have made her stronger as a person. The last lines of the novel signify Janie’s growth and independence. “Here was peace. She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see”(Hurston, page 193).

Tender Buttons

October 2, 2009

In Tender Buttons the objects that are discussed are all domestic. Stein uses certain words not to create an actual meaning but to further confuse the reader thus making any sort of meaning ambiguous. The aim is to put words together because of their sound rather than placing words together in order to create a definitive meaning. She defies traditional standards because she erases any semblance of what may be considered the proper way to read a poem.

Ambiguity is revealed in the poem under the first subtitle A Carafe, That Is A Blind Glass. A Carafe is an item used to store beverages such as wine and juice yet Stein’s poem is not a reflection of this. She says “A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and nothing strange a single hurt color and an arrangement in a system to pointing.” This has nothing to do with the title of the poem and is entirely illogical. The poem goes on to say “All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.” This makes sense because it is, in a way, foreshadowing what is to come—nothing about Objects, Food, and Rooms is neither ordinary nor traditional.

Stein uses different words and places them in certain spots because of the sound that it creates when read aloud. Her use of alliteration makes the poem sound nice even if there may be no substance. For example, in Mildred’s Umbrella, she says “A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a cause and extra a loud clash.” There is experimentation with the nature of words rather than experimentation with groupings of words that create a cohesive statement. In This Is The Dress, Aider, Stein says “Aider, why aider, why whow, whow stop touch, aider whow, aider stop the muncher, muncher munchers.” It is almost as though she is playing around with these words in order to create a new language where sound overrules significance. Due to the fact that this style of poetry is based on language, it is important to note that it cannot be read once or twice and then be fully understood—this is Stein’s goal.

In Food, the line “A sound, a whole sound is not separation, a whole sound is in an order” is perhaps the most sensible line written throughout the entirety of Objects, Food, and Rooms. Stein tries to put particular sounds in an order that are then contained within certain groupings. The poems under each subtitle, in terms of the way the words sound, are what tie the subtitle and the words together. A Piece Of Coffee, for instance, uses word such as “coal color,” “cheaper,” “case contained,” “cleaning,” “cotton,” and “concentration” that sound pleasing to the ear when read after the subtitle.

The modernists wanted to break tradition and give new understandings and perspectives towards what they wanted to express. They are very much in tune with what might be considered unique and they embrace doing different things. Based on their movement, it can be asserted that Gertrude Stein was a part of this culture and she illustrates this through Tender Buttons.