Rom-Com!

Romantic Comedy is a genre loved by many, and hated by many (men in particular). Sometimes it is cheesy and lovey-dovey, but what’s so wrong with that? I’ll admit to liking some romantic comedies but in small doses as I find the themes very repetitive throughout the genre. What themes you may ask? Well monogamy, masquerading, and the hierarchy of ideas of course. And aside from that in real life does the guy always get the girl? No. Do people exuberantly display interest in one another based on menial knowledge of the other person? Well maybe. But you get the point, the genre can be idealist in its romantic nature (or maybe I’m just a bit cynical).

One romantic comedy film that I found amusing was the film “Knocked Up.” This movie has a role reversal of characters (contrary to stereotypical gender roles) that I enjoyed. The main characters Ben and Alison are from two different worlds (how cliché) and they end up doing the dirty deed and getting knocked up (hence the title). Alison is a striving broadcast journalist for the E! chanel and Ben is unemployed.

The disguise that Ben is putting up is that he is in the slightest way successful. After Alison learns that his website is a flop, he later begins his disguise of being prepared for fatherhood and not a complete pot-head. Alison is trying to hide the fact that she is pregnant from her employer. The hierarchy of knowledge is the fact that these characters know their disguises while other characters for the most part do not.

Despite their differences and endless arguing Ben and Alison decide to work on their relationship in order to create a happy environment for their child. The result is monogamy and the quintessential guy gets girl ending.

What’s So Super About Them?

It seems nowadays that every classic comic character has got its own blockbuster movie. Think Iron Man, the Hulk and who could forget Spiderman and Batman? Superheroes were originally created as fictional characters for children, but as we all know, they have transcended that genre to become characters that interest adults alike. Whether you grew up with the characters or are just learning of them now, their powers whether innate or created, fascinate and draw vast audiences worldwide.

Superheroes have not always been as they are now. They were once one-dimensional characters that willfully fought any crime or evil at hand. Now, these characters have been molded into multi-dimensional personas that are more humanized than ever before.  They face the same fears, insecurities and weaknesses as many of us do. Through modern blockbuster films they’ve been granted more intricate identities, one could even say an enlightenment identity because they are vastly autonomous in character.

This evolution to a newer more relatable superhero begs the question of whether we are drawn to these characters because we see traits of our own within them (especially within these newer versions that carry a lot more baggage). And if we do see ourselves, then what makes them so heroic? Super powers of course, or in Iron Man’s case, a super-genius assistant. But really, if you could create your own humanized superhero what would she or he be like? Think about it.

If I could construct a super-necessary superhero she would be something like this:

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Nascha is a teenage Navajo girl. Her parents named her Nascha because it means owl, and they knew she would be good-spirited and intelligent, as she is. When she became a superhero she took on the name the Opal Owl, because she always wears her mother’s Navajo opal necklace. Though Nascha is a young girl she is very tough, strong-willed and extremely smart. She is often called a tomboy because she has many traits often associated with masculinity, such as being out-spoken and tough. She was born on reservation land in Alamo, New Mexico in the United States on June 1, 1997.  Nascha lives with only her father, as her mother passed away from a lung infection when Nascha was only ten years old. The infection was curable, but her mother was misdiagnosed with lung cancer and misinformation ultimately ended her life. Nascha’s father is a high school history teacher, who is very supportive of Nascha’s preoccupation/ obsession with reading and self-educating. He is proud that she writes as a past-time and aspires to become a novelist. She has a diverse group of friends and attends high school off the reservation. None of her friends know that she is a super-secret, super-smart, superhero.

Nascha, or shall we call her Opal Owl, has a unique super-ability to spread knowledge and read peoples minds. When she comes across a person who is on the verge of committing a crime she gives that person the knowledge to know that there are better ways to make a buck or have a good time. Though the knowledge she creates within people does not last forever, it is enough to temporarily sway them from making awful decisions. It is not until hours after when the opportunity for crime has passed that the suspect realizes they have been brainwashed into being a more informed, empathetic person. Often times they are so effected that they change for the better. The origin of her superpower comes from the necklace she wears around her neck. The pendent on the necklace is an opal that her great grandmother found in the New Mexico desert and fashioned into a necklace. When Nascha’s mother was dying she told her to wear it, and to spread knowledge and empathy wherever she went. The opal now glows when Nascha has the opportunity to change a person’s path for the better. The only limitation is that if Nascha does not have the necklace on, her powers do not work. The opal necklace does not have the same effect on anybody else but Nascha. Her costume was made to keep the pendant in place, and she wears a sleek black mask to keep her identity a secret (and also because it reminds her of Zoro, and who doesn’t think Zoro’s cool?).

Opal Owl tries to fight off the wrath of ignorance and non-empathetic people. Her villains are those that shun knowledge in order to follow a life of crime, hatred or greed. She also helps to counteract the will of rich land developers who continually try to steal their reservation land for industrial development. For these reasons her community needs the assistance of a superhero. Though as we all know, Americans prize their privacy and are very apprehensive to trust a mind reading superhero.

In an age of misinformation, ignorance and greed, the Opal Owl is needed to induce moments of reason and logic into super-villain nihilists. Within different disciplines it may be all right to be a money-hungry land developer, that discourse allows for greed as normality. Opal Owl arrives to introduce a new discourse into such a person’s intellect. In this way Opal Owl works to protect the greater good and fend off those who do evil with only selfish goals in mind. Opal Owl suggests that a young Native American girl can be smart, strong and proactive to make her community a better place. She is not a stereotypical young American girl who watches MTV all day and stares at her smart phone endlessly. She is informed and active and does not have to sexualize herself, or her superhero costume to feel pretty. Opal Owl works to spread knowledge and empathy to her community and beyond! Knowledge is power, super-power!

For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

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It has been said that while out with friends Ernest Hemingway placed a $10 wager that he could write a story in six words. His skeptical comrades doubted a novel could be so brief and placed their bets. Hemingway then wrote on a cocktail napkin “For sale, baby shoes, never worn,” with which he won the bet.

The story has been questioned as to whether it was actually Hemingway who penned it, as different versions have been documented earlier in history. Regardless it is still a very potent collection of six words that reveals the arbitrary relationship of words and groups of words (signifiers), and the their meanings (signified).

With this story, an example of a flash novel, the reader immediately jumps to conclusions as to why the baby shoes could have never been worn, and the common conclusion is quite saddening. According to Jacques Derrida, a French philosopher, words do not always posses clear fixed meanings, yet the reader transfixes a meaning to this short story. It may be about someone who didn’t want their baby to wear a certain style of shoes, but instead the reader assumes the baby may not have been alive to wear the shoes. The denotation of the story is that someone is selling baby shoes; the connotation is that the baby who should be wearing the shoes died.

Hemingway was a prolific existentialist author who abandoned common style to form a minimalist narrative all his own. In his writing he uses each word systematically creating a flow of prose that captivates his reader (or at least some, many are not as impressed by his style as I). His use of language often encapsulates the common mindset of the time he was living in. He was part of a society many called the “Lost Generation” because they were post-wartime expatriates who lived life purely to exist, create art, and quite often to drink and enjoy themselves.

Even if the shortest story ever written was not in actuality penned by Hemingway, it is still an excellent example of how arbitrary words can be.

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“Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.”

-Ernest Hemingway

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

Street Art and Marxist Theory

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Street artist Shepard Fairey became widely known as the creator of an iconic poster that supported now President Barack Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign. The poster depicted an almost propagandistic image of Obama with the word “hope,” inscribed below him. Prior to this political endorsement that garnished so much attention Fairey had an already impressive repertoire of design under his belt.

Fairey, a South Carolina native, graduated from college with a degree in art and an interest in progressive culture. As part of a group of artists and skateboarders Fairey created a stenciled sticker that depicted the face of Andre the Giant, a professional French wrestler and actor, and with his friends, began to adhere the image everywhere they went. As the imagery began to gain public attention Fairey attributed the street art campaign to a study in phenomenology. A philosophy coined by Edmund Husserl, phenomenology examines the consciousness of stagnant minds when confronted by unusual specimens. Such specimens cause those minds to react, question and contemplate in ways they would not otherwise have done.

In this video Fairey sits down with punk-rock royalty, turned talk-show host Henry Rollins of Black Flag fame. Fairey shares with Rollins the point when he reinvented the art work of the Andre the Giant logo to a more close-up version including the word ‘obey’ along the bottom. He claims that this change exudes a Big Brother-like message, and when placed next to large-scale advertisements, as it commonly is, it causes people to contemplate though they may have normally accepted the ad alone as mundane.

Here he also begins to reveal the evolution of his career as an artist who rejects and questions the intent of advertising, to one who himself begins to take part in advertising. It is this evolution that brings into play the Marxist philosophies of the codependence of economic production and relations, to cultural phenomena. Initially a young man defiant of popular culture and ideologies, Fairey picked up art as a way to combat the status quo. His art somewhere along the way became notorious for countering the ever-presence of capitalism. His notoriety turned into popularity and such popularity garnished success until he himself was by and by a part of capitalism. Though, as he says in the video, he tries to do so with morals as to what he will represent with his artwork, his company OBEY is now a widely known brand that brings in a large revenue.

Fairey’s reaction to the (base) structure of society pushed him to create his own niche within the cultural society (superstructure), which in turn made him lot’s of money that through taxes, employment (the relations of production), and advertisement he supports the (base) structure of society that he initially intended to rebel against. This cycle enacted by Fairey supports the Marxist base and superstructure theory.

What does this all mean?

I crave a different kind of culture. I crave the kind of culture that makes me think twice about the way I see the world. I crave culture that bends my perception of myself and the world around me. I crave eye-popping culture.

Throughout my life I have always been attracted to eye-catching visuals, and twisted story-lines. This blog will serve as a homage to the art, film, literature, television, and web that tantalize your pupils, hypnotize your head and soothe your soul. Sounds too good to be true!

I see culture as being defined in two primary ways. First, as a set of musical, artistic, literary, and theatrical specimens that were historically deemed by many (primarily the hierarchical upper-class) as being exceptionally constructed and therefore worthy of critical analysis and contemplation. In the Euro-centric version of this definition of culture Vivaldi, Monet, The Odyssey and Shakespeare would all be such specimens.

Second, culture can be seen as a set of socially constructed traditions, rituals, and ideas.  In this sense culture is practically intrinsic to those born into a given society, because it is all they see until they witness the culture of another people. Shaking hands seems a universal introduction to Americans until we learn that in other cultures they bow, or kiss on both cheeks.

Now that we have looked at these two very different definitions for the word culture we will go into the sub-category which many know as pop culture. What is pop culture? And in any form can it really be eye-popping (metaphorically speaking of course)? I think so!

Pop culture has been widely accepted as a highly monetized form of our first definition of culture (musical, artistic, literary, and theatrical specimens). Thinks television shows, music videos, or web-sites that are primarily made to gain viewer ship i.e. advertisement sponsors, record sales or product sales.

Pop culture can also be seen as specimens that have taken on a socially invasive quality, in that they becomes widely known and talked about. Think of graffiti art, slang or the flash mob phenomenon.

I intend to use this blog as means to analyze all forms of popular culture that I find particularly metaphorical, soulful, mind-boggling, aesthetically pleasing or just downright eye-popping!

Now with that being said it’s time for a brief personal introduction! My name is Samantha Gay Petersen, (yes, Gay is my middle name) and I am currently studying journalism at California State University Northridge. I began my foray into college life as an art major, and even studied for a semester in Florence, Italy. A couple years ago I came to the conclusion that art is awesome, inspiring and an ever-evolving passion of mine, but it is not what I want to get my degree in. I then took up journalism, and was so lucky to become the arts and entertainment editor at Pasadena City College. I am now working as a personal assistant, barista and bartender while going through school. I anticipate an actual career so I can drop the three job titles for one impressive one. As a journalist I hope to make life a little more interesting for my readers and/or viewers, and to inform them of important occurrences and artistic endeavors in the world that surrounds them.

Now enough about me, let’s see some eye-popping culture!