Friday, April 8, 2011

Poetry: Procrastination, by Johnny Kelly

Kelly produced this film as a Graduation film for MA in animation at the Royal College of Art, according to his website.  It's something I think we can all identify with.  (I'm procrastinating right now--I should probably be packing.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Suitable Poetry, by A Bit of Fry and Laurie

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie discuss the problem that "modern audiences" have with poetry--mainly, short attention spans and lack of time.  Sad, but true.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday Dog Ears

This week's Dog Ears feature a library moving towards a future with no books as well as capitalism giving Snooki a hand up over Toni Morrison:
  • I've always thought that the importance of books to libraries was overrated, haven't you?  The Newport Beach Library is considering going bookless, with one board member saying, "You don't want to be like the railroads and go out of business."
  • Jennifer Garner may or may not be playing Miss Marple in a new film version of the Agatha Christie series.  Sigh.
  • Kristin Hoggatt, professional poet, at The Smart Set at Drexel University writes about "Words vs. Work" in yet another timely find on creativity vs. "real" work.
  • If you thought we were done hearing about J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter, think again and read about the security measures in place for one of the copy editors of the series.  (More interesting, actually is the tag line at the bottom of the article: "Everybody has a story. The problem is that some of them are boring. If yours is not, contact Dave Bakke." Ha.) 
  • Finally, in news that is sure to depress the literate world, Snooki received $2000 more than Toni Morrison for an appearance at Rutgers University.  (What's more depressing to me is that anyone could receive $30K just for showing up somewhere, whether that person is a Jersey Shore star or author of awesome novels Beloved or The Bluest Eye.)

Poetry: Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

Julian Grey of Headgear provides the animation for Billy Collins poem "Forgetfulness."  (Collins served as Poet Laureate from 2001-2003 and is apparently "one of America's best-selling poets."  I don't know about that, but I do know I love this.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Literature vs. "Literary Studies"

A friend* directed my attention to this Slate review of Marjorie Garber's The Use and Abuse of Literature by William Deresiewicz, which simultaneously inspired two thoughts:
  1. I love reading a good bitch-slap as much as the next girl, but this one was almost painful and if I were Garber, I'd have spent an hour on the floor of my bathroom clutching wads of toilet paper to my face as I wept uncontrollably and cursed the birth of all book reviewers.  (On the other hand, Garber is a Harvard professor, and I'd think that Harvard professors are made of sterner stuff than bloggers.  Plus, all press is good press in the publishing industry.)
  2. The points that Deresiewicz highlight as major weaknesses in Garber's arguments touch a nerve with my own problems with the study of literature
Other than the question of finances and general usefulness of a graduate degree in literature, one of the main reasons I did not further my education in literature was that, from what I've observed, grad students are forced to study "literary studies" rather than "literature"; they read and align themselves with schools of "literary criticism" rather than focusing on the literature itself.

Deresiewicz makes much of Garber's thesis on why literature (or literary studies, rather) is good: "Is literature valuable because it feels good or because it's good for you? Her answer is, neither: It is valuable as a 'way of thinking.'"  I, on the other hand, would argue that the answer to the question of pleasure vs. utility is "both." In fact, I'd say that a good piece of literature is like pineapple wrapped in bacon--it brings value while being wrapped in deliciousness that makes it more palatable.  Part of the "value" of literature is that it offers new thoughts and new ways of thinking about things, all in a much more agreeable package than sitting through a boring lecture.

Of Garber's arguments, I can only say that, from what I can glean from this review, I'm still incredibly glad I didn't go to grad school.

*Shout-out ot Homero!

Poetry: If, by Rudyard Kipling

Let me just state for the record that I would be shocked if there was ever an ad campaign like this in the United States.  Shocked.  Of course, if there were, I might actually consider watching TV.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poetry: What Teachers Make, by Taylor Mali

The combination of righteous anger and engaging graphics make this performance about a thousand times more powerful than any of those stupid inspirational posters teachers always insisted on hanging in their classrooms.  Check it out.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy Poetry Month!

For those of you who are interested, this month is National Poetry Month, and the question always remains, how (and should we bother) to celebrate?  In my mind, and I'm sure in the minds of most people, poetry is associated with long-hair hippies and dissatisfied community college professors who stand at a mike and drone on during poetry readings.  Poetry used to be (and still should be, in my opinion) associated with the expression of things that are real and true. 

My general opinion on the matter is that musical lyrics have absorbed the role that poetry used to play--before music could be mass-reproduced, books were the easiest thing to distribute to large groups of people, and so Byron and Keats had their heyday.  It was only after recordings became available that musical lyrics took on the role of expressing what the masses were thinking or feeling.

That's not to say that poetry as "poetry" doesn't exist, anymore, and I'd bet that a large number of Americans have jotted down a poem in secret when they were feeling especially emotional.  But the medium has had to change, and with the invent of the internet, I think a whole new realm of possibility has opened up--poetry has the opportunity to become important again.  It's just a matter of taking advantage of that opportunity.

Anyway, my point is, this month I'm going to try to find examples of poetry that can and should "speak" to us.  How successful I'll prove to be is another question entirely, since I still do associate poetry with long-hair hippies and dissatisfied community college professors.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fooled You!


I looooove April Fools day now that we have the internet--rather than having to watch my back for fear of some punk pulling a prank on me, I can scour the internet for the best April Fools jokes and giggle all day, which is awesome since I came down with the cold from hell and I've heard that laughter is the best medicine.  (Although Tor got me good last year... bastards.)  Here's what I sniffled and laughed through this year:
  • Google introduces Gmail Motion BETA.  I doubt anyone actually fell for it, but I thought the video was funny.
  • Smart Bitches Trashy Books introduces "The TBR Pile."  The titles of the books are hilarious, as are the author terms.
  • IGN brings us a trailer for a new Harry Potter-themed tv showThe Aurors.  The best jokes are the ones that seem completely plausible, don't you think? 
For those of you who like pranks year-round, check out WikiBombs.  It may be one of my new favorite sites.

Academic Research on Happiness Proves Once Again That Academic Research on Happiness Stupid

Activities in the order of  Least-Happy/Unfocused to Happiest/Focused:
Commuting, Working, Reading, Personal Grooming, Shopping, Caring for
One's Kids, Eating, Praying and Meditating, Listening to Music, Taking a
Walk, Talking with Others, Exercising, Having Sex.
Here's the thing: I've always been interested in happiness and the way we go about achieving it.  I remember the first time I thought "formally" about happiness--it was in Professor Fischer's Introduction to Philosophy course, when we discussed Socrates' views on happiness serving as the highest good, that for which we all strive.  It made a huge impact on me, as it made happiness a goal rather than a simple state-of-being. 

 However.  I also feel that this goal is highly individualistic, and while we can go around interviewing people to find out what makes them happy, this information won't really do me as an individual that much good as I try to find happiness.  Fast-forward to this week, when I was flipping through my Whole Living magazine and found the above chart depicting levels of happiness in relation to level of focus.  (And, yes, I did take the picture with my camera phone.  Technology what?)

What stood out to me was the examples of activities that sit at each level of the chart, with "Commuting" and "Working" serving as examples of when we are least-focused and "Having Sex" and "Exercise" serving as examples of when we are most-focused.  (Excuse me for disagreeing--if I was 100% focused during exercise, I would never do it because I wouldn't be able to distract myself from the unmitigated misery of it all.)  Falling into place on this spectrum, from most- to least-focused is "Talking With Others," "Listening to Music," "Eating," and "Reading." 

Wait, what?  How in the world can someone be more focused on eating than reading?  I strongly suspect this is not the case when 66% of Americans watch tv while eating dinner.

The whole thing reeked of stupidity to me, so I did a little digging and found out that the chart was based on research conducted by Matthew Killingsworth, a doctoral student at Harvard, who started trackyourhappiness.org, where
"iPhone owners could sign up to receive one or more text messages a day. These texts nudged them to visit an online survey to report how happy they were feeling and pick from 22 different choices, including shopping, watching television, or working, to describe what they were doing right then. Subjects also recorded whether they were thinking about that activity or about something else that was pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant." (Science Magazine.)
Really.  You expect me to believe that respondents immediately answered survey questions about how "happy" they were feeling during sex?  Uh-huh, that's not distracting at all, when the study attempts to prove that "how focused" someone is has a direct impact on how "happy" they are.  I will also hazard the suggestion here that the Americans who took don't know the difference between "feeling physically good" and "feeling emotionally happy," as shown by the fact that "Eating" rates higher than "Caring For One's Kids." There's a difference.
 
Anyway, it just goes to prove that the pursuit of happiness really belongs in the philosophical world rather than the scientific.  If you'd like to take part in a narcissistic study and be interrupted during things that make you happy, you can sign up for it at here.

Hop on Pop to be Worst Film Ever

What the hell is wrong with the world?  Did you hear that there's a new film version of Hop on Pop in the works, starring Zach Braff and Maggie Ggyllenhaal as a pair of twenty-somethings who were raised as brother and sister and later come to find out that their "father" actually kidnapped them at birth? 

Since there's nothing funnier than Stockholm Syndrome, hilarity ensues, I'm sure.  How do those hacks at Disney sleep at night?  Check out the trailer here.
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