Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Naughty, Naughty Cheesemongers

When I was doing research for my paper, I stumbled over a Monstrous Regiment blog dedicated to fan fiction. There's a ton of different stories involving the cast, including some risque erotica stories, strangely enough. Just thought I would share for any Monstrous Regiment fans.

Here's the Blog

And here are some stories that are linked to on that site.

Question for Everyone!!!

Hey everyone,
My friend Danielle is in my broadcasting class and she wants to do a story on our class since it is the first to use video conferencing at UA. I just want make sure it is cool with everyone if she comes by on Wednesday. All she will be doing is getting video of us sitting around and she might want a couple people to do interviews before or after class, so if anyone would be willing to talk to her for a couple minutes that would be great. Please let me know if anybody doesn't feel comfortable having her in there or if you would want to be interviewed. Just let me know if ya'll have any questions. Just post a comment if you need anything.

- Nick Adam

Link for Paper

Hey I know this is kind of late to post, but if any of you procrastinated to the last minute (like myself) and are looking for extra information for Coraline then maybe this link will help. It is an interview with Neil Gaiman about different things in the book.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

More on Spirited Away

I thought Spirited Away was amazing. I thought it had all the characteristics of most Disney movies, although as Lizzie said earlier, many of the clever references had to do with Japanese folklore and culture, so a lot of it was lost on me. I still enjoyed the film immensly and especially loved the secondary characters in the movie. The bobbing green heads were hilarious along with the transformed bird and baby. I did wonder why Yubaba's supposedly evil twin sister wasn't evil at all when we finally meet her, and why she immediately gives the characters what they need. I was also confused about why she wanted them to call her granny. I kept waiting for her to turn on them Hanzel and Gretel style but it never happened. Anyway, if anyone has any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

some thoughts on the movie

i wasn't there monday so i'm not sure what has already been discussed about the movie but i do think it's interesting, once again, the significance of a name. they seem to have powers in all fantasy lit and i thought it was cool that they were even still important in a feature film

Spirited Away

So, I was wondering what everyone (who has seen it) thought of Spirited Away. Zach said that it has been called a japanese Alice in Wonderland. I am a huge Alice fan. It is full of word play and sly references to real life events...I was wondering if anyone was familiar with Japanese folk lore, and if there was any word play or hidden references in Spirited Away? It would be terribly interesting to know.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Twiglight Princess and the Dangers of Wii-mersion

Hello everyone, sorry it's been some time since I posted but the blogger hamster was displeased with me for some reason but I believe all the issues have been worked out. Anyway, I'm sorry I missed the dinner (as you can tell form the timestamp) but I injured my ribs earlier and I'm writing this from the doctor's office.

Anyway, my roommate finally tracked down a Wii over the weekend and me and him played through most of The Legends of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The series is one of the biggest epics in video games - it is known for sweeping visuals and fantastic dungeons. This game, along with perhaps Final Fantasy (which has become steadily more of a steam-punk work over time) are fantasies greatest examples in the field of video games.

Twilight Princess was originally planned for Nintendo's GameCube but was moved to the Wii to push to new console. It worked, as the Wii has become the fastest selling console ever. However, The Wii has never quite sat well with me. I played it over the weekend and found all the elements of past Zelda games, yet something was different. When I stopped playing I realized what it was: the Wii's highly touted "immersion" was ruining the game!

Let's take a quick detour to Berlin in 1930. Bertolt Brecht, one of the greatest playwrights in history responsible for such masterpieces of opera as Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and Threepenny Opera (which most of you will recognize as the original vehicle for the song "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" later redone by Bobby Darin). In the notes to the former Brecht included an essay, "The Modern Theater is the Epic Theater". In this essay Brecht differentiates his works, which he calls Epic Theater, from the Dramatic Theater - descended from Aristotle and Sophocles. He claimed that while the Dramatic Theater was "culinary" and superficial Epic Theater was designed to focus on narrative and theme rather than on plot. The primary difference that he sets forward is a reformulation of ostranenie as the "alienation effect" (Verfremdungseffekt).

In other words, while most other theatrical efforts had been to make the spectator identify with the characters Brecht sought to distance the spectator from the characters (thus the idea has become known as Brechtian distanciation). This device is aimed at turning the spectator into an observer but arousing his capacity for action. The idea is to keep the spectator from being caught up in the plot and focused on the themes and ideas behind the work. The spectator does not get swept away by a good story but instead can see the nuts and bolts of the piece. Maybe the greatest film director of all time, Jean-Luc Godard, used this theory in his New Wave films which redefined what a film could be.

Now back to Zelda. The idea behind the Wii is that the player be put in a position where he feels the character on the screen to be an extension of himself. The Wii is the exact opposite of Brecht's argument. The player is not allowed to see the nuts and bolts of the game, they cannot separate the narrative from the plot and the game acts as a suggestion rather than an argument. While it is true that games are still a very immature medium and few people have stepped up and contributed a video game worthy of any sort of artistic consideration (at least very few commercially successful games) the potential for that artistic depth is there. However, with the Wii the industry has taken a step backwards, rather than an artful jump-cut or ironic anti-cinematic device we are presented with the 21st century version of 3-d glasses.

Is Zelda fun? Of course it is, but shouldn't video games be something more than that by now? Sartre said that "one is not a writer because one has chosen to say certain things, but because one has chosen to say them in a certain way." If the Wii becomes the success it looks like it will be, then why should people care about the way a message is conveyed, they are too busy swinging a remote. Maybe, I am afraid of new things but I fear that a generation will grow up with the Wii, unable to make that crucial separation of narrative and plot and this will spread to other mediums. Anyway, this is just a thought I had that may have nothing to do with the class but thought I would share.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 25, 2007


I have a question about the paper & figured others might benefit from hearing the answer, which is why I'm posting it on here instead of just emailing Andy. Is this paper supposed to be a formal thesis paper (no first person, very structured, no contractions, etc.) or can it be somewhat conversational, reflective journal, investigating our thoughts? Thanks!

The Oscars

In case anyone likes this stuff, the Oscars are on ABC. Pan's Labyrinth actually took the first two Oscars for Best Art Direction & Achievment in Makeup. I wonder how many more it will take home.

New interview with Ellen Datlow

Wizards cover

A shameless plug: John Jude Palencar's cover for the upcoming anthology Wizards, which includes my story "A Diorama of the Infernal Regions, or The Devil's Ninth Question," is up at Amazon. Click on the image to see a larger version.

I also learn from Amazon that the anthology's subtitle is Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy. I don't know about my being a master of modern fantasy, but I am pleased to have a story in this book, alongside so many terrific writers. The Berkley hardcover is out May 1.

New links on electronic games

My colleagues still are recommending good sites for research on electronic games -- blogs, bibliographies, critical articles, etc. -- so I've updated my earlier post on the subject.

An honor for The Empire of Ice Cream

The Horror Writers Association has named Jeffrey Ford's book The Empire of Ice Cream among this year's Stoker Award nominees, in the Fiction Collection category. The winners will be announced March 31 at the World Horror Convention in Toronto.

Which stories in Ford's book, if any, would you consider horror stories? (In addition to whatever other genres they may fit, of course.)

A note on paper sourcing

Kate Sparks asked: "Do you have any requirements for how many book sources, internet sources, or just sources in general?"

I replied: "No, Kate, I don't, though whatever sources you do use -- including the primary text or texts you're writing about -- should be properly cited throughout and listed at the end."

For more on that score, here's a re-post of the format requirements on our syllabus (online as the first post on this blog, back in November):
Both your papers will be handed in electronically. E-mail them to your teacher as PC-compatible Word attachments. Papers must be in 12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced, with ragged right margins and page numbers in the upper-right corners. Papers that don’t fit this format will be returned unread for correction. Papers also must adhere to the prevailing style manual of the student's discipline (MLA, Chicago Manual, etc.), so that all sources are acknowledged and referenced correctly.

Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager

Online Star Wars spoofs are legion, but Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager is one of the most popular and the most well done, going far beyond rote parody and developing its own independent mythology. Thanks to my colleague Don Riggs at Drexel for sending me the link.

Relevance reminder: This is more participatory fan culture, a la The Library in Kelly Link's "Magic for Beginners" -- an example of what Henry Jenkins at MIT calls "covergence culture," "textual poaching" or "transmedia storytelling."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Speaking of "The Scribble Mind" ...

... I absent-mindedly forgot all about it Wednesday and adjourned class before we got to it. The story deserves better, as Kate points out, and we'll talk about it in class next Wednesday the 28th, along with Spirited Away and much else.

Schedule, Feb. 26-28

Hope this makes sense! I should have e-mail access throughout my visit, so if you'd like to make an appointment to meet with me during office hours or some other time, please e-mail me.

Monday, Feb. 26
  • My office hours in Nott Hall, room TBA, 1-2 p.m.
  • Spirited Away at Dr. Halli's house, 2:30 p.m., followed by dinner. If you can't make the movie, come to dinner, and vice versa, and if you can't make either, we'll miss you! Do RSVP to me or Shirley Culp, however, if you're NOT coming to dinner.

    Tuesday, Feb. 27
  • My office hours in Nott Hall, room TBA, 1-3 p.m.

    Wednesday, Feb. 28
  • My office hours in Nott Hall, room TBA, 1-2 p.m.
  • Class 2-4:30 p.m.
  • Dinner afterward, should any of you want to join me.
  • Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    La Jetee

    I found this explanation of La Jetee, and it really adds an interesting depth to Kronia. You'd just have to read it to understand.

    Jetée, La

    Jetée, La (1962)

    I looked this up on IMDB and it is a 28 minute movie by French filmaker Chris Marker. Here is the plot summary.

    Earth lies in ruin after a nuclear war. The few surviving humans begin researching time travel, hoping to send someone back to the pre-war world for food, supplies and maybe a solution to their dire position. One man is haunted by a vague childhood memory that will prove fateful. Written by Marty Cassady, edited by Tsee Lee

    There are many things in the story Kronia that obviously tie in with this movie. On page 130 she writes about both the time travel aspect and the nuclear aspect in the 5th paragraph. And then of course the whole story begins and ends with some sort of childhood memory, and the whole story revolves possibly around different fates. I would venture to guess that Elizabeth Hand really likes this movie, hah.

    the scribble mind

    this story, while one of the longest, was definitiely my favorite...and after finishing i was trying to figure out why i enjoyed it so much and i realized it was two main things. the suspense drew me in and made me want to figure out the mysterious "rememberers," but also i wanted to learn more about the character Esme. she was so complex and i wanted more about her identity to be revealed, and i hoped for a romance between her and the protagonist but i should have known that was too good to be true...not to say i didn't like the end. i thought it was resolved how it should have been, for all these reasons scribble mind was my fav

    Of fandom and contribution.

    Yesterday I was reading up on DC's Countdown series, a weekly serial riding the coattails of its highly successful 52 series about an untold year in its sprawling continuity. I found an interesting post on a fan message board continuing discussion about the production of Trek fan episodes:
    I'd be more disappointed if they stopped taking risks. Everything is becoming more real-time, and with comic book universe RPGs on the horizon it's going to be more important to have people that understand what it means to have real time publishing be consistent with/not spoil/be in continuity with slower, monthly publications. I'm sure when that day comes comic book fans will begrudgingly say, "aw, another $8.95 a month on top of my comic book purchases" -- and those that do, to be rewarded.

    I hope DC learns from Linden Labs' Second Life etc -- you don't have to soak your fans all at once, you give them a little bit, but give them the ability to make contributions to the vague new world/Brave New World we're starting to create, even with these messageboard posts.
    Comic books, as an industry, are subject to flawed scheduling. When you have a product that is scripted by a writer usually juggling many other books (or, increasingly, TV or movie projects) and then hand drawn (for the most part) by a highly-skilled but still highly-fallible human beings, it's hard to make sure each 22-page pamphlet gets out on time. Especially when the best artists are as slow as glaciers. It's one of the contributing factors as to why the market for collections and graphic novels has taken off in recent years.

    But what DC has tapped into with its weekly comics is an increasing American appetite for serials (Heroes, Lost, 24) and an Internet-fueled urge to feed the need for fresh content. They have worked out a process that creates a project that takes chances, but comes out on time and gets fans into specialty stores that have struggled since the collector's market bottomed out in the 1990s.

    Eventually, though, the company is either going to run out of buttons to push, falter to the books of the competition or, as the poster predicted, not be able to produce enough big, plot-heavy books to satiate its content hungry fan-base. And superhero readership is hungry and, as always, ornery whenever a story is told about their character that they don't agree with.

    And while fanfiction and mass production is nothing new, when do we reach a point to where that content hunger and contribution media like Second Life and even Facebook get so big that fans control and contribute to the medium? How does a concept like that take off? And what would provoke a company that makes billions off a fistful of trademarked concepts to let those doors swing open?

    Labels: ,

    Dead Gods

    I'm trying to determine exactly which angle to portray the dead gods from. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
    I just finished Agate Beach, and I really enjoyed it. My one real question is: what do you think happened at the end? Did Marsha die or become one of them?

    Personally, I think she died--I like the story better that way, but I can see it both ways. The pendant the boy gave her had runes on it for protection and air under water, things like that, that make it seem plausible that she could have become one of them and lived on under the water, but at the same time, I think her dying fits the tone of the story better, and for me is a more satisfying conclusion.

    Yes, I am morbid. Thoughts? XD


    Even though Kronia was the shortest, it was my favorite by far. The content reminds me a lot of Link's last story Lull, but for some reason Kronia struck a chord with me while Lull didn't at all. I think that's possibly because I could connect with what was going on in Hand's story because I could relate - if anyone can relate to calling up random people telling stories about cheerleaders and the devil in a closet and making lots of Susan beer, well let me know & I might re-evaluate my position. Also, the quote at the end was probably one of the most thought provoking statements I have read in awhile. Of all my memories, my favorite ones are those concerning things that didn't seem too important at the time, but looking back have left a definite mark on me. For instance, I was over at a friend's last week, and they have little 2 year old who fell over and hit his head. Both his dad and I rushed over, and his dad picked him up to make sure he was ok. But when he saw me standing there, he reached out & wanted me to hold him instead. Small & random, but I can't forget it.

    Anyone else have a memory like that?

    Tuesday, February 20, 2007

    Father's Mask

    Did anyone else get a really Oedipean vibe from My Father's Mask? Though I liked the story, I think it definitely had its more disturbing aspects, especially since Jack just took it all in stride. Also, since we've been talking about true names, do you guys think there's any significance to him being named Jack, considering the deal (no pun intended) with the cards?

    Monday, February 19, 2007

    Years Best

    I just finished with the readings for this week and am wondering about the end of "Scribble Mind." I didn't believe that she Remembered either, but Pat said he could tell because the daughter Gina wouldn't come within eight feet of Esme. Was Pat saying that the daughter Remembered and wasn't associating with Esme because Esme couldn't Remember? Or that Esme was lying about something else? The Scribble Mind and Incident at Agate Beach were my favorites. I think that the Incident at Agate Beach relates to the paper topic about how the water is kind of a thin place with all the supernatural elements that take place in the story. I also was interested in all of the different names the boy used for himself.

    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    Paper topics

    If my notes are correct, here's what everyone's working on. Feel free to offer one another suggestions and examples, if they occur to you. For example, if you're combing Coraline looking for your own Things, but discover some Things a classmate could use, speak up!

  • Lauren: Kelly Link's "The Great Divorce" and C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce.
  • Nick Adam: Water as a thin place in Jeffrey Ford's "The Trentino Kid" and Marly Youmans' "An Incident at Agate Beach."
  • Zach: Alice motifs in two Neil Gaiman-Dave McKean collaborations, Coraline and Mirrormask.
  • Elizabeth: The Library in Kelly Link's "Magic for Beginners" as the ultimate interactive TV cult show.
  • Joel: Religious oppression vs. freedom in Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, Jeffrey Ford's "The Green Word" and Kurt Wimmer's movie Equilibrium.
  • Brian: Fantasy vs. reality in Neil Gaiman's Coraline and two Terry Gilliam movies, Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.
  • Jae: Portals both physical (as in Neil Gaiman's Coraline, etc.) and mental (as in Jeffrey Ford's "A Man of Light," etc.).
  • Keith: The demise of gods in Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, Neil Gaiman's Coraline and Jeffrey Ford's "Boatman's Holiday" and/or "Jupiter's Skull."
  • Tara: A psychoanalytic reading of Neil Gaiman's Coraline -- the otherworld as a projection of Caroline's fears.
  • Megan: Levels of magic in Kelly Link's "Stone Animals" and "The Faery Handbag" and Neil Gaiman's Coraline.
  • Kate: Quests for love in Neil Gaiman's Coraline, Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, Kelly Link's "Stone Animals" and/or Jeffrey Ford's "The Empire of Ice Cream."
  • Tiffiny: Names and identities in Neil Gaiman's Coraline.
  • Nick Beadle: Kelly Link's "Catskin" and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho: "Good, creepy mama's-boy stories."
  • Adam Nunley: Distancing and engagement in Jeffrey Ford's Afterwords in The Empire of Ice Cream and in Wallace Stevens' "The Emperor of Ice-Cream."

    By my count, this means eight of you are writing at least partially about Gaiman, six at least partially about Ford, five at least partially about Link, three at least partially about Pratchett and one at least partially about a Year's Best story -- a good range.
  • Where no fan has gone before

    This is mainly for Elizabeth's benefit, but I thought the rest of you would be interested, too: an excellent Wired article on a great collaborative fan project, Star Trek: New Voyages.

    And I highly recommend The Call of Cthulhu, the 1920s silent movie that SHOULD have been -- belatedly but thrillingly realized by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.


    So, I have been thinking about Coraline and I don't believe we talked about the scene in the book where she goes and watches the weird lady neighbors performing in the other world and how they come out of their skins and the whole theater full of dogs and how she gives one chocolates . Is there any significance there? I know it doesn't really have anything to do with my topic for my paper, but I was just wondering about it.

    Magical resolutions?

    In a Slate essay on Deep Throat, critic Laura Kipnis notes in passing: "Genres that are most popular tend to offer magical resolutions to irreconcilable social problems and tensions." Is this true of popular fantasy? Of all fantasy? Of everything on our syllabus?

    "Fairytale Beauty" in Redbook

    Here are the images that illustrated Redbook magazine's feature on "Fairytale Beauty" in July 2006. What assumptions are being made about fairy tales, their heroines and the Redbook reader's identification with them? First, "Sleeping Beauty's rested radiance":Next, "Rapunzel's luxurious locks":Next, "Snow White's flawless skin":Finally, "Goldilocks's luminous tresses":

    Wednesday, February 14, 2007

    I keep forgetting to mention this in class

    We've been talking so much about fantasy novels being turned into films...but I keep forgetting to mention in class that bands can base their own music around fantasy stories as well. A band that does this extremely religiously is Coheed and Cambria. This band is pretty popular (and by popular I mean that I like them and they are on mtv from time to time) and since coming on the scene have created a series of albums that is also a continuous story. The story begins with the characters Coheed and Cambria and their children in a futuristic earth. The cd's are also accompainied by a series of comic books and graphic novels, and the first cd they released (The Second Stage Turbine Blade) is the second part of the five part story. Thus far they have released three studio albums (the latest one Part Four: Good Apollo I'm Burning Star Four) with the fifth installment of the story to be released soon and then they will release the final cd of the series (which is actually the beginning of the story). It all sounds very convoluted, and is...but the music is really good and the story is extremely confusing (at least to me). But you can check out their myspace page or their website, and go to the link and read the story so far (click on the about section at the top of the page). Just thought I'd throw that out there...I used to know a lot more about the story, but I haven't read it since last year and there are so many things going on it gets too hard to remember accurately.

    Dark Tower Fans

    Marvel has started a comic book adapted from Stephen King's Dark Tower.

    Under the direction and guidance of Stephen King, the creative team of Dark Tower expert Robin Furth (Stephen King's The Dark Tower: A Complete Concordance), The New York Times-bestselling author Peter David, Eisner Award-winning artist Jae Lee and fan-favorite Richard Isanove, the seven issue series will expand the saga of King's epic hero, Roland Deschain, whose quest to save the Dark Tower is captured in seven best-selling novels published over the course of twenty-five years. The first arc of the Dark Tower comic series will delve into the life and times of the young Roland, revealing the trials and conflicts that lead to the burden of destiny he must assume as a man, the last Gunslinger from a world that has moved on. The comics will work in conjunction with the novels, further supplementing and defining the saga's mythology.

    paper ideas??

    So, I have finally narrowed my paper topic down to the book Coraline because of all the different elements seen in this story. Mr. Duncan helped me with some ideas for my paper: the significance of names, the role of the cat, the illustrations, the role of the other father, etc. Unfortunately, I am blessed with the gift of indecisiveness and am still unsure which topics I could elaborate into a 2,000 word paper. If anyone else has any ideas on Coraline which they aren't already planning to use for their paper, please let me know.


    Magic for... inspiration?

    Though I can't seem to find it, I remember the jist quote by comic book writer Warren Ellis a few years ago about his colleagues that practiced magic: some guys keep caves under their houses to impress the girls, some do it because they actually believe in it.

    One of them who believes in it is Alan Moore, the English writer who, in a bad mood 20 years ago, defined a generation of grimmer and grittier comic books, wrote what is likely the field's best single work ("The Watchmen") and created commercial characters/properties like John Constantine, "V is for Vendetta" and "The League of Extraodinary Gentlemen" that have been adapted as movies in the last half-decade -- some better than others.

    Moore is an gnostic who worships a Roman snake god and regularly records a series of worship/magic acts as performance art with a group known as The Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels. Here's an interview he did about one of his pieces when it was released on CD.

    As far as how it may have affected his comic book work: He created and wrote six years worth of stories based on his beliefs about life, art and magic called "Promethea," the last issue of which came in psychedelic poster form.

    (I believe Armageddon was involved.)

    So the simple question I pose to you: what's more interesting, magic fiction or magic nonfiction?
    And does anyone have anymore examples?

    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Another thin place is revealed in "Agate" (Don't open till you're done!)

    i'd love a little help

    i was reviewing my notes from class to look for a paper topic and i'm really interested in the quest for love, which seems to be a common thread throughout many of these stories. i'm especially intrigued by how it ties into conflict, whether it spurs conflict between people or leads to inner conflict in a protagonist. however, while i've made this observation and can apply it to several stories (coraline, stone animals, magic for beginners, monstrous regiment, and empire of ice cream), i'm really struggling on an overall thesis and what point i could try and make besides the obvious love is important to almost all stories and inevitably leads to conflict. i realize this is kind of vague and i'm struggling to get my ideas into words but if anyone has a suggestion i'd appreciate it...


    It's incredible that we humans are so focused on understanding and interacting with something we deem "greater than ourselves." We will unrelentlessly search high and low for this "Great 'So What?'" (-Woody Allen). If we cannot find to be real what we want to be real, we will make it real.

    There are places all over the world that people now consider "thin" where ancient cultures built monuments or structures with uses that are not very well understood. These places (such as Avebury and universally-recognizable Stonehenge 20 miles away) are still viewed by many people of "new-agey" type faiths to be areas where some sort of life force or world resonance is highly concentrated. These people say all kinds of things about what this ambiguous power is capable of.

    For example, the farmland surrounding the two megalithic sites I mentioned above is the birthplace of the strange Crop Circle phenomenon. We now know that all crop circles are almost without a doubt entirely man-made and have nothing to do with either aliens or the "mystical force of the land they appear on." However, this famous form of artistic destruction of property (like "land graffiti") would never have existed if people were unwilling to believe that they were not man-made. The original hoaxers took full advantage of the magical misconception that would stem from creating such intentional symbols in such a sensitive place. Everyone was willing to believe that they were some sort of cryptic message. Through the harmless exploitation of man's willingness to sacrifice truth for meaning, the hoaxers inspired others all over the world to come out of the shadows, create their art for all others to view, then return from where they came. Making crop circles actually turned into a competetive form of underground guerilla art that produced some absolutely Beautiful designs!

    check this out:

    especially this one:

    Even if it is a hoax, even if it is just some geometric sketches transposed onto a field of corn by humans utilizing not-actually-so-difficult techniques, the crop circle is now clearly something that teaches and comments on the most fundamental of human beliefs, just like any other more traditional form of the manipulation of some medium, what seems to collectively be called "art." The crop circle's canvas is not only the field, but also human preconception, and its medium is meaning itself. This is the realm of postmodern art (and maybe more accurately post-postmodern art).

    This is magic.

    Paper Topic

    For my paper I've decided to take Kelly Link's Magic for Beginners and compare it to other interactive fantasy, such as fansites, fanfic, and participatory gaming, etc. Does anyone know of any good websites/fansites to search. I remember someone talking about a gaming site where people take on the roles of Terry Pratchett characters...that would also be fun to look if anyone has any ideas or links, please throw them my way.

    Saturday, February 10, 2007

    Thin places

    In his book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith (HarperCollins, 2003, HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), theologian Marcus J. Borg writes:
    I owe the metaphor of "thin places" to Celtic Christianity, a form of Christianity that flourished in Ireland and parts of Scotland, Wales, and northern England beginning in the fifth century. ...

    Thin places are places where the veil momentarily lifts, and we behold God, experience the one in whom we live, all around us and within us.

    Thin places can literally be geographical places. For Celtic Christianity, the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland is a classic thin place. So also are traditional destinations of pilgrimage: for Christians, Jerusalem, Rome, Canterbury, and others; for Muslims, especially Mecca, but also Medina and Jerusalem. Mountains and high places are thin places in many religious traditions, including the Bible and Native American traditions.

    But the notion refers to much more than geographical locations. A thin place is anywhere our hearts are opened. To use sacramental language, a thin place is a sacrament of the sacred, a mediator of the sacred, a means whereby the sacred becomes present to us. A thin place is a means of grace.
    To Borg, thin places are "those places and practices through which we become open to and nourished by the Mystery in whom we live and move and have our being."

    My argument in class was that Jeff Ford's characters in The Empire of Ice Cream have to work really hard, and in a really disciplined fashion, to access thin places, however fleetingly.

    Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods is (partially) about the thin places of the United States, while Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell is (partially) about the thin places of Britain.

    Stevens' "The Emperor of Ice Cream"

    Wallace Stevens' great poem "The Emperor of Ice Cream," which I read to you in class Wednesday, is online in many places, for example here.

    And here is an excellent set of commentaries on the poem. Note especially, at the top, Helen Vendler's narrative explication of what (apparently) is going on.

    When I was an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, my 20th-century American literature professor, the great David Cowart, paraphrased "Let be be finale of seem" as "Let that which Is put an end to that which Seems."

    To what extent any of this is relative to Jeff Ford's story "The Empire of Ice Cream" and Jeff Ford's collection The Empire of Ice Cream, I leave to y'all -- for now, anyway.

    Thursday, February 08, 2007

    Coraline the Movie

    As I was looking around on the internet for different interpretations of Coraline, I saw in my search results that there was a hit on the Internet Movie Database. So of course I clicked on it, and apparently next year the movie version of Coraline is being released. It's an animated film with Dakota Fanning doing the voice of Coraline..I just thought it was interesting. I actually think that, if I were forced to choose, Gaiman's book would be on the top of my list for perfect to turn into a movie, especially an animated one. Anybody else's thoughts?

    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Coffins on the River

    I really enjoyed this story and book. It has been my favorite of the readings so far.
    After the first few pages of "Coffins on the River", I thought I had a real dud. But it shaped up a lot after they took the ayahuasca. The part where they were being chased by Gerry in the woods was pretty suspenseful. I really liked the fact that the heros of the story, two over-the-hill pot-heads- pretty far from the typical hero archtype. In the afterword, Jeffrey Ford talks about how by most standards, these two guys woud be considred losers. It was also interesting that they went into the vision for selfish reasons, to find insiration for their work, but it ended up that the vision used them for its own puropose- to save the girl.

    Here is a link to the wikipedia page for ayahuasca:


    having now read most of the empire of ice cream i've decided that "Night in the Tropics" and "Jupiter's Skull" are probably my two favorites because i enjoyed how the tales were told as well as the endings in both which tied everything together, something that has been lacking in previous books like some stories from magic for beginners...least favorite was the long one, "Botch Town." to me it simply drug on too long, i feel like it could have been a great story in half the amount of pages, and while all the vivid descriptions he threw in were great, i really just wanted to focus on the meat of the story, which is a really cool idea, he just took too long to explain it...and if anybody has any interesting thoughts on "Jupiter's Skull" just let me know

    Monday, February 05, 2007

    The Weight of Words

    *This won't make any sense unless you've read the story.

    I don't know about anyone else, but when I finished reading The Weight of Words, I had this odd compulsion to put on cellophane glasses and go back through and continually re-read it, looking for the hidden messages throughout the pages. I know I've had plenty of times I've read something, then re-read it later surprised to find it said something different than what I read the first time. Personally, this was one of my favorite stories we've read so far. I hope the rest of the book lives up to it.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    ok still finishing empire of ice cream but...

    just to let you all know if you haven't heard...harry potter and the deathly hallows is going to be released july 21st...that is eight days after the order of the phoenix hits theaters...apparently j.k. rowling has said that two main characters are going to die in the final installment of the book...and this got me thinking about death in fantasy seems that although no one wants their favorite characters to die in series like these...death takes these novels back down to makes the books more realistic and helps the reader to relate to the story...when dumbledore died at the end of the sixth book...i completely forgot about the story not being real...dumbledore was the seminal character of the series in my opinion...and the emotions malfoy was experiencing when he was trying to kill dumbledore are some of the most realistic points of the anyway...i just wanted to make some points on why the harry potter series is so successful and how other fantasy novels make brings real life emotions into the fantasy world and the brilliance of rowling lies in the way she spins the two without the reader noticing.

    Saturday, February 03, 2007

    "Empire of Ice Cream"

    I have to say, when I first started reading this story, I spent quite a bit of time arguing inside my head and making snarky comments to myself about the author and his research practices. I thought the representation of synesthesia was somewhat flawed, because, for example, two synesthetes almost never have the same perceptions of one stimulus (not to mention all of them). When I got to the end, though, I realized the errors throughout were intentional, used as a tool for the final reveal at the end.

    While I really liked the story (after I finished it, of course), I have to wonder if it gives people who haven't previously been exposed to synesthesia the wrong impression. Here are a few sites that might be helpful if you guys want a clearer impression or more information about synesthesia:

    An MIT site on the topic.

    If you like actual books better, look up Richard Cytowic (one of the first to ever write on the subject). Gorgas has copies of several of his books, and also a few other good books on the subject. If you do your own web searches, I would also recommend scanning any of the synesthesia forums; they're particularly interesting.

    Also, if any of you think you might have a synesthesia or want to see what synesthesia tests look like, this site is pretty cool: