Monday, May 30, 2011

a provocative link for those thinking about the final exam

The wikipedia entry for simulacrum might be useful. Link, contents and some passages pasted below:

wikipedia: simulacrum

1 Simulacra in philosophy
2 Simulacra in literature, film, and television
2.1 Artificial beings
2.2 The work of Philip K. Dick
2.3 Simulated environments
2.4 Other uses
3 Simulacra and recreation
4 Caricature as simulacra
5 Simulacra in iconography
6 Word usage
7 See also
8 References
9 External links

Simulacra and recreation

Recreational simulacra include reenactments of historical events or replicas of landmarks, such as Colonial Williamsburg and the Eiffel Tower, and constructions of fictional or cultural ideas, such as Fantasyland at The Walt Disney Company's Magic Kingdom. The various Disney parks have by some philosophers been regarded as the ultimate recreational simulacra, with Baudrillard noting that Walt Disney World Resort is a copy of a copy, “a simulacrum to the second power.”[10] In 1975, Italian author Umberto Eco expressed his belief that at Disney’s parks, “we not only enjoy a perfect imitation, we also enjoy the conviction that imitation has reached its apex and afterwards reality will always be inferior to it."[11] This is for some an ongoing concern. Examining the impact of Disney’s simulacrum of national parks, Disney's Wilderness Lodge, environmentalist Jennifer Cypher and anthropologist Eric Higgs expressed worry that “the boundary between artificiality and reality will become so thin that the artificial will become the centre of moral value.”[12] Eco also refers to commentary on watching sports as sports to the power of three, or sports cubed. First, there are the players who participate in the sport, the real; then the onlookers merely witnessing it; then, the commentary itself on the act of witnessing the sport. Visual artist Paul McCarthy has created entire installations based upon Pirates of the Caribbean, and theme park simulacra, with videos playing inside the installation itself.

Caricature as simulacra

An interesting example of simulacra is caricature. Where an artist draws a line drawing that closely approximates the facial features of a real person, the sketch cannot be easily identified by a random observer; the sketch could just as easily be a resemblance of any person, rather than the particular subject. However, a caricaturist will exaggerate prominent facial features far beyond their actuality, and a viewer will pick up on these features and be able to identify the subject, even though the caricature bears far less actual resemblance to the subject.

History transformed into nature: A passage from Roland Barthes

Does this have something to do with the old man's final exam?

"We reach here the very principle of myth: it transforms history into nature. We now understand why, in the eyes of the myth consumer, the intention, the adhomination of the concept can remain manifest without however appearing to have an interest in the matter: what causes mythical speech to be uttered is perfectly explicit, but it is immediately frozen into something natural; it is not read as a motive, but as a reason."

-Roland Barthes Mythologies

The Return of Odysseus

The Return of Odysseus

by George Bilgere

When Odysseus finally does get home
he is understandably upset about the suitors,
who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
But those were different times. With the help
of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
one hundred and ten suitors
and quite a number of young ladies,
although in view of their behavior
I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
course across the palace floor.

I too have come home in a bad mood.
Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
behind the library to the new provost.

I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
in this particular way I have perfected over the years
that lets my wife understand
the contempt I have for my enemies,
which is prodigious. And then with great skill
she built a gin and tonic
that would have pleased the very gods,
and with epic patience she listened
as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
to so-and-so, and also to what's-his-name.

And then there was another gin and tonic
and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
and peace came to reign once more
in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

"The Return of Odysseus" by George Bilgere.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

In Room 205 this week we're watching the Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by Richard Brooks in 1958.

Some lines we paused to discuss today:

Big Daddy: But it's always there in the morning, ain't it — the truth? And it's here right now. You're just feelin' sorry for yourself. That's all it is — self-pity. You didn't kill Skipper. He killed himself. You and Skipper and millions like ya are livin' in a kid's world, playin' games, touchdowns, no worries, no responsibilities. Life ain't no damn football game. Life ain't just a bunch of high spots. You're a thirty-year-old kid. Soon you'll be a fifty-year-old kid, pretendin' you're hearin' cheers when there ain't any. Dreamin' and drinkin' your life away. Heroes in the real world live twenty-four hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity, you won't... you won't live with mendacity, but you're an expert at it. The truth is pain and sweat and payin' bills and makin' love to a woman that you don't love any more. Truth is dreams that don't come true and nobody prints your name in the paper 'til you die... The truth is, you never growed up. Grown-ups don't hang up on their friends... and they don't hang up on their wives... and they don't hang up on life. Now that's the truth and that's what you can't face!
Brick: Can you face the truth?
Big Daddy: Try me!
Brick: You or somebody else's truth?
Big Daddy: Bull. You're runnin' again.
Brick: Yeah, I am runnin.' Runnin' from lies, lies like birthday congratulations and many happy returns of the day when there won't be any.
Big Daddy: I'll outlive you. I'll bury you. I'll buy your coffin... It's death, ain't it?
Brick: You said it yourself, Big Daddy. Mendacity is a system we live in.