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Final Project – Eternal Sunshine triad!

It’s all here folks!

http://beingcoded.com/eternalshine.html

 

Thanks for a great semester everyone!  Have a good summer 🙂

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A Mind Needs Books, a TV Show, and a Deck of Cards

 

George R. R. Martin’s book series A Song of Ice and Fire has become an iconic piece of high fantasy literature, almost on par with such works as The Lord of the Rings or the Chronicles of Narnia. This has been further cemented by HBO’s wildly successful TV adaptation A Game of Thrones, now in its second season, and the slew of Game of Thrones related products that have been produced as a result. One of the items being sold is a Game of Thrones card deck, which has many of the main characters of the show as different cards in the deck. Each of these renditions of the story tells the narrative created in the Song of Ice and Fire books in slightly different ways; the novel is very complex and brutal, the tv show is very visual, gritty, and sensual, and the card deck turns the story into an actual game of thrones (or suits).

Before we begin discussing the relationship between the different adaptations, however, the overarching narrative needs to be introduced. The Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire series is a high fantasy story, with magic and dragons. However, unlike many other works in the high fantasy genre, the Song of Ice and Fire series is much less about magic and more about political intrigue. While the setting is a medieval world as is common in high fantasy, there is little else that is similar. Much of the story takes place in a land known as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros which descends into civil war. There are many different competitors for what is known as the Iron Throne of Westeros; several aristocratic houses which different claims to the throne or the land, and the last known survivor of a dynasty that ruled the Seven Kingdoms for nearly 300 years. Magic is all but unheard of and most do not believe in its existence at all. This is a relatively scientific world, where Maesters (essentially a combination scientist/historian/advisor) serve as advisors to every major family in the Kingdoms. Moreover, no one is safe – even main characters can (and do) die. In his article, “Epic Win” James Poniewozik quotes George R.R. Martin as saying, “A good man is not always a good King, and a bad man is not always a bad King. Probably the best man to serve as President in my lifetime was Jimmy Carter – the best human being, but he was not a good President. General goodness did not automatically make flowers bloom.” As a result, the story is much harsher than the average high fantasy novel. In fact, in the book Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper than Swords, Elio M. Garcia and Linda Atonsson say that the moral complexity of the novels is what makes them so enjoyable and different from other high fantasy works; the “characters are painted in ‘shades of grey’” (Game of Thrones and Philosophy, x).  This is not a story where good will necessarily triumph over evil.

HBO’s TV show does a very good job of maintaining the overall feel of the novels. Elio M. Garcia and Linda Atonsson say, “the producers largely stayed faithful on all levels, weaving together a drama that combined the elements of a heroic epic with a moral scale that covered the range from the saintly to the monstrous,” (Game of Thrones and Philosophy, x). They also visually interpret this harshness, in a way the novel doesn’t. Unlike most other shows or movies set in something like the Middle Ages, everyone in the show is accurately dirty. This lack of modern hygiene is not just a problem for the men, either; even the women have dirty hair and less than perfect skin. Certainly, the vast majority of the women are uncommonly pretty, but the period-realistic hygiene makes them much more relatable than they otherwise would be. There are some things HBO has to change, though, to make the transition from novel to television show. For example, they create a definitive, inescapable look for the various characters of the show, which fans don’t always agree with. This is always an issue for works adapted into a visual medium. There are other things that get changed as well. Much of the narrative has to be compressed; each season is one novel, but the first novel is about 700 pages, and the novels increase in size as the books progress. Moreover, depending on how the numbers are crunched, there are approximately thirty main characters.  That is a lot of people to fit into a television show. So far, while some plot points have been changed, it seems that no characters have been cut.

There are also some things which are changed in the television show simply to make the story more appealing to a wider audience, though. The main thing is the amount of sex in the show. HBO is famous for being a channel featuring rather racy television, and Game of Thrones is no exception. Jennifer Armstrong says that the show is an, “intoxicating combination of sex, political intrigue, soapy melodrama, fantasy, and adventure, all set against the biggest of big-budget production values” (Sex Secrets Swords). This obsession with graphic sexuality is not something that is really present in the novel. While characters certainly have sex in the novel,  and sexuality plays a large role for many of the female characters, it is rarely explicitly shown. In the HBO show, however, the camera returns again and again to scenes of lovemaking – in whore houses, in royal bedchambers, in army camps. Moreover, many characters whose sexuality was only hinted at in the novel are displayed in the midst of lovemaking. This focus on making a work ‘sexy’ is a common flaw of many adaptations. However, despite these changes, the TV show has been extremely successful. According to Dave Itzkoff, HBO’s Game of Thrones has been purchased for another season (Game of Thrones, Act 3). The fans are still happy with how the show has been handled, and many people who have never read the book are now watching the show. Moreover, simplifying the storyline and including more explicit sexual encounters broadens the appeal of the narrative. This is something that is beneficial to HBO, because a broader audience means a larger number of viewers.

Finally, there is the adaptation from television show to a deck of cards. While this is probably the least complex adaptation, I nevertheless think that the relationship between the two versions warrants exploration. There is of course the problem that taking a harshly realistic and complex story and turning it into a card game grossly trivializes the subject matter, but it also showcases one of the overarching themes of the narrative. In Game of Thrones, there is a large cast of characters competing for a throne. By converting these relationships into a deck of cards, the narrative literally becomes a game. Each character is assigned a rank and a suit, which categorizes them based on importance. For example,  Cersei Lannister, the Queen of Westeros, is the Queen of Spades in the Game of Thrones deck. Tyrion Lannister, Cersei’s brilliant younger brother commonly referred to as “the Imp”, is the Ace of Diamonds. Robert Baratheon, King of Westeros at the beginning of the novels, is the King of Spades. Each character is assigned a role based on the role they play in the narrative. Now, this cannot be perfect – there are many important characters who will undoubtedly be given a low rank that play an integral part in the storyline. A deck of cards has a very rigid structure, which isn’t something that would cater well to the complexity of the story. However, the deck of cards creates its own narrative. By assigning a rigid rank structure to such complex and flawed individuals, the relationships between the characters is exposed in new ways. In some cases, the relationships are changed entirely. For example, a character who dies in the novel or television show cannot be replaced by another who is vying for that position. This imposes a sort of class structure, and the character relationships are changed as a result. For example, when Ned Stark is beheaded at the end of the first book/season one, he ceases to be the head of the Stark family, the owner of Winterfell (the family castle), and the Hand of the King. His son, Robert Stark, takes over as the head of the family and Winterfell, and Tywin Lannister becomes the Hand of the King. But this change in the relationships between characters cannot be accurately represented within the structure of a deck of cards. Instead, every character’s relationship, status, and rank is static.

A Song of Ice and Fire is a complex narrative, one that is difficult to adapt due to the scale of the world. Despite this, HBO has successfully created a world of equal grandeur if not complexity. Much of what they lose as a result of the time constraints they gain through the visual representation of the world George R. R. Martin created. The Game of Thrones cards completely ignore the narrative of both the novel and the television show, but nevertheless create a different narrative focusing on the power relations between the main characters in the story. Each of these renditions is different from the other, but each modifies the narrative in unusual ways.

Bibliography

Armstrong, Jennifer. “Sex Secrets Swords.” Entertainment Weekly 1149 (2011): 36. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 2 May 2012.

Irwin, William, and Henry Jacoby, eds. Game of Thrones and Philosophy: Logic Cuts Deeper Than Swords. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.

Itzkoff, Dave. “‘Game of Thrones,’ Act 3.” New York Times 11 Apr. 2012: 3. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 2 May 2012.

Poniewozik, James. “Epic Win.” Time 177.16 (2011): 60-62. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web. 2 May 2012.

 

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Final Project: “The Silence of Love” -> “Winter Sonata”-> “First time”

My essay can be found here: Korean Cultural Relationships

 

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Masculinity with Sensititivity: James Bond

Masculinity with Sensitivity: James Bond

James Bond is a man whom many look to as the epitome of masculinity. Since Ian Fleming wrote the Bond novels in 1953, generations of both males and females have looked to Bond for what they desire to be or to have in their life. Fleming’s novels have been adapted in to several different mediums including, but not limited to, films and video games. But can the James Bond the world knows be who he is without the qualities from the films, novels, and video games combined?

James Bond is a fictional character created by Ian Fleming in a series of novels. Bond, called 007, works as a Secret Service agent for the British government. There were 14 novels written and several other short stories. Authors are still writing Bond novels and a set of novels has been written surrounding the events of Young Bond. Fleming’s novels have been produced in 22 films (with more to come). The earliest Bond film was released in 1962 and the latest film is set to be released in October of this year. Along with films and novels, James Bond has appeared in 26 different video games for all types of consoles. As technology has changed new games have been released and re-released for XBOX, Wii, Playstation, etc. The Bond stories, films and games have continued to attract readers, viewers and players since their creation in 1953. In each of these adaptations Bond’s masculinity reflects the ideal character of James Bond we have all come to know.

How masculinity is defined and has changed over the years is via the social and economic times. The masculinity we know of the Bond today was not reflected this way in 1953 when Fleming wrote his novels. In the 1950s masculinity was not as harsh as some see it today. Men took care of their families and provided for them. In the 1980s and 1990s when the economy was slowing down, more masculine images of men were portrayed (Landman). This more masculine image provided people with a hero, like Bruce Willis in the Die Hard films. As we have moved in to the 21st century, gender stereotypes are being broken down (Baines). The break down of gender stereotypes allows for a more deeply emotional and sensitive Bond that we see in the most recent Bond films: Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace.

The Bond in the novels is a much more complex character than the Bond the world has come to know in films (Black). Bond, at one point in the novels, chooses not to kill someone as he looks through his scope and sees that they are a cello player (Brosnan). This indicates that Bond is not the ruthless killer we have come to know in the films and video games. The Bond in the novels is much more sensitive and a deeper thinker than the earlier films let on to. Those who create films define masculinity and how the audience observes masculinity. Thus, Hollywood creates what we view as masculine and they appeal to a predominantly Anglo-American audience (Landman). In the GoldenEye game for the Nintendo 64 when you play as a first person shooter you are unable to see what your character looks like. You see that your character is holding a gun but how is masculinity portrayed through video games? The character uses a gun and kills supposed enemies. The character also rescues female characters from enemies. But until scenes appear, one could be playing as a woman instead of James Bond. Through video games, an air of mystery surrounds James Bond, which only contributes to his masculinity.

One part of Bond’s masculinity that cannot be overlooked is his sexual confidence. While Bond is more sensitive in the novels, across novels, films and video games Bond has always dominated in the bedroom. This dominance is an assertion of his masculinity (Landman). This characteristic of Bond is possibly one of the most prominent characteristics of Bond’s personality. And throughout all the adaptations of Bond, when there is a woman in power he is sure to still show his dominance. This sexual dominance is something our culture has attributed to masculinity for many years and since the novels in 1953, Bond has been at the top of his game.

Technologically, Bond has always had the latest gadgets and cars to assist him in defeating the enemy. As we have moved in to the late 20th and early 21st century, technology has changed. Bond uses more gadgets to assist him, in his already superb, abilities. With the newer films that are creating a softer hearted Bond, technology is not as prominent. Bond is made to utilize his masculinity through his abilities and knowledge more so than assistance from advancements of science. This helps us see Bond as more realistic and human and understand his own inner demons when he faces them. No matter what, James Bond is always able to capture a male audience.

Over the years Bond has gone from physically fit and experiencing inner turmoil to a ruthless killer and back again. In today’s world, the Bond we are experiencing in the latest films is showing us his soft heart and hard body. The traditional tough man ideal is changing and allowing for a more sensitive but masculine man. We are going back to the Bond Fleming created. The macho-masculine Bond in the films needed to establish his dominance and reputation. In the video games, playing as first person allows for the character to be more genderless. After getting the world on board with his personality, Bond is able to change with the times and become masculine with a little bit of sensitivity. Bond and his masculinity would not be what it is today without the influences of Fleming’s novels, 22 films, and 26 different video games.

Fair Use:

The two videos have standard YouTube licenses and were used to provide information.

 

Works Cited:

Baines, Paul. “Questioning Masculinity: Oh James-Looking at the new Bond.” Media for Social Change. N.p., 26 05 2009. Web. 3 May 2012.

Baker , Brian. Masculinity in Fiction and Film: Representing Men in Popular Genres (1945-2000). 2006. Print.

Black, Jeremy. The Politics of James Bond: From Fleming’s Novels to the Big Screen. Praeger, 2001. Print.

Brosnan, John. James Bond in the Cinema. Tantivy Press, 1972. Print.

Landman, J. “Remodelling James Bond-GoldenEye and Casino Royale-An enquiry into socio-cultural values.” Diss. 2011. Print.

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The Zohar’s Presence in Xenosaga

 

The Zohar is a work containing Jewish mysticism and that is heavily concerned with varying interpretations and understandings of the original Jewish Torah. The Zohar seeks to take a step further beyond the teachings of the Torah and instead employs mysticism as the catalyst for understanding ideas like the personality of God, the stasis of souls, the nature of sin, and the motives of Satan. All of which are encompassed in God’s willingness for us to truly understand them, for without His will, we can understand nothing. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra is a video game concerned primarily with the concept of control, or, rather, who exactly is in control. Within the game is a dualistic object revered to be capable of both ultimate destruction and an unequivocal realization of the universe’s nature; it’s origin, purpose, and the reason for its being a harbinger of life.

The intention of the game’s writers seems to have been to make this object synonymous with the original Zohar, as this dualistic object shares its name as the Zohar. There is a disparity, however, between the achievement of the object in the game and the actual Jewish Zohar. The problem stems from a lack of purposive design concerning the object whereas the literal, textual Zohar answers questions in a concise manner and it does so in way that would be fulfilling to its readers. The object present within Xenosaga should not have been called the Zohar and the purpose of this essay is to expose that this name is inaccurate and namely to detail the differences between this object’s effects on the game’s world versus the purpose of the written Zohar.

To properly understand the function of the original Zohar, a basic knowledge of the Torah is elicited. The Torah has long been considered by Jews to be the proverbial word of God which was handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai and within the holy place of worship known as the Tabernacle (predated temples proper). It is a work that to many represents law, wisdom, and the beginning of all order, which in turn exemplifies the origin of life itself. Some who actually subscribe to Kabbalah believe that God (or Yeshuah) detailed its words after having used it as a blueprint to create the universe. Its veritable contents trickled down through generations of Jewish genealogy through the oral tradition and was later penned upon scrolls. Scribes, who have meticulously carried on the task of copying the original Torah for thousands of years, have painstakingly attempted to keep each copy as true to the original text as possible. This has made copies available that are said by some to be more truly authentic to an original account of almost any ancient text.

The Zohar was created in the wake of the Torah and the desire for its followers to attain a more tangible understanding of the divine itself, and not merely of the teaching it imparts. Kabbalah is a way of life induced within Jewish communities from the Zohar and indeed the Zohar is thought to reveal Kabbalah as an undisclosed or curtained portion of the Torah. This idea of a curtained powerfulness is present in Xenosaga which is one of the only accurate portrayals of the original book’s function.  In the first scene of Xenosaga, an excavation team is unearthing an unknown object near Lake Turkana in Kenya. Upon the insertion of a key-like relic, the ground begins to shake and the object that would come to be known as the Zohar rises out of the lake. Following years of studying this artifact, humanity eventually learns how to abandon earth through harnessing a portion of its power before the device is eventually lost from mankind altogether.

 Where the device’s power deviates from that of the original Zohar comes later in the game when an individual touches the Zohar, consequently turning into dust and then disappearing. It is later discovered in the game that anyone who touches the device loses their place in the collective human conscience and becomes one with the gnosis which are creatures that live in a dimension separate from humanity. Generally, when a person touches one of these creatures, they are immediately killed by being turned into a pillar of salt. If they manage to escape this fate, they are turned into a mindless gnosis. Shion, the main character of the game, is touched by a gnosis and she is not turned into salt or into a gnosis. This event is borrowed from a concept that Nietzsche compiled in his work on gnosticism. In the journey toward enlightenment and a heightened existence, one either dies because they are unworthy mentally (turning into salt), unworthy physically (turning into a gnosis), or they remain unaffected and become enlightened (Shion survives a gnostic attack). The problem with this in relation to the textual Zohar is that it is later revealed that the object is the source of the gnosis. This combination of Jewish mysticism and Nietzchean concepts is, in a way, insulting to the respective philosophies.

The writers of Xenosaga were clever in the way they intertwined these beliefs but their dismissal of the basic function of these philosophies makes the intermingling of these concepts somewhat invalid. The Zohar itself simply does not impart a kind of wisdom that could possibly lead one to the philosophical state of mind that Nietzsche detailed, nor does it seek to do this. Nietzsche was an outspoken atheist and he felt quite strongly that the ideologies presented by texts like the Torah and Zohar were to be considered, as Marx did, the opium of the masses. Additionally, the idea that the Zohar could do harm to a reader similar to the way that the object kills individuals in Xenosaga is a misstep toward derision of people’s strong beliefs. The object within the game simply should not have been labeled as the Zohar. The concepts that were coupled to describe this game’s device undermine the value of the original concepts and therefore it should be avoided to look at the game as strictly philosophical and instead to be viewed as a commentary on philosophy (as well as a decent console RPG).

 

Works Cited

1. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/anime.php?id=4569

2. http://enterthezohar.com/

3. Scholem, Gershom and Melila Hellner-Eshed. “Zohar.” Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 21. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 647-664. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.

4. http://xenosaga.wikia.com/wiki/Zohar

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(Untitled)

Alex Iraola

3.15.12

Adaptation

Not to long ago WWII brought the great world powers of the United States, Poland, and France against Germany, Italy, and Japan. In another universe, another story took shape that brought the ancient world powers of Agamemnon and the united Greek powers up against Priam and his fortress of Troy. Agamemnon’s side opposed Priam and his forces similar to the way the United States opposed Germany. In this hectic time of war Agamemnon turns to Achilles a nearly invincible soldier and professor of battle to tip the scales in his favor. Convincing such an arrogant soldier to wage a battle for no one other than himself is no easy task for the short tempered Agamemnon. Agamemnon is not unforgiving and he gains a firmer footing in battle when Menelaus asks to go to war with him. Achilles is convinced after speaking with Odysseus and his mother that in order to remember forever he must go to battle in Troy. On the other side of the sea Priam, the king of Troy, grows more delusional each day convincing himself that Troy’s walls are impenetrable. Agamemnon’s ships carrying the Greek army, Achilles, and his Myrmidons are bent on bringing the walls of Troy to dust. Priam reminisces over all the places he has conquered during his reign as king of Troy. Priam is deeply influenced by Troy and its culture and wants to see the civilization he helped build to continue for thousands of years. Hitler although much more fanatical shared the same desire for conquering opposing lands and bringing them under one ruler being himself. Hitler had many enemies during WWII and Priam certainly didn’t have the best reputation in the land either. These men sought after one defining culture. These men’s goals were at the expense of the deaths of their soldiers who fought on the beaches of Normandy and on the beaches of Troy.  Their reputations suffered from their lack of empathy and reason. When the American and allied soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day it was a turning point in WWII. The American and allied soldiers fought for control of German patrolled beaches and won their control. Similarly when Agamemon, united Greek forces, and Achilles and his Myrmidons stormed the beaches of Troy it was clear the dimensions of the war had changed. With Achilles at the helm of Agamemon’s army he could rally any of Agamemnon’s men into battle. Achilles aside from Hector who considered to be the best soldier in Troy is the best soldier in the world at the time. The United States involvement seemed to provide the assistance to the Allied Powers to give them the edge in battle.  The Allied Powers fought against the will of ill conceived leaders guiding the Axis Powers to world domination. The deaths were at the expense of the dead soldiers’ friends and family as well whose cries were not in vain. Priam expected Troy to withstand the attacks of the double edged sword that is the united Greek forces and Achilles and his Myrmidons which all come together as one. Priam underestimated the power of the Greeks who overpower the Trojans in number. Rather than listen to Hector’s advice Priam listens to the prophecy of the high priest instead which does not bode well for the Trojans. It is clear that part of Priam’s disillusionment is caused by his reliance on the prophecies of priests and priestesses which cost him seizing control over Troy back from the Greeks. Priam’s methods are considered by his more secular thinking son Hector to be inapplicable let alone old fashioned to war. Paris tells his father that the way he loves Helen is the way Priam loves Troy. Every grain of sand every drop of water is savored by Priam. His image of Troy is based on his experiences watching Troy develop and transform through the years. Priam wearily relies on the sturdy walls of Troy to protect him and the image he keeps of Troy of once being a more peaceful and sovereign time. Hitler’s symbol the swatiska signifies the Nazi Regime in the same way that Priam uses the walls surrounding Troy as the defining symbol for their nation as an all encompassing force. In battle soldiers fighting against Troy would come to realize the vastness and difficulty. Similarly Allied soldiers recognized the significance of the swastika because it signified the allegiance to the Nazi Regime and demonstrated that Nazi soldiers governed themselves so closely after the Regime that they wore a swastika on their clothing. Jews victimized by the Nazi Regime would also readily recognize the swastika as a foreboding symbol meant to alert Jewish people of Nazi presence in their homeland. The system of belief that grounded Priam and Hitler couldn’t withstand the restrictions their opposing forces inflicted upon them. As a result looking through the lens of WWII I consider the outcome of the war in the Troy film to be similar. The conflict in Troy began with the stealing of Helen from Menelaus but developed into a war on a much larger scale than Priam or Agamemnon could have imagined. Hitler had himself convinced after being elected that he exerted a great deal of influence over the German people and therefore could exert his influence over the whole world. He tried to do this in WWII but didn’t succeed. In a similar fashion Priam failed to conquer the Greeks and watched as his city was completely burned to the ground.

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