Monday, May 18, 2015

Magic Hat, Annaliisa Gifford


Here are a few poems I've been working on throughout the school year. I hope you enjoy them, and have a wonderful, light filled summer.



Geographical States of Being

Why is it that when I first sit down to write I am
Flooded with what I should do
First
Before exposing my inner
Sweet, sanguid
Folds of soul
I think before I speak
And thus I do not
Speak
Often .
Especially since I feel completely
Torn like a sheet
Between two geographical
States of being
Multiple geographies of being
Seeing the eyes of yourself
In one’s family.
Seeing my mountainous mistakes and
Jagged chin cliffs in my momma’s anxious
Eyes.




Tipping Scales

Strides keep us apart
And together during the right
Moments and tender pin pricks of
Straining pain.
Weeping willow wasps-weave
And pull at our mirror minds where
The chaos bought my soul
And sold my naïve, smaller than
Average chin and american smile.
I stole the style of
a few matching leprechauns
 
and headed west for California,
some peace of mind,
and your absence. 




"Exhibit A:"


Move far away into a barrel underneath the ocean skies.
Spread your arms and legs in the barrel, you’ve got lots of stretching room.

“Look!” You’d say to your mother, flying past you on a kite,
spewing past your eyes on the entrails of the last hurricane. J
ust as you’d have said,“Look! I’m a product of emptiness and loneliness and sand in the bottom of your shoes!”
The sun drops over the crooked sidewalk and looks at the lone man on the corner
Leeringly With a glimmer of loose congenialityBloody, burning, lone puli
 Of god and man as one
Of mumbling, closing protestations in the dirty morning air.
Looking into a silver screen eye
Spewing glass bottles from your protestant prizeI was your protestant prize
When I was 12, underneath covers of moth cloth
 Holding cat hair up to the light 
Transparent tresses you were wrong about me
Everything was wrong when you walked past the doorframe and into my peripheries.





Thank you guys, and I had an amazing semester interning once again for the English Counseling Department. I love you guys :)


See you this Fall <3

Annaliisa Gifford

Currently Reading 5.18.15

"I did it for the team!"

The following post is my way-too-long summer reading list recommendation as we close down the blog for the end of the semester, with love from me to you. Okay, it’s less “love” and “please allow me to gush about my favorite emotional sports manga alright cool excuse me while I cry,” but still! It comes from a place of love. Here we go.

You guys are nerds, I’m sure plenty of you read manga or know what it is. Simply put, it’s a Japanese graphic novel. I’m not a super prolific manga reader, but I’ve read enough that I’m now permanently confused about which way to read a graphic novel and try to read both left-to-right and right-to-left at least once in order to determine the proper order of dialogue. I can’t help it. It’s a terrible habit, but worth it. I like stories that include and rely on pictures because it gives you interesting leeway as a storyteller, but I’ll save that geeky meta post for another day.

Some of you might be with me on the anime-and-manga front, but I’m willing to bet fewer of you are with me on the sports front. One time in the counseling office I was reading a news story about the NBA playoffs and was met with many confused reactions, so I’m forced to conclude most of you don’t know what a sport is, aside from Gatsby’s nickname for Nick Carraway. You’re gonna have to follow me here, because manga/anime series about high school sports teams are experiencing a Renaissance of sorts at the moment. I really wish there were more female-led sports series, but again, that’s a rant for another post. Regardless, these series were popular from the late 1980s to early ‘90s, then faded away, and suddenly came back in spades through the 2000s to now. American media has an offering of sports-centric TV shows and movies, usually about football, like Friday Night Lights or Remember the Titans, but Japan’s on a whole other level right now. I can’t think of many competitive sports that haven’t been covered in a series yet - baseball, basketball, biking, swimming, tennis, soccer, even Ping-Pong - to the point that they’re a genre of their own now, complete with tropes and archetypes and shared attributes. Just as an example, this is a bingo card that pretty much sums up the common traits.

But, in my experience, it’s less about sports themselves; the game is more of a motivator and winning a tournament is an emotional MacGuffin. The real heart of a good sports series is about the emotional growth of the individuals themselves, seeing how they work together, how they change each other, how they’re bettered by playing together, and that’s what keeps me hooked. 

It’s certainly what’s kept me close to my favorite sports series, Haikyuu!!, which chronicles the adventures of a high school boys’ volleyball team. I wish I could tell you the title means something cool, but it literally just means “volleyball.” Oh well. The two exclamation points are attached to the title, though, because we’re really excited about volleyball okay.
 
Really. Excited.

What I like most about Haikyuu!! is that, while I can fill out that bingo card for it in at least four directions, it still plays a lot with one’s expectations and manages to tell a distinct story within its chosen genre. It’s amazing to watch the constant development, the way characters evolve in their interactions, and how they slowly, slowly knit themselves together from a pack of misfits into a real team. 

Jesus, that’s so cliché, I swear to god this series is actually great, trust me.

The set-up goes something like this: our darling protagonist Hinata Shouyou - just so you know, I’m ordering his name in the Japanese style of surname first, given name second, and most characters go by their family name - is inspired to play volleyball after watching a short player dominate a high school tournament. Even though volleyball practically demands height, Hinata’s determined to beat the expectations for his short stature, because he’s a sports manga protagonist and that’s what they do. “I’m short, but I can jump!” he excitedly declares to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen. Still in middle school, he gets a team together and heads off to his own tournament. His team of amateurs is soundly defeated by a team favored to win the entire competition, led by a so-called “genius” player named Kageyama. After having an emotional confrontation with said genius player, complete with angry crying, Hinata vows to beat Kageyama someday. Henceforth, they’re fated rivals, as to be expected in a sports series. Every good protagonist needs a brooding rival, these are the rules. Oh, except here’s the twist: Hinata and Kageyama find themselves at the same high school, on the same team, and they have to, somehow, work together. Naturally, setting two clashing, antagonistic personalities against each other only makes things interesting, and we progress from there.

To say the least.

Hinata and Kageyama’s dynamic is argumentative and vitriolic, yet built on mutual admiration and, at the core of it, unwavering trust. They need each other. Kageyama’s renowned for his talent but vilified for his demanding attitude and lack of social skills. He’s constantly searching for somebody who can keep up with him on the court, and he’s scarred and vulnerable after being rejected by his middle school team. Hinata’s all raw potential and no technique, but he never stops striving to be better. Deep down he’s always wanted somebody to grow with, someone to win with. “There’s a tall wall in front of me,” Hinata narrates in the manga’s opening pages, acknowledging that he can’t see the so-called “view from the top” by himself. But with Kageyama and the rest of the team, he’s able to surpass the obstacles in front of him at long last; in fact, he can soar right over the tall walls that block his path.

And that’s merely a fraction of my overblown analysis of the protagonist and deuteragonist. I could keep going. And there are so many more pairs of characters I could do this for. There are so many characters who I love in this series. I could be here all day talking about them. It’s wild. Volleyball hell is a deep abyss and I live there now.

Pictured: actual dialogue from Kageyama to Hinata. I love sports manga.

Anyway. Like I said earlier, the main draw of the series to me is the character development and the emotion, and beyond that, there’s just something really special and genuine about it. Again, this sounds ridiculously cliché, but it’s true. The series is equal parts funny and gut-wrenching; it follows a lot of the rules and archetypes but it always finds a way to surprise me and keep me guessing; it’s up to a hundred and fifty-seven chapters as of this writing with more every week and yet I’d probably reread the whole thing on a whim if I was bored. In my opinion, it’s a good summer read! It’ll keep you entertained as you recline poolside like the cool dude you are.

The one downside is the manga chapters haven’t been officially translated into English and released stateside yet, much to my discontent, but there are scanlations (scan, i.e. of the manga panels + translation) done by fans available via a simple Google search. And if reading isn’t your thing, the first seventy or so chapters of the manga have been adapted into an anime, which is available with English subtitles on sites like Hulu. That’s the trap I initially fell in; I watched the anime and found myself immediately dying of curiosity about what happened next, so I caved and read the manga and promptly cried about everything in the world.

One of my favorite exchanges in the series is one that, I believe, sums up the heart of the entire thing better than any of my rambling can. Two characters are discussing their roles as athletes; one is pessimistic and doesn’t see the point of training hard when there’s always going to be another opponent, another obstacle, another person who’s better than you and can beat you and ruin all you worked for. Knowing that, he wonders why any of them bother to practice at all. You will never be “the best” and losing is so bitter and awful, so why subject yourself to it? “What’s your motivation?” he asks. The second character, who has been training relentlessly to improve and make up for his lack of natural talent, yells out an impassioned response: “Motivation? What more do you need than pride?!

Isn’t that what it’s all supposed to be about? Not winning, but doing your best, doing it for both love of the game and, more importantly, love of yourself? I get not being hyped on real sports, but sign me right up for fictional sports, because I’m here for proving your worth to yourself, to the point that questioning your motivation to be better is unthinkable. Of course you have motivation. It’s inherent.

So if real sports don’t appeal to you but the passion behind them does, Haikyuu!! might just be your cup of tea. Or, you know, bottle of Gatorade, I suppose. Haha, sports jokes.

Bonus fun fact: I have a Haikyuu!! wall calendar. I feel like you all needed to know this about me.

Have a great summer, everybody! I will leave you with this picture of an owl getting smooched.


-Maggie

Currently Reading 5.18.15


For the past few weeks, I've been in and out of the hematology clinic. In fact, as I write this, I am sitting in a clinic with an infusion of iron and B-12 being pumped into my veins at the rate of too-fucking-slow-get-me-out-of-here. 

I've lived with anemia most of my life, but it has worsened exponentially in the past month. Today I receive iron--tomorrow, blood. Being forced to sit in a sterile vinyl recliner for hours on end, held to the whims of my fickle insides, has given me ample time to read. Reading has always been my pastime of choice--and at times my occupation--but there is something about forced stillness and quiet which begs at my mind to distract it with printed words on paper. 

I share this "lounge" as they call it with six other patients. The patient on my left is another anemic. He is living with Sickle Cell Anemia. He is hilarious and full of life. He loves to listen to the most explicit rap you've ever heard, and has a soft spot for My Little Pony comics. So much so that his mom knit him a hospital snuggie and embroidered it with the same cutie mark as Rainbow Dash. He's the least likely Brony you've ever met, but after several hours spent in his company, it makes total sense. They're so fantastical and silly. They're the opposite of sterile and sick. 


The patient most frequently on my right is a woman in her mid-fifties undergoing chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer. She is an elementary school teacher who loves writing 50 Shades fanfic. Her fanfic is better than the original. She should be an author. We can sit and discuss romance novels for hours. Our combined knowledge of the genre seems to fill the room. We can have entire conversations comprised entirely of euphemisms for genitalia. We could span the globes at long length. She's currently reading one of my favorites--A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. When she gets her remission sticker, I'm going to gift her my autographed trilogy. Her hair fell out last week and we joked she should get wigs to match the different phases of Diana's hair in the trilogy. 

She says she only wants to read fantasy and paranormal romance while she's in treatment. Again, it's so out of the realm of possibility. It's so much not cancer, or the pain of gaping wounds where there once were breasts, or the lack of a full head of mahogany curls--that it helps her forget, just for the span of the story--that she's here.

As for me--I guess I'm more of a typical emo English major than I want to believe. Because, yes, I'm living with a life-threatening blood condition which causes me to sit in this squeaking and cold hellchair, but here I am, reading vampire story after vampire story.

Just not Twilight. 

My red blood cells belong on the Island of Misfit Toys, and I'm strangely attracted to reading about their consumption while I'm being replenished.

Last week I re-read Dracula, the week before--Vermilion--now? Prince Lestat. Hundreds upon hundreds of pages of blood-sucking fiends from beyond the grave.

People say that in the age of the internet and twitter and blogs--that books are dying. It's easier to get our information, our entertainment, in under 140 characters. Those people have likely never sat in the shaded land of pharmaceutical Hell. Looking around me, all but two patients are currently reading. Those two patients are asleep or trying not to be sick. I'm so grateful for the writers, the editors, my fellow readers. They keep me in pages. 

Currently Reading: Tender is the Night



 For my last post ever on The Boylan Blog (yes, I am pretty shocked, upset, and confused about this), I've decided to focus on one of my favorite authors: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Some people might find Fitzgerald to be overrated or boring or mainstream but guess what? Those people are tasteless haters and I have no time for that sort of dourness and negativity in my life. To me, reading Fitzgerald's works is close to having a synesthetic experience. He was also one of those authors that could translate any feeling, whether it be the elation of first love or the despair of losing control, into something very, very beautiful and poetic. There's just something very special about the ability to translate even ugly experiences into something gorgeous to read.

Lately, I've been reading Tender is the Night, Fitzgerald's fourth novel and the last one he ever fully completed (he died before he could finish The Love of the Last Tycoon). I would've read this book at some point in the future because I do want to read everything Fitzgerald has ever written, but that changed when I was having a conversation with a fellow intern a while back (I'm looking at you, Ivan) where he basically told me that The Great Gatsby sucks and Tender is the Night is way better.

I thought to myself, "No way. Ivan is trippin.'" I've always been a big fan of Gatsby. However, now that I'm reading the book, I realized that Ivan wasn't trippin' and that he's actually right (I still like Gatsby though, but Tender is the Night is...woah). I'm not done with the book yet, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorites.



Tender is the Night is the story of Dick and Nicole Diver, a married American couple living abroad in Europe with their two children. While on vacation in the French Riviera, they meet Hollywood movie star Rosemary Hoyt and she quickly becomes part of their social circle. The novel at first sounds like a lot of Fitzgerald's other stuff: young people cavorting in Europe, drinking, running around with influential folks, spending money and generally having a grand time. However, Rosemary falls madly in love with Dick (despite his being double her age) and he falls in love with her too, sparking a passion that spans several years. The love affair is the beginning of the end for the Divers, who aren't as perfect as they seem to be. Their world begins to unravel; their dark, ugly secrets spilling out everywhere.

As I've said before, I'm not finished with the book yet, so I don't really know what will happen to the Divers (although it probably won't be anything good), but it's easy to see that Fitzgerald based this book, like many of his other novels and short stories, on his doomed marriage to Zelda Sayre. I had just finished Zelda's only novel, Save Me the Waltz before reading Tender is the Night, and that novel was blatantly an autobiographical work with the names switched out. Save Me the Waltz is an almost frustratingly fractured work and even though it really isn't that long, its density will mean that you'll be reading it for a loooong time. Sentences run on for paragraphs, and you will have to read them dozens of times just to get a gist of what Zelda is saying. Strangely enough, Scott thought that Zelda was plagiarizing chunks of Tender is the Night, which he was working on at the time. So, if you've read Tender is the Night and want to see similar events from Zelda's perspective, her novel is worth a read, even though it's basically like jumping into a dark abyss.

In Tender is the Night, the Divers are clearly mirror images of the Fitzgeralds in their lifestyle, their problems, and even in their looks. Dick is described as having an "Irish" appearance, with reddish hair, sunburned skin, flinty blue eyes, and a pointed nose. Nicole is described as having thick, golden, curly hair "like a Chow's." Look familiar?


 Like Scott, Dick was at first charming and successful. However, he slowly falls apart and his less appealing qualities ooze forth. His mood snaps, he loses control over his life, he cannot help or understand his suffering wife, and he ultimately turns to alcohol, which as we all know, destroyed Fitzgerald in the end. Like Zelda, Nicole suffered from severe schizophrenia and was treated in clinics in Switzerland. Nicole's affair with a Frenchman named Tommy Barban mirrors Zelda's real-life affair with a French aviator Edouard Jozan (something that she also discusses in her own novel). Even though the action of the novel takes place in the 1920s, particularly in the years just before the Crash, it is a reflection of Fitzgerald's life in the early 1930s, which was arguably one of the darkest periods in his life.

Even though the "Hollywood" element in Tender is the Night is small, it interests me nonetheless. Fitzgerald had several stints as a scriptwriter and story writer for MGM (fun fact: he even wrote a portion of the script for Gone with the Wind. However, it all ended up on the cutting room floor.) so it's always fun for me to see how he incorporates two of my greatest loves: Old Hollywood and the decadence of the Jazz Age. Here, Dick Diver's passionate romance with Rosemary Hoyt mirrors Fitzgerald's affair with actress Lois Moran, whom he met in 1927 while he was in Europe. Hoyt, like Moran, is a "child-woman": she is in her late teens, on the cusp of adulthood, and in a limbo between these two stages of her life. In 1920s Hollywood, "child-women" were considered all the rage: they can play a wide variety of roles, from the baby to the sophisticate. It was like having several actresses rolled into one, and it was part of the reason why actresses such as Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and the Talmadge sisters were so successful at that time. Looking at these two photos of Lois Moran, it's hard to believe that this is the same person:

In Tender is the Night, Nicole's mental problems begin when her father rapes her as a child, taking advantage of his daughter's grief after the death of her mother. Rosemary's breakthrough film is entitled Daddy's Girl. And Dick, who is 34 when he meets the 18 year-old Rosemary, is somewhat reliving Nicole's awful experience at the hands of her father when he finally sleeps with Rosemary. It's all very complicated when paralleled with the 1920s idea of the woman-child and the whole fetishization (is that a word?) of child-like adults. Read Serhan's post about this, because she explains it all so much better than I can.

Ultimately, Tender is the Night reflects Fitzgerald's own disappointment in himself. During his lifetime, Fitzgerald's works were for the most part not as commercially successful as they were critically successful. Most of his money was made through writing for Hollywood, which he felt was stupid work and a waste of his talent. His dissolution into alcohol, the disintegration of his marriage, and the fact that Zelda's worsening condition forced him to cut back on writing made him feel like a failure in all areas of his life. In the larger scope of history, Tender is the Night peels back the glittery veneer of life during the Jazz Age and reveals the bleakness, paranoia, and disenchantment of that time period.

That was very dark. Here's a picture of Zelda with an adorable cat to lighten the mood.

So, that's all folks. It's been grand writing for the Boylan Blog and I leave this terribly long, confusing, and generally very frazzled post as my legacy. And no, Kyle, no Marlon Brando this time. However I did manage to stick in a photo of a historical figure holding a cat! I'm going to miss all of you dearly, and I truly enjoyed getting to know all of you :)

--Sarah

Poem of the Week 5.18.15


It's the last week of school. Finals are among us, and the stress level is higher than its been in at least a semester. 

So I think it's only fair that I leave you with something fun.








Illuminations 5.18.15


Games and Gifs

So, for a while now, this has been one of my favorite things on the internet: fighting game backgrounds as gifs!



If you are wondering what exactly these are, they are backgrounds of several fighting games from the late 80’s and 90’s (featuring art from: Vampire Savior, Street Fighter II: Super Turbo, Street Fighter: Alpha 3, Street Fighter: Third Strike, The Art of Fighting, Last Blade, Garou: Mark of the Wolves, King of Fighters, Samurai Showdown). Normally, there would be two fighters, in higher definition, controlled by the players or AI, who would interact in the foreground of these stages. 



So being me, rather than just post them and remark on their prettiness, for my last post I wanted to examine both their ludological implications and their merit in the realm of comic and cinematic studies. So. Get ready for some rambling thoughts that aren’t well connected and go nowhere.



Ludology, for those not in the know, is the budding critical study of video games and, since gifs are for the most part collagistic affairs, in that they isolate and manipulate already existing works of cinema or art, I thought it might be helpful to discuss for a moment one of the sources of a few of these gifs.



Street Fighter II is one of the the most influential video games ever made; it defined the side scrolling fighter game for years to come (to illustrate, one of the most anticipated video game releases of this year is Mortal Kombat X, a direct descendant of SFII). What I’m getting at is that these have cultural implications. Also, I really just wanted to post this article about the making of SFII. It’s long, but it reveals pretty well how much work went in to these animations; it’s fitting to finally have these animations, normally just the backgrounds that players barely register, finally receive the focus. But this isn’t to say that they do nothing within the game, I would argue they are actually quite important.

Within the game they can even establish a mood in the implied narrative -


A spar here becomes an epic and desperate battle for the fate of the world.
Here, a hectic and jarring battle in the middle of a larger conflict.
Here, a focused, almost meditative one-on-one spar between two great fighters.
Here, an impromptu meeting succeeded by battle...in front of monkeys!

The motion also creates interest; the fact that you aren’t fighting in front of a static background places the fighting characters into that world, or at least less pasted over it. It also situates the player as both the spectator, watching the fight just as the monkeys watch, and also as an active member, controlling the fighters. Interestingly enough, this is the part of the game that the player has possibly the least control over; in modern games of this type, there is usually some way to interact with the stage. Removal of the player is necessary for these to maintain their sense of permanence.



So that gives you an idea of the role these serve in the game. But what exactly are these animations? This article, by game designer Blake Reynolds, gives some sense of what exactly these pieces are, and some of the craft that goes into creating them; each image is made up of thousands and thousands of pixels, individually filled in. Just to throw a name at you, they’re like Chuck Close paintings. Or Classical mosaic art. Except animated. As part of the knee-jerk recoil against any pop medium claiming any elevation, gifs have been criticized as emblematic of the new generations’ lack of focus, revealing that kids these days are only able to sit still for a ten second clip on repeat. Certainly no one is clamoring to compare these to Pompeiian mosaics. But I think that argument is missing the point of these images entirely. AD Jameson argues they should be viewed as their own form of cinema.


Chuck Close, Bill, 1990

But to answer this, I’m going to not answer it and instead totally change the subject by moving back to my one true love: comic theory! Scott McCloud defines comics as “sequential art” and acknowledges that this means that it can include animation. The thing is, these aren’t really comics. They aren’t really meant to go with one another, they’re just pictures. They do not contain the spatial aspect, that is, the physical layout of each frame, the way comics do. They do not imply the movement, like a comic would; rather they create the movement themselves. They operate in time, rather than space. But do they actually? 



See, it’s true that these are animations. But when you take a step back and look at what they are accomplishing, they become something more akin to aspect to aspect transitions, or frames meant not to convey plot necessarily, only to supply a sense of atmosphere. 

From Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics"

While McCloud does argue that there needs to be some movement from one of these static frames to another, each frame on its own can certainly include motion. For example, what happens when you put these three images together?





Obviously these three were meant to be considered as a series. Rather than linear animations, they become contained frames of movement, leading into each other and implying a change of time and atmosphere. So are the movements then necessary? Well, the motion itself becomes the point. In a sense they become a sort of “long photograph,” an image that doesn’t capture a single moment in time, but rather the essence of the movement in a slightly larger amount of time. it is only a slightly larger amount of time, because that’s all it needs - the repetition implies a standard, a norm, a usual routine. Counterintuitively, the movement in these images reinforces their never-ending stasis, their very immovability. And so it is rather poetic, that something so supposedly focused on immediate conflict, something so fundamentally temporary, (a fight in timed rounds) becomes endless.




Ultimately, a lot of the appeal for these admittedly is nostalgia, a force Reynolds warns against - he argues that a game cannot be sustained by nostalgia alone. But their crudeness is part of the appeal for me too in an odd almost impressionistic sense. And hey, you can’t say they aren’t pretty.


Currently Watching: Postmodern Conversations in 70's Horror


The Exorcist and Martin in Conversation

[Before I start, let me say that this post is going to include MASSIVE SPOILERS for both The Exorcist and Martin. I mean, these movies are over thirty years old, so I feel like the spoiler-warning is unnecessary, but it's here.]

Last weekend, I watched The Exorcist for the first time because it was put on Netflix. I thought the movie was great—it was delightfully heretical, sinister, and postmodern in all the right ways. Thinking specifically about the movie's postmodernism, especially with my fiendish interest in all things meta, like the literal presence of lights, camera, action: 


I got to thinking about another movie, one of my favorites, another 70's horror flick, Martin. Because whenever I've mentioned this movie I get the reply, "The TV show? Martin Lawrence?" I'm going to spend a moment explaining the movie:

Martin, directed by George A. Romero (which is interesting of itself, as a man known for zombie movies) is the story of a kid named, unsurprisingly, Martin, who is mercilessly awkward and either is or believes himself to be a vampire (whether vampirism, Renfield's syndrome, or haematodipsia, we're left unsure). 

Oh Martin, you rogue! Is that strangely-shaped, needle-looking flower for me?
He is taken in by his cousin, Cuda, a Colonel-Sanders-looking old man who feverishly believes in his old-world Catholicism and his "family curse," which produces Martin as a "nosferatu." 

I will preach to you as I sell you chicken. Ask me about the secret curses—I mean, spices!
The movie sets two viewpoints on Martin's condition from Cuda's and Martin's perspective: one is the supernatural, the other isn't. Martin claims his condition to be just that—"There is no magic," he says, "it's a disease." And though he claims to be old—"Oh, I'm old. Older than I look."—which suggests immortality, he does his damnedest to dispel many of the other tropes of vampirism: after first moving into Cuda's home, Cuda shows Martin that there are garlic bulbs hanging from his bedroom door, and continually chastises him for his condition; then, in a bit of rage, Martin bursts into Cuda's room, eats the garlic raw, and touches the cross Cuda holds to him to his face. Later in the movie, to seek company, he calls a Coast-to-Coast-like radio show as "The Count," further dispelling vampire myths, claiming that there's no need for blood-sucking on a nightly basis, that he has no powers of mind-control and seduction, and that the sun merely "hurts his eyes sometimes, especially when it's been a while." In what I think is the best scene of the movie, he even taunts Cuda by stalking him in the night dressed in a Halloween costume, dancing around and making fun of Cuda for his beliefs:

I vant to suck your varicose veins!
Eventually causing Cuda to assault him with his cane, to which Martin replies by spitting out the false teeth and saying, "it's only a costume." 

The movie ends with Cuda driving a stake into Martin's chest. 

WOAH! WOAH! OVER-REACTION!
It happens about as abruptly as that sentence. The movie is brilliant and thoughtful on its own, and deserves a watch. The entire thing is apparently available on YouTube. Watch it.

(As for a synopsis of The Exorcist: You've seen it. There's a little girl. She gets possessed. There's an exorcism. Sometimes she walks down the stairs upside down.)

Look mom, I'm doing it! Mom, look! ... you're not looking.
So what does this movie have to do with The Exorcist? Well, the director forces a connection in his cameo-appearance as a priest (you can skip to 2:10 for the relevant bit, but the entire scene is awesome):


The director of this horror film, literally placing himself into the most direct position of power the movie seems to offer, spends his time completely shirking off everything a priest is supposed to be, and comments on a horror film: "He went to see that film, The Exorcist; said they did it all wrong! ... I don't suppose you saw that movie; I thought it was great." Though this can be and totally works as a sort of throwaway joke, it places this movie in direct contact with another and forces conversation between them. Which is great, because they both have so much to say.

Part of what makes The Exorcist align with postmodernity, aside from its possible commentary on the power of directors and actors and other such characters of film production, is its distrust of technology. For a good and concise quote, I'll let Higgs and Smith take it away:
If any one film captures humanity's disillusionment with science and the scientific method, it is The Exorcist. The film tells a simple story: the possession of a young American girl by a demon. The crux of the film, in the opinion of the writer, is the rage and bewilderment of the girl's mother, facing the team of "medical experts." "My god, I've spent all of this money and none of you can tell me what's wrong!"  
That, as far as postmodernism is concerned, is the whole point. Science can't tell us what's wrong. 
So, The Exorcist regales against technology in much the same way as a book like Infinite Jest does: it foregoes and warns against technology for the seemingly obvious deficiencies it presents, and instead turns more towards more nebulous ideas of faith—for The Exorcist, it's Catholicism in the face of possession; for Infinite Jest, it's the twelve steps and sincerity in the face of addiction and irony. For The Exorcist, where science fails to perceive the obvious, the priest stands by with holy water.

But in Martin, Romero—playing a priest—loudly disagrees with The Exorcist's presentiments. It even presents its own version of an exorcism, which goes about as well as you might expect:

Just let me get my reading glasses on, here. Okay. This is the New Testament, so the language might be a little softer. Oh unkind spirit, being around you is a discomfort! Please leave!
Though The Exorcist presents Father Karras as a sort of anti-hero of a priest—he drinks, he smokes, he's in the process of losing his faith—it is ultimately his faith which proves to be true. But Martin's priest is as sure of his belief, seemingly, as the movie is: by the end of the movie, it's still ambiguous as to what, exactly, Martin is. Whether he is a boy with an unfortunate psychosis, fed into by a zealous relative (which is exactly what Cuda's niece believes, by the way), a vampire as Cuda believes him to be, or a person with an unfortunate but natural malady is unclear. The entire movie is intercut with black-and-white scenes of a presumably younger Martin running around a castle after having killed someone, chases by a mob with torches; these scenes are purposely overdone and campy and, while maybe serving as flashback, could also serve as fantasy—as even Martin's first victim, in a very modern train, is intercut with this sort of scene, still on the train. In fact, it may really be Cuda's faith which gets in the way of the truth by the movie's end: the stake is driven in after Cuda hears of a neighbor's suicide (incidentally, this neighbor was cuckolding her husband with Martin, which drives her to the act) and believes it to be Martin covering up his feasting. The scene is over before it starts, and leaves you with a feeling of "wait... that's it?"

Yep, that's it. Go home. Nothing to see here.
As the credits roll, Cuda digs a grave and sows seeds over Martin's corpse.

Cuda, where did that boy who helped you in your shop go? Lovely new flower bed, by the way.
In The Exorcist, faith proves to be the truth: Regan is a girl who is, in fact, possessed by a demon—a symptom of a very real devil; this possession is fought by two priests wielding the very-real power of God. Though the movie ends with Satan's presence still felt, his presence is definitely there—as is God's. The movie has a faith that leads to Regan's rescue, despite the ending's ambiguities. But in Martin, faith is colluding with lies: the truth doesn't exist because faith doesn't allow its exploration and discovery. But, even still, Martin doesn't offer the scathing comment on science that The Exorcist indulges in either: two of the characters believe Martin's condition to be treatable, in some sense, by science—they fiercely dispel faith and magic. Though Martin is ambivalent about the idea of doctors ("I couldn't go to a hospital. It'd be too hard for me."), Cuda's niece is a full proponent. The genius of the commentary here, I think, is that Martin doesn't hold to any one truth: where Romero saw The Exorcist as a movie basing truth in faith, he created a movie that shows the nebulous nature of the truth. Whose perspective do we believe more by Martin's end: Martin's, Cuda's, Cuda's niece's, or somewhere in between? Evidence exists for and against each of them and, ultimately, is left unknown. To make a parallel, if The Exorcist went about its writing the same way Martin did, upon discovering Father Merrin's death, Father Karras—instead of beseeching the demon unto him and diving out the window—would have have an ambulance called to take Regan away, and the final shot would have been Karras looking down the famous steps with his collar in his hand.

What makes me so excited about this is that Martin can work both in and out of conversation, and The Exorcist isn't ruined by Romero's commentary. These movies work in conversation, not argument, and they stand alone as well as they stand apart. Without the commentary on faith and truth, Martin is still a solid vampire movie about what a vampire really is, and whether they can still be terrifying without the smoke and mirrors. But with the commentary, it opens up the movie into an even more meditative stance on what the truth really is, and how we discover it.

And, yaknow, I just friggin' love seventies horror movies. Let's talk about them. New topic, start: I hate Poltergeist.

[Coincidentally, this is my last post for the Boylan Blog. It's been a great time, here, and I hope my readers (Hi, fellow interns) enjoyed my pieces as much as I enjoyed writing them and reading theirs. I leave you with a treatise on what the truth is in the form of a commentary on a 70's horror movie no one cares about. True to form, it's long and postmodern and maybe a little pretentious. This is Kyle Williams, signing off.]

Currently Watching 5.18.15 should I just melt this post into Kyle's or


I'm pretty sure all of us are familiar with Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, at least tangentially. For anyone who's shaky on the plot, it follows an old fisherman named Santiago who hasn't been able to catch a fish for 84 days as he lines an enormous marlin and spends two days and nights attempting to reel it in. It's considered a literary classic, yadda, yadda, isn't this Currently Watching?

Fine, here, look. This lovely oil painting is of a scene at the beginning of the book, when Santiago is telling his apprentice Manolin about his rowdy youth.


Here he is rowing out to sea on his 85th day of bad luck.


This is when Santiago first hooks the marlin.


And what an impressive fish it is.


Wouldn't this make a beautiful movie?


I hope you all see where I'm going with this.


These are screencaps from a 20 minute film, the entirety of which is animated with oil paintings on glass, done by a Russian animator Aleksandr Petrov and his son Dimitri. There's this thing about animation; it takes an astronomical amount of time and work. Like, hours of work for five seconds of bare-bones outlines with zero flair. Most animated movies you'll see in theaters will have had of dozens of animators bringing them to life, and The Old Man and the Sea only had two people doing this. With oil painting! Crushing a brick in your fist would probably be easier.


If you've ever wanted to see an oil painting come to life, if you want to see an animated adaptation of a literary classic, if you have 20 minutes to kill, watch this film. Fuse your inner artist to your inner lit nerd. Find your zen. Ascend.