This is most likely my last post of the semester, and I thought I spend it writing about development trends in Austin. Anyone who has lived here for more than a few years should be keenly aware of just how quickly this city is changing. Even my landlord is complaining. Well, he’s not technically complaining, but as soon as he has a vacancy to fill, it’s taken, and I think part of the game has been lost for him. But I digress. One of the things about expansive growth in Austin is that it tends to not coincide with urban planning, as I noted in a previous post about the Texas Capital Building. This lack of planning can be frustrating to locals because, well…it’s not Paris. But there’s charm in the city’s architectural idiosyncrasies, and these things do give the city a sense of character. Austin’s a lot like the grimy sci-fi of the original Terminator film, especially when compared to the forensic cleanliness of Star Trek’s sci-fi. So, anyway, there’s a weird thing happening throughout Austin’s current growth spurt, in which planned communities are popping up in the middle of old non-planned neighborhoods. Two questions come to mind: Does it really matter that these communities are planned given the irregular historical zoning beauty that surrounds them? And, secondly, what’s the appeal of these antiseptic neighborhoods, when Austinites could have…well, Austin?
[Spoiler alert: if you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity of attending Ordinary Days, know that the following describes much of the play’s ending.]
Manalive, the novel by G.K. Chesterton, opens with miraculous gust of wind, a meterological phenomenon described as “the good wind that blows nobody harm.” I always found something particularly memorable about that image of a moment of impossible happiness, and it gusted into my mind once more when I attended the recent Austin production of the chamber musical, Ordinary Days.
Ordinary Days offers more than a miraculous gust of wind. Instead, its climax brings all four of the play’s cast members into contact by a single, bizarre spectacle. The image is explicitly identified not with nature, however, but with one of the greatest recent tragedies of our nation: the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11. I’m not sure that the play’s treatment of 9/11 is necessarily its most brilliant moment—but it does offer an interesting example of one artist’s attempt to use visual and narrative imagination to recontextualize the image that has driven so much of America’s foreign and domestic policy over the last ten years.
Submitted by Sarah G. Sussman on Fri, 2014-04-11 18:17
Joseph Jefferson as Young Rip Van Winkle Image Source: Wikipedia
In my last post, I began telling the story of how “Rip Van Winkle” came to be converted to film. The story is fraught with all of the workplace drama and power plays that one might expect from a nascent Hollywood industry. It’s a tale of stolen ideas, patents, and lawsuits, that led to an eventual motion picture industry monopoly. As I mentioned in my last post, most scholars credit Thomas Edison’s assistant, Laurie Dickson, with the creation of the Kinetoscope, an invention very similar to the Mutoscope on which audiences would have viewed Rip Van Winkle. The invention was essentially a peephole in a tall rectangular box with film running between two spools. Around the time of the invention’s 1892 patent, however, the relationship became rocky.
I'm in the midst of the (long) process of building a digital magazine called Covered with Fur for Austin small press A Strange Object. This week I'm choosing typefaces, which, as one editor puts it, is a "vertigo-inducing" prospect, especially on the web. As I research and test various webfonts, I'm struck by a) how many exist, b) how many ugly and/or illegible fonts there are, and c) how little I know about type design and type designers in the digital age. I mean, I watched Helvetica, just like everyone else, but I don't put nearly enough thought into the people who design the typefaces I use regularly (which include, of late, Times, Helvetica Neue, occationally Didot, if I'm feeling fancy; I used to be strictly Garamond, but I grew out of that, thank God).
My first question: what typefaces, if any—old or new—are designed by women?
In my last post, I laid out the theoretical groundwork of biopolitics for a critique of the subversive potential of the LEGO movie. Biopolitics, or the epistemological and sociopolitical forces that determine how individuals understand bodies and “life,” lets us examine both the LEGO movie's own critique of social constructivism and comment on the movie's failure to adequately separate itself from static models of gender and sexuality.
Nothing sums up the best of Austin’s landscape gardening tastes like the garden at the Austin Zen Center. Located on West 31st Street between Guadalupe and Lamar, the Austin Zen Center’s garden is impressive any time of year. Every plant in the garden is native. The vegetation in the garden never, ever receives sprinkler water. The entire growing space is focused around a gorgeous old live oak tree, like a dry landscape garden is focused around a sizable boulder. It’s only when you look at the Austin Zen Center’s garden twice that you notice the massive live oak isn’t centered on the acreage – that it seems to do so is only an illusion. Everything in the garden is clean, pure, and honest, and a steadfast commitment to these virtues on the part of those who care for the landscape has the effect of producing a space that is harmonious and seemingly balanced.
Branding and corporate marketing can be bizarre. Sure, there are the big brands, the Disney’s or Budweisers or Coca-Colas, whose very names evoke our day-to-day experience of the products they market. For those of us who like to think about how visual rhetoric interacts with pop culture, these iconic multinationals can provide endless streams of data. Watching how such companies endlessly race to reflect or mold global and American cultures so as to increase visibility may sometimes be a depressing project, but it is always fascinating. But what about the guys who we don’t interact with on a daily basis?
Submitted by Sarah G. Sussman on Fri, 2014-03-28 12:25
Gif illustrating how a Phenakistoscope works Image credit: Wikipedia
In adapting a book for film, a number of executive decisions are made: scenes are cut, metaphors are made visual, and wardrobes are custom fit to match the era or character’s personality, all to the chagrin or pleasure of the audience. While the conversation around film adaptation often happens with full-length feature films, it should be remembered that this is not solely a conversation worth having after the twentieth century. Of course, plays and even early forms of cinema have at times made more drastic and noteworthy changes when adapting a text for the stage or screen. In the early days of cinema, these changes were especially pronounced. Largely due to technological constraints, cinema couldn’t always replicate a narrative anywhere near its entirety – though in some ways it could do more. One consequence, especially visible in the sample that I use here, the short film Rip Van Winkle, is that the resulting adaptation has to tell the story in five fleeting scenes. In this post, I’ll offer an informational and technical overview of how one of the first film adaptations of a work of literature came to be, and in my follow-up posts I’ll offer more details about the Rip Van Winkle film itself, with a comparative analysis between the story and film.