Short Blog

Short Blog #4: The Literary Blog Analysis

After hours of searching for a discussion-worthy blog, I can’t say that I’ve hit the spot of my hunger. Today, of all days, is Valentine’s Day; everyone, even the finest literary mogul, is posting either the stinkiest of gruyere-filled  quotes or hate mail to Saint Valentine himself. Sifting through this selection, as well as a myriad of DIY baking or craft blogs, I’ve noticed that not too many blogs actually contain insightful material worth reading that is comprehensible and formally constructed; I made it through about five blogs that actually had an introduction that made me read past the first two sentences without feeling that the reader was either pretentiously condescending or  had no idea what they were talking about. Where are you non-hipster literary blog with current events, fine arts, and scholarly material? Are you out there? I can’t find you! …And  so on goes the typical narcissistic, parasitic, and pointless blogger rant, however, navigating the internet is frustrating.  In her book Blog Theory, Jodi Dean relays an account of a blogger who states, “hardly a day goes by without some intellectual or journalist or other member of the only-our opinion-counts brigade writing something about how awful, stupid, dumb, rude, or otherwise unacceptable blogs are. My unwanted advice to such writers is that if blogs are really as uncaptivating as you keep saying, and are as rapidly on their way to oblivion as you keep breathlessley announcing, then stop writing about them” (37). And they’re right… why are all of us blogging, in rants of the highest verbosity, about such things that we find pointless? Perhaps the blog is dead to those who were on the blogger bandwagon back in 2005,  however, the majority of the population is just now joining the brigade and are just now experiencing this cyber world of over 70 million internet blogs, and have no idea where to navigate because many of the url’s are dead.

All of this makes me realize how much I’ve taken the internet for granted, because really, blogging is so difficult to do when attempting to post consistently well-composed notes of perceptive insight. It’s just way too easy to post simply a series of photos that mesh with their colors, or recipes that the pallet finds delectable when paired with a glass of red from Rioja. However, these are helpful, inspirational, appropriate in the right circumstance, but not really helpful when looking to critique. Is the blog not a safe neighborhood for the lit major? Do we become lost in the wordless format?

To engage viewers that are tuning-in late on the story, news channels or websites keep their story headlines to the point and brief, in order to keep the blog ordered and express a point. Consistency and well-labeled headlines are so helpful to readers, as the HTML coding and layouts of typical blogs are absolutely confusing to a new-comer, especially if the site is creatively contrived. A “blog-worthy” blog should be up-to-date, posting consistently (I would argue at the very least once a week. . . maybe once a month if the content is actually that worth reading), and full of discourse that offers a dialectic between photos and prose. In searching for sites within this assignment I was continually frustrated to open an incredible website to find it only a tease, as the author stopped posting in June 2008 (yet really, was that not when the concept of the blog peaked and died out?) or didn’t have anything to say as to why they loved their chosen photos labeled “I love these shoes”– because really, I love those Rachel Comey shoes too, yet readers want to know why you do and what else you like. Maybe though, that is what blogging has come to; seeing that the blogosphere is oversaturated with opinion-based blogs, maybe people that are still posting, our non-fair-weather bloggers, see no point in wasting time writing literature because there’s a slim chance that someone will find it outside of StumbleUpon. So if you’re reading this, I owe you quite a thank you for spending your time here. Below are a couple of literary-based blogs that I found interesting in my quest for Blogalot’s next monarch; hopefully you find insight in them as well.

The site that I felt most inclined to discuss is a collective of fashion critics Eric Wilson, Stuart Emmrich, Cathy Horyn, and Ruth La Ferla. Their blog, as mentioned on the Zeitgeist Message Board, is called ‘On the Runway’ . Though not as literary-focused as many authorial blogs that surround the literary world, I would argue that this editorial blog is something entirely competent in that realm, as the information that is presented can be regarded as a current event and is written by literary scholars. Standing as part of the New York Times ‘Style’ section online, this blog is absolutely applaudable for its chic and simplistic appearance that has minimal distractions of cluttered advertisements or superfluous photos. Your attention is drawn, after the right-column advertisement, directly to the text headlines, as the text takes up at least 75% of the page. Through the use of exquisitely minimalistic visual aide, accurate web links, historical accounts of fashion productions in years passed, designer interviews, and a most professional (yet not condescending) discourse, the journalists of On The Runway have created a truly monolithic work that accurately chronicles Fashion Week for attendees and those who missed the show. With a journalistic staff comprised of both men and women, there exists no biases in published content towards menswear or womens wear, as both sexes of writers cover both sexes of  designers and their collections. The language is not elevated to levels incomprehensible to your average reader; the dialogue is sophisticated and engages in sartorial history both synchronically and diachronically; the authors draw threads between designers and seasonal trends, as well as social trends, internationally; and finally, the images offered within each article are straight from a fashion photographer on-staff and on-site at each of the fashion shows/events. Thus, all of the news being reported is entirely first-hand.

Another note-worthy blog is that of Mark Sarvas entitled The Elegant Variation. An interesting guy. Directly above the blog title, there are reviews of Sarvas’ prose, both good and bad. NPR is quoted stating, “really brave. . . or really stupid”, which to me really sums up this entire media outlet. Upon opening the site today, the first post’s headline reads (in all caps, mind you, HE IS SHOUTING THIS!) “Dale Peck is the worst critic of his generation.” Pesonally I do not know Dale Peck, however, if I were Dale Peck, I’d be highly offended, as a generation typically spans more than ten years making this quite an insult. So, as NPR states, this is a very brave move on Sarvas’ part, yet at the same time it could come back and bite him in the ass. I suppose looking at Chelsea Handler though, her brutal honesty has created quite a reputation. In terms of visual appeal, Sarvas’ blog is mildly weak. The title, “The Elegant Variation” is wildly creative, teeming with an authoritative, professional, and curious aesthetic; yet the background color comes off bland and doesn’t help the images, thus turning your mind to think that the writing had better be really good. His chosen colors, an olive green background with white typeface and mustardy/butternut-colored links is less than refreshing– when looking at it, it seems outdated, or appears the way a lilikoi does when being cut open after hours of rotting on the side of the road in the humidity of summertime. Though visually lacking and slightly offensive, Sarvas DOES cover a more literary topic than the NYTimes blog: book reviews, critiques, and sneek peaks. His blogroll, consisting of publishing houses and and presses is an abundant offering to visitors of the site, and his book reviews are honest and engaging and one can see why his blog has placed him atop Forbe’s Magazine’s top 10 blogs lists. Though literary, parts of his blog do digress to the happenings in his home and everyday life, something I believe that many bloggers ought to avoid, unless their blog surrounds what they do in their home or personal lives. Perhaps though, that comes with the territory of the blog, making the blog a window to their personality, as it is a forging of the Appoline and Dionysian, order and chaos, or the organic of classic literature and the word with the inorganic of cyberspace.

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Short Blog #3: Five Authors You Should Read and Why

I feel that the titles we each list as “must-read” books are quite depictive of who we are as people in terms of taste and preference of style and genre within their subjectivity. I feel as if one asserts themselves within such an assignment by presenting what they find to be the “greatest works of fiction. . .ever created.” Yet, I want foremost to argue that no text can be regarded as “the greatest”, for, with any book, there exist a myriad of reasons as to why it is a profound work and imperative to the modernist canon; one cannot forget that an answer to such a question of such “greatness” is subjectively derived. Since modernism in itself is arguably subjective, one must choose a path at the road’s sunny fork, otherwise,  floundering beneath the two sides arrives at nothing but sunburn and countless comparisons of “greatness”. So, how does one choose? I couldn’t tell you. Here is a list of a few works that came to mind most immediately, and if I think of better suited or more fitting authors I’ll certainly add them.

Jonathan Safran Foer: “Here We Aren’t, So Quickly”.  I first read this short story in the New Yorker while riding the Bart home from Berkeley last summer. It’s absolutely brilliant and made the ride a lot less monotonous that day. Foer has an incredibly endearing quality to his writing that appears all too realistic while you’re reading it. The New Yorker included Foer as one of their chosen 20 authors under the age of 40, describing his piece as “Short story, told in non-sequiturs, about a love affair, marriage, and parenthood” however I feel that this description gives you no insight as to how deeply relatable this story is in terms of a painful love for another. His other popular works, Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close are also something to dabble in, as Foer’s descriptions are vast and brightly curious, awakening within the reader an excitement that feels as if his descriptions are dancing out as the pages are turned.

Thomas Pynchon: Zak Smith illustrated each of the pages of Gravity’s Rainbow. Here is the site for Smith’s index. something that each and every one of you should take a peek at. Pynchon, like Foer, has beautifully engaging descriptions within his writing– something that Smith’s illustrations are based off of. Smith took the most resilient line from each page of Pynchon’s book and illustrated, to the best of his ability, what he thought each page would visually be represented as. Gravity’s Rainbow is considered a post-modernist novel as it addresses aspects of warfare, as well as breaking down norms of Western culture. The construction of the novel, though starkly different, reminds me of the creative endeavor of working against the grain of literary structure within Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves and/or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. (Wallace is another author worth noting, as his book Brief Interviews With Hideous Men is absolutely hilarious.) Within Pynchon’s text, there exists a series of mathematical levels as well as a lot of superstitious mythology.

Machado de Assis: Dom Casmurro. I read this text in a modern fiction course last semester and fell head over heels in love with it. Within the text there exists a familiar heartbreak and fleeting yet returning beauty of memory of a lost love. One can only feel the sincerity in his memoirs, a hope to want to trust his writing as unadulterated honesty. After reading you think, “This is candid; luminous.” Originally written in Portuguese, the book has recently reappeared after being out of print and one could argue it a blessing. Assis writes of protagonist Bentinho who narrates the book in first person. Within Bentinho’s narrative, he questions the guilt of a lost lover and whether or not she was faithful to him. The book has incredible illusions to canonical works, historical events, and minor details such as an opera being like the colletive work of God and Satan. If you have time and enjoy love stories, read this along with Foer.

James Joyce’s: Ulysses. The staccato of discourse and oscillation of consciousness within Joyce’s text, and his stylistic rendition of The Odyssey as alluding to the corporeal self is an absolutely creative success. If you can, read this with Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and look for the striking parallels between the two modernist works. Both beautifully contrived from setting to the sartorial, Joyce effectively hearkens back to the human experience of truth and consciousness (something that Woolf does valiantly embody) that renders Ulysses a masterpiece for more reasons than simply constructing an eight-hundred page epic. Within the text, Joyce structures his text after Homer’s The Odyssey, a text that all of us know or are familiar with. This book is arguably comparable to Dom Casmurro, as each of these texts stress the anxiety of time upon the artist and individual, the importance of coherency of both a state conscious and subconscious thought, the role of the individual within a community, and the modernist ideal of looking at the past through the present to the future. Joyce regards the fragmentation of the consciousness and how the emergence of modernist thought affected society and culture at the time. The text swims against the grain of basic traditional values, constructing, as Freud did, that the unconscious works as a language in itself that, at times, converges with the conscious and can create both moments of extreme epiphany and despair.

Gertrude Stein: Three Lives. Gertrude Stein is an author that everyone should read just to understand the modernist movement of art and literature. Associated closely with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, Stein embodies modernism down to the marrow of the bone with her conception of no man being ahead of his time but merely “of the times”.

Flannery O’Connor: Grotesquely creative.

Joyce Carol Oates: “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Oates is a goddess of rhetoric. Not only is this story dedicated and allusive to the lyrics of Bob Dylan, it has an incredibly interwoven structure that stands upon a foundation of a particular classical allusion within the title in reference to ancient feminism that even a misogynist would argue to be brilliant.

Octavio Paz: ” The Blue Bouquet” (1949).

Short Blog: Digital Poet Caterina Davinio

In researching digital poetics for this assignment, I found some interesting work by Italian poet Caterina Davinio that shows the different approaches to digital poetry and media. Though Davinio’s style of art isn’t exactly my taste, the first video shows the multitude of layers that a piece of work can embody. Assuming that digital poetry is really a type of fiction (my apologies if that sounds ignorant but I’m still semi-unfamiliar with the medium!), one could compare her work (for example, the first video i’ve listed) to something like that of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; each art piece contains a layering of perspective that starts with the artist (Davinio and Conrad) and trickles down to the viewer, and the middle portion between artist/author and viewer/reader is retold by either Marlow or Davinio’s avatar cyber character. The second video I’ve listed appears more along the lines of what I would categorize digital poetry to be. We see mixed mediums, symbols in the place of language, a myriad sounds that conflict or align, etc. etc. If you further research Davinio, a lot of her work is dedicated to luxury cars like Ferrari and Jaguar. Though these videos are in Italian, the language barrier actually helped me understand the many aspects to the poem, as words became noise and I was able to better identify all of her included sounds without getting lost in a poem of familiar language. If that makes sense?

Below are two other videos that I found rather innovative to the world of experimental film. The first is from theberrics.com and is a narrative of a skateboarder’s passion for his sport; though the narrative is rather consuming of the video as a whole, I thought that the way in which the editor includes the flames was pretty cool. As for the second video, Lily Donaldson’s father created a video of the model and her hair. Yes, it sounds absolutely absurd, however, his editing is brilliant as it is slowed down to a humanly impossible speed and each lock is separated in a really surreal way. Each video is interesting in that it takes something simple from daily life and magnifies the movement or friction from it in a really unique way. That’s all, hope you enjoy!

The Berrics: http://theberrics.com/dailyopspost.php?postid=2134 (there’s an ad at the beginning so hold out for the video!)

Lily Donaldson:

Short Blog #1: Interacting With the Digital Community: An Internet Nihilist’s Nightmare

As much as I hate to admit it, I am a creature of extreme habituality and fear change like the apocalypse. I know that the Internet is a signifier of modernity and synonymous with “the future”; I know that smart-phones are our future, and that they predict that we will all carry some sort of hand-held hard-drive that can make/take calls and translate Dutch to Mandarin within the next fifty years of our lives. But, for some reason, I cannot cope with the concept of cyberspace and I think that it has something to do with the intangibility of it all. My day is an eternal return of routine and the thought of checking forms of Internet communication on top of ritual sounds horrifically distracting yet so tempting all at once. I can’t help but think of all of the fascinating people out there that are interested in the same things I am. Perhaps I am one of those material-modernists that Virginia Woolf complained of in A Sketch of the Past. Yet, today, is that not an oxymoron, as today’s “modern” is so closely aligned with sustainability or finding stability without consumption of materials? Perhaps I am merely a wistful romantic. I still check books out from the library because I like the way they smell, and the thought of all of the people who have had them on their nightstand, travel bag, on the bus/subway, or read them to children or lovers. I love hand-writing letters, cards, or notes to friends in the same city—what is more exciting than to receive something in the mail? I subscribe to the New Yorker and still get the NYTimes Sunday edition in the mail because there is something endearing about combing through five hundred pages of random articles every week. I’m sorry, trees, but I love the smell of newsprint.

This morning I woke up with 27 emails from Twitter on my beloved Blackberry that now feels tainted with commercial spam. All I could think upon opening them was,  “Well, that was smart. Pandora’s Box has been unearthed. Might as well get back on that god-for-saken Gilt website that sent you 12 emails a day about sales that nobody can afford. I’ve now given in to the concept of the “blog”. I now have a Twitter account, a Facebook account, and a Google reader. I now have two email accounts am getting an unnerving number of updates because I don’t exactly know how to turn them off and am too lazy to do so, because how often will I really be checking all of these? Who are you @thefashionwitch and @AltsoundsFeed1? Why are you following me? I’ve only “Tweeted” five times… about nothing at that. Are you a spy? Are you going to come to my house? Oh my god my phone line is probably tapped right now, can you see me right now?”

I always avoided digital communication because verbal discourse has always held a place in my heart. I’ve always preferred calling friends over texting, and detested email communication. For some reason it just didn’t feel real. I had a Facebook in high school but had deactivated it up until the first of this year, as friends wanted photos from the adventures of the year passed. Upon deleting it I instantly remembered why I didn’t have it in the first place–that unspoken competition and ability to make anyone feel insecure in the world of Facebook has an addicting quality, and who REALLY knows all of their 700 friends? I figured why not talk to those most important to you in person?

I guess my main apprehension with Internet communication is that it seems intangible and places a strong threat of extinction upon the old trades of tactile communication. Upon a recent vacation to the tropics, for every ten readers that I encountered, at least a good half of them were reading on either an iPad, iphone, or Kindle. Of the remaining five, two were reading John Grisham novels, two were reading magazines, and only 1/10 of the entire lot was reading classic, mind you, not commercial, fiction. I think I saw one book, out of two weeks amongst strangers, that could be considered pertinent to the literary canon.

Further, my fear rests upon the safety of the disclosure of information online– does such cyberspace involvement mean all of our privacy has been stripped, or is such involvement merely a means to survival in today’s post-modern (or are we post-post-modern?) society of internet lives? Because really, what private information is exposed, when everyone is offering up the same thing and your common web-surfer can’t trace an IP address to save his life.

Though digital communication is relatively intimidating, it has so many advantages of mixing media to create new art forms (ex. Digital poetry), co-branding communication, etc. Large sites like Cyanatrendland or style.com all have the ability to bring together different forms of the fine arts and open doors to combining them to bring ideas together. Pre-internet, the global population was uneducated in terms of cultural trends and political happenings in other countries. For example, the Japanese can learn about Spanish trends, the French about the Argentine, and Indians about Russians. There is so much to explore in this alternative world of communication and once we wade through the muck of getting started, it really is a brilliant way to unite individuals who are thousands of miles apart.