Envisioning the Future through the Past: Analyzing How Gloucester and Lear Couldn’t Foresee their Ends

The sense of sight is quite interesting in that people have a sense of control over it. Sounds exist and we can block them out or not. You are constantly feeling everything you interact with. To not smell is to avoid breathing; to not taste is to deter the intake of nourishment. Sight however is constant and yet we have the ability constantly alter our focus and intended objects of perception. We as people decide to do a quick look, a casual glance, a deep observation, or even a Luigi death stare as we will our eyes to see our surroundings.  It’s no wonder why the symbolism of sight is so powerful in literature, specifically William Shakespeare’s King Lear. While the character of Gloucester is more prevalent in this theme, I wish to also analyze how the eponymous monarch also fails at perceiving the world around him.

King Lear’s trajectory as a protagonist is one that follows a reverse “rags to riches” story. At the twilight of his life, he has achieved success in all facets of his life. A warrior king who has made it to old age is rare in this time as war, betrayal, and even disease could easily cut down a ruler in his prime. This widower has found love, power, and glory and so wishes to pass on these honors down to the next generation; thus, further assuring the survival of his legacy. The problem being that Lear is blinded by the accolades of his past and fails to see possibilities of how such a transfer of power could cause more harm than good. To put it simply, Lear believes his own hype and can’t believe that Cordelia wouldn’t follow suit in the praise off he had orchestrated. Blind with rage at Cordelia’s refusal, the old King banishes her, not knowing that he has inadvertently knocked the first domino in a series of events that will spell the fall of House Lear.

Secondly, we have Gloucester, a man who has undying loyalty for his king but whose values towards his sons change at the drop of a hat. Gloucester remains stalwart to the past rulership but becomes easily confused towards the future whenever conflicting information arises. While he takes preference towards Edgar when it comes to status and legitimacy, the moment Edgar starts with his fake news tactics the title of favored son changes hands. While we as readers witness how the revelation of truth comes at the cost of his actual sight, Gloucester continues to be gullible as Edgar uses fake voices and trickery to keep him alive and well. The truth remains elusive and only two things remain constant for the Gloucester family: we must remain loyal to Lear and Edgar was the nice one all along. Both sons take advantage of this to further their own causes and implement their own visions of the future. Since their father has no foresight, he resembles Aaron Burr’s convictions of standing for nothing and falling for everything.

Both versions of sight for these characters revolve around misrepresenting the past as reflections of the future. This brings to mind how we look “forward to the future” and “back to the past” but that is not the case for the whole world. Laura Spinney reports on how the Aymara Native American group living in the Andes mountainscape see the future as behind us and the past in front of us. The logic behind it simple, we know the past, hence we have seen it; the future is unseen, hence beyond our line of sight (aka behind us). On the other hand, Anil Ananthaswamy explores how a tribe in Papua New Guinea refers to the past based on their geography. For the Yupno people, they see the world much like their island in that they see the source of life as the river and its origin lies in the top of the mountain. Hence, regardless of where they are on the island, to speak of the future revolves around referring to the coast and the past is always seen as the central mountain. Both of these perspectives in regards to the past and future can be applied to these two lords.

Lear confuses the past and future, assuming that the world as it was should continue. With each daughter’s apparent betrayal, his notions of the space-time continuum become altered and slowly unrecognizable. For Gloucester, the past remains in the origins (the mountain) of loyalty to the King and that at least one kid should love him. As murky and winding as the future may be, he looks back upon these truths to maintain some form of stability. The problem lies in that these perspectives blind towards the reality that the readers and the rest of the characters see so clearly. Kent and the Fool clearly notice that something is amiss while Goneril and Regan figure out that Edmund has sinister plans for all in his way. It is not until they lose everything that Lear and Gloucester can understand the precariousness of their situation and barely make amends for their mistakes by the end of the story. By placing their past in front of them, they were blocking their own sight of what would come to be and ultimately permit/push along their downfalls.

 

 

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428675.400-time-flows-uphill-for-remote-papua-new-guinea-tribe/

 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2005/feb/24/4

 

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I Would Die for Sex: Exploring the Importance of Sex in Oscar Wao

Odds are you have seen some variation of Family Feud clips wherein the current host, Steve Harvey asks groups of people to determine the answers given by groups of 100 people polled on multiple topics. Many of these clips are hilarious in their own right but one in particular caught my eye, a group of men were tasked with figuring out the answers to what would guys do for sex. The answers are quite encompassing of particular gender roles though one stands out above the rest, the one that no one was able to guess: “I would die for sex”. The audience laughs, Steve Harvey can’t believe someone would even suggest it and then lo and behold it’s there.

Video here

That answer comes to mind whenever I ponder about the finale of Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life. This novel which I love to hate has been part of my classes for some time though I remember being mesmerized by this text as a student. With every new reading I see how the younger version of me was so much like the protagonist and just how clueless I was to what actually mattered in life.

Oscar as a kid seems to be “normal” according to the Dominican standards set upon him by his family. However, as puberty set in you see how the long-awaited expectation of engaging with the ladies needed a plan of action. Oscar was good at planning, or rather he focused on the planning knowing full well that the execution would probably not pan out. In many ways, he played out the ill-conceived definition of insanity and hoped that this next random attractive female within his vicinity would react positively to his cringe inducing pick up lines. Interestingly enough, whatever minor depression ensues after each rejection is brushed off with the new hopes of another lady passing by. We do see Oscar going off the deep end when it comes to the lady friends he had kind of a chance with but never really took off.

With the closest thing he had to a high school sweetheart, Oscar confessed his love for a woman who already had a boyfriend (even if he was super abusive) and he was let down as gently as possible. Still, our protagonist went out of his way to face the bad guy because he saw it as a heroic duty. In Oscar’s world of fantasy, to defeat evil is to obtain love and by facing Manny he could do just that, though who know what would have happened had he actually appeared on that rainy night. Later in college, Oscar spent lots of time with La Jablese and thought there was a real chance at there being an actual relationship with her. Rather than going into Batman brooding vengeance, he goes full Hulk rage and starts flailing violently everywhere and getting him labeled as even more of a freak by the college community. This failure and stigma lead Oscar towards leaping, not just as a way to end the misery but as a way to showcase just how much he cared about her.

That’s the problem with Oscar and in large part with several aspects of toxic masculinity. Oscar’s infatuation with the ladies is one that leads to him pledging his allegiance to anyone who gives him the hope of a chance at a physical relationship existing. His loyalty is so unflinching that he considers it an honorable sacrifice for the sake of love. In other words, he would die for sex. The ending provides a silver lining in that it shows that Oscar learned that the little things about love were more important than the sex that Yunior and society keeps telling him that he needs to have. However, he didn’t have to die for Ybon to feel that with her or anyone else. Perhaps it is that same level of sacrifice that gets him so emotional towards the previous ladies of his desire. He was willing to die for them and that somehow wasn’t enough to get them interested. He never quite figured out that loyalty can be offered but it can be rejected as well. All the good intentions in the world don’t stop it from being creepy. Had Oscar lowered sex and love from the idealized pedestal he built on his own then maybe he could have changed his ways and lived the good life that Yunior and Lola were able to build as they each continued on their own path. Much like a soldier with the fatal combo of patriotism and a death wish, he died for an ideal he could have better served had he not been so gung ho about his “need” to love and be loved in return.

Spoiler Free Review of Avengers: Infinity War

The latest installment of the MCU has finally been released and I have just returned from the theater and the feels are all over the place. I did my best to turn off my speculative fan fiction super powers so as not to potentially ruin the film with all my crazy fan theories and my viewing experience was much better off in that regard. With this sentimentality in mind, I shall do my best to review Avengers: Infinity War in the most spoiler free format I can muster.

First off, if you are wondering whether or not you should see the backlog of Marvel films before heading off to see Infinity War then I recommend that you see at least a few of them to get a better feel for all the characters. Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy 1 & 2, and at least Civil War should be fresh in your memory to best avoid questions of who is that character and what can they do. If this is your foray into the MCU I’m honestly questioning your logic behind that decision. However, Infinity War does a good job of setting up the main antagonist of Thanos.

So let me take a moment to talk about the mad Titan known as Thanos. For my last review, I was practically gushing with feels over Black Panther’s portrayal of Erik Killmonger. He was relatable and evil at the same time with wicked lines and action sequences throughout the film. Clearly, Michael B. Jordan is now in the pantheon of those actors who survived a bad case of Fantastic Fouritis and came out stronger because of it. Thanos is harder to discern since this is basically a CGI purple/blue big dude voiced by Josh Brolin (who you will see more of as Cable in the upcoming Deadpool film coming out in a few weeks). Brolin’s voice is hauntingly deep and his essence carries well unto the villain. Not to give anything away but this isn’t the Thanos from the comics. The end goal may be the same but his purpose isn’t for a twisted love/infatuation with a metaphysical personification. Near extinction at a universal scale is treated as borderline logical, making this version of Thanos that much scarier. The quirky band of minibosses that accompany the main baddy are borderline forgettable by the time you reach the end but while they are on screen you are fully aware that each of them is a unique threat for our heroes to overcome before the titan emerges to confront them.

The story itself is complex and yet completely attainable throughout the entirety of the film. For two and a half hours plus you change in focus between 4 branching adventuring parties composed by pretty much every character in the MCU (Antman and Hawkeye being the exception though their absence is explained). Even with all the shifts the plot doesn’t get lost between the transitions and by the time you hit the finale you wouldn’t believe that almost three hours have passed. Every character gets their moment in the spotlight and I applauded with the rest of the theater whenever each of them had their turn to shine. Action sequences are varied and crisp as individual arsenals of attack are showcased.

The dialogue is as always witty and quick. Thank goodness for Spanish subtitles in PR theatres because I know I would have missed several lines during the moments of laughter/cheering. Even though you get a lot of narrative exposition it’s done in a way to avoid the sense of boredom in the audience. Something is always happening so you never feel that a scene is some degree of filler. Likewise, while you may be yearning for deleted scenes I personally did not feel like moments were taken away due to time constraints. While I would have loved for certain characters to interact more (or even at all due to the branching story paths) Avengers: Infinity War does its job well when it comes to storytelling.

Speaking of feels, get ready to go through a veritable gamut of emotions. Not to spoil anything but be prepared to gasp, cheer, laugh, and cry multiple times. The ending is beyond words for me to describe even if this review was filled with spoilers. Fair warning, this is not a happy go lucky movie like many of the other installments of the MCU. I will go so far as to say that if you aren’t exactly in a good spot emotionally speaking I would wait before you go and watch it because your soul will not be the same after watching this. The super post credits scene does a good job of reminding you that more installments in the series are coming but odds are you will remain deflated.

Final verdict/ tl;dr of Avengers: Infinity War

This is a wild ride of a film and a must see if you are a Marvel fan. A myriad of emotions will be felt along the way as you end the viewing experiences with eyes red from tears, hands stinging from clapping, and sides sore from laughing, all the while gasping for air. No spoilers but just trust me that this should have been called The Tragedy of Infinity War to borrow Shakespearean sexy title making. Still, go watch it and bring some friends, you are going to need someone to talk to about everything that happened. Not sure if I have the time to see it again but I’ll certainly try.

If you want to talk about the film please comment below but let’s try to stay spoiler free until Monday at the least so that people have the weekend to try and watch it for themselves.

Excelsior,

G

 

What Hamilton Taught Me about Protesting

My students are currently in the midst of writing their fancy papers in which they apply critical theories to their analysis of the Broadway musical, Hamilton. Since it is a fairly recent work, I have decided to write a few things up for them as potential outside sources that can aid in their thought process. There are myriad things that one can discuss about the eponymous orphan/bastard/soldier/statesman/founding father but for this entry I want to take a moment to think of Hamilton the negotiator and how short term and long term goals are fought for.

In “My Shot” we see how Alexander delineates his plan of action for education and how the financial situation of the nation needs to be addressed alongside the major revolution for freedom. Washington himself states in “Right Hand Man” the importance of logistics as he recruits our protagonist for his skills as a writer and thinker rather than his abilities as a soldier and chides him later on for being more predisposed to die in the battlefield than to survive. Here we see how Hamilton’s desire for glory beyond himself supersedes his own survival instincts during the war and will later cloud the decision making process of his political pursuits as well as his own family life.

This almost primal need to be remembered for great moments is echoed in other forms of media and storytelling to the point that small victories and minor strides of progress are so tiresome that they are almost not worth fighting for. I see this sentiment echoed once again in my current setting as the University of Puerto Rico system (as well as the rest of the education department) is once again on the chopping block in the name of financial austerity measures. Students, teachers, and many members of the community march and protest these decisions but those in charge continue with these unpopular decisions. Because these actions of resistance do not equate to reactions the battle and the ideological war seems like an all for naught situation for many activists. Because the big victories are the ones that have the most impact, many see these matches of will as sprints rather than as marathons and many do not come equipped with patience necessary for the long haul.

A quick glance at the timeline of history shows how even the most obvious of injustices took years to upend between the mobilization of people and the eventual changing of a particular law. Looking back to Hamilton, we remember not just how the war for independence of the USA took many years but that the drafting and ratification of the constitution itself took time as well. For Hamilton as Treasury Secretary we can see that his own fight to implement his financial system took some time as well. While we see that a few songs elapse between “Cabinet Battle #1” and “The Room where It Happens”, the audience interprets that the process took the length of the summer that Hamilton spent alone as his family went upstate on vacation. However, if we look at the years (1789 when Jefferson first arrives and 1791 when checks to James Reynolds were dated) it actually took at least more than a year for the great negotiation to have been completed. Hence, it takes a long time to set up the proverbial knockout punch.

One particular line that stands out in “The Room where It Happens” is when Hamilton chides Burr for not knowing how “to play the game” of politics. “If you’ve got skin in the game, you stay in the game / But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game” (3:43-3:48). The problem lies in that in order to “play in the game” one must accept the rules as given even if they are quite unfair. The rules of politics for example, greatly favor those that are already in power and hinder minority voices from being acknowledged, much less implementing change. We see how march after march takes place and yet the debates are tabled for later and progress becomes deterred once more. This is in large part because those in power stick to old school rules. They will ignore trending hashtags and other elements of social media due it not being how they played the game beforehand. Young people in particular are ignored because the worst they can do is vote for a fringe party candidate and that means that a vote that they weren’t going to get anyway doesn’t go to their main opponent; hence, no big deal.

With this in mind I propose a few ideas to make today’s protests have more effect. First off, you need to grow the movement beyond just yourselves. Politicians will look at rebels who need haircuts the same way almost anywhere. Even with a unified front, students are perceived as people who don’t live in the real world and teachers will complain regardless of the ruling party. In order to get those in power to react you need to go back towards what scares them most: actual families. You as a student need to get the support of your own families from your hometowns on your sides, thus spreading your level of influence. Second, people can ignore emails but phone calls and snail mail have a more lasting impact. Call and send letters where you clearly indicate your premise and how your family back home has your back. If your family is loyal to the party then threaten to cut them off from future campaign contributions or to jump ship altogether. Third, start small. La Junta won’t pick up your call but your local representative and mayor might. The mayors who have UPR campuses in their cities are strangely quiet even as they are aware that the financial loss of one will reverberate to the other. Have them take an official side and serve as an amplifier to your cause.

So identify your local representative, find their office numbers and address and take the time to make your voice heard. This was legit homework for my students last year during the huelga and I might just make it a tradition for all the future #ProfG pupils.

If you agree, disagree, or have more suggestions feel free to comment below.

G

Episode 171: The Economics of Serialization Outside of Print

Last time I discussed the business part of print publishing. Let’s double dip and explore how other media work for this.

Film Industry

Remember how books are big and take a long time to make? Well making movies is like that but with far more layers of complexity and lots of other people who will be employed throughout the filming and editing process. The initial capital to start such an endeavor is hard to fathom. The only relatively easy part is that today’s movie audiences are far more receptive towards movie franchises with sequels, prequels, and reboots. What used to be limited to horror movie monsters like Jaws and Freddy or the most sci fi of stories, having multiple parts to a feature film is far more normal. Consider the overall success that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has had since its initial conception with Iron Man even as we hand wave away The Hulk films done a few years earlier. The main Marvel film set still has multiple phases and the other super hero movies are doing well enough, Not to mention that the bad movies might get rebooted once more if there characters have the potential to bring in fans later on (looking at you past and future Fantastic 4 movies). Still, you need big numbers on first and subsequent installments before it all goes down the drain and stories that still have material won’t get made.

Television

Same thing as movies but you get to make multiple episodes at least beforehand. Even if you film episodes a bad enough critique/rating number can kill a series on the spot. The most infamous example is Viva Laughlin a musicalesque show where Hugh Jackman was a casino owner in Laughlin, Nevada. After the reviews of one episode the network executives killed the show from future airings. Which is a big issue with most forms of serialization, those that allow you to start can end it even before it really starts. There are ways around contracts and publishing houses and executives are more adept at making them if they have experienced legal teams on payroll.

Comics

To understand the mechanics of comics is to follow the rules of an industry. Make 28-32 pages of material and be ready to deliver it at weekly or monthly intervals. From there, one needs to keep in mind pacing. Every installment needs to work on its own while pushing a bigger story forward. Television has a similar system to comics while books are closer to movies in that regard. Comics creation, just like writing, are limited to your creative talents and artistic ability. Even with green screen there is only so much you can do that can fit in a budget. If you are working within the big two of Marvel or DC then you need to follow their past and future structure for the characters assigned to you. Original characters or stories that don’t go with the main continuity allow writers/artists to have more leeway but you are more employee than author when it comes to them. Working for smaller publishing houses or on your own allows you to avoid the pitfalls of previous years of continuity but finding your audience and keeping them hooked has its own challenges.

Next time, my bread and butter of webcomics will be discussed.

Until next time.

Episode 170: The Economics of Serialization

I’ll be heading to a conference soon where I will be presenting on the art and business of serialization. I have written several posts on the more artistic side regarding style and plot development/continuity so for this post I want to explore more of the economic side of publishing over time. Much like my dissertation, I am going to subdivide how each medium of publication has their own rules, standards, and expectations for serial fiction.

For today’s post I’m going to limit myself to just the print medium.

When it comes to traditional books and such, the amount of content per installment is vastly more than say comics or webcomics. Trying to initialize your serial publishing endeavor means either going it on your own or finding a publisher. If you are undertaking a writing solo mission then all the power to you. Many of the rules and gatekeepers get to be ignored and you are the one who makes the tough decisions. But if you are going with a publishing house then you need to assure them that you and your story are worth the investment. This means that the text needs to be fleshed out enough to show the potential for initial and continued publication. For this situation, having one or more of your installments already done or close to it will be a big help. From there, you sign a contract for one or more installments to be published with pinpoint due dates. Should your text become popular enough then you might get an extended contract for more installments, should your story have enough parts to keep it going. One thing to be weary about is the rights of publication which are usually transposed from author to publication house. So let’s say that your first book didn’t sell well and an extension isn’t given, well you can’t exactly go out and publish the rest on your own or with another company if the contract says that they retain publishing exclusivity for a certain period of time or even in perpetuity.

In short, serial fiction in print requires lengthy and near complete drafts of one or more installments before even the thought of mainstream publication can be undertaken. However, the length of book installments that you need to convince readers to purchase a relatively limited number of parts within a fairly extended period of time. Compare that to say getting people to read a 100 issues of comics or a thousand webcomic strips and you can see how individual purchases and publications can make a big difference.

Next time: comics both as a small time publisher or as part of the big two of DC and Marvel.

Episode 169: Spoiler Free Review of Black Panther

I have recently returned from the movie theater and the adrenaline rush from witnessing the most recent entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has left me with a feeling of awe that must be shared. I will do my best to not include any of the actual content of the movie but let me explain some of the things that are worth noting.

Let me start out by saying that this movie has indeed been overhyped. It’s not the perfect film, it is not the cinematographic experience that will end all racism. With that out of the way, Black Panther is ridiculously awesome. The story progresses almost seamlessly from beginning to end without filler or moments that felt out of sync that would probably be fleshed out during the Director’s cut.

The visuals provide a look into a world that is both new yet familiar. It is an experience eerily similar to the first time I saw Lion King wherein the exotic is brought forth and central Africa looks like something that is palpable even as its an experience I haven’t felt firsthand. The landscapes, both rural and urban, are a sight to behold as Wakanda’s fields, waterfalls, mines, and even mountains are expansive and filled with detail. Big props to the amazing CGI team who made this world come to life.

The action sequences are intense too as our titular character is an acrobatic badass with and without his suit. All of the other characters have their own moments of awesomeness as fighting sequences have good use of weapons and hand to hand combat. Without Iron Man or Thor in the cast the explosions and beams are minimal but the combat is still enthralling.

As for the acting let me say that this may be the best cast in a Marvel movie I have ever experienced as even the minor characters are memorable. Chadwick Boseman continues his path as T’Challa from Civil War (which is not necessary to see beforehand but helps in fleshing out the motivations and backstory for a hero who has greatness thrust upon him). Danai Gurira is intense yet still approachable as both general and guardian of Wakanda and its king. Lupita Nyongo’s Nakia somehow balances being both a love interest that needs saving and a crafty spy that can stand toe to toe with the best of them (sorry to all the shippers of Widow and Panther). But the true standout is Michael B. Jordan as the antagonist of the film. Without giving too much away, his development into villainy borders on the cliche but still feels intense and relatable. One of the many criticisms of the MCU is that the villains don’t stand and are more a side effect of the story going forward t=rather than the drivers of the plot. Jordan breaks that mold by being top tier bad guy, second only to Loki (who is now almost chaotic neutral but still up there).

All in all the movie is amazing and yes you should stick around for all the post credit scenes. It’s visuals aren’t as psychedelic as Doctor Strange and story isn’t as grounded Winter Soldier but it is still one of the better films in the MCU. I’d go so far as to put it in my top 5 but time will tell if the post premiere glow remains afterward. If you aren’t experienced in English spoken with different African accents you might have to pay a bit more attention but it’s well worth it.

Go watch it for yourselves and stay tuned for an upcoming spoilertastic post later on.