Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My introduction to Star Wars...

I've recounted this story for a couple of different people lately, decided I should actually write it down, and now is actually the perfect time :)

It was the week between Christmas and New Years, I was 5-years-old, and Seattle was hit with a much stronger than usual snowstorm.  As it does when it gets a proper snow storm (or, ok--let's be real--even a couple of flurries), the city shut down.  Whether my dad had planned to take that time off of work or not, the whole family was together that week.

At some point around Christmas, one of the network TV stations aired the trilogy or at least A New Hope.  So my parents recorded it on VHS - ad breaks and all.  They showed us A New Hope and we all had our minds blown!!  Transported to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!  The enthralling opening music and scroll (even though my parents had to read it aloud to us), this defiant princess, the twin suns of Tattooine, jedi mind tricks, wookies, droids, lightsabers!!  Then my parents told us there was more!  More of this new, unbelievable drug of wonder, humor, and bravery?!?  Yes please!  Our family was never the "binge-watching" type.  We got one movie a day on weekends and that was it.  But my parents must have been moved by our delightful reactions and put on Empire Strikes Back.  I liked this one even more (and still do!).  His scoundrely romance with Leia cemented Han Solo as my first crush.  And you should have seen our visceral reactions and loud gasps to The Biggest Reveal in Movie History™.  What a film; what a cliffhanger!


Somehow, my parents had been able to get Episode IV and V, but not VI!  With the storm, even VHS Rental Stores (now a historical relic) were closed.  But they had 4 agonized children suffering not only movie hangover but also dying to find out what would happen!  Out of that desperation, my dad phoned a friend, the Smiths, our closest family friends [like I still have their phone number memorized].  They owned the whole trilogy and, yes, they would let us borrow Return of the Jedi.  But since the roads weren't drivable, my heroic dad ran through the snow--a mile and a half uphill, a mile and a half downhill--to obtain the Episode VI.

My dad was a good runner and, though the snow slowed him down, it probably took no more than an hour.  But what. an. hour.  I remember my mom saying, "At least you didn't have to wait 3 years like we did."  I also remember writhing; I'm pretty sure some of us were writhing on the floor, exposed to the pain I would learn to become very familiar with: waiting for resolution.  But at last, we could see our dad jogging through a white world up our street and our rejoicing rivaled that of the Ewoks' we were about to meet!

We watched it, finished it...the whole Star Wars trilogy in one day and it was magic!  I was changed forever.  And that snowy, starry, unique day happens to be 20 years ago this week.  I have seen The Force Awakens twice and am now living again with that dull but sweet pain that accompanies waiting in between Star Wars.  Till then, may the force be with you!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Favorite Scene in Film Noir

So I'm writing a term paper for my film noir class on fashion, the femme fatale, and women in the workforce during the post-war period.  It's quite fun - my only regret is that I only have a short window to write it.

But in reflecting back on the films we've watched this term, this scene has stayed with me since we first watched it.  It's a bit mature, but its also exceptional!  Noir like most film of the time has female characters that pretty much conform to a binary of the femme fatale and the nurturing home-maker.  But this clip of Bogart's Marlowe meeting a never-named character played by Dorothy Malone defies that binary...



I'm so impressed by this characterization.  She wears her desire openly - her face at 2:49! - and she isn't punished for it!!  She's smart enough to see through him and he's not threatened, he's impressed.  And can we talk about this fantastic early use of the "nerdy girl takes off her glasses" trope?  This is from the film that brought Bogart and Bacall together (and of course they do have fabulous chemistry), but its this scene that wins the "cold shower edit" as its known.  You go, Glen Coco! 

Hats off to Hawks, Bogart, and Malone!

...and now, back to paper-writing :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Je ne sais pas que dire... 
Seulement, ce soir, mon cœur est avec Paris. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lately, Friday nights seem to lead me to interviews on Lady Gaga...and then 2 am happens.  But they've been incredibly restorative.  I get that she's not everyone's cup of tea, but there is a kind of depth to her that I've needed recently.  I don't really know how to describe it other than letting her speak for herself.  She sums it up wonderfully when she says:

"I'm gonna be responsible for all my pain looking beautiful."



"Well, 'Marry the Night' is about marrying the darkness, marrying what is difficult about your life.  So, I guess, what the video is asking from all of you is to bear your struggles very close to your heart and have them be a part of you that you're proud of, as opposed to being something you're ashamed of."


[Jump to around 1:40]

"I like to channel my pain in vibrant ways and that's how I deal with my sadness." 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Magdalen Cloisters

Reminiscing about the rainy visit I made to Magdalen College...

* * * * *


"Even Oxford's infrastructure was conducive to contemplation, revelation. Its walls seemed infused with mystery... It was tempting to think that resting my head against its stony chest would betray a heartbeat, or by putting my ear to this shell, I could hear the distant but undeniable advancing and then retreating of whispered wisdom." - Carolyn Weber



"The spirit of the elder days found a dwelling here, and we delighted to trace its footsteps." - Mary Shelley on Oxford



"I tended, indeed, to feel that God Himself dwelt in Oxford, His holy city, where He could hear the bells." - Sheldon Vanauken

* * * * *

All photos courtesy of Cami :)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jones

candlelit steam and dreaming 
of waking up next
to someone... 

i'm about to be raw, 
let you decide
and wondering should I be 
bracing for sanitation or
a salve? and will you still
want the brokenness 
of me? will you
walk out of my life just as 
easily as "are you dancing
with someone?" or can i
cut in. 

is this you cutting out?

Friday, October 16, 2015

Hello, I have few bits of graduate school news to share with you...

So, the most significant thing this week is that I turned in the first drafted chapter of my thesis!  It's actually not the first chronological chapter--I'll probably be writing that last; it's a chapter from the body and will probably chapter 3 of 4. It ended up being about 18 pages long and just over 6,000 words.  I can't believe it's there. actually there. on the page.  There were many times this spring and summer where I looked at many aspects of my life and thought "I don't know how I'm gonna make it..."  I definitely wondered how I could possibly do the necessary research and write this chapter.  But here it is.  I don't know if it's any good yet, but it's here :)  I'll be meeting with my adviser next week and hopefully will have some good feedback because...

That chapter is doing double-duty as a conference paper next month, PAMLA.  I've already shared my paper proposal on here, but the official schedule has come out and I now have the link to the comparative media panel I'm on!  I am also super grateful to have won their (small, but significant) graduate student scholarship.  One can kind of wonder if they were accepted to a panel just because there was no one else applying, but this wonderful honor makes me feel like they actually want me there, which is lovely!

This week I also heard back from a similar proposal I made for an adaptation panel at the Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA).  Their national conference is in March and it's in Seattle, plus this particular conference is almost like an academic conference meets a fan convention - so I reeeally wanted to present at this conference.  Well...I'm in!  The panel chair sent such an encouraging email and I'm so looking forward to attending in the Spring.   Here was my PCA/ACA proposal:

“Novel” Media: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Horizontal Adaptation 
 This paper explores the definition of adaptation as a horizontal, formal move by looking at The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  This Emmy-award winning, transmedia retelling of Pride and Prejudice set as a vlog in modern day California—told in “real-time” across platforms including YouTube, Twitter, and Tumblr—provokes questions about our framework for adaptation.  
Until now, most adaptation theory has been defined in the vertical terms of “layering texts” or of “palimpsest.” While the vertical is significant, this paper argues for a definition of adaptation that include the horizontal dimension, that of narrative’s historical continuum.  Bolter and Grusin refer to new media as “refashioned…versions of other media” (Remediation 14). For new media adaptations, they refashion, thereby reclaiming the novels that inspired them.  They repurpose the novel forms of the 18th and 19th centuries, such as fictional autobiographies and epistolary or serialized novels.  This allows us to re-experience both the plot and what was once an emerging, “novel” media. 
Just as Austen’s novel was not only arguing for proto-feminism and against classism but also for the very form of the novel, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not merely making claims about female friendships or stereotyping but that adaptation through transmedia is a valid form, participating in what John Fiske refers to as “culture making” and Robert Stam calls an “ongoing dialogical process.”  As a new avenue for adaptation opens, it sheds light on the horizontal facet of adaptation.
So grateful for every chance I get to dialogue through these intriguing questions.  Here's to many more conversations about Jane Austen :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Lately I've had Ryan Adam's 1989 on repeat.  I've also been working on a chapter for my thesis on The Lizzie Bennet Diaries...

And it hasn't been lost on me that I'm indulging a full-scale adaptation while writing about adaptation.  I love it!

Adaptception!! 

To say that I was in love with you is taking things too far.  So, no, I wasn't in love with you.

But I could have been.

I had almost succeeded in erasing you, unfriended and unfollowed...  But today I slipped on the tee I wore on the last day - not the last day I almost loved you - but the last one I had permission to.  And in the days and days and daze that followed, my greatest tragedy was intangibility, not even having the satisfaction of calling you my ex.  Because that would have justified my pain and excused me from the fake smiles I gave you.
















[probably to be continued...]

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Growing out a pixie....

Once upon a time... I was a pixie.
And I loooved being a pixie! 



And yet, for various reasons, I decided to grow out my pixie.

9.20.14

I didn't decide to grow out the pixie until a few months later but here's an example of it near its shortest

12.2

This is about when I decided to let it grow out. 

1.27

2.28

You know... just a "Don't Stop Believing" lip-sync sesh in the car.

3.30

4.22

6.12

7.12

9.1


9.24

10.9

As of yesterday, I've unlocked the "bob with bangs" level and from here I should have an easier time - fewer haircuts interpolated by bang trims. 

The grow-out process hasn't always been easy, but it wasn't so bad that I wouldn't go back to a pixie.  Here are a few tips and tricks I learned along the way:

* A hairstylist you trust is a requirement!  I mean, it should probably be a requirement before getting a pixie.  But you need someone who really knows your long term vision (is it weird that I always have a 1-2 year hair plan?)

* Be prepared to visit said hairstylist often to take care of trouble spots #FightTheMullet

* I grew out one side at a time and it kept me sane!  I probably could have grown it out faster, but I refused to look like a 2008 Beiber!  My pixie had always been asymmetric, so I kept trimming the left side while the right grew out till I could really style it.  That way I could draw attention away from the left as it grew out.

* Color is your friend! Before I started growing out the left side, I had ombré highlights added and they have helped even more than I anticipated!

* A women's multivitamin has improved my overall hair health.  I also added lavender essential oil to my shampoo to help it grow a bit faster. 

* Get experimental with tools and products.  It seemed like I had to slightly adjust my hair routine every 4-5 weeks or so.  And at one point I was blow drying with 3 different round brushes!  My favorite products?  This texturizing spray and a good dry shampoo (preferably Batiste's).  

* To see some more of my "goal hairstyles" along the way, visit my Hair board on Pinterest :) 

* * * * * * *

Dear pixie,
You were good to me.  You helped me be more me.
Thanks you so much for that.
One day, I'll find you again.
Love,
Samara

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Haikus: Epiphany

I know this summer I haven't posted as much as usual.  Due to my job and thesis research, I didn't have as much time for personal writing as I wanted to.  I did find myself jotting down phrases on the go and eventually got the idea to work on a collection of haikus.  I had a lot of fun with this project and it was really fascinating how once I embraced the form, it seems like I started thinking 5-7-5.  I'm not sure if this project is over, but it's time I share these snippets from the past few months.

So, without further adieu, summer 2015 according to Haikus: Epiphany.


* * * * *



Cascadia:
Disillusioned ones
walk on. But the face of God
is a mountainside. 



Staying up the hours the carpool lane is open:
Embrace the night owl 
living within yourself and 
stop harboring guilt.



Post Alley:
I don't remember
the song playing, but I now 
have my alibi 



Flat Rate Boxes:
Can't account for the 
words, tears, everything, but...
"You want your stuff back?" 



Park West:
See the pale half-moon, 
fire-red sun share the sky
and feel my pulse calm. 



Breakfast conversations:
"Girls go to work, too?"
As mothers and execs, but
yes, darling girl, yes.



12805:
Strangers footprints mark
once most-familiar floors,
when home is not home.



Soho, 1.30am:
"What the hell is that?"
Your wedding ring... Brokenness 
I can't help you bear. 



Anticipation:
Oxford isn't a place, 
but an ancient creature made
of heart-beating stones. 



Original Starbucks:
Spain. England. Belgium. 
"No, that wasn't the last one." 
Stroking away fears...



Welcome:
Fresh-faced pixies, once
I was like you, before I 
felt always behind. 



Cœur de la vallée:
Wood smoke.  Unbroke.  Our
star-gazing conversations
ease anxiety. 



Highway 101:
Ever think about
Seattle and recall that
corridor we shared? 



An Erasure from Compline, Book of Common Prayer:
Glory to Father, Son 
Holy Spirit, as it was, 
is, will be. Amen.



Westview:
That moment when they
cry, "I can't believe..." and it's
like vindication. 



Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 1. Year 2.

On repeat:


Sipping: a black & white mocha from the Beanery

First day classes: French 211, Film Noir

Wearing:


Mode of transportation: Bus

Writing: a chapter of my thesis and a proposal for a conference on pop culture

Reading: Double Indemnity (school), Watership Down (pleasure)



Last film I watched: Casablanca

Last tv episode I watched: Gilmore Girls 6x13

Highlight of my day: a friend in French class unexpectedly


Hoping for: a good year

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Nerdy fun fact:

Ok, Star Trek's Lieutenant Uhura is, of course, amazing! 

[Saldana and Nichols]

For a long time, there wasn't a consensus on her first name.  Eventually, it was canonized as Nyoto (which is Swahili for "star").  But!  Originally one of the names considered (and used in some sources) was... Samara!!  This made my nerd heart so happy :)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

This.
This is glorious.
This is outrageous.

They talk about an embarrassment of riches?
We are living it.

I have often thought about how they couldn't even record sound until 138 years ago, 
and yet we walk around with thousands of songs in our pocket.

But this is even more wastefully incredible.
For how many Millenia have humans wondered
what the "dark side of the moon" looks like?

And for us? It's a GIF.


Monday, July 27, 2015

One Wild Life: Soul

Ahead of it's release, Relevant is streaming Gungor's latest album, One Wild Life: Soul. It actually marks the beginning of a trilogy--Soul, Spirit, and Body.  Gungor actually took inspiration from the format of Ryan O'neil's (aka Sleeping at Last) creative style - that of minimal touring or promotion, and spending nearly all of their energy and resources on artistic creation while also restraining themselves to a thematic project.  So, inspired by Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day" and the question it raises, Gungor aims to offer an answer spanning this trilogy of upcoming albums.


Stylistically here, Gungor has opted more for contemporary synths and beats and less for their previous acoustic sound.  Having emerged slowly over their last few albums as a lead vocalist, Lisa Gungor effectively takes the role even more often.  She leads the album's eponymous track and the song leaves breathing space for her soft quotation of Mary Oliver: "what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"  Among others, she leads on the ethereal "Moon Song" and "At Sea" as well as duetting harmonically with Michael on "Light" and "Vapor."  Her maternal presence comes through clearly in "Moon Song" and even more so on "Light," a song dedicated their daughter Lucie (meaning light) who has downs syndrome.  She explains their journey beautifully here and the song reflects the delight with which they parent.  In fact, their recently released music video for the track is comprised entirely of home videos.

The social activist facet of Gungor is overt here in a number of ways.  On first listening to "We are Stronger," I'll admit I found the first half trite.  Even now, I find the peppy "We are better together" rather childish sounding--and yet, the second half of the song is so honestly gripping that I can't skip the track.  Here, they use the bridge to whisper-sing over a choral arrangement:
Every black life matters
Every woman matters
Every soldier matters
All the unborn matter
Every gay life matters
Fundamentalists matter
Here's to life and all it's branches
They finesse these ideals further on the later track "Us For Them." Both a beautiful treatise on breaking down divisions as well as a response to last year's backlash against Gungor because (gasp!) they shared they weren't convinced by Young Earth Creationism.  Reminiscent of U2's "there is no them, there's only us" ("Invisible"), this unifying, anthemic piece affirms:
We will not fight their wars,
We will not fall in line
'Cause when it's us or them,
It's us for them
We reject the either/or
They can't define us anymore
'Cause when it's us or them,
It's us for them...
These types of moments are certainly not new for Gungor (see "God is not a White Man"), but as they've become both more artistically nuanced and more lyrically frank, they appear to echo the frustrations many younger adults have with the current state of the Evangelical Church, but they move past defiance into much broader questions.

Their eerily beautiful "Am I"--an apparent inversion of YHWH's name, to which it finally resolves--haunts with both philosophically and personally familiar questions.  It echoes many of the statement's of "I am Mountain" in obverse as questions (e.g. "am I the stars?").  He seems to constrain a scream asking "am I a dream? am I memory?" before turning falsetto to ask "am I awake? am I okay?" The song is one that could appear simple but is, in actuality, fundamental.

Although often wrestling with millenial frustrations or metaphysical questions, they also reach for the soul's true home.  Many songs touch on the mythic or mystic - as the "here's to life and all it's branches" recalls Axis Mundi.  In "Land of the Living," a cover of Matthew Perryman Jones' 2012 single from an album of the same name, they draw in all sort's of imagery of the Promised Land.

The album's finale, "Vapor," matches the sacred finishing touches to their previous two studio albums--"Every Breath" on 2011's Ghosts upon the Earth (which happens to be one of my iTunes Library's 25 most played) and "Upside Down" from 2013's I am Mountain.  Like most of the album, this song circles the holiness of the Divine and erstwhile thinness of life this side of the veil--"the vapor of it all... the beauty of it all..."--to conclude in the marriage of Creator and creation:
Come like dawn
like grace
like sunlight
Bring this world to life
Come like rain
like breath
like springtime
Bring this world to life...





One Wild Life: Soul will be available on August 7th.  
You can read some of my thoughts on Ghosts upon the Earth here or I am Mountain here and here.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Pride and Prejudice joins Twitter"

I've had a second paper accepted to a conference!  This November I'll get to present on the "Comparative Media" panel for the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association in Portland.  This is an exciting move for me as the audience will be made up of both grad students and professors from around the western region.  Here's the proposal:


Pride and Prejudice joins Twitter: Transmedia Adaptation on a Narrative Continuum

This paper explores The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a transmedia retelling of Pride and Prejudice set as a vlog in modern day California.  Across platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest, this Emmy-award winning web series spent a year reworking the 200-year-old novel in “real-time.”  While the creators simply update certain aspects for the 21st century—Mr. Bingley is now Bing Lee—other concerns are completely reinterpreted—the Bennet’s entailed estate is now a faulty mortgage; Collins “proposal” is for a job, not a marriage.  Enabling and encouraging audience members to interact with the story through multiple modalities, this transmedia adaptation provokes questions about its relationship to the source material.  While it can be read vertically as palimpsest, a retelling layered on top of the original, might we also consider the transmedia web series as part of storytelling’s historical continuum?  Do the novel and web series share more than a familiar narrative arc and a handful of characters? 
 In the historical moment of their emergence, both of the novel and the transmedia adaptation have been discounted for reasons such as the demographics of those participating, its reproducibility, their creators being perceived as amateurs, etc.  In her landmark Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon discusses the constructed strata of high and low culture revealing the economic arguments attached when she says, “we tend to reserve our negatively judgmental rhetoric for popular culture, as if it is more tainted with capitalism than high art” (31).  As an example, she notes academia’s tendency to deride the commercial-driven choices of a blockbuster, often ignoring that Shakespeare made similarly calculated artistic moves based on economic principals.  In a similar vein, some scholars may overlook a web series adaptation because it seems “tainted” by the enthusiasm of teenage girls, the advertising that funds it, the commonality of its chosen platforms, or a myriad of other “low culture” tags.    
However, my paper suggests that exploring these social conditions highlights The Lizzie Bennet Diaries as not only an adaptation of plot, character, and setting, but of the historical emergence of a narrative form.   Just as Austen’s novel was not only arguing for proto-feminism and against classism but also for the very form of the novel, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is not merely making claims about female friendships or stereotyping but that adaptation through transmedia is a valid form, participating in what John Fiske refers to as “culture making” and Robert Stam calls an “ongoing dialogical process.”  By placing the interactive web series on a continuum, we recover the emerging status the novel held in the past and are also able to look forward at part of the burgeoning future of narrative form thanks to new media.


I'm in the throes of research and have had some setbacks, but I am really excited to tackle the LBD from the angles of high/low-culture arguments, adaptation of form, and the question of interpreting it vertically/horizontally...  I don't have many conclusions yet, but a lot of intriguing questions!  

And now... back to the work in front of me. :)