Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mad Men Website

I launched my new website last night. I made it using free templates from I chose to create it as part of an assignment for Culture, Media studies. It was a really fun, interesting experience. I found some intriguing information on Madmen too while I was researching. Jump Cut has published a fantastic essay by Mark Taylor.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Peeking behind the veil of appropriation.

'Jai Ho (You are my destiny)' performed by Pussycat Dolls. Music video by A.R. Rahman.

A.R. Rahman is one of India's most successful composer/performers. He syncretizes Western classical with Hindustani and Carnatic music to invent new styles for film scores. A.R. Rahman wrote the song 'Jai Ho' for the film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). It became a huge hit and won an Academy Award in 2009 for Best original song.

"Jai Ho" is a Hindi word that means 'May you be victorious.' The song was given a new interpretation when it was given English lyrics and released by the Pussycat Dolls on February 23, 2009. This version was titled Jai Ho (You are my destiny). It occupied number one on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart from April 27 - May 10, 2009. The music video was shot at a tramway Museum in Vienna, Austria and is directed by Thomas Kloss. It is inspired by the final scene from Slumdog Millionaire.

The fan activity with this music video has been extensive and varied. From cultural dance performances....
Choreographed dance,
Fitness routines,
Alternative film with superimposed lyrics,
to VJ Remixes
and DJ Remixes.

Matt Hills argues that the 'use-value' and 'exchange value' of an object can never be fully separated from one another. Even though fans appear to find new uses for a text that appear to depart from commercial value; these new forms can always be converted back to an item of exchange value.(35)

Many fans seem to be aware of this possibility. Many of the videos above are an advertisement for the fan's services - as a DJ, VJ, Choreographer, Dancer or Fitness Instructor. Some of them even display the fan's email address. This means that fan activity cannot be classified as a binary of commercial or utopian. It is fluid and can move between the two at any time.

It's also interesting to note that Jai Ho (You are my destiny) is an appropriation of the original song by A.R. Rahman. The fan activity further emphasizes the simulacrum effect. The issue of copyright infringement regarding fan activity was discussed in Tuesdays tutorial. The abovementioned videos illustrate one of the questions that arose from this discussion "Where is the boundary of copyright infringement?"

Matt Hills, "Fan Cultures Between Consumerism and 'Resistance'," in Fan Cultures. London: Routledge, 2002, pp.27-45.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Farmville phenomenon

Jon Swartz (USA Today online) reports on the rising popularity of game applications on social networking sites like Facebook, Myspace and Bebo. Farmville created by Zynga has 56 million monthly users. Social gaming is a fast growing market and appears to be successful because people like to be social while playing games.

Games generate profit by selling virtual goods to upgrade the players experience. They also make money by selling advertising space. Zynga's most recent game Cafeworld attracted 10 million users in a week.

Virginia Nightingale argues that the internet is becoming increasingly popular as a place to socialise and form identity (303). People used to get together in their homes or a public place to play games. Now an individual can play a game for 5-10 minutes anytime, anywhere. I find it reassuring that even with the rise of networked individualism people still like to be social.

Reference: New Media Worlds. Ed. Virginia Nightingale and Tim Dwyer. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Buddhist Artefacts in Chinese history

The introduction and acceptance of Buddhism into China was a long and complex process. It is difficult to piece together history by the remnants left behind. All the people who lived in those periods are dead. They can’t talk to us today about what their life was like. The artefacts they left behind are a valuable source of knowledge because they carry the voices of these people. This essay intends to investigate firstly to what extent social and religious information can be gleaned from four Chinese artefacts. Secondly it will examine why a diversity of effigies of the Buddha and Guanyin developed over time and distance.
China was in political turmoil from approx 200-600 C.E. consequently many local kings embraced Buddhism hoping it would increase their power. Many of them preferred it because it was a new, foreign religion. The kings built monasteries and paid scholars to translate Buddhist texts from Sanskrit to Chinese. By 400C.E. the amount of Buddhist texts in China had vastly increased (Hansen 153-170).
Gandharan Buddha in meditation (78 – 200 C.E.) is a small Buddha figure, 39.4cm high, carved from schist (metamorphic rock). The sculpture looks like a monk sitting in meditation pose with a halo behind him (Pang 98). The sculpture could have been used for Buddhist practise by the foreign traders that lived in the capital of China, Luoyang, in the 1st century C.E. They were some of the first Buddhists in China. Alternately they could have intended to sell it to wealthy Chinese Buddhists living in the capital. During the 2nd and 3rd centuries C.E. many Chinese began to pray to Buddha as well as the Daoist deity Laozi (Hansen 155).
Buddhism had been entwined with trade from its commencement. In India Buddha (ca. 500 B.C.E) relied on donations from Merchants to help Buddhism thrive. Monasteries and Buddhist missionaries received funds from rich businessmen who expected protection and merit in return. China’s superior quality of silk led to a lot of trade with India via the silk route. India offered semi-precious gems and glass in return. Trade from the silk road supported Buddhist clergy therefore lay people were encouraged to give silk, gems, glass and semi precious stones to the Buddha. (Hansen 155-175).

Seven treasures was the traditional term for the accessories of a ruler in India. By the third century C.E. this idea had evolved to include semi precious stones and metals (Hansen 173). Tibeto-Chinese Avalokitesvara (17th – 18th century) is a 115cm high gold coloured statue set with multi coloured stones and is described to have held Buddhist symbols, now missing. (Pang 102). These characteristics are reminiscent of the seven treasures myth that developed in China (Hansen 173). This statue looks like a young man sprouting many heads and arms. It illustrates a story from Indian tantric Buddhist scripture that was translated in China during the Tang dynasty (Chun-fang Yu 155). The myth explains claims that the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara grew many heads and hands in an empathetic reaction to people’s misery (Pang 102).
Bodhisattvas accompanied living beings to enlightenment and were seen as helpers of the Buddha. They were spiritual beings who could change form as necessary to help living beings. (Paul 247). Avalokitesvara was depicted as a prince in India (Chun-fang Yu 150).

Chinese Guanyin (1115 – 1234 C.E.) is a sculpture made from wood that represents Avalokitesvara dressed in a prince’s costume. The sculpture would have been decorated in gold and bright colours. His face has Chinese features (Pang 97). The name Guanyin comes from the Chinese translation of Avalokitesvara, Kuan-Yin, which means looking at the sounds [of living beings]. Avalokitesvara was famous for being compassionate to all who needed his help. Many people prayed to him in the face of sickness, natural disaster or crime. (Paul 249). Pang indicates this sculpture was used in a Chinese Buddhist temple as a means of bringing followers closer to the sacred (97).
Sculptures and paintings were an important way of communicating the meaning of Buddhist texts to people who couldn’t read. Lay people were also encouraged to print multiple images and texts of the Buddha or Guanyin in order to have their prayers answered by these deities. In turn this media helped to shape and reinforce new myths. Quite often people would claim to have seen a vision of the bodhisattva Guanyin and the vision they described would be similar to images being produced at that time. Wealthy men or kings would claim to have seen Guanyin in a dream or vision. They would then fund a temple to be built. Lay people would tell tales of miracles that happened at the site. The influence of Guanyin would grow. The temple would become a pilgrimage centre and attract even more pilgrims (Chun-fang Yu 171).
The bodhisattva Avalokitesvara underwent many changes in myth and iconography as part of the process of becoming admitted into Chinese culture. The most striking transformation was change of gender. White-robed Guanyin was a local Chinese adaptation of the bodhisattva who grew in popularity during the Song dynasty (960-1279). She was seen as a fertility goddess and had many indigenous texts written about her power to give children or an heir to childless couples. Guanyin in white robes began to be seen on the island of Putuo, off the coast of Zhejiang from the twelfth century onwards. Tales had grown about her being sighted on the island since 1080. Putuo was perceived to be the Chinese equivalent of the scriptural version of the home of Avalokitesvara, an island south of India named Potalaka. This version of Guanyin became known as ‘Guanyin of the South Sea’. The different versions of Guanyin didn’t create any problems and instead served to reinforce each other (Chun-fang Yu 156-172).
Paintings featuring Guanyin with water and moon were increasingly made by Chan artists after the Song dynasty. The moon and water are Buddhist symbols for the intangibility of the material world. However there is no connection between Guanyin and these symbols in any Buddhist scripture. Chun-fang Yu argues that Chinese artists created this concept and made it popular through widespread copying of paintings in the 8th and 9th centuries. (156-157).

Chinese White-robed Guanyin in a landscape (14th century) is an example of this sinicisation of Guanyin. It’s a painting of a feminine Guanyin seated in meditation pose on a rocky ledge with a pine tree in the landscape above her. The sea swirls below her. She is enveloped by the moon. There is written text praising Guanyin in the top left corner added by the monk Huiming (1316 – 1386). He was abbot (1378 – 1386) of a Chan Buddhist temple in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. This banner could have been part of the art promoting pilgrimage related to Guanyin of the South Sea because the temple that housed it was located in the province of Zhejiang, close to the island of Putuo. The sea in the painting indicates Guanyin could be on the island of Putuo (Pang 98).

Scholars still don’t know all the reasons why Guanyin changed sex in China. A lot of meaning was changed through translation of Buddhist literature from Sanskrit to Chinese (Hansen 161). Buddhism was often adapted to fit in with local deities and traditions (Chun-fang Yu 169). Chun-fang Yu indicates that popular texts were transcribed from Buddhist scriptures. These were then relayed as folk tales by Chinese people (155-175). This could have contributed to constantly changing artwork which served to advertise these myths.
In summary Buddhism has gone through a long and varied process of sinicisation as part of being accepted into China. Buddhist artefacts are able to contribute a great deal of knowledge about the social and religious practices that were part of this process. Representations of the Buddha and Guanyin varied greatly over this time due to adaption and translation of Buddhist texts. Wealthy men or kings helped with the establishment of Buddhism and also influenced the versions of Buddha and Guanyin that were represented. Buddhism adapted to China successfully.
Works Cited
Chun-fang Yu. “Guanyin: The Chinese Transformation of Avalokiteshvara.” Latter days of the law: images of Chinese Buddhism 850-1850. Ed. Marsha Weidner. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994. 150-183.
Hansen, Valerie. The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. 153-177.
Mae Anna Pang, Asian art in the international collections of the National Gallery of Victoria. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 2003.
Paul, Diana Y. Women in Buddhism: Images of the Feminine in the Mahayana Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. 
Buddha, Kushan period 2nd century BCE-3rd century CE , Gandharan, National Gallery of Victoria.
Avalokiteshvara, (17th century-18th century) Tibeto Chinese, National Gallery of Victoria.
Guanyin, Jin dynasty 1115-1234, Chinese, National Gallery of Victoria.
White robed Guanyin in a landscape, (early 14th century), Chinese, National Gallery of Victoria.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Youth Subcultures

Yeltsin's Dream. Digital photograph by Brandon Muir.

Bran is a blog by Brandon Muir, a young Canadian electrician who makes digital pop-art and music in his spare time. His band is called The Lou Diamond Philharmonic. His digital art is interesting because it combines different stars, political figures and other symbols to make ironic and funny statements. Its a great way of playing with semiotics. Newspaper and magazine collage was made by the Dada artists in 1920s Germany to make political statements.

Mark Paterson describes the consumer paradox of innovation and trend setting as more evident in youth subcultures.(57) The Bran blog could be an example of this idea. It is not reliant on the purchase of branded goods and commodities to form an identity. Alternatively it is commenting on mass production and mass consumption of media.

Reference: Paterson, Mark. "Consumption and Identity: Manufacturing Choice." Consumption and Everyday Life. New York and London: Routledge, 2006. pp. 36-57

Monday, October 12, 2009

Island Lifestyle

Guyana Eco Resort.

While reading The Age newspaper online today 11/10/09 I noticed an ad in the lifestyle section for a competition to win a holiday in Borneo. Offered by The Age and Preferred Boutique the details of the prize are a week for two people staying at two resorts, Gayana Eco resort and Bunga Raya Island Resort and Spa. The trip is inclusive of return flights and $2000 spending money.

There was a tiny photo of each resort accompanied by a short description highlighting their best features, overwater villas, views of Mt Kinabalu, marine ecology research centre, virgin jungle, coral reef, hilltop spa etc.

I clicked onto their respective websites which looked attractive with beautiful photographs of the island and interior shots of the villas that looked like 5 star hotel rooms. I looked at the underwater photos of fish that you could see on the diving activities. It looked like paradise, a fantasy world of luxury and relaxation. I decided to do some research into these resorts and the island they inhabit named ‘Palau Gaya’.

After much searching I could not identify which company owns these resorts. The two resorts are both members of ‘Preferred Boutique Hotel Group’ which is a Chicago based global partner to 700 independent hotels. “Preferred Hotels’ offers sales and marketing benefits, group purchasing savings of hotel items (from Coca-cola, Sony, American Express etc) and quality assurance. Preferred Hotels run a program called GIFTTS: (Great Initiatives for Today’s (Tomorrow’s) Society. The GIFTTS program is supposed to recognize philanthropic deeds that benefit the local community performed by member hotels. Both the Gayana and Bunga Raya resorts were not mentioned here.

The internet has helped tourism become one of the worlds largest export services and e-tourism is a fast growing niche market. Many tourists want to stay in a resort that isn’t harming the environment. However I would also like to know that these resorts are contributing to the development of the local economy. Are hotel staff being paid decently or low wages? Are most of a hotels profits being siphoned out of the country?

Lonely Planet Borneo (online 2008) states that the bays on the east end of the Palau Gaya island are inhabited by villages of legal and illegal immigrants who are ignored by the Government. Poverty, pollution and crime is present.

Palau Gaya Immigrant Dwellings. source:Wikipedia

They also report that the Gayana resort “feels strangely abandoned…..considering the few guests who visit.”

A comment in the Kinabalu Blog by Murphy (online 2008) complains about the steep hike in fares to access the island.

In year 2006, I did a jungle trekking on Gaya Island. I only needed to pay the ferry ticket, and a RM3 conservation levy ticket for Sabah Parks, nothing else.Later I heard a company (PKM if I am not mistaken), which has many contracts with government, took over the management of the Gayana Resort.

Ok, last month I wanted to do the same thing again. They forced me to buy a RM50 lunch package otherwise they wouldn’t allow me. If include the RM20 ferry ticket, I have to pay RM70++ just to walk in the jungle! And the Gaya villagers, who contribute garbage to our sea, can roam freely on the island!

It is such a rip off, not only to me, but to the locals as well. I was so angry that I even thought of removing my “promotion” blog for Gayana. Well, how many more I should remove? Many good tourism spots are controlled by private companies who only care about making $. Without doubt, if SSL can make Mount Kinabalu their private mountain, like how PKM makes Gayana their private island, they will not hesitate to do so. Sad huh..

So the lifestyle being advertised for these resorts is a lifestyle that is only available to a select group – wealthy people. Poor and working class local people and travellers are excluded from using the island. Both Resorts don’t appear to be putting any profits toward local philanthropy that benefit people in need. Gayana Eco Resort claim they do active restoration of coral reef and fish species. This marketing reflects a growing trend away from what Celia Lury calls ‘Greed is good’ selfish consumerism of the 1980s towards ‘green politics’ (1996).

However I’d like to see a more holistic approach from e-tourism, shifting the focus from nature to include more actions of social responsibility to humanity at the local level.

Lury, Celia. “Consumer Culture, Identity and Politics.” Consumer Culture. Cambridge: Polity, 1996.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The film Repulsion (1965) directed by Roman Polanski contains influences of German expressionism and surrealism. This can be observed in various elements of mise-en-scene. These effects combine to produce a film that provokes a stream of unconscious thoughts in the viewer. To illustrate this I will attempt an analysis of a scene that occurs towards the end of the film, after the main character Carol (Catherine Deneuve) has committed two acts of murder.

The scene begins with Carol writing on a glass pane with a nail. The camera films her from the other side of the glass. She smiles and mouths the words she is writing while the nail squeaks. She stands up and it is revealed that she is standing at the French doors of the living room.

The camera moves behind her as she enters the living room. Music begins. The room appears hugely cavernous. It’s very dark. The only light comes from two windows. It appears to be night time because light shines from the windows in the opposite flats. Thick shafts of light paint horizontal lines along the ceiling and floor.

There is debris on the floor and an upturned couch in the centre of the room. Carol walks toward it and back and then turns around on the spot three times. The camera moves down to shoot her from the floor and the light shade and ceiling rose come into view looking like a two dimensional baroque drawing.

Carol stops and stares out at the hallway, walks back out of the living room to the hall and stands facing the wall. Her blonde hair and pale skin are luminescent. Suddenly there is a clash of cymbals as two pairs of hands seem to burst out through the wall towards her. The wall appears to stretch like a balloon.

Carol jumps in fright and the next shot shows her trying to walk and crawl down the hallway in silhouette while lots of hands reach from both sides grasping at her body, face and hair. The drums and piano play a grim marching tune while the cymbals keep loudly clashing.

This sound continues as the film then cuts to a shot of her lying on her sister’s newspaper covered bed staring up into the camera as it zooms down to a close-up of her face.

There is a cut to the directly opposite angle where the camera has her profile in the right hand side of the shot while it is also aligned with her gaze up to the ceiling. The camera appears to dolly up to the ceiling while keeping her profile in the shot. This conveys the effect of her floating up to the light shade and ceiling rose. The patterns made by the light on the ceiling blur and dissolve.

This scene is shot in a style that is infused with elements of German expressionism. Expressionism began in the nineteenth century and was influenced in Germany by a Nordic view of the world as a dark, depressing place. It also contained ideas of German anthromorphism – that objects took on human traits. (Titford 22) German expressionist cinema began in Germany in the early twentieth century. ( Titford 17) The main characteristics of it were gothic horror narrative, claustrophobic and geometrically distorted sets; extreme contrast of black and white and the use of shadow. German expressionist directors portrayed the city as a hostile, evil place which gave its residents feelings of gloom and entrapment. (Titford 21)

The directors used mise en scene to add depth to the narratives in their films, particularly before the addition of sound in the 1930s. One element of mise en scene used was juxtaposition within the frame. This was created by a defined contrast of light and dark areas. Polanski has incorporated these elements into Repulsion by most importantly filming it in black and white. In this scene Carol’s white skin, hair and costume is contrasted with the dark, poorly lit spaces of the flat. The lighting (and lack of it) is emphasised. This use of light also appears to give the film a painterly effect. In this scene the whole set appears to be two dimensional as line and shape are emphasised in the ceiling roses and light shades, the walls seem to melt and merge and the furniture takes on a cartoon - like appearance.

Another element of mise-en-scene used by German expressionist directors was shadows. German and Scandinavian folktales often included the Dammerung – a world created by twilight in which objects could suddenly spring to life. (Titford 21) The flat with its low lighting and large patches of darkness appears to be a strange reality where the objects inside it and the building itself become eerily alive. Polanski uses a lot of shadow in the rooms and hall as well as the shadows on the ceiling cast by the light shades in the living room and bedroom. This gives a visual effect of shapes merging from the darkness, of the shadows becoming alive.

All the scenes inside the flat were shot in a specially made studio set. ( Butler 75) Polanski said “What I like is an extremely realistic setting in which there is something that does not fit with the real. This is what gives it an atmosphere.”(Butler 179) He had the living room and the bathroom reconstructed on a much larger scale for the later scenes. (Butler 76) This gives the audience the effect of seeing the room from Carol’s personal perspective. It is an attempt to show a character’s subjective reality on film. Representation of the subjective experience as art was one of the primary aims of Expressionism. It is interesting to note that the two rooms that were reconstructed at this point in the movie both contained dead bodies. Polanski could also have been trying to represent the audience’s changed view of the room based upon the knowledge it contains a cadaver. Carl Dreyer, the director of Vampyr (1932) stated

“Imagine that we are in a very ordinary room, and that someone suddenly tells us that a dead body is behind the door. Immediately, the room in which we find ourselves becomes totally transformed; everything in it takes on a different appearance. The light and the atmosphere will seem to change, though they remain physically unaltered. All this will come about because we shall have changed, and objects are what we conceive them to be.”

(qtd. in Titford 20)

Somnambulists, vampires and zombies were frequent characters in German expressionist films. ( Butler Horror in the cinema 19-27) Their purpose served to invert the relationship between human and object. Humans were portrayed as dead (objects) while objects were animated with life through the use of light, shadow and close-up shots. The purpose of these actions was to create a paradox in the mind of the audience that made them see the film (a dead object) as imbued with life. (Titford 20) Carol appears to be almost sleepwalking around the flat. She has very limited expression on her face and doesn’t speak in this scene. She has an extremely attractive doll-like face. She looks like a mannequin.

Conversely the flat (an object) becomes more life-like. Hands are shown reaching out from the walls in the corridor, first as a shocking surprise and then in a shot of Carol walking down the hallway. The hallway appears to become like a person or group of people through the appearance of multiple hands emerging from its walls. This dreamlike image is also reminiscent of surrealism.

Polanski indicated that he was influenced by surrealism in his film making. (Butler 175) Surrealist cinema used the technique of juxtaposition to achieve a reaction of astonishment in the viewer. (Lyon 45) This technique was aimed at jolting the viewer into their unconscious mind which would then blend with the conscious images in the film. (Butler 175) The hands bursting out of the wall is a juxtaposition of two separate realities – hand (human) and wall (object). It is also introduced suddenly to startle the audience. There is also juxtaposition in the contrast of action, Carol calmly walking around the living room before being brutally confronted with the hands in the corridor. Another juxtaposition is of character, the appearance of an extraordinarily beautiful woman as a murderously insane figure.

The image of Carol writing on glass is also a juxtaposition of two opposing realities. Writing is usually done on a texture with opaque qualities like paper. Both the viewer and Carol can’t see what she is writing. This creates an inversion because Carol’s thoughts are the only repository for her text. Another significance of this image is that surrealists also used automatic writing as a method to gain access to their unconscious thoughts. (Ades 21)

The surrealists also used juxtaposition of sound to jolt perception. (Lyon 47) A strange, yet also almost seductive piece of music accompanies Carol while she wanders around the living room. The music is then joined by the loud clashing of cymbals at the introduction of the hands and as she walks down the hallway. This sound provides continuity between shots as it then accompanies her simulated rise towards the ceiling while she is in her bed. This rising effect is also a juxtaposition of space and movement.

In summary the examined scene uses German expressionist and surrealistic elements of mise-en-scene firstly to give depth to the narrative, secondly to make the film come alive and thirdly to produce an effect that jolts the viewer into the unconscious part of their mind. Matters raised that are beyond the scope of this work but would be worth investigation are themes of expressionism and surrealism in Roman Polanski's body of work. Significantly the analysis of this scene highlights its depth of production and meaning. Repulsion is a richly layered work of art and imagination.

Works Cited


Ades, Dawn. “Surrealism as Art.” Surrealism: Revolution by Night .exhibition catalogue.Canberra: National Gallery of Australia.1993.

Butler, Ivan. The cinema of Roman Polanski. New York: A. S. Barnes & co. 1970.

Butler, Ivan. Horror in the cinema. New York: A. S. Barnes & co. 1970.


Lyon, Elizabeth. H. “ Luis Bunuel: The process of dissociation in three films.” Cinema Journal Vol 13 No 1 (Autumn 1973): 45-48.

Titford, John. S. “Object-Subject relationships in German expressionist cinema.” Cinema Journal Vol 13 No 1 (Autumn 1973): 17-24.


Repulsion. Dir. Roman Polanski. Perf. Catherine Deneuve, Yvonne Furneax, John Fraser and Michael Hendry. Compton-Cameo, 1965.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Speaking at Cate Kennedy's (pictured left) launch for The World Beneath last Tuesday Shane Howard mentioned the misdirection of funds in the Northern Territory Intervention.

Today I received a notice about a free public lecture on the 5th of October by the Hon. Ron Merkel QC. He will be speaking about the NT Intervention and his experiences of it. I'm going to attend this event.

Friday, September 18, 2009

True Blood

Last night I watched episode four in season two of True Blood. 'True Blood' is a contemporary gothic series created by Alan Ball. Its a comedic, murder - mystery genre set in Bon Temps, Louisiana. The two central characters are a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse played by Anna Paquin and a vampire named Bill Compton played by Stephen Moyer.

John Ellis argues in "Broadcast TV as Cultural Form" (1992) that a TV series consists of connected segments (episodes) that can be viewed with ease at any part of the season. Any newcomer to 'True Blood' would not find it hard to pick up the narrative at any episode.
The characters make lots of statements about their shared history. They also display extremely strong personality traits which helps the viewer to follow plot development. The narrative develops very slowly with not much change between consecutive episodes. Frequent locations are Merlotte's Diner, Sookie's Grandmother's house, Bill's house and Lafayette's house. So each episode is mostly contained within itself.

The only nuclear family theme is heterosexual romance (although the central one is between a human and a vampire). There are hardly ever any children except for extras (background actors). Most of the women have jobs while some of the men don't have jobs, especially the vampires.

There is a juxtaposition of characters in that some of them are human and others are mythological creatures (Vampires, Demons, Shapeshifters). Good and evil characters come from both groups. Analogies can be made between the Fellowship of the Sun and evangelist Christian groups. The interesting aspect to this show is that it takes basic icons for good and evil - religion and vampires and inverts them. Some vampires and shapeshifters are shown displaying acts of mercy, kindness and love while the leader of Fellowship of the Sun is a power-hungry warmonger.

John Ellis, "Broadcast TV as Cultural Form." Visible Fictions: Cinema, Television, Video.Revised ed. London and New York: Routledge, 1992.

Website: Information archive for the HBO tv series. Available at:

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I was hypnotised by this photo on ! (Click on it to see the whole photo) It's a clever use of two extremely well known icons - 'Madonna' and 'the Louis Vuitton bag'. Madonna is known for her ironic use of cultural icons e.g. Madonna - the name of the virgin mother in christian and catholic religion; Marilyn Monroe's blond hair color and wardrobe, and her universally known nickname 'The Material Girl'.

The Louis Vuitton bag is also universally recognised as a material symbol of wealth and feminine glamour.This style of photographic lighting and color blend the two seamlessly into an image that connotes "Hey! Its ok to keep spending because aren't we all material beings in a material world first and foremost?" I think this advertisement could also be aimed at older women with a large disposable income.

She looks absolutely beautiful in this photo shoot for W magazine.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Satine October Dane Concert à Emporter

Satine October Dane Concert à Emporter
Uploaded by lablogotheque. - See the latest featured music videos.

One of my fellow students brought a site named La Blogotheque to my attention. Its made by a frenchman named Vincent Moon and features video of musicians performing in all sorts of unusual locations. The resulting footage has a live energy that is uplifting and charming. I like hearing groups I would not normally be exposed to. This clip is one of my favourites because I like the rooftop view and Satine's voice is mesmerising.

I really like this site and I probably wouldn't have found it myself. I like the way blogging can act as a tour group of the internet. Multiple users can share their experience about a topic and maybe help to eliminate time spent researching it. The great advantage of participating in the Cultureblog is that "social and aesthetic domains can overlap". (Haney 39) This can be very helpful particularly in the study of popular culture through an increased sharing of knowledge and ideas.

Reference: Haney, William. S. II. "Beckett out of his mind: The theatre of the absurd". Studies in the Literary Imagination. Vol 34, Issue 2, 2001. p 39(16)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Informers

'The Informers' based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis is an addictive movie. Its unresolved ending left me wanting more. Themes of nihilism, sexual hedonism and the superficial glitter of youth and wealth run through several different stories set in Los Angeles to a 1980s soundtrack. The bland boredom of the leisure class is contrasted with the sheer desperation and abuse of the working poor. The excess of the Reagan era is dampened by the arrival of the HIV virus and somehow sex will never be the same again.

Easton Ellis has an eye for detail and a sensitivity to the human condition. His stories illustrate the frailty and faults that come with being human. Even though most of his bored rich kid characters are loathsome at times they all seem quite sad too.
From a formalist perspective the film appears glossy and bright with L.A. sunshine; scratch beneath the surface though and you're confronted with some repulsive, horrific truths.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lyle the intern legend

Lyle makes blogging seem easy and fun by using a videocamera to record entries. I really like his humor, it seems spontaneous and ad libbed. He appears totally in the moment and wonderfully wacky. His content is refreshingly original and dangerously out there!I was shocked when I saw him do this skit on the Letterman show a month ago. He made me want to do a videoblog!
He also did a skit about his internet show. both of these skits poke fun at public creation of internet media.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Different ways of thinking

I've been reading 'A Confucian Perspective on Learning to be Human' by Tu Wei Ming (1985) for the subject 'Understanding Asia'. It explains the Confucian 'faith'. The Confucian scholar or ju is similar to a modern day scholar in the humanities. However they are also engaged with the community and interested in the well-being of humanity.

"This critical self-awareness, informed by one's openess to an ever expanding circle of human relatedness, is the authentic access to one's proper destiny." (Tu Wei-Ming p.63)

Its liberating to learn about other religions and philosophies that are so different to a western, christian tradition. It will be interesting to see the effects on the media that come from China's growing economic power.

Reference: Tu Wei-Ming, " A Confucian Perspective on Learning to be Human", Confucian Thought: Selfhood as Creative Transformation, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985, p. 67-80.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Daguerreotype

Fig. 1 Two girls looking at a picture book 1850-55

Fig. 2 Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, 1844

Last semester Ryan Johnston gave a lecture about the history of photography for the subject Modern Art - the politics of the new. It was really interesting to hear about the development of photography over the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ryan indicated that photography is essentially a modern art form. From the Renaissance artists have used the camera obscura and photography was invented simultaneously in many countries in the 1800 – 1820s. (Johnston 2009)

In 1839 Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (1787–1851) (Fig. 2) presented his invention of an early type of photography which he named the daguerreotype to the French Academy of Sciences. It was a method that used a large box camera, to expose an image to a silver plated sheet of copper that had been treated with iodine. It was then developed with mercury and fixed with salt. Only one copy was produced and this was a very fragile method. (Met Museum of Art, Online)

The Metropolitan Museum of Arts website has a section devoted to their exhibition titled ‘The Dawn of Photography: French Daguerreotypes, 1839–1855’. You can view images from the exhibition as well as a computer animation of the daguerreotype process. Viewing the images evoked the sense of travelling back in time to see people and places that no longer exist. This is part of the magic of photography.

I chose to decorate my blog page with an image from this exhibition (Two girls looking at a picture book 1850-55) (Fig. 1) because I like the look of this method of photography. I like the image of children reading a picture book. Its astounding how far media has advanced since this period.


Fig.1. Unknown artist
Two Girls Looking at a Picture Book, ca. 1850-55
Daguerreotype; 19.1 x 15.2 cm (7 1/2 x 6 in.)
Département des Estampes et de la Photographie, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Fig. 2. Jean-Baptiste Sabatier-Blot (French, 1801-1881)
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, 1844
Daguerreotype; 14.3 x 11.7 cm (5 5/8 x 4 5/8 in.)
George Eastman House, Rochester

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Website. Available from:

Johnston, Ryan, “Photography and Modernism” Lecture, University of Melbourne. Parkville. 26 March 2009.