30 December 2015

Finding an Identity Amid Total Spiritual Entrapment

In Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, Chihiro Ogino (Daveigh Chase, the English voice actor) ventures inescapably into the nearby world of spirits—her parents stolen from her and transformed into pigs before her eyes—and strives to take back her family, and her own rediscovered and reformed identity, in the midst of all of the madness.

On her family's move to a new town, while Chihiro wishes only for a level of control within her newly hectic life, her parents insist upon exploring the area, soon destined to fall into a trap of the spirits, by devouring someone else's well prepared meal in a seemingly abandoned amusement park. Left alone with her new mentor, Haku (Jason Marsden, the English voice actor), who pushes her to assimilate into the local bathhouse, the home of the local spirits, Chihiro hopes only to return with her parents.

29 December 2015

"Cheese and Ham Panini #LivingTheDream": A Look at Frank

Leonard Abrahamson's Frank illustrates the mundane realities to which much of fringe artistry is condemned, channeling the often unfocused creative tendencies of a nearly incomprehensible rock band in its exploration of their months of recording sessions—locked away in a remote home within an unending forest—and of their adverse journey from Ireland to Austin, Texas, for the South by Southwest music festival.

Indeed, Frank is a notation of the repercussions of seemingly unresolvable rifts among differing powerful creative forces when forced together for too long.

28 December 2015

Blue Ruin, a Review

A story of grief, revenge, and insecurity, Blue Ruin—written, directed, and photographed by Jeremy Saulnier—illustrates the treacherous journey of a man hoping to dispatch the perpetrators of his wronged past.

The protagonist, Dwight (Macon Blair), after years of residence within a shoddy car adjacent to an aged boardwalk, upon hearing from a local police officer that the murderer of his parents is due to be released, begins his multi-state trek to discover the killer, Wade Cleland, Jr. (Sandy Barnett), and exact revenge.

It is only after their bloody confrontation, though, in which Dwight stabs Wade, leaving him to die as he steals his car to escape, that the crux of the irony of this film begins to take hold: While it is solely because of the decades-old double-murder that Dwight initially attempts to seek revenge, the remainder of the film details the—only questionably justifiable—continued streak of bloody vengeance between the two families, tolling life by life for the sake of their lost ones.

23 December 2015

Art and Activism: A Purpose, A Medium, and a Hope for Change

Many believe that art, merely by its existence and its aesthetic value, inherently portrays a specific ideology. However, it may be most realistic to contend that art, throughout time, has served as a medium for expression, rather than manifesting within itself a belief system standardized among all elements of the discipline. Indeed, art exists as an opportunity for the artist to portray her own ideologies and her own opinions, and, provided she attracts an actively engaged audience, potentially provide the informational or emotional importance in effecting positive change to the problems the art addresses. <1> Moreover, art can encompass both wishes for pacifism and the like for militaristic engagement, among other ideas—the ideology it may portray cannot be limited in direction by the medium itself. Rather, art preaches empathy to those who grapple with it, fostering the beginnings of emotional understanding across boundaries that differ from portrait to portrait but nonetheless exist among all artistic works, while simultaneously pushing its viewers to yearn and to search for a greater solution to the problems it addresses. If the power of empathy for those struggling with new, different, and unique challenges may direct an audience to ameliorate the hardships of the other, brought to the viewer’s eyes via the art itself, however, the intent of the author effectively suffers from the strain of mortality, as the only aspect of the artistic piece that lives beyond its own production is the viewer’s actions after engaging with the work. The activist ideology of any work is ultimately the stream of meaning stringing across the audience’s forthcoming actions, the light streaming from the portrait, penetrating the viewers’ eyes, that encourages the diligent spectators to witness the weeping women of another world and care for them, fight their oppressors, or stand idly by the interpersonal torture. Ultimately, a reading of Virginia Woolf’s Three Guineas, combined with contemporaneous visual art, suggests that art’s usage, the historical contexts of its societal impact and its post-production employment in pushing for positive change to the problems it addresses—rather than merely its existence—encapsulates its power for activism in whichever direction its audience, after grappling with the work, decides.

Langston Hughes and Pragmatic Pacifism

In both his dispatches in the Spanish Civil War and his contemporaneous poetry of life in Black America, Langston Hughes brings forth, into the larger conversation of peace, justice, and human rights studies, a methodology that I call “pragmatic pacifism,” which imagines positive peace as a goal, while sustaining negative pacifist policy in the process of attaining that global culture of peace. With his theory, Hughes elevates the conquest of peace to a certainly realistic one, involving ruthlessly destroying foreign fascism, as well as systematically dismantling domestic racism. Given his violent methods for the former, however, it is difficult to declare Hughes a genuine pacifist without understanding his mixed ideologies and relabeling his beliefs under the structure of pragmatic pacifism, a methodology that he actively attempts to leverage in contemporaneous policy. Nevertheless, Hughes presents a novel style of pacifism that employs violent and militant techniques with pacifist motivations to instill a long-lasting culture of equal opportunity, regardless of demographic differences. This innovative technique for pacifism may ultimately be the most effective pacifist stance yet formulated, as it rests upon nonradical governmental changes, without necessitating the elimination of any government structures, such as the military, while simultaneously demanding massive societal reconsiderations, meriting the end of unjustified social practices, such as institutionalized racism.

Die Fotografien: Omitting the Face of Total War to Ignite Pacifism

In her testament to positive peace, pragmatic empathy, and practical distributions of power, Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf captures the essence of the Spanish Civil War and positive, all-inclusive pacifism, all while failing to publish in her text any photograph remotely depicting the violence. In great irony, Woolf fails to include a single photograph of the contemporaneous Spanish terror. Instead, leveraging the inherent power of visuality within her text, she injects, in the midst of her words, five photographs of British men prominent in the international spheres of military and academia, which ultimately serve to expose and highlight amid her argument for peace the traumatic gender-based hierarchy rampaging throughout Great Britain. Thus, in maintaining her firm credence that articulating atrocity through words, rather than strictly visual media, intellectually, instead of animalistically, Woolf charges the world to fight war with peace, injustice with thoughtful care, by scribing her letters with a charred pen, allowing her words to be her only weapons against tyranny, in Western Europe and beyond.