{Guest Post} [Film: After Life, Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998]

The Wonder of Life:

How Hirokazu Koreeda Uses Narrative Techniques to Control his Audience’s Perceptions in After Life

 

(The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of After Life, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film. – The Gemsbok)

 

After Life movie poster - Hirokazu Koreeda - restricted narration, subjectivity, objectivity

Introduction:

The meaning of existence, the value of time, and the nature of life after death are explored in countless forms of cultural production, ranging from novels to advertisements; however, one unique Japanese film called After Life takes its audience into the realm between life and afterlife.

Slated for a one week deadline, twenty-two dead clients are in search of a single memory to carry into eternity while caseworkers reproduce each unique experience onto film. By manipulating the audience’s range and depth of knowledge, director Hirokazu Koreeda successfully enlists mainly restricted and subjective narration to construct the narrative structure of After Life.

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{Guest Post} [Film: After Life, Hirokazu Koreeda, 1998]

The Wonder of Life:

How Hirokazu Koreeda Uses Narrative Techniques to Control his Audience’s Perceptions in After Life

was last modified: August 26th, 2016 by Vivien Le

[Work: A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980]
Peopling Picaresque:

On the Well-drawn Characters of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

 

Introduction:

A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole sketch by M.R.P. - characters, picaresque

Sketch by M.R.P.

The publishing history of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces is a morose one to recount. In 1969, at the age of 31—after struggling for years with anxiety, paranoia, and depression, which were in turn catalyzed by the successive rejections of his works for publication by notable figures in the publishing business—Toole ran a garden hose from the exhaust of his car into an unventilated cabin, killing himself. Eleven years after his death, in 1980, Toole’s novel was published after his mother shared it with writer and enthusiastic reader Walker Percy. In time, it became an international success, and A Confederacy of Dunces posthumously won John Kennedy Toole the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.

I mention all of this not merely to set the scene and sow sadness, but to establish the proper context for today’s topic: the development and embodiment of unique characters in Toole’s novel. A Confederacy of Dunces is a work of picaresque fiction, meaning that it follows the wayward exploits of a singular or iconoclastic protagonist as they attempt to navigate a variety of societal strata and scenarios. Toole was himself a singular person: a gifted scholar, a witty presence, and a troubled mind; and as a result, his protagonist is perfectly drawn for his project, while all of the other characters that Toole created are equally vibrant.

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[Work: A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole, 1980]
Peopling Picaresque:

On the Well-drawn Characters of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces

was last modified: September 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

{Guest Post} [Topics: Ethics, Philosophy of Language, Terrorism]

Testing Terrorism:

On Stephen Nathanson, Michael Walzer, and Terrorism in Relation to Conventional Warfare

 

Introduction:

Venn Diagram - Terrorism and Conventional Warfare - Stephen Nathanson, Michael WalzerTerrorism and conventional warfare are thought to inhabit two close yet separate spheres. Accolades and patriotic flags romanticize the grim reality of conventional warfare, while face masks and frightening rhetoric emphasize the deadly image of terrorism.

The term ‘terrorism’ typically elicits an intense emotional response, tainting the discussion of its ethics, and preventing understanding. The first misconception which must be made clear is that terrorism is not a separate phenomenon from  conventional warfare; terrorism must be considered at the very least an outgrowth of conventional warfare, understood as an adaptive strategy which reflects desperation.

I posit that terrorism is simply another form of warfare. If the preceding statement is true, the ethics of conventional warfare will apply to terrorism. If both conventional warfare and terrorism hold the same moral implications, one cannot discount one without discounting the other.

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{Guest Post} [Topics: Ethics, Philosophy of Language, Terrorism]

Testing Terrorism:

On Stephen Nathanson, Michael Walzer, and Terrorism in Relation to Conventional Warfare

was last modified: August 25th, 2016 by Avi Gupta

[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

 

Defense Grid: The Awakening screenshot with mid-game challenge level - Hidden Path Entertainment - tower defense game

Introduction:

The topic of today’s article is a game which is roughly eight years old, and which resides in the curious genre of tower defense: Defense Grid: The Awakening. I call tower defense a curious genre because the formula of tower defense is a simple one, and yet one which is rather often poorly executed. For this article, I just want to talk about what that formula is, and how Hidden Path managed to impeccably nail it (in addition to doing other things right).

It is amazing to me that Defense Grid is almost a decade old now, as I first played it less than two years ago and, due in no small part to its economical aesthetics, the game still felt fresh and new. In short, it has aged incredibly well so far. Indeed, what is perhaps most striking is the fact that so very many tower defense games have been produced in the eight years since Defense Grid released, which by and large continue to make the same mistakes that Defense Grid so gracefully and thoroughly avoided.

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[Game: Defense Grid: The Awakening, Hidden Path Entertainment, 2008]
Towering Tower Defense:

In Praise of the Gameplay, Execution, and Aesthetics of Hidden Path’s Original Defense Grid

was last modified: July 11th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather, 1927]
Personal Ethics and the Old West:

The Unique Form and Common Values of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop

 

Willa Cather - Death Comes for the Archbishop - ethics, Old West, CatholicIntroduction:

One of the first books covered in this series was one of my favorites: The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells. And, as I said in relation to Wells’ Moreau in that earlier article, it is the case that even if today’s book, Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa CatherDeath Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather - ethics, Old West, Catholic, were not well-written enough to be worthwhile throughout (which, also like Wells’ novel, it fortunately is), it would still be worth reading so as to provide context for its extremely insightful and satisfying ending. But that said, I would like to set the ending aside and encourage you to check out this curious piece of semi-biographical historical fiction.

Death Comes for the Archbishop so stretches the boundaries of conventional plot development that its status as a novel is widely debated. Willa Cather herself preferred to refer to it as a narrative rather than a novel. Rather than a series of events which build to a climax, the text is comprised of nine small vignette-esque sections (and a prologue) which present periods of time and experiences that are thematically interrelated.

All nine sections cover portions of the life of Bishop Jean Marie Latour, the novel’s protagonist. Bishop Latour is a reserved, efficient, handsome Catholic official. In accordance with the will of the Cardinals, Latour is removed from his post in Sandusky, Ohio and sent to take charge of the parish of the New Mexico territories, (then) recently annexed by the United States, and build up a diocese there.

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[Work: Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather, 1927]
Personal Ethics and the Old West:

The Unique Form and Common Values of Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop

was last modified: July 23rd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski