Game Over

Bright, flashing, multicolored lights flickered across the small screen. Reds and yellow, pinks and greens, purples, oranges and blues tangoed and sambaed along their black dance floor. 8-bit music played mockingly in the background. The air was stifling. The air was room was dark. The roaring whirl of the heater was nearly deafening; almost drowning out the infernal being of the music. Curly black hair was matted against a glistening golden forehead and neck. Brown eyes shone with unshed tears as they stared unblinking at the screen. Sadness was clear in the eyes. Suddenly, rage flashed across the eyes as anger slowly began building within the small body. Pink lips curled downward. Then, those pink lips began to grow redder as each second passed. Small white teeth harshly abused the bottom lip. As skin broke and red, life-giving liquid slowly seeped onto the lip. Slipping between clenched lips, the tongue licked at the wound. The taste of copper was overwhelming. The life-giving liquid was back where it needed to be. Tiny hands trembled as they gripped the small rectangular device. Veins bulged and protruded from the dark yet pale uncovered arms. The dancing lights flickered across the screen continuously. It was hypnotizing to watch. Reds and yellow, pinks and greens, purples, oranges and blues. Abruptly, the screen when black. The whimsical and invigorating music paused. A second passed. Then another. Blinding white light assaulted amber eyes. Amber eyes never blinked. The music turned glum. Breathing stopped. A second passed. Then another. Then another. Finally, a bestial cry escaped from the small mouth. Pent up anger was released. The rectangular device was thrown across the room. A door slammed shut. The room was empty. The device’s screen continued to glow.

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The Lady of Shallot, Who?

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Growing up poetry was never my forte; I always found it to be… superfluous. I always (wrongly) believed that people only wrote poetry to as a means to express their (often unrequited) love for someone. Love was something that I had no interest in as a child, therefore I found poetry irrelevant. I hated how poems always ran me round and round in circles, taunting me with the “true meaning” behind their words. If you want to say something just say! You dressing up an “I love you” in a sparkling gown and royal crown to make it look like something straight out of a Shakespeare play makes me even less inclined to read it. Because I was never very good at it as a child, my dislike for poetry accompanied me throughout the rest of my schooling and, ultimately, to college. Up until last semester, I jumped through hurdles just to make sure that a poetry class never appeared on my schedule.

But then, the unthinkable happened.

Last semester I had a great English professor that absolutely loved poetry; particularly poetry from the British Victorian era. At first, I was a bit put off that half the reading were poetry; I was expecting Victorian literature to focus on novels not poems. Nevertheless, his passion for poetry was actual very contagious. After learning more about the history of aesthetics and reading works like The Mikado, Sleeping Venus, and Picture of Dorian Gray, even though still poetry wasn’t my favorite genre of literature, I had a new found appreciation for it. Fast forward to spring term 2014. I saw that that same professor was teaching a course on poetry. I immediately refused to take the class because of its focus on poetry. But day after day went by and I kept seining that seats for the class were being filled. I finally swallowed my apprehension and decided to sign up for the course. I wasn’t disappointed. I can honestly say that learning more about poetry was actually a very interesting experience. I’m glad I took a leap of faith. Though, I still have a few qualms about poetry; particularly gender.

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Out of the selection of Tennyson poems that I read, I have to say that The Lady of Shallot is my favorite. The vivid imagery of the never-ending fields that “meet the sky” and the beautiful trees that “quiver” paints a clear picture in my mind of how Shallot should appear. However, what really pulls me into this poem is the mystery of the Lady of Shallot. As the protagonist of the poem, I expected to be given the actual name of the Lady. But no; all we’re told is the title of the female protagonist. Though this may be a minor detail that many people would over look or deem insignificant, I can’t help but feel distant from the Lady because I feel as if she is hiding from me. (Never-mind that painting up above; that was Waterhouse’s fantasy and representation of how he imagined her.) We don’t even get a description of her! What does she look like? What color are her eyes? Her hair? The questions are never-ending. The lack of description of the Lady when compared to the overflowing description of Shallot itself and Lancelot is a bit annoyed in that it leaves me unsatisfied. This annoyance is doubled because of the Lady’s lacking background. Where did she come from? Why will she be cursed if she looks directly outside? So many burning questions that Tennyson leaves unanswered! These juxtapose Lancelot’s rather long-winded description. We know that Lancelot has “broad clear brow[s]… coal-black curls” and is wearing “brazen greaves” among a dozen other articles of clothing that are explicitly depicted. Lancelot even has a backstory.

By making the Lady of Shallot so mysterious, it makes me question her identity. But because she is not revealed to posses a real name, and not a title, does that mean that she has no true identity? Or does this imply that her name isn’t important? I feel as though gender roles are obviously at work here. Each section of the poem ends with speech. He first quote is spoken by a reaper who introduces the protagonist “Tis the fairy Lady of Shallot.” It is considered proper etiquette for a gentleman to introduce a lady, which the poem follows. Still, the poem is named Lady of Shallot. The first speaker is a man, which upholds the tradition of men speaking first. This followed by that fact that the Lady doesn’t actually appear until the second section where she is depicted as weaving “by day and night”— an action that is viewed as “womanly.” Throughout this section, no description of the Lady is given, thus implying that she is merely a symbol for the female species; an angel of the house, if you will, and is therefor safe from harm. However, it is only after the Lady sees Lancelot and falls prey to her desire leaving her tower that she is then fated to die. This reoccurring theme of women dying or wanting to die because of unfulfilled love in poetry (and stories) depicts women as defenseless while men get off scot-free. During Tennyson’s time, ideas such as these were common and discouraged women from “deviant” or unwomanly acts for fear of being punished or dying.

This double standard is something that I truly dislike, so maybe I’ll stick to more modern poetry in the future. At least, I hope that modern poetry is more fair to both genders.

Wanna-be Art Critic Part 2

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Edward Hopper; Cape Code Morning (1950); 4’x4’; Oil on Canvas

The painting is very smooth and bright. I really get the feeling that the morning is just beginning. I like the highlights of woman’s face and dress. I like the attention to detail. The highlights on the trees give off a sense of warmth. I like that the colors are all very warm, which makes me feel happy. The blending of the grass is a nice touch, and the shadows of the trees on the grass give the painting a sense of depth. However, to me, the painting as a whole seems a bit 2-D. I feel as if the trees are right next to the woman in the house, and not a few yards away. The picture could use more depth. Aside from that, I find the picture to be pleasant.

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Georgia O’Keefe; Manhattan (1932); 9’x3’; Oil on Canvas

The painting is very geometric with the vast amount of rectangles. The rectangles make up the building, which exaggerates the height of the buildings. There are three flowers in the painting, however, they don’t really stand out against the blue and pick background. The middle of the paining consist of white buildings, which immediately draws the viewers attention because of it being surrounded by the colors building in the background. The painting is very abstract. At first view, it is hard to see the buildings that are supposed to be made up of tall rectangles. Only the small rectangles’ representing windows and the narrow triangles gives the image the idea that the picture is suppose to be of houses and buildings. Because of all of the buildings so close together, I get the feeling of crowding. Personally, I don’t really like the painting because it reminds me of cubism (which I’m not a fan of), while the colors are a bit to dull for my liking.

Wanna-be Art Critic Part 1

As a gamer I have a healthy appreciation for art. In an earlier post, I kinda ranted on about the importance of the storyline in video games, but that isn’t to say that video game art isn’t important. Every great storyline needs great graphics to accompany it. The other day, I decided to pay homage to the ancestors of digital art by frolic around around D.C. visiting art museums to “broaden my horizons” and gain insight to the various artworks and art styles of others. I immensely enjoy going to museums and taking in the quiet and creative atmosphere, so I thought I would continue to share my trip with you all! This is my attempt to be a “art critic.”

Credentials? Ha! Who needs credentials to judge art?

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Lucio Fontana

Spatial Concepts: Nature (1959-60)

20’x 12’ total area; each sphere is about 2’ in diameter

Bronze

This piece of artwork is located outside of the Hirshhorn Museum; it was one of the first ones that I saw. The piece itself consists of balls made out of bronze situated on a grassy area. There are a few feet between each of the spheres. Nothing really stands out about this piece of artwork; it was bronze and grass. However, it did remind me of artwork that would come from Japan because of the connection to nature I always make with Japan; they have those stone gardens that promote peace and Zen. It is somewhat calming to look at because it isn’t very complicated. Because the spaces between the spheres vary, I was immediately drawn to the space in-between each of them. Also, the spheres weren’t perfectly round. They had notches in them that made me think on nuts. When viewing the spheres as nuts, it was easy for me to imagine squirrels spending a lot of time there, which connects to nature, which is what the art work is about: nature and space.

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Roy Lichtenstein

Brushstroke (1996)

16’x5’

Mixed Media (Painted Aluminum)

This artwork was the first one I saw when entering the Hirshhorn. The artwork is very large, so you can’t help but notice it. It’s only two colors: black and off-white. It is suppose to represent a brush stroke of paint. This piece seemed very simple. However, the bold, black lines seem cartoony; as if it was something out of a comic. Aside from that, othing really stood out about it to me, just its size. Since the off-white color is representative of the color of paint being used, then maybe if the brush stroke were a different color, then it would appeal more to the masses and garner more attention. Using a vibrant color such as red would evoke a feeling of passion, while a vibrant orange would surely catch the attention of others. Because off-white is such a plain color, this work is easily forgettable.

Trip to the Museum

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Two weeks ago I ventured into D.C. when I heard of an art exhibit titled Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since the 1950’s located at the Hirshhorn Museum, I knew that I had to visit. The Damage Control exhibit as a whole was pretty amazing to look at. Seeing things that would normally be considered dangerous and destructive put on display and being tagged as “beautiful” artwork was bit jarring at first.

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Mona Hatuoum’ work, Still Life with Hand Grenades (2006-07), Mixed Media

Hatuoum’s Hand Grenades consisted of multiple colorful grenades situated on top of a steel table. The size of the grenades are pretty much uniform with them being slightly larger than my fist. The table itself, while not much to look at, reminds me very much of an autopsy table; which is about 6’x2’. This image resonates with the fact that multiple grenades— weapons of destruction and death— are sitting on top of it. The grenade material was of a crystal like substance. The shininess and colorfulness of the grenades gives them a toy like appearance; an object that any parent would let their child play with. This playful quality of the grenades contrast with the destructive prowess that they posses. This application of mixing beauty with deadly potential is rather jarring, and reminds me of the myth of the “femme fatal.”

Hand Grenades is actually one of the first pieces of work you see when you first walk into the exhibit. It really set the tone for what the rest of the artwork in the exhibit would be like. Overall, I really liked the piece. It is relatively simple piece consisting of roughly thirty-five grenades. Some of the shapes vary which made me want to look at every grenade individually just to note the small differences between them. Some were smooth, some had the pattern of a traditional hand grenade, and some were rather spikey. The bright transparent colors really caught me attention; the colors were cheerful and happy, which made me want to buy one to put on my shelf to brighten my day. When I initially realized my train of thought, I was a bit disturbed by it. Grenades are internally dangerous and are deadly weapons, therefore my wanting of the object made me feel a bit guilty. I think that this feeling might have been what Hatuoum was aiming for when she made the piece. Things that cause destruction and death can be beautiful, but most of all, artwork such as this is meant to invoke thought. I would image that my mixed feelings of awe and guilt are very similar what most American’s were feeling when the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII. The destruction is devastating and awe inspiring, but the fact that hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and destroyed that day really makes you stop and reconsidered the consequences of your actions. Hatuoum’s Hand Grenades strives, and my opinion accurately, invokes these feelings of self reflection and awe.

 

Christian Marclay, Guitar Drag (2000), Install

This video shows a man in a truck driving off road over a leave and brush covered ground. Tied to the back of the truck is a guitar as it drags along the ground as he drives. You can her the sounds of the plucking of the guitar strings as it runs along the ground. The sound isn’t particularly pleasing to the ear. Though, I must admit that I never thought of dragging a guitar along the ground to play it. It was very creative, and yet, I’m nor really sure what this piece is suppose to represent. If I had to guess, then I would have to say that this piece represents the beauty that can come from unexpected means,; a sentiment that the artwork in the Damage Control exhibit do wonderfully.

 

Pipilotti Rist, Swiss, Ever is Over All (1997), Install

The artwork is an install that has two part. On one side (the wall directly in front of the viewer) shows Rist walking down a city street filled with parked cars holding a baton shaped like a giant flower. After walking for some time she begins to smash in windows and mirror of the parked cars she is walking next to. At some point, a police officer (woman) comes by and greets her before going about her. She does all of this with a smile. On the other side, the video shows a field of vibrant red flowers. There is whimsical music playing in the background. There is a jarring sense about this piece. The peaceful music differs from the vandalism that she is performing. And because this scene is so shocking, I can’t help but totally ignore the flower video playing right next to it. To me based my own reaction, this artwork shows just how much people often focus on the ugly in the world, rather than the beauty.

 

Barbara Kruger, Belief and Doubt (2012), Mixed Media

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In my opinion, this has to be one of the most interesting works in the entire museum. It takes up an entire floor. The color scheme is red, black and white. This gives to artwork a “modern” feel to it. The words “Belief + Doubt” are on every surface of the room; from the floors to the walls. There is even a gift shop that promotes the artist. This was the easiest work to find in the museum because the name was literally everywhere. The words are so large that you can’t help but notice them. There are many little quotes that invokes thought in the viewer, such as “Belife+Doubt=Sanity.” This also shows how most artist make their money; they don’t just make money by relying on selling artwork alone, they also sell other merchandise that appeal to the consumer. The usage of the questions gets the viewer to think about themselves and the world in which they live in.

Video Game Storylines

Courtesy of Ward Tech Talent.

While hanging out at a friend’s dorm (we’ll call her “G”) the other day, the topic of video game graphics and storylines came up. We were waiting out the rain so we decided to play GTA V. After attempting to break onto the military base numerous times— and ultimately failing after each attempt— I just had to ask her what exactly the storyline for the game was. I mean, we had literally spent a little over two hours running over people in expensive cars, robbing banks on a whim, carjacking dozens of cars, and destroying half of the police force; all of which had nothing to do with the progression of the game. She gave me a look that practically screamed “duh” as she told me, “ You’re suppose to go around completing missions for this guy named Roman, but after the first five or six missions, most people ignore him and do whatever they want. It’s practically an open-world were you can fulfill every evil whim that you’ve wanted to do.” I stared at her. “That’s it?” She nodded. “That’s it.”

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Are. You. Serious!?

To me, the storyline is the most important element in a video game. I mean, what’s the point of playing a game if you have no objective? What’s your motivation? I play Pokémon because, no matter how cliché the plot is, it still stays interesting because of the multiple objectives I have to complete and the various different mini games you came perform that vary from game to game. When Pokemon X and Y cam out, the fact that you can actually sit in the game was a huge deal. And don’t get me started on riding Pokemon…

We can finally jump ledges on Pokemon!

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But I digress. I wholly believe that storylines are more important that graphics; gamers are more than willing to purchase titles without all the graphic bells and whistles if they can get into a good, solid plot. A good storyline encourages gamers to form bonds with the characters they play as they- the gamer and the character they play as- overcome challenges and learn more about the characters history. The emotional experiences you undergo really endear you to the characters your playing as, thus allowing you to get a more personal experience with the game. Take Thomas was Alone as an example.

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Thomas was Alone is a indie puzzle game that is described as a “minimalist game about friendship and jumping.” The main character is a red rectangle named Thomas who, at the start of the game is, you guests it, alone. What makes this game interesting is that Thomas and other polygons, who later become available to play as, are AI’s in a computer mainframe that have developed personalities and each possess different abilities that will help you pass through the obstacles of each level. Other than just solving each puzzle to bypass each level, the game comes off as charming as you watch the friendship between the polygon friends grow as they help each other across each level, and finally escape from the mainframe and enter into society.

I feel as if my words don’t give this game, and many games like it, the justice it deserves. Yes, it may seem a bit silly, but in this case it really is the experience of the storyline that really makes the game. I highly recommend this game for any gamer that A. enjoys puzzles or B. can’t pass up a great storyline that could put most big budget games to shame.