I'm Chuck Tryon and I'll probably spend a lot of time writing about popular culture, since I teach cultural studies at Georgia Tech. I may also spend a lot of time writing about politics, since I have an overdeveloped sense of righteous indignation. We'll see how it goes.
drivin' n' cryin'
Monday, June 23, 2003
Once You Use MT, Everything Else is, Well, Empty
I've decided to follow the pack, so to speak, and participate in the blog collective Wordherders. The major benefits include the cool opportunity to particiapte in a collective of other academic bloggers and to use the far more flexible blogging program, Moveable Type. I'm in the process of transferring archives (and hopefully comments) to my new home. All new entries will be posted to my MT account, which you can find at http://chutry.wordherders.net/. Please change your bookmarks and I hope you enjoy the new blog. Thanks to Jason for making Wordherderes work!
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
Okay, my sense of righteous indignation has been tapped (probably because of spending a little too much time in my apartment). The House recently voted to permanently end estate taxes in 2013. According to Republican Dennis Hastert, the repeal protects typical American families, you know all those families who have estates in the top 1.5 percent of the U.S. population. The result is that the Republicans are stealing, I mean, reducing revenue by $162 billion through 2013, you know all that useless revenue that goes to unnecessary programs like Head Start, Americorps, and even Homeland Security. Fortunately, the bill isn't likely to pass the Senate. According to the AP story,
A law passed in 2001 eliminates the tax in 2010, only to resurrect it a year later, a quirk forced by Senate rules designed to prevent lawmakers from deepening budget deficits.Wow, imagine having rules about budget deficits. How quirky can you get? Next thing you know, we might get really quirky and go back to the responsibility of the Clinton administration when having a budget surplus was considered economically beneficial. But that's just me; I'm kind of quirky that way. Okay, I feel a little bit better now.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
The Man Comes Around
Inspired by George's entry on new music and needing to break free from my apartment for a few minutes, I walked up to Wuxtry to buy a couple of CDs. Unlike George, I was lucky enough to find the CDs I wanted, the White Stripes' self-titled 2002 release (pretty rockin' so far) and Johnny Cash's The Man Comes Around, his most recent American/Lost Highway recording.
I've been planning to get the Cash CD for a couple of months, but I don't get to record stores very often. I really enjoy the new music he has been producing for the last five years with producer Rick Rubin; their interpretation of songs by other artists is usually interesting and sometimes quite powerful (especially their recording of "One" by U2). Speaking of covers, I just got to the White Stripes' version of "One More Cup of Coffee," and it really works; I'm not sure I would've thought it, but I like it.
I'll have to go back and try to catch some of the Protest Records songs that George mentions. Alas, my modem is way too slow.
Wed. 6/18 Update: The White Stripes are playing a free concert by the big granite rock just outside the Perimeter. I'm thinking about going. Anyone interested?
Update Part II: I didn't realize the local commercial radio station sponsoring the concert was referring to the event as the "Big Rock." I just didn't mention the big granite rock's more common name because said slab of granite serves as a memorial for non-Union men from a war that took place during the mid-nineteenth century, and mentioning the slab of granite by name might trip up advertisements for products I don't like.
Because my car is now officially dead (I may have a replacement, a 1989 Camry, in a week or so), I've been more or less trapped in my apartment. Even though MARTA (the Atlanta mass transit service) claims to be "Smarta," it's not terribly convenient and the busses don't run after 11PM, making it hard to catch late movies. One of the results of this immobility has been the inability to get out and participate in town halls and protests like I normally would. I have--for nearly a year--participated in TrueMajority and Moveon.org's online petition activities and knew several others who were involved in the phone blitz to express their disagreement with the recent war against Iraq. I know these grassroots uses of the Internet are nothing new (I've been on the ACLU list for a while), but they do introduce some interesting questions. On the one hand, a small amount of labor can make a lot of noise, as the recent anti-war and anti-deregulation activism suggest. It also allows people who are either immobile or busy to sustain political participation without having to physically attend a rally or event at a certain time or place. On the other hand, I do think there is tremendous value in the extra commitment required for attending a rally or some other public event. I've usually felt more rewarded by my involvement in the town halls and rallies that I attended than by my emails and faxes to various public figures. I think my question may be why I'm privileging this physical, embodied participation over online participation. In both cases, I am "sending a message" about my politics. With my online participation, I often get feedback from my Representatives and Senators in letters (I averaged about one every other day in Illinois).
I didn't really intend to take this direction with this entry. I'm more interested in thinking about how these online grassroots organizations change the political landscape, if at all. An organization like Moveon.org has definitely grown quickly, enabled in large part by the "connectedness" of the Web, the potential for information to spread very quickly to a large audience. I'm interested to see what they'll be able to do long-term with the collective they have organized.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Mezza, a Movie, and a Moth
Finally had a chance to go back to Mezza, a wonderful Lebanese restaurant in the Oak Grove neighborhood. I went originally a few months ago, and I've been craving it ever since. It's a tapas style restaurant and S and I ordered falafel, fried eggplant (which I really like--the tahini gives it a terrific kick), chicken shawarma, and beef stuffed grape leaves. It's one of the best meals I've had in a long time (and, yes, I know I said that last week after I went to Mambo--I've been eating very well lately).
After Mezza, S and I went to see The Man on the Train, the latest film by Patrice Leconte, who also directed The Widow of St. Pierre and Girl on the Bridge. In Man, I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two male leads, played by the popular French actors, Jean Rochefort (the planned lead in Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to film Quixote, documented in Lost in LaMancha) and Johnny Hallyday. The plot begins with Milan (Hallyday) arriving by train to a small town where he is planning to rob a bank. Because Milan has no place to stay, he crashes with retired poetry teacher, Manesquier (Rochefort). Both men have reached teh end of their careers, and the film focuses on the regrets they have about the lives they've led. Both men fantasize about switching places, what it might have been like to live the other's life, and in one funny sequence, Milan actually does substitute as a poetry teacher. I don't know that I have much to add about the film. It was beautifully shot, with a prominently gray palette, reflecting the overall tone of the film. It was also cool to finally get a chance to get back to the Garden Hills cinema, one of the better screening spaces in the city.
Finally, as I type this entry, my floor lamp, now located next to my office window, seems to be attracting a moth. Not much to add there; I just liked the alliteration.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Virilio and Marker
I've been a lazy blogger lately, and I am feeling a little guilty about it. For the most part, I've been trying to work through some ideas for a couple of articles I'm trying to finish. I'm most excited about my paper on Chris Marker's Sans soleil, especially after revisiting Manovich's The Language of New Media, especially because his notion of a "database film" so clearly applies to Marker's postmodern update of many of Dziga Vertov's techniques for seeing and thinking through cinema.
The connection I'm working through right now is a passing reference Manovich makes to Paul Virilio's book, War and Cinema. Manovich writes:
Virilio went on to suggest that, wheras space was the main category of the nineteenth century, the main category of the twentieth was time.In Sans soleil (released in 1982), Marker, through the persona of Sandor Krasna, makes an almost identical observation; in fact the phrasing is nearly identical. I'm wondering if anyone out there might know the history of this observation or if there is any kind of relationship between Marker and Virilio beyond the fact that they likely know the other's work. There's certainly an interesting connection to be developed here, specifically in terms of their politics, their questions about how our technologies affect the way that we live in the world.
Monday, June 09, 2003
David Bowie at the Drive-In
Went to see Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars at the Starlight Six Drive-In last night, after a great dinner at Mambo (scroll down for a review), a terrific Cuban restaurant in the Highlands. The screening of Ziggy Stardust, directed by D. A. Pennebaker was part of the Atlanta Film Festival, which started this weekend and runs throughout the week (I might be seeing a lot of movies over the next few days!).
I had never been to a drive-in movie before, and it was a fascinating experience. I can certainly see the appeal of watching a movie on a giant screen in the great outdoors, especially with the nice, cool late spring weather. Ziggy Stardust also seems like the perfect drive-in type of movie, with the nostalgia for the 1970s "innocence" meshing with the nostalgia for the past when drive-ins were far more common. It was also striking how minimal the pyrotechnics were for the Ziggy Stardust concert tour, especially when compared to more recent "hypermediated" concerts by artists such as U2, which feature fireworks, light shows, and video screens.
There was one surreal moment when I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw a scene from The Matrix Reloaded (which I still haven't seen) being projected on a screen directly behind my car. The deep focus shot, of a series of doorways opening into an infinite regress of rooms, was a pretty cool one, but it was completely trippy to glance into the mirror while listening to Bowie's Ziggy Stardust evoking the future of "space travel" in 1973 while singing "Ground Control to Major Tom" in 1973 and seeing a "present" image of the future of an infinitely deeper cyberworld in my car's rearview mirror (at a drive-in theater, which at once evokes the future and the past).
Saturday, June 07, 2003
Rainy Day in Georgia
It's raining here in Atlanta, which probably means this afternoon's peace rally starting Grant Park will not be as well attended as it might be otherwise. I'm unable to attend due to a family commitment, but just wanted to extend my digitally expressed support. With the rainy weather contributing to my laziness, I've been touring the blogosphere and wanted to metion a couple of highlights:
Michael Bérubé's blog is always an entertaining and insightful read. In a May 31 entry (no permalinks, so just scroll down), Bérubé compiled a list of quotations from Republican leaders and military figures on WMD. Pretty compelling stuff. I've always found Bérubé's work compelling, especially his analysis of working conditions within the university system in books such as The Employment of English.
Recent entries by Jason and Matt about nostalgia have also been quite interesting. I was especially compelled by Jason's questions about the future of some online games, such as Ultima Online:
I often think about the future of these games - what happens when they cease to be profitable? What will we make of the ruins of these worlds, if at some point we recover them? Or will gamers simply continue their quests on their own, running hacked code on pieced-together hardware? Will people figure out a way to save their character, frozen in an odd stasis, world-less?The image of a "digital" world in ruins is a compelling one, somewhat hard to imagine given the capacity of permanent storage, the fact that digital code doesn't deteriorate. Of course, the technologies change, and that produces the "outmodedness" that we might ascribe to text-only protocols.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
I've started jogging again, and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy it. I'm still out of shape, but I live in a great residential neighborhood in North Decatur with lots of trees, and in the later part of the evening, very few cars, a rarity in Atlanta. Jogging is one of the few activities where I find myself completely in the moment, able to forget the rest of the world for just a few minutes, and simply focus on the road ahead. It's also one of the few moments that I'm completely "disconnected:" no phone, no internet, no television, no music. In fact, this lack of connection seems to be an essential part of the activity for me. Even if I owned a Walkman, I'm certain that I wouldn't use it when I'm jogging. I think I'm trying to negotiate some descriptions I've read lately of joggers as examples of "cyborgs," with their Walkmen, carefully designed running shoes, and whatnot. Now, of course I wear running shoes (Asics), but in my experience, describing jogging in terms of cyborgization seems foreign. I'm not sure why I'm unwilling to view jogging in that type of language, but it really does seem to overstate the ways in which bodies and machines interface.
More importantly, after jogging twice in the last three days, I'm already aware that I have more energy than before. I'm not sure why I'm mentioning these details in my blog, other than to try and seek out some accountability from my readers (whoever you are) and perhaps to find out how (or if) other people are able to maintain good exercise habits even when their schedules are very full.
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
I attended am invigorating town hall forum on human rights last night at First Iconium Baptist Chruch with Doreen. It was a pretty cool experience, with the Church's Gospel choir inspiring the audience and several guest speakers, including Loretta Ross, Executive Director, National Center for Human Rights Education, and Debbie Seagraves, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. Perhaps most importantly, we had the chance to network with a professor of public policy at Georgia Tech and we've begun making plans for trying to encourage more political dialogue on Tech's campus. He has some pretty exciting ideas, including hopes for attracting some interesting speakers to Tech's campus. It's exciting to make these connections and to become integrated into an active political community.
FYI Atlanta residents: There will be a big antiwar rally Saturday, June 7, starting at Grant Park and finishing at the Martin Luther King Center, featuring speakers including Martin King, III. Looks like a great opportunity to build the momentum even further.
I've been in research mode for the last few days, trying to finish up an article on Dark City and another on Chris Marker, specifically on Sans soleil, which partially explains the light blogging for the last few days, but in my "research" in the "periodical stacks" at my local bookshop, I came across a series of articles in Film Comment about Marker, including a rare interview translated from a March 5, 2003 issue of Libération. Unfortunately, you'll have to buy the issue to get full length articles, but if you're interested in Marker, it's worth a look, and according to one article, Criterion is planning to release Sans soleil and La jetée together on DVD. I've always been intrigued by Marker's meditations on time and memory and their relationship to technology, and this interview addresses those concerns at length. I think he may also capture why I don't like seeing movies during the afternoon:
Godard nailed it once and for all: at the cinema, you raise your eyes to the screen; in front of the television, you lower them. Then there is the role of the shutter. Out of the two hours you spend in a movie theater, you spend one of them in the dark. It's this nocturnal portion that stays with us, that fixes our memory of a film in a different way than the same film seen on television or on a monitor.I think that "nocturnal" quality is something that conditions my film experience. To have a "night" before sunset confuses my inner clock, and I feel like I've lost an entire day if I see a movie before 9PM, especially in the summer when the days are longer.