Category Archives: Thinking Shakespeare

Analysis of various topics. Food for thought.

Cuddlefish The Film Shoot

All that nervousness about shooting my short scene was unnecessary, but was probably going to happen anyway. My film shoot went really well, and it was a lot of fun. The set looked great (especially given that my original ideas for the set kind of went wrong early on, especially concerning the bed) and the actors were fantastic and everyone was relaxed. Including me, surprisingly. Once it got going, it rolled along smoothly and we finished on time to enjoy the nice spring day.

Here are some set photos to show how the space was transformed between my shoot and the shoot the next day. The same exact space was used, as was the same bed. Here’s my set:

A professional cuddler's room on a low budget.

A professional cuddler’s room on a low budget.

I’ve never seen a professional cuddler’s bedroom. Originally I wanted a double bed, but the only bed available from the props department was a hospital bed. So, we did a LOT of covering up with blankets and pillows and somehow managed to make it look like a coherent bedroom. Our props department has a lot of mismatched stuff, so I’m still amazed that we got stuff that matches somewhat.

The next day, I got to be camera (or, director of photography if you want to be fancy about it) for another fellow screenwriters’ shoot. This shoot also went smoothly, which was great. I actually really liked being camera, probably because I love photography and the two are similar. The first set we had was a trashed bedroom that belonged to a male musician:

The bedroom of a very upset man.

The bedroom of a very upset man.

This was for the first scene of that shoot. For the second, the room became a hospital room.We changed from the trashed bedroom set to the hospital room set in half an hour.

It's a really dingy hospital.

It’s a really dingy hospital.

Props has a surprising (disturbing?) amount of hospital/medical equipment. Which isn’t really obvious in this picture, but we did manage to get the dingy hospital feeling across. I have seen some hospitals in the Bronx that would rival this set’s dinginess, so for me at least, it was convincing.

So, it’s surprising what you can do with a set. This space was meant for two different shoots, and stood in as three different locations. I was a bit wary of the space because, as a room, it’s pretty grim. But as you can see above, I think it turned out well.

I’m really happy my directing experience worked out so well. I don’t know that I would want to be a writer-director. I definitely wouldn’t want to only be a director; I like writing too much to ever stop doing it. But if I got to direct my own writing, I don’t know if it would be stressful or a nice extra bit of control. This experience was really relaxing, but I know they’re not all like that, especially on a full-fledged production rather than just the production of a short scene. After our short day of shooting, I was exhausted. So I won’t write it off completely, but we’ll see.

I also have no idea if I’m any good at it. My team helped a LOT. They were awesome.

I did like doing camera on the shoot the next day. Working to make images that look interesting is a lot of fun. I also really like pull-focus shots, but some cameras are better at it than others.

And somehow, I always end up on shoots where the camera is in a position that’s quite a bit taller than I am. But it’s okay, because the shots we got from those positions were really good.

I’m looking forward to getting back to writing. But we have two weeks to edit our short scenes, so I think it’s going to be awhile before I’m back to the thing I’m actually studying.

 

 

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Metaphors

I’m taking this class called rhetoric. It’s about as tedious as it sounds, but unfortunately this class is the one thing standing between me and graduation. (Literally: I have to get a decent grade and this is the only class where the TA’s are very, very hard graders.) So I kind of have to stick it out, and usually my professor’s lectures are in the realm of stuff I already knew (like logos, pathos, and ethos), stuff I am learning too much about and will never use again (MLA citation to an extreme), and very specific theories and works by very specific philosophers (that I don’t know and have a hard time learning.) But today was the first day my professor said something interesting.

We were talking about language. Language has a certain importance to communications majors that is glossed over if you’re in the Media Production program, like I am. There’s a lot about language to consider when talking about rhetoric, which deals with how people persuade other people about stuff (it’s really more than that, but this is a nutshell discussion here).

Today, in particular, we were looking at how language is a symbol: the word “clock” doesn’t inherently mean a clock, but we all just agreed that those letters and that sound would indicate a thing that tells us the time. And somewhere along the way people also agreed that a “watch” and a “clock” are different things, even though they share a function. (And a watch is technically a clock, but that’s over thinking a bit.)

Anyway, we were talking about how metaphors are used in language, and how to find metaphors in language, in particular in speeches. There are no shortage of speeches that use metaphors, and I use them every once in awhile myself while writing. I’m more familiar with it in fiction but I can recognize it in a speech. But then my professor said this thing that I had never thought of before, that turned metaphors on their head a little in an Inception-moment of mind-blowing awesome:

ALL language is metaphor.

Which is a HUGE deal if you like language and find it fascinating. But my professor sort of brushed it aside for more important class items. But I was stuck on it. I do love linguistics, even if I don’t study it as my major (I don’t love it that much.) I love looking at the structure of language and how it works, how our society became prescriptive towards language (think grammar), and how what really matters to linguists is whether you can be understood or not. If you can be understood, then why? What’s the difference between languages? Do certain languages shape thought, or does thought shape language? What does a language say about a culture? What are the rules of each language?

Fascinating stuff. But I’d never heard language referred to as metaphors, even when I took a linguistics class. Which is strange, because I’d heard language referred to as symbols, but not as a whole. More like, “these words mean this thing even though they LITERALLY don’t mean this thing.” End of story.

But what is a metaphor? My rhetoric class has a paragraph about it. Metaphors are basically when you associate one thing with something else to relate them, even (probably especially) if they aren’t related. So if I say “he was blown away by that film” he wasn’t really, because that would be weird. But we understand that “blown away” means “impressed, amazed, awed” and we sort of leave it at that. Very few people would take that literally.

Language, similarly, is assigning letters and sounds to objects or ideas to create meaning. We know that when someone says “cat” they’re referring to the little furry things that meow. But the word cat isn’t inherently that. If we all agreed that cat meant water bottle, then people would change their association. We actually see these changes in language a lot. Gay used to mean happy, but it now means homosexual due to a change in culture. Meanings change all the time, and new words crop up, and cultures take them on and add them to their language.

And all these words are not inherently the things they describe, but we all understand each other perfectly well unless we don’t speak that language or are unfamiliar with certain words and turns of phrase. Kind of like a metaphor. A very extended metaphor.

It’s amazing how adaptable and changeable language is based on who’s speaking it. There are so many ways to use words, and if they are metaphors, then we don’t even realize what we’re doing. But it’s still an interesting way of looking at language. Find the best way to make someone understand you, pick which words work and which don’t.

If you find this interesting, you should read the following NY Times article “Does Your Language Shape How You Think?” here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/magazine/29language-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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Don’t Kill the Messenger

My university, UNC Chapel Hill, has been in the middle of a huge rape case. You can read the latest article here: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2013/03/landen-gambills-ex-unc-forced-me-out

The school paper, the Daily Tar Heel, has done an admirable job trying to cover a difficult topic, yet find themselves the subject of criticism from students who want the paper to take a side. Thus far, the Daily Tar Heel has neither supported the assumption that Landen Gambill is right in her accusations of rape, nor have they condemned her ex boyfriend, the accused. The paper has simply reported what each side has to say, and there are still many unknowns to the case. The only thing we do know is that the university messed up how they dealt with the accuser and the accused, as shown by both sides of the story.

Students’ complaints about the coverage of the rape case come from a valid case: rape culture is alive and prevalent not only at UNC but everywhere. We still live in a culture where the victims of rape can be doubted, treated with disrespect, and blamed for what happened to them when they shouldn’t be, rather than putting the responsibility on the rapist. As a result, this Gambill case becomes a sensitive subject amidst a time when UNC has been accused of dealing poorly with rape cases. Other rape victims have come out and spoken against the university, and rightly so.

What makes the Gambill case different is that rather than being a part of the university rape culture as a whole, the case has become particular to itself. Gambill has been using her experience as a way to speak out against rape culture, but the difference between her and the others that spoke out is that her ex-boyfriend, the man accused of rape, is also speaking out. He filed an Honor Court violation against her for creating an intimidating environment for him. And then the confusion started.

The Daily Tar Heel can’t take sides because we don’t know what happened. Ideally, one would take the side of the victim, but with each article published there are new details that make things less black-and-white. Gambill states that she hasn’t done anything to create an intimidating environment, that she simply wants to help better how the university deals with rape. Gambill’s ex boyfriend says that he didn’t rape her and was surprised when the accusation came four months after they broke up. Both had to be treated for psychological conditions related to the case, and in both cases psychological conditions were used against them. Gambill’s ex boyfriend was found not guilty of rape, but guilty of verbal assault, but all this by a student-run organization. The police were never involved, and given the four month delay in reporting, there was probably not much they could do.

The Daily Tar Heel has simply been reporting what everyone has said, taking a neutral stance, which is the way journalism works these days for all stories (I have some issues with that, but in this case it’s the right way to proceed.) There are many unknowns, and no matter what the results of the case are, there is nothing good that can come of it. There are three possibilities: that Gambill wasn’t raped, which would set back the activism based on her case; that Gambill was raped, which means that the university put her through that much trouble for no good reason; or that Gambill and her ex boyfriend are somehow both right or wrong, which means that people need to be better educated on what rape is, and what the consequences of raping someone and/or accusing someone of rape entail, and that our university is not at all equipped to deal with rape cases as is.

None of these outcomes is the fault of the journalists who report it, nor have they assumed that any of these outcomes are true. They report what they know, and leave inferences to those who read the articles. They look for balance, which is hard. Either way, journalism is all about finding the truth, and to do so they must look at both sides of the story, which is why we get not only Gambill’s side but also that of her ex-boyfriend. No one wants Gambill to have been victim blamed, and even less people want her to have wrongly accused someone. But anyone reporting on the story can’t make assumptions when the university itself isn’t sure what happened. The only people who know are Gambill and her ex-boyfriend, and they both have different stories about what happened. And you can’t blame the journalists for that.

Either way, the stories published are important in that they can start a conversation about rape. Through this case, students can be made aware that rape does happen, can criticize their university for how they deal with rape cases, can educate people on what rape is, and can discuss how future cases should be dealt with in a way that causes the least harm to the victim. There are always possibilities that no one wants to talk about but they should be considered as well. A discussion has many sides, and life is rarely clear. That is why papers like the Daily Tar Heel exist, to report what they know and incite discussion.

Don’t blame the journalists. They can only report what they know, and nothing else, and what they do report helps bring issues to light and bring about discussion. But discussion can’t be had if we’re blaming them for reporting both sides of a story.

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A Lot of Young People Want to Travel (and Why Shouldn’t They?)

So yesterday I heard this speech by this girl who’s dying, where she basically said that we’re all dying, some of us a little bit slower, some of us might die unexpectedly, but we’re not all guaranteed to live long lives, and because of this we should live our lives to the fullest. It had all 1,400ish people (and the staff) in tears, and it resonated with me because I’d already been thinking along similar lines (minus the dying part). I want to do something awesome while I’m young. I don’t want to waste my youth working hard to work hard and then keep working and not have a chance to do anything until I’m old and gray, or potentially at all.

If I could do anything after I graduate, I would just go and travel the world. I’d find ways to stay in cheap places, to travel cheaply by car/bus/train (only using planes if I really needed to, like between oceans), take pictures, and write about it on a blog or some sort of similar website. That would be the best thing. I would see so much. I would learn so much. Despite being shy, I would probably meet so many people. And I should do it. I should do it because I might not get the chance to later, because later I’ll be tied down by work, or a family, or possibly by ill health. Right now I know I’m fine. Right now I know I’m capable of having an adventure.

But there’s money, which is, unfortunately, an object that I need and don’t have enough of. I wouldn’t have any source of income while traveling, and even less money to come back to. I wouldn’t have a job when I came back because I’m not the kind of person who just has those sort of things lined up. I’m a girl, so I can’t just go hitch-hiking or couch-surfing willy-nilly because, unfortunately, we live in a world where people think it’s fine to take advantage of women. I wouldn’t have a travel companion because most of the people I know (and probably a few that don’t) wouldn’t just up and travel unless they had no issues with all of the above, and very few can work all of that out.

But I want to, so much. I just want to take a few years to travel and document my travels, to learn something and show something and have a story to tell for it, out of which I might write more stories. More than a job, more than success, more than money, more than a happy relationship, I want this: to be able to travel around the world and see it all, and spent a few of my younger years doing something purely for myself, because I want to, before getting tied down by responsibility and people.

I have approximately three months left before I graduate, and what will I do then?

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Time

Time. It fascinates a ton of people. We experience it every second of every day. We can’t even comprehend existing without time.

Way back when, before the Spanish conquered South America, the Inca civilization had a circular view of time. The Spanish brought with them a more linear view of time, and they couldn’t comprehend the idea of time being circular or cyclical.

Today we tend to view time as linear, having a Past, Present, and a Future. But looking closer, we have cycles. We repeat the cycle of sunrise and sunset, of weeks, of months, of years. We repeat seasons. We repeat decades. We even repeat history—going from war to peace to war to peace, among other things.

I tend to see time as a combination of being linear and cyclical. Time moves forward, obviously, because we see time’s effects on us. We get old, we die, other people are born, they get old, they die. But there are also cycles that go beyond the individual, like the cycles of seasons and years. It’s like a bunch of circles moving forward in a line. (see my illustration below)

Image

Think about time long enough and you’ll also start to question its effects on free will. This is most easily seen through time travel fantasies. For example, if you went into the past and changed something, it would create a paradox—that thing in the past that made you travel back in time to change it doesn’t exist, so you never go back in time. In other words, you can’t change the past, because if you did you wouldn’t change the past. Paradox.

The future is a bit weirder. You go forward in time and try to figure out something and maybe you change something, but you can’t change what you changed. You can’t go back and reverse your change, not once it becomes a part of the timeline. What you changed is always changed.

It’s a bit like that Doctor Who episode “Father’s Day” in which Rose goes back to the day her father died, when she was a baby. As the story goes, he gets hit by a car and as he’s dying a girl holds his hand on the road, before anyone else can get to him. When Rose goes back in time she tries to save her father from death. Everything goes to hell because Rose’s father is suddenly alive in a time when he’s not supposed to be. The only solution is for him to die, so he does. And Rose holds his hand as he’s dying, and this becomes the memory she’s had all along. In “changing” her past she made an event become the memory her mother has always had. She’s always gone back in time to her father’s death; she just hasn’t realized it until she’s there.

This calls into question free will and fate. Time travel stories like the one above suggest that we don’t actually have any free will, that what happens was always meant to happen, which seems a bit like fate. Even taking away the time travel, you get a timeline in which you can’t change any choices you’ve made. You can “change” your life by making choices regarding your future, but that isn’t really changing anything, it’s just moving forward. You could have done one thing, but you didn’t, and once you make a choice you’ve made that choice forever. You’re locked into your choices, hurtling forward and unable to go back. Kind of like fate.

Then there’s another question: does it matter? A lot of people attribute fate to a higher power, like a god or a spiritual force. Yet in this case, fate is the product of time, which isn’t sentient and doesn’t care about us (like a god would, in most faiths), it’s just there. Which might seem unsettling, but actually isn’t. A fate caused by something unfeeling means that we aren’t judged; therefore this fate would be arbitrary. We aren’t fated to a bad life because we did a bad thing. It’s the luck of the draw.

This time-fate isn’t like other fates, in that we still do get to make our own choices. We are always making those choices, we can’t change them, and we can’t undo them. We’re stuck with them. But we aren’t being influenced by time to make those choices in the same way that in religion, a high power (a god) influences people to make the choices they make, leading them to their fate. Even if time locks us into our decisions, we’re still the ones making our decisions. We’re autonomous. We have no one to blame for the path our lives take except ourselves.

Take this quote from Cloud Atlas, which most accurately sums up this fate-time-freewill dynamic:

“Strip back the beliefs pasted on by governesses, schools, and states, you find indelible truths at one’s core. Rome’ll decline and fall again, Cortés’ll lay Tenochtitlán to waste again, and later, Ewing will sail again. Adrian’ll be blown to pieces again, you and I’ll sleep under Corsican stars again…Nietzsche’s gramophone record. When it ends, the Old One plays it again…Time cannot permeate this sabbatical. We do not stay dead long.” (Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell)

In a book about how people effect each other across time, this quote perfectly captures how time is cyclical. Perhaps the same events will not literally re-occur, but similar events will, both on a worldwide scale on and on a personal one. We repeat history. We repeat mistakes. We repeat things that made us happy. Those that come before us made similar decisions, and those that come after will continue to do so. Some choices will be rarer than others, and other choices will become common.

But we’ll always have our choices, even if time makes them permanent ones.

*Note: I am not a philosopher, physicist, or time traveler.

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Response Post: Third World Countries and Education

This is a response to this post ( http://blogs.unicef.org.uk/authentic_voices/archive/2013/01/23/tom-hiddleston-guinea-diary-.aspx ) because I found the topic interesting and, having discussed this recently, decided to write about it. Check out the blog, by the way, as well as the rest of Unicef’s website.

This is interesting, because I got into a conversation about developing countries with my mother (who’s from Ecuador) about why these countries struggle so much with their development. And we spend a lot of time throwing money at them or, better, building schools and providing food, water, and shelter, as well as setting up places where people can get proper healthcare. But the real problem is the actual governmental infrastructure, and, well, what do people do about that?

I don’t know as much about African countries, but the post about Guinea put it in an interesting perspective—no one knows what they want. And governments tend to be corrupt, and corrupt governments can take advantage of a populace that doesn’t know what it wants out of their country. Disorganization can ruin even the best of ideas. Certain South American countries suffer similar corruption and issues of the general population rebelling, re-electing, failing, and trying all over again.

But what do you do about it? Some would approve of first world countries sending people (the military, probably) into third world countries and overthrowing the government is also a viable solution. But we’ve seen that doesn’t work. People are bitter towards their colonizers and for good reason—when have imperialistic countries ever treated their colonies fairly? Hell, the United States was born from people being angry at England’s unfair treatment of them. (I’m from the US, so that’s why I bring that up.)

Besides, it probably would benefit these countries to be able to set up a system that works themselves, because then they don’t become dependent on anyone else. Education is the best bet—last semester I studied China’s rise from a third world country to nearly a first world power (they have a lot of work to do, but they’re miles from where they were in the 1970’s) and a lot of it had to do with openness and education. Students learned more—more students went to school, students learned the economic ways of other countries (and governmental, but China kind of ignored that a bit) that were successful, and the sciences and technologies of first world countries. They took that back to China, used it, and flourished. This was on their own terms, and so far it’s been working. It’s been slow, China still isn’t perfect some thirty years later, but it’s getting better.

The same principal applies, and I think this blog post rightly addresses that education is extremely important, among other things. If children and young adults, even adult-adults (hey, you’re never too old to learn anything) can become educated and learn not only about what makes up their country and their people, but also what makes the world around them work, then those countries can have a group of people who will know what they want, who will be able to use the knowledge they’ve gained to help their country grow.

It’s slow. My mom sounded a bit hopeless when talking about Ecuador, saying that the corruption has been ingrained into the culture of Ecuador’s government. And looking at a lot of these countries, who have been struggling for decades, it does seem a bit hopeless. But education is not an instantaneous thing. It takes time. Like I said, it took China decades, but there is a noticeable difference. And I think that if there’s more access to education in other third world countries, then they have a better chance at success.

That was very long and I’m not a historian or even very experienced in the world, but I do firmly believe that education works. If you take anything away from this at all, just take away that education is important and if you can, help educate those who don’t have access to good education (through donating to organizations that do, by teaching, by going through a program like Teach for America if you’re in the states (they also have an international branch, ect.)

*Note: I am not a history expert. I just find it helpful sometimes.

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The Culture of Violence

Today a gunman opened fire in an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 20 children, six adults, and then himself. These children were K-4th grade, none older than ten. There are parents who sent their children to school, a place where they should be safe, only to find out that they would never come home. There will be holidays replaced by funerals, presents unopened, beds unfilled. And it shouldn’t be this way.

This year has been a particularly violent year in the United States. We’ve had several shootings-in a mall in Oregon, in the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado, outside the Empire State Building in New York, in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. You’ll notice that all of these places are traditionally considered safe. You go to school to learn, to the movies to escape, to the mall to be happy and shop, to the Empire State Building for work or vacation, to the temple to find peace and pray. All of these places had the illusion of safety shattered, and now we have to worry about what will happen when we go out of the house.

This is changing our culture. We become afraid to go into public places because we never know what will happen, and we never know if we’ll come back, and events like this bring the fear to life, and confirm it. Fear of school shootings is part of a set of larger fears involving violence–fear of violence in the cities, fear of public shootings, fear of violence against women, fear of kidnapping and rape, fear of guns in general. These things can happen anywhere, to anyone. The victims can be anyone, but so can the criminal. You can trust no one in this culture.

It shouldn’t be this way. I spent the semester talking about how women shouldn’t constantly have to worry about rape or men’s violence against them, but that’s not all. No one should have to worry about stepping outside and not coming back. No one should have to worry that someone with a gun might decide, in a fit of passion or anger or anything else, to take the lives of many innocent people before taking his or her (though more often, his) own.

We need to become a culture that is less violent. I don’t think it has to do with the media, necessarily, because in countries where there is less gun violence (or guns, in general), the media is just as full of violence (the UK has plenty of gun-heavy dramas even though they have much less gun violence). But in this country, people are taught that violence solves problems, in fact, that guns solve problems. If only a gun were present, if only we had guns to defend ourselves, but what constitutes defense? Do we need to constantly be defending ourselves? How often is your house actually broken into that you need a gun? The need for a gun can be morphed into something worse, into violence. And if someone has violent inclinations and has access to a gun, that just makes things worse, because they will use it. Guns are easy.

We need to learn that we don’t need guns to be safe. We need to get rid of the perception that fighting violence with violence is acceptable. We need to explain to children that yes, bad things happen, but the proper response isn’t a deadly response. It isn’t a response with a weapon that can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time.

I don’t want to live in a world where children go to school and don’t come back because someone decided to shoot them in a fit of anger. The families, friends, and other children affected by the shooting are in my thoughts. They all are. These are experiences they should never have to deal with, but they happened and now they must try to move ahead in a world where nowhere is safe.

If we can’t even go to school without the threat of violence, then where can we go? If children aren’t safe, then who is?

I hope everyone is safe. Tell your loved ones you love them.

A few articles of interest on the topic:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school.html?smid=tw-nytmetro&_r=0

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/american-exceptionalism-the-shootings-will-go-on/266293/

http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/07/20/the-worst-mass-shootings-of-the-past-50-years/

A knife attack in a Chinese school also happened today and raises some interesting points: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/14/1169847/-Eerie-knife-attack-in-Chinese-school-also-today-22-wounded-your-move-MSM

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