Sita Sings the Blues Response

This film was rather unlike anything I’ve seen before. There were so many different elements I’m having trouble even recalling them all. The varied styles of animation certainly made it more interesting to watch, but I do feel it distracted somewhat from the narrative. While I acknowledge some of the styles served a purpose- differentiating between storylines, time, and place, the variation between styles within the same scene (retelling of the same moments in a story) was distracting and felt somewhat directionless.

My favorite scenes by far were with the shadow puppets. The dialogue was genius, and I loved the use of this very old art form telling an ancient story with new media and slang. I saw an exhibit on those type of shadow puppets at an art museum in New Mexico and was fascinated by the colorful detailing that is never seen on the shadows themselves.

I really appreciated the use of the jazzy songs. Heard alone, I would associate them with a Fred Astaire-type film, but Nina Paley did a fantastic job taking them out of context and manipulating them to fit Sita’s story. I did, however, feel as though they were lengthy and many, especially towards the end. In the music scenes, I really enjoyed the 2d layering of the different shapes, particularly the hinged “paper” parts on Sita’s body. This playful animation was my least favorite in terms of artwork, but the way Paley chose to layer the world and create movement was striking.

After doing a very small amount of research, I was surprised to find that Paley is not, in fact, Indian. I wonder what compelled her to use an Indian myth in her cathartic piece. Surely she identified with Sita’s character and her helplessness and devotion, but there are plenty of other female characters in stories from all different cultures that exhibit the same traits. I wonder if anyone takes offense to this animation or considers it to be cultural appropriation.

Rough Cut Documentation

Film is a hell of a lot more difficult than I ever expected. I’ve been aware of the effects of warm and cool light in a recorded environment, but I never considered how much work goes into creating those conditions and how much consideration is given to the effect lighting creates. Lighting was probably our biggest struggle, particularly in scenes where the puppet had a wider range of movement than simple arm gestures. I can understand how it would be cheaper/easier to create a movie set from scratch that will be better suited for contrived lighting than it is to try to light a pre-existing space, especially one so poorly lit as the NYUSH dorms.

As far as post is concerned, I found Premiere far more difficult to use than Photoshop. Even after a combined many hours of work, I am still finding myself feeling very lost and fumbly in Premiere.

Chloe and Isabella’s Sound Piece- Original + Revision Documentation

As people who had never really recorded or edited sound, we had only a very vague idea that we wanted to do something with street food. I really liked the notion of incorporating something “of the city” into the project, but wasn’t really sure how to do it. We also knew that we didn’t want to do anything that required us to be voice actors, because it’s awful to hear yourself on a recording.

We used the TASCAM to record several minutes of the sound of street food being made in the middle of the night. The majority of those minutes was the sound of noodles being fried on a wok, but there were also some other shorter samples of chuan’er being cooked and cars and bikes going down the street.

We eventually decided to make some sort of a song out of the sounds we’d recorded. We spent hours dividing up the long recordings into individual sounds in garage band. We put each snippet of sound into a category- sizzles of the pan, hits of metal, voices, car vroom sounds, etc. We started looping and combining different “hit” sounds to make a sort of percussion beat, but realized the sounds were a little too choppy to do this well. We applied some effects (light echo, changing ambience) to make the sounds a little more smooth.

Seeing as neither of us has much musical knowledge, we were lost as to how to get the piece anywhere beyond an avant-garde percussion beat. We enlisted the help of a DJ friend who had logic pro installed on his computer and offered to help us make the audio go somewhere. We added a “drop” after the basic rhythm section that made the piece just a little more complex.

In class, one critique was that the piece was full of mids and highs, but no lows. We addressed this by adding one of Garage Band’s drum loops to the track. Another main piece of feedback was that the “drop” came out of nowhere and the beginning half didn’t really properly lead up to it. We increased the volume towards the end of the first beat and added the Garage Band percussion to make the drop seem a little more built up to. We also increased the volume of the track to compensate for the quietness of having to be recorded a couple feet away from the wok fire.

Reflection on “Everything is a Remix”

Kirby Ferguson’s series did what I think I’ve been waiting for all of these other articles to do. His explanation of the origin of copyright laws really made me reflect on how their original intent have been skewed and warped into a way of taking money from people. Ironically, perhaps intellectual property law would only actually work in a non-capitalist system!

Ferguson’s observation of the creative method of “copy, transform, combine” got me thinking about the way architecture has reacted to this. In architectural movements throughout history, we see the exact same elements appearing on many buildings in the same timeframe and reason. Those elements, such as dentil molding in post-colonial United States, are used to identify buildings from a particular era or movement. Copying in architecture has been done without question for hundreds- even thousands- of years.

“Everything is a Remix” also made me reflect on brutalist architecture. Among other things, this movement is reliant on the idea that everything has already been done, and basically gives up trying to make anything original. Even for people who like brutalism, its products are heavy and ugly. They are characteristic of eastern Europe’s communist cities, and are rarely regarded as a positive aesthetic to live in or around. I guess this is what can happen in a creative pursuit that stops “combining” to create newness.

Response to The Ecstasy of Influence

As a skeptic of this whole “Plagiarism is Good” movement,  I spent this entire piece waiting for Lethem to give me some concrete examples. I understand that this is a very rudimentary criticism, and perhaps I should take the piece for what it is and stop looking for the evidential proof, but I have trouble being convinced that intellectual property is so damaging to our collective creativity and progress when I haven’t really been told why, but rather had the theory thrown in my face several times over the course of the essay.

I did really enjoy Lethem’s point about the power of pop culture symbols that have been taken into our culture on a less-than-conscious level. It would be interesting to observe a culture or society that has remained isolated from pop culture media (from the east and west alike), like the Cacataibo region of Peru, which is home to a tribe of Native Americans who have chosen to separate themselves from the rest of the world. Lethem asserts that creativity and artistic evolution are not possible without taking on aspects of already produced pieces, and I would like to study how art has evolved in cultures like the Cacataibo, where there is a much smaller pool of past work to draw on, versus a place like the United States, which has access to much of the world’s work through globalization and the internet.

While Lethem’s stringing together of sentences from different preexisting works is beyond impressive and drives his point home in many ways, I think the work still lacks something in the idea of an action plan. He mentions citation being basically futile because plagiarism happens so much outside of the quotation marks, but does that mean we should do away with it in all forms? While many artists, authors, etc have only good intentions with their plagiarism, conscious or not, some do have bad ones, and removing legislation to protect artists who have had their original works stolen and passed off as original by someone else (I’m thinking Jeremy Scott and Jimbo Phillips), rather than “remixed” into something else.

Comic Reflection

We came up with the idea for the comic quite quickly. The difference between breakups in boys and girls was an easy choice, but one that has probably been done a lot already, so we added some twists to the comic. None of us are very good at drawing, so we wanted to include as little necessity for drawing as possible. We decided to take pictures of the backgrounds and overlay a drawn character onto the image to add a bit of variety. The photos were taken in and around the school and dorms to add relevance to our community.

This project was a great reflection for me to see how far my photoshop has come in just a few weeks. I never thought I would be able to use photoshop productively, especially not to make something from scratch as opposed to just editing an image, but I’m really impressed with the work our group did. The Wacom tablet also turned out to be a great tool. I didn’t use it but Maggie did a great job making our cute little characters, and it was really nice to have them right in photoshop as oppose to having to scan or photograph them and deal with shadow or discoloration.

Response to Understanding Comics

I’ve never really considered myself to be a “comic book person.” In grade school I didn’t know a single person who read comics, nor did my parents read them growing up. Basically, I had zero exposure to comics and knew them only through Marvel movies and Japanese manga. McCloud’s book has been a great introduction to comics and has given me a greater appreciation for the art form, certainly, but I was most intrigued by the analysis of east-vs-west style.

My four years of high school Japanese class were filled with self-proclaimed “otaku,” or people with obsessive interest in Japanese anime, manga, and general culture. I was never able to understand the infatuation and had mentally condemned it as a form of cultural appropriation. After being required to read manga and watch anime for class, I did get a certain feeling from consuming the material. I didn’t know what it was- apart from calming vibes- and it definitely didn’t constitute an obsession, but the feeling I was getting put me a little closer to grasping the passion of my classmates.

McCloud’s description of the aspect to aspect panel transitions- namely how they define Japanese comics- explained the vibes I was receiving. I immediately realized that this seemingly arbitrary “scene setup” was the reason manga had given me such a distinct sensation. A manga reader has a very thorough understanding of the environment in which the story takes place. As manga is Japanese, this environment is often Japan. Perhaps this is why manga obsession so frequently goes hand-in-hand with cultural infatuation, while western comics (which lack aspect to aspect transition) rarely achieve this effect.

Monkey Business

Our group started with an image of a monkey jumping off of a snowy overhang. We had an initial idea to photoshop the image into the monkey skydiving, but I was the fourth in the cycle and by the time the image got to me it was filled with bananas.

There was already a lot going on in the image so I didn’t want to add to much and ruin it. The bananas in the back of the basket were all green, so I turned them yellow to make things look a little smoother, as the bright green was adding to the distracting background. When the image go to me the second time, I cleaned up some of the selection lines and also added a little motion blur to the monkey, bananas, and skateboard to enhance the visuals of them falling out of the basket.

Unfortunately, I think the motion blur made the image look worse overall. I didn’t realize that blurring the monkey would ruin the realism, as subjects closer to the lens are supposed to be more focused. I’m still super proud of my group and think our final product turned out well.


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Response to “On the Rights of Molotov Man”

My initial reading of Joy Garnett’s half of this piece made me feel very strongly about blogger nmazca’s question: “who owns the rights of this man’s struggle?” While many photographers of revolutions, slums, hidden cultural traditions, and other areas of intense human vulnerability or uniqueness do  truly just want to educate the public on their subjects’ stories, still some are more focused on their own portfolios and fame, or have less selfish but equally harmful effects by disregarding the message the subject wants to be relayed.

  In the second half of the piece, it was, of course, clear that Susan Meiselas was not one of such photographers, and was simply concerned that Bareta’s mission not be separated from his image. When an artist takes a photo (captures and reproduces an image from reality) that carries a specific message, I believe it is his or her responsibility to see that photo is not misinterpreted. Susan Meiselas was certainly justified in her attempt to maintain the story behind her image.

I do also understand Garnett’s desire to separate the context of the Molotov Man from the emotion in the photograph, but it is so, so wrong of us to demean and  another human being’s struggles and their origins- so much that they’re not of enough worth to even mention- for our own benefit (in this case, an art project to “portray frustration and anger”). Perhaps this is quite a radical stance, but I cannot imagine how I would feel if a time of immense turmoil in my life was warped into the complete opposite of what it really was.

Response to Walter Benjamin

I focused on Benjamin’s use of the aura- particularly the way reproduction by means of photography deprives the viewer of the aura. I found a really cool gif on Giphy and added in a song from Spotify that I felt personified the apocalyptic tone. I was able to figure out how to resize my image, center the div box and the text within it, as well as arrange the elements in the order I wanted, but I wasn’t able to center the image or the music player, even though I tried like 50 different ways. I also would have preferred to use the html5 audio player as opposed to the gross-looking Spotify extension, but I don’t actually have the .mp3 file for this song saved on my computer so this will have to do.

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