Monthly Archives: February 2015

McElwee’s March

There is a little bit of everything in Sherman’s March: self-deprecation, Burt Reynolds, war, melancholy, failure, historical reanalysis, and cultural satire (did I mention Burt Reynolds?), all in hopes of reaching some semblance of love, art, and selfhood. Ross McElwee puts everything he has into this documentary equivalent of the epic poem, and to a large degree, succeeds in his efforts. His two hour and forty minute runtime is nothing short of a marathon, and it all comes together to make a truly unique cinematic experience. In a way, too, every single second is necessary for his artistic endeavor to meet its proper conclusion. That’s the thing about Ross… he lets the camera, an extension of his body, take him wherever the camera needs to go. Furthermore, the authorial sincerity behind this intimate journey, no matter the consequence, dictates where and how and why the story unfolds the way it does. Continue reading

Mind Into Matter

I was almost always ready to shoot. I kept the camera within reaching distance, sometimes balanced on my shoulder… even between major portraits, when I was on the road, I was totally open to filming whatever might happen…

-Ross McElwee, 1988

I have a request for you, dear reader: stop thinking. Stop having thoughts about anything. Temporarily erase everything from your mind. Stop thinking about these words, this blog post, breathing–stop. If you’re asking yourself, “Did I do it?”, then no, you didn’t.

Not as easy as it sounds, right?

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Ross, the Tragic Hero

Before discussing the actual film, I’d like to share with you my expectations of it. Hearing a title like Sherman’s March, most people would surely expect a historical documentary (this can hardly be disputed as intentional by the director). But I first heard of the movie last semester in a class with none other than Steve himself, who brought it up with the following description (paraphrased due to the fallacy of memory):

“…he spends the whole movie chasing and flirting with girls and talks about Sherman for maybe ten minutes,” he said through a bout of laughter.

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Silenced Truths

I have been reading Philip NourbeSe’s work for my Major Author class. While, she is a difficult author to tackle, I believe that her work is essential to shift narrow and confined perspectives on truth. Her work leans towards poetry and prose, and so it would be inappropriate for me to claim that her work is CNF. It does not have the structure which qualifies it as CNF, nor does it have the language. Yet, there is something that I can take from her all of her books, but most specifically “Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence,” which contributes to my knowledge and perspective on fact vs. truth.

I have struggled with fact and truth since I came to college. The idea that truth is rooted in fact seems wrong to me because it is so often that we find truth within other things that have not been spoken or even proven with evidence. In “Looking for Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence”, NourbeSe speaks about a journey across Africa throughout which she encounters numerous tribes in search of Dr. Livingstone. The man who has-as history claims-been credited with the discovery of Africa. On her, (based solely on my own interpretation) metaphorical journey, NourbeSe claims to have found her silences, which had been lost. She is shown these silences by the tribes she encounters in Africa.

I understand if you’re confused, I was too. But as I continued to read this book, my mind began to adapt to NourbeSe’s language, to understand where she was coming from. Most of NourbeSe’s work deals with the limitations of a language that has been defined by our ancestors. We were given words and we were taught their definitions; we were not taught to question these definitions. This is the same with fact. We are given facts and we are taught to categorize them as truth, without question. The authority of the label “fact,” carries within it a weight that we prefer not to challenge. Facts must always be true – or as Dewey, from my introductory education course puts it, facts have “warranted assertibility.” They have been justified  as true and thus, it is widely accepted that they should not be questioned. Truth on the other hand, is not always fact. Not all truths have been proven, not all truths have been discovered – recovered. There are truths which hide within facts or behind facts. Facts are pretty or logical. Truth is messy, complex and sometimes misunderstood.  It could even be found in silence and it needs not be spoken.

To wrap things up, because this is a subject that I could rattle on about for days due to its complexity, on pages 67-68 of NourbeSe’s “Looking For Livingstone: An Odyssey of Silence,” the narrator asks Dr. Livingstone is he knows what fact is:

Narrator: Do you know what fact is, Livingston-I-presume? Livingstone: Yes, of course. Narrator: No you don’t – a fact is whatever anyone, having the power to enforce it, says is a fact. Power – that is the distinguishing mark of a fact. Fact – Livingstone discovered Victoria Falls. Livingstone: That is a fact. Narrator: That, Livingstone-I-Presume, is a lie, and a fact, because you and your supporters, your nation of liars, had the power to change lie into a fact. Those falls had a name long before you got to them…



Control the Reader

As a fan of Welcome to Night Vale, a bi-monthly fictional radio show that focuses on the town of Night Vale through the eyes (and voice) of Cecil Palmer, I’m hardly new to listening to podcasts. There’s something about the way podcasts are made that demand your attention. Unlike a book, you can’t set a podcast down and think, you have to absorb everything the minute it’s said. Sometimes this is fantastic, because the action in the podcast is intense. If this same intensity were a book, you’d read too quickly and skip entire sentences. But in a podcast, everything is already paced for you. There’s no way for a reader to interject their own cadence. Most of the time I find no problem with this aspect of podcasts, and I didn’t have any trouble while listening with Serial. In retrospect, I’m surprised I didn’t. Continue reading

When I think of a podcast- I immediately think of my grandfather sitting, reading the paper and listening to NPR. During the podcasts the narrator is the host so naturally, they are present and contributing thoughts and ideas about the topic that was being discussed for that segment. But, with Sarah Koenig’s Serial podcast, her presence in each episode is present, however the argument is how much is she holding back for the listeners, more specifically, how much is she alongside the readers?

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Are You Listening?

Have you ever been sitting peacefully on your bed in your room, when your mother or father enters unexpectedly with a demoralizing speech at hand about how you failed to do a simple chore like taking out the trash or cleaning the cat’s litter-box? If you do, try to remember their tone of voice. It wasn’t pleasant, was it? In cases such as this, an authority figure uses inflections in his or her vowhisper-in-earice in order to inspire feelings of negativity, guilt, and sorrow in their audience (you). Although in this case the use of the voice is being used to carry out a punishment, it is used in an unbelievable variety, everywhere you look.

When a movie producer scouts talent for a movie, they study the ability of actors and actresses to use their  facial expressions, body expressions, and voices. Just like parts of the body, the voice is an expressive tool used to display an unlimited amount of emotions and feelings. This is something that Sarah Koenig uses to her advantage in Serial. Koenig’s inclusion of various characters and their voices allows her listeners to hear the emotions of her subjects in the truest nature. The audience of Serial needs little imagination in order to comprehend and enjoy the podcast fully. But does Sarah do this in order to establish a story that’s  unique, or is it just her intention to project her own feelings to the story? Continue reading

How An Unlikely Podcast Made It Big

After finishing Serial and doing some further research on the podcast, I have come to realize how effective it truly is. What do I mean by effective? I mean to say that despite a small budget, mountains of doubt and a seemingly straightforward case, Sarah Koenig was able to make something from nothing. Koenig even says about the series that the case just happened to fall in her lap. Initially, it was a low-profile case that had been settled legally, but when Koenig gets her hands on it and opens it up, she finds tons of inconsistencies and faults in the prosecution.

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The Evolution of Serial

“If you don’t mind me asking, you don’t really have no ending?”  Adnan asks Koenig this, just days before the final podcast.  She goes on to assure the listeners that she does…but is it the ending we want?  What do we end up getting out of this story?  Throughout the series, Koenig places herself in the position of the audience, asking all of the questions and displaying all of the frustration we share.  To what end?  Twelve episodes and three months in, I’m left with even more questions and no one to ask them for me. Continue reading