Sunday, September 30, 2007

David Sedaris Bio, Interviews, and Stories



Go Carolina

Us and Them

Wilde Wit

Wilde is known for his wit. I'm hoping that Alexander will post a Youtube clip of a Monty Python skit on his blog. In the skit, Wilde, Shaw, and James McNeill Whistler have themselves a bit of a wit-off.

I'd like for all of you to bring in a quote (or witticism) from Wilde on Monday. I'd like for us to celebrate Wilde's genius.

Here's my favorite quote: Whenever people agree with me I always feel I must be wrong.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Shaw Vs Wilde

Shaw didn't like The Importance of Being Earnest. He had this to say:

"It amuses me, of course; but unless comedy touches me as well as amuses me, it leaves me with a sense of having wasted my evening. I go to the theatre to be moved to laughter, not to be tickled or bustled into it; and that is why, though I laugh as much as anybody at a farcical comedy, I am out of spirits before the end of the second act, and out of temper before the end of the third, my miserable mechanical laughter intensifying these symptoms at every outburst. If the public ever becomes intelligent enough to know when it is really enjoying itself and when it is not, there will be an end to farcical comedy."

Shaw's problem with Wilde is that his plays are funny, but they lack humanity. His plays are about his words; not about his characters. What do you all think?

As if

I love Clueless. I remember seeing it in 95, my senior year of high school. I had no idea what to expect. I was like, Alicia Silverstone, blah. I hated those Aerosmith videos. I had low expectations going in, so yeah, I was very surprised by how good it all was (including Silverstone). It reminded me of Heathers--the dialogue was sharp and original. Yeah, "As if" and "She's a Betty" became annoying catch-phrases in 95, especially for those in high school.

I have to say I love the subtle performance of Alicia Silverstone. I think it's really an underrated performance. Her delivery of that Hait-ians speech is great. Not only does the class room believe what she's saying, but you can't help but fall for it too. She's that girl you didn't like in high school--and here she is winning you over. I like how the satire exposes the disgusting habits of the children of the rich in Beverly Hills. It shows teenagers aware of their status--they're class-conscious and they're only sixteen. The film, much like Heathers, also satirizes high school and the set of rules to live by for each of the cliques.

The film is comedy. The film is satire. The performances are parody. So why do I have a weird feeling that people have watched this film as a sort of how-to? Paris Hilton. The Hills. It's funny how spoiled rich girls are mainstream right now. I watched the Hills and I was like, this could be really funny, if it were edited right. MTV has it all wrong. These people are horrible. Exploit them. Put in a laugh track when they say something vapid. Okay, maybe that wouldn't work, because everything that comes out of their mouth is vapid. Here are spoiled brats shopping, eating, "working", lying by the pool. Dullsville. I do like how The Soup makes fun of them. Maybe the Hills should exist as such: A Mystery Science Theater style show where comedians watch the show and make fun of Lauren and crew. I'd watch that.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

George "Beardie" Shaw

Socialist. Vegetarian. Nude Model.

And Feminist?

Theater critic Eric Bentley had this to say of Shaw's sex role reversals: 'Shaw once committed himself to the view that all superior women are masculine and all superior men are feminine.'

Could you see it happening in Pygmalion? Eliza, Mrs. Pearce, Mrs. Higgins? How does Higgins, or even Pickering, behave/act in front of women? Who has the power in those scenes?

Eliza Doolittle is a heroine. She goes to Higgins to "fix" her way of speaking, so that she can land a better gig--cuz selling flowers ain't paying the bills. Higgins may have been joking when he said he could make her into a duchess, but she saw an opportunity. Maybe not a duchess, but something better than a flower girl.

After she wins the bet (for she is the one who did all the work), she says, now what? She can talk like a queen, but she has no money or power to call her own.

LIZA: Oh! if I only c o u l d go back to my flower basket! I should be independent of both you and father and all the world! Why did you take my independence from me? Why did I give it up? I'm a slave now, for all my fine clothes.

HIGGINS: Not a bit. I'll adopt you as my daughter and settle money on you if you like. Or would you rather marry Pickering?

Shaw's comment here is that women don't have many choices in the matter. They can marry well (Pickering) or the father (Doolittle/or the adopted father, Higgins) can take care of them.

Liza says screw this. She doesn't want her father or her adopted father, both who treat her like dirt, to have anything to do with her. She wants to be treated well, so she chooses Freddy. This is very revolutionary. She chooses her husband, and a poor husband at that. But this husband loves her and treats her well. Imagine the reaction of a late Victorian audience. A society that is all about marrying for status and money. This would be appalling.

Not only does Shaw satirize the class system; he also satirizes gender and the expected roles of women and men.

Wilde at Heart

Read for Monday, Oct. 1st: The Importance of Being Earnest (Acts 1-2)

For Wednesday, Oct. 3rd: The Importance of Being Earnest (Finish)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion

Read Preface and Acts 1-3 for Monday, Sept. 24th.

Read Acts 4, 5 and the "sequel" for Wednesday, Sept. 26th.

My Fair Lady is based upon this play. Perhaps something to keep in the back of your mind while reading. Especially if you've seen the musical--film version or staged production.

And of course, the Simpsons had their fun with Pygmoelion and their parody of My Fair Lady--My Fair Laddy (see pics).

Have a good weekend.

Quotes and Comments on American Psycho

Here are some quotes from Christian Bale and film maker Mary Harron around the time of American Psycho's film release (in 2000):


Q: In a recent Interview magazine you called Patrick Bateman a dweeb. What do you think turns a dweeb into a psychopath, specifically in Patrick's case?

Christian Bale: I have an idea on that, but it has nothing to do with the history of the character or anything like that because I didn't even delve into that. It would have been too realistic an approach to Bateman, who is not a real character. It is not that he is in any way vague or confused at all — he is very sure of his sensibilities about what he likes, why he likes things, what annoys him. To me it is certainty about everything. His obsession with minute details. His certainty that his life is pointless. That drives him crazy because nothing has any meaning and consequently he loses any sort of a conscience and has no limits. He can just as easily shake your hand and smile at you and pay you a compliment or bite your jugular out. He doesn't feel anything and that is his own living hell.

Bateman is unable to relate/connect with human life. It's all surface; not deep. This is why he pays so much attention to his exterior. He does the 1000 crunches and uses the expensive bathing/grooming products and dresses in designer suits. He's a walking advertisement. It's all about brand names and products. It's all about what everyone else is doing. Where is everyone going to eat. What is everybody else listening to. Everyone is going to see Les Mis, so he has to get front row seats. Maybe his 'living hell' is the not being able to feel or care or think for himself.

Q: Mary Harron said in Filmmaker magazine that the movie was realistic up to a point. I would argue that the book is entirely surreal and I just wonder how you saw the film vis-a-vis the book?

Christian Bale: Yes, I do think it is surreal. I think the movie is very surreal as well. We never attempted for realism. I think that Mary is just saying that we weren't going for some sort of cartoonish exaggeration, but there is a heightening to it. That was something that we had to be very careful about, but which didn't become too massive that it was entirely caricature. It had to be somewhat of a parody.

I'm not sure how I feel about Bale's answer. The Huey Lewis scene in the film is a cartoonish (perhaps highly caffeinated performance). They weren't careful in that scene. The parody works when it's not overdone. Look at a scene like the business card scene or even the opening scene with Bateman going through his daily routine. The parody: a day in the life of the yuppie.

From Barnes and

B& The film's actually very satirical and funny, which is what Ellis claimed the book was all along. Mary downplayed the carnage and sharpened the social satire. It makes you wonder why Ellis needed all that excruciatingly detailed violence in the first place.

Christian Bale: Because he wanted to show that Bateman's obsession with details is the source of his insanity. That's what I see about Bateman -- his fixation on minutiae, and absolutely needing to get an answer for every little tiny thing, even though all the things he's interested in are completely shallow.

I don't think Bateman kills anyone. I don't think any of it is real. He's a cut-throat businessman. He kills Paul Allen, not literally but figuratively. They're all Paul Allens. Kill one and another one will replace him. You noticed how many VP's were at the office he worked at. Each business read: so and so. Vice President.

What do you all think?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't do it! Don't eat that baby!

The overall impression I get from you guys is: why does Swift drop the irony/the sarcasm/the deadpan and get all serious towards the end?

I'm sure this will come up again. Why does the funny stop? In dark comedy and satire, there is a comment being made. It isn't like other forms of comedy where people laugh and laugh and have a good time and someone farts and laughs or trips and falls and hurts themselves and laughs and trips then farts and laughs. Satire and dark comedy is a social critique hidden beneath laughs. Sometimes the critique rears it's ugly serious head for a second. In Dr. Strangelove, it sneaks in. It's a (somewhat) serious moment when all of the planes are called off but one. In Little Murders, it gets serious and not so funny after the death of Patsy. I wonder if the same can be said about Dr. Strangelove and after the death of Ripper. Perhaps something to think about when we watch these films. What happens when a character dies?

Maybe Swift could only do so much with the dead baby thing. Recipes. Check. Skin used for gloves. Check. Hm. He could have gone on to coats or shoes, I suppose.

As the proposal progresses, the audience is desensitized to what is being said. So how shocking it would be to come in with truth of the matter (even if the truth comes off with a snippet of anti-Semitism with his line "Nor acting any longer like the Jews"). The tone shift is abrupt. I don't know what to do with the speaker. Do I trust him? He's persuasive from the get-go, even with the baby eating proposal, but what do I do when he gets 'real'? Again, we should discuss these moments when they come up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mark Twain Assigned Readings

For next class (Mon. Sept. 17th): Read Twain's The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg (pages 478-528 in the Signet Classic Book of Mark Twain's Short Stories)

For Wed. Sept. 19th: Read Twain's Extracts from Adam's Diary (pages 379-390 in the Signet), The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (pages 3-9), and The Invalid's Story (pages 260-268 in the Signet)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Films

Sept 19th: Monty Python's Life of Brian
Sept 26th: In the Company of Men or Clueless
Oct 3rd: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Oct 10th: Serial Mom or Polyester
Oct 17th: Addams Family Values
Oct 24th: Network
Oct 31st: Bucket of Blood
Nov 7th: Bamboozled or Hollywood Shuffle
Nov 12th: MASH (two signed up for this already)
Nov 26th: Bob Roberts or Bulworth
Nov 28th: Election
Dec 5th: Wag the Dog

Sunday, September 9, 2007


What is parody? What comes to mind?

For me, it's Saturday Night Live. Or it's Weird Al.

What's the difference between parody and satire? Stephen Geller says satire pokes fun at content, whereas parody pokes fun at style. What does that mean exactly?

Let's take the Daily Show as an example. The parody in the show is poking fun at the news broadcast (style). The satire in the show is poking fun at the social and political events (content) such as war or Britney Spears' breakdown.

Parody is innocent fun. It's playful. Satire stings a little. This is why the Daily Show works. It's playful, yet it's biting in its social criticism.

Duck and Cover

This was produced in 1951 around the time the Soviet Union started testing their nuclear weapons. The U.S. feared that they had to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear attack. The result was this film which was shown in schools. Could you imagine? We had our fire drills and our tornado drills, but never anything like this. Could you imagine being in a class room having to watch this? A cartoon turtle telling us that nuclear war can happen at any time and without warning. And all you have to do is duck and cover, like that's going to save you from the extreme heat and radiation. My favorite line: Even a newspaper can save you from a bad burn.

I thought I'd share this with you all. Give you an idea of what was happening in the 50's, so that you get a better understanding of the fear and paranoia. And the result of all this, of course, is Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove".