We are what we consume.

Edinburgh Expeditions

One thing that I try to do every week (or at the very least, every month) is attend events at Inspace, the University of Edinburgh Informatics Forum’s art space. The events I try to attend “blind.” I get the event emails from New Media Scotland, and sign up for the various events. I’ve attended lectures on memory and music (which resulted in my showing my inability to use a turntable in front of 75 people), a Pecha Kucha night (in which I stood up in front of a separate group of 75 and told stories of falling off of Arthur’s Seat), and a presentation by the Information Delivery Service (which resulted in no ridiculous stories from me).

IDS is a student cooperative fascinated with information, its readiness, their desire to have it all. The lecture, which I found interesting, was filled with information overload (and rather disjointed, lacking any coherent narrative flow, from which it would have benefited greatly). It did, however, leave me to contemplate how what we consume and create develops our identities.

I’ve recently started using Pinterest, that incredibly popular photo/lifestyle/dream-sharing website that’s been critiqued for everything from creating desires for unattainable lifestyles to dubious copyright infringement. What’s struck me as fascinating is, apart from its addictive qualities, Pinterest is able to give a ‘look’ to how we identify and how we wish to identify. It’s a means, like the Facebook info page, to divulge bits and pieces about ourselves to the world.

We are what we consume. We’re made up of the books that we read, the music that we listen to, the clothing that we wear. We identify through media, with ourselves and with each other. When getting to know one another, we ask about what sort of books we read, movies we watch, music we listen to. We find common ground and relate to it, often through what we enjoy.

If one were to look at my bookshelf, one would find a few books of critical theory (Guattari, Ranciere, Postman and McLuhan), philosophy (Hume and Marcus Aurelius), novels (John LeCarre and Margaret Atwood coexist, Raymond Chandler recently moved to the bedside table), my DVD collection of The Prisoner, a small CD collection (The Smiths and The Jam), and a few art books (exhibition guide to The Queen Art & Image, the exhibit I saw on my first day in Edinburgh). One can start to suss things out about me, just from what I choose to share about my intellectual consumption. I’m interested in media and environments, spies, and music made before I was born.

I see the world filtered through what I consume. Far too much of what I experience or think about is influenced by The Prisoner, even my potential dissertation topic for this degree. The thought of being without my DVDs in a foreign country was too much to bear. I even started reading books like Le Carre’s for research before realising how much I love them (okay, I’ve always enjoyed these stories, far more than I have the books that I’m “supposed to like”).

And I hate for the pretension that comes with saying, “I am an artist” but it’s true. I am an amateur painter, perhaps someday a professional digital artist (my dissertation, with hope, will kickstart that). But I read books on art, I examine it, I enjoy it, I consume it.

The presentation made me think only of this.

Bibliophiles Anonymous

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Hello, my name is Beth and I am a bibliophile.

I have been a bibliophile for most of my life, from the days when my parents would stack cardboard books by my crib, from the days where I memorized Madeliene and convinced my father I could read (little did he realize that I held the book upside down), to the days when I read my first real chapter book, Ann Rinaldi’s A Break With Charity, when I was 8.

My room is filled with books. Stacks of them. Old books, new books, books that have been thumbed through a thousand times and books that I have yet to read. Not to mention all of the books I have floating about in my head, waiting to be written.

My recent book loves are varied. Histories of spy organizations, children’s books of the Dahl variety and epic French literature (I finished Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame and will be reading Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo soon). My time to enjoy these works is slim. But still I read.

Books…oh how to praise them without resorting to the usual cliches? They are entertaining and enlightening. We can travel to new worlds and learn about ourselves through characters in books.

But, why do I love books so? Why do I love reading? Writing?

Honestly, I don’t know. My mom bribed me when I was little so I wouldn’t watch TV. $1 a week bonus to allowence if I watched less than 2  hours of TV. It worked pretty well–I didn’t watch any TV show until Lost premiered in 2004 (and I’ve been a pretty loyal fan; am finally watching season 6). But I digress.

My love of books began long before those days and has continued even after I belatedly discovered the awesome stories that can air on TV (24, Lost, The Prisoner) and how great movies are. If anything, I’ve become more of a bibliophile, being drawn to new authors, and to more classic works. If it hadn’t been for The Prisoner, I doubt I would have read Kafka’s The Trial or anything by John Le Carre (I love research. Have I said that before? I LOVE RESEARCH).

Books, unlike television, aren’t dependent on a schedule or pricey cable package. I can always go to the library and get something new to read.

Thesis Update: Nearing the End!

Thesis Updates

It’s all coming together! My supervisor gave me the deadline of “as soon as possible” (meaning Tuesday at the absolute absolute latest) to pass in my draft of the paper.
So that’s good news for me. I’m spending this weekend typing away, finishing and finessing the document. There’s a continual theme of “I have too many ideas for a 40 page paper and presentation, I might as well write a book” running through our discussions. So who knows. Maybe a book will come from all of this.
It’s appropriate that I’m spending what would have been Patrick McGoohan’s birthday writing a paper about his show…I may have to watch “Many Happy Returns” this evening, if I need a break.

Though sometimes I feel like this is a Village of its own, an inescapable place where the end is always *just* in sight.

Though, unlike Number Six, this Village is one that I will be leaving. April 28th…

Look Ma! No Paragraphs!

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

So, as a counterpoint to the light movies I’ve been watching lately, I’ve started reading Kafka’s The Trial. I’ve never read anything by Kafka, and this work is mentioned rather frequently in the research I’ve done on The Prisoner, so…reading it I am.

One thing that I’ve noticed  about the book is the lack of paragraphs. There isn’t any separation between dialogue; the end result is massive paragraphs that go on for an entire chapter. I find that I can’t skim-read; I must read each and every word to know who is saying what. Otherwise, one missed dialogue tag and I really am clueless.

I hadn’t given much consideration to the separation of dialogue by different paragraphs. It, in my eyes, was a given. A new character speaks and there is a new line.

Not so in The Trial. Lines run together, making it some times difficult to figure out who is speaking when. The result is, though, fitting for the story. The reader, much like main character Joseph K., is left confused. The story, focusing on a man who is arrested and not informed as to what his crime is, leaves the reader in a state of uncertainty. Who is this Joseph K., really? Who are his tormentors? Why has he been arrested?

The lack of separate paragraphs provide a cramped, uncomfortable, almost prisonlike in your inability to escape. The text is closed. When reading, I can’t help but want to escape the bounds of the page, no doubt just as Joseph K. longs to escape the rigid, though ill defined, justice system.

The uncertainty is killing me. But I like it.

Thirty-six! (Or, the List of Four)

General Geekiness

So, I failed to read the small print and have gotten myself into the epic List of Four meme . So I shall gladly part take.

I’ll answer as honestly as possible, for I am nothing if not honest.

1. Four shows that you watch:

  • The Prisoner. This should come as no surprise to long time readers of the blog. This is, hands down, my favorite show, and the subject of my Epic Thesis. It has everything I want in a TV show. It’s short (17 episodes), the stories are thought provoking, the premise is compelling, and it completely messes up your perception of nursery rhymes. I dare you to think of “Pop Goes the Weasel” as innocent after watching this show (and, come to think of it, reading my thesis).
  • Sherlock. I so enjoyed this BBC miniseries and am very excited that there will be more episodes next year. With my luck, though, I’ll miss the season as it airs in the UK, then will be in the UK as it airs in the US. C’est la vie.
  • Danger Man. I so enjoy this show. More Patrick McGoohan kicking ass. It is really well done entertainment–more straightforward spy fare than The Prisoner and incredibly entertaining.
  • Doctor Who. I can’t help it. This show makes me smile so much. Ridiculous, yes, but thoroughly enjoyable. I do like Matt Smith as the Doctor. He’s got a manic energy to him that works.

2. Four things you are passionate about:

  • Art. I create art. I seek out art in museums, online, in books, on the street. I sketch. I try to paint. I miss Florentine museums each and every day. I even have another blog dedicated entirely to visual art.
  • Research/learning. I love seeking out facts, books, details, anything to make minor revelations for my stories, art pieces, etc. And just amassing a large amount of trivia so that eventually, The Village Idiots will win at trivia night.
  • Story-telling. Be it through books, movies, plays, poems, television, albums, musicals, silly stories told to friends, scary stories around the campfire, history, I love it. I am constantly seeking out stories and composing my own. I adore movies (good, bad or cheesy) and love reading good books.
  • Adventure. I love to travel. I love to explore. I love to immerse myself in a culture. Give me my passport and a plane ticket and I’m golden.

3. Four phrases words you say a lot:

  • “Fudge monkeys!” My preferred silly curse. Sometimes it works better than the standards.
  • “Cuppa?” I am a tea fiend. I drink tea constantly when I’m at home–and at school for that matter. I average about 6 cups a day when at home.
  • “I AM NOT A NUMBER! I AM A FREE MAN!” Heh. Usually said when goaded on by my fellow Prisoner fan. Or when I’m going a little mental when working on the thesis.
  • “Mi piace!” One of the few Italian phrases that stuck with me. I say it pretty frequently, but usually only when I really like something.

4. Four things you’ve learned from the past:

  • Nothing’s permanent. Even if you’re in an unpleasant situation, things can change.
  • Try not to take things too seriously. Poking fun at yourself is a good thing. Especially when you fall down.
  • Life’s an adventure. Sometimes you need to throw yourself into new situations through travel or going to a different bar.
  • If things don’t work out the way you planned, oh well. Something else will arise, but you’ll have to go and look for it.

5. Four places you would like to go:

  • Graduate School at the University of Edinburgh. I’m applying soon. Wish me luck.
  • Russia. Moscow, St. Petersburg, even Siberia. I just want to go to Russia. I’ve been fascinated by Russian history for years. Lately, I’ve been looking at plane tickets and all of my adverts have been “Buy tickets to Moscow! Things to do in Moscow!”
  • Portmeirion. See The Prisoner. I really like visiting places used in my favorite movies, or spots in books, etc. I feel like its my solemn duty to make it to Portmeirion at some point in my life.
  • Dublin. My dear Holmes has informed me that I must go. I’ve decided that I must go (and will hopefully see The Frames in concert when I’m there).

6. Four things you did yesterday:

  • Bought a pair of jeans. Hurrah, I finally have jeans I can wear with my brogues.
  • Read a bit of Les Miserables. Am now nearing the end…I have 1.5 volumes left. Am a bit distraught and unsure of what to read when this epic tome is done.
  • Wrote part of my novel-y thingy. I’m trying to find some of the characters and their personalities. Two of them are pretty set (but I’m finding out some interesting things about one of them), and I’m hoping to flesh out some of the supporting characters.
  • Drank tea and ate chocolate cake. It was lovely. I’m appreciating the small things in life. And a world without tea or chocolate cake would be substantially sadder.

7. Four things you are looking forward to:

  • Returning to Florence in March. I’m going back for a week to visit my sister. I can’t wait to return to my favorite haunts.
  • Finishing Les Miserables. One epic novel down, I guess War and Peace is on the 2011 reading list…anyone know of a good translation?
  • Completing my Bachelor’s degree. I’m freaked out, but really excited as well. I’m looking forward to the next big adventure (hopefully this will be post-graduate work at the U of Edinburgh; if not, finding employment).
  • Presenting my epic Prisoner thesis on April 28.  I will be so proud of myself to have this project completed. I opted to write two theses this year–one which was completed last semester titled “The Carnivalesque World of Norman Bates”, and this one, which isn’t titled yet.

8. Four things you love about winter:

  • Snow. I’m a New Englander. I love the cold weather, the white stuff falling from the sky, and the icy wind that blows my closet door open. And going sledding in the stuff is pretty great too.
  • Christmas. It’s that get together with the family, decorate the tree, goodwill to all feel that I love. That, and watching some of my favorite movies, White Christmas and The Muppets Christmas Carol.
  • The cold weather. I like watching the snow fall, wrapped up in a blanket while reading. Can’t beat it.
  • All the tea I want. And I don’t feel guilty about drinking a hot beverage because its cold out.

9. Four bloggers who should share their list of fours:

If you want to, go ahead and answer.

Thesis Update: Midpoint Revelations on The Prisoner

Thesis Updates

One week ago tomorrow, I turned in the half completed portion of my thesis (which will probably end up meaning its but a third completed, as I have a lot I still wish to discuss).

A huge relief in passing the thing in. I’ll have roughly a month before jumping back in, but during that month I’ll be rewatching The Prisoner, either for fun or actually picking out arguments for the thesis, along with writing up an appendix with brief descriptions of each episode. Why? Well, its a cult show. I think probably about 7 people on my entire campus have seen it start to finish, and that’s a liberal guess. Unfortunately, if I say I’m writing about The Prisoner, if someone’s heard of it, they assume its the remake. No no no.

I’ve learned three things while writing this first half (all of which can be named with the letter “P”):

Planning

I’m not generally a fly by the seat of my pants person when it comes to writing papers. I need to gather data, make outlines (of a sort) and need an idea before I can really start working.

Persistence

Ah, the essay known as “The Essay of a Thousand Directions.” Each time I met with my supervisor, I had a different topic in mind. “I’ll do a character study of Number 6 using Cambell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces! Oh, I’ll look at the stifling of individuality in The Village! The presentation of The Village as a prison! Ooh! Ooh! New shiny topic! So many topics my supervisor suggested I just write my doctoral dissertation on this…(not going for my doctorate at this time…)

Well, while reading sources and brainstorming, I persisted in my quest to come up with an original topic. Though not my entire paper, I’m looking into the perversion of childhood signs in the show.

For next semester, I’m keeping on target, working hard and finishing this paper up.

Passion

Roughly seven months into this project, and I still enjoy working on it. I still love The Prisoner. I’m happily devoted to this project. It interests me and continues to hold my interest. That, and I care deeply about writing it well.

My friends see this project as bordering on obsessive. So what if it is? It’s fun.

 

Here’s to the upcoming semester. May it be fruitful! And may Christmas break be restful. 🙂