Blog Post 2 (This was for a university class)

The product without which I feel I could not happily live is definitely my iPhone. With it, I’m able to keep in touch with friends who no longer live near me and make plans with those who do. It also allows me to keep my schedule in order, with alarm clock and calendar apps. In just seconds, I can have any fact at my fingertips. In short, it makes my life as a student a lot more comfortable and connected…. but at what cost?

According to Shanghaidaily.com, this year, after having their classes suspended, students in China were forced to work at a Foxconn plant in order to develop the iPhone 5. The company, who was reportedly in desperate need of workers, was quoted as paying their student-turned-workers the equivalent of just over 240 American dollars. Evidentially, the students and their parents at no point signed off on this agreement. It seems that in order for North American students and the like to have the privilege and comfort of the new iPhone, it is at the cost of the privilege and comfort of many students of eastern China.

Regardless of the majors of these students, they were all put into the same type of factory assignment under the guise of “work experience.” In this way, the students were, in the eyes of the corporation, identical working copies of one another, as opposed to individual students with the ability to think differently. At discovering this atrocity, I was immediately struck by the similarity to Dick’s novel. In this case, I unfortunately might compare the students of China to the androids. These androids, though almost indistinguishable from humans, are forced to work as slaves for whatever will their human owner has. Likewise, though those forced to work at Foxconn are students just as we are here in North America, due to the country in which they live, injustices such as forced labour and deprived education have been allowed to take place. Similar to the androids, who are killed when they attempt to flee their captive planet, students who tried to leave the factory were reportedly punished as well.

I would hope that unlike the fate of the androids though, the students might be freed from their forced labour as media makes the rest of the world aware of their unjust situation. In the past, iPhone has been forced to change their practices as a result of public disapproval, and it is likely that this would occur again here, if it hasn’t already.
But if you’re wondering if I’m going to stop using my iPhone in protest, as I imagine would be a shared response with most iPhone users: no, probably not. In contrast, perhaps the iPhone itself could be used as a weapon in sharing this media around the globe and deliver the change that these students need.

 

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American Psycho, Psycho, Psycho…. (Ungraded) (This was for a university class)

Over the summer I was reading Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. One thing I’ve noticed is the intentional interchangeability between most of the characters in the novel. It is like each character is a copy of another, to the point where it is difficult as both a reader, and as a character within the novel, to differentiate one from the other. Throughout American Psycho, the main character’s colleagues are constantly calling him by the name of other employees, because they all dress the same, act the same, eat the same things, drink the same drinks, have sex with the same women. They are essentially reproductions of one another, to the point where you wonder whether there was ever an “authentic” or original from which they reproduced. In an effort to become better than their peers, the characters of the novel all become exactly the same. I might argue that the only authenticity in the novel lies in the main character’s psychotic, murderous inner dialogue. At least that contrasts Bateman from his mundane peers.

I haven’t yet gotten to finish the novel, but it is this interchangeability and intentional confusion with the characters that I found, in the movie, makes the ending so ambiguous and affective, though I can’t yet speak for the written work.

I might argue that both the novel and the movie lack a conventional exhibition value, in the sense that some find it to be so offensive and polarizing that it cannot respectably be read or watched. In this way, I might argue that the fans of Ellis’ creations are more of a cult following.
Appropriately, the novel was, as I said, reproduced into what I would consider to be an effective cinematic adaptation. Still, there are now rumours that a remake for the “original” movie is in the works, to the outrage of fans of the first. And even worse, it is said that in addition to a remake, the novel may even be made into a musical. I saw this as almost poetically fitting. A novel about interchangeable copies of yuppy Americans will itself, potentially be copied over and over again.

Blog Entry #1 (This was for a university class)

A common theme of debate seen throughout Benjamin, Horkeimer and Adorno, and Bazin’s work is the question of the value of art, and whether this value is diminished by its reproduction. In order to appraise this, one must decide what they define value as. Benjamin’s argument suggests that there are two types of value: cult, and exhibition. Cult value is the worth of art raised by its exclusivity. Exhibition value holds its worth in the opposite: the value of a piece in relation to its ability to be viewed by a mass audience. Depending on which assessment you consider, a piece of art can be valuable or worthless, though I might argue that all art needs at least some exhibition value if it is to be seen or heard by human senses. Take Indie music, for example: the listeners of this genre often pride themselves on enjoying a music they see as exclusive, as if they were the first to discover it. In this way, it has high cult value. However, if no one was listening to it, or in other words, it had no exhibition value, I might argue that it would be impossible for it to have cult value either.

Horkeimer and Adorno address this need for exhibition value, but they seem to argue that it lessons the authenticity and overall worth of a piece of art. According to them, the accessibility and structure of art is constructed to serve a capitalist motive. When what Benjamin would call “exhibition value” is raised, Horkiemer and Adorno argue that this is achieved by a watering down of original art. Successful song riffs and themes are repeated as far as plagiarism laws will allow, and movie plots are varied slightly. Even original, authentic art can be diluted on the movie screen. Take, for example, Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Grey. The book itself is complex, hedonistic, and mesmerizing, while the on screen adaptation is a simplified, bastardized version of the original. But it could be argued that this simplified version is better suited for mass culture.

This is where Bazin’s argument comes in. Where Horkiemer and Adorno would argue that a novel is being artistically molested when being transferred to popular cinema, Bazin argues that it is simply being transferred to another form that, though different, can be equal in its own right. The simplification of a novel is not necessarily a bad thing, because it makes a complex narrative accessible. Its main goal is to condense the work, and “retain only the main characters and situations.”  If this is achieved, it makes a written work available to the public, as opposed to just the intellectual, which doesn’t hurt the original. He strengthens this argument by pointing out that there has never been an original novel that hasn’t gone up in sales after being transferred to the silver screen. An example of this could be the adaptation of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road. In transferring the novel to film, one loses the character complexities of the original, but it is made more striking by the visual aspect. Seeing the blood after April’s abortion/suicide makes it more real than reading about it.

So which of these arguments holds true? It is possible that none, or even all of them are correct. In the end, I might argue that it comes down to the audience’s preference. All art is in some sense, created for an audience, and as the potential audience for the artistic is constantly changing, so too does the right or wrong appraisal of its value and authenticity.