Monday, September 29, 2008

Perfect Little Story

If you're the kind of person who mocks Chicken Soup for the Soul (like me) but still likes to know that there are small and elegantly beautiful moments happening in the universe, read this very brief short story:

Brief Story

Dystopian Musical

Okay, I'm NOT saying that this movie is going to be good. Personally I don't usually like movies that make the future look like a Slipknot video, but what other movie will you ever see that has both Paris Hilton and Sarah Brightman?

As a Rocky Horror fan I'm always willing to give musical mayhem a chance.

Here’s the website if you care:


For my class I had to try and observe Dystopian elements in some every day situation. This is my report back:

I did not plan to spend an hour in the Post Office on Lyons Ave in Santa Clarita, but that is how it turned out, so I started taking notes while I was standing in a line that stretched almost to the door (Just a tip, avoid the Post Office on Lyons between 4 and 5).

Now the post office is kind of a gimme when looking for dystopian elements, because it has all of the qualities that a set designer would incorporate into 1984: The Musical!

There are many, many cameras. Some of them focused on the patrons and others focused on the employees.
There are walls lined with numbered metal boxes.
There are lines, which are not to be complained about.
There are authority figures in matching uniforms.
There are forms and forms and forms and forms.
And most importantly – and most dystopianly – there are very clearly systems at work that are hidden and mysterious.

The people I encountered in the United States Post Office were less interesting than the way that they interacted with it (though I was a couple people back from one of those six/seven year-old-girls who wanted to know why things were happening).
The Post Office is long with a counter running down the length. ON this counter can be found the various and specific forms that one would need to fill out before mailing a package. Like so much of what I observed there, this was a good idea that was poorly implemented. Most people – myself included – were unsure of which forms to fill out, so the forms were gathered up and studied nervously while people waited in line. Seldom were the forms being correctly filled out.
The people who worked at the counter (there were two at a counter built for at least three) seemed to know exactly what they were doing. They answered questions quickly and demonstrated a depth of knowledge on questions of Postal Service operations. However they demonstrated less depth of knowledge in human relations. The customers who arrived at the counter were fatigued from waiting in a long line and the employees behind the counter were quite often annoyed at the customers who did not fill the forms out correctly.
What most struck me about my interaction with the Postal Service employee (a man a little older than myself who seemed too fit considering what his job entailed) was that as I handed over my one envelope and three small packages (books wrapped in paper labels), he rattled off a well-practiced bit of script asked me if my packages contained any liquids or flammable materials. I was struck by how slightly afraid I was suddenly. “They’re books.” I said. I immediately realized that he had not asked that and in order to prove my innocence I offered up more information than I was required to.
That is what I think connected my experience most closely to the concepts of dystopia. While it is true that the forms and the lines were right out of Brazil, the way that I felt, came straight from Orwell.
I felt immediately as though I were being accused of something, though no accusation had been made. I felt instantly the need to prove that I was upstanding and following the rules. What was even more interesting was that the USPS employee was not even trying to accuse me, the accusation had been operationalized into his daily routine. Distrust – maybe rightly – had been built into the system.
What is more dystopian than that?

Monday, September 15, 2008

People Dream of Sarah Palin

So this does not really relate to my Film and Lit class on Dystopia (unless you have a particularly paranoid view of American politics), but it is still funny.

Apparently people have been dreaming about Sarah Palin nonstop since she magically captured the Republican vice presidential nomination.

It is true! Slate had a whole article about it:

Your dreams (and nightmares) about Sarah Palin

Howe and Rorty

Way down below is my response to these two bits of writing we had to read for my Dyspotian Film and Lit class. The writings concern Orwell's 1984:



And then I said ...

I think that Howe made some very interesting points that extended beyond just 1984. He mentions on the very first page that "man becomes a mere function of a process" and I think that this same argument could be made about capitalism. I have been out there in the 8 hours-a-day/40 hours-a-week rat race and I have found that it can be quite dehumanizing. However I do not think that is because some ultra-powerful entity designed the system that way, I think the system is just evoled to benefit itself.

I also think it is funny that Howe chose to quote Orwell as he explained that 1984 is not about the British Labor Party. Because that’s totally what I though of! (Insert sarcasm) Perhaps it is human nature to want to CONNECT to a great piece of writing like 1984 (we have all proved very good at finding connections), but if Orwell walked into class and heard us comparing post 9/11 America to the world that Winston lives in, I think he would be a little unhappy with us for missing the point. I recently read that in the 1950s Stalin had these huge and very luxurious apartment buildings built for members of the Party. What a great deal right? Uncle Joe loves us! But each apartment had a secret door that led to a secret stairwell and that is how the secret police would get into your apartment in the middle of the night if they needed to snatch you. THAT is a totalitarian state, not surveillance cameras on street corners.

Rorty seems to understand that and the quote Dr. Wexler used is perfect to drive that point home, “If we take care of freedom, truth will take care of itself”. Rorty really seems (to me) to be saying, “Everybody calm down and let’s look at this like grown ups.” He explored Orwell as writer (not as some sort of Nostradamus).

He also explored the characters in the book; he talked about how intellectuals could justify the terrible behavior of the state. I find that particularly interesting; the way that we convince ourselves to believe things. He really broke down the ideas in play and I found that more illuminating than the commentary what Howe was writing.

James Bezerra

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Very First Ever Blog Entry

Hello and welcome.

This is my first ever blog entry.

This blog is for my Film & Lit class at Cal State Northridge, but I may use it for other things from time to time.

For now, I just wanted to write a quick entry so that I can toy with the interface on this website. Look for more in the future. Or don't. It is an exercise in freedom.