October 10, 2008

she's crafty... that girl's the bomb

This weekend is the flow conference here at UT and I wanted to put some thoughts down on some of the panels.
One of the panels I attended was on "Online and Offline Fan Communities." This was particularly interesting because in my class on Television Theory and Criticism we were also talking about fandom this week. Both in that class and in the panel there was a very distinct tension between fans and fan-academics and just plain old academics. This is an ever-present tension in fan studies in the academy, but I think especially when reading some of the earliest foundational texts of the area its easy to feel like the academy has grown more to accomodate those perspectives... what I saw this week went very much back to these original tensions and what happens is that in short: fans and fan/acas become defensive while others go on the (generally Marxist, but definitely theoretical) offensive. there is such a strong need to draw lines saying THIS is scholarship and that is not. one thing i find interesting (on sort of a tangent) is the way in which certain collections (particularly the David Lavery/IB Tauris "Reading..." series) are denigrated because theyre not academic enough where Flow is praised for much the same thing, however it comes out of a University press so its brand of "para-scholarship" is more acceptable. One thing I think academics need to do more is utilize more diverse sources
and identify each of them for waht they have to contribute.
this goes quite nicely into the "Feminisms and Feminists in the Public Sphere" panel which was exploring something very tangential to this... one of the issues that particularly was discussed was the issue of how valuable feminist academic blogs can be especially as a way of creating discussion between "regular people" and academic feminist discourse... but what role does that play in our careers as academics? blogs are not considered scholarly activity when being considered for tenure... and im 99% certain not considered scholarly activiity when being considered for jobs either. one issue that came up repeatedly was the fear of being penalized for political opinions expressed in the blogosphere. so one question that emerges is when is the academy going to catch up with what academics are doing adn want to do and what is contributing to public discourse on real issues. maybe one question is: when are feminists going to be the administrators of universities? one answer that definitely emerged in teh panel was... certainly not while feminism is relegated to "race, gender and class" classes.
one issue that Liz Ellcessor raised in her position paper is women and girl's blogging and how it relates to or parallels traditions of DIY and zine production. she also discusses the emergence of women from the blogosphere into more traditional media sources. This combination of women's production and media attention reminded me of recent media attention to and more importantly the emergence of crafting communities boht online and offline. people and communities (like Louisa does!) are turning traditional women's work of arts and crafts, sewing, knitting, etc. into this super-cool DIY ethic/aesthetic that is both modern, funky, cool, personal, punk, indie, etc. etc. and it does all this in this feminist way and its getting mainstream media attention and i think alot of that media attention is emerging from these women's engagment in new media, the internet, websites and blogs. (this stuff also relates to work Lynn Spiegel has done in terms of women's vs. men's barbie art.)

one last (pair of) note(s) for now is Elana Levine's note on the Flow Conference coming on the same weekend on as Yom Kippur. and God's apology to Jews for schedluing Cole Hamel's start on that day of atonement.

October 5, 2008

thunderdogs are go!

I bring up the connection between Rosh Hashanah and the Phillies because it gets to the heart of what the Jewish holidays mean to me each fall. In a word: it's not fate. How things go is largely up to us, even if we do not control the circumstances of our lives.

I ran across this rather arbitrarily (it involved queries about jewish phillies players and why the brewers incessantly play "hava nagila" at miller park during games)... but it actually speaks to something I've been thinking about lately, the ideological meanings of sports (specifically televised or mediated sports). In reference to Mimi White's book chapter “Ideological Analysis and Television” I wrote that
One of the interesting things about sports is that in looking for “tensions” you often find them manifesting quite literally. This week the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels cleared both benches in a brawl following an overly aggressive tag on the base runner. Players and coaches never stop arguing with umpires and referees about bad calls. Owners in every sport are constantly feuding often openly and bitterly with players over salaries and collective bargaining agreements. While the tensions are material, we can also see them as ideological. In the bench clearing brawl, teammates defend one another against those that want to do them harm. Umpires and referees parallel forces of law and order in society. Players and coaches expose the failures of the dominant system’s execution of law and order when they question a decision. Yet even though officials can be challenged, they maintain absolute authority. There is a tension between the right to challenge and the ramifications of challenging. Perhaps the best example though lies in the tension between owners and players. Though I won’t get into the history of labor in sports, it is a long one that has both exposed and challenged and supported dominant systems of capitalism, ownership, labor and the means of production of entertainment.
The next question which must be addressed is then: what subject positions do these tensions create? The variety of subject positions or representational possibilities becomes very different depending on the set of texts selected. In a single baseball game broadcast, the possible subject positions for women are limited largely to fan and occasionally broadcaster. In an Olympics broadcast, women might also be athletes or sex objects or experts. Depending on the presence of women, ideological tensions also emerge in terms of gender roles and gender relations. Similarly, male subject positions can differ depending on the text. Male subject positions generated by baseball can be very different from those generated by football and likewise broadcasters on FOX can offer very different representational possibilities than ESPN’s Sportscenter. Along those lines, women covering the NFL for FOX are also often quite different from women anchors on Sportscenter.
Race and class representations in sports are also rich areas for exploration. In terms of race, you might consider the nature of the racial body in sports. Asian and Latino immigration into baseball certainly have ideological components pertaining to the American Dream and as certain controversies in American football have show us, the positions on the field that certain ethnicities are pushed into can also be controversial. Additionally, there are issues of racial representation in coaching, in management, in ownership, in officiating crews, in fandom and in broadcasting just as a short list. While the “American Dream” is clearly an important class issue in televised sports, there are other issues of class in fan cultures rich with ideological tension as well. Simply compare audiences of golf with fans of NASCAR, not only are they probably in fact socioeconomically distinct but their depiction on television is also dramatically different.
and shortly after, another issue emerged... destiny. I noticed quite explicitly the discourse surrounding playoff berths (particularly in baseball where there are far fewer playoff berths than other professional sports) and controlling ones own destiny. When a team is in first place, they control their own destiny, they don't need help to make the playoffs, they don't need another team to lose, another team to beat another team in order for them to make the playoffs. There is an ideological tension between control and lack of control, between predetermination and free will. What this discourse surrounding the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs does is negotiate this tension by valuing free will, self control over one's destiny, in fact something of a paradox (but isnt that just what ideology is). These elements of both control and destiny then turn over into various other aspects of the game, like notions of the American Dream anyone can make it to the major leages with enough hard work, if you want it you can get to the show, everyone controls their own destiny there are no sytemic or institutional barriers to success. And this is very much what sport is... it is both a playful game and an aggressive competition, a dream and a struggle.

next up? a cultural-ideological analysis of mascots.
oh and the nlcs.

September 16, 2008

Coach Gary Gaines: Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter again in your life as much as

Friday NightLights: A Character to Connect To

my response:
In reading the discussion of Brian Chavez, I wonder to what degree we are compelled by Chavez is because he makes sense to us as New York Times readers. Odds are those of us reading and those of us writing are comparatively middle class if not upper middle class. We are educated. We probably have more trouble understanding mojo and high school football than we do understanding it as a means to an end, a means to Harvard, to law school to liberal middle class do gooding. I find the fact that Chavez came back to Odessa with his law degree to be more meaningful than the fact that he got out in the first place.
I agree with Dan Barry, we knew Chavez would be ok. In the book and perhaps even more so in the movie, the character that most captivated me (though I wouldn’t say I could connect with him in the sense of identifying with him) was Mike Winchell. He was the one who was as caught up in mojo and high school football as anyone. He was the quarterback and yet he was the most ambiguous. He probably should have understood his place better than anyone and yet he seemed the most insecure. I suppose in that way I could identify with him. He seemed the most real because to me, high school is all about insecurity. Whether youre an athlete or a brain or a cheerleader what media that centers on teens most communicates to me is that insecurity. In the television show, even Riggins (loosely corresponding to Billingsley) has moments of insecurity. In the movie, one of the most powerful moments was when Boobie Miles gets back in the car with his uncle after cleaning out his locker and starts sobbing.

NYTimes Quad Blog's discussion of Friday Night Lights the book 20 years later

The city never sleeps, you've gotta live to your own beat, so, easy come and easy go, what is home?

Audience segmentation , narrowcasting, niche programing and the emergence of cable and niche networks on cable are some of the more important trends in television in the last twenty years or so. These trends are in one way or another how we got everything from Cagney and Lacey to BET to The Sopranos. One more example is the ABC Family network and the show Lincoln Heights. The network that ultimately became ABC Family was founded by Pat Robertson as the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN), it later became The Family Channel and when it was sold to Fox and became the Fox Family Channel it was sold with the stipulation that “family” always remain in the network title. In 2001, the network was sold to Disney and became ABC Family. ABC/Disney wanted to change the name of network and turn it into a network for teenagers in college students... instead in 2007 they became ABC family: a new find of family.
Thus we have the context of the niche networks that began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s with channels like MTV and Lifetime. Additionally we have the more recent context of original programming from cable outlets. HBO is obviously a forerunner in fictional programming, as are some of the dramas on TNT and comedies on TBS. ABC Family, too, has a series of offerings. One of these is Lincoln Heights.
Lincoln Heights is the story of a middle class black family who live in a prosperous area of a Los Angeles but in a house that’s too small. The father is a police officer who grew up in the ghetto of Lincoln Heights and the mother is a nurse. The father’s solution to the family’s space problems is a 4 bedroom former crack den in the neighborhood where he grew up. I’ve only seen the first episode and then two from the middle of the second season, but one theme which the show explores that is particularly interesting is, predictably “family.” However what is less predictable is the way in which the obvious, the superficial, reveals something more genuine. The oldest daughter’s sometime boyfriend is Charles. In one scene, we see Charles’s mother who has just come home from cheating casinos and counting cards in Vegas. She is pleading for them to move to Boston with Charles’ stepfather who has attempted to molest and beat Charles. She is pleading for them to be a family again and in the corner of the screen is the ever present abc family. In the ads for the show and its upcoming season, the mother explains that the family is the community, the whole neighborhood. These themes, these definitions of family play out repeatedly throughout each episode with multiple, competing concepts of family being negotiated in context of a black/latino/poor white/panethnic community.
Although it lacks the visual violence, the profanity, the harsh reality of an HBO drama, it still finds ways to challenge dominant values. The community here is not just a bigger family with a conventional mother and wage earning father. It is collective action and consciousness raising. It is groups of women coming together to support one another and each other’s children. Another interesting question to address is the issue of race. On the one hand, there are more representations of minorities, particularly black... but what kind of system do they operate in? Is it still one of institutional racism whereby the government offers no aid to blacks and thus the message of the show is that they must help themselves? Or is there another more progressive message that can be read into the text?

April 5, 2008

talking about quarterlife

me: so what did you think of quarterlife?
louisa: i only watched like the first 10 or so episodes so far. i mean the mini ones, on the website
me: right, how do you feel about the mini-ones? i couldn;t stand the little tiny segments
louisa: i felt fine about them. interruptions don't bother me.
i liked the mini things for the same reason i like books with short chapters
because you are always near another good stopping point
me: its funny because of course they shouldn't bother me, i mean they're no different from commercial breaks
me: but i guess i just hardly ever watch shows not on dvd or whatever so i've stopped being used to that kind of segmentation
louisa: right but now people are getting used to tivo and shows on dvd, a lot of people are getting unused to watching ads
louisa: so, i thought it was a lot like other soap opera-ish shows out there. i definitely got hooked and was like ok just one more, over and over
louisa: i definitely recognized real things in there, that don't get talked about a lot
louisa: about what its like to be young. like, you feel like you should be doing something amazing and wonderful, like that weird friend of debra who's always going to protests and stuff
me: yeah
louisa: but in reality, nothing you do seems amazing, you just do what you can do
and like dylan working at the stupid magazing and the boys making commercials. thats not their dream of doing something amazing, but its all they have right now
and then debra maybe doesn't even have a dream so she's just doing what's easy
me: its interesting how well they develop all those ideas in just 7 hour long episodes
louisa: true
louisa: so that stuff is interesting cause i feel like it hasn't always been the situation for 20-somethings. these days going to college is not really enough and getting a steady job is not enough, you also have to be changing the world.
then the relationship stuff, at least so far, i think maybe is not that different from other soaps
but as always its entertaining
me: althought i've never actually seen thirtysomething (its not out on dvd) from what i know its very much about people who went to college in the 60s and now are just standard American consumerist families... and then there's my so-called life which is actually about urban high schools and poor kids and ethnic kids and smart kids who are stuck there... and i like the way quarterlife is kind of caught between those (and indeed that phase of life is very much caught between those)
me: i can see why critics, especially like upper middle class new york times critics, would criticize that because it is so ambivalent, so caught between responsibility and dealing with victimhood, but i like very much that narrative of not only life and growing up but of life and growing up on tv and as television narrative
louisa: mhmm. and its cool that its about her video blog but it isn't just her video blog
like lonelygirl and this katemodern are basically made up of people's video blog posts, but this way we get to see what its like growing up online and how its accepted and not
cause posting stuff online and pissing people off is so common now
me: and its funny how its both very much our own experience and yet also clearly something younger, or something new, even newer than us
me: i mean dylan on quarterlife is our age but i dont know anyone who has a videoblog
its both the present, our present, and the future
louisa: well yeah, maybe it's not because she's younger, i think its because the fictional quarterlife website somehow makes it magically easy to record and edit your videos
me: haha yeah that too
louisa: i mean a lot of kids now have the hardware and the skills to make videos, but not quite that easily
8:00 PM
me: im gonna post this convo about quarterlife in my blog, ok?
louisa: what?! my end too?
me: is that ok?
i think it was a good discussion/analysis. good follow up
louisa: well i guess if you think its worth posting then it must not sound as stupid as i might think
louisa: so alright

the texts.

What I've been reading:
batman: year one- frank miller
the dark knight returns- frank miller
the original x-men, the uncanny x-men, the ultimate x-men
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love- Oscar Hijuelos
Breath, Eyes, Memory- Edwidge Danticat
The Half-Mammals of Dixie- George Singleton
20th Century Ghosts- Joe Hill

What I'm reading now:
Fresh Lipstick- Linda Scott

some of the things I'm looking forward to reading soon:
Watchmen- Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons
Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, Volume 1- Dennis O'Neil
on comics
Super Heroes: A Modern Mythology - Richard Reynolds
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art- Scott McCloud
Comic Book Nation: The Transformation of Youth Culture in America - Bradford W. Wright
on television
Beautiful TV: The Art and Argument of Ally McBeal- Greg Smith
Redesigning Women: Television after the Network Era- Amanda Lotz

What I've been watching:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 7)
highlight: series finale- Chosen
The New, Original Wonder Woman
Arrested Development
highlight: gob, his illusions and the final countdown
Freaks and Geeks
highlight: the show is set in 1980 and goes all out to get authentic, original music and it makes all the difference
batman begins
superman returns
the x-men
clerks, mallrats, chasing amy, dogma

what i've been listening to:
alkaline trio
the draft
hank williams III

what i've been thinking about:
moving to austin, texas to get my master's in the department of radio-tv-film at the university of texas (see Mary Celeste Kearney "The Changing Face of Teen Television or Why We All Love Buffy" in Undead TV, S. Craig Watkins Hip Hop Matters, and Janet Staiger Media Recepton Studies)

March 28, 2008


from the creaters of thirtysomething and my so-called life... first they tackled well, thirtysomethings, then teenagers, now recent college graduates.
it hasnt gotten great reviews but i like it quite alot.
first i think the idea of web-tv is really interesting. its sort of an extension of youtube... i personally find youtube kind of annoying, i like narrative especially extended narrative adn whats so cool about webtv is teh potential for anyone to crate their own extended, televisual narrative. obviously these guys are professionals but still its an interesting crossmedia innovation. i watched the first episode from itunes and then i tried watching it online but the 5-10 minute segments were so fucking annoying. i couldnt stand it. so today i downloaded the rest of the episodes from itunes.
something i really like about the show though is the way it blends (sort of cheesy) teen melodrama (of the wb variety for one) with something more interesting and perhaps more genuine. these characters are completely self-indulgent, dylan with her video blog or lisa with her video or debra with her father's money, but theyre not self-indulgent in an obnoxious way theyre self-indulgent in a very real way. so many of us (myself included) have or have had blogs in which they pour out their feelings half convinced no one will read it but half desperate that someone will. so many of us get drunk just so we have an excuse to pour our hearts and express real genuine emotion and fear and celebration and hatred. and it is pathetic and self-indulgent just like the kids on quarterlife, but its real.
and maybe thats especially when youre a recent college graduate or a twentysomething who cant quite believe that you actually made it to being a twentysomething that you made it to being able to go to bars and being able to buy beer and yet youre there and youre nothing like the twentysomethings you knew when you were in high school or even in college. and i feel pathetic for not having something to show for myself because it even seems like my friends have more... and thats a feeling that i think the show captures well. all of these kids think theyre pathetic failures and theres always a sense among that they they see their friends as far more successfull than they feel themselves.
the video blog is also a nice mechanism, ive gotten rather tired of voice overs as a narrative device so even though i dont know anyone who has ever used or even though about using video as a means of blogging or sending messages i like the way its used... its something more authentic and free-flowing? than anytime you have people writing in journals or doing anyother kind of voice over. dylan does sound like an idiot alot but thats what makes her videoblog authentic.
i also really like dylan's relationship with eric. i love how she always expects him to be able to read her mind knowing he can't, having him tell her he cant and yet still expecting it. i think thats kind of what relationships are all about... and i like how dylan has this job that doesnt actually have anything to do with what she wants to do but is in the vague vicinity and so she's stuck with it.
its all a strange combination of what it was like when i was living with dena and monkey and what its like now. but quite familiar. its too bad it took two middle aged white men to get anywhere close... because i think a different kind of authorship would really change the show...