Wednesday, October 21, 2009

old pregnant hags, love and life

I am becoming an expert in zombie culture, and horror is my thing. I can work with horror. I can read it and I know a lot about it. Sometimes I forget that I know it so well and I feel like I don't have any particular knowledge with anything else, and sometimes I think "Great job, Jasie. You've become a horror expert. Now people will take you seriously"--all thought in quite a sarcastic and cutting tone. There's so much to learn and know and I feel like I'll never get it all. But that is why I have also been trained as an expert student. I don't have to know everything; I just have to be able to understand what other people say and know and be able to use their knowledge to support my theories.

I kind of like being an expert in horror films because now when I watch them they are so much more enjoyable. I've been trying to verse myself in all the antecedents of Shaun of the Dead because it is a film that takes cues not only from Romero's films, but also from movies like Evil Dead II, American Werewolf in London, Reanimator, and Dead Alive (aka Braindead). The Halloween season is my favorite because it makes watching all of these wonderful horror films feel a little more appropriate. I've watched Dead Alive twice in the last two days. It was done by Peter Jackson in 1992, and it makes me have an immense amount more respect for the guy who did Lord of the Rings (a series that I have to admit bored me to tears). The man is clearly a visionary.

Dead Alive is a film about a boy who lives with his mother and who falls in love with a girl and has difficulty cutting the apron strings, even after his mother has turned into a zombie, even after his zombie mother has tried to kill him and his girlfriend, even after his zombie mother has turned the entire town into zombies. The film is a melodramatic slap stick love story that becomes more and more believable as the two lovers become more and more drenched in blood and viscera. I kept thinking of Buster Keaton being attacked by zombies. There is one point when our hero, Lionel, is trying to run from a horde of zombies. Only, the tile floor is drenched in blood and he simply runs in place as he slips on the blood. This lasts for a good long minute and is hilarious.

I also kept thinking of Mikhail Bakhtin and his theory of the grotesque and the carnivalesque. For Bakhtin the medieval carnival was an opportunity for order to be restored to communities through the state sanctioned disorder of a carnival where social hierarchies would be undermined and people would be free to express their most carnal drives. After the big party people would go home feeling satisfied and regenerated and continue life without any thoughts of rebellion nor any bit of mistrust or dissatisfaction for the state. All would be back into its proper order. The grotesque played a big role in this because the carnival was about the body and physical desires and it was also about rebirth. Thefore, the lower parts of the body were emphasized: the loins, the stomach, the womb; sex, consumption and defecation, and menstration, birth and death. When we think of grotesque we usually think of one or more of these elements. Because so much of the essentials of life are focused in this area and carnival was about all of these elements we find that grotesque language and imagery is essential in the regenerative effects of carnival. For instance, Bakhtin points out that one of the images often seen were little carved figurines of an old, pregnant hag. She represented pregnant death; the opportunity for birth and life to come out of something old and dead; life not yet formed but promised.

Dead Alive is a grotesque carival. There is a strong emphasis on the oozing, bleeding, and consumptive parts of the body. Blood and viscera abound; zombies have sex (which in all of my zombie research I have never seen before) and and procreate, actually making a zombie baby. Then of course the zombies eat human flesh. The most grotesque and fascinating part of the film, however, is when Lionel's mother actually turns into Bakhtin's old, pregnant hag. She mutates into a 20 foot tall version of these carvings with sagging breasts and overaly stated tummy and thies. She is the grotesque mother goddess, and she literally consumes her son back into her grotesque womb. He has to break through her flesh and become in a very literal sense reborn, and it is in this rebirth that Lionel becomes a new man and can finally let go of his mother.

With the comedy, the grotesque images and the love story I found that the carnival in Dead Alive accomplished just what Bakhtin said it would. I felt good after the film, regenerated, happy and better for watching it. This is why I believe horror films are not evil and are worth looking in to and experiencing. Life is tied up in death. Life begins with blood and viscera and pain and often times it ends that way. I think its important to remember this and try to see what lessons we can learn from experiencing it again through the medium of art. We may just become better people.

Monday, October 19, 2009

On Friday my mom came and picked me up and we went to my grandparents' house in Tabiona. That's two hours North-East of Provo. It was a nice time, but weird. My grandma has Alzheimer's and its in its early stages, so she's still quite lucid. The sad thing was that she was not herself. The even sadder thing was that I liked her better. All my life she scared me a little. She had control of every person and every situation and she would manipulate the room to her liking. She would manipulate lives to her liking as well, and I blame many of my mom's and uncles' problems on her. Now she's just a sweet little old lady. She's kind of like a child, which is hard, but she's always happy. I'm sad that Patsy is gone, because I always saw a bit of her in me and even though she made me uncomfortable I was never really scared of her like I think other people were. I wouldn't let her manipulate me. My sister and I loved to be mean to her. We used to lock her in the outhouse when we lived on the ranch. It was all good fun, and I was certain that she would some day get back at us in a very evil way. I don't know if she has, and I don't know if she can now.

Patsy's gone. On the other hand I have a nice, happy, funny little grandma that I enjoyed being around. And who knows how long that will last?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

me me me me me

Tonight is Teevee Night. At 7:00 I'll settle in to my pal's sofa and enjoy an evening of The Office, 30 Rock, Project Runway and of course Bones. A nice three hour block of television. Although it seems like I'm watching a lot more tv these days, I actually feel quite restrained. I have 6 shows that I keep up with (the other two are ANTM and Mad Men), I don't have cable so I'm limited anyway, and I try to watch things that are well done or grab on to a particular interest. My only real guilty pleasure is America's Next Top Model, but it does conform to my interest in fashion, so it's ok. I'm feeling quite satisfied with my television watching this Fall.

So, I don't have a proper job and I'm not taking any real classes. What in the world am I doing with all this time other than watching my requisite 5 hours a week of television? It's a weird state to be in. I have much to do but no one telling me when or how to do it. I've made up some goals to help me structure my time, and so far I think it's helping.

Here's a list of the things I have to do and some goals I've made for this semester:
  • Study for the GRE
  • Apply to PhD programs, which entails filling out applications, talking to professors about letters of recomendation, writing personal statements, chosing and editing writing samples, and for London I actually have to write a dissertation proposal, which I still have a lot of research to do.
  • Try to get published. I have to edit papers I think might be publishing worthy and send them off.
  • Edit my thesis.
  • Work and find another job
  • Watch a movie every day
  • Write in my blog every day
  • Read at least one scholarly article every day
  • Be creative, not just crafty.
  • Spend time building relationships with family and friends.
It's so much easier to take classes or work full time than it is to force myself to do all these things, but I do love it. I mean, I love doing my own thing and owning my time, and I'm trying to enjoy myself more as I do it instead of always freaking out about not being a slave to some institution.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

My brain feels stopped up, like I have no access to the words I need to write an amazing paper. I start with a sense, with a feeling, with a little bubble of what I would like to express but I simply can't find the words. I end up using clich├ęd phrases, just whatever is easily retrievable, and it frustrates me. Why is my brain so sluggish? What sort of thing can I do to fix this problem? It was the same problem I had when I studied Italian. I knew the words; I could read a book in Italian or watch a movie, listen to a conversation, but when it came time for word retrieval, they simply weren't there. This makes me feel incredibly stupid, but I know that it is a matter of practice. I know that I just didn't practice speaking Italian enough, and now I know that I'm just not writing enough. Not only am I not writing enough, I'm not reading enough scholarly works.

I worry that I'm giving myself too many goals lately, but I'd like to add to the list reading an article every day. There's a particular style to scholarly work that I need to master, and so reading more articles and books will be helpful to me. I also need to read as much as I can about bodies, photography, World War I and Modernism since I am writing a dissertation proposal on the topic.

I've been so bored these days, but I realize that I have plenty to do. I have to put a lot of preparation and thought into these applications, and the more research I do into the schools and the programs and into my own interests the stronger the application will be. I've also got to be studying for the GRE and take that soon and I have to finish editing my thesis. I've taken a couple week break from that, and I need to get back to it.

I imagine these daily blog entries are going to end up quite boring, so here's something for your viewing pleasure. This is the bunny I will some day own.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Keeping tabs

I found this new blog about zombies called Too Many Zombies. I like it. The guy does a drawing of a different zombie for every day of the year. I like his drawings so much that I'm thinking of making a crocheted plush zombie in a similar style. It would be easy and cool. I'm also starting to get interested in quilting and may make a zombie themed quilt. Fun, yeah?

I expect you'll be seeing much more of me on your rss feeds

I need to practice my writing, and so I'm making a goal to blog every single day. I'm hoping the practice will help me as I work on my thesis, write a proposal for a PhD program to which I'm applying and write personal statements for the other PhD applications I'm doing.

Since I'm thinking today about my writing I thought I'd write about one of my favorite people who happens to be a really incredible writer. I have two amazing and intelligent sisters who are my best friends, and each relate to totally different parts of my personality. I'll probably write a whole post about my little sister some day, but today I want to talk about my older sister.

She is a writer and always has been. I mean always. She wrote out her first stories when she was five and has been telling me stories for as long as I can remember. She is talented, and I am jealous every single day of her talent. She writes fiction primarily, but when I read her scholarly work I always enjoy how imaginatively she makes her points. Sometimes I send her paragraphs I am working on for something and she takes my stilted and awkward phrases and rearranges them into something that flows and makes sense. I don't know how she does it and I can't imagine I will ever reach her skill level, but her work will always be what I strive to emulate.

I don't know what I would do without my older sister. Because she's a writer I can always find her on the internet, and so she becomes the person that I turn to most. She never fails to encourage me, and she always has time and attention to help me with a problem. She listens to me and gives me good advise and makes me feel capable and intelligent, even when I'm certain that I'm not. My sister and I share experiences that formed who we are and we will always be able to relate to each other in a way that we can't relate to anyone else. This is what makes me happy, and I am so glad that I have her around to help me figure out this whole PhD mess. If I get in to anything, it'll be because of her kind encouragement.

Monday, October 5, 2009

another happy post

I really like my life right now. I feel mostly at ease and yet still busy enough not to feel guilty. I can go to late movies because I don't have to get up early, and I can take a couple hours out of my Monday to go grocery shopping and plan meals for the rest of the week. I like how I can go up to Salt Lake every weekend and see my family and do fun things. I like how I have time to knit scarves and keep up with good television. And in the back of my mind all this time I am working on projects. Then I sit down and write five pages or edit a paper or do some research and I feel productive. I am enjoying this life now and there are frequent moments when I just sit back and feel happy.

I need to get another job, but I'm not too concerned with it right at the moment. I have a weird desire to work at the mall during Christmas, and since my roommate is a manager of one of the stores there, it might happen. I'm going to keep an eye out for some jobs to do for the next year so i can save up some money in case I go to London.

Speaking of London, I got a very encouraging response to an email I sent a professor at the London Consortium. I told him about my proposal ideas and asked if he would be interested in supervising my dissertation. He responded by telling me that my idea was very interesting, that the London Consortium would be a "congenial setting in which to pursue it", and that he would be interested in supervising such a topic.

This response made me :D

I will be working on my proposal this week. I've already talked it over with a professor here and he was also encouraging. When I wrote the paper there was so much that I wanted to write about and had no time or space, so I think it will be the right kind of project for a dissertation. I am actually really excited to get back to some research. I also got an email from the guy they call the "admissions tutor" who offered to help me through the process. I need to figure out how to respond to these guys. It's a bit intimidating, but I have confidence in my project ideas and my abilities, so I'm just going to do it.

In related news, I've decided to graduate in April instead of December. There are too many reasons to sit here and list, but it just seemed to work out better that way. I'm happy for it.

It's late and I should go sleep, but i like staying up late these days. And I can, so I do.