Another big day for panels; I spent most of the day visiting the science fiction folks, rather than doing what a true academic does by filling his head with things from various other departments. Here are some highlights:
--Witnessed a curious paper on the issues of balance and eco-feminism in LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, with a particular focus on what you might call an "Eastern influence" (yin/yang). There was some talk about the destruction of the self ego, too, but I didn't press further on that.
--Had the pleasure of hearing a short version of the history of Steampunk and its rise to popularity. I knew most of what was discussed before, but it was nice to hear a little deeper discussion about it. I asked the author how she would situate the figure of the "punk" in her assessment of Steampunk, but she seemed to agree with most that the punk postfix is primarilyy meaningless.
--I saw a really fantastic presentation that analyzed various forms of imagery within the movie A.I. I would have liked to see the paper taken further, but I really enjoyed how the presenter incorporated video into his presentation. It worked very well and was quite beautiful.
--I also attended a panel on Darwinism, which included a lot of discussion of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. One of the panelists showed some hilarious clips from old adaptations of the book; we had a good laugh.
--The keynote speaker was a fellow named Adilifu Nama from the University of California, Riverside. He's the author of an interesting book called Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film. His speech wasn't so much about his book than about how academics in the field of popular culture can go about reaching out to the general public to bring them into the discussion and put academic work more into the public sphere. It was a very interesting argument. I plan to purchase his book soon.
--The day came to a close shortly after I attended a really interesting panel about science fiction and history. One particularly curious panel involved a critique of the belief that Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is racist and, thus, an indicator of the author's racism. I wasn't aware that such things were being said, but I guess the world is a strange place, right?
Evening Movie Showing: Once More, With Feeling (Buffy) and Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
I had never seen either of the aforementioned musicals. Everyone tells me Dr. Horrible is amazing, and, to be honest, I think that's an understatement. The Buffy episode aside (equally as entertaining, I think), Dr. Horrible is all kinds of brilliant. The cast is amazingly perfect, the music is memorable and fantastic, the singing is actually on par with most Broadway musicals I have seen/heard, and the story is both funny and tragic, in all the right ways. If you haven't seen it, do...please. I feel like it changed my life.
That said, "Once More, With Feeling" is also quite fantastic, although I think it works more as a gimmick episode than as a legitimate musical. The music is sometimes so-so, and obviously the actors are not always particularly strong singers. It's more a "fan" thing than anything else. Don't get me wrong; I loved the musical episode and will continue to do so for years to come.
Probably the most entertaining aspect of seeing these two films back-to-back is having the pleasure of being a part of an audience that is deeply connected to what is being displayed. Pretty much everyone sang along; it was like going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but without transvestites.
Additions to the New Reading List
--A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
--Phenomenology of the Mind by Hegel
--Barrow (on machines/humans/etc.)
--Crashing the Gates of Insight
--Kelheffer (on Steampunk)
--Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
--Astrofuturism by Kilgore
--Moon Watchers (watch/read)
--Travels in Hyperreality by Umberto Eco
--Cocoon 2 (watch)
--John Moffet (on extraterrestrials)
--Close Encounters of the Third Kind (watch)
--Valis by Philip K. Dick
--Solaris by Stanislaw Lem
--Child Loving by James Kincaid
--Black Space: Imagining Race in Science Fiction Film by Adilifu Nama
--Necronomicon (H. R. Giger)
--Pushing Daisies (watch)
And that's it. Hope you all had a good day!