The Magic City

I just realized that I never actually posted the link for the website I presented. If anyone is interested in exploring Birmingham, check this out!

birminghamal.org

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America’s Byways

This is the link to the website I did my presentation on.

http://byways.org/

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Cities in Star Wars

In Star Wars there are three cities I’m going to talk about. 1) Coruscant 2) Mos Eisley and 3) Cloud City.

 

Coruscant was the capital of the Galactic Empire. The whole planet had become one gigantic city, an ecumenopolis. It’s pretty interesting to note that there are many ecumenopolises in science-fiction, which seems to imply, for some, an ideological end to a city’s growth in total expansion around a planet. Coruscant is seen in Episode II, during an aerial speeder chase involving Anakin and his mentor Obi-Wan. They go on a chase “that eventually leads to a nightclub in the bowels of Coruscant’s Uscru Entertainment District.” In these scenes of Star Wars: Episode II, a sense of the kind of red light, seedy, underbelly of the city. We also see it as a political hub in the few scenes when Senator Palpatine is in the process of consolidating power. It’s an interesting, sort of dystopian idea of the city as something that completely takes over nature that’s interesting about Coruscant. I saw recently a video game coming out soon that takes place entirely on Coruscant and focused around a bounty hunter or something. It’s intended to be a detective-like future noir style game.

Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” Obi-Wan’s words to Luke, cautioning him of the dangers of this futuristic port city. Mos Eisley is representative of the kind of bustling, almost desert city reminiscent of cities like Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Mos Eisley seems to be in incarnation of the city as a center of crime and corruption. Indeed, Jabba the Hut is stationed on Tatooine, the same planet as Mos Eisley. Jabba the Hut being a kingpin of organized crime especially in Mos Eisley. Indeed, it’s where Obi-Wan and Luke go to enlist some smugglers to help them get off the planet.

The third major city I want to talk about is Cloud City. It’s mostly an industrial city in the clouds of the planet Bespin. While all the cities in Star Wars have a large dependence on technology, none of them are so heavily dependent as Cloud City. That is to say, technology is how the city stays afloat in the clouds. The city is known for its casinos and hotels on the upper levels and its views. Sadly, it’s also a site of corruption. It’s where Lando Calrissian sells out Han to Vader.

The cities in Star Wars all seem to have resonance to corruption and evil, whereas the more natural environments tend to have a more innocent appeal. Dagobah, where Yoda trains Luke, and Endor, a strategic planet from which the rebels disable the Death Star’s shields, are both almost entirely undeveloped. This juxtaposition seems to be saying something about the role of nature in the fight between good and evil.

 

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Love Feeds: Hunger in the Cities.

This is an absolute shameless plug for my team in the Thought For Food Challenge 2012. Our team is called Love Feeds and over the past two months we have been working on a strategy to end hunger in the city of Auburn through education and a call to arms of religious and civic based community organizations.

http://apps.facebook.com/promosapp/271247/entry/275507?=f2vltz

Only the top two teams go on to the final round and we are currently in third! I would love for everyone to click the link I’ve posted, watch our video, and vote for our team 1x a day until voting ends!

Hunger is something that directly correlates to cities around the world. I will leave you with the quote from class today to inspire you to join us in telling the world that Love Feeds by voting, watching, and sharing our video and link!

-cmb

“The panoramic sense of black impoverishment is hard to miss from atop the Harbor Freeway, which so many whites must drive at least twice every working day. Somehow it occurs to very few of them to leave at the Imperial Highway exit for a change, go east instead of west only a few blocks, and take a look at Watts. A quick  look. The simplest kind of beginning. But Watts is country which lies, psychologically, uncounted miles further than most whites seem at present willing to travel.”

-Thomas Pynchon, Journey into the Mind of Watts, 1966

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by | June 13, 2012 · 11:34 am

Kiss Me Deadly Featuring Bruce Wayne

                For my final post, I wanted to experiment with incorporating texts we’ve read recently in class or films we’ve watched, and my first post regarding superheroes and their major cities. I really enjoyed writing my first blog and even researching more on that topic; however, I have found it challenging to integrate this superheroes and the city idea with a deep analysis of in-class texts. Nonetheless, as I reviewed the film noir, Kiss Me Deadly,  I realized just how similar the city in this film was represented to Batman’s Gotham City. Though I have explored general views of Gotham in my previous post, I plan to further investigate the fictional city and share its connections with the Los Angeles city in Kiss Me Deadly. I hope this last post will serve as a stepping stone to my final project topic, in which I would love to elaborate on something along these lines, bringing in superhero elements to enhance textual analysis.

                In class, we recently discussed “qualities to look for” in film noir, and more specifically in Kiss Me Deadly. Some of which included canted camera angles, conflicted relation to modernity, and even stylized language. These are just a few characteristics that help us know when a film can be considered “film noir”.  Among these qualities, I found that Batman’s Gotham City in DC Comics seemed to qualify by possessing numerous traits similar to the film noir we watched in class.

In Kiss Me Deadly, it is physically easy to see how ominous and oppressive the set of Los Angeles is on the film. Of course, the low-key lighting, characters, and obscure actions add to this eerie feel as well. Within this film, Los Angeles is portrayed as mostly dark and mysterious, with deceit and danger hiding among the shadows. I thought it was an interesting choice to allow most of the action to occur at night, giving the film a mostly dim and grey-like view. Similarly, the city of Gotham in the Batman comics is described in the same way. Bruce Wayne wears all black, lurking beneath the shadows of the city streets in attempts to protect his city. Gotham is consumed with smog, giving it a grey look as well, which could easily represent how complex Batman’s character is. Batman’s city possesses some extreme cases of classic noir behavior and traits. Denny O’Neil once described Batman’s domain as “a distillation of everything that’s dark, moody and frightening about New York. It’s Hell’s Kitchen. The Lower East Side. Bed Stuy. The South Bronx. Soho and Tribeca off the main thoroughfares at three in the morning”. In both Gotham and Los Angeles, crime and shady actions happen at night and give audiences that there is more evil than good within the cities. They each share the same dark and ominous physicality of the streets and the same sense of danger throughout the stories set there.

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                Both cities also share similar detective-like protagonists, Bruce and Mike, who seem to take matters into their own hands. Each man has a unique relationship with the law, but doesn’t trust their city’s law enforcement to get the job done. Bruce and Mike come encounter with the law in a civilized attempt to “work together” but both protagonists act as detectives to solve their own questions and have to work around city officials in order to do so. not only do they make contact with law officials, but with shady people in high society positions, such as the doctor in Kiss Me Deadly.

                Another similarity between Gotham and Los Angeles, is the abrupt and excessive violence that is displayed in the cities. Bruce Wayne experiences an excessive load of violence from an early age by helplessly witnessing the murder of  his parent on the street as a young boy. Gun shots, explosives, physical fights, and almost any other type of violence can be found within the two comparable cities. These violent acts add to the somber, gritty, and hazardous feel each city gives off. Mike also experiences violence on numerous occasions, especially in scenes with the doctor’s “gangster men”. These violent acts are so impacting on each protagonist because of another film noir quality the protagonists share: limits of the human body. Nether Bruce nor Mike contain supernatural powers, they are simply human. For Batman, this seems to be more of an issue. I find myself wishing he had superhero powers as I read the comics and watch the movies, but his mortal humanity is what makes Bruce Wayne relatable and more realistic. Mike, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily need supernatural powers, of course it would help, but it’s not as much of a need as it would be for Batman. Nonetheless, this limits what each protagonist can do to only what a simple human body can do–nothing more, nothing less.

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                Social status and high/low cultures play a part in Gotham and Los Angeles as well. Distinction between upper and lower classes or social structures are completely evident in both cities, and the protagonists seem to also play a large role in it. For example, Bruce Wayne is extremely wealthy and contains a high social status by day, yet by night he is brawling with the criminals of low cultural society in the streets. In the film noir, we also see Mike talking down to almost everyone. He is portrayed as a man placed in high society, while the ethnic people he comes in contact with do not seem to hold the same value or authority that he does. This says that money basically runs the social statuses of these cities. Both protagonists seem to possess large amounts of money, allowing people to pay their way to the top of the social ladder, buying them prestige and authority. This says a lot about how the two cities operate. Everything and everyone has a price.

                The final quality I’m providing that both cities equally share is: gender norms. In both Gotham and Los Angeles, men take on the dangerous and more public spaces, while the women are depicted as inferior and weak by being told to stay either stay inside a building, vehicle, etc. These stereotypical roles are shown here by portraying women as helpless and men as heroes. Batman has to rescue women from danger in the city streets constantly, and Mike’s troubles first began after trying to help a woman, Christina, in the streets. These scenes seem to reiterate the idea Jacobs introduced and we studied earlier that claims women in public are not only endangering themselves, but men on the street as well. In both Gotham and Los Angeles women do work in the city and are accepted in the work force however we don’t get many chances to see them actually outside of a building physically, and the main female characters within these cities are not married. Thus, they have to work to take care and provide for themselves, much like those in Skyscraper. It is evident that public city streets are still viewed as dangerous for women who are incapable of taking care of themselves. Bruce’s and Mike’s relationships with women is another small similarity, in which neither men seem to want to make a commitment. Bruce doesn’t want to “get too close” and reveal his heroic identity to his love interest, Julie Madison, and is also afraid that if one of his enemies discovers his feelings for Julie, they will use it against him and put Julie in danger. Mike seems to be a “player” type who loves the bachelor lifestyle and technically being “single” yet still sleeps with his assistant, Velma, and has feelings for her, but wouldn’t seriously show or act on them until the very end of the film.

                In summation, Gotham City and Los Angeles share numerous similar qualities that connect their stories, underlying messages, and characters on a deep level. These cities share several film noir qualities such as: low-key lighting with lots of shadows, oppressive/ominous atmosphere, abrupt or excessive violence, and detective-like protagonists. Though Gotham City is fictional and Los Angeles is only filmed in the way the director wanted to portray it, they still each relay significant issues that link back to earlier class discussions and reading materials like women in public spaces, gender norms/roles, working around law enforcement, and high/low cultures or social statues. Though these are a handful of topics, they are only a few of the similarities between the depictions of Batman’s Gotham City and Mike’s Los Angeles.

 

Sources:

http://comicsandthecity.tumblr.com/

Kiss Me Deadly film noir

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Batman_supporting_characters#Bruce_Wayne.27s_

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Here is the web…

Here is the website I presented on today: http://digital.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/

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by | June 12, 2012 · 8:28 pm

Homelessness in the City

When my sister and I were about seven or eight years old our parents took us on vacation to Washington D.C. over the course of the trip I gained a number of new experiences and revelations about city life that I hadn’t previously known: it was the first (and still the only) time I’ve ever traveled by airplane, it was the first time I had ever seen a city that big with that many people, and when I first realized the expense of cab fare and how little I  really cared about walking to see every monument in our nation’s capital. Though one of the most memorable and impacting observations and realizations that made on that trip, that I had never before seen or been aware of, were the homeless people living on the streets; not only in Washington D.C., but in cities all over the country.

As a kid it really bothered and saddened me to see people hunched on the corners of buildings and along sidewalks, bundled-up in ragged clothing and rattling cups and dishes filled with loose change. Prior to visiting Washington D.C. the only other places that I had been (that I can wholly recall) was Fort Worth, Texas, where I was born, and Auburn, where my family and I moved to when I was about five and still currently reside. Therefore, I had never seen a homeless person or really given any consideration to the idea that not everyone can provide for themselves or be provided for by someone else. I had no concept of the different possible reasons that led to those people ending up in such a position; all I knew was that they had no home and no money and for a kid, or for me at least, this can be pretty upsetting. I wanted to give change to every person I saw pan-handling on the street until my father quickly pointed out that it isn’t possible to help everyone by giving them a few lousy cents and by doing so is ultimately of little or no help to them in the long-run (it could be spent on drugs or alcohol).

The confusion or misunderstanding that I had about homelessness as a child was: why they were homeless? Why didn’t they get jobs if they had no money or place to live? If there were no jobs or homes in the city where they were living why didn’t they move to a smaller city or town like Auburn where there seemingly aren’t any homeless people? Of course things aren’t as cut and dry in the real world as they are from a child’s perspective of life and solving a problem like homelessness can be the result of a multitude of factors that led there and isn’t necessarily as simple as finding a job or a place to live.

There are a number of reasons that homelessness is most common among larger cities. The most obvious reason being that there are more people in bigger cities, more people to house (or not), more jobs to be lost, more people to bum money from, so on and so forth. Another reason larger cities have a higher homeless population is because there is greater/better access to food programs, homeless shelters, and also more job opportunities. Although homelessness is most commonly associated and is predominately concentrated around bigger cities and urban areas, there is what is known as “rural homelessness”[1] which is distinct from being homeless in the city. The difference between being homeless in the city and a rural environment are the living conditions (space); for example someone who is homeless in the city may live in an alley of a street or under a bridge, whereas, someone who is homeless in rural areas may live in a car or a trailer.

As a child I assumed that a person who was homeless had simply lost his/her job and as a result lost everything. Clearly that’s not the case and as we know now people who are homeless have ended up that because of reasons that are out of their control such as mental illness and drug/alcohol addiction; two major contributing factors to the homeless population. Results of a study done in Los Angeles by Paul Koegel and M. Audrey Burnam [2] stated that “62.9% of those individuals in the inner-city homeless sample at some point in their lives met criteria for alcoholism. While 15.3% experienced symptoms of alcoholism within two weeks of the interview”. Also an article in the New York Times written by David Bird [3] stated that the issue of homelessness in New York City was, “even worse with the state’s program of discharging many patients from mental institutions into communities”. A great example of mental illness leading to homelessness is a book by Steve Lopez titled The Soloistwhich was made into a feature film of the same name; it is the true story of a brilliant musician Nathaniel Ayers who is diagnosed with schizophrenia and becomes homeless.

1. Rural Homelessness: Published by the National Coalition for the Homeless, July 2009 http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/rural.html

2.Alcoholism Among Homeless Adults in the Inner City of Los Angeles: Paul Koegel, PhD, M. Audrey Burnam, PhD http://archpsyc.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?volume=45&issue=11&page=1011

3. Poverty in New York: The Homeless: David Bird, The New York Times: March 8, 1981, Sunday, Late City Final Edition socialstratification.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/poverty_in_new_york.doc

 

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