Saturday, January 21, 2017

Film Buff: A Spoileriffic Review of Hell and Back

This was really distasteful, all in all. Just... ick.

CW: sexual assault

All right, plot: three friends work at a downward trending amusement park. After borrowing an evil book from the fortune teller, they jokingly make a blood oath on it, only to have the friend who reneges on it (by not giving a mint to the other upon request) get dragged into hell, with the other two in tow. The oath-violating friend is kidnapped, and the other two set out in a bumbling manner to rescue him. Subplots include the Devil being in love with an angel and trying to trap the other two to pass off to her, and a half-devil, half-demon woman searching for her long absent father, Orpheus (AKA, an expert in getting people out of hell). The whole thing is an a semi-claymation style that should be more endearing than it is.

Ok, so not a great premise, though in general, I'm always willing to give the "deal with the devil" archetypal plot a go. But the voice cast is an excellent array of some top level comedians: Bob Odenkirk as the devil, T. J. Miller as Augie, one of the two friends (Nick Swardson plays the other; I don't know him, but his performance was good enough); Rob Riggle as Curt, the friend whose soul is in trouble; Susan Sarandon as an angel; Danny McBride as Orpheus; and supporting roles from Maria Bamford, H. Jon Benjamin, Jennifer Coolridge, Kumail Nankiana, Brian Posehn, Paul Scheer, Greg Proops, Dana Snyder, and Paul F. Tompkins, and, while not exactly a comedian, Mila Kunis as Deema the female devil . It was basically that cast list that convinced me to try the film, despite its low Amazon rating.

Nope. In terms of plot, it doesn't work because of the sheer number of times a character acts without any particular reason, or changes their mind on a dime. Every character in the movie is kind of gross, with the exception of Deema. How much you care about the outcome depends on wanting the leads to get out of hell and rescue Curt, and I was actively rooting for failure at points. It's demeaning to all its female characters--of the four significant ones, two are supposed to be comical because of their grotesque bodies (fatness and age), and the other are ridiculously sexualized. The male characters in regards to the women are either "Good Guys," horndogs, or alternate randomly between the two. And Orpheus' backstory and the movie's climax hinge directly around tree rape.(The worst thing that can ever be leveled at the Evil Dead series is that it popularized tree rape as a comedy trope.)

Let's unpack that last one. By far the most interesting idea the film has is that Orpheus is an action hero/smuggler type, but in person, he's also a self-important asshole. Danny McBride in general is hit or miss for me, but I think he does pretty well in the role. But it's heavily implied that the reason for his behaviour is a tree molestation. And at the end of the story, our heroes lead the devil into a tree rape ambush. It's all gross, and doesn't improve with repetition.

A frequent debate in comedy is what, if anything, should be off limits. On the one side, you have people arguing that comedy that's racist or misogynist or turns rape into a punchline trivializes and normalizes certain modes of thought. On the other hand, you have basically the free speech argument, that comedians should be free to say what they want, and that humour can be a useful tool for critiquing social issues.

In virtually any circumstances, I'd defer to the former argument, and absolutely understand anyone who refused flat out to tolerate jokes on one of these subjects. For me personally, my response to the second argument is that yes, you're free to say that--but being free to say something doesn't also free you from the consequences of saying it. And yes, humour can be a useful tool, but in that case, message, execution, and audience come into play.

For example, let's compare this movie to Amy Schumer's "Friday Night Lights" sketch in 2015. (And yes, there are a lot of valid arguments that can be leveled against Schumer too, but for the argument at hand, the focus is the sketch.) It's a sketch about the prevalence of rape culture in sports, and it works for me. The humor makes a statement about the connection between rape culture and sports, by exaggerating the players' sense of sexual entitlement. In Hell and Back, it gets a decent amount of humor around Orpheus, through the juxtaposition of our notion of an ancient Greek hero known for his devotion to love against his actual character as a jackass fratboy. But the tree rape doesn't have that humour. Basically, it seems to be playing on three ideas:
a) it's funny because it's a reference to Evil Dead
b) it's funny because men being raped is inherently funny
c) it's funny because powerful men being raped by trees is inherently funny

a) is really more a substitute for humor rather than actual humor. b) and c) are basically just ways of trivializing rape against men, which just perpetuates really awful notions about masculinity. It's gross, and I think a lot less of the film for including it, and a little less of the people associated with the film.

Incidentally, my favorite gag of the film is a repeated gag where Paul F. Thompson voices a soul undergoing very small amounts of hellish torments.

Demon: "Welcome to Pizza Hut Taco Bell. What'll you have?"
PFT: "I think I'll have a medium pizza with pepperoni."
Demon: "All out! Only tacos! Because you're in hell!"
PFT: "Oh, I see."
Demon: "Now ask for a cheese pizza."
PFT: "All right. Could I get a---"
Demon: "No! Welcome to hell! Order again!"
PFT: "You know,  I think I see where this is going."

More of that. Less tree rape.

Later Days.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Movie Buff: A Spoileriffic Review of Black Christmas

With a lot of older entertainment, or technology, or what have you, after a certain period time, you stop appreciating them in and of themselves and appreciate them more for their historical association and context. For example, I absolutely don't have the patience for using a typewriter, but I can appreciate its significance to the 20th century, and to artistic movements like block poetry or the avant garde, ala Johanna Drucker's work.

 This shift can also be a self-fulfilling prophecy--you encounter something in the mindset that it's more valuable as an artifact than an experience, and that colours the experience you actually do have. For me, the biggest blindspot that creates is with film. I have this mental stumbling block where I know intellectually that pre-1980s film is full of works just as popular and entertaining as a lot of current stuff, but I almost always go into an older film assuming its greatest value for me will be its historical significance. As such, I start off thinking that it'll be the cinematic equivalent of brussel sprouts--I know it'll be good for me, but I certainly don't expect to like it.

And that's largely been the mindset under which I've undertaken my great Tour of Horror. For almost a year now, I've been surveying horror films and horror film theory, allegedly in the name of research for One Particular Game (see the other blog). But the earliest I was willing to go was the 1978 Halloween. I just couldn't convince myself that anything earlier would be relevant, especially with my subfocus on the slasher film genre. I was wrong. And it took the 1974 Black Christmas to show me the light.

The plot is certainly slasher at its core. A sorority has emptied out for Christmas Vacation, reducing its members to those about to depart--the alcoholic housemother Mrs Mac, and the puritanical Clare--and those with nowhere else to go--the Jewish student Phyllis "Phyl" Carlson, the British exchange student Jess, and Barb Coard, the verbally explicit sorority sister whose mother has unexpectedly cancelled her trip home. Throughout the film, they are tormented by prank calls that escalate into misogyny and death threats, but unbeknownst to them, the call is--famously--coming from inside the house.

That's a probably a good moment to return to my original point, by way of a videogame analogy. For the longest time, I thought of the 1998 game Baldur's Gate as the starting point for the modern Western RPG. It spawned a number of very successful sequels and spin-offs (a list potentially including one of my favourite games and dissertation topics, Planescape: Torment), it's clearly present in the DNA of BioWare, one of the most successful RPG developers still in existence, and its overall emphasis on choice and good/evil alignment has been majorly influential on videogames at large.  It wasn't until I sat down last year and actually played a few hours of the game for the first time that I appreciated how meta it was, how thoroughly self-referential the game was in its use of genre tropes that were already well trod. Thus, the potential problem with viewing it as a point of origin, that such a perspective obscures BG's own predecessors.

You can probably see where I'm going with this, or you will by the end of the next sentence. Before I started this Horror project, my earliest film foray into horror (discounting a probably-too-young viewing of Macaulay Culkin in the Good Son) was the 1996 Scream. Again, we have a major milestone for a genre--Scream set the tone for the postmodern horror film, and spawned imitators and influenced films from I Know What You Did Last Summer to the diminishing returns of  Scary Movie to full tilt postmodern horror like Cabin in the Woods or Last Girls. And again, perhaps even more obviously, it's not the origin at all, as its infamous starting phone scene clearly echoes Black Christmas, with a tech upgrade from multiple phone lines to the cell phone. (And yes--there's a good chance the urban legend of the caller in the house predates Black Christmas as well.) My watching of Black Christmas was a very vivid reminder that my preconceptions hold me back.

This post is veering into essay length, and I've barely scratched the film itself. So let's switch to bullet point.

  • The whole reason I watched Black Christmas now is that I wanted to start the horror film podcast Faculty of Horror, and their first episode is Halloween vs Black Christmas. I still haven't listened to the podcast, but I have at least now seen both films. I'll say, then, that I think Black Christmas wins out. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent in Halloween, of course, and there's some fun with the supporting cast, but overall, Black Christmas uses its cast to better effect. It also helps that there's less pontificating about people "born evil" and fewer "ugh why are you doing that it is the stupidest thing" moments.
  • The Internet has decided that Lethal Weapon and Die Hard are Christmas movies. In that case, Black Christmas should totally get counted before them, right? I mean, Christmas is in the name. The plot is centered around the holiday (ie, as an explanation of why there's so few people in the house). And, via the carollers scene, I think it does a much better job juxtaposing the supposed innocence of the season with the violence of its events.
  • Deviation from Slasher tropes #1: the "innocent" girl is the first one killed. (Hey, the word "spoiler" is in the post title for a reason.)
  • And what they replace her with is so much more interesting in terms of what the film does with gender. Instead, our final girl is not just sexually active, but pregnant, and steadfast on getting an abortion.  I appreciate that the film doesn't vilify her for this stance, and instead presents her boyfriend's insistent claim on her body as extreme. (Granted, it needs to do this, for the ending to work and to make plausible the idea that the boyfriend is the killer, but it's still appreciated.)
  • Deviation from Slasher tropes #2: Mrs. Mac. Ever notice how slasher killers are weirdly fixated on teens and 20-somethings? Mrs. Mac, the veneer of respectability for the sorority house, is a wonderful character who you'd never find in a later slash flick. Her alcoholism and general resignation mixed with pride over her station at life is simultaneously tragic, comic, and awesome. She loves her sorority and acting as mother to the group, but is also aware that she's a farcical character and somewhat a pitied one, for her failure to create a "real" family and move beyond the sorority. Gender again--the way we undervalue and mock the spinster figure.
  • Watching a horror movie about a familiar place made monstrous through a stranger's presence takes on a different resonance when you do it in a building where the pipes bang randomly.
  • I think it was Friedrich Kittler who discussed how uncanny the gramophone was before people became familiar with it. If there's one thing horror film has shown us, it's that any piece of technology, especially communicative technology, can be rendered uncanny if it's pushed in a way we don't expect. Modern cinema has thoroughly--oh so thoroughly--explored this unfamiliarity with the camera, from the Blair Witch Project to the Paranormal series, but I love how the "call from inside the house" does it the household phone. We've come to expect some degree of distance that the telephone (or smart phone) provides; when that distance is eroded, when a female space like a sorority house is violated, the result is horrific.
  • Deviation from Slasher tropes #3: No gratuitous sexuality. It's a film set in a sorority house, but there's no bikini pool scene, no panties shots, no pointless nudity. There's two nighties: one appears during an asthma attack, and the other is wrapped around a fully clothed Mrs. Mac. Honestly, if anything disqualifies it from slasher status, it might be this one.
  • It's kind of surprising how little information we get about the killer and his motives. Again, that's partly necessary to make the ending work. And again, I prefer it to Halloween's approach, which was to give a potential origin AND the explanation of the killer being "born evil." I wouldn't say it's a deviation from slasher tropes, but it's certainly different. It keeps the focus on the cast, which I appreciate.
  • It bears remembering that this entire film is premised around an explicitly gendered threat--the danger posed by sexually threatening phone calls. (And that's a big a problem now as ever. Maybe even worse, given the options open to internet trolls. They don't need to be physically present in your house to ruin your life.) As such, if there's a theme here, it's the mistreatment of women. I like how that's present in everything--not just in our lead and her boyfriend and implicit in Mrs. Mac, but also in details like the police not taking the matter seriously until an assertive male comes and insists on their action. The ending is possible only because all the men around feel it's ultimately okay to leave alone the one woman left standing. If anything qualifies it for ur-slasher status, it's the attention it pays to gender, which is a major part of the subgenre.
So, thanks to Black Christmas, I've gained a new respect for all older movies (mutters under breath: "That were released after 1973.")

Later Days.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

YA drive-by

I'm teaching a course on Harry Potter this term, and gave a recent lecture on the roots and themes of YA literature. One of the articles I wound up not using was by a scholar named Mike Cadden. For the most part, Cadden gave a fairly interesting breakdown of YA literature--I particularly liked his discussion of YA as transitional literature and how the notion of length becomes intertwined with quality, but I was much less impressed by this passage:

For girls, then, our fake realism of today comes largely
from Alloy Entertainment. These are the folks who bring
the tweeners the wildly popular series about Gossip Girls,
The Clique, The A-List, and It Girls—and what seems to
be the whole YA gossip-oh-my-gawd-he’s-so-cute-butcan-
you-believe-what-that-bitch-said industry. It’s clearly
an entertainment company and would be a target for those
concerned with representations of adult behavior and what
is/should be important to adolescent girls. I guess you
could say that they’re the guilty beach-reads for adolescents,
though we could argue that it’s without the guilt.
But hey, at least those kids are reading, right? These are
novels that, unlike more clearly comic and contemporary
realism like The Princess Diaries, haven’t a tongue within

miles of the cheek—at least not one’s own."

I'll confess, I haven't actually read any of these books, which is a definite limitation to my counterargument, but I have seen nearly every episode of Gossip Girl, which I feel gives me some ground to push back here. The accusation that Cadden implicitly levels at teenage "chick lit" is basically the same that was once leveled at the early gothic novel or the 19th century romance, genres which are now arguably read more by academics than anyone else. These books, critics complained, corrupt our girls, filling their minds with trashy drivel and sexual misconduct. You can deal with them at that level if you want, but they're also reflective of the society they're written from, and in that sense, they're almost across the board a deconstruction of how women are empowered and disempowered by societal norms.

The "tongue within miles of the cheek" line is a good line, but that's all it is. For someone who has watched Gossip Girl and read critiques of Gossip Girl (Jacob Clifton's old Television Without Pity articles were brilliant, and what got me into the show in the first place), I can say he must not have been paying attention, because the series was all about the ridiculousness of teenage extremities. Maybe the books were different, but given that the series includes Psycho Killer, a slasher parody that recasts the series' leads as serial killers, I'm thinking not. Yes, they're of a very different kind from young adult  novels exploring realism and engaging directly with social issues,  but to dismiss them so firmly is to perpetuate the same sort of literary snobbery that has long been YA's lot.

Later Days.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Make Room, Make Room

Empty Shelves

Pardon the self-indulgence (honestly, what else is one going to do with a blog?), but I'm going to wallow for a moment and pour one out for my old graduate office space, which I finally locked up for the last time today. Not a moment too soon, and probably slightly late--ten minutes AFTER the next tenant comes in is cutting things officially too short. I know the room is property of the university and department, and not meant to be thought of as belonging to any individual students (or groups of students, or post-students). And I know it was selfish of me to continue squatting in the space when other graduate students were fighting for space. And I know that the space, and my attachment to it, are somewhat symptomatic of a degree it took me Too Long to complete. 

And yet... I feel a twinge of real loss at giving up access to it. It's silly to call it a home, but it was a space, a place, that was mine for a very long time. I spent eight years, give or take, in that office; I've dwelt there longer than any other place since moving to Kitchener-Waterloo. In fact, I've dwelt there longer than any place since moving out of my parents' house sixteen years ago. It was a bit of continuity in a changing life, and I'll miss it.

So it goes, and time marches on. Onwards, upwards, and so forth to whatever comes next.

(And yes, I see the resonance between a graduate space that I've clinged to for too long and this blog. So don't think pointing it out is clever or something.)

Later Days.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Book, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou--and no offense, but the Bread and the Thou are optional

I just had one of the most relaxing Sunday afternoons of my life. It was very simple; I walked around for a bit, I stopped, and I read for a while. Once at a coffee shop while I had lunch, once on campus, once in the park, and once in another coffee shop while sipping on a frappaccino. And each time, I'd rotate between reading a chapter in one of four books: Brian Staveley's The Providence of Fire (high fantasy fare--also, incidentally, a great title); Darowski's The Ages of the X-Men (an edited essay collection discussing the X-Men chronologically); Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov (my first foray into classic literature in a LONG time); and Enevold and MacCallum-Stewart's Game Love (an edited essay collection on play and affection in games).

All of the books were satisfying. The Providence of Fire had various maneuverings and fights, and The Brothers Karamazov had the first but not the second; in general, BK has proven to be a book that's not really about anything but a very close look at the lives of the title characters. The bit I read today covered a long monologue from Ivan about an imaginary confrontation with God to Alyosha returning to the monastery. Ages of the X-Men had four essays about various aspects of the X-Men early years--the cultural understanding of mutants in America leading up to the X-Men's debut, the way the 60s comics depicted Cold War negotiiations and promoted the commune (two separate essays there), and the way the 70s Claremont-relaunch was driven initially by market concerns. I read an essay from each of Game Love's sections, which meant one from Waern on how players express love for NPCs in Dragon Age: Origins, one from Brown on interviews from erotic role-players in World of Warcraft, one from Lenio taking an exceptionally ontological view of what it means to love an NPC, and finally, a rather lengthy essay criticizing the way sustained videogame play is framed in terms of addiction, whether that's in terms of cognitive science, psychology, or holistically as compensation for a lack in the player's lives.

But to be honest, very little of the above had any impact on why I found the day so relaxing. The content of the books didn't matter. The exact locations didn't matter. The rigidity of the formula--four readings, four locations, repeat--didn't matter. What matters is that I sat in a public space for a while and read a book. And that act, in whatever variation it might unfold, is like a cup of tea straight to my soul.

Reading alone at home doesn't put me in that state; neither does reading on the bus, or playing videogames, in public or private. Neither does walking through a place, or talking with someone else on a park bench or hanging out at a coffee shop. Don't get me wrong; I like all of those things, quite a bit. But none of those are relaxing in the same way that today was. If I had to put it into words, I enjoy being in one place while the world flows around me, and the world and I are content to let each other be. I have a hunch that this would be my ideal vacation too--go to somewhere exotic and, instead of seeing the sights or doing adventurous stuff, simply sitting in a corner and watch a different part of the world unfold without worrying about a deadline or whether I should be doing something else.

I've known this about myself for quite some time, and in the spring especially, I like to stop in the park on a bench on the way home from work and indulge for a half hour or so; spending basically a full day at it like today is nice but not necessary. And it always puts me in a good mood for the evening.

I'm curious, though, if it extends the other way. If I get up in the morning and spend a half hour on a park bench before I reach work, will that tranquility be instilled into the whole day? Will it give me at least a morning boost? Or would morning crankiness and work grind chip away at my zen?

Might be worth finding out.

What's your secret to tranquility?

Later Days.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Movie Buff: A Spoileriffic Review of The Final Girls

The Final Girls is a film with a good hook, but bad follow-through. (Does that work? I guess the metaphor is that the film is a boxer.) The elevator pitch is decent--a group of five modern teenagers find themselves trapped in a 1980s horror film, complete with stalker monster and a camp full of horny counselors. And it's got a great cast, suited for its tongue-in-cheek approach to the material--Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Tom Middleditch (Silicon Valley) and Taissa  Farmiga (American Horror Story). And the 80s counselors include Adam DeVine (Modern Family, Work Aholics, Pitch Perfect; it's a similar asshole performance as Pitch Perfect, but he's really good at it) and Malin Akerman (Children's Hospital). The problem isn't in the premise, or the actors, but the details.

If you're going to have a film that mocks the plot of horror movies, even 1980s horror movies, you need to have a reasonably rock-solid plot yourself. And there are some gaps here. I spent the first half of the movie assuming Gertie, Alia Shawkat's character, was Max (Farmiga)'s aunt, because while Shawkat is great in this and I want to see her in more movies in general, she is playing high school age, or freshman college--ditto with Tom Middleditch. You can kind of squint and make the case that this doesn't matter for DeVine, Akerman, and the rest of the 80s crew, since they don't have to be believable as teenagers so much as it needs to believable that someone in the 80s would cast them as such, but for the modern group, it doesn't work. The actors are, again, great, but the roles they're playing could use some re-definition.

The other problem is the emotional core at the center of the movie. In the movie within the movie, Akerman plays a scream queen, whose role is to lose her virginity and die horribly for it; in the movie at large, she's also Max's mother, who gets killed in the first scene. A lot of the film is devoted to the daughter working through the mom's death through interactions with a fictional character that looks like her mom. It's kind of a clumsy set-up: Nancy, the in-film character, has to be elastic/shallow enough to bond with someone she just met, but real enough for Max's emotional struggle to matter, AND fit in as a stock horror trope for the film within the film. It takes a lot of hoop jumping to make it happen, and I'm not sure it works. A better way to go about it, I think, would have been for Akerman as Max's mom not die in that first scene, go with them into the film, and be forced to replace Nancy after she accidentally dies too soon, to keep the plot going.

There's a lot of little logic jumps too, where the plot's compromised to make a joke of questionable quality--that's the peril of trying to be a meta-horror film and a comedy. But there's also some really coo bits, both meta and otherwise. The moment where the modern group realise that they're about to meet Max's deceased mom is wonderfully creepy (and would admittedly be a loss if they changed it to my suggestion), and the first half of the fight against the slasher is really cool as it threatens to go against and in their favour. On the meta level, finding out that the entire film universe loops every 92 minutes, being caught up in a flashback, and I can see the humour in trying to restrain the ditsy oversexualized character (Angela Trimbur does a real fun job with the role, putting a lot more into it than it really deserves), even if it doesn't quite get there. 

It's not a bad movie, and it does the aforementioned meta-horror/comedy mix better than, say, the entirety of the Scary Movie franchise. It's not as good as Cabin in the Woods, though it fits light popcorn film a lot better. It has some strong performances from really great comedic actors. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping for more. There's room for more play, and more critical play, than what's here.

Later Days.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

In My Defense

My defense is next Friday. To say that I am anxious about it would be a severe understatement. I can hardly bear to spend more than an hour or so away from it. I am having an onslaught of dreams where I accidentally sleep through the whole thing (which takes a lot of sleeping, since it's an afternoon defense). The biggest sign of all is that the anxiety has even brought me back to my poor, neglected blog. So this post is going to be a stream of consciousness hodge-podge that will hopefully let me vent some steam.

The preparation itself is interesting. Up to this point, I managed to avoid most of my worry by focusing on smaller events that were happening between the time the date was set (back in late September) and now. First, I was giving a guest lecture on narrative and ludology for my supervisor's first year course. Then I had another guest lecture on masculinity and game culture for another professor's class (this is turning into a humble brag about my guest lectures, but I'm going somewhere here, honest). Most recently, there was going to Wordplay 2015, a one day event in Toronto showcasing games that feature words predominantly in one way or another--a must-go event for someone whose research area is videogames and text. (I met Emily Short! I made a no to slightly negative impression!) In each case, the dissertation defense was something I was working on in the background and preparing for, but it wasn't until it was the Next Thing Coming that it suddenly started to really affect me.

The prep is going... all right, I think. I've met with the tech people, so I'm nominally familiar with the equipment in my defense room. I've done enough presentations to know that being familiar doesn't stop things from going wrong, but at least I'll know what to troubleshoot when it does. I've read over and over the dissertation draft, finding all the terrible typos that somehow evaded me before the dissertation went out. 

Actually, I have some advice on that note. For financial and moral reasons, I use Open Office, an open-source word processing program, over Microsoft Office, but I really wish I had converted it into MO before sending it out. The big problem was formatting it properly with the table of contents and page numbering. To make a table of contents, you need to set up headings and subheadings, and there's a bug where OO automatically adds about half a dozen lines of blank space to the first footnote of every chapter, regardless of how many times I take it out. The other problem was the page numbering--university regulations say that everything that comes before the table of contents has to have roman numeral page numbers, and arabic numbering for the TOC and everything after. And again, that's a pain to do in OO. (Maybe a pain in MO too, but it's OO I'm working with) I finally wound up having to copy the whole document into a new sheet entirely so I could start from scratch. And THAT wound up, for some reason, erasing all the alignments I did for my long quotations. I had to go in and re-align them manually, and as a result, I missed about a quarter of them. Suffice to say, OO is not maximized for 300+ pages of formatting.

I've also met with two out of the three members of my internal committee, which has been a huge source of relief--I'd really recommend it to those prepping for their own defense. Even apart from the useful advice on how to handle the defense, talking with them has reminded me that, at this point, I am the expert; I'm not just the expert on the subject, but on the defense itself. I will certainly have read it through more than anyone else in the room, and it takes a priority for me more than anyone else in the room. That second part in particular is a useful reminder, in that for everyone else, this is a routine thing--while everyone's there for the dissertation, I'm the one with the greatest emotional investment. It's a big deal in my head, but less so for everyone else. I don't think I'm fully expressing what I'm trying to say here, but I find it comforting on some level to remember that the dissertation is less burdensome from other frames of mind.

It's still going to weigh pretty heavy on my frame, though. The major task left is to prepare the slideshow. That's easier said than done. All in all, I've got a minor or major focus on approximately forty different games throughout the course of the argument, and that means a lot of screenshots that I need to line up. That's a practical aspect of game studies that isn't discussed enough, I think--how presenting a lecture on a videogame differs from more traditional media. Luckily, I have a small bank of images ready to go from previous presentations--video game manuals, Doom, Myst, and Planescape: Torment are already covered. That still leaves, however, two dozen or so games from the second and fifth chapters that need more substantiation. I spent about four hours last night watching walkthroughs of Final Fantasy: Tactics, only to realize that was watching the remake, not the original, just to get a shot of a cutscene that occurred about 3/4 of the way through the game. Film studies doesn't have this problem! (It has its own, I imagine. But not this one, specific problem, in exactly the same way.)

Anyway, I'd better get back to the work. I have promises to keep, and hours of Ni No Kuni walkthroughs to go before I sleep.

Later Days.