The Blog

(Post by Pauline Pechakjian)

A little over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to visit what I now consider one of my all-time favorite bookstores: Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s famed City Lights bookstore and publishing house located in San Francisco. The bookstore has become an iconic landmark in the world of American literature, especially in regards to the great writers and poets of the Beat generation. City Lights gained notoriety when Ferlinghetti chose to publish Allen Ginsberg’s initially-controversial Howl and Other Poems, and throughout the decades has been a critical meeting point for all of the best minds that the counterculture had and has to offer.
Upon entering the store, I was overwhelmed. Perhaps this was due to my newfound appreciation for the Beats and all of the history behind Ferlinghetti’s shop, but also, the atmosphere of the bookstore was simply amazing. I always act like a little kid in a candy shop every time I enter a bookstore, but my euphoric attitude ran much deeper than usual at City Lights. You could just tell that great things had happened there throughout the years, and I was ultimately filled with the appreciation of just being there. The main floor of the shop holds a lot of literature’s best works, and you can find hoards of amazing classics there. If you go downstairs, you’ll find lots of nonfiction, namely philosophical, historical, and psychological texts, and appropriately, tables to house resulting discussions.

My favorite area of the store, however, was the Poetry Room upstairs. You take a set of labeled stairs, decked out with posters of Allen Ginsberg and Bob Dylan conversing, and find yourself in the midst of endless poetry ranging from canonical classics to contemporary experimental pieces. Although spatially the poetry room is the smallest in the store, I spent most of my time there because there are simply so many unique works to go through. On top of everything City Lights has to offer, it’s hours of operation also make it amazing for a night owl such as myself – they are open until midnight every day of the week! If you have spare time in San Francisco, be sure to visit this iconic independent bookstore that represents so much of American literature’s history and experience it all for yourself!


(Post by Nahal Amouzadeh)

“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.” – Warsan Shire

When someone mispronounces my name and does not care to fix their fumbling mouth, I say I don’t care, not to put the person to ease, but simply because I don’t. I don’t care that this speaker is used to Ashley and Kelly and Jessica, Johnson and Richmond and Michaels. I don’t care that this is all they know. I don’t care that this is all they wish to know. I don’t care because I’ve heard it before, I’ve dealt with it all, and I have learned that these people live in small, little rooms where the light is dim and the books on the shelf are dusty and there is comfort in abundance, but only for its constant inhabitant; no visitors allowed. I don’t care that I am not invited; I relish in the freedom outdoors.

It’s a feeling that not many people have shared with me. I hear my loneliness echoed when people say: “What an interesting name. What are you?” I see it when they lean forward after I’ve introduced myself and ask, “What?” I clench my jaw when an embarrassed smile appears on their face and they butcher my name and I try to laugh it, my name, my identity, myself, right off. They’re not embarrassed of their ignorance, they are embarrassed for me and I am too empathetic to ignore the nervousness in their soft chuckle. I feel the blush creep to my cheeks before I can stop it and it only fades when I’m angrily alone again, reminding myself that I am not a visitor in that small, little room of theirs. They are the ones who have stepped outside and they should be ashamed of the way they refuse to let their eyes to adjust to the light.

Warsan Shire is a Somali poet based in London and I find that reading her poetry makes me feel that much less alone, a goal that many writers attempt but few attain completely, in my honest opinion.

I am the child of two immigrants and I am a woman. I live in a weird divide, where sometimes, the only thing each world has in common is the outright misogyny. At school, I stare at the boy in the center of the classroom, cutting off every voice that can’t match his aggressive volume. At home, I hear my brother snicker and shamelessly say that I should be the one washing the dishes – the reason why is heavily implied.

Warsan Shire was born in 1988, in Kenya, but emigrated to the UK when she was just a year old. Standing on the border of two worlds is something she expresses in her poetry, but the plight of being a millennial woman, in the wake of a third wave of feminism, while standing along this edge is sometimes louder. Having these three ‘bases’ in my identity covered in literature is often impossible, but Shire is one of few that touches on them all.

I’ve found that a lot of her poems are placed in fragments on the internet and they usually lose this message of duality in the identity. Sometimes even entire poems can be read as simple feminist prose without the emphasis on two cultures meshing or clashing into one person. Her poem, “for women who are ‘difficult’ to love.” is open for interpretation, as is all poetry, but given her background and many other pieces that directly describe her experience as an immigrant, I find that the words are laced in this division. I note that when Shire speaks of love as it sits on the horizon, it is also foreign on the tongue for those dealing with duality.

Shire writes her poem with a motherly, authoritative speaker discussing a strong personality attempting to fall in love with a man who can’t ‘handle’ her. This voice tells the personality she is not to be “tamed,” that the man before her doesn’t understand her, and she should not bend to him. As a first generation, this strong personality she wrote of resonated with me. Even if I didn’t consider myself anything close to a “racing horse,” as she describes, my name and family and culture already seem like flames and any Jessica, Lindsey, Michael or Kyle react accordingly, tending to their wounds upon introduction to my family’s way of living. If I wasn’t considered bold by white feminist standards, I certainly come across that way to those same judges because I am not of the same culture. I am different. I am ‘Other.’ And to be open to love as a Something-American in America, I am watching it as it sits on the horizon, but fearful to let it come closer. I wonder if it, too, will find my flames too high.

But I don’t bend. Shire’s poem is a reminder that not only is love (specifically with a white person) not the be-all, end-all for assimilation, it is also not meant to diminish. It is not water. It is heat and it should let the flames flourish.

My name is on a sign along the horizon from where I stand, standing proudly in front of a blood-orange sun. It serves as a warning. I am a racing horse not to be tamed, and if you would like to ride along, please progress. But if not, please stay in your little, dark room.

Shire reminds me through her poetry that there is bravery in being a first generation woman and I thank her for that. And I encourage anyone to dig into her writing. She’s wonderful without comparison, but truth be told, poetry is a white man’s world (especially the canon that we are pumped in our English classes), and it is refreshing to read something refreshingly new. I think many will agree.

Her small book of poetry, “teaching my mother how to give birth,” is up on Amazon for purchase.
teaching my mother

(Post by Winston Bribach)

In American literary (as well as non-literary) circles, there is perhaps no individual author possessing the clout and reverence associated with Mark Twain. His classic stories, The Adventures of Tom Sawyers and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, are indelibly marked at the top of the American canon. This man, who high schoolers and middle schoolers will inevitably study at some point in their academic life, also found nothing but hatred in the chivalry-laden romances written by Sir Walter Scott. What could be so spiteful about knights running around rescuing their ladies fair? Just add context and the answer becomes quite clear.knight
It so happens that the gentrified Southern plantation owners absolutely loved Mr. Scott’s work. In fact, they went so far as to recreate the feudalistic society described in Ivanhoe and Heart of Midlothian. A certain few zealous planters were even known to host jousting competitions on occasion. This was just the lighter side of the game. If you compare the social stratification of Southern society to the stratification existing in 14th and 15th century Europe, the similarities are almost startling. There’s the elite class who held a massive majority of the wealth, then there’s the smaller plantation owners, small farmers, and then the slaves. The distinctions were very clear. Not anyone could simply break into the upper echelon of society. Your family, not your ambitions decided where you stood. Herein lies Mark Twain’s beef with Sir Walter Scott. He was indirectly responsible for shaping Southern society.

When Mark Twain had a problem with something, you can bet your buttons he wrote about it. The resultant novel, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which was partially inspired by a colorful dream, is full of satire. Just about everything regarding life in Camelot is ridiculed or shamed by Hank Morgan, a logical and entrepreneurial Yank who was somehow transported back in time from the late 19th century. Over the course of the story, Hank whips Camelot into shape and provides them with all sorts of new technologies. This proves highly comical when Sir Lancelot leads a band of knights in on their bicycles to rescue Hank and King Arthur.

Thanks to these new innovations, everyone lives happily ever after, right? Absolutely not. The extremely superstitious 6th century folks come to find hatred for the man who has instituted himself as “The Boss.” Eventually, after Hank is called away for a time due to family concerns, the society reverts back to its old self. Hank’s inventions are outlawed and he is considered a heretic by the church. This results in widespread bloodshed.

What point was Mark Twain trying to prove with the plot twist? Is the force of ignorance strong enough to withstand the wheels of progress? I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s a little more complicated than that. Once again, there’s a need for context. A Connecticut Yankee was published in 1889, not long after the government ended its Reconstruction efforts in the South. Fresh off victory in the Civil War, the government thought they were going to implement long-term changes to Southern society. No more slaves, African-Americans are free to vote, etc. Under military supervision, the process appeared to be going along smoothly. Guess what happens when the military is called back to Washington? That’s right. Everything went back to its old feudalistic self. The stratification was virtually the same, but instead of slaves at the bottom of the chain, there were black sharecroppers or landless blacks.

Included in Mark Twain’s satire is a historical parallel that had yet to fully play itself out. The arrogance of the North to believe the South would willingly take in their enforced societal alterations and the South’s reversion to its old ways the moment the North went away. So not only did Twain have trouble with the Scott and his influence on the South, but he also was disappointed in how the post-Civil War Reconstruction had been handled. He fired shots at both sides, one for the Southern past and another warning the Northerners about their failure.

(Post by Tina Lawson)

Source: Kenyon Review: September/October 2015

What I like about Kenyon Review most these days is their taste; many of the poems are tight, compressed, inventive, and unafraid of journeying into either strange subjects (“Nkisi Nkondi” by Jennifer Militello has a delightfully creepy note) or the more conventional ones (Dave Lucas’ “Narcissus Himself” and the ruminations on love in relation to the self). Amy Wright’s “Mēl” plays with the genre of the personal essay and infuses her non-fiction with something thematic: definitions of words that tie together a pattern within the work. From the definition of ‘meal’
to the ‘Milky Way,’ ‘meolc,’ ‘mēl,’ and ‘milk-and-water,’ weaving together the experience Wright’s perspective as she explains the context of a world many of us aren’t acquainted with. We live in a time when we need special education and an allocated day to educate young children where their food comes from, and Wright’s on point remarks on “the shift in human evolution that combined the cultivation of wild plants … the domestication of animals” highlight the receding knowledge and tolerance for independent, small agricultural practices in face of a worldwide increasing demand for cheaper food: meat, vegetables, grains.
“Mēl”’s focus on tracking the Agriculture Revolution of Then to the Now is informative in a fresh way, separated by dotted sections: tying together Biblical references of “milk and honey”, but it is easy to be unsettled by the facts and figures in the tension Wright builds; as the plentiful bounty is stressed over and over, one gets the sense that time is running out for the full platter of food that the current system has in place. From the United Nations Environmental Program:

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

Wright outlines alternatives to the high-energy, high-stakes current food sources (ex: small insects like crickets and grasshoppers in lieu of cattle/livestock), illustrating in her prose the absolute facts and following them with anecdotal scenes.
Her intent is to show her audience that “we have lost familiarity with the way our ancestors survived,” and to give examples on how we can change this course through choice. Now, more than ever, technology can aid in the world’s hunger, and by infusing ancient remedies and solutions with this technology, and Wright complicates this idea with her superb command of emotion that makes this nonfiction entry a delight to read.

(Post by Dylan Karlsson)

This past summer I spent a week in Montréal with my brother. As for any trip we make to a new city, we spent some time researching what hidden, literary history we could uncover to better make sense of the city’s draw for writers and artists. We found plenty of used bookstores (some English, some French), a collective of young, upcoming writers brought together by Metatron Press, and the publishing power-house of beautifully made graphic novels, Drawn & Quarterly. But nothing was so mysterious as a lost webpage dedicated to the history of a local group of poets, known as the Vehicule Poets. Throughout the 70s, they led weekly readings, held exhibitions in gallery spaces and cultivated their own style of video-poetry. Browsing through what sparse relics of their existence we could find online, the poems of Artie Gold (though we found few), which approached us with effortless sincerity. These were the kinds of poems that turned with a single breath from casual flippancy to the casual heart of all being. Though centered in Montréal, his influences stemmed from the San Francisco Beat and New York scenes: carving out a style all his own while taking his spontaneous inspiration from the likes of Frank O’Hara, and Jack Spicer.

As we dug through book stacks and criss-crossed from Downtown, to the Latin Quartier, to the Mile End, no evidence of his archived and published works could be found. The Word, an underdog of a bookshop, an auxiliary of McGill University, our only hope to find a remnant of the Vehicule, turned out to be our best bet. Upon asking about Artie Gold, the owner and founder of the store, Adrian King-Edwards led us to a special sign reading: Rue Artie Gold. Apparently The Word was a home to Gold between the store’s conception and his passing. He would often spend his days lingering around the store as if he was the proprietor. It was clear to us his absence was felt at this local store; it took form in King-Edwards’ solemnity when discussing his friend’s work. We gladly (and humbly) took home his collected and selected works, our meager introduction to the poet. I’d recommend taking the time out to search for his work, a clear introduction for me is his “5 Jockey Poems,” which transcend the archaic confines of concrete poetry and speak to that magic and anxiety of the craft, to which all poets can relate.

(Post by Zach Conner)

Last Thursday, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Sharon Olds visited Los Angeles. She shared some of her recent poetry with a packed audience as part of the Hammer Museum’s autumn reading series.

After an eloquent and venerating introduction from distinguished Prof. Stephen Yenser, curator of Hammer poetry readings, Olds took the stage with immediate grace.

She read excerpts from her latest published collection Stag’s Leap (awarded the 2012 T.S. Eliot Prize), from manuscripts recently accepted by her publisher, and from a series of odes inspired by Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things.

Unfamiliar with Old’s work before the reading, I was at once convinced of Prof. Yenser’s praise: she writes with anatomical acuity, with authority on passions and carnalities, and with unfettered attention to the soul. Her first selection punctuated the night’s repertoire as a prime embodiment of this style, an “Ode to the Clitoris” sanctifying female sexuality as individually holy.

From following poems I learned that Olds reflects on body parts and thoughts equally with intimate carefulness– she is unabashedly erotic and candid. As the nude humiliates the prude, Olds strips the façade from propriety by freely speaking on taboos. One poem celebrated the death of her mother, because with her mother died a lifetime of maternal selfishness and filial disappointment. She scattered the ashes with triumph. Looking up from the page as the poem ended, Olds apologized for its apparent callousness– and then redacted the apology, because the poem is truth. Her poems on death became tender as the reading progressed. In one she depicted death as a return to our elemental bits in abstract, dignified entropy, warmer than any scientific account. The poems from Stag’s Leap, a collection entirely concerned with divorce, confronted the harrowing subjects of love’s impermanence and the vain human desire to mold partners to our own needs.
While doing some casual research on Sharon Olds, I noticed in a few articles that several critics had found fault in her “self-indulgence.” I thought that this rather reflected the critics’ discomfort in reading immensely personal accounts, which in their clear elucidation of feelings open pathways to empathy, and thereby unravel from the ego. Olds’ poetry may indulge the self, but it does so only to plumb its depths for balance and awareness. Her words do not pompously demand gravity and impact, as alleged– they earn it.

To wind things up with a twist, Olds closed with “Ode to the Penis.” In this poem she now spoke of the other gender, addressing with collected words the pertinent issue of patriarchal oppression. As with her earlier reading of “Ode to my Whiteness,” a poem digesting the difficult facts of white privilege, “Ode to the Penis” felt to me artful and nuanced. As she professed, the poem is “feminist to the core,” but avoids the fervent antagonism rampant in today’s social justice movements. It is a discourse from a single speaker that at once condemns, pities, and loves its subject (the penis, synecdoche for men). My favorite part: it celebrates the extraordinary pairing of phalli in homosexual relationships as the bulldozer razing patriarchal masculinity, and in this celebration gives them as much symbolic weight in the 21st century as the Twin Towers.

You can catch the next Hammer poetry reading with guest Joseph Harrison on November 5th at 7:30 PM.

(Post by Tina Lawson)

I went into the book cold. I think too much is ruined, inadvertently or advertently, by a synopsis; I get that we’re into putting a story into a box, and that it’s helpful to parse out for many people. “Is this book for me?” Like a dating profile. But I will finish the book, no matter what – I’m a Lifer whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere struggling in between. I’ve learned a good deal this way and been exposed to books I’d otherwise never would have picked up in a million years (Narrow Road to the Deep North, I’m looking at you).

It doesn’t matter that Orlando was a required text for my Feminist Worlds seminar; Virginia Woolf’s whole bibliography is on my to-read list, so it was bound to come sooner or later. I had read Virginia Woolf’s Writer’s Workshop by Danell Jones several months prior and noticed that Orlando stood out as one of the bestsellers for Woolf; she called it a “folly … a dalliance.” And I assumed until I actually read Orlando that it was just another one of those romances that serious readers shirk off (but secretly indulge in behind closed doors.)
It may have been a folly, it may have been a dalliance, but it is nothing short of revolutionary as far as the context of the times, the subject matter, and the reception of the novel. Whereas Woolf’s contemporary Radclyffe Hall, and her book, The Well of Loneliness, received negative backlash for its content, Woolf and her Orlando was celebrated. Maybe it’s the whole man-turning-into-woman that feels harmless, especially when she eventually participates in a conventional sex-marriage (a woman who turned into a man). Hall’s work tried to explain same sex relationships, the isolation of a lesbian, and her desire, without the compromise Woolf makes in her work’s conclusion. Woolf’s protagonist, despite her origin as a man is, for the majority of the novel, in a state of flux in regards to her obligations to society on what being a woman entails, not just to the outside world, but to herself. Hall’s protagonist does not fare as well as the end.
To be frank, this book was right up my alley and very appropriate for the times when UCLA’s current Common Book, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist, ruminates on what a feminist is like in a postmodern era, and the ripple effect of Caitlyn Jenner’s own transformations could mean for the transgender/LGBT community.

I’ve included some of my favorite passages that coincidentally have much in common with our current contest, “.and time ticks away.” :

Here he came then, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. He saw the beech trees turn golden and the young ferns unfurl; he saw the moon sickle and then circular; he saw — but probably the reader can imagine the passage which should follow and how every tree and plant in the neighbourhood is described first green, then golden; how moons rise and suns set; how spring follows winter and autumn summer; how night succeeds day and day night; how there is first a storm and then fine weather; how things remain much as they are for two or three hundred years or so, except for a little dust and a few cobwebs which one old woman can sweep up in half an hour; a conclusion which, one cannot help feeling, might have been reached more quickly by the simple statement that ‘Time passed’ (here the exact amount could be indicated in brackets) and nothing whatever happened.

But Time, unfortunately, though it makes animals and vegetables bloom and fade with amazing punctuality, has no such simple effect upon the mind of man. The mind of man, moreover, works with equal strangeness upon the body of time. An hour, once it lodges in the queer element of the human spirit, may be stretched to fifty or a hundred times its clock length; on the other hand, an hour may be accurately represented on the timepiece of the mind by one second. This extraordinary discrepancy between time on the clock and time in the mind is less known than it should be and deserves fuller investigation.

                                                                                            Orlando, Chapter Two

Woolf’s titular character is preoccupied with change and permeance, surviving over 300 years, dabbling in poetry, politics, and frequent womanizing. I’ve met some people who said that they would only read current bestsellers; coming from a fervent bookreader, if you enjoy genderbending, if you like experimental prose from the 1920s, if you want something that has a heart, try Orlando, a book I fell in love with.

(Post by Winston Bribach)

As you can see, in her masterpiece of a novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee made it quite clear how and why the titular act is sinful. This makes it all the more the surprising that Ms. Lee has done the unthinkable—she killed a mockingbird.

Symbolically, these unobtrusive feathery fellows represent innocent characters like Jem, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson. In the context of the story, they never had any intention to hurt anyone, but they couldn’t escape being harmed themselves. Robert E. Lee Ewell, one devilish son of the stars and bars, has no qualms in crushing these wholesome and perhaps naïve souls. Just because Tom is the only one of them who actually dies, doesn’t mean the others went unharmed.

Now, when I say Harper Lee killed a mockingbird, I am by no means placing her in with the vile Mr. Ewell. What I am saying, however, is that she has potentially thrown mud on something which has been widely revered and admired. By which I mean, she decided to reach into the far past after declaring she would not publish another book and pull out Go Set a Watchman—essentially a rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

While I suppose that’s a notch above having her laundry list published, which was a very slight possibility in the afterglow of her debut novel’s fantastic success, it holds a massive disregard for her earlier work and those involved in making it “our national novel,” as Oprah Winfrey has called it. One such person, who was sinned against and who for the purposes of this article could be called a mockingbird, is Tay Hohoff. Tay who? Tay Hohoff, the editor who took Harper Lee under her wing and helped transform her original manuscript (Watchman) into a virtually unquestionable work of brilliance (Mockingbird). This might be construed as an insult to her editor, and possibly says that she didn’t need any “interference” in her work, that her original idea was better than the final product of numerous alterations.
About the story itself, Watchman is a disillusionment tale of a woman discovering her idealistic father isn’t so perfect after all. While it does present the opportunity for great drama and conflict, those elements do not of themselves constitute a book able to withstand the ultimate test—time. For my money, should this remain on the bookshelves as a top-seller, it will have done so on the graces of To Kill a Mockingbird. In no way does Watchman surpass the American classic known to sell thousands upon thousands of copies every year, or even come close.Potential mockingbird number two is a little more obvious—Atticus Finch. From the “safe” confines of Mockingbird, Atticus has done nothing but provide a wonderful example to the people fortunate enough to read the book. He showed that integrity and honesty exist even in the worst of places, the highly racist “Deep South” of the 1930s. Not many men would be capable of putting forth a genuine effort to defend a black man in court against a white man under such conditions. As a result, “parents named their children after Atticus [and] people went to law school and became lawyers because of [him]” (Kakutani, NY Times). I have to think that if Mr. Finch were known to spout some negative, racist commentary (as he does in Watchman), then considerably fewer guys would be labelled Atticus today.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the central point I’m making. While the arguments for Atticus Finch and Tay Hohoff being the mockingbird slain by Ms. Lee are valid as is the argument for her killing multiple mockingbirds, the mockingbird in question is Harper Lee herself. No, she hasn’t committed suicide. Simply put, she sold out. She went back on her word and degraded her editor’s work. One has to wonder what convinced her. A greedy agent? Personal pride? More money in her old age? Maybe Watchman was the story she originally wanted to tell.

Regardless, the question needs to be asked. Was it worth it?

(Post by Pauline Pechakijan)

I’m a huge fan of science fiction novels, and specifically, works set in near-distant dystopian futures. Consequently, I may have a less than favorable perception of certain technological advancements, especially those dealing with the ultimate fate of humankind. When I recently read Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and viewed Blade Runner, a film loosely based of off the novel, for a class, my questions concerning technology, and specifically, human genetic modification, were taken to new heights.

Dick’s novel and the film both bring in the age-old question of what it truly means to be human, and through the juxtaposition of “natural” humans with laboratory-made “androids” in the novel or “replicants” in the film reveal that the distinction between human and non-human is not as clear as it seems. Although we as a society haven’t reached the point of manufacturing bodies to do our manual labor or act as our servants in the way that the novel and film describe, the realization of such a scenario isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem. As a disclaimer, I have no background whatsoever in biotechnology or genetic modification, but am somewhat aware that we are heading towards the possibilities of altering the human genome in favor of better health and well-being. Researchers globally are working hard to identify and remove a host of “problematic” genes that cause disease or make one more perceptible to certain conditions, and eventually we may see more and more cases of genome modification. In fact, as recently as April of this year, Chinese scientists reported in Protein & Cell that they modified the genome of a human embryo, making history as the first case of such modification in our species.
The issues that arise with humans creating other humans, as detailed in Dick’s novel and the film, are far more deep-rooted than mere physical differences. If we start making “designer babies” or breeding a race of super-humans in laboratories, we also need to consider how these modified humans will be treated in society. Less than a century ago, and even today in some parts of the world, people placed and still place a huge emphasis on keeping bloodlines “pure” and “clean.” We may have advanced technologically, but our ability to tolerate fellow [natural-born] humans with differences has yet to reach a point where we can honestly say we’ve progressed. There are many reasons for researchers and corporations to pursue the genetic modification of human beings – the possibility of eliminating diseases and other shortcomings can present the act as not only a benefit, but a duty, for the greater good. However, we have to weigh the pros against the cons and take into account how corporate greed, intolerance, and human error can severely interfere with any benefit human genetic modification may pose.

Ultimately, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner are fictional works with entertainment and enjoyment purposes, and I’m certainly not advocating a view of human genetic modification based off of the sentiments stirred up from reading the book or viewing the film. However, I do believe that the possibility of androids, replicants, or genetically modified humans is nearer than we may think, and to neglect both sides of this bioethics debate would be doing the human species as a whole a great disservice.


(Post by Christopher Rendon)

Watch “The Mindscape of Alan Moore.”

“…with fiction, with art and writing, it is important that even if you’re dealing with areas of complete outrageous fantasy that there is an emotional resonance. It is important that a story ring true upon a human level even if never happened.” In the documentary/interview, “The Mindscape of Alan Moore,” comic book writer and magician, Alan Moore, examines his long journey from living in limited conditions as a child, lacking finances and education, to being one of the most prominent writers, not only in comics but in poetry and fiction, from the late 20th century. Moore explores every avenue of his beliefs, contributions and interests within an hour; from his partake in writing comics such as, Swamp Thing; Batman: The Killing Joke; V for Vendetta and Watchmen, to his ideology of why great writers are magicians in the world filled with conspiracies. This interview impacts a ton of information that allows the viewer to gain entrance into the mind of one of the most beloved writers of the time.

Born and raised into an underprivileged family from the burrows of North Hampton, Moore, as a child, invested his time and attention into the mythological or fantastical worlds in literature, which he states was the highlight of his childhood. When discussing his hometown of North Hampton, he refers to the backdrop of his childhood as a “bleak” and “monochrome” setting; having a strong certainty, in a sarcastic retrospect, that many people were part of incest families—that even the “dog had the same hair lip.” Alan Moore’s personality is as eerie, witty and beautifully descriptive in person as he is in his writing; having this natural technique of structuring his words, layer by layer, speaking words with each flip and roll of his poetic tongue (he was like William Shakespeare in a Modern High School English Class, any student not paying attention would not understand him). Jokes aside, it was when he expressed the matters of limited opportunities as a youth, using himself as an example of defying those odds that his story had resonated with me. He exemplified those traits all writers wish to possess: desire, hunger, resilience, and this drive to work restlessly, finding alternatives, creating opportunities, and surpassing the social construct of his youth that limited and socially alienated him for being who he was.
One of the interesting parts in the interview is when Moore is discussing the inception of the Watchmen comic book series. As Moore presents the central theme of Watchmen, his curiosity stood strong in the idea of how these superheroes would fair in a real world society that deems the supernatural as fugitives or unwanted vigilantes stalking the night. Moore explained, furthermore, how he wanted to deconstruct the whole superhero concept along with the social concerns of a nuclear war and how it can completely obliterate the whole human race—especially during the active times of the Cold War in the 1980’s. Moore took that complex and broad concept, simplified it, and made it into a phenomenal piece of fictional work, using many of the panels to display his wonderful style of poetry and descriptive narrative; this really got me engaged and wondering more about what else he has written.

Before watching this interview, which readers can find on YouTube for freeze (or free), the only comic book I read from Alan Moore was his contribution to DC’s superhero, Superman, with his one issue, The Man Who Has Everything. The comic book was captivating and dealt with a real underlying theme of the past and future interrupting the now. For me, personally, I wanted and needed more from this writer so when watching this documentary I was introduced to Watchman. In Moore recite of the first pages of Watchmen, readers can see how this man paints a gruesome yet detail image with his prose and poetry. His description of blood on the street, a superhero found dead from a plummeting fall, Moore, instantly, creates a dark undertow within the workings of this fictionalized world—with the help of the backdrops that was illuminated through the visual concepts of David Gibbons—and gives a sense of disorder between the superheroes and the human society. By giving readers a poetic style, visual motifs, and a well-developed storyline, Moore and Gibbons were able to bring forth a marvelous piece of fiction, deconstructing the ideas art had on comics and making it an enjoyable, thrilling experience—all this covered within this documentary.

Overall, I feel the interview does plenty to introduce people to Alan Moore, the creator of so many critical acclaimed literary works. I can admit that Alan Moore is a huge inspiration for me and perhaps for writers feeling the need to expand with different genres, and are barely getting into comics. Moore has an entertaining analysis and thought-provoking ideas throughout the hour and, despite what you might think of the man personally, Moore will keep you engage and thinking about the many forms of art, writing and about life itself.



Hand coded by CRUXimaging