Course blog for CSP 11 (Fall 2012) @ Occidental College

Everything Old is New Again

In our remix video, “Eternal Culture and the Public Domain,” we used clips from various adaptations of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” to demonstrate how the presence of the public domain enables culture to stay “forever young.” We started with the earliest surviving Wizard of Oz film, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1910), followed by Larry Semon’s “Wizard of Oz” (1925), and Ted Eshbaugh’s cartoon, “The Wizard of Oz” (1933). We also included examples from Baum’s own thirteen-series collection of “Oz” derivative books and the 1939 edition of “The Wizard of Oz,” which famously featured Judy Garland. Finally, we included a scene from “Walt Disney’s Wizard of Oz” which was released only a year before the story entered the public domain in 1958.

We visually portrayed our argument by decolorizing all the clips dating prior to 1958 to foster a stronger sense of control and lack of creative potential. Once the film entered the public domain, we portrayed all the derivative works in color to illustrate the newfound freedom and possibilities. We demonstrated our theory regarding the relationship between remix and relevancy in many of our clip selections. For example, a portion of a “Family Guy” episode includes a title which states, “The Wizard of Oz Adjusted for Reality.” This clip completely aligns with our argument because the author acknowledges the original work that he is renewing and remixing with his own ideas. We also included a clip from an unreleased movie entitled, “Oz the Great and Powerful” (2013), to demonstrate the ongoing nature of remix culture.

Our background audio selection further exemplifies the inherency of evolution within culture. Music continues to evolve as genres come in and out of popularity. We tracked Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” (1984) through a variety of samples and remixes to show how the song has been adapted to modern culture.  In the end of our video, we returned back to the original Alphaville version to demonstrate how culture is cyclical will inevitably repeat itself. For example, in Kanye West’s song, “Young Forever” he used direct samples from the original song in combination with his own rap and lyric modifications.

Interesting case of attempting to clamp down on fair use

From fellow Oxy instructor Edmond Johnson on Facebook (where I stumbled across this link):

Paul Zukofsky is a violinist, conductor, and former UCLA professor whose father (Louis Zukofsky, 1904-1978) was a semi-obscure objectivist poet. The son inherited his fathers copyrights and is now openly hostile toward any grad student or scholar who dares to write about his father’s works. Check out the extraordinary copyright notice he’s posted on his website…

You can read Zukofsky’s post here.  It’s especially interesting, after all of our talk about the copyright industries, to consider the case of an individual rights owner who is taking this stance, and one that is especially hostile towards academics doing scholarly work.  I wonder what Aufderheide and Jaszi would have to say about this, especially an excerpt like this:

Despite what you may have been told, you may not use LZ’s words as you see fit, as if you owned them, while you hide behind the rubric of “fair use”. “Fair use” is a very-broadly defined doctrine, of which I take a very narrow interpretation, and I expect my views to be respected. We can therefore either more or less amicably work out the fees that I demand; you can remove all quotation; or we can turn the matter over to lawyers, this last solution being the worst of the three, but one which I will use if I need to enforce my rights.

In general, as a matter of principle, and for your own well-being, I urge you to not work on Louis Zukofsky, and prefer that you do not. Working on LZ will be far more trouble than it is worth. You will be far more appreciated working on some author whose copyright holder(s) will actually cherish you, and/or your work. I do not, and no one should work under those conditions. However, if you have no choice in the matter, here are the procedures that I insist upon, and what you must do if you wish to spare yourself as much grief as possible.

1– people who want to do their dissertation on LZ, or want to quote from him in their diss., must, if only as a common courtesy, inform me of their desire to use this material, and obtain my permission to do so. If you do that, and if I agree, the permission will be only for the purposes of the diss. and there will be no charge for limited use within the diss. You will not be allowed to distribute the diss. publicly. Distribution via on-line publication is not allowed. I urge you to keep quotation to a minimum, as the more quotation, the less likely I am to grant permission.

2– people who quote Louis Zukofsky in their dissertations without having had the courtesy to request my permission, and who do so without having obtained my permission to quote LZ, do not have permission to use LZ quotations, and will, in the future, be refused all permission to quote any and all LZ in their future publications, and I promise to do my utmost to hamper, hinder, and preferably prevent all such quotation.

And, finally, here is an interesting analysis of the post.

Lucas Films goes to D(ark Side)isney

Today, although the NY Stock Market is closed and completely submerged, it was announced that Disney bought Lucas Films. Lucas will be stepping down as the chief executive and taking a back seat role in the company.  This also gives Disney a kind of monopoly on the fantasy special effects genre. Does this change our opinions on Lucas, who as we know, has so strongly insisted on moral rights for authors? Will Lucas’s materials be distributed differently and infringements more intensely reported? …Any other general opinions on this?

With this, Disney also announced there will be a Star Wars Episode VII in 2015.

 

Full Story from the NY Times:

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/30/disney-buying-lucas-films-for-4-billion/?ref=business

 

Barack Goes Hard

The video we chose is a parody of the rapper Waka Flocka Flames’ hit, “Hard in Da Paint”. The video makes an argument about today’s youth’s view of President Barack Obama, and it does so through its parody of the audio and visuals from “Hard in Da Paint.” The video shows that Barack Obama is more than a president; he is a culture icon. In today’s culture, people constantly take his iconic image of being president, and then shape it into a totally transformed version of the original image. This video demonstrates one of the popular images that Barack has been transformed into, a “thug”. Being a thug is something that has started to become glorified nowadays in our rap-obsessed culture. The persona that is attached to the president is a commentary on today’s society.

            In the parody, the transformative uses of the video can seen through the lyrics, as well as the visuals of the music video.  Through lyrics such as “Baracka Flocka Flame one hood ass nigga” and “I run the military nigga if you want that beef/I give a long ass speech, and put your ass to sleep” you can see that Barack Obama has been completely transformed into a “thug.” You can also see evidence of the transformation in the visuals. His mannerisms have become very similar to the mannerisms that are commonly made in rap videos. Examples of these mannerisms include him putting his middle finger up to the camera, smoking marijuana, and slapping girls butts, just to name a few.

            This video clearly falls under fair use, through parody of the original song. You can see this before the video even starts. The creator of the video gave Barack his own rapper alias, Baraka Flocka Flame, which is just a transformed version of the rapper Waka Flame. The lyrics also are extremely similar between the original video and the parody. One example can be seen at the beginning of the song when Waka Flocka Flame says “I won’t die for this shit or what the fuck I say/Front yard broad day with da SK.” The parody takes that line, and spins transforms it into “I won’t day for this shit, that’s what Michelle said/Secret service, but I got my own SK”

            We have learned a lot about how to do a proper remix video through watching this video. Firstly, it taught us that almost any video is remix-able. This parody took a song, which we both thought would be impossible to spin into an argumentative video, and showed is that if a lot of thought is put into the video, a proper argument can be assembled. It also taught is that when trying to make an important argument through remix, it is important to use something that is mainstream and relevant to popular culture. Reaching a bigger audience will make the argument even stronger, and the easiest way to do that is by remixing something that general population will know. 

Works Cited

Just an Object

The remix video “Feminist Remix – Just your typical prototypes” argues, as the title states, that women are objectified in television. This remix creates its argument about the depiction of women as objects in television by juxtaposing the song “Just a Girl” with many clips of women being objectified in television shows. Although the video is four minutes long, after only about 45 seconds in the viewer gets the gist of this argument. The strength of this argument comes from the repetition of the types of clips being used and the chorus of the song “Just a Girl.”

The most interesting part of this video is the beginning where a series of close-up photos of doll-like futuristic looking women are described as originally “innocent” creatures. The voiceover states that this innocence is lost when our “society [began using] sex to sell.” Along with this message, images of an explosion are shown, which alludes to the disastrous nature of the shift in society’s portrayal of women. The majority of the clips that follow show women in scantily clad clothing being dominated by male figures. Clips are primarily pulled from the shows “The Playboy Club,” “Mad Men,” and “Pan Am.” Using these shows drives the argument further because the women are portrayed as lesser beings even though they are the primary focus in the shows.  Some clips are played multiple times, showing the viewer again and again how negatively women are displayed in media. Perhaps, it is no coincidence 2/3 of these shows was quickly canceled. It is also intriguing to note that all of these shows take place in the 1950s-60s. During these times, women were celebrated as homemakers and feminist culture began to form. Both aspects aid in the videos argument; the popular reemergence of this time period on television sheds light on our society’s fascination with the time, and the time period itself alludes to the oppression of women and the birth of feminism. However, the historical aspects of the clip take away from the video’s argument. The argument is lessoned for it becomes difficult to determine whether it is the television show or the time period that is objectifying women.

The song used, “Just a Girl,” by No Doubt describes the stereotypes forced upon women and how, in society, a woman is “just a girl” whose identity does not exist beyond being an object for men. The song is effective because it is sung by a strong female artist, and has a bite to it when played along with the offensively portrayed clips of women.

Through the argument, each clip is transformed into something new.  The aura of the clips changes from being the accepted norm of society to being examples of outrage.  In their original context, all of the scenes used in this video were moments of drama and entertainment. However, in this remix, the clips illustrate that television’s objectification of women is disgusting and unacceptable.

In terms of our up-coming remix video: something this video shows us is that we should be particularly careful in picking clips, because depending on the context surrounding the clips our argument could either be strengthened or weakened.  This video also successfully showed its argument through repetition. However, repetition can sometimes be overwhelming. In order for the argument to be clear and concise, we should make sure everything we do is intentional and find a balance of repetition in the scope of our argument.

 

Works Cited

“Feminist Remix- Just your typical prototypes” YouTube. YouTube, 3 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pyud7Pcm0E>.

Bedtime for Remix

Our video, The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs, uses clips of Ronald and Nancy Reagan discussing the War on drugs, with only slight edits to make them instead supporting drug use.

This video is making the argument by use of satire that the War on Drugs is futile and lacks seriousness in general. The idea that the president and his first lady are preaching the importance of drug use rather than the importance of abstinence from drug use is so absurd that it provides comic relief on a topic often looked at with an incredibly serious approach. The chopping of clips from the original video helps to give this parody an authentic aura about it, the edits are seamless and the only way the audience knows that the video isn’t real comes from prior historical knowledge. This video is also making the argument that a pro-drug speech would have the same effectiveness, in essence none, as the original that discourages it.

The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs constructs an effective argument by utilizing humor and hyperbole. The humor of watching the Reagans very earnestly expressing their support of drug use helps make this video an effective satire. But beyond the humor, the video has a more important message: that the real joke is the war on drugs. Instead of simply having the Reagans criticize the war on drugs, however, the video has the couple go as far to argue in support of drug use and abuse. The use of hyperbole helps drive the point in, making it impossible to miss the video’s message. By having the Reagans argue a ridiculously exaggerated argument pokes fun at the original video, and the humor of it all makes the couple look silly, calling to attention the absurdity of the original broadcast.

This work is transformative since it makes a completely opposite argument than the original does. Although it contains a large amount of the original video without interruption, the changes that are made are important enough to completely change the context of the video. Instead of being advocates against drugs, Ronald and Nancy Reagan are transformed into advocates of “smokable cocaine”. The clips are not transformed much, but the purpose is completely flipped. This means that in spite of a very small amount of edits, the video is completely transformative.

The main two things we could take away from this video were the uses of humor and hyperbole. Humor helps keep the audience’s attention, and keeps the argument from being dull and dry. Hyperbole drives the point home, making it impossible to overlook the purpose of the video. The combination of the two is the perfect recipe for satire. This video also shows how much you can achieve with only a few changes, and how it’s really all about making the right edits, quality over quantity. The only flaw with this video is at times the humor can be distracting, its easy to laugh at Nancy Reagan expressing her solemn support for crack cocaine, forgetting that the purpose of the video is the futility of the war on drugs. 

The Reagans Speak Out On Drugs Dir. Cliff Roth. YouTube. YouTube, 1988. Web. 21 Oct 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1tC9Xu1yKo&feature=youtu.be&gt;

Spooky Little Remix

In the video we’ve chosen, “American Horror Story Remix,” the argument is being made that despite American Horror Story’s medium, television, and its unique plot lines and characters it still draws inspiration from and pays homage to a wide range of horror movies and the tropes that are seen within them. In the remix video, the editor’s choice of showing clips from AHS and then immediately after showing a clip from one of the horror movies helped show the two’s similarities. For example, the shots of the twins from The Shining juxtaposed with the shots from the twins in American Horror Story helped the viewer see the potential inspiration drawn from the film. Also, the continuity between AHS and the other horror movies, as put to together in the remix video, assisted their argument that even though the shots were from completely different works that they fit together well in terms of coherency. This is shown well within the video with the scene of the red ball being rolled on the ground toward the camera in the AHS shot and another red ball being picked up at the end of stairs by a man in a shot from one of the other horror movies.

The transformative nature of the use of the clips can be seen by the amount of the clips used because they were truncated enough that they were only used to get the point across to the viewer. The use of the clips was solely argumentative, in comparison to each other, as opposed to the nature of the originals which were used for entertainment purposes within the context of their respective films. However, there were certain clips like the one of Jack Nicholson axing the man in The Shining, although broken up into smaller clips was used almost in its entirety. The clip could have easily have been shortened, but nevertheless it still helped further the creator’s argument. In regards to the use of Nirvana’s song “Heart Shaped Box,” the use of the song made sense in regards to the beginning of the clip when the character Tate from AHS made a Nirvana reference, but had no other purpose in the clip besides maybe setting the tone for certain transitions and helping even further intensify certain scenes that were already intense. The music itself wasn’t transformative enough because of the lack of purpose within the video, which in turn shows how little of a change its purpose was from its original use.

In preparation for our own remix video we were able to take away a couple of things, the first being that all elements used have a purpose within the context of the argument we’re making and that those purposes are transformative. Seeing this video has also helped us come to the realization that when elements are used in a non-transformative way it is obvious to the viewer, therefore we have to make sure each thing we use is used in a transformative manner. In the video, their way of making their argument was by a comparison of the clips and it was made very clearly, so we have to make sure no matter what layout of the video we decide to use we also have to make our argument very clear and easy to be picked up by any viewer.

 

Works Cited:

American Horror Story Remix. Dir. Alec Richker. YouTube. YouTube, 16 May 2012. Web. 20 Oct 2012. < http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQUU23-QMXE&gt;.