Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Death is not real

In video games death does not seem to be real. It is always present, always a threat as to whether one can complete the task at hand, but it is never final. Every video game that I have played I have died in many times or sometimes only once. The death just means that I must move back a few spaces however, start over, or just try and complete the task at hand again, and again.

In society it is interesting to think of this, since the video game tells you that you are dying. If you take on an avatar, in a sense that becomes you, you are the avatar going through these adventures. I take on the role of Harry Potter, making decisions, casting spells and dying as harry potter. And let me tell you I have died many times in this game, because I was discovered by Voldemort of death eaters or pixies that took me over. It is interesting to think that in this sense where I become my avatar I have died many times.

Death even though it is not a great outcome in this sense is not a terribly bad thing either. I am using an avatar so I have not really died, even though my character has. I am not in any real danger I am still sitting in my townhouse using a game controller, but my alternate reality has died. I have killed my avatar many times, not on purpose, but death is always in my thoughts, and I have not necessarily been able to conquer it, but I have not been able to fully die either.

I find that it is interesting to see a society that can live in violence, and does create these games that ensure so much danger and violence, but there is no consequence. our society does not like to talk about death, it is hard for us to talk about pain and loss and it can be very upsetting. So maybe video games are a good way to see death, and see that it is not that scary and that it is natural. Although death does not seem to be natural in my video game since I have died so many times, but I seem to always come back to life. 

nature in video games

Since playing harry Potter it is weird thinking about the scenery in the game and the environment that surrounds me. Since it is a game that is adapted from a book, one already has images of each place in mind for what grimwauld place, harry's house and the burrow should look like. It is weird when the movie also plays a factor in how the video game tries to create a scenery that is similar to the movie, and it is all things working together to create the world of Harry Potter.

It would not be complete without some nature however, the magical world of course has a few creatures and plants that are not found in our natural world that have to be accounted for. But nature is a big part of life and if there was nature throughout the game, then it would not seem real. So far in the game, I have not encountered too much nature except at the burrow. I had to fight off death eaters at Ron's brothers wedding and we were working through a maze of plants. In that scene nature was scary, all the bushes would not let me find my surroundings and it was hard to figure out where I was going.

There also seem to be so many different scenes, I am not very good at the game so I am still stuck in the urban part of the book. working through the streets of London, and how that type of "nature" or buildings can become a scenery if and of itself. That is scary because of the people that are present and anyone can be a threat to me. And in Grimwauld place itself it is a huge house full of secrets and magical creatures that are out to get me.

It is interesting to me to think of my surroundings in a video game, since they are so important, and yet I am so focused on my task at hand that it is sometimes hard for me to notice the things that the game has surrounded me with. Although the scenery is often a clue as to how I need to go about my quest or adventure or next task, and it is important not only for me to complete the task but look at what is going on around me. 

Death as a sweet release

When our society thinks of death, they think of it in mostly negative terms. It is hard to think of loss in a good way, there is a lot of pain associated with loss, and a mourning for the person that is gone. In Whitman's "When Lilacs Last In the Dooryard Bloom'd" poem, he mourns the loss of President Lincoln, but also acknowledges that death is something that can be seen positively. It is a sad poem, a memory of the lost president, but it also calls others to remember him, and to see his death in a positive light.

throughout the poem there is a bird that is singing a mourning song, which can be interpreted as Whitman's voice throughout the poem, or  I think it can be the voice of the people. Some of the good that can come from Lincoln's death is that it will call the people together, to come together and sing together for a common cause. The first bird calls the others to action, "The gray-brown bird i know receiv'd us comrades threee, And he sang the carol of death, and a verse for him I love." It is a song that the nation sang together, it is a sad event, but one that brought people together.

Death is also painted in a almost humanized way, an ideal way, while Whitman describes the song that the birds are singing. Death is talked of as a mother, that soothingly takes in her children, "Dark mother always gliding near with soft feet, Have none chanted for thee a chance of fullest welcome?" The bird is singing a sweet song of death, one where death is something that is a salve, something that is not scary or full of fear, but something that soothes the soul.

I think Whitman is playing with our feelings of death, death is scary, it is unknown but it is also something that is imminent and impending. Everything and everyone dies, it is a part of life, loss is a part of life. one cannot die unless one has sung the song of life. This portrayal of death is looking into how death is a release, something to be striving for in a way because it is escaping life and embracing a relaxing sleep. 

humans as part of nature

One of the things that I really enjoy about reading Whitman is his use of nature as part of our human world. So often today humans don't count themselves as part of nature, or something that comes from nature. Using the term natural ensures this stance even more, since we make a distinction between man made and natural elements. In Whitmans view of nature you can see that he loves nature, but also that he becomes a part of nature. He sees himself in the wind, in the trees, in everything around him.

In Whitman's poem, "I saw a in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing" you can see Whitman's connection to nature. he talks about how one day he sees this Live Oak tree growing outside, and he becomes enthralled with it. He seems sad that he sees it standing alone with no companions since he sees nature as having just as much emotion as we do as people. He describes the joy that he sees in the tree, and how he could not understand that as it had no friends at the moment. The tree also reminded him greatly of himself, he is also alone with no companions in this moment in time.

It is a very sentimental moment for Whitman, he breaks off a twig from the tree, that reminds him so much of himself, and some moss and takes it back to his room so he can see it. I believe that this moment shows Whitman's connection to nature. The branch reminds him so much of he wants to represent, being joyous, his solitude, love among me, "yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;"

The tree seems to also have attained something that Whitman himself is not able to acquire, "Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near, I know very well I could not". I am not sure if in this moment Whitman is saying that he cannot be as happy and carefree as this tree that is alone without anyone, or that he is not sure if he could be happy. It seems to be a very nostalgic moment, and he admires the tree.

Woman as mothers

Whitman's portrayal of woman, although he seems to try and treat them as equals, he seems to only see them as mothers. Mother's of this new nation that he is going to father, and it seems that not just anyone can father these children, but Whitman alone. In his poem "A Woman Waits for Me" Whitman talks of the woman that wait for him to come, that he cannot wait to have sex with and deposit his seed in. "I dare not withdraw till I deposit what has so long accumulated within me". In this part of the poem the act of sex seems to be all about him, "I do not hurt you any more than is necessary for you, I pour the stuff to start sons and daughters fit for these states,"

This description of woman seems almost insignificant, that woman are only a vessel to him, to do with what he wants, whether they enjoy the act or not seems to not matter. However there is also a part of the poem, where despite all that he is saying, he tries to say that men are no better than woman, "They are not one jot less than I am, They are tann'd in the face by shining suns and blowing winds, their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength". This seems to not coincide with other things that Whitman says about woman, for earlier in the poem he states that they are impassive, wait for him and only some woman are worthy of him.

What seems to interest Whitman the most however is that Woman can be mothers, when he describes them he uses nurturing terms, "health, pride, the maternal mystery, the seminal milk". Sex for Whitman is very much centered around the fact that he wants to father children, and woman are the way to get there. Later in the poem he talks about the children that will lead the nation, children that these woman will mother. "In you I wrap a thousand onward years, On you I graft the grafts of the best-beloved of me and America, The drops I distill upon you shall grow fierce and athletic girls, new artists, musicians, and singers"

For Whitman's woman sex is not something that seems to be enjoyable for them, or something they do for fun or for the act of it, as he describes for men. Sex for woman in this world is to mother the nation from the seeds that Whitman and other man plant in them. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Grimwauld Place

Speaking of mazes, I am stuck in the maze known as the Harry Potter video game in a mansion called Grimwauld place. I have yet to be able to move onto the next adventure of Harry Potter since I keep running into obstacles and secret passageways in this place. In each room there seems to be danger, all traps set up so that people would not stay there. It is hard to navigate or know how to move around these obstacles, and death seems to be my only option for many of them. Each time I try and move through the elaborate maze.

Thinking of Mazes makes me think of video games as mazes, for the most part you are being led through them blindly. You can get lost along the way, there are many twists and turns and not knowing what is around the next corner. One can get lost in them, not knowing what to do next, or not being able to play well enough to be able to find a way out. One can also get lost in them in sense that one can be so distracted playing them that they lose all sense of time and what else is going on the world and just keep playing and playing for hours without doing anything else.

Mazes are also sometimes impossible to get out of without the help of others. When following a narrative in a video game sometimes it is hard to be able to make it through without dying without some sort of cheat sheet. Or someone who has played the game before helping them through the maze that is a video game. In Harry Potter I know the story and I am still having trouble. The narrative follows the story from the book, but my challenges that I have to follow are different, and some of the things I have to go through are not completely familiar to me, making this all more of a maze.

For some part of the maze is also learning the language and how to use the controller of a video game. Sometimes it is hard to get the hang of how to navigate around on the screen using something that is in your hands, or knowing how to press certain buttons in order to cast certain spells or to throw certain potions at people, or become invisible. It seems that each time I play I forget everything I had established before, so it becomes all the more confusing. 

Being Stuck in a Maze

Harry Potter is not going well, we are still stuck in Grimwauld place, trying to see if there are still more traps that we can fall into in the house, or pixies that are going to attack us. It is like being lost in a maze, we have made it into the house, but in order to stay there and call it a safe haven, I have to go around and make sure the house is safe and protecting everyone from things that may pop out of no where and attack us. And while I keep dying and this does not seem like a possibility, it reminds me greatly of Monk Hall.

Monk Hall in Quaker City is a huge house/castle/mansion that is full of trap doors, secret doors, many stairways that seem to lead somewhere yet no where. "- it is easy enough for a stranger-that's you my boy-to find his way in, but it would puzzle him like the devil to find his way out. That is without assistance." (page 53). In Lippard's writing it is not only the characters that get lost in Monk hall, but also us as readers, since we descend into the Maze that is Quaker City and get lost trying to find characters as well as the story line and how they are all connected. We jump around to different parts in the story, characters dye, woman are seduced, and it all seems like a scary nightmare that we cannot escape, although we entered quite easily.

Many aspects of Monk hall also seem to not make sense, there is a tower room, false trap doors that one could down and dye, and secret doors. "He opened two folding leaves of a false book-case near the centre of the wall opposite the door, and a small fire-place neatly white washed and free from the ashes or the remains of any former fire, became visible" (page 115). there are secret compartments for everything in this house, and it is hard to even get a grasp for the building and how it is designed. It must be a tall building for there is a tower room, and yet the monks of monk hall descend down to their meetings, and they all take place below ground, it is a giant maze.

Mazes are scary, one seems to panic if they cannot find their way out, much like the girls when they tried to escape and seemed to go in circles. They can also allow for someone to lead you and be in control, if they seem to know the way even if you don't. This book allows us to be lead through a series of events by Lippard, through his version of Philadelphia, he is our only way out of the maze of Monk Hall and Quaker City.