Reviewing 2010

Hi all,

I know we sort of died off towards the end of 2010 because we were busy trying to stay afloat in grad school, but the stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health: (I promise updates will be forthcoming over the winter break ^^).

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,800 times in 2010. That’s about 12 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 113 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 98 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 5mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 3rd with 84 views. The most popular post that day was Prospectus: Leonora Sansay’s Secret History (2007).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were devcompage.com, facebook.com, en.wordpress.com, twitter.com, and en.search.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for tropic of orange analysis, tropic of orange, foucault, sianne ngai, and “seo-young chu”.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Prospectus: Leonora Sansay’s Secret History (2007) April 2010

2

Prospectus: Karen Tei Yamashita’s Tropic of Orange (1997) April 2010
6 comments

3

Annotation: Michel Foucault’s “Part Five: Right of Death and Power over Life” (1990) September 2010

4

Annotation: Mike Davis’ “Fortress L.A.” (1992) May 2010

5

Annotation: Lisa Lowe’s “Heterogeneity, Hybridity, and Multiplicity” (1996) April 2010

Annotation: Lauren Berlant’s “Cruel Optimism” (2006)

Peer-Review: 0

Berlant, Lauren. “Cruel Optimism.” Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 17.3 (2006): 20-36. Print.

In this article Berlant attempts to explicate the critical value of “cruel optimism” (21). She begins her discussion by defining the “object of desire” as a “cluster of promises” that could be embodied in a number of things, from the tangibility of an individual or place to abstract ideas, sounds, or smells (20). Berlant argues that this figuration of the desired object as inextricably linked to promise or hope allows us to interrogate our “endurance in the object” as well as recognize that our attachments to these objects are inherently “optimistic” though they may not always “feel optimistic” (20). This significant distinction ultimately provides Berlant with a foundation for explicating the nature of cruel optimism, which she defines as “a relation of attachment to compromised conditions of possibility” (21). In other words, while an individual’s relation to a specific object of desire may be self-destructive, harmful, or cruel, so intimately is it connected to the way this individual perceives and negotiates the world that its loss may irreparably destroy any further reason for life. Cruel optimism for Berlant then becomes an important lens from which to analyze why people today continue to ignore the deeply injurious and destructive nature of their attachments in favor of optimism. In light of social upheaval and growing economic and environmental distress, she asserts that cruel optimism provides a way for us to recognize the “centrality of optimistic fantasy to reproducing and surviving in zones of compromised ordinariness” (35). Maintaining our attachments to objects of desire or promise, no matter how detrimental they may be, allows us to make it through day-to-day life.

Annotation: Lauren Berlant’s “Critical Inquiry, Affirmative Culture” (2004)

Peer-Review: 0

Berlant, Lauren. “Critical Inquiry, Affirmative Culture.” Critical Inquiry 30.2 (Winter 2004): 445-451. Print.

In this article Berlant asks us to consider the advantages of relying on “critical optimism” as a mode of critique at a time when political indifference, stagnating economy, environmental degradation, and increasing social violence seem to be catapulting us towards apocalypse (446). But while she makes “emotion” her critical point of entry, Berlant nevertheless works against what Herbert Marcuse terms “affirmative culture,” namely, our tendency to perceive emotion as universal and immediately recognizable (448). Her definition of optimism as “collective attachment” consequently seeks to remind us that ties between the individual and the object of desire do not always “feel good” (449). By forcing us to recognize the nuanced nature of optimism, how even as it draws communities together, there exists a kind of negativity based on a deferral of happiness for future hope, she provides us with a means for grappling with other emotions that are similarly incoherent and difficult to classify. In Berlant’s perspective, a study of “negative emotion” becomes especially useful for challenging the assumptions of affirmative culture and the idea of “cultivating consciousness as a good in itself”(450). She asks us to interrogate, for instance, how contemporary political participation is performed with a slew of ambiguous feelings of negativity, including “detachment, numbness, vagueness, confusion, bravado, exhaustion, [and] apathy” (450). Yet, rather than perceiving these negative emotions as the opposite of optimism, Berlant troubles such easy binary divides by posing the question of what happens if we perceive this negativity as a form of attachment? Is it possible to organize a political consciousness or collective around negative emotion?

Annotation: Don Shewey’s “Theater; Filipino Life, Seen Through a Pop Culture Prism” (2001)

Peer-Review: 0

Shewey, Don. “Theater; Filipino Life, Seen Through a Pop Culture Prism.” New York Times 4 March 2001. Web.

In his article Shewey discusses how director Michael Greif commissioned Jessica Hagedorn to adapt her novel Dogeaters for the stage despite her original reservations about the feasibility to transforming her dense prose into a manageable dramatic form. Shewey suggests that Greif reworked the play from its premier performance in California at the La Jolly Playhouse “through a series of developmental workshops to a full production at the Joseph Papp Public Theater” in New York. The latter production is therefore framed as the complete, finalized version, which is supported by the fact that Hagedorn publishes this performance script as the official play text but for my project I am interested in examining the various revisions she makes from the novel to the two US productions and perhaps also the most recent production of Dogeaters in Manila.

Shewey importantly notes that the staging of Dogeaters in the public theater “brings the play as close to mainstream American culture as any dramatic work about Filipino life has ever gotten” (print 1). I wonder if writing for this mainstream audience in mind affected the types of revisions Hagedorn made to her play text.

Shewey cites Hagedorn’s comment on the postmodern structure of her novel: “Manila is a collage, from the very high to the very low, from the very pious to the incredibly depraved. It’s this wonderful tropical city that can’t be easily described or defined. So why should the novel be linear and regimented? It couldn’t, if I was to properly capture what I was trying to capture’ (print 2). In the New York production, however, Hagedorn eliminates the “novel’s split time frame” which Shewey suggests was in response to the reviews of the California performance where critics and viewers decried that the play was too confusing. Hagedorn cuts the scenes from Rio’s childhood and in my paper I will further explore the implications of this revisions.

Shewey finally concludes his article citing another revealing quote from Hagedorn where she explains Dogeaters’ focus on public and private lives as well as their surrealistic collapse: “I’m striving to show…how reality and what I call the dreamtime – escapism – can actually merge. You can lose yourself in this soap opera, but after a while the soap opera starts to reflect what’s really going on in your life. But what comes first, your real drama or the fake drama? Are we living according to what we’ve seen in movies? Is that how we expect romance to occur because we’ve seen it a million times in the movies?” (print 3).

Annotation: Elyse Sommer’s “A CurtainUp Review: Dogeaters”

Peer-Review: 0

Sommer, Elyse. “A CurtainUp Review: Dogeaters.” Rev. of Dogeaters, dir. Michael Greif. CurtainUp: The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings. 2001 Web.

In her review of The Public Theater, New York production of Dogeaters, Sommers discusses how “David Gallo’s two-level set and John Woo’s projection designs turn the stage into a combination live play and movie theater” (print 2). Her mention of the “movie theater-like” aspect of the play is particularly intriguing because the importance of film in shaping Filipino identity is a central theme in Hagedorn’s novel as well as her stage adaptation. Sommers further describes how Nestor Norales and Barbara Villanueva, “stars of the Phillippines’ [sic] longest running radio soap opera, ‘Love Letters’, and hosts of an American style talk show are the play’s MCs through whom the various events of the play are filtered” (print 2). She accentuates that by blending the events from the fictional radio drama with events from the real world of the play, the audience is introduced to a reality where “fact and fiction become part of a single soap opera” (print 2). In this way Hagedorn demonstrates how fantasy and popular culture are as just as important in constituting Filipino subjectivity as the material conditions of the world in which they live.

Sommers also calls attention to how in her stage adaptation, Hagedorn largely reduced Rio’s role, eliminating much of her childhood in Manila, presenting her as a grown woman returning to her home country as an “outsider looking in” (print). I am interested in examining the possible reasons for this revision, whether Hagedorn wanted to accentuate Rio’s expatriate status and call attention to her exoticized, nostalgic vision of Manila, a city she has grown deeply disconnected from.

Sommers further notes how the play draws together the lives of completely disparate seeming characters such as Daisy Avila, “the young beauty queen and daughter of privilege” and Joey Sands, a DJ and male prostitute who happens to witness the assassination of her father in complete soap operatic fashion. The two eventually band together to form a guerrilla resistance force. I argue that through this deliberate soap operatic treatment of character plotlines Hagedorn challenges the readers’ conception of what is cinematic fantasy and what is reality, demonstrating how the two overlap in extremely complex ways. Media technologies such as the Internet also demonstrates how this random collision of lives is not merely fantastical or improbable.

Sommers concludes her review asserting that because there are so many characters, none of them leave a particularly strong emotional impact on the viewers, and ultimately, “Manila the city is the character we get to know more than its citizens” (print 3). This is an interesting comment that I plan to explore further, namely, the implications, obstacles, and advantages of attempting to perform an entire era, life in Manila during the dictatorial Marcos regime.