Monday, October 19, 2009

Inkhat Reviews Protomen: Act II, Father of Death!

For those of you who do not know who the Protomen are, well, you should fix that. The Protomen are a small, indie band out of Tennessee inspired by Megaman. Yes, Megaman; the video game. They write highly overdramatic songs based on the character and story around their favorite video game. The CDs tend to be much like operas, or the soundtrack to a musical. Each song can be listened to on its own or as part of the larger whole.

I was completely in love with the first album. I’ll admit it. Itunes reports that I have listened to the CD more than 50 times from my laptop alone. The songs explored the theme of bravery, sacrifice, and revolution. The basic question raised was, could a robot rescue humanity or was it both the destiny and responsibility of humankind to correct their own mistakes? At what point was Megaman no longer responsible for the good of mankind? Was it truly heroic for the robots to fight and die for a freedom they could not take part in? Did a humanity that did not demand freedom deserve it? The music was a strange blend of folky-western, musical, and rock opera. I was in love.

When the second CD came out I was excited, but I had my suspicions. I had been burned before. (I’m looking at you here, Muse). However, more and more reports came in of how fantastic it was; just as good. No! Better! So, finally, I bought it. I have to say, they’re half right, but I was hardly disappointed.

A quick overview of this CD. Instead of taking place after the first collection, Act II Father of Death, takes place long before and tells the story of Megaman’s father, Dr Light. It begins with an Intermission, a lovely instrumental piece. Songs 2 through 6 (“The Good Doctor,” “Father of Death,” “The Hounds,” “The State Vs. Thomas Light,” and “Give Us the Rope”), tell the story of Dr Light’s imprisonment and the eventual fall of the world to darkness. As far as I know, the back-story they constructed for Light is completely their own. At least, I had never heard of it. In this version Light approaches machines and robots as a way to better humanity until he is framed for the murder of his love, Emily. He is tried and shipped off to build robots for Wiley, and Wiley, in turn, uses them to take over the world.

In another turn of brilliance the Protomen create a new character, Joe. I developed a special fondness for Joe immediately. He is a freedom fighter seeking to define that idea for himself. In an entire world of submission, his songs are full of unease at his own questions. He suspects the status quo is off, and cannot entirely understand why or how to change it. The songs become increasing violent until Joe makes an attack on Wiley’s fortress and, well, I won’t give away the end. Yes. It’s a CD with an end. How cool is that?

That said, though the story they had invented was interesting, engaging, and the music is, as always beautiful, I was slightly disappointed. I found the beginning slow and too concerned with narrative. At the end of the song list, after Joe has left, Light once again gives us a long monologue to Emily, who answers with her own. (As an aside, I originally meant to complain about the female vocalist’s slightly whiney voice, but I found it grew on me. Nevermind. Moving on). Overall, I was far more interested in Joe’s vague references to his confusing world or his nameless girl. The abstraction with which Joe approaches his city has a beauty that the concrete terms of the early songs lacks. That said, these same songs made me actively wish my name was Emily, and that Thomas was singing to me. But I digress.

I got tired of Emily and Thomas Light rather quickly. Especially in The State Vs Thomas Light, where the chorus sings “Not guilty,” against Light’s “Guilty!” which is such a transparent and trite affirmation that it makes me flinch physically every time it comes up in the song. And then they repeat it. The flinching continues. They did this to me in their last CD with the people’s line, “We are the dead,” but that at least was a fairly original and interesting sentiment. I can’t really do anything interesting with not/guilty.

As usual, there was a variety of styles explored in the CD, though the main focus was Jazz. The Hounds, perhaps my favorite song on the CD, sounds like something out of a more exciting version of Guys and Dolls, including breaks for chorus to yell to Wiley, who replies with cocky one liners.

I think the main point is that, try as I might to tear apart this CD for its pedantic narrative, or the moments where a chorus line seems cheesy or cliché, I have to love it. It’s fun and exciting and written with a great deal of heart. The Protomen grasped the theme and went over the top with a grace and imagination rarely seen in modern music. You don’t have to play the game to enjoy it. Go buy it. Four stars.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Inkhat Presents Her Rhet-Comp Article Presentation!

I was assigned a summary of Sommer's article "Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers," for my 591 class. Never one to do anything normal, I created a series of short panels to summarize the article and arranged them in a power point. Now I will share them with you, dear readers.
Sommers describes the linear concept of writing. First there are ideas, which are transformed by words and through a rather mysterious, nebulous concept of revision, finally become the essay.

Sommers describes student's emphasis on writing as they speak instead of as a separate form of communication. She differentiates the two in that speech, unlike writing...

cannot be revised.

Sommers had her inexperienced writers write three essays and then revise each twice, for a total of 9 products. (Think about it for a second. It does actually work out to 9. It threw me the first time too).

She then tallied each type of revision they made, breaking them down into categories. She never brings this up again, but apparently it was important at some point.

More interesting is her interviews with the students, in which she noted their revision strategies were shallow, word or sentence level. Often they were weary of admitting it was revision, calling it something else such as 'scratching out and doing over.'

She also found that the inexperienced writers stressed the ease of writing when they were inspired by something.

However, this inspiration could lead them to become too attached to their topic and ignore problems with their paper.

Enter the Experienced Writer. Unlike the Inexperienced Writer, he is not easily influenced or over-enthused by his own writing.

What it really comes down to is outlook.

The inexperienced student has a short term goal which, when accomplished, gives him a feeling of success. For the experienced writer, revision is an endless process.

Sommers attributes this to motivation. While the inexperienced writer is being told to accomplish a short term goal, the experienced writer is attempting to please an immense, nameless "Readership." The trick, therefor, is to develop a language which impresses the importance of revision on a student, even without this larger form of motivation.

So, there you have it. This is where all my time has gone in the past few days. Now it is time to write poetry, which is a good time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Inkhat Assures You She Is Not Dead!

Have you thought I abandoned you, dear readers? No chance. Do you remember someone informing you, perhaps when you were younger, that graduate school is hard? Well, they were not lying. They were not even engaging in colorful hyperbole. No. It turns out that graduate school is both the hardest continuous effort of my life and the most exciting adventure I have ever toppled into. I spend my day teetering between crushing self doubt and euphoric intellectual epiphany.

As a side note, I always want to capitalize Hyperbole. It just seems better that way.

But, dear readers, I must disappoint you again. After a frustrating day of un-writing, (that being the state of staring at the screen with nothing happening), I have been called out to the bar for karaoke. This would be part of the euphoric intellectualism. Or something. More later. Stay tuned!

For the record, before you ask, the answers are Yes and Cowboy Take Me Away by the Dixie Chicks.