Bringing "Rip Van Winkle" to Life

Gif illustrating how a Phenakistoscope works Image credit: Wikipedia

In adapting a book for film, a number of executive decisions are made: scenes are cut, metaphors are made visual, and wardrobes are custom fit to match the era or character’s personality, all to the chagrin or pleasure of the audience. While the conversation around film adaptation often happens with full-length feature films, it should be remembered that this is not solely a conversation worth having after the twentieth century. Of course, plays and even early forms of cinema have at times made more drastic and noteworthy changes when adapting a text for the stage or screen. In the early days of cinema, these changes were especially pronounced. Largely due to technological constraints, cinema couldn’t always replicate a narrative anywhere near its entirety – though in some ways it could do more. One consequence, especially visible in the sample that I use here, the short film Rip Van Winkle, is that the resulting adaptation has to tell the story in five fleeting scenes. In this post, I’ll offer an informational and technical overview of how one of the first film adaptations of a work of literature came to be, and in my follow-up posts I’ll offer more details about the Rip Van Winkle film itself, with a comparative analysis between the story and film.

Great Minds Leave Academia

This post has been removed by the DWRL because of concerns over rhetorical jurisdiction. In the event that it is revised for another DWRL venue, we will publish the link here. 

The Building Blocks of Biopolitics: The LEGO Movie, Empire, and Multitude

A post for The Lego Movie, featuring main characters Emmett, Wild Style, and others

Image Credit: Forbes

Not only did seeing The Lego Movie (2014) lodge the parodic pop song “Everything is Awesome!” firmly in my skull, it also sent me scrambling for a way to intelligently theorize the film's highly sophisticated commentary on politics, capitalism, gender and the body. I emerged from my search with a brief history of biopolitics firmly in hand, and, with “Everything is Awesome!” still running through my head, I will now start assembling the theoretical pieces needed to construct an insightful critique. Part 1 of my ruminations on The Lego Movie, then, provide an introduction to the theories I'll be using in Part 2. Stay tuned, all, because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Hopefully these posts will nicely compliment Scott's awesome thoughts on how The Lego Movie capitulates to some disturbing movie cliches in the name of creativity.

Searching for Wildflowers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

(Image Credit: Jay Voss)

With spring now fully upon us, and the last frost finally out of the way, plants are starting to leaf in the Texas Hill Country. And aside from appreciating the odd dogwood tree early in the new season, this means that it’s time to go out and appreciate Texas’s extensive native wildflower population. There’s nowhere better to do this than at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Located several miles south of town, just off of MoPac, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a great place to spend an afternoon in the sun (especially if Barton Springs is on your way home). I could go on and on with Lonely Planet-like copy about why you and yours should make time for a visit this weekend, but instead I’ll just jump to the chase: the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is probably one of the most thoughtful public urban landscapes in the Austin metro area. It’s a very, very smart example of landscape architecture, and it ultimately serves a civic purpose.

The LEGO Movie, Narrative, and Children's Play

A girl holds up a chaotic lego set. Text across the image reads "Look what I built with LEGO." Smaller text reads "And look at that look on her face. That's pride smiling" and "LEGO is a toy they never tire of, a toy that stimulates creativity and imagination for years."

1978 LEGOS Ad. "a toy that stimulates creativity and imagination for years." Source:

Sometimes, it’s hard to separate a film from the circumstances in which you watch it. In my case, I saw it as a father of a 1-year-old, sitting at the Alamo Drafthouse, following a preshow that included one of the early advertisements for LEGOs, then a European import newly reaching America’s shores. On multiple levels, I kept thinking of how much The LEGO Movie might represent a low point in both how we imagine children’s entertainment, and how we imagine children themselves.

The Most Democratic Selfie?


Image Source: eonline 

"By bringing together and posing a pack of rascals, male and female, dressed up like carnival-time butchers and washerwomen,  and in persuading these ‘heroes’ to ‘hold’ their improvised grimaces for as long as the photographic process required, people really believed they could represent the tragic and the charming scenes of history" -Baudelaire

After last week’s Oscar’s ceremony, a number of critics lauded Ellen DeGeneres’s performance as “warm,” "accessible,” and most interestingly, “democratic.” The gimmick, of course, which earned her the most attention was the big Oscar’s Selfie. After all, what could be more charming than everyone’s favorite celebrities acting like ordinary people; seemingly thrilled at the mere chance to be on television? Thinking about this selfie, and the comment that Ellen was so “democratic” brought to mind the oft touted expression that photography is “the great democratic medium.” In an interesting way, the Oscar’s Selfie is the perfect encapsulation of that saying.

Militant (Feminist) Grammarians

Markson diagram

Cropped from image below

You know you’re a huge nerd when multiple people from various corners of your life all forward you the same link, and that link is a bunch of diagrammed sentences.

This snazzy, minimalist new print from "renowned" infographic artists Pop Chart Lab satisfies the demands of everyone's favorite niche demographic (all those grammar-fiends/”classic-literature”-snobs/data-visualization-enthusiasts/fans-of-quality-design in your life) to a T. But before you place your order, let’s take a closer look at what this “Diagrammatical Dissertation” actually visualizes.

Questioning the Gaze and Studying Ballroom Culture

cover of Paris is Burning, depicting smiling ballroom participants

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I was initially going to begin this rumination with the pretty dull introductory phrase “In Jennie Livingston's 1990 documentary film Paris is Burning,but before the virtual ink had dried on the virtual page I was struck with pretty massive doubts. In what sense could Paris is Burning really be solely attributed to Jennie Livingston when the movie's energy, its drive and message, clearly came from the lives of the New York City ballroom scene participants Livingston interviewed? So would calling Paris is Burning a collaborative documentary effort solve the issue of artistic attribution? Well, kind of, but that seemed to somewhat cheapen the lived experiences of the ball culture community by reducing them to stylized components in a cinematic production. Calling an interviewee an artist leaves over some troubling remainder, a residue of “real life” that doesn't make it into the credits. Even more troubling was the threat of de-centering Livingston's gaze as the focusing lens of the documentary. If it felt wrong to implicitly give Livingston all the credit for the film, it felt worse to call the piece a purely collective effort when Livingston's preferences, questions, decisions and selections dictate the entire film.

Convicting Capital Punishment in Art

 A black screen with white print that says 'I love ya'll.'

Image Credit: Screenshot from Tiny Subversions

When you live in Texas, you get used to people asking you to verify certain popular stereotypes: cowboy boots, country music, ten-gallon hats, and conservative politics. And—a belief in the capital punishment.

Small-Government Urban Planning Sometimes Negates Itself

Texas State Capital

(Image Credit:

There’s no doubting that Austin’s a great example of urban sprawl. Anyone who’s driven up Burnet Road on a shopping expedition, or down South Lamar looking for a romantic Saturday night dinner, has probably wondered at some point: Why can’t these things just be closer to where I live? Fortunately, I don’t think this question is born out of narcissism. Things are far apart in Austin. And given the town’s expanding population, they feel as though they’re getting farther and farther apart, with all the increased traffic and whatnot. Over the decades, this city has grown and expanded without any apparent civic regard for urban planning. Which makes the Capital Building a really interesting monument. The roads leading to the Texas State Capital are reminiscent of Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s planning of Washington, D.C., and they convey a confidence in American governance that would make Governor Rick Perry blush. Either that or the eyes of Texas are upon us.

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