The Node Nadir

{ON} 22 July, Altech (Allied Technologies Limited) announced that the NODE, its Video Streaming decoder, has unfortunately failed to take off with the South African consumers in the Pay Television sector and that it was planning to sell it. Here is a machine, which besides its Video On Demand (VoD) function, offered to smarten up your home with security system through motion detection. It sought to enable you to surf the internet through its embedded 3G or use it as a wifi hotspot around your house as well as a host of cool capabilities such as the ability to buy air time, pre-paid electricity as well as pay your Telkom and Eskom bills all from the comfort of your home. After nodding several times as I list these features you might be compelled to raise your index finger and enquire about the machine’s data gobbling appetite. Well the NODE uses satellite technology to push video content into its 1 Terabyte hard drive without data costs the same way DStv’s catch up Service functions. However the traditional use of internet comes with data costs which is fair enough; we’re so used to spending for data connection anyway ¶⌋

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An apology to the reader: Rise

Dear reader we’ve had a peep at Mzansi Magic’s (DStv Channel 161) EPG (Electronic Program Guide) for tonight’s schedule and we regret to inform you that instead of ‘Rise’ the channel has ‘Alex Cross’ scheduled for 22:00. This is sad considering we’ve recently reviewed the film. We would like to inform you that we’ve since complained to the channel (Mnzansi Magic’s) social media page on Facebook. here is a short note we posted to them:

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The Way Back

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The Way Back (2010) is a moving tale that reminds us that against all odds there is always a yearn within us to survive and reclaim our freedom. The epic is set during the second world war.
In a grand scale and stunning visuals it tells the tale of a group of escaped prisoners from a Siberian Gulag camp who traverses thousands of kilometres braving the Siberian cold, deserts and other obstacles thrown by nature at them to make their goal a deadly affair. On reaching China they realise that the Communist Ideology has reached that country as well. The third part of the film deals with mental constitution when it is brought to its last gear.

See Jim Sturgess as Janusz Wieszczek, a young Polish inmate taken Prisoner of War during the Soviet invasion of Poland
Colin Farrell as Valka, a tough Russian inmate.
Ed Harris as Mr. Smith, an American inmate.
Saoirse Ronan as Irena, an orphaned teenage Polish girl on the run from Soviet Russia who meets up with the fugitives near a lake. Just to sight a few cast members. (See wikipedia http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_Back#section_5)

We give the film a flicking 4def points out of 5def points.

Hierarchical specifications in Fish Eagle advertisement (revised edit)

The recent Fish Eagle advert deserves to be dissected into its respective constituencies in order to appreciate how it naturalizes the product it is about. From its quite opening right up to the moment when the eagle swoop down to take its prey, the advertisement is a well orchestrated campaign for selling brandy through connoting the brandy with supremacy as far as status is concerned. That status is hierarchically specified such that we have an effect mirroring the food chain pyramid.

At its opening the advert shows a lotus¹ flower opening after a dew drop falls within its bud, propelling the petals to open slowly, we may assume, at the encouragement of the nourishing dew. At the background soft key notes from a piano can be discerned amidst the quite and serene mood of the environment within which this drama of survival of the fittest unfolds.

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X- Men Origins: Wolverine

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What one must understand when it comes to a super hero like Super Man is that he is a super hero by birth! He is an alien, from krypton, he has traveled galaxies to get to our world and his existence is linked with the protection of humanity. His being an Alien outstrips him of human weakness already and endows him with mystery and possibilities of the unknown.

When one actually contrast Super Man with another super hero, say Spider Man for instance and you look at their gestation you realize that he/Super Man defies a case in point of an experimental went wrong which affects someone by modifying their genetic composition to the elevation supernatural power – the accident turned hero.

He is a hero par excellence but that does not make Spidey a degraded hero by no measure. Those grown on Super Hero fables know that most of the time the poor heroes finds it hard to fit in with the normal society due to their unpredictable tremendous powers and that they lead a double life. Interestingly enough DC Super Man Clark Kent is an alter ego of Super Man. In alter ego mode he must act powerless, he must portray weakness and suppress bravery and boldness but underneath that false portrayal there lurks a force that can shake the world to its foundation. In his weak state portrayal he is self control personified. Doesn’t Peter Parker signify the latter?

Spider Man on the other hand, to enter into existence, has to be stung by a genetically modified Super Spider in order to reach the state of a force to be reckoned with. He must evolve from being human to superhuman. In this sense then Super Man must do the reverse to fit in. Spider Man must learn to contain the powers at an advanced stage of his life whereas Super Man grows with the super force and learns early to manipulate and transmutate his energies and use them without causing harm to others and himself – especially the innocent.

The Super Man phenomenon is the situation within which Wolverine comes into being although he is still much an earthling. In the new motion picture which is a prequel to the X Men trilogy Gavin Hood takes us back to those defining moments of Wolverine as a child, the sprouting of his talons, his mother’s (thus loss of maternal element) and his fleeing from home with his half brother Sabretooth who promises to take care of him no matter what. Then Hood string us along in a tour de force play of time as the two boys grow up through decades of war and survival into men, immortal warriors; they go through the American war as well the two World Wars.

The discerning viewer familiar with Hood’S Tsotsi will be pick up similarities between Tsotsi and Wolverine in the scene where the boys run away from home after the pre-adolescent enraged Wolverine kills his father.

You will remember that in Gavin Hood’s adaptation of Athol Fugard’s Tsotsi there is a scene where the main protagonist, Tsotsi, in a nightclub is confronted by one of his gang members, called the Teacher/Boston, asking him why he loved violence and as he pressed on in addition with a supposition as to the latter’s violent behavior Tsotsi loses it and punch him repeatedly into a pulp. Perplexed by his doing and with all the clubbers looking at him Tsotsi runs away into the night and as he runs flashbacks of the time he ran away from home as a pre-adolescent are played out giving us an interplay between the younger Tsotsi and the older Tsotsi. At that point the viewer is able to appreciate the nature of the trouble man and later the narrative with furnish the viewer with more data as to the isolation of the protagonist and perhaps from then onwards the viewer will then be led to understand why he relishes in violence.

The intense emotional appeal that we experience with Tsotsi as he runs away from the club is also encountered in Wolverine as the boys ran away.

But in its full explosion the mastery of Gavin Hood’s story telling through motion picture narration here leaps forward in refinement in terms of the artistic heightening experience which touches one at the core of the heart. What am I talking about?

Firstly we see the boys seared from their mother as she accuses Wolverine of the murder of the father (with whom we deduce right away she had had an affair with while married), who has actually murdered the father that Logan/Wolverine thought was his. But then as his talon/blades (still in their keratin state) protrude the mother gives the boy a hateful look and right there and then a stage of isolation is set for Wolverine the Super Hero. He has transcended weakness through anger and by so doing unleashed a force that lay buried within him ever since birth. We must remember what Prof. Xavier says in the first installment of the trilogy: that moments of high tension reveals the super powerful force that mutants posses. This force may lie dormant until a sudden appearance given the necessary environment, which is usually retaliation.

But going back to Hood and the moment of the boys’ departure and fleeing from home. When the loose canon Sabretooth consoles Wolverine that he will stick with him no matter what because they are brothers – right there and then hope flushes in and it is this scene which sets Hood apart by numerous leaps from what he has achieved with Tsotsi in that scene where the hoodlum’ isolation from the norm is fore grounded – I am talking about his ability to capture our emotions…in the matter at hand only this time he achieves the same feet and more by using modern mythological characters – Super Heroes.

In Oliver Twist Charles Dickens achieves the same feat of rallying our emotions to sympathize with Oliver Twist when he escapes from the orphanage. We experience an almost similar heightened effect at that juncture where the poor boy tells one of his friends at the orphanage, who catches the sight of him fleeing, that he is running away from that horrible place to find happiness (fame and fortune). We immediately fall in love with his character and he simultaneously evolves into a round character – he is backboned. Such is the effect here with the boys as they flee. They evolve beyond just being mere younger selves of the mutant brothers into higher possibilities and that is what will compel us to sit throughout the entire motion picture narrative.

If my readers are not able to connect with what I am fussing about here I offer only one solution – One will have to see Tsotsi and then X-Men Origins: Wolverine to experience the heightened emotional tension that I am preoccupied with, even going as far as reading Oliver Twist for that matter or Athol fugard’s Tsotsi.

Wolverine is violent by nature when provoked and this is the Superhero phenomenon that he has to suppress in order to fit in the normal society. All the more Wolverine signifies humanities yearn for immortality. He is a prediction of future societies whose genes would have been modified to withstand cuts and acute injuries through nano technology that will accelerate healing.  X-Men Origins: Wolverine the Prequel to X-Men trilogy serves to show cases how he acquired his adamantine skeletal system and it also explains his loss of memory. These are provided as gaps at the outset of X-Men () To fill the gaps one will have to see the motion picture itself and delight in Gavin Hood’s craftsmanship.

20 May 2009

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong

Chappies Bubble Gum the revival

z8 My trivial aim in the present jottings is a viewing of developments in the recent Chappies Bubble Gum advertisements which use historical events as props to accentuate the importance of the gum as a knowledge assimilator.

These recent television advertisements are a revival of a product that many of us today will appreciate the resurfacing thereof on our television screens after quite an absent spell from our television screens. In its heydays not only was this gum delicious it also came with general knowledge index which one could peruse once the chewing started.

However the ingenuity of the product’s presentation was crowned by the fact that the wrapper became a collectors’ item not based on its looks only but on the valuable information provided on the reverse side as – facts covering history, geography, science, literature and art. The wrapper was so versatile that some people made crafts like hand made belts by weaving wrappers together into a string. To date the Beaver has remained its recognizable symbol. It comes in flavors of grape, watermelon and original fruit as well as peppermint.

It is the manner in which it makes its return to the television screen that I think blesses it with attention once more. It is its mythologization (permit me to use this word) that affords us the opportunity to want to taste it again, if we have moved on to high prized chewing gums like your so called sugar frees, to experience the legend.

There are two advertisements that have been shown recently on our television screens of Chappies Bubble Gum. Both of these advertisements have historical themes as pedestals to accentuate the product, or should I say they mythologize the gum through historical references. I propose that we look at the two advertisements in order to reveal their similarities as well as their differences. In this regard we shall stand a better chance of revealing the nature of Chappies Bubble Gum’s revival through historical allusions. On another level we shall also reflect on the targeted people that the product is geared towards and how this is achieved. The first advertisement has as its content a group of children visiting a cultural history museum and the second recent advertisement is rooted in the historical event of the sinking of the Titanic relayed through a newsreel watched by a boy at a movie theater.

The Guided Tour setting

A group of children are attending a guided tour at a Cultural History Museum, they are been introduced to the civilization of the Honolulu (Hawaii) and as the tour guide explains the turbulent nature of their environment – specifically the volcanic eruptions. One of the little one’s has a big idea. He deeps into one of his pockets, comes up with a Chappies Bubble Gum and pops it in. Instantly he is transported to Honolulu in midst of an evacuation due to a volcanic eruption. With might akin to that of Incredible Hulk he picks one of the rolling rocks and throws it to the mouth of the erupting mountain succeeding in closing it and stopping its molten lava from oozing out and annihilating the Hawaiians. The ancients of Honolulu cheer him up and happily carry him indebted to him for saving their lives, civilization and environment. He is momentarily transported back to rejoin the tour, his counterparts had been frozen in time during the teleportation and the ‘historical intervention’.

Movies Theater setting

The anchoring force here is the historical tragedy of the sinking of the Titanic. We are shown viewers in movie theater watching a newsreel rendition of the sinking of the titanic. At the terrible moment when the ship is about to hit one of the floating ice slits a boy amongst the viewers pops a Chappies Bubble Gum and he is teleported into the news reel (into history) to intervene in disastrous event that caused the sinking of the Titanic. Like the Honolulu intervention the intervener is rewarded, this time by being thrown a party on board the ship.

Global remarks and concerns

What becomes apparent then with the two situations that the adverts present to us in reviving our interest in the Bubble Gum is intervening nature of the protagonists in both of these works. Similarly they are dealing with historical events, thus automatically they tie very well with what the bubble gum wrapper as part of the commodity packaging offers. A second similar feature is teleportation into the historical past. This way the advert is not only telling us that it offers an indexical historical feature – it takes you there. We become the boy, we have to, in order to make sense of what the global message is: Chappies Bubble Gum is not just a chewing gum it is steeped in historical facts and by buying it, you are actually buying historical facts as well.

Now let us look at the differences of the two adverts. While the first advert that was televised deals with near ancient historical event, the Titanic sequel deals with an event near. Very nearer because of the hit Titanic movie most of us has seen.

Now this second installation is arguably an advance, a step ahead – compared to the first advert and it embellishes what I have already proposed at the opening of these jottings – that most of us will come to appreciate the resurfacing of the Gum’s advert simply because we grew on Chappies Bubble Gum.


The advert is here married to a popular cultural object, Titanic the movie and if we take the indexical feature of these adverts and reconsider once more Titanic the movie itself we shall accept that it is an index of the historical event of the sinking of the Titanic without doubt.


Here we are then at a threshold of a sign, a referent and a referent which in turn is a historical sign. Here Chappies Bubble Gum exhumes a historical ghost in order to arrange its self methologically. But the viewer has to be part of this play of mythologization for the myth to be constructed. Why? Because without viewer’s knowledge of the movie Titanic the first sign becomes opaque: the boy watching the newsreel. The viewer will just see a little boy with superhuman strength stopping a huge ship from colliding with an ice mountain, which is actually absurd!

But through the filter of the knowledge of the Titanic the movie the viewer can move beyond this absurd sequence of the events and come to understand the play in the advert. However since the advert does not exactly allude to the movie in that it does not show us the lovers we so loved in the movie; the characters central to the narratology of the movie. The boy then becomes central to the sequence. We see immediately that this has nothing to do with the movie, although we needed to index the movie first to get here; what we have here the historical event of the Titanic, but even so in this instant the insertion of the boy brings forth not a retardation but a deviation from that historical  event. Thus in a linear presentation what I have discussed can be represented in this manner:

Chappies Bubble Gum >>> Titanic news reel >>> Titanic the movie >>> Titanic the historical event!

The latter ‘Titanic the historic event!’ in our schema above is pregnant with ideas and it is these ideas that the advertisement anchor in order to send out its message and by so doing to once more occupy its space of prominence amongst the competing chewing gums.

Explicitly speaking this commercial advert plays with historical event of the sinking of the luxury cruiser by saving it from sinking thus altering history mythologically, in turn creating what I propose to call a Y effect; a one directional historical narrative which separates at a particular point and moves into two opposite directions diagonally, one factual and the other untrue –mythic.

The ‘super boy’, let us address him as such, represent an omniscient force, the knowledge bearer of what will happen at the impact of the cruiser and the floating ice – he is nothing else but that knowledge itself of the sinking of the Titanic but personified. He is that knowledge that will be unwrapped when the gum is opened. Hence, unwrap an adventure!

Both of these Chappies Bubble Gum advertisements uses historical events as tools to prop and accentuate the importance of the gum as a knowledge assimilator.

4 May

© 2009 Mmutle Arthur Kgokong