Topics: Amyus

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The Appeal of Nonsense Literature: A Remedy for a Mad, Mad World?

For many of us, our first exposure to nonsense literature in general came in the form of nonsense poetry. Authors such as Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Dr. Seuss and Spike Milligan used non-sensical verse to subvert the power of language to label and own the world. Oxford scholars now suggest the origins of nonsense literature may be found in the 11th century, although there is circumstantial evidence to suggest an even older origin, possibly as far back as Aristophanes.

Nonsense poetry (and, by extension, nonsense literature in general) is now an officially recognised subset of the international language of literature, and elements have even crept into everyday usage. For instance, few people know that the oft-used word ‘nerd’ was invented by Dr. Suess.

In addition to the names listed above, Ivor Cutler, James Joyce, Rudyard Kipling, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, François Rabelais, Flann O’Brien, Velimir Khlebnikov and Sukumar Ray (to name but a few) have all used either nonsense or nonsensical structure in their works, as have Bob Dylan, David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Syd Barret (Co-founder of Pink Floyd).

Discuss how the anarchic power of nonsense writing can be liberating, both to the author/writer and to the reader/audience. Choose whatever examples you wish and show how, by breaking the established rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalisation, nonsense can also sometimes even act as a remedy for a mad, mad world.

  • I find a lot of children stories/poems are quite non-sensical. Like Alice in Wonderland, Winnie The Pooh, etc. I remembered when I was taking Children's Literature at school, I felt stuck reading non-sensical works intended for children. My prof said there are extensive academic studies into Alice in Wonderland, from psychanalysis to mathematics pov. – aumi 3 months ago
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Neo-Erotica or Blatant Pornography?

Over the past decade or so there has been a none-too subtle incursion of what once would have been considered pornographic films, into mainstream cinema. Vincent Gallo’s ‘The Brown Bunny’ (2003), Lars von Trier’s ‘Nymphomanic’ (2013) and the recent ‘A Thought of Ecstasy’ (2017), directed by Rolf Peter Kahl, are three such examples. All feature scenes with, what is euphemistically referred to as, ‘unsimulated sex’. Experimental cinema, avant-garde, neo-erotica – whatever label is applied, it seems that some mainstream actors and actresses are prepared to have their names attached to these projects and, in the case of ‘Nymphomaniac’, even have their faces and torsos superimposed over body doubles, although in the fallatio scene from ‘The Brown Bunny’ no doubles were used. Discuss whether ‘unsimulated sex’ in mainstream films can have any actual artistic merit, or is this just another way for controversial directors to circumvent censorship and so push their own sexual fantasies? In a world increasingly bent on instant gratification, are we being desensitised to accept without question the open exploitation of sex in mainstream as ‘normal’? Where should the line be drawn?

  • It is entirely possible to convey these types of scenes in film without pushing the envelope in this particular direction, as has been the case for many decades. That said, this emerging genre, as you yourself have mentioned, is more than likely facilitating the projection of sexual fantasies by controversial directors under the guise of favoured buzzwords such as 'avant-garde'. Mainstream actors may be fine with having their names attached to such films, but what does this mean for the future of aspiring actors should this become the new norm? This goes a little beyond your average kissing scene and should not be normalised outside the realm of adult content. Mindless media consumption is a problem as is and a line absolutely must be drawn before it reaches this point. – jessicaelyne 5 years ago
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  • There's honestly probably just too much blatant sexuality in the media in general nowadays, and it's cheapening the whole experience. We're so used to treating sex in the media as not that big a deal that for anything to stand out it has to be even more blatant and graphic. – Debs 5 years ago
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The Male Muse

A muse has traditionally, and generally, been seen as female. She may come from any walk of life and need not be a ‘beauty’ in the classical sense, for it that elusive, almost undefined quality that inspires the creative male mind – but what of the male muse inspiring female creativity? For the Mexican painter, Frida Khalo (1907-1954), her husband was her muse, despite their often turbulent relationship. More recently the American photographer, Sally Mann has spent over forty years photographing her husband going about his daily life. The Dutch artist, Rineka Dijkstra finds inspiration in photographing her son as he grows into a young man, whilst the British filmmaker, Sam Taylor-Johnson describes her husband, Aaron as both her muse and soulmate.

Familial, romantic and/or sexual relationships aside – do creative women regard their male muses any differently from how creative males regard female muses? By extension – what does a creative woman look for in her male muse? By citing examples from history (both ancient and modern) examine how creative women have found and been inspired by their male muses.

  • Wonderful topic! And I'm very curious about which examples might be pulled to support this topic. I would like to remind you however that this is a little heteronormative--what about women with a female muse, and men with a male muse? Not even in a romantic sense, but maybe as a comparison for the male/female dynamic. I'm thinking of Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West for example. No need to expand beyond heterosexual muse relationships but just a thought! – Eden 5 years ago
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  • Someone may run with this topic in any way he or she wishes :) – Amyus 5 years ago
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  • What a wonderful topic. The art world is full of passionate women who get their inspiration in so many different ways. A male muse is not new, just described less often than female muses. I am very excited to see which examples are shared on this topic and I am looking forward to it! – Guinevere 4 years ago
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What's in a Non-de-plume?

A cursory glance at the names of contributors to The Artifice shows that many of us choose nom de plumes (pen names). My own pen name is a variant spelling of a character’s name from an Agatha Christie novel, whilst other contributors have chosen pen names that either reflect their interests, their sense of humour or they serve as a personal statement. There are many reasons to use pen names. Some may be for political or cultural reasons. George Eliot (1819-1880), for example, was writing at a time when it was difficult for a female writer to be accepted simply as a writer and not be judged by her sex. Conversely, I recently met a male writer who writes romantic fiction under a female nom de plume; and very successfully too. Discuss how the invention of a ‘literary double’ might empower the writer and, just as importantly, have our nom de plumes become characters in their own right?

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    A.I. and the Creative Drive

    Recently the DWANGO corporation (Japan) made a presentation to Hayao Miyazaki (co-founder of the Studio Ghibli anime house) to demonstrate its ‘Deep Learning’ programme, created to teach A.I. how to "draw like humans do," (Nobuo Kawakami, Chairman). The result was a hideous zombie like creature that propelled itself across the screen, using its head like a leg. "It looks like it’s dancing," Kawakami joked. Miyazaki was disgusted, pointing out that an A.I. has no concept of pain and human suffering: "I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself".

    Discuss whether the ‘creative’ output of what will eventually become autonomous A.I. will ever be able to match the natural creative drive of humans. Or will it forever merely mimic its creators? Could A.I. ever ‘evolve’ to the point at which it feels the subtle touch of the muse? After all, it is, quite often, those small imperfections in human creative expression that make art (in all its forms) unique and sensitive.

    • interesting set up. yes. AI will be "creative" but not if it is limited to our perspective on what creative is. As a different species, it will evolve and find other methods of expression that we may not recognize. – billhillism 5 years ago
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    Rebuilding The Future

    The year 1960 saw the release of George Pal’s imaginative production of H.G.Wells’ ‘The Time Machine’, considered by many to be a classic. At the end of the film, the main character ‘George’ returns to the distant future to help the newly liberated yet child-like Eloi build a new society, taking just three books with him to aid his venture. As his friend comments to another character ‘…which three would you have taken?’. Considering the wealth of knowledge we have access to in the 21st Century, which three books (factual or fiction) would you choose and, more importantly, why?

    • A great topic to consider as it will require addressing the roles of particular texts - do you take manuals, do you take "great literature", do you take religious texts? What is most valuable in literature in relation to history and cultural change and how do we measure this? – SaraiMW 6 years ago
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    Drugs and the Creative Process

    ‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan. A stately pleasure-dome decree…’. It’s said that Samuel Taylor Coleridge composed his classic poem whilst under the influence of Laudanum (an alcoholic tincture of Opium). Similarly such great names as Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron had ongoing ‘relationships’ with the same. What was once considered acceptable behaviour amongst the creative is now legislated against, often for good reason, but many of us today start our daily routine with our drug of choice, i.e. coffee. Narcotics have had a profound influence on the creative mind across the centuries and will, no doubt, continue to do so in the future. Consider why the creative mind sometimes requires or even craves external stimulus and why we are frequently willing to ignore drug usage among the creative when enjoying the fruits of their labour.

    • You bring up an interesting topic. I myself enjoy caffeine, I use it as a tool. Likewise, other substances such as, LSD, DMT or psilocybin mushroom are sometimes used as creative tools. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for example used LSD as a creative tool. Drug use today is looked down upon. I think that some substances can be used to help with art but within the right context and environment. – LucaTatulli 6 years ago
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    • Being more specific would be useful - are you asking about narcotics/opiates only, or including psychedelics such as LSD and psilocybin, or stimulants such as methamphetamines, not to mention other classes of substances? What exactly do you mean by 'drug usage'?? – Sarah Pearce 6 years ago
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    • Like Sarah Pearce, I was left wondering what the focus of the essay might be: all drugs? narcotics? stimulants? I would also encourage anyone who takes up this topic to consider the roles of drugs (esp. stimulants and hallucinogens) in the writings of the Beats. – JamesBKelley 6 years ago
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    • I have so many questions. Are you considering alcohol as a 'drug'? If so, I don't think we 'ignore' alcohol usage amongst creatives. I would also question using the word 'ignore' - why must we ignore drug usage? The question speaks of evident bias against 'drugs' (however you are defining this term) - I suggest that the more interesting questions revolve around the role of various substances in the evolution of human culture and creativity... – Sarah Pearce 6 years ago
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    • So first thought I have is that you are working off an assumption that creative types DO crave the stimuli of drugs. If you wanted to work off of that assumption you would need to get peer reviewed research and even then its a bit of a shaky premise. However I feel like your article actually has a different and more reasonable topic hidden in the layers. A lot of the people you mentioned fell into the Romantic period and the Victorian period of literature. So maybe instead of talking about drug usage in all creative types, you could instead discuss the influence of narcotics on Romantic and Victorian literature. – huntingkat18 6 years ago
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    A Black James Bond

    Daniel Craig became the first ‘blonde’ Bond, but once his tenure comes to a close, a new face will be required to sip those Vodka martinis and put paid to the latest Mr Big’s plans to dominate the world. When considering the many, fine black actors working these days, perhaps it’s time that we had a black James Bond. After all, the CIA operative Felix Leiter was recast in the 2006 franchise reboot, with the excellent American actor Jeffrey Wright proving he was more than capable of handling a darker role (excuse the unintended pun). So, which black actor could become Bond and, more importantly, why? Bear in mind that it is the character of Bond that is the focus, so the choice of actor must be one who can both fills those shoes and yet be able to make that character his own. This is not a popularity contest. On a personal note – I would suggest Chiwetel Ejiofor (‘Twelve Years a Slave’. 2013). He is the consummate professional who possesses a solid, on-screen (and stage) presence. His IMDB profile shows an impressive track record that demonstrates he can switch from comedic to dramatic roles with ease (just take a look at his performance in ‘Kinky Boots’. 2005) and he is ruggedly handsome enough to raise respectful envy from male Bond fans whilst undoubtedly turning more than a few female fans’ heads. Remember, James Bond is an iconic role so your choice and reasons must take this into consideration.

    • I am not sure how many people would like to see a black James Bond, but I am one of those people who would like to see a black James Bond. However, the last time I heard this topic being discussed, there was an opposition for a black actor to take on the role. The main argument against it was that the author envisioned a white person doing this role. But, from a personal point of view, Chiwetel Elijofor would make a great James Bond, or Idris Elba would make a great James Bond. Especially if the character of James Bond is not a character, but a job title that gets filled once the position becomes available at MI6. So, if the James Bond is not a person, but a job position that gets filled up, then yes! A black James Bond would be great. However, if the James Bond is supposed to be a white person because that is the vision of the author, then I would say no because that is the vision of the creator. – nbcaballero 6 years ago
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    • Wasn't Idris Elba long rumored to be the next James Bond? He has mass appeal and is a wonderful actor. I think many people would love to see a great actor like him in that role. – Mccaela 6 years ago
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    Weasel words - The Art of Tergiversation

    8 out of 10 cat owners, who expressed a preference, agree that a growing body of evidence supports our new and improved formula’s usefulness in combating the signs of ageing with up to 99% accuracy when compared to our nearest competitor…and so on. That sentence is complete and utter nonsense and yet it represents the gobblegook we see and hear every day, whether it be a claim about cat food, beauty products or WiFi. Discuss and analyse the insidious growth of weasel words, especially within the mainstream media, and how this can affect the ability to think critically and stifle independent creative thought. Alternatively, is there actually a place for weasel words (other than the bin)? No animals were harmed in the writing of this topic suggestion.

    • I'm not 100% sure what this article would be about. Is it about combating gobbledygook? Is it asking where such language is used? Politics and advertisement use it all the time. However, my final question is are "weasel words" gobbledygook, or is there an alternate definition for what these words represent? This sounds like an article on rhetoric which I'd be extremely interested to write about, but some clarification is necessary to fully understand what your asking to be written about. – DKWeber 6 years ago
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    The Appeal of The Road Movie

    "It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses" (Elwood Blues)

    "Hit it!" (Jake Blues)

    That legendary quote from ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) introduced the viewer to arguably one of the funniest and most notorious car chases in cinema history and exemplified the road movie as a metaphor for the desire for freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from authority and the freedom of self-expression. The comically manic, self-destructive joyride of ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’ (1981) saw the protagonist taking a thousand mile trip across New Zealand, in a progressively disintegrating mini, just to reconnect with his girlfriend, whilst David Lynch’s gentle perambulation that was ‘The Straight Story’ (1999) was based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 240 mile trip on a lawnmower across Iowa and into Wisconsin to see his estranged brother. In more recent years we’ve had the eccentric British film ‘Driving Lessons’ (2006), the Bonny and Clyde-esque ‘God Bless America’ (2012), Inmtiaz Ali’s loosely scripted and superb ‘Highway’ (2014) and the somewhat off-kilter ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’ (2015)…to list but a few examples. What connects all these films is that each is ultimately a life-affirming experience, even if the journey ends in disaster. It is the process of self-discovery, but in these modern times of ultra high-tech surveillance and ever encroaching self-driving vehicles, will we lose that chance to push the peddle-to-the-metal and engage with our thirst for a fleeting moment of automotive freedom?

    • I'd be really curious to know how the road trip movie fits in different cultures' cinema - I've assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that it was a American connection. – Emily Esten 7 years ago
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    The Evolution of The Bank Heist in Cinema

    Whatever happened to the good ole’ bank job? A small team of dedicated villains who cased the job, drew up meticulous plans and (sometimes) got away with the loot. These days we are used to seeing technological spectaculars with the villains often touting hardware and computer systems equal to, or even superior to, that of the Police. The Bank Heist has been a popular movie theme since the days of silent film making, but times move on and so do the brains and specs behind the operation. ‘Bonny and Clyde’ (1967) showed the simple, violent approach to robbing a bank; ‘The Italian Job’ (1969) had a more lighthearted spin and instantly made the Mini car into an icon. In more recent years we’ve had ‘The Bank Heist’ (2011) a Canadian comedy and the Las Vegas-style showmanship of ‘Now You See Me’ (2013), whilst the British films ‘The Bank Job’ (2008) and ‘The Hatton Garden Job’ (2016) both harked back to old school techniques. Of course the list is endless and these are just a few examples. Explore the evolution of the bank heist and not just in terms of the advance in technology over the years, but also look at the characters involved, what their motivations are and why we, the international viewing public, retain a fascination for such villainy. It’s not always about the money!

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      Red Dwarf - Growing old disgracefully in Space.

      The British science fiction comedy TV series ‘Red Dwarf’ (1988-1999)(2009-Present) has gained a cult status and follows the misadventures of what are essentially four less than intrepid blokes stuck in Space. With the main characters frequently exhibiting flaws such as cowardice, laziness and downright incompetence, the stories provide a welcome, humorous antidote to the morally upright characters typically found in many science fiction series. The latest series is due to appear in October 2017 and the fact that the lead actors are no longer the spring chickens they once were has not gone unnoticed by the show’s main writer, Doug Naylor, who has already started to include jokes at the expense of his ageing characters. Could this perhaps lead to the birth of a new comedy genre that would playfully examine the inevitable encroachment of advancing years and a second childhood in a Sci-Fi setting?

      • This is an interesting point. One of the newest trends emerging out of the UK has been the changing focus of target audience age groups. One of the best examples of this has been 'Dr Who' with the return to an older doctor with both Peter Capaldi and Jodie Whittaker. In many ways this is a logical choice as the aging baby boomers are still the largest generation and are now progressing into a period of having greater disposable incomes and time, it makes sense then that there is a return to nostalgic childhood, but explored through the aging "grey" actors. – SaraiMW 7 years ago
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      Advertising and the Art of Selling...Stuff.

      The world of TV Advertising has become ever more sophisticated and devious as the public has become more media-savvy. From the early days of a product being pushed in front of us and a cheery female voice or a man in a white coat suggesting we buy it, we’ve moved on – through an era of dancing bunnies high on battery power and roller skating young women extolling the virtues of certain feminine sanitary products, to a period when the product was rarely seen on screen and we were bombarded with imagery that seemed to bare no relation to the product being advertised. These days some TV adverts are like mini movies whilst others are projected deep into our subconscious and intended to make us feel slightly inadequate if we don’t continue to play the consumer game.

      However, is the advert break still a convenient excuse to nip to the loo or make a cup of tea? Is the Scientist in the white coat still regarded as an authority figure? Are we, the viewing public, too wise for our own good? Can we still be tricked into buying something we really don’t need and, most likely, will become obsolete within a year? The artifice of advertising will always remain exactly that and yet there have been advertising campaigns that have gained a life of their own and even garnered artistic respect and admiration. Could advertising truly be considered an artform in itself?

      • Is advertising an art form? Yes; it requires creativity and finesse just like film, novel writing, and other similar pursuits. But what kind of art form is it? That's the perennial question, because as you mention, advertising is designed to push people into acquiring "stuff." Can we still be "tricked?" Oh, yes...but I think that raises the question, do we even care we're being tricked anymore? Or would we rather just enjoy a cleverly conceived commercial (or ten)? – Stephanie M. 7 years ago
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      • any discussion of advertising should necessarily reference Edward Bernays, one of the original admen who wrote on advertising and PR campaigns as having the ability to manufacture consent and control the "masses." Also an important scholars to reference and read would be Naomi Klein, who literally wrote the book on the evolution of the advertising agency and the rise of branding, "No Logo." – Jonathan Judd 7 years ago
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      Extras: The Unsung Heroes of Film and Television

      From the unfortunate Stormtrooper who banged his head on a door in ‘Star Wars – A New Hope’ (1977), to the brave souls who survived the ‘Helm’s Deep’, three months of night shoots in ‘Lord of The Rings. The Two Towers’ (2002), the Support Actor or Extra is a vital element of film making, but often overlooked by the cinema going public. These days ‘extras’ are big business, with a myriad of agencies offering almost any size, shape and range of looks that any production may require. Yet it’s not often that these loyal and hard working bodies even receive an end titles credit. The British sitcom ‘Extras’ (2005-2007), attempted the redress the balance, but still focused on the improbable rise to fame of the lead character. Perhaps it’s time that our unsung heroes of film and television were recognised and rewarded for their professional skills and dedication to the art. An Oscar or similar for ‘Best Featured Extra’ perhaps?

      • I can't wait to see what you do with this topic. :) – Stephanie M. 7 years ago
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      • I'm tempted, Stephanie, but I fear that as an insider my views would be biased. I've had a few minor roles where lines were cut so I didn't get the eagerly anticipated credit, but I continue to slog on regardless. So, I put this topic forward to see if an interested yet unconnected party might like to delve into the fascinating world of the Extra. Ahh, we are such stuff as dreams are made on....and 10 points to anyone who can complete the quote! :) – Amyus 7 years ago
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      The Role of the Sacrificial Hero in Cinema

      From Jean Reno’s portrayal of Léon (Léon. AKA: The Professional. 1994) to Shin Hyeon-jun’s portrayal of Hyun-jun (Kiss Me, Kill Me. 2009), the Hitman who rediscovers his humanity through self-sacrifice and atonement is a familiar theme. Are these characters merely bad men turned good or do they represent a convenient scapegoat for the ills of Society in general? Perhaps more importantly, do we learn anything from them as anti-heroes or damaged role models?

      • Definitely worth considering whether we are escaping moral dilemmas by having the troubled men die instead of having to deal with them afterward. – IndiLeigh 7 years ago
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      • A very interesting topic. I feel like this is a trope that we as a society have taken for granted. An in-depth look at the moral implications of this kind of narrative would be a fascinating read. – SophieCherry 7 years ago
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