“here lies everything, the world I wanted at my feet, my victory’s complete”

As you may have guess from the title of this blog post, the Cabs of Curiosity event has come and gone. It’s hard to believe it’s the end of the school term. In this post I will share some of the photos from the Cabs of Curiosity event.

Cabs of Curiosity

A big thank you to everyone who made it out to the event! Your support, feedback, and trying out our MAME cabinet game are all appreciated!

Cabs of Curiosity

Thank you also to the wonderful ladies who sat in the cabinet most of the evening playing the part of Zoltar the fortune teller. You really brought the project to life!

Cabs of Curiosity

It was also really neat to find another blog (not related to our class) that documented the event. Check it out: http://makebright.com/2011/04/cabs-of-curiosityat-uws-critical-media-lab/

Cabs of Curiosity

As well, congratulations to our classmates for building some really impressive MAME cabinets and games! Here are a few photos of the other MAME cabinets at the event.

Cabs of Curiosity

Cabs of Curiosity

Cabs of Curiosity

Cabs of Curiosity

Cabs of Curiosity

Were you able to attend Cabs of Curiosity? If so, did you get a chance to play our ‘Ask Zoltar’ fortune telling game? We would appreciate any feedback in the comments section.

I think our favourite observance was when one of the children figured out the fastest route to getting a fortune cookie reward. He returned several times and went through the sequence so quickly that Zoltar couldn’t finish her sentences. Way to go on winning all those cookies!

Cabs of Curiosity

It feels like we started writing this blog just last week. With our project and performance complete, this will probably be one of our last (or maybe even the very last) blog entry. I guess that depends on whether we have any inspiration to write when we’re finished final essays. Having the Dr. Horrible themed blog has definitely made blogging interesting. A few of our readers have mentioned that they’ve also enjoyed this aspect of our blog!

Thank you to everyone who’s been following us the last four months!

“stand back everyone, nothing here to see. just imminent danger and in the middle of it me.”

This week, we decided to make a few last minute improvements to our MAME cabinet. These last minute changes have helped to bring the overall look and feel of the cabinet together. While we were researching fortune-telling cabinets, we found that many were made of wood. Such as this one, or that one. So, off to the dollar store we went to purchase some decorative paper that looks like wood. We also covered our buttons with a fabric because the Bristol board looked out of place with our new decorations.

Here are some photos of our recent construction efforts.

MAME construction

MAME construction

MAME construction

MAME construction

Our classmates’ MAME cabinets are also coming along nicely. If you’d like to see more construction pictures, visit our web album. Or, come see them for yourselves tonight. Details in our recent blog post “go ahead, run away! say it was horrible!”

MAME construction

MAME construction

MAME construction

“go ahead, run away! say it was horrible!”

Even though it so totally won’t be, because it’s going to be awesome. (This is what happens when you only use Dr. Horrible lines for titles and “Spread the word! Tell a friend! Tell the the tale!” has already been used.)

But, you know, getting to the point….

The CABS of Curiosity event is tonight! And it’s going to be a lot of fun. Not only have we pulled together a really engaging interactive project that we have been working towards all term, but so too have our classmates, Cybridity, ghostinthemame, blindsmanmark, and xdev. Plus, the Introduction to Digital Media undergraduate students will also be presenting their work which I, for one, am very excited about. Check out their blogs to see how their work has developed over the term: technologicalscapegoat, criticcuriosity, norgating, samkatmel, hacktivists, and wowiwarriors.

As you can tell from the plethora of linking, this even is going to be pretty impressive. So, you know, you should be there.

Tonight, 7pm-11pm at the Critical Media Lab, 158 King Street West.

“I don’t go to the gym. I’m naturally like this.”

Anne Balsamo, in her article Technological Embodiment: Reading the Body in Contemporary Culture, discusses four “Postmodern Forms of Technological Embodiment” (224): the disappearing body, the laboring body, the repressed body, and the marked body.

As per Balsamo’s example, these forms apply well when studying the genre of Science Fiction. In this post, we will look at how Balsamo’s theory applies to (you guessed it) Dr. Horrible.

The Laboring Body: Penny

Balsamo defines “The Laboring Body” as a body that “include[s] a full range of working bodies as well as maternal bodies” (227). Penny, represents the laboring body. She is the maternal figure of the story: loving, caring, nurturing, and innocent. While she does not have her own family to tend to, Penny cares for the homeless in her town as a volunteer. Her kindness extends to both those considered “good” and to those considered “evil” as she consoles Billy (aka Dr. Horrible) and goes on a date with Captain Hammer.

The Disappearing Body: Bad Horse

Balsamo defines “The Disappearing Body” as “the final erasure of gender and race as culturally organized systems of differentiation” (230). Bad Horse is a mysterious character, and leader of The Evil League of Evil, who we do not meet until the final scene. Very little is known about the mysterious Bad Horse (except that he has a “terrible… death… whinny”).. Here, we find that Bad Horse is indeed a horse (and we really can’t tell for sure if Bad Horse is male, this is assumed from the conversations between characters). One might expect the leader of an evil organization to be… well, human. Bad horse breaks the traditional cultural expectations to differentiate himself from other evil overlords.

The Repressed Body: Captain Hammer and Billy/Dr. Horrible

Balsamo defines “The Repressed Body” as “repression of the material body functions to curtail the pain by blocking channels of sensory awareness” (228). Captain Hammer is a clear embodiment of this definition. His super-strength prevents him from being physically hurt. Relying on his physical strength allows him to repress physical sensations. That is, until Dr. Horrible’s death ray explodes and Captain Hammer becomes familiar with physical pain, exclaiming “this must be what pain feels like.”

Based on my interpretation of the Repressed Body, Billy/Dr. Horrible could also embody this term due to the inner battle between the character’s personas. Unlike Captain Hammer, who doesn’t hide his identity, Dr. Horrible (the super villain) is an alter-ego that represses Billy (a caring, every day guy).  One example of this inner battle between the personas is when Dr. Horrible must decide whether he will steal the Wonderflonium and join the Evil League of Evil or whether Billy will finally make “a real audible connection” with Penny, the girl of his dreams. In this case, Dr. Horrible’s needs supercedes those of Billy, effectively repressing Billy.

The Marked Body: Professor Normal

Balsamo defines “The Marked Body” as “bodies [that] are eminently cultural signs, bearing the traces of ritual and mythic identities” (225). Like Bad Horse, not much is known about Professor Normal (who we do not meet until the final scene). Professor Normal embodies Balsamo’s definition of “The Marked Body.” As the above image depicts, Professor Normal has surgically attached a metal contraption to his face and jaw. This prosthesis identifies him as being a member of the Evil League of Evil.

While Balsamo’s theory applies especially well to fiction, it is difficult to apply this theory to works we have studies this term or to everyday life examples. When considering this theory in examples outside of the realm of science fiction, the lines between the four categories begin to blur. These definitions are restrictive and the lines between them are not entirely definite, indeed, the lines between one body type and another, and the identities associated with these, are often blurred. Since we’re talking about blurring of bodies and identities, it seems useful to refer to  Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto. As Kas wrote in her post “because the status is not quo” earlier this term, “[l]ooking through a socialist-feminist lens, Haraway claims that cyborg identities can be useful in negotiating fractured identities that “seem contradictory, partial, and strategic” (519) by illuminating the fact that “the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake” (535). Thus, Balsamo’s categories are somewhat arbitrary and fail to grasp the deconstructionist roots inherent to so much of the posthumanist literature we have studied this term. Haraway’s theory of categorization, or rather, anti-categorization, seems to make more sense.

In which Science Fiction texts have you seen evidence of Anne Balsamo’s “Postmodern Forms of Technological Embodiment”? Are there other forms that she missed? Why did she select these four categories? In what ways might the characters of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog challenge these forms?

~Am

(edited by Kas)

Works Cited

Balsamo, Anne. “Forms of Technological Embodiment: Reading the Body in Contemporary Culture.” Body & Society 1.3-4 (1995): 215-37. SAGE. Web. 7 Mar. 2011. <http://sagepublications.com&gt;.

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Monfort. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. 516-541.

“but its plain to see, evil inside of me is on the rise”

“Your fortune is mine for the telling and yours for the hearing. Come closer, and let Zoltar tell you more.” (from our final script). That’s right, we put the finishing touches on our MAME cabinet the other day. It looks fantastic and we had a time to do a dry-run of the script with our actors.

We named our game “Ask Zoltar” (inspired by the 1988 movie “Big”). We decorated the cabinet with a lovely sign, button cover, and curtains for the backdrop. These additions really helped bring the project together to look like an authentic fortune-teller MAME cabinet.

Then, we had a chance to ask our classmates to test out our cabinet and script. There are a few things we learned from the practice run that we will need to address before the CABS OF CURIOSITY event on April 7th. First, the hole in the top corner of the plexiglass is in a very awkward position for the actor to interact with the participants in the way called for in the script. Second, if the actors are difficult to hear when the room is quiet (which is the case), it will be near impossible to hear them when the lab is full of guests. To address both of these issues, we will drill a set of small holes in the middle of the plexiglass on the front of our cabinet. In addition, our professor is looking into a getting us a small speaker system for the presentation.

Here are a few photos from the dry run. Doesn’t out cabinet look awesome?

Going over the script

Going over the script

Some of our classmates trying out the game

Some of our classmates trying out the game

Even Prof O couldn’t resist enjoying himself while helping us figure out the logistics

Even Prof O couldn’t resist enjoying himself while helping us figure out the logistics

Want to test out our cabinet for yourself? Drop by the Critical Media Lab on Thursday evening between 7PM and 11PM. We’d also be happy to explain the theory behind this project.

“you’re driving a spork into your leg”

To our reader, M, this post is for you. Yes, we realize this is a screwdriver and not a spork. Unfortunately, a spork was not available at the time. Also, no one was hurt in the construction of this MAME cabinet.

MAME cabinet building

Construction of our MAME cabinet progressed quickly in the last few weeks. As we’ve mentioned before, we’re English majors. We like to read books and write essays and construction is not exactly our forte. And you know, it’s not that bad. However, the process can be a bit frustrating at times, hence the title of this post.

Our MAME cabinet is far from the norm. For one, it is a performance piece as opposed to game powered by a computer. Two of our recent construction obstacles have been strengthening the structure of the cabinet while allowing for easy access for the actors and devising a way to attach the buttons. This involved adding new pieces, removing pieces that were part of the original structure and replacing those with different pieces, and so on.

MAME cabinet building

The cabinet pieces were a bit warped when we first got them. Probably from spending time in storage. A few pieces that are supposed to fit together don’t and we’ve had to figure out how to make it work or, in some cases, make changes. We’ve used finishing nails to ensure some pieces fit more securely together. One of the biggest challenges was figuring out how to replace a structural piece on the back of the cabinet. The one we had in place didn’t allow the actors to get in and out of the cabinet. So, we removed that piece and went through our pile of unused pieces to find something smaller to replace it. A piece (or in this case two) that would still provide structural support and allow the actors easy access to the cabinet. Here’s what we came up with.

MAME cabinet building

Our next challenge was fastening the buttons into place. Again, the unusual use for the cabinet forced us to come up with a creative solution. The buttons needed to sit a bit differently in our cabinet to allow the actors more space inside of the cabinet. What did we come up with? We’ve fastened the button controls to a board that can slide in and out of the cabinet. This allows us to remove the buttons easily to accommodate the actor inside of the cabinet.

MAME cabinet building

Click here for more photos of our progress.

~Am

“what a crazy random happenstance”

Or, “Why Dr. Horrible, Part II”

The wonderful thing about Dr. Horrible`s Sing-Along-Blog is that it’s so rich a text that drawing parallels between it and some of the theories we have covered this term really isn`t all that difficult. But, as many ways as we can connect the theories we read to Dr. Horrible, the real reason we used it is because it’s fun. Where and how did we make the connection between Dr. Horrible and Cyberbodies you ask? Let me illustrate the scene for you:

Two English graduate students, both with minimal construction experience, are assembling a MAME cabinet without instructions. Hidden in the basement of THEMUSEUM, they work alone into the night because they couldn’t finish during the allotted class time. After much frustration in deciding where pieces fit together and discovering that a few pieces were missing, one of the students decides to put some music on, attempting to set a jovial mood, and randomly selected the Dr. Horrible soundtrack. Indeed, the music lightened the mood and the work goes quicker… until the student working inside the cabinet looks at the other student to see her galloping along to the chorus of the Bad Horse theme. Laughter ensues. Work slows, but it was mostly done anyway. Pictures and description (conspicuously missing the galloping) here.

And that is what spawned the Dr. Horrible theme of our blog. The reason we didn’t mention it before is because, well, galloping is embarrassing and very rarely academically relevant. However, after looking over the readings from the term, it occurred to me that play performs an important role in many of the theories we’ve studied. Haraway, of course, states “irony is about humour and serious play” (516). Stelarc claims to have “made a career out of being a failure” before laughing (216). Less literally, Wegenstein, Hansen, Munster, and Mitchell, among others, all refer to specific art exhibits to demonstrate how they play with the ideas of posthumanism or bodies in code or bioart. This affective engagement is integral to so many of our readings that play – at least certain kinds of it – becomes academically relevant. Hence the disclosure of the galloping.

Dr. Horrible in its play between genres and heroes (that Am mentions here), witty dialogue (see the titles of our posts for some examples), and degree of engagement parallels the importance placed on play that so many of our readings have. Of course, our work has to focus on the academic aspect of this play, and I doubt that anyone will be galloping to Hansen anytime soon (running away doesn’t count), but there is that shred of pleasure to be found in these readings that is also intensely present in Dr. Horrible. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Preferably, you should buy it because it’s inexpensive and supports a gaggle of awesome people, but it’s also available on YouTube.

Works Cited

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” The New Media Reader. Eds. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Monfort. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. 516-541.

Stelarc and Marquard. “Animating Bodies, Mobilizing Technologies: Stelarc in Conversation.” Stelarc: The Monograph. Ed. Marquard Smith. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.

~Kas

(edited by Am)