Thursday, 17 September 2015

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Um, Amy Schumer.

Comedy tends to be used as a platform for social criticism and philosophical challenge in modern society but it is ultimately a form of entertainment and involves communication of the comedian as actor to their audience. The significance of the character a comedian portrays is that it defines and develops the type of relationship a comedian will have with their audience.  Female comedians when engaged in humour, not necessarily just about fecundity (sexual behaviour) are placed in a spectrum of promiscuity that is different from the spectrum a male comedian would be placed into (Foy 703 : 2015), the female comedian is ultimately seen as being more libidinous for engaging in subversive humour.  Some of Amy Schumer’s comedy skits work by portraying the difference between the social expectations of the female engaged in ostensibly libidinous behaviour and the reality, the cognitive dissonance and taboo content of the skit are the source of humour (See cellphone sext skit).

In doing so, by portraying a female somewhat clumsily fulfilling the required social norms contained in the libidinous role the female comedian is negotiating her relationship with her audience in the context of potentially being placed in a high spectrum of promiscuity, which could potentially reduce the empathy the audience has with the character she is portraying. 

According to Windholz (8 : 2015) comediennes such as Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller and Maria Bamford have developed stage personas characterized by strange, eccentric and abnormal behaviour  that negotiates  their character as different from the perceived role of a woman, in that it occupies a more “male” position, that for all its problems of classification, gets described as featuring more aggressive and self depreciative styles of humour (LaCorte 13 : 2015) (Windholz 8 : 2015). Amy Schumer’s more sexually explicit humour tends to get described as adopting the “male gaze”, but I wonder if it's possible that she is simply demonstrating that Laura Mulvey’s “Male Gaze” concept can be used for both genders, in different contexts of power. Actually, after doing the typical google search, which does not represent specialist knowledge, it has already been done, via Bracha Ettinger and ideas of subject object based on a-priori difference but the argument I am making here is that when Amy Schumer adopts a libidinous persona and appropriates the “Male Gaze” she is doing it for the cognitive dissonance and taboo content to create an amusing experience for her audience, competent humour contains an element of play.

There is a definite political dimension to her humour, it is a stage for valid social criticism and in interviews she casts her humour as having a strong autobiographical component, which is interesting, which it is meant to be.  Benamin Windholz (36 : 2015) describes Amy Schumers stage persona as the” attractive unruly woman”, interpreting her in the context of Bakhtin carnivalesque, focusing on her use of body, race and fecundity  as a subversion of the interpretation of the human body in contemporary modern society (Windholz 34 : 2015) and notes her critique or possibly subversion of the trope of the entitled white girl as a way of claiming legitimacy for her voice. I suspect she detects social issues the same way most of us do, it’s not a theoretical approach, in our daily lives we detect the effects of power and the boundaries imposed and consider what it means, it is an approach born from experience and less from theory.

Or a brilliant team of comedy writers, seriously what would I really know?


Foy, Jennifer. (March  2015). Fooling Around : Female Stand-Ups and Sexual Joking. In The Journal of Popular Culture. Volume 48, Issue 4. Page 703.

LaCorte, Steven. (2015). An Examination of Personal Humour Style and Humour Appreciation in Others.  Senior Honors Project  at John Carrol University. Page 13.

Windholz, Benamin. (2014). My Eyes are Up Here. The Comedy of Amy Schumer and the Carnivalesque.  Thesis at Kansas State University,  Senior Colloquium in Communication Studies. Pages 8, 34 & 36.

Monday, 10 August 2015

A poem a day, of New Zealand poets.

Watched a guy at work play "people I know who are poets on this blog", and thus I put this up on my blog like a good little lemming.  It could be a good way to get a subjective sense of New Zealand culture, from colonial British culture to the various cultures that are articulated. Will see how contemporary the various voices articulated are. Given the last entry was December 2014, I won't be holding my breath.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Waterloo. The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles (2014).

Recently, as my nerd like interests inevitably dictate, I was interested in the uniforms of European soldiers of the 19th century and Bernard Cornwell’s  (2014) “Waterloo :  The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles”  had interesting  pictures, with paintings that included the one with the horses by Lady Elizabeth Butler (1881), as well as tactical maps with important looking rectangle designs  and quite significantly, being paper back, was at the right price. It reads as a historical documentary with anecdotes derived from letters of the combatants and has tactical and historical considerations discussed by the author, Bernard Cornwell.

As I am a schmlo with no military background or theory, but I did read a translation of Livy’s “The Punic Wars”, part of the Ab Urb Condita Libri in High School and I thus I feel I can give the humble opinion that I found “Waterloo : The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles ” to be quite enjoyable light reading, with much more solid theoretical basis than most of the episodes of Sharpe (1993 -1997) I saw on TV as a kid, but without the heroic visage of Sean Bean, which of course is a loss. It is probably relevant that Bernard Cornwell wrote the books behind the “Sharpe” (1993 -1997) TV series, which at this time (2015) comprise 16 books. So he probably is an expert on this stuff, and apparently “Waterloo : The History of Four Days, Three Armies and Three Battles ” (2014) was published for the 200th anniversary of that particular battle, on the 18th of June 1815, The Second Treaty of Paris established peace on the 20th of November 1815.  

The Battle of Waterloo has a special place in the British public consciousness, the Duke of Wellington is perceived to be something of a national hero, the British contribution to that battle was significant and historically it was the battle that established the ascendancy of the Seventh Coalition in the Napoleonic wars. The subsequent Congress of Vienna resulted in a diplomatic system (the Concert of Europe) that saw the introduction of a period of relative peace on the European continent, right up to World War One in 1914. Of course this period saw the nation states of the European continent turn their industrialized gaze onto the rest of the world and is associated with a historically unprecedented degree of migration, one where 30 million Europeans traveled to the United States of America and resulted in the modern world we see today.

Waterloo, Morning dispositions page 104 : 2014 Cornwell.

The battle produced military casualties totaling for all combatants around 52,000, 12000 dead  on the battle field and around 40,000 to 50,000 wounded (321 : 2014 Cornwell). It can be estimated at least 30 % of the wounded died in the subsequent months, an estimation made from the British 32nd regiment, which had 28 dead, 146 wounded with 44 of the wounded dying in the following month (322 : 2014 Cornwell). British casualties were around 17000, around 3500 dead, 10200 wounded and 4300 missing. The Prussians whose movements over the course of three days had included a defeat at Ligny, retreat to Wavre and a flanking maneuver  at Waterloo with vicious close quarter alley fighting at Plancenoit against a desperate defence by the French Young Guard, had suffered around 31000 casualties (321 : 2014 Cornwell). Cornwell estimates that around 30000 French soldiers were killed at Waterloo, Wikipedia estimates around 26000 with 7000 captured and approximately 15000 deserting.   The name “The Battle of Waterloo” was decided by the Duke of Wellington, in French history it is known as the Battle of Mont St Jean and in German, showing the political evolution of the Prussian state into Modern Germany, as the Battle of the Belle Alliance, as decided by the Prussian General Blucher.

Over time the Duke of Wellington tended to underplay the role of the Prussians, a combination of his first hand experience of the sacrifice made by his men and the role ascribed to him by a grateful British public that would certainly and understandably lead to a degree of vanity. Bernard Cornwell describes the strategic situation of the battle in a succinct manner, Wellington made his stand because he was assured that the Prussians would be arriving, and the Prussians, under Blucher marched because they knew that Wellington was making a stand, if either did not remain faithful to their promise both would fail. Napoleon was making an assault on Wellington’s position, to break Wellington’s army before the Prussians could arrive (332 : 2014 Cornwell). The timing of the Prussians arrival meant that Napoleon was committed to the Battle and thus did not disengage in an orderly manner to fight another day at better odds.   The victory at Waterloo, was the product of the ability of Wellington and Blucher to coordinate their armies and trust that each army would play their necessary role in the coming battle. 


Cornwell, Bernard. (2014). Waterloo. Published by William Collins. Printed and Bound in Australia by Griffen Press. Pages 104, 321, 322 & 332.