Friday, December 13, 2013

Natasha Rostova on Facebook

I had a lot of fun with this project. When I created the account for Natasha, my intention was to catalogue all her relationships throughout the novel. This proved to be far too ambitious. There were too many to do, and Facebook isn't really made for adding relationship history, as I tried to do by putting the anniversary in the past. Dates were probably the biggest problem for me, since fb doesn't allow you to say your birth year is in the 1790s. I think it was Ashleigh who suggested we use 2013 as 1813, and do the dates from there. That was why, when Natasha was "in a relationship" with Boris, the anniversary was 2003.
I tried to make all my comments and posts exuberant, like Natasha was early in the book. I used a lot of exclamation points and hearts (<3) to convey her emotion. I really enjoyed the animosity between Natasha and Andrew's father, while it lasted. I think that in the close quarters of Facebook, the two of them would have butted heads far more often than in the book.
I did my best to make Natasha come across as excited and emotional, almost to the point of being childish. I think that Tolstoy did the same thing in War and Peace, because by showing us such a youthful character at the beginning, her transformation at the end is far more pronounced.
I think that this project could have been a lot more fun if we had started it at the beginning, because we would have been able to keep the timelines right. When we did it, everything got mixed up and we had things like deaths in the wrong order (I think Natasha was still engaged to Andrew when he died...awkward).

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Count Rostov's Social Media

I have to admit, I'm not usually an active participant in social media. In War and Peace, I don't think that Count Rostov was really an active social participant either. True, many socialites gathered at the parties of Count Rostov, and a lot happened at Count Rostov's parties that would be facebook-worthy, but the characteristics that defined the Count were not what he shared, but what he hid from others. Count Rostov was a rather one-dimensional character in War and Peace. He had one goal, and that goal was for everyone that surrounded him to enjoy themselves. We see at Rostov's death that he paid a hefty price for the merriment of his Russian socialite friends, a price that he couldn't afford. Although it was known that Rostov wasn't good with money, nobody knew how far into debt he had plunged. That is why I didn't bring up Rostov's money troubles directly through his facebook profile. Rather, I made more subliminal hints at his monetary issues, such as adding Finance for Dummies to his favorite books list. On his death bed, Count Rostov confesses his mismanagement of the family's finances, and begs for forgiveness. I decided to portray this emotional confession with a more modern phrase in Ilya's final facebook status, "YOLO." When you think about it, Count Rostov's decisions about finance and the rest of his life could be explained by the motto usually associated with behavior that doesn't take consequences into consideration. However, I did conclude the status with an informal apology to Rostov's son Nicholas. I believe that Rostov did genuinely feel guilty for digging his family into a hole, but he wanted desperately to maintain the joy that the parties that he hosted created. Rostov valued and loved his family very much, but when push came to shove and there was a real crisis, it made him uncomfortable. For example,during Natasha's struggle with her engagement during the time that the family spent in Moscow, Marya Dimitrievna played a much bigger role in setting Natasha straight than her father did. As a character, Rostov did his best to act like adversity didn't exist and live life in constant pursuit of merriment. This approach didn't work out too well in the life of the Rostovs, which certainly wasn't adversity free. Count Rostov's facebook reflected the struggle between the pursuit of merriment and the issues that he denies.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Farewell Prince Bolkonsky!

Time to take off my Old Prince Bolkonsky mask! It was fun while it lasted. Most of us viewed the old prince as a grouchy old fella who had a dark relationship with his daughter Marya. He tormented and bullied her which may seem like a sado-masochistic relationship (emphasis on emotional abuse), but his whims and eccentricities were expressions of love. He is bitter and in total control of his little empire and as an authoritative figure, he demands respect, and love.

When I took on the role to play his character, I felt defensive! I knew he wouldn’t fit in with the other characters if he was extremely cold, formal, and authoritative. In light of this, I decided to add a touch of sarcasm to his modern use of language via Facebook status’s, and meme’s.

Starting off, I chose a photo of the old prince from the movie, as his profile picture because it was as I imagined him: white hair, wrinkling skin and scowling into the distance. I based his cover photos on a myriad of his interests including mathematics. I had him respond to Andre and Helen’s compliments with acceptance but vented out his anger through the use of CAPITAL LETTERS as is done on Facebook frequently. He’s sarcastic but he doesn’t take bull from anyone. I went on to writing a few statuses sarcastically geared towards Marya and Andrei. It was fun, but a little harsh when I threatened to block Marya on Facebook. Fatherly obligations I say!

Portraying a man with much experience, I decided to show the old prince’s disapproval of Andrei’s intentions to marry Natasha by giving her words of wisdom (with a bit of threat of course), a visual image of her banned marriage, and I geared a meme about marriage towards Andre and Pierre alike. I found a perfect picture using math to show my disapproval of Natasha and Andrei’s relationship, “You+Her=Syntax Error.” The modern Prince Bolkonsky reacting with peevish sarcasm and visuals is the way to go!

Although it was enjoyable to be a witty, sarcastic old man, I wanted to portray his hidden compassionate side. Ultimately, he adores his children so I thought it was only right for him to pass on words of sympathy to IIya Rostov regarding the death of Petya. Likewise, I mirrored War and Peace and had the prince apologize to Marya for mistreating her. I also had him express his wish for her happiness by changing the cover photo to an image of a father/daughter dance and tagged Marya in it! This was to emphasize his appreciation and love for her. At the end of the day he wishes the best for his children.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing the old prince!

Let's be honest.. Helene would be Queen of Social Networking.

Writing from the perspective of Helene was so much fun! If I had to guess why, I'd say it's because Helene is Queen Social, and there is no doubt in my mind that modern Helene would rule today's social networking with an iron (well manicured) fist. Much of my Facebook activity consisted of posts which demonstrated how self-absorbed and overly social Helene is. It was necessary to emphasize these negative qualities because I believe Helene is the worst female character in the entire novel, despite being generally well-liked (at least to her face). Her selfishness, use of her beauty to get ahead in the world despite manipulating the feelings of others, thoughtlessness, and terrible family all contribute to making Helene the most sinful woman in War and Peace, even if she is the most social.
I selected a provocative picture of Helene for her profile picture because it emphasizes Helene's main weapon as a socialite. Without her charming good looks, all she would be is a sneaky trickster trying to get ahead in the world--either that or a total fool like Hippolyte. I made a post about flirtation for obvious reasons: Helene flirts with anything with two legs, perhaps even her brother. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Narrator's post about Helene: "But Helene, like a really great man who can do whatever he pleases, at once assumed her own position to be correct, as she sincerely believed it to be, and that everyone else was to blame (742)." I felt this post really emphasizes how good she is as twisting things to suit her. Another good example of this is suggested by my post about having three men in love with her (Pierre and two others) at the same time. While Pierre does not really love her, Helene is entirely convinced she can use her charm to always get her way. I also felt it was important to post about the end of Helene's life; her abuse of several people's affections at once is what ultimately killed her. Helene's death was a very fitting end for the most horrible woman in the story, and Tolstoy certainly displayed that outward beauty will not get you far for long without an inner beauty as well. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sonya probably wouldn't have Facebook

       Among all the characters, I sympathise with Sonya the most. She sacrifices herself too much but everyone takes her for granted. I understood her more playing her role on Facebook. Life has been unfair to her. She is an orphan. Nicolas chose Marya over her. And think about this: Marya and she are both the kind and thoughtful type. Nicolas could have chosen her before he meets Marya if she had money.
    For sometime, I even feel like she wouldn't have social media if she lived in the modern age. If no one cares, what's the point of posting things on Facebook? And she probably doesn't have strong desire for her voice being heard anyway. That being said, all my Sonya posts weren't necessarily what she had to share with the others. They were more like what she might have in mind.
    All my posts were centered around Nicolas and the other Rostovs. Sonya's whole life is about them. She doesn't change much throughout War and Peace; people around her do. She just takes in what has changed and moves on with life. So I figured she would comment on others posts more often than posting her own stuff. Also, Sonya doesn't have strong opinions on things, so her comments wouldn't be against what others have to say.
    I gave some thoughts when I chose her profile picture and cover photo. I tried to find a picture of her, but apparently she's not important enough to have pictures all over the Internet. So I chose a cute white cat instead. This actually makes sense since Tolstoy refers to her as cat several times and she might not want herself in the profile picture given her self-abased personality. I was thinking of her affection for Nicholas when I picked her cover photo. It's a red flower in the dark, pure, beautiful but lonely. I was quite surprised when I read the part when Tolstoy calls her a "sterile flower". What a coincidence!

Prince Andrew and Facebook

I adored Prince Andrew from the beginning of the novel. I don't know what it was about him, maybe his striking good looks (in my brain), but I always loved him and I would defend him to the end, even when he did less than honorable things. That's part of the reason I was drawn to pick him as my character for the Facebook project. I wanted to explore how he would interact with others through this detached form of communication where expressing opinions and feelings is more common. It was interesting, trying to strike a balance between Andrew's portrayal in the book, as a generally hard lining man, with some emotional tendencies, and the potential Andrew, opened up by the anonymity and free speech that the internet, and platforms such as Facebook allow. I ultimately decided to follow the book and how Tolstoy portrayed Andrew, but added in some rash emotion here and there, as well as some more modern speech. I had him post a quote about glory, but also unearthed some probable feelings he had after Natasha denied him, through some fan fiction.

Ultimately, I wanted to create a modernized picture of Prince Andrew. Many people who I consider generally logical will post ridiculously emotional things on Facebook, because they feel they can be more open. This is why Andrew would occasionally declare his love for Natasha, or something along those lines. However, I did try to maintain some degree of Andrew's coldness and level of overall rationality. He criticizes overly emotion or private posts by other characters, as well as warns people of how to properly interact with his father. I particularly enjoyed interacting with Marya, because as Andrew left for battle the first time, we saw their love for each other, so it was great to be able to interact with her and show some level of care and understanding for her and her situation.

Overall this was an extremely fun project to finish out the semester and to help me reflect on one of my favorite characters in the novel.

Marya on Social Media

     While many of the characters in War and Peace may have benefited from having constant contact through social media, I believe Marya is someone who would have LIVED for Facebook. In the beginning of the novel, Marya is basically a prisoner in her father's house. She is rarely seen going out into society, and therefore, is deprived of any social contact. A social media site such as Facebook would have been a dream come true for lonely Marya. However, due to her sheltered lifestyle, Marya also may have been a tad socially awkward. In the beginning of my Facebook portrayal of Marya, I tried to make it apparent that she had a hard time finding her own voice. My first several statuses and pictures were bible verses or religious symbols because Marya found her identity almost exclusively in religion when she had nothing else in her father's house.
     I posted Marya's first non-religious status about the death of her father, as I feel this was the turning point in Marya's character. Although after this point she still found her identity in religion, she also began to make decisions for herself based on her own desires. She found the courage to love Nicholas, the humility to forgive Natasha, and the strength to let her brother go. I posted statuses about each of these life events, as well as engaged in conversations through comments on others' statuses or pictures. Through each consecutive status and comment, I portrayed Marya as a little less socially awkward. In the last status I posted as Marya, I summarized the dynamic change from Marya's character at the beginning of the novel to the end. As Marya learned to make her own decisions, I think she also learned to set aside the Christian value of the “joy of suffering” and instead value relationships and love. Tolstoy writes on page 1038 that “Marya's soul strove toward the infinite, the eternal, and the absolute, and could therefore never be at peace.” However, I think in her own way Marya does find a bit of peace and joy in her family and friendships with Natasha and Pierre.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Nicholas in real world

I made this title in the reason of my psych book “psychology in real world”. Since I remembered, at the beginning of the semester, my psych professor told us that if you really wanted to know about psychology, you needed to put it into the real world. I think it is the same truth as we can see in War and Peace: if we really want to get to know, to understand, not just get acquainted with those characters, we should put them in the real world. Setting up Facebook for our characters gives me a precious chance to understand them in reality. I have to admit that Tolstoy gives vivid description of my character Nicholas in both his relationship and war career. However, for a long time, when we are reading, our minds are always under the manipulation of Tolstoy. It is exciting for me that this time I can jump out of a Frame called “Tolstoy’s opinion” and label my Nicholas in my own volition. I used to treat Nicholas as the most determined person in War and Peace: he insisted on his deep love for Sonya and great passion for the Emperor. Nevertheless, he changes all these factors which previously were most stable in his life in the progression of the plotline. I find that I really miss the little Nicholas who is lovably immature and unlimitedly energetic to do whatever he thinks is right. I also want to figure out what is the significance of the present characterization for my character Nicholas.
I do not deliberately make any plan for my portrayal. But to address my question, when I am reading the present Nicholas, I myself will play the previous Nicholas at the same time to see the disparity and huge change. So you see I go back to Sonya to express my care for her while I get married with Marya. Sometimes, I tend to be emotional: the fog reminds me of the little Nicholas, so I call him back to play his patriotism again.

Pierre on Facebook

     Some of the things that we lack in War and Peace (as a text) are pictures, songs, and videos. One of the ways I used Facebook was to post real time images and songs to go along with the action in War and Peace. I did this mostly through Pierre's "Vignettes of My Life." As I was reading I would choose a phrase or passage and try to find an image that I thought would enhance, complement, and/or depict the words (or sometime I found the image then the words). I also decided that it would be a fun challenge to use only photos that I personally had taken (or was in). I also feel that by only using my personal photos I was able to show that images from a 21st century unpredictable teenage life can actually pair nicely with ideas and themes in Pierre's life or more broadly War and Peace (after all this class is called Reading War and Peace in the 21ST CENTURY). I did very intentionally try to make the photos free of modern technology. I also thought that Pierre would definitely be the kind of guy to post something like a simple vignette with quite sentimental yet vague words. The text of the vignettes was usually a paraphrase or modification or something Pierre or the narrator said. The vignettes were also concise, which is not something we get much of in War and Peace, but something quite characteristic of Facebook. 
     In a couple of my statuses I included a song, which I tried to make representative of what I was posting about. In terms of the nature of my statuses, I thought that Pierre would likely be somewhat aloof, sentimental, and formal on Facebook. I did comment on some other people's statuses, but mostly in ways that were somewhat distant or expressed some underlying inner turmoil, characteristic of our dear Pierre. Most of all, Pierre is a fabulous character in War and Peace and I hoped to make his portrayal on Facebook fabulous in the fashion of Pierre. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What if … we read it second time?

When I start to write this last blog, I suddenly realize that we are getting end of our tutorial. I can’t believe that we are going to say goodbye to War and Peace, though I complained to my friends about the super length of this book for many times before. I don’t want to do any analysis any more. Instead, I reopened my War and Peace at beginning pages, trying to do some recollection with you. Do you remember what Pierre, Natasha or Andrew were like when we first knew them? I can recall Pierre as “an awkward bear”, Natasha as “a carefree angel”, and Andrew as “a perfect prince”. I’m like an old friend of them when I reread previous chapters. When I read that Andrew gave Pierre advice of never getting involved in marriage, I found myself was talking to Andrew that “young man, you will desire true love and nice marriage afterwards.” In spite of his death, I’m very glad that perfect Andrew who is always spotless can be aware of the secular love. To my surprise, I did not find it horrible to read War and Peace second time. I found myself enjoy the process, though another voice in my mind sometimes played a role of spoiler.

Back to the time when we knew these characters at the very beginning, you’ll move at their great changes. Reading War and Peace second time, not for reading a masterpiece of Tolstoy, not for analyzing Tolstoy’s philosophical views, not for learning Russian history, just for the sake of meeting our old friends, finding their immature behavior at that time lovable!