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The Comic Robotic: Tomkins’s Flawed Automaton and the Comic Character

Global Media Journal Australian Edition Vol 10 Issue 1

This is my first published peer-reviewed paper and I am pumped, as they say in the academy. Global Media Journal is an online only, open access, global resource for communications and media studies scholarship with independent editions around the world. You can read The Comic Robotic: Tomkins’s Flawed Automaton and the Comic Character by clicking on the link above.

Abstract

Comedy narratives present us with flawed characters who make disastrous choices with enjoyable and mechanical regularity. The comic character is an exaggeration of the human personality and Silvan Tomkins’s Affect theory provides a useful model to describe the workings of the comic form. Of particular interest is his model of the hypothetical robot, the flawed automata that lends itself to Henri Bergson’s sense of the mechanical or rigidity in comic behaviour. Affect is the overlooked dimension of comic effect and this paper uses Affect theory to examine the comic personality and how its construction limits affective responses to protect characters from suffering and engender positive affective responses, the comic effect, in the viewer and reader of literary and screen comedy narrative.

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Ghost Lamington

Last week was National Lamington Day, July 21st, Australia’s national day of celebration for a cubular yellow sponge cake covered in sticky chocolate and dessicated coconut. I needed a break from Brainastics so I headed to Toowoomba, Queensland, where this delicious treat was invented. My interest in food phenomena goes back to my days reporting for Gourmet Playboy Traveller, before it split into two magazines, after which I covered paranormal issues for the National Times in Canberra. I can tell you I was not expecting my skill set to conflate as it did those cold couple of nights in old Woombie…

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Donald Trump’s hair conspiracy theory and annoying Star Wars characters

The Humanities and Communication Arts Newsletter at Western Sydney University interviewed me for the October Edition. Here is the Interview:

How long have you worked at WSU?

I enrolled in a PhD with the Western Sydney University Writing and Society Research Centre in January this year. I lecture in the Degree and Specialist Programs at AFTRS.

How would you define your ‘field of research’?

I’m using Affect Theory to investigate the mechanics of literary and screen comedy.

What was your favourite television programme (or book) as a child?

My father used to let me stay up late and watch Kojak and The Streets of San Franscisco. They presented each section as ‘Act 1, 2 and 3.’ The cop shows of the early seventies gave me clarity, structure and a respect for the law at an early age.

Do you remember your first day as an undergraduate?

It was 1988: I had too much hair and not enough of a clue.

What sports do you particularly like or dislike? Or do you hate all sports?

Hate is a strong word. I’ve never felt comfortable with physical exertion within a set time-frame. As a spectator I am keen on surfing competitions in shark-infested waters and I enjoy the reporting of scandalous behaviour by high-performance athletes. That said, until I dislocated my knee at age fifteen I was a keen member of the Queanbeyan Judo Club and could probably still break my own arm in a fight.

If the next person in a university fleet car after you turned on the radio, they would most likely hear what?

If it was digital radio then the Hairband Eighties channel: Motley Crue, Iron Maiden or Van Halen. I have discovered that Light Heavy Metal is excellent motivational music when using cardio machines at the gym. It’s also good for navigating Sydney traffic, though you have to watch your speedometer. Otherwise something earnest but fascinating on Radio National.

What is your favourite conspiracy theory?

Donald Trump’s hair got its break in the first Star Wars movie. That’s just Disney propaganda – it was Neverending Story (A German co-production with Warner Bros.)

Have you had any notable celebrity ‘brushes with fame’?

I met George Lucas at the Australian launch of Prince of Egypt, an animation voiced by Val Kilmer. Kilmer walked through the party wearing cool glasses although it was night. Lucas, who was not wearing sunglasses, had no interest in talking to me so I found Jeffery Katzenberg and told him how much I was looking forward to Saving Private Ryan. He agreed and I followed him out of the room, pretending we were friends.

What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?

The Grudge (Japanese version) still keeps me awake at night sometimes.

What is your favourite food?

Roast Turkey. Isn’t everyone’s? Then roast chook, and roast lamb sandwiches the day after cooking comes a close third. With bread and butter pickles. Come on! Recently I have discovered tamari-flavoured almonds (good with beer).

What is the weirdest thing someone has asked you to do?

Interview myself.

What is your favourite work of art?

Anything by Rothko–big deep colours hanging heavily in space, with anything by Paul Klee a close second – bendy little figures with spindly bits and circle shapes – both beautiful.

What would be at the very top of your bucket list?

Punching Jar Jar Binks in the face on George Lucas’s front lawn, then doing a burn-out in the Millenium Falcon.

Fake Novel announced at Symposium

Here is a real book I made in a workshop with Professor Emily McVarish, California College of the Arts, at the Masterclass and Symposium: Writing Cityscapes: Composing Space, Place, and Situation with Text, Image, and/or Sound held at the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University and convened by Professor Anna Gibbs and Senior Lecturer Kate Richards, Course Convenor of Convergent Media, School of Humanities and Communication Arts.