Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Something Tangible

*Sigh of Relief*

I have something tangible. It's the first three pages of my comic about a girl who moves to a new school only to be targeted by a random girl for a random reason (I know it sounds like ABC, but it's different I promise!). Their class will eventually go on a field trip to the MoMa, where, lo and behold, the girl and her nemesis get lost in the city and find themselves up against a bike messenger gang!! Ahhhhhh!!! They fight the gang, flee on the bikes and ends up with some kind of resolution that's forthcoming.

It's at (look at the .tiff files). I'd like to thank JessJ for her constant Meyer support; I'd like to thank Photoshop for turning ideas into reality; I'd also like to thank coffee and cinammon tea for making it all possible. Oh, you guys are the best.

"Star Wars" by Camus

Chris and I will strive to make the story of Davin Felth both cosmic and personal. The first part of the piece focuses on Davin, an average joe with relationship issues (his Twi'lek stripper girlfriend wants him to figure out his life) and work issues (a planetary gang war is brewing, his garrison is being shut down). From there, our focus expands to the real world, and we focus on an extraordinary man: George Lucas, the creator of Davin's universe. Davin's very existence offends him - he is a jealous god, and a micromanager, and if he didn't create it, it doesn't exist.

The main narrative thrust of the piece rests on Lucas trying to convince Felth that he doesn't exist. The model for this main part of the story, I would say, is something like "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead," with two minor characters trying to figure out their place in the grand scheme of things. Of course, in this case the set-up is twisted: a minor character (Davin) feels like he's lived a useless life, and his creator comes to tell him he's absolutely right.

Ultimately, we want their status relationship to shift - Davin tries to leave Tatooine, and the rut Lucas created for him, and in the process begins to radically change the galaxy, becoming more godlike as Lucas becomes more human.

We have about 19 plot points, so we can probably get a good 35 pages out of this. We need to work out our basic stylistic goals and work out exactly what kind of character Davin is, and from there we'll probably work on different parts of the comic separately, then come together and fuse them all together at the end.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A broken man posts on a blog via his grandma's laptop

1. I walk the lonesome, narrow road between verisimilitude and interesting. I want bombastic people to interact in a realistic though humorous way. I’ve had to concede that I can’t do this and keep time realistic, that is, the reader will have to suspend disbelief when looking at the timestamps on all the posts. Ideally this will be a fun playground. I don’t want to use the words “roleplaying forum,” but maybe that’s what it is.

2. I guess I am just a student of internet culture and also an avid bounty hunting enthusiast. This is the fruit of those forbidden passions, my forbidden passionfruit. Moreover, I have never seen anything quite like this, which is a big thrill. I feel a lot of pressure to do it right. Nothing is more depressing than a fun idea that is just butchered by some clod. Help me not be that clod.

3. I want maybe [EDIT: CYA mode engaged, concrete number removed] posts by 30 or so characters. I have to get threads done. Troublingly, I also have to get other people excited about this, because to create the thick environment I want, I am going to need quantity and variety of voices. I know just the people but they are FREEZING ME THE HELL OUT. This is where you come in, New Media.

4. I must
Write a whole hell of a lot of .txt files that comprise conversations and then painstakingly graft them in, logging in and out like a seamstress’s needle through so much storytelling cloth.
BUT ALSO create a bunch of open-ended “improv-y” content that inspires others and just makes them want to up and crawl inside a voice.

Please help me gang. Be some bounty hunters or other members of a very askew criminal justice system.
God, I hate improv so much, though.

New Solo Story Arcs:
Heated DOG argument
Salazaar robs a Dallas Mavericks game
Flirting between Guz and Angel Slice

Open-Ended extradition debate
Stakeout food!
The one that got away (women)
Haha, stalking!
No Cops Allowed

foiled again

Blast! I'm sorry, my page hadn't renewed and I thought I was the first to post. I am so wrong. Ignore my previous comment.

Goals Yay!

Goals as artist/ Impact on Reader:
I want to explore my ability to express my stories not only with words but with images. I would like to eventually work with film and this would be a neat way to transition. I want the reader to feel secure and relaxed within the story and then feel as strangely as Casey (the main character) feels at the end.

Model or Mashup
I love graphic novels and I have seen a lot of different expressions for creepy twisted stories. For example, Jonny the homicidal maniac. That work was very inspirational for me. I love working with true horror stories and making them my own. Putting a spin on a real life creepy situation is one of my favorite things to do, besides making up my own little creepy situation.

Practical goals
I want an artist since I can't draw. I want to tighten up the panel choices in terms of long panel, split screen, etc. We have around 65 frames and I want to see if once we start drawing that we can maybe condense.

-Find an artist
-Organize the panel use
-Figure out Comic Life

And here's the Script with Art Direction: Script

Free Write: Goals

1. Goals as artist/impact on reader
As a Human Biology major, I have not spent much time writing, other than writing purely for my own pleasure. I hope this assignment will help me to develop both my writing and collaboration skills. By working with Tessa, I will be able to contribute my own ideas and get a sense for her thought process and goals as a writer. I’m excited to see what I am able to learn and contribute. Also, by putting our short story into a graphic novel, I will be able to further explore another area--images and their efficacy in writing.
As we wrote out the script, we realized the value of having pictures to help tell the story. Rather than writing out details of the scene, we will be able to show them through the drawings. The only disadvantage is that we sometimes felt it was better to leave out side comments or thoughts because we didn't want too much text. However, I think the story is better in the end and did not suffer any losses from such editing.

2. Model or Mashup
My partner, Tessa, came up with the idea based on a creepy graphic novel that she read. I was inspired to work with her because I like the eerie aspect of the story. I was also draw to the fact that the story could happen. As Tessa shared the story in class last week, I was able to visualize details of the scenario, such as characters' dress, expressions, etc... The story I was going to do, based on my uncle's situation, entailed my adding onto a real event in order to create a more entertaining story. I appreciate the similar realistic aspect of this story.

3. Practical Goals
We are creating a graphic novel, so we want art and need an artist
Adding a connection between the dead girl and the preppy girl who sees them. (We were able to do this by incorporating a flashback into the story)
Possibly condense the 65 frames that we have at this point

4. To Do
Find an artist**
Familiarize ourselves with Comic Life
Better organize our panel use
Think of a title

Robots and resistance

In case you are interested, here are the first 7 pages of my comic (minus a speech bubble on the second page and a caption on the 7th page):

Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7

Currently they're just hosted on GooglePages, which is, as usual, fills me with dissatisfaction. It will be difficult for you to read the panels because they're displayed as either way too large or way too small. Fucking GooglePages, man.

Moving onward...

Goals as an Artist/Impact on Reader

I want to make a comment on the themes present in the Bible story which I’m basing my narrative off of. The main message of the Bible story is, “Stand up for what you believe in against big scary forces,” but when you say it like that it sounds inordinately dumb, whereas when you read the Bible story, you’re like, “Those are some hardcore dudes.” I want to show how the themes in that story are relevant in all sorts of situations, not just Biblical ones. Like robotic totalitarian governments, which is relevant to everyone! I want it to be playful but also serious. I don’t want it to get too corny. I want to evoke that feeling you get when you stand up for something you believe in.


Several things are serving as a model for me, to the point where I’m scared of plagiarism, even though I don’t think many people have done Bible stories with robots before. The Bible story is one, Borges’ short story “La noche bocarriba” has the same dream into reality type of thing. The totalitarian government idea is from many, many sources including but not limited to We, 1984, and V for Vendetta. I’ve been looking at several graphic novels/comic books to get a better sense of panels and how they can be used. The coloring is modeled after John Allison’s (brilliant) comic Scary-Go-Round.

Practical Goals

It’s going to be 48 pages long, and the script is already planned out in detail. I have 8 pages done right now, so I need to start doing 3 or 4 pages a night instead of 2. I’m sketching and inking by hand, and then scanning and coloring on the computer. I can copy and paste certain characters and backgrounds, which quickens the process.

To Do
- get my shit together
- do more pages per night
- remember that the magic was inside me all along

Who wants to give me title ideas?

Free write from class

I'm the first to post this time! Suckas!

Here's my list:

Goals as artist:

-don’t let the media hinder the narrative—make it illuminate the story!
-get the comic timing down, as that’s really the essence of the story. It’s a funny story, and I want to make it light and interesting
-get the different perspectives. Since I have Troy’s perspective in his oral history, I need to make the comic come from a different perspective.


American Born Chinese, for coming timing and framing
Story Corps for my oral history. I employed more of a give and take method in this oral history, and it was much more successful than my previous one where I tried to just let the interviewee talk about whatever he wanted.

Practical goals:

-get three media done
-get graphic story done with just pictures, but still make it cool
-capture the essence of text messaging through dlogger

To Do:

-get all of Toy’s pictures
-decide which pictures I want to use, which ones speak to me
-write a script using the pictures
-figure out dlogger
-write the text messages!
-type them into dlog as I want them to be displayed
-make the oral history into a better format??

Bunnies and Death (Yippee!)

So my project is about bunnies and death. (Yes, my friends have laughed at me, it's okay for you to laugh at me about it too). I'm not sure I completely abandoned my old ideas of doing a graffiti project, I just couldn't decide what the significance of format was. Who knows, maybe you will all see some campus wide project come spring.

I guess my intentions are to disarm the reader with a friendly subject -- rabbits. (Though clearly some level of this is supposed to relate to humans) One of the sample pages I even completed (page three of the story) even features the protagonist as a young rabbit with big doe eyes. Thus as the author I am presumably dealing with a fairly light subject matter. As the comic goes on it will become apparent that this is less and less true. I think comics work as a medium for this because they embody the idea of escapism with the cartoon -- only, do they really? At the end the protagonist makes a decision to stop running and I'd like to think it's slightly more complex then a simple FACE DEATH answer. We'll see how subtle the final project makes it. It's not really clear whether the right decision was made or not for the protagonist, we just know one was made. I think there is a moral but if I was that good at putting it into words I wouldn't have to write about it.

One of the obvious references I guess is Watership Down (or at least quite a few people have told me it's just like ___). Watership Down though is all about the culture of the rabbits and their strife. My rabbits are name-less seemingly cultureless entities. All that you know is that they are running (from death). I also think I was influenced by bird and moon - a comic dealing with a non-human protagonist and somewhat serious subject matter in a whimsical way.

I have 12 more pages to complete and I think I started out with some of the easier ones so we'll see how the later ones come along. At least I have the hang of this whole sketch-ink-scan-color thing a bit more.


1. As a reader, I love stories with extraordinary characters and human emotions. I love how magical realism, super humanism, special powers, extraordinary talents can isolate a character, and yet the still experience the most common human emotions: lonliness, fear, triumph, glory, you name it. I think everyone has a slight affinity for these character, be they the Harry Potters, the Hulks, the Spidermen, etc. I want my reader/viewer to sense these deeper emotions. I want the reader to be surprised and delighted by the character, but even perhaps a little disappointed in him/her too. I also want to find a way to incorporate humor believably. I don't want it to feel "stuck" in there. I don't want it to feel contrived. I'm still having a hard time weaving all these elements together in a story that will inevitably be rather short, but I think it can be done with enough foresight. I just have to make it happen!
2. I guess I model my magical realism ideas off of a short story writer (and now a novelist) named Aimee Bender. I got my first taste of magical realism from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I don't think that type exactly fits in this medium. The way that I'm writing the graphic nove in Comic Life is based off of my aforementioned favorite webcomic "Overcompensating" by Jeffrey Rowland. He puts regular pictures behind what he draws; it's almost magically real in and of itself. Eh? Eh?
3/4. I want to have about three acts in my story over the span of about 15 pages. Hopefully I'll be able to crank that out. It will require a lot of picture hunting and a lot of drawing. I'm not quite sure yet if I want to have any sort of audio over the piece; I might if I end up with enough time. Right now I just need to get to drawing, which means that this scanner in Meyer Library sitting right next to me needs to get to working. Now.


Hey guys,

Sorry I didn't post earlier, but I had nothing to tell. I got the oral history of the Paris story from my friend, and the only time he could do it was today, so now I finally have something. I imported the file of his story to itunes, and I am trying to upload it to this website called so that I could link to it here but it's taking FOR-E-VER so I don't predict it will be ready by class time. In any case, I can send it out or something, so that people could listen to it should they be so inclined. It's kind of fun to hear it in his voice. Anyway, I downloaded comic life and I am playing around with that now. In terms of whether or not I can make three different media to tell this story...we shall see. Right now I am kind of looking at how I can do the comic with a mixture of pictures and drawings, since I have lots of pictures of my friend and of Paris, but not specific enough ones to really illustrate the story...

That is all. See you in class.

The story of "Story"

Here is "Story" or what I think is the first half or 2/3rds of it.

The reader/viewer of “Story” – a short fiction told in text and photos – should crumple in a heap of pain and joy at the conclusion of the tale. Since I’m not good enough to get that sort of reaction, I’ll be satisfied if she/he comes away feeling that nothing taken on faith, nothing arrived at through the customary modes of thinking, the intellectualizing of experience, fully explains the heartache, puzzlement and ultimate acceptance of life that’s felt as a result of having read this. I may not be good enough to get that reaction either, but that’s the goal. This is being told with photographs as well as text in order to augment the story, to amplify the effect, to pile on the impact. The photos will not be necessary to comprehend the essential thread of the story, but they won’t hurt. My hope is they’ll be the dessert after a satisfying meal.

Hard to say what my model for this is. It’s meant to be the kind of story that, say, Brecht or Borges might write. That’s the basic narrative. There’s also the kind of popular novel told through photographs, the “photo-comic” novella that’s become popular, I believe, among Hispanic readers. I was also inspired by a young woman I know (a classmate in an acting class) – by only her looks and her name, since her life story in no way resembles that of the young woman at the heart of “Story.” This woman’s face came to me, unbidden, as part of the core. I knew that her parents were from El Salvador though she was born in the U.S. I’m surprised at the number of elements that worked their way into this story faster than I was aware of them, on an instant – the movie “Volver,” for instance; the movie “Spanglish,” about a Hispanic domestic in the home of a couple who have serious problems (wife is cheating on husband, husband is falling for the domestic, etc., etc.). Also entering into this are my immediate surroundings in Palo Alto / Stanford, including the lemon tree in the backyard of my landlord and the well-done landscaping all around us. And to be in this part of California is to be surrounded by the Hispanic influence, in the names of towns and streets as well as the many workers out there who keep it all going. Finally, one of my classmates in the New Media Writing course -- see her comment -- offered me a song by PJ Harvey ("The Garden") that in its mood and some of its images fits nicely with my story. Don't know yet how I'll use it, but I may.

I’m seeing this project as about 10 (roughly 8-12) web pages, with text plus 2 or 3 photos per page. … The text will appear as large captions.
I’m seeing a total, therefore, of anywhere from 15 to 30 photos.
The photos I will take myself with my own digital camera, but I may borrow my wife’s camera. The photos need to be taken outdoors (most of them) – in our backyard, in some areas of the campus, but also indoors, and I’m not sure where that can be. The shots need to be of my chief actress, Karmen, but also of other actors: e.g., I’ll need someone to play Fiona, Sylvia, Raimundo for the dining-room table scenes; I’ll need someone to play Emmanuele for the garden scenes. And what about Karmen’s child, Pablo? ... Given that I don’t have many actors, I may use only a dozen or 15 photos – showing only the more important scenes.

a) Finish writing the story, which means the second half of the story. I could probably leave the first half alone, although I’ll probably want to tweak some details.
b) Recruit at least 4 other actors for the photos (besides Karmen), and set up a shoot that is NOT on a weekend, but which occurs before March 12. So must start shooting this week (during the week) and finish next week (during the week).
c) Must download the photos to computer and then assemble the pages. (need tech help there)
d) Upload the pages to the Web. Place links on the blog or wherever.

Where it's at

So I've spent too much time just trying to think of bounty hunter names. I'll admit that.

Anyway, The Longer Arm of the Law

I have some threads mapped out in .txt files already. What I always struggle with in these workshoppy classes is that my fellow students are both my sources of helpful criticism and my audience, so I always want to withhold stuff until it is worthy of a stranger's love. I will post again tomorrow, but right now I'm building a framework and trying to register as many characters as I can think of.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Draft of a draft

So the first draft of my wacky Shakespeare story at this point doesn't even deserve to be called a draft or a script - it's like the script of a script. Or, you know, an outline. That's up here.

In terms of actual work with form and so on, I've been playing around with writing up some of the individual sections (which I am not posting up yet, as it's all kind of painfully rough thus far, with 'rough' here being a polite term for 'bad') and also toying with the poem I want to take through various stages of alteration using dlog. Unfortunately, dlog kind of hates my computer. Or my computer hates it. Or something. But the draft of the intro I want to use is up there - introducing the premise through dlogger outbursts I think is a kind of cool way to do it, if I can pull it off in a classy fashion.

Bright Center of the Universe

Chris and I are going to be working together on the Davin Felth story. I've been exploring a few different options, both stylistic and narrative, in terms of telling the story with Comic Life. You can check out the results here, though I really want to stress that of all the shitty first drafts, mine is probably the shittiest. I was mostly trying out different visual options - screen grabs from the movies, videogame images, google, etc - and also a few different storytelling modes (realistic, narrator interacting with characters, going between "real" world with George Lucas and Star Wars world with Davin).

Sunday, February 25, 2007

First Draft

So I decided to go with a graphic novel because I didn't know why I wanted to play with form other then to just play with form. Sooo I have a script written that right now is fifteen pages (40+ panels). Click hereif you want to read it. I've also completed three pages of the comic so far and I'd post that here but I'm not completely happy with how they've turned out (I'll show them in class). I'm leaving a lot of blank space -- but at the same time it takes a long time to get to the point that they are like that. I have colored them in and despite it taking a long time I really think that aspect of the project makes it a little more legitimate.

Really Short Short

So yeah...not a lot to talk about yet, unfortunately. Parents weekend doesn't lend a lot of time to write but a few things have been figured out. Carolyn and I are going to work together on my idea about the train. We are also going to go ahead with the graphic novel version.

Here's the main gameplan:
1. We've got a main script for the original version of the story planned out. We will be adding onto it to incorporate that extra something that we discussed in class. We have chosen the suggestion from class to have the main girl meet the dead girl before the train scene. We are very open to suggestions on how to go about doing this. One of the ideas we had was to have them stay at the same hostel and run into each other in a dinning area of some sort. But any amazing ideas are more than welcomed.
2. We are currently searching for artists. If you know anyone who has time and would be interested let us know. For example, anyone taking a quarter with no classes who draws.
3. We're really excited to do :)

Anyways there is the short, short about what we are doing. All suggestions will be much appreciated and we'll see you in class on Tuesday!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shitty first draft, indeed

Well I've got my first draft of the script for my graphic short story down, and it is not perhaps the best thing I've ever created. Nevertheless, I will present it to you, and hopefully you will be able to salvage it from the depths of mediocrity. I'll hopefully have a few pages done by next class, but I wanted to get any suggestions as early as possible, so I could start making revisions, and get to work soon. Coz it's gonna be a lot of work.

The script is below, but first you should look at some character sketches that I've made and photographed and uploaded. Otherwise, it'll be like when you read a book and then you see the movie, and you're like, "These aren't the characters I pictured at all. This hella sucks."

So, Character Sketches:
Happy Daniel, Mom
Sad Daniel
Dad, Aunt
Mishael, Azariah
Storm trooper bots
Evil totalitarian dictator

Okay great. Now that you have seen my limited drawing skills, it's time for my limited writing skills. There are two script versions below.

1) Full script. This has page by page and panel by panel breakdowns of the entire comic. It's going to be almost 50 pages long, but before you break my spirits and tell me it's too much work, keep in mind that I'll be using the computer to copy and paste backgrounds and characters, and there are a couple pages that require hardly any drawing at all. And I have the whole thing planned out very specifically, so it's just a matter of drawing it all (after making revisions to the script based on suggestions). And I'll start with the more important scenes, so that if I don't have time to finish the less important scenes, I can just leave them out.
2) Skeleton script. This is if you can't manage to slog through like 30 pages of detailed directions about paneling and paging and such. You'll get a better picture if you read the first one, but I realize that's not exactly realistic. So this second script just gives you all the plot points and a lot of the dialogue.

Here are the two things I'm mainly worried about:

1) I've given the Dreamer character a purpose, but I'm not going to tell you what it is, because I want to see if I've conveyed it accurately at all. Any help with her character would be appreciated.
2) A lot of the scenes are a bit heavy-handed. I'm trying to find where exactly the limit is for those scenes, because it seems like the graphic novel as a medium lets you get a little more over-the-top than just regular text. But I don't want it to be uber-cheesy. So if you have suggestions on that, they would be much appreciated.

Monday, February 19, 2007

George's Adventures in the Star Wars Universe

For an Imperial Stormtrooper, Davin Felth is kind of a putz. Sent into the military by his wealthy father after seven wasted years at a University, Davin was so unimpressive as a cadet that his superiors sent him to the absolute ass-end of the galaxy: the planet Tatooine. There, Davin spends most of his time charging Jawas speeding tickets, accepting bribes from Hutt crimelords, seducing naive local farm girls with fabricated stories of fighting the Rebellion, and generally wasting his time sipping Corellian whiskey at the cantina. Davin knows that he's wasted his life but is too lazy and cowardly to do anything about it. He lives in perpetual fear of being scalped by Sand People.
George Lucas is upset. He's spent his life building the Star Wars Universe, just the way he wanted, and now his precious creation is slipping out of his hands. A cult of personality is growing among the online Star Wars fan community based on the character of Davin Felth, a throwaway stormtrooper popular in FanFiction. George Lucas knows there's no Davin Felth; knows that, as he clearly explained in Episode 3, all the stormtroopers were clones, lacking individual hopes, dreams, and lives. Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia - these people, George's people, are real. To prove once and for all that Davin Felth is not real, George Lucas commissions the greatest scientific minds in the world to build the Virtual World Engine, a complicated system of holographic technology and electromagnetic fusion that opens portals to fictional worlds. George Lucas is the God of the Star Wars universe - he must clean up his galaxy of all excess baggage, reassert his control over his creation, destroy Davin Felth.

Three ways to tell this story:
1) I'm fascinated by the perpetual growth of fictional worlds - the notion that the Star Wars Universe has grown so big (with books, comics, fan fiction, video games, etc) that even its creator doesn't really understand it anymore. I like the idea of a straight dialogue between George Lucas and this random little character who shouldn't even exist - because unlike the people in the trilogies (great heroes and villains), he's just sort of an everyday putz. I think it'd be cool to do a comic strip like "Get Your War On," very minimalist, just one "stormtrooper" graphic for Davin and one "George Lucas" picture for George Lucas, and the two of them arguing over notions of authorship and existence.

2) Duelling video documentaries - one from George Lucas's perspective, one from the perspective of Davin Felth - arguing for and against Davin's existence, and the existence of the Star Wars universe outside of George Lucas's original creation.

3) Telling the story in hypertext style. The internet is the perfect platform for talking about Star Wars, since both are gigantic universes that exist entirely in the mind (and onscreen). Wookiepedia, the online Star Wars wiki, has over 45,000 individual articles. It could be cool to make the central story relatively short, but just include a billion tangents - Davin passes some random throwaway character, link away to his own story and to his wiki. Something to suggest the mass of information swirling even through one tiny corner of the galaxy.

Sort of a Fan-Fiction/criticism mash-up.
Sorry this is so late. I was in New Orleans.

I think I'd like to do something

like a George Saunders story, but different. Saunders is fond of the milquetoast character in an absurd corporate environment. I love the environments Saunders evokes, but I'm sick of the milquetoast. So maybe a story from the point of view of an outsider who happens upon one of these corporate wastelands, or maybe from a real go-getter with middle to upper management written all over him. Or maybe cast a political campaign in the light Saunders casts on whatever business he's dealing with.

I've got three ideas:

1) An interactive text. Not really a hypertext, because I think linking away from the page you're on trashes the narrative flow. Maybe like underlined words or phrases, and when the mouse cursor nears them something happens. A picture gets displayed, an audio clip plays, lines of text rearrange themselves.

2) An oral history of the protagonist, or someone near him. Oh, or maybe this. The milquetoast's story from the perspective of his more industrious coworkers, from the man sleeping with the milquetoast's wife, from the reliable sentry, etc. Maybe even rewrite an alternate story from a different perspective, one that Saunders never gives us. Or a collection of different perspectives.

3) A mashup. Maybe fabricated audio clips from the CEO, real clips from real life corporate or political Americans talking about their own personal corporate responsibilities or constituents, photos of the protagonist, etc. Although I think this approach would lose the feel of a Saunders-style work, in which so much of the meaning resides in the irony of the language. So 1) and 2) make more sense I think.

4) A text-based game. Like a text-based adventure game, the hitchhiker's guide for example. Hmm, this approach seems well-suited to the milquetoast character actually. Like:

You see a red lever. Do you pull it?

If you pull it, you discover that your wife's rash is actually carpet burn. She's been sleeping with Simon from Sales. Simon has a college degree, you remember. When you confront her, she is indifferent to your anger.

If you don't, you discover that actually it's Ron from Loading/Unloading and that "tupping" might be the appropriate Shakespearean verb. You faint from righteous indignation. Fortunately, lying down averts the bulldozer moving toward your house.

I could run with idea 4), but the one-liner format would make cheap jokes hard to resist. As I just showed. Still, the way these games offer the illusion of agency but actually deny it by constraining your choices might be well suited to the typical Saunders character.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Let's make lemonade

Here is the heart of my story, about three-fourths of it. I don’t know yet how it’s going to end (I welcome suggestions):

There is a young woman of dark features and exceptional beauty who suffers a deep melancholy. She picks fruit from the lemon tree, but it does not console her. She bakes bread in a large oven but it does not relieve her hunger or the hunger of her children. Her name is Karmen and she has bad dreams. Those who know her can bring her no comfort. They don’t know what she’s feeling. They’re not aware of how her dreams disturb her sleep each night until she must rise and go into the garden and sift the dirt for something, over and over digging into the soft dirt for nothing she can understand. What is it? Her few friends bring her little comfort, for she is reluctant to confide in them. She hears screams, she sees bloody corpses, dismembered children, grieving women and anguished men. She passes through destroyed towns, neighborhoods raked by explosions, livestock decomposing, monuments and buildings burning, the sky black with smoke.

Karmen works in the large house in the pretty neighborhood with the lemon trees and the acacia bushes in the beautifully landscaped garden. She’s the cleaning lady, from a foreign land, uneducated and unfit for more profitable work. Her infant son and daughter, twins, are always with her in the house as she manages her chores in a state of exhaustion from lack of sleep. She has visions of a man who speaks beautifully of love and faith, brotherhood and peace, who gives her a vision of God broader than the one she knew as a child. But it is not a man of love and faith who comforts her, only a thief whom she finds hiding in the garden, who charms Karmen and deceives her.


I’m hoping to tell this in a kind of folk-tale style using one of three forms:

1. A graphic story (comic). My plan would be to photograph actors in scenes from the story – the woman, the man, the garden, etc. – and convert the digital photographic images into comic panels using Comic Life.

2. A combination of …
a) still images (1 or 2 photos) appearing on the site during the playing of an audio file which is that of a young woman (the Karmen of the tale) telling her story, what she’s seen, heard, etc.; there could be interviews with others involved, perhaps her friends, perhaps the man in the garden …
b) also on the page would be a short poem in the form of a litany or chant or other repetition of phrases, focused on one or more elements from the story;
c) a short video of a young woman in a garden, with the camera focused often on her eyes, mournful, pained, searching; no dialogue or voiceover, but there would be a soundtrack of some music, perhaps Donald Byrd’s “Christo Redentor.” (Hey, do I need authorization for that? It’s certainly protected by copyright. The site won’t be available to the public, will it?)

3. the whole story told in a series of interviews … with both text and audio …

Saturday, February 17, 2007


This is a very vaguely formed idea, and, I'll admit, inspired at least in part by new media stuff - but not really, because it came to me last Thanksgiving and I haven't gotten around to doing anything with it. But it fits well thematically!

Basically, I want to start with time-travel or alternate-universe travel - I think deliberately vague, at first, as to which it is - and a student thrown back into a Renaissance-type era, very unprepared. She doesn't have much with her; the hole she stumbles across on her way to class, or something. One thing she does have is a copy of Shakespearian sonnets, and possibly other poems as well. In order to make some money, the protagonist has the genius idea to sell the sonnets to a printer and circulate them anonymously. After all, they're immortal classics, yes? So they should, in theory, be popular in any time or place.

She does the first lot as a batch, and then starts hoarding them out, in order to make them last longer. She also destroys the original text, and copies them all out in her own hand, in order to keep her secret better. The poems circulated by the anonymous author become all the rage - in part because of the mystery surrounding them - and make her enough money to keep herself comfortably in the world she's found herself in, and of course after a while she gets bold enough to start altering the sonnets she puts out, and then to writing her own, using the fame of the early sonnets as a sort of springboard. I haven't quite decided how it should end. I'm sort of leaning towards the revelation that the world she's in is ours, that she's been time-travelling, and it ends with Shakespeare gathering up the sonnets he likes - editing them in places, of course - and printing them up to claim as his own work which gets passed down to today, as a sort of cycle of plagiarism. But I do feel a bit bad doing that to poor Shakespeare.

There were a couple of media I was thinking for this story:

1. Mash-up. This one seems the most obvious. I might do it as a set of sonnets - some Shakespearian, some not - each as the header to a section of the story. Maybe I would intersperse lines from the plays, or films such as Shakespeare in Love, as well. A story about plagiarism told through plagiarism! Very metatextual. It could all be bound up in a neat little battered book, as if it had survived a couple hundred years to Bring The Truth To Us. Or, if I wanted to go a step further,

2. Hypertext mash-up. This one I'm kind of leaning towards - telling the story with links to the poems and relevant real-world documents, inserted more heavily towards the end when it turns out that the world in which the protagonist finds herself is ours after all. This has the advantage of allowing me to photoshop some of the poems onto period-esque looking pages, while allowing an infinite amount of space and a visual contrast between the actual events, the poems, and the edited poems.

3. Mixed movie mash-up. Yes, okay, I like Shakespeare in Love. But clips from Elizabethan-era films linked with voice-overs might be a cool way to tell this story, although probably beyond my technical expertise.
Here's an idea: it may not be a good one, but I feel it's worth a shot. What if I took a simple story and told it through three different media, and this way each medium would lend a different perspective to the story? This project would probably be pretty labor-intensive, so I am afraid I would need some people on board with me. I have a possible story to tell, but I would definitely be open to other suggestions for stories that would be more conducive to being told through different media.

This is a (very nearly entirely) true story:

One night in Paris, my friends and I went to Ladies' night at Le Queen, a notorious night club on the Champs-Elysée. We all consolidated our bags when we got in to save on the 5 euro bag-check fee, and then we got to dancing. Fast forward to two in the morning, and a few of our friends are ready to leave. My best friend, let's call him Trevor, is a party animal, and insisted that we weren't finished dancing yet. But our friends who were leaving had already unchecked all of our bags, including his and mine. He didn't want to have to pay again to recheck our bags, so our friend Anne offered to take his bag home with her and return it to him in class the next morning. He agreed, and we resumed getting "jiggy" with it. Finally, at three thirty, we decided to call it a night, seeing as we were both soaked in champagne and sweat. He hailed a cab for me and I returned to my homestay. Meanwhile, as my cab was driving off, Trevor realized that his wallet and keys were in the backpack that he had entrusted to Anne, and the only item he had on his person was his cell phone, which was running out of minutes. His host family happened to be out of town that week, so there was nobody to let him back into his house. He started walking towards the most recognizable landmark he saw, which was the Arc de Triomph. He realized that his only option really was to just head to Notre Dame de Paris cathedral and wait for our 9 AM class to arrive, at which point Anne could return his backpack. He decided to call his brother in California and have him look up how he could get to Notre Dame. His brother consulted Google maps, which informed him that he had been walking in the opposite direction of Notre Dame. When Trevor finally arrived at the cathedral around 5:30, he was exhausted and attempted to sleep on the benches in the square in front of the cathedral. He was interrupted by a bum who kept asking him questions, to which Trevor responded "j'ai mal à la fucking tête, okay?" or, "I have a fucking headache." In the morning, some passersby spotted Trevor sleeping on the bench and threw him some change, which he used to buy a coffee across the street. My class finally arrived at 9, and we all learned about Gothic architecture.

The end. I could tell this story through the following media:

1. (very short) Graphic novel: I think that this story would actually lend itself pretty well to a graphic novel, and I have to say that I would love to make one. I was just so impressed by ABC, it really inspired me. Comedic timing would be easily established by page turns! It would have to be pretty short though, if we wanted to make three different projects.

2. Video Game! there is a program called "RPG maker" that requires no programming/coding knowledge whatsoever but allows you to basically design your own game: you make a plot, a dialogue, design characters and setting, etc. You can watch a video that explains the program a little bit here. We could have Trevor be the player, and he has to navigate through Paris and find Notre Dame, stay clear of bums, get enough change for a coffee...or whatever. We could even make some other stuff up.

3. Series of Text Messages: This may sound silly at first, but in Paris we basically communicated entirely through text message since minutes were so expensive and text messages were cheap. We therefore had to communicate lots of info through short messages, using abbreviations and stuff like that. I could look back on some of my old texts for inspiration. It would be less labor-intensive than the other two, but still totally legit and so new media!

Noir Comedy

A 32 year old finds himself a widower with a 14th month old. Taking time off from work, he and his young son travel in Great Britain. Shortly after crossing into Scotland, they get into a terrible car wreck. He wakes in a hospital alone. He son is placed in the care of distant relatives who live in the area. Rejecting their offers of sanctuary, he and his son travel the rails of Scotland in search of something. They are accompanied by his third cousin, a young metal-head who hopes that the protagonist can teach him how to pick up American women. Their adventures… well, I’m not there yet.

1) Graphic novel- A well done photo shoot, some mining of photo archives online and my own limited abilities as a cartoonist make this a promising option. I especially like the idea of narrating it to go along with the text. I want to hear the protagonist’s voice. I want to see his reflection in the train’s windows too… hmm. Depicting certain things would be easier than others, but this is by far the most exciting idea of the three. Writing speech bubbles to go along with the visuals would be amazing.

2) Movie trailer- This would probably require the most cleverness of the three. A two minute trailer that would require some acting, some mashing up of other movies, and someone who likes doing voiceovers. It would allow me to incorporate a soft soundtrack and hopefully some clever one liners as well. Comedy and atmosphere would need to be stressed.

3) Hypertext- While my abilities manipulating the internet are pretty limited, I think this could be a cool thing. Maybe set up some flash animation to see his path on the trains, click hear to hear his thoughts on this, here’s a picture of his son… lots of text too, I think. If I decide on having the story be very expansive on longwinded, this media provides the most flexibility.

Ideally it will be broad in scope and humorous in tone.

I think my story will be about a bounty hunter hunter. I don't know, that Story Corps piece on the bounty hunter plus the looming extradition of Duane "Dog" Chapman have convinced me that this story's time has come. I haven't worked out a plot quite yet, but here we are. A bounty hunter hunter, of course, is a person who criminal syndicates employ to round up bounty hunters that may threaten their bail-jumping associates. It's a profession with a quiet nobility, like teaching grade school. The world in which the story unfolds will be mildly post-apocalyptic

The story will end with our gutshot bounty hunter hunter looking into the contented eyes of the bounty hunter hunter hunter. Our antihero will say, "I thought you were just a bounty hunter, Virgil."
Virgil will say, "That's what I wanted you to think, Thirsty.
It will be poignant as hell, but he probably won't be named Thirsty later on.

1. Hypertextuality-I want to create a bunch of folk taley larger than life characters. I want to expound on them in asides, so as not to break the surging momentum of my narrative. I think hypertext allows for a richer background for a shorter, smaller story. I want to create a very grungy, darkly comic world, so I need that space. Butt I don't want to force the reader into it, so this will be perfect. Additionally, it is pretty important to me that the story be white text on a slate grey background.

2. Fauxral History- This is fiction of course, so it's not actually an oral history. But having someone perform this piece, could bring something neat out of it. If anyone has Tom Waits's phone number, he'd be great for it, but he may be busy.

3. Graphic Novel- This is not a serious option if I am flying solo. I have the worst small motor skills known to man and couldn't draw my way out of a paper bag with a machete for a pen. But if someone with an ability to render objects that the human eye can identify wants to saddle up, then we can do a thing.

This is not to say I won't see someone's better idea and desperately, fumblingly try to hitch my decrepit wagon to his or her star.

stories of love and loss?

I'd like to do something with zombies, because I've always wanted to do something like that, and I've both read about them in philosophy courses and seen them in movies. They are a pretty hyper modern concept in lots of ways. I'm not sure exactly what to do with the idea, because it's been explored pretty well, but I think it could in some form try to be from the perspective of a zombie. This would make our protagonist either a regular human trapped in a zombie body who cannot control what he does (like a man in the depths of an ether binge, but with an overwhelming urge to dine on brains), or a somewhat child like, hyper violent monster who's morality is over run by a need to feed his addiction (like Ronald Reagan's conception of a crack addict). I prefer the first because it allows more freedom.

thoughts on how to do it:

1. Sonic mash-up: This would fit better with the latter idea. It would in theory try to mirror the perceptions of the zombie as he wanders around looking for chains to snatch and brains to eat. It would also probably be a lot of work and so is a secondary option at the moment.

2. Graphic Novel: Would need help, although I think it would probably still have to be cobbled together from photographs or pre existing pictures. this could also manifest itself as a collage comic, with little bits cut from other stuff. I think this would lead the tale to take a more comic turn, and who doesn't love zombie jokes?

3. Video Mash-up: This would also be neat to do with someone else as it is so time intensive, but since there is so much zombie material out there on video, it makes natural sense to use that source material. There is unfortunately not much non-fiction material out there, so the oral history is out. This is the next best thing. Again I think this would lead to many more comic moments.

Losing His Memory...with a twist

My idea is to use the story about my uncle that I shared with everyone a couple weeks ago as a base for my story, but to incorporate additional details and events that did not actually happen. The story will start in a similar fashion but will then become more interesting and, most likely, less realistic and more fantastic as it progresses.

Chris (change the name) lives in Brussels (possibly change the town too) with his girlfriend, Elana, and Elana's son, Braden. Elana and Chris are very happy together and often do not argue, unless one particularly touchy subject-Elana's desire to get married and Chris' refusal to do so-comes up. However, the comfort of their too-good-to-be-true relationship comes to a sudden halt when Chris suffers a heart attack during what was meant to be a pleasant afternoon walk with Elana. Revived by two men who fortunately happen to be walking by, Chris goes into a coma; doctors say there is no telling how long it will take for him to wake up, or if he even will wake up at all. Elana and Chris' family remain supportive as long as they can.

Three years later, he wakes up. His family and Elana, who have grown tired and lost hope by this point, are overwhelmed with mixed emotions. They have moved on with their lives. Elana is married to Benjamin, a wealthy business man who makes up for the limited amount of time and attention he gives Elana by buying her expensive things and assuring her that he will soon be able to spend more time with her and less time working. His family has, for the most part, lost hope and adjusted to life without Chris. On the other hand, they are thrilled to have Chris back, but do they really have Chris back?

Not only is Chris's life very different than it was when he left it, but also Chris himself is a completely changed man. He cannot remember anything; his own name, where he lives, the book he was writing, who is friends and family are, and all other aspects of his life have completely left him. The only thing he remembers is that he loves and wants to spend the rest of his life with Elana. No one really knows how to deal with the situation, but they can no longer just ignore reality and push aside Chris's current state of being. He is now alive and well, a man with no past.

That's as far as I have gotten at this point. I'm not exactly sure how I want the story to end, but I'm brainstorming and am, of course, open to suggestions.

1. Hypertext: I think I could really add depth and power to this story with the use of links, like in Tom's story, Chip in my Head. I would like to put characters' thoughts and opinions, which they don't feel comfortable expressing openly to others, in the links. They would serve sort of as journal entries, a way inside their head. I am not yet sure who the narrator will be. I'm also debating whether I'd only use the links for one person's thoughts (such as Elana) or if I will include those of all of the characters.

2. Oral History: I think hearing the emotion of a human voice would be beneficial to this story, which inspires me to tell it as an oral history. However, because time elapses and various events take place while Chris is in a coma, and I think it would be tough to verbally explain all of these occurrences, I am not sure about this form. What I am thinking, as I write this and get my ideas out, is that I'd like to include some links in my written story that link to an audio track. Instead of only reading the "journal entries" of the characters, the reader will be able to hear a character's reflections on a particularly significant part. For example, when Chris wakes up, I'd like to include an brief oral history from Elana about what she felt when she first found out.

3. Graphic Novel: I am incredibly hesitant to tackle this form and use it for this project because I do not consider myself very graphically talented. I prefer to utilize text, sounds, and possibly clip art. However, I have a hard time completely setting aside this option as I have really enjoyed ABC and other graphic novels that I have perused recently.

In Other Words I Don't Know What I'm Doing...

I can’t say my ideas are really concrete with the story I want to tell. I’m afraid I thought more about form to start with then content – I’m afraid this is similarly the downfall of a lot of New Media (especially with the ELO) so it was probably good to take a step back and think about this. My first conclusion was that I wanted to have a story dealing with the supernatural/absurd. Supernatural themes are much more accepted in New Media then conventional literature (Michael Chabon has some really interesting opinions on genre fiction if you’re interested.)

As such, I kind of wanted to do a ghost story. Something that’s largely allegorical for past haunting present and this urge to not slow down and stop and think about it. I think the protagonist is a girl and there is jester-like character, but the rest of this really changes depending on form. I tried to stick to non-traditional forms, even those not mentioned in class.

1.) Comic/Graphic Novel (fairly obvious – yes?) I’m decent at drawing but I’ve never drawn a full comic so this would be an interesting experiment. I think the comic genre would be really fun to do with anthropomorphized characters something like rabbits. This would involve a group of rabbits always running to stay ahead of something and then one finally questioning why and slowing down. It probably would involve a were-rabbit type creature and a giant combine. The jester like character would probably be a slightly deformed rabbit (scraggly appearance, etc.) UPSIDES: ART, ABSURDISM, ANTHROPOMORPHIZING. DOWNSIDES: STRANGE, STRENUOUS.

2.) Graffiti – This didn’t really come up in class but before class I heard this story about Shelley Jackson who had a short story printed one word at a time as tattoos on people. I’m not suggesting anything of that calibur – but it makes you wonder about the nature of the canvas. I thought it would be awesome to tell a story sort of urban-legend-esque by writing it with sharpie in places like bathroom stalls. Or maybe even as flyers. Unfortunately I could probably get in trouble for this and the story might only last a couple days. So I might just take pictures of it. The protagonist would be human, the jester would be quotations in verse possibly resembling rap lyrics. UPSIDES: UNIQUE, URBAN, UNICORNS (okay that last one just started with a ‘u’). DOWNSIDES: TEMPORARY, TRASH-ABLE, TRICKY.

3.) Photoshop Mash-up Fairy Tale – This would just largely textual but would be illustrated with photoshoped mash-up pictures. The protagonist would again be human, though possibly a cartoon. Like a webcomic this would allow me to play with ideas of infinite canvas. Only, unlike a webcomic, there would be more text and it would be separate from the pictures. There would be photos possibly with some hand-drawn aspects. This might be kind of hard to do just because it’s not really limited by many technical constraints. UPSIDES: FREEDOM OF IDEAS, FREE-MATERIALS DOWNSIDES: OVERWHELMING, OUT-OF-CONVENTIONAL-CATEGORIZATIONS, ONLY SOME PICTURES AVAILABLE

I’m up for collaboration if someone else has good ideas. I'm really playing around with ideas still.

I See Creepy People

So here’s a true story that I heard that I wanted to transcribe and interpret what this must have been like. I also love the “creep factor” as Adam likes to put it. So…

There is a girl named Liana who is traveling around Europe. She has spent the last few nights in a rusty old hotel waiting for her friend in Amsterdam to let her know it’s cool to come visit. Liana finally gets the call early on the third morning of her wait and rushes off to the train station because there are only a few trains and she needs to make it to her friend’s place before this friend leaves for the day. Liana gets to the station, which is immensely crowded and gets in line. It seems like an eternity but she finally gets a ticket. She runs as fast as she can to her train, bags floppy around her wildly, and jumps on. She walks quickly to the nearest compartment, opens the door and shuts it behind her. She takes a deep breath, but as she sits down she realizes that there are a few other girls in the room she chose. They are three gothic girls, and when I say gothic I mean the real deal. Painted up completely white with black eyeliner, black nail polish, and all black clothes with lace and crazy boots to match. Liana being a bit more on the preppy American girl side is a little uncomfortable but says hello, getting a response of a cold stare from the girl in the middle of the trio. The other two girls are whispering to each other and looking at her strangely. She gets more and more uncomfortable until the door to their room opens and the conductor comes in. He asks to see Liana’s ticket. She is just happy that someone else came into the room besides the less than talkative gothic girls. The conductor takes her ticket and tells her it is the wrong one. She is dumbfounded and tries to tell him that she just got the ticket and it has to be the right one. He continues to tell her that it is the wrong ticket, not the one for this train. She starts to become a little hysterical. They argue for a few minutes and finally the conductor asks her to come with him and they will figure it out. She grabs her things and walks out of the room. They walk about ten feet and the conductor stops and turns around. He proceeds to tell her that he was sorry he had to do that to her but he had to get her out of the room...

At this point I will show what happens with description rather than him actually explaining it but basically this is why he took her out of the room: The two girls sitting on either side of the trio had just killed the girl in the middle and propped her up so that no one would be able to tell she was dead. That’s why she was staring. The girls that committed the murder were waiting for the next stop so they could leave their old friend on the train as they got off. A stewardess had somehow figured out that she was dead (despite the fact it was hard to tell she was dead because her face was painted and the black clothes covered up any blood that would have been visible) and reported the incident. The conductor had to get Liana out of the room because the police were on their way and they were going to come in and arrest the girls.

The story ends with a swarm of people (mainly police) rushing around her and arresting the girls and the conductor leaves her along to help with other things. She is standing in the middle of the madness too shocked to move.

So that’s the gist of what is happening, the fine details will show up with the actual story. And now for the forms:

Graphic Novel: This is my top choice because I’m kind of obsessed with graphic novels. And when I say kind mean I just really am. In this form I would tell the story from the narrators point of view or from the close third person. The illustrations would allow me to really show what the surroundings looked like when I imagined it. I also like the way it would pull the reader in and help express the more film-like/theatrical ending and overall feel the story.

Oral History: This would be from the point of view of Liana. She would be telling the police the recount of what had happened to her. It would be an attempt to get as much information about what she saw as possible. It would definitely get across the emotional factor but I feel this might be hard to find good enough actors with time to do this. But it would still be pretty cool.

Hypertext: This would be a straight text narrative but with links like we saw on Tom’s Chip in the Brain story. The reader would click on things that highlight memories. Whenever she sees, smells, tastes, or touches something that brings up a memory, the reader will be able to click on the experience to read the memory. This way the readers can get a better sense of who she is in this shorter tale that is mostly about the experiences she is currently having.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Seriously, robots...I'm sorry.

Okay so um, the story idea that I have is weird. I explained it to my boyfriend and he was like, "Umm...I think it...needs some changes..." so that gives you an idea of what you are about to get into. Basically - I don't even know how this idea came to me - I want to take the story of the fiery furnace from the Bible, and expand on it and make it modern. With the characters as robots. I know you're laughing, but wait until I finish (and then you can laugh even harder).

Here's the setup: There's a woman, a normal human girl living in our world, and one night she goes to sleep and has this vivid dream about a robot world. And then she has another one the next night and the next. Basically she dreams the main story's plot line. Her dreams peek in on the robot world at different points in time, so when she falls asleep from one night to the next, two days or two years might pass in the robot world. This robot world probably doesn't actually exist (that's up to the reader, I guess), but it's where the storyline takes place, so for the purposes of the story, it does exist. The point of having the dreaming girl is, on a basic level, to help suspend disbelief in a robot world, to question inexplicable aspects of the robot world (i.e., how do they procreate?), and to let me skip between important scenes without doing too much summarizing. She has a more metaphorical function, too, but I'll get into that in a paragraph or two.

So here's the plot that the narrator dreams: We start off with a small robot child enjoying a happy evening with his robot parents. All of a sudden, storm troopers come in and haul the parents off for political crimes, and the robot child only escapes by hiding under his bed. He goes off to live with his aunt and uncle in a very picturesque rural area, and their neighbors have a girl his age who he becomes friends with and then obviously falls in love with. (Right now you are thinking, "How do robots have kids? Why would robots have beds? How do robo-aunts and -uncles work?" Well, the narrator will be wondering all these things, too, but accepting them because they are part of a dream. No one will relate to the robots unless they do things like have kids and sleep in beds.)

They grow up and when they are about the equivalent of college age, the girl robot goes off to seek her fortune in the big city. Robot protagonist has to stay behind to help his aunt and uncle (maybe they are badly manufactured and aren't aging well), and he's mad/sad/hurt at her leaving, so they part on bad terms. The government assigns him a data transmission job, which he hates, but he's not going to defy the government because they killed his parents. One day, he's transmitting some news articles and he sees one about girl robot and how she was in an almost-fatal accident (or maybe there's a computer virus sweeping the city she's in). He realizes he could never see her again, and they parted on bad terms, so he feels bad and goes to the city to find her.

He hops on a bus (a sleek robo-shuttle bus) and heads for the city. Here's where the Bible story kicks in. Robo-protagonist = Daniel. On the bus, he meets two robo-dudes in similar situations and befriends them. The two robo-dudes = Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego. As soon as they arrive in the city, they cross through customs and their names are replaced with a number (dehumanizing, and it's the equivalent of the Bible characters getting forced to change their names from Hebrew names to Babylonian names). They get an apartment together. Robo-protagonist finds his girl, who is downtrodden and weary from living in the city. She moves in with him and his roommates, and the four of them are friends. Having all been wronged by the government, they eventually become political subversives (the equivalent of worshiping the Jewish god rather than the Babylonian gods).

Throughout all this, the dreaming narrator becomes more and more attached to this world and these characters. It's all she talks about and it's sort of upsetting/frustrating to her because sometimes she wants to help the robots or tell them when they're being dumb or whatever, but she can't. Her friends think she's going loopy (and maybe she is) because she keeps talking about these dreams as if they're real.

So one day the rebel robots get caught and arrested (Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel are taken before King Nebuchadnezzar). They are ordered to submit to the government (they are ordered to worship false idols). They refuse. The authorities throw the two roommates and the girlfriend into an incineration chamber, forcing the protagonist, who is the leader of the group, to watch his friends die (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fiery furnace...Daniel isn't actually there in the Bible, but whatever). Flames spring up! Our heroes are going to die! Suddenly, a fourth robot appears in the incineration chamber (a fourth man, a physical incarnation of God, appears in the fiery furnace). But then the dreaming narrator wakes up. She is very distressed, not knowing if her robo-friends are going to live or die or what, and her friends decide enough is enough and put her in an insane asylum. They sedate her there, which gives her dreamless sleep, so she still doesn't know what's happened to the robots. When, at last, they take her off the sedatives, she finally gets to dream about the robots.

The last scene will be her dreaming seeing that not only did they survive (as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did), but they've made significant progress fighting the government (King Nebuchadnezzar realized the Jewish god was powerful, while his Babylonian gods weren't). Their fight isn't over yet, but they are working and things are improving.

Oh, and Daniel interpreted dreams. That's why there's stuff about dreaming. That's the more metaphorical function of the dreaming woman.

So, that's the end, and if you're in my peer editing group, I'm deeply sorry you had to read all that.

Here are the three forms it could take:

1. Comic. I'd be lying if I said I didn't conceive of this as a comic, and I will probably end up doing it as a comic. I love comics so much, but I've never actually created one, and I'd like to try my hand at it. Really, this is why the characters are robots. Because I want to take advantage of the magical realism so abundant in comics and draw some friggin robots. I have cool ideas about doing watercolor backgrounds for the pretty rural scenes, with non-watercolor robots on them.

2. Mash-up. Clearly I've started with the Bible story, but as I scribbled down ideas, it occurred to me that I was drawing inspiration from many more sources than just the Bible. First of all, I didn't mean to steal the dreaming an alternate world from Jorge Luis Borges' short story "La noche bocarriba," but I probably subconsciously did. My story is not about a motorcycle accident victim dreaming about Aztec sacrifices, though, so it's not as if I've plagiarized him very thoroughly. Second, the idea of a dystopic government is certainly not very original. I could use 1984 as part of the mashup (or V for Vendetta, which was originally a graphic novel, you know). And there's more. The protagonist living with his aunt and uncle could be related to Luke Skywalker. There are parallels between the ending I've thought up and the ending of The Matrix (the first one only). I could somehow mix all these things together and see what I get out of it. It would probably turn the story I created mostly in earnest into a sarcastic satire. That would be sort of sad, but possibly fruitful.

3. Hypertext. The fact that we only see the robot world when the narrator dreams it leaves large holes in the plot. We only see important scenes. This will be nice if I'm making a comic because I'll have less pages on which to spend hours each, but if I'm not doing a comic, I'll definitely want to fill those gaps in. That would be a good place to use hypertext, I think. There could be links that could tell us what happens in between the narrator's dreams. It would be information that wasn't really essential to the plot, but it might be interesting to play with giving optional extra information that the dreaming narrator doesn't know.

...Stop laughing!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

As We Know It

Joel is a twenty-eight year old travel agent in a sleepy midwestern city. There are plenty of people, but no one seems to do anything. That is, until an emergency broadcast comes through on the radio that the world is ending. In a month. There will be nothing. Joel knows the world isn't going to end, but that doesn't help him stop his little sister Reagan from stocking her bedroom i with a world's-end supply of food. She stocks it with so many emergency supplies that she has to move her bed into Joel's room, precluding his semi-non-existent, but still slightly-stewing love life. All of a sudden, given the apocalyptic news, half the people in Joel and Reagan's sleepy town decide to pack up and take the one last trip they'd always been wanting to take. Joel ends up working hours upon hours a day booking one-way flights; trying to convince people to make better, cheaper choices; and calming his hysterical sister who spends her days either sitting in his office or calling him from the apartment with the latest update from the radio. Joel never turns on his radio at work. Even when his customers ask him to. The ones who don't/can't leave form support groups, counsel each other, start building basement shelters, form a commune of sorts.

As the city becomes emptier, Reagan starts begging Joel to put them on a flight. Everyone else is doing it. Does he want them to just get left behind? Joel knows the world's not going to end. People start to see him as an outsider. They stop trusting him. Reagan doesn't call him as much anymore. She doesn't spend much time at home. Finally, Joel starts playing along with Reagan: stockpiling food with her, helping build the shelter, going to the meetings. He starts mentally preparing for the end of the world. He imagines living underground. He assesses who of the remaining women would be the best mate. He starts stockpiling soap and shampoo, along with the food. The radio broadcasts keep coming, more and more urgent, projecting the same time of doom: three weeks, two weeks, one week, 5 days, 4...." Joel becomes a believer. He fears the end of the world like everyone else. The end of the story brings some kind of non-world ending resolution. Perhaps the people in the town are disappointed by the lack of the end of the world, and the people who had left start coming back and disrupting the balance. Perhaps the world does end (but that seems to obvious and somehow unsatisfying). Perhaps they find out the source of the signal, and it's all a big fluke, but they want to know why someone would do something like that. I don't know where this story should. But I do like the idea of the world ending. And what to do about it.

The three possible forms my story could take:
1. Interview madness. This could be an oral history of Joel and Reagan together, disagreeing with one another, telling the story from different angles at the same time. This could be like that Katrina project that tells many different stories from many different people re: the same event (but that was a bit hard to navigate). It could be a couple who didn't stay in the town telling it like a funny anecdote at the dinner table: "Remember that time when we honestly thought the world was going to end. What were we thinking?? (laugh laugh laugh)"

2. It could also be an interesting hyperlink site with all the different places people decided to travel to and the things they did there. Little stories from their point of view given their life history and why they wanted to go to those particular places. It could be a map fo the world with little stars/dots where different people went and when you scrolled over those places a short summary of the people would pop up and you could click on it for more information. The story of the town would be on the map too. But, this would be a "closed" map, such that you could only have access to certain people's stories after you had read other people's stories. Then things might start fitting together in some brilliant and sneaky way.

3. This could be Joel's autobiography/biography as a graphic novel. It could be made far more gradiose than his life actually is. Like, Joel Flier and the End of the World! The moral could be all about him deciding to believe. It could be some metaphor for religion or self=confidence or something deeply and pungently thematic. His sister will inevitably play a guiding role. Although she seems hysterical, she actually has the right idea. Her light will guide him. Or something like that. I think graphic novels are so haltingly beautiful, but they seem so labor-intensive and daunting. Nevertheless, this idea could possibly be cool.

Thanks for reading, y'all. I'll see you in two weeks.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Technology Resources on Campus

I work on the second floor of Meyer, usually people there are pretty good about helping. We have our own wiki, on the Stanford servers just type in 'mms/wiki' to get there.

We have tutorials for Photoshop, and basic how-tos for programs like Audacity. Or how to import copyrighted clips through Fairmount. We can also help you use things like your AFS space (that free web space every Stanford student has).

Right. Well hope that helps.

Gene's Graphic Novel Recommendations

I think I missed a slide, but maybe not. Please add any titles that I forgot!

Missouri Boy
Usagi Yojimbo
Vampire Loves
Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind
Barefoot Gen
(Captain America)--not REALLY recommended
Journey Mohawk Country
Age of Bronze A Thousand Ships
Lost Colony
Kampung Boy
Stagger Lee
Louis Riel
Nat Turner


The main focus for our final four weeks of class will be on your major projects. Here's how we'll proceed:

1. You'll choose a story or narrative that you want to tell and write up a basic description (2 paragraphs).

2. You'll then suggest three "forms" that you might tell it in (1 paragraph for each form).

Example: I might choose to tell "The Chip In My Head" story, about a guy who has to decide whether he'll allow a computer chip to be placed in his head. Three forms I might tell it in: Graphic Novel format, Hypertext, or as an Oral History as told by the chip.

3. Post your story description and your format explanations to the Blog by midnight, Saturday the 17th.

4. We'll split up into groups of four (below) and people in your group will visit your blog post and offer feedback comments before next week's class.

5. In next week's class (2/20), we'll brainstorm and workshop your story and form ideas as a class. We'll look at everyone's proposal.

6. Students can then choose to collaborate or work individually for the final three weeks of class. Our class meetings will turn into a lab of sorts.

Feedback Groups:

1. Jessica, Jessica, Darren, Lauren
2. Rebecca, Allan, Chris, Carolyn
3. Tessa, Sam, Chade, John

ABC and Watchmen

Man, so many thoughts here.

To start off the discussion on ABC, I found it a well composed story that was ripe with comedic timing. The panels of straight faces are a technique used in comics and graphic novels, and occasionally, TV shows, but never in textual form. Or rather, to me they are more effective in comic form. I’m not sure people really talked enough about the artistry here but the colors, vibrancy; every panel is a work of art. In our culture we are surrounded by comics and bright images, so perhaps we are desensitized. I guess perhaps as a former cartoonist myself I was really impressed by the fight scenes on pages 18 and 19 and the well crafted home of the monkey king. Illustrations always add another level, and I admire it when it is done well. Part of what made Calvin and Hobbes better than anything before it was not only the poignant analysis of life with deeply philosophical and witty commentary. Every panel, particularly the panels where we get to see Calvin’s backyard- they are visually stunning. Its details like that, to me, that move graphic novels and comics towards “higher end” art.

My criticism of the piece is that it’s not long enough for me to call it a graphic novel. The word “novel” I’ve been kicking around for the last few days and I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t give it that label. I think partly because of length but there’s something more. I agree with Jessica in that there is a certain level of depth, a prolonged story arc that is missing here. While I found the story deep and it contained three story arcs, it seemed to me to qualify as a “graphic short story” or perhaps “graphic novella.”

Sam brought up a really interesting point about the different strains of novels and how in graphic mediums they can be more easily pronounced. While I too saw the unification coming in the end, I think that it’s an effective tool to say more than one thing about a character or a situation. Graphic novels in my opinion have really broken new ground with how they are able to depict different narratives and weave them together without jarring or confusing the reader. Frank Miller’s Sin City was renowned for its multiple stories interweaving, and this translated well to film. Two visual forms were able to better convey split narratives than many novels do. Why? While I think some authors can get around it, I think often times in text form it can be jarring or the mechanism can be clumsy to give enough time to different narrators. You almost have to introduce a third narrator or confuse the reader if you ever fused them.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about Watchmen. Watchmen is the only graphic novel winner of the Hugo award, a prestigious science fiction/fantasy award. It’s also a serialized comic book written by the talented Alan Moore. It begs very important questions that Darren began to discuss in an earlier post. Unlike Crumb’s realism, this text relies on a suspension of disbelief but at the same time demands to be taken seriously. You can put yourself in its world of super heroes but the lessons and morals will cut to the reader. In many ways, it is effective in the same way ABC is effective. The difference is the scale and the traditions they draw from. Watchmen was produced by DC comics, one of the biggest comic book companies in the world. It’s considered high art but is a critique or an examination of the “pulp” life of superheroes.

Last comment I got here is about manga and anime. In Japan, both genres are considered high art and pulp stuff. Kids and adults read it. Talented artists and award winning films are produced by the anime industries of Japan. Only recently have several high end anime films received press and recognition: "Spirited Away," for instance, won an Academy Award. Americans continually view animation, both printed and film, as the stuff of kids or somehow unprofound. Yet, in other countries, such a stigma does not exist. Thoughts?

One of my favorite comic sites:

The Perry Bible Fellowship, The Uncanny Valley, ABC, and some shoe-horned in Achewood towards the end

The comic I want to point you towards is the Perry Bible Fellowship. PBF is largely old school; it has no big plans for an infinite canvas It’s just a really funny, all-nonsense comic. The other cool thing is Nicholas Gurewitch’s artistic range. He uses a cast of white spherical-headed people for his more domestic strips, but check out the variety of the following:

Colonel Sweeto

Sun Love

Sgt. Grumbles

Angry Hammer has a very rich middle panel.

Mountain Dad

Punch Bout

I love this stuff, I just wish he was more prolific. Sorry if this isn’t the kind of genre-bending stuff that a graphic novel is, but I really can’t endorse any with comfort. To me, the medium of comics is inherently silly. I mean, holy shit, everyone involved is a cartoon character. I know that graphic novels are trying to reinvent that valence. But I am a blood relative of Maurice Noble, the creator of roadrunner. I feel like the precence of Themes in cartoons would cause him to spin in his grave like so many roadrunner legs. Now, I know that world is animation and this is stills on a page, but I think a lot of the aesthetics are the same. Some of the worst things in the world are the serious comics like Mark Trail or Prince Valiant. Political cartoons are even worse.

Now I know this is all gut-level reaction, perhaps backed up by my ability to somewhat accurately point to the Uncanny Valley to explain my feelings. The Uncanny Valley (I probably won't capitalize it consistently) is a term that describes the phenomenon wherein the emotional resonance of an anthropomorphized character steadily increases as it becomes more lifelike until a certain point, where it plummets. It’s called a valley because it picks up again, but from the graph I’ve seen, only a bunraku puppet is on the ascending side of it. I don’t know what a bunraku puppet is. Context tells me it is extremely lovable, however. The Uncanny Valley is why we like Roadrunner—I hope—and are creeped out by the Final Fantasy CGI movie.

I probably explained that pretty badly. Look it up, if need be.

Now the question is, where does a serious comic strip like Apartment 3-G fall on this spectrum? I feel like anything still and hand-drawn is safely to the left of the sickening Blockbuster dancing baby.

But I thnk the Uncanny Valley pervades all aspects of life; we love the life and fear the lifelike. Certainly, I think any visual medium has to deal with this problem. We talked a little bit last week about how real radio seems, especially on NPR, which Chadé exposed as fake, but still. When you hear the voice of that overexposed movie trailer guy, it means much less than that of a bounty hunter who quit the game because he got beaten in a meth lab. I think even visual, photographic media suffers from an uncanny valley. As much as we like looking at pretty people, particularly Claire Danes, we feel divorced from them by our neck hair and comparative poverty. Also, the most attractive thing about Claire Danes is that a parallel universe version of myself could have a shot with her. This isn’t because other people look fake or whatever, but she just looks much more human than more beautiful people. Her eyes don’t blaze with the fire of unsnuffable stars. It would be foolish and inaccurate to compare the color of her lips to any varietal of wine. She just seems like a nice girl is all.

With respect to graphic novels, I think maybe they come upon the uncanny valley in a different way. A traditional cartoon strip is one short scene, typically in ten or fewer panels. It doesn’t seek to emulate life the way American Splendor does. When we look at the quaint foibles of Marmaduke, we respond to that little nugget of truth about that day’s specific way in which a dog can misbehave. With the added length of a graphic novel, we zero in on what seems false, as the very nature of the medium means that it is trying to recreate reality more accurately simply by exposing us to a larger portion of would-be truth.

As ever, it is entirely possible that in the previous paragraphs, I have failed to excavate truths of the human condition and instead unearthed the horrific mummy of my worldview enclosed within the shroud of my own inadequacies as a communicator and a young man.

Also, the area far to the left of the Uncanny Valley is also problematic. The recently released Charlotte’s Web movie was delayed almost two years. From what I understand, this was because they originally animated a photorealistic, anatomically correct spider.

As it turns out, no one wants to hear Julia Roberts’s voice piped through Shelob. Well, I do, but that probably has to do with Claire Danes. It took two years to craft a spider with the appropriate composite of matronly grace and hairy thorax. So realism isn’t always a defense.

Hmm, I don’t know what happened up there. Onward to American Born Chinese. I had fun with this, although maybe I didn’t quite know how to read it. I find I miss a lot of details in pictures. I certainly tend to read all the text in a panel before looking at the illustration, which intuitively seems backwards, but I can’t help it. I have to read the footnotes before I read the body copy, too. Fluidity matters, I guess. My inability to just focus on one channel always makes me uneasy when I read comics. Anyway, the use of white space in this thing is interesting. Every page is only three fifths filled with pictures. You would feel cheated if this was a straight-up novel. You’d feel like John Steinbeck’s estate was playing you for a fool who buys unnecessarily ornate hardcovers.

I think my favorite thing is the monotony of the laugh track during the Chin-Kee sections. The Ha’s are so evenly spaced. I don’t know, I just like how it points out the unwavering unity of what is supposedly a cacophony of voices. I also enjoyed Chin-Kee’s switching of L and R even in mathematical inequalities and the fact that his suitcases were Chinese takeout containers.

A fantastic timing device that crops up throughout is the single panel of a head-on expressionless face. It does a wonderful job of provoking the reader into a beat of contemplation on the situation the character endures and what’s in his mind. I think if the face had an expression, we would take it at face value, pun originally intended, then immediately regretted but left unchanged. Instead, we look for a facial expression, analyzing everything that could be going through the character’s mind and using that information to try and twist the face into a meaningful mask. Rad stuff.

The structure was pleasant enough, although the realization of how the three parts will converge occurs quite a bit before the actual convergence. As soon as you’re able to juxtapose Danny’s cauliflower-like hair against Jin’s new ‘do, it’s appallingly clear how this will play out, and the pages between my recognition and the book’s reconciliation were spent in an unwelcome anticipation. I’m now wondering why that anticipation is unwelcome, and I think it has something to do with the question of tense Adam raised within his post. To me, the vast majority of this thing is in present tense. Jin’s early childhood and the legend of the monkey king are narrated in the past, but I think the kneticic qualities of colorful drawings with a big yellow “ZZZT!” where appropriate offset any tense indicators in the narration. (An uninteresting aside is that British comics seem to eschew some of the more onomatpoeic tendencies of their American counterparts. Thus in The Dandy, it is not uncommon to see “Scream!” inside a speech bubble.) The very fact that a story is told in the past tense gives some indication as to how it resolves—namely that the narrator, if an active character, must be in some position to tell it. Devoid of this information, the present tense has a capricious energy that the past doesn’t, and I think it sucks to know what’s going to happen next if you’re in the preset tense. Hmm, that was circular and obvious.

Now then, the question of this medium compared to a novel. This was my first graphic novel. The only cartoon characters that have had emotional resonance for me are those in Achewood. This has been achieved over five years of strips and scads of supplementary blogging, however. Maybe I am just insensitive to the Asian-American experience, but ABC lacked the sort of specificity that 100,000 words worth of novel can provide.

Jin’s kissing of his bud’s girlfriend made a modicum of sense, but not quite enough for me, but then again I’m not crackling with romantic spontanaeity like some.

I don’t know how to tell Jin from any other sudsy-pitted awkward Asian teen. Part of this is that being an awkward teen means he’s unable to literally assert himself in a way that exposes his character traits to a reader. I don’t know if that’s a limitation of Jin, Gene Yang, the medium or what.

This was more negative than positive, which doesn’t mirror my generally favorable feelings towards ABC. It’s just that Jin falls well short of an Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov or a Tom Joad or a John Locke or a Stringer Bell or a Roast Beef Kazenzakis in terms of being rich and compelling.

So, before this week, pretty much all I knew about graphic novels was that Seth Cohen from "the OC" was really into them and wrote one of his own once. But ABC was the perfect introduction, because it was fantastic! From the "four major principles of invulnerability" (invulnerability to drowning was my favorite) to the blinged-out Wei-Chen, I loved everything. I laughed out loud more times than I have reading any other novel (if it is in fact a novel,) except perhaps Naked by David Sedaris.

One of my favorite things about the story was the interweaving of myth, the meeting of the mythological and realistic elements. When the monkey king is revealed and we discover that Wei-Chen is his son, it seems totally natural and perfect. I think this is due in part to the fact that we begin the story with the monkey king. On the very first page we are introduced to the gods, and we know that this story is going to contain elements of the spiritual or supernatural world. Eventually we move into the human world, which is very easy for us to accept. So when the two collide, we don't even have to suspend our disbelief--we are already accustomed to the fact that deities and higher forces are present in the story. Similarly, we are surprised to discover that Danny and Jin are the same person, but we don't find it to be strange or far-fetched at all. Rather, we realize how much sense that makes. And we have the clever details that explain away the discrepancies: how Danny's parents are never visible, so we can't see that they are Asian, how both parents think that Chin-Kee is the other's sister's son, etc.

The use of myth in this story reminded me a little bit of Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. It's not exactly the same, but one of the things I loved so much about JLC when I first read it was the real presence of tradition and spirituality in the everyday lives of the older generation. JLC is told from eight different perspectives--four mothers and four daughters each tell first-person stories. The mothers really live their lives steeped in the mythology and the Chinese culture, which I found to be totally fascinating. I felt like I had been missing out all of my life on this culture which was so driven by myth and tradition. The graphic novel seems like the perfect medium through which to channel this idea that myth is alive in everyday life. It was presented so simply as fact, equal in validity to the world of humans. Humor really drove the presentation of myth as well, like when Jin is in the herbalist's office and the old woman tells him that "it's easy to become anything you long as you're willing to forfeit your soul." Whoah! A little heavy for a nine-year-old. But when it comes back when Jin is in seventh grade, it ensures our belief of his transformation into Danny. There are even visual paralells that help us to be guided through the storylines, like how the cloud that the monkey harnesses as his transport looks strikingly like Jin's broccoli hair. The monkey's story so perfectly pairs with Jin's. It's so satisfying when they both reveal their true forms. The whole thing is just so well done. I totally agree with a lot of things that have been said, like how the pauses are really well represented, and how Jin's feelings are perfectly depicted after he successfully asks his crush out. Anyway, ABC was totally sweet.

Not having any prior knowledge of graphic novels or comics at all, I can't really direct everyone to an awesome webcomic that I know of. My boyfriend recommended one called Cyanide and Happiness, but I think it sucks. I don't know, maybe some other people will think it's really funny. Personally, my favorite that we have looked at is MNFTIU. It's so funny. Thanks, Adam.