Category Archives: General

I’ve moved

Hello, all — or the few who come and visit every so often. I’ve moved from this free WordPress blog to the blog on my own site, Storytrade. That’s where you can find me these days, mostly ruminating about the doctoral work I’m doing. So, if you’re still interested, head on over, and I hope to see you there. 


Seduction of the Innocent – fast and loose with facts and data?

I was introduced to Frederic Wertham‘s book sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, on a late night interview show Bob Costas had. That night I stayed up to watch him talk to William Gaines, the (benevolent) dictator of MAD Magazine, a rag I loved while growing up, and for which I’d like to write someday.

Voodah & Jano

Voodah & Jano (Photo credit: Felix_Nine)

Costas asked Gaines about his testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency in 1954, hearings that were called in direct response to Wertham’s scathing accusations against comics, and particularly horror and true crime comics like Gaines’ EC used to publish. The very reason MAD is a “magazine” and not a comic book was to get it out of the clutches of the Comics Code Authority, a ratings code adopted after the hearings by most comics publishers and still followed by a handful of publishers as late as 2011.

Well. Turns out that Wertham’s data, portions of which have been considered questionable for a while, have significant problems. Carol Tilley, Assistant Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has gone through a portion of the documentation Wertham used in composing Seduction, initially looking for letters from angry librarians complaining about comics, and found very few. As Tilley took notes back to her hotel from examining Wertham’s files at the Library of Congress, she found instead more and more inconsistencies. And to make sure she wasn’t making errors in her note-taking, she photocopied parts of files to be sure.

The news article on her findings is definitely worth a read, and her findings themselves in Information and Culture: A Journal of History are absolutely riveting.

I find this turn of events fascinating, especially in light of how, after a long series of recent gun tragedies in the US, video games are again being scrutinized and demonized as instigators of violent and anti-social behavior not just in children, but now adults as well.


University of Tennessee School of Art offers new MFA concentration

This? This is incredibly exciting. I think I may get in touch with them and ask some closer questions about curriculum….

Art@UT

transmedia

The School of Art announces a new three-year MFA concentration designed to support discovery, research and creative activity between graphic design and time-based media. Transmedia Design merges the former Graphic Design and 4D area masters concentrations into a new graduate curriculum. Combining faculty from both areas, it will begin its inaugural year with the Fall 2013 semester. “This program will compliment our other MFA concentrations already offered in Painting and Drawing, Printmaking, Sculpture and Ceramics,” says David Wilson, School of Art Associate Director and Graduate Program Director.

Within Transmedia Design, the faculty foresee work being produced on a variety of levels including: interaction design, design strategy, video, film, performance, gaming, identity and branding, sound art, information design and motion. “The fields of both design and time-based media have changed considerably over the past several years. We see this merger as an opportunity to expand in a manner that does not…

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I should be writing a paper (or, a BA in Advanced Storytelling)

So, I had an awesome meeting on Monday with one of my instructors. –I say instructor because in Australia and the UK, the term “professor” has a very specific meaning and is not a title easily gained. I’ve heard it equated to tenure in US university terms, but I’m not sure I understand the matter either way.

I say this so you understand if I use the wrong term for someone — no slight is intended.

Anyway. I’m angling to add this instructor as a second academic advisor (she comes from a narrative and prose writing background, while my current advisor comes from a music and production background — combining advice from the two would be, in my mind, ideal), and we sat down to have a chat about things in general. We talked about my project, why I have an interest in transmedia, why I have an interest in the story I’m planning to tell.

When I did my undergrad degree, it was at Gallatin, at NYU. A place where you get to create your own major. I called it “multimedia communications” for purposes of resumes, but when I described it to my instructor (I’ll name names eventually), she smiled and said “sounds very transmedia to me.”

To me, story is king. If you’re telling a story, it’ll tell you how it wants to be told. Sometimes you can shoehorn it into something else, but that often doesn’t end well. My thesis play for my MFA is proof of this. That degree I got from Gallatin, I earned it by taking literature courses, photography, film criticism, video art production, and in my spare time learned how to use Photoshop and Quark. –I may have just dated myself with that remark.

I did all of those things because they’re all legitimate ways to tell a story. I saw myself as a bit of a jack of all trades. This hurt me in the job market because not many people look for jacks of all trades. But it prepped me for what I’m aiming to do now. I’ve always had a holistic view of things, that a thing can’t exist independent of the context surrounding it. Everything informs everything else. I saw it when my plays were performed. I see it when I GM a table top RPG, or I play in one.

The philosophy’s there, has been for years — I used to joke that my degree was a BA in Advanced Storytelling. And it feels as if I’ve accidentally ended up in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.


Studies and Resolutions

So, as I think I’ve said before somewhere around here, I’m currently a doctoral student at Queensland University of Technology. It’s not precisely a PhD (in fact, it’s called a Doctorate of Creative Industries).

I have never had to think like this before. It’s a completely new plane of thought. I like it, I do, but it’s exhausting in the same way a new exercise regimen is.

I am also thoroughly unaccustomed to being considered, and treated as, an expert (at least in a professional sense). I’m so constantly on the edge of putting my metaphorical dukes up, ready to defend my position on just about anything, that having a slew of very intelligent, insightful, and supportive people being nice to me and acknowledging the value in what I say is just bewildering.

And it’s a wonderful rush to get questioned not to knock me down, but to actually query my ideas. Mush ’em around a bit. Find new leads, close off old ones, or develop them further. Help other folks bolster theirs, or bring focus, or contrast.

I am just not used to this.

And it’s great.

My only problem, as it always is, is time management. I’m eating better mainly because it keeps the brain-fog sleepies at bay. But sleep deprivation is a beast that can’t be tamed by staying off the sweets.

Again, as I mentioned somewhere in a tweet or Facebook or something, I have learned that blogs are a perfect acceptable, and even encouraged, form of qualitative research. This provides a nifty solution to two things at once: one, I’ll actually write things here on a regular basis. I’ll have to; a lot of the stuff boiling up in my head gets lost in the slew of notebooks I have lying around. (Speaking of which: is Evernote worth it? Reviews and personal anecdotes welcome in the comments.)

Two, I’ll have a chronological breakdown of the thought processes surrounding the research and practice going into making Project 1. I’ll cover just what Project 1 (and the subsequent Project 2) is in a follow-up post.

This said, I have some caveats. Well, I have one for now, reserving the right to add more as I see fit. This place will be a bit of a mess. I am not, by nature, an organized person. You’ll see blather show up in here that may have very little relation to a well-thought out idea. Feel free to skip those; I’ll find a way to tag them, or mark them in the title of the post. But I recommend you actually read them. I expect they’ll be fairly short — I tend to think in bursts of static — and they may have insights that you might find useful, even if the first thing you think of is how strongly you disagree.

Because that’s okay. What matters is that it got you thinking in the first place.


Update from off-shore

That’s a metaphorical off-shore. I’m still here in the antipodes.

For those who know me, you won’t be at all surprised that despite being keenly aware of the work expected of me and the like, I’ve still managed to let school broadside me. I’m just frustrated at myself, really; I’m not completely a grown-up and am probably not capable of it anyway, but I tend to be pretty mature when it really counts.

And this is just soup all over the floor.

It’s a kind of manic, terrified joy, really, like that awful, vertiginous moment before the first drop on a roller coaster. Every nerve fiber is screaming that this is a very bad idea with all the falling and hurtling through space at alarming angles on a loud rickety machine, but this is seriously fun and astonishingly interesting and nothing short of thrilling.

I know I’m not saying anything new. But I hope it helps me somehow to say it.

Anyway, I’m back off to the grindstone or plasma screen or whatever’s the right metaphor now. Keyboard? Mouse? High speed wireless connection?

…Heh. I’ve managed to compare higher education to a loud rickety machine. Heh.


A brief note

Still here in the US. Things are still serious, but we’re fighting it as best we can. These days are looking pretty good, and for that I’m grateful. It’s hard, sometimes, being so far away from home.

Home. Tricky subject! I think of a lot of places as home, simultaneously. I guess it’s a mark of the 21st century that this is a common situation. I’m here at home with family; I left my husband back at home. And home is where many of my friends are, where I spent nearly 14 years of my life.

So. Leaving home for home, but not for a couple of weeks. Once I’m back in the southern hemisphere, I aim to update at least once a week. Might be a bit spotty in May, but pick up by June. That’s the hope, at least.

In the meantime, here’s a four year old photo of the Sydney Opera House I took after catching a Judith Lucy show.

I had to sit on some steps and rest my elbows on my knees to get this shot. I think it was a half-second exposure. This was taken, believe it or not, around nine at night.


Gah. Posts coming in 48 hours.

Yesterday was a bit of a wash, with some home organizing and suddenly falling prey to three million percent humidity and Australian summer heat. I did get my documents to the university, though, so that’s something.

There’ll be more delays because I’ve managed to chip a tooth on a plum pit. I am seriously talented. But I haven’t forgotten! I will get this whole trip blogged! I will!

Just need to see the dentist tomorrow morning, catch up with friends tomorrow evening, and then clone myself for posterity.

Oh. And there’s also some Star Wars online. Because I had so much extra time in my day, right?


Day the Third: Road trip! And a note on expectations.

Indeed, Sunday was a trip to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Bath. I haven’t forgotten the Tower, it’s just I can’t seem to find the time to write everything I want to, upload photos, and post, while still getting a decent amount of sleep and consuming enough analgesic to keep the foot demon at bay.

Brief aside: I am loving the UK. I’ve been wanting to come here for years. High school, really, let’s be honest, which would make that more than twenty years. So the truth is that my husband kindly sent me on a bit of a dream trip.

Like many people, I’ve watched a decent amount of television from the UK. BBC fare that features in blocks on PBS, usually Sunday evenings, plus documentaries by the inimitable Sir David Attenborough, and wonderful fun stuff like Dr Who and Top Gear. Television is not an accurate commentator on any society; everything ends up with hue saturation and contrast jacked up to eleven. Trust me, I spend a good bit of time describing the American middle road to my Australian friends.

So it stood to reason that I’d hyped London and Britain beyond hope in my mind for two whole decades. I was aware of the risk, knew I could have been disappointed with the real thing. But that’s not the case at all. I find myself frustrated and delighted at every turn: frustrated at how little time I have here, and delighted with all the things I experience, big and small.

So: road trip. My hostel has a deal with Golden Tours, offering discounted packages for day trips and other similar things. I picked the Windsor, Stonehenge, Bath combo. I really feel I did get good bang for my pound (I probably should have rephrased that), but the drawback is that there’s too little time in each place. It’s a trade-off, and if you’re on a trip that’s less than a fortnight, it’s a good trade-off to make. If I’d had more days, I would have dedicated more time to each place, and I sure as heck would have gone to Dover. Well, there’s next time, can’t be helped.

Anyway, Windsor first. I had no real expectations; it was a bit of a bonus, getting to see Windsor, as my main target was Stonehenge with Bath a near second.

I’m hopelessly fascinated by medieval fortress architecture. Because I’m American, all these structures pretty much live in the realms of fanstasy and RPGs. Our historical societies feel a surge of pride when they protect a building only a mere two hundred years old (and please note that I fully support the preservation of heritage, regardless of its age). Here, these buildings aren’t just important parcels of national heritage, they were historically used to protect, control, and defend strategic locations. In other words, the grafitti is genuine, miserable last words from a real prisoner looking the gallows in the eye. The pocks in the stone walls are from early cannon. People lived and died in noble and terrible ways on every stone I set foot on. Okay, more or less. But this is no movie set.

Windsor castle

This? I am not messing with it. Look at the parapets and arrow slits. No. No thanks.

Detail on arrow slit

So. What made those pock marks? Pollution? I'm not so sure.

Winding entry for invading forces

That's a long way to walk through the equivalent of a shooting gallery. No thanks. Unless it's a tourist trip, then it's lovely.

Mott and bailey

Lookit! You can see the original mott and bailey in that central tower on a hill. Squee!

So I took as many photos as I could before the bitter wind chased me into the safety and warmth of the State Apartments.

I was shamefully unprepared for this part of the trip. While I respect the royla family, I’m not all that interested in them, and in my mind Windsor Palace is a fancy place where certain people live a privileged life. Seeing how interested I am in the minutiae of everyday life, I should have known better than to dismiss Windsor as “uninteresting.”

Particularly since the first thing that blew me a way were the racks of arms and armor on all the walls. I’m a weapons geek, a fully-fledged twelve year old boy living in thie head of mine. I admit it. I spent a good bit of time gawking, but I wasn’t out of place because everyone else was, too. Granted, these days, swords shileds and wheellocks aren’t the top of the line in national defense, but I’m pretty sure many of these arms were up on the walls when they were the mainstay of a military. It’s as if the monarch was pointedly saying, “This realm is so impressively powerful that we can afford to hang hundreds of blades and firearms as mere decoration. Provoke at your peril.” Which I suppose was the point in the first place.

Now, kingly dining halls. They’re supposed to be big, grand affairs, place that impress the power of the king or queen while still making you feel at least a little welcome. And it did. I can’t remember of the wood paneling went above or below what must have been hand=painted wallpaper, but the walls went up what must be three stories, ending in a finely worked ceiling. And so much light!

The smaller chambers were even cooler because you got to get up closer to things. I particularly liked the queen’s tea room, and the ocatgonal dining room. –Speaking of which: in that dining room I saw a door whose knob was only a third the way up from the floor. It’s not the first time I’ve come across such a low handle — the outside entry to Boots pharmacy in King’s Cross St Pancras Underground Station is just as low. There must be a reason for it.

Is it like the low entry in traditional Japanese tea houses, where you’re forced to humble yourself before entering the space? If that’s the case, then what space does Boots now occupy? What was it before?

I had to rush a bit due to the whirlwindiness of the tour, so I moved more quckly than I would have liked through the remainder of the apartments. I did, however, get a chance to see Queen Mary’s dollhouse, a work of art that still blows me away when I think of it. Sadly, no photos of any interior spaces due to camera restrictions.

Afterwards, it was about another hour to Stonehenge. I tried not to fall asleep; I wanted to see the countryside. Now, I’ve seen it on TV in both American and British shows. I thought maybe it was just a particular region that was this amazingly green and partitioned with ancient hedges.

Turns out I’m wrong. England really does look like this. I have never seen grass this particular shade of green in my life, and I know my camera will not do it justice. Shakespeare meant everything he said about this “emerald isle” very seriously.

Fields

This is not the awesome green that I saw. You'll have to take my word for it.

Because I was so keen on watching the countryside, I was rewarded with two things: I got to see a chalk horse, high on a distant hill. That gave me goosebumps, I readily admit, and immediately brought all kinds of XTC songs into my head (I have that album). I was also rewarded with seeing Stonehenge emerge from behind a shallow hill as we approached.

Stonehenge

We weren't allowed to get close, which made me sad, but I understand the reasoning.

I’d been told it was in the middle of a plain with roads running right by it. I hadn’t really believed it, but sure enough it’s in the middle of a field with a road running right by it and sheep grazing so close they need an electric fence to keep them off the grounds. Not kidding. Also, I have not been as cold as I was on that windswept plain in a very long time. And I was in New York City for almost 14 years before moving to Oz. My fingers went numb working the camera; the wind bot through my layers and into my bones. I thought it was hyperbole but I assure you it is not.

More Stonehenge

I took a slew of pictures of Stonehenge. These are just two of them. You're welcome.

Now, I’m not one to believe in ley lines or druid healing or mystical things of a mean and base nature. My brain just doesn’t work that way (anymore). But there’s something about the stones that disquieting. They’re there, and they shouldn’t be there. What process brought these monoliths here? We still can’t figure it out. I know it’ll be something blindingly elegant and simple — I’ve found that a lot of neolithic solutions to problems we find complcated are like that — but until we hit upon it, these stones sit there and dare you to figure out what they mean.

I recently saw a documentary talking about new theories on Stonehenge, how it was a place where tribes met, a central location where the most important people were buried, where timekeeping and religious observations went on. More than just a calendar or observatory, more than just a temple, more than just a burial ground. I like this theory. It makes sense to me. I’ve found, as I’ve grown up and older, that for the really important things in life there’s no one simple reason for being. It’s a confluence of things, in which the absence or difference of just one of them would have led to a very different outcome. Airliner crashes are like this, too. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what archeologists learn at the site in years to come.

Finally, Bath. I know it a bit better because I dislike Jane Austen. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I dislike Jane Austen because when I was in the sixth grade in a brand new school because we’d just moved, I ended up in an English class led by a woman who was deeply Old Southern in her ways. And I was a filthy newcomer. I could have been a welcome newcomer if I’d played the little political games, the propriety games, done some sucking up and worn a dress once a week, maybe. But I didn’t. And what galled her the most was that I was smart and made good grades despite her best efforts. She once gave me a B for a project on which I did twice as well as my partner, who was one of her favorites, and who got an A.

So what does this have to do with Jane Austen? She was the author assigned to me for a research project. It could have been any author of English literature. And to this teacher’s credit, it was a great way to introduce the class to a lot of authors we wouldn’t have heard about at the age of 12. But I hated her, and she didn’t like me very much, and I held that grudge against Jane Austen, too. Completely unfair, but there it is.

On the way down the hills, I remembered my old enmity and dropped it the moment I saw the city from hillsides. It’s astonishing. Now I know why the city is used in period dramas all the time: the architecture stopped advancing after King George IV. I wish to everything I could have had more time just to walk the city, but our goal was to see the baths that gave the town its name.

I’m accustomed to Roman ruins; I spent ten days in Rome, and ten days in Spain another time. This isn’t to say I’m jaded, but Roman ruins aren’t a first-time thing for me. This said, the facilities around the bath are fantastic and well maintained. I got to see the overflow chamber, where water that doesn’t fit into the bath itself pours off with little puffs of steam. And I started to get a better sense of how the Romans changed society in Britain, and how their withdrawal from imperial lands left not only a power vacuum, but a technology vacuum as well.

Bath, in Bath.

There used to be a roof, a high arch, above the water. It collapsed and was never rebuilt.

I finished off the tour with a glass of the famous water of Bath. It’s quite warm, and very heady when you take a sip. It’s not unpleasant, it’s just unexpected and heavy with minerals. It doesn’t have a metallic or sulfurous taste, which was my worry, but you definitely know you’re drinking mineral water.

Overflow from spring

Britain's only thermal spring. Spits out something like 12 gallons a second. This is the overflow outlet; there was steam rising from the water, but it's hard to make out in the photo. Look at all the minerals making the stonework all oxidized!

As an aside, my foot bgan to heal after that day. I’d touched a stone at Stonehenge, and drank of the waters of Bath. Of course, it would have just been the diligent disinfecting and application of blister plasters I’d been doing for a couple of days, but who knows?


Why I post so rarely here.

I love The Oatmeal. I usually read it when I should be doing other things. Like work, and stuff. This sounds like I’m leading into a post about procrastination — but I’m not. Surprise!

Nope, I’m talking about The Oatmeal because he’s got one of the best explanations about why some things get put off.

See why some e-mails go unanswered. Go on, I’ve set it to open in a new tab/window.You can come right back when you’re done. –Or, you can get lost linking to other really funny stuff and then vaguely remember that you were reading something here a couple of hours ago.

Right. I get all hung up on being professional about things, about making sure I’m polished and well-considered about what I put on here. And that takes time and concentration, which I’m very bad at doing in uninterrupted amounts. So things get put off. And the more things get put off, the more embarrassed I am to start them back up again. Painful cycle, sort of self-perpetuating, really.

And since I still can’t wrap my brain around time management, I’ll just have to let things out in to the ether in a state that I feel is less than polished. I’ll do my best to keep the grammar reasonable and typos to a minimum. But the point of a blog is to share thoughts, and sometimes, too much polishing eats the thought up whole and leaves nothing behind except questions and a bit of doubt. (And there’s another reason I don’t post here as often: I don’t think I’ve got ideas that are worth sharing. Silly, I know.)

Maybe the process of writing a blog more consistently will address these things. Maybe they’re things I need to grow out of.

But in the meantime: “Wow, no, I never got your e-mail! So sorry I didn’t write my blog!”


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