Blog Post 8: Symbol, Index, & Icon

Out of the list of works, I found Book from Ground: from point to point by Xu Bing to be the most intriguing. The reason why I consider it intriguing is the fact of how EASY it is to follow the narrative with such a minimalistic style. The whole work is comprised of mostly icons and some symbols.

The story starts with the viewer looking down on earth. Then, being guided by a magnifying glass icon, you zoom down to earth, into the city, into the neighborhood, a tree, and then a bird that is singing. Eventually, the musical note symbols guide you to the ringing alarm clock of the typical snoozer who doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. All of this is communicated utilizing icons to represent people or objects within the world such as but not limited too: 🙂 🙁 😮

However, the communication methods of Xu Bing utilized symbols as well in order to define the icons with more precision. In certain situations, an icon could be interpreted in many different ways. To solve this, Xu Bing used symbols such as: ” ” + – ! ?, in order to define how the main character was feeling or thinking such as this moment within the story:

Another observation of Book from Ground: from point to point is that it does not incorporate index’s whatsoever. However, if it were to use index’s I think it would only clutter the visual style and goal of the work. The whole idea of the work was to use simple icons and symbols, put together, in order to create ideas. the integration of index’s, like photographs, would only clutter the simplistic point of the narrative. It would be less straightforward and more ambiguous as to the meaning of the the imagery.

-Brendan

Blog Post 7: Hypertext and Hypermedia

The two works that appealed to me the most was Cityfish and Found Floppy. Both works are similar styles of storytelling with sightly different methods of presentation. Cityfish by J.R. Carpenter is very linear in its presentation acting as this stream of consciousness, or thoughts, of the main characters experiences in New York, New York. Floppy, by Andy Campbell, is another story about someones thoughts and experiences, however, its presentation is much more non-linear.

In Cityfish, you scroll to the right to reveal the story as you read through it. The visual design is much like a timeline where you are reading about these different landmark moments that Lynne, the protagonist, experiences. Within the timeline there are many photographs, videos, and illustrations that help the viewer understand her perspective. All of these pieces resemble what would be someones POV during a trip. Various close-ups of touristy venues within New York City. Especially with the videos, which can be revealed by clicking on little orange arrows, which really immerse you into Lynne’s perspective within her story. It is easy to follow.

In Found Floppy the story is presented much differently. Once you click on the Floppy image to begin, you are presented with an old Microsoft Windows display where there are some images and Notepad files stored. There is no particular order you need to click/open these files. You essentially open the files at your own direction. The images illustrate blurry parts of the room that the protagonist occupies. This helps set the mood for the story. The story of our protagonist, who seems to remain unnamed, is expressed through the Notepad files which are a jumbled mess of different sentences, paragraphs, and random characters which illustrate the state of mind the protagonist is in. What is incredible about this story is, that despite its nonlinear nature, you are still able to gain a sense of what is happening and the progression of events. Thus, the benefit of this non-linear design gives the reader agency in how they may explore files on a floppy disk they may just happen to find.

-Brendan

Blog Post 6: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

The two different versions of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge really do emphasize the strengths of their respective mediums. The short story boasting the creative use of vocabulary and description to emphasize a feeling and moment in time. The short film boasting the use of visuals, movement, and music to create the same ideas.

The differences between the two adaptions are pretty minimal in respect to most film adaptions of written work. The spirit of the story is carried incredibly well despite some differences. The beginning of the short film is much longer compared to the short story. The buildup to the hanging is drawn out with many long shots to emphasize a foreboding nature to the scene… It emphasizes the dread of the the upcoming event. Whereas in the short story, the main character is already on the plank being prepared to be hung, which throws the reader into the middle of the event drawing them into the story.

Another observation between the two works is the amount of time they each give to different scenes. The short story gives much detail to the backstory of the main character, while the short film summarizes this in the opening shot with a poster. This works, because once we see the main character in his predicament, we connect the two ideas because of the juxtaposition of the elements. This must speak to the power of images VS. the power of words. Some things need more description and emphases in the written form whereas an image can summarize an idea in a couple seconds.

One thing both adaptions do quite similarly is the description of the main checkers’s escape from the soldieries down the stream. Both the short story and the short film visualized this scene wonderfully. The short film used a serious of close-ups timed with a song about living to emphasize the character’s appreciation of life, which matched the short stories description of nature perfectly.

In conclusion, this is one of the best short story adaptions to screen I’ve seen in a great while.

-Brendan

Blog Post 5: Visual Narrative 2

The story is about your everyday swimmer who comes across a big scare in the water with a twist at the end. In this photo story, I wanted to transition between two subjects utilizing McCloud’s “Subject- To- Subject” transition method. The purpose of the “Subject- To- Subject transition is to build tension until the very last story beat.

-Brendan

Blog Post 4: Visual Narrative 1

Forever I have always been puzzled as to why some people are drawn to photorealistic approaches in media and some are more attracted to cartoony approaches. What makes one better than the other? Which approach is more powerful? Is one approach more powerful than there other? How does photorealism and cartoons affect story?

After reading the second chapter in Understanding Comics called “The Vocabulary of Comics,” McCloud discuses this question. McCloud emphasizes that the photorealistic approach appeals to the more gritty nature of the world, the more accurate and objective, the beauty of complexity, whereas the cartoon approach acts as a vessel for which we can impersonate. We can pretend to be something that has little definition. The more you define something, the more alien or familiar it becomes to you because of the specification. However with cartoons, the definition is held to a simple stage so that anyone may see themselves as that “character.” “The cartoon is a VACUUM into which our IDENTITY and AWARENESS are PULLED… …an EMPTY SHELL that we inhabit which ENABLES us to travel in another realm. We don’t just OBSERVE the cartoon, we BECOME it!” (McCloud pg. 36).

Moreover, when thinking about storytelling, these principles are important to keep in mind when presenting your tale. Depending on the story’s meaning and goal in moving people to feel something about the subject, characters, and concepts you wish to tell, it is imperative that the storyteller picks the right approach of photorealism/cartoons to visualize their story. The choice may have dramatic affects on the audiences perception of your story.

-Brendan

Blog Post 3: Typographic Storytelling

Out of the reading materials provided, Jennifer Egan’s Great Rock and Roll Pauses struck the biggest cord with me. Egan’s writing style really puts you within the world that the character reside in, especially with her descriptions of the peaceful desert nights, you almost felt like you were there. Although, what surprised me the most was the non-linear storytelling technique Egan utilized within some of the slides, despite the fact the story was very linear in it’s over-all presentation.

The first two images are great example of this non-linear technique the Egan utilizes. You are given an assortment of shapes with different thoughts and descriptions from the characters within the story. Instead of precisely telling you which detail comes first, Egan lets the reader choose what to read first much like the “choose-your-own-adventure” game genre.

Egan sometimes gives subtle hints on how to read things such as the tiny red arrows in the first image, but in the second image, Egan gives you full reign on where to start. It gives the reader agency letting them explore things based on what stands out to them. Like coming into a strange house for the first time and taking in your surroundings. Your’ eyes take you to different places within that environment in no particular linear way, unless you’re guided to in some way.

However, this non-linear storytelling is definitely balanced out by linear slides as well that clearly guide the reader through conversation/detail such as the third image. It seems that Egan carefully chose different techniques of presentation based on what the story could benefit the most from.

Blog Post 2: Non-Aristotelian Stories

After watching the series of short films, the two films that impacted me the most was Small Deaths by Lynne Ramsay and 160 Characters, by Victoria Mapplebeck. These short films definitely do not follow the typical Aristotelian structure of storytelling, but after some thought, I think there may be more parallels then meets the eye.

In Small Deaths we get three different scenes where the protagonist experiences different moments in her life, however the common thread seems to be the protagonists experience with horrible boys/men. Moreover, as we progress through these scenes we see a change in character in our protagonist. A loss of “innocence” like Will said in his lecture. The moment we see this shift is when the Protagonist witnesses the dying cow.

I can almost see this as a “reversal/recognition” for the character in the classic Aristotelean way in that before the protagonist’s life was beautiful and peaceful, but afterward it became much more dark, and subsequently her attitude toward life as well. The protagonists outlook on life was much more distrusting after seeing the dead cow (i.e. the boys destruction of something peaceful), despite having hints of innocence left later on.

The plot in Small Deaths was very “episodic” in nature as well in that it had a common arch throughout the film, but was minimized and repeated in each of scene.

160 Characters is definitely less like a classic Aristotelean story in that it seems to ramble on and on without any specific plot points… The only plot points that one may point too, could be the moment Victoria discovers she’s pregnant, which does change her life considerably, and the moment when J says he’s moving to Spain, which actually may act as a reversal/recognition in the story.

The reason that it may be a reversal/recognition is that before J says he’s moving to Spain, after learning he is the father of their son Jim, Victoria is constantly open to having J come into their lives. However, once J decides to move to Spain, despite knowing without a doubt he is the father, Victoria seems to have a change in attitude in that she becomes completely focused on Jim, and moves on without J.

I am wondering if there is common structure, all stories need to employ, to communicate the concepts their makers wish to share. Whether they take a western or eastern approach, each method still depends on common storytelling structure to illustrate the human experience. That is, the need for a character to have an arch.

-Brendan

 

Blog Post 1: Fargo Analysis according to Aristotle’s Poetics

Fargo can certainly be understood as an Aristotelean tragedy, but also as a comedy, in its characteristics.

Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; (Aristotle VI).

Fargo certainly falls within the “tragic” category with its serious subject material. However, for the most part, the character’s tend to be of a “lower type” which is stated be Aristotle as a comedic characteristic as follows:

Comedy is, as we have said, an imitation of character of a lower type (Aristotle V).

With this established we can analyze the structure of Fargo.

Beginning: Jerry makes a deal with the crooks. Jerry needs the crooks to kidnap his wife so they can earn a ransom off of her, which they will split amongst themselves. The crooks need a little dough, and Jerry needs to pay off his debt. What could go wrong?

Plot Point 1/Inciting Incident: After kidnapping Jerry’s wife as planned, the crooks kill a state trooper and a couple of citizens, which wasn’t part of the plan. This puts Marge the police officer on the hunt.

Plot Point 2/Reversal: With Marge close on his tale, Jerry tries to complete his deal with the crooks by giving them money from Wade. However, Wade takes matters into his own hands, and meets the crooks himself. Wade gets killed because of this, which changes everything for Jerry. Jerry’s whole plan has been ruined.

Resolution: Consequently, because of the constant mistakes from Jerry and the crooks, they are eventually sniffed out by Marge, and her deputies, and they bring justice to the guilty parties who left a trail of destruction in their path.

Now, on to how the plot influenced characters. There is only one character I really want to talk about, and that is Jerry Lundegaard. I don’t think he is the best protagonist.

A perfect tragedy should, as we have seen, be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. it should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and fear. (Aristotle XIII).

I never felt pity or fear for Jerry Lundegaard throughout the plot. One may argue you are never meant to feel for Jerry, but perhaps for all the people who were affected by his horrible mistakes. Aristotle says as follows:

for pity is aroused by unmerited misfortune, fear by the misfortune of a man like ourselves. (Aristotle XIII).

I never pitied Jerry because he suffered from unmerited misfortune, or feared to become him because he was like myself. He was just very stupid and selfish. I never could relate to him.

I feel that Scorsese shapes these flawed characters better because he crafts the story so that you can actually understand and relate why a character may go down a dark path. For instance. Henry Hill in Goodfellas. Henry was beaten by his father frequently, for his lack of judgment, he was never truly loved by his father figure. So, Henry found it somewhere else. Henry happened to find this in the New York Mob where they welcomed him like family. They supported him. I felt pity for Henry because of the father he was given. This gives depth to Henry Hill as a character. I felt this was missing from Jerry. Jerry felt very two dimensional.

-Brendan