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Visualizing Emerson’s Words

This is the Poetry Art assignment calling for a visual landscape to be applied to the text of a poem to better explain its meaning. It’s a three point assignment.

I’ve been reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Nature as of late, so I decided to pull a quote from there as my de facto “poem.” This is mainly because I had this image in my head to begin with and I was struggling with creating something worthwhile for another poem. Considering the emphasis here is on visuals, not the poem itself,  I hope this is not a problem

.emerson quote pic

I’m a softy for the American romantics, so naturally Emerson’s flowery perusings are my cup of tea. In Nature, he writes “To speak truly, few adult persons can see nature. Most persons do not see the sun. At least they have a very superficial seeing (25). Immediately after reading this passage and my selected passage, I mentally conjured an image of a child stunned and amazed at sunlight while an old man barely notices. I played around with the image a bit and came up with this admittedly somewhat creepy-looking collage.

I absolutely love how the light shines straight through the forehead of the child, but I fought GIMP left and right trying to crop everything around him while keeping the light effects. It was a pain, and it’s still very noticeable. Alas, playing around with color thresholds, blendings, and gradients still left me with some interesting visuals. I particularly love the tired, old eyes representing Emerson’s notion that adults fail to see the true beauty of nature as children do. It really fits beautifully.

I picked the dimensions for the image as I did in the hopes that I could make this a wallpaper for my phone, but initial test-runs have not been flattering. Most people are creeped out by the boy’s face. Oh well! I like it.

 

Stenciling an Illuminated Tapestry

This is the Back to the Basics assignment that calls for a “stenciling” effect to be applied to an image. It is a two star assignment.

darthvader stencil
Luke, I am technically a stencil

Well this was interesting. I’ve always been a fan of this style of art, however one chooses to label it. That likely has something to do with my 12 year old infatuation with Sin City all those years ago (yeah I’m warped, I know). I’m not sure I like “stencil” as the description of the style however, at least as far as the example images for the assignment as concerned. I certainly get it and have no other better term for it, but when I think of stencil, I think of something like…

 

That’s a bit different than the example images, though it is absolutely in the same vein. Most of the examples are more of a stylized, comic book-like black and white color scheme. Sure enough, when I was playing around with GIMP, their “stencil” visual option hardly affected the image, leaving a rather clean-looking greyscaled image, but nothing in the way of a stenciled look. After playing around with color thresholds and inversions however, I finally found a look that I liked.

IMG_1138
I started here…
Tapestry stencil look
…and ended here

My original image was simply the tapestry, but once I realized the effect I was getting with my filters, I quickly realized the street sign would look awesome. Basically everything light surrounded by dark gives the effect here, and balance is extremely important in creating a coherent image. As is visible here, the lamp behind the tapestry, clearly visible in the original image, is merely an indistinguishable mess of white in the middle of the image. There’s just enough going on around it that I don’t think it ruins anything, but the comparison is greatly noticeable.

Week Two: A Summary

An absolutely crazy week for me, I didn’t have nearly enough time to do the work I wanted, but I’m all geared up to be right there starting next week. I had fun reading through more examples of noir. In particular, I was thrilled to read through Robert Towne’s Chinatown screenplay. I’ve heard for some time that its a “perfect” screenplay, and it’s always been one of my favorite films, so I’m glad I finally knocked that one off the list. I have to be honest though, while it’s certainly a sound work, I’m more drawn to Polanksi’s direction and style than the core of the plot. Also, you can never beat actually seeing Jack Nicholson with a huge splint on his nose.

Anyway, in other news, I’m still working on getting this blog site to look how I want it. I don’t want anything too flashy, just something clean, professional, and accessible. I’ve done a few of these now, so I’m trying to stay away from using the same themes and layouts. I want to think a little bit more out of the box.

I particularly enjoyed the writing assignments this week. I was able to work with a number of topics and things that have been on my plate quite often recently, so that was enjoyable. I’m always pumped when I get a chance to do some video game reviewing, so that particular assignment was probably my favorite. I also love that I turned back to There Will Be Blood for my alternative ending assignment. I’ve always thought that film begged for just something a little different there at its conclusion. I definitely jumped off of the wall a bit with where I took it, but it was a ton of fun to write.

Tilly Warnock: Words of Wisdom

I took the excellent Writing Process class with Dr. Rigsby a number of semesters ago and have carried this quote from Tilly Warnock with me since leaving:

“I learned to respect the potentialities and probabilities of revision, as I learned to respect the fallacy of hindsight, the truths we create with hindsight, the patterns we change by turning the kaleidoscope, the potential distortion of historical facts and horrors.”

I enjoy this notion of “rewriting” my life or, more understandably, taking a different perspective on past events. Often times, especially in our youth, we are driven into modes of understanding that we don’t even think to control. The events and people around us force our perspectives on our lives in one way or another. In reality, with personal exploration and insight, we can take a reappraisal of the situations of our past lives, re-invent them based on who we have become in relation to who we were then. We tend to take emotional, enduring snapshots during our times of crisis in life and have trouble letting them go.

Louis C.K tells a joke of an openly gay professor he knew in college. While reminiscing about him with an old friend, Louis remarks the professor “would always try to have sex with me.” His friend, stunned, replies “really? Like he physically tried?” Louis replies “No, you know, he would just…always try to have sex with me.”  Confused, the friend replied “Well, what do you mean? How so?” While thinking about it more, Louis realized he was unsure. After continuing their conversation, Louis came to the realization that the crux of the story was simply “I once knew a gay man,” with nothing really ever coming from it. His younger, more naïve self was unable to understand the situation and he hadn’t reflected and reevaluated back on the topic since that time period. He highlights this example as a way we retain narratives in our lives that can be rewritten with time. As a kid, Louis had a naïve view of homosexuality and was likely uncomfortable with it. Without having to confront that particular situation with that man in his life again, he never experienced a personal reappraisal of the situation using his newfound experience and intelligence. Somewhere in the back of his mind, the notion that that man acted that way stayed dormant in his mind. Humorous, yes, but I also think it highlights a decent point of conversation.

A Bloody Aftermath: An Alternative Ending

This is alternative/re-envisioned conclusion to P.T. Anderson’s 2007 masterpiece film There Will Be Blood. Notorious for its shocking, abrupt finale, I wanted to extend it further and see what happens after the bloody scene in the bowling alley.

 

“We’re gonna ask you some questions now, H.W, ok?” says an older, hefty police officer, breathing heavily with overwrought concern.

H.W Plainview was pulled away from his family by two officers at the train station for reasons he couldn’t hear. Still furious at his father, he couldn’t imagine any other force in the world that would bring him here. He had been so close to getting away for good.

Bastard in a basket, he thought.

The words had reverberated through his head since storming away from his father’s house. He had told the grizzled drunkard with the oily-black soul that he was glad he had none of him in his blood. He thought this, knew this. But he didn’t feel it. For he was too an oil man. But a good oil man. Right?

That makes you my competitor

H.W had to leave, to finally begin a new life with Mary away from his father, away from the rock-strewn, barren Californian oil plains. No bread. Not for the average people, anyway. Just potatoes. The terrain can’t support the grain. Of course, H.W was never poor; but when he was a boy, he wanted to be.

 

“Uh, H.W? You there, friend?”

H.W stares blankly at the hefty officer from across a large, thick wooden table underneath a hanging lamp that glares in his eyes. He could see another tall, lanky officer in conversation through a window on the door to the room. The officer across from him had been motioning at him with his mouth and hands for a minute or two, but he was too tired and upset to try to explain why he couldn’t answer.

The lanky officer glances away from his conversation for a beat, looks through the window, and immediately opens the door and leans halfway in.

“Hey hold up a sec, Tom. We’re still waitin’ on the signer.”

“The what, now?”

The lanky officer nervously glances at H.W and then back at Tom, who’s looking around and squinting in confusion.

Hesitantly, under his breathe, he mutters “The man’s deaf, sir, I… thought I told you.”

“Then why the fuck’re you whisperin’ to me?”

At just that moment, a stocky, roundish man with a brown suit and square glasses pushes past the officer and bursts through the doorway.

“H.W, my God,” says the man, flicking his fingers quickly in his direction

Turning to Tom, “My name is George Callis, I’m H.W’s therapist and translator. Just what in the hell are we doing here?”

“Let me get this straight,” Tom says with dry confusion, “I talk to you,” pointing at George, “and you-ah, I see.”

“Well at least you’re the one who has to tell him, then.”

“Tell him what, exactly?” says George, concerned.

H.W, growing agitated and confused at the empty speech around him, blurts in an off-tongue “Whas gong on!?” resoundingly pounding his fist against the table. He only spoke when necessary, aware of the oddity of his voice.

All three men look over at H.W, his eyes nervously twitching and scanning back and forth between them.

Tom sighs and uneasily looks at the papers in front of him on the table.

“Ya ready to be the bearer of the bad news, Georgie?”

George solemnly nods in return.

“Look, H.W, we ran ya down on your way outta town because we got some bad news and we need your help.”

George flicks signs at H.W, who watches intently with concern.

He finishes signing and H.W immediately signs back. George quickly shakes his head and continues exchanging signs.

“Hey, Hey- what’re you two saying there?” Tom chimes in.

“He asked if you had taken Mary to the station,” said George, turning back to sign H.W.

Glancing back momentarily, “Mary’s his wife.”

“That’s…Mary Sunday is it?”

George, still communicating with H.W, turns back, “What? Yes, Yes. Mary Sunday.”

Christ, Tom thinks to himself, shaking his head a bit.

George and H.W continue to sign intently while Tom sits, staring idly into the distance, incessantly tapping his shoe against the leg of the table next to him.

Tension boils in Tom’s stomach as he watches the silent fingers flick about the room, dancing in impossible conversation. The ceiling lamp sways back and forth in off-patterns, creaking slightly at each pendulum-like sway through the middle of the table.

“Alright, damn it, I’m just gonna go ahead and say it, Georgie, so get your damn magic hands ready to woof these words to our poor friend here.”

Both George and H.W abandon their talk and look up at Tom.

“H.W, your father, Daniel Plainview, murdered a priest, Eli Sunday, in his home this mornin’ after you left. His butler found the bloody scene and called the police. Once Daniel learned this he killed the butler too. We found him bloodied and pissed drunk in his bowling alley.”

George’s eyes widen as he stares back at Tom.

H.W looks around the room in confusion and starts tapping George on the shoulder to get his attention. For a beat, George pretended not to notice.

“Well, George? I got more to say, so you wanna drop this first bomb or not?”

H.W confusedly darts his attention between the two men.

“Goege!”

George finally drags his eyes over to H.W and begins slowly, methodically signing him the news.

H.W’s face immediately goes pale and rigid, clenching every muscle in his body.

A monster. A devil. How could he do this? How could my father kill a priest? A friend? Why? Oh Mary…

“So did he get all that?” asks Tom

George studies H.W’s blank, pale expression, squinting his brow, analyzing his reaction.

“Yes, I believe he did.”

“How?” chimed H.W. The words blurt from his mouth, almost out of his control.

“Uh, how what, son?”

Keeping a blank face and without turning to George, he errantly offers a clarifying message with a flick of his hands.

George twitches his head to the side upon interpreting the message, squinting in concerned confusion. Without breaking his stare at the wall, H.W slowly closed his eyes and nodded his head, confirming.

“Umm,” George’s voice quivered with hesitancy. “How did Daniel do it?”

“What, now? That’s your first question?” Tom scoffed, shaking his head at George.

“It’s not my question, officer.”

Tom takes a deep breath and exhales, his body creaking like weary, old gears.

“Well, fine, I spose’, but it ain’t pretty.”

“Just tell me so we can move on.”

“Fair enough. I’ll just say it, and you’ll know I ain’t lyin’.”

He breathes through his nose a couple of times, looking about the room, preparing himself.

“He used a damn bowlin’ pin.”

“What?”

“We found him passed out in his bowlin’ alley surrounded by two bodies and empty liquor bottles. This was in his hand.”

Tom reaches under the table and pulls up a clear bag soaked in blood from the inside. Sure enough, sloshing within is a once-pearly white bowling pin, tattered not just with blood, but dark chunks of flesh.

“Jesus!” says George, turning away. “How is that even…possible?”

H.W’s expression doesn’t shift a beat as he stares at the bag, shaking his head. No sign needed to explain this.

The work of a madman. The work of my father. He doesn’t deserve to breathe.

“Alright, well believe it or not, we got bigger things to do here than to stare at bloody pins” replied Tom, attempting to steer the conversation.

Silence. Still in shock at the impossible murder weapon.

Waiting a beat, Tom starts to lose his patience.

“Alright, fuck the pin, boys. George, I need H.W to speak to Daniel. He was the last person to see him before the murders. Daniel’s barely said a word to us since he’s started to sober up. A man of his wealth and importance to the town, the state…we gotta know a motive. We gotta get something out of him.”

“I don’t know if-”

“Just ask him, Georgie.”

H.W had kept his eyes gazed on the dark, red bowling pin. It had dents on its base. Glossed wood against skin and bone. The wood wins in his father’s hands.

I should’ve ended him. Long ago. If only I’d known he wasn’t my own. In his stupid, drunken sleep, I could have killed off the fiend. It should be his blood on this pin, his cracked flesh and bone.

George repeatedly taps H.W on the shoulder, trying to break his trance.

“H.W, come on, look at me.”

“He’s deaf, ya know,” barks Tom, chuckling to himself.

H.W finally breaks his hellish gaze and turns towards George, who immediately signs to him.

Without hesitation, H.W responds “Yes,” nodding with a darkness in his eyes.

“Alone.”

 

 

The men had left H.W alone in the room with a pad of paper and a pen, the bloodied bowling pin hidden under the table next to him. A knock on the door, and it swings open. In walks Daniel Plainview looking like hell, cuffed, still stinking of booze in his bloody, grey cardigan. Without making eye contact, he nudges the door shut behind him then slowly saunters over to the seat across from H.W, plopping down with an airy grunt. He looks across the table and sees the pad of paper, still avoiding H.W’s eyes.

“Heh. I was curious what we would do without your dog here to bark for you,” finally looking up at H.W as he finishes the sentence. His voice sounds hoarse and dry.

H.W scribbles on the pad and slides it across the table.

“Well, let’s see what you have to say there, son,” heckles Daniel.

Is this yours?

As Daniel reads, H.W opens the bag next to him, pulls out the bloodied bowling pin and sets it on the table with an emphatic thump.

Daniel looks at the pin, expressionless, and then back at H.W, studying his dark, hollow-looking eyes.

“I’ve never seen you so calm around me, boy.”

H.W glares into the eyes of the paternal monster; eyes for so long he believed he shared.

I thank God I have none of you in me.

But was it true? Or something he wished for, convinced himself of?

 

H.W, eyes trained on Daniel, grabs the pin and quickly stands up, clenching it tightly in his right hand, causing the still-fresh blood to drip down his wrist.

Daniel’s face hardens, lowering his gaze like a preying wolf.

An oily, grizzled exhale;

“Do it, boy.”

The Last of Us: Collective Gold

Prior to our newest generation of video game consoles, I had been a fairly avid gamer leaning entirely to the Xbox side of things. Unlike today’s console market, previous consoles differed little in performance and features. The real gold was in the exclusives. Xbox had the big boppers; Halo, Gears of War, Mass Effect. Playstation had some winners like Uncharted, and Metal Gear Solid, but they never consistently matched Microsoft’s consistently stellar lineup. In the days of 360 versus PS3, I was almost entirely happy with Microsoft’s exclusives. Sure, LittleBig Planet looked cool, Killzone’s graphics popped, but almost the entire console cycle never made me once think about buying a PS3. Then in 2013, the tail end of the consoles life span, developer Naughty Dog released the post-apocalyptic tour de force, The Last of Us. From the developers of the acclaimed Uncharted series, The Last of Us was a fairly anticipated title, but no one was entirely prepared for what was coming. Buzz began after traditionally fickle review websites such as IGN distinguished the game with an almost-never-used perfect score of ten out of ten. It was quickly deemed a masterpiece and a classic, and I was quickly incensed I could not play it. Skipping ahead here a bit, I eventually bought a PS4 for its specs and Sony eventually released a beautiful, 60 FPS remastered version of the game the next year. Everything lined up, and I had my game.

Anyway, I’ve worked a lot with this game recently so I thought share a bit of background with that one. On to a more review-like structure.

 

Gameplay: 9.5/10

The “survival” game is an oft-confused label in the video game world. Horror? Action? What is it? Resident Evil 4 really confused everyone. It felt survival-like in scrounging for supplies, felt action-like with explosions and guns, and certainly horror-like with its heart-thumping moments of feeling chased. It was called a survival-horror game, and since then the genre label has been all over the place. As far as I’m concerned, Naughty Dog nailed the balance, using its fright and violence elements strategically as means for survival. Especially in the game’s “grounded mode” in which Joel lacks his superhuman ability to see enemies through walls, gameplay is outrageously taught and suspenseful. Supplies are scarce and can be cruelly fickle. Crafting a moltov cocktail might be helpful, but the rags you used to make it won’t be around when you need a first-aid kit. Is it worth it? These sorts of survival gameplay systems make choices have more impact and make individual playthroughs more unique. Combined with sound third-person shooting and stealth mechanics, and we have among the smoothest-playing games of its design. The only real mechanical knock is on the ever-thorny third-person cover system. This is a game where you absolutely need to stay hidden at times. While the auto-cover system against walls and other surfaces is responsive, there are undoubtedly awkward moments that break the experience and leave players helplessly exposed. In the more advanced difficulties of this game, just a moment of accidental exposure can spell doom.

This excerpt from an essay I wrote on the game  nicely sums up why its gameplay feels so personal and visceral:

For much of the first half of the game, The Last of Us’ Ellie (the boy’s counterpart) is entirely defenseless, leaving Joel (the man) to defend her. Up until a certain point, players are exclusively in control of the highly-capable, world-weary Joel. That is, until Joel is injured and the game unexpectedly drops the player in a hostile environment as Ellie. Though she has a small pocketknife, as players, we feel completely vulnerable and helpless in this situation. Ellie has to try and escape from a mall that is swarming with violent drifters. The game initially guides the player through a hallway where Ellie creeps up behind an armed enemy. There are no expectations here for players. Can she kill him? Will he kill her? Can she sneak past him? The choice is up to the player, though the most effective option is indeed to stealthily take the man out. As Joel, players are familiar with a simple button combination that stealth-kills enemies from behind, but there is no guidance or guarantee as Ellie. Will it work, or will I die? Choosing to kill the man has Ellie jumping on the man’s back and struggling with him before repeatedly stabbing him in the chest and falling to the ground covered in blood and tears. The man gurgles at the mouth, blood runs down his chest, Ellie’s clothes become temporarily blood-stained. I believe that this sort of medium-specific moment where the player acts out harrowing actions is more effective at detailing “the boy’s” awareness of the sadistic world around him, moments where the game is truer to the source than the source material itself.

 

Plot: 10/10

The game’s narrative details the story of the world-weary Joel and his young companion, Ellie, as they trek across a post-apocalyptic United States. Joel’s teenage daughter died during the outbreak of a virus that caused a zombie infestation. Many years later he is paired with Ellie, a fourteen year old girl who was bitten by an infected but found she was immune to the virus, making her the last hope for humanity.

Cormac McCarthy is among my favorite authors, and his 2006 novel The Road, was my introduction into his work. I mention it because of the striking similarities between The Last of Us and McCarthy’s novel. In fact, for a class last semester, ENGL Adaptation, I wrote a paper and complied a comparative digital map on the nature of the film adaptation of The Road and its “faithfulness” to the source material in comparison to the Last of Us. Ultimately I argue that though the film is more literally faithful in terms of plot elements, in many ways, The Last of Us is more spiritually, thematically “faithful” to the novel’s original concepts.

No game in current existence comes anywhere close to cultivating more realistic and believable characters. The scripting, voice acting (and motion capture), and character growth are unsurpassed and mind-blowingly poignant. Traditionally, I feel as though reviewers go somewhat easy on the video game narratives, understanding their limitations and constraints. This is a game that needs to excuses, that is as good of a telling of a tale as one can see anywhere. The emotion drawn from such a powerful story that so directly involves its audience is staggering.

Graphics: 9.5/10

This is a bit of a tricky category considering the nature of the game’s release. Judged by PS3 standards, it is an absolute masterwork. The absurd level of detail in every building, in every poster, in every facial expression is absurd. On PS4 in 60 FPS and 1080p, my experience, the whole thing just looks like butter. It’s a sight to behold. At the same time, however, it also reveals a number of the initial build’s hardware limitations. Everything up close is mind blowing, but those trees over that ridge there look a little pixelated. The motion capture used for the character animations is nearly flawless, save an awkward moment or two. The total package here though, is absolutely nuts. Visual gold.

 

Music: 10/10

I freaking love this soundtrack. The main theme, the gritty, melancholic electric bass notes wrench my heart just a bit every time I hear them. It’s such a beautiful blend of modern, urban, weathered vibes. It fits the game like a glove.

Week One Summary

I’m just now realizing that I combined info for my introduction post and what is ultimately my summary of my first week. My mistake, I’ll keep it clearer in the future!

I was a late addition to the course, so I wasn’t able to jump on board right away, but I’ve had plenty of time to set up all of my social networking sites and get everything moving. I’m familiar with all of the sites we’re required to sign up for, but I’ve really only actively used a Twitter and Facebook account in the past. It’s been both interesting and somewhat frustrating setting up accounts for so many sites at once. Soundcloud in particular I have very little experience with, and I’ve already had some fun finding music on there that I didn’t know existed. For as much as I love to listen and play music, I’m often a bit stubborn when it comes to new material. It’s nice to find some new stuff.

As for the noir side of things, I talked a little bit in my intro post about my previous exposure to the genre in my intro to film studies class from a few years back. I’m also a huge film buff, so while it isn’t necessarily my style of choice, I’ve seen my fair share of noir films purely for enjoyment. In particular I briefly mentioned a somewhat modernist take on the style in Alan Parker’s 1987 film Angel Heart. I rewatched it just a few weeks ago, oddly enough. Though not filmed in the recognizable black and white staple of 40s/50s noir films, Parker is undeniably influenced by the genre, featuring heavy shadow play and a hard-boiled detective drama. I think it’s something of an underrated classic. It’s a visually stunning film for 1987, yet received little recognition when it was released, despite featuring Mickey Rourke and Robert DeNiro.

It’s interesting reading the list of noir works on the course hub. I’ve never even thought to analyze some newer films such as Dark Knight as noir, but once I did everything clicked. It’s a genre that has seen a massive bullet spread as over the last forty to fifty years. There are few films that truly harken back to its beginnings, but bits and pieces are visible all over the place.

Anyway, I’m not exactly sure where I’m going with this. I hope I’ve completed everything appropriately for the week, I’ll be right on top of everything now that I’m in the class for good. I’m excited though, all of this work seems right up my alley.

First Post for ds106

hello world

Hello! This might end up something of a test post to make sure everything is coming through alright. I wasn’t sure what to pick for my Soundcloud bit. I’ve really never perused around there too much. I happened to see one of my favorite folk guitarists, Nick Drake, pop up and I listened to a remix of one of his most notable songs, Pink Moon. He’s a folk legend and this remix sounds really damn awesome in different bits.

A little about me: I’m a senior English major/ digital studies minor. I’m a lowly film buff, swearing allegiance to directors from Malick, Coppola, and Scorsese to newer guys like P.T Anderson, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Darron Aronofsky…I could go on. I’m also big into video games, particularly history and theory. I’m into music as well, but much more casually than film or video games. I’ve been playing guitar, singing, and occasionally doing some personal recording for about eight or nine years. Folk rock is where it’s at.

As for noir this week, it was Dr. Barrenchea’s genre of choice when I took his intro to film studies class a number of semesters ago, so I definitely have a background interpreting its distinct visual style. One of the films we watched was actually made in 1987, Alan Parker’s Angel Heart. It’s a cool film that really harkens back to 40s/50s visual style. And you get to watch Robert DeNiro play the devil while Mickey Rourke of all people plays the hard-boiled detective. That’s a win in and of itself.

Anyway, I’m extremely excited to get going here with this class. I’m sure there are many good times ahead.