Cape Disappointment

Examining J. R. Carpenter's "The Cape" was actually somewhat painful for me.  This was not because of the content, but because the of the way it was presented.  I'm jealous of how well this author conquered the whole story-of-place thing, and their piece's design was similar to what I would have loved my individual e-lit piece to be, at least on a page-by-page level.  The combination of maps, geological surveys, photographs, simple animation, and monochrome color palette really helped readers get a sense of the place the author was talking about.   One criticism I have, however, is that I don't see the connection between the theme of the story and the character of Cape Cod.  I think of Cape Cod as a very ritzy, exclusive, beautiful vacationing spot for the elite; I don't see the connection to the sense of alienation the narrator seems to feel from his family.  Like, an island or isolated place might have been more appropriate metaphorically.  Maybe I need to read it again, or look into it in a deeper way.  The non-linear, clickable menu aspect of "The Cape" also would not have applied to my piece.     

"With Those We Love Alive" is actually similar to what I managed to create for my individual piece on the surface.  It uses the same platform, Twine, but the story branches a lot more.  I got stuck at the part in the piece where I was exploring the castle/estate thing of the Empress, so I'm really not sure how the rest of the piece functions.  I did like that my option referred to childhood as a "larval state," though.

I already posted my idea for a Thermophiles article title in the shared document, but I will post it here as well (because, honestly, I can't remember where it's supposed to go).  My title idea was "Contextualizing Our First NetProv Experience."  

With Those We Love Alive & The Cape (The Final Post)

With Those We Love Alive (Bhagavad Gita: Better to live on beggar’s bread
with those we love alive, than taste their blood in rich feasts spread, and guiltily survive)

(we see all of these images in the poem to come – beggars surviving in spite of their surroundings, others that have become inhuman, alien by thriving on the blood of those that must die to keep them alive)

Loving the way this starts.. I noticed that the first lines can turn pink (the way forward) – i like them setting you up in a sense…. dont know how to answer the element question ( i picked mud) – this feels very existential and cool in one sense and hokie like a horoscope on the other hand…

cant get a handle on the music – ethereal/industrial

So now you’re in some sort of a science fiction type story – seems futuristic at first, the idea of the skull empress and that you have a skill that is identifiable – but the description of the Empress is creepy and seems like a more primitive world – like a creature, not a person (picking plant matter off her skull?)… now we get into psionics – sending messages through thought/brain waves – this is definitely sci-fi – and creepy.  I wish there were more options for things to do – every time it says “wait” or “leave”, i wish there was an alternative to that choice

Ha – now we have options – they dont take you far, but point to an odd world – with things not of this world (leafbone? even glass flowers on iron stalks seems odd)….

I did the meditations – holding my breath… the blue background is soothing…

So the words that you click arent always instructions or directions – when i find the chest under my bed and it talks about the estroglyphs and spiroglyphs on my body (neither of which is an actual thing but must be some sort of astral version of glyph pictograms), the actionable word is “precious”.  Why?

This whole thing is set up like the earliest versions of choose your own adventure games (like Dungeons and Dragons) where you get only the tiniest bit of information about the options available to you…

I write that and then I reach the canal where there is far more description that at any other point in the story. Why? Either these realizations are critical to the story or it is simply showing us that you learn about a city from its poorest members; that gods and censurs and smoke and all the trappings of the palace are little compared to what these “urchins” and others are going through.  This contains a startling sentence:


Whoa. Also a kid wearing a fractured skull like an “opera mask” – so something has happened in this world where there were humans, but now there are alternate forms of life – rat kids, “urchins”, dust striders”… the more I click, the more new lines i get – ligabirds, spidercats… I manage to get at least a dozen different images here.

I notice much of this points to a lack of water – there is much dust and mud and the barren hulls of ships… obviously all of this in a dry canal.

More and more disturbing imagery – back to the throne room and we find imagery of a beetle queen and a dead person “swinging their legs” on the balcony.  Does that mean a dead person reanimated? or swinging like he’s been hung?  This is more than just interesting e-lit, it really is a game. It took me a while to figure out that I had to sleep in order to get a message pinned to my door. I made the diadem – and she wears it… interesting options – and strong messages.  Choosing an homage to power, loyalty, or death?  And even more death imagery with the options to wrap the gift in skin or a funeral shroud.   I thought when I got to the end of the ceremony, it was the end of the game. Not so…  The letter from my people elicits anger and/or longing? Then perhaps I am here of my own free will?  Trying to make a pilgrimage of some sort?

Music and colors change when the empress is “hunting humans”.  It feels like we are here now to do something for these people that are getting killed, but its a bit confusing when it talks about “the custom”.  The custom of allowing the empress to hunt humans? To not fight back?  This game is getting long… Already 20 minutes… I made the bow and kept jumping to places I thought I had seen, although the lake says there is a “dead person below the water” which freaked me out a bit. This game is interesting in that it keeps adding just enough to keep you engaged. Interesting that when we see her again, we would get to choose what she looks like – coils, claws, etc….

I feel like I need to break the cycle of whats happening – when the “pink spore” are trying to escape, letting them go seems like the way to do that, but im back in the chambers again. We keep having to reapply hormones.. it seems like courage to me, to stay with the program.  I am feeling that my character is a stranger in a strange land – trying to figure out how to break the chain and understand whats going on. The visitor that is a friend speaks to an experience so horrible that it blocks out all of “real life” – I feel like this could be a link to the idea of losing all your dreams as well.  The failure to save the girl or protect in her in some way is a guilt that seems to block everything. I find it fascinating that the character has to go through an experience that defines an emotion before drawing a sigul on their skin – like you have to go through the metaphorical fire of life and let it burn you before you can understand it. As I am making things for the Empress, I am trying to find things to kill her. I now believe she is keeping me here, it is not my choice.

When the female visitor compliments my dress it is my first hint of gender… perhaps that’s why I couldn’t kill the princess spawn.. was it a motherly instinct?  There is a relationship here but I can’t tell if its sexual, communal, friend, family or what…

Back in the city, the canal is now flooded – another series of very amazing descriptions – about moons rolling across the water, fish with dream tumors, etc, etc.  All this seems to be happening apart and completely separate of what happens at the palace. Is this a commentary on how little politics intersects with real life?

When I let the girl know how much things are bothering me, she gives me the green fluid.  The screen turns blue/green and gives way to happier music.  This is definitely some kind of hallucinogen or drug that helps you escape life..  Wait.  I am talking to a “dead friend”? Is that a metaphor?  The music still seems happy and positive – is this a good thing? I think the idea here is that we are getting a better appreciation of life in whatever forms visits itself upon us.

Ok – so now it appears this is an assassination plot? This is pretty wild – seems like the plot is more concrete that I had assumed.

When the assassin fails and is called a “witch” we realize the truth of who we are – and the fact that nature now serves the bug queen and can be conquered (or must be conquered to escape) is fascinating.. Underscores the ongoing human effort to subdue nature and all its parts. The music is much more exciting here – like a march. This game has gone on nearly an hour, yet it is interesting. The last word in this world is “fight”.  Then we are taken to another world – instantly recognizable as another place.  Rejecting what is dead and dying or what would withhold life from us seems to be the crux of this story. That, and that relationship and memories, can overcome being chained to a particular place or emotion. I should say that I like the way this was structured – the way the scenes were paced and even gave you a chance to catch your breath (by meditating or “sleeping” for example).

The Cape

Because this piece gives you the option of “reading” it in any direction, I am purposefully opting to select the squares that I hit at random. The imagery evokes an old-timey picture postcard type of feel. The use of letters and lines puts every image in the category. The idea of a whistle is a kind of a lonely sound to me.. although it seems like it is the only way a grandfather and grandchild can connect.  Also, on the page where they have the radio clip, it indicates that “turbulent air” is the key difference between a whistle and just blowing air. So you need some sort of turbulence or disturbance to make things interesting. It seems like the girl on the Cape is wishing for some sort of turbulence to make things interesting. The story is so short there is almost nothing to it. I get a lonely feeling from this progression – the lack of people (there are only two), the black and white imagery, the sparseness of the landscapes. Although, saying that, I feel like part of the message here is about how much better the Cape was when it was sparse – when you could be alone enough to go behind a giant rock and practice whistling.  It seems like something that would work best when you are alone on a giant empty beach – not in the midst of a lot of people. The author even mentions how whistling is better in winter when everyone is gone, and the slide shows structures and beach but no people. One slide seems to show the progression of more and more people or signs of life on the Cape as the years pass by. Even the maps themselves move across the screen, giving the sense of progress. (Even if the author would rather things did NOT progress). It seems like a giant homage to the “way things were”, whether it be in grandma or uncle’s time, or even earlier. The slide that points out the Cape in the Holocene period is talking about the way the land was arrayed 10,000 years ago. That’s the good old days! It’s funny – when I went back and looked at the captions for all the images, I was surprised to be reminded that the whole story is about a single visit. The sense I get from it is much more about memories that have been ingrained over a period of years. It is surprising and somewhat moving to me that the memory would be imprinted because of the sparse empty (cold?) beach and this place called Cape Cod. Her memories also go against everything I think of when I think of Cape Cod, which is wealth and privilege, not cold beaches. The kicker is at the end where the author says she doesn’t even have a picture of her grandmother (which means the person by the big boulder near her grandmother’s house is… who?).  So does the memory of whistling, of a sound that exists on the air and is gone, a metaphor for our relatives, especially those that we barely see, that impact our lives in the most random of ways and then are gone again, never to be seen again?  The color choices, particularly the maps and technical language/symbols adds to the impersonal nature of this story and provides an interesting juxtaposition with what should be a fairly personal story, about a child and a relative spending time in Cape Cod.

This is what I think of when I think of Cape Cod….


Thermophiles Title

Also my two cents for a title for Thermophiles in Love is:  Learning to Love your Cell (or you can do it “Learning to Love your Cell(f))