From Motions Come Emotions…

Motions is a story that is female-oriented, a story that sheds a light on the harsh reality of many women around the world. Motions highlights the topic of human trafficking and contemporary slavery. It begins with sounds in the background, like a train is starting to move. I wondered to myself, does this story focus on the motions of a moving train taking the passenger to an unknown destination? Or is the motions of a changing destination? Of not having a home, or family bound with blood? Or the motions of a racing heartbeat, an anxious and fearful mind? Throughout the story, “ant-world post colonialism” was being explained in the background of the story. However, I accidentally went back in the story instead of forward and I was met with different content; changed content based on my previous reading of the same page. The words were altered; again, the sense of motions. These slaves were forced to work against their will; battered, beaten, bloodied. “It is their country but it is not their country, Bystanders not participants, Serving from sunup to sundown, For a family not their family.” They are held hostage and working for the economy of the country, like London or Melbourne but they are bystanders in their workplace, not participants. Made to be part of a family that treats them worse than an outsider.

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All these women became “only a statistic.” They would get $20,000 for organs, an offer that made them believe that it was better than begging; at least they would be rich enough to buy off starvation. These slaves had the worse choices given: “This deal is the nearest you will ever get to paradise. If you stay here you could starve. Decide today.” What should they decide? Be beaten to death or starve to death? It’s not a question that provides an easy answer. The sense of motion was constantly emphasize with the use of moving images in the story. And this was carried on into a line that I found very powerful, “One thought above all others plagued you…you could have avoided it…That there was no one you could blame: you had brought this upon yourself.” It’s still their fault. They are their own reason for creating a hellish present for themselves. No one is else to blame; only the slaves. And eventually, the mood was changed with an accompaniment of music that had a very Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern. Not something I expected; something I could not make sense of. It wasn’t only women though, and I learned this through a little passage about child football players. Any age; they can be fooled, they can be tricked, they can be taken for a ride. A ride emotionally, a ride on a train. Children or women were constantly being compared to slave ants. Humans being compared to bugs. Who would have thought? It’s not like the slaves didn’t ask for help. They tried to escape, but all they could do was bang on the door. But “the banging was purely rhetorical.” It was just put out there, not meant to be answered, be heard. It was for the slaves to vent out their frustration, their anger at fate. It was rhetorical, not meant to be cared for. So no, don’t worry about it. There was a repetition of lines, but were hard to read against the black background. The black background, as if an abyss; a never-ending abyss where the slaves jumped in and were taken to the unknown. And then, towards the end: “What will the ending be: suicide or escape? When do we start to re-board the beginning?” Nonsensical music, instruments and notes jumbled up. It asked the question: kill yourself or attempt for freedom and maybe be killed by another’s hands? No sense, no easy way out just like the music. Do we start to re-board? Re-board what? The train that started this journey, setting food in London or Melbourne…or life?

Decisions in Motions Leaving Pieces of Herself.

Elit Class Blog 10 7 HW

After experiencing both pieces, I found myself looking for a common thread between the two.  After looking and searching for a while I realized that the common thread between the two pieces, “Motions” and “Pieces of Herself,” is all about looking and the consequences that come with the decisions made during the search.

Many of us spend a fair amount of time looking into what we are and who we are as individuals.  As a result, many of us become, “Slaves to forms.”  That is a decision.  We become slaves to ideas that might help us identify the person we are looking for that supposedly resides within. Again, another decision.

I once spent nine months straight doing nothing but looking for a job and studying Tae Kwon Do.  Two decisions – one forced upon me and the other by my own choice.  Both taught me a great deal.  The lesson I share with all of my students, that I learned in Tae Kwon Do is, “Most Obvious…Hardest To See.”  My three friends and I qualified to enter Olympic competitions back then in 1998.  We trained very hard.  Fighting for our country was a very cool thought.  During one training session, I thought I was going to be the first and only student to ever score a point against the Master (SahBahNim in Korean).  If it had been anyone else from off the street or from the class, I’m certain I would have put my hand right through that person’s head.  That’s how sure I had to be in order to get those points.  Another costly decision.  The points never happened.  Next thing I know I’m lying flat on my back, looking at the ceiling wondering how this happened.  The master looks down at me with a huge smile and says, “Most obvious, hardest to see. HAHA” He stepped over my carcass and doled out the usual beating to my other teammates.

The protagonist, if you will, in each piece, is searching for something.  Perhaps what they were looking for was obvious all along.  Perhaps not.  Motions reveals that sometimes people go looking in the scariest of places. That is usually a bad decision.  I’ve seen some pretty scary places in this world and I know that if you chose to even dip your toes into those places they will drag you to some murky depths where a person will have to “cut open the body of language,” just to survive.

The main focus in Pieces of Herself was here was a person choosing to look introspectively from a perspective of the world around her.  This person does not have to get on a train, as we experience in Motions.  The train sounds were a cool reminder of my childhood.  I can also tell you that the train tracks in my old neighborhood were also a location of despair.  The main character in Pieces doesn’t go to those dark places.

Both of these pieces also gave me the sense of people accepting and dealing with the consequences of one too many false promises.  The idea in Motions, that the main character was promised the moon and the stars and ended up in hell.  While in Pieces of Herself, the main character is perhaps looking for herself because some promise of a normal life was dashed away or diverted in some way.  All victims have one thing in common:  All victims make one bad decision.

Victims also make some very powerful choices as well.  “In the kitchen, looking for the right ingredients,” and “in the office where she fought to keep them all.”  Those are two very powerful quotes from Pieces of Herself.  The metaphors show the longing and searching for answers based on the choices made.  Can you find pieces of oneself in the kitchen?  I would guess that depends on the choices a person made during their life that would determine whether or not looking in the kitchen would be the right choice.  Another powerful choice would be to go to a public place, like the office, where one works, to suddenly and actively begin to look inward.  People who work in corporate cube farms are way too nosey not to take notice when someone is going through a stressful time or unveiling a new part of themselves to the world.  “In the living room imagining she was someone else,” was yet another quote that helped me with my line of thinking.  The main character wants to be something else, but isn’t sure of what that is.  The poor victims defined in Motions wanted to unveil something new as well.  Only it wasn’t exactly what those poor souls were looking for.

The journey inward is about as steep as any mountain climb.  The journey inward is filled with many pitfalls and slippery slopes.  The first thing the journey requires is the choice to begin.  The invitation to make the choice comes in many offers, shapes and sizes.  Good choices only come around once.  Poor decisions like to keep coming around.  I bet the people who developed Motions could tell you that.     

The Impact of Motions

Motions by Hazel Smith is an interactive literature piece using JavaScript to allow readers to navigate through a series of images and text. The main subject of said piece focuses on human trafficking/contemporary slavery and how it represents one of the most negative aspects of globalization. The idea of trafficking is a disgusting habit some people still hold onto, and it’s more concerning that it has lasted to this point especially with the advent of technology and global connectivity.

The user ‘controls’ are fairly simple: using the arrow keys to navigate through the piece. It’s a small implementation, but I think it’s a good fit because it allows the reader to follow along at their own pace, giving them full control on how they want to interact. They have the option to scroll vertically to find tidbits of hidden information, and even go back a few steps to recall something. I wasn’t aware of it until I stumbled upon it, but even on repeated viewings (and going back and forth on the ‘pages’) no one slide was the same. Most of the background images would continuously change, and it made for a more dizzying experience as I went through. I feel like Hazel Smith wanted the engagement to be harrowing, and that was what I felt.

Speaking of harrowing, for as much as the title suggest, I spent most of my time stopping at each slide rather than moving forward. Not for the subject matter alone, but because I was scrolling up-and-down repeatedly and shifting through each slide numerous times like I was reading newspaper articles. It invoked a sense of caution and stress, not helped by the flashing excerpts of texts and the audio components. Those were the kinds of design choices that made me wary of proceeding, so I ended up taking much longer to read Motions.

One aspect that caught my attention were the excerpts that appeared fragmented. I could not make sense of what they mean, but perhaps it is their presentation that is more crucial than what they say. It invokes a feeling of shattering, which I think is synonymous with the feeling that comes with human trafficking. Seeing as the piece is guided by a narrator, I assume the fragmentations represent the damage of what the experience has done to them. This idea is also backed up with the scattered/mixing of each slide on repeated visits and personal excerpts, it made me think of Motion as a painful revisit of a traumatic experience. It’s not a positive thing to think of, but neither is the idea of contemporary slavery.

In the end, Motions was a unique experience I was faced with. There’s a lot more I really want to say about the piece, but I feel I can’t find all the words to really delve into so in my time until next class, I’ll be going over it again to make sense of what I couldn’t. I think the piece wouldn’t be as effective if it didn’t use the concept of interactivity, as it is a deliberate choice in how it is presented.

Thesis Update 10/8

Here we go with another Thesis update!  While I do feel like I am making good progress week over week, I began to feel as though I needed to start writing actual parts of my project.  I took some time this week to write out an early draft of the first chapter of the book that I am working on.  It was honestly challenging, and believe me when I say that I probably will not let anyone read it as it is so underdeveloped.  This exercise did allow me a chance to work out some ideas that I had in my mind.  I also think it has helped me in developing the early stages of the dialogue in the book.  I know the feel and type of environment I want to create, it is just getting all of those down on paper.  I have mentioned in my previous work done on this project that I wanted to have that southwestern, desert feel to it.  The inspiration for the setting was actually some of my favorite TV shows.  Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.  I really want to focus on the barren desert, outlaw environment that both of these shows are set in.  With the main backdrop of my story being a post pandemic world that is in the middle of trying to restart within the new normal, I feel as though I need to illustrate how towns and cities in my universe are now more susceptible to crime as the fabric of our world order begins to crumble.  

The research involved for this is something that I am currently struggling with.  Where do I begin?  What is it that I am looking for?  How far do I need to go to develop these parts of my story?  All questions that I am still trying to answer.  With that being said, I began to think about how I would want to look if I were producing it as a TV show.  This aids me in visualizing the story, dialogue, setting, characters, etc in a way that I can better understand, as I have always been more of a TV watcher than I am a reader (whoops.)  Then, I thought back to Sons of Anarchy and felt the imagery and the rough and tough world I want to emulate is one that the show’s creator, Kirk Sutter seemingly perfected.  I went back to watch particular episodes to simply study the landscapes of the highways, the county roads, the layouts of the towns, and began to jot down some words that I would use to describe them.  I am unsure as to how I am going to use these definitively, but I know they will help me when I really begin the process of constructing the setting of my story.  

I do not think I can express how much I am enjoying this endeavor.  With everything that is going on in the world today, having this type of escape is exactly what the doctor ordered.  The more time and effort I put in, the closer this story becomes to me and is quickly turning into my baby.  I admittedly have some lofty goals in mind for this story because I truly believe what I am working on is the perfect combination of timely and great.  By the way, that is not a brag, but more a challenge to myself saying “it is up to you now.”  I look forward to sharing progress as it comes along, and fielding any feedback that any of you may have.  Specifically, I am excited and anxious to spend some time with Dr. Zamora and hearing what she has to say, as soon as I have enough of it put together.  The journey continues!

Bonus: Here is my favorite song by my favorite band, who I draw inspiration from as well

Motorhead: “Damage Case”