All posts by trolston01

Fuel … Launch is Go!

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Fuel, a hypertext work of fiction that uses a series of short stories to tell the tales of those serving hard time in deep space. Once launch has been initiated, the lives of inmates and how each managed to find themselves incarcerated in the farthest reaches of known space will be available for viewing.  Fuel – the ore – is mined from the asteroids by convicts. When the Wormwood meteor storm destroyed much of Earth in the early 21st century, its trail led back to a treasure trove of wealth and power.  Men and women who have been tried, convicted and sentenced to minimally 10 years all the way to life without parole, make the years-long journey at warp speed to the asteroid field where Riker’s Island and Alcatraz Prison space station await them.  Inmates serve their time doing hard labor, working in the asteroid mines where life gravitates precariously.  One wrong move and everyone goes drifting off into deep space.

Larry Storms, a government operative, uncovered secrets on Earth no one wanted out.  Corrupt government officials seal his fate and send him off to Riker’s, on the farthest edge of charted space in an attempt to bury the truth and keep dirty little secrets where they ought to be – buried. Larry struggles to free himself and expose the corruption of government officials back on Earth.

FUELing Up

Week 13 Progress Report

My story, FUEL, is about the colonization of an asteroid field in an uncharted part of the galaxy.  I will model this colonialization the same way it was reported that the British first colonized Australia centuries ago.  Prisoners will be the ones primarily headed into the unknown.  Once there, the inmates will begin to build a mining colony.  The ore within the asteroids is a precious fuel source.  There will be a central story surrounded by short stories that fill in gaps or introduce characters that will be further explored in the main story.  So at this point in my progress toward achieving a completed E-Lit project I have come thus far:

Writing:  Thus far I have written five short stories that will help begin to build the universe I’m creating.  The stories tell about how some of the inmates arrived at the mining colony. One story is about a rapist. Another tells about a woman who thought she could do no wrong. Then there is the crooked lawyer. I have modeled much of these stories from actual cases. There is also a main story.  That story will be structured in the same premise as the Count of Monte Cristo – one of my favorites. The protagonist in the main story was wrongfully imprisoned. He too, like Edmond Dantes, will have to learn the ropes in order to survive and clear his good name.

Technology:  So far I have been using INKLE WRITER.  I feel that I may not continue with this line of thinking.  Inkle writer’s controls for its free-writing software are not as intuitive as one would like them to be.  This week I will begin to explore other avenues of creating the experience I’m hoping to achieve – the exploration of the universe. I may use a program like WIX to aid in this endeavor.

Time Line:  I would like to have a working prototype by the end of the week so that I can begin focusing on stories.  Once I have a foundation, dropping in short tales should be easy enough.      

Shawshank Remixed

For my electronic literature project I will be creating a prison colony in outer space.  The idea came to me in a dream.  The book as well as the series to follow will be called FUEL.  The premise of the story is simple:  During the opening years of the 21century a COVID virus nearly wiped out mankind.  Just when man thought things were getting better, a massive meteor shower – dubbed Wormwood – pelted the Earth causing an insane amount of destruction.  One clever scientist discovered that the ore held within the space rocks contained an amazing fuel source.  Man’s reliance on fossil fuels and destroying the Earth to obtain them was on the verge of becoming a thing of the past.

The path of the meteor shower was traced back hundreds of thousands of lightyears from Earth.  In a distant galaxy there lies an asteroid field of unbelievable size.  Some of the asteroids within the field are larger than earth.  Scientists speculated that a small galaxy like the Milky Way suffered a catastrophic event.  The meteors and asteroids in the field are what was left after all of the planets exploded.  That was the theory at least.

A decision was made to send an expedition to the asteroid field.  With what Fuel was made from the wormwood meteor shower and some advancements to rocket technology, the trip would take five years.  Once at the asteroid field, a near-by planet was discovered that could sustain life.  Astrologists from the country Siam discovered the Earth-type rock while attempting to map this newly discovered galaxy.  The astrologists named the world Siam Un.

Another radical step was taken back on Earth.  The American government was going to send convicts into outer space on the expedition.  An idea was floated that if mining could be accomplished at the asteroid field, prisoners should do the work.  Just another way to clean up the Earth.

My first step in bring this to life is to research what an expedition into the unknown actually sounds like.  I will be using excerpts from The Fleet Letter.  The Fleet Letters are a collection of correspondence between British Naval Officers on their way to Australia and their Administrators back in England.  The British set up a penal colony on the continent of Australia.  There were locals and natives to deal with.  There were lazy officers.  There were unruly prisoners.  All of which I will mirror in my own piece.  Then there is the discovery of the alien planet and the exploration of such.  I will be drawing from the adventures of Louis and Clark on this one.  Again, research is required to make the experience feel more real, genuine. 

In regards to publishing I have two avenues to pursue.  First, my friend Mike Marts, whom I was an Intern with at marvel Comics has since opened his own comic book company, Action Comics, and is doing quite well, having recently signed Norman Reedus of the Walking Dead to take on a role portrayed in one of his titles. 

My second avenue for publishing this work came from the list presented in class last week. Inkle Studios is one of the sites that I found that just might be interested in something like mine.  There sight boasts of storytelling and technology mixed.  The art style used by Inkle is something I think would work best with my piece.    Inkle is based in England, so I believe my connection to the British expedition to colonize Australia hundreds of years ago might be of some historical interest to them.

The Fuel series will focus on a set of outlining short stories that will give readers an idea of who some of the inmates are and what brought them to the Wormwood Asteroid Field Penal Colony.  So far I have six short stories completed.  Each story averages around five to six typed pages.  There will be a main central storyline. This novella I have mapped out and all main characters identified. 

Let the Hunt Begin


The word GAY has quite a few different meanings for me as I have evolved into the person I’ve become.  At first, I must admit, as a child, I had no idea what GAY meant.  I only knew that if someone referred to you as GAY in school, that was a bad thing.  Then a few years later I discovered what it meant to be GAY.  I had no idea my aunt was gay.  I just thought she never found the right man and just hung around with her best friend and police partner all the time.  I never struck me as odd that they even owned a house together.  I just figured as crime fighting partners it was easier that way.  Batman and Robin lived together.  Gay now had a new meaning to me.  The Melissa Etheridge concert I went to was another huge eye-opener.  Right at the start of my college days, too. 

Some of my friends even started coming out as gay while we were in college.  SUNY Purchase, the second college I attended and where my BA if from had only one major club at the time – GLBU.  I’m certain the T and the Q have been added since. Half my soccer team was GAY.  Some of the toughest men I have ever played the game with.  I would go on to compete against GAY men and women in martial arts tournaments.  I have two black belts in Tae Kwon Do.  I even qualified to compete in Olympic Competition in 1998.  Gay man or woman will hit you just as hard as anyone straight.  More new meanings behind the word GAY.

Anna Anthropy created THE HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET.  She is a self-described fat gay witch, who lives with her black cat.  She has created numerous word games as well as visual games.  She gives lectures on the inclusion of GAYNESS in society.  She is a very interesting person.  Thus cementing my final personal definition of the word GAY, which I will reveal by the end of this blog.

Anna Anthroopy created this piece not because she wanted readers to understand her definition of the word GAY.  Anna Anthropy wanted readers to form their own definitions of the words GAY and QUEER.  Both of these words get mixed and matched so much that I can never keep up with which one is appropriate over another.  I also never felt it a pertinent conversation to bring up with my GAY family members.  Why waste time on something so silly, when catching up and spending time together is far more important.  Sure we have different ideas about the definition but those don’t come close to what is really important – family.

I digress:  THE HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET has its origins set waaaay back in the mid-1980s.  Some time around 1984 I bought my first computer – the Atari 600.  It came complete with a floppy disk drive and a cassette drive.  Screen was whatever UHF connection you could make.  I had a 13-inch black and white television in my room that I used.  If I wasn’t coding Space Invaders in DOS, I was playing a game called, ZORK.  Zork is described best by its Home Screen.  “An Interactive Fiction – A Fantasy Story.”  The game was first copyrighted in 1981. 

Below the game’s description on the home screen, Zork has one of the most famous lines in video game history.  The line starts the game and welcomes players into the World of Zork. “West of House.  You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.  There is a small mailbox here.”  The player is now free to type in any line they like to continue the game.  Me, I usually jumped right in and typed, “Go To House.”  Anna Anthropy’s HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET works much the same way. Only in this adventure, Anna gives you multiple links at the bottom of each page allowing the reader to chose a path instead of typing a path that may not be recognized by the CPU. 

HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET caught my eye right away from the reading list.  The Star Wars font and the admission on the home page that the entire game is a Star Wars spoof instantly attracted me.  However, what really captivated me was how Anna used words and phrases to illicit not only a physical response in the sense of making a physical choice regarding which direction to take; Anna chose words and phrases to illicit an emotional response to the verbiage.  When readers take in a passage before making a choice and moving on to the next they are hit with words that have them thinking about the meaning of words like GAY, QUEER and STRAIGHT. 

The entire game is an emotional play on those words and how you as a person feel about them.  My personal definition of the word GAY:  Gay means to me, that at night, when lying alone with the one you love, it’s what you choose to put in your mouth.  That’s it.  Is GAY a lifestyle?  To some.  Is being QUEER a way to live? To others.  Is STRAIGHT the normal?  Who am I to judge?  To me, most of these questions hold little to no weight because this is who we are.  This is how my family has always been.  I do like watching people get squeamish when using words like GAY, QUEER when they aren’t used to addressing such matters openly.

All three words – GAY QUEER STRAIGHT – have changed meaning and have increased meanings and have taken on new meanings.  I had students once say, “Hey Rolston, this assignment is gay.”  To which I inquired, “Does that mean it loves a similar, like minded assignment?”  So even in the 21st century these three words have taken on new life.

All three of these words started a long time ago in a time period far, far away.  During the times recorded by William Shakespeare people used to come out in public and announce how gay they had been feeling.  Others around them might even wish for their gayness to continue.  Not so much these days. Things that were out of place were considered queer.  A three-dollar bill springs to mind.  A platypus is yet another queer device of nature.  This is what Anna Anthropy was doing when she came up with the idea for THE HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET.  She wanted people to have fun using these words and experimenting with the ideas that each suggests.

I originally thought the man character was a male bounty hunter.  Then the next set of text has you rethinking that idea.  That to me was the most fun of this.  With my crazy mind I had fun keeping pace with Anna Anthropy’s thought process.  As a writer I totally appreciated her word use and how open she was about creating a proud gay character. It’s hard creating any type of strong character.  Anna does it well.  The protagonist is as quick with her wits as she is with a laser gun. 

Many gay characters these days spend much of the time in the closest before finding out that much of the world is pretty accepting.  I loved this piece because we are GAY right away. We are even shooting other gay and straight characters over the idea.  Oh, let the last man or woman standing begin.  That is the power of words.  If any man or woman not so comfortable with the ideas of homosexuality and transgender issues were to red this and play along they might find themselves very uncomfortable. The interface of reading and then making a direction choice might have many taking some of the safer paths.  I jumped right in.  Got to watch the Evil Queen have sex.  Great writing.

That great writing also carried over to the descriptions of the environments encountered by the protagonist.  The idea of the soft green grasses found on some parts of the gay world.  Then there was the exact opposite.  The writing became rough and hard core.  The harshness of some rocky areas on the planet were developed perfectly and easy to follow along. The harsh writing was especially intriguing during the times the protagonist is taken captive by the evil queen.  The ebbing and flowing of both these writing techniques also kept everything very exciting.

There were no sound elements to speak of – only the voices in one’s head.  I really appreciated that.  I wasn’t distracted from the language and the message that GAY, QUEER and STRAIGHT have so many different meanings to so many different people.  Amber Tweeted about how the piece made her, “gay heart flutter.” While I am married to a woman, again, the piece made me rather gay as well.  HUNT FOR THE GAY PLANET brought me back to a time in my life when it was fun to play with words the way one might play with the contents of a TV dinner from back then.           

Little Redshift Riding Hood

This week’s piece that Amber has selected for presentation, Redshift and Portal Metal was intriguing right off the bat.  I am such a huge fan of the end of the world genre.  Much of my own work comes from such ideas and ideas regarding the end of the world that are portrayed in the Bible’s Book of Revelations written by Saint John. 

I thought it was quite interesting that the main character is described on the editorial home page as a trans-woman.  I had no idea if that was a woman in the process of becoming a man or was this a man in the process of transitioning into a woman.  As I went through the piece I felt that whether this was a man or woman on the way to becoming something new didn’t really matter.  Men and women will always handle decision-making differently.  So it didn’t matter what gender I was on my way to be as I navigated the decisions. 

I really enjoyed the idea that I was able to chose what type of hero I wanted to be.  I could either be the hero that takes off in search of adventure or I could be the hero that remains behind to fix what’s left.  I had to be both.  The other thing I very much liked about the choice during the experience was that once a decision is made, the verbiage that appears often came with a good heaping serving of guilt.  I found my character lamenting about going in the direction of the decision I had just made. I went one way only to have the text reveal that the character actually wanted to go the other way.   I liked that very much. The turmoil of inner voices. It related a human quality to the experience.  Wherever the videos were shot it gave me a feel as though I was in another time and another place.  A place wasn’t necessarily good or evil.  To me it simply just what was. 

Karel’s choice, Red Riding Hood Remake was tempting.  I instantly was attracted to the dark urban feel.  I love comic books and picture books always have.  The art on the editorial home page was striking and had me thinking about a little boy and his hooker mom.  I will also pick up and read any comic book adaptation.  It could be a comic book adaptation of Julia Child and I would still read it.  I have used comic book adaptations in my own classroom to help my students better understand text.

The soundtrack to the piece was enjoyable on its own.  I love hard rock.  I have banged my head with the best of them at Bon Jovi, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest to name a few. However, for me the soundtrack got in the way of the story telling.  It was often too loud or it was the only thing being presented at the time.  That made it hard to focus on what I was supposed to be searching for.  Maybe I am old as Sun says. 

The interface was also troubling for me.  As I clicked on the links I could find over the music, the interface had to open another browser window.  The music suddenly stops, a new window opens to a colorful screen, and then the music blares once more.  There is no button on the screen to mute the music or even lower it that I could find.  Even muting my computer did not help.

Both of these pieces served as a reminder of what I should do and should not do when creating my own piece of electronic literature.  I need to be a specific as I can about my characters.  I need to have a very human feel to them.  Music is important but I will be careful to not overdo it.  Story and plot must be relatable in some way.  That can be accomplished by REMIXING a classic, or borrowing elements from a classic and making those my own.    

Kafka, Linus, Mayakovsky …Oh my.

Elit Blog for 11/4 class

Once more I had to equally opposite yet quite satisfying reactions to this week’s pieces.  Letter to Linus had me thinking of playing Tetris.  Instead of rapidly building and connecting falling shapes, I was building a falling story.  I was really hoping that this was going to be a system for building poems.  Once I even read the word poem I instantly become afraid.  The poetry in Letter to Linus is purely prose, which makes me feel so much better.  Prose has been my go-to form of poetry since I first discovered my love of writing.  I like the openness of the prose genre. 

Both of these pieces and my own presentation piece has me thinking a great deal on language and the use of words. The word HYPERCUDE had me thinking MEXICAN JUMPING BEAN.  And jump I did.  I clicked each of the links on the hypercube and read the works displayed.  I clicked several times on each hoping the language might change and take me down a new path. Alas, that did not happen and before too long the game, the ride, the experience was over.   While the language was quite engaging, I felt a bit let down.  I began to understand that Linus was some person who was being taught some very powerful lessons.  The lessons and ideals were contained in each of the links off the hypercube. Perhaps if allowed to care more about why Linus had to endure such things, perhaps I would’ve cared more.  Sorry Linus 

Reconstructing Mayakovsky was kind of a freaky experiments with language.  Like both pieces, I scoured the home page looking for clues and some understanding before entering the world before me.  Russian Futurism stood out like a stiff shot of vodka.  I love words like: absurdist, amok, manifesto, propagandistic.  All words very tough to pronounce with a mouth full of food.  All words that sound very impressive if you say them in a loud tone. 

Then, when just one word wouldn’t do any justice, the writers of the home page started string some really cool words together: Communicative Logic and Hybrid Media Novel.  Oooo serve me up another shot please.

The navigation threw me for a loop at first.  The links to the information, which was quite telling, compelling and often times yelling, CHECK THIS OUT, had me stretching the limits of my internet connection.  I wanted to see some cool stuff the moment I clicked.  I’m certain I missed something.  I loved the opening galaxy graphic that places you into the world.

However, the most compelling link in the piece was the one that transported me to a video that was way cool.  The video felt like a real estate sales pitch for a new life on another planet.  I so wanted to strap on my space suit and kiss this rock goodbye. 

Then as the video went on I felt like I was about to get sucked into a Kafka nightmare.  Cool! The Metamorphosis that was going on here is that the video was asking me to surrender all that is human.  Cool. Instead of a giant bug, I was about to become some form of virtual AI.  Franz’s ideas in the 21-century model.  Finally I will be skinny.  Or would this world still judge me like the Wii did and label me obese?  Who knows and who cares.         

Alice, Digital Love and the White Rabbit in the Room.

Blog:  Alice and Digital Love. 

These two pieces could be more at opposite ends of the same awesome scale.   Once more I enjoyed the throw back to my generation.  Both this week and the week prior had me reliving my childhood of going to seedy and often troublesome arcades to lay down my handful of quarters.  I used to cut school, hop on a train to New York Pen Station.  My uncle was a conductor on my line.  It was an art not getting caught. However, if you could survive playing in that arcade, in New York City, during the early 80s, then you could make it anywhere.  I saw more people beaten up over Pac Man.  That arcade is now the CVS many of my readers have probably been to while traveling through New York Penn Station. Its up by the LIRR.  Right next to Charlie’s pub, which I hope is still there.  I digress…

Digital, A Love Story, also gave me the same feeling I had when I watched, You’ve Got Mail with Tom Hanks.  Very cute.  I loved the graphics on the home page.  I was instantly transported back in time when every game had the same digital look.  The piece’s description has the story set in 1988.  The same year I graduated high school.  The home page also described that this was when the internet was being first established.  I wish.

The home page also said that this piece was a homage to early hacker culture.  I loved that feel.  I used to stay up all night coding in DOS.  And if I wasn’t coding in DOS all night, I was up playing ZORK on my Atari 800 computer with floppy disk drive.  Some other elements had me thinking I was using my grandfather’s Radio Shack Tandy 2000.  (The more I reveal the more I see Sun laughing at me.)  Digital, gave me that same nostalgic feeling of hunting, collecting and communicating with the piece as playing all those cool text games did way back when.  The interface reminded me of the early days of AOL.  The experience of interacting with characters from the game also reminded me of THE SIMS – without the images.  I even called the phone number the piece delivered.  I was hoping see just how deep the connection between the gaming world and the real world was.  It would’ve been really cool to have a character from the game speaking with you or using your number to send a text back.  Because that’s what this game really was at the core.  Texting.

Alice, on the other hand, was nothing like texting at all.  It was a graphic novel come to life.  I will be stealing ideas from this piece from now until eternity.  Not that Digital did not give me enough fodder for creating a multitude of character archetypes.

The opening of Alice is great because it quickly sets the backstory so reads don’t have to work too hard.  Star Wars was first to do this successfully.  Hence the reason, the galaxy was able to so easily accept the introduction to Luke Skywalker at Episode 4: A New Hope. 

I was excited by the Comic Sans font and the instant idea that I was going to get to escape from China.  But when I realized – not “realised” as it is spelled in the piece – that we were in Britain to begin with, it all came together quite nicely. English from England has always avoided using the letter Z when alternatives are available.  Not sure why, I used to joke with my English counterparts when working in publishing that perhaps using the letter Z too often reminded people of sleep and hence the book would be a flop in the shop. 

Overall, Alice is a great adventure.  My friends once left me on a rooftop until the cops left.  I nearly froze to death.  I liked how the text mimicked the verbs when entering the page.  Creepy language actually creeped onto the page.  The music had me on edge.  I hate heights, I hated being on that roof then and now, the music kept me wanting to figure a way out.  The side nav bar offered up some insight into the other characters as well as a rest from the excitement of getting off the roof.    Both pieces came together nicely offering a bit of the same presented in uniquely different approaches.  Cheers to the authors and cheers to the presenters for giving me something I can …    

These Loves Fly Just High Enough

            Both of the titles on this week’s reading list really piqued my interest. I have the pleasure of saying that I own and have owned every video game system minus two – Colleco Vision and Commodore 64.  I consider myself a gamer.  I love the story aspect of a good game.  I am a mission-based person.  Icarus Needs and With Those We Love Alive placed me on a mission.  I do not have access to Android so that limited my experience with Icarus Needs, however, the video gave me a great sense for the experience.  The experience With Those We Love Alive was straight forward, the controls were a breeze to use and the story kept me going – to a point.

            Icarus Needs instantly sparked images of the famous story of Icarus and his escape gone bad. Icarus in the famous tale wanted to return to the people he loved, unfortunately, he flew a bit too close to the sun.  I easily reminisced over the pixelated graphics In Icarus.  “The only thing missing is the ability to fly,” I thought.  The images brought back fond memories of the Atari and how important it was in my life.  As a child, video games were a way for me to connect the stories and ideas I had in my head to the real world.  Video games allowed me to play out my fantasies on the screen.  So when I play a new video game, I tend to try to get into the character’s head.  The protagonist in Icarus is on a mission to save his lady love from the evil King of Squirrels.  Love this image.  (I thought right away about a bag of cats.) King of Squirrels is already giving off a crazy vide.  The craziness gets off to an abrupt start when the protagonist encounters another entity in the game who describes himself as a door and the player must find the key.  OK, I’ve run into plenty of people (actual and virtual) who were not only bigger than a door, they were bigger than a house.  Whether or not racism would come into play never ever once crossed my mind.  The video shows the player retreating from the encounter asking him or herself, “He’s a door?  Doesn’t look like a door?  Is that racist?”  I would have never expected the story to take that kind of turn.  Both the image representing the player and the image representing the person being described as a door were both the same color.  They both had the same look.  I was a bit confused.  Then I retraced my steps and recognized that the setting is within a dream realm.  Good.  Racism is a nightmare. At least in this instance I can chose a righteous path.

            With Those We Love Alive is incredibly similar to my own chosen presentation title, The Hunt For The Gay Planet.  With Those We Love Alive, players read a selection and then make a choice as to which direction to travel.  In one instance you are in the palace.  In another instance you are out exploring the world.  What loved the most was that the player can go out in the woods and meditate.  The software actually instructs the player to breath and relax.  I had so much fun with the story and trying to see if I could change outcomes by selecting rotating paths.  Alas, I could not and that would be my only point of contention.  While open enough to explore the world in With Those…, has player pushed down a path.  Platforms such as these were designed to head off in a million different directions so that the fun of developing the story would never end. 

Back in the 1970s a game called Zork came out.  It is the framework for all games like this.  In Zork, players start off with the simple idea that they are standing in the woods a bit west of an old house.  From here it is anyone’s guess.  After entering the home, the only forced part of Zork, the world below the forest is wide open.  Both of these titles offer that experience to a degree.  I enjoyed the time jumping back into the past when I would play games like these to all hours of the night.  After I got the story to unlock – it was all about the high score.  While a high score isn’t the main accomplishment here, knowledge is. I like to think about how others think and these titles helped me to continue my mission toward understanding.         

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.     

Ask Me for the Moon, while I look into the Window.

“Window” by Katharine Norman

“Ask Me for the Moon” by John Zuern

As I began this assignment with great curiosity, I couldn’t help but notice from the Editorial Statements on each how vital the code and programming were to the presentation of the pieces.  “Window,” by Katharine Norman showcased how it appeared that the user could manipulate rain drops on the window that invited more words, phrases and ideas to take flight on the screen.  The interface for “Ask Me…,” had me feeling very much like a tourist, coming and going through the author’s mind.

The other idea from the Editorial Statements on each that caught my idea was the use of ambient sound.  I am deaf in one ear.  If I’m not focusing, background or ambient noise can be my worst nightmare.  However, the flip side to it is that ambient noise really helps me relax and hide within my brain.  I was really excited to see how both authors were going to treat that and each did not disappoint.

Norman used the phrase, “Traffic as a form of silence.” I grew up in New York.  My grandparent’s home was right near the Long Island railroad crossings for our town.  The sound of that train is what put us all to sleep.  When we would all go on vacation as a family, no one could sleep because the hotel was just too quiet.  We needed the traffic and the train as a form of silence.  Norman had sounds from a near-by airport.  I can relate to that one.  She also had the sounds of early morning birds.  The train scares the birds off the lines.  When the train leaves, the birds all sing and cry out for their new spot on the lines.

Zuern had some heavy breathing sounds in his presentation that activated using the interface.  However, while sound was not present in its audio form, sound was decisively present in the language Zuern used. Onomatopoeia is an amazingly effective rhetorical element to interject sound into writing.  This is evident when the author uses the written idea of leaving and revisiting.  We all know what that sounds like.  Norman takes onomatopoeia a step further when she is describing the making of bread; with all of the slapping and pounding going on.

Poetry has always been something I have found difficult to teach.  Poetry is such and open world of language.  In college many years ago, I had a professor who encouraged us to interpret poetry freely, yet on exams we had better feel exactly as he did, or it would cost us our grade.  Unfortunately, that was the case for me.  The only D I ever received because I failed to see things one way personally and forced to feel another for academic reward.  My morals aren’t for sale.

So I have always stressed about poetry.  Zuern had a line from Ask me that went, “…deployment of images and metaphors.”  I used some pretty powerful images and metaphors two years ago, and I’m still fighting in court just how powerful those images and metaphors were. 

The other lines from Zuern that I really liked was his lines about “castles in the sand,” and “spent muscle.”  While I fear teaching poetry, I do have a soft spot for it.  I have the word INVICTUS tattooed on my back.  The words from that poem outline my life. Henley wrote INVICTUS to inspire – to give hope.  Zuern’s poem gives that same hope by exposing the truth that real castles are built on solid foundations.  Not the glitz and glamour of the hotels and skyscrapers that line the Hawaiian beach.   I have seen those who make their castle out of sand – it never works out.  I have shared years of spent muscle making that evident.

Norman has some pretty great lines that impacted me.  The entire writing process has to be about can the author get the reader to relate to the words on the page.  “Spoon against the bowl,” to me that speaks about how empty your soul can be and the desire to want to fill it.  “Taking the long way around.”  I understand a desire to do that to.  No man or woman can escape the inevitable.  However, every man, woman and child can take their time getting there.

Norman’s other thought about a, “window between here and there.”  I would like to know, whose “here” are we speaking of.  I would also be inclined to wonder whose “there” are we glimpsing into.  My belief is that Norman wants the reader to reflect upon that very notion.  Is it a window, or a mirror?  That would be the question I would ask of both pieces.  Zuern has me reflecting on my perceptions as a tourist while Norman has me reflecting introspectively – to which many feel like a tourist.  I think that sums it up:  We are all tourists amongst each other and within ourselves.  We can either ask for the moon or peek in a window.  It’s all in the experience one looks for.