Maps to Adventure: You Are Swept Into Eternity

If you were a kid in a Western country in the 1980s who was at all interested in reading, chances are your parents and teachers tried to encourage you with Choose Your Own Adventure paperbacks. Atlas Obscura has a great article by Sarah Laskow, with example maps from the publisher, illustrating the choices that create Choose Your Own Adventure stories.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/moonboots

from Ian Kershaw on Flickr

In part due to dyslexia I wasn’t a reader as a kid, pages of text were daunting and fear inducing. The main place I encountered reading was school, in heavy tomes dense with blandly presented facts and rote memorization. It’s no surprise to me that I’d be put off by books. Despite that thanks to comics, and extra help at school, I did start overcoming my reading anxiety. Eventually someone handed me a Choose Your Own Adventure. The idea of an uncertain universe within a book flipped me, books were supposed to be locked safes where A led to Z along a concrete and consistent path. Here though was an indefinite world, where as much as the stories made sense, they were still malleable, shifting based on my decisions. Looking back I feel certain that they made an impact on my creative process, sparking the idea of breaking rules to see how the results changed.

that's a lot of story

Choose Your Own Adventure 3:
“Space and Beyond”
from Atlas Obscura

Another less studied but very important part of the CYOA formula, is that the stories had to have some bad endings. Without the chance of death–or worse–there’s no compelling reason to make choices for your in-story avatar. Mainstream children’s literature (the stuff you’d get in English class) very seldom exposed the reader to irrevocable danger; some bland adventure, but mostly lots of moralizing and life lessons that were supposed to teach you about being a good adult. COYA though would leave you in despair: Sentenced to play Monopoly for eternity, murdered by a ventriloquist, driven insane by aliens, left a hopeless environmentalist, or much much worse. The endings could be as dour as Twilight Zone episodes, told with such succinct noir deadpan that they’d leave me listless and demoralized for days sometimes.

http://youchosewrong.tumblr.com/

from You Chose Wrong on Tumblr

Those harsh endings made an impact, and everyone who read the books remembers the worst fate they suffered. CYOA led me into computer text adventure games, Dungeons & Dragons, as well as exciting me to tell stories and make art of my own. I still gift the books to kids. They’re a useful tool in teaching too, the inspiration for a very popular interactive storytelling engine called Twine. I’m happy to know there’s still a publisher reprinting the great original novels, as well as commissioning new stories. The time is always right to Choose Your Own Adventure.

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Shapereader: Tactile Language

Shapereader is tactile language designed to allow the creation of universally accessible narrative works of tactile literature . . .

pictograms

from Shapereader.com

Shaperader is comics book for the blind, and others who can’t use conventional print media. It was developed by Finnish conceptual artist Ilan Manouach with extensive support from the Koneen Säätiö Institute.

Shapereader consists of an ever expanding repertoire of anaglyph shapes called tactigrams designed to provide haptic equivalents for objects, actions, affections, characters and so on. Created from scratch, their design is based on criteria of simplicity, easiness of memorization and distinguishability. For example, a category of shapes assigned to affections includes primary states such as joy, fear or sadness as well as more complex ones such as coercion, remorse and unease. Each affection is available in three incremental intensities and this change of magnitude is intuitively translated by the gradual thickening of the shape’s core pattern. These affections can be combined synergetically allowing for an unprecedented realistic, fine-tuned and rich description of the emotional states of the plot’s characters.

The first major project of Shapereader is Arctic Circle, the story of Sir Alfred Cook. It features unique icons for Cook himself, as well as animals, natural features like moss, snow, leafs, and emotional states such as anxiety.

Unfortunately, you can’t experience it online due to the tactile interaction needed to make it work. I haven’t see a Shapereader piece in person, but I’d love to, the opportunity to work with a new language to tell stories through a physically manifested language sounds fascinating.

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Home by the Sea (collage gif)

gif version of digital print collage

Home by the Sea
by JRC

 

I was working on a lot of bits and pieces of different collages these past couple weeks, and this made it to the finish line first. There’ll be a printed version of it someday, without the figures dancing in the top left side.

I need to add info on where the various elements came from.

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President Obama on Storytelling

President Obama had a long talk with The New York Times, and they spoke at length about his love of writing, reading, and the importance of storytelling.

Obama, “Look, I don’t worry about the survival of the novel. We’re a storytelling species.
“I think that what one of the jobs of political leaders going forward is, is to tell a better story about what binds us together as a people. And America is unique in having to stitch together all these disparate elements — we’re not one race, we’re not one tribe, folks didn’t all arrive here at the same time.
“What holds us together is an idea, and it’s a story about who we are and what’s important to us. And I want to make sure that we continue that.”

I think this past election has proved in a very stark way the importance of creating a narrative that connects with people, and the many–often counter intuitive–ways that can be done. Storytelling can be a simple manner of “once upon a time…”. Today though, where the listener/reader/viewer is so unconsciously savvy to the methods of communication, the teller must be more adventurous, and sure of themselves too. It isn’t enough to be right or true unfortunately, the story must also be bold and engaging.

Here’s a link to the article.

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Three Recent Collages, the end of 2016

Haven’t posted any collage in a while, but I worked on these three piece, on-and-off for a bit. I bought a handful of random magazines from my local library, and some scrap cloth, to work in the traditional way. The usual image resources: Architecture magazines, National Geographic, things like that. I wound up working more on computer than I’d intended, but scanned in the cloth to employ it there too.

three-laps

Three Laps
2016, JRC

This piece started out on paper, cut and paste. After, I scanned it in and added a few little touches to see what it would do. The yellow glowing ‘halo’ over the taller figure, and the blur of colored cloth at the very top are both ‘in post’. I did do some cleanup editing as well, hopefully not to distraction.

flight

Flight
2016, JRC

This piece was done entirely on computer, using a mix of vintage photos, art  (I’ll have to come back and add credit info later) and cloth. Overall, I had to do very little manipulation to get a look I was pleased with. As you can probably tell, the bottom section of the picture fits to the top part to make a complete image. the areas with color, and the ‘hair’ on the women are all replacements with scanned fabric. There’s some missing spots, due to miss-processing the photo or wear, that I thought about fixing, but decided to leave in, to avoid too much manipulation. I think this is a fun piece, but … the editing  over of their clothes is probably too clever. A better step to rebuilding skill than a final piece.

telephone-game

Telephone Game
2016, JRC

This one mixes some of my own photos with other found images. Reminds me a lot of a mid-1990s CD cover, when digital image work was a new and badly deployed tool. It isn’t very good. I do like the composition, and sense of depth a bit, but as an image I don’t think it works.

Overall, 2016 has been a good one for me creatively. That these three pieces aren’t my favorites of the year isn’t important. Along with these collages, I’ve written more and created more art for myself than I have in many years.

One of my FLIM Springfield posts was syndicated by the AVClub.com, I got another article accepted into the Atomic Elbow wrestling ‘zine, and I got to perform live a few times too! I’m hopeful that 2017 will be even more productive.

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The Wrestling Queen Vs. The Daughter of Darkness

 

This past year, I became interested in the careers of two women wrestlers, Vivian and Luna Vachon–members of the famous Canadian wrestling dynasty that started with “Mad Dog” and Paul “the Butcher” Vachon. Vivian has the distinction of being one of–if not the first–woman wrestler to be the title subject of a documentary, which despite being out of print, is luckily on youtube…

Vivian and her young niece had very different wrestling careers, the eras they were active were vastly different from each other. Both are worth remembering for what they accomplished in the difficult field of pro wrestling.

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Wrestling with the Voting Public

I’ve been thinking a lot about the presidential election, and what I believe nearly everyone missed about the Trump campaign method. Trump presented himself as a laughable candidate to many people, despite constant primary victories, humiliating his opponents in debates, and massive rallies.
Last week on I mapped out a theory about how he used pro wrestling style metafictional storytelling to talk past the media and disbelieving public. It’s a 51 tweet essay, posted below (also pinned on my twitter page itself). For additional thoughts, read this great travelogue from Kaleb Horton via MTV, “Winter in America“.

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