What’s Your Passion? A Digital Story

For this blog post, I created a digital story, telling of my own struggle with finding a passion, and my place in a world of people I saw as better than me.

I chose to discuss this story because it is something that means a lot to me as I have learned to find where I am happiest spending my time, and when you can find that, it is the most amazing thing in the world. I really enjoyed creating this digital story in this format, because, like the video shows, I enjoy being creative! I started by writing out what I was going to say, and recorded that, overlaying photos on top as I saw fit. I tried to think of what kind of music would fit the tone of my story well, and chose a soft guitar instrumental. I wanted to portray a nostalgic, happy story. I altered the way the photos zoomed in as they played to mostly not have much movement, for a softer look, as well as zooming in on me for clarity, if there were multiple people in the photo.

I think this has a lot of the characteristics discussed about digital storytelling, such as including multimedia, like photos, voice over and music. It also was short and sweet, but I hope it still told a meaningful story. Finally, it was a personal story that I think can be applied universally, as I’m sure that at some point or another people have wondered where their place is, or what they are good at.

 

Pry: Mood Board

Pry is an app that was developed by Danny Cannizzaro and Samantha Gorman through Tender Claws. The app tells the story of James, a war veteran struggling with what seems like post traumatic stress disorder. The audience views the story through James’ point of view, with the help of their interaction. This is an example of touchscreen or interactive fiction.

I chose to create a mood board based off of the story of Pry, because so much of the story is viewed in James’ memory flashbacks, and many subconscious disorganized thoughts, and so I felt that a digital collage is a similar idea in terms of its freeform and disorganization. I collected photos that were relevant to the story, such as a red bridge, the story of Jacob and Esau with Braille over-layed on top, a construction site and playing cards. I also chose some images that came to mind when I thought of this story, such as dark splotches of ink, free and flowing, much like James’ mind, as well as a blurry view of a busy street, to illustrate James’ disorientation at times. I included words that I thought of when brainstorming about this story, such as ‘memories’, since so many memories are shown throughout, as well as ‘time’, next to a watch to show of the time passing so pointlessly in his life while he is in this PTSD state. I included ‘darkness’, ‘anxious’ and ‘trapped’, because I feel like James is being trapped in the darkness with his condition and his guilt and frustration with the situation that happened with Jessie and Luke. This all leads to him being anxious and confused and frustrated with a lot of things in his life.

Mood Board

Creating this mood board was a good exercise for me to dive deeper into the mood and meaning of this story, that was cleverly told through an interactive digital platform. Pry is a compelling story that is able to draw in the audience and stir their emotions as they feel for James and his struggle.

Mood Board Created at https://www.befunky.com/features/collage-maker/

Works Cited:

Balazs, Janos. Chain Clock Wallpaper. Digital image. Widescreen Wallpapers. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Black Ink Explosion. Digital image. Shutterstock. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Blank Ink. Digital image. CraftHubs. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Blurry Vision. Digital image. UPMC Healthbeat. N.p., 20 June 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Braille. Digital image. Fontscape. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Cannizzaro, D. and Gorman, S., “Pry”. Tender Claws, 2015-2016. Walkthrough accessed at https://vimeo.com/205825524. Accessed on 24 Mar. 2017.

Construction Site. Digital image. Sin Dark . N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Jacob and Esau. Digital image. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Military Sillouette. Digital image. MilitaryImages.Net. N.p., 20 Feb. 2016. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Playing Cards. Digital image. ShiaChat. N.p., 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Red Bridge. Digital image. Chasing the Unexpected. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

 

 

 

 

Your Place and Mine Playlist: A Close Reading of Song Lyrics

‘Your Place and Mine’ by Nicci French is a short story written for the Penguin Books project, ‘We Tell Stories’, which was released in 2008. The story follows the relationship of Terry and Laurence (Larry), colleagues who enter into a relationship. The format shows both Terry and Laurence’s point of views of their time together, with Terry becoming quickly obsessed and in love with Larry, and him having a casual discussion with an unknown character at a bar. It is clear from the start that Terry has a habit of falling hard for a man she hardly knows, as she mentions her last love, Rob, throughout the story (2-5). The story is divided among five days, ending with what seems like a friendly break up, but later relieving a clue as to what really happened between Terry and Larry (5).

I chose to create a playlist to further portray their difference in feelings through songs. When I was thinking about what would fit best and listening to songs, I made my choices based on lyrics, rather than the tone or rhythm.

The following is the link to my Spotify playlist.

I wanted to just briefly point out the key lyrics in each song and explain why I think they fit with this story so well, based upon my own close readings of each.

New Love: Maroon 5

“I’ll be your sun and your moon tonight
I can be whatever you like
I was alone but I’m ready to feel
I wanna show you my feelings are real, yeah”

“What the f*ck, I got nothing to lose
I’m a slave to the way that you move”

I chose this song because the title is an indication to the start of the story and the new relationship Laurence and Terry are beginning. In particular, each stanza that I chose represents Terry’s side and Laurence’s side. The first is Terry’s, as she is very excited when Larry strikes up conversation with her, claiming she knew “something was going to happen” and she had “caught the glances and sideways looks” (1). Meanwhile, Larry has a much more casual approach, as he “suddenly thought ‘well why not?'”, also noting that he had noticed her looks mostly, which is well summarized in the second stanza.

Tiny Vessels: Death Cab for Cutie

“This is the moment that you know
That you told her that you loved her but you don’t.
You touch her skin and then you think
That she is beautiful but she don’t mean a thing to me

(…)

Wanted to believe in all the words that I was speaking
As we moved together in the dark”

This next song I chose for when Laurence is enjoying his time with Terry but he is viewing it as much more casual than she is. When she buys him two mugs and a cafetiere, she takes his silence for emotion, while he is actually internally freaking out (3). He admits he thinks she is “quite interesting-looking” and comments on her being slim except for her breasts, which relates to the 4th and 5th line of the stanza I selected (1). He does not stop her advances either, making love with her on more than one occasion, which I think relates well to the phrase,
“Wanted to believe in all the words that I was speaking
As we moved together in the dark”.

He’s Just Not That Into You: Kalie Shorr

“(…) he says he doesn’t want something serious
And you tell yourself you like that he’s mysterious
He’s just busy, on-the-go and his stupid phone is broken
And you say it till it almost sounds true
But he’s just not that into you
He’s not that into you”

I picked this song to illustrate when Terry is growing more and more obsessed with Larry, spying on him and spotting him with another woman (3). While she may not have a revolution herself, I picked this song to add in a much needed  ‘wake up call’ moment for her, when a woman may need to realize that sometimes a guy is just not as into you as you are into them.

Going Through the Motions: Kansas

“And is your day just a reflection of the day before?
Don’t you ever stop and wonder if there’s something more?
Do you really mean to tell me that you’re satisfied?
Are you for real or are you going through the motions?

Heresay, theresay
Everything is fine
Are you running out of time?
Going through the motions”

This next song I chose to portray the moment Laurence is living in as he is speaking. It is assumed he is at a bar of some kind with a friend or colleague, with whom he is discussing his time with Terry. He is at that same place over the five days, showing his life is in a routine, with him even saying that he feels like he is “just drifting” and that his job is “not what (he) planned for (himself)” (4). The lyrics say ‘do you really mean to tell me that you’re satisfied?’ and it’s clear from those previous comments that he’s not, and for him right now, even “Terry is part of that drift” (4).

I Don’t Know How To Love Him: Yvonne Elliman

“I don’t know how to take this
I don’t see why he moves me
He’s a man. He’s just a man
And I’ve had so many men before
In very many ways
He’s just one more”

I chose this song because Terry specifically references it during day five, when she says she will “forgive him for being unfaithful to (her)” (5). She claims that he strayed from her because “it’s like in the song: he’s just a man”, and so I set out to find this song and it actually fit very well with how Terry acts with men (5). She seems to love a man until he hurts her, then disposes of him quickly, as the article at the end of day five shows (5).

You Oughta Know: Alanis Morissette

“’cause the love that you gave that we made wasn’t able
To make it enough for you to be open wide, no”

“And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away
It’s not fair to deny me
Of the cross I bear that you gave to me
You, you, you oughta know”

I added this one as the final song, because it is a song of anger and revenge.
I found it humorous with the lyrics,
“And I’m here to remind you
Of the mess you left when you went away”,
because, while this song is meaning figuratively, this can be applied both figuratively and literally to the story. After she disposes of Larry, Terry spends time “(washing) all the sheets to get rid of his smell, and (burning) the sweatshirt that he left behind”, either to cover her tracks, to symbolize that she is done with him or both (5).

I chose all these songs to illustrate specific moments throughout Terry and Larry’s relationship, beginning with the excitement of new love, right through to its morbid downfall, and I think this added a cool element to the story. Adding an accompanying digital element to a story can help bring it to life in a new way, and I hope my playlist was able to somewhat contribute.

Works Cited:

French, N. “Your Place and Mine”. We Tell Stories, Penguin Books, http://www.wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week4/about/. Accessed on 25 Mar. 2017.

Elliman, Y. “I Don’t Know How To Love Him” DATE.  Jesus Christ Superstar. By Webber, A.L., Rice, T. Universal Music Publishing Group. Lyrics accessed from http://www.metrolyrics.com/i-dont-know-how-to-love-him-lyrics-yvonne-elliman.html. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Death Cab for Cutie. “Tiny Vessels” 2003. Trasatlanticism. By Gibbard, B., Harmer, N. Munich Records. Lyrics Accessed from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/deathcabforcutie/tinyvessels.html. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Maroon 5. “New Love” 2014. V. By Levine, A.,  Redder, R., Zancanella, N. Interscope Records. Lyrics Accessed from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/maroon5/newlove.html. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Morissette, A. “You Oughta Know” 1995. Jagged Little Pill. By Morissette, A. Maverick Recording Company. Lyrics Accessed from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/alanismorissette/yououghtaknow.html. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Kansas. “Going Through the Motions” 1983. Drastic Measures. By Elefante, D., Elefante, J. CBS Records International. Lyrics Accessed from http://www.metrolyrics.com/going-through-the-motions-lyrics-kansas.html. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Shorr, K. “He’s Just Not That Into You” 2016. Single. By Reid, E., Stone, L. Unknown. Lyrics Accessed from http://kalieupdates.tumblr.com/post/151168543704/hes-just-not-that-into-you-lyrics. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

 

From Paper to Podcast: A Critical Interpretation of ‘The Reunion’ by John Cheever

John Cheever’s short story ‘The Reunion’ was originally published in an issue of The New Yorker in 1962. It tells the story of an anticipated reunion between a boy and his father, and the disappointment faced when the image the boy has created of his father does not prove to be true.

I wanted to discuss the transition this short story made from its original format to one of the digital age, in the form of a podcast, read by author Richard Ford for The New Yorker: Fiction podcasts. I think that not all digital surrogates work to improve or do justice to their paper forefather, however I really enjoyed the new energy and life that was brought to this story through this podcast.

The way Richard Ford reads this story helped me to take in the story better, because for me, sometimes the way older fiction is published on a page, spreading wide across and fitting many words onto a single page, can cause me to lose my focus. However, when listening to the podcast I gained a better understanding of the plot and some of the interactions that were had between characters, thanks to Richard Ford’s vocal interpretation. This was great for me because I actually read the original first, then listened to the podcast, so any points where I may have had confusion or not properly absorbed that element of the plot were solved.

I would definitely call this digital surrogate of this older piece of fiction a success because I think it not only brings new energy and dynamic to the story, it also gives the story an opportunity to reach a new generation. While podcasts are not everyone’s cup of tea, for those who do enjoy them in this, such a digital time, ‘The Reunion’ is perfect for an adaption. It is also a literal ‘short’ story, being only around 1000 words, as mentioned in the podcast discussion that followed, so it is also a great fit into our fast paced living, because it does not take long to listen to, compared to sitting and taking the time to read it in its original format.

This adaptation of John Cheever’s ‘The Reunion’ was refreshing and helped to bring an old piece of fiction to a new audience. Out of all the digital surrogates I have looked at recently, I would call this one of the most successful.

Works Cited:

Cheever, J. “The Reunion”. The New Yorker, Oct. 1962.

Ford, R. and Triesman, D. “Richard Ford Reads John Cheever”Audio Blog Post. The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. The New Yorker, Date Published Unknown, http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/reunions. Accessed on 26 Mar. 2017.

Black Box vs. Twitterature: A Review of “Black Box” by Jennifer Egan (Revised Story Review)

Jennifer Egan’s latest sci-fi short story is a great read, but could be better without the 140-character limit.

Jennifer Egan’s recent short story “Black Box” is a fast-paced, sci-fi thriller that kept readers on the edge of their computer chairs as they waited for the plot to be revealed through a series of tweets. Originally published on The New Yorker’s Twitter account in May of 2012, it tells the story of a female undercover agent working to obtain secret information from the enemy territory. She works at seducing the man assigned to her as well as remembering her training and gadgets to further her mission and get her to the ultimate goal. The story is set in a futuristic time, with the agent’s gadgets being literal enhancements to her person, making her body the most important piece of information for her commanders. This story has central themes of loyalty to the those important in one’s life, technology’s growing destructive potential for us, as well as gender and the stereotypes that accompany it, in this instance, being a woman in a male-dominant environment. While I found Egan’s story to have a captivating plot, I think it was hard to follow within the constraints of a Twitter medium.

Egan is an accomplished author and journalist, having won multiple awards and been praised for her captivating voice and word choice. In an interview conducted for The New Yorker by Deborah Treisman, Egan states that she feels “unqualified to write (science-fiction)”, but she “love(s) the thriller genre” (23, 25). “Black Box” is a combination of both, and I would say that while she feels as though she does not have the experience to write science fiction, she does an excellent job.

If I unpack the story in terms of her format choice though, I am of another opinion. While the choice of writing this specifically for the Twitter platform is a different idea that is sure to spark attention and appeal to a larger and younger demographic, having to read the story in such limited snippets can cause it to be confusing. In the same interview with Triesman, Egan states that the fact that the story was released in tweets “was so essential to the voice itself”, as it is told in an odd point of view, similar to view of ‘second person’ (9). The story is told as though the reader is inside the mind of the protagonist herself, with the main pronoun is ‘you’, such as when it’s said, “Your goal is to become a part of his atmosphere: a source of comfort and ease” (9). Once all the tweets had been released, they were gathered and organized into a Storify platform, which still has the story in the form of tweets, but without the advertisements and other distractions of the original Twitter platform. While this can improve the reader’s focus and I can see its appeal, I myself had to switch to a second reconstructed version of the story that was released in an issue of The New Yorker. The issue reorganized the tweets into paragraphs, making it easier, at least for me, to put into context quicker than the raw tweets allow. However, I did enjoy that the story was very much to the point, and there were not a lot of extra details and fluff that some authors may put into other works without it being necessary to the plotline. Egan definitely knows how to use that aspect of Twitter to her advantage, allowing for the plot to move quickly and readers to not get easily bored. However I stand with my previous statement that the Twitter medium makes the story choppy and hard to follow in my experience of reading it.

I can conclude that in my opinion that Egan is a talented writer and I would recommend this story, but only in the paragraph format. Twitter is not the best platform for storytelling, and we should just stick to using it for quick, mindless thoughts and following celebrity drama.

Works Cited:

Egan, Jennifer. “Black Box.” The New Yorker, Condé Nast Publications, 4 June 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/04/black-box-2. Accessed 22 Jan. 2017 and 4 Feb. 2017.

Treisman, Deborah. “This Week In Fiction: Jennifer Egan.” The New Yorker, Condé Nast Publications, 25 May 2012, http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/this-week-in-fiction-jennifer-egan. Accessed 5 Feb. 2017.

Symbolism and Irony in Roald Dahl’s “Lamb to the Slaughter”

First published in 1953, the short story “Lamb to the Slaughter” is a dark comedy telling the story of a simple evening taking a morbid turn for a couple, as the wife murders her husband with their intended supper, a leg of lamb. Mary and Patrick Maloney’s evening started out the same as the rest, but when Patrick unexpectedly announces that he’s leaving Mary, whilst she is heavily pregnant,  it is too much for her to handle, and after always being a quiet, doting wife, she snaps (1-3).

There is a lot of clear symbolism in this story, but I want to focus on the most obvious being the use of the lamb throughout. Throughout history in literature, spirituality and society, the lamb has been viewed as a symbol of innocence, purity and sacrifice. The lamb in this story could be represented in several ways. Mary herself could symbolize a lamb, as she is the meek, innocent wife of a man who clearly has power and control over her in their marriage. Mary is shown to be at Patrick’s every beck and call, “(taking) his coat”, “(making) drinks”and jumping at the minute he wants anything (1).  She portrays all the qualities a lamb is symbolically known for like meekness, gentleness and following a leader, as shown by the way she follows Patrick around and meets his every need (1-3). Patrick could also been seen as a symbol, not just for a lamb, but for a “lamb to the slaughter”, a phrase well known to mean someone going about something calmly, totally unaware that something bad is going to happen. As Patrick delivers the devastating news to Mary, he is completely unaware that she soon will “(swing) the big frozen leg of lamb high in the air and (bring) it down as hard as she could on the back of his head” (3).

Not only is there a lot of symbolism in this story, but along with the dark humour of it, Roald Dahl incorporates a lot of irony, in regards to the lamb as well. While Mary is symbolic of an innocent, meek lamb, it brings irony as she is the one to kill her husband, but is able to go unsuspected because of her pure and innocent known persona. As well, the idea of a lamb leg being used as a weapon, to bring harm is ironic, because it is so well viewed as a sign of innocence and purity, and the contrast is astounding. It can also be seen as ironic, because, diving into the spiritual aspect, biblically lambs were slaughtered as sacrifices to God, and now Mary used the lamb to ‘slaughter’, so to speak, and ‘sacrifice’ her husband for her own sanity, as she panics with the news that he is leaving her. Finally, towards the end of the story, Mary offers the cooked lamb to the police officers as a thank you, and they end up feasting on, ironically, the murder weapon, as they discuss that something used to cause so much damage must be “right under (their) very noses” (p. 6).

All that I just discussed supports the statement that Roald Dahl has the ability to use irony in a dark situation to create humour. As well he is able to incorporate deeper meaning in simple things throughout the story, to create a very engaging piece of writing.

Works Cited:

Dahl, Roald. “Lamb to the Slaughter”. Harper’s Magazine, Harper Publications, 1 Sept. 1953, Accessed from http://search.proquest.com.proxy.lib.sfu.ca/docview/1301547458/fulltext/79B87442DA114E1APQ/1?accountid=13800. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Illustrated Lamb Leg Photograph. “The Lamb to the Slaughter”. Thinglink, https://www.thinglink.com/scene/713032639602229249. Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Analyzing the Visual Aspects of “Slice” by Toby Litt

The short story, “Slice” by Toby Litt was very interesting to read,  mostly because of the format that makes it so unique, as it is written in a style of two blogs, one written by the main character Lisa, or ‘Slice’ as she goes by online, and the other by her parents, Ray and Lynn. The blogs depict two different perspectives on the family’s recent house swap from Florida to England, and the journey that follows in the next few days as Slice is fighting through a dark time, and her parents are house hunting for a permanent place.

I chose to create two boards on Pinterest to better represent the contrast in the experience for both Slice and her parents.

For Slice, she is in a very dark place, is angry at her parents for moving them across the world, and is overall just going through a hard time. She expresses feelings of annoyance throughout, and even suggests she is suicidal when she writes, “where’s my truck?”, in a response to her house swap family being killed by a truck (6). Her board consists of photos of the bands she is currently listening to, as well as quotes of depression, death and music. I also included several pins directly related to objects she mentioned, such as books, a diary and instructions for a rat trap, as she initially believes a hare to be a rat. With these Pinterest boards, I wanted to represent not only the physical objects mentioned and their importance, but also the underlying feelings throughout. Slice is looking for an escape, and when she finds a hole in the backyard, she expresses that “(she’s) going back for good (because) (…) it’s so much better there than here” (10). For that reason I chose to include a few whimsical pictures, including one representing the rabbit hole she discovers, as she sees it as her ‘truck’ and her chance to leave everything behind (10).

Ray and Lynn’s board is a lot more optimistic about the move, featuring photos of houses, the Victorian cemeteries they saw, as well as multiple posts about effective packing, things to see and do in London, and living on a budget. Ray and Lynn make it known that they decided on doing a house swap when they met the couple, Betty and Joey in “a support group (they) found for parents of ‘troubled teens'”, also stating that they knew the importance of getting Lisa/Slice “as far away from all the bad influences as possible” (1). To show that side of their story, I also included some pins about dealing with teenagers and the issues that can arise, as it’s clear that Lisa’s parents do want what is best for her, they may just be ignoring or oblivious to her growing depression at hand.

All of these objects and posts play an important role in the story, all displaying both the obvious characteristics, but some of the underlying feelings throughout the story as well. The clear pattern with them is how everything Slice thinks about, writes about and does is quite dark, and the photos I included reflect that. In contrast, Ray and Lynn’s board is very light and hopeful and I saw them as caring people who have a positive outlook on situations, so their board was a lot lighter, both visually and through the content.

I chose to demonstrate this through Pinterest boards because it offered me a chance to do a more in depth close reading of the story, and develop my own take on its overall mood. I also think it worked well with this story in particular because of the platform used in the original publishing, with the works being fully in the form of blog posts. Creating Pinterest boards for Slice and her parents is like adding a further look into their lives during this time, as though they were managing both their blogs, and posting to Pinterest.

You can view my Pinterest boards here:

https://www.pinterest.com/ashleighbal3081/

Works Cited:

Litt, Toby. “Slice”. We Tell Stories, Penguin Books, March 2008, http://www.wetellstories.co.uk/stories/week2/. Accessed 16 Feb.2017.

London Sunset Photograph. “The Top Tech-City Guide: London”, Westbourne, 24th April 2015, http://westbourneqt.com/2015/04/the-top-tech-city-guide-london-part-2-of-6/. Accessed 16 Feb. 2017.

 

 

Review of John Cheever’s “Reunion”

Richard Ford’s reading brought dimension to John Cheever’s short story, “Reunion”. His vocal performance made the podcast easy to listen to, as well as engaged you in the disheartening story of Charlie’s reunion with his father.

quote
A quote that describes Charlie’s final moment with his father. While it may seem like a simple goodbye, to Charlie it was his final goodbye to his father, symbolic of him letting go of the image he had created of his father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the podcast yourself here: http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/fiction/reunions