October 2006 Archives
Sweet! Tonight CMS sponsored a Boston installation of Jane McGonigal's Cruel 2 B Kind, an assassination-type game where players shout compliments at each other to "kill" them (check out the site for a full explanation; it's bizarre but a lot of fun) and my team, The Guild of Calamitous Intent (which is a reference to the best show ever) won! My team was me, Laura and our housemate Jared, who originally suggested our awesome name. I was a little concerned that we'd be accused of nepotism, since our fourth housemate Ivan was the one who was organizing the game, but everything was fine. Wow. I went into the game saying to Laura and Ivan that I wasn't playing to win, I was just playing to play, but dang it sure feels cool to take home the cookie. Or, in our case, some pirate swag and some press in The London Times, The Harvard Crimson and whatever MIT decides to do with us.
Have a delicious day! You're amazing!
Happy pumpkin day, everybody! Life here in Beantown is actually quite excellent at the moment. My housemates and I threw a Halloween party this weekend which went over extremely well I dressed up as the good doctor Gregory House and Laura wore her best Japanese dress and then the rest of the weekend was spent polishing up my thesis proposal, which I submitted well before the deadline yesterday. After that was done, I kept the momentum going and finished up my white paper for C3 as well. A revised draft, anyway we'll see what my research manager says. Regardless, this albatross that's been hanging around my neck for the last six months is almost gone. Hooray! I didn't quite break 20,000 words, but I do think I've said all that I wanted to say about storytelling in a nascent medium. We'll see. I'm bummed that I can't say more about it here, but after the paper is "published" to our partners there's a 6-12 month embargo on it, so I guess you'll hear more about it early in 2007. (By which point, of course, the whole field will have changed sufficiently so as to render most of my comments irrelevant, but I digress...)
Anyway, I just wanted to share the happy news and to wish all y'all a very happy Halloween. OoooooooOOOOOOOooooo! If you get a chance, check out the live broadcast of Most Haunted Live tonight on Discovery. There's some debate as to whether the show is actually an elaborate hoax or not, but even if it is it's fantastic to see ghost hunting made into a social event. Finally, a reality show I can get behind!
Say hi to the trick or treaters for me!
It's not as catchy as Wolfmother, but it strikes me as an excellent title for a fun pulp paperback kind of book, which, you know, wouldn't be a bad thing at all. Games, books, films, all these media types need a good dose of fun, and I think working under a title like Children of Winter, Children of Wolves could be liberating.
What do you think? If you saw a book with this title in Borders, would you pick it up?
Today is a day for much art, apparently. Courtesy of my friend Barry, check out the beautiful works of Dutch paper artist Peter Callesen.
Tonight CMS is holding a special Colloquium roundtable on New Media and Art, which features Lauren Cornell from rhizome.org. I'm looking forward to this; Rhizome has been one of those sites that flits across my radar every couple of months, in part because of stories like this:
The work is based on a simple concept: playing voice recordings through high power audio amplifiers and feeding them through large 1000 watt light bulbs. The tungsten and glass materials of the bulbs act as rich but band-limited filters, resulting sometimes in understandable whispers, other times purely synthetic tones, creating flowing and ebbing waves of light and sound.
More information on the piece can be found at artificiel.org, although it's in French. This is one of those pieces that pushes my "yep, that's art" button it's evocative, moody and beautiful regardless of the technology used or the message it's directly attempting to convey.
I have a porous mind, and a nearly insatiable hunger for pop culture. Thus, it's embarassing (but not wholly surprising) when a phrase pops into my head that I think is catchy and highly useful for a new project, and then later I find out it's totally in use. So yeah. The new project? Not called Wolfmother. Not sure what it'll be called yet. Rats.
However, I am now convinced that The Project Formerly Known as Wolfmother actually is a logical followup to Bones of the Angel. Last week's assignment for Frank was to sketch up the opening scenes of our story. No sooner did I finish that up then I knew that these drawings were going to be immediately followed by the opening animation, which would be followed by a train pulling into the station in a tiny village in Romania. The whistle blows, the door opens up, and out onto the platform steps none other than Michael Coldman.
(WARNING! Spoilers for Bones of the Angel ahead. You may want to stop reading now if you aren't one of my test readers but email me if you'd like to be!)
"So, tell me one more time. Why are we in Romania?"
Michael Coldman grinned as he set his luggage down on the platform. "Lately there's been a whole rash of strange reports about a monster sneaking into town late at night and stealing children right out of their cribs. No one hears anything, no one ever wakes up, and no one knows what's happened until it's way too late. The sun rises, the village wakes up, and some poor mother discovers her baby's gone."
Pi St. John clapped his hands together for warmth and frowned at his best friend. "Right. And what does that have to do with us, exactly?"
"With us, honey? Nothing." Victoria Ravenswood smiled mockingly up at her boyfriend and patted him on the shoulder. "Michael, however, thinks he can learn something. We're just along for the ride."
Michael frowned. "Thanks again for footing the bill for this, Vicky."
She shook her head. "Don't mention it, Michael. My father would have done the same thing and now that he's gone and I'm the sole executor of the Ravenswood estate, I can fund any kind of expedition I want." She smiled. "As long as Pi and I get to go along, of course."
"Still, babe, we do need to keep a couple things straight," Pi said gently. "Michael and I have been on these research trips before, and sometimes the locals can be a little leery of strangers. Since this is your first time out in the field with us, you might want to take your cues from..."
"Pi," VIcky said warningly, cutting him off with a glare. "I spent the better part of the last decade studying in Europe while you mostly sat on a couch in Ohio playing WarCraft. Not only do I have way more experience than you, but I'm the one who happens to know Ilya!"
Vicky suddenly rushed across the platform to throw her arms around a huge mountain of a man, who laughed heartily as he scooped her up in a giant bear hug.
"I take it that's our host for the evening," Michael said.
"Good old Ilya," Pi remarked drily. "C'mon. Help me pry his big paws off my girlfriend."
What's kind of cool about this entire state of affairs is that with Bones of the Angel I potentially set the stage for a whole series of books that follow the same winning two-guys-and-a-girl formula that I used to use way back in my Young Authors' Contest days. Michael, Pi and Vicky aren't exactly Mastermind, Jammer and Jinx (hey, I was in fifth grade when I made up those names) but I can already feel a little bit of their interactions echoing through. It's funny, though way back in the day my three stars were very distinctly based on myself and two of my best friends, and now although it may seem that I'm basing these guys off people I know, they're much more composite figures, smooshed together with archetypes and bits and pieces of other figures from literature. Michael, for instance, is one part me, one part Nick, one part Andy, one part Sherlock Holmes, one part Hellboy, one part Beast (from X-Men), and hundreds of other parts of other stuff. Pi and Vicky are the same way. Hopefully these amalgamations will still come across as complete, 3-D characters, but we'll see. I still have a long way to go with this stuff.
That said, I think I may have struck on a vein of stories that I could definitely chase for a while. I was talking with my friends Sam and Alec in class with Henry the other day about a definite lack that I'm perceiving in the narrative stream right now. There are a ton of fantasy/supernatural stories told about The Chosen One on a faraway planet, or the young boy adventurer who discovers he's destined for so much more (*cough*harrypotter*cough*) but what you don't get a lot of these days are the stories that start out in the real world and feature the adventures of adults that find themselves roped into strange circumstances. I've always been a sucker for Indiana Jones because Indy still goes back to the University at the end of his adventures. He's a (relatively) real, mortal guy unlike, say, Superman. Even Batman's more interesting than Superman because he's a self-made man. A regular guy could become Indy or Batman if he had enough determination and money; a regular guy could never become the last son of Krypton.
While Michael does have some magic in him, it's his quest to find out what exactly he is that's the main motivation in these stories. Vicky is the financier and global girl, Pi is the small-town artist type who finds himself evolving into a leader, Michael is the bookish type but is also the strongest, and connected into everything is Caliban Davies from back home, who's sort of the Oracle to Michael's Batman. I'm not sure what role Jack plays in these story arcs when they're out bouncing around the world, which is ironic since Jack was my original main action hero. At some point I'll reveal Jack's bizarro history to the others, since I still haven't ruled out the idea that all of that ties in here somewhere as well, but we'll see.
Big stories. Big, big stories to tell.
Cool the designer t-shirt site Threadless is having another one of their $10 sales, running now through Wednesday. They've also launched several nifty new tees, including Future Under Construction (which I'd buy if it were a print on paper), the deeply gorgeous Night Birds, and, finally, one that I like not so much for the shirt itself but because it shows that I'm not the only dork with too many montors!
Both Neil Gaiman and Warren Ellis do these little roundups of the blogosphere every so often, presumably for eventual use in upcoming projects. Today I'd like to try resuscitating an old Inkblots feature, The Note Pad, to follow their lead and jot down little discoveries to share with my readers (which includes my own later self). Creative stuff, designer stuff, C3 stuff, and so on. Comments, as always, are welcome.
- Del Toro follows Spielberg and Jackson into games.
According to Joystiq and Eurogamer, Guillermo del Toro is another big-name director who is considering video games as a new platform for telling stories. The two games he's currently consulting on are the Hellboy game being developed by Konami (which Mignola also has a hand in) and Sundown, a zombie game by the folks who did Bloodrayne. Part of me thinks this is quite cool, but another part remains skeptical, in part due to some of the same thinking in another Joystiq piece, Why Games Based on Movies Suck. Also of note: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army is nearly green-lighted. Woo-hoo!
- Shakespeare coming to a virtual world.
Once upon a time, the mother of a student walked up to Edware Castronova and said, "I want my kid to say, 'Wow, Shakespeare!'" Castronova walked away scratching his chin and mumbling, "WoW? Shakespeare? WoW? Shakespeare?" And then he promptly marched out and landed a sweet MacArthur grant for almost a quarter mil to build it. Yes, friends. Academia can be a pretty awesome gig. (And the official site for the project, arden.indiana.edu, is a beautiful piece of work.)
- Potion Factory presents Tangerine.
The app is pretty cool, insofar as it is analyzes the beats of the music in your iTunes library and matches them up to autogenerate playlists to match your mood, sort of like a digital DJ. What made me grin, though, was the name of the company. Right up there with Delicious Monster as best-in-show brands.
- Warren Ellis writes for sixteen hours a day.
Given that he does a lot of it from his local pub while swilling Red Bulls, I can see that. A lot of interesting bits on dialogue in this interview; I myself have taken to listening to eps of Studio 60 on my iPod while walking to class.
- Fitch: a Modern Design Company in Ohio!
I've had my eye on Fitch for years as a forward-thinking Ohio company where I might like to work after I get out of here. I swung by their site this morning in the first time in a long, long while to find they've redesigned it. Nice stuff.
- Studios abandon Halo film.
Apparently both Universal and Fox have yanked funding for the Halo film, citing a trifecta of concerns, including uncertainty about a whopping budget, uncertainty about a fledgling director, and uncertainty about Microsoft demanding a friggin' huge slice of the profits. This is one area of transmediation (THESIS!) that I hadn't previously considered: when a property starts out in one medium (like, say, games) and migrates over to other media (like, say, movies), if the company from which the property originates doesn't play by the rules inherent to the new media form, trouble may ensue. I'm fascinated to see where Halo goes from here; according to the article, Microsoft is "already in talks with other distribution partners". Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if the film didn't get distributed by a newly-formed Microsoft Films.
- Sam and Max are back!
The dog-and-rabbit duo from the old LucasArts games have returned in a new episodic gaming venture distributed by Turner's GameTap and produced by TellTale Games, the same folks who did the Bone game for Jeff Smith. Chaos, hijinks, and a boatload of bad jokes inevitably follow. Some interesting notes to be made here about episodic storytelling in the game environment.
- On TV as in Hollywood, little breathing room for the modest success.
I actually have a lot I want to say about this, and I may launch into it either here or in a future feature for the C3 blog or newsletter, but the main upshot of it is this: the continued demand of networks for nothing but big blockbuster hits, especially in this day and age of long tail content, is just plain stupid. Yes, the Big Four need megahits in order to justify the megacosts of some of their shows, but NBC's announced plans to slash all unscripted TV shows from the 8PM time slot seems like a misstep. All the networks seem to be slashing shows that aren't becoming huge megahits from their schedules, but I'm curious as to why they don't just move those shows? If I were NBC and had shows like Studio 60 that were proving too expensive and highbrow for mainstream television, I'd create a new premium channel like HBO or Showtime and move those shows there or take a page from CBS and mak those shows available exclusively online. Man, I wish Apple would open up their sales records for the iTunes store. I'd love to know how many people are downloading Studio 60 every week. Some fascinating stuff in this piece it's a must-read, just for the sound bites from the TV execs alone.
- Ford reports loss of $5.8 billion.
My Lord. This loss is 20 times worse than last year. $5,800,000,000, just to see the numbers spelled out. "Ford conceded that its sales will probably be surpassed soon by surging Japanese rival Toyota and that it does not anticipate a profit in North America until at least 2009. To shrink its workforce, Ford is offering buyouts and other incentives worth as much as $140,000 each to all 75,000 of its hourly workers in the United States to persuade them to leave their jobs." I'm sure this doesn't have anything to do with the skyrocketing price of gasoline this summer. If I worked at Ford, I'd be voting Democrat this fall.
- Journal of Mythic Arts summer-autumn issue is out.
On a happier note, and one that pertains to my THESIS, the summer-autumn edition of Endicott Studio's Journal of Mythic Arts is up, with links to pieces by artists Charles Vess and Brian Froud. Also of note: Fantasy Magazine looks ineresting. Cool stuff all around.
- Google faces copyright fight over YouTube.
I recently wrote about ways in which Google could monetize its recent acquisition of YouTube for C3, which was only a fraction of the ink spilled on the subject in recent weeks. Also of note: the NYT piece, "We're Google. So Sue Us." From that piece: "The Internet ethos of the 90’s, the expansionist ethos, was, ‘Just do it, make it cool, make it great and we’ll cut the rough edges off later,’ ” Professor Zittrain [professor of Internet governance and regulation at Oxford University] said. “They’re really trying to preserve a culture that says, ‘Just do it, and consult with the lawyers as you go so you don’t do anything flagrantly ill-advised.’ ”
- The Starbucks Aesthetic.
I definitely have more to say on this one, but I wanted to punt the link up here anyway. It's a piece from the NYT on Starbucks' recent inroads into the content business. This whole enterprise is fascinating to me, for obvious reasons. Hmm it looks like they're hiring. I could totally live in Seattle for a while...
- Battlestar Galactica goes Transmedia.
THESIS THESIS THESIS.
- Zappa's down at Fraggle Rock.
Henson-related, but not quite transmedia in the way that I intend to study. Therefore, it gets two out of three: THESIS THESIS THESIS.
- Webisodes: A Battle Against the Empire.
A lot more to say on this one too, actually, but it boils down to this: if networks get away with shafting the creators of spin-off content like mobisodes and webisodes, it's going to kill nascent new media forms and set a nasty precedent for authors of other, more established spin-off forms like novels, movies and games. Under the network's current argument, which states that the webisodes are just marketing tools, any transmediation can be seen a marketing tool for the primary media property. This is dangerous.
- Peet's Meets Timbuk2.
I'm a sucker for all coffee-branded merch (I probably have dozens of coffeeshop T-shirts in my closet now), but this new Peet's Timbuk2 messenger bag is hottt.
While on my morning "jog" around the news sites, I read the The New York Times piece on Barack Obama's hinting at a 2008 presidential candidacy. I am neither racist nor sexist, but I find myself wondering at the wisdom of a Democratic party simultaneously attempting to retake the White House and elect either the first African-American president or woman president in history.
Anyway, those were the thoughts bouncing around my mind when they were completely blown out of the water by this little nugget:
Mr. Obama’s television appearance came as he embarked on a publicity campaign for his second book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Although politicians have been known to suggest they might run for president as a way of spiking book sales, Mr. Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, said that was not the case here.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “The book is doing fine. We don’t need to add any mustard to the hot dog.”
Apparently "gilding the lily" is too highfalutin' a phrase these days, and has been replaced by the much more blue-collar We don't need to add any mustard to the hot dog. I'd be offended if I didn't find the phrase so bizarrely funny. (Plus, I always take mustard on my hot dogs.)
We don't need to add any mustard to the hot dog. Good Lord.
I have, on occasion, been accused of being permanently cranky, stressed-out and short-tempered. Unfortunately, this is more true than I like to admit usually the direct result of one deadline or another going completely kerflooey or some other nightmare scenario. However, it's also true that, on occasion, it actually takes very little to make me happy.
Today, my Diesel Sweeties pixel pumpkin t-shirt showed up in the mail. I am wearing it now. It glows in the dark.
This makes me stupidly happy.
I am seriously considering wearing this sucker to the Pumpkin Festival down on the Common tonight. Seriously cool.
Much coolness: thanks to Fleen, I just discovered the webphotocomic a softer world. This is a media type that I've been kicking around the back of my head for a while now, actually, as something I might want to try at some point. We've seen different degrees of photography-in-comics in the past, including the hyperstylized work of Dave McKean, In the Shadow of Edgar Allen Poe from Vertigo and Brian Michael Bendis' early stuff like Torso, but as The Comics Reporter commented in their review of In the Shadow:
Comics that choose photographs over cartoon art as the primary visual component tend to have all sorts of interesting problems, not the least of which is a readership that may slip into flashbacks featuring the publication that scarred forever a generation of children and lonely teens, the Marvel Fumetti Book. With improvements in comic book printing and the rise of digital art through the proliferation of programs like Photoshop, problems for photo-driven comics have begun to move out of the unfortunate comparison neighborhood to more common, and more considerable, artistic problems. Complicating matters there are still so few comics that feature this kind of art that the repository of standard solutions that exist for drawn art are still being cobbled together. Photo driven works are as a result almost always wildly uneven, a few exciting panels squeezed between outright jarring and even ugly sequences.I tend to agree. Some of the photocomics I've read suffer from unreadability, something that McKean managed to avoid in Mr. Punch but slipped a little on in the earlier Arkham Asylum (of course, Arkham Asylum was designed to send its readers staggering into madness, so its blend of hyperdark photo-realistic materials and paintings and lettering and catscratch fonts, while difficult, certainly accomplishes the mood it sets out to achieve). A Softer World, however, couples photos with very simple text that is by turns poetic and psychotic, kind of like Paul Madonna's All Over Coffee on crack. One way or the other, A Softer World just made my daily clicks list.
Quick bit of research for the THESIS: Serenity Tales is a site dedicated to fan comics for Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity universe. Transmedia storytelling + user-generated content = hottt.
I think ~2000 words is the most I can hammer out in one day without the use of stimulants. Woof.
I'm closing some tabs, so forgive the slightly out-of-date news here, but there's some interesting stuff afoot at The Museum of Modern Art in NYC: a new "Media" curatorial department. According to the press release, Klaus Biesenbach, "a curator in the Museum's department of Film and Media and Chief Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center", will be heading the new department, which will "focus on contemporary art that reflects recent and current artistic practice, including moving image installations, exhibitions, and presentations of soun- and time-based works that are made for an presented in a gallery setting". Museum Director Glenn D. Lowry is quoted in the release as saying, "The creation of a new department at MoMA devoted exclusively to media-based art acknowledges the growing importance of new technologies in contemporary artistic expression." Neat.
Very nifty piece on The New York Times about the a new digital filmmaking technique that's set to blow Maya out of the water. (Thanks, Amanda!)
One of my many quirks is that I have a hard time really getting into a story until its visual look and feel starts to crystallize, even if the story is something I'm just writing as text. Usually that starts with a logo. In this case, it's started with a couple weeks' worth of drawings for Frank Espinosa's world-building class here at MIT, and even a Sculpey maquette. More details on the story itself later...
Courtesy of my boss at C3, an interesting BusinessWeek interview with Microsoft's Steve Ballmer, right before the big GoogTube deal went down. I've been thinking a lot about the online video space lately, and I have some trepidation about the Web 2.0 bubble going kerflooey the same way the Web 1.0 bubble did. The feeling of deja vu settling about my ears is intense; the last time I graduated and went to explore the job market was in 2000, right when the first bubble popped, and I'm hoping up to high heaven that the same thing won't happen when I emerge blinking into the sun with my newly-minted Master's degree.
Enh, whatever. Anytime I read or hear anything from Ballmer, I think the same thing: "developers, developers, developers, developers!"
Taking a brief geek break from a massive amount of projects (that seem like they will NEVER DIE) to play a little bit more with the Twitter system. The premise is simple: update a tiny section of your blog via text message. Your friends can also subscribe to your twitter minifeed, which in effect turns their text message readers on their phones into RSS readers. Kind of. Anyway, it's a pretty nifty little system, and this explains the new little miniblog thing in the upper left, above my Flickr feed. You can also subscribe to my Twitterstream (or whatever you want to call it) via RSS here.
I'm not sure how much I'll use this, exactly, but we'll see. With the mobile research I've been doing lately, little things like this geek me out. Now get me a Treo with a 6 megapixel camera built into it and I'll be a happy boy.
Yes, it's true my group at MIT, the Comparative Media Studies department, has just announced a supermegahuge collaboration with Singapore. According to the press release, "Singapore - MIT collaboration aims to spur gaming sector", this is going to be big. They have no idea. We're not allowed to mention numbers, but this is huge.
I don't know if there's any place for me to study storytelling in video games here after this year, but hey, who knows?
Son of a gun. I just spent 45 minutes working in Photoshop, only to have it crash on me. Of course I hadn't saved why should I worry about saving anymore? Any worthwhile application auto-saves now. My Safari recovers its windows when it crashes (thanks to Saft), Microsoft Word recovers lost data, even Adobe InDesign recovers lost files. Photoshop, though? Hell no. Dammit.
I hate this. To have lost so much work to such a stupid thing is such a n00b screw-up, yet still, here I am. Dammit, Adobe get off your asses and get CS3 out the damn door already! This whole CS-not-being-Universal-binaries yet is bullshit. Early 2007 is too far away.
In case anyone was wondering, yes, the newly-unveiled MIT CMS/C3 Futures of Entertainment site is one of mine. Not sure how the actual homepage title got hosed that way, but whatever. The design is a riff on the new look-and-feel for the C3 site which is set to launch on Halloween or thereabouts. The C3 site will be black, gray and green though.
That is all.
"I would not dream of writing off escapism... The desire to go somewhere else in fiction is what moves a lot of fiction, and is why a lot of fiction is great. You don't read Moby Dick to come away a morally improved person; you read it because you get to get lost with this bloke and ride on this ship with this madman hunting whales. If you can do things in fiction that change the perceptions of the people who are reading it, that's good. You probably should have something to say. If you don't have something to say, then the fiction tends to be vacuous and morally unfixed. I like to get the feeling that something here is being said." Neil Gaiman, The Comics Journal #169