Saturday, July 20, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Releasing the Ephemeral, Final Project- by Elise Beckman

Final Project: Releasing the Ephemeral

My final project:

Releasing the Ephemeral
 Elise Beckman

plaster, fabric, objects from nature

     Nests are symbolic of the sacred places inside us, where we collect our invested meaning from the physical world. The hollow form of a human hand creates an opportunity to view these sacred places inside us-- the internal space which holds these sacred collections-- in the form of a nest, visible inside. The form follows the lines of a tree branch which supports it, in its extending gesture outward towards a giving expression. In the palm rests a branch holding small objects from the natural world-- an acorn, a leaf, a rock-- the physical objects from the external world which can filter from the outside world into our inner world, and there spread their meaning, in a place beyond words. It is my hope that these representations of inner and external space, of nests and new creations, and the physical body will reveal these invisible meanings, and connect us with a new way of reading the space around us, inside us, and the people which inhabit it.

   In the words of Walt Whitman:

To be in any form, what is that?

(Round and round we go, all of us, and ever come back
If nothing lay more develop'd   the quahaug in its callous shell
     were enough.
Mine is no callous shell,
I have instant conductors all over me whether I pass or stop,
They seize every object and lead it harmlessly through me.
I merely stir, press, feel with my fingers, and am happy
All truths wait in all things,
they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it
     becomes omnific.

-Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

In the future, I plan to take these ideas into steps further, and create a, or several, full-scale human forms in this fashion, with these ideas of internal and external space, branching, and nests in mind, and install them outside in relation with physical living trees. It is my intention to hopefully inspire an experience which may change the way people read the world around them and inside them through the use of full-size human form in relation with these natural spaces often overlooked, and reveal inner truths inside them. I am so excited for where this journey is leading me, and all that is to come :) Thank you for all that this class has been and meant for me!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Final Thoughts on the Future of Books

With the end of our class nearing, I wanted to reflected on the perceptions of story-telling that we were asked to consider: traditional books, ebooks, videos, blogs, and other mediums for storing and sharing information. What I've realized is that these creations do not need to conquer each other (unless, maybe, you are sitting in a publisher's chair); I believe that they will maintain and grow in their own spheres, perhaps branching off into new subsets we have yet to imagine. It is up to the user to choose what type of storyworld they want to enter. Is it one that they can watch on a screen where the physical descriptions of characters are made clear by the casted actors? Is it the opinion of an unnamed man out in Nebraska writing about a garden design on blogger? Is is it the first page of a Dickens's story? I don't think it's important to define what is the best way of communication, it is just important to allow for multiple ways for stories to thrive. If the user values story-telling and have the privledged choice to picking how they view it, why does there need to be a conclusion on the value of an ebook versus print?

There doesn't. And as an aspiring writer, these considerations have made me more open-minded to the types of things I hope to make. So far, I have stuck to traditional short stories and poetry, but taking on a project that required me to learn a bit about filmmaking makes me more excited to collaborate with others in this medium. 

It seems that we are in a time of transition, a time where access to stories and creative collaboration is easier than ever. Instead of defining it, we should enjoy the newness and fullness of it all. Doing so may reveal parts of ourselves that we did not think could be touched. It is the same as teaching too much theory squashing the enjoyment of literature, too much theory could blind us to what is really happening with technological changes. As is written in Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami,

“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine."

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Update on Project!

So I know I haven't blogged in a while, but that's because I have been spending time on my books and final project.  I spent today's class in the printing studio to print out photos for my project which you will all see!  I've come up with an idea to use the photos in my book and a sort of map/web which you will all see.  Many of them will be connected in certain ways as you will see!

My personal class blog

Here's a post from my blog, and the link to my blog for anyone interested:

Trying to figure out how this is going to work… just realized I have to be at the hospital all night before my presentation.  I hope I can get all my drawings done in time, and I hope the henna comes in the mail by then!!!  

I guess I shouldn’t freak out.  If it doesn’t work out, I can always do the drawings later and take pictures to show the class.  

I have once again decided to take my project in a bit of a different direction.  I had originally planned to write out a few lines of poetry or something to that effect to go along with each picture.  Now I’m thinking just one word would be more poignant and effective.  For the hand picture, “hold”.  Lung will be “breathe”.  I want to also do like ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus and maybe use “life” as the word?  Or… hmm.  Is that the right word for it?  Or “female” or “woman”.  I kinda like “woman” actually.  That might change, we’ll see. Heart… hmm.  I want to kind of say “feel” or “love”.  Even though I know that obviously our hearts have absolutely nothing to do with feelings or love, people always say you feel with your heart and think with your head.  And honestly, even though anatomically I know exactly (and I do mean exactly… you can’t possibly know the hourrrrrrs I’ve spent learning the circulatory system haha) how the heart works, I am the sort of person who generally relies more on feelings.  I know that sometimes logical thought is the better course of action, and many of the mistakes I’ve made in my life have come from me being too hasty to make decisions based on how I feel.  But I also think that some of the best decisions I’ve made have been based on feelings.  Yeah, I think “feel” is a good word for the heart.  Brain stem will probably be “know”.  

I think I’ve just had a revelation about how I’m going to present this.  I think I’m going to talk about how, even though as humans we all have these same internal structures that more or less look and function in the same way, all of them mean such different things to us based on our own personal selves.  Everyone’s hands have held different people and things and done all different sorts of work whether it’s art or medicine or cooking or writing or anything!  Lord knows our hearts feel different things and our heads know different things.  Sex organs… everyone feels differently about those.  Personally, I think, or rather I know, that hormones have played a huge role in my life.  I have a condition where I get cysts on my ovaries, I’ve had it all my life (it’s called PCOS).  It’s caused be an overexposure to hormones while in utero.  Interestingly enough, 40% of women with PCOS are lesbians, which I think is probably a huge reason behind my being gay.  That’s kind of another story though… I think heart and head and every aspect of my life plays into that as well.  But, there’s no denying that sex organs/hormones have played a role.  They’re also integral, to me, because having a feminine body I think has developed my sense of gender over the course of my life.  In that sense I definitely have a positive view of that area of my body.  I know though, that for many people, their sense of self doesn’t match up with the sex organs they possess (which I think is really sad).  So they could absolutely be viewed by some in a negative light.  

Ok now I need to go jot down some notes on what I’m going to say for this presentation.  I’m glad that all just came to me!

Action Blogging.

I was nervous about how I have been using my time. Time seems to slip away so fast and what moments you use it for must be important or else that time has been wasted. I have not been blogging as much, and in some ways I worried about that. I have been using most of my time these past few weeks to work on my final project (which still remains unnamed), and I think the action I have taken in this situation was the right thing for me. 

I find that I tend to base what is an important use of my time on action. I prefer to do something with my time instead of talk or write about it. That, of course, is not completely true, as that philosophy does not at all apply to my love for writing poetry or having long, meaningful conversations with friends, family and peers. I only suggest that when it comes to creating something, the best way to move forward is to take action and do something. 

I have been doing a lot with my project, but not writing about it very much. I believe that is fine for myself. Something that I have always believed since high school has been "who cares about grades as long as you are learning something." I am more than a grade in a grade book, and just because a grade is what the teacher thinks I deserve in terms of the class standards, if I know that I learned something, then that is all that matters. 

My good friends Kevin is taking a class right now called Bad Homos. Neither him nor I really understand what that name means. Kevin has explained to me many times how much he loves the class and how it has affected him and helped him grow this semester. He has also explained to me that his grade in the class is pretty awful somehow...his grade will be determined by the teacher, but what he got out of the class can only be determined by him, and I think what he has learned has nothing to do with a stupid grade. 

What I'm trying to say is that I was nervous because the main criteria of this class is the journey we take, and there is only literal evidence of that journey if we take the time to reflect upon it in words...which I have not been doing as much. But, what I am also saying is that although there may not be written evidence of the journey I have taken through this class, I know personally what I have learned and the journey that I have taken. The hard work I have been putting into my project is journey enough for me. I have learned from an hours worth of editing a twenty second clip of film what I learn from a days worth of blogging. 

I dig blogging, but action is what has gotten me to this point. 


Thursday, April 4, 2013

In the unlikely event that anyone’s interested to read more of my thoughts about the whole Ryan Gosling Sex Experience[1] debacle:

I think the issue of rational vs. sentimental decisionmaking is interesting, and didn’t necessarily get a fair shake when we were discussing all this in class -- in large part, no doubt, because I was trying pretty hard to stick to my guns and not concede a single inch in a discussion where it probably would’ve been productive for me to concede several inches, if not whole yards. Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m more or less convinced that every decisionmaking process requires something like a sentimental push[2] to get going, even if the mechanisms doing most of the work in the decisionmaking process are totally rational/non-sentimental. Take, for example, the hypothetical situation we discussed, where someone offers to give you a ten dollar bill or let you select a single bill from out of a hat that contains a one dollar bill, a five, and a twenty. It’s tempting to say that taking the guaranteed ten dollars is the rational choice, but strictly speaking this isn’t true. Taking the guaranteed ten dollars is only the rational choice if it’s the case that you’re looking to come away from the interaction with the highest chance of holding the most money. If, however, you don’t have any cash but really want to buy something that costs $15, picking a random bill from out of the hat becomes the rational choice because a $10 bill has zero chance of getting you what you want whereas you’ve got a 1/3 chance of getting what you want if you pick out of the hat[3]. Neither motivation is rational (though both motivations can undergo rational operations), it’s just a matter of your particular desires.

This is not to say that there’s no real discussion to be had concerning the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience, just that such a discussion will necessarily involve a sub-discussion about we’re really after when we’re choosing between a brief moment of intense pleasure and a much larger span of time during which who knows what could happen. I think, for the vast majority of people, the first implulse in these sorts of situations is going to be to make the decision that will maximize the total amount of pleasure[4] they’re likely to experience. And, in all honesty, it’s overwhelmingly likely that the total amount of pleasure you’ll experience in any ten year timespan is going to exceed the amount of pleasure you’d experience having sex with Ryan Gosling or taking part in some comparable activity. So, unless you can think of a brief experience so pleasurable it would outweigh all the good experiences you can expect to have in a ten year period, it would seem irrational to choose the brief pleasurable experience over ten years of regular life, so long as your choice is motivated solely by a desire to experience the most total pleasure[5].

However, I think the desire to experience the most total pleasure is far weaker in most people than the desire to experience the highest possible concentration of pleasure or the highest amount of total pleasure minus total pain and boredome. Consider what you would do if someone offered to let you start life over and live for thousands of years all while experiencing a barely perceptible sensation of pleasure (and no more). Such a life would afford you the opportunity to experience a greater sum of total pleasure than you would in your normal life, but you would probably rather live a normal life anyway. Even living a normal life for thousands of years is unappealing to a great number of people, which suggests that the total amount of pleasure experienced over a lifetime is less of a motivating factor than the desire not to be bored or lonely or what have you.

But say someone offers you a dollar for every second you’re willing to shave off your life. Losing ten seconds and gaining ten dollars sounds pretty reasonable. I suspect most people would willingly give up a little less than two minutes of life in order to have $100, and I think few people would blame them. Obviously, there’d come a point where you’d stop exchanging time for money since you need time to spend money, but the same isn’t true for pleasure[6]. If someone offered to reduce your total lifespan by 1%, but promised that all the time removed would be time you’d otherwise spend bored and unproductive, would you do it? You’d be able to retain the same number of happy/pleasurable moments, and moreover, they’d occur with a higher frequency. I suspect some people would take this offer. More importantly, I suspect fewer and fewer people would take the offer if the percentage by which their lifespan would be reduced grew to 10 or even 50%. Even I don’t think I’d agree to reduce my lifespan to a single moment even if I could be assured of experiencing the same amount of total pleasure. But if it were really the case, as I suggested in class, that concentration of pleasurable experiences should be the driving motivation for these decisions, then it would be incredibly irrational of me to turn down any of the lifespan-reduction offers.

What I think is motivating my refusal to reduce my lifespan to a single moment (even if I can guarantee that I’ll feel the same amount of total pleasure) is a disbelief that I’d really be able to experience a lifetime’s worth of happiness in just a split second. I have no reason (i.e. logical motivation) to foster this disbelief -- I’m simply incapable of imagining a life that short or pleasurably dense. Whether or not the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience is really worth ten years of your life is only relevant if you’re capable of believing that it might be. In comparison with a ten year span of life, which we’ve all not only had but seen represented[7] hundreds of times in various media, the Ryan Gosling Sex Experience is a relative unknown. Our reactions to the question Would you give up ten years of your life in exchange for a moment unlike any you’ve ever known? may have more to do with our respective imaginative capacities than any ability to reason.

1. Would you give up ten years of your life to have sex with Ryan Gosling? Which question, for broad discussion purposes, we basically recast as: Would you give up ten years of your life (in the future) in exchange for a brief but immensely pleasurable experience? Back to body

2. or at the very least a set of non-provable assumptions Back to body

3. This scenario isn’t very likely, but all that matters is that it’s logically possible, since I’m using rational and logical more or less interchangeably here. Back to body

4. Pleasure here includes things like fulfillment, joy, etc. Basically: good feelings. Back to body

5. This assumes that all increments of pleasure are equally weighted and can theoretically be merged into a total sum of pleasure. I’m not sure that’s the case. How many child’s drawings would someone have to give you in trade for the Mona Lisa? Back to body

6. Maybe. I suppose there could be a maximum number/amount of happiness chemicals your brain can release before it’s incapable of processing any more, but I’m not sure where the cutoff is. Back to body

7. As we were leaving the classroom, Jesse said something about preferring chick flicks over any other genre of movie, and her statement got me thinking about the sorts of stories we consume for entertainment and what they might bring to bear on this discussion. Something that I think contributes to my disbelief that ten years of ordinary life is really truly all that valuable an experience (if we’re being honest) is the fact that we hardly ever seek out accurate representations of life. Actors are almost always better looking than the people we interact with daily, and their characters’ lives are soundtracked and condensed (no movie I’ve seen is even close to ten years long) in a way that allows us to value their long-term accomplishments without experiencing the tedium it takes to acheive them. I might argue that a lot of the value people see in a ten year stretch of their life has more to do with the narrative arc those ten years enable to develop than it does the actual lived experiences that take place in that time. Back to body

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tree Body!

Ongoing with my fascination of bodies and trees and the space within as well as without a form, here is an update on my in-class book project!

Check out de websitez! :)


Monday, March 25, 2013

Ongoing Project Random Gold //Maybe?

An ongoing project I have been working on has been audio-visually recording the basics in my life (eating, brushing teeth, tying shoes, etc) and compiling them in a very authentic/actual manner to highlight life off the screen. In the process of editing the food portion of my vlogumentary, I came across a clip created by a random girl who snagged my camera. Perhaps it is only entertaining to me as I was present IRL, but, regardless, here is the footage:

Friday, March 22, 2013

What do you see/hear/think/believe?

I only just realized that I have not posted in a few days...

At first glance that seemed bad to me, but I realized it was because over the past few days my posting has been replaced with my interviewing, videotaping, recording, and thinking about things for my final project.

I have been enticed with analyzing, listening to, and working on these videos/recordings I took of my sister, mother, and just the other day, myself, that have to do with anything and everything that could possibly be talked about, thought about, felt, seen, listened to, or experienced in terms of god, religion, spirits, ghosts, life, and belief.

I am so excited to share some of the stuff I have captured with you all!

This first video is one that I took with my computer. I was in Dedham Massachusetts over this past weekend and my sister was talking to my two friends about her experiences. I didn't have any space left on my phone to just record their conversation so I took a video instead, but what I captured (at least when I watched it back over) was much more. Of course, it is up to interpretation, that is, after all, the whole point, the interpretation of the questions I will pose to you through my book.

You should know a few things before watching/listening. 1. The hallway in which I recorded has no windows in it, so there was no other light besides the artificial one in the hallway. 2. My sister and my friend Josh were talking to each other in a nook right outside my sisters bedroom, the computer was right outside my room facing the wall, so they never came near the computer. And 3. at minute 1:49, the light shift is my computer light turning off.

So, in this case, I ask you to watch this short video. Listen to the way my sister describes what she sees with such ease and how my friend Josh responds. Draw your own opinions from what you hear, of course, in terms of if you believe them or not, but also pay attention to what you hear and how that corresponds with what you see. Especially pay attention to the moments between seconds 0:47-0:57, and minute 2:20 to the end.

What do you think/hear/see/believe?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Does Newness Require Rules?

Does what was once thought of the future's look influence what is designed now? When architects design a building that is suppose to represent innovation, were they inspired by what was seen to come by moviemakers? I found the affirmative to be a convincing position given a recent article on LifeEdited that discusses new ecological design. One of the firms interested in such ventures previously produced a design for a building called Kingdom Tower:

It looks to be very reminiscent of cityscapes produced in Metropolis

 and Minority Report:

I could be drawing parallels where no real intention by designers exists, but I think these similarities bring up an interesting question: do we plan according to a plan we've been taught? It's well understood, by most, that people adhere to a set of preferences and expectations, but how many options are really available for satisfying them? And would an awareness of the lack of options constrain or inspire an individual? How does one react to existing within a set of rules/laws/systems, as all humans do?

It may be that the most creative people are the ones who can produce original, interesting work within a set system. This is an idea that relates to the process of book-cutting. A book is a physical object that can only be manipulated in a set number of ways. Yet, everyone in class is able to produce at a minimum of three original solutions to the task. To some degree, we never leave the original form thought up by the author (perhaps like how an architect must adhere to public opinion and physical practicalities of building structures), but looking at these expectations rather as materials than constrictions may produce an original tower (that may nod to all thoughts of building design that came before whether they be fictional or the Empire State Building).

So often artists are made to be afraid of rules and conventions, that they are a threat to creative integrity or homogenize work. But the musicians, filmmakers, and thinkers that we so admire learned what was already done before they produced their own--and often greatest--works. For instance, writing at a certain time or for a certain time each day does not limit the oncoming of inspiring moments where one feels they must write, but it reminds the writer of their craft and that motivation is separate from inspiration. And it prepares them to handle an idea when it comes.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bodies as books

For those who don't know, my final project (if all goes as planned) is going to be using my own body as a book.  I plan to show internal structures, using ink on my skin, and I want to incorporate literature into my project by finding a song lyric, a limeric of poetry, a line from a book, something in print that is about the particular body part I've illustrated.  My very generous and talented roommate has agreed to be the grand artiste on this project, as I'm only a humble nursing student with no art skills to speak of.  I will be using henna to print these images on my skin.  Henna will usually stay on skin for at least a week or two, and I like the idea of my project lasting longer than just until the next shower.  The idea is that I will slowly start to print all my images on my skin over the course of a few days, and then present myself to the class, so they can view me in my own body, and at the same time, be viewing my "book".

Since deciding on this as my project I've started thinking a lot more about bodies as books.  I've started noticing more about others' bodies, especially those of patients at the hospital, and seeing what stories bodies tell.  The reason I notice more with patients is because often times people who are in the hospital have a long history of medical problems, and by looking at their bodies, you can piece together their stories without even reading a chart.  Take one look at the abdomen of a patient with a GI problem.  You'll see surgical scars from bowel resections, lap sites (small incisions where laparascopic instruments and/or cameras are inserted for surgery or a view of the intestines), a colostomy, a G-tube (tube that pierces the wall of the stomach and comes to the outside of the body.  Used for feeding.), and often several other miscellaneous scars and tubes and bags.  Even healthy people's bodies tell quite a story.  Just looking at my own body right now, I see the scar from my appendicitis surgery at 13, the broken capillary on my nose from the time I fell out of my dad's truck at age 10, the slightly crooked bottom teeth that I never got braces for, the acne I just cannot grow out of, the ugly purple scar on my breast where I had a cyst removed, the piercing that friends couldn't understand why I got, since it's usually covered up (but it makes me feel happy and empowered), the dozens of moles that have popped up in the last 5 years, the "tan" line from last summer that never completely faded because it was the worst sunburn I've ever had, the love handles that I love to hate.

I think we can all learn a lot about reading bodies like books.  There is always more than meets the eye, but sometimes bodies can tell a fantastic story before the owner of the body even opens his or her mouth.

This is China's oldest living person.  Just looking at this photograph, I can already see such a story that her body tells.  I'd love to see her up close in person.  Her body is an incredible book.

This beautiful young woman who is brave enough to show us what breast cancer has done to her body.  

This Sri Lankan man who looks like he's worked extremely hard his entire life.

I could do this all day but I'll stop.  Bottom line:  I love humans!  

Sorry I found one more that I just had to share!  This guy's face after summiting the highest mountain in North America.

Ok last one I swear!  This African tribal woman's scars are so intricate and intriguing and tell SUCH a story.  

Monday, March 18, 2013

On the Mainstream and Tributaries

Fish swimming down a river are all going in the same direction. We are living beings coasting through existence toward a parallel end--death. Like salmon traveling upstream to spawn and perish, we follow along the routine path toward our final destination.  While segments of this stream may branch off into smaller tributaries and lead to slightly altered versions of the same thing--whether that be landing in a puddle of muck and suffocating in flapping gills or being crushed against rocks or pulled up by fishing nets--we end in death. The destination is fixed and final and only our means of getting there is what deviates on the individual level. Each journey is a story to be documented, although in the end it is the all the same book, just with lightly altered covers. Bound or unbound, we will end up as corpses on the shore and what will we have to show for it? The physical body is nothing in the end and no legacy can be traced into immortality. In order to achieve longevity we need a purpose, a meaningful reason to enjoy the deviations of tributaries. While we may bask in the waves of the mainstream like all the others, we can explore no individual pursuits when too afraid to take the side-stream or downplay those trying to avoid the current by labeling them as 'weird' or 'starved for attention.' We all need a chance to explore and take a side current, whether that be a daily ritual of personal expression or a lifestyle of homemade ambitions. Be sidestream. Not hipster, not flowing into the 'other' mainstream, but deviating into a winding tributary of unknown meanderings. Then embrace the end in open arms.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

more project videos!

Here is another little video I plan on using for my project! From one of my favorite movies!

And a song!

Rooks, Knights, and Bishops, Oh My!

The greatest game of all time garners its beauty not only from the intricacy of its elegant design but from its variety of tastefully styled constructions. Chess derives from several ancient games intended to simulate war across the globe, and each contributes to the miraculous game that we all know and love. Specifically, chess draws its origins from the Indian chaturaṅga—a game containing pieces with similar movements to modern rooks, knights, bishops, and pawns, but called chariotry, cavalry, elephants, and infantry—and the Muslim shatranj—which has many similarities to both modern Western chess and the Japanese variant shogi. After chess was adopted into European culture, it fully became the standard F.I.D.E. (World Chess Federation) version we know today. While the game is an abstraction of war tactics and strategy, the design of its pieces gives it a classic and elegant feel that mirrors the brilliance of thought required to succeed in the game. In this regard, there are quite literally hundreds of variants in existence, which attempt to embody and exploit different aspects of the game and explore its further intricacies, whether that be increasing the number of players, the movements of pieces, or the shape and size of the board. Many of these deviations from standard F.I.D.E. chess are wonderfully amusing, and I strongly suggest exploring them at the Chess Variant Pages.

With so many varieties in existence, it is easy to see the impact chess has on the people subject to its addictive allure. Years are dedicating to exploring and mastering this game, and, as a result, it has become a quintessence of the human condition. At its heart, chess subsists of pure logic and rational thought. In this regard, it tends to employ the left-brain, which is often favored by society for the progression of accomplishment, in war, business, or development. However, while the game is mastered in understanding and applying this rational thought, the display of chess and the environment it operates in allows for creativity to play its part. Ergo, chess sets are some of the most brilliant pieces of art.

Many sets are traditionally beautiful, with hand-carved pieces or glass boards, many of which can be placed on display in homes for the sake of class and esteem. Some sets change the display of pieces, deviating from the traditional Staunton chess set which has been adopted by F.I.D.E. as the standard since 1924. These deviations can sometimes become more concrete, such as using figurines, which are designed as people or animals. Other times, they can become more abstract, such as finding a singular shape to stand for a known piece.

Not only are the pieces greatly altered, but the boards themselves can take on dynamic changes, whether that is scale or direction. There are several “life-sized” chess sets around that involve two to three foot pieces on a large ten-by-ten foot board. Also, the boards can have a variety of different colored pieces, separating from the standard black-and-white checkers. The most original design I have found incorporates a vertical board, where the game is played on a wall-hanging by moving pieces up and down a picture-framed surface.

Many variations of chess exist, from the concept of the game to the design of the pieces and board, but they all mirror the brilliance of the elegant game.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My final project idea...

I was having a conversation with my mom about my sister over break; my sister is what you might call a "medium," she can see spirits and ghosts and communicates with them. As much as I love my sister, and believe that she is telling the truth about the things that she sees, there are times when it is difficult for my logic to latch onto some of the things she says she sees, hears, or feels. I think this has a lot to do with the society we have grown up in. We are conditioned to think that ghosts couldn't possibly be real, that people who see spirits must be a gimmick, and that those who believe in these things are messed up in the head.
In contrast to these thoughts, my mom and I were also talking about belief in God. Both my mom and my sister believe in God and say they talk to him on a regular basis. My mom has even explained to me the first moment she heard him talking to her, saying that it was indeed a male voice and presence, and she knew it was God speaking because what he was saying to her in her head were not her own thoughts.
Society would say that my mom and sister's belief in God was acceptable, but their belief in ghosts and spirits was a joke. Why? How are they so different? Other than the outlook that God is the creator of the universe and ghosts are from this earth. They both go unseen (in most cases), and they both survive on the belief that people have in them. Why are we so conditioned that belief in God is more logical than the belief in ghosts or spirits?...
I want to use some of the ideas I have been developing throughout the semester and combine them to create a feeling, an argument, a question, a challenge. At the beginning of the semester I was thinking about this idea of Precious Images, and had thought of using that idea but with images, sounds, and touches. I still want to use these effects for the presentation of my book because it will give the reader the opportunity to use their senses to form their own opinion, just like my sister, who sees, hears, and feels the spirits around her.
I have also decided to combine the final project and the book project into one, because they just fit so perfectly together. The books that I collected from the Salvation Army were bibles, and I want to use their raw material as the visuals for the project. I am going to continue writing on them, cutting them up, and reshaping them to show that conflicting messages to what the bible says can be found in the bible itself. I am going to probably use the one children's bible I have as the touching sensation for the project...what to be done to that book has yet to be determined. And finally, over break I ended up recording these conversations I had with my mother, and I am going to use that raw material and possible other interviews as the sound for the project.
All of these elements coming together should create a sensation in the reader, one that causes them to question their own beliefs.

Monday, March 11, 2013

new blog post!

Hi guys I know I have taken a "blogging hiatus" for a bit in lieu of Spring Break, but here is my most recent blog post! NEW POST :)

"The Freedom to Connect"

(this is a cross-post from my personal blog)

Since ENG 420 encourages the use of blogging on class material, I think a discussion on the idea of sharing on the internet is natural. This idea comes as a tangent to an earlier post on the fallibility of individuality. By opening up thoughts and a desire to connect online, the conventional sense of ownership may no longer apply. This is something Aaron Swartz, and many others, worked to define so that non malicious users would not be made into criminals. Should my sharing the link to his speech on my own blog post be considered a copyright violation? Some say yes.

Swartz's form of protest, among many other campaigns, was to release publicly funded and purposed academic articles into the public domain.  If the function of information is to teach, why wouldn't educators and thinkers encourage the use of the internet to easily share?

Most do. That's what Wikipedia and Creative Commons is all about. These sites take a leading stance on privatizing information by demonstrating how public access to information leads to more educated, creative people.

Not only does the internet offer a huge way to connect ideas with resources, but it allows for an amazing (and easy) way to organize. Online petitions are a new form of activism, and possibly more effective.

But technological development moves quicker than the laws and legislators we have in place. Attitudes overwhelm knowledge; not understanding a system creates fear both in companies and policy makers who do not embrace the expanse of the internet. It is perhaps necessary that those in charge of defining use of the internet should be literate in its functions. Not only would it make for more engagement between politicians and their constituents, but it would perhaps change their idea that the internet is a scary place. When Swartz defines the influence of the internet on the passing of a bill, it becomes clear that it operates in a truly democratic sense; "it was really stopped by the people, the people themselves."

While Swartz may have violated a user agreement or annoyed the administrators at a college, he was breaking into and establishing what a world with a free exchange of ideas requires. It is best said in a New Yorker article after Aaron Swartz's death, "Swartz’s frontier was not geographic like Thoreau’s, but defined by other barriers unique to our times. His form of civil disobedience consisted of heading into an M.I.T. closet with a laptop, hooking it up to the Internet, and downloading millions of articles from JSTOR, an academic database. Swartz thought information should be free. It wasn’t a major coup, but it counts as a defiant act—and one that made its point, for it was, and remains, absurdly hard for the public to gain access to what academics supposedly write for it."

Does the political reluctance towards the internet come from a class division? Why was this behavior deemed defiant?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Call for More Virtuous Video Games

I am not a fan of video games.

Mindlessly falling away into a realm of flashing lights and sounds of illusion is often a means to mental decay. Modern video games have become more concrete and closely parallel to society. People blast away at the avatars of others with artificial guns, peppering virtual bodies with imaginary bullets. The sights and sounds are brought to life before our eyes and the lack of abstraction takes us to a place we can perceive, without much thought, as reality. While this is often the basis for arguments against violent video games, I am not trying to debate against the content of these games, simply the premise and existence for them. At their core, they lack ingenuity. They are largely based off of war, sports, or racing, and while we typically may not  have access to the full extent of these activities in real life, the fact that these games are simply reflections of this reality does not aide in the mental development of players.

Video games need to be more intuitive, leaving more to the imagination and less to graphics. While technology becomes increasingly easier to use and manipulate, a higher creativity is required for furthering greater development. With fresh and innovative ideas, we can form technology as not only as a wondrous tool to eliminate grueling and grinding work (such as mindless data entry, etc) but a refreshing toy that teaches us how to think and learn.

We need technology to better our minds, not help them. is a beautiful example of what improved technology can create. It breaks the mold for what video games have popularly become. It defines something new and strange, something that makes us think and learn, like children, developing a greater plasticity in which we can continue to learn and figure out the unknown. There is a small niche of these games in existence and they revolve around a philosophy of thought and intuition, rather than a dexterity of control. It challenges the mind by pushing the player into a flow state. If we, as a society, can learn to embrace the unique, the strange, and the challenging, we could develop a whole new line of video games and draw in a more intellectual audience that benefits society, rather than detract from it.

So start by playing Feed The Head, both for your intellectual and visual enjoyment. This game, like any form of art, holds the potential to inspire you.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Religious or crazy?

Religion is not viewed as crazy; praying to someone who is not there, putting all your faith and belief in a figure who you have never met or seen, performing acts that this "God" tells you to do for the good of mankind, etc. But believing in ghosts and spirits and extra terrestrials is viewed as crazy. Or if you are a schizophrenic and believe that you are seeing a person right in front of you speaking to you, even if that person is "god" perhaps, you may be classified as "insane" rather than religious... How on earth has our society become so disconnected from our spiritual side and so afraid of alternate beliefs that the answer is either religious or crazy?

We watched A Beautiful Mind in class the other day and got into this discussion... What is classified as crazy? Are artists crazy? Do we have to be crazy in order to create our most compelling art? What about the fact that I personally have seen a UFO? Or what about the fact that my sister is a medium (can see spirits and ghosts) and I have had a personal encounter with a ghost where they moved right through my body and apologized for it? What about aliens? Do they exist?... Do you think I'm crazy for stating/believing in these things?...

How can we be so naïve to believe that with the size of this universe and the history of this earth that we are the only beings that can exist or that there can be only one set of logical belief systems?

I continued this discussion with my roommate and good friend, Ian, last night. We got into a discussion of people in general, and how most of us refuse to acknowledge things in ourselves that we don't want to deal with. For example, if a boyfriend cheats on his girlfriend, they will then not want to talk about it and therefore pretend it didn't happen. But it did happen, and them not acknowledging it and dealing with it is avoiding the pain and of their actions and a denial of truth within themselves. I believe this applies to belief systems as well. Perhaps so many people cling onto religion because they are not ready to deal with a possibly painful truth that they are alone. Or perhaps so many people are adamant about others' beliefs in ghosts or extra terrestrials because they are afraid that they might actually exist.

I am in no way against religion. I actually do have some kind of faith in something, though I don't know what exactly. But I think this is something that needs to be questioned and discussed and thought about, if not to find some answers than to simply create some honest awareness.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alone in Union Station

Sitting in Chicago’s Union Station is interesting.  I am here alone, but not really alone, there are a lot of people who rush around me.  Yet, I feel alone.  I feel kind of uneasy.  I feel that I just want to be back in Ann Arbor, in my familiar Ann Arbor city, with my familiar buildings and streets and people and knick-knacks.  Even thought I want to be somewhere I am not, I also regret those feelings.  It makes me feel weak and I hate feeling weak.  It makes me think, and sometimes I hate when I think. I hate when I think mainly because it leads to more uneasiness.  Not just uneasiness from the unfamiliar and big city environment, but also uneasiness within myself. This happens because I am not able to talk to anyone else; I just have myself to listen to.  Memories and worries, ambitions, and regrets seem to always leak out of my soul and into my brain when I am alone.  I wonder how many others around me have similar feelings? Looking around me, there are a lot of people who are also “alone.”  But they have families, they have worries, they have goals, they want to be somewhere other then here.  If all the people disappeared and all that was left was the feelings of people, I believe it would look like swirling ghosts; I believe these ghosts would find connections amongst each other and make friends.  I believe the room would no longer be lonely; instead it would be friendly and exciting.  Isn’t it amazing how flesh and bones so easily tear us apart from making friends? That hair and fingernails stop us from saying hello? That cloth and rubber acts as force fields from sitting near each other? If the flesh and bones melted away, if the hair and fingernails fell off, if the cloth and rubber dissolved, what would the world be like? What problems would we have, if any? If we could only see emotions and nothing else, would the word be happier? Safer? Hmmmmmm it is interesting to think about, and these thoughts overrule my uneasiness, which is nice for a minute.  I decide to give into my rumbling tummy and buy food, pay the cashier, and pick a spot three seats away from the nearest person.  Funny how thoughts and actions are completely unrelated in real life. 

....These thoughts continue to inspire my end of the year project....the first being a series of ceramic pieces and the second a series of white t-shirts.... I want to use each to explore how different types of media can be used for expression, where some pieces represent how others perceive me, and 

Sound as an Object

Lately in my film class, we've discussed how sound is treated like an object by filmmakers. Viewers often anticipate that a sound is dictated by, or connected to, an image; it is jarring or unexpected for a sound to seem inorganic. Yet the most creative teams match sound and image in ways that are both unexpected and narratively important. Playing with this idea for a while gave me a stronger direction for my project to teach myself how to animate. I had several ideas for videos, but really wanted to play with the relationship between image and sound. So, I decided to pick what I think to be an abstract song, and come up with a narrative guided by the sounds.

Here is what I picked:

This song is a good representation of how music can exist without a traditional verse, bridge, chorus format. I particularly like it because of this absence of words, and I will maintain this in my project. Image and sound will be used to create a narrative--a short narrative--that I hope will be as effective in telling a story as a book. Film and music are different formats than something written (which we've agreed on in class is the best definition), but I do not think it eliminates them from being effective story-telling mechanisms. 

My new Blog idea

Check out of new blog idea- quotes!!! - CHECK IT OUT! :) See you in class tomorrow!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Vlogumentary

Considering we spend so much time in front of screens, we might as well turn all of reality into screen life.
I have an idea for a long-term project. An ongoing documentary/vlog about the mundane aspects of reality that the Internet does not fully capture yet. Toothbrushing, showering, making the bed, walking, pressing elevator buttons, opening doors, tying shoes, preparing food, eating food, releasing food, talking, plugging in laptop chargers, breathing, zippering a backpack, folding sheets, pouring laundry detergent, drinking water, driving cars, filling cars with gasoline, opening cans, shaving, holding hands, buying groceries, mopping a floor, and smiling.
Each piece of this vlogumentary will highlight a different aspect of everyday living. There will be an entire segment focused on covering all aspects of trimming toe nails, for example, or swiping a Visa card at stores. Every time I clip a chunk of nail or fumble for my wallet, it will be recorded. The duration of each activity will vary on the topic. Toothbrushing may require 3-4 weeks of intensive filming while turning keys in locks may only require 48 hours.
I hope this project will help capture the fullness of what it means to be a modern day human. A 21st Century Homo Sapiens. Perhaps it will say something about the Do Easy method of living or the pointless amount of time we waste on simply surviving as opposed to prospering.
I think I will begin this project by filming myself eating. There is a lot to go off with this topic. Does the time of day I eat affect my appetite/mood? Does the food I consume affect my mental state, alertness, and/or emotions/personality? Is there a correlation between the type of food I consume and the time of day in which I consume said food?
I'm sure there is a proper scientific method for answering these questions and lots of thorough experiments I could apply to test and measure this, but I'll let more intelligent people do that job. I'll just start by recording.
The little red dot is blinking.

Silicon Shuttles to a Synthetic State

On average, we spend <insert shockingly high but hopefully accurate statistic here> hours in front of a screen every day. These screens are windows to whatever we wish to see. The internet offers us places we’ve never been and people we’ve never met IRL. Our lives exist in front of them, our eyes scanning spreadsheets and two-dimensional newsfeeds when they were designed to perceive depth and location of prey we used to hunt. We have no reason to search after running animals when we can purchase preservative-pumped meat through online retailers. Computers take away our need to move beyond the glowing pixels in front of us.

With several hours spent before screens each day, one begins to wonder the aesthetic appeal of such devices. Is it the great graphics that draw us in? New Apple products are perpetually improving upon display and interface design. Is it the simple appeal of the Internet and the indirect connections we can make with other humans? Constant improvements on social media sites and web browsers are adapting to make these experiences increasingly easier to access, speedier, and more enjoyable. Whatever the case may be, we are spending exponentially more time before screens as “better” technology continues to develop. In this sense, a significant portion of our minds and presence exists within this virtual realm. We take up residence in our homepages and online media sites, but when we exit out of our browsers, we are faced with an image that overtakes our field of vision—our desktop.

Most often, these pieces of art are beautiful depictions of the real world, whether it is a panoramic view of mountains or oceans or a photo of family or friends. These pictures can be cycled and rotate, becoming abstract shapes and designs, but in whatever case, they are what we perceive as visually pleasant. If these images are constructs of actuality, as art is most often based off inspiration found in the real world, why is it that they make such a dominant presence in our virtual existence? Perhaps we are setting up a home in the screen, a place to find peace or silence when the world is loud or find action and life when reality goes dim? If computers are the places for our minds to explore and wander, the world is left to be a simple provider. Rather than be enjoyed or explored as a primary passion, it is a place we are simply stuck in and thus escape to the virtual realm. Beautiful desktop images serve as enjoyable views when glued to the screen. These pieces of art can be seen as indirectly evil, as they are offering a Land of Lotus leaves to our visual senses, enticing them to spend more time before the screen. For this reason, I have set my desktop to the most atrocious scene I could spawn:

Rather than waste away my years before a screen, lulled into satisfaction by misleading visual art mimicking the true beauty of the real world, I hope to spend less time in front of the screen and more time in reality. Despite the many great tools it can provide, the computer is a double-edged sword. We ask it questions and it answers them. If we ask it why we should spend more time in reality, it will give us an answer, perhaps even a good one, but it will lure us back to our virtual desktops.

Google, why do I ask you my life questions? And how does Yahoo always have the answer?

Maybe that’s why I spend so much time in front of this screen?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

On Creativity, Erasure, and Altruism

In class, we are often asked to question the idea of creativity and originality: to be liberal in this definition, to look at what limits it, and to commit to it as a lifelong habit. Claiming originality defines it as something that chance alone could not produce; the creator is the only party capable of doing what has been done (sounds similar to using God to explain what evolution does). There is beauty produced by the human hand (and heart)--don't get me wrong. Recognizing how incalculably small of chance there was for such an alignment of parts only heightens this beauty. Yet the most important part of creating anything is recognizing that it can be done, by anybody.

What I mean by this is that events, miraculous events, can be reproduced and explained with the rules of probability. I like best the "Infinite Monkey Theorem" which describes a circumstance where random typing on a keyboard by another primate could produce a line from Shakespeare. Repeated often enough over a hilariously long stretch of time would reproduce his entire life's work. At first, this is disheartening (and kind of funny). But then you think about how limitless putting a limit can be; there is essentially an available set of combinations to bring to life anything that can be thought, or was already thought.

There are those who take this realization and use it as terrain to explore playing with other's work; if everything is unified as unowned under such probability laws, then each hand has a right to what's been made. Philosophies similar to this--though perhaps they do not overtly state it--support the concept of a public domain, open source technology, and other free resources that allow for unbiased, accessible information flow on and offline. Where does an attitude of ownership come in, and when are we infringing on another's right to originality? Would people be as driven to create were their accomplishments not promised to be tagged with their name? Does rejecting ownership--and authorship--lead to altruistic creation? It could boil down to a simple generational question: is a model like 4chan and Reddit better than Facebook?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When I fall, you call it flying with style

My wings unfurl in an impressive display
Of privilege, of power, of perfection
Muscles trimmed to an angular array
Ideal for flight in any direction
You assume I can soar
Go above and beyond this door
Out the window into the sky
Beyond the clouds, where the heavens lie
You think I'm some celestial Seraphim
Since I hold myself confident and trim
A book with a pretty cover and empty pages
Born in beauty, lacking substance for ages
A sham, a fake
No fish, a lake
A con with fidence
A mis with guidance
You think I'm the Tooth Fairy
And Santa with a beard so hairy
Like some epic hero with perfect flaws
Not a half-assed demon with unsharp claws
When I step off the ledge and spread my wings
You think I'll fly
But really I die
Plucking my feathers of potential
I fall